Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Life Lately - Summer Update

My last catch up was back in April and I've been a very busy bee over the past few months. Since April I've turned 30, had not one but three hen parties, had a few trips to London and spent many hours preparing for my wedding next week. Apart from a long weekend in West Wales I've not had a holiday this summer so I'm really looking forward to my Scottish honeymoon with Martyn and Coco. It will be a much needed break from a computer screen - blogging and social media seem slightly less fun when your day jobs is managing social media accounts. The Wifi and signal free north coast of Scotland will be bliss.

The summer started with wedding preparations, getting the cake sorted, tasting lots of cheese (hard work but someone has to do it) and having a hair and make up trial. I style my hair in the same way everyday and wear very basic make up so it was great fun to try out different styles and go for a bolder look. I've treated myself to some glittery Charlotte Tilbury eyeshadow for the weeding and I'll be having glitter on my nails too. 

This is a picture of my bridal make up trial

Going to see The Maccabees on their farewell tour in July really was a bittersweet moment. I didn't think it was possible to cry to a song about a wave machine but The Maccabees proved me wrong. Their songs defined my time in university, bring back fond memories of going to festivals in my 20s and singing and dancing until 4am with my friends in Cardiff. The farewell tour felt like a fitting end to my 20s and like a chapter of my life ending before a new adventure starts - married life and being a mother to my fur baby Coco. 

This is a picture of the maccabees farewell tour show in london

My first hen do was very cultural - I headed to Bristol for the day to watch a production of Romeo and Juliet in the Arnos Vale cemetery and enjoy a meal at the Lido.  I highly recommend a visit to the cemetery which has a fantastic programme of events including tours, film screenings and meditation all in a stunning setting. 

This is a picture of arnos vale cemetery in Bristol

My 30th birthday was pretty low key as I'm booze and cake feee in a bid to have glowing skin for my wedding but as a few of my friends also celebrate birthdays in August there was a joint birthday festival in Abergavenny with lots of live music and food. It was nice to have a day off with Martyn and Coco to relax, I don't miss wild birthday nights out. 

A photo of Coco looking cute just because I can. 

This is a photo of my sleepy shih tzu lying down

My role in work has changed slightly over the summer, I'm currently split between the social media team at a train operating company and the communications team. I'm now helping to write articles for our website, publishing a newsletter for company stakeholders and meeting with and corresponding with Members of Parliament and Assembly Members. After two years at the company it is nice to mix things up a bit and this secondment has helped my confidence grow and I'm enjoying meeting new people across the company by visiting sites across out network including the picturesque Machynlleth. 

This is a picture of machynlleth station platform

My second hen party was organised by the lovely Katy and was a super classy affair. We had a wonderful  Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea, at Sanderson Hotel in Soho, London and an overnight stay. Included was a fantastic selection of teas which I think are exclusive to the hotel and wonderland themed treats and savouries. I recommend a seat in the courtyard for a lovely outlook and relaxed surroundings. Kim has written a great review of the experience on her blog Sweet Monday. The hotel suite was beautiful with all the amenities you could wish for, I certainly felt very spoiled and had some beautiful gifts from my friends.

This is a picture of afternoon tea at the sanderson hotel

this is a picture of a champagne toast

This is a picture of a rainbow pride flag

I took Coco to PrideCymru and marched in the parade with colleagues from all across the rail industry in Wales. Coco loved all the attention and I enjoyed taking part and showing pride in my diverse colleagues and showing a commitment to ending discrimination.

My third and final hen celebrations meant another trip to London. I went to see the amazing Dreamgirls production in the Savoy and was treated to a lovely meal (and gin) at Flat Iron in Covent Garden. My friends have kept me very busy this summer and this has meant that I've not had time to get anxious about the wedding this weekend. In typical me style I have left lots of things to the last minute - I haven't even sorted out my ceremony music and a few decorations will hopefully be arriving the day before the wedding. 

I decided early on not to make 100s of decorations and I have a venue who are taking care of pretty much everything for me, I'm hoping this will allow me to have a stress free wedding day and enjoy spending time with all of my favourite people gathered in once place. Lets hope Storm Aileen has passed over the UK by Sunday but I don't think I'll be too worried about rain after a few glasses of bubbly.

This is a picture of a gin cocktail and bride to be badge

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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. 

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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. 

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! 

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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.

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