Sorrento ItalyI can’t believe a year has passed since we went to Sorrento and I still haven’t got around to writing about it. That just goes to prove how hard it is juggling a blog and a full-time job… oh and an extended family, a house, a home and all of the other bits and pieces that go in to make the normal run-of-the-mill life. There is never enough time in the day!

We visited last year, just Paul and I, to attend our friend’s wedding. Trust me, Sorrento makes a wonderfully romantic venue for tieing the knot.

Although I lived in Italy for almost 20 years, I never got to see Sorrento and the surrounding area. I had heard of its beauty many times and knew it was extremely popular the world over. Sorrento was firmly on my bucket list and our wedding invitation was the perfect occasion to tick it off.

Cloisters Sorrento

The Cloisters in Sorrento is the perfect wedding venue.

As the wedding was to be held on the Saturday, we decided to ask the grandparents to look after the girls for a few days and make a short break out of it, after all, what’s the point of going all that way to turn around and come straight back? I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing the places I had heard so much about.

lemon tree sorrento

When anyone speaks of Sorrento in Italy, you hear descriptive words like lemons, music, stunning views and romance – in Italian obviously but I’ll save you that for now. I had conjured up a meraviglioso picture in my mind and I was curious to see how close my thoughts were to reality.

Getting to Sorrento

Getting to Sorrento is fun. We booked flights into Naples – another notorious city I want to return to one day. Then from the city you have a few options – hire a car and drive along the coast, jump on a coach or bus, get a taxi or take the ferry and sail around the coast to the harbour of Sorrento. Guess which option we went for?

The ferry!

Naples to Sorrento ferry

In order to do this, you have to catch a bus from the airport to Naples harbour. It’s not difficult and there are plenty of instructions online in places like TripAdvisor. It’s cheap and easy and on arrival, there are plenty of places where you can buy your ticket. All of them speak English and will be able to direct you to the right dock.

There are various ferries and we caught the one above. It meant we had to sit inside and couldn’t see much out of the windows that were covered in sea salt but there was a great Italian waiter who was selling drinks and snacks, so we bought a couple of beers to get into the holiday mood.

Cheers to being a couple for a few days and cin cin to Italia!

The ferry doesn’t take long and our friends due to marry were waiting in the harbour for us, they had been there a couple of days already, as stated by Italian law when you get married in the country.

Sorrento harbour Italy

Wheeling the suitcase into town – luckily there’s a lift in the cliff!

We stopped for drinks with them and then made our way via a lift in the cliff up to the town and on to our hotel with plans to meet later for dinner.

Hotels in Sorrento

We did what everyone does – pump ‘Hotels in Sorrento’ into the search box and click go. Up came the normal sites and after a few days of research, we decided on Hotel Europa. It was walking distance from the centre, situated on the coast and had some great reviews.

Hotel Europa Palace Sorrento

We weren’t disappointed – apart from the noise from the road, the Sorrentini do love to hit their hooters! The hotel had a charm of years-gone-by. I could imagine being here in the 20’s and being part of the ‘in crowd’. Our bedroom was comfortable and there were some lovely facilities, like the swimming pool and beach.

Hotel Europa Sorrento

Places to eat in Sorrento

We had booked bed and breakfast as we knew we’d be out and about during the days and eating with our friends in the evenings. We needn’t have worried as Sorrento is a town full of restaurants, pizzerias, bars and various eateries to suit all pockets. The streets are lined with choice – fish, pasta, pizza, meat, you name it, you can find it and freshly cooked too with wonderful waiting service. Prices are reasonable plus, if you’re lucky, there is a glass of limoncello offered by the house with the bill. Salute!

eating in Sorrento

Shopping in Sorrento

If like me, you like to buy things to take home that remind you of your time spent in a place, you won’t be disappointed. Sorrento has streets and alleys lined with shops selling everything you’d imagine to buy; leather, limoncello, ceramics, oil paintings and much more. I adored the handmade leather sandals, typical to the area but couldn’t verify spending €100 on a pair no matter how beautiful they were. Reluctantly leaving the overpriced sandals to one side, I filled our suitcase with limoncello, an oil painting, a leather purse, a beautiful scarf and plenty more bits and pieces.

You will love the shopping!

shopping in sorrento

Things to do in Sorrento

There are plenty of romantic things to do in Sorrento – getting married has to be the best by far! But we also enjoyed beautiful walks along the stunning coastline, through the town and stopping on the clifftops to watch the sunset is a must. There’s a wide terrace where people congregate to watch the sun descend over the sea, luckily there is a bar there too, so order an Aperol spritz and enjoy the moment.

sunset in Sorrento

sunset in sorrento

Fun things to do in Sorrento

Sorrento is beautifully positioned as the perfect base for exploring the area and on our 4-night break we managed to fit in Vesuvio, Pompei and the Island of Capri which I shall be writing about separately as they were so impressive.

Enjoy some of my favourite photos that I took in Sorrento.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

short break sorrento

Ramsgate-Royal-Harbour-

Picking up from our walk around Thanet our next section to explore was to be Ramsgate Royal Harbour.

We parked in the residential area at the top of the slope leading into the centre of Ramsgate and walked along the cliff top down into the harbour. The weather was mild and sunny and the harbour held a peaceful Sunday atmosphere. You could feel it was a day off, a fun day and it excited us.

Ramsgate-Royal-Harbour-

One of my favourite things to do when strolling around a harbour is to look at the boats, check out the most expensive one and wonder who it could belong to. Ramsgate was no different and offered some splendid examples that are way out of my wage packet.

Ramsgate-Royal-Harbour-

Ramsgate Royal Harbour

Ramsgate Harbour is the only harbour in the United Kingdom awarded the right to call itself a Royal Harbour. This was bestowed by King George IV after he was taken by the hospitality shown by the people of Ramsgate when he used the harbour to depart and return with the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1821.

Ramsgate-Royal-Harbour-

On the quayside there is a Clock House which is home to the Ramsgate meridian, 5 minutes and 41 seconds ahead of Greenwich meantime. The Clock House is also home to Ramsgate Maritime Museum which gives an introduction to the town’s important maritime past.

Ramsgate-Royal-Harbour-museum

We didn’t call in this time as the weather was so nice, we chose to walk along the seafront and see if we could find anything else for future visits.

Ramsgate fresh seafood

We passed by Peter’s Fish Factory and spotted this wonderful Fresh Seafood van offering all sorts of delicious food.

Further on we came to the coast where there is a lovely beach with a park and amusements for children.

Ramsgate beach

Along the promenade there are paintings on the wall, each of us had fun choosing our favourites and the girls stopped to read some as they passed by.

Walking along a little bit further threw up two fantastic surprises, the first, a colourful Rainbow staircase painted by a local school to brighten up the huge concrete wall…

Ramsgate rainbow stairs

and then, hidden in that concrete wall are the Ramsgate Tunnels!

We did venture into the tunnels a bit and I found out that there are tours of the tunnels which is better to book yourself on, especially in high season. We all promised to return another time to explore.

In a nutshell the Ramsgate tunnels were created to house people during the war. 60,000 people could find shelter here and there were over 1000 permanent residents at one time.

Ramsgate tunnels

The Ramsgate Arches

We started to make our way back to the car and walked alongside the harbour taking in the fabulous Ramsgate Arches which are now homes to restaurants, art shops and vintage stores. The arches start off quite small as you can see from the first photo.

Ramsgate arches

Ramsgate arches

Ramsgate arches

You can also see the emblem of the Cinque Ports of which Ramsgate is considered to be a Limb of one of the ports.

Ramsgate-Cinque-Ports-symbol

Ramsgate Home for Smack Boys

Another place of interest we noted on our walk was the Ramsgate Home for Smack Boys which in a first instance can give off some distressing ideas of what this could possibly be but a little investigation proved that the smack boys were apprentices to the fishing smack skippers of Ramsgate.

Ramsgate-home-for-smack-boys

Lastly was the pretty and peaceful Sailor’s Church.

The Sailors’ Church and Harbour Mission was built in 1878 by Canon Eustace Brenan, vicar of the nearby Christ Church. He was aware how hard and dangerous the Smack Boys work was and their need for physical help and spiritual guidance. He built the church so when the Smack Boys came ashore they could find comfort in the rooms above the church.

Ramsgate sailors church

I loved the look of this old building on the harbour but haven’t been able to find out yet what it once was. A nightclub? An amusement arcade? The statues are still in almost perfect condition and although the building needs a lot of restoring I hope somebody does take the project on.

Ramsgate old building

One last spot was on the wall of a home where our car was parked. A blue plaque informing us that Charles Darwin had visited Ramsgate and stayed in this house. The twins have heard and talked about Charles Darwin at school so were excited to find he’d been here too.

Ramsgate Charles Darwin

What better than to eat fish and chips on a visit to the coast?

peters fish factory ramsgate

On one of our recent family trips around Ramsgate we popped into Peter’s Fish Factory on Harbour Road at around lunch time, curious to try for ourselves the infamous fish and chips from this award winning restaurant.

You can choose to eat inside or outside on the bistro style tables. We had Baxter with us who wasn’t allowed inside but seeing it was a lovely day, we sat at a small wooden table and waited for our fresh food to be cooked to order.

We ordered 2 small codling and chips and a portion of fish goujons and chips for the girls to share as it was a large portion, I also indulged on a portion of mushy peas. With a couple of soft drinks our bill came to around £12. (Summer 2016)

The meals were served in takeaway boxes and you could add salt and vinegar at the counter. There were small wooden forks and serviettes on offer plus a table of condiments to pimp your fish and chips to however you wished.

Peter’s Fish Factory fish and chips

fish and chips Peters fish factory

We all agreed that the fish and chips were delicious, very good portions and cooked perfectly – in our opinion. The girls managed to eat most of the box leaving only a few chips which dad helpfully polished off for them.

It was a bit windy sitting outside and we had to be careful of the polystyrene cups blowing about and serviettes taking off across the harbour but it was a lovely spot with no through traffic.

If queues are anything to go by on deciding whether a fish and chip shop is good or not, Peter’s Fish Factory in Ramsgate had a queue for the entire time we were there and lots of happy faces coming out.

Let us know if you agree.

NB This post first appeared on another blog I set up called Thanet Uncovered in 2016. It quickly became apparent that with work, family, home and life in general I wouldn’t have the time to run two blogs so I am in the process of closing down Thanet Uncovered and transferring the content onto Mari’s World where I shall have a category for Thanet to store all of our fun times there.

 Pegwell Bay thanet

Pegwell Bay

When looking at a map of Thanet it becomes immediately apparent that there is a hell of a lot to do and see but we had to make a decision to start somewhere. Although we are both familiar with the area we wanted to start with something new to us and so we decided that Pegwell Bay in Ramsgate would be our starting point.

We woke early one Sunday morning and as it wasn’t raining and the sky was promising a clear morning we headed off from our base in Birchington Vale for our first adventure.

Pegwell Bay - Thanet

Pegwell Bay sits on the estuary of the River Stour between Ramsgate and Sandwich and is home to a large nature reserve, many different species of wildlife live here or visit throughout the year. Families can visit the Pegwell Bay Country Park to discover more of the mudflats and salt marshes and take a closer look at the varied nature.

We parked in the residential area along the top of the cliffs and, with Baxter on a lead, walked down the slopes leading to the beach. The beach is rocky and sandy and is dog friendly although there may be a dog ban from 1st April – 30 September between the hours of 10am and 6pm.

Pegwell bay exploring

We were there before 10am and so let Baxter off his lead for a run and around the sandy beach and another failed attempt at catching a seagull. The girls enjoyed larking around on the sand too and we could see Ramsgate Royal harbour in the distance.

Pegwell bay

The Boating Pool Cafeteria

We walked back up one of the staircases to the top of the cliffs which was a good climb and strolled along the top back towards the car. There we came across The Boating Pool Cafeteria, there was a playground which caught the girl’s eyes and a welcome cup of tea which caught mine. Dogs are allowed on the terrace and so we sat down and enjoyed a cuppa in the sunshine whilst watching the men drive their boats on the lake.

The Boating Pool Cafeteria Pegwell Bay

I love the ‘Once upon a time’ look of the Boating Pool, reminiscent of times gone by but once inside you will be invited to a wonderful clean and fresh atmosphere with a fantastic chalkboard menu to choose from. I have a feeling we may be back here soon to try some of the food.

 

The Boating Pool cafeteria Pegwell BayIt did seem the perfect spot to enjoy a lunch or even an afternoon beer or glass of wine as the sun sets over the sea.

One last thing worth mentioning was the fabulous sculpture on the green along the cliff tops at West Cliff, Hands and Molecule by David Barnes. The sculpture was unveiled in 2000 to mark the opening of the National Cycle Network (Route 15) in Thanet.

Hands-and-Molecule-David-barnes-Pegwell-Bay

Things to see and do in Pegwell Bay

  • Visit Pegwell Bay Country Park
  • See Hugin, the full-size replica Scandinavian longboat complete with shields situated by the main road on the low clifftops above Pegwell Bay commemorating the first Anglo-Saxon landings in England in this area.
  • Take a look at St Augustine’s Cross, a stone memorial in a fenced enclosure on the south side of Cottington Road. The cross was erected in 1884 to commemorate the arrival of St Augustine in England in AD 597.

NB This post first appeared on another blog I set up called Thanet Uncovered in 2016. It quickly became apparent that with work, family, home and life in general I wouldn’t have the time to run two blogs so I am in the process of closing down Thanet Uncovered and transferring the content onto Mari’s World where I shall have a category for Thanet to store all of our fun times there.

privet-drive-harry-potter

Harry Potter Studio Tour review

It’s 15 years since the film Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone came out and having watched the film recently with the twins, it is still as gripping and fascinating as it was the first time I watched it with Tommy and Megan.

J.K Rowling really did have an excellent idea the day she wrote her notes down on a scrap of paper whilst sitting on a delayed train. She has captivated the world with her stories ever since and I love watching the twins work their way through her books. Alice is currently on the 4th book, The Order of the Phoenix and Bessie is polishing off  the 3rd, The Goblet of Fire. We keep on at her to finish so we can sit down and watch the third film together.

As a special treat for the girls I arranged with Warner Bros to take the girls to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford. They are celebrating the 15th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film and as you can imagine there are a lot of extras to be had on the tour.

The twins were wowed from the car park onwards and didn’t tire of touring all day long. In fact they are still talking about it now and took their Harry Potter passports into school to show their friends.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What is the Harry Potter Studio Tour?

The Harry Potter Studio Tour is a trip behind the scenes to see the sets, make up, costumes, props and the area of creativity where the filming took place. It was an amazing day out and one I am sure we shall repeat at some point as the girls work their way through the other books.

From the moment you start your tour you are guided through the history of the film making by tour guides who are incredibly knowledgeable and can answer all of your questions as you follow the tour.

harry-potter-cloaks-Harry Potter Studio Tour review

It all starts with a film and explanation, the history is just as fascinating as the sets themselves, there is so much to take in you certainly won’t be bored.

The tour leads you through the sets and in celebration of the 15th Anniversary there are special extras on the way through. The girls were intrigued to see how the letters flying through the letterbox of Privet Drive was created and they got to take a letter home each with special Hogwarts seal on it too.

Harry Potter Passports

The girls were handed a passport each at the front desk and told to look out for hidden snitches as we followed the tour around. This made the tour even more interactive for them. They also really enjoyed finding the machines to get their passports stamped although dad and I had to step in to make sure they embossed the pages properly.

What does Butterbeer taste like?

butterbeer-Harry Potter Studio Tour review

I was determined to try it and we decided on one glass of butterbeer and two butterbeer ice creams for the girls.

I really enjoyed it although the girls and dad didn’t. The way I’d describe it is a sweet fizzy drink that’s not over fizzy with a similar taste to cola and on top a thick creamy head that lasts right to the bottom of the glass. Think of a coke float but the cream doesn’t melt. If I return I shall definitely order another and maybe even get a souvenir glass next time.

The Broomstick video

Harry Potter Studio Tour review

This was another must on our first visit and both twins thoroughly enjoyed it. First we had a photo taken with our cloaks on and wands and then we followed the queue around and the girls got to sit on a broomstick and make their own video. Be warned this is not cheap though. We payed £60 for the two USB sticks and one photo.

The Harry Potter shop

honeydukes-Harry Potter Studio Tour review

It is a huge shop and if you don’t stay together you will likely lose each other. You can find all sorts of memorabilia from wands (£26.95), to clothes to notebooks, to fridge magnets. There is something for everyone including a lot of sweets from Honeydukes. This then brings you out to the entrance hall where it all started.

Our verdict of the Harry Potter Studio Tour

EXCELLENT. Top marks from all of us, dad grumbled about the prices in the shop. He also grumbled at the queues for the various photo stops and broomstick flying but he always does that.

In his defence, if you can go on a school day I imagine it would be much quieter, I’d also advise being on the first tour or one towards the later part of the day. Our tour started at 10am and we didn’t exit the tour until gone 2pm. We stopped for lunch in Backlot Cafe and ordered mac n cheese for the girls and hot dogs for us (go easy on the mustard as it is hot!)

One tour guide told us the longest amount of time some guests stayed on the tour was 13 hours and you will see some hardcore Harry Potter fans whilst you are there.

Disclosure: We were given a family entrance ticket to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour for the purpose of this post, all opinions are my own.