As we had some travel plans cancelled in August, Mr E and I have really been enjoying exploring our lovely local area. The Chilterns are stuffed full of historic stately homes and manor houses: from Waddesdon Manor, designed in the style of a romantic French Renaissance chateau, to Sir Francis Dashwood’s extravagant, Italianate West Wycombe Park, we have a huge diversity of beautiful buildings to visit. One that might have escaped your radar is Latimer House, now the De Vere Latimer Estate, a stunning mansion house estate that has recently undergone a huge (£7m) refurbishment that has transformed the original mansion house, including a beautifully renovated library, a coffee shop, a brand new restaurant: 1838 Restaurant and Bar, and the new Huntley Bar as well as additional luxury bedrooms and an elegant new reception.
There aren’t many prettier towns than Marlow, right next to the River Thames in Buckinghamshire. We spent a sunny morning wandering the shops (Sweaty Betty, Fat Face, a massive Jigsaw, Whistles, Mint Velvet, and loads of stylish independent boutiques and shops) down to the river, and then – all set to walk along the river’s edge for a while – the sky suddenly got really dark and fat blobs of rain started splashing on us. Ah well, instead we headed to West Street, to try the bottomless brunch at The Botanist, a pretty, quirky bar and restaurant on West Street. The front window completely rolls back, so when the sun finally came out again, it was a lovely spot to sit, sip a cocktail and watch the world go by while waiting for our table.
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.
‘Oh, I’ve been to Walt Disney World, I don’t need to go again’, said no-one ever. One of the things I love most about the happiest place on earth is that it’s ever-evolving. One of the best places to hear all the news and future plans for the Disney Parks and Resorts is D23 Expo, Disney’s official fan club’s brilliant biannual gathering, billed as the ultimate Disney fan event, which took place in Anaheim over the weekend. There have been some pretty jaw-dropping announcements, so if you’re a Disney fan, grab a cuppa, and I’ll take you through what’s coming up at Walt Disney World, Florida (and a few bits from the other parks too). Excuse all the artist’s impressions but obviously that’s all there is at the moment, apart from the pic I took of the hoarding hiding the new Toy Story Land!
As the kids get older, the idea of lazing on a beach with an iced drink and a good thriller novel to hand (my idea of heaven) becomes a bit less realistic. I know some teenagers are happy to loll around on holiday, but we like to break it up and have at least a couple of days expanding our comfort zone. I thought it would be a good idea to suggest a few activities to get the heart-rate up and excitement pounding, so here are a few of my top activities for adrenaline junkies. These are also great if you’re not actually heading away anywhere, but want a few tips for great days out to break up the holidays.
If you saw my post about Halloween Horror Nights last year, you’ll know that Erica and I absolutely loved it. If you don’t know much about the event, the easiest way to describe it is that the entire Universal Studios site is transformed into a living horror film, with five different scare zones: themed areas populated by roaming hordes of terrifying characters (or scareactors), as well as live shows and – the main event: nine mazes – incredibly detailed themed haunted houses filled with terrifying live scenes and actors, based on some of the most famous and blood-curdling horror films in history. Read on, to find out more about Halloween Horror Nights 27.
We all know that feeling, right? After a gorgeous holiday, the last day is such a massive come-down: you’ve got to be out of your room by midday but your flight doesn’t leave until the evening, you don’t want to get sandy and have nowhere to shower, so your last day is spent miserably killing time, sweating in your travel clothes, before heading home. While I was in beautiful Barbados, though, Virgin announced a brand new concept that’s going to change all that, and I think you’re going to love it. Step forward The Departure Beach from Virgin.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a pretty fabulous invitation to Barbados. Flying out with Virgin Holidays for a week at The Club Barbados, right next to Sandy Lane on the gorgeous, calm west coast of Barbados – a no brainer right? Well, almost. The bit of the invitation that had me hesitating was this: ‘come and be part of an exclusive expert led “Caribbean Choir” singing workshop’. Singing? Me?! I mean, yes, I sing in the shower, but a choir? I was nervous, but in my positive life plan notes, I’ve definitely written ‘be brave’ and ‘do something that scares you’, so I decided to embrace the challenge and replied with a firm yes!
I absolutely adore St Petersburg. The last time I visited, back in 2012, we really only had one day there and I was desperate to go back and really explore. I absolutely love its buzzy vibe, the gorgeous beaches and the way the downtown area absolutely comes alive at night, with restaurants, bars and cafés thronging with people. Even as recently as the 90s, Downtown St Pete was really quite unloved. Remember Cocoon? Jeff, our lovely guide told us that the movie was filmed in St Pete in the 1980s, and it was an area known as ‘God’s Waiting Room’, full of retirees and not a lot else. Slowly, though, the locals transformed their beloved neighbourhood, and now it’s such a creative, lively place to visit, with a wonderful arts scene and fabulous shops, restaurants, galleries, stunning museums like the beautiful new Morean Arts Centre and the Dali Museum, and beautiful open spaces. Read more
So did you know that Sunday was International Picnic Day? Luckily the weather was absolutely gorgeous so it was easy to get outside and do some alfresco snacking. Of course planning the perfect picnic really shouldn’t include limp sandwiches and sweaty salads – I think the key to an impressive picnic is to mix a few things you’ve made yourself with a selection of ready made bits and bobs, blurring the edges so nobody quite knows which is which. I’ve been trying out a few items from Tesco’s brand new Mediterranean-inspired Deli range, and they fit the bill perfectly: you can eat many of the items hot or cold, and there are loads of tasty little bits and pieces perfect for eating with your fingers.
In all the years that I’ve been visiting Walt Disney World, there’s been one iconic Disney place that I’ve never managed to visit: Celebration, Florida: the prettiest little community, and Walt Disney World’s home town. With wide streets and colourful shops and houses, it’s a really lovely place to spend a day, wandering the lovely, tree-lined residential areas (there’s actually a Wisteria Lane there that looks like it’s straight out of Desperate Housewives), and popping in to all the lovely shops (there’s a fabulous dog shop there selling everything you could possibly need for your pampered pooch!). Here’s my photo diary of our day: a little taster of what to expect when you visit Celebration.
The Far East boasts some of the most unique and diverse cuisines in the world. From Japan and Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, and Sri Lanka, the use of spices and aromatics bring flavoursome taste experiences like no other, with everything from fabulous, colourful street food to fine dining on offer. If you’re planning a culinary trip to the Far East, I’d recommend that you arm yourself with the local currency (especially important with the street food), so do your research on travel money providers (there are several companies reviewed here), and make sure that as you switch countries, you exchange your local currency before leaving. With smaller currencies like THB or INR, it can be tricky to get them exchanged after departing the country.
Hello! If you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve just spent a brilliant week with Virgin Holidays at Elite Island Resort’s The Club, Barbados, singing my heart out in the most amazing choir. Much more of that very soon (and more about the gorgeous resort as well), but for this weekend’s wishlist, I just wanted to tell you why Ultrasun should be in your beach bag (and on your face!) this summer.
If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney World, I think you’ll agree that one of the highlights has always been the wonderful ‘Wishes’ show at the end of the evening, with fireworks lighting up Cinderella Castle, accompanied by beautiful Disney songs. As soon as the sweet voice started singing ‘star light, star bright’, the goosebumps would start and by the end I’d generally be blubbing (I know, but it’s so beautiful). Unbelievably, the Wishes show has been a family favourite since something like October 2003 and is definitely a bit of a Disney institution, so the brand new show, Happily Ever After at Walt Disney World had a lot to live up to.
So last time, I was telling you all about family holidays in Kissimmee. The next stop on our little tour of alternative Florida destinations was beautiful Clearwater. This gorgeous Gulf Coast barrier island destination sits just across Old Tampa Bay on the west coast of Florida along with St Petersburg. Between them, they boast 35 miles of white sandy beaches and an average of 361 sunny days per year. So apart from lazing away endless, sunny days and glorious sunsets in this pretty resort town, here are a few other reasons why Clearwater is a fabulous choice for a family holiday.
So last week, I was lucky enough to be in Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, for the dedication ceremony of Disney’s magical new Pandora – The World of Avatar: a whole, stunning new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, joined by Avatar filmmaker James Cameron and producer Jon Landau, came together with the cast of the original film to unveil possibly Disney’s greatest triumph so far. So from the must-sees and must-dos to information on where to stay and how to get here, here’s my complete guide to the breathtaking world of Pandora – The World of Avatar.
- Weekend wishlist: bank holiday bargains May 26, 2018
- The Viking Cruises Wellness Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show May 24, 2018
- Staying overnight at the airport, BLOC Hotel Gatwick May 22, 2018
- Weekend wishlist: the perfect holiday capsule wardrobe with M&S May 19, 2018
- Breaded baked barbecue cauliflower May 17, 2018