You all know that I love everything to do with Christmas, and once the lights have been switched on in London, I’m always desperate to take a trip to go and see them. Mr E works really hard and we don’t get much opportunity to do things as a family, so I thought we’d plan a lovely festive trip up to London on the train to go and see the lights (and maybe grab some dinner and a cocktail or two) while we’re there. While we were planning our trip, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try Trainline’s new Price Prediction tool to get the best possible ticket price. Here’s how we got on.
So you’ve booked your dream holiday: you’ve chosen a great hotel, maybe scoped out a couple of decent restaurants (you know how important this is to me) but what’s the best way to really get under the skin of your destination? Well, Virgin Holidays has come up with the brilliant idea of Virgin Holidays Experiences: a breathtaking range of over 300 experiences for everyone from foodies and shopaholics to the thrill-seekers and outdoorsy types, and even those in search of the perfect Instagram shot. These fab new experiences will enable all of us to create a bespoke holiday experience that truly reflects our interests and obsessions. So whether you’ve always dreamed of shopping with your own personal stylist in New York, fancy taking surf lessons in San Diego, a seaplane trip over Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver or discovering Chinatown in San Francisco, the world really is your oyster! I was lucky enough to travel to LA and San Diego with Virgin Holidays earlier this month to try out a few of the amazing new Virgin Holidays Experiences. First up, an incredible foodie tour of East LA.
Let’s be honest, one of the best bits of being on holiday is getting to try ALL the local cocktails, am I right? When the lovely bunch at Travel Republic asked me to contribute to their cocktail-themed travel guide – packed with information about destinations and their signature cocktails – I was happy to oblige and I knew exactly which city (and cocktail) to champion. Mr E and I absolutely love Paris, and to us, the French 75 (or soixante quinze) is synonymous with our favourite destination: chic, stylish, and just a little bit outré. It’s Paris to a T. Here’s how we make our perfect French 75 cocktail at home.
Are we allowed to say ‘staycation’? Well, whatever we’re currently calling it, I had a bit of travel cancelled recently and was getting majorly itchy feet, so I suggested to Mr E that we take a little weekend trip to London. And what a lovely weekend it turned out to be. We stayed at the very lovely Dorsett Shepherds Bush, which is the perfect hotel for a city break: it’s literally a five minute walk from the tube station (and Westfield Shopping Centre), and we spent the whole weekend exploring and hopping on and off the tube.
So after the big reveal that Lintenair is actually Trainline (it’s an anagram! check out the video here), Mr E and I decided to pick one of our bucket list destinations and head out for a little day trip. We wanted somewhere a bit different, with loads of shopping and eating, and some arty bits to see too. Luckily, my lovely friend Tara lives in the West Midlands and suggested a day in Birmingham. We booked on the Trainline App, and with our mobile tickets ready on our phones, and live journey updates we knew we had time for a coffee and a delicious bacon sandwich at the pretty station café at Wendover Station. Read more
Last night, we spent the most magical evening in London. I always love going to London at this time of the year to look at all the lights (my Dad used to drive us to London and drive down Oxford Street when we were little – it was one of the highlights of Christmas!) and we were especially lucky to be treated to a gorgeous sail down the Thames with MBNA Thames Clippers, London’s fabulous riverboat service, alighting at the London Eye to catch the festive production of Peter Pan at the National Theatre. It’s such a lovely, lovely way to travel too.
So I told you recently about visiting Boston with Norwegian. Oh, we completely fell in love with Boston. My friend Erica visited a while back and I was surprised when she said she liked it more than New York. Having visited, I can totally see why. It has a small town vibe and everything is really accessible by foot. We walked and walked for hours, shopping, sightseeing and photographing, and really could have done with staying a few more days.
Recently we were lucky enough to spend a heavenly weekend at The Grove, the beautiful luxury hotel just 18 miles from central London and a stone’s throw away from the Warner Bros Studio Tour London – the making of Harry Potter. It’s really not far for us, just a quick 20 minute drive, and I often visit to walk around the lovely gardens with my friend David, the Head Gardener. The estate gardens are utterly beautiful at this time of year, and we were lucky enough to arrive just as the most incredible sunset was lighting up the sky with a display of pinks and oranges.
I joined the beautiful Royal Princess in Rome recently to try cruising a different way. With most cruise passengers choosing the cruise line’s own shore excursions, we struck out to find some personalised, hands on shore adventures with a difference! But first, though, a little about the ship… Read more
I can’t even begin to tell you just how much interest there’s been in this trip. Even as we touched down in Boston, I was receiving emails and texts from friends saying ‘what’s this about these low cost flights to Boston with Norwegian? Tell us more!’. And during our whole New England in the fall adventure (which was gorgeous and fabulous and so many other superlatives, by the way), I was inundated with Instagram and Facebook comments. And honestly? I can’t recommend it highly enough. Can you actually believe that you can fly to Boston with Norwegian for £135? And it’s even cheaper on the return journey because of airport taxes – just £100.90.
One of the incredible dining experiences of our recent foodie trip to Leeds was a visit to Stockdales of Yorkshire. I’d heard great things about this very stylish restaurant in the heart of Leeds city centre, with a menu that celebrates the best produce that Yorkshire has to offer, including some stunning 28 day aged black Wagyu beef, sourced from a farm in nearby Doncaster and cooked on a state of the art Josper charcoal grill. Read more
So I don’t know if you remember, but a while back, I set Sam a little challenge: head to Paris using the Eurostar’s offer of a day trip to Paris and Brussels for just £58 return, and go and do exciting things without spending any money (we gave him money for lunch and metro/bus tickets). Here’s how he and Georgie (a girl he really likes) got on:
Last week I headed up to London in the sunshine to do a little messing about in boats. I always feel that I don’t really go to London enough – from our local train station it takes a little over half an hour to get into Euston, and unlike some of my unluckier friends, our service provider, London Midland, is really excellent: on time, clean and efficient. In a happy coincidence, it was also Afternoon Tea Week (I know, who knew that was a thing?) and I made my way to London Bridge pier to hop on board and enjoy a rather delicious afternoon tea with MBNA Thames Clippers.
How are your summer holidays going? Apparently there’s going to be a little mini heatwave next week. Got anything planned? Want to win a family day trip to Paris with Eurostar? Or how about a day trip to Brussels? The lovely chaps at Eurostar are encouraging us Brits to head off and explore Europe. I’ve challenged Sam to spend a day in Paris next week doing as many free things as he possibly can – update coming very soon, but until then, fancy doing the same? Throughout August, you can jump on board Eurostar for a day trip to Paris and Brussels for just £58 return, spend 8 hours exploring and then hop back on the train and be home before bedtime. Kids under 4 even travel for free! To celebrate, I’ve got a family ticket to give away!
This weekend, I travelled up to Leeds to meet up with two of my original Disney friends, Laura and Erica, for #eatLeeds2016 (we love a hashtag) – a weekend discovering the best food and drink the city has to offer. After a bit of a false start – I got on the wrong train – I was ambushed at Leeds station with bear hugs and squeezes, and we caught up over lunch at one of Laura’s favourite tapas restaurants, La Rambla (more of this later).
- My Drinkaware month – an update January 23, 2018
- What do you wear to a funeral? And other musings on losing a loved one January 20, 2018
- Three ingredient brownies (with 83% less sugar) January 18, 2018
- The new hush pre-spring collection January 16, 2018
- Weekend baking: delicious, no knead rye bread rolls January 13, 2018