Going away with a baby was always going to be more stressful and manic than when it was just the two of us and even though we’d already taken Evie to Paris when she was just nine weeks old, our trip to Mallorca would be her first flight, her first beach holiday and her first taste of the summer sun.
I’m not usually much of a worrier but it can be a bit daunting when you have to remember to pack different factor sun creams for all three of you, swimwear for every occasion (one to keep baby warm, another to keep baby protected from the sun and one to keep any leaks out), plus a pram, travel cot, car seat and the kitchen sink.
Enter Tots to Travel who seriously made our trip so much smoother and stress free, not only by sending us to a brilliant baby friendly destination (although it was still hard to pick where because they have so many dreamy ones to choose from) but also by providing anything we could possibly have needed when going away with a little one.
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.
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.
A breezy one hour flight and we were in Amsterdam, somewhere that had seemed to evade our travel radar so far. With such cheap and easy flights from the UK, it was the perfect destination for a short weekend break over the May bank holiday and I always welcome the chance for us to explore a new part of Europe.
There isn’t actually a huge amount of sightseeing to do in Amsterdam which made for a wonderfully chilled weekend break. We spent most of it simply wandering around, taking in the enchanting canals bursting with colourful flowers, and satisfying our bellies with as much food as possible. We decided to stay on our feet to explore rather than hop on a bike as the city is so full of cyclists – there are more bikes than there are people in Amsterdam (true story) – and the speed they flew past over the narrow cobblestone roads had me fearing for my life when I was on the pavement let alone actually being on one of the bikes myself! Instead, we picked up our I amsterdam card which includes tram, bus and metro rides, as well as a host of free and discounted sights and tours, and worked our way around the city with a combination of public transport and the simple wearing out of our feet.
If you’re planning a weekend in Amsterdam and want to know exactly what you should see and do then look no further as I’ve highlighted all the best bits here including the tastiest foods and the quirkiest activities!
Los Angeles was the last stop on our American adventure and I couldn’t think of a better way to finish our trip in style than with a stay at the luxuriously glamorous Shore Hotel in Santa Monica. Although this part of town is a fair bit pricier than central LA and Hollywood, Santa Monica is a whole lot classier and prettier, with a chilled out beach vibe, miles of sandy beaches, the bright blue sea, and a host of sophisticated restaurants and bars.
We had driven from the sunny blue skies of the Big Sur coast but almost as soon as we made it to Los Angeles, in typical fashion, it started to rain. Isn’t LA supposed to have year round sunshine?! Apparently not for us. It seemed that we weren’t going to get our chance to frolic on the miles of gorgeous sandy beaches. No watching surfers catching some waves or seeing the pumped up bodies working out at Muscle Beach. But it was still a beautiful part of California and a little bit of rain has never stopped us from doing anything!
Having lived in London my whole life I’ve always been a city girl, craving the flurry of people and the buzz of city life. Never have I imagined myself living anywhere quiet or calm, away from the tall skyscrapers, the hum of traffic and the fast-paced way of life. Not until I visited Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Surrounded by the seaside town of Monterey Bay, the mountainous wineries and one of the most beautiful coastlines I’ve ever seen, this picturesque village on the coast of California is charm personified. The pretty streets, quaint cottages and ocean views made me feel as if we’d driven straight into the pages of a story book and its quirky laws and restrictions – such as no postal addresses, high heels or fast food restaurants – just make this town even more quirky and endearing.
Being such a pretty town it was only right that we also stay in the prettiest of accommodations and the Colonial Terrace was just that. As soon as we arrived, the first thing I noticed was the glittering blue sea just a 2 minute walk from the doorstep. A difficult feature not to notice when the waves and white sand are calling you towards them, but first we went to check in and unwind in the comfort of our room.
As we pulled into the drive of our home for the night in the New Forest, we knew within seconds that we were going to love this place. Set in the little village of Brockenhurst, surrounded by woodland and wildlife all around, the white building of Cottage Lodge with its bright yellow door looked adorably cute.
We even had our own reserved parking sign that had me feeling like Beyonce. (Okay, so I wasn’t the only guest with my own little sign but it still made me feel pretty special anyway.)
We’ve stayed in a huge variety of accommodation during our travels around the world, from budget backpacker dorms in Australia to villas with our own private pool in Kerala, glamping while on safari in Zambia to cabins in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, but there are only a select few places that I have found truly stunning and that I would go back to again and again.
Our stay at Riad Assakina in Marrakech definitely comes under this category and I’m already longing to go back even though we’ve only been home a few days.
The riad is in the perfect location in the Medina, just around the corner from the Bahia Palace and only a short walk to the souks and most of the city’s other sights. No matter how noisy and chaotic I had been told Marrakech’s Medina was, this is where we wanted to stay. It’s the heart and soul of the city and we always prefer to experience something traditional and atmospheric over something standard and modern.
Our recent flight to Marrakech was at the hideously early time of 5.45am and when you have to take into account driving to the airport, checking in and going through security, let alone the fact that I’m a totally bad traveller and leave packing till the very last minute, there would have been no point in even going to bed the night before.
So we decided to stay at Yotel, a traveller friendly hotel right in Gatwick airport’s south terminal. You cannot get any closer to check in, being literally 20 seconds from the check in desk and airport security, meaning we could get much more sleep and not start our trip all bleary-eyed and tired.