Tag Archives: weekend away

Travel | Top tips for being a happy camper

img_2335I’ve always very firmly believed that fresh air, a good dose of nature and time spent by the ocean can cure just about anything. It doesn’t matter how stressed I’ve been over the years, or how frustrated, I’ve always found solace in spending a few days away from everything, getting back to basics and enjoying life in it’s purest form. Over the years I’ve spent weekends camping in the Lake District, Peak District, in the shadow of Mount Snowdon in Wales, and around my home in Norfolk. I’ve stayed in campsites ranging from a full-on Glamping experience complete with champagne and pink wellies, to the most basic, wild campsites you can find, and I’ve done it in all weathers. Later on, as I discovered my love of festivals, I quickly realised that I was a much bigger fan of the four-day weekend camping events that allowed you to truly lose yourself in the music. I teamed up with Yelloh! Village, who offer the world’s finest open-air hotels and camping rentals, to write about what makes the perfect camping experience.imageThere’s something about getting back to basics with a group of your closest friends that just spells out a lot of fun. Whether you’re heading off to explore an untouched wilderness and can’t wait to get away, or you simply fancy going a bit wild in the woods, it’s a perfect way to actually spend time together with no distractions. It’s easy to forget that every second we spend with friends these days is dictated by the myriad of text messages, Snapchats, Facebook updates and Tweets that dominate our existence these days. Once all of those are done, often your time together is up and all you have to remember it is what is documented online. I was out with friends the other night and even dancing in a bar, every second of our moves was being photographed and snap-chatted by the pair for social media. It’s funny and it’s become an inherent part of our lives now but sometimes it is nice to just switch everything off and talk surrounded by nothing but nature. I guess I’m a country girl at heart, but I just find it so soothing to be away from the stresses of everyday life and there’s something about open space that just heals me.img_2333Some of my best camping memories are of the Glamping weekend I spent with my two best friends, the time spent camping in national parks in the Tasmanian wilderness as part of an epic 10-day roadtrip, and the hilarious times we’ve had setting up our tents and lounging round the campsite at festivals. Everyone was just present, laughing at each others’ jokes and experiencing every second together rather than thinking about how they would record it for social media. Every camping experience I’ve had boils down to the same factors whether we’re raving at a festival, getting lost in the woods or out on the moors – it’s the same few things that really make a camping trip a success, and a hell of a lot of fun. If you’re sat reading this thinking camping is so not for you, then think again – I never used to think I would enjoy it but it’s now become one of my favourite travel experiences. Plus it’s a great way to explore the world around you when you’re travelling on a budget, whether locally or on the other side of the world, the basic components of camping remain the same, it’s just the weather that gets better!image

What makes the perfect camping experience?

Tent

This is definitely something you want to invest in – buying a £5 tent from the supermarket and expecting it to withstand all weathers is just stupid. Even if you’re going to a festival – if it rains and becomes windy, your tent is going to flood and collapse and you won’t be able to get dry and warm. A camping trip can quickly become miserable if you have no way of getting dry. Look for great deals in the sales – I picked up my beauty of a tent in the Halfords sale a few years ago and it has seen me through countless amazing festivals and trips – it’s huge and easy to put up, and it  was reduced to less than half price when I got it.

Camping spot

Choose your pitch wisely – there’s nothing worse than putting your tent up in a rush and finding out later when you’re trying to sleep that you’ve camped on a 45 degree slope or there’s a massive rock right where you’re laying. Trust me, as someone who did a four day camping festival sleeping at a 45 degree angle because we arrived too late and couldn’t find a better spot – it’s absolutely bloody awful. Don’t do it. Always feel for rocks and lay down inside before you peg it to the ground.

Food

Plan the food you take well and it can change your whole experience, forget instant noodles and soup, its easy to cook up a good and healthy meal on a little gas stove. On my 10-day road trip around Tasmania we planned heavy meals of chilli and rice, and pasta to refuel after days of climbing mountains. It was quick and easy to prepare for four people so don’t be put off by the thought of it. There’s nothing better than a good, filling, hot meal at the end of a day camping.image

Location

There are some incredible places to camp in the world – under the stars in central Australia, on the beaches in Tasmania, and in the shadow of mountains all over the world are just some of my favourites. Choosing your location well can take a regular camping trip to the next level. Yelloh! Village has some amazing locations scattered across France which give you the opportunity to explore the landscape, towns and villages. Choosing a campsite where you can have a campfire also makes all the difference.

Price

Camping is a great way to travel if you’re on a budget. Especially for groups or families where accommodation could be expensive – there are so many free and cheap options available for campsites, and if you’re planning on repeating the experience your camping equipment is an investment rather than an expense.

Timing

Always look out for the skies above you – I’ve been lucky enough to camp in some amazing places with incredible views of the super moons, specific constellations, shooting stars. Sometimes the most beautiful sights are the ones that are totally free. There’s nothing better than a spectacular sunset, or making it up for sunrise.image

Company

The one thing that really makes the experience complete has to be the people you share it with. I say it all the time but it never becomes any less true, even in the most dire situations and the worst accommodations, the people are what shine through your memories long after the trip has finished. Taking your best friends who will make you laugh until you cry is the best way to approach a trip – no matter what goes wrong you’ll still make it an experience to remember.

Happy camping!

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London | A RustiKo Italian feast in Soho

imageGoing out for dinner has always been one of my favourite things to do. It doesn’t matter whether it’s street food in Bangkok, a luxury three-course meal in a fine-dining restaurant or a stuff-yourself-silly night at the local steakhouse. I’m always open to trying new foodie experiences and I’d always much rather that than a night of partying, money much better spent if you ask me! Especially when it comes to supporting independent and local businesses, I’m not really one for chain restaurants and would always much rather eat at restaurant that isn’t mass-producing its food. Give me fresh, local produce and a creative means of cooking any day. It’s not just the food – although that is a huge part of why I love it – it’s also the social experience of trying new foods with friends or loved ones, of sitting around a table and eating together. I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to meals, growing up it was always the one time of day my family all sat down together with no TV or other distractions to eat and catch up on what we had all been up to. When you’re living such busy and different lives, I think it’s important to really take this time together. As a backpacker, getting to know people always seems to be done over dinner and a few beers, eating together is once again the thing that brings us all together of an evening.imageLondon is a city full of chain restaurants and well known brands, but for me, this just doesn’t do it when I have a weekend away. I’d much rather peruse the food markets and explore quirky little restaurants with a lot more personality for a bit of a unique experience. I was invited along to review RustiKo Soho, a new independent Italian restaurant in the heart of Old Compton Street, just a stone’s throw from some of the best theatres in London. As we walked up to the restaurant, we were excited by the cosy look of the place, the quirky, candle-lit interior, and a funky blues playlist we could hear muffled behind the windows. I was promised “the vintage Soho experience” from an evening there and I can’t say I was disappointed, we were made to feel so welcome from the second we stepped in the door. The size and the decor gave it such a friendly vibe, more like you had hired out the whole venue for your friends than the formality of a restaurant. Every bar stool was already taken by those enjoying the fantastic range of prosecco, classic and twisted cocktails, as we were escorted to our table. I loved the rustic vibes of the restaurant, it was just my kind of place and I could only imagine the other levels would deliver more of the same.imageOne glance at the menu showed me we were in for a treat as we struggled to choose our favourite dishes, there was so much choice and so many of my favourite dishes. Despite having limited numbers of dishes on the menus, every single dish on there sounded fabulous and there was definitely something for everyone. The waiters were incredibly helpful with suggesting wines to go with the dishes and offering recommendations for combinations of dishes. In the end, we started with the garlic chilli shrimp and polenta chips to start, with some garlic pizza bread. It was the first time I had tried polenta chips but they were delicious, and the garlic pizza bread was a huge hit with that super melty, delicious cheese. My favourite had to be the delicious garlic chilli shrimp – one of my favourite dishes to have as a starter – I was so impressed by the flavours and spice, it was perfect and I’ll definitely be ordering that again.imageFor our second course, we spent ages choosing our dishes, but in the end we couldn’t resist the lobster linguine and the gnocchi. Now gnocchi is a dish that I’ve had a lot of disappointment over in the past, I’ve had the sad looking potatoey lumps slapped on a plate several times and decided it wasn’t for me. But finally, we tried a gnocchi that was tasty and had the perfect texture, the dumplings were cooked in a tasty mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and basil sauce that was perfect for my vegetarian sister. The absolute highlight was my lobster linguine, a dish that I have loved for many years, I couldn’t resist seeing the chef’s take on it. This time it was half a lobster cooked with cherry tomatoes, spring onions and a brandy sauce, even now as I write this my mouth is watering at the memory. It was a deliciously rich dish full of flavours, but the chef had combined them so perfectly that they didn’t overtake the delicate taste of the lobster. It’s a fine balance and there’s nothing worse than a seafood dish that overpowers seafood with strong flavours, the brandy was a perfect accompaniment. I was so impressed with the quality of the food, and the portion size, we were left stuffed and couldn’t even manage dessert!imageWatching the other patrons, I couldn’t resist peeking at their food and was excited at the sight of the juicy steaks, the light pasta dishes and the small plates (piattini) that were perfect for sharing. The couple next to us were loving their meal and really recommended the dishes, particularly the rib-eye. Showing the diversity of Soho, the restaurant was filled with a real range of people, it really showed how it was perfect for all occasions whether it was a family meal, a romantic dinner for two, or cocktails with the girls. Even better, after dinner, we were taken downstairs to explore the newest addition to the restaurant, the newly-opened basement bar, The Shed. With a real vintage Soho feel, the bar is a perfect place to relax with a drink after dinner, or to spend an evening with good friends. Just a small bar, it has a really exclusive feel as you walk down the spiral staircase to see cute wooden seating, bookshelves and quirky little decorations. I loved the swing music soundtrack and it went perfectly with the amazing look of the bar. There were already a couple of groups down there enjoying a few drinks and I noticed, that although the place felt busy and bustling, it was never so loud that we struggled to hear each other. RustiKo had managed to find a perfect balance between atmosphere and the foodie experience, and the result was just lovely. It really was the rustic Italian experience nestled in the streets of Soho, and I can’t recommend this hidden gem enough. Book your table now.image

Have you been to RustiKo – how was your experience? Can you recommend any other independent restaurants? What’s your favourite Italian dish?

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland & a Martian Invasion

FullSizeRenderWith my last few days at work well under-way (I literally have just four days left now!!) I still had some holiday to take from work, and I figured how better to spend it than with a trip to visit my sister in London? It coincided perfectly with a weekend trip I had already planned with my boyfriend and his family for a show, and meant I would get a few extra days away and a chance to visit the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, and to head to the Southbank for the Christmas Market. Obviously in true blogging fashion, I snapped as many moments from the weekend as I could in order to share them with you guys. I know that lots of you have been visiting both of these festive delights, and I wanted to share my favourite parts with you – to help share a bit of Christmas spirit.FullSizeRender (3)

FullSizeRender (2)My weekend kicked off with an early start and a train ride sound-tracked by the rather delicious Paolo Nutini and the soulful tunes of George Ezra – both albums I am listening to on repeat at the moment. When I arrived in London, me and my sister headed straight out for brunch at The Breakfast Club, a restaurant I have been dying to try after spotting a few pics of the amazing food on Instagram. I wasn’t disappointed – it was absolutely delicious and just what we needed as we were both ravenous by the time we ate. I had the rather tasty Huevos Al Benny (poached eggs, chorizo, roast peppers, avocado and fresh chillies on toasted English Muffins, with home-style fried potatoes – it was just perfect. Laura went for a veggie sausage sandwich and we also shared a portion of mac & cheese. To drink, I couldn’t resist going for a Green Is Good smoothie (spinach, mango, apple and mint) which just so happened to match Laura’s jumper in colour!FullSizeRender (1)

After our delicious meal, we went over to Southbank to take a walk along the Thames, see all the beautiful sparkling lights and to check out the Christmas market as the sun set. I really love this part of London, it really is beautiful at any time of year and I was there just a few months ago in blazing sunshine – equally perfect. In the middle of the market, we stumbled across the cutest Christmas tree maze and an adorable Rekorderlig shack where they were selling all the brand’s beverages including some rather delicious hot mulled cider which went down a treat. As it started to get dark, we started making our way to Hyde Park, finding that thankfully as it was still early it wasn’t too busy. We managed to avoid the queues and head straight in to mosey our way round the stalls selling pretty marzipan cubes, fake snow and great big greasy sausages. Unfortunately as we were there a bit early, we didn’t get to see any of the bands playing, which was a shame as I find the atmosphere is much better when they have live music. I didn’t think it was quite as well laid out this year, but I’m not sure if that was perhaps just because I have been a few years in a row now and it is becoming very over-commercialised. I would have liked, if I had time, to check out Winterville which is over at Victoria Park. The rest of the evening was spent at a pub in Shoreditch before we made our way to a food market to pick up some dinner – I had a delicious Patty & Bun Jose Jose burger and it was that good it’s actually making my mouth water now to think of it.FullSizeRender (6) FullSizeRender (7)

FullSizeRender (5)The next morning, I met the boyfriend for  a wander round London and a catch-up in a lovely Camden pub, before we headed to a fabulous Indian restaurant to review the food. (Review will be posted on Friday) After a lovely afternoon there, we went to meet his family at Marble Arch, where they had booked us rooms at Victory Services Club, which was really nice. This place had the comfiest beds and, even better complete silence when you closed the door which gave a perfect night’s sleep and was much needed after a busy few days. The staff were so friendly and helpful, we had a great breakfast and the bar was nice and cosy with a roaring fire. Why were we staying there? Well it was a rather lovely Christmas present from boyfriend’s dad and step-mum, who bought the whole family tickets to go and see The War of the Worlds at the O2 Arena on Saturday night. It has officially been almost a whole year since I last saw a show in London, and as a big musicals lover, that was seriously starting to make me twitch. So I was more than excited to be heading there, particularly as this was such a huge show and yet I knew very little about it.

IMG_0264As a literature student, I had read HG Wells’ The Time Machine, but had never read The War of the Worlds, so I had an idea of the type of writing that inspired the performance but that was about it. A friend at work had lent me the programme from when he went to see the show, which I flicked through and it certainly helped fill in a few blanks. He also lent me the CD of the soundtrack, which I listened too very briefly on my 10-minute drive to work – but anyone who knows the music and the show will know that is not enough to really get a feel for it. So I was blown away when I finally saw the full performance live on stage at the O2 – the combination of live actors, a full orchestra, a film and a giant mechanical martian spewing fire and lasers across the audience was more than I ever could have believed. It sounds crazy, but it really worked and crazy is good in a story about invading martians! I won’t give away the storyline, but the music really stole the show, Jeff Wayne has really captured the drama, the emotion and the suspense in every single note. This combined with the special effects, and you have a spectacular show on your hands. It certainly is not a show I would have thought of going to see, but I’m so glad I have seen it now so that I understand what all the hype is about. And I’m also very glad that I have short legs and didn’t have to suffer like the guy sitting behind me with his knees up to his chin.


 All in all, it was a pretty good weekend full of Christmas cheer, sparkling lights and plenty of good food – some of my favourite things. I love getting to spend a long weekend in London every now and again – it really gives you much more time to do stuff at a leisurely pace. I can’t stand when you have to rush everywhere and end up missing things. It definitely makes me realise that I could really love living in London in the future.

Have any of you guys been to see The War Of The Worlds? Or Have you been to the Winter Wonderland? What did you think of them? Or are you a big brunch fan and love The Breakfast Club?

Ab Lucy sign off