A Fan Boat Ride In The Everglades

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We came here as part of a tour with Orlando Ticket Deals as part of our 2 day trip to Miami from Orlando.

 

We arrived at about midday and there was already quite a lot of people so we couldn’t do the fan boat ride part of the tour straight away. Our tour guide Madeline took us to the little zoo where we got to see a talk by one of the keepers and a massive alligator called Cannibal. We heard all about the work they do there as all the animals are rescue animals that have been taken to them to get better.

 

 

We then got to hold baby alligators, their mouths were taped shut so no one lost a finger or nose haha

 

We then walked round looking at the other animals like lizards, snakes and birds. A different section of the zoo was where we got a talk from another keeper who told us all about owls and then we got to have a picture with the owl.

 

Looked round a little bit more and then it was finally our turn to go on the fan boat.

 

Out captain was called Sean and he was brilliant and so much fun. I would highly highly recommend getting a big pair of sun glasses because I didn’t wear any and the fan boat was going so fast that I had to close my eyes while we were speeding along. My husband had a hat on which he lent me on the way back but if you are going to do that instead of glasses, make sure it’s tied to your head or you are holding it down as it will fly off if it isn’t.

 

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We heard about an alligator what was 15 feet long and sometimes didn’t like the boats so the captains have had to beat him off of boats. I was glad that Sean laughed when he told us because I felt a little scared and started to wonder why I was so insistent on sitting on the edge of the boat haha. I can laugh about it now.

 

Another thing we were told when we were right out in the everglades, notice the pattern haha, was that the sound of the fan on the fan boat was the same sort of sound that a male alligator makes when he is protecting his territory so that’s why a lot of them come up to the fan boats, they think its another male is coming in to take over. Something else we can now laugh about haha.

 

We did get to see some alligators that were just swimming around as well as lots of fish and some turtles.

 

The everglades are a lot shallower than I thought they would be, it was so easy to see everything.

 

I think we were out on the water for about half an hour so it’s not a long tour but you do get to learn and see a lot.

 

You can have your picture taken and then have it professional printed onto magnets, keyrings or put in picture frames. We got a few of the keyrings done.

 

There is a gift shop where you can buy food, drinks and souvenirs. They also have loads of public toilets as well so no need to worry about that.

 

It was great going there, I wish we’d had longer but as we were on our way to Miami with a tour, we had to stick to the schedule. I would definitely recommend it though and would love to go back to spend more time looking around.

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Loving “The Pub”

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If you are English and feeling a little homesick or just want a pub that makes you think of English, this is the place for you.

 

We spotted the sign which simply says “The Pub” and decided to go in for a look.

 

Well, we felt like we were back in England as we saw a beautiful big wooden bar which looked like it had come straight out of an old London pub. We later found out that it had actually come from England as well, the owner had found out that a pub was closing, brought the bar and a few other bits and had it shipped to Kardamena for him to rebuild. How brilliant is that!!??

 

It was also the first place that I had found an English cider that I liked so we stayed there for a little while.

 

They have a lovely big outdoor seating area with TVs showing Sky Sports, pool tables and even a darts board.

 

There wasn’t many people in there when we visited so we sat in the outdoor seating area enjoying the sun and chilling out with a beer or 2.

 

It’s such a great pub and well worth a visit.

 

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A Wonderful Meal at Avlogyros Grill House

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This place is brilliant!!

 

It is a tiny little restaurant but during the day, they move out into the street and triples in size.

 

I loved sitting outside under the parasol, with a lovely cool breeze coming up form the harbour. It is located in a little street between the big square (Eleftherias Platz), where you will find the market hall, and the harbour. It is a 30 second walk to the harbour, you can even see it from your table.

 

My husband loved it there too but he loved it because they did big pint and half glasses full of beer for 2 Euros haha.

 

They don’t know what small portions are, the food that we ordered came out on huge plates with loads of delicious food. We actually couldn’t finish all of the food as there was so much. I had a curry which came with chips and rice, it was perfect. So yummy. My husband had a steak with sauce on it and came with chips, a little bit of rice and some salad. He loved it.

 

The host was a lovely man who I think was also the owner. It wasn’t very busy so he sat with us while we waited for our food and told us all about Kos Town and the places we should go and see. He really was such a lovely man.

 

The toilets are inside the restaurant and down a set of stairs and it was all very clean and tidy.

 

I would highly recommend this place to anyone, it really is brilliant.

 

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The British Airways i360

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As we had got the train, we got 2-4-1 tickets so instead of it being £16.50 each, it was that price for the both of us which I thought was a bargain. All you have to do is go into the office on the right hand side of the i360 and get your tickets. If you booked online, you will be able to pick a time for your “flight” but if you are just walking up, you will be told when there are available places. We were very lucky that we got there at 2:45pm and the next available slots were at 3:30pm so we were very lucky.

 

It is a bit like getting on a plane for a proper flight as you sort of go through security where you get a souvenir picture taken and then have security personnel check your bag and wave a metal detector over you. Once you are threw, there is an outdoor seating area to chill out in, there are 2 of those huge deck chairs to climb up into and have your picture taken.

 

When it is time for your flight, the pod emerges out of the ground and one of the two sets of doors will open allowing everyone to step inside. There are TV screens inside and I was quite surprised that they were showing the England Vs Sweden game, I didn’t think they would want anyone to not take in the view because they are being distracted.

 

You can barely feel the pod moving up the stand in the middle, a few times there was a tiny judder but it wasn’t enough to make you lose your balance or anything like that. It doesn’t take long to get to the top where the pod stops and stays for a little while so that everyone can have a good look around and see the view.

 

One thing that annoyed me a little was that because the pod was round and curved, all the pictures that I took were slightly distorted or had lots of reflection in them. I heard a few people talking as I walked round saying that their pictures looked strange as well.

 

 

There is plenty of seats if you prefer to sit down while it is moving and a bar where you can get drinks and snacks that is very much on the expensive side but if it’s a treat for a special occasion, I can see why people buy a glass of bubbly.

 

The whole flight is 25 minutes and before you know it, you are heading back down. They don’t let you get out on the same floor as when you got on, the pod goes into the platform so that you come out level with the beach. There is a little exhibit about how the i360 was built, there’s lots of facts, pictures and videos of the construction.

 

Then you can walk round the gift shop and pick up souvenirs of the i360 and Brighton. When you are done, you can walk out through the little restaurant or onto the sea front.

 

We did have a little run in with a member of staff who ignored Simmie who was standing at the check-out, he walked straight past her to serve a couple who had walked up to the till even though he had seen her standing there for a few minutes. She complained to another member of staff and I have been told this is being looked into.

 

All in all though, it was a great experience and I loved the view from the top, I would highly recommend it.

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Eat, Sleep, Love, Travel

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We used to be terrible at planning things in advance when it came to taking a flight. More often than not we would simply rock up at the airport and hope for the best. Maybe it’s come with age or because we travel on a frequent basis, but now we are uber organised and ensure everything is booked, paid for and prepared before we even set foot on the actual plane. As Vicky is a nervous flier, by having a routine, it helps her and elevates her fear to a certain degree. So what 10 things do we always ensure we do so we have a great (and hassle-free) flight and subsequent trip? Read on to find out.

Pre Book Airport Parking

We always drive to the airport for our flight as it is the most cost-effective way for us. Also, it means that we are masters of our own destiny. As it means we do not have to hang around when we arrive back after trip waiting for public transport. We can simply jump in the car and hit the road. Therefore, we always have to book airport parking. The sooner we do this after we have booked flights, the better offers we find. If we leave it until the last minute, even with a sneaky internet discount code, we always seem to end up paying a fortune, often double what we would have paid if we’d booked earlier.

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Get an Early Night at an Airport Hotel

As our closest (decent) international airport is at least two hours away, we often book a night at an airport hotel for the evening before our flight, especially if we have an early morning flight. It gives us that extra couple of hours kip which seems to benefit us when we arrive at our destination as we are not as tired as we would have been. Also, for us, it feels like our holiday starts the second we rock up to the hotel, as we can relax, have a meal, a cheeky couple of glasses of wine and the all-important early night. Yes, it’s an extra cost on top of our trip, but one we feel we can justify.

 

Prepare for Check-In

When possible we check in online before we even leave home because a lot of airlines actually charge you extra to check in, in person and some simply don’t even offer the option. However, when we are heading off on a package holiday or flying long haul then we have to physically check in, usually because we have our hold bags to drop off too. Therefore, we always ensure we have our passports close to hand, usually in our pocket in order not to keep our fellow passengers waiting and also to avoid the embarrassment of having to unpack our bags on the floor of the departure hall.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

This is a biggie. We simply cannot abide being uncomfortable on a flight. If we could fly First Class around the world then maybe it wouldn’t be such a problem. But if like us, you have ever taken a 14-hour flight in economy class then you will know that comfort is everything as space is limited. Anything that digs in, in unnecessary places is an absolute no-no. For us, it’s loose, breathable cotton all the way. Ok, so we may not look like we’ve walked off the catwalk when we arrive at our destination, but we may have been able to catch a couple of hours shut-eye and been comfortable doing it.

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Don’t Get Stopped By Security

A massive bugbear of ours are people who hold us and the rest of the 40-mile queue up at security. Even if someone has never flown before the airline always sends you an email explaining what you can and cannot take on board with you in your hand luggage, yet people still do not read it. We’ve lost count of the number of times we have seen security pulling numerous full-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash etc out of people’s bag. Not only is this a waste of time for everyone but also a costly mistake for the person whose bag is it, as the items get confiscated – read the rules people!

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Indulge at an Airport Lounge

Another expense that we feel we can justify is booking into an airport lounge, especially if we are flying long haul. Airport departure lounges are loud busy places and airport lounges offer a little quiet haven where we can relax and compose yourself before getting on the plane. It gives us the chance to grab a bite to eat, a couple of glasses of Dutch courage and the opportunity to give our devices a last-minute blast of power. Most charge around £20 which we always think is great value for money. A lot of banks in the UK also offer a few free lounge passes per year if you hold certain accounts with them.

Buy some snacks

We’re sure we’ve all been on a plane where the food has been dire and often inedible. Or if like Vicky, repetitive – she ticked (by accident) the Hindu Vegetarian option for our flight to Australia and was therefore served 6 curries in a 24 hour period! Seriously, surely no one can eat that many curries in such a short space of time?! So we always ensure we buy a range of snacks at the airport, just encase hunger strikes mid-air. Depending on the time of day and length of the flight but it’s usually a Boots Meal deal and a big bag of Haribo because as the advert states – ‘kids and grown ups love them so!’

Fill In Your Paperwork

The biggest tip we can offer is – always pack a pen! We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve had landing cards to fill in and didn’t have a pen between us. This then delays us getting through passport control at our destination as we frantically filling forms in at the back of the queue. It’s also important to declare everything on the landing cards/entry forms i.e. food because if you don’t and get caught with it, you could face massive fines. So when we don’t finish our Boots meal deals, we always ensure we leave the remainder of it on the plane, we’ve watched too many episodes of the show – Australia’s Front Line.

Arrange Airport Transfers in Advance

When we land at our destination we like to know in advance how we will get from the airport to our hotel. More often than not, we pre-book our transfers. There are loads of companies that offer the service and can found by doing a simple Google search. This usually saves us time as we do not have to hunt down a taxi or wait for a bus. Also, someone is normally waiting for us in the arrivals hall displaying our name, which makes the process of getting from A – B super easy even if there is a language barrier. It quite often saves us money too and reduces the risk of being ripped off as a price has been set and paid.

Enjoy!

Surely this is the most important thing, right? The steps we go through, usually ensures that the process of getting from our house to our accommodation runs smoothly. This means that our holiday more often than not starts the right away – stress free and enjoyable.

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Borderline Backpackers

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5 Reasons Cairns Should Be On Your Bucket List

 

 

I’m sure you’ve heard of Cairns, and although I doubt it’s very high up on your travel bucket list, it really should be… This town lies in the tropical north of Queensland, Australia and fits snugly between two World Heritage listed sites: The Wet Tropics Rainforest and The Great Barrier Reef. Despite the city feel within downtown Cairns, you’re never far away from lush green mountains and turquoise blue ocean views. Believe me, Cairns will continue to take your breath away, regardless of how long you stay here!

 

Here are our 5 reasons Cairns should be on your bucket list:

 

Daintree Rainforest: Welcome to the oldest living rainforest in the world! Located three hours north of Cairns, the Daintree offers a combination of over 700 unique plant and animal species, you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Start your day with a walk through the rainforest boardwalk, in search of these rare creatures:

 

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On your way to Cape Tribulation, make sure to cross the Daintree River on a river cruise to spot wild crocs. Be careful down at the beaches though, because a girl was bit on the leg by a crocodile just earlier this year!! 

 

Visit for the day, or spend the night… there is tons to explore in the Daintree. Don’t forget to visit the Alexandra Range Lookout of your way back, to really see where the rainforest meets the reef!

 

Atherton Tablelands: Perhaps you’ve never heard of the Tablelands before, but you would recognise this location from photos and videos. Nestled around pockets of the Wet Tropics Rainforest, the Atherton Tablelands are known for breathtaking waterfalls and unique swimming spots, which are popular amongst locals and tourists alike. Drive along the 17km ‘waterfall circuit’ and discover the natural wonders of this region.

 

Josephine Falls – You’ll find this mesmerising three-tier waterfall at the end of a 1km rainforest walk. We suggest trying out different poses as you rock slide down the bottom of this waterfall. Bring your camera, you’ll want to get them all on film for a laugh later in the day!

 

Lake Eacham – This freshwater lake is also a volcanic crater, and the perfect location for a late afternoon swim. Look out for turtles and the freshwater crocodile that lives here! Bring a floatie and relax in the warmer water, as you watch sunset in the distance.

 

Millaa Millaa Falls – This 18m waterfall was made famous by the Herbal Essence commercial involving a hair flip, and as a filming location for Peter Andre’s ‘Mysterious Girl’. Swim under this breathtaking waterfall before trying your own hair flip photo. (Insert our photo here)

 

There’s more to the Atherton Tablelands than just waterfalls and swimming though. Make sure to also discover the Curtain Fig Tree, wineries and lush walking trails for the ultimate experience.

 

Great Barrier Reef: One of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is as beautiful and diverse as you imagine it to be. The GBR is the largest coral system in the world, made up of 3000 individual reef sites and 900 islands, each with it’s own ecosystem. It’s so large in fact, you can see it from outer space! Cairns is where the Outer Reef runs closest to the shore, therefore attracting over 2 million visitors each year. Choose between a daytrip or an overnight liveaboard vessel, to some of the most beautiful locations on the reef, where you can swim, snorkel or scuba dive!

 

The Great Barrier Reef is the trip of a lifetime and not one you’ll want to miss, especially as more and more of the reef dies each year. If you’re able to, we highly recommend a scuba dive. You don’t have to be certified to scuba dive — many of the boat companies in Cairns offer what’s called an introductory dive. A dive-master teaches you about the equipment and safety on board a boat, and you get the chance to scuba down to 10 metres depth, for a 30 minute guided tour.

 

Nudey Beach: Recently rated ‘Best Beach in Australia’ for 2018, Nudey Beach is a 45 minute ferry ride from Cairns, on Fitzroy Island. Despite the name, you will find everyone at this attractive tropical island beach to be fully clothed (or at least in their bathing suits)! With soft white sands and turquoise blue water, Nudey Beach offers the opportunity to relax and soak up the sun, with a view – look out for turtles, dolphins and even whales, with the tropical Queensland mountains in the background. Bring your own snorkel and mask to search for brightly coloured fish off the coral shores. You won’t be disappointed by a visit to Nudey!

 

Backpacker’s Watering Hole: The natural wonders surrounding Cairns attract heaps of tourists and backpackers to the Australian town, all year long. Due to the tropical climate, and proximity to two world heritage listed sites, Cairns is an idea place for backpackers to start or end an East Coast adventure. It’s also the gateway to other adventure activities in the area, such as the only bungy jump in Australia, skydiving, rafting, canyoning and and horseback riding (so really, there are way more than just 5 reasons Cairns should be on your bucket list).

 

The hostels in Cairns are well known for being some of the most affordable accommodation along the East Coast, with most of them charging under $30/night for a bed. Whether you choose to stay in Cairns for one week, or two months, you’ll meet tons of other travellers here!

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Highlands 2 Hammocks

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Top 4 Priorities When Picking a Hostel

 

Hostels all over the globe are an essential part of any shoestring backpacker’s daily life. The quality of these establishments have improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, with some hostels becoming more and more like fabulous hotels. When picking where you want to rest your head, there are certain priorities you must consider in order to make your trip as efficient and unforgettable as possible!

 

Price

My top priority when deciding on my base camp for a trip is the pricing, I like to view all hostels in a certain area by comparing the cheapest first. Think about what kind of room you would like, whether it be a large dorm, a small dorm or a private room and compare the prices for each with about five of the cheapest hostels in that area.

Remember if you are traveling as a couple, private rooms sometimes work out cheaper or the same price as a dorm! When we are traveling together and the dorms are considerably cheaper than privates, we like to alternate nights between the dorms and privates to save some money while maintaining privacy. Something like 5 nights in dorms and 2 in privates works well.

Location

Once you have your five cheapest hostels in order, it’s time to compare their location for suitability. It can help to open Google maps and plot each of their locations on this, in order to compare their proximity to the city center (or whatever other activity you have planned). What you are looking for here is the hostel that is the most easily accessible both from your initial arrival point and back to where you are going.

If they appear to be located equally as good (or bad), have a look at what the hostel itself offers transport wise. The hostel we stayed in for Amsterdam (The Lucky Lake Hostel) offered free shuttle services to the train station, which in addition to its quiet location and cheap pricing ultimately won our hearts.

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Ratings and Reviews

Now it is time to delve into the nightmarish stories that the reviews section holds. Let’s face it, if the hostels are cheap there is going to be a reason for it, its up to you to decide how fussy you are going to be. Make sure you read the bad reviews and don’t just go by the number of stars they give. There are always going to be some ratings left by people who are ridiculously out of touch with the hostel scene, expecting room service and 5 star treatment. Personally, I have never minded a bit of grime on the walls or some grubby toilets, as long as my bed is clean and comfy and my pillow is soft. We’re adventurers for goodness sake, learn to live rough!

Follow your instinct with the reviews as well, one bad review isn’t much but if there are 20 of them all reading the same thing then it’s time for alarm bells. Make sure you are prepared for whatever bad reviews you decide to brave yourself. For example, if there are talk of pickpockets in a certain hostel just make sure you are smart with your belongings and don’t leave them lying about. They can’t steal what they can’t see! If the showers are said to be dirty then take some flip flops. Adapt and survive!

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Complimentary Inclusions

Hostels that offer free breakfast or dinner are a true nomads lifesaver. If you’re smart (and sometimes sneaky) then a free breakfast can turn into a free lunch as well. Get up early and stock up for the day ahead. This massive reduction in food cost can mean a fantastic increase in beer funds!

Other things hostels might offer are arranged bar crawls, tour guides or even activity discounts. These are fantastic ways to meet new people, especially if you are traveling alone, as they are full of like-minded, adventurous people.

So get out there are use hostels! They are a fantastic place to meet new people and excellent for stretching the travel funds for a longer backpacking escapade. Check out our full guide for your next stay in a hostel on our website.

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Cocktails and Burgers

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I love this place. There is always such a great happy atmosphere from the customers and staff.

 

You walk in and you are seated by a member of staff, all the seats are nice and comfy so it doesn’t matter where you sit but if it’s sunny, it can get a bit hot at tables next to the window so if you would prefer somewhere else and it’s not too busy, they will sit you somewhere else. They are brilliant like that.

 

They don’t have a huge menu but there is still a great selection of food to pick from. The portions aren’t very big but the food is really really nice.

 

 

 

I can highly recommend the sweet potato fries, they were so yummy. The burgers are super yummy as well, they taste like they have been made from scratch with lots of ingredients and not dripping in fat like some places.

 

The cocktail list is as long as the food menu, so much to choose from, I really like the pina colada, especially because it came in a coconut once haha. They have happy hour everyday where the cocktails are half price, Monday to Thursday it is 5pm to close and Friday to Sunday is 5pm to 7pm.

 

You have to go on a bit of a walk for the toilet, you go down some stairs that are round the back of the bar and then follow the corridor round to the toilet.

 

I would highly recommend this place, it’s such a great place to go to for a drink or food.

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A Heat Wave In Brighton

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That Saturday wasn’t only the England vs Sweden World Cup Match, it was also my birthday as well. I’d had it planned for months to go to Brighton for the day with my husband and two of my best friends so even though it felt like the Earth was two inches from the sun, we still all went down to Brighton for an awesome day out.

 

We got on the train at Three Bridges and because there was 4 of us, we got a group save return ticket so it was only £34.60 for all 4 of us. I booked it online as it’s so quick and easy and then all you have to do is go to one of the ticket machines at the train station with the bank card that you used to book and the tickets are printed out. Quick and easy process all round.

 

The train was completely packed out, we didn’t get a seat at all which wasn’t too bad seeing as it only took us 40 minutes to get to Brighton.

 

When we got to Brighton, the main street down to the beach was packed so we turned onto North Road, which is part of The Lanes, where is was less packed but a complete sun trap with no shade. I felt like I was melting walking down it.

 

 

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We came across one of the little streets that was having a market day so me and my best mate Simmie decided to have a look around the stalls while the boys went to look around in the Guitar, Amp And Keyboard Centre. Simmie was the only one who found a good bargain which was an African print dress for £5 but there was lots of stalls with books, clothes, CDs, sun glasses, jewellery, etc to have a look around.

 

We found the boys in the music shop but it was so crammed and small that I took Simmie to Burgers and Cocktails which is an awesome little restaurant that my husband took me to for lunch last year. We got in 2 pina coladas before the boys joined us for a few drinks. It wasn’t lunch time just yet so it was quiet in there before the lunch time rest and we got to pick a nice table to sit at. We had a few drinks and left just as loads of people started coming in for lunch.

 

 

We walked along the road towards Victoria Gardens and the Brighton Dome. It’s a lovely big space with lots of open spaces which is great for anyone who wants to do a bit of sunbathing and plenty of trees for anyone who needs some shade.

 

We were going to go into the Royal Pavilion but we couldn’t find the way in and it was too hot so we opted to start walking down to the seafront instead.

 

The road along the seafront was absolutely packed with people. Student tours, football fans and tourists everywhere so we popped into Bar Rogue for some more drinks just to cool down and chill out before heading out again.

 

We walked along the seafront down by the beach where there was the little fun fair, art galleries, pieces of art, cafes, restaurants and little shops.

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We stopped at Brighton Shellfish which is a little stall along the seafront. It is a little bit more expensive than some of the other fish stalls but they have a great selection and it all looks really fresh. Myself and Simmie had cockles while my husband had welks and we all loved our food.

 

We walked along some more and came across The Brighton Music Hall which has loads of tables with parasols, free ice cold water and live bands playing for all the customers. It was brilliant, the band that was playing when we got there was called the Beach Band and they were so amazing. The lead singer was a girl and she had such a strong brilliant voice.

It was here that we split in 2, the boys went off to find a pub to watch the football in while me and Simmie went on the British Airways i360 which was so much fun to experience. The view of Brighton and the surrounding areas was amazing!!

 

Once we were off the i360, we went to find the boys in Smokey’s Bar which was more or less opposite the i360 and saw the last 20 minutes of the match. We had a few drinks there and then moved onto the Fish and Chip Shop next door. We wasn’t massively impressed with this place as 2 of our meals were forgotten.

 

It was quite late in the afternoon and we were all tired from a long day of exploring so we decided to head home. We had such a brilliant day, Brighton is still one of my favourite places to visit.

 

There will be individual posts going into more detail for the bars, restaurants and the i360 so keep your eyes peeled on the Brighton page.

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The Recommender

My Top 3 Maidstone Restaurants

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1. The Potting Shed – Langley

This is a beautiful gastro-pub set in the countryside just outside of Maidstone. It features wonderful décor set on the theme of a gardener’s potting shed and a huge outdoor space with ample seating, a burger shack and a children’s play area. The pub has on-site parking and the staff welcome everyone with open arms (even your dog!).

The Menu at The Potting Shed is not to be sniffed at, with everything from steak and lobster combo’s to pizzas baked in their wood fired oven to offer. They also have a great selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes. I have recently personally enjoyed one of their more healthy options – the new season lamb kofta’s.

The drinks list is regularly updated with the wine menus being refreshed seasonally. There are a number of ales and lagers on tap including some local Kentish beers.

I would definitely recommend a visit to The Potting Shed on a summer’s afternoon; where you can relax with a cold drink on one of their deck chairs, whilst smelling the enticing aromas of your burger being cooked outdoors in their burger shack. You can check out our full recommendation here

2. The Horseshoes – East Farleigh

I visited The Horseshoes so recently I have not even had the chance to get round to writing a recommendation for my own blog yet! My visit was on a Monday evening and although I was initially surprised by how busy the restaurant was for a week-night, I knew this meant that something good was in store.

The pub is well presented and has lots of parking, although it is a little difficult to find (make sure you have your satnav to hand). We were very quickly attended to and seated at a table in their beautiful conservatory style area, which had low level lighting and a really intimate feel to it.

They have a really notable selection of sharing platters to start including a vegetarian Mediterranean mezze that looked incredible. Their main course options are all wonderfully colourful and vibrant and are all cooked and presented with real flair. I particularly enjoyed the roasted pork belly with crackling that was served with scallops, a butternut squash puree, dauphinoise potatoes, toasted almonds and a red wine jus.

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They have a good selection of drinks and an impressive wine list that wont break the bank. We sadly did not spend any time sitting in the bar area but it seemed bustling and like it had a friendly atmosphere, so I am sure I will be back soon even if it is just for a drink! Keep your eyes peeled over at www.therecommender.co.uk for our full recommendation (coming soon).

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3. La Taberna – Maidstone

La Taberna is a small, family run, Spanish restaurant in the heart of Maidstone town centre. It is set within a historic, church-like building with incredibly high ceilings and stained-glass windows. The lighting inside is stunning and the tables are well spaced out; it really does feel as though you are in your own private Spanish dining room.

The staff are top notch, all of them able to pronounce every single item from the tapas and wine menu’s in perfect Spanish. One thing to note is that you really must book if you want to come here – and I mean in advance.

The tapas at La Taberna really is hard to beat, I had round after round of tapas – all ordered and served two dishes at a time (as per the waitress’s recommendation). They also prepare their paella fresh to order and for a minimum of two people, which does take up to an hour but can be ordered in advance upon request.

If I had to choose somewhere in Maidstone to visit on a special occasion I would almost certainly choose La Taberna. Whether you choose to come here just with a partner or with a big group it will not fail to impress. This restaurant hits all of the right notes as far as I am concerned and my gosh do they may a great symphony – the atmosphere, food, wine and people are all sublime. Don’t forget to have a read of our review of La Taberna over at: http://www.therecommender.co.uk/la-taberna-maidstone/

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Lauren’s Travel Diary

Top 5 Destinations in Southeast Asia

 

 

 

Southeast Asia is honestly my favourite region in the world. A confluence of stunning vistas, incredible culture and delicious food – what’s not to love? Southeast Asia is renowned as a pretty high-key backpacker destination, and this is in part due to the fact that it’s cheap, has a great transport infrastructure and caters well to tourism. I spent some time exploring the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and had an amazing time, so I wanted to share my 5 favourite places.

 

 

  • Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta, Thailand

 

This incredible island was the slice of Thai paradise I’d been searching for. I’d been to other islands in Thailand, but none of them could satisfy my idea of an idyllic island. However, with its postcard-perfect ocean views, relaxed atmosphere and stunning national park, Koh Lanta ticked every box. Better still, the island is home to an animal sanctuary where stray dogs and cats are given veterinary care and a home. If you love animals, go and visit to volunteer to walk a dog!

 

Vang Vieng, Laos

 

Surrounded by limestone karst mountains, the flow of the Nam Song river and incredible countryside, Vang Vieng completely awe-struck me. The part of town I stayed in was quiet, with a chilled out, hippie sort of atmosphere. Be sure to rent bikes and head out to explore the countryside, where you’ll be graced by mountain vieszpoints, deep caves and freshwater lagoons. Also, don’t forget to go tubing if you love to party – you float down the river in a rubber ring and stop off at river-side bars!

 

  • Vang Vieng

  • Kampot

Kampot, Cambodia

 

For a small, sleepy town, Kampot sure packs a punch. The best feature, in my opinion, was the Kampot River. I spent an afternoon canoeing down the river and was almost overwhelmed by the gorgeous scenery of mangroves, sparkling water and a jaw-dropping sunset. If you hire a bicycle and head away from Kampot, you’ll find dusty roads and humble villages where kids will run out to greet you. I found the locals here to be genuine and kind and always willing to give advice or help out.

 

Hoi An, Vietnam

 

Ah, Hoi An. The streets of this charming little town are lined with markets, lanterns and quaint cafés. Hoi An is also famous for its tailors – a tradition from back when it was used as a trading hub on the Silk Route. Come back to the old part of town at night, where the lanterns will all be lit up as it really is a beautiful sight. During my time here, I also hired a motorbike and drove from Hoi An to Hue via the Hai Van Pass, where I was treated to astounding oceanside mountain views.

 

  • Hoi An

  • Kratie

Kratie, Cambodia

 

Kratie is slightly off the beaten track, but it’s a place that I don’t think anyone travelling in Cambodia should miss. Here, if you’re lucky, you’ll find the endangered Irrawaddy River Dolphin, who lives in this part of the Mekong River. You can also take a short ferry journey over to the island Koh Trong, where you’ll find a basic but beautiful community who live in the middle of the Mekong. I recommend you hire a bike to explore Koh Trong, as there are no cars allowed on the island.

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These Foreign Roads

Top 5 Experiences you NEED to do in Colombia

 

We recently spent a little over two months in the amazingly breathtaking country of Colombia. Neither of us knew what to expect prior to arriving but overall we were equally blown away by how diverse this country actually is. We had so many great times and so much great food that we wanted to share our top five experiences with you.

 

 

 

Hiking Cocora Valley

 

The Cocora Valley is home to the tallest palm trees in the world. Growing up to 60 metres, not only is their height a stunning sight, but they grow nearly 3000 metres above sea level, high in the mountains. Mingling with hearty evergreens, it’s not where you’d expect to find palm trees. Hiking this stunning valley is easily one of the best experiences in Colombia.

 

You can choose to do the short walk which is straight to the valley of palms which takes just over an hour round trip, which is great if you’re tight on time. Or you can opt for an amazing five hour hike through farmland and jungle before reaching the palms. We decided to go for the long hike to get the most out of the experience. Five hours of climbing up and down muddy hills, crossing swaying bridges over the river and then finally reaching the gorgeous view. 

 

While pictures may tell a thousand words, no photo can accurately replicate the breathtaking views.

 

 

  • Paragliding

Paragliding over Medellin

 

Paragliding has been something we wanted to try for sometime and Medellin is a great destination to give it a go. With its amazing temperatures, cheap prices and gorgeous scenery, there is no reason not to.

 

Waking up early in the morning, we had a light breakfast of fresh fruit and began the long, winding drive up into  the surrounding hills. After signing what seemed like far too many waivers, the nerves started to kick in… Was this really a good idea?

 

Getting strapped into our gear and a quick five minute how to, we were ready to jump off of the cliff. There was no waiting time, once you were strapped in they had you running. What an exhilarating experience: Running along the ground and suddenly it disappears from beneath your feet! We spent the next 15 minutes soaring nearly a kilometre above the city below. If you’re ever in Medellin, make sure paragliding is on your list!

 

Check out the video here!

 

Swimming in the Caribbean

 

 

The crystal clear water, perfect beige sand, and quiet, secluded coves are what you’ll find along the northern coast in Tayrona National Park. There are many beaches to choose from, while inside the park, located near Santa Marta, but all will please!

 

Make sure to bring snacks, water and sunscreen and stay all day. Or, if you have enough time, stay overnight in their camping area, you can rent a hammock and sleep under the stars, just remember to bring mosquito repellent!

 

There are food and beer hawkers that will approach you so you don’t have to worry about starving or keeping your own beer cold! Shade tents are available for a few dollars as well to keep out of the tropical sun while not swimming in the beautiful water.

 


Eating Bandeja Paisa

 

Oh, Bandeja Paisa.You are the best and worst meal we have ever had. The best because it includes the following: Chicharron (fried pork belly with crispy skin), baked beans, chorizo sausage, white rice, ground meat, fried plantain, arepa, avocado (to cut through the meaty goodness), all topped off with a fried egg.

 

It’s an incredible amount of food. A vegan’s worst nightmare. Nearly all meat and starch – and absolutely delicious

 

It is the worst because, well, you’re so full after consuming the massive platter of food you can hardly walk yourself home! However, it doesn’t take long before the craving comes back. And it always does.

 

It must be tried at least once while visiting Colombia.

 

 

Playing Tejo

 

You can’t leave Colombia without playing their National Sport, Tejo. The sport is relatively simple in concept, aside from a few finer details in scoring points. In essence, you’re throwing a metal puck into a mud pit filled with explosives. 

 

The mud pit has a metal circle in the middle and on the metal circle there are packets of gunpowder placed just right, so when you hit a packet, it explodes. Oh, and also you have to play with beer, there is no Tejo without beer. So much so, that most of the time, playing Tejo is completely free, as long as you’re buying beer.

 

Beer and explosives. How can you beat that?


So head on over to Colombia, it is a definite not to miss destination. Also, if you are looking for more information about the amazing things to see and do in this wonderful Country check out  our Colombia section at: http://theseforeignroads.com/south-america/

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Wasabi

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In my eyes, no trip to London is complete unless I have got a pot of awesome food from Wasabi before I get on the train home.

Wasabi is in the London Victoria Train Station on the side that has all the banks of ticket booths.

There’s lots to choose from and super easy to order.

You go up to the first counter, you tell them what size pot you would like, if you would like noodles or rice and then what you would like from the hot choices in front of you.

There is a fridge so you can pick sushi, salads, soups, snacks and drinks that you can pick from as well.

They only have a few seats outside as it’s a small place so you may have to find a bench in the train station if you want to sit down or wait until you get on your train to eat like I do.

The staff are always pleasant but it can be really busy so they aren’t too chatty unless you are asking about the food and then they will tell you everything you need to know.

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They aren’t really cheap but considering how food they give you and the quality of the food, it is well worth the money.

My absolutely favourite (which is in the picture to the right) is the sweet chilli chicken with rice and a side ordering of vegetable spring rolls. Love love love.

The chicken curry and chicken katsu are also really really nice as well.

I would highly recommend getting food from here as it is always delicious, I have never been disappointed.

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The Little Town Of Pwllheli

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Pwllheli is one of those lovely little seaside towns with lots of little shops, charity chops, a sweet shop, more pubs than expected (haha), an Asda and a harbour.

We found a big pay and display car park right near the harbour which wasn’t too expensive, it was £3 for 3 hours which I didn’t think was too bad and I never saw it full up so there was always somewhere to park. It’s really close to a lot of the shops as well.

There are quite a few little shops like fresh seafood, newsagents, charity shops, a craft shop, 2 chemists and a few other shops. They are mainly on 3 or 4 long streets so easy to get around, you won’t get lost, especially if you keep heading towards the harbour as you will end up back at the car park.

 

There is a big Asda superstore so you will have no problems getting shopping if you are on a self catering holiday and don’t fancy working out where to stop on the way there. We used it on the way to our cottage to stock up on everything we would need for our little holiday. They also have an Iceland shop in the town as well so you have some choice.

They have a big Wetherspoons pub called The Pen Cob which we went into seeing as we know that Wetherspoons food is usually quite good.

As it is a little town, there isn’t much actually going on so if you are looking for a nice quiet little town, Pwllheli is perfect for you. If you are looking for lots of nightlife and things going on, it might be best to find another town to stay in.

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There is a holiday park called Hafan y Mor Holiday Park that is only a short drive down the road so Pwllheli is perfect for a little day out if you are on holiday and want somewhere different to go to.

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Muggleton Inn

This place has 2 stages.

Stage 1 is during the day when most people go in for food and a few drinks. It is quite a nice atmosphere, some people bring their kids in for something eat. They will show football matches and have drinks deals on.

Stage 2 is from about 7pm when people start coming in on a night out. The tables and chairs aren’t put away like they used to so it gets very crowded very quickly and very loud where everyone is talking at the same time. There isn’t any music playing so this is really just somewhere to start a night out because they have some cheap drinks deals like 2 jugs of cocktails for £12.

There are 2 floors in the building with lots of seating and a bar on each floor but the toilets are upstairs so if you don’t want a long walk to the toilet, you are better off sitting upstairs. There isn’t a lift but for anyone that is unable to use the stairs and will need the toilet, there is a disabled toilet on the ground floor so no need to worry. You will just need to ask for the key at the bar and someone will unlock it for you.

A lot of the food is priced quite cheaply and isn’t too bad. My husband and I really like the spicy buffalo chicken wings which are under the “3 dishes for £10” section in the menu. This section is great if there is 2 or 3 of you and none of you are too hungry as it works out at £3.33 each and you can get chicken wings, chicken stripes, chips with cheese and bacon on top, spicy king prawns, things like that. We normally get 2 bowls of the chicken wings and then a bowl of loaded chips, it is perfect for the 2 of us and we have eaten for £10, bargain.

My mum loves the fish and chips and my dad loves the ham, egg and chips here. If I’m not having the chicken wings, I love the curries, some of them can be quite spicy.

They do a brilliant full English breakfast which is served until 12 noon. A large breakfast which is 2 fried eggs, bacon, 2 sausages, baked beans, hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes and 2 slices of toast for £4.99!! The one down from that is 1 of everything for £3.40 and the small breakfast is also a childs breakfast which is a fried egg, bacon, sausage, baked beans and hash browns for £2.95. They do have vegetarian options, American-style pancakes and a gluten-free option too. My husband and I have enjoyed the large breakfast in here many times before setting off to do some shopping. Sometimes the bacon can be very salty and hash browns a little bit crispy but the sausages, the baked beans and the eggs are always nice.

Before you order food, double check the manager’s specials which is normally written on little displays at the bar. I’ve had a few curries from the manager’s special list and they were only £3.99.

If it is busy when you visit, download the Wetherspoon app as you can order food and drinks from your table without having to leave your table. You can register a card or pay via PayPal with the app, I have my PayPal linked to mine. This app is also great if you are on your own as you don’t have to worry about going up to the bar to order food and then find out that someone has taken your table when you get back. Plus, it works in any Wetherspoons, just make sure you check you have selected the right pub or someone is another pub will be getting your food haha.

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My Fun Afternoon At Glasfryn Parc

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As part of our trip to Wales we were looking for different activities to do, and during our search, we found Glasfryn Parc.

It’s only up the road from Pwllheli and there is so much to do!

 

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It’s a brilliant place to spend the day to try different activities, especially when some of them aren’t that expensive.

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We gave archery a go and I loved it. I was somehow the only one who didn’t end up with some sort of an injury, don’t worry, no one was shot with an arrow lol.

My husband and our friend Jason have big biceps so sometimes the bowstring would slide over their biceps when they let go. My husband got a slight bruise but Jason came up with a big bruise on his arm.

One for the ladies, if you have big boobs, make sure you position the bow correctly or you will catch your boob. My friend Simone learnt her lesson after the first time lol.

The instructor was great, I believe his name was Baz, he talked up through everything and made sure we were all comfortable with using the bow. We were the only 4 there so anyone that had any problems had one-to-one help from him straight away.

We had half an hour for £7.50 each which I thought was a bargain, especially as we were the only ones there that day so we had the range to ourselves.

We was going to do bowling as well but a group of about 20 kids on a birthday party had turned up just before us and took all the lanes so it’s worth booking in advance if you know you will be going.

They have a great little cafe there are well, we didn’t eat while we were there but the food smelt really nice and there is loads of seating so it’s a great place to chill out for a little while.

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Eating At Le Four à Bois – Pizzeria à Villers Bocage

le four a bois

Myself, my husband and my parents came here twice during our 4 day stay in Villers-Bocage as we loved the food and it was the only place to get something to eat that didn’t close too early. The latest it was open was 9:30pm so as you can imagine, it was packed in the evenings.

We all tried different dishes but I especially liked the pizzas as they were done in a proper pizza oven.

I had the Americaine pizza and it was my favourite, tasted absolutely amazing, loved every mouthful.

My father had a calzone that he said was a little burnt on top due to the oven that they use but it was jam packed full of filling and it was delicious.

The portions are a little on the big side for pizzas and calzones but not to worry, if you ask, the staff will put your leftovers in a box for you to take it away.

They make the food from scratch as well, so no frozen food that have been defrosted. You can really tell by the taste and it is brought to you straight from the oven so you will never get cold food.

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There’s not a huge menu but I think this is a good thing because I have been to places before that have too much on the menu and I can’t pick out what I would like to eat. Here is is very simple and easy to pick what you want.

The prices aren’t too bad either, considering the size of the portions and it is a nice friendly place to eat in.

It is a small place with lots of tables and chairs inside so it can be a little crammed when it is busy but you can sit outside if you want to, you only have to ask.

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My Long Weekend At Au Vieux Puits in Villers-Bocage In France

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This was my first stay at this hotel but my parents had stayed there the year before and loved it. So, when they asked us to go on a road trip in France with them, my mum was very insistent that we stay at this hotel.

We stayed for 4 nights over a weekend during August and it was just under 200 euros per room which I thought was brilliant.

The rooms are above a bar which has a separate entrance for the hotel part. There is no lift but there aren’t too many stairs, both my parents have trouble with getting out of breath but they manage the stairs ok.

 

If you want a nice view, ask to make sure you have a front facing room as you will be able to see the whole street.

I loved waking up in the morning and looking out to the quiet little town. We had fantastic weather while we were there as well so it was nice to have the sun coming through the window.

 

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In our room we had our own bathroom, a little TV, tea and coffee facilities, a wardrobe and a lovely big bed. It wasn’t a huge room but we weren’t crammed in, we had room to move around just fine.

I liked that there was plug socks on both sides of the bed and not just on one side like some hotels that I have been to.

The bed was very comfy, no complaints there at all.

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france hotel sink

The bathroom was a bit small side, being bigger people, we had trouble when we used the toilet as it was boxed in a corner. The shower was fine, a little bit fiddly when you first put it on but alright once you get it to the right temperature.

The little town is basically the long street that the hotel is on, a few little bars and restaurants dotted around but just so you know, it all closes at about 9pm. It is very much a sleepy little town but it has so much character and everyone is lovely.

There is wifi which is quite good, never dropped out once for us during our stay.

The staff don’t speak great English but we got by with the help of Google Translate. The lady and man who run the bar and hotel were lovely, always smiling and happy to see us.

You can either sit inside or you can sit outside in the nice seating area. We were lucky to go in August when it was very nice weather so we mainly sat outside when we were chilling out.

There is a Carrefour just up the road so we went there after we had check-in to buy some snacks bits and drinks. There isn’t a fridge in the room so we had to be careful what we brought

We had a fantastic stay and will most definitely stay again if we are having another road trip in that area.

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My Stay At The Stade Court Hotel

This was a last minute get away with my husband as a little treat. I got an awesome deal on Wowcher for an over night stay, 3 course meal and breakfast for 2 people for £79. Talk about a bargain!!

Anyway, we arrived at the hotel at about 6pm and even though it has a lot of rooms, there is only 10 car spaces in the car park at the back of the hotel and 1 of those is a disabled space so you may need to find somewhere else to park if it is full up when you arrive.
Checking in was nice and quick. The lady on reception also booked us into the restaurant for dinner at the same time.
We went to get in the lift which we were told had a few faults, the main 1 being that in order to get to our room on the 3rd floor, we had to go up to the 4th and then walk down to the 3rd. The lift doors opened and it was tiny, I don’t even know how 2 slim people could get into it comfortably. So, I sent my husband up with his bag in the lift and I went up the stairs. We arrived at about the same time haha.

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We were in room 313 which is on the 3rd floor, it’s one of the rooms at the side of the building so when we opened the curtains, we had a great view of the next building BUT if I opened the window and looked to the left, I could see the beach. Technically it was a sea view without having to pay the extra £15 for a sea view room haha.
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The room was a good size, there was a nice big double bed with bedside tables on both sides, a desk with the TV on top of it, a little chest of drawers that had the kettle on top of it, a little round table and 2 chairs. We had plenty of space to move around the room without bumping into each other.
The bed wasn’t the most comfy of beds but it wasn’t a bad nights sleep. The door to the room would rattle if we had the bedroom and bathroom window open so we put one of the chairs up against it and it to stop the rattle.

The bathroom was small and a strange shape because it was in the corner of the building but very well designed to make the most of the space. We didn’t feel cramped at all which is great considering we are a little bigger than some people. It had a shower/bath, toilet, sink, 2 push soap dispensers and some free shower caps.

The shower was connected to the bath taps and was complicated to use, I turned on the hot water but it was freezing for about 2 minutes before it started to warm up after I had turned the hot water all the way up and after a few seconds it was boiling hot. I put the cold on but that made no difference, at one point I just had the cold on and hot completely off but it was still boiling water that came out. I ended up having a bath as the taps seemed to behave better than the shower.

The bath is a good size, I had no problem getting in and out of it, there was a shower mat folded up on the side of the bath so that you can decide if you want to use it.

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Before we went to dinner, we went down to the bar/lounge opposite reception for a few drinks. They let us put the drinks on a tab on the room so we didn’t have to worry about taking money of a bank card down with us. There were some chairs and tables as well as nice big comfy sofas for us to chill out on.

 

The restaurant is also the breakfast room and it is on the first floor. Lovely big space with not too many tables so you don’t feel crammed in. It’s decorated very stylish and modern, the tables are set up beautifully with folded napkins in a fan and very nice cutlery. We had a table next to the window that overlooked the beach which was very romantic with the sun setting as well. We had a 3 course dinner that was absolutely delicious, I had the pate starter, Cumberland sausage, mash and veg for my main and ice cream for dessert. I’d highly recommend the Cumberland sausages as they really were amazing and the onion gravy was perfect.

We also had breakfast in the restaurant in the morning which was a huge buffet of hot and cold food, fruit juices, fruit and cereals. From the quality of the food in the morning, I would say they spend more money on the dinner food than breakfast but they must have to buy a lot more food for breakfast so buy in bulk. It was still very nice food, I loved the bacon.

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The staff were great throughout our stay, when we first arrived, we asked at reception for an iron and ironing board which was brought up to our room. My dog had decided to leave her hair all over my husband’s shirt but the lady on reception was very understanding and let me borrow a roll of sellotape. About 20 minutes after we got into our room, we had a call from reception to see if we were ok and if everything was ok with the room.
There is free wifi available and even being on the 3rd floor, we still had a brilliant connection, it didn’t drop once.
Overall we had quite a good stay, the hotel is perfectly located on the sea front so you can take walks along the beach. I’d be happy to stay there again.

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The Delicious Meal And A Relaxing Walk Around Sumner Ponds

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If you are looking for somewhere to have a nice light meal out, somewhere to do some fishing for the day or fancy a long weekend in a tent, caravan, pod, log cabin, hut or a safari tent, Sumner Pond is a great place to be.

I only visited with my parents, husband and our dog Lady for a meal at The Cafe By The Lake but was highly impressed by the whole site. We got to have a good look around after we had our food in order to walk off all the food we’d eaten.

 

I had a bbq chicken burger, my parents both had ham, egg and chips and my husband had fish and chips. There were no complaints from any of us in regards ot the food. The chicken in my burger was so big that I had to cut it in half to eat it and still had trouble holding it. All of our portions were really big, none of us could finish our meals. It did take a little while for the food to come out but it was really busy and there was a big party on so the staff had a lot to do.

In the cafe, you can either sit outside by the lake or you can sit inside. If you are outside, you need to go into the cafe to order your food and you are given a wooden spoon with a number on it. If you are inside, it is table service so a waitress will serve you and then bring you the food once it is ready.

 

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If you want to stay on site, you can either bring your own tent or caravan and rent a pitch. Or, you can hire a pod, log cabin, hut or safari tent so that you can stay for a few days.

Shepherd’s Hut

You can hire these in blocks of 2 or 3 nights. Prices start from £120 for 2 nights in the low season and go up to £160. For 3 nights the prices start from £180 and go up to £240. It all depends on where you want to go. These are normally right on the lake so you get a nice view of the lake when you come out in the morning. You also get your bedding and throws included as well as breakfast each morning in the cafe.

Camping Pods

This is the cheapest option if you don’t want to sleep in a tent or don’t have a caravan. All you get is a pod with a carpeted floor, a double electric socket, heater and lighting but that it is. You will need to bring you own camping gear including bedding, cooking equipment, etc.

Log Cabins

There are only 2 log cabins so if you are interested, I would try to book as soon as possible. They are on the edge of the lake so I bet that is an beautiful view to walk out to in the mornings.

Safari Tent

There is just 1 of these so if you want to hire this out, get in there as soon as possible. From the pictures in the booklet, it looks like pure luxury so it’s good for people like me that don’t like camping but really want a few creature comforts. I would definitely pick the safari tent if I was going to stay there.

To make a booking or check out the site, the website is Sumner Ponds

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