Saturday, 19 August 2017

Travel - One day in Lucca, Tuscany.

I can't believe my trip to Italy with my mates was over 4 months ago! You can read my first post about Italy which focussed on Pisa here - Pisa Photo Diary, but today I'll be sharing my experience of visiting Lucca.

It's easy to see why Lucca endears itself to pretty much everyone who stops to visit. It's hidden behind defensive walls and has charming cobbled streets and bustling piazzas. The city hasn't been involved in major conflict since 1430 so the walls are very well preserved, as are the many Romanesque churches in the city. It was also the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini.

It would be a great place to visit for the day if you are staying in near by Florence as the rail links to the city are excellent and pretty cheap. The city was a short 20 minute train ride from our base of Pisa which is served by budget airlines form the UK - this is a really easy to reach destination but feels much more relaxed and has a lot less tourists compared to Pisa and Florence.

The city is compact enough to be explored by foot and I highly recommend hiring a bike to cycle around the city walls for the best views of the city and the surrounding area - hiring a bike and speeding around the walls was my favourite part of the day.


a picture of the facade of Church of St. Michele in Foro

picture of the facade of Church of St. Michele in Foro


Lucca seems to have Romanesque churches on every corner constructed from white and grey marble in a similar style to Pisa’s duomo. The beautiful Church of St. Michele in Foro was built on the site of the Roman forum in the 11th and 12th centuries.






a picture of the cobbled streets of lucca

The anfiteatro is another of Lucca’s attractions and was built in the second century AD. Between 1830 and 1839 the buildings occupying the ancient arena were pulled down and the inner area became a piazza which is now filled with cafes and shops. We made a pit stop here for a huge gelato and coffee.

This is a picture of the anfiteatro in Lucca




Most of our day was spent wandering the pretty streets, sipping cocktails on the terrace of Caffetteria San Colombano (great salads and wine selection too) and racing around the wall on bikes. After a couple of days of walking for miles and cramming in the sights Lucca was a pleasant and tranquil retreat. I would love to return to Lucca for a long weekend foodie break. I didn't have time to try the local speciality - tortelli lucchese which is bright yellow pasta, stuffed with seasoned meat and topped with a rag├╣ and a weekend sipping Aperol spritz in a sunny piazza sounds like my idea of heaven. 






this is a photo of the botanical garden in lucca


I think most people want to see want to see the “real, untouristy” side of Europe when they travel and I felt like Lucca got pretty close to that. 
SaveSave

Gemma
facebook / instagram / bloglovin / twitter / tumblr / pinterest

Sunday, 6 August 2017

My North Coast 500 Scottish Honeymoon Wishlist


Whilst I am incredibly excited about my upcoming wedding (only 41 days to go!) I'm equally as excited about the honeymoon Martyn, Coco and myself will be heading off on the day after the wedding.

There's nothing quite like the freedom of the long open road and this is why we have chosen to embark on a Scottish highland adventure - taking in Scotland's finest coastal scenery on the epic North Coast 500. The NC500 is Scotland's answer to Route 66 and starts in Inverness, weaves its way along the coast taking in Ullapool, Caithness and John o' Groats before heading south again through Dingwall and finally back to Inverness.

I'm certainly not going to need bikinis or floaty summer dresses for this honeymoon - I'll have to be far more practical and pack layers for the changeable British weather. I'm hoping the trip will be filled with romantic walks along the north coast of Scotland, lots of cosy nights in the camper van reading a book with hot chocolate and sitting outside gazing up at the stars (with Coco on my lap) enjoying some of my favourite tipple - Scottish gin. 


SaveSave
1. Eden Mill  - Love Gin
I'm a big fan of Eden Mill gin and have already own a few bottles but this light blush pink gin would be a great addition to my gin collection and it would be rude not to indulge in some Scottish gin whilst I'm in Scotland, right? It is blended with local botanicals and exotic fruits.

2. Regatta Samaris Mid Boots
These walking boots will be ideal for strolls along the coast with Martyn and Coco and rambling across the rugged Highland landscape. 

3. Enamel mugs 
I love an enamel mug, not only are they really cute they keep your cuppa nice and warm and can withstand a few bumps and drops. These mugs from MenKind make a perfect Mr&Mrs pair. 

4. Travel journal 
I've been scrapbooking for a long time and love to keep gig tickets, train ticks and photos from my travels and pop them in a scrapbook to look over and reminisce and to keep all these bits safe. I've got a feeling I'm going to take 1000+ photos on my honeymoon so I'll need a dedicated scrapbook. This one from Paperchase is the perfect size for a single trip. 

5. Entertainment
I'll be taking an external hard drive filled with movies and box sets to watch in the camper van just in case it rains but I've also been looking for some reading material for days on the beach and for the long drive from South Wales to Scotland. I've picked up plenty of guide books and touring maps to plan my trip but I also fancy some fiction set in Scotland. I've just ordered the first Outlander book but I would appreciate some Scottish fiction recommendations in the comment section if you have any.

6. Practical clothing
I've treated myself to a couple of new dresses which will be great for days when we pass through towns or are going for a pub lunch but I'm looking for a few practical items to layer up when it gets cold at night. I'll be getting a few hooded tops like the lovely pastel one above from Simply Be, some fleece lined leggings and comfy jumpers. 

I better start making a packing list! 

Gemma
facebook / instagram / bloglovin / twitter / tumblr / pinterest

Monday, 3 July 2017

Travel - Coco's First Holiday, West Wales

West Wales is a place that holds a lot of special memories for me. My first family holidays were spent in my nan's caravan in Saundersfoot and Martyn (husband-to-be) and I had out first weekend breaks there together. It seemed only right that we took Coco to West Wales for his first little holiday. We were lucky enough to have a long weekend together during the heatwave we had a couple of weeks ago. It felt like we were in the south of France rather than on the Pembrokeshire coast during our trip.

This is a picture of a yurt in west wales

It seemed like a lot of hassle to set up our tent for a two night break so we opted to stay in a yurt just outside Tenby. The Apple Camping site had everything we needed including a shower block with fridges and a kitchen. We also had a tap and little covered area with a hob right next to the yurt. The yurt was really spacious and would easily fit four people/a small family. Coco loved running around in the grass outside -we only have a small yard at home so it was lovely to see Coco enjoying the freedom of a big field. 

The camp site was also home to a former private jet that you can sleep on, a showmans caravan and they are currently in the process of building a UFO! It was a lovely setting and I will return for a longer stay in the future, it was a real shame to only have a weekend there. 




As we only had a weekend in West Wales we didn't try and cram too much in. We took Coco for his first swim in the sea, he wasn't keen... but he did love running along the beach and sharing an ice cream with us. There are restrictions on where you can take your dog in the high season from May to September so I recommend checking the Visit Pembrokeshire site before you head off to a beach.
We had a huuuge portion of fish and chips from Fecci's in Tenby which I can highly recommend - the light and crispy batter was perfection! Marina fish and chips in Saundersfoot is also pretty good but a tad expensive as they try to use only local and fresh ingredients.






We also visited one of our favourite spots, St David's Cathedral which I have written about previously.  The drive from Tenby to St David's is beautiful and it is worth stopping in the Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre. The centre is the gateway to St David's, Britain's smallest city and the coastal National Park. Oriel y Parc houses a Class A Gallery displaying works of art from the National Museum Wales and staff there can help you find accommodation and plan walks in the local area.


We spent most of our weekend on Newgale beach. We didn't want Coco to be overwhelmed by screaming children and balls flying in all directions so we chose Newgale which is popular with surfers and isn't as crowded. It also has large dog friendly sections and was a little quieter than sandy beaches close to Tenby which can be overrun by tourists.



Our weekend break was a perfect chance to get Coco used to being in the car for longer periods of time before we head off on our honeymoon in September. We will be travelling around Scotland in a campervan with Coco which is going to be a lovely family adventure, I can't wait!
If you have any dog friendly recommendations for activities and locations in Scotland please leave a comment below - we will be travelling along the North Coast 500.

Gemma
facebook / instagram / bloglovin / twitter / tumblr / pinterest

Saturday, 10 June 2017

#WorldGinDay - How to make three simple gin cocktails

World Gin Day always falls on the second Saturday of June. That means that World Gin Day is TODAY. Hurrah! World Gin Day is now in its 9th year and is run by Gin Monkey with the aim of bringing gin lovers and friends together all over the world to celebrate glorious gin. You can get involved on social media using #WorldGinDay or attend a gin day event - events are listed on this map.

I don't need much of an excuse to indulge in my favourite tipple but I'm jumping on the World Gin Day bandwagon and sharing some of my favourite gin cocktails today. I love a classic G&T but cocktails are great for entertaining or a special occasion and you should really go all out for gin day. The three cocktails below are some of my favourites and are easy to create at home with limited ingredients.

world gin day 2017

First up is ...

Pink Fizz


This is a picture of a pink lady cocktail

  • A Pink Lady generally doesn't have lemon or sloe gin but this is my own twist on the classic so I've kind of freestyled it and given it a different name. There isn't any fizz, I don't know why I've called it Pink Fizz. Anyway...

  • You will need - 

  • 25ml sloe gin
  • 25ml gin
  • 1 tsp grenadine
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tbsp egg white

It's as easy as putting all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shaking hard for 30 seconds.  Empty the ice and shake again to froth up the egg white, pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with some lemon zest. 

Sunny Intervals 

I saw Edinburgh Gin everywhere on my holiday to Scotland but as we were travelling around by train with a backpack I didn't want to buy souvenirs and have lots of lovely Scottish gin weighing me down. I placed a big order of Scottish gins that I enjoyed whilst on my holiday when I returned home and this eledflower gin liqueur was one of them. It's amazing but I wasn't sure how to use it other than in a G&T. The cocktail below is really refreshing and a summery way to use the liqueur. 

this is a picture of a gin cocktail in a tall glass


40ml Edinburgh Gin
20ml Edinburgh Gin's Elderflower Liqueur
20ml freshly squeezed orange juice
20ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup (equal quantities of sugar and water)
  1. Add all the ingredients to a tall glass and stir, fill glass with ice and add a splash of soda water. You can garnish with a lemon or orange twist. Easy peasy. 

Bee's Knees

The Bee's Knees is a very easy cocktail to create from the Prohibition era. It is believed that the drink was concocted to mask the smell of the pungent bathtubs gins brewed illegally at the time and to make it more palatable. This doesn't require any specialist ingredients and couldn't be simpler. 

bee's knees cocktail


50 ml gin
20 ml Lemon juice
20 ml Honey syrup (honey and water mixed in equal quantities)

Shake all of the ingredients together with ice and strain to get a clear and crisp drink. I garnished this with some lavender from my garden but you can use lemon or thyme. You could also experiment with different types of honey like orange blossom.

Gemma
facebook / instagram / bloglovin / twitter / tumblr / pinterest