Having had some serious travel withdrawals due to not being away since September, I was desperate for a break as soon as our little adventurer arrived. Plus I think it was well deserved after, ya know, pushing a tiny human out!
For our very first trip with our little adventurer we wanted somewhere that wasn’t too far away which was easy to get to, and so Paris seemed like the perfect choice. Despite it being so close to London we hadn’t been in 12 years and it’s somewhere I had been wanting to return to for such a long time. The bonus of taking the Eurostar over flying sealed the deal, so we took the plunge and booked our first trip for when Evie was just 9 weeks old.
So many people had told us this is the easiest time to travel with a baby, when they’re tiny and can’t walk around yet and don’t do much apart from eat and sleep, and they were totally right. But a lot of people had also said that Paris is not a good place to go with a baby and hopefully this post will prove that I don’t agree with these people at all! Paris is a great idea with a baby!
If you read my previous post on 5 reasons to love fabulous Las Vegas you can probably tell just how much I loved the city. There is so much to keep anyone entertained and I don’t just mean whiling away the hours gambling. We did spend a bit of time in the casinos where I will admit that I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Playing a game of Snap is about as far as my card skills go! After a while of watching others in a state of utter confusion, Mr Ayla eventually taught me how to play Blackjack and I actually found myself having some fun! I was very happy with my $5 winnings thank you very much.
But I was surprised at how much there is to do in Las Vegas for the non-gamblers who, like me, want to spend more time seeing the city rather than being stuck inside a bright, smoky casino with no idea what time of day or night it is, and these were the things that made me and the city such fabulous but unexpected friends.
Although our American trip was almost a year ago now, we had such a brilliant time that I still have so much to write about even so long after. I still haven’t written about all the amazing sights on our road trip through the Big Sur, I’ve not told you about everything there is to see in Vegas even if you don’t like gambling, and I’ve still not shared the details of our funky campervan adventures, so I thought it was about time the blog got back onto the USA.
One of my favourite parts of the adventure was our road trip along the stunning Big Sur coastline so I thought I’d start off by sharing one of the best places to stay along this part of the Pacific Coast Highway.
We had spent the previous night in Carmel-by-the-Sea, one of the prettiest little towns in California. There is so much to see and do through the Big Sur, from national parks and magical waterfalls to famous bridges and sandy beaches, plus more viewpoints along the coastline than I can mention in one blog post, each with a more gorgeous view than the last. We knew it was going to be a long day and wanted to take it slow so we would have time to fit everything in, so we decided to spend the next night in Cambria, a little beachfront town at the southern end of the Big Sur. The Blue Dolphin Inn was right on the seafront broadwalk, just steps away from the sand of Moonstone Beach, and I loved the idea of going to sleep and waking up to the sound of the waves.
By my standards, 2016 was not a busy year of travel. Mr Ayla would say differently because his travel expectations are not quite as high as mine but when we only visit four different countries in one year, well, that’s just a little bit too quiet for my liking. (I know I may sound completely greedy and unappreciative here but when your passion is travel, there is never enough of it that you can fit into one lifetime let alone one year!)
That’s not saying that I would change 2016 for anything though. Falling pregnant in June may have scuppered some of the travel plans we had for the last six months of the year but I wouldn’t change anything about it for all the travel in the world and we still had some amazing adventures.
One of the stops both Mr Ayla and I were looking forward to most on our American adventure was camping in one of the United States’ most incredible national parks. Yosemite is a four hour drive from San Francisco so, once Mr Ayla had got the hang of a slightly bigger drive than he was used to, we headed out of the city in our absolutely awesome campervan courtesy of Escape Campervans.
After driving along the windy tree filled roads, we arrived late at night and made our way to the Upper Pines Campground, right in the heart of Yosemite Valley, where we would be setting up our camper for the next couple of nights. It was pretty difficult but equally fun to set up the bed in the dark, find the bear locker to store our food in (no bears would be getting to my leftover cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory!), and find the toilets, all the while trying to be quiet so as not to wake the other campers nearby.
If you know me at all you will know that all-inclusive package holidays just aren’t my thing. While the idea of my pasty skin turning a lovely summery bronze is very much welcome, the thought of lying still on a beach for days, eating the same repetitive buffet food all week and not seeing more than the walls of the resort for the entire trip, makes me shudder.
But when Mr Ayla pretty much begged me for a relaxing summer holiday this year without all the constant sightseeing, the tiresome walking for hours and the endless research and explorations, I kind of felt like I should indulge him for a change. Trust me when I say this doesn’t happen often.
Of course I still put in hours of research – because I’m not just going to go to any old place – and despite my initial horror at a break that involved nothing more than slapping on some sun cream every day, I eventually came across the Sensimar Marmaris Imperial Hotel. This picture perfect hillside resort along the Turkish coast jumped straight out at me as somewhere that looked like it would suit us both. There were sun beds galore and food and drink on tap for the Mr, while still looking beautifully traditional for me with the most beautiful views (obviously I have to consider my Instagram pics when I book any trip) and a nearby town for exploring for when my feet got fidgety as they no doubt would.
Airport parking is never something that is high on my radar when booking a trip. I’m much more interested in researching our new destination, scoping out sights off the beaten track and the best viewpoints in the city, or finding a cosy airport hotel to stay in before an early morning flight. So usually we simply opt for one of the cheaper parking options. Yes, the car parks always seem to be down the most difficult to find country lanes and there is the annoyance of a 15/20 minute bus ride to the airport, but I would rather save that extra bit of money for eating as much of the local food as I can once we’ve left London (and our car) behind.
But on our recent trip to Turkey, we tried out the meet and greet service at Gatwick airport courtesy of Purple Parking and I think it may have just swayed me into paying that little bit extra in the future.
There was no bickering as we tried to figure out where the car park was, no checking the car in, no waiting around for the next shuttle bus and no extra journey to the airport. We simply drove straight to the drop off point right outside Gatwick’s south terminal and, with a quick phone call to Purple Parking to let them know we were there, a few minutes later a friendly chauffeur came to meet us, checked our details and then whisked our car away.
I was left thinking that surely there was something else we needed to do. But nope – it really was as easy as that and we wandered the few steps into the airport without any stress or worry and, least of all, not a single bit of rushing about.
After a sunny and relaxing break in Turkey, returning to the airport would have been nice and easy if it hadn’t been for someone (not mentioning any names – but it wasn’t me) leaving our tablet in security on the way out. This meant that when we arrived back at Gatwick airport just after midnight, we had the hassle of changing terminals and making our way to lost property (and paying a ridiculous £20 lost property admin fee in the process).
With a quick phone call, Purple Parking were extremely helpful in meeting us with the car at whichever terminal was easiest for us and, just a few minutes later, we could see the Purple Parking chauffeur in his snazzy purple jacket along with our car already sitting and waiting for us as soon as we stepped out of the airport doors.
At this time of the morning when I had to be up for work in six hours, we were so grateful that there was no waiting around for a shuttle bus and hauling our bags about, no bus ride full of crying children and tired adults, and no having to wait in line to collect the keys to our car. This was by far the easiest and most convenient airport parking we have ever had and, as the Purple Parking representative handed our keys over to us, it couldn’t have been any more welcome.
Have you tried a handy meet and greet airport parking? Let me know what you thought in the comments below or at:
Big thanks to Purple Parking for taking care of our car while we were off relaxing on holiday!
Need an airport hotel? Take a look at my favourites at Gatwick airport:
Less than two hours away from London, Copenhagen is a city that I had never really considered visiting before. But on one of my general browsing sessions on Skyscanner (don’t lie, I know you do it too), I found some ridiculously cheap return flights over our anniversary weekend so it only made sense to book them up right?
At this point I hadn’t quite taken into consideration that the flights would be the only remotely inexpensive thing about this trip. Clearly I didn’t have my traveller head fixed on properly as I failed to realise that Denmark is in fact one of the most expensive countries in the world. But, as it was only a short break, we decided to say to hell with the cost and just enjoyed ourselves discovering this new destination (although I can’t say that our bank account enjoyed itself quite so much though!).
Let me start off by saying that I may consider myself a feminist but, when it comes to all things sporty, I shamefully fit right into the typical girl stereotype. Sports and me just do not go. Give me a Zumba class or a nightclub dance floor and I can dance away for hours but anything else and I am a complete lost cause. I duck in horror when a football comes my way; I embarrassingly swing a golf club several times before actually managing to hit the ball; and I haven’t been on a bike in so long that I would need stabilisers.
So when we arrived at Blazing Saddles’ offices in San Francisco all ready for a bike ride around the city, I was fully prepared to be a little rusty. I didn’t think I’d be quite so bad that I would cycle just a few feet before crashing into a whole row of stationary bikes and almost toppling off into an embarrassing heap on the floor. But yes, this really happened, and this was just on the practice run before we’d even left the warehouse! Two minutes in and I was already wondering (as I’m sure Mr Ayla was too) what on earth I had gotten myself into. They say you never forget how to ride a bike…not true. I totally forgot.