The blog

British mummy blogger and travel blogger

Day trip to Lisbon and my airport shame

The final port of call on our Spanish odyssey wasn't actually in Spain at all - it was Lisbon, Portugal,… [more]

Day trip to Lisbon and my airport shame Day trip to Lisbon and my airport shame

Day trip to Seville

Just the word 'Seville' conjures up images of flamenco dancing, opera and oranges; I had wanted to visit… [more]

Day trip to Seville Day trip to Seville

My safari wardrobe essentials

When I was planning my safari wardrobe I had visions of looking like Meryl Streep in Out of Africa -… [more]

My safari wardrobe essentials My safari wardrobe essentials

Fab advice from a best-selling author

So last week I went to the launch of P&O's Britannia and I was very fortunate that at dinner our… [more]

Fab advice from a best-selling author Fab advice from a best-selling author

Dear High Street. How can I be three different dress sizes at once?

Don't tell Man of the House, but I've been doing a fair bit *cough* of sales shopping over the past few… [more]

Dear High Street. How can I be three different dress sizes at once? Dear High Street. How can I be three different dress sizes at once?

My top tips for taking kids on a family safari

Safari is, I think, one of those must-do/wish list/bucket list type trips that every parent dreams of… [more]

My top tips for taking kids on a family safari My top tips for taking kids on a family safari

African skies… and trees

Nothing can prepare you for the size of Africa; if you consider that Tanzania alone is the same size… [more]

African skies… and trees African skies... and trees

Day trip to Lisbon and my airport shame

497The final port of call on our Spanish odyssey wasn’t actually in Spain at all – it was Lisbon, Portugal, again somewhere I’d wanted to visit for years; as soon as I saw the whitewashed houses with their terracotta roofs and the steep streets I knew I was going to absolutely adore the Portuguese capital. It’s a delightfully higgledypiggledy city, with something unexpected and amazing around every corner, fantastic colours and a great atmosphere.

Panteão Nacional

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A steep (and I do mean steep) climb up the cobbled streets from the port brings you to the Panteão Nacional, which is absolutely beautiful;

ceiling of Panteão Nacional

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…you have to pay to go in properly but if you stand by the rope barrier you can get a pretty good view of the beautiful ceiling…

Lisbon tram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…I loved the Lisbon trams, you see them all over the city…

mural Lisbon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are wall tile murals everywhere as well – I thought this one was very cool (ignore the graffiti – there’s a lot of that too)…

wall tile mural Lisbon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and I really liked the colours of this one…

bougainvillea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and of course bougainvillea (if only you could grow it in gardens in the UK).

Lisbon door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought the colour of this door was just fabulous, despite the fact the paint was all peeling – such a great shade of blue…

house in Lisbon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and the faded yellow paint of this house.

Lisbon was really delightful – definitely one for the ‘I’d like to spend a weekend here’ list.

And then it was time to head to the airport to fly home, which brings me, dear reader, to my Lisbon Airport Moment of Shame. I was determined to buy a pastel de nata to eat in Lisbon – we often buy them from a Portuguese bakery near us but there’s nothing quite like eating something in the place it actually comes from, is there? So at Lisbon Airport (which is very cool by the way, stylish and modern, with free wifi) I chose a delicious-looking pastel de nata and, being a good travel blogger, decided to instagram a photo of it before I ate it. I stood up to take a photo…

…and promptly tripped over a step and fell flat on my face. In the middle of Lisbon airport. With all the ladies from the duty-free shop running to pick me up. See? The SHAME of it.

pastel de nata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still, even though I have bruises on my arms and legs, the pastel de nata was delicious.

Lisbon street lampOh and I nearly forgot! Here’s a Lisbon street lamp :)

Day trip to Seville

SevilleJust the word ‘Seville’ conjures up images of flamenco dancing, opera and oranges; I had wanted to visit the Spanish city forever, so couldn’t wait to explore it on our Spanish adventure last week. I wasn’t disappointed.

Moorish building Seville

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seville is astonishingly beautiful, full of life and colour. It has glorious gardens and parks, plazas and fountains, ornate architecture and a really wonderful vibe.

Maybe it’s all that sunshine (and the light is incredible), but it’s such a chilled city, but also full of passion and culture – as you’d expect from the city that inspired operas including Carmen and of course The Barber of Seville.

flamenco dancer painting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved the colours of this painting in a square…

Spanish ham

 

 

 

 

 

…and here’s some Spanish ham (jamon) including of course serrano.

We wondered along the cobbled streets…

Catedral de Santa María de la Sede

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and along to the Cathedral, the magnificent Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, which is the largest gothic cathedral in the world; it’s also where you can see a tomb holding some of the remains of Christopher Columbus (this is a bit gory but it’s not all of him, only bits of him, because his remains were buried in lots of different places because of their symbolism)…

The Giralda Seville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and we gazed up at the splendid Moorish tower, The Giralda.

fig tree roots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We admired the gardens, including the Maria Luisa park (how fabulous are the roots of this fig tree?)…

Jacaranda tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…these stunning jacaranda trees with their purple blossom were all over the city – they looked fantastic against the clear blue sky…

 

…we stopped for tapas and enjoyed listening to the music, which seemed to be everywhere – including this rather fabulous flamenco dancer and musicians (the shapes she makes with her body – unreal):

bride and groom Seville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also watched as this beautiful bride and her groom tried to wrestle with her veil in the breeze – I love the fact that she’s wearing red shoes, aren’t they gorgeous?

doorway Seville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think anyone left Seville without wanting to go back for longer, as soon as possible. I know I did.

Seville lamppost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a Seville lamp post 😉

 

 

My safari wardrobe essentials

Meryl Streep in Out of AfricaWhen I was planning my safari wardrobe I had visions of looking like Meryl Streep in Out of Africa – you know, all elegant in khaki and white.

But of course I hadn’t bargained for the fact that there would be a really strict luggage allowance on the light plane from Kilimanjaro to the Splane on the Serengetierengeti. Not only do you have to take a soft shell case but the luggage allowance is a tiny 15kg (I know!). Now because I travel so much I’m probably one of the lightest packers I know, and wherever possible I always try to travel with cabin baggage only; but even I was panicking slightly at the thought of travelling with only 15kg  of luggage – and that’s including mosquito repellent and suncream, of course (you can see my red suitcase next to the plane in the Serengeti in this photo – that’s how small my case is, and that’s how small the plane is!)

So I knew that I had to streamline my safari wardrobe and go for a few key items which I could then mix and match. I had a few cotton dresses for the evening already but I needed more practical things for the day. Also, during the day you’re supposed to avoid wearing black and blue because it attracts the tsetse fly, which if it bites you can give you sleeping sickness, so dressing for safari isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

Heritage chinos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did some research and discovered that your best defence against mosquitoes is to wear long shirts and trousers when you’re on game drives; fortunately I had a nice crisp stone-coloured shirt, but I needed some chinos. Thankfully I found a great pair of Heritage chinos in stone at Fat Face (£40)…

me in Africa

 

 

…and in fact I ended up getting all my safari wardrobe essentials there because they had everything I needed. My absolute favourite item is this rather fab train driver hat (£14) – as you can see I’m wearing this in the landrover because of course you’re not *really* supposed to get out when you’re on a game drive because even if the bush looks clear a lion or hippo could suddenly appear from anywhere.

Callie waterfall cardigan navy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this Callie waterfall cardigan (£40) was just brilliant for travelling – because I was taking three flights, I could just wrap myself in it whenever I felt a bit cold. Perfect. And I’m pleased to say I didn’t get bitten the whole time I was in Africa :)

An easy way to plan holidays to France

French seasideLast Saturday I was in beautiful Marseille, with its market and delicious seafood (and that heavenly balmy climate), and just a short distance to the Cote d’Azur, which is without question one of my favourite places in France, if not the world. And it reminded me how much I have always enjoyed our holidays to France.

So I was delighted to discover that the lovely people at France-Voyage.com, the guide to tourism in France, have designed a really handy inspirational tool to help you plan and create your own holidays to France, whether you’re taking the family or travelling as a couple or with friends. It’s a fantastic idea because part of the fun of any holiday, I think, is planning the journey and the places you want to see while you’re away; even if you wander off the beaten track while you’re there, it helps to have some sort of plan when you’re setting out, particularly if you’re travelling to somewhere you’ve never been before.

When we were growing up we spent a very happy family holiday in Biarritz, on the Atlantic coast of France, but by far our favourite holidays to France were spent on the Cote d’Azur; I think that’s the reason I have such a passion for Nice and the French riviera – memories of all those glorious summers spent soaking up the sun and the atmosphere, and of course it’s incredibly glamorous. The people-watching is second to none. One of the happiest holidays No 1 Son and I went on when he was small was to Provence, a relatively short driving distance from Cannes with its wonderful beach. And I have no doubt that spending time in France led to him doing really well in French at school.

Last year I visited both Lyon and Avignon for the first time and discovered absolutely gorgeous cities, ideal for a short French holiday and immersing yourself in local culture; or if you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, you could venture into the fabulous French countryside. And wherever you decide to journey in France, then if you’re travelling with kids a few days at Disneyland Paris should probably be high on your agenda. Whether you’re planning a gastronomy-themed trip to France, you want beaches or vineyards, or all three, or you’re looking for ideas about where to stay and what to do, the planning tool on the France-voyage website is a great place to start planning your holiday, whatever your budget.

Meanwhile I’m still dreaming of buying a villa on the Cote d’Azur, by the way – maybe one day; but meanwhile I’ll have to content myself with simply visiting on holiday as often as I can.

 

Day trip to Palma de Mallorca

One of the things I try to do as a traveller is keep a really open mind about destinations, and visit with as few pre-conceptions as possible. I know for example that many people have the wrong idea about Rhodes, which is actually one of my favourite islands in Greece; but even I’ve avoided visiting Ayia Napa, Benidorm and Magaluf – or, for that matter, the entire island of Majorca/Mallorca.

Until, that is, last Friday when we were on our first cruise around the Spanish coast. I really wasn’t expecting very much at all from our first port of call, Palma de Mallorca; I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Macià Batle vineyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our day trip began with a trip to a famous vineyard, Macià Batle. Now I don’t drink wine – ever; an allergy to sulfites means I can’t tolerate it at all (I can just about do carbonated – Champagne and Prosecco, unfortunately for anyone buying my drinks – but I struggle with Cava or anything else); so obviously, ordinarily a tour of a vineyard wouldn’t have been high on my list of things to do. But it was actually fascinating.

grapes growing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We learned all about how the grapes are selected and fermented…

wine barrels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and then we were taken into the cellars to learn more about how it all works, and how to select wine (and why 2012 was a seriously bad year for all wine, apparently. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.)

Gilbert & George wine label

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…we also learned a bit about what goes in to label design (Gilbert and George are among the artists who have designed labels for Macià Batle).

Macià Batle wine bottles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How pretty do these bottles look?

Then it was time for some serious wine tasting; I stuck to water and enjoyed the proliferation of flavoured balsamic vinegars mixed wth olive oil and olive pates which were on offer instead.

blackberry balsamic vinegar

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t resist though buying a jar of blackberry balsamic vinegar to bring home with me – isn’t it a gorgeous bottle? And the vinegar is such a fab colour.

Palma de Mallorca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was on to the centre of Palma, and right away I knew I was going to love it. Wide boulevards, palm trees – it reminded me a bit of a town in California…

La Seu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and of course the Gothic cathedral La Seu is absolutely stunning…

Almudaina Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…as is the 13th-century Almudaina Palace.

gallery Palma de Mallorca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friends and I sat in the sunshine (bear in mind that it was cold at home at the time, so getting some sun on our faces was a real treat) and those of us with kids agreed that Palma de Mallorca would actually be a great destination for a family holiday; with all the yachts in the harbour it reminded me a bit of Monte Carlo, actually – maybe it doesn’t have the Ferraris that you get in Monaco, but it is very stylish and there’s also a wonderful relaxed vibe, plus it has all that gothic architecture, the palace with its history, and loads of restaurants for al fresco dining. When we visited there was a beer festival going on and I could see that there were lots of streets to explore close to the palace. It would be a brilliant place for a weekend break.

street lamp Palma de Mallorca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I’m guessing you probably know that already, don’t you? Sorry for being late to the party – and it just goes to prove that when you’re travelling, you should ALWAYS keep an open mind. And yes, this is another street lamp. Told you, it’s my new obsession.

Sunday morning in Barcelona

Sunday morning in BarcelonaSo, I spent the past week on two different ships cruising along the Spanish coast (I know, I know). Both very different experiences, but both trips began in Barcelona, a city I feel I know fairly well after spending so much time there. On Sunday morning we had a lot of free time before setting sail and as most of us had already seen the main sights many times we decided to go for a wander through the city.

La Rambla Barcelona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was only about 10.30am but already the streets of Barcelona were busy (and hot). We started of on Las Ramblas and on the main street the market was in full swing.

There was a really good atmosphere – it’s such a family-friendly place.

Monumento a Colón

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and as you can see Christopher Columbus on the Monumento a Colón was looking rather splendid in the spring sunshine…

…and we also admired the yachts at Port Vell.

street lamp barcelona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I’m a bit obsessed with street lamps at the moment – I love how they look so different wherever you go – like mini design statements).

Such a great city.

This week I’ll be telling you about some of the destinations we visited in Spain – all of which were new to me.

My top tips for taking kids on a family safari

Four Seasons Serengeti Kijana KlubSafari is, I think, one of those must-do/wish list/bucket list type trips that every parent dreams of doing with their kids; what could be better than seeing their total amazement as they spot lions, cheetah, leopard, elephants and more in the wild – and I do mean properly in the wild, not in a theme park where the animals are caged at night, or a ‘wildlife park’ where the wildlife is, in fact, thousands of miles from its natural habitat. But it’s probably not a family adventure to undertake lightly – not least because it is expensive, so you want to get it right. Here then are my top tips for taking kids on a family safari – if you have any of your own please do share them below.

Four Seasons Serengeti Discovery Centre1. Stay in a lodge. If you choose a lodge with a swimming pool and a kids club then if your children feel hot or bothered or need a break from game drives you have somewhere they can retreat to. The Four Seasons Serengeti, for example (now officially one of my favourite places to stay IN THE WORLD) has a fantastic discovery centre, where the kids can revel in the delights of animal skulls (all found in the Serengeti) and lots of fun facts; they can also learn to make fire with the Maasai or hang out in the kids clubs. The idea of camping out under the stars might be very appealing – but from talking to a (local) guide, it’s actually a bit of a headache for parents, because there are so many things that could go wrong, and facilities (however luxurious) do tend to be a little limited; you’re often confined to a fairly small area. So maybe that’s something to do for one or two nights, just for the experience, but not the whole trip if you’re travelling with kids on safari.

2. Get visas and vaccinations sorted before you go. For a start, if you go somewhere like Tanzania, you have to have a yellow fever vaccination; getting your visas before you go simplifies the arrivals process and ensures you don’t have to queue (and trust me, after around 15 hours of travelling, the last thing you’re going to want to do is queue with kids). And of course, malaria tablets are essential – your GP will advise you on the best ones for your trip.

3. Manage expectations. This is my absolute mantra for all family travel – if you over promise (you WILL see this, you WILL see that) and it doesn’t work out then you’re going to have some disappointed offspring on your hands. On our first day in the Serengeti, for example, we didn’t see ANY elephants, not one; I was actually starting to panic a bit but then of course on the second day we saw a couple, and on the third day – elephants galore.

4. Safari is probably best for ages eight and up. And the reason for that I think is simply that game drives can be exhausting, because you’re constantly keeping your eyes peeled for any sign of movement (particularly big cats); and you’re also out for at least four hours on a half day drive. Many safaris won’t accept children younger than eight anyway. Slightly older children are more likely to appreciate what they’re seeing, and cope with the journey to get there, and their interest is less likely to wane. You want your kids to remember their safari experience for the rest of their lives, not just through photos, and also, of course, because you ARE surrounded by wild animals they can’t, er, run wild. I was very surprised to see one jeep from a tour company pass us with a small baby in the back; I can’t imagine they were having too much fun being stuck in a hot car with insects flying in :(

The Serengeti5. Embrace the wild whenever you get the chance. One of my favourite moments was when we went for a picnic at one of the designated picnic areas. The chance to get out of the jeep and stretch our legs, feel the breeze and see the Serengeti from a different angle, by foot – even if it was only for a short time – was absolutely magical.

I’d go back tomorrow.

African skies… and trees

storm in the SerengetiNothing can prepare you for the size of Africa; if you consider that Tanzania alone is the same size as the Netherlands, it sort of puts it on context. And what I hadn’t expected was quite how big African skies would be; that might sound a bit strange but it’s the lack of buildings or anything to spoil the vastness of the sky. I think this photo of an afternoon storm in the Serengeti explains what I mean – we could actually SEE the rain coming down, like a tornado…

sunshine in the Serengeti

 

 

…but then the sun shone again and the contrast of the grey-blue with the green was breathtaking…

 

Serengeti trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there were the trees, which were absolutely beautiful – so many different shapes and varieties. As we were there in rainy season all the bush and trees were quite green – not lush, exactly, but definitely green.

lion up a tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the things about being in the Serengeti is that you have to remember to look up, as well as across and down, because you never know what you might see hanging around in a tree. This one had a lioness as a guest (I honestly had no idea lions spent so much time sitting in trees, they’re much more agile than domestic cats)… you have to look quite hard but you can see her tail very clearly…

tree in the Serengeti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and this acacia had the remains of a wildebeest dangling from it – taken up there by a leopard. I know it’s a bit gory, but it’s a truly extraordinary sight, isn’t it?

trees in the Serengeti

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this one actually had a leopard resting in it – I really wish I’d had a very good camera with me because she was SO beautiful, but sadly we could only view her with binoculars.

Serengeti sunriseSerengeti sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course the sunsets in the Serengeti are incredibly special – although the sun drops really quickly, and then it really is VERY dark.

 

One of my favourite moments, though, was when we got up early (6am) to see the sun rise over the Serengeti. It is so quiet at that time of morning, and yet the bush is completely alive with antelope, hyena, giraffe, birds and zebra. And then, suddenly, that magnificent ball of light, turning the enormous sky gold and apricot. I’ve seen the sun rise in places all over the world, but nothing compares to the magic of sunrise in the Serengeti and those African skies. There’s simply no other place in the world quite like it.

 

 

The easy way to hire a car

rb8604_CroydeBayBeachAs the bank holiday is coming up and the weather has been SO gorgeous some of my friends are planning to take their families on a UK seaside break and have been talking about car hire. One of them hired a car at Easter and was furious to discover she could have got the same car, much cheaper, if she’d only gone with a different firm. In fact, she’d paid over £200 more than she needed to, which she could have spent on extra treats for the kids.

Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing but if you’re thinking about hiring a car then in my experience it does pay to shop around – for example if you check out Drive Now and search for cheap car hire in the UK you’ll find lots of options to suit all budgets for the date of your trip – and what you see is what you get, so you’re not in for a shock when you pick up the vehicle. And if you’re travelling with young children you can also add the option to hire baby seats or booster seats.

When we used to take regular holidays to Cornwall by car we always hired a car because it meant we didn’t have to worry about our own car breaking down – which it did with alarming regularity, once on the motorway, when the wheels actually came off. At least with a hire car you know that they’ll have made every effort to ensure the vehicle is completely road-worthy.

For peace of mind it definitely pays to do a little bit of research before booking a hire car, because the earlier you book the better the rate, and then you can relax and enjoy your break. Hopefully the weather will stay fine too.

Colours of Tanzania

One of the things I loved discovering in Tanzania was how, when you’re not on safari (when you should stick to light-coloured clothes and avoid black or blue because it attracts the Tsetse flies, which can give you malaria), the people use really vibrant colours for their clothes and textiles.

Maasai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This young Maasai, for example (who was showing us how to make a toothbrush out of a twig – apparently his dad refuses to use anything else and has perfect teeth) was wearing one of the traditional red Shúkà.

Tanzanian textiles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really loved the colours and patterns of this throw, cushion and rug – such a great combination, and it totally works with the pale mink colour of the chaise longue; it made me think that I really need to be a bit more experimental with colour at home…

Espresso cup and saucer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and this stunning hand-decorated espresso cup and saucer, which would definitely wake you up in the morning, right?

Mugumu omelette

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even this delicious Mugumu omelette, based on a traditional recipe, filled with peppers and plantain and topped with avocado, was brightly-coloured.

Tanzanian flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

But of course the best colours are found in nature; as you can see from the fabulous pink of these wild flowers, which are almost Warhol-esque. I promise you, no filter.

African Wild Dogs

 

 

 

 

 

And if you look very closely at this photo you’ll be able to see a pack of African Wild Dogs – an endangered species, so seeing them at all was a real privilege; their coats camouflage them beautifully, so they can carry on lazing in the shade, while keeping a watchful eye for predators. I hope they manage to stay safe.

*This is my entry for The Gallery – the theme this week is ‘colour’.

123»Page 1 of 81

TheMumBlog Copyright © 2012-2013 All Rights Reserved.

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.