Brighton Pier

Photo by Darren Coleshill on Unsplash

I have very fond memories of Brighton, my great-grandmother used to live in nearby Hove and we would often drive down to see her and spend a weekend or longer break there. I can vividly remember visiting the Royal Pavilion and being awestruck at the beauty and luxury of the palace. It was a day out that has stuck with me all my life.

I remember fun days on the stony beach, skimming stones and playing in the sunshine and walks through the town centre buying holiday souvenirs and postcards to send back to cousins. There used to be a nudist beach – I wonder if it’s still there?

Brighton is still a very popular holiday hotspot and over the years has become one of the trendiest places in the UK to visit. It’s not just popular with the Brits but Europeans and Americans too, they all want to spend a weekend in this beautiful seaside town.

The town has always been a hugely popular holiday resort and the past 20 years has seen Brighton flourish; it now has so much to offer visitors, you won’t want to leave! Whether it’s a weekend break or a longer stay, here are some of the best things to do and see whilst in Brighton.

The Royal Pavilion

I have to start with the palace as (as mentioned in my intro) I can still remember my childhood visit today. I would revisit it tomorrow. The Pavilion was built by King George IV as a seaside pleasure palace and is an eclectic mix of architectural styles including Indian and Asian nuances. On your visit, you will discover 200 years of history. You will hear about how it was used as a civic building and a First World War hospital.

Brighton Pier

Who doesn’t love a pier to stroll along? I do! Brighton Palace Pier owns the title of ‘finest pier ever built’ that alone should be enough to convince you of visiting. Walk along the 1722 ft, go on the rides, eat, drink and have lots of fun on a really fun family day out.

British Airways i360

An intriguing attraction is the British Airways i360 opened in 2016. The 162-metre observation tower on Brighton seafront has a futuristic glass pod with a cocktail lounge offering spectacular views.

The Lanes

 

The lanes brighton

Photo by Darren Coleshill on Unsplash

Narrow streets lined with sixteenth-century buildings, each one home to cooler than cool shops, independent cafes, record shops, bookstores and artwork like you’ve never seen before. I mustn’t forget to mention the excellent choice of vintage boutiques either; an Aladdin’s Cave for shoppers!

The World’s Oldest Aquarium

Built in 1872, the Sea Life centre in Brighton showcases – apart from a spectacular range of underwater life – some stunning original Victorian architecture. A must see is the interactive rock pool where you can touch a starfish or a sea anemone.

The Brighton Dome

If you can, check out the programme in advance and book a night out at the Brighton Dome where you can enjoy a range of classical music, dance, theatre and poetry. Curiously, the Dome is connected to the Royal Pavillion by an underground tunnel which was built (so they say) so that the overweight King George IV could visit the stables unseen…

Where to stay in Brighton?

Why not go for something really comfortable on your visit and choose from a wide range of holiday homes to rent for your break? The Best of Brighton have properties all over the area, some rural, some on the coast and others further afield on the Sussex coast. Each unique property has been carefully selected and has had to pass rigorous requirements to be featured in the collection. Choose from contemporary, cottages, flats and large family homes, including pet-friendly choices too.

If there’s one place you visit in the Uk in 2019 – take a look at Brighton, I think you’ll love it.

North Devon coast

I love Devon. The word itself conjures up memories of cream teas, crabbing in Ilfracombe under the Statue of Verity and watching the kids on their belly boards at Woolacombe.

It’s been a few years since we last managed to get down to the west country but I am sure sooner or later, that we’ll be packing the car up and revisiting our favourite places again.

verity ilfracombe

The fact that Paul’s dad was sent to Hele during the war meant that, as a child, every summer, his parents would pack up the car and go for a two-week break with their four boys. We cannot go down without spending a day in Combe Martin, a visit to Ilfracombe and a long list of plenty of other wonderful places to choose from.

From the quirky choices like Berrynarbour and spotting the flowerpot men around the village, to the fascinating gardens dotted throughout the rolling hills.

 

berrynarbor

One thing we do when we’re in Devon, is to eat pasties. There are some fabulous pastie shops with all kinds of wonderful recipes to try. In fact, they are so good we always buy a huge box to bring home and freeze so we can extend our holiday memories that little bit longer. There’s nothing quite so sad as pulling out the last pasties from the freezer!

We have stayed in plenty of different places in Devon but one idea that really captures my curiosity and one that gives the real experience of living in the area would be to book a cottage, that way we could really make the most of our time and for a moment live the west country like the locals.

Christmas by the Sea

woolacombe beach

There, I’ve said it. I have said out loud what would be a dream Christmas for me – Christmas by the sea in Devon. I’m imagining long coastal walks wrapped up in gloves, hats and scarves, I’m picturing pub lunches in villages that are celebrating the locals rather than crammed with tourists. Drinking local ales and eating freshly caught fish or locally reared lamb.

How about a family night in your seaside cottage playing board games whilst the Cornish pasties are being reheated? Candles flickering on the fireplace and a log fire burning in the hearth?

I know Paul would want to go in the sea with his wetsuit and belly board, I would place money on the girls following him in too…imagine doing that on Christmas Day? There would be nothing to say you can’t do it, just push back the roast turkey to later in the day! In fact, there are some wonderful places that can sleep large families too and are dog-friendly too; Baxter would be in his element down there.

The more I think about it, the more this idea is taking hold in my mind and, fingers crossed, one day I will celebrate Christmas in Devon overlooking the sea and feasting on pasties and cream teas.

Where would you like to spend an alternative Christmas? Norfolk also offers a wealth of things to do and see.

Disclosure: A collaborative post

autumn in norfolk

If you haven’t considered taking a family break in autumn or winter before, then now is the time to start considering the idea. As the days get shorter and colder, the desire to wrap up and snuggle down becomes greater but this doesn’t mean we can’t be as cosy and comfortable away from home.

With cottages all over the UK available for rent for long weekends or longer breaks, it seems silly not to take advantage. It’s the perfect excuse to take the family away to discover some more of our beautiful country. From Yorkshire to Cornwall, there is something for everyone and this time we are shining the spotlight on Norfolk

Autumn breaks in Norfolk

Norfolk is a relatively flat countryside so it’s perfect for walking and getting outside without getting too strenuous. Autumn is renowned for colour and you can choose from the coastal path or a number of ‘Ways’ that take you on some spectacular journeys through the county. (Angles Way, Peddars Way, Boudicca Way and plenty more to choose from). If walking isn’t your thing then maybe cycling the routes could be a better way to get out and explore.

Beaches of Norfolk

The beaches are just as beautiful out of season – if not more and I know Baxter would love to run up and down a few of Norfolk’s favourites like Winterton, Brancaster and Wells next the Sea which is lined with the prettiest beach huts to photograph.

I didn’t know that Norfolk was a great place to watch birds. This is the time of year when birds are migrating from the Arctic and you can see the familiar v-shaped formations of geese as they travel down from Iceland and Greenland. I hear that Welney is the perfect Sunset spot to capture the wild swan feeds; the area fills with swans and ducks as they make their home for the winter.

Norfolk food and beer

Harvest time of year always brings lots of food festivals and special occasions to take part in. There are funghi forays, nature trails plus Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse has a wonderful Apple Day to visit. Maybe you could buy some and make a crumble or a Toffee Apple cake.

The city of Norwich always has plenty going on if you’re looking for a buzz, if not, enjoy the cobbled lanes and quaint town centre, maybe pop into a pub for some local beer from one of the many local breweries.

Heritage railway

The beautiful heritage railways of Norfolk travel all over the county and this is the time of year that you can take the children on a Santa Special. Sit back and take in the glorious scenery, I am told that the North Norfolk Railway from Sheringham to Holt is breathtaking.

Norfolk has a wealth of stately homes and museums to discover, parks full of wild deer and other wildlife and what’s more, it apparently has the best climate in the UK too.

You can find out plenty of more things to do on the Visit Norfolk website

Cottages to rent in Norfolk

Now all you have to do is find the right cottage for you to stay in. Norfolk Cottages has plenty to choose from for example, The Old Coach House in Pentney sleeps up to 8 people and allows dogs… just look at the swimming pool!

autumn in norfolk

Or The Granary? A luxury property in Aslacton. Take a look at the photos – I don’t think I’d ever leave it’s so beautiful.

autumn in norfolk

Have I convinced you to take a look at Norfolk? Do let me know if you go there and where you visit.

Disclosure: A collaborative post

venice in 1 day with kids

“Venice in 1 day with the kids?” you shriek in disbelief that it can be done.

“Yes.” is my knowledgeable reply as that is exactly what we did this summer whilst staying on Lake Garda.

We (Megan and I) decided that as a special treat for the girls (aged 9 – 10), we’d catch a train from Verona and spend one day in Venice.

Having lived in Italy for almost 20 years, I was well aware of the cost of a day trip to Venice and to keep our expenditure down our first decision was to take a packed lunch and drinks with us. We checked the train times and we booked a return ‘regionale’ online. (This saved us our first euros as tickets are slightly cheaper online and we found a great Family Deal).

venice in one day with kids

The girls were delighted to see that our ‘very reasonably priced train’ was a double-decker and insisted on sitting upstairs. It is incredibly comfortable and clean  – that’s until you visit the toilets – don’t go unless you really have to is my advice!

An inspector will be along to check your tickets but, if you’ve booked online, you’ll have an email with a QR code which they can scan. The journey from Verona to Venice takes about 1 1/2 hours and arrives slap bang in the centre. the perfect starting point.

Getting around Venice with kids

venice in one day with kids

Another decision we had made during the planning stage was to invest in a ticket for the vaporetto. At first glance, this might seem an outrageous expense but contrary to belief, Venice is enormous and the islands surrounding are quite a distance away. This is the part we hadn’t looked into booking online and my advice would be to do so if you can as it will save a lot of time. There are various options to choose from and we went for the 1-day inclusive pass. It cost about €20 each (there are no differences between children and adults) but it allowed us to travel anywhere at any time for 24 hours and you really will make the most of it.

The Grand Canal

Our first vaporetto experience was on the Grand Canal. We caught the water bus from the ticket office and we cruised leisurely down the Grand Canal stopping off at all of the stops along the way. As we were first on, we had great seats at the back of the boat in the open part and this allowed the girls to take in the unique beauty of Venice. We stared in awe as we passed the most beautiful buildings lining the canal. I didn’t even bother starting with the history or cultural information and just allowed the girls to enjoy everything they could take in around them.

Trust me, that’s not all of my photos but you get the idea!

Piazza San Marco

venice in one day with kids

Our decision was to stop off at Piazza San Marco and take a walk through the alleyways from the ferry stop to the main square. There is also a public toilet closeby which came in very handy. We walked through the bustling lanes taking in Valentino, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana shop fronts. We were mesmerised with the elite fashion around us. I looked up ahead and through an archway and took in my first glimpse that day of San Marco Square, it really does make your heart beat faster. We walked the girls towards the entrance, Megan was already bubbling with excitement and I took their reactions in as they walked onto one of the most beautiful and iconic squares in the world.

The girls were awestruck. The marvel of what they were taking in stamped on their tiny faces. Piazza San Marco is enormous, as we stepped through the archway onto the square which was relatively empty we walked over to the centre so to get a good view of the place.

There was an orchestra playing to filled tables outside one of the cafes, queues of people lining up to visit the iconic buildings around the edge and hundreds of tourists vying for the best Selfie spot. The girls got their phones out and joined in taking photos left right and centre. All I could hear was ‘Wow’ and ‘Look mum!’

We strolled through the square up to the cathedral and round to the Doge’s’s Palace. We didn’t want to lose any of our precious time queueing for visits but vowed to return with them one day and make time to visit the beautiful buildings and learn the history.

venice in one day with kids

We crossed a bridge and took a photo of the Bridge of Sighs and just a bit further along was the ferry point for the crossing to Murano and Burano.

Burano – the colourful island of Venice

venice in one day with kids

We knew that we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of walking as the little people could only handle so much and Venice is BIG. So on the advice of one of Megan’s friend’s who lives in Venice we had to choose between Murano – the island of the glass blowing or Burano – the colourful island adored on Instagram.

We jumped on the ferry (included in our 1-day Vaporetto ticket) and sat down to enjoy the 45-minute journey. It’s the perfect time to tuck into your picnic and the girls were able to roam the ferry safely and report back on their findings.

venice in one day with kids

Burano will catch your attention before landing as the Vaporetto makes its way along the coastline towards the doc. The island is a burst of colour in the middle of the blue lagoon. The individually painted houses are one brighter than the next all crying out for your attention. We docked quickly and without a map, we started walking to the centre.

Burano is the island of lace and there are plenty of shops to invest in local pieces costing form a €5 bookmark to €???? tablecloths, dresses and fine art.

venice in one day with kids

As you head towards the centre you quickly discover the island is crisscrossed with canals which in turn are adorned with brightly painted boats. Burano must be the birthplace of the rainbow there isn’t a surface on the island that hasn’t seen a paintbrush.

We treated ourselves to a drink/ice cream in one of the squares and then had to walk very quickly back to the dock so as not to miss our ferry. We were incredibly sad to leave and have vowed to book a room on the island next time.

venice in one day with kids

From the dock to the station

A word of advice is not to underestimate the walk from the dock where the boat deposits you back to the station. The beauty of the cheap ticket is the price but if you fail to catch your train, you will have to pay extra and on top of our super expenditure, that’s one thing we wanted to avoid.

It’s a half an hour walk and Megan, with Google maps on her phone, walked us through the alleys towards the station. She did such a great job we were able to enjoy an Aperol Spritz/coca cola before catching the train.

Saving money tips for a day in Venice

Book your train tickets online, there are some fantastic deals to be had.

Take a packed lunch and bottles of water – each of the girls carried their own small water bottle which we would fill at the water fountains.

Book any entrance tickets and times to popular tourist sights online, you’ll be able to walk right in and avoid the queues.

Verdict:

This experience is one that has stayed with the girls. They say it was the best part of their summer holiday this year and one of the best things they have ever done.

Read also: Paris in one day

lovehearts, street art dope

A while back, I was lucky enough to go on a Street Art tour of London and listening to the knowledgeable guide really opened my eyes to a whole new world I hadn’t known about previously. A world of artists who express themselves through graffiti, stencils, prints, stickers, large-scale paintings and even street installations. Their art is often a means of expressing a political opinion, a message they want to send out to wake the population up to the truth as they see it.

That experience has stayed with me and now, every time I go abroad and visit a new town or city (or visit new places in the UK), I keep an eye out for any eye-catching art.

I’ve heard about Clet Abraham who adds humourous stickers to the Florentine road signs at night. Lorenzo Quinn who installed ‘Support’ – a pair of enormous human hands reaching out of the Grand Canal in Venice, propping up the historic hotel Ca’Sagredo Hotel and making a massive statement about global warming. I now visit a new town or city and look out for the artworks placed there when no one is around, in secret. Sadly it wasn’t there during our day trip in August.

I am hoping to organise a day trip to Paris. With a street art scene stretching back to the 1980’s, Paris has a wonderfully vibrant selection to offer. From Jef Aérosol, one of the first stencil artists who stencilled 350sqm next to the Pompidou Centre in 2011 and entitled his piece Chuuutt!!! (Shh!) to Jérôme Mesnager whose signature white figure ( a symbol of light, strength and peace) has been created in the Ménilmontant neighbourhood, interestingly it was Matisse’s painting, ‘La Danse’ that inspired him.

Following the theme of silhouettes, Nemo’s trademark is a black silhouette of a man wearing a trench coat and fedora. Nemo’s mural of a man on a bicycle can also be found in Menilmontant.

The 13th and 20th arrondissements and Montmartre and Abbesses are also great places to wander on the hunt for street art, Miss Tic has created a pin up-style woman with the words ‘To life, to love”. It is such an appreciated work of art that the city graffiti cleaners are asked to restore this piece rather than remove it.

Of course, not every artist needs graffiti supplies with them like spray cans and paints as artists like Alexandre Farto, known as Vhils, choose walls that have been painted or have certain textures and he strips them back using the various layers to sculpt faces on the wall.

london street art love will tear us apart again

I remember spotting one of Space Invader’s works on the London tour, a tiled mosaic of the pixelated video game Space Invader. Apparently, his first piece ever was in the French capital and also his thousandth in 2011.

Another artist I would like to find on my tour of Paris would be Gregos. I like his work so much, I follow him on Instagram. He makes plaster cast masks of faces and paints them before fixing them to walls all over the world.

Have you come across some great street art abroad? If so where?