I am SO busy at the moment it’s ridiculous. I’ve taken on a huge project with a really short deadline, but I’m absolutely loving it, although everything else has completely gone out the window: the laundry pile is overflowing from the basket, and don’t get me started on the ironing. No Christmas cards have been written, very few pressies have been purchased, and to add insult to injury, Charlie is learning to drive, so I’m living in a permanent state of ‘OMG I’m so busy!’ mixed with ‘oh god, he wants to go driving again – my poor nerves’. My Dad is also in hospital having had a hip replacement. So… yes, I’m feeling lucky and stressy and busy busy busy! One thing I really must do, though, is tell you about Grinchmas and my AMAZING trip to Orlando last week to visit Universal Orlando Resort and experience their magical 2015 Holidays Celebration.
Crop Over really is the highlight of the calendar in Barbados. The festival, which takes place in August, can trace its origins back to the 1700s, when workers in Barbados celebrated the end of the sugar cane harvest. Sadly, as the sugar cane industry slowed in Barbados, the Crop Over festival faded out and in the 1940s it stopped being celebrated altogether. Luckily for us, the festival was reintroduced in the early 70s and now is one of the most colourful and exciting celebrations in Caribbean culture. It’s a wonderful time to visit Barbados as there are loads of things to see and do and there’s a real, crackling energy to the island.
So last time, I told you all about our hotel, the lovely Sea Breeze Beach Hotel in Oistins, and recommended a few fun things to see and do while you’re there.
Another thing we really wanted to do while in Barbados was explore the rest of the island away from Christchurch, where we were based. Barbados covers about 166 square miles and one of the best (and most fun) ways to do see it is to jump on a jeep and experience an island safari. Here’s how we got on!
So I’m finally catching up with all my travel notes and can’t wait to tell you about my TRIP OF A LIFETIME, visiting Barbados to get involved in Crop Over festival. The festival celebrates the end of the sugar cane harvest, and it’s a fabulous time to be in Barbados, with parties, dancing, incredible costumes and lots and lots of rum punch, but more of this later! Here’s the first part of my visit to Barbados – a little about our lovely hotel, and a few recommendations of things to see and do. Ready, steady….
A little while ago I wrote about our family holiday at the gorgeous Seaside Palm Beach Hotel in Gran Canaria. I’ve saved the best until last of course, with a whole post dedicated to food, glorious food! The hotel prides itself on providing its guests with a really 5* experience, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the dining choices.
My travel bucket list is huge, and I’m always adding to it. I love dreaming and plotting, planning my next adventure – it’s really important to me to have something to look forward to. One of the regions I’ve just added to the list is Picardy in northern France. If you’re not familiar with the area, you’re not alone, but the more research I’ve done into this beautiful area, the more I want to go.
I wonder if it’s just me, or if all mums of older teenagers approach every family holiday opportunity with a bit of a heavy heart, thinking: ‘this could be the last one EVER’? I mean, frankly, it’s ridiculous, because, as a friend in a similar situation rightly told me recently, ‘it doesn’t matter how old they get, they’ll always be up for a free holiday’. Especially one as heavenly as this one.
So last time I was telling you about our luxe short break in Paris: our stay at Le Bristol and a spot of sightseeing. After this, we made our way to our second hotel. The stunning Hilton Paris Opera, which is centrally located on Rue Saint-Lazare, right next to the station of the same name – the perfect base for a bit of exploring!
We have these moments, usually when we’re walking the dog and talking rubbish, when we go ‘we MUST go on a break to Paris’. We both adore France, but have never actually been to Paris together, unless you count Disneyland, and it’s been on our to do list for ages. Finally, this summer, we got to plan our trip together, and we decided to go all out: a wonderful, romantic, luxe short break – just the two of us. Here’s how we got on.
Naples was the last stop on our Alternative Florida tour of the beautiful south western coast of Florida with Virgin Holidays. After pretty Sarasota, and the heavenly beaches of Fort Myers, it was time to head even further south to Naples. Here, we stayed in my favourite hotel, La Playa, an idyllic retreat right on the beach, and explored the coastline by boat.
So as I mentioned recently, I’ve just spent several days with the gang from Virgin Holidays discovering the sunny south western coast of Florida. Our first stop after landing in Orlando was Sarasota. Sarasota County is a gorgeous destination on Florida’s laid back Gulf Coast. We stayed at two hotels here, the Virgin Holidays 5V rated Resort at Longboat Key and the 3V Sandcastle Resort (an old favourite of mine).
This weekend we were really lucky to be invited to Disneyland Paris for the opening of the brand new Frozen themed Summer celebration, Frozen Summer Fun and to see one of the very first performances of the new Frozen sing-along show in Frontierland. From today until 13th September, guests at Disneyland can experience lots of new Frozen-themed fun, with characters from Frozen appearing all over the place!
We adore France. We’ve had such wonderful family holidays there and it just ticks all our boxes: fabulous food, gorgeous countryside, wonderful beaches, loads to do, and just a short hop over the channel too. We’re seriously considering a couple of weeks over there this summer.
This week, Mr E and I got to tick off one of our bucket list items when we were lucky enough to visit Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire. I make no apologies for the amount of photos you’re about to see – this is possibly the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever visited.
The Channel Islands, closer to France than they are the UK, yet a part of Great Britain, are interesting for a number of reasons. There are eight inhabited islands in the archipelago, but tourism is mainly focused on Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Helm and Alderney. Each island provides a charming, laid back holiday option. The mixture of French and British culture is captivating and the islands have some truly captivating scenery.
Here are a few facts about the islands which are worth knowing before you plan your trip:
Colourful Telephone Boxes and Post Boxes
One sign that you are no longer on the mainland is the presence of the identical classic British telephone and post boxes painted royal blue on the island of Guernsey.
The 1.5 mile long island of Herm has a ban on cars and bicycles. This adds to the quaint unpolluted atmosphere of the place.
Jersey Legal System
Jersey famously has it’s own legal system. With influences from French civil law, English common law and Norman customary law it is an interesting mix which represents the island’s rich history.
The Nazi Occupation
The darkest period of that history would possibly be the wartime years of 1940 to 1945 when the Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazi forces. The islands, demilitarised as deemed without strategic importance, were invaded by German planes which bombed harbours in Guernsey and Jersey. The island’s Jewish population were deported, many of whom died in concentration camps.
Dark Skies Status
Sark celebrated being the first island in the world to be given ‘Dark Sky Status’ in 2011. Visitors to the tiny island can enjoy black skies unimpeded by light pollution to get excellent views of the stars at night. This is great for the island’s tourism industry as visitors now have a reason to visit during the wintry months rather than only when it is warmer.
Residents of Alderney have the questionable privilege of being handed some rather strange nicknames over the island’s history. Traditionally named vaques (after the cows) and also lapins (on account of the many rabbits on the islands) while the ones which the residents assumingly prefer is Ridunians from the islands Latin name Riduna.
Exile in Guernsey: Victor Hugo
One of literature’s most celebrated authors, Victor Hugo made Guernsey his home for 15 years when he was in exile from his homeland. Les Miserables and a host of other famous titles were written during this stay and it is said that you can read his and his lover Juliet Drouet’s initials engraved somewhere in the granite walls of Victoria Tower.
The Channel Islands make for great holiday destinations which do not cost a fortune. UK Breakaways run regular trips to Guernsey and Jersey. Many people also enjoy island-hopping and seeing what the majority of the islands have to offer.
If you’ve ever thought of booking a holiday with a big group, either for a family get together, or with a group of friends, it can all seem a bit daunting. Villa holidays are ideal for larger groups – sharing the cost means that you can book something bigger and more special, and more importantly, unlike with a hotel, you can have the entire place to yourselves. Oliver’s Travels asked me for my top tips for choosing and booking a villa for a group holiday:
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