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!

Read more travel blogs here >

Happy New Year! + Mini-break in Bath

Hello, lovely readers!

I hope you’re having a splendid day, and 2018 is going well for you so far. Have you thought about what you’d like to achieve this year?

IMG_3811Me, I want to read more and travel more and exercise more – the usual. Most of all, I want to write more. As well as my usual yearly chick-lit novel, I’d like to write a Christmassy story, a short story + use this blog a lot more so watch this space!

I hope your Christmas was lovely. Mine was busy but good.

Between Christmas and New Year, my hubby and I went to Bath for a mini-break and I wanted to (a) share a little about it with you because it was WONDERFUL and (b) recommend it as a place to visit, if you’ve never been.

Two days in Bath, UK

We chose Bath, simply because we love it. We’ve been there a bunch of times and it’s one of my favourite UK cities. There’s tonnes of history (literally over 2000 years of it at the Roman Baths), plus it has a connection to Jane Austen (whom I adore) – two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are partly set in Bath AND she lived there herself for a number of years. The Jane Austen centre on Gay Street is well worth a visit, if you’re a fan.

I think the thing I like best about Bath, is that if you took away the cars and replaced with them with horses and carriages, it’d be as if nothing had changed in 200 years. The buildings – in a golden stone – are some of the best architecture I’ve had the pleasure to gaze up at.

If you’ve never been, I recommend you stroll through the Royal Crescent, and then onto the Circus… then through Milsom Street and to the shopping area for a browse… then to the Abbey… and then walk along the river. Just lovely.

As well as walking around gazing at the buildings, there’s plenty to do – like visiting the Roman Baths (so interesting), the Assembly Rooms, the spa, theatre, and more.IMG_5166

My absolute favourite thing in Bath is The Pump Room – again, you’ll have heard of this if you’re an Austen fan. It’s a large beautiful room, with a high ceiling and huge windows, providing lots of light. Live classical music adds to a great atmosphere. The service is wonderful. The food is outstanding.

This time, we went for traditional British afternoon tea (and they did some great vegetarian substitutions for us). I’ve had a lot of afternoon tea’s … this was the best.

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Hotel-wise, we stayed at The Bath House – a great B&B with a four poster-bed, huge bath, great service and breakfast served in our room. Highly recommend it – and just a short walk from all the places listed above.

So, there you go – my write up of my Bath mini-break. If you’re looking for a few days away in the UK, it’s a must.

 

Wishing you a fabulous 2018 – let’s make it awesome!

10 Ways to look after your happiness

So today is World Mental Health Day. And I’ve been toying around with the idea of writing a blog like this for a while, and today seems a great time to do so.

Truth bomb: I went through a phase where I wished I was dead. I was suffering from depression and anxiety, and I didn’t want to be here anymore. However, I am confident that I’ll never get that low ever again. Here are some of the things I did, and still do, to conquer those feelings and keep happy.

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  1. Have fun and be productive. I know this sounds obvious… the thing is, when you’re depressed, you don’t feel like doing anything, and it’s a vicious circle. I did CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) – this was completely life-changing and taught me that I must balance the levels of pleasure and achievement in my life, to get a good balance and feel good.
  2. Control your thoughts. It took me years of practise and I still don’t always do this, but you can decide whether you think positively or negatively. You can see things as good or bad. You can be annoyed or grateful, with every single thought. My cat died recently and I keep focusing on the good: I had her for 13 wonderful years. I’m so glad we found her. I’m so glad I gave her a good life…
  3. gratefulBe grateful. Every single day (yes, every day!) I write down a page in my journal of things I’m grateful for. If you struggle to think of anything good that happened recently, be thankful for food, water, air, shelter, friends… the more you do this, the more you realise how fortunate you are.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Spend that energy making your life as wonderful as possible.
  5. Realise that you are not a victim. Whatever it is that you think is bad in your life, you are not the only person to experience it. Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.
  6. Meditation… which doesn’t mean ‘switching off’ your thinking (I know a lot of people think this and therefore deem it impossible). Try some guided meditations on YouTube. It’s a wonderful way to find some peace and reflection.
  7. happySoak up inspirational stuff. I’ve read books, blogs, articles, attended courses – there’s so much resource out there to help you on your happiness journey. I recommend following Tony Robbins on social media, and checking out The Art of Happiness by HH Dalai Lama, and Happiness by Matthieu Ricard.
  8. Remember you are in control. Hate your job? Change it! Wish you could travel more? Find a way! Overweight? Eat less, exercise more! Arguing with your partner? Find a way to love again, or get out!
  9. Read/watch some stuff about the law of attraction: it’s life changing (I recommend The Secret on YouTube, but skip the first 2 minutes – this stuff works, I promise you).
  10. Think about where you want to be in life. In 5/10/15 years – where do you want to be living? Who with? What job will you have? What’s your lifestyle like? What’s your health like? Set goals. Visualise it every day and start taking inspired actions to get you to that point.

chessI realise life isn’t as simple as this all sounds, but you have the ability to create an extraordinary life!

Being happy is a skill you have to learn, harness and put effort into:

Much like your physical health, good mental health takes work…

If you’d like any more information on the things I’ve mentioned, a simple google search will provide a wealth of info – but feel free to contact me too.

Have a happy, wonderful, fulfilling life!