Travel tips required! Boston/Cape Cod

We are very soon leaving for a family holiday, with a little trepidation I must admit as it’s the first looooong flight we have subjected Bea to since she was mobile. We are doing a road trip I’ve long wanted to check off the bucket list – New England in the fall. Our route takes us to Boston, then Cape Cod, back inland to do some real ‘leaf peeping’ and finally 5 days in New York for a bit of fun before flying home. I absolutely can’t wait.

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We have both been to New York before so have places we want to revisit and new sights to see, but I’d love to hear any tips you have on Boston particularly or Cape Cod if you have been.

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We plan to do the Freedom trail in Boston but are pretty open other than that as I don’t know much about the city. In Cape Cod we will mostly be enjoying playing on the beaches, cycle rides and some mooching around the towns but if there’s anything you recommend please let me know. I know there is a Dr Seuss museum and and Eric Carle (of The Very Hungry Caterpiller) museum on our route as both Authors originate from Massachusetts.

Thanks in advance for your tips! (Bonus points if you know of any quick pit stop places where we can let Bea loose to play for a break during all the sight seeing!)


PS Our first trip with Bea – Flying with a baby

Friday [Fringe] Fun

On a bit of a whim and in an effort to be more spontaneous and tick off some of the bucket list items we had (before Bea) a couple of weeks ago we made plans to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We’ve got an apartment booked (thanks AirBnB,) and now we just need some fun stuff to do!

Top to bottom: Hairy Mclary’s Cat tales // Fantastic Funny and Free // The Amazing bubble man

We plan to book a couple of children’s shows for Bea and then a couple of things we will enjoy ourselves, which are also baby friendly. And I hope there will be lots to see and do just wandering the streets.

I’d love to hear your recommendations for children, the festival and just Edinburgh in general – we have been before but not for about 7 years and never to the festival, so any tips would be fab!

Happy weekend!

Love, Rebecca xo

Dream Destination: Lefkada, Greece

I wouldn’t normally share what was essentially a quiet family beach holiday that we took recently, but given the recent controversy surrounding Greece I thought I would share and try to encourage more of you to travel there if you were reconsidering. Pete and I have travelled extensively round Greece as students and since, so it holds a special place in our hearts and we were really excited to go back with Bea.

We went to Lefkada, essentially one of the Ionian islands (just above the better known Kefalonia,) but actually only separated from mainland Greece by a small body of water. You fly into Preveza airport and drive to the island – over a causeway. It took about 45 minutes to get to Agios Nikitas from the airport.

We had actually been to Agios Nikitas several years earlier but I didn’t remember much of it as we went early in the season and the weather was shocking. What we did remember was a quiet small village with a single restaurant and shop lined street leading to the sheltered beach. It’s a perfect family resort, with very few English people (we only heard/saw one couple all week,) with a couple of bars and no clubs so mainly couples and young families.

The beach is gorgeous and was perfect for us because it started getting shaded at one end from about 2pm which meant we could sit with Bea, without worrying about keeping her from roaming out from under a brolly and she could swim in the sea in shade too. It’s a pebble beach, which we had varying degrees of success at preventing Bea from eating!

For true sun worshippers, over the headland is Milos beach which would start the day in shade but faced west so kept the sun until it set. We got the water taxi around the headland once but we also trekked up for the view one night after dinner too. It’s a serious hike in the heat but doesn’t actually take that long. Maybe 10 minutes up and the same down.

Our days were lazy, starting with breakfast on the balcony, then a swim with Bea in the pool before nap time. We often spread a towel out by the pool as a play mat and headed down to the beach for lunch or afterwards once the shade started to arrive.

We took toys to the beach, tried to get another nap out of Bea and took her swimming in the sea – she loves swimming! We took snacks too and around 6 would head up to one of the beachfront bars for a drink before dinner. Each night we ate on the way back to the villa then headed up for bedtime and a drink if we weren’t too exhausted ourselves!

As for the financial crisis, we were there just as the banks closed and everybody was tut-tutting when we announced we were going to Greece (we had pre-booked, but somehow blissfully unaware a couple of weeks prior.) We compensated by taking a LOT of cash – we brought home half of what we took and paid for the car and hotel for the last night online before we went. We didn’t really hear mention of it or see any difference at all. It’s not an expensive village and we weren’t doing much so it was cheap but the hotel we stayed at on the last night was cheap to eat in too – the evening buffet for example was 15 euros each.

We loved it so much as a family holiday we are thinking of making it a regular trip for (early or late) summer sun. I do hope you haven’t been put off Greece – they certainly need our tourism right now and I imagine much of the islands are unchanged by the situation – in terms of what a holiday maker would experience at least. We had the most amazing week! :)


Where we stayed: Villa Dioni & Ionan Blue
Travelling with a baby – gadgets and kit we took with us that made the trip easier

Found: AirBnB – Villa Dioni

It’s the first week of the holidays (or second for some of you) and I reckon many of you will be heading off for summer breaks, or if not, wishing you were, so I thought I’d share some info about my recent holiday.

When we went away 2 weeks ago it was booked not long before we went and I decided to give AirBnB a go for accommodation booking. In my experience accommodation in Greece is often rather basic and unfortunately not in the simple white washed walls and pretty blue painted furniture way… We wanted self-catering, ideally a private villa, with a pool and 2 bedrooms. We totally lucked out with Villa Dioni :)

Before I go on, the villa was up a STEEP hill, and a lot of steps – thats what gave it that glorious view, but there was always the pool to dive into after the walk up and we certainly earned our dinner. ;) It was a really short walk to the main area of Agios Nikitas, (it’s a really small place,) but if you can’t hack a bit of a hike, this isn’t the place for you! We also didn’t take the pushchair and just put Bea in the woven wrap everyday – which made life a lot easier.

The Villa actually has 2 downstairs bedrooms and a bathroom, a main kitchen and living space on the ground floor which goes out onto the pool area and has a balcony for eating on, then a mezzanine with another sleeping area. The main attraction however was the outside space and the pool – wow to the view and wow to the space.

We weren’t sure what to expect from AirBnB but our host Thanasis was great – communicated brilliantly and so quickly. I’m sure keys handover varies from rental to rental but he met us to give us the keys and there were some Greek provisions in the fridge – wine, fruit etc. A cleaner came once and more fruit appeared. As you might know from my other post about travelling with a baby, it wasn’t remotely child friendly. There are steps, stairs, steep drops as the villa is on a hillside, and no child provisions, but Bea wasn’t running around yet so it was ok for us and of course, she never left our sight. Thats might be more difficult with an older child.

I’ll be writing more about the holiday later in the week – the village we went to – its such a lovely place I almost don’t want to share it! ;)


Travelling with a baby: Stuff that helps

Before we went to Greece last week we bought some travel gear that we found really useful and I thought I’d share… along with some fun stuff. I wish I’d known about some of these earlier for use out and about at home to be honest, particularly the travel high chair, so don’t discount them if you’re not traveling anywhere!

1. Totseat Kids Travel Highchair £23.99
There was no high chair in our apartment and to be honest we were only offered them at restaurants 50% of the time or less… and I won’t go into the standards of cleanliness of the ones we received. Nothing bugs me more than Bea eating on my knee, squirming and wiping her hands, face and food on my clothes so this was a godsend. It fits on multiple different seat backs (we didn’t find one it don’t fit,) is very secure, rolls up really small and is washable. Genius idea and we will be using it regularly back home too. The only thing is that it doesn’t add much height, but we tended to sit her on a rolled up towel or something which gave enough height and I suspect if your baby was a bit taller then Bea (not difficult!) it would be better. (Koo-Di do a much cheaper one but it’s not adjustable for all the different chair backs so I imagine wouldn’t always work.)

2. Koo-di Pop-Up Travel Bubble Cot Around £40
You guessed it, no cot either… Maybe some other mums can explain to me how you travel with one of the usual travel cots – they seem so big and heavy for suitcases? We bought this months back for going to friends houses but it’s also great for holidays as it’s light, fits into a case when packed down and functions as a mosquito net too.

3. Koo-di Pop-Up Travel Bubble Cot £9.99
For a bit of fun we bought this for Bea for the pool. It was great – after the initial terrified meltdown when we first put her in it! It was brilliant because of the sunshade, so even if it was midday, we could put her in there to cool off and she was covered from the heat of the sun :)

4. Summer Infant Tiny Diner – Green £9.99
Another brilliant find for baby lead weaners or any tot eating out, this was perfect for knowing that she was eating off a clean surface. Some of the places we ate were a bit grubby on the table tops or high chairs and while I’m not normally a clean freak, the last thing we needed in the heat was a dehydrating tummy bug! We sat this under her bottom on a seat (it’s quite big) or on the table and it worked really well – another one we will be using at home too.

5. Frostfire Popup Beach Shelter with UV protection (50+ UPF)
We were worried about keeping Bea shaded so bought this for the beach, knowing that the village we were visiting wasn’t the type where you pay for a lounger and parasol on the beach. ;) In fact, it was too hot even for this as it got hotter in the tent and we ended up buying a cheap parasol, but if it wasn’t as warm this would have been great – it provided good shade, a wind break and decent space for playing away from the handfuls of sand and pebbles that Bea was intent on shoving in her mouth!

Have you got any amazing finds for travelling with a baby? we’ve only got one year left before we have to start paying for her seat so I intend to do a lot more travelling with her over the next 12 months! ;)


Dream Destination: Merlin Farm Eco Cottages

Before heading back to work in a couple of weeks, Pete and I decided to make the most of my maternity leave and squeeze in a little holiday. You might remember last Easter I did a round up of places that still had Easter availability for a short break. I included Merlin Farm in that, an Eco cottage in my favourite corner of Cornwall and shortly after the owners Lucy and Darryl invited us to experience it for ourselves. It’s taken us this long to get down there but boy was it worth the wait. We spent last week in Constantine Eco Cottage on Merlin Farm and I truly didn’t want to leave!

I’ll start off by saying we’ve stayed in the area twice before, amongst other stays in Cornwall, on both occasions at The Scarlet – an adults only eco hotel on the cliffs overlooking Mawgan Porth Beach. It was so lovely but obviously won’t be somewhere we’ll be staying in the near future now we’ve had Bea. Although we’ve already been to Florida with her, now she’s getting so much more mobile it definately means we have to give some thought to holiday destinations that will be fun for her and not leave us stressed by watching her 24/7!

There are 3 eco cottages, (alongside a couple of other accommodation options, all suitable for kids but Constantine is permanently baby proofed.) That means a (still stylish) fireguard, built in stairgates to the upstairs bedroom and lots of baby friendly equipment like a changemat, cot, highchair, plastic cutery and cups/plates, and a big bucket of toys. All these details are done so well too – the toys are new and varied, from sensory stuff to books and wooden puzzles and the stairgates are wooden rather than being an eyesore.

All the furniture is chunky solid wood and wipe clean leather sofas meant we didn’t feel we had to watch everywhere Bea was in case of inevitable accidents. There’s lots of floor space in the living area for playing (we bought our usual playmat for her but she rolled round the whole place safely due to the fireguard and plug socket covers.) The master bedroom is downstairs with a twin room (that can be converted to a double) upstairs with a toilet and sink ensuite, perfect for little ones and where we put Bea each night in the cot, which was ready and waiting for us. Both are a good size and the whole place is big enough for a couple with up to 2 children I’d say.

It doesn’t disappoint for adults either. The kitchen has lovely wood worktops, heated slate floors and stylish SMEG appliances, there’s a big freestanding bath and walk in shower with REN toiletries and lots of piping hot water, and champagne (and other!) glasses to enjoy some fizz in the cottage courtyard out front, with a patio heater on standby for cooler temperatures. The views are incredible and those lovely doors slide right back to completely open the living space to the countryside. You can also feel good as much of the daytime power is solar powered on site, recycling is encouraged and the eggs left in the fridge when you arrive are from the hens and ducks just over the fence at the farm – perfect for little kids to enjoy watching, along with the other resident animals.

The location is great too, in a sheltered valley, just over the hill from the bay. There’s an off road track through a forest and holiday park below which brings you out on a pavement lined road minutes from the beach, a 15 minute walk down and a little longer on the way up, on account of the hill! Mawgan Porth Beach is wide and flat – perfect for little ones and there are a few little cafe’s and shops on the beach front too. There are big supermarkets in Newquay or Padstow, around 15 minutes away.

We spent the days in our usual haunts locally, walking on the beach, a day out in Padstow, eating nice food and returned each night to feed Bea, bath her and then cook dinner for ourselves once she was asleep, flopping with a glass of wine in front of the fire after. There’s a selection of kids DVD’s and we found the True Detective box set (definitely worth watching by the way,) to while away the evenings.

Pete jokes that it’s always sunny in Cornwall, but we were blessed with amazing weather. It was fresh but I don’t mind getting wrapped up out of season as sunshine is a bonus. After what seems like months of grey days it was so restorative breathing the fresh air and basking a little in the spring sunshine. The patio heater was even so good that Bea joined us for cocktail hour on the patio, although it wasn’t quite as glamourous or relaxing with a baby trying to wrestle the champagne glass from my hand. ;)

All in all, we had an amazing time. I was so sad to leave and head back up north on Friday morning. On the positive side, we’ve found a new favourite place to stay in our favourite corner of Cornwall. Somewhere we can enjoy with Bea too!

I’ll be back soon with more details about our trip and things to do in the area. In the meantime if you’re looking for a baby friendly break in the UK, I can’t recommend Merlin Farm enough. It’s perfect for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers – make the most of those out of school holiday rates and the glorious peace and quiet in Cornwall out of school holidays too.


*Disclaimer: Rebecca stayed as a guest of Merlin Farm but you can rest assured if she didn’t like it, you wouldn’t be reading about it here.

Girl About Town: Grimm Tales

Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales: An immersive fairytale

Last year I went to see The Drowned Man and I found a new love for “interactive”, “immersive” theatre, so I’ve been on the look out for other similar experiences since. When the email about Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales popped in to my inbox I snapped up some tickets.

Adapted and directed by Philip Pullman, he of His Dark Materials genius, coupled with my love of fairy tales in their original (i.e. not Disney-fied) form, my interest was piqued.

The teaser asks: “do you dare experience these infamous fairy tales, no longer bound to their pages but trailing your footsteps, breathing softly down your neck and unravelling in wonder before your eyes”… yes I did dare. But I did take my mum with me in case I got scared.

It wasn’t as creepy or as scary as I had hoped, but I suppose they are stories intended for children. They chose some of the lesser-known tales from the Brothers Grimm, which I think were some of the less grim tales (you see what I did there?), but I understand we can’t have the characters chopping off their toes to fit in to shoes or eyes being pecked by birds, that would be a very, erm, different experience, and not one I’d be reviewing here!

I did love the way that the small cast of actors brought some life and edge to characters we generally only see through Disney-tinted glassed these days. I think what impressed me the most, however, were the gorgeously freaky sets. Walls covered in aging maps, annotated with snippets of information about well known fairy tale locations (Grandma’s house, the wishing well…) and a red string trail pinned between them. Rooms filled with spinning wheels piled on top of each other, some of them still spinning. A bar area crammed with crates of shiny, juicy, enticing red apples. Corridors and staircases lined with pictures that dare you to look twice, and often you’d wish you didn’t…

It’s been extended to April, so you can grab tickets here

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

Girl About Town: Gifting for Your Girls

I don’t know about you, but it’s getting close to that time of year when you start racking your brains for gifts for your best girls. Not just your best girls, but your best girls that have virtually everything and need basically nothing. Well, nothing that I can afford to buy them anyway so I’ve come up with some thoughts of my own.

Over the past year or so a couple of friends and I decided against buying things for each other, instead we’ve purchased and arranged things-to-do-together. Let me tell you about a few to get your mind ticking…

Tatty Devine Necklace making at SelfridgesBoth being fans of Tatty Divine jewellery, I decided to take my friend Laura to a Tatty Devine “pop up” to design a personalised necklace.

You pick up a little card, write the word(s) you’d like on the necklace, select your font, charm and chain by ticking the relevant boxes, and then, using the cute samples, select your colour scheme. If you’re like us – always in a state of FOMO-Decision-Paralysis – you’ll spend a good hour deciding on these various factors alone.

You then hand over your form, pay and within an hour or so it’s ready to pick up. The best bit was that the pop up was in Selfridges so whilst we waited we did some Christmas shopping (ahem… self gifting…) and spent some time catching up in the bar. We could have hung around to watch the necklace being made, but after perusing the rest of the stand and mentally spending hundreds of pounds creating bespoke charm bracelets and necklaces we thought it best to step away!

Keep your eyes on the Tatty Devine website or blog for news of their next pop up, or book on to one of the many workshops here for a more hands-on experience.

Gin Tasting at the London Gin Club
Laura and I share not only a love of quirky jewellery but also a love of gin. It was a bit of a no brainer then, that an evening at The London Gin Club was an experience to share!

I purchased a tasting voucher from their sister site London Peculiar and a few vintage-looking postcards to pop in the envelope with the voucher and then booked us a table.

The voucher entitles you to a tasting menu of a number of gins in little labelled vials (very Alice in Wonderland), bottles of tonic, large glasses of ice and tiny plates of fruity, floral or herby accompaniments chosen carefully to complement the flavours of the gin.

I’m not sure that I learned a lot, but we had a lot of fun!

Personal shopping at Topshop

This was a gift I received in return from Laura. She booked in to the Kensington store rather than the Oxford Circus one as we thought it’d be a bit of a calmer experience. Upon confirmation we were sent a form to complete with the usual details on height, dress and shoe size, eye/hair/skin colour and other vital statistics along with questions around the kind of outfits we were looking for (a special occasion, an interview, a festival, a holiday etc), style icons and any other relevant information such as a long-standing inability to find a particular item or a longing to try a certain style.

I was preparing for a number of big weddings, one of us was planning an Ibiza capsule wardrobe (hand luggage only!) and the other a new fancy work wardrobe, so we spent a delicious few hours together answering those questions with gusto. Those responses could form a blog post in themselves, but I won’t bore you with them now!

Upon arrival we were welcomed in to a private room, given glasses of champagne and instructed to relax on the couches, chat and flick through their stacks of magazines whilst they prepped the changing room with our dressing rails.

I’ll be honest, I was expecting to have a brilliant time and to try on some new pieces but I wasn’t expecting great, life-changing things from the stylist’s choices, as I like to think I know my own sense of style and how to push its boundaries myself. I have to say, she hit the nail on the head with almost every item she chose.  She managed to capture our signature styles perfectly and find a way to make each of us step out of our comfort zones. I walked away with what can only be described as a miracle – new jeans! – as well as some accessories and a fresher outlook on my personal style. Apparently I’m not too old for Topshop!

It was free to book, so buy a voucher for your giftee to spend on the day and it’s a gift and an experience all in one!

Butchery class at the Ginger Pig
Not one that I’ve taken part in myself, as I’m not in to cookery and I’m not a big meat eater, but it went down a treat with my husband. My friend and I purchased a voucher each for our menfolk to attend one of their classes, bought them both a Ginger Pig cookbook, popped the voucher inside the front cover and wished them both a very happy birthday.

They booked in for a “pork” class one Sunday evening, which started with a professional butcher talking them through the various cuts of meat, as he, well, disassembled the pig. Along the way he gave them information on each cut, how and when it’s best to cook it, what to ask your local butcher for and so on. The class were then tested on what they’d learned as they reassembled it under his watchful eye, and then moved on to more useable skills such as de-boning, wrapping and tying butchers’ knots.

The class finished with a mouth-watering meal and wine before they were all sent home with what seemed like their body weight in prime cuts of pork. Guess what we ate for dinner for the days that followed…

Like I said, not a personal interest for me, but if you’re in to cookery, this seemed to go down a treat!

Cocktail class at Harvey Nichols
Trying not to dwell on alcohol too much, I’ll refer you back to the blog post I wrote about this a little while ago. Again it was purchased for a friend’s birthday and the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning with two of my favourites doing something fun and memorable – Check it out here.

Other gift experiences that have I have received or gifted have included a night at the cabaret (with dress up accessories for the night included in the gift box), fascinator making, Segway racing and white water rafting and chocolate tasting (as described here.)

And so, as I enter the final stages of my Christmas shopping, have you any ideas to give me in return?

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.