5 things to do in York, UK

Picture the scene: cobbled streets, quirky buildings, 2000 years of history, a huge cathedral, a river, lots of pubs, restaurants, shops…. My husband and I chose York for a romantic four day mini-break because I have always wanted to go there (and he likes to keep me happy) – a decision we did not regret.

Here’s 5 things we got up to: (keep scrolling for two foodie recommendations too)

York Minster

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I’m not religious at all, but there’s something special about a huge Cathedral. York Minster is impressive inside and out, the size alone made my jaw drop. The stain glass windows and ornate stone carvings are something to behold. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s tonnes of history; below ground they found Roman ruins and there’s lots of interesting stuff to see, as well as the main cathedral.

Jorvik Viking Centre

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Really interesting museum, you’re taken through on a carriage like a low-key rollercoaster… There are wax-work (or maybe not wax, but ya get the idea) models that move about and show you what like was like for the Vikings of York – very interesting and well worth a visit.

Clifford’s Tower

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Clifford’s Tower dates back to William the Conqueror, so yet more history to behold here. Well worth climbing to the top and having a look inside – the views over York are wonderful.

The city walls

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York’s city walls are impressive, mostly because of how in-tact they are. Really enjoyed walking along them, taking in the city from all angles and imaging life back in the days that the walls were used to defend the people within. A must-do.

Cruise on the river Ouse

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We opted for a floodlight cruise; leaving at 9:15pm. As well as a glass of Prosecco and some soothing jazz and swing music, it was simply just a lovely, gentle thing to do, taking in York from the river with the sun setting. Really recommend it.

Food…

Highly recommend The Star Inn the City, where we had our anniversary dinner (and returned for a drink on the terrace another day, too). Delicious food (good veggie options) and impeccable service.

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Also: Betty’s Tea Rooms, as it was a special occasion we opted for a veggie afternoon tea in the Belmont Room (booking required) which was just divine. I don’t want to show off but I’ve had a LOT of afternoon teas… and this was one of the best. EVER.

Lastly, the yorkie wraps from the York Roast Co. – veg, potatoes, stuffing, gravy wrapped in a yorkshire pudding. Amazing lunch.

York is lovely…yorkshire-pudding-wrap

Highly recommend it for a mini-break. In between doing all of the above, we had time to wander around the shops, sit in the park and watch the world go buy, get drinks outside (weather was lush) and just relax. Stayed in a nice B&B, too, Bowen House >

Great trip. Highly recommended.

A long weekend in Rome

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Me & Mama

Well, well, well. What fun is to be had in the Italian capital of Rome.

I went from Friday-Monday with my mum, and we saw as much as we could in those four days.

Here’s a little about my trip… Feel free to contact me if you have questions or want tips and ideas for your own Roman Holiday (such a great film, if you haven’t seen it then check it out 🙂 ).

Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
The Colosseum is bigger than I thought it’d be, and oh so impressive. I mean… seriously, it was built in 70 AD and it’s still standing. Gladiators fought there. Emperors entertained there. It’s hard to walk around – both inside and outside – and not be in complete awe.

As for the RF & PH… wowzers. History there dates back almost 3000 years… there’s so much to see, so you want to (a) wear good shoes – the ground is uneven too and (b) allow enough time to see it all. These three are surely a must when visiting Rome.

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Inside the Colosseum

 

Vatican City, including St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and museums

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St Peter’s Basilica

First we saw St Peter’s square and the Basilica. It’s free entry, but we queued for an hour (arrived at 11am on a Saturday) so probably better to get there early to avoid the queue. Inside is just outstanding… the size, architecture and detail within is beautiful. It’s hard to walk into the basilica without at least thinking ‘wow’ in your head. You can see the Pope on Sunday’s if that’s your thing, but I’m not really a fan 😉

The museums were also crazy busy – literally back to back people, which spoiled it quite a bit. It’s like you’re just shuffling along in a huge herd, so we didn’t see it all. Again, maybe better to get there early… The Sistine Chapel was my favourite part. Bigger than I expected, Michelangelo’s finest work is so detailed, and so beautiful… I’m not a Christian but there’s something quite special about it. I’d go to the museum again just to see that alone.

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Looking back at St Peter’s Square from the Basilica entrance

 

Trevi Fountain
Just lovely. Crowded, just like everywhere else. Hot chocolate in the Trevi Cafe (behind you if you’re looking at the fountain) was one of the best I’ve had, delicious.

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Trevi Fountain

 

Altare della Patria
We stumbled across this beautiful building via our bus map, having not heard of it before, but I’m so glad we did. There’s glass elevator that takes you to the top. With views of the whole of Rome including the Colosseum and Vatican, it’s well worth the small fee to ride to the top.

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The view (Colosseum in the background) from Altare della Patria

 

Pantheon
Dating back almost 2000 years, this is another place with free entry and it’s beautiful inside and out. Definitely worth visiting.

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Pantheon

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Lunch in Piazza Navona

 

Piazza Navona
One of my favourite spots – a large square (well, rectangle!) with restaurants, shops and a gorgeous fountain in the middle.

It just feels quintessentially Italian; the atmosphere, the buildings, the smell of garlic and olive oil wafting out of the restaurants…

We had lunch there, looking out in the sunshine and it was kinda wonderful.
Spanish Steps
Another famous scene in Rome – again it was really busy here so I’d go early if you’re into photography. We saw a lot that day so didn’t stay long as we were pretty tired.

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The Spanish Steps

The Food
foodAmazing pizza, of course – crisp, light bases, sweet tomatoes, mozzarella – nom nom nom.

Also had some amazing pasta, my favourite being spaghetti in olive oil with chillies (simple but delish), and yummy ice cream. Also had a nutella canoli (oh my goodness) and a caprese chocolate and pistachio pie (like a sponge cake) with raspberry sauce – yummers.

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Mushroom pizza ……. soooooo good 🙂

Hop-on/hop-off bus
We booked with City SightSeeing Roma (in advance) and I was really impressed; great route around the city, good price and a nice map showing you where all the attractions are so you can easily find your way from your bus stop.

Finally…… our flight and hotel
We flew with EasyJet: Excellent service, friendly staff and comfortable flight which arrived early. For a budget airline, I was really impressed.

We stayed at Capo d’Africa, a 4 star hotel just a few minutes’ walk from the Colosseum, and it was fantastic – clean, comfortable, spacious rooms, lovely receptionists, rooftop terrace with great views, lovely breakfasts and nice cocktails in the bar.

All this was booked via Expedia – we got a good deal by booking the hotel and flight together.

Overall, a great trip! I hope this might inspire you to book your next adventure to Rome or someplace else you’ve always wanted to go 🙂 …watch my latest video here to hear some tips to help you save up for trips like this.

Check out more photos on my InstagramCiao.

Hampton Court Palace

 

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I’ve always wanted to visit Hampton Court Palace. It was the home of Henry VIII and his six wives – surely one of the most interesting times in British royal history. I’ve read a lot about the Tudors so I was keen to go and walk through the rooms that they’d lived in. And, of course, the many other Kings and Queen’s since then… and I was not disappointed…

We arrived at about 9am – the palace opens at 10, but the gardens are open early. It was a cool but sunny February day and the daffodils, snowdrops and other flowering bulbs were starting to break through making for a pretty walk through the grounds.

IMG_6038Once the palace opened, we began our visit… The architecture is simply stunning, with lots to admire including several archways, stain glass windows, beautiful ceilings and impressive staircases. There are three courtyards; all magnificent… and several exhibition rooms including one about the young Henry VIII, Henry VIII’s apartments, kitchen, and his wine cellar. There are also Georgian apartments to wander through and the Royal Chapel. All are spectacular with fascinating history to read about, plus impressive art and other artefacts to look at, and so on.

The gardens are some of the best I’ve seen; beautiful even in Winter (we will have to return in Spring/Summer to see the flowers).

IMG_6015We had lunch in the Privy Kitchen (Queen Elizabeth I’s private kitchen) – of vegetarian tudor pies. Very yummy indeed (note: there’s not a huge choice of food here, I would go to the Tilyard Cafe if you’re a fussy eater – we had tea and cake there before heading home, also very nice).

Got kids? Plenty for them to do and see, too including a Magic Garden which looked fun from the outside. All in all, a beautiful and very interesting day out.

Time spent: 4 hours (including a break for lunch)
Money spent: We had a gift voucher, but adult entry fee is £15.90 (Feb 2018)
Visit Hampton Court Palace’s website >

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More fun and adventure

People say to me all the time that I am lucky.

This is because I do all sorts of fun things* and then I post photos and write about it on my social media. But I am not lucky. I don’t even really believe in luck.

Fun & adventure isn't for the 'lucky'. It's for those who seek it, and take action.I do believe in taking 100% responsibility for my life. I believe in taking action today, to create a better future for myself tomorrow. I believe in having the most fun, adventurous life I can, while I can.

So, what about you? What places have you always wanted to visit? What days out would you enjoy? Who would you like to spend more time with? What hobbies do you love, but don’t make time for?

If you had only a month to live, what would you spend that month doing? Sitting around, watching TV, complaining? Or would you go out and have as much fun and adventure as possible?

Stop being lazy. Stop saying ‘someday’. Make plans. Take action. Have an extraordinary life. And you can be “lucky” too.

No money? There’s soooo much fun, free stuff you can do. Also: spend money on experiences, instead of things. Downgrade your shampoo brand. Order less take-aways. Get your hair cut less often. It’s worth it, trust me 😉

*Some of the fun things I’ve done in the past 12 months (if you want some inspiration):

  • SarahLouiseSmithBeen in the audience for a TV show (free tickets!)
  • Travelled to/through 8 different countries: Scotland, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium (and I’m about to go to Rome, Italy)… yes, all in 12 months
  • Visited UK cities: Bath, London and Lincoln for mini-breaks or days out
  • Went to the beach, the zoo, to historical houses, and all sorts of interesting places
  • Seen many comedians live, theatre shows, and concerts
  • Met my favourite band: Take That

Enjoyed this blog? Please like it, and share it to help others. And comment below to tell me what fun things you’re going to get up to this year.

Now, stop reading this and go organise some fun 🙂

Mini break in the Lincolnshire Wolds

Last weekend, my husband took me away for a mini-break in the Lincolnshire Wolds. It’s one of the few places in the UK that we’ve never really visited, yet it’s only two hours away from our home in Milton Keynes + it’s such a lovely place, we will surely go back.

The Wolds don’t have quite the same dramatic landscapes as Cornwall, or the Lake District – but there are plenty of lovely rolling green hills, sandy beaches and quaint little villages to visit. Plus: Lincoln is an interesting historic city, well worth visiting.

IMG_5384One of the beach walks we did was Skegness. For some reason (and I’m sorry, Skegness), I had always imagined it was a bit of a tacky, overly-built-up seaside town – but in fact it was a lovely, wide, long beach with very little right on the shore to spoil it. Dogs are allowed off-lead in the winter months and my two loved running up and down the sand and splashing in the waves (I’m sure the sea must have been freezing!) Great walk, really recommend it.

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The cottage we stayed in was beautiful – thatched roof, wooden beams, modern amenities and really friendly owners who left us a basket of goodies including dog treats. Lots of character and extremely cosy – perfect for a romantic winter get-away. Find it on cottages.com, here > 

IMG_2250IMG_5560Lincoln is a lovely city to visit, with lots of history (including the signing of the Magna Carta). We had a look around the outside of the castle (dogs are not allowed inside so that’s saved for a future visit) which looks very interesting, a wander around the shops and down to the river… but the most impressive thing for me was Lincoln Cathedral. It was started in 1088, and for 238 years it was the tallest building in the world! Couldn’t go inside, but beautiful from the outside.

So: a highly recommended place to go for a long weekend or short holiday – we would very much like to return very soon 🙂

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Big thanks to my husband Nathaniel for organising this for a birthday surprise <3

 

 

 

Also in 2018, I will be visiting Rome, Kefalonia-Greece, York + another mystery location to be determined. Watch this space!

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