Friday, 3 March 2017

City Break to Edinburgh

Last week I took my mum away to Edinburgh for a few days as a surprise to celebrate her birthday. We had a lovely time (despite Storm Doris trying to sabotage our plans!) and I thought I'd write a little post for me to remember it by and also to pass on what we did in case it gives anyone inspiration.


Although I have visited Edinburgh twice previously, this was Mum's first time so we wanted to do all the usual touristy bits as well as spend some time just strolling and taking in the city. To frame the trip, we were there for pretty much three full days and two nights, and the weather was consistently cold but ranged from bright and sunny to sleet storms!

Travelling

We flew from London Stansted to Edinburgh with Ryanair and I booked the flights about 3 or 4 months in advance to get a good price. I just chose Ryanair as they were the cheapest but in hindsight I'm glad I picked them over Easyjet so we didn't have to suffer the constant miserable airport announcements from them policing the hand luggage. With Ryanair you can take a cabin sized wheelie case and a small handbag, win. The flight there took 1 hr 30 mins and the return one took around an hour. It was much quicker and cheaper then taking the train and then once at the airport we got the tram into the city centre. Super easy/tourist-friendly (not sure it's such a hit with the locals, perhaps understandably) and costs £8 for a return ticket.

To get around the city centre and the sights we mostly walked. We did take a hop-on-hop-off bus but more on that later.

Staying

I always think that when you're on a city break you really just need a hotel to lay your head down, as you're likely to be spending most of the day out and about. This, coupled with the fact that I was paying for the trip and needed it to come within a budget, meant I was looking for a clean and simple hotel that wasn't pricey. Some people hate Travelodge, and I have stayed in some less pleasant ones, but mostly I think they offer a clean and simple option with everything you need. If you've got a bit more cash to splash then you'd probably look for something a bit fancier/with more character, but this was perfect for what we needed.

There are several Travelodge locations in Edinburgh and we stayed in the one on Waterloo Place, just along from Prince's Street. It was a really central location so quick to get everywhere but was just off from the busiest streets and our room was at the back of the hotel, so we heard no street noise at all. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful and we were able to leave our luggage there after checking out so we could carry on exploring and come back for it later on our way to the airport.

Eating

We did a LOT of stopping for a cup of tea and a slice of cake, especially when the weather was particularly cold and we were starting to flag a bit. We also ate at a few cafes and had unadventurous but lovely Pizza Express and Wagamama food.

The real star of the show though was Yeni Meze Bar on Hanover Street. Oh my god this was good. I ate at Yeni last time I went to Edinburgh with my boyfriend, on the recommendation of a friend, and I knew that Mum and I had to go back. They serve Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern (predominantly Turkish) meze pick and mix style dishes and everything I have ordered on both visits has been delicious, no exceptions. The staff are super friendly and the wine is well-priced. The restaurant is quite small so I'd suggest booking if you're planning on going for dinner, but there is no restaurant I'd recommend as much as this place. Go for the chicken iskender and the humus kavurma and you won't be disappointed. Unless you're veggie...in which case steer clear of those two and pick from the many fish or veg based options.

Doing

On day one we checked into our hotel at around midday, settled in and then grabbed a bite to eat before heading off along Prince's St so Mum could take in the view of the various monuments and we could pop into a few shops. We then made our way up Calton Hill which has amazing views of the city, the castle and Arthur's Seat, as well as being the site of several monuments.

Over the next two days we crammed in quite a bit: visiting the castle, walking the royal mile, exploring several of the famous churchyards, visiting the National Museum of Scotland and of course some shopping (restricted by the fact that we'd only brought hand luggage with us!). Had the weather been nicer we probably would have had a walk up to Arthur's Seat and the crags but like I said, Storm Doris had other plans.

We were both a little disappointed with Edinburgh Castle to be honest - although the structures were very impressive the visitor element of it lacked a lot of information and we came away not really sure of why the castle was originally built and how or to whom it had changed hands over the year. This was possibly included in the audio guide which you had to pay extra for, but I'd have expected that sort of information to be included in the standard ticket price. You shouldn't have to come away Googling an attraction to find out the basics about it! It was nice but I wouldn't say it's a must-see if you just have a couple of days in the city.

The other thing we did was a hop-on-hop-off guided bus tour of the city. Not the red buses with pre-recorded audio via headphones that you see in most cities (although they have these too), but the green buses with an actual guide upstairs telling you info as you go round. I think it can be a really good idea to do these when you're in a new city as they give you ideas for places and attractions you might want to visit, as well as explaining bits and pieces you might otherwise not have known. If you're pushed for time as well they can be a good way to get an overview of the area ('m thinking of LA which is quite disparate and where we didn't stay for long). The tickets are also valid for 24 or 48 hours so if you're feeling tired you can use it as an actual bus to get between places or just sit and take another circuit (the guides usually tell different snippets each and if it's sunny it can be nice to just sit on the top deck and chill whilst you rest your feet for a bit!)

And that was our trip in a nutshell. We made our way back to the airport on Friday and left Edinburgh behind. Probably just in time too, as they were hosting the 6 Nations rugby the next day.

Are there any other places in Edinburgh you'd recommend visiting? Or other activities more geared towards a trip with friends/a partner? I'm sure I'll be back again at some point, just hopefully in better weather!


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Why I Haven't Been Blogging

When I published my 'welcome to 2017' type blog post on 1st January I had a lot of ideas for posts and was full of motivation again for writing, which is something I've always loved doing. I assumed I'd be doing at least weekly posts here again, no problem.

Clearly that's not the case though as - oh hello - it's 29th January now and this is post #2 of the new year.

I have been a bit limited on free time this month and when I have had a spare moment I haven't necessarily felt in the mood to write. But the main thing holding me back from posting always is that I don't like photography. Controversial in the blog world but true. Of course I love pretty pictures and enjoy the gorgeous photography on so many other blogs. And when I take a photo that actually looks nice or comes off how I envisaged it then I'm really pleased with that image. But I'm just not all that interested in photography and don't have the skills, inclination or patience to spend time setting up shots with the right aesthetics. Or to plan photos in advance and wait for the winter sun to actually make an appearance for an hour so I can cram all my shots in then for various posts.I admire the many girls who do this and respect the level of effort that goes into that. But I'm just not very good at or that into taking photos. I don't have the patience, which I think is the main thing.

In addition I'm not great at matching photos to posts that don't have an obvious sort of image that should accompany them. And I'm not super photogenic myself, so multiples of my face are not the answer there for me.

And so, in the current day when blogs look so much more professional and the time readers typically spend on a page actually reading the words is less and less, I worry that without the images to back up my words I don't have much to offer. Or at least not for the instant 'grab' needed, before the reader can be hooked by the writing or personality behind a blog.

So there we have it. That's one of the main reasons I don't blog as much as I would like to, or as often as I have ideas to type up for posts. I'm going to try not to let this hold back my blogging so much though this year. 
Watch this space!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Two. Zero. One. Seven,


As 2016 waves its last goodbye and 2017 rolls in I thought it would be nice to pop up on my blog again (yep, hi there, still here!) and briefly take stock of the 12 months that have passed and the next 12 yet to come.

2016: The past year brought some long awaited highlights for me . Mark and I finally moved into our first home together, having made a promise just after Christmas the previous year that we would have our own tree to decorate in a year's time. I'm not going to lie - the move has been hard. And lovely and fun and exciting in so many ways too, but still hard. We're starting to find our flow though.

Back in May we also spent an amazing 3 weeks travelling around Nevada, Arizona and California. We had been wanting to take this trip for so long and it didn't disappoint at all. I just need to get a photo album made up to remind myself of all the wonderful experiences. Here's to our next trip!

There has been sadness in the year too though. I lost my beloved dog Meggy back in spring and still miss her dearly. And my grandmother very sadly passed away just before Christmas, bringing the year to a very sombre end.

It doesn't do to dwell though, so onwards for 2017...

2017: I say it every January, I bloody love a new year. The fresh start, where nothing is yet either good or bad, amazing or disappointing, really works for me. I know it's just a mental thing and a new year doesn't actually mean you'll suddenly become this super version of yourself, but the 1st January still makes me feel like a girlboss and I'm not gonna argue with that. So what am I hoping for in 2017? (Other than a body worthy of a VS model with none of the carb sacrifices, or a miliion pound lottery win, or even just a daily train service which doesn't cost me 5K a year and isn't always delayed due to a points failure).

On a very basic and superficial level I'm hoping to upgrade my style in 2017 and really hone that wardrobe of key, reliable pieces. The hair is due an upgrade too.

I also want to continue using up the things I have. Moving house and having to find a new home for everything has really shown me just how many beauty/skincare/hair products I have. I do not need any more for the forseeable. So if you see me in Boots' shampoo aisle eyeing up a new release just give me a slap.

I am hoping this girlboss feeling hangs around for a little while. Or at least past the first week of January. This year is about re-taking control and re-focusing. And I'm again picking up my goal word from last year of 'lightness'. I'm hoping to make more time for myself and my loved ones and not over-worry or over-concern myself with things that don't matter.

So come on 2017, let's girlboss this shit.

Monday, 7 March 2016

USA Road Trip - The Route and The Planning

I mentioned the fact that my boyfriend and I are going on a 3 week road trip around Las Vegas and California in this post a couple of months ago. We sketched out a rough idea of locations to visit ages ago and then finally booked our flights more recently. And then sat back basically feeling like we'd done most of the hard work. Not so much.


We've now finally put the time in to sketch out an actual route so we can book any accommodation that has to be sorted in advance, for fear of otherwise having to sleep in our car. We're not planning on booking rooms in advance for every stop, but the places which are busy or will be very expensive if left to the last minute we're going to book now and have as a framework for our trip. So we'll have a little more freedom with the other locations to play it by ear when we're there.

So without further ado, here is where we will be for 3 weeks in May:

Las Vegas --> Grand Canyon --> Red Rock Canyon/Hoover Dam --> Death Valley -->
Yosemite --> San Francisco --> West Coast/Big Sur --> Los Angeles

We're not planning to pick up our car until we leave Las Vegas and then we'll drop it off again in SF whilst we're there, ready to pick up another car to take down the coast.

We obviously have some specific things we want to do in each location, like visiting Alcatraz and cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge in SF, and spending time in Disneyland and Universal Studios in LA, but I'll save those details for the post-trip posts I think.

As it stands, we have booked a hotel for Yosemite (who knew that basically EVERYWHERE would already be booked 5 months in advance) and I have my finger hovering over the 'book room' button for the Luxor in Vegas.

So so excited for the whole thing! Next I think I'll need to turn my attentions to my holiday wardrobe. Because you know I've already been buying things specifically because 'they'll be great for the holiday'. May need to streamline that slightly, especially as our luggage will be coming everywhere with us!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Heartbreak

Things have been a little quiet around here recently. And things have been pretty sombre in real life too.

If you follow me on Instagram then you may have seen me post a photo of my little Jack Russell Meg recently, marking her passing. All the kind comments I received were very much appreciated, so thank you for those.

Meggy very sadly passed away last week, at the grand old age of 16, and has left us all completely heartbroken in her absence. Having had her since she was 8 weeks old, I've had Meg in my life for more than two thirds of it, and have looked after her very closely for the last few years in her old age. Needless to say, she has left a very large doggy-shaped hole in my heart.

Despite her old age, her death came really unexpectedly and the week has just felt very numb ever since. We have 2 other dogs so the house has not been completely silent but everything just feels so strange.

There are so many fellow animal lovers in the blogging community and anyone who has lost a pet will know that it's one of the most heart-breaking things. You're losing a family member, and one that relied on you to keep them safe. Animals just have a way of getting into your heart.

It didn't feel right not the mark the passing of my little furry best friend on here, but things are getting better and hopefully life will look a little brighter soon.


Sweet dreams Meggy. I hope you're off causing terrier mischief.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

6 Things To Do When You're Feeling Down

I've been feeling a bit down in the dumps this week, which led to me thinking about the various things I do to try to cheer myself up when I'm feeling like this. Some of these things are probably obvious, but sometimes we need a little reminder. You can never have too many little self-care tips in your arsenal.


1. A hot shower: I do all of my best thinking in the here and, for me, often nothing beats a long hot shower. No one is going to disturb you, there's nothing else to distract you, and sometimes it just feels cathartic. You can give yourself a good pep talk too. A bath isn't the same for me, because then you just sit and over-think. It's got to be the shower. And some lovely smelling products don't hurt either :)

2. Doggies (or any pets): It is impossible to feel down when you are playing with a dog. Fact. They are so fluffy and happy and full of bounce that you just can't. And they crave attention and give unconditional love, so they really do pep you up when you're feeling crap about yourself. If you don't have a dog then a hamster or the suchlike will do.

3. Fake tan: I know this is really superficial but sometimes when I am feeling rubbish, particularly if it's feeling rubbish about myself rather than life's turns and twists, making myself a little bit more bronze just gives me a little spring in my step. It's nice to take some time to pamper yourself and I always think everything looks better with a tan.

4. Laugh with pals: Genuine laughter really is medicine for the soul and good friends can always cheer you up. Getting the girls together for a catch up is bound to lift your spirits and remind you that not everything is shit. Some things yes, but not everything.

5. Exercise: Especially outdoors exercise, like a walk or a run. A crisp bright day is preferable but optional. Getting outside always helps me to clear my head and blow away the cobwebs. And if you do manage to swap the wellies for Nikes and head out on a run you'll be left feeling that bit fitter and just a little bit smug.

6. An early night: Sometimes all that there is to be done is draw a line under the day, take yourself off to bed early, snuggle up under your duvet and pretend nothing else exists. The morning usually brings brighter things and a lighter mood.

So that's my little tip list. Let me know what other things you usually do to pull yourself out of a slump or a bad mood.