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When I was young coach holidays were all the rage. I remember many a Summer going on day trips with my mum on the coach. No one really went on a plane then, and flights were very expensive compared to today.

Fast forward thirty something years and coach holidays are having a bit of a resurgence. With 5 million people taking coach holidays a year I thought it was time to check out coach holidays in 2018.

Our coach

National Holidays is one such coach provider. Offering a range of holidays across the UK, Ireland and Europe, it's a cost-effective way to travel without the hassle of a plane journey.

So when National Holidays invited myself and my friend and blogger Sally Akins on a mystery trip, I threw all caution to the wind and said: "Why not!?".


Mystery trip

An early start for a 7.30 AM pick up from Manchester wasn't fine, excitement kept me awake!  Gary our driver was cheery and explained the safety procedures. All coaches are fitted with safety belts and you are encouraged to use them.

Comfy seats inside

The seats are very comfortable, padded and soft, there is plenty of legroom, a footrest and a tray for you to use. The coach is air conditioned too which was great news as it must have been the hottest day of the year.

With an onboard toilet for your convenience

So we headed off on our mystery trip. I already knew it would be a two-day trip and a 4-5 hour journey to our first point as they tell you that information when you book.

The people on board the coach were a mix of ages, the youngest being about 6 with the oldest in their 80s, which surprised me as I expected a much older crowd. 

We were like naughty schoolgirls being seated at the back of the coach and I must say there was a lively crowd there, but it was all part of the fun.

Our first stop at the services

My friend Sally Akins joined me on the trip, check out her travel and lifestyle blog aimed at the over 40's. During the trip, we had fun trying to guess where we were going. Initially, we thought it was London and a trip to the Warner Bros Studios as it was a similar early start with National Holidays. However as we went further on the trip, it appeared we were heading towards Birmingham, so Cadburys World was our next guess.

Gary played along and teased the coach trippers without giving too much away to where we were going.

Before we knew it, we got to the destination...  and as we were driving up, Gary told us, it was Stratford-upon-Avon!

Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon
is a market town with over 800 years of history and with many buildings that still survive today. 

William Shakespeare's birthplace 

It's also famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. You can visit the house where the world famous playwright was born and grew up and visit a number of attractions related to him. 

The river festival

It was very busy when we were there as the Stratford-upon-Avon river festival was on - a two-day free festival, with stalls selling a variety of crafts, and local food and drink. With live music playing it was a great event.

We had a fabulous lunch in a local cafe and wandered around the town, stopping for an ice-cream and a sit under a tree in the shade.


Bedroom

After our three hours here, it was time to get back on the coach and drive to our hotel. Our hotel was an hour drive away in Northampton. 

The Holiday Inn Northampton is a three-star hotel, one of the slightly older Holiday Inns but still good quality accommodation. 

The room had a modern bathroom with shower, sink and toilet and a double bed with a TV and a desk. Free-Wi-Fi as well was provided which is always a plus.

Shower room

So after a shower, I went down to the restaurant for dinner. 

Our trip included dinner, bed and breakfast and that night we had a buffet dinner in the hotel. The dinner consisted of salad, soup, main course and dessert and was surprisingly tasty. You never know what a buffet dinner will be like but it was really good. The salad was fresh and had a light Ceasar salad dressing, the carrot soup was seasoned well, the main course options included a four cheese and spinach ravioli, spaghetti bolognese, and a chicken tikka marsala. Something for everyone. I particularly rated the spaghetti bolognese. It wasn't Michelin star food but it was good for the price.  

So that night after a comfortable sleep I went down to breakfast. Breakfast was a buffet and consisted of cereals, fruit, yoghurt and pastries. Also, a cooked breakfast served buffet style was tasty and hot.

Day two and ready to go to ... the Cotswolds

After checking out, we were on the bus for day two. Again we didn't know where we were going until the driver told us - the Cotswolds.

Our first stop was Bourton-on-the-Water. An idyllic Cotswolds village, known for its low bridges and traditional stone houses, it's a very picturesque and known as 'The Venice Of The Cotswolds". There are also a number of attractions for you to while away an hour or two including the Cotswold Motor Museum, Birdland - home to many species of birds and life-size model dinosaurs and The Dragonfly Maze.

Bourton-on-the-Water


Sally and I strolled around the little village and stopped for tea and cake. Well, it would be rude not to wouldn't it?


You are spoilt for choice for little tea shops, cafes and restaurants in Bourton-on-the-Water, most with a view on the river so I would suggest you sit down with a cake or cream tea and enjoy the view. We stopped at the Green and Pleasant cafe. The only thing that bothered me a little was how busy the village was on a sunny Sunday.


A rare photo of me in Bourton-on-the-Water


After our stop here, it was a short drive to the last village, a village I hadn't visited before called Broadway. 


Broadway

Broadway is a little village with a population of approximately 2500. All the shops are independent, and the pretty high street is lined with lush chestnut trees. You can tell the wealthy live here, outside one of the pubs were two Mclaren cars, a Ferrari and a Lamborgini!
Broadway 

Even the grocers had a touch of class in Broadway - look at the beautifully displayed fruit. 

What was especially nice about this little village, is that it doesn't attract the numbers of visitors that Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold do, so even on a sunny Sunday it was still enjoyable to walk around and explore.


Broadway

After a stroll around and a stop for lunch, it was back on the bus for us.

This was the end of our trip and next was the drive back to Manchester. 

So what did I think of the mystery trip, you may be wondering? I think a mystery trip with National Holidays is suited to someone who wants a little adventure and is on a budget. The trip was well priced - I spoke to a lady who said she booked it on special offer and it was less than £60.  That is, I think you could say, an utter bargain! Ok, you are not getting a five-star hotel but when you consider you get two day trips, one night in a hotel, dinner and breakfast for that, then for the price, that is hard to beat. 

It's been a long time since I have taken a coach trip and I honestly was impressed with the comfortable seats, leg room, Wi-Fi and air conditioning. There was also a toilet on board. We stopped every 2 hours or so for a break and a drink but if you wanted water, Gary the driver sold bottles for 50 pence. Gary also acted as our tour guide and had a great line in banter. His driving was great, and I felt very safe too. So important on a coach trip.


Back to our drop off point

If you are looking to take a trip exploring the UK or Europe then with my experience I can honestly say National Holidays offer a great service.  I hope to try a trip to Europe with them in the future, perhaps a trip to Rome and Sorrento in Italy, or the Black Forest in Germany. So my overall experience is that I feel I can recommend National Holidays to my readers, a company that offers well-priced coach holidays in comfort.

Today on my blog I am giving you the chance to win a mystery coach trip with National Holidays! Entry is via the Gleam app below and is free to enter. Don't forget to follow them on Instagram too, for updates and competitions. Why don't you bookmark the page and come back for a daily entry? Good luck!

Win a holiday with National Holidays
Terms and conditions 

You must be 18 + to enter 
Open to entrants in the UK only
One entry per household 
Winner will be contacted within 7 days of the competition ending.
If I do not hear from the winner within 28 days I reserve the right to redraw
The holiday must be taken within 12 months of prize winner being announced.
The prize is one Mystery Weekend Special break with National Holidays for two adults. 
The dates and pick-up destinations are limited based on availability. 
The prize includes transport from the selected pick-up destination to the hotel and return travel back to the original pick-up destination with reserved seating, one-night dinner, bed and breakfast in select hotel accommodation and a fully inclusive touring itinerary.
The prize is as stated and cannot be exchanged for an alternative trip or a monetary value. The prize is non-transferable
Travel to the departure point is not included
It is the winner's responsibility to ensure they have travel insurance
Ends 2018-08-12 11:59:59 PM

Tell me, have you gone on a coach holiday? Would you try a mystery trip?

*Sponsored post, all words and opinions are my own
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We’re all in a bit of a shock in the UK right now. Not just a heatwave that’s lasted a day or two, but a few solid weeks – and it just doesn’t seem to be going away! Instead of sitting indoors online shopping for fans why don’t you let your social sideshow and host a brilliant outdoor BBQ for all your friends and family?

Here are some stellar tips for throwing your own garden party that’ll have your friends talking about it for weeks afterwards!

Blast some midsummer melodies 


A party ain’t nothin’ without a killer playlist to go with it. If nobody at your party is dancing then can you really say anyone is having as good a time as they should be?

Luckily, services like Spotify have plenty of pre-built playlists to relieve you of the chore of building a playlist from scratch. If you want to really give your guests a great experience then give the responsibility of choosing the music – make sure every guest gets their turn to choose the next song so everyone is kept happy!

You can also utilise your guest's talents - if they play the guitar ask them to bring it along to play for their supper.

Cook up a storm

An outdoor garden party is nothing without a great selection of BBQ foods. Try to veer away from boring your guests with the same old burgers and hot dogs on selection and try to pick out some fancy recipes beforehand.

The BBC Good Food website has plenty of mouth-watering and easy-to-follow recipes for the BBQ that you can fall back on if you don’t want to go exploring through all your old cookbooks.

Put on a show

They say that outdoor theatre is the best kind – so why not take a stab at it in your own backyard? Okay, you might not be west end trained, but what better excuse is there for a hot day than to use your garden decking as an impromptu stage?

Get everyone to grab a drink and a script and do their own artsy version of karaoke, great for the kids and the oldies alike! If you’re stuck for ideas on what kind of plays to do and you don’t fancy dusting off the Shakespeare – take a look at some great ideas for staging your own play outdoors!

Lighten up

When the sun goes down and your party starts rolling over into the small hours, you are going to want some mood lighting, so everyone can still see what’s in front of them!

Everyone has seen a garden party littered with fairy lights, and while they look pretty and all that, do we not think they’re a little overdone? Some of the industrial outdoor lighting from Urban Cottage Industries can really make your garden party stand out from the crowd with their cool selection of quality wall lights and sconces.

Throw some shade



The heat is great and all, but we have certainly had a lot of it lately and frankly not all of us are as happy to see Mr Sun as others…

Providing a bit of shade in your garden with a parasol or something more makeshift like a sheet and you’ll be probably thanked a thousand times over by all your guests with a fairer skin and you will DEFINITELY be thanked by the gingers amongst your party!

*In collaboration with Urban Cottage Industries
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Luckily it is very rare for things to go wrong during a hospital stay but we all know that things do happen. We have all heard the horror stories in the media or know of someone who has suffered unduly because of an error made whilst under the care of medical professionals. Most of us luckily haven’t actually had to experience such a terrible event and perhaps the majority of us wouldn’t actually know what to do if things did go wrong.



So what should you do if things do go wrong during a hospital stay?

Speak up as soon as you realise there is a problem

Whether it is you personally or a family member you are responsible for, it is important to speak out if you feel that your care has been anything but exemplary. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may want to speak to those involved directly in the care to see if you can get some sort of explanation before taking anything further. It is important to know the facts and go in with full details and the whole story.

Whilst mistakes shouldn’t be made in medical treatment, unfortunately, these things do happen and humans may make an error that affects others. You can access your own medical records so be sure to view these to get a full picture.

Finding out exactly what happened is key as you will want to know the complete situation before making any official complaints.

Speak to PALS




PALS is the patient advice and liaison service run by the NHS. PALS offers confidential advice, support and information on any health-related matters you may have. They provide a point of contact for patients, their families and their carers and give you advice on the complaints procedure if you want to proceed further.

They are there for help and advice so seek them out if you are truly unhappy with the treatment of yourself or a loved one.

Claim for medical negligence




This is probably something you only want to consider as a last resort but it is definitely something you should consider if things have gone wrong and you are not satisfied that your voice has been heard. You may not want to complain, after all, it's often not in the nature of us Brits, but also think, what if this incident isn't a first? If it is a genuine case of medical negligence complaining may stop it from happening again. So what is medical negligence?

Medical negligence is the breach of a legal duty of care owed to one person by another which results in damage being caused to that person. You can take action and claim compensation for this if you are the injured party. You can also claim if you are the next of kin of someone who died because of negligence or can’t take action themselves because they don’t have the capacity to do so.

Claiming for medical negligence needn’t be hard either. You may choose to make an official complaint through the NHS complaints procedure before taking legal action, but this isn’t completely necessary if you don’t wish to do so.

How do you know if what happened to you constitutes negligence?


These are some circumstances where a medical professional or authoritative body can be held negligent: a failure to diagnose your condition or making the wrong diagnosis; making an error during a routine procedure or operation; giving a patient the wrong medication; not getting informed consent before starting treatment and not warning about the risks of a particular treatment are examples.

However if you have suffered an injury because of medical treatment, this may be referred to as a ‘medical accident’ or ‘patient safety incident’ and doesn’t necessarily mean that your treatment was negligent. You will only be able to claim if you can prove that your treatment was carried out negligently which means the care you received fell below medically acceptable standard and thus directly caused your injury.

I hope this helps you in the unlikely event something negative happens to you during a hospital stay and that you now know where to seek information and advice should this occur. For further information check out this article by the Citizen's Advice Bureau.
*PR collaboration
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Stocking your wardrobe with the latest fashion collections can get very expensive very quickly, and if you are looking at the big designer brands, you could end up taking out a second mortgage if you are not careful! However, there are plenty of ways that you can save some cash on new clothes. In this article, I will look in more detail at some of the best methods to save you some serious cash.



Shop Other Collections

Many of the big fashion houses release alternative lines to make their clothes more accessible and affordable to consumers. To start off with, you could look into capsule collections which are a few standard pieces which are mass-produced to show off the work of the designer. Otherwise, you could look into the ‘bridge lines’ which are sold at more affordable price points. Ultimately, if you get too hung up on the name, you are less likely to save some cash.

Utilise Discount Websites

There are plenty of ‘flash sale’ websites out there which sell certain items at a heavily reduced rate for a short period of time. Of course, you will need to make sure that you sign up to alerts and act quickly as there are often limited quantities available. You could also check out specialised discount code websites such as NetVoucherCodes.co.uk. Keep checking back regularly so that you have the best chance of grabbing the deal that you want.

Shop in the Off Season

Shops sell things for the highest price when there is a big demand for them. Therefore, if you are going to be shopping for bikinis, the best time to do so is in the autumn, almost a year away. Similarly, if you are going to be shopping for warm jackets, you should be doing so when winter is coming to an end. With some organisation, you can save a lot of cash this way. Put some more work into this and you will make some serious savings.

Borrow Expensive Designer Goods

Rather than just buying something and wearing it once, you are much better off borrowing or renting designer goods. There are plenty of websites out there which are dedicated to this concept. If you do have any designer goods, you could always try to make some extra cash from them by advertising them online for other people to rent from you.

You don’t have to give up your fashion habit due to a lack of cash - you simply need to be a little bit smarter about the ways in which you are doing your shopping.

Do you shop in the sales or have a great way of saving money on fashion?

*Guest post
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The Cotswolds is an area of England, famous for its picture postcard villages and bustling market towns. Full of chocolate box cottages, lush green countryside, and charming local pubs, it's what tourists typically think of as 'England' and it's no worse for that. 

It's a surprisingly large area of 800 square miles and covers five counties. Defined by its golden building and rolling hills, otherwise known as the 'wolds', it's well worth visiting to experience a slice of idyllic middle England.

Let's look at 5 Cotswold towns and villages you must visit on a trip to the area.

1. Bourton-on-the-Water



Bourton-on-the-Water is often called the Venice of the Cotswolds, as the River Windrush flows through its main street.  Although small, the town has various family-friendly attractions which are part of its appeal. You can visit Birdland, the Cotswold's Motor Museum, a maze and a model village.

During peak season it can get very busy with coach parties so be sure to visit mid-week if you don't want to be fighting to get a seat in a cafe.

2. Broadway



Broadway at the base of the Worcestershire hills is an affluent historic village. Ancient honey-coloured limestone period buildings with orderly horse chestnut trees line the grass-fringed verges of the historic 'broad way' High Street.

When I visited recently I enjoyed strolling down the high street, watching the people in the cafes and seeing the expensive cars parked outside. I spotted two Mclaren cars, a Lamborgini and a Ferrari! Broadway is much quieter than some of the other Cotswolds villages too such as Bourton-on-the-Water so it's a great place to visit even on the weekends.

3. Cirencester




Cirencester is a lovely market town, in East Gloucester, known as the Capital of the Cotswolds. In Roman times, it was the second largest town only to London.

There are lots of markets in the town and regular markets are held Monday and Fridays. There is the parish church of St John The Baptist to visit as well as the Corinium Museum of the Roman past. Cirencester Park, situated to the west of the town, this is a superb example of a forest style garden and is well worth a visit.

4. Bibury


Bibury is a little village, a short drive from Cirencester, with one of the most photographed streets in the UK called Arlington Row. If you love architecture the old Weaver's cottages are worth a journey here alone, built in the 1380's as a woollen store by monks. 

Bibury also has a famous trout farm which you can visit, and if you want, they provide all the equipment to catch your own supper.

5. Woodstock



Woodstock is a little market town 8 miles away from Oxford. With antique shops, and art galleries, it's a wealthy little town and a lovely spot to stay when visiting Blenheim Palace.

Blenheim Palace is the major tourist attraction in the area and this English Country House with gardens is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough. It's definitely worth the £24 admission price to experience the ostentatious interior and the beautiful gardens. 

Pin for later

If you want to tour the Cotswolds in style it's worth considering a chauffeured tour for a little luxury. You will certainly be travelling in style in a Mercedes whilst being able to admire the scenery from the passenger seat.

Tell me, have you been to the Cotswolds? Are there any towns and villages in the Cotswolds you can recommend?
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I try to give my readers the best competitions and today on my blog I have another one which is fabulous. Have you heard of Daniel Footwear? Daniel Footwear are an independent retailer with a number of stores across the UK. They sell a range of designer shoes, bags and accessories online, all on trend and at extremely good prices.

Established in 1993 their brand has gone from strength to strength. The featured designers are some of the best known around including FitFlop and Havaianas as well as UGG, Michael Kors and Vivienne Westwood. There is also their own Daniel brand which makes sandals, trainers, court shoes and more. 

Personally, I'm a fan of Fit Flops, they tone your legs as they walk and they are pretty as well as sturdy. They also have exceptionally comfortable shoes that don't sacrifice style and design over wearability. They are a great marriage of fitness and fashion.


These are some of my favourite Fit Flop designs from Daniel Footwear above. I like the slide bar comfort of the gold sparkly Fit Flop so I think this may be my next purchase!


When browsing the site I found some great wedges too, perfect for Summer. The red wedges are from Fly London. These Yamp red leather asymmetric strap sandals are priced in the sale at £70, saving £19.99. For a brand like Fly London, I think this is an amazing price.

So now I know where I will be spending my fashion budget this month. Their customer service rating is also very good, with a rating of 4.4 out of 5 out of 4000 reviews, citing friendly staff and quick delivery. That's always good to know.

So dear readers, I have a treat for you today. A competition from Daniel Footwear to win a £100 voucher to spend on their site. Entry is easy via Gleam and you can enter every day. Good luck and when you are here check out the other competitions I have running too. 
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I'm Welsh and I'm proud of it. Wales is a beautiful country and has some fabulous tasty food, so when Food & Drink Wales asked me to join them on an exploration of food and drink in South and West Wales I could hardly say no. 

Over the course of two days, we visited a number of local food producers and vineyards and spoke to the passionate people behind the businesses, all making outstanding delicious Welsh produce.

Jabajak Vineyard

Our first stop on this culinary tour was Jabajak. Jabajak is a vineyard and restaurant with rooms in Whitland, in the heart of West Wales. Originally starting as a Bed and Breakfast it has evolved over time and in 2007 a vineyard was planted with the aim of producing a Welsh sparkling wine. Over time the restaurant with rooms has won many accolades including Winner of the TV series Four In A Bed, a Trip Advisor certificate of excellence, and a listing in the Good Food Guide. 



The owner Amanda was very welcoming and her enthusiasm for the wine she produces shone through.

The first vintage (2014) of still white called 'White House' arrived at the end of 2015 and immediately won an internationally recognised silver medal and the first sparking blush (2014) was launched in 2017. Oz Clarke described it as "a delightful come hither flavour of passion fruit and a beguiling floral scent." 

What makes the wine interesting is the that Jabajak’s grapes produce wines with a “mineral” quality. This is because the area’s distinctive growing media – or “terroir” – includes a lot of slate, said Amanda.



The vineyard has now planted the grape Pinot Noir so it will be interesting to see and taste the results when it is ready. 

If you stay here you are in for a treat as the rooms are beautifully decorated in a traditional style, some with four-poster beds, and the bathrooms are modern with showers with some featuring slipper baths. 

The food here is exceptional. From the light peppery nettle soup with hints of mushroom to the tender Welsh Celtic Pride beef with a rich Perl Las sauce, and sweet and earthy Pembrokeshire early potatoes. A rhubarb crumble like your mum would make, rounded the meal off as well as scrumptious gin and tonic truffles from the Welsh company Nom Nom.




Windmill Park Farm

The next day we travelled to Windmill Park Farm in Haverfordwest. Windmill Park Farm is a 300-acre family run farm growing early potatoes, cereals and rearing beef cattle. It is a five generation farm run by the owner Will and his son Ed.



The soil here is special, made of a red sandstone and perfect for growing Pembrokeshire Early Potatoes. Pembrokeshire Early Potatoes (Pembrokeshire earlies) were granted PGI status in 2013.

You may wonder what this means, Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) means that the product is strongly linked to the place of origin, using traditional methods of production and local skills which have been passed down through generations.



We had a go at digging up some potatoes, you can tell when a new potato like this is in season, as when you rub the potato the skin comes off. Did you know the best way to cook them is to boil them gently and if your knife goes into the potatoes easily then they are cooked?



Top them with salted butter, Welsh preferably, and enjoy. I like to serve them with roast lamb and they also make a great accompaniment to a bacon and mature cheese quiche for a light dinner. Look out for the Blas Yr Tir (meaning taste of the land) early Pembrokeshire potatoes in the supermarket.

Weobley Castle Farm

Our next stop was to Weobley Castle Farm, the home of Gower Salt Marsh Lamb.



Welsh lamb has PGI status, and is an important part of Welsh heritage and culture, with traditional husbandry methods handed down through generation. The quality of Welsh lamb is known throughout the world. Gower Salt Marsh lamb is, however, extra special. In this idyllic setting, the lambs graze on the salt marsh grasses, samphire, sorrel, thrift and sea lavender and this gives the lamb the unique flavour.



Farmer Will Pritchard, took our party to see the lambs grazing in the field.


No intensive farming methods here, just happy sheep grazing on the marshland. You can see why Gower Salt Marsh Lamb has won a number of awards including the Great Taste Awards 3-star award on a number of occasions. You can buy from their online shop.





Cwm Farm

We stayed that night at Llanerch Vineyard with some amazing food (more on that later), and the next morning travelled meet Ruth and Andrew Davies from Cwm Farm at Salami HQ! Ruth bought Cwm Farm in 2010 near Pontardawe with the intention of producing their own pork and sausages, but due to demand, they decided to sell to the public as well.



Ruth is just so enthusiastic about the charcuterie they create, you can tell she really believes in the business and the delicious products they sell. We tried a sample of their best selling laverbread salami. A slight taste of the sea but not overpowering it added a different flavour to the salami.

She spoke about how the business evolved, a trip to Denmark to find out ways to add value to the business culminated in a stay on a pig farm with 52,000 pigs and thus her passion for salami was born.




During our visit, I saw where the salamis are kept. After being dried in a special dryer, it goes into the 'cave'. The 'cave' is a fridge with a cool, dry dark setting which mimics the conditions of a cave, with low humidity.

Cwm Farm produces some interesting products, from the aforementioned laverbread chorizo, their most popular product to a Ndujla which is like a spreadable spicy pate, to my favourite a chorizo with brandy. It's great to know that everything is made and produced in Wales, from the rearing of the pigs on Cwm Farm to the preparation of the meat and the curing of the charcuterie at their Salami HQ. Cwm Farm has also won a number of food awards for the quality of the products and you can see why with the tremendous flavour, love and care that goes into the charcuterie.




Llanerch Vineyard

So our last stop was Llanerch Vineyard. Llanerch Vineyard is a twenty-minute drive from Cardiff in the pretty Vale of Glamorgan. The vineyard and restaurant with rooms is the place to go in the area for some tremendous locally sourced food. I've visited before and can highly recommend the Sunday dinner which was served with huge Yorkshire puddings and also cauliflower cheese. Delicious!



We met Simon Gateley here, a wine expert from Levercliff PR. We were encouraged to choose what we wanted from the menu and Simon matched the food with various wines from Llanerch. Although he suggested the pairing, his ethos is - if you like the wine then why not have what you want!





The next day, after visiting Cwm Farm we came back to the vineyard for a wine tasting and tour.



First, we tried some charcuterie from Cwm Farm and Trealy Farm, another Welsh producer and also some local cheeses. Wales has so many brilliant cheeses including Hafod cheddar, Pearl Las and Golden Cenarth, so be sure to check them out at the supermarket, from your independent deli or when visiting Wales. Simon encouraged us to try various white and red wines with the cheese and charcuterie.

The tour started with some history of the vineyard then onto a tasting and a tour of the vines. Llanerch's first vines were planted in 1986, a mix of French and German hybrids. The vineyard was taken over in 2010 and it now harvests between 8-12 tonnes of grapes each year, producing approximately 10,000 bottles of their 'Cariad' wine. Why Cariad? Well, Cariad is Welsh for beloved, sweetheart or darling, it's a term of endearment in Wales and an apt term for what is becoming one of Wales most beloved vineyards.

We tried the Cariad dry white, a white wine that had crisp fresh flavours of apple. The sort of wine that would go well with chicken and fish and wouldn't overpower the food. It was easy to drink, with low to medium acidity.



So with full stomachs and giggling like school girls, (wine always goes to my head in the afternoon) we finished our exploration of Welsh food and drink.

In 2016, the Welsh government commissioned research to understand the value of 'Welshness' in the UK, and over 80% of consumers in Wales, when questioned, stated they prefered to buy Welsh produce. When you taste amazing produce like I did on my recent trip, you can see why - excellent quality food made in authentic ways, from enthusiastic people with a real zest for life. Did I say I am proud to be Welsh?

Let me know, have you eaten Welsh food. What food do you associate with Wales?

*This is a sponsored post, I was invited on the trip by Food & Drink Wales
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Today on my blog there is a guest post from Mr W, (Marcus), my other half, and my partner in crime on Fly Drive Explore. We were invited to Guernsey by Condor Ferries but I was busy so he took the trip on his own.

On this trip, I (Mr W) was allowed to venture out on my own. Before I get started, let's get some Guernsey facts out of the way.

Facts
  • The island of Guernsey sits in the English Channel just off the coast of Normandy, France.
  • Guernsey is not part of the UK, it is a self-governing British Crown dependency.
  • It is the second largest of the Channel Islands.
  • Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables while in exile in Guernsey.
  • The Channel Islands represent the last remnants of the medieval Dukedom of Normandy.
  • The Channel Islands were the only British territories to be occupied by the Germans during World War Two.
  • All the postboxes are blue.


St. Peter Port Harbour


Getting To Guernsey

Guernsey is only 3 hours by the Condor Fast Ferry service from Poole, Dorset. This is a great option if you want to take your car. Also, being a relatively short trip, it’s not too bad if you are a poor sailor.

Guernsey can also be reached by the Condor Ferries conventional service from Portsmouth which takes 7 hours.

If you don’t want to take your car or are if you are not too keen on boats then flying is an option. A number of airlines have routes from many UK regional airports to Guernsey with an average flight time of only 45 minutes or shorter.

Where I Stayed


Les Rocquettes Hotel, St. Peter Port

I stayed at Les Rocquettes Hotel, a former country house about a 15-minutes walk from St. Peter Port harbourside and only a 5-minute drive from the ferry.

The hotel is part of a family run hotel group and featured a health suite and indoor swimming pool. Although Guernsey is a few degrees warming than the mainland it is good to have that indoor pool. There were also a couple of bars, a restaurant and a patio area.

Lounge Of The Les Roquettes Hotel

The staff were friendly and helpful, especially the bar staff who gave me useful local information about the town and getting around the island.

There was also plenty of free onsite parking available.

Touring The Island

The dramatic setting of Victor Hugo’s Les Travailleurs de la Mer

Guernsey is only 25 square miles in size so most places are closer than they look on the map. Although take care when driving as there are lots of narrow country roads and the maximum speed limit on the island is only 35mph.Fort Grey Martello Tower and shipwreck museum



Fort Grey Gun

Only 20 minutes from St. Peter Port is Fort Grey dating from the early 1800’s. A Martello tower located on a tidal rock in the middle of Rocquaine Bay. The fort now houses a very interesting shipwreck museum containing a surprising variety of objects recovered from the wrecks which have occurred along this treacherous coast.

Watch your head as you enter the fort as the stone doorway is only about 5 foot high!

The German Occupation


The restored gun at Batterie Dollmann, Pleinmont Guernsey

Wherever you are in Guernsey you are never that far away from the signs of the German occupation during WWII. These can range from small machine gun nests to German concrete observation towers and much larger sites such as Batterie Mirus, the former location of the largest guns in the Channel Islands.

The Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans from June 1940 to May 1945. During this period, anyone caught trying to escape to Britain was imprisoned or shot.

When touring these picturesque and now tranquil locations it is hard to believe that all this occurred in living memory.



The restored German Batterie Scharnhorst

I was lucky to be shown around the German defences by Andy Walker from ‘Festung Guernsey’. Festung Guernsey is a group of local enthusiasts who restore and conserve the German fortifications around the island. Although they are not all open to the public they do have a number of open days throughout the year.

Whether you are interested in history or not what was fascinating were some of the personal touches at many of these sites. Pictures, names and writings etched onto the walls by the young soldiers during the war, one included the sentence in German ‘I want to go home!’.

St. Peter Port



The lighthouse at the end of the Castle Breakwater

On my last day, I had time to stroll down to St, Peter Port itself and explore the town and harbour. The sun was out and it was great to just relax with a cup of coffee alongside the pretty harbour.

Although enjoyable, I still had some serious sightseeing to do. There is plenty to do in St Peter Port including La Vallette Underground Military Museum and the German Naval Signals HQ but in front of me, overlooking the town and harbour was the imposing Castle Cornet.

Containing five museums and four historic gardens there is enough on offer for you to spend most of the day. Also, as I relaxed and drank my coffee the castle's noonday canon was fired, jolting me into sightseeing action.



Castle Cornet and its museums

The Castle was built over 800 years ago and has been reused and remodelled over the centuries. Also, until 1811 it held the only prison on the island. During World War II a small garrison of German troops occupied the castle.

Amongst the five museums in the castle, the Maritime Museum was particularly interesting with exhibits from Roman times up to the present day. There a very good display about Guernsey's Roman ship which was found in the harbour only 300 metres from the museum.

Unfortunately, my time in Guernsey had come to an end and I had to catch the ferry back to the UK. I felt that during my visit I'd only scratched the surface of what Guernsey and its neighbouring islands had to offer.


Guernsey In The Channel Islands - Sun, Sea And German Bunkers - YouTube
Check out Mr W's video on Fly Drive Explore

Whether it's history, sightseeing, good food and drink or just lazing in the sun on a secluded beach, there is definitely something for you.


Pin for later


With a ferry trip of only 3 hours, Guernsey is closer than you think so what's stopping you? Check out the Visit Guernsey website for things to do and see and accommodation.

Maybe next time I'll even take Mrs W!

*Marcus was a guest of Condor Ferries and Visit Guernsey

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Fei Liu Fine Jewellery is a designer jewellery brand I have been championing for a while. The designs by Fei Liu are stunning. Made with aethetics in mind, each piece is pretty and slightly unusual.  I first came across the brand a few years ago at a jewellery show and liked how the jewellery was unique but so wearable too. 


Pirouette 

The designer Fei Liu studied for a degree in jewellery and silversmithing in Birmingham's prestigious school of jewellery and since then he hasn't looked back, creating the brand Fei Liu Fine Jewellery. 

Everything is influenced by both his Eastern heritage and also Western culture and the designs are known around the world, with his jewellery being sold in boutique stores in China, France and the UK. You can even buy his jewellery in Harrods.

When you see the visually creative designs you can tell why he has won a number of awards including the International Jewellery London Editor’s Choice Awards for Visual Impact in 2015.

Celebrity clients include Amanda Holden, Danni Minogue and Kimberley Walsh who adore wearing the statement pieces for their TV shows.


Shooting Star

Two of the newest collections from Fei Liu Fine Jewellery include the Snowdrop collection and the Nova collection.
Nova

The Nova collection is a collection based on the essence of freedom, adventure and new beginnings  It has a strong geometrical design the 18ct gold collection,  follows the strong structure of a kite – allowing it to embark on its journey and soar. 







The Nova collection shines with an iridescence due to the mother of pearl and is set with diamonds and pink sapphire.


Snowdrop

The Snowdrop collection captures the form of a flower but with an edgy style, giving a contemporary look. Pearls are the feature in this collection, with the metal being sterling silver and rose gold plate. 





A fresh take on the classic pearl the Snowdrop collection appeals to women of all ages.

Fei Liu Fine Jewellery also offer a bespoke service for that time when you want something 100% unique to you.

Bespoke ring

Whether you want that statement piece for a special occasion like an anniversary or wedding or even 'just because', a consultation will bring you a jewellery collaboration like no other.  

To celebrate the launch of their new website I have some very special offers for you today. If you sign up for their newsletter you will be sent all the latest updates and also a code for 15% off your first order and a code for 25% when you spend over £250! 

Also for my lucky readers, I am giving you the chance to win, not one £100 voucher but one of three £100 vouchers. So why not have a browse and work out what you would buy with the voucher! You can come back and enter daily too. You have to be in it to win it as they say. Good luck!

one of 3 x £100 vouchers for Fei Liu Fine Jewellery
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Few things in life garner the same type of excited curiosity as examining a friend or relative’s brand-new engagement ring. Even those who are not usually drawn to all things glimmering still want to see the new engagement ring of a friend. It’s no wonder then that we have the expectation that the ring must be pricey to be worth showing off, a view further fuelled by celebrity engagement rings whose price tags are beyond many of our reaches! 



But the beauty of an engagement ring is not in its price tag, but in what it represents. I've teamed up with Angelic Diamonds, specialists in diamond jewellery design and manufacture, to look at the various metals and settings that contribute towards the price tag and why.

Silver, gold, and platinum


The three most popular metals for engagement rings are silver, gold, and platinum. They all have unique traits, appearances, and pricing.

Platinum is usually the more expensive of the three, as it is 30 times rarer than gold. It is so rare, in fact, that it is said that the world’s reserves would only just cover your ankles if poured into an Olympic swimming pool!

It has a white sheen, similar to silver. Its bright base also offers the perfect accompaniment to diamonds. Platinum is a hardy metal too, and it won’t tarnish like silver does.

Next up is gold, which is too soft to be sold on its own. Instead, pure gold is mixed with other metals to create not only a metal hard enough to sell but different hues and shades. The timeless romance of yellow gold is a combination of pure gold, silver, and copper. The copper element gives it its characteristic warm tone. White gold, a popular alternative to platinum, is pure gold combined with silver and palladium, or nickel, copper, and zinc. Like platinum, its hue is the perfect partner for diamonds.

Rising in popularity is pink or rose gold. The inclusion of copper gives the gold a rose-kissed pinkish-red tone. This shade can be made stronger or weaker by the amount of copper included. Rose gold was popular in Victorian times, so if you’re a fan of vintage or want something that exudes classical romance, rose gold is the way to go.

Finally, popular for its brilliant white shine and relatively cheaper cost, sterling silver is a popular choice for engagement rings. It is combined with other elements, such as copper, to improve its strength, like gold, but be aware that silver does tarnish over time.

Gemstone settings 

There are various settings available for rings, and some require more craftsmanship or more gemstones. As such, some settings are more expensive than others.

First up, the classic and most popular setting – a solitaire engagement ring, usually held in a prong setting. A single diamond sitting in a claw-clasp on a metal band, this style is hugely popular as it works well with the addition of the wedding ring later. Of course, you can get additional diamonds in this setting, such as a three-stone engagement ring style. Keeping the middle diamond larger gives off a regal, extravagant look.

A bezel setting is also popular and removes the need for prongs. It sees the diamond framed by a wrapping of metal all around its edge. Whilst more secure than prongs, this comes at the cost of the diamond’s “glittering”; there will be less light passing through the diamond as it is set in a frame of metal.

Tension set engagement rings are up next. This setting gives the appearance of a suspended diamond held between the two bars of the ring. The stone is secured by groves in the metal, the pressure of the metal band, and sometimes has a prong or bezel support. This design is increasingly popular due to its unique appearance and adds less cost to the price tag as, despite its appearance, it is less complicated to create.

Shapes 


The shape and cut of the diamond is next, with some shapes being a little less obvious than “oval” or “round” in their nature: 

Princess – A square-shaped appearance, with the sides cutting down into an inverted pyramid.
Cushion – A square shaped diamond with rounded edges to give it a more antique look.
Marquise – An elongated oval with sharpish tips at the top and bottom.

Though the price can vary between retailers, one US retailer noted the most expensive to least expensive shapes (at the time of this article being written): 


  • Round 
  • Marquise 
  • Heart 
  • Oval 
  • Pear 
  • Princess 
  • Cushion 

The price

Of course, celebrities can afford to be extravagant with their engagement rings; Lady Gaga’s ring reportedly cost £400,000. This matched up to Kate Middleton’s engagement ring, though both were surpassed by Catherine Zeta-Jones’ ten-carat stunner that came in at £800,000.

But there’s no need to splash out to the extreme. According to insurance company Protect Your Bubble, couples are spending 19% less on engagement rings compared to 5-10 years ago. The average spend clocks in at around £1,000, with 18% of people spending less than £500. At the end of the day, it isn’t how much the ring cost that matters, but the question that comes with it!
*PR collaboration
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