A South African expat living in Cardiff and exploring all that Wales and the rest of the world has to offer. Sharing my passion for travel, good interiors, love of the outdoors, ethical city living, beautiful design and green parenting. Freelance writer, professionally trained photographer, award winning blogger.
On our recent weekend trip to The Gower and Swansea Bay we checked into the quaint and chic traditional inn that is the King Arthur Hotel in Reynoldston right in the heart of The Gower Peninsular and a great place to switch off and take in the countryside setting and is a world away from the vibrant Swansea City Centre. The King Arthur Hotel offers a variety of accommodation options from double and family sized rooms to character filled self-catering cottages. We had a spacious family room in a converted annex around the back of the Inn which was perfect for us as it was away from any of the noise of the pub and had wonderful views.
As we had a very busy first day Paddleboarding and then an afternoon walking along the pier of the Mumbles we decided to dine in the pub restaurant which is full of character but still very light and airy and the menu is modern and contemporary with great children's options. I opted for a delicious Chickpea veggie burger which was delicious as well as indulging in dessert. It was a great way to end the first day of exploring this beautiful part of Wales.
On our second day exploring Swansea Bay we started out taking a hike in the Gower before heading back into the city where the kids enjoyed a swimming session at the LC2 leisure centre which has a fantastic indoor pool and slide complex. This really worked up an appetite which was good because we had a booking at The Grape and Olive in Swansea's tallest building, the Meridian Tower, which I was very excited for except I'm not great when it comes to elevators (I got stuck in one when I was younger) but I overcame that and it was completely worth it as the views are incredible.
The menu is a fusion of modern and contemporary dishes with timeless classics and I was also happy to see a few local products being used on the menu and while it's very family friendly it's also the perfect place for a refined evening out. The kids really loved the food because it can be a little hit and miss when we eat out and the starter skewers were a fair favorite while I opted for the bread and oils to start.
For the mains I had a Vegetarian style pot pie with sweet potato fries and green beans followed by an Apple crumble pie and both were excellent as was the general consensus from around the table. From start to finish we had great service and we really couldn't fault the food or the breathtaking views at all, so if you're looking for a unique dining experience in South Wales I recommend the Grape and Olive as it's certainly a treat. The foodie scene in Swansea Bay and The Gower is very much alive and throughout our whole stay we had some fantastic meals. If you want to see more of what we got up to make sure to check out my vlog from the trip.
Paddleboarding on Swansea Canal & exploring the Gower - YouTube
Thanks to Visit Swansea Bay for inviting us to be their guests and explore Swansea Bay, views 100% our own.
When it comes to exotic destinations we often thinks of places like Thailand, Costa Rica or far-flung Caribbean islands but you really don't have to hop onto a long haul flight to find those white sands and crystal blue seas as there are plenty of short haul exotic destinations right here in Europe, making them a great for a mini-escape when you have had frankly enough of the unpredictable British weather. This list could easily be doubled what I am going to share but I thought I would put together a mix of places I have either been to or want to visit and certainly capture that exotic far-flung feeling.
1. Isles of Scilly
Less than a 10-minute flight from Lands End and you are instantly transported to somewhere so unique and special you will wonder why you have never visited before. We spent a week exploring the Isles of Scilly in 2016 and have been dreaming of going back ever since. Every morning we woke up to the most beautiful views and would take barefoot strolls on the beach after breakfast, the Isles move to its own slower time and you easily fall into that relaxing feeling while embracing all the simple pleasures. Despite it being the height of summer while we were there it wasn't busy at all, often finding ourselves alone on our beach walks on St Martins. The Isles are certainly up there with any other isolated beach destination and I highly recommend it.
Enjoying St Martins, Isles of Scilly
2. Kotor, Montenegro
Ever since I went backpacking and inter-railing through Europe (before kids) I would hear so many fantastic things about Montenegro and actually headed down that way but detoured up through Croatia and Hungary and ever since have always wanted to go back visit. For those who don't know Kotor is a fortified town on the Adriatic coast and has long been a hot spot for the yachting set but now with easily available flights, it has opened the way to move people being able to visit this secluded bay. Despite it being frequented by the rich and famous there is also a simplicity here as well as four National Parks. stunning lakes and beautiful beaches there is plenty of outdoor fun to be had.
3. Antibes, South of France
If you already read my blog regularly you will know I have a real soft spot for the South of France, having worked and lived there for a few months just before settling down it's somewhere that is very close to my heart, so much so that it was the natural choice for where I wanted to celebrate my 30th Birthday. What I love about Antibes is it's so creative, colorful but slower and more quaint than Nice and less pretentious than Cannes. It has wonderful beaches that are safe for families to swim in as well as plenty of Gelato shops, museums and that laid back vibe that harks ever so gently to years gone by when Hollywood starlets would visit this region to retreat from it all. I've also written a family friendly guide to The South Of France so do check it out.
4. Capri, Italy
This Italian island in the Gulf of Naples is famed for it's natural beauty and youthful hednomism that has been attracting visitors since Roman times and it somewhere that is very high up on my bucket list. There is so much to see and do on this small island including the famous Blue Grotto, a beautiful sea cave with a tiny opening that attracts a lot of tourists. You could also hire your own motorboat and explore the island or go hiking on one of many trails.
5. El Hierro, Spain
Most will not have heard of the island of El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands, as well as the most natural and rugged and is completely self-sufficient using only renewable energy. It has a small airport that connects with Tenerife and is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve which means it has limited construction and while there are hotels and Villas and I recommend you book in advance, Interhome have some on their website, it's an Island very rich in natural wonders including rich forest, lava features and sea cliffs as well as a stunning coastline.
If you follow me on instagram you may already know that we recently spent a fantastic weekend exploring Swansea Bay and the Gower and wow what a weekend it was. Even though technically we don't live that far from Swansea as Cardiff is only an hour away we didn't actually realise how much of the Swansea peninsular we hadn't seen, despite having visited Swansea city centre and Mumbles before there is just so much more to this part of South Wales. It was a long overdue trip especially as I am very keen on watersports having grown up surfing in South Africa and the first activity of the weekend was Standup Paddleboarding with Matt from SUP Gower on the beautiful Swansea Canal at the Cyldach Heritage Centre.
Having not put my wetsuit on since before having my youngest 3yrs ago I was a little worried it was going to be on the tight side but luckily it was okay and I didnt even need to breath in too much to zip it up. Once all suited and booted Matt took me through the basics on land, showing me the differences in some of the boards, as well as basic health and safety. Luckily the sun was out and it had turned into a glorious morning on the canal as it's such a tranquil spot with plenty of walkers and birdwatchers and a great place for an introduction in to Standup Paddleboarding.
As it was my first time Sup'ing at they call it I spent the first few minutes paddling on my knees and getting to grips with all the equipment although with perfect conditions and a nice calm canal we were up and away in no time, meandering down the canal taking in the relaxing atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
If your looking for a truly fun activity that is perfect for all ages and fitness levels than I highly recommend trying out Stand Up Paddleboarding and Matt is a fantastic teacher and a very experienced one having competed in Sup'ing internationally. If your looking for a more a bit more of an adrenaline hit then you can have lessons in the surf or head out to sea on a guided sup'ing season, all in and around Swansea so whatever takes for fancy from fast to slow that offer it all.
After about an hour on the canal, smiles all round, we headed back and I have to say I have totally caught the bug and will be Sup'ing again sometime soon. After squeezing myself back out of my wetsuits we were back on the road and heading to The Mumbles, one of the prettiest little harbor towns in Wales and the perfect place to take the kids to fun some energy off. As it was lunchtime we went on the search for food, we had been recommended Verdis which looked fantastic but was full to the brim and impossible to get a table, which only serves to solidify the fact it's very good and we will have to return at some point to give it a try. Instead we decided to head further down towards the pier to see what we could find.
We came across The Beach Hut which was perfect pitstops as it was welcoming, family friendly and offered some really great views of the coastline while digging into pizza and ice cream (I mean if you can't eat that at the seaside then when can you?). The interior is fun and colourful and the ice-cream parlor was certainly popular but with so many flavours I can see why. We then had a relaxing walk around the pier and down to the pebble beach, where the kids found some nice seashells and managed to have a quick dip of the toes in the water.
We couldn't of asked for a better day to start off our weekend exploring Swansea Bay, we were outside from morning to afternoon and enjoyed every second. We could have easily spent longer exploring the Mumbles but the kids just loved the time on the beach so much that we didn't want to rush them. We then took a slow walk back along the coastline before heading off to The King Arthur hotel on the Gower Peninsular, I will do a separate post about the Hotel but if your looking for a quaint place to stay right next to a traditional pub (but still very family friendly) then I recommend you check this out.
Thanks so much to Swansea Bay for inviting us to discover this fantastic part of Wales. Words and views 100% our own.
Petplan recently got in touch and asked if my eldest would like to have a go at designing his own dream pet and as my 7yr old absolutely loves spending hours drawing and getting creative as well as a keen animal lover I knew this was a match made in heaven. Now I didn't tell him that his drawing was actually going to be made into a real soft toy, I left that as a surprise and what a surprise it was.
Both of my sons grew up with our family dog Sam who sadly passed away last year after a long and happy life and has been really missed by all of us. We have discussed the possibility of getting another pet or as we like to call it a "new member" of the family. My son absolutely loves everything about Cats so I wasn't surprised when that was his natural choice when it came to designing his own dream pet, although this cat is different, it's a superhero cat with wings who flies around helping others.
When it arrived I was really excited to see what it looked like as well as watch my sons reaction when he opened the bag to see his vision come to life. Both of us were so impressed with how exact the soft toy was to his drawing, down to every whisker, colourful detail and slightly off balance wings, it's perfect and has immediately become his favourite soft toy and something he dearly loves. Of course this doesn't replace Sam our much missed family dog but its been a wonderful creative project and have been happy to have the chance to be apart of it.
Ever since I was a young girl we have always had a variety of pets and they have always been treated as equals in our house. If they are sick we would take them to the vet straightaway, care for them, love them the same as any other member of our family. Which is why we don't take things lightly when considering getting another one, for us it's for life and therefore all things need to be considered. One of the most important things firstly is making sure we have the right Pet Insurance because just like people animals get ill, face old age and need extra support which is why if you are considering getting a pet than do check out PetPlan insurance plans so you know you can offer your new member the safe and secure home they need.
This post has been possible thanks to Petplan, but all thoughts are my own
As my children are now a little older the one activity we love to do as a family is hitting the cycle track near our home which runs all the way along the River Taff from the Brecon Beacons to Cardiff and has become one of our favourite weekend past times that we can do all together as a family because lets be honest it can be pretty tricky to find a physical activity that crosses the age divide as much as cycling does. Both John and I have struggled up to this point to fit in consistent physical activities and exercise since having kids, before we started a family we both visited the gym regularly but while we still aim to do as much as we can the fact of the matter is it is hard around kids, work and keeping the house semi-organised. Which is why activities we can do altogether are the best and since my eldest has taken to cycling so much it's become something we really look forward to on weekends and we even have a trailer so our toddler can come along for the ride.
As our fitness and passion for cycling increases, we are always looking for little challenges, whether that be to do longer stretches of our local cycle track or see how long we can stay out on our bikes it's good to have a goal. This summer we have been looking at different ways to keep it interesting and the spark going especially with our 7yr old and I am really excited to tell you about the family friendly Cyclefest, organised by Experience Freedom which is happening across two different venues over summer. Cyclefest involves either a sporting route for the more serious cyclists as well as an 8 mile family bike ride suitable for young and old.
Cyclefest is happening at Sledmere, Yorkshire on the 27th May and also in Monmouth on the 26th August and your Cyclefest entry also allows access to the National hosted by the Caravan and Motorhome Club so if you're really looking for an adventure why not grab a pitch, camp and make a weekend of it. Both events are to be action packed days out with craft areas, street food, bike demos and finisher medals for everyone that crosses the line of the family bike ride.
What we really love about cycling is being able to see parts of the UK from a different perspective, cycle track often take a more scenic route and it's a great way to get outdoors and have some downtime that is also quality family time. I also love the community that comes with exploring this beautiful country on two wheels so I love the idea of coming together with other like-minded families. If you sign up for the event you will also be automatically be entered into a competition to win a 6-night holiday in the Loire region of France. If your looking for an outdoor, cycle friendly adventure Experience Freedom the organiser of Cyclefest has an array of cool glamping and camping pods as well as yurts at over 40 sites in the UK.
Good news I actually have one set of family tickets (2 adults and 2 children) to giveaway to one lucky reader. The winner chooses which event they want to attend and the giveaway ends on the 20th May 2018
Christmas and Valentine’s Day might be behind us for another year, but with many international gift-giving celebrations yet to come, you have plenty more opportunities to show your loved ones around the world how much you care.
Choosing a gift for a friend or family member is already tricky enough when you only have to account for personal tastes. When that loved one is living abroad, you then have to factor in the peculiar customs restrictions of that country, cost, as well as local traditions and superstitions that can make present-picking even trickier! For information about international parcel restrictions for over 50 countries, click here.
How many of the following superstitions had you heard of before?
Can you ever go wrong when picking up a bottle of wine to give someone as a present? In many parts of Europe, it’s an appropriate gift for most occasions, and especially when you’re attending a dinner party. It’s the complete opposite in France, where the host will usually have taken special care to choose a wine that complements their meal. Bringing your own bottle can be perceived as rude and you certainly shouldn’t expect it to be opened during the evening.
Practical gifts often seem like a good investment, particularly when it’s something like quality kitchenware which your recipient can get a lot of use from. Granted, you might be concerned about the safety of sending knives through the post, but were you aware of the superstition surrounding them? Many places around the world, including Germany, Brazil and Switzerland believe that giving and accepting the gift of any kind of knife will result in a severance of the friendship.
Ideal for cooler weather; what about a nice scarf and matching gloves? Depending on where in the world they’re going, you might need to rethink. Particularly in Canada, gloves received as a gift are considered an omen of bad luck. Some people think you can balance out the fortune by ensuring the giver receives a gift in return, but why take the risk?
Purses or wallets
A thoughtful personal gift, or a symbol of bad luck? Lots of cultures - including in the UK and Italy - believe that giving someone an empty purse represents financial misfortune, and even just a penny should be put inside beforehand to ensure that prosperous wishes are bestowed upon the recipient.
Equally, don’t forget that some religions frown upon the use of leather, so it’s unwise to gift your Hindu friend a beautiful calfskin wallet!
Receiving a nice watch sounds like a treat to most people, but think twice before sending one to a recipient in China. The Mandarin phrase for giving a timepiece (sòng zhōng) is the same as the phrase meaning “to terminate” or “to attend a funeral”, creating a deep superstition between the two. A gifted timepiece is viewed as cursed, representing the countdown of the receiver’s life – so don’t make this easy mistake!
Sending flowers is common all over the world, but you may not have been aware of subtle etiquette that dictates appropriate arrangements in each country.
For example, sending a dozen red roses in the USA or the UK is an extremely romantic gesture. However, in Russia it is considered unlucky and even offensive to present an even number of flowers at a joyous occasion. Equally, the colour red can be used to symbolise luck or revolution in different parts of the world – so your message of passion might go missed! You might think that you can play it safe with a bunch of friendly yellow marigolds or pretty white carnations, but these are both reserved for funerals in different parts of the world, so be careful!
No wine, no flowers… surely jewellery would make a harmless present? Well, certain superstitious folk are wary of opals, believing them to be unlucky (unless you’re giving them to someone who has a birthday in October, when their opal birthstone protects them from the negative effects). You should also apparently hesitate before giving your lover an emerald - while supposedly lucky, the luck will be lost if your gift arrives on a Monday. Not only are these gifts seen as unlucky in different cultures, but you may find that they get caught up in postal restrictions on their way. If in doubt, it’s best to save yourself a lot of trouble and stick with a nice gift voucher!
I have always been a big herbal tea drinker, coming from South Africa I was brought up on Rooibos from a very early age as it's caffeine free and high in antioxidants and is common place in most homes in South Africa. I also love drinking tea in its most natural form as loose leaf so when Adagio Teas got in touch asking if I would like to review their large range of loose leaf teas I of course said yes.
With so many health benefits drinking a daily cup of herbal tea can be a very positive thing as well as your morning ritual and a calm way to start the day. Loose leaf tea is often in general higher quality and I love that Adagio offer sample boxes which give you the chance to try four different kinds of tea to find of for yourself which one you like best and each sample box has enough loose leaf tea for around 40 cups.
I really enjoyed trying out their Honeybush tea which is a sibling of Rooibos, also cultivated in South Africa and naturally caffeine free and subtly sweet with a gentle honey fragrance. Any tea you have in mind Adagio stocks from Chai teas to Oolong, green and Matcha teas and they also have an array of teaware, including their easy-to-use IngeuniTea mug making drinking loose leaf tea a breeze.
What I like about Adagio is that it's artisan teas and blends come directly from the farmers around the world and I have to say I am genuinely impressed with the quality of their tea as well as the variety in choice.
Best of all is I have a fantastic giveaway giving one lucky reader the chance to win a Glass teapot (worth £30), Glass Mug and 6 sampler sets with the winner being able to pick the flavors they would prefer. This giveaway has a value of more than £70 and is a great way to get into loose leaf tea drinking. It's super easy to enter and the giveaway ends on the 21st May 2018
Last month we headed off to Bute Park and the RHS Flower Show, it's actually the third year I have taken my eldest and the second time for my youngest and it has become somewhat of an annual tradition for us and a fantastic day out. This year I also attended with my friend Kelly, a Cardiff based blogger whose children are a similar age to my eldest and due to the popularity of the event I would recommend if you are taking kids to go with someone as it's so busy an extra pair of eyes is very handy.
With the Flower show taking place in Bute Park, the most central green space in the city centre, there is a real buzz as you get closer to the venue as people near and far travel to the Welsh Capital for a day full of colour, flowers, food and festivities.
What keeps bringing us back year after year is how family friendly it is and as soon as we passed through the gates we were asked if the kids would like to do a treasure hunt with a prize to everyone who finishes it, of course they jumped at the opportunity. Each year they also have an array of sculptures up and this year was no exception with an unmissable giant crochet wheelbarrow right next to the entrance. Another highlight is the Schools wheelbarrow competition where Schools across South Wales designed and decorated wheelbarrows in cool and creative ways and you get given a token to vote for your favorite.
This year they also had a specifically designed area just for kids where they could play games, get music playing by cycling a bike, make crafts and basically a safe area for parents to sit and relax for a moment while being able to easily supervise their children. I think a space like this is a really good idea as the flower show can become extremely busy around midday.
Of course we also made sure to check out all the award-winning designed gardens as well as taking in all the bright blooms in the flower tents and picking up a succulent or two along the way. When it comes to gardening and flowers this show has everything you need with tons of talks, demonstrations, stall holders and plenty of flowers and products on sale. As you proceed further into the fair you come to the bandstand which a constant stream of talented musicians taking the stage throughout the day. The Ferris wheel also cannot be missed as well as the smaller independent craft market and a huge variety of street food and market stands.
As with every year we had a great time and the sun even came out later on making it one of the warmest days we have seen this year. As it gets closer to closing things start to slow down a little and become less busy which is great when you have kids. I highly recommend visiting the RHS show when it comes back to Cardiff next year and plan to stay the whole day or at least 2-3hrs because there is simply so much to see and do. I would also recommend taking a reusable bottle of water as there are refilling stations as well as some snacks as food with most events like this is on the pricey side.
We have always been big believers of their being plenty to see and do right here in the UK and love a good staycation, plus with the value of pound looking fairly weak in 2018, many people have found that going abroad for holidays is getting very expensive. But there is some good news in the fact that we have a huge wealth of brilliant places to visit so there is no need to travel far for you to enjoy a truly memorable time. If you are thinking of holidaying with your family in 2018, here are five very different locations that are all perfect for adventure and fun this year.
If you’re looking for a truly classic holiday destination that gives you the chance to visit somewhere brand new, why not visit Camber Sands? Found in East Sussex, the town of Camber is famous for this beautiful beach that stretches for miles. With lifeguards over the summer months, Camber Sands is also surprisingly quiet during the majority of the year so you can enjoy a very relaxed atmosphere. Only a little way down the road from Hastings, there are a range of great attractions nearby including the Miniature Steam Railway and the Drusillas Park zoo.
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight has been on our bucket list for a while and this year we are hoping to tick it off as I know like many my kids love to hop onto a ferry, it really feels like an adventure and that your leaving the mainland. The small island is easy to explore by car, has plenty of historical sights and activities to see and do as well as a stunning coastline. If your looking for a real frugal getaway there is plenty of camping and glamping options on the island.
Cornwall remains one of Britain’s absolute premier tourist destinations, and for good reasons as it's home to lovely beaches and charming towns, and it gets some of the best weather you’ll see anywhere in the British Isles. But if you’re looking for somewhere brilliant to stay, Truro makes for a lovely base. It’s the only city in Cornwall and has a great selection of restaurants and things to do.
Of course staying here makes it easy to get around to the best that Cornwall has to offer. There’s a cathedral here to visit as well as the very worthwhile Royal Cornwall Museum. But you are also a stone’s throw from the coast including the resort town of Perranporth and St Ives.
Blackpool is somewhere we hadn't considered before but after reading some positive reviews over the past year our interest has been peaked. One of most famous seaside resort town, Blackpool is known for being great fun for families. The well-known Blackpool Tower has been standing since 1894 and has been drawing in tourists since it was built. The town today has a huge range of activities and attractions that can keep a family entertained for days.
If you’ve got any thrill seekers in the family it’s definitely worth spending some time at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The theme park is home to Big One, which was the world’s fastest and tallest roller coaster when it was launched in 1994, as well as a huge range of fantastic modern rides.
Conwy is a stunning choice if you are looking for a family holiday steeped in both history and wonderful natural beauty. This small walled town in North Wales packs a big punch in terms of adventure and fun for families of all ages.
Perhaps the most memorable site on the holiday will be the majestic Conwy Castle. This UNESCO World Heritage Site enjoys a backdrop of Snowdonia and the River Conwy. It was built Edward I in the 13th century and remains impressively well preserved today – a real treat for children and adults.
I hope you enjoyed my little list of some more unusual, fun and family friendly places to go on holiday in the UK this year, of course there are many more I could add to this list but the main thing is to go out and explore what is on your doorstep this year.
Over the past few years we have had the odd occasion where the opportunity to go away at the last mintue has popped up, in fact that happened this month. We have now learnt how to pack very quickly for a family of four and getting this skill down to a tee means you can take advantage of those last minute travel deals in which time is the essence.
Of course it is easier if you are traveling solo or as a couple but even as a family if you adhere to some basic rules and hacks than a quick break away at the last minute shouldn't cause to much stress. Firstly the most important thing to do is travel light! We very rarely every check any luggage in, instead we always have carry-on luggage. I actually managed to get my clothes and both of my boys into one small carry-on for a weekend, then usually John will take a small bag for him and between us we have our Kanken (small day pack) for small things like food, water and nappies on the go.
Essentials for last minute travel
1. A compact and comfortable carry-on bag with plenty of storage space. It's worth investing in a decent one if your planning on traveling regularly as this will make your life a lot easier.
2. Have all your documents stored together in a safe place. The one thing that can cause delays or make you late is looking for a lost passport or ID. You should really have an important travel documents stored somewhere safe and you know where they are at all times, meaning if that last minute trip comes up you don't have to spend hours searching for it.
3. Portable charges, always have one fully charge so that if you are time short you dont have to worry about your phone being full charged as you can charge on the go. Also make sure you have a universal plug packed, any batteries you may need or memory cards. Just like your travel documents these should be kept together.
4. Clothes, you should always have a mini capsule collection in mind, a few pieces that work really well together so you dont reaslly have to even think about what to wear. This way you have some fail safe fashion pieces, mostof which can be adjusted to fit different climates. I have written before about Minimalist style for weekend breaks so check that out for a little inspiration.
A traveling lover would never like to miss an opportunity of the weekend trips and tours. They passionately look for the opportunities of exploring new destinations and with so mamy fantastic sites such as expedia or airbnb offering monthly deals, you dont have to be owning property in different areas of world through in places like Princeton real estate to be able to feel like a rockstar on a roadtrip. It does not even require having a bunch of money for travelling a lot, rather you just need planning and wise spending. You can cut the extra expenses and making it economical. It is more important that you explore, learn and enjoy more than you buy and spend. The new destinations are always waiting for you can you can make your dream come true with a little effort.
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