Thursday, 31 August 2017

A Versatile Dress for a City Getaway

If there's one thing I lack in my wardrobe then it's smart, casual clothing. I seem to have plenty of casual items or dressy outfits but nothing in-between. I knew we had a trip to London coming up where I would need an outfit that I could wear all day but would also be suitable for afternoon tea and dinner in a nice hotel.

When it comes to getting clothes for myself, i've always preferred a visit to our town centre rather than shopping online. I hate the task of sending clothes back when they don't fit etc and then i'm left panicking when I haven't found anything. I much prefer wandering around the shops and trying things on there and then. I must have trawled every shop in Cardiff and I couldn't find anything suitable. I decided to pop into Marks and Spencer to grab some food but I found myself distracted by the clothes.

It's not a store that I shop in for myself. If i'm completely honest i've always thought it was a place my nan would buy her clothes. I buy clothes for my girls there as they have a fab children's range but I very rarely browse the women's section. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of things that caught my eye.

There was a section that really stood out for me. It reminded me of holiday's and I felt transported to France. It was full of nautical style with a palette of blue, white and red. A mix of casual and smart clothing but plenty of options for what I was looking for.

I can't even begin to tell you how many things I tried on and how many of those things I wanted to buy but this shirt style dress really stood out for me. I completely fell in love with it. Stripes are such a staple trend and never seem to go out of fashion. They are something that you can keep in your wardrobe and pull out year after year. 

The dress is a loose fit which is perfect for me as i'm not in the shape I would like to be at the minute. It has buttoned detailing at the front and a tie waist which you can wear loosely or tightly to alter the shape of the dress. The fabric is cool so it's ideal for a summer city break. For a more relaxed look you could pair it with trainers and then for an evening out evening you could simply add heels. 

It's a very recent purchase but unfortunately I can't seem to find it online so you'll have to pop in your local store to see if they stock it there.

I recently wore it to afternoon tea at Cardiff's newest luxury venue, The Exchange Hotel which is where all of the photographs in this post were taken
. The venue is stunning. The outside reminds me of being in a European city. It's beautiful. I am officially declaring it as the most instagrammable place in Cardiff at the moment so if you follow me over on instagram, i'm sure you'll be seeing more of the venue on my feed.

I'll definitely be packing the dress in my bag for our London trip. It's such a versatile piece that is perfect for a city getaway. It's something you can wear casually all day and also something to show off at dinner. 


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Tips for travelling light with children - Guest post by Cup of Toast

One thing I can't manage to do is pack less so i'm pleased to show you this guest post by Jo who writes at Cup of Toast which is tips for travelling light with children.

I am certainly not a seasoned traveller, but I do love a good holiday. Home or abroad, I feel that packing is now down to a fine art in our family, and, with six out of seven seats in our car being filled when we go on holiday courtesy of our family of five plus our dog, travelling light is a necessity. 

My top tips for achieving this are fairly straight forward, and I’m a big believer that whatever the size of your family you can go away without looking like a university student heading off for their first year. So, here are my tips for travelling light with children:

1. Give each child a small bag.This can be a small child’s suitcase or a small backpack. Ask them to fill it with whichever toys, books or games they would like to take away, and stick to only taking those. Add some pens and paper to your own packing and mobile entertainment will be complete. Remember that once away you will find all sorts of things to keep you all occupied!

2. Choose the right bag for you.If you set out your largest bag or suitcase you will most likely fill it up. Instead, choose a small to medium sized bag and slim down the pile of items that you want to take.

3. Roll clothes up.Rolling clothes up makes it much easier to pack them than folding them. It can also help to reduce wrinkles.

4. Count the days.Count the days that you will be away for and only take enough clothes for one outfit per day. Take tops and trousers that are interchangeable, and a small pot of washing powder which you can either use where you’re staying, or at a launderette. Aim to do one wash during each week that you’re away so that emergency spares are available if needed.

5. Use pockets and zipped compartments wisely.Tuck wallets and valuables into zipped compartments to keep them safe and separate, but also to free up space in your main luggage. You can also slip sunhats, scarfs or smaller items of clothing into side pockets or even coat pockets.

6. Online delivery.If you’re going on holiday in the UK, organise an online delivery to arrive on your first full day. Don’t just order food, also consider any other household items like toilet paper or kitchen towel that might be required.

7. Pack food wisely.For food that you are taking with you, choose wisely. You might well love soft fruit, but it won’t travel well. Consider where you’re going, and if an online delivery isn’t an option then look up local convenience stores or supermarkets in advance. Only take enough food to tide you over for the first 24 hours then stock up on fresh produce after you’ve arrived.

8. Consider toiletries.Whilst you may use a multitude of products at home, are these absolutely necessary when away? Try to find options that double up – shower and bath gel combined for example; 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner. Moisturiser can work wonders as a hair serum, which saves packing two different bottles. Think through what you might need and how much you might need.

9. Use your technology.Load up your kindle or kindle app with books before you leave. Download playlists or albums on Spotify. If you have Netflix or a similar online streaming service you can even download films and television programmes. All this will help to free up precious space that books, CDs and DVDs take up in your luggage.

10. Check ahead.Whilst you would most likely expect a hotel to provide linen, the majority of holiday cottages also provide towels and bedding. Check ahead to see what is included so that you pack wisely and don’t duplicate what is already there.

You can keep up to date with Jo and her blog on the following social media:

Monday, 28 August 2017

Where to eat in and around Icmeler, Turkey

I've been on holiday to Icmeler in Turkey many times over the past 20 years. Icmeler and the surrounding areas are a foodies dream suited for all kinds of tastes. Menus cater for all nationalities from British to even our favourite, Korean , there are a wide variety of restaurants and eateries to choose from. 

Here are a list my favourite places that we keep returning to:

Ros Beach, Marmaris
If you're looking for the best place to have an authentic Turkish breakfast then this isn't to be missed. It is hugely popular with the locals and that is always a good sign. 
Breakfast in Turkey is unique. It isn't treated as a necessity but more of a family gathering bringing together different tastes that will have you craving one every day.
We have tried the traditional Turkish breakfast in lots of different places but this one is by far our top choice. 
Ros Beach is surrounded by spectacular views. You can sit over the water and enjoy sweeping views of the sea, the Marmaris shoreline and the mountains. It's simply beautiful. After you've eaten you can relax on a sun bed or have a dip in the ocean. 

The food itself feels like an elaborate feast. The variety of plates keep coming. Expect to eat  cheeses, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jams, honey, fresh bread, Borek and more. This is all accompanied by a pot of black tea, brewed to perfection and served in Turkish glasses. 

You can find our more here, Ros Beach
Top tip: Avoid on a weekend when it is busy unless you can book a table in advance.

Three Bells, Icmeler:
The Three Bells is a lively restaurant, karaoke and sports bar. The staff are very friendly and the service is outstanding. Their food menu is extensive serving Turkish and international with the surprise of a Korean section which is mouth watering. It is completely unique to anything I have seen anywhere else in Icmeler. It ranges from classic Korean dishes to a selection that i've never heard of. The bulgogi is one of my favourites.

If you are after a roast dinner then this is the best place in Icmeler. The portion is very generous and you will be served the biggest yorkshire pudding you've ever seen.

You can find out more here, Three Bells.
Top tip:  If you go to the restaurant on a Sunday for roast dinner then be sure to go early as it gets very busy.

Hanedan, Icmeler:
The Hanedan restaurant is my favourite in Icmeler. It offers Turkish Tapas and main meals with a few British offerings. The atmosphere is great and the staff are welcoming.
There are some very unique offerings on the menu such as Honey Pepperoni but it is all incredibly tasty. I am salivating just remembering it. 

Top tip: Try a mixture of everything. You won't be disappointed.

Highside, Marmaris:
Highside is located in the lovely, old town area in Marmaris. To get to the restaurant you walk up cobbled stone steps which could be tiring for some but honestly the view when you get to the top is breathtaking and worth it. 

The view of Marmaris harbour is stunning, It's quiet and relaxing which is a complete contrast to the business of the ground below. 

The staff are fantastic. They are particularly good with children and they are on hand to help to keep them entertained if needs be. 
As with a lot of the restaurants in that area, they specialise in fresh seafood. However, I would recommend one of their steaks especially the Steak Maxium. The sauce was amazing.

You can find out more here, Highside.
Top tip: Go before sunset so you can see all the beautiful colour changes as night draws in.

Waterfall, Icmeler:
If you're looking for somewhere with a special setting then this is the place. The restaurant has a beautiful waterfall as a backdrop so it's perfect for a romantic meal but we've eaten there with kids and they have enjoyed watching the water and fishes.
The food is good and the portions are big. The service is excellent. 

Find out more here, Waterfall.
Top tip: Send them a message on Facebook to prebook a table next to the waterfall. Also take a look up the cobbled steps to the side of the waterfall and you will find a lovely hammock to relax in.

Fidan, Turunc:
The Fidan is a beachfront restaurant located in Turunc. They have a great range of fresh seafood. The grilled prawns and calamari were divine. The service wasn't the friendliest we've received whilst visiting Turkey (they weren't rude but just very quiet) but the food certainly made up for that. 

Top tip: Try their fresh orange juice. It's delicious.


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Go Below Ultimate Xtreme Underground Adventure with Red Letter Days

There was a time in my life when I was adventurous, daring and confident. I travelled around the world alone. I jumped from boats into the sea and I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. You name it, I wanted to try it. This all changed when I became a parent. Part of that adventurous side of me disappeared and I began to overthink things. I developed a terrible fear of heights and falling. I suppose I always had that fear but it was never as bad as it has been in recent years. I wanted to get back my fearless attitude to life as I felt like i'd lost a part of me, so when Red Letter Days UK offered me the chance to do the Go Below Ultimate Xtreme Underground Adventure, I knew I couldn't say no. 

There are so many things on my bucket list that I have been unable to do due to my fear of heights and falling. I knew the best way to get over this was to face the fear head on. However, after watching youtube videos of the experience, my nerve was starting to fade. The worst part was watching people doing the 70 foot free-fall jump, the screams were haunting me.

The Ultimate Xtreme underground adventure takes place deep in the heart of the Welsh mountains and lasts all day. Steeped in history, you encounter the experience in an old slate mine. it includes negotiating subterranean tracks, traversing, climbing, abseiling, whizzing along the world's longest and deepest underground zipline and ending with an epic 70 foot free-fall jump into an abyss. 

The day arrived and as I sat eating my breakfast I felt sick. Sick through fear and nervousness excitement. I had my husband with me to try and keep me sane and ensure that I didn't back out. 

We arrived at the meeting point where we met the rest of our group and our very friendly guides from Go Below. We were kitted out in our safety gear and started the walk to the entrance of the old mine. 

When we got to the locked gate, my legs started to wobble. I'm not going to lie, it honestly reminded me of a scene from a horror movie. Leaving the normal world and entering a deep, dark tunnel all seemed a bit surreal. It didn't help that once we got inside, 2 ladies from a previous group were being guided out as they were too frightened to do the adventure. Call me stupid but I honestly hadn't anticipated how dark it would be. I knew we were going underground but I had expected it to be lit up slightly. However, we were informed that when Go Below took over the mine they wanted it to be as authentic as possible and for it not to be turned into a show mine. 

Our first challenge consisted of traversing across a wall and then onto our first zip-wire. My face was a picture (literally). Sheer terror struck. I was petrified and it was only the start of the day. I wanted to run away, give up, but something kept me going (I think it was our amazing guide).

Overcoming those first 2 challenges did me the world of good and started to give me a bit of a confidence boost. i can't describe the feeling but the realisation that the zip-wire swing was actually enjoyable once i'd gotten to the other side was a surprise. Things were looking up...was I actually enjoying myself? Surely not?

Next up was our first climb. I've been climbing before so this part didn't phase me too much. The only problem I faced was my height (or lack of). I am only 5 foot tall and I can assure you that certainly went against me during the whole challenge. I had to stretch further and jump further. Stupid short legs, holding me back.

Through the whole day you were in charge of your own safety. We were taught how to use the harness, carabiner and navigate the ropes. Something that isn't particularly easy when your hands are shaking through fear.

As the day went on the challenges became more extreme and more difficult. You'd have thought that I would have become more confident but there were a few experiences that really tested me and pushed me to my limits. Before i'd started the challenge, I had thought that the free-fall jump would have been the worst part of the day. It was what I feared the most. I couldn't have been more wrong...

After climbing and navigating our way around the above wall we came face to face with what can only be described as my worst nightmare. It was 2 beams from old tracks and bridges with a rope up high in-between the 2 beams. We had to walk across them. This was my goliath. There was no way I could do it. I'll admit, I had a tiny cry. I have never been so frightened. The fear of losing my balance and falling was getting the better of me. Our fantastic guide somehow managed to convince me to go for it and with that I set off. I looked straight ahead and made sure not to look down. Before I knew it, I was on the other side. I couldn't believe it. It was such an achievement for me.

Last up was the jump. All day we had been leading up to this moment. I knew i'd already exceeded my expectations through doing some of the other challenges but could I manage to attempt this final, epic task. We got to the ledge and I thought, i've come this far so i'm going to give it a go. I decided i'd have to go first. The memories of those youtube videos made me realise that if I didn't go first and I heard someone screaming them I never would do it. 

I wobbled my way to the edge. Everything was attached. I stared down into the abyss. Various thoughts and questions were playing on my mind. Could I overcome my fear? Can I even Jump? I'm gonna die. You name it, I thought it. I couldn't do it. Our guide who had been my rock during the whole day, gave me a motivational talk and decided to count me down. 3, 2, 1...and I leapt. I landed at the bottom with an almighty thump and a huge smile on my face. Wow, it was incredible. I was giddy with pride and excitement. 

I wish I could've bottled up that feeling. I felt like I was on cloud 9. Adrenaline still oozing through my veins and a kick ass attitude. I felt unstoppable. So proud of myself. Facing your fears head on is such an incredible feeling. The whole day was almost surreal but what an amazing achievement. I was on a high. I felt strong, powerful and confident. I felt like me again.

I cannot thank Red Letter Days UK and Go Below for this fantastic opportunity. The guides were outstanding. So supportive and encouraging. They made you believe anything was possible and it really was. It was such a special, unique experience that I will never forget.

You can watch my video of my day over on youtube:

I feel the adrenaline junkie in me has returned again and i've now got itchy feet for my next adventure. 

* Myself and my husband were provided the voucher for Go Below from Red Letter Days UK in exchange for our honest opinions and experiences in this review*

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