Visiting the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N experience – Excel, London

Ever dreamed of being recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D.?  We visited the Avengers exhibition at The Excel centre in London and tbh its probably the closest you’ll get! Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network), is an immersive and interactive experience that explores the science behind the Avengers and tests whether or not you yourself have what it takes to be an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D...

We visited with 4 12year old boys and its fair to say they loved it!!!

Located at the back of Londons Excel centre, in its own purpose built building, you travel through various themed rooms until you reach a 4D Interactive game at the end.

Although reviews were mixed we booked tickets for six of us (using a voucher website to receive a slight discount on the ticket prices). You can book a time-slot so waiting time is reduced and the nearby Excel centre has food and toilets.

The props and tech used in this exhibition are really good. The most famous Avengers have their own rooms and interactive games, and the lesser known ones are grouped together with lots of on screen information, costume displays and other interesting titbits!

Amongst other exhibits, you can hold Hulks hand, ride Captain Americas bike or hold his shield, Follow Antmans ants or try and lift Thors hammer! I failed 😦

One of the things I liked best about it was the level of detailed information. As a fan you can read the ‘science’ behind all the characters and their stories as if they were real, studied phenomenons. What to know how the Rainbow Bridge forms? How Wakandas communication devises operate? What each Infinity stone does? How Captain America went from skinny boy to super-soldier? Its all here waiting to be discovered!

The whole thing is immersive and everything presented as it it is real. The team working the event are there as SHIELD operatives and you are kept in this bubble the whole way round. You wont find any mention of comic books or actors names here!

We didn’t queue very long for anything apart from the interactive games in Tony Starks lab (which our 12yo’s loved) and photography is allowed and easy to do as there aren’t crowds as only so many people are let in per time-slot.

After slowly making our way through the exhibition (I’d give yourself at least an hour if you want to enjoy the interactive parts) you then get ushered into a final room, split into teams and all given ipods to play an interactive Avengers game. This is great fun and a really good way to end the experience.

There is also a large gift shop (no cash, card only) and an opportunity have have a souvenir photo done, digitally posing with the Avengers.

Me, my sons and their friends really enjoyed this experience and I’m really glad we went. I would say its best added to doing something else in London if you were coming for a day out as it doesn’t last that long but for any Marvel fan it is a must see!!!

Due to extra demand this experience is now running till the 28th of April. Book your tickets here. Able to be flexible? Find selected Groupon offers here.

Hello 2019 – pleased to meet you!

So you’ve probably noticed – it’s a new year! Now, I am not a believer in the whole ‘new year/new me’ stuff but I do like to have goals, I like to constantly try to do better and I thrive on the feeling of being proud of myself and my achievements.

So I decided to use the rolling over of ’18 to ’19 to come up with 10 manageable (and that’s the key word here) things to keep me on the right track for moving onwards and generally achieving my goals over the next 12 months.

Lets be clear though, these are NOT resolutions. I am not a believer in New Years Resolutions. Over many years I have set myself ridiculous goals – started strict diets, tried to force myself to do things I didn’t really want to do and unsurprisingly I failed. And then the excuses would start, the guilt would come, which was often followed by some self loathing. And then usually I would forget all about it all and not really achieve anything over the next 12 months!

But what are my 2019 aims?

Face the fear (and maybe do it anyway)

My biggest enemy is anxiety. For as long as I can remember I have been a worrier and at times I have suffered with panic attacks and illness due to anxiety. I have worked very hard to control my demons and during 2019 I want to make sure I am as self-aware as possible remember to always put my mental health first. One of the biggest challenges for me is telling people when I feel anxious but I know if I share my worries and seek support the easier it is. Part of this is also looking after myself physically, so I need to get enough sleep, keep away from alcohol, exercise regularly and not eat too much junk food as I find if my weight goes up so does my anxiety. I will not allow my worries steal my happiness.

Stay ‘present’

One of my worst traits is being easily distracted. I have a very busy mind and often find it hard to focus on just one task as I am always thinking ahead. This year I am going to work really hard to stay in the present particularly with my loved ones and put that phone away and keep my focus where it needs to be. I want my children to feel they are the centre of my world not Facebook or Instagram. Plus I am going to try ‘seize the day’ where I can (someone often harder for anxious people) and be more spontaneous and hopefully have more fun!

Be the star of my own story…
Family first

Start a new (mini) business

Last year I had the idea to launch a new Etsy business. I already have an Etsy shop selling vintage items (find it here) but I wanted another a business that was a bit more creative. I did quite a lot of work on it but life got in the way and I never got to launch it. This year I want to bring that business alive so watch this space!

Be real (aka don’t just ‘do it for the gram)

This year I am going to work hard to remember social media is definitely NOT real life. Working as a social media manager for a large retail company, I really should know to not judge myself against the 1000’s of curated, photoshopped or stylised images out there but I still do. This Christmas I realised I had hardly taken any photos but had a lovely time which was a real eye-opener for me. Everything doesn’t need to be recorded digitally and immediately shared…memories are really all you need.

This year I am going to work hard to not believe everything everyone else is doing/living/sharing is perfect and that sometimes an outtake photo is a better representation of the moment than a stylised Instagram worthy shot as seen below…

Silly faces – thought = I dont look pretty enough
New Years Eve – thought = laughing and bent over is unflattering
Bonfire night – thought = no make up and too dark

Re-do our lounge

Last year we made some real progress doing up our house. This year I want to tackle my favourite room – the lounge – and create a really lovely space to relax in. Theres a lot to do as everything needs changing but I can’t wait! Look out for updates as we progress…

Continue to run

I’ve now been running regularly for over 4 years and last year I ran 750km in total. I run every week, 2-3 times a week and it has really changed my life. I ran over Christmas, on holiday, in the cold and rain and when injured or unwell. I don’t always want to run but I always am glad I did. In 2019 I don’t want to run further or faster, I just want to keep making myself proud every week about the level of exercise I do because it is really hard to run every other day, EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

Thinking of adding regular exercise in your life? Why not have a read of the blogs I have written about it – find them here and here I cannot recommend it enough.

2-3 5km runs EVERY week

Karrimors on…

Read more

I buy a lot of books but they just mount up by the side of my bed! I read on holiday but that’s about it, so this year I am going to try to read a book a month. I am going to read them at night and allow myself the time to do so. I also think it will help me wind down before sleeping which can sometimes be hard for me.

Keep on exploring

I love to travel particularly with my fiancé Russ. Last year we visited Venice as a couple and Majorca as a family as well as taking some great days out in the UK and I want to make sure we achieve that again this year as it makes us so happy. I’d better start saving again as we all know sadly holidays aren’t cheap!

Venice
Copenhagen
Budapest

Be kinder to myself

Now this one is hard. I am my own biggest critic and this year I want to try to be kinder to myself. Self care will be key to this – I need to give myself permission to relax and spoil myself whether it is a pamper session, allowing myself some chocolate or just having a lazy Sunday.

Work hard, Play Hard, Love hard

I am very lucky. I have a partner I adore (and he feels the same thankfully), a beautiful family of loving, healthy, beautiful boys, a nice home and most recently, a job I love. In 2019 I am going to make sure I remember to be thankful for all these things and never take them for granted, as well as working hard to make sure things stays that way. I want to excel at work, be the best girlfriend and mum I can and have fun as I go along.

My soulmate xxx
My beautiful boys

What are your plans for 2019? Are you going to push yourself harder or just enjoy the ride? Whatever you choose enjoy and be part of 2019 – we are never going to get this year again!!!

Another way to say thank you with Cadburys Roses

On Saturday I had the chance to have the most lovely experience in London thanks to Cadbury’s Roses.

On a quiet street at the back of Oxford Street just opposite Soho Square, this gorgeous pop-up shop was hiding, waiting to share its beautiful thank-you with anyone who happened to pop in.

It looked absolutely adorable, from its 3D flowery signage right down to the vintage style yellow bike outside.

Once inside it got even better…

Set up like a high end florist, each classic Roses flavour had its own hand-made paper rose with the chocolate hidden inside surrounded by foil petals. I’m a Strawberry Cream and County Fudge kinda girl…what are your favourites?

The idea was you could pick one flower, write a thank you note to someone special and then take it away for free to gift to the person you wanted to say thank you to.

The pop up shop was created by GoLin PR Agency and Bearded Kitten Events with 7000 hand-made flowers created by set designer Tamara D’Silva and her team and was really lovely – a chocolate florist shop…it doesn’t get much cuter than that! As a creative, I love seeing a concept delivered really well and the shop was utter event/pop up perfection! I believe its due to go on tour around the UK so keep your eyes peeled for it in your city!

I had my son Reuben with me and he wanted to say his ‘thank you’ to me. I saw him chatting to the lovely ladies running the shop and the next thing I knew he had a huge bouquet in his arms for me! See the video below…

And this was his message to me…*heart almost bursts with love*. What a wonderful treat.

I think its fair to say I was very pleased with my bouquet of chocolate Roses (one of every flavour no less!). I mean, look at how I’m looking at them

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

Cadburys Roses Thanks a Bunch Another Way to Say Thank you 80th chocolate pop up event

The real reason for all this loveliness? Well that’s lovely too –  Cadbury’s have created a limited edition Roses tin to mark the chocolates 80th anniversary. Can you believe Roses have been around for 80 years? The retro vintage design tins feature a variety of coloured roses surrounded by ribbon-style banners against the traditional ‘Cadbury Roses Blue’ background. The design is really nostalgic and reminds me of a Nana’s sewing tin! On that note, sustainability has also played a key role in the decision to opt for metal packaging for the once-in-a-lifetime celebration tins. Its definitely not something you’d ever throw away – I mean, look how pretty it is…

Find your limited edition 800g tin exclusively in Tesco now! Its RRP is £9.99 although it was just £8.00 when I checked while writing this blog post. A total bargain I say!

And thank you to Cadburys for making me feel so happy and giving my wonderful son the opportunity to say thank you to me! If you’d like to say thank to someone too, I think the vintage tin would be a lovely way to say thank you to someone special this winter.

Visiting Venice

My fiancé and I recently returned from the most lovely trip to Venice and I wanted to tell you about it! Venice had been on my bucket list for a while (I had visited for a day as a teenager on a school trip to Italy many moons ago but that was it) and I have to say it didn’t disappoint.

It is definitely the most unique place I have visited on my travels so far and the no roads/all boats took a bit of getting used to.  It’s so iconic you spend a lot of time gasping and ahhing at all the sights you’ve seen in images over the years – its really quite surreal. After landing, we took a pre-booked bus transfer from the airport and then walked into Venice from the mainland via the main drag.

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We stayed in a lovely hotel in walking distance to all the sights – the beautiful, opulent and very romantic Hotel Ai Mori D’Oriente and found the cost per night for 4 star hotel quite affordable. Venice is pretty small so you really can cover a lot of it on foot and by water bus but its always good to have a central base I find. The hotel and its rooms are beautiful and the staff couldn’t do enough for us so I would definitely recommend it.

So Venice…where to begin?

I always think theres two parts to a mini break – the sights and the experiences so lets starts with the sights we visited…

Places to visit

Piazzo San Marco (St Marks Square), St Marks Basilica, Doges Palace and the Campanile Bell Tower

It is said that Napoleon called San Marco “the drawing room of Europe” and it is a breathtakingly beautiful place. Busy and filled with tourists it is one of the main areas to visit in Venice – probably number 1 on most peoples lists.  There are queues for both the Basilica and the bell tower, expensive restaurants with musicians playing on the square, streets of designer stores and LOTS of pigeons.  The stunning, multi domed Basilica is free to enter and is dark, dramatic and rather solemn with no talking (and some shushing!), but you do need to pay to see the Pala d’Oro – a magnificent golden Byzantine icon of 4,240 square meters of gold mosaic.  The Bell Tower is a must – take a lift (there no access via stairs  – my boyfriend was furious!) and admire the views of Venice – your wont find a better place to view the city or in our case, share a kiss.

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The views from the Bell Tower and breath taking…

Rialto bridge

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal. Connecting the Sestieri districts of San Marco and San Polo, it has been rebuilt several times since its first construction in the 12th century, and is now a significant tourist attraction.  It is huge – breath-takingly so, with shops running down the centre of it, it is so wide.  Again it is VERY busy with tourists so it is easier to see from a boat than on the actual bridge. As well as walking it, we went underneath it in a gondola and it was really something – definitely recommended.

Bridge of Sighs

This enclosed bridge is made of white limestone, has windows with stone bars and passes over the Rio di Palazzo, connecting the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace.  The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment and the bridge’s name, given by Lord Byron comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.

Island of Murano

This was a lovely treat – a free trip provided by our hotel which we travelled to by water taxi (more of that later).  A 15 minute speedboat ride takes you out of Venice and on to one of the various islands – Murano, famous for its glass production.  Anyone that knows me, will tell you I LOVE glass and collect vintage Murano pieces mainly from the 1950’s and 60’s.  The island of Murano is renowned for its long tradition of glass-making and visitors come to explore the Museo del Vetro, which tells the story of glass through the centuries, and to shop for locally crafted souvenirs.  We were lucky enough to visit one of the main glass producers and see how the glass is made which really was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far.  There is a bit of hard sell to encourage you to shop but we politely excused ourselves as bespoke pieces cost up to 100,000 euros!

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Glass shops

There are a lot of glass shops in Venice.  Image the weirdest thing you can…they will have it made of glass.  Prices start at a euro so anyone can treat themselves though.

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Things to do

Take a Gondola ride

We couldn’t of visited Venice without doing this – yes its expensive but totally worth it.  Gondola fares are set officially, these are the minimum fares for a standard gondola ride but rates can go higher (most fares are higher at night).  During the day it is 80 euros which is what we paid. Gondolas hold six people and can be shared without affecting the fee so you can save money by sharing a tariff with other people if you want to – personally though I wanted the love seat (the main decorative seat) and it feel romantic so there was no sharing for us. I didn’t get to eat a Walls Cornetto on one, but this was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

Take a water taxi

Want to feel like Sophia Loren in the 1950’s?  Beautiful speed boats with leather and walnut interiors are the taxis of Venice.  Fantastic fun but not the most affordable way to travel so we also made good use of the water buses which you can ride all over Venice for 24 hours on the same ticket for 20 euros. But for glamour? The taxis (and their drivers who seemed to want to go as fast as possible) had it all!

Eat and drink…alot!

Pasta, Pizza, Gelato, wine, butter biscuits… Italy is the home of great food and drink. Alongside the usual Italian fare, Tramezzini, also called Venetian tea sandwich was a must for me. These triangular sandwiches (starting 1.50 euro per piece) come with many different filling.  My favourite? A whole boiled egg surrounded by tuna – utterly delicious.

Buy a mask

There are mask shops everywhere in Venice with lots of street sellers selling cheap Chinese version from market stalls and discount tourist shops.  Visit one of the traditional artisan shops where you can see the masks made by amazing craftsmen and women.  It really is amazing watching the creations be made and discovering the many different types of masks many that have been used in film and TV.  As well as the traditional masks you can now pink SteakPunk versions, ones inspired by 50 shades of Grey and fashion pieces intricately cut out of metal and leather. My boyfriend fell in love with them and we ended up bring one home with us which now has pride of place in our bedroom.

Look at Art

There’s a lot of art in Venice.  As my taste is more contemporary, The Peggy Guggenheim Collection of 20th-century masters was my dream visit, with art by Jackson Pollock, Picasso, Magritte, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol and an amazing outdoor collection of sculpture and experiences.  It was founded by one of Venice’s most colourful expat residents, Peggy Guggenheim, whose father went down in the Titanic, leaving her a fortune.  Admission is 15 euros a person and well worth it.

Visit a supermarket

We always like to find a nearby supermarket whenever we travel (who wants to pay mini bar prices, right?) and Venice did not disappoint.  Want the most dramatic, glamorous SPAR ever?  That’s Venice…

Add a love lock

A tradition for us, Russ engraved a padlock before we left.  In our usual way, we added it to one of the many bridges in the city (there were quite a few locks there already) and threw the keys in the canal.  Another Sarah & Russ love lock left in Europe xxx.

Do some exercise

OK, OK I know we are annoying.  Another ‘me and Russ’ tradition achieved though as we ran a 5k route round the city.  We had eaten a lot of pasta and pizza by this point so it was probably needed!

All in all Venice was an odd, amazing, tiring and slight surreal trip.  It is small enough to do via a mini break and can be done on a variety of budgets.  It definitely is the strangest place I’ve been so far and loved seeing views and sights I’d seen in photos for so many years.  Yes it’s busy.  Yes its touristy.  Yes you have to pay for every toilet. But overall?  It is just amazing.  Oh and I got that Cornetto at the airport before we left!!!

All photos via my Instagram – follow me here.

#AD Planning my next adventure with Cabin Zero

What do you dream of? I dream of travelling – seeing new places, experiencing new things and creating amazing memories.  So when the guys at Cabin Zero asked me if I wanted to test out one of their innovative travel bags I jumped at the chance!

Myself and my partner travel to a new place on a ‘us time’ mini-break every year, as well as taking a family holiday and for me travel really does feed my soul.  Travel for us isnt just about seeing a new place. Its about taking the time to be a couple, not just mum and dad, and its something we promised each other we’d always do when we first got together and after 5 years together we’re 5 trips down…

Now, the dream of travelling is a great one but what about the practicalities? What do you pack? And more importantly, what do you pack it in?

Cabin Zero flags bag luggage packing flatlay via Always a Blue Sky Girl style travel fashion lifestyle blog

Jumper/boots/wallet/make up/hat – all Primark
Cat collar – ebay
Socks – New Look
Eye mask – Bedtime Bliss*
Watch – Marc Jacobs via PlusWatches*
Toiletries – Soap & Glory/ Baptise/ Sure/ Garnier/ Burts Bees
Books – Amazon
Straightening Comb – Poundland

I chose the Classic Flags ultra light cabin bag in orange chill. Its a limited edition design in the larger 44L size.  I love the look of this bag in its bright, but not garish burnt orange colourway and its retro applique flag patches over it.


Its size is perfect as carry on luggage (it measures the regulation 55cm x 40cm x 20cm), it is really lightweight (760grams) and holds so much. I don’t like to travel light (hey, you know I love fashion!) so all this is important to me, but the best part of Cabin Zero’s innovative design is rather than wheel it along, you carry it, either by its handle or using the two padded back straps like a rucksack. This leaves you free to carry another bag or just move around really easily…now that is brilliant!


Inside it has a zipped pocket and mesh compartment, perfect for smaller items.

And to keep all those bulky contents as small as possible, side compression straps.


Theres also a built-in global luggage tracker powered by OkobanN that you register your details on and a 10 years warranty (upgradable to 25 years free of charge if you ‘like’ them on Facebook).

This is a fantastic travel bag both in its styling and its innovation. I can fit everything I need into it and because you carry it like a rucksack, any weight is easy to carry. I will definitely be swapping it for my usual wheelie case as it is so much easier to use. I can’t wait to use mine on my next adventure. Now, the only other question is – where to go…?

Cabin zero flags 44l cabin bag hand luggage via Always a Blue Sky Girl blog blogger style fashion blog

Classic Flags cabin bag – £65 / via Cabin Zero*

For 10% off all orders use the code CZBLUESKYGIRLIE (valid until 20/12/17)

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*I was gifted this product but all views stated are my own. For more information please see my disclaimer section.

10 days, 10 outfits: what I wore on my summer holiday

For me a summer holiday is an excuse to dress up. As a working mum I dont get a lot of nights out and my summer holiday gives me 10 in a row! Fashion is ‘my thing’ so a trip away is perfect to have some fun, style wise.

I thought I’d round up some of the looks I wore with some details of where the items came from. Want to take a look…?

Look 1: Baby steps with swimwear – I wasnt hugely body confident on this trip. I’m a bit heavier than I was last year and was a little self conscious of my figure. I took lots of cover-ups and soon all that fear slipped away….I found George at Asda great for swimwear with secret support and stuck mainly to one pieces apart from a few days where I braved wearing a bikini!


Bikini top / George at Asda, cover up / ASOS 

Look 2: the off the shoulder maxi dress – I found this dress in Primark for £5 in the sale and then paid to have it altered. Getting a dress that fits you perfectly is worth every penny and I found this was an easy dress to wear both daytime & evening.


Dress / Primark, sandals / Peacocks

Look 3: a slogan sun hat – if you didnt do a photo like this only holiday can you even call yourself a fashion blogger?!? Joking aside, hats saved my life on holiday and this £8 TU one actually fits my enormous head/thick hair!


Sun hat / TU at Sainsburys, Swimsuit / George at Asda

Look 4: the bargain daytime outfit – This dress was £12, the bag £9, sunglasses £3 and sandals £4. I just wore my swimsuit underneath.  Primark, you are a fashion loving holiday makers dream…


Sunglasses/dress/sandals/beach bag – all Primark

Look 5: Saturday Night – I didnt bring a lot of really dressy clothes and I’m glad as it was far too hot to get really dressed up, but this embroidered dress is one of my favourites and worn over a slip was perfect for a night when I wanted a bit of extra glamour.


Dress / Zara, Slip / M&S, sandals / Very.co.uk

Look 6: covering up as I mentioned before, in the day I wanted a stay a bit covered up when moving around and I found a playsuit was perfect for that. This £7 Primark bargain had the cutest tie front and frilled shorts and made me feel very feminine.


Playsuit / Primark, Sunglasses / Esprit, Hat / George at Asda (menswear)

Look 7: Retro vibes – when I saw these retro telephone booths in our hotel I knew I had to pose in them wearing this dress! Its not my normal style but holidays give you the chance to be someone else for a while and I decided to channel my inner Mad Men character. This dress was a ‘new to me’ charity shop buy so a real bargain too.


Dress / Oxfam, sandals / Primark, Bag / Next 

Look 8: Palm print lover – I wore this culotte jumpsuit ALOT while away as it was so comfortable and light. Apart from one night when someone else was wearing the exact same thing (the horror!) it was the perfect evening holiday piece…and I picked it up in the sale!


Jumpsuit / New Look, bag / Next, sandals / Primark

Look 9: boat trip chic – I bought quite a few pieces from Primark for this trip and this dress was one of them. I had been a bit afraid to wearing off the shoulder items as I do like to keep my ample bosum tightly contained (!) but a strapless bodysuit worked really well…I just couldnt do any trampolining!!!

Dress / Primark, bag / Bohema Design, sunglasses / New Look, Sandals / Peacocks

Look 10: Feeling tropical – I do love wearing print and leopard print seemed apt in the hot weather. All over print is too much for curvy, petite me, so a cute black one shouldered top from New Look toned it down.

Top / New Look, skirt / Primark, bag / Next

So what do you think? If you like my style make sure you follow my Instagram here for daily inspiration.

25 things you learn when you are on an all-inclusive family beach holiday

I havent been on a package/beach holiday for some time and this year was our first ever resort holiday abroad as a blended family and the first time we had visited an all-inclusive resort. Holidays abroad are expensive (stop hiking up the price in the school holidays holiday companies, its so unfair) and can be stressful but its also a unique time where you dont have to ‘do’ anything if you dont want to and the usual chains of being an adult are removed. 

So what did I learn during 11days of resort living?

1) Yes, it can be expensive but once you’re there that wont bother you – in fact you’ll probably start planning your trip for next year. I’ve got to be honest, paying for this trip hurt a bit (I’m notoriously stingy LOL) but once we were there and I saw how happy everyone was, all I could think about was how it was SO worth it and I wanted every summer to be like this from now on.

2) Before you leave you will probably worry a bit about wearing swimwear but after a few days of seeing real people, rather than airbrushed magazine shots or Facetuned Instagrams you will not give a damn! Embrace that body – its the only one you have and its beautiful because it’s unique and it’s yours!

3) Your holiday doesnt start till someone gets stung by a wasp (me, day 5)

4) As Baz Luhrmann famously said – use sunscreen. Take loads – you always use more than you think you will. We were doing really well, had one off day when it was cloudy and then really had to pay for it via copious applications of after-sun and anti-hystermine. Slight parenting fail! Its also worth considering using rash vests/sun suits – I bought some cheap ones for our 3 boys from Sports Direct and they were brilliant – especially for our sun-adverse red-head.

5) It might come as a surprise but a £10 pool inflatable can make a child more happy than a £400 games console ever will…

6) All-inclusive food and drink brings out the gluttony in human beings – be better than that. Anyone that goes up for thirds at dinner with 3 bread rolls under their arm and their eye in the dessert bar needs to have a word with themselves!!! I will miss that choice of every breakfast food imaginable each day though…

7) By halfway through the holiday you’ll know all the words & dance movements to the resorts chosen theme song with your kids begging for the resorts overpriced disco CD (just say no – if they are really desperate for a song, Shazam it and then buy it as a download when you get home – they’ll of forgotten by then anyway)

8) Pool sliders may look ugly but they will save your life (and soles of your feet) 

9) Foreign crisps are better than UK crisps. End of. And in HUGE bags!

10) Palm trees are the best trees

11) Bring at least of 2 of everything for your kids that goes near water. Swimshorts, towels, caps etc. – that way you have time every day to dry or wash through the day befores clothing.

12) If you want to dress up, do it. If you want to relax and dress down, do that. This is your holiday. I love to dress up and use Instagram, so was never gonna miss the chance of creating fashion looks using some fab backgrounds…

(look out for a separate blog featuring what I wore)

13) Exercising on holiday is fun! Yes – we are that couple…We always fit in some form of exercise while away, and found that because we had more time for it, it felt easier and less of a chore. Running is easy to fit into a day and needed minimal extra stuff packed.  An added bonus – it takes a long time to form a habit, especially if that habit is regular exercise – so if you can keep up some of the momentum while you are away, it’s much easier to get into it again when you get back.

14) As a mum in particular, it can be hard to give yourself permission to relax – but you need to do it.  I’d say it took me 3-4 days to properly relax…Use whatever you need to – a good book, headphones playing your favourite music, romantic walks or a nice cocktail. No guilt allowed – youre on holiday!

15) Holidays have the ability to bring siblings together in a way that nothing else can. You will get those ‘melt your heart’ moments when you least expect it…cherish them.

16) A kids disco at any other time might seem like hell but seeing your child experience entertainment purely for them, and seeing them dancing/singing/playing games on stage (if your child is anything like mine) is just the most wonderful thing.

17) In an all-inclusive resort, order the maximum amount of drinks allowed each time you visit the bar that you can. This is not being greedy, it just means you won’t have to keep queueing up (and those queues can be LONG!)

18) Reading an actual book is wonderful. I read two that I had been meaning to read for ages and just hadnt had the time and felt so satisfied.

19) Entertainment staff are all the most beautiful people on the planet and will make you feel totally ugly in comparison but remember the rest of the guests in the complex will remind you that people come in all shapes and sizes!

20) A great view can lift your soul

21) If youve got kids under 12 bring a bottle of Capol or Inbruprofen plus some anti-hystermine. We needed medicine for 2 out of our 3 children during our 11 days away.

22) Beaches look great in an Instagram shot but are really hard work especially with kids coming back with sand in areas you didnt even know they had.  However theres just something about them that makes it worthwhile – for our boys it was when they found out there was free wifi (we banned them for going online at out hotel) and for me nothing beats the sound of the waves lapping. Talc helps remove the sand and make sure you utilise the beach showers.

23) If youre anything like me and spend all your time checking everyone has remembered everything, you will probably end up losing your own stuff, most likely your sunglasses. Pack a few pairs of cheap ones – I kept mine safe till the last day and was feeling smug and then lost them going through Spainish security on the way home. Primark is great for cheap but stylish pairs.

24) Dont forget those chargers and travel plugs. We didnt allow much screen time but trying to keep our own phones, plus ipods, cameras, portable chargers and tablets charged was quite a challenge.

25) Travelling abroad with young children can have its stressful moments but the joy it brings both them and you makes the best memories, ones that will stay with them forever.  Giving yourself permission to relax is a huge step in self love and the moments it creates are priceless.  There really is nothing like it.  

So kiss your kids, snog your partner and most importantly, love yourself xx

I’ve set up a direct debit and am ready to start saving for next year – after all, taking holidays are one of the reasons we work so hard the rest of the year! Its only money, right?!?

We travelled to the island of Majorca in the Spainish Baleric Islands with LoveHolidays.com.

Visiting Budapest

Over Easter myself and my boyfriend travelled to Hungary for a 4 day city break.  We had not been there before and were bowled over by the city.  

a stunningly clean and tidy city…

So what to do when youve got time on your hands, no kids, a centrally located hotel room and some holiday cash?

Well firstly Hungary is not an expensive country! Food and drink is cheap and many of the attractions were free (or only a few pounds). We arrived with Euros but quickly changed them to HUT as paying in Euros works out very expensive (plus a lot of places wont take them). Be ready to feel like youre spending loads though as 1000HUT is worth about £2.50!

My top things to do… 

Cruise the River Danube – the river splits Buda and Pest and is breathtaking. Take a romantic stroll or a riverboat cruise.  We did both – a cruise works out about £15 a person and really lets you see the city along with learning the history too. We loved it!

Top Tip – book your cruise ahead at one of the tourist information points instead of being hassled at the waterside by the many different reps who may try and overcharge you.
 

artwork on the river bank remembering jews killed during the war. Budapest suffered terribly during WW2
 
the famous chain bridge

 

Be in awe of the architecture – Budapest is a visually stunning city. Out of all the amazing buildings the Parliament buildings are iconic and usually what you see on postcards etc. 

Top Tip -it is a working building with armed guards to the front as well as sculptures and fountains but it looks best viewed from the water. 

that building youve seen in all the photos…
 

Get sporty on St Margarets Island – Ok, we are a bit annoying as we are both regular runners and like to do a 5k in cities that we visit…its a bucket list kinda thing. I know, I would hate us too if I didnt think we were awesome!  St Marys Island is a car-free purpose built island in the middle of the Danube for sports and leisure. You can bike around it, canoe around it, play sports, visit the petting zoo or like us run round the 5k running track. It was full of locals when we were there and Budapest seems a very healthy city generally.

Top Tip – if you have room in your case pack some sports clothes – whether its a run, the hotel gym or finding somewhere to swim, its great to have the option to exercise available.

runners gotta run!

Get steamy at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths – A bit further out of the city (we had to take a short bus ride) is probably one of my favourite things I have ever done. A huge purpose built stunning building thats over 100 years old – you can swim in the thermal springs, get a massage, enjoy hydrotheraphy, sauna or just chill out on sun loungers. 

Top Tip – book a cabin for a private changing room experience and pay to put your valuables in their safe boxes for extra peace of mind.

the beautiful outside pool area
 
taking a dip in the thermally heated water
  

Ride the Castle Hill Funicular – so everyone wants to pretend theyre in a Wes Anderson movie dont they? This just sums up the whimsical charm of Budapest. The views as you go up and down are stunning too…

Top Tip – at the top discover the Hungarian National Art Gallery and see the changing of the guards outside the Presidents house 

picture postcard cute

Explore the unique Buda – 

Budapest really is a tale of two cities. The old town on the Buda side is unlike any place I’ve visited – very medieval feeling, quaint and unusual. It gets busy with tourists but we loved it. 

Top Tip – if you visit St Mathius’ church book the cheaper bell tower tour rather than the full church tour – the climb will tire you out but the views are great. 

St Mathius Church
 
the view of Pest from Buda
 
pretending I’m a princess outside my castle at fishermans bastion
 

Visit St Stephens Basicila Cathredral – this is one of THE landmarks of the city and the ornate interior has to be seen to be believed. Entrance is by donation but spend a bit more and climb the 363 spiral steps to the dome balcony – the views are fabulous and theres even an art gallery on a hidden level!  

Top Top – Afterwards, chill out on St Stephens Square where there are lots of pavement cafes and bars…


the front of the stunning cathedral
  
inside the ornate dome
   
on the roof
  
i have this thing with floors…
  

Ride on the trams – public transport in Budapest is cheap and relatively easy to use – we travelled on a bus and metro transfer from the airport (for about £4.00 each) and then used the metro and trams when things were a little too far to get to on foot. 

Top Tip – the older yellow trams on the Pest side are adorable and you feel like youre in a 1950’s movie riding them. Buy a daily travelcard and enjoy!

the cutest public transport Ive experienced so far

Buy a rose shaped ice cream delight – there are lots of great food in Budapest but my favourite of the trip? It had to be these beautiful handmade rose ice creams made from 3 flavours of ice cream from Gelarto Rosa. 

Top Tip – avoid the queues of the main shop which is nearest St Stephens Square by heading further down the street where you will find a second branch!

ice cream perfection
 

Dress up and eat out – when on holiday it has to be done! I’ll be honest, as a fussy eater I struggled with the hearty Hungarian food – however for lunch Goulash in a bread bowl made an interesting change and theres plenty to choose from. Food and drink is very reasonably priced with a 2 course meal with alcohol for 2 in a good restaurant easily managable on a budget of £50. 

Top Tip – a 12.5% service charge is always included in the final bill in Hungary so dont add anything else on.

dress by boohoo boutique, attitude by me
 

Leave a Love Lock – this has become something of a traditional for us.  After a romantic break its lovely to think they’ll be a part of you left there after you leave – last year we left one in Copenhagen at the spot where my boyfriend proposed to me. In Budapest they have metal ‘trees’ created for this purpose in Eserbet Tér (a large park in the centre of the city) so you know youre not vandalising anything or they’ll just be cut off a month later!

Top Tip – plan ahead and make one before you go using a cheap brass padlock. My boyfriend engraved it himself creating a lovely personal touch.
 

leaving a bit of our love behind
 

Budapest is a definitely ‘recommend’ from me! We flew to Budapest via Ryan Air from Stansted and stayed at the President Hotel in the centre of the city. Flights start from around £60 each way.

Alice in Wonderland at the British Library

One of my favourite books in the world is Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll. In fact not just the book – I love the ideas, the illustrations, the history and the endless versions of it that have been created.  When I heard the British Library were having an exhibition dedicated to it I just had to go. 

    

From the British Library website: 
“Happy Birthday Alice! To celebrate 150 years of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this exhibition explores how Alice has captured our imaginations for so many years. Although the story has been adapted, appropriated, re-imagined and re-illustrated since its conception, we are still enchanted by Carroll’s original, much loved story, which continues to inspire new generations of writers and illustrators.

Come and see Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript with hand-drawn illustrations, alongside stunning editions by Mervyn Peake, Ralph Steadman, Leonard Weisgard, Arthur Rackham, Salvador Dali and others.
Discover how Lewis Carroll’s story has been re-imagined, re-interpreted and re-illustrated over the last 150 years with newly commissioned articles, a selection of manuscripts, reviews and literature relating to Alice in Wonderland”.

You start by taking a journey through a pop up of mirrors and maze walls all peppered with Alice in Wonderland quotes and various illustration from books across the 150 years of its publication.  

  
You then enter the exhibition itself which showcases everything from the first edition, details and photos of the original Alice; Alice Liddell, examples of all the different illustrations that have been done over the last 100+ years, plus original art, vintage toys and of course, the ‘Disneyfied’ Alice and her merchandise.

My favourite thing had to be the original diary and then handmade book (complete with hand drawn illustrations) by Charles Dodgson (the real name of Lewis Carroll) that he made Alice as a present after that afternoon of storytelling…for a fan like me it was just breaktaking to see it.
 
 
 Plus there’s a fab pop up Alice in Wonderland shop with lots of fabulous quirky items.  

Its definitely worth a visit whether you are a fan or not and its wonderful that it is free for the nation to enjoy. Thank goodness for the patrons of the arts whose donations make this sort of thing possible. 

The exhibition is in the library foyer, is free to get in to and runs until 17th April.

The British Library is at 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB – nearest Tube Kings Cross/St Pancras.