Thursday, 6 September 2018

My Pet Story





My Pet Story with Petplan - How A Dog Changed My Life

There are many reasons why dogs are known as man's best friend. The moment you welcome a fur baby into your life your world is turned upside down and you grow and change as a person. Even if you don't have a dog yourself I bet some of you are delighted when you meet a dog when you're out walking or when watching a cute dog video online. 
Petplan Pet Insurance have asked me to share my pet story with you so I thought I would share the many benefits my dog Coco has brought to my life. Coco has lived with myself and Martyn for over a year now and I could not imagine life without him. He attended our wedding last year, came on honeymoon with us and is always the focus of our attention. 

I think my dog is the best dog in the world 

Marnie the dog, Boo and Tuna used to be my favourite internet famous dogs but now Coco is undisputed champion of the dog world and I have 20,000 photos of him on my phone which prove this. He can do no wrong and his crooked smile and big expressive eyes melt my heart. 

I'm no longer house proud

I was adamant that Coco would be well trained, sleep in his own bed and all of his things would be stored away neatly. This fell apart after about 2 hours of getting Coco into our home. His toys are strewn all over the living room, I'm always standing on his chew sticks and he is allowed to come into bed for a cuddle. I find it really hard to say no to Coco and he has taken over the house. 

I smile more

When he does something cute, I smile. When he learned how to wait until walkies to go to the toilet I smiled and even when he does something naughty I have to laugh it off and smile. Coco is a fantastic companion and I'm no longer lonely when my husband is on the late shifts and he encourages me to be positive. I do find it hard to smile when I'm scrubbing his wee and sick out of the carpet though, why is Coco never sick on the wooden floor?!

I stay in more 

Martyn and I went out far more frequently before we got Coco. We ate out, went shopping together and had the freedom to go anywhere we liked. Our life has had to change dramatically since we got Coco. We have fewer holidays abroad and have bought a caravan so we can now take him with us wherever we go. We will be going to a dog friendly pub for our anniversary meal later in the month and many historic attractions are off the cards if we want to do things as a group. 

I'm really not a fan of leaving Coco in a crate and I'm more than happy to find alternative attractions where he can come with us and we now make more of beaches and the great outdoors rather than more formal settings like museums. Is he worth it? 100% yes. 

I move more 
Owning a dog can motivate you to exercise every day. In the winter I go to work, come home and put my PJs on but now I have Coco bringing his lead to me or barking at me to go for a walk and I can't say no, even if it's raining or I've had a bad day. Taking your dog for a 30 minute walk every day can greatly improve your health and it really helps me to de-stress. I love to see how happy Coco is when we go for a walk, he looks back at me with a huge grin on his face. 

I fell in love 

Dogs show the most unconditional love and I made a best friend the day we brought Coco home. He's my little shadow and follows me everywhere and I wouldn't have it any other way. 





Petplan want to hear your Pet Stories too, so whether it is a recovery from illness or just their day to day mischief share your story on Petplan’s Facebook or Instagram using #PethoodStories


This post is in conjunction with Petplan but all thoughts are my own.

Gemma
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Sunday, 2 September 2018

A Guide to Holiday Travelling in Style


It is easy to assume that when travelling, you must disregard all sense of fashion and style in lieu of comfort and ease. I believe that you can find a balance between the two. I obsess over the smallest details before I travel and even have holiday planning folders and lists of things to pack. Attention to detail before travelling means I'm not rushing around on the day of travel and have time to think about what to wear and styling an outfit that I will be both comfortable and confident in when I'm travelling.

After selecting your chosen holiday location, the excitement of organising your holiday wardrobe can take over. I bought a pair of Minnie ears for my upcoming trip to Disneyworld before getting my ESTA (visa for travel) Not very practical! I've got cute themed outfits for each day but no comfortable clothes to journey in. I'm planning on wearing a jersey dress with a pair of comfy trainers and a lot of layers. After all, travelling between countries and continents does mean differing temperatures. My upcoming trip to Innsbruck will see me leave a relatively mild UK for a snow-covered Austria and my trip to the US will mean a huge jump in temperatures so I need to be prepared for the sudden change in climate when I step off the plane.





Without wanting to scare anyone sandals are not an ideal choice of footwear for a flight. In the unlikely event of an emergency, it’s best to have a good set of sturdy shoes that will protect your feet. For my trip to Innsbruck I'll be wearing my walking boots on the plane as they will take up a lot of valuable space in my hand luggage only flight. With only a small amount of space for city breaks I like to be comfortable enough for sitting on a place for several hours but also pulled-together enough so that when we deplane I'm ready to hit the ground running and start exploring. 


As with preparing any outfit, attention to detail is paramount. Looking at the different accessories when travelling, however, is even more important. Going through airports is stressful enough, without having to worry about your expensive watch getting lost or misplacing your favourite pair of sunglasses. So, limiting the number of items you carry on your person is probably a good idea. I tend to pack most of my accessories in the bag I check in. I've lost countless memory cards and belts by emptying my bag at the security check in at the airport. 

Travelling in style means looking your best for the circumstance, including smart matching suitcases or a sturdy backpack.  I like to pick practical bags which can be wiped down if there is a spill and try to buy items that look luxurious yet can withstand the trials of travels and different weather. A leather wash bag is ideal and I also have plastic wallets for my camera batteries and chargers so they are safe from the rain. My oil cloth backpack comes everywhere with me and doesn't get tatty or grubby, ideal for hand luggage on a weekend break. 




Preparing for travel in style means a stress-free journey, allowing for you to take in the different sights or even shop at the airport duty-free, instead of worrying about your next move. A helpful way of overcoming this is to get your documents and itineraries ready and put them away in a memorable, but safe, place. I've normally got a folder with maps, tickets and reservations all in one place. I know a lot of you will use apps and scan barcode tickets but I like to have everything printed out just in case my phone has no battery. 





Ultimately, you should be focusing on the exciting destination at the end of the travel! I find that detailed planning and preparation may seem unnecessary but it removes a lot of the stress of travelling. Planning allows me to be cool, calm and collected on the day of travel. 

Gemma
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Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Exploring North Wales - Week 2

I loved our first week in North Wales but we mainly visited the bigger seaside towns and more populated areas. For our second week, we left Colwyn Bay and headed down to the Llyn Peninsula to explore the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is relatively unspoilt with a laid-back feel.

We based ourself at Aberafon campsite for a week and it was an ideal location to explore the coast and Snowdonia. This campsite is all about the views; it's nestled between the beach and the mountains around 10 miles away from Caernarfon.

Be warned that if you are staying at Aberafon the access road is very steep and narrow, ideal for campervans and campers but a little tricky to navigate for caravanners like myself and Martyn. There is a field right next to the beach where you can pitch up, but there are lovely views wherever you are situated on the site. Facilities at this site are very basic with only 6 showers for the whole site but the location makes up for this and we really enjoyed our time here. I really did feel switched off from the outside world and would love to return. 

This is a picture of Aberafon Beach

This is a picture of Aberafon Beach

Barmouth

Wales has more Blue Flag beaches per mile than anywhere else in the UK and our favourite that we encountered on our trip was the one at Barmouth. Barmouth lies between a mountain range and the sea on the mouth of the river Mawddach. We loved visiting this town so much that we returned for a second time. 

There's plenty to explore with a pretty harbour, the spectacular Barmouth Bridge and the old town. The very impressive bridge is a Grade II listed single-track wooden railway viaduct across the River Mawddach. It is the longest timber viaduct in Wales and one of the oldest still in regular use in Britain. We spent our days there walking Coco along the beach and scoffing fish and chips from the Mermaid Fish Bar which I highly recommend. 

This is a picture of Barmouth Bridge

This is a picture of Barmouth

Porthmadog - Welsh Highland Railway & Beddgelert

I've mentioned previously that both myself and my husband work in the railway industry. (You can read all my train related posts here) It was pretty inevitable that we would visit some of the heritage railways in operation in the north because there are so many to choose from. 


The original railway closed in 1936 but has been completely rebuilt and restored by volunteers. Originally the railway carried thousands of tons of slate but tourists have now replaced this precious cargo. The railway starts in Caernarfon but we joined it in Porthmadog Harbour Station where the Welsh Highland Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway depart from. 

The Welsh Highland Railway is a great way to see the awe-inspiring scenery of the Snowdonia National Park. You can relax in one of the first class Pullman carriages or sit in one of the open ones like we did so Coco could pop his head out and feel the wind in his fur. 


This is a picture of Porthmadog station on the The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways



I was so pleased to have packed my lovely yellow rain coat from Lighthouse because the day we decided to visit the Ffestiniog Railway it rained continuously all day. I couldn't get any photos that day so you'll have to take my word for it - it was stunning and featured an impressive waterfall. 

this is a picture of a steam locomotive

Beddgelert is a charming little town surrounded by mountains and is a base for many walking around Snowdonia.  The town was beautifully festooned in flowers and is a great spot to stop off along the railway for a picnic. Beddgelert (Meaning the grave of Gelert) is known for the sad tale of Prince Llewelyn ap Iorwerth and his faithful dog. You can read more about Gelert here. 

This is a picture of Beddgelert


This is a picture of a shih tzu on a train

If you want a heritage railway experience you won't get better than these. At 25 miles in length, the Welsh Highland Railway is the longest heritage railway in the UK and the 200 year old Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest operational narrow-gauge railway in the world. 

Llanberis

The main reasons we wanted to visit Llanberis was for the views and to take a trip on the Snowdon Mountain railway. However, dogs are not permitted to travel on this railway (boo hoo!) so we took some time to wander around and get fish and chips (again). Definitely a destination I would love to visit again as many of the local points of interest and attractions were closed by the time we arrived. 

This is a picture of Llanberis lake

Anglesey - South Stack, Newborough Forest Beach & Bryn Celli Ddu

This is a picture of south stack lighthouse


We really didn't think we would be lucky enough to see the South Stack lighthouse. Once we had reached Holyhead the whole island seemed to be covered in a thick, grey fog. We parked up near the South Stack Cliffs RSPB Centre and thought we would have a look around there but as we descended the steps to the lighthouse the fog lifted and we were treated to clear views of the lighthouse and coast. 

For a sheltered view on a rainy day, head to Twr Ellin which is equipped with binoculars, telescopes and a screen with a live feed from cameras out on the cliffs. The perfect place to spot some of the guillemots, puffins and razorbills the area is known for!

This is a picture of newborough forest beach, anglesey

Newborough (also known as Llanddwyn) – is a large sandy beach with views of mountains and is surrounded by a pine forest with red squirrels and sand dunes, both of which are perfect for exploring. If you're travelling without a dog you can walk over to Ynys Landdwyn. 

There is plenty to see over on the island including a lighthouse and an ancient churn dedicated to Saint Dwynwen. Saint Dwynwen is the patron saint of lovers of Wales and she established a religious enclosure on the island in the 5th century and the ruins can still be seen today.

This is a picture of Bryn Celli Ddu burial chamber

The last stop on our Anglesey tour was Bryn Celli Ddu. It's a Neolithic chambered tomb excavated in the 20s and was constructed to pay respect to the dead. 

The monument is believed to have first been a ‘henge’ or enclosure and was later made into a tomb or chamber. Human bones both burnt and unburnt have been found here along with a decorated stone. Amazingly the tomb is aligned to coincide with the rising sun on the longest day of the year. At dawn on the midsummer solstice, rays light from the rising sun light up the chamber. 

Morfa Nefyn

We spent our last evening at Morfa Nefyn and the nearby fishing hamlet of Porthdinllaen. We enjoyed a pint at the Ty Coch, which was voted one of the top ten beach bars in the world. Only locals have vehicle access to Ty Coch so visitors must walk across the golf course on top of the headland to reach the pub. This area is really popular with water sports enthusiasts and is a great place to relax with a pint whilst looking out over the Irish Sea. 

This is a picture of Morfa Nefyn beach




We had the most wonderful time in North Wales and even though we spent two weeks exploring the area there is so much we didn't have time to see and do. I know we will both definitely be returning here in the future. Criccieth, Abersoch and Pwllheli are all on the 'to visit' list for our next trip to North Wales. 


We are missing exploring the UK in the caravan so we are looking to book a weekend break in September for our first anniversary in Shrewsbury before we pack everything away for the winter. Even if you aren’t celebrating an anniversary or planning a family camping trip, I encourage you to find a cheap singles holiday to Wales because if this trip has taught me anything it’s that the world is just there to be explored! North Wales is a destination not be missed. 

We also have trip to Innsbruck booked for later in the year and the big Disney trip to Florida early next year, Lots to look forward too and plenty of travel posts!

Gemma
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Friday, 10 August 2018

Exploring North Wales - Week 1

I've lived, worked and studied in South Wales all my life and to my shame, I had never been to North Wales until my recent trip. It took 30 years of my life to get north of Machynlleth and boy was I silly to leave it that long.

Martyn, Coco and I had two weeks in our little caravan to take in as much of North Wales as possible and this special trip really showed me the splendour and beauty of my home country. #ProudWelshGirl

We based ourselves on the north coast for week one and on the Llyn Peninsula for week two to be able to take in as many of the sights as we could. Our home for week one was the Bron-Y-Wendon Touring Park just outside Colwyn Bay. This site was very well appointed with fully serviced pitches (electric hook up, fresh water and grey water disposal) and spotlessly clean shower facilities. We had fantastic sea views from our pitch and the campsite was very calm with only a few children around during the school holidays. The only negative was some noise from the A55 which ran close to the site. 

We were able to cram lots in to our first week and still have plenty of down time to relax in the caravan. We were not blessed with ideal weather, it was either roasting hot or misty and raining so all the pretty dresses and going out tops I packed weren't much use and I spent most of the time in leggings and a rain coat - who says caravanning isn't glamorous, ey?

There are lots of destinations I didn't take photos of or that we only stopped off at briefly but I've tried to share the edited highlights below (I don't think you all need to see 400 photos, most of which are of my dog).

Llandudno


Llandudno is a classic Victorian seaside town and is popular with visitors from nearby cities like Liverpool and Manchester. It is home to Wales’s longest pier, offers superb views and all the ice cream, dinky doughnuts and candy floss you can dream of.

Once we walked along the pier and enjoyed a Punch and Judy show we headed up the Great Orme which rises 207 meters above the sea. The Orme is home to some interesting flora and fauna and the largest prehistoric copper mine in the world. The main reason that Martyn and I wanted to visit is because we are transport geeks and wanted to travel on the only cable hauled tramway in the UK.

The Great Orme Tramway in Llandudno opened over a century ago in 1902. It's open everyday from late March to October with a adult return ticket currently priced at £8.10. At the halfway station you can learn all about the Tramway's history, before heading to the summit. The views at the top of the Orme were simply stunning and are not to be missed if you are in the area. 

This is a picture of the Llandudno cable cars


This is a picture of the great orme tram



Conwy


Conwy was such a charming walled town with an impressive castle. If the weather is good and you are travelling by train I recommend walking over or to Deganwy railway station for spectacular views of the castle and the surrounding area.
 
There are plenty of lovely shops where you can pick up some lovely Welsh produce and I highly recommend a pit stop at Parisella's of Conwy for some award winning ice cream (the salted caramel and raspberry ripple are divine) and Popty Conwy bakery for some affordable lunch options and a nutella stuffed doughnut of dreams pictured below.  


Don't miss a visit to the marina where you will find the smallest house in Great Britain. It measures just 72 inches wide by 122 high and was once home to a 6ft3 fisherman! 

This is a picture of the the smallest house in the UK

This is a picture of conwy castle


This is a picture of a nutella filled doughnut

Betws-y-Coed

Betws-y-Coed is known as the gateway to Snowdonia and has more outdoor shops catering to walkers than I've ever seen in a tiny town before and plenty of trails heading to waterfalls and forests making it the perfect spot for adventurous travellers. 

Martyn and I headed to the town to see the lovely scenery but also because it has a lovely railway station and links to the Conwy Valley Railway line which I've wanted to explore for a long time. From our departure at Betws-y-Coed to our arrival at Llandudno we were treated views of the castle at Conwy and dramatic landscapes. The 27 mile long Conwy Valley line offers one of the most beautiful rail experiences in Britain, well worth a visit.

The station building and street was home to some great cafes and restaurants. We stopped off at Hangin' Pizzeria as we were ravenous after a day of exploring and to escape the heatwave going on outside. They have a great selection of pizzas with vegan and gluten free options too. A percentage of proceeds go to animal conservation charities so you get to eat pizza and do a good deed. I opted for a garlic butter, goats cheese and caramelised onion pizza which was thin and crispy which is just how I like it and it was enormous. Great spot for lunch!

This is a picture of betws-y-coed

This is a picture of betws-y-coed railway station

This is a picture of a wood fired pizza


Bangor

Bangor was a surprise stop on our trip but I'm so glad we made time to briefly pass through. We had hoped to visit Bodnant Gardens but they do not allow dogs in so we had to think on our feet and visited Garth pier. The pier in Bangor is Grade-II listed and equally as lovely as the more famous pier in Llandudno. It is very charming and not filled with shops and stalls selling tat. It's perfect for promenading along like the Victorians did and taking in the views of the Menai Straights and Suspension Bridge.

The Menai Suspension Bridge was opened in 1826 and is a marvel of engineering. Thomas Telford's' creation helped to link Anglesy to the mainland as previously the only way to travel between the two was to walk at low tide of get a ferry boat.


This is a picture of garth pier. bangor.


This is a picture of the menai bridge


Llanfair PG

There isn't a lot to see at Llanfair PG station but I had to make a quick pit stop at the station with the longest name - Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. In English it means 'Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio near the red cave. The name is spelt out phonetically underneath so you can try pronouncing it when you visit. 

This is a picture of llanfair pg station


If these photos haven't persuaded you to book a last-minute weekend break to Wales then next weeks post featuring Barmouth and more of Anglesey certainly will. It get's even more beautiful and remote on the Llyn Peninsula! Can't wait to share the next instalment with you. 


You can read all of my posts about Wales here. 


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Gemma
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