What. A. Year. I’ve got plenty more to say about the joy and sadness that was 2016 in my first piece of 2017 (for us, as well as everyone else, it seems, it was a year of huge highs and massive lows), and my plans for 2017. But for now, I want to stay with the joy and take a look back at the highlights of a year of travel and adventure. Here’s my 2016 roundup.
We all absolutely adore Christmas, but the funniest thing is that while we were all sitting around the fire, Christmas Radio Times on hand to pick the best Christmas movies, sipping on a Baileys, talk actually turned to planning for the summer holidays. I was telling them that the fab villa holiday company, Villa Plus had asked me to talk about our holiday plans for next year, and, as a family with older children, it’s sometimes difficult to pick a holiday that suits everyone. As we were chatting, it was interesting to hear what the boys want from a family holiday. Whereas Jim and I really both want somewhere comfy to lounge and read a book and some sunshine, the boys have different ideas:
From Boston, we drove south, through some utterly beautiful countryside, to get to our next destination, Plymouth. Plymouth, Massachusetts is a hugely famous and historically important town, well known for being America’s Hometown – the place where the Pilgrim passengers of the Mayflower first settled. It’s a gorgeous place, full of pretty, colourful houses, wide, tree-lined residential roads and beautiful beaches. Our destination, The Mirbeau Inn & Spa, took us by surprise, though, as we drove up the windy road, and came face to face with a pretty French style Chateau. The glowing, ochre manor house, inspired by the soft colours of the paintings of Claude Monet, even has elegant gardens and water features inspired by Monet’s own garden in Giverny. It’s a breathtaking sight, and the experience only gets better as you’re greeted by a polite doorman, who won’t let you carry a thing.
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
As far as I’m concerned, a visit to Walt Disney World isn’t complete without a trip to Disney Springs. Every time we go, there are new shops to explore, new restaurants to try and new cocktails to sip! Most of the venues at this brand new shopping, dining and entertainment hug are now open and the whole area is looking absolutely gorgeous. Here’s all you need to know about Disney Springs.
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.
Well let me tell you… As a HUGE fan of the styling and atmosphere at Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay, I wasn’t sure that another Universal Orlando resort could steal my heart, but from the moment we were greeted with a smile at the main entrance of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal, we were smitten. The resort has a Caribbean theme and is light, airy and very tropical. The main entrance is huge and beautifully styled too:
I’m probably not alone in having Niagara Falls on my bucket list. It’s one of those places that everyone wants to visit, but I’m thinking that maybe it tends to have a reputation for being more of a romantic getaway. I totally get it: stunning views, beautiful restaurants, wine tours… it’s the perfect honeymoon destination. However, recently I’ve been looking at it from a family perspective, and I’m pleasantly surprised at just how many attractions are aimed at families and children in the area. As if you needed convincing, here are a few of my discoveries and recommendations for family fun at the Falls:
One of the elements that impressed us most during our wonderful family cruise on Celebrity Eclipse was the quality of the dining. From the great fast food options to the main dining to the speciality restaurants, we really couldn’t fault any of the dining on board Celebrity Eclipse. Most evenings are smart casual, but there are a couple of evenings that are listed in the ‘Celebrity Today’ leaflet left in your stateroom as ‘cruise chic’. There’s never any pressure to dress in any particular way but it’s always tremendous fun to dress up a bit and step out in style. I really enjoyed a bit of people watching – there was everything from ladies in ballgowns and men in white dinner jackets to a few people in full military costume!
A while ago, I told you about the media event for Halloween Horror Nights, during which I was scared half to death by Michael Myers, if you remember. After much anticipation, last week it was finally time to visit the real thing at Universal Orlando Resort to experience the terror in person. I took my friend Erica (from the Edinburgh Food website, Foodinburgh) for moral support, and while we were there, we were lucky enough to experience the brand new Loews Sapphire Falls hotel as well as some great new dining (and some old favourites) at Universal CityWalk (more of this later), but for now, brace yourself, it’s show time…
…and some old favourites. So last time, I told you a little about Walt Disney World Resort, Florida’s fabulous free dining offer. This time, I thought I’d bring you an update on some fabulous new experiences at Walt Disney World, including stunning new dining options and new attractions. I’ve also added in a few things that aren’t new, but that I experienced for the first time too. So sit back, grab a cuppa, and I’ll begin… Read more
Last week I was lucky enough to spend a few days at my favourite place in the world, Walt Disney World, with my friend Erica, who writes the splendiferous Edinburgh food blog, Foodinburgh. Virgin Holidays whizzed us over in style, challenging us to ‘seize the holiday’ and we certainly did that! I’ll have loads and loads of new content coming up, including a look at gorgeous new Disney Springs and masses of new dining features, but I wanted to give you the heads up about a great, limited time offer: FREE dining at Walt Disney World Florida, that’s going to save you a fortune if you’re planning a Walt Disney World adventure next year.
So I’ve had an absolutely MAD bout of travelling and can’t wait to update you on all the exciting things we’ve been up to. Firstly, we’ve just returned from a lovely two week family cruise on Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Cruises’ beautiful Solstice class cruise ship, where we sailed from Southampton and visited Gibraltar, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. It was our first time as a family on a Celebrity Cruise (Mr E and I did a wine cruise on Celebrity Infinity a while ago) and we did wonder what it would be like to spend two weeks in a relatively small stateroom as a family (as it turned out, we were treated to extra room, which was fab). Here’s how we got on:
I’m always getting asked for my Walt Disney World top tips, so if you’re planning your first visit, or you’re just after some tips and recommendations for your next visit to the Walt Disney World parks, I’m going to start this now and keep adding to it as I have new experiences. If you have any great tips to add, please do let me know and I’ll happily add them (with credit to you of course!).
- What to expect at new Toy Story Land, Walt Disney World February 20, 2018
- Weekend wishlist: REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic February 17, 2018
- Moroccan spiced hummus with roasted chickpeas February 15, 2018
- The new hush spring 2018 collection February 13, 2018
- Perfect, fluffy pancakes for Pancake Day February 12, 2018