Category: Travel-tastic

Fuerteventura – Hotel Elba Sara and the Cat Cafe

I’m flabbergasted that it’s only been 4 weeks since I was soaking up the sun in Fuerteventura. It seems like such a long time ago, and almost like it never happened, to be honest. To prove that it did I thought I’d share a few pics!

When we arrived at our booked hotel, we were told that there wasn’t a room available for us due to water damage (the island had experienced some unusually heavy rains. I found out that, because heavy rain is so rare, many of the buildings aren’t fully waterproofed, simply because there is no need.) Panic immediately subsided when the receptionist told us we’d be moved to another hotel in the resort – a better class hotel than we had booked – at no extra cost. Result! They called us a taxi, and off we went to Hotel Elba Sara.

hotel-elba-sara-fuerteventura

hotel-elba-sara-fuerteventura-lobby

hotel-elba-sara-fuerteventura-downstairs

hotel-elba-sara-fuerteventura-pool-and-bar

(images taken from hotel website)

It was, undoubtedly, a very nice hotel but it was just so big! This isn’t the kind of hotel we would usually go for at all, because with a lot of rooms comes a lot of people using the pool/bar/restaurant. That’s not to say it wasn’t lovely, it was, but it wouldn’t be my choice. It was also much further out of the resort than the hotel we’d booked. Having said that, we were only there for 4 days so didn’t have much intention of getting out and about anyway, and with all inclusive running from breakfast time until midnight we were happy to soak up the surroundings and enjoy some chill time.

Mid 20s temperatures and blue skies aren’t to be sniffed at in November!

The hotel grounds were lovely, lots of bright flowers and a lazy river running through the gardens.

We’d noticed quite a few cats wandering around the hotel grounds, and had both commented it was unusual as generally you would expect animals to be kept away from the public. They were all very clean and well kept, very tame and loved to be fussed. Then we can across this. cat-cafe-hotel-elba-sara

It says “We are a small charity, run entirely by volunteers and have been working in Fuerteventura since 1995.Our aim is to humanely manage the homeless cat population. Each cat you see with the left ear tip missing has been sterilised.

We have installed this cat café so visitors can feed the cats here. Please put cat food and biscuits in the bowls provided and not on the surrounding ground or on the base of the café as this attracts the ants and flies. We rely on the visitors to feed the cats and to keep the area clean, a dirty cat café would reflect badly on the cats.

We depend entirely on volunteers and public donations to carry out our work.

Please help us to help the cats of Fuerteventura. Thank you from all of us at “Twinkle” and the puss cats”.

Isn’t that just adorable?! I love that the hotel encourages this instead of shooing the animals away. It shows compassion and understanding.

Here are some pics of the kitties, who were all extremely well behaved and liked being fussed (I think I’d be well behaved and like fuss if I could live in year round sunshine with free food, too!)

Find out more about Twinkle Trust Animal Aid and cat cafes here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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The Travel Tag

I was thinking just the other day how I haven’t done a Q&A tag post in ages, and then the lovely Tina from Tea is for Tina tagged me in this one. You can read Tina’s answers here.

If it’s that easy to influence the future then please could someone give me a million pounds? Ta!

Anyway, onto the questions, and my responses!

You are leaving tomorrow to start a life in a new country, where would you go?

I think it would have to be the US. There’s no language barrier and the country is so big and varied that you could holiday and travel there and see so much. Internal flights are pretty cheap and as convenient as catching a bus. I’d base myself in the Los Angeles area for the great climate, and plan visits to New York, Dallas, Nashville, Niagra Falls and Miami, and a return to San Francisco, as a matter of priority.

You can take someone for a weekend away to the place you had the best holidays ever, where would that be and who would you take to go with you?

It would probably be the West Hollywood neighbourhood of Los Angeles, with the husband. We’ve been there 4 times and had some amazing experiences. Even though we’ve done it all before, every single time has been fabulous, and would be a pleasure to recreate.

This would be my schedule:

Saturday – We’d stay at the Mondrian on Sunset, as usual, and have breakfast at Mel’s Drive-In (which is the coolest 50s American diner ever, check out the photos!), go to Griffiths Observatory for the planetarium show and the views, spend the afternoon by the hotel pool, have early evening sushi at Katana (the first place I ever tried sushi, and it was amazing!) and Happy Hour frozen margaritas at Cabo Cantina then shower and change before heading down to Sunset Strip for drinks at the Whisky a Go Go, maybe catch a band, then grab a booth at The Rainbow and eat one of their amazing pizzas.

Sunday – bottomless mimosas and a breakfast burrito at The Saddle Ranch, then bus down to Santa Monica, wander round the pier and go on the big wheel, hire bikes and cycle to Venice Beach, look around all the stalls and talk to the crazy people, back to Santa Monica for a bit of shopping and some late lunch, then back to We-Ho to play rock music on the jukebox at the Rainbow, maybe get another photo with Ron Jeremy and then finish the night with burgers and milkshakes in Mel’s.

(all photos by me or the husband between 2010 and 2012)

God that’s made me miss LA!

You can get married wherever you want to, your budget is limitless, what is your choice?

We got married on a beach in Mauritius which was pretty damn special, and I wouldn’t change that in any way.

mauritius-beach-wedding

I’d quite like to do a renewal of vows in Las Vegas though, officiated by Elvis!

las-vegas-elvis-wedding

During your travels you can bring back home one animal as a pet, which one would you pick?

A panda. No doubt. They’re so cute and playful and cuddly. And naughty – watch this video to see my point!

I don’t know why I don’t have one as a pet already.

You can get back in time and relive one family trip, which one?

A week in Greece with my Dad. I blogged about it here. Things were pretty fraught between us after my parents’ divorce and the holiday not only fixed our Dad and daughter relationship but strengthened it no end. Plus the location and food and climate was just so idyllic and beautiful – I’ve actually been back 3 times since.

What is the first thing you would pack for a one year travel around the world?

My passport! Duh!

What would your fantasy 100th birthday destination be, and why?

I don’t want to live to 100. Sorry to be miserable, but it would be too sad going somewhere and not being able to do everything it had to offer.

During your travel you can learn one sport to become a pro, what would that be?

I’m not a sporty person at all and don’t really crave to be, but it would be nice to be able to surf. Or maybe snowboard.

I lack the coordination to ever be able to do either!

Plus surfing is so wet, and snowboarding is so cold.

Does drinking sangria until I fall over count as a sport?

me-drinking-sangria

Now it’s your turn! I tag anyone who wants to get involved! Specifically Danni Jane at A Beautiful Thing, Hailey at The Undateable Girl’s Diary, Ellen at What Ellen Wrote and Emmalene from A Brummie Home and Abroad because they all love travel.

But if you’re reading this and want to complete the questions yourself then please do so! Make sure you leave the link to your answers in the comments, so I can be nosy!

Here are the questions:

  • You are leaving tomorrow to start a life in a new country, where would you go?
  • You can take someone for a weekend away to the place you had the best holidays ever, where would that be and who would you take to go with you?
  • You can get married wherever you want to, your budget is limitless, what is your choice?
  • During your travels you can bring back home one animal as a pet, which one would you pick?
  • You can get back in time and relive one family trip, which one?
  • What is the first thing you would pack for a one year travel around the world?
  • What would your fantasy 100th birthday destination be, and why?
  • During your travel you can learn one sport to become a pro, what would that be?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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My first…wedding anniversary

Another first of another month!

This month the husband and I will have been married for 8 whole years. Wowsers! We have a way to go to catch up with Chris and Charlotte, who I posted about yesterday, but it’s pretty good going for an unmarriable handful (me) and a previously engaged twice commitment-phobe (him!)

There are two things that stick out in my mind about our first wedding anniversary. The first is that my Dad actually said “I don’t know how you’ve made it to a year” with the reasoning that I am the afore-mentioned unmarriable handful. I mean, he had a point. But still!

The second thing is that we went to Marseille

Based in the South of France, Marseilles has an enviable climate and a very Mediterranean feel. We totally fell in love with the place. It’s small enough to get around quickly with a great public transport system, lots of pretty buildings and great architecture, harbours, beaches and we got door to door in 6 hours. We declared it our new go-to weekend break.

Unfortunately, after we got back, Ryanair ceased the Birmingham to Marseille flight route and we haven’t been back since.

My top tips for visiting Marseille:

  • Pre-plan your airport transfer. Stupidly I didn’t, thinking it would be cheap enough to grab a cab on arrival. All the drivers wanted between 60 and 70 euros; no way! So we jumped on a bus, me blagging the husband that I knew exactly where we were going, when actually I had no idea (if I’d ‘fessed up he’d have panicked and just thrown money at a taxi). Between a printed map and some pigeon English to the very French bus driver we established he was only going as far as the main bus station. So from there we jumped in a cab to our apartment; which still ended up costing us 20 euros for what would have been a 5 minute walk, had we known where we were going.
  • Jump on an open top bus tour. This is something I recommend wherever you go on a city break, as it gives you a really good feel for a city and you can then decide which bits you want to revisit. The audio guides are usually pretty interesting too for some history. If the weather’s good try and sit upstairs for the best views.
  • Do consider going for longer than a couple of days. Ours was just a flying weekend visit but there are lots of beaches with watersports and activities in Marseille, so you could easily have a mix of city and beach break.
  • Get familiar with the underground metro system. There are only 3 lines (from memory) so it’s easy to use, very cheap and very convenient with little to no crowding and comfortable air conditioned trains.

On that note, here are a few pics! I have less than I would like, because 8 years ago phone cameras were pretty naff and I didn’t blog or live my life on instagram – if I went back now I’d be snapping everything!

Have you ever been to Marseille?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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When Britain Bites… (Twit of the Day)

When I was in Greece (I know, I know, I’ll talk about something else soon, honest!) I only got bitten 3 times during the whole week, and even then they didn’t cause me any bother at all.

On Tuesday night I got bit in my own bed a total of 10 times! In one night! By one lone ranger insect!

I know it was a lone ranger because I both spotted it and heard it. It started in the lounge and must have followed me to bed (stalker). I could hear it bouncing off the walls and buzzing around but I naively thought you don’t get mosquitoes in England (I’ve since been advised that you do). So when the husband told me there was a mosquito buzzing around, I poo-pooed him as one may brush off a silly child and went to sleep.

Now who feels silly? I’m my own twit of the day!

A twit for not trying to catch the blighter. A twit for thinking I wouldn’t be bitten. And a twit for being so uncovered in bed. I even have a bite on my right bum cheek!

What’s worse is that they’re the itchy type and they’re swelling. I don’t need any help with my bum cheeks getting bigger, thank you very much!

Itch

We were on holiday a few years ago (in Greece again, actually) and it was incredibly hot so I slept butt naked on top of the sheets. I woke up one morning to find not one but three mozzie bites right in my bum crack!! One must have flown in there and bounced around trying to bite his way out. It was pretty uncomfortable, and it’s not really the done thing to be walking around scratching the depths of your arse in public. And antihistamine cream down there isn’t particularly nice either…

Have you got any funny bite stories?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Bodies change, and we need to get over it!

Coming back from a summer holiday (did I mention that?!); seeing people wearing less clothes than we’re used to on a day to day basis, you kind of realise even more so that people come in all shapes and sizes.

Bodies change...and that's ok

I have to admit that, before I went away, I was feeling pretty annoyed with myself for not losing any weight and not looking the way I wanted to in a bikini. I still felt that way when I arrived and even more so by the time I got home (a week of food, booze and lethargy takes it’s toll on a girl!)

But then, when I rationalise it, it’s pretty daft to:

a) restrict myself and enjoy life less for the weeks or months leading up to a holiday, just to fit a beauty ideal

b) think that other people are looking at me and judging me

The truth is, my body looks how it does because of the life I lead. I enjoy life. I enjoy food. I enjoy drinking. I don’t enjoy exercise!

When I was in my late teens and early 20s I was blessed with a high metabolism. I didn’t gain weight, whatever I ate or drank. I looked great in a bikini!

Now I’m in my late 30s (bleugh!) my metabolism has slowed down and I look less great in a bikini!

But you know what? I’m happier now than I ever was when I was younger. Not physically – I’d rather look the way I did then, if possible! But mentally and emotionally I’m content. And that’s way more important than a change in my body weight. It’s to do with mental strength, life experiences and feeling settled.

In my 20s I was single, riddled with insecurities, coming to terms with mental health issues and wondering where my life was going. Now I’m happily married which comes with the addition of eating out with my husband, takeaways with my husband, drinks with my husband (sense a theme?!) I have more financial security which affords me more holidays (which means more eating and drinking!) I know my own limitations and try not to beat myself up over things. I’ve also experienced life stuff like redundancy and my Dad’s illness which sometimes makes me think “fuck it, life’s too short not to indulge in the good stuff”.

I haven’t quite bounced back from the holiday mind set of eat, drink and be merry. I’ve already made excuses for not going to the gym (the weather’s nice; bad drive home from work; I just don’t want to!). So it’s no wonder the pounds aren’t retreating!

We’re conditioned to think that a beautiful body looks a certain way. Magazines perpetuate the myth that larger women or older women shouldn’t wear bikinis. Yet, in Greece, I saw older ladies, bigger ladies and everything in between wearing a bikini with pride. And why shouldn’t they? It’s hot, you need less clothes and comfort is important. I bloody hate swimsuits; they’re icky and sticky and you can’t tan your tum. If someone doesn’t like how you look in beach wear, they can bloody well look the other way.

I’m as bad as anyone for judging people. I think that’s just the way we’re conditioned. But I’m trying to change that about myself. Instead of looking at an overweight person and thinking they shouldn’t be wearing something, I’m teaching myself to squash that thought and replace it with “good for them”. Because if they’re ok with it then it really isn’t anyone else’s business.

I think I’ve reached the end of my meandering now. I’m not even sure there is an end! And I know I’m a hypocrite, because I’m still sitting here thinking I’d like to shrink my tummy. But I do know that, as I get older, trying to look after my body for strength and longevity becomes as important as weight loss. I want to look and feel more healthy.

But, of course, looking great in a bikini would be a bonus!

I’d love to hear your thoughts; hit me up in the comments.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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5 more destinations on my travel hitlist

A while ago I posted the top 5 places on my travel bucket list. But there’s nothing like coming back from a trip to make you think about all the other places you really want to go to!

I’ve realised I was way too optimistic in keeping it to just 5, so I’m going to do a part deux, in order to give myself more things to tick off (or, stress myself even more with regards to too many places, not enough time and money!)

Lisbon
It looks so quaint, with it’s winding streets and old fashioned street trams (I’m a sucker for a tram). I’ve never been to Portugal as it’s never really appealed for a beach holiday, but city-wise it has a lot to offer me. I also want to go to Porto which is full of bright coloured houses. It’s possible to do both in one trip, travelling by train in between.

 Lisbon

Tokyo
Wow. Tokyo just looks amazing. So bright, so busy, so frantic. I think it would be like nowhere else I’ve ever been and probably quite exhausting, but a total experience and feast for the eyes. Again it would be good to combine with more of Japan, like Osaka, and the connecting journey by bullet train would be a bucket list experience in itself.

Tokyo

Athens
The history! The architecture! It’s in Greece! (I love Greece!) I’ve looked into it and it’s feasible to add onto a trip to Santorini – fly into Athens from the UK, across to Santorini and then back to the UK. So hopefully, when we finally get around to going to Santorini, we can do Athens as well.

Athens

Krakow
I’ve never been to Poland but it looks fab. I always imagine it as a winter city break, wandering round all wrapped up and eating stodgy Eastern European food, but apparently it’s beautiful all year round. Warsaw is also on my list. It never used to be, as I imagined it to be very Eastern Bloc and grey, but a work colleague went a couple of years ago and said it was very beautiful.

Krakow

America
OK, so this is a huge cop out as I’m naming a country rather than a place! But it’s my blog and I make the rules! So much of America still to see. New York. The Deep South. Nashville. Dallas. Back to San Francisco to see more of it. So many possibilities. Next time we head over there I think we’ll make the most of the flight (both time and cost) and do a couple of places in one visit. Internal flights in the US are so cheap that it makes absolute sense.

America

So much of the world to explore…

What’s on your list?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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5 things that are totally the norm in Greece…

…but would blow your mind in the UK!

Greek flag

 

I know (and love) how part of going away to other countries is adapting to new cultures and seeing how other people live. Some things that happen overseas, that seem completely normal in situ, are actually totally bonkers when you transfer the concept to UK life.

  1. Not flushing toilet paper down the loo
    If you’ve never been to Greece I can imagine this one coming as something of a surprise. Basically the sewage pipes aren’t big enough to cope with…er…bodily waste and paper, so standard practice is to put your loo roll in the bin. Whatever you’ve done with it. Pretty gross, but it strangely becomes the norm!
  2. Shower cubicles
    Shower areas  in Greek holiday apartments can range from a tiny shower tray with a flimsy curtain to a drain in the ground and no shower screen. Shower holders are unusual so it’s a balancing act between stopping the shower hose from spraying everywhere while you lather shampoo in your hair.
  3. Wine – price, service and glass size
    Local wine is ridiculously cheap in Greece. We paid as little as 3 euros for half a litre (that’s about £2.50 for the equivalent of two large glasses in a pub in the UK – I was in my element). It’s served in a jug; sometimes glass, but sometimes a bashed up tin one like you used to get water from in the school canteen! Wine glasses are tiny tumblers. Which means you end up feeling incredibly naughty / like a hero because you’ve had 8 glasses of wine with dinner.Wine in a metal jug
  4. Free stuff
    From free crisps and nibbles with every drinks order, to water melon or dessert after a meal, to another jug of wine or an after dinner spirit, the generosity of Greek restaurateurs knows no bounds! And who doesn’t like free stuff?Free watermelon
  5. Cats wandering around restaurant tables
    There’s many hashtags on instagram dedicated to Greek cats as they are a prevalent feature of the mainland and the islands. They wander freely around the streets, on the beach and in restaurants, lingering by tables for scraps from tourists who can’t resist their cuteness. These pics are actual cats in actual restaurants from my recent holiday in Finikounda. The little ginger guy climbed up the table to steal our bar snacks!

It’s all part of the charm of the country. In case I haven’t mentioned it in previous posts, I love Greece!

Let me know if you’ve been, would like to go, would hate to go – tell me your Greece thoughts 🙂

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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A week in Greece

I’ve finally just about emerged from the fuzzy fug surrounding my week in Finikounda and the inevitable readjustment to real life so I thought I’d tell you all about it.

If you read my last “first of the month” post, you’ll know that I love Greece.

If you didn’t read it, here’s a précis. I love Greece. The people, the pace of life, the food, the climate. All of it. It’s probably my holiday destination of choice for a summer break.

This time we chose a new (to us) destination; a small Greek village on the Messinian Peninsula called Finikounda. We chose it knowing it was tiny, with one supermarket, one cash machine and a handful of restaurants. We chose it knowing that there were no loud bars or crazy watersports. We chose it knowing that the village is little more than one main street with a few shops and the demographic is largely Greek families holidaying and older people relaxing. And we loved it for all of those reasons.

We stayed at a relatively new aparthotel called Tsokas Hotel which was about 5 minutes walk from the beach. Unusually for Greek accommodation it was very modern; with large open plan bedrooms fully stocked with a small kitchenette, air conditioning, a power shower and a large balcony. With only 15 apartments overall the feeling was intimate and relaxed, with no fighting for sunbeds or noisy guests. The hotel has a lovely kidney shaped pool which was a godsend in the incredibly hot weather (it was 35 degrees wen we arrived on Sunday lunchtime) and by late afternoon it was like dipping into cool bath water. Bliss.

So, what did we do? Pretty much nothing! We I had hoped to go and visit a nearby town with venetian castle ruins, but in truth it was so ruddy hot that that the thought of doing full on sightseeing was too much to bear! So we settled into a delightful routine of breakfast in the apartment, lounge by the pool, walk to the village for lunch, an afternoon nap for me, a spot more sunbathing and then dinner in a different restaurant in the village. It was the perfect antithesis to the real world and, because every day was something of a mirror image, the time lapsed slowly in a delightful blur of nothingness – a feeling of complete escapism where the only thing that mattered was what to eat for dinner and whether to have a quarter or half litre of wine at lunch. We weren’t back at the hotel later than 11pm any night, and were fast asleep by midnight at the latest!

If you follow me on instagram you’ll have already seen a lot of these pictures, but in case you don’t (you should, by the way!) and also to indulge myself and relive the delightful memories, here are some snaps from our week.

Would I go back? In a heartbeat! There’s something quite comforting in knowing you have a destination in your travel bag that you can 100% rely on when you need a certain kind of holiday. Plus there are still all the things and places that we didn’t manage to visit last week to bring a different dimension to the trip when we go again.

Do you have a favourite country to holiday?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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What happened to my carrier pigeon?

Lovely people, I specifically asked for a carrier pigeon to be sent to Greece if the world went tits whilst I was away.

It never arrived.

Carrier pigeon

What an awful week of political stupidity (BoJo as Foreign Secretary?? Really??) which paled into insignificance when followed by the atrocities in France and Turkey. The Nice attacks were especially close to home, as we spent a long weekend there last May soaking up the beauty of the city, the cuisine, and the people. We walked along the very Promenade des Anglais that was home to so many pointless deaths and have been talking about returning ever since. To attack innocent civilians enjoying themselves and celebrating the freedom and success of their country is the ultimate in distaste and cowardice, and almost incomprehensible. To lose your life in the pursuit of happiness is so unseemly, so unjust, and so many other “uns” I lack the articulation to, well, articulate.

Anyway. I’m back from Greece. Beautiful beautiful Greece, with it’s own economic and political problems, yet a feeling of safety and solitude. A stunning landscape, friendly welcoming people and a wonderful climate means, for me, it’s impossible not to have a total escape-from-it-all break of amazing proportions. A new corner explored and duly loved; with promises to ourselves to return and soak up more of the inimitable atmosphere.

Maybe you’ve seen some of my instagram pics, but there’ll be a blog post, obvs. I can’t express my love for the county enough; especially at a time when more and more of the world is becoming dangerous. Greece, you may be skint in the eyes of the EU, but I’m happy to continue to pump my wages into you by way of food and drink consumption!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Leaving on a jet plane…

…don’t know when I’ll be back again…

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Actually that’s not true, I’ll be back next Sunday!

By the time you read this I’ll be in fabulous Greece for a (hopefully) fabulous week of relaxation. I can’t wait to eat Greek food, soak up the sunshine and chill out with the husband.

I wish you all a good week, whatever you’re up to, and fingers crossed the country doesn’t descend into any further chaos while I’m gone! (although if it does, send a carrier pigeon to let me know and I won’t bother coming back!)

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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