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British mummy blogger and travel blogger

2 days in New York

So last week I spent two nights and 2 days in New York, one of my favourite cities in the world. I've… [more]

2 days in New York 2 days in New York

My totally gorgeous, probably impractical new pink coat

Yesterday I did something a bit rash. Something not very 'me'. I bought a gorgeous new pink coat. PINK.… [more]

My totally gorgeous, probably impractical new pink coat My totally gorgeous, probably impractical new pink coat

10 signs you’re addicted to cruise travel

I was in my bath last night, wishing it was a jacuzzi on a ship deck and wondering why no one was offering… [more]

10 signs you’re addicted to cruise travel 10 signs you're addicted to cruise travel

Addicted to Breaking Bad

Spoiler alert: There are no spoilers in this post. My eyes are red, I've hardly slept and I'm being… [more]

Addicted to Breaking Bad Addicted to Breaking Bad

Why Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen is my mantra

Now as I told you a few days ago I'm still a loooong way from being a proper grown-up on many levels;… [more]

Why Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen is my mantra Why Let It Go from Disney's Frozen is my mantra

A brilliant and easy way to carry cash abroad

One of the things about travelling a lot is that I often have to change between currencies several times a month. I also don’t really like carrying lots of cash with me. Let’s face it, traveller’s cheques were a complete pain but at least they were a safe and easy way to carry cash abroad.

So when I read about the Ukash Travel Money Card I was intrigued. I applied (no credit check or anything like that, you just have to load up £50 online which is very easy to do) and my card arrived 10 days later. You then just add as many funds as you need – you can add them in Dollars or Euros, but you can also take money out in the UK if you need to. I was pleased to discover the exchange rate seemed very favourable, too. All you have to do is look for ATMs and places that accept Mastercard.

Macy's New York shoe floorThe real road test, though, came when I was in New York last week. I first tried the card at JFK and was relieved to discover I could check my balance, no problem, and the money I’d loaded before I’d left the UK was all there. The following morning I was up bright and early thanks to my transatlantic insomnia and a craving for breakfast, and I headed out to a bank (open 24 hours, can you believe?) close to our hotel. I put the card in, put my number in, the machine asked how much I wanted to withdraw and then I had my crisp dollar bills. Easy peasy.

Peanuts chocolate heartsI then decided to try and use the card at Macy’s (where they actually have an ENTIRE FLOOR FOR SHOES), followed by a small drugstore where I bought some rather cute Snoopy/Peanuts chocolate hearts for No 1 Son. The card worked perfectly – exactly like using a debit card or credit card at home, and the best thing was that I wasn’t having to carry cash, so it all felt really safe.

The only *slight* negative is that it’s not advised to use the card when you check into a hotel in the US and they ask for your credit card in case of ‘incidentals’. (This is really common practice in the US unfortunately, and some hotels actually take a deposit from your credit card which they then hold for as much as 30 days). Obviously if they tried to take a deposit from your travel money card this would then leave you short for the rest of your trip, so it’s best to take another credit/debit card for when you’re checking in to your hotel.

But apart from that, I was really impressed with how simple it was to use the Ukash travel money card, and another bonus is there are no transaction fees and you can manage it all online. I’m definitely going to use it again when I have to go to Amsterdam in March.

2 days in New York

early morning New YorkSo last week I spent two nights and 2 days in New York, one of my favourite cities in the world. I’ve visited New York many times before – in fact, New York was the first US city I ever visited with my parents and sister, sparking a lifelong love of America. But it had been a few years since I was there last.

This time I was there for work – the unveiling of Carnival’s new ship, Carnival Vista, and perhaps the only advantage to suffering from transatlantic insomnia in the city that never sleeps is that you wake up really early (like, 4am early) which means you’re up and out and sightseeing before the working day has really started, so as it had been a while since I’d been in New York I took full advantage of our 2 days in New York. January in New York

7th AvenueWe were staying right in the Fashion District on 7th Avenue…

New York bagelAnd on our first morning I braved the cold and snow and had breakfast (deliciously fresh toasted bagel with bacon egg and cheese) at the charming Gigi Cafe where they asked me where I was from and told me how much I liked my accent; I sat in the window, watching the world go by, before making my way up 7th…

Madison Square Garden…past Madison Square Garden…

Times Square 2015…and on to Times Square, where the neon lights were all on…

NYPD(You can see the NYPD ‘office’ in this photo – there was a strong police presence all over the city…)

Macy's New York

 

 

 

 

 

..and then I walked along Broadway to the shops, which were just starting to open, including Macy’s, which recently underwent a makeover (and where international visitors get 10% off…)

KitchenAid mixers Macy'sI couldn’t resist taking a photo of these beautiful KitchenAid mixers, I don’t think I’ve seen colours like these in the UK, LOVE. One day *sigh*.

The Melt Shop New YorkOne of my favourite foodie things about the US is the grilled cheese sandwich. It sounds like such a simple thing, but the way Americans make their grilled cheese sandwiches (and what distinguishes them from the humble British cheese toastie) is that they either griddle them or fry them. I know, I know, probably terribly unhealthy but they absolutely melt in your mouth. So I was delighted to discover The Melt Shop, which specialises in grilled cheese…

grilled cheese from The Melt Shop

 

 

 

 

 

…it was absolutely delicious, proper comfort food (I currently have a New York baby belly #notevensorry). We so need one of these in London…

Madison Square Park

 

 

 

 

 

…and it was close to stunning Madison Square Park (it was cold but sunny the whole time we were there, and the sky was incredibly blue) – I love this shot of the Empire State building and the park…

Flatiron building New York…it’s also where you can see the famous Flatiron building…

New York Life Building

 

 

…and the gold-topped New York Life building…

Met Life Tower

 

 

 

…and the very cool Met Life Tower.

Central Park West

 

 

 

The press conference was at Jazz at Lincoln Center, right by Central Park West, with great views of Manhattan…

New York selfie

 

…and afterwards, even though it was FREEZING, I couldn’t resist doing a New York selfie. Standard.

Hedwig and the Angry InchThat night we went to see a play on Broadway – Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was probably one of the most confusing plays I’ve ever seen in my life. Everyone in our group was completely bemused; maybe it’s because we’re British, because everyone else in the audience (who were American) were going absolutely mad for it. Basically it’s the story of a German transsexual who ends up in a band. And then ends up as a man in a loincloth. All the time singing in the style of David Bowie and Lou Reed. No, me either.

New York cops on horsebackAfterwards when we were waiting for a cab back to the hotel I spotted four cops on horseback, and couldn’t resist taking their photos (I love that one is on his mobile phone). New York cop on horseback

New York skyline at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then it was up to the bar at the top of our hotel for drinks – this was the view. Isn’t it beautiful? Love love love New York.

One World Trade Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following morning as we weren’t flying home until later that day we decided to take a cab to One World Trade Center.

National September 11 Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

This is also where you can see the National September 11 memorial; it’s a sobering, poignant memorial, with the names of those who lost their lives inscribed on its walls. There’s also a museum close by.

 

Afterwards, more walking: New York is an incredibly easy city to walk around and once you get the hang of the streets (it’s all on a grid, so simple) then you quickly find your way. It was sunny again and the sky was blue – I love this photo of the Empire State Building.

Empire State Buildingred velvet cupcakeAnd even though we were having lunch in an hour because my body/stomach clock was all over the place I couldn’t resist popping into Gigi Cafe for a giant red velvet cake. It was lush.

Cipriani downtown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch was in Soho at Cipriani downtown, which is absolutely gorgeous…art at Cipriani downtown

Black Russian Tomato and mozzarella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose mozzarella and tomato to start, which was absolutely the freshest, most delicious I’ve ever had – the tomatoes were black; I’ve eaten fried green tomatoes before but never black. I’ve since found out they were probably Black Russian tomatoes. Delicious.

gnocchi at Cipriani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My main course was gnocchi with tomato sauce; the gnocchi was exquisite, so soft (it was handmade, not like the stuff you buy in supermarkets here)…

chocolate cake at Cipriani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and then the waiters did something very clever. They plonked a chocolate cake and apple tart on the table in front of us. Well of course this instantly made us all crave dessert.

Lemon meringue pie Cipriani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to go for the lemon meringue pie, which was just luscious.

Yellow taxis Times Square

 

 

 

Sadly once our lunch was over it was time to take our car back to JFK for our flights to London. My 2 days in New York had been a whirlwind visit, but the whole time we were there the atmosphere was friendly and laidback, and I felt immediately at home again; it reminded me how much I love this beautiful city, and how much I’d like to return.Empire State Building and New York

How to plan a holiday to Orlando

holiday to OrlandoAsk most British families for the No 1 destination on their family holiday wishlist and I guarantee they’ll say ‘Florida,’ and of course it’s Orlando that’s the big attraction. The beauty of a holiday to Orlando is that once you’re there, there’s simply so much to see and do that you’re completely spoiled for choice. The Sunshine State is also a great destination for families on a budget because there are so many different holiday options available, from the theme park hotels to the different accommodation along International Drive or even, if you prefer, self-catering villas which give you the chance to do your own thing. Plus, usually, access to your own private pool as well so your kids (and you) can splash around after a day of exploring the theme parks to your heart’s content.

The brilliant thing about holidays to Orlando is that it’s also incredibly easy to put together your own holiday, but if you want everything to go smoothly, start with the flights to Orlando so that you have your dates of travel confirmed and can then start booking a hotel or villa – it’s definitely worth checking out Thomson’s flights to Orlando as they have a brilliant choice of UK departure airports, and then once you have your flights you can book car hire, theme park tickets and so on. Securing your flights is definitely the most important thing (and don’t forget you will need valid passports and ESTAs to enter the US).

One of my absolute top tips for anyone taking a family holiday to Orlando is to plan carefully what you want to do and see so you don’t get overwhelmed; there really is so much you’ll want to experience, from the spectacular Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal to the Walt Disney World parks (including our favourite, Animal Kingdom) that you’ll want to make sure you all have time to do everything on your list without feeling as though you’re rushing around all the time or are too exhausted to enjoy it. Get hold of the theme park maps and ask everyone in the family to decide on their ‘must-sees’, giving everyone a few choices. Fastpass where you can and pace yourselves, because of course there’s always next time. It’s also worth setting a daily budget so you don’t overspend at the parks and that way you can make sure you have some spending money left for when you hit the shops at Sawgrass Mills. And of course you’ll want to leave some time to relax in that glorious Florida sunshine ;).

My baby’s first pair of shoes

It’s No 1 Son’s birthday today, and it’s a big one; he’s a young man now, with strong ideas about what he wants to do with his life and career and a whole world waiting for him. And it’s a bittersweet moment, knowing your child doesn’t *really* need you any more, and being SO proud of him, while at the same time desperately wanting to cling on to those precious moments from his childhood; and knowing that you’ve done everything you possibly can to try and keep your child safe, but now they need to experience life without you waiting in the wings, well that’s the kicker, frankly.

first pair of shoesAnyway, as I was putting things away in our new house I came across these: my baby’s first pair of shoes. So small, slightly worn, his first pair of proper shoes, that he could actually walk in, as opposed to bootees, which were just to keep his feet warm, really. And it honestly feels like yesterday that we bought them. I remember taking him to the local shoe shop, where they were properly fitted, and I can still remember how he would toddle along in them, sometimes on reins (he was so fast, it was the only way to keep him close), and then as soon as he realised he could pull them off himself he would throw them anywhere (we actually lost one shoe – not from this pair – in the water while we were waiting to get on It’s a Small World at Disneyland Paris).

Now his feet are like Hobbit feet, and his shoes are like boats.

Happy Birthday bub. I love you.

Mum x

Addicted to Breaking Bad

Spoiler alert: There are no spoilers in this post.

My eyes are red, I’ve hardly slept and I’m being fuelled by a combination of chocolate and Diet Coke. Yes, I’m addicted to Breaking Bad; I’ve been watching it back to back, late into the night, because I CANNOT STOP. The last series I did this with was The Wire, but then it was one episode a night. I’ve been watching Breaking Bad properly back to back. Five seasons in a fortnight. With one episode left to go.

Yes I know I’m late to the party, but better late than never. And I actually didn’t expect to become addicted to Breaking Bad at all, because for me, the first two seasons weren’t particularly strong. If I compare them to the first season of Ray Donovan, or Lost, or The Wire, or Boardwalk Empire, or The Leftovers, well, no contest. In fact my first impressions of Breaking Bad were that it was watchable and fun, the central characters were endearing (these were first impressions, remember), but the continual ‘Jesse and Walt get into a scrape’ scenario was a little repetitive. I know quite a few people who actually gave up after season 2.

But trust me, it’s worth sticking around, it really is, because the character and plot development in seasons 3, 4 and 5 is exquisite, some of the best TV you’re ever likely to see in terms of acting, writing and production, up there with the best seasons of The Sopranos and The Wire.

Jesse PinkmanAnd one of the biggest reasons to watch Breaking Bad, apart from the excellent Bryan Cranston as Walter White, of course, is the character of Jesse Pinkman, as portrayed by the delectable Aaron Paul, who conveys just the right balance of vulnerability and edginess. All the cast, though, are excellent, including Anna Gunn as Skyler (such a great name) and Dean Norris as Hank. It’s simply must-watch TV.

So now, I’m going back in for the final episode, hopeful that there will be a proper conclusion to Breaking Bad that doesn’t leave you guessing. Gotta bounce.

 

Top 10 Family Travel destinations 2015 part 2

So, apologies for being a teeny bit late with the rest of my Top 10 family travel destinations for 2015 – I was slightly waylaid by watching back to back episodes of Breaking Bad (more on that story later). Here then, in no particular order, are nos 6 to 10 of the best family travel destinations for 2015.
6. Cuba. Cuba is definitely on our wish list for 2015. Thanks to the thawing in relations with the US it’s opening up, and there are lots of brilliant deals around, including of course all-inclusive packages (although I think it would be a shame not to experience the local cuisine in traditional restaurants). Now’s the time to visit, before things really start to change. While kids may not be so enthralled by the crumbling architecture of Havana they’ll be properly wowed by the glorious powdery white sandy beaches, some of the best in the Caribbean.
Giant's Causeway7. Ireland. If you have older kids they’ll probably be into Game of Thrones, in which case they’ll be delighted with the filming locations along Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast, while everyone will enjoy visiting the spectacular Giant’s Causeway. The Titanic Belfast is an absolute must-visit – an incredibly moving but also very informative and interactive museum, one of the best museums in the world. There are also lots of reasons to travel to Eire in 2015, too; we’ll be heading out to Cobh, about half an hour outside Cork, to commemorate those who lost their lives on the Lusitania in 1915, including my great great uncle. And I can definitely recommend Dublin for a family break.
The Colosseum8. Italy. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve visited Italy as a family (clue: a lot), it never disappoints. There is something very seductive about the Italian way of life, particularly in summer, when everything feels so easy, particularly if you’re travelling with kids, and of course the food is just heaven. Whether you choose a city break to Rome or Naples or Venice, or a resort-based holiday (in which case Sardinia would definitely be top of my list), a family holiday to Italy will be always be one to remember. And trust me, the pizza slices you get just outside Pompeii is officially the best pizza we’ve ever tasted anywhere else in the world.
9. Dorset. If you’re one of the zillions of Broadchurch fans then you’ll already be dreaming of summering on those glorious Dorset beaches. But Dorset is of course fantastic for families. I’d recommend staying in Lyme Regis, using that as a base for exploring – the walk along the Jurassic Coast to Charmouth, where you’re guaranteed to see lots of actual fossils, is definitely not to be missed and ideal for dinosaur-obsessed children (and their parents). 185 million years of geology, showcased in breathtaking setting.
10. New York. If you want to give your kids a taste of the US that’s a bit different from the Florida experience, then New York is the place to do it. In summer it’s fantastic because there are so many free things to look at and do in Central Park, but of course the museums (and FAO Schwarz, No 1 Son’s all-time favourite toy shop) offer endless hours of entertainment for kids of all ages. This year the viewing deck at One World Trade Center opens, offering crazily high views of Manhattan (from 1250ft) – guaranteed to delight kids, and spare their parents. I’m off to New York next week so will be sharing some top tips for visiting the city with kids or childfree on my return.
Hope you’ve enjoyed my Top 10 Family Travel Destinations for 2015 – do feel free to share your own family travel tips below.

The Toy Story effect

We’ve been in our new house for exactly a month now, and most of it is pretty much organised. I’ve unpacked, decluttered and everything has its place.

Except, that is, for No 1 Son’s stuff, which stubbornly remains in boxes. I’ve resorted to stuffing it into his wardrobe just so I can vacuum because I’m NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH IT.

A lot of it is schoolbooks and old video games that have been gathering dust since his first XBox/Playstation/Gameboy was laid to rest. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to sort those out. Plus countless Pokémon cards.

Forgotten ToysBut then there’s these.

The forgotten toys.

They lived in the loft in our old house and haven’t been played with for quite a few years. In an attempt to force No 1 Son into taking some sort of decisive action, I took them out of their boxes and put them in a heap on the floor of the spare room so that he could divide them into ‘keep’ and ‘recycle’ piles. I didn’t mean to make it sound like Sophie’s Choice, honestly, but judging by his reaction I’m asking him to throw away an ACTUAL Jar Jar Binks/Action Man/broken Buzz Lightyear. Like they’re made of flesh and blood, not plastic/rubber/metal. (I mean, what actually IS Jar Jar Binks anyway? An alien/giraffe/rabbit hybrid? Who knows.)

I think it’s down to the Toy Story effect; like many kids his age (and their mums) No 1 Son is a massive Disney/Pixar fan, he grew up with Andy from Toy Story, watched and laughed and then cried as Woody and Buzz and their friends desperately tried to cling on to their children. And like Andy, I think there’s still a part of my son that can’t bear to admit he’s never going to play with these toys again, and let his old friends go to another home (or, you know, to be recycled *cough*), even the broken ones *looks at Buzz Lightyear*. So for the time being they are staying in their pile in the middle of the spare room, along with what appears to be an entire Playmobil hospital staff, Transformers, various bits of Lego, marbles, plastic soldiers and so on. The cat occasionally bats them with her paw but otherwise they stay as they are (I think. Who knows what they get up to when we’re not around.)

Anyway, I’m sort of getting used to it now. It’s like a Tracey Emin art installation. No 1 Son’s Forgotten Toys.

Cirque du Soleil Kooza review

On Tuesday night Harriet and I were invited to the premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s new show Kooza at the Royal Albert Hall. A bit of a confession here: the first and last time I’d seen anything by Cirque du Soleil was a few years back when I was on a press trip in Mississippi and we were taken to see Allegria. I was so freaked out by the creepy clown faces that I’m afraid I walked out after five minutes (I know, I know). So I was interested to see whether Kooza would encourage me to stay in my seat.

Cirque du Soleil Kooza stage

Cirque du Soleil Kooza stage

When we arrived we found we were sitting about two rows from the stage, which looked amazing…

At cirque du soleil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…(here’s Harriet in front of the stage)…

Cirque du Soleil Kooza

 

 

 

 

…and then the performers started to appear as random characters in the audience before finally making it on to the stage, which suddenly transformed into a riot of vibrant colour and spectacle with the most glorious singing. It really was very beautiful and of course the wonderful Royal Albert Hall was the perfect backdrop.

Contortionists Kooza

 

 

 

 

There was some sort of plot involving a human-sized dog, a King who bore a striking resemblance to Peter Capaldi, several fools (mercifully no creepy clown faces) a robot (no, me either), and plenty of cheekiness and audience participation; but the real attractions were the different circus ‘acts’. These included jugglers, tightrope walkers (my heart was in my mouth the whole time, even with the obvious safety net), sexy unicyclists, trapeze artists and the weirdest act of all: three contortionists, who made the most extraordinary shapes with their bodies which made you wince, cross your legs and gasp in awe at the same time. Trust me, those three ladies give a whole new meaning to the expression double-jointed.

It was all absolutely seamless and polished, and the performers were excellent, very endearing. You spend a lot of your time looking up, and there are some genuine ‘wow’ moments. Harriet was spellbound, and said she thought it was ‘completely technically brilliant’, which of course it was. There’s an incredible finale and you leave feeling as though you’ve really experienced an event rather than simply a night at the circus. You just have to sort of give yourself up to it.

But I think for me the thing about watching lots of circus acts, albeit with a contemporary twist, is that after a while it becomes a little repetitive, and although it was all utterly perfect, it felt almost too perfect. Even the more spontaneous moments felt a little contrived. If I compare it to the Phare Cambodian circus we saw in Siem Reap, for example – a group of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds who tell a story through stunning acrobatics, without any gimmicks or flamboyant costumes – well, I think personally, I prefer the slightly more simple approach.

That’s not to say Kooza isn’t an absolute triumph: of course it is, and despite a few risque moments it’s a fantastic family night out. If you’re a diehard fan of Cirque du Soleil then I’m sure you’ll be in your element. So, glad I went, but I think one night at Cirque du Soleil Kooza is probably enough for me.

*Cirque du Soleil Kooza is at the Royal Albert Hall until February 19 – you can watch a preview below.

My Top 10 Family Travel Destinations 2015

One of the things about working in the travel industry, blogging a lot about family travel and being an all round family travel expert *cough* is that at this time of year you’re frequently asked to peer into your crystal ball and predict where we’ll all be going on holiday; and people ask you to suggest holidays for them, which is a HUGE responsibility. Still, I’m more than up for the challenge of helping you to find your dream break. So, here’s Part 1 of my Top 10 Family Travel Destinations 2015 – and do please share your holiday plans and tips below:

Hachiko statue Shibuya1. Japan. We fell completely in love with Japan, its spectacular beauty, the craziness and its people when we visited Tokyo and the Japanese islands in the autumn; and one of the things that really surprised us (apart from the controls on the loos – press the wrong button and you’re in for a completely unexpected experience) was how incredibly affordable it is. You can go on the subway for £2, enjoy a proper conveyor belt sushi dinner for a tenner, and there is an endless array of things to look at from temples to neon signs which are completely free. Plus, the decline of the yen and the strength of sterling makes it even more affordable. In fact, according to ABTA, Japan is now cheaper than the US or Dubai. Add in that and the fact they have places where you can just go and stroke rabbits or cats for the hell of it and all those cultural experiences and you’ve got an absolute family holiday winner. The weird thing is, when we returned back from Japan, I discovered lots of other families we knew we were planning to go or had just returned as well. It’s also fantastic for skiing, apparently. Yes it’s a longish flight (12-14 hours) but you arrive in the morning, wide awake and ready to explore. So, what are you waiting for?

Palm trees Fort Lauderdale2. Florida. Of COURSE the Sunshine State is still massively popular with British families, but as fabulous as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios are, I think we’re going to see more families deciding to either cruise-and-stay (and I can’t recommend this option highly enough, best of both worlds) and also choosing to travel round a bit more, discovering gems like the Keys, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.

Market Square Helsinki3. Scandinavia. Our love of Nordic noir, Abba and all things Scandi shows no signs of abating – and Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark all make fantastic family holiday destinations, particularly during the midnight sun, when there’s endless sunshine, outdoor festivals and magical things to discover. Whether you decide to rent a cabin on the Swedish archipelago, hang out in Helsinki, visit the superb museums in Stockholm, explore the palaces of Denmark or go in search of Viking stories in the Norwegian Fjords, the laidback lifestyle makes it very easy to relax, even if you’re travelling with small children.

View from Parc Guell Barcelona4. Barcelona. City breaks for families are really growing in popularity, and the more I visit Barcelona, the more I’m convinced it’s the ideal city break destination if you’re travelling with kids: the combination of fabulous beaches, mind-blowing architecture and art everywhere you look, plus amazingly fresh affordable food makes it an absolute winner.

The Acropolis5. Greece. From exploring ancient ruins in Athens to discovering hidden coves, villages painted in ice-cream colours and sailing round the islands (including our personal favourites, Rhodes and Symi), Greece is the perfect option for a family holiday and continues to give great value; of course it can get fiercely hot in July, so my top tip is to go as late in August as you possibly can.

And it will be no surprise that one of my biggest tips for an unforgettable family holiday is a cruise; it really is one of the best ways to take your family to explore some of the world’s most extraordinary destinations, it’s a brilliant value holiday (food and all those amazing places on your itinerary included) and with so many state-of-the-art ships sailing from Southampton this year (including Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, the sister ship to Quantum of the Seas), plus Disney Cruise Line sailing from Dover, I predict family cruising is going to be MASSIVE in 2015.

So that’s the top 5 of my Top 10 Family Travel Destinations 2015 – next week I’ll reveal which places have made 6-10.

My big fat 2014 review of the year

MADE IT. Yes, dear reader I realise this 2014 review of the year has taken a while and it’s nearly 2015 but I’ve been busy doing stuff like moving house and stuffing my face with chocolate truffles; I knew, also, that my 2014 review of the year was going to take a loooong time to put together because basically, my feet haven’t touched the ground all year. I don’t just mean in the travel sense (although that was a heewge part of it, of course) but also (here comes the slightly hippy bit) in the metaphorical sense, because the experiences I’ve had this year have been mind-blowing and life-changing. I thought 2013 was a rollercoaster, but my goodness, 2014 was a WHIRLWIND. So, ta-da! Here it is. My big fat 2014 review of the year.

Me in the North CapeAnd it started off in January with me spending four days on a ship sailing along the Norwegian coast in search of the Northern Lights; not only did we find them (nine times, no less) but we also met some adorable huskies and I actually managed to finish reading a book for the first time in eons.

I was also privileged to be among a group of bloggers invited by Cherry Healey to meet the utterly inspiring Camila Batmanghelidjh and hear about the extraordinary work of Kids Company.

Schoolchildren Dominican RepublicFrom freezing my touche off in Scandinavia to snorkelling in the Caribbean in February, courtesy of Carnival Cruises (you can watch my vlog about it here); one of the definite highlights for me was discovering Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

And, never one to shy away from controversy, I blogged my feelings about the senseless slaughter of a giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo.

sunny and windy in AvignonIn March, it was off to France for work, first Avignon and then Lyon, and a chance to savour the best that these two wonderful cities have to offer. I also wondered why people still insist on saying ‘fell pregnant.’ ARGH.

Jamie OliverAnd in April I finally got to visit the phenomenal city of Seattle and explore stunning Washington State. On my return in May I met Jamie Oliver in my capacity as a Royal Mum; and I also spent the maddest weekend of my life, possibly, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I tried my hand (s) at kayaking and got to see the FABULOUS Cher in concert. I was also delighted to be named a finalist in the Best Travel Blog category in the Brit Mums awards.

View from the Hotel Monaco VeniceI spent 24 hours in Venice for work in June, which sounds exactly as glamorous as it was, and also claimed back PPI and won (if you haven’t done this yet please make it your No 1 New Year’s resolution); I also had my heart in my mouth as my son went on his first trip abroad with a friend.

July was INSANE. I took my mum to Dublin for a few days before joining the amazing Norwegian Getaway for a Caribbean cruise (I know, I know), including the chance to visit the fabulous two-islands-in-one of St Martin and Sint Maarten (#sorrynotsorry).

Elderly Cambodian womanBy contrast August was relatively quiet as I was getting ready for the biggest trip of the year so far: Vietnam and Cambodia. This was a seminal journey for me in more ways than one, not just because it was the chance to achieve a lifelong ambition to visit Cambodia; but also because of the experiences we shared during our trip. From the madness of Hanoi to climbing the ancient temple at Angkor Wat, being blessed by monks, and meeting the Cambodian people, it was a life-changing, life affirming adventure in every sense.

wearing a kimonoHow do you come down from something like that? Fortunately I didn’t have to, because the following month it was off to Japan with Harriet, where we discovered the wonders of Tokyo, rode the bullet train, saw the incredible Japanese autumn colours and tried on kimonos while sailing round the Japanese islands on Diamond Princess. I still can’t believe we saw (and ate) everything we did. I’d go back tomorrow, because I fell in love completely with Japan, the culture, the people, the food (particularly the pork buns) and the spectacular scenery.

Skydiving at sea on Quantum of the SeasAnd then during the first week of November it was the chance to experience Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, and to try skydiving at sea, still one of the best and most exhilarating things I’ve done on a ship. I also revealed why Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen is now my mantra.

December saw a big change for my family as we moved house just before Christmas; so I’m blogging this post from our new home, in front of our real coal fire. We are incredibly lucky and that’s why I’ve decided to sponsor a room at Centrepoint in 2015.

And I was delighted when The Mum Blog was named a Cision Top 10 Family Travel Blog for 2014.

So there you are: My 2014 review of the year. It’s been an extraordinary 12 months and as ever, travel and blogging has been a big part of that. There have been more laughs, shrieks, glasses of Champagne and airport lounges than I ever thought possible. 2015, you have a lot to live up to.

Happy New Year and see you next year :)

 

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