A Brick-tastic Trip: LEGOLAND Windsor Review

giant LEGOLAND brick

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited along to a mid-week break to LEGOLAND with my boyfriend and his little boy. Having never been before, I was genuinely buzzing to go, especially as we were staying in one of the LEGOLAND hotels and the weather was B E A U T I F U L that week. Here’s what we got up to on our little trip and what I thought of the theme park.

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Stand Up Paddleboarding with Croyde Surf Academy

Two SUP boards by a lake in Knowle

For Mother’s Day earlier in the year, my brother, sister and I had clubbed together to buy a stand up paddle boarding (SUP) lesson, and I’ve been on the search for a new hobby (alongside Geocaching)  so decided that I would accompany her! With this weekend bringing the glorious sunshine to Devon, heading out to explore some of the beautiful countryside was an absolute must. So, we booked in for our 2-½ hour lesson with Croyde Surf Academy! Want to know how we got on? Read on…    Continue reading “Stand Up Paddleboarding with Croyde Surf Academy”

7 Days in Dubrovnik: A Week in Series

7-Days in Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Croatian city of Dubrovnik has long drawn visitors from all over the globe to explore the area’s extensive history and enticing beauty, and is, in fact, amongst the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea! Regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, the baroque buildings, limestone streets and clear blue waters leave little more to be desired. Whether you’ve never visited before or are visiting for the hundredth time, there will always be something new to discover. Here’s my itinerary for a 7-day trip to this stunning location to make the most of your time staying in Dubrovnik. Continue reading “7 Days in Dubrovnik: A Week in Series”

24-Hours in Paris

taxi parisian

If you’ve not already been to Paris, I would recommend adding it to the top of your bucket list, even if you only visit for 24-hours. It’s a truly incredible destination that is most well-known for the Eiffel Tower. However, there is so much more waiting to be discovered just beyond the surface that makes it such a spectacular destination. I have to admit, I have only visited once, for just 24-hours, hence the theme of this post. I’ve got a second trip planned for July this year, and in anticipation have been meticulously researching all of the hidden gems and secret attractions to add to my list. My first trip was incredible, but this time I really want to make the most of everything possible. So, here’s my guide to 24-hours in Paris!

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A Week in the South of France

Walking through Theoule sur Mer

In September 2016, I visited the South of France for a week and had the most incredible time. It was the first holiday I’d been on with my partner and the first holiday I’d been on of this type (my travels before had included backpacking in Thailand and island hopping in Greece), and I still hold this as the best holiday I’ve ever had! We’re planning to revisit the south of France this year, and I cannot wait. So, here’s what we got up to on our first trip:

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My 2018 Travel Plans

Planning my 2018 travel with a map and my macbook

This month so far has absolutely flown by; I had my last hand-in for the first semester of my final year on January 8th and now am starting my literature review for my dissertation – STRESS. Paired with the fact I’m working full-time for the month, the days seem to pass in the blink of an eye. To bring a little positivity to this busy period, I’ve started planning my holidays for the year and am getting incredibly excited for uni to be over and to enjoy a bit of well-earned R&R. Although none of these are set in stone or booked yet, here are a few of the places I’m hoping to visit in 2018!

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7 Things Travelling Has Taught Me

travel on a budget

I am lucky enough to have been on some incredible trips in my life so far, from family holidays to Germany, to travelling solo to Thailand and enjoying the luxury of a villa (with a hot tub) in the south of France. Every trip teaches me something new, be it about travelling, my personal tastes or the wonderful world around me. I love to travel for so many reasons and I can’t wait for my next adventure. Here are just a few of the things that travelling has taught me…

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8 Reasons Why Finland is my Latest Travel Obsession

The Aurora borealis in Finland

Whilst having a browse through Pinterest the other day, I discovered a post about something else which has long been on my travel bucket list, to stay in a glass igloo in Finland! I have to admit, as much as I’ve lusted over visiting this magical haven, I’d never actually done any research into the things to do there and prices. Then I stumbled upon this very inspirational blog (with incredible photos!) by We Are Travel Girls, you can read about their experiences here, it’s worth a read, trust me. I have to admit, I’ve never wanted to get up and go somewhere as much as I did having read this piece. In fact, I grabbed my laptop immediately and began to research all the things discussed further! Having read a little more about Finland, here are just 8 of the reasons why it has become my latest travel obsession:

Alt: Kakslauttanen Igloo Village, Finland

1. The Glass Igloo Dream

So, the glass igloos have always been on my bucket list. Just imagine sleeping under the stars, watching the natural beauty of the Northern Lights and drifting off to sleep in possibly the most magical place in the world. The igloos look picture perfect, and I imagine offer a truly unique experience that you really couldn’t get anywhere else in the world! Just take a look at the photos and you’ll be left in awe.

A wooden sledge in the snow

2. Sledging

This one might be a slightly childish reason, but I watched a video of a very candid couple visiting the Kakslauttanen Arctic Village and heading off down a mountain covered in a thick sheet of snow and it made my inner child jump right out! I’ve never really experienced proper snow, just the rubbishy excuse that we experience here in England, and some not-very-snowy snow on my last ski trip to France, and I really would LOVE to go sledging on that mountain.

Snowmobile in Finland

3. Snow Mobile Safaris

I’ve ridden a quad bike and ridden a jet ski, so next on my list is naturally a snow mobile, and why not take it for a test drive on a safari in Finland?! The safari looks like a once in a lifetime experience, with a stop off for some tea or even a chance to cook lunch on a roaring fire, it sounds like a true adventure!

a smoke sauna in Finland

4. Smoke Saunas

Until recently on a spa weekend, I wasn’t a big fan of saunas as I find they make it a little hard to breathe. However, at my spa weekend my opinion changed and the thought of a steamy hot sauna in the centre of an ice haven sounds like a dream come true! I have to admit, my only problem with this type of holiday is that I’m not a massive fan of the cold… With a sauna at my disposal though, I think I’ll cope!

An icy lake in Finland for swimming

5. Ice Swimming

This sounds like an interesting idea to me, however, when I read “don’t worry if it’s frozen over, we’ll simply cut a hole in for you” I was a little concerned. Surely it is far too cold to swim in? Apparently not, and although I’m not sure I believe them, I still want to have a go and swim beneath the ice! Imagine going diving there!

Skiing on a mountain in Finland

6. The Skiing

I’ve only ever been skiing once, and lets face it, I wasn’t very good at it. My hand-eye coordination has never been fantastic, neither has my balance and this leads me to being very clumsy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love it and wish that I was good. The skiing in Finland looks ridiculous, particularly at Saariselkä, one of the best cross-country skiing destinations in the world, the 200km track and 30 kilometres of illumination, I would LOVE to have a lesson here.

The Ice Hotel in Finland

7. The Arctic Snow Hotel

On my ski trip to France, we visited an amazing igloo for a not-so-amazing party; the vibe might have been dull but the surroundings and sculptures were so very beautiful. The Artic Snow Hotel is on another level however, and looks like an absolute palace! You can even rent a room here, and apparantly you won’t freeze to death either! Everything is illuminated with vibrant lights, bringing out the strong ice patterns and really giving the whole place a life of its own!

The Northern Lights over a mountain in Norway

8. The Northern Lights

I’m not sure why I’ve left this until last, as the Northern Lights was the original reason that I first fell in love with the thought of Finland. If you’ve ever seen the film ‘Brother Bear’ you’ll know that the Northern Lights is probably the most magical thing ever to have happened, and I would very much like to experience this for myself! I realise that I’m comparing a real life experience to a cartoon film about a bear, but it really is a fantastic film with wonderful annimation, and it has set my expectations high! I’ve heard that you can sometimes see the Northern Lights from Scotland, but I can’t imagine that it will be quite as unqiue as seeing them from a glass igloo in Finland…

Have you ever visited Finland, or dreamed of visiting? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

 

Images: Clément Belleudy and Tarja Mitrovic

 

My Favourite Places in the South of France

Views over the harbour in the south of France

Last year I took an incredible holiday to the south of France, and it was a holiday I’ll never forget. The French Riviera is truly incredible, and quite unlike anywhere I’d ever travelled before. With so much to see and do, it was difficult to narrow down our list of activities to fit into nine days, but here are a few of my favourite places that I visited (and those I wish I’d visited).

Views from Theoule sur Mer

Theóule sur Mer

We stayed in a beautiful villa called ‘La Cachette’ in Theóule sur Mer, and the town offered the perfect setting with 4/5 delicious restaurants, a few stretches of golden sandy beach and a small local shop. The villa alone offered all we would have needed for a week (including a hot tub), and with Cannes, Antibes, St Tropez and even Monaco a drivable distance from where we stayed, we were able to explore plenty more further afield. Theóule has a plethora of multi-million-pound yachts sat in the sea and had a real exclusive feel about it, without the snobbery that would make you feel uncomfortable if you didn’t own your own yacht! I fell in love with Theóule our first day and will certainly be returning (hopefully to the same villa) in the near future! When I return, I’ll definitely be investing in a SUP board to test the waters in Theóule!

Views over the harbour in Monaco

Monaco

One of the highlights of this holiday was certainly visiting the prestigious area of Monaco (although it isn’t technically in France). Known as the wealthiest place in the world, it is clear to see that the area is not short on money, with streets lined with designer shops, Michelin star restaurants and a port full of pricey party yachts! It is undeniable that the money has contributed to its jaw-dropping beauty. My personal favourite was the Japanese gardens, the serenity and quiet beauty of those gardens is something I’ve not found anywhere else in the world. Everything from the architecture to the parks looks the part, including the Monte Carlo Casino. Although I’m not a gambler at all, we did get dressed up and pop in to try our luck in the casino. With an espresso martini in hand, I hit the jackpot and won €760, so needless to say I was over the moon to have taken that trip!

A Louis Vuitton window in Cannes

Cannes

Cannes is most well-known for its film festival, but even when the biggest event in the calendar isn’t on, the place screams Hollywood glamour and gives you a taste of the high life. There are plenty of beaches to choose from to sit and soak up the sun, then you can walk just a few metres and be at the door of Dior, Louis Vuitton or Chanel for a spot of shopping! The majority of restaurants match up to the glamour of Cannes, but there are still plenty of places to stop off for a cheeky ice-cream sundae or a quiet coffee! I loved Cannes so much that we actually visited three times in the same week, and even took a trip to the golf course for a quick round (of pitch and putt – I am unfortunately not much of a golfer) and a spot of lunch. The nightlife here is also as good as you would imagine – particularly if you are a fan of spotting celebrities!

The sea in Antibes

Antibes

We, unfortunately, didn’t manage to visit Antibes on our last trip, but it is certainly on my list of places to visit; especially as I recently learned that Dior’s perfumery is located there! Dior’s isn’t the only perfumery in Antibes, and there are a few that you can explore and even have the chance to make your very own south of France scent! The large number of perfumeries in this area is mainly down to the vast commercial flower growing industry that flourishes in Antibes including roses and carnations and the sight of these flowers are said to be a truly unique experience. With 23km of beautiful coastline, azure waters and a wonderfully historic story, there is plenty that I’d like to see and do there, including visit the Musee Picasso!

A beautiful sunset in Nice

Nice

Nice is where one of the main airports is situated, and this was where we flew. The city itself is beautiful, and you could spend hours walking around gasping at the creative architecture and discovering new hidden gems! We only spent a short afternoon and evening here, but you it could keep you entertained for days! It’s such a photogenic area – definitely a place to visit if you’re a budding photographer! The array of restaurants here was also fantastic, with plenty of different cuisines to choose from! There are beaches in Nice, but as they are pebbly, it isn’t necessarily the best place for golden sandy stretches. Overall, Nice is pretty nice!

Where would you most like to visit in the south of France? Let me know on social media, as I’d love to hear your thoughts! Check out my Instagram page @cultureandcouture_ if you’d like to see a few more snaps from my travels to the south of France and many other destinations!

Greek Island Hopping: Cyclades Itinerary

Views over the Greek Cyclades islands from Santorini

In 2015 I went on a Greek island hopping adventure with my best friend. We did it in a very spontaneous manner, having simply booked a return flight and nothing else before arrival and it turned out to be perfect! Here’s my story of my Greek Island hopping itinerary:

London – Athens – Santorini – Ios – Paros – Naxos – Athens – London

Perissa Black Sand Beach, Santorini

FLIGHT: Athens – Santorini

Santorini is a truly idyllic area, and the two sides of the island completely contrast each other. On one side, you have a glittering black sand beach surrounded by hotels, hostels, restaurants and many other amenities. Whilst the other side of the island offers true luxury, where you will find the private villas and beautiful pools that you’ve likely spotted whilst skimming through Pinterest. There is so much to do in Santorini, whether you want to enjoy an early morning yoga session, take a trip to the water park, brave it on a quad bike and ride into the sunset or partake in some water sports. You can make your trip as action packed or relaxed, as you like!

A hotel with a pool near Perrissa Beach, Santorini

We stayed on the black sand side of Santorini having taken the bus into Perrissa and found somewhere to stay very quickly, and with a budget of €20 a night each, we found a lovely hotel (with a pool) that was just two minutes away from the beach. Santorini is a perfect place to start our trip, the food was delicious, and the views are incredible.

Tip: You can fly directly to Santorini to save travel time, or take the ferry from Athens to the first island (I’d recommend starting with Naxos)

Views into Fos, Ios from the top of a hill

FERRY: Santorini – Ios

After Santorini, we got on a ferry to Ios! The party island of the Cyclades, Ios is a complete change from the slow pace of Santorini. We were meant to stay three days but had far too much fun to leave, so ended up there for five days. Ios was the life and soul of the party during our trip, although not as well known as places such as Kavos and Ibiza, Ios was a lot less tacky and more enjoyable. The quaint streets in the town of Los were beautifully empty during the day, and you could happily get lost wandering around, stopping off at the local bakery for a snack of sweet baklava. Then in the night, Ios comes alive with people out to party, there is a vast range of places to go, each offering something different! Mylopotas beach is just a 20-minute bus drive away from where we stayed, where we enjoyed a few days sunbathing and a pool party at the Far Out Beach Club! Again, we easily found somewhere to stay at the port, and they offered us transfers both ways within budget.

Tip: Don’t be put off by the hotel owners at the port trying to offer somewhere to stay, it can be overwhelming at first, but this is the best way to negotiate a price and find somewhere nice!

Our camping adventure in Paros with a tent and a washing line

FERRY: Ios – Paros

Leaving Ios was very emotional; we could have easily spent the entire summer out there, however, after 5 days we had to move on to the next island. Paros was the next destination on our itinerary and a feeling little deflated from leaving our favourite place it was a rather calm few days, we camped near Krios beach for one night and had to cope with some… interesting campers. The less said about them, the better! The other two nights we stayed in quite a large hotel complex a few minutes down the road from the beach, which was near some lovely restaurants. Paros was lovely, and still picturesque in its own way, however, if I were to do the trip again, I would probably take a trip to Mykonos instead. It was the only place on our trip that I didn’t fall in love with.

Tip: Sleeping on a lilo in a tent may seem like a great idea to begin with, however, when the weather is hot it makes for quite an uncomfortable nights sleep!

Beautiful waves crashing over the rocks at Sunset in Naxos

FERRY: Paros – Naxos

Naxos was the final island on our trip and personally, I would say, the most beautiful. We stayed fairly close to the port, and there were so many beautiful beaches within walking distance as well as crafty shops, markets and other amenities. The beaches there were just sublime, and the sunset-watching spots were endless! Whether we were sat upon a set of rocks watching the waves crashing, or hidden in a small sandy cove, the sights were incomparable to anywhere else in the world. As this was the last stop on our trip, we took it at a very leisurely pace. We spent the days sunbathing, enjoying ice creams and wandering through the streets, while the evening was spent enjoying the delicious Greek food and watching the sunset. The locals here were amongst some of the friendliest people we’d met, and were always willing to help you to get the very best out of your trip. Naxos was the perfect finish, and somewhere I would definitely visit again in the future.

Tip: The nicer you are to the locals, the nicer they will be in return. We made friends with the couple who owned a nearby shop, and they offered us free fresh vegetables and rolls to cook with our meals almost every day! We made them some origami flowers before we left as a thank you.

Beautiful waves crashing over the rocks at Sunset in Naxos

FERRY: Naxos – Athens

Three weeks seemed to pass by far too quickly, but it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The challenge helped to grow my confidence and fuelled my passion for travelling. I was amazed at how easy it was to find accommodation at the last minute, even on a budget! There wasn’t anywhere we stayed that was sub-standard. The food was delicious and inspired me when I returned home. I would definitely recommend island hopping as an alternative holiday or travelling adventure!

sunset over the Cyclades cluster of islands in Greece

Travel tips:

  • Plan out your island route and do a little research into the islands a little before setting off.
  • Pack as light as possible, as there’s nothing worse than having to carry around a massive. backpack filled with ‘just in case’ items.
  • Live like a local, whether it’s buying from the local shop or asking for recommendations, no one knows the area quite as well as those who live there!
  • Wear suncream and reapply, reapply, reapply. Burning my eyelids did not make my holiday any more fun and it hurt for days!
  • Embrace every opportunity; although something might seem scary at first, you’ll only regret not doing it in the future!

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