Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

If you love to shop and wander around markets then look no further as I bring you news of a place you’re going to fall in love with, Spitalfields Market.

Spitalfields is the heart of the East End and goes back almost a thousand years, yes really. In 1197, it was founded as St Mary’s Spittel – a hospital and priory. The field adjacent has been used as a market since the 13th century and today it attracts crowds from all over London and beyond.

Attached to this area is a fascinating history of immigrants who brought new trades when they settled here: silk weavers escaping from France, the Irish introducing the linen industry. The quarter became very popular with the Jewish community who dominated the area up until the 1970s when the Bangladeshi community moved in and with them brought new cultures trades and business that we know fondly of as Brick Lane today

Photo by Dil on Unsplash

Spitalfields became so popular it outgrew the area and had to be moved. Its current destination is Leyton and the regeneration has given birth to an incredible programme including a public art programme, an events programme, the restoration of several historic streets in E1 and a selection of some of the best retailers and restaurants London has to offer.

The Traders Market

Open 7 days a week, the Trader’s Market is an Aladdin’s Cave of independent stall holders selling hand made articles and unique pieces that you are going to love.

Arts Market

Sara Sherwood

If you are looking for a piece of art for a room or wall in your home, you are bound to find something you like at Spitalfields Market. There are prices to suit all pockets and a wonderful collection of various styles and genres including oil painting, photography and more contemporary pieces too. The beauty is you get to chat with the artist who is on site selling their products directly to you, like Sara Sherwood for example who paints the most awesome London landscapes. 

Street Food and Restaurants

Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

There’s nothing like a shopping trip to make you hungry and you are spoilt for choice with all the different options open to you. In fact, Spitalfields says – You could eat here every day for a month and not eat the same thing twice. If you fancy street food from destinations all over the world you’ll be pleased as if you prefer a sit-down meal. Sweet, savoury and the new and enticing are all on offer for you to try. It’s always worth checking out the offers page on the website before you visit.  

Bikes, bags, jewellery and chocolate are just a few of the products you can buy here and you won’t go home unsatisfied – actually you’ll probably be planning your next visit on the journey home! Check out their blog for up to date news on what to expect 

  

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

The View from The Shard

This morning we were up at the crack of dawn and off to The Old Smoke for a special treat – a trip up The View from The Shard in the company of Ferdinand, the friendliest bull in town who is due out on DVD in a matter of days.

The View from The Shard

The View from The Shard have had an un-bull-ievable idea for a family activity this Easter break, they’ve teamed up with Ferdinand and created a family day out where you get to experience The View – which is gobsmackingly awesome and lots of other activities too …  like a virtual reality game called Vertigo which I had a go at this morning. Think of The Shard when it was being constructed and walking across the steel beams with nothing beneath you – scary but a lot of fun. The girls were most disappointed that they weren’t allowed to have a go (over 12) but were happy to video me doing it.

We were given activity sheets and had to go on a treasure hunt looking for Ferdinand’s flowers, we located them all and popped our sheets into a box with our fingers crossed at winning the prize of a return visit.

The View From The Shard

Families who decide to try this amazing experience out are given goody bags with their entrance tickets including all of the following items

  • Ferdinand activity sheet
  • Bouncy ball
  • Pencil case
  • Official Guidebook
  • Keyring
  • Colouring set
  • Selfie stick

and you simply must go up to the Sky Deck where there is this beautiful floral display waiting for the best photo opportunity ever.

The View from The Shard

There is another virtual reality experience called The Slide which I didn’t have a go at – although I wish I had now. You lay on a wooden curved surface which moves up and down and tips slightly forward and to the sides, as you swoop and slide around The Shard and through the city skyline. A kind of Shard helter-skelter.

For every family that visits The View from The Shard for the Ferdinand experience, there is the chance to enter a competition to win a two-night break to Barcelona. The prize is for 2 adults and 2 children under 15 and consists of return flights from London to Barcelona, return airport transfers in Barcelona, 2 nights in a four-star hotel and travel insurance.

The View From the Shard

If you need even more to convince you, how about drinking a glass of Moët & Chandon from London’s highest champagne bar? 800ft above the capital sipping bubbles whilst enjoying views of up to 40 miles, that’s got to seal the deal surely?

The View from The Shard

Find all the information or book tickets online at www.theviewfromtheshard.com/en/whats-on/events/2018/ferdinand-the-bull/

Before you leave, make sure you visit the toilets at the top for a loo with a view…

The View From The Shard loo

Disclosure: We were given tickets by The View from The Shard for the purpose of this post.