Thursday, 18 September 2014

#GetUpAndGo - Covent Garden, Emirates Cable Car and Fat Tire Bike Tour.

Travelodge might not necessarily be a hotel that you would first think of when booking a couple's weekend away but my recent stay in the Covent Garden hotel was very enjoyable. It was the perfect base and was an enabler for me to get out and explore and enjoy the hotel locale. London hotels don't come cheap and when I was planning my trip away it really had an impact on how long I could stay and what I could afford to do. Staying at a more budget friendly hotel can mean you have extra cash to eat out or spend on tours and attractions.

The chain has undergone a £57 million refurbishment programme that has completely transformed the look and feel of more than 30,000 of its rooms in just 18 months. The new Travelodge room includes an upgraded new luxury king size bed, a stylish new colour palette, a larger desk, new carpet, artwork above the bed and a white contemporary en-suite bathroom.

Martyn and I felt that we had everything we needed in our room. There was plenty of under bed storage for suitcases, tea making facilities, two sets of double glazing to keep out the noise of London traffic and blackout blinds which meant I enjoyed a long lie in on my city break which was a rare treat for me.
Kids under 16 stay free in the room with adults and checkout is at midday which is a lot later than most hotels. The only thing I would have liked that they didn't provide is a left luggage facility but you can lock up bags at train stations in London so it's not too inconvenient.

The hotel was in the perfect location and just a five minute walk from Holborn Tube station and five minutes away from Covent Garden. We headed to the London Transport Musuem on our first day which I've already shared with you and on the second day of our trip we went on a bike tour and down to Greenwich to see all the sights.

I highly recommend the Fat Tire bike tour, it was only a few stops away from our hotel on the Central line, departing from outside Queensway station twice a day. It was just under 4 hours long with a break for refreshments half way through. It was the perfect tour for someone new to cycling like myself because we mainly rode through the royal parks. We took in all the major sights and I thought the tour was a really good alternative to those expensive open top bus tours. The tour is normally £20 each but because we travelled to London on a FGW train we got 2 for 1 tickets (so many bargains to be had via this scheme)

Our tour had a Royal theme and we stopped off at lots of palaces, Westminster and various monuments on the way.I'll definitely be booking on of their other tours on my next trip to London.

We managed to eat loads of lovely food on our trip including tasty burgers and shakes in Covent Garden. I tried Shake Shack for the first time and loved the fries and shake but the burger wasn't up to Bleeker St, Byron or Five Guys standard.We also went to see Richard III with Martin Freeman playing the title character. I loved the play and Gina McKee put in an excellent performance but I wasn't overly fond of the staging.

I would also recommend a 'flight' on the Emirates Air Line cable car. You can pay for the trip with your oyster card and get spectacular views of the city from heights of 90 metres as you travel between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks.

I really enjoyed my trip to London using the Travelodge as a base to #GetUpAndGo. I took hundreds of photos so still have a few posts to share about my trip. I've got the the travelling bug now and can't wait for my weekend away in Bath next month.

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Monday, 15 September 2014

Fat Frocks wears A/W Joules collection

Dress: c/o Joules - Bag: Zatchels -Shoes: Topshop - Cardigan: Joules - Necklace: Pandora (gift)

I've been really looking forward to sharing these photos with you for a couple of reasons. Joules are definitely one of my favourite brands (Martyn says that it's very Librarian so that suits me to a tee). The photos were taken by the lovely Ella from She & Life whilst we strolled around Tredegar House. Tredegar House is an impressive Grade I listed Restoration period house with beautiful grounds, well worth a visit if you're in South Wales. The photos are much better than anything I could have captured with my camera and remote.

Joules was started in the 1980s, selling country clothes at equestrian events and country shows to more ‘urban’ customers. The company established a colour-led theme so it's country clothing was practical but still fun and stylish. Joules are currently celebrating their 25th year in business (their Joules Jubilee) and I think that their success can be attributed to their attention to detail in things like hand drawn prints and a commitment to a British country heritage look.

The lovely tunic dress like the Annette dress I'm wearing is cut to sit below the knee, it perfect for tall girls and sits mid calf on me (I'm 5ft 5.5). I love the slightly longer length which makes it very work appropriate and demure. I love the high neckline which means I don't need to wear a slip underneath and polka dots are definitely my favourite print, I must have over 10 items in my wardrobe in this pattern.

My shoes are a well worn pair from Topshop, I wore flats because Ella and I went for a walk but this dress would look great with some heeled boots or some red heels.

The Tansy yellow/mustard cardigan is so soft and warm. I love the pointelle detail to the front and the added cashmere makes it feel very luxurious.

If you liked these photos and you're looking for a photographer in South Wales for any type of event make sure you contact Ella.

What are your favourite items from the Autumn/Winter collection at Joules? Are you a fan of the country look?

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

On the Buses - London Transport Museum

I've always loved history and the great feats of engineering in the Victorian age like the building of railways is something I'm particularly interested in. I've become a bit of a railway geek over the past few years so I knew that when I headed to London on a recent trip with Martyn that the Transport Museum would be on my list of things to visit.
The Museum
explores the powerful link between transport and the growth of modern London, its culture and society since 1800. Highlights included the iconic red London bus and the world’s first Underground steam train. The galleries are full of interactive exhibits for people to explore - including real buses and trains, my ideal way to spend an afternoon.

Would you trust me to drive a London Bus?

The train above is one of the only remaining underground steam trains in existence. Steam trains were used from 1863-1905 on the London Underground Metropolitan Railway line. The first underground railway was designed to transport passengers arriving at London’s main line stations into the City. Paddington, Euston and King’s Cross were all some distance from London’s central business district.

An underground line built below the main road to the City avoided most of the property demolition needed to build a railway at ground level. It also relieved the growing traffic congestion on the roads which were full of horses and trams. The tunnels built for this railway were all dug out by hand by thousands of navvies and are still in use today because they were of such a high standard.

In the 1920s buses were the most popular mode of transport in London. By 1930 Londoners were making 1,958 million bus journeys annually. The museum is currently celebrating 'The Year of the Bus', I love the iconic red buses but would have loved more train focused content(or even a museum solely dedicated to the Underground) but that didn't stop me from loving every moment in this museum. I really enjoyed Goodbye Piccadilly: From Home Front to Western Front which revealed the story of London’s Home Front during the First World War. I think Martyn's highlight was seeing all the different tube carriages and seeing how they have changed over time. It's there until March and has some interesting sections about how the war accelerated social change including women working in the transport sector for the first time. 

If you want to visit the museum yourself (which I highly recommend) the details are below.

London Transport Museum
Address: The Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7BB
Phone: 020 7379 6344
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 10:00-18:00  Friday 11:00-18:00 Admission: Adults £15.00 Concessions £11.50

If you travel to London on a First Great Western train like I did you can get 2 for 1 entry if you print the voucher from their website.

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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Cardiff Bloggers Meetup

Come and join us for a fun and friendly meetup over a lovely cream tea at the beautiful Pettigrew Tea Rooms in Cardiff City Centre. The event with be taking place on Sunday 26th October at 11:30am. Your ticket includes an enhanced cream team (full details still to be confirmed) but will include some scrummy cakes, scones with cream and jam and accompanied by a selection of hot drinks. (Plus a lovely little goodie bag). Gluten free cream tea is available - please let us know. I've been to Pettigrew's a handful of time (post here) and love the place, they bake everything on site and are super friendly so it's going to be a great event.

This event is open to all bloggers, you don't have to be from Cardiff or Wales. If you're coming from the South West and don't know your way around Cardiff I will be happy to meet you at the train station.

After the cream tea we plan to have a little mosey around the Cardiff Fashion Quarter which is filled with independent and vintage stores and the perfect place to take some photos and shop.

All ticket money goes to Pettigrew Tea Rooms for refreshments and they promise to be something tasty and special so I hope the fact that it is a ticketed event doesn't put you off. The other organisers are the very friendly Laura and Chantelle who is was the mastermind behind the last big Cardiff Meetup I planned a couple of years ago.

Who else am I going to see there? I can't wait!

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Sunday, 7 September 2014

Cycling in West Wales

I've been absent for a couple of weeks on Fat Frocks because I've had a little annual leave and been out exploring some of my favourite parts of the UK. I headed back to West Wales where I had been earlier in the Summer with Martyn but this time we took the bikes. Martyn bought me a bike for my birthday but I had only really had a chance to ride it close to my house so I was looking forward to taking it further afield and trying out some new routes.

digital radio

I'm a big camping convert because Martyn has all the kit and the tent feels like a home from home. Camping at festivals can be grim but we've found a lovely campsite with clean facilities and if I've got a cup of tea and a good book then I'm happy. If you think camping isn't for you I definitely suggest trying it for a weekend. You might surprise yourself and you get the best view when you wake up in the morning if you camp on the coastline like we did. 

The day we arrived we just read, drank tea, attempted to fly a kite and relaxed on the site but the next day we cycled from the site down to Saundersfoot and along the coast. 

A picture of my bike on Saundersfoot beach

The ride was nice and leisurely with minimal traffic which is great for a novice like me. There were some lovely views and we stopped off for fish and chips in the harbour before heading back home.

A picture of Sundersfoot beach

Last time we camped was during the super hot weather and it was around 28-30 degrees but it was a much chillier 18 this time which meant nice cosy nights in with lots of blankets and hot drinks.

On day three we headed out to St David's, stopping off at Newgale on the way to take in the sights. We stopped off at the wonderful information centre in St David's where a helpful volunteer suggested some traffic free cycle routes for us and gave us a few booklets suggesting other routes. It's a great centre with a Dylan Thomas exhibition and a nice cafe and toilets so it's a good place to stop off before you explore the area. 

A photo of Newgale beach

We rode through the high street and down behind the Bishop's Palace. If you ride (or push) your bike up a steep hill behind the ruined palace you will see some cycle route signs which you can follow to Whitesands beach like we did. The path was pretty much traffic free, had some wonderful countryside views and loads of butterflies. I highly recommend this route.

This ride was relatively short at only about 3/4 miles so I wanted to take my bike to a disused airfield to get a bit more cycling in and burn off the ice cream I scoffed in St David's. It is one of several small airfields along the Pembrokeshire coast, and was opened in 1943. Today the runways are gone, and the area has been restored to native heathland. It has some lovely wildlife, good flat paths and a huge runway to go wild on. 

We only saw one other cyclist and a dog walker so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. I felt like I didn't have to worry about traffic or bumping into other people which is just what I need as I build my confidence up. I want to do a lot more road cycling in the future and cycle around cities too so becoming more confident it key. 

A photo of St David's airfield

If you don't have a bike and want to explore West Wales like I did there are some amazing coastal paths for walkers too, head to this site for more information.

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