Posted in Holiday Happiness

Day Trip to The Aeolian Islands

A day trip to the Aeolian islands is a great thing to do whilst visiting Italy. These are several islands of Volcanic origin are located off the northern coast of Sicily. Easily accessible from Sicily the islands can also be reached from the town of Tropea, south Italy. Several companies offer the trip within the town departing from the local harbour. If my memory serves me right we paid around €40 (slightly less for a child) for our day trip to three of the islands.

Boat in Tropea harbour
The boat in Tropea harbour

Departing early morning from the harbour in Tropea, the sun was glistening on the water whilst we excitedly boarded our boat for the day. There were several boats leaving from here but finding the tour we booked was easy as there were plenty of people around to guide you.

We were embarking on a 12 hour round trip to see three of the islands in total – Volcano, Lipari and Stromboli. I have to confess here that my memory is pretty sketchy with timings of this trip, as in can’t really remember how long we spent sailing to each place and how long we were there (this is why I’ve just bought a travel journal for future trips). I know we were quite a while reaching the Aeolian islands, well over an hour.

Leaving Tropea port
Tropea harbour as we left

As we left the port we were soon treated to a view of Tropea town. I wished at this Point I had taken my DSLR for some better shots. But I still managed to get a photo that captured just how magnificent it looks perched on the rocks of the Calabria coastline.

Tropea town from the water
View of Tropea from the water

Aeolian islands stop 1 – Volcano

First stop on our day trip to the Aeolian islands was Volcano, an island known for its sulphur and wild panorama. Volcanic activity here has been going on for thousands of years and as we got off the boat you could smell a strange smell of sulphur in the air.

We wandered along past a few little shops and restaurants until we reached the therapeutic mud baths and hot springs the islands famed for. Unfortunately you have to be over 16 I think they said to bathe in them. I have to be honest though I wasn’t really feeling it anyway so the fact my son is only 11 was a bonus. That said they are suppose to have many beneficial healing properties for skin conditions.

Therapeutic mud baths Volcano
People bathing in the mud baths

Aside from climbing the creator and a bit of wandering there wasn’t alot else to do. So we stopped for pizza before boarding the boat to our second destination.

Aeolian islands stop 2 – Lipari

Lipari is the largest and most populated of the Aeolian islands. It makes a great base if you want to visit all the islands in your own time. We arrived in a busy port with a lovely looking pastel seafront.

Arriving in Lipari on our day trip to the Aeolian islands
First glance at Lipari

We meandered up the winding streets admiring local art work displayed in the shops. I am always interested in independent artists when I travel, you can pick up some lovely art pieces to remind you of your trip. I bought a wall hanging made from washed up pottery pieces and driftwood found on the beach.

Local art work in Lipari
I bought the one in the top left corner

We soon stumbled across Lipari Cathedral, Known as Basilica Concattedrale di San Bartholomeo di Lapari in Itallian (a bit of a mouthful!) Located right in the heart of Lipari, the cathedral is the oldest and largest church on the islandIt stands proudly at the top of a large staircase. My son lazily waited mid way up protesting that he could see if very well from where he was ha ha!

Lipari Cathedral
Walking up the steps to Lipari Cathedral

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering some more. Lipari is a pretty town and as we were there the end of May it felt very laidback much like Tropea. I expect in July and August like most places it is much busier. Out of the three Aeolian islands we visited, Lipari was my favourite.

Wandering the streets of Lipari
Wandering in Lipari

Aeolian islands stop 3 – Stromboli

Back on the boat we headed to our third and final Aeolian islands of the day, Stromboli. Stromboli contains one of the three active volcanos in Italy. Most eruptions consisted of small gas explosions creating lava to run down the rim. For this reason night tours are popular in hope of seeing the lava glowing. It is said that Mount Stromboli has been in continuous eruptions for the past 2000 years.

Mount Stromboli from our boat
View of Stromboli from our boat

Stromboli has recently hit the news (a week ago) after it errupted sadly causing a fatality to a hiker. In a guided group it is possible to hike up the volcano. We were only there less than two hours so just had a short look about and some more pizza! (How I didn’t turn into a pizza on this trip I don’t know?!!)

There was just enough time for a few quick photos at the foot of the island before we boarded the boat for the trip back to Tropea. My son picked up a small piece of volcanic rock as a souvenir.

On Stromboli, just before leaving

Would you like to visit the Aeolian islands? We think a day trip was perfect. Have you visited one of the islands I haven’t? I would love to hear.

Next stop on my Italian travels will be Venice…. stay tuned 😉

Rachael 🙂 x

Posted in Holiday Happiness

A Week in Tropea

At the end of May I travelled to Italy for a week in Tropea. Tropea? Where’s that? A common response from many when I shared where I was going. Tropea is located in south Italy within the Calabria region and it was instagram that lead me to this destination. I follow many travel pages and Tropea just looked oh so dreamy but could it be as nice as Positano?

Getting to Tropea

With no flights from Manchester I had to fly from London Stanstead. Tropea can’t be that popular a destination for us Brit’s as there appears to be very few direct flights a week. I took a Ryanair flight to Lamezia Terme, a short bus ride to the station and finally a train to Tropea.

Where we stayed

With Tropea being a town there are very few options of places to stay with pools unless on the outskirts. However is a pool really necessary in a beach town? After initially booking a hotel just outside Tropea I had a last minute change of heart and decided to stay in a boutique hotel centrally located instead. Colomba D’Oro met all our needs, spacious rooms, modern whilst retaining an Itallian charm , a good selection at breakfast and friendly staff.

Instagram perfect?

In a world of editing apps, tweaking and filters would this seemingly picturesque place really live up to my expectations in real life? Well I have to confess that the first few days the weather was less than desirable. But as the grey clouds lifted and the sun shone down if you had dropped me off on Tropea beach and told me I was in the Caribbean I would probably of believed you. Clean golden sand and turquoise waters that needed no filter at all.

Tropea beach
Tropea beach from above

As if that wasn’t enough the backdrop was something else… the stunning majestic houses of Tropea perched right on the cliff edge. I tried to do some research on the buildings but struggled to find much information other than Tropea town dates back to Roman times.

The houses of Tropea
Houses of Tropea

Tropea town sits around 70 meters above sea level meaning you must descend down several steps to enjoy the beach. However before making your way down you are treated to this stunning view of the sanctuary of Santa Maria Dell’lsola. It Sits high upon a large rock outcrop with the Tyrrhenian Sea sparkling in the sunlight behind it. An iconic image for the town of Tropea – it’s picture perfect.

 Santa Maria dell’Isola
Santa Maria Dell’Isola

When to visit

We visited at the end of May which is deemed to be relatively quiet time. Apparently in the months of July and August it is extremely busy mostly with European travellers. The Italians in particular love to holiday here, I mean why would you not if this was on your doorstep?! May is a nice time to visit but you are dicing with the weather slightly. We had about four overcast days.

Wandering…

A week in Tropea was ample to explore this Italian town. We wandered down the cobblestone streets, explored the pretty alleyways and stumbled across little hidden squares. It is everything you would imagine Italy to be.

A week in Tropea wandering
I love to wander…

The buildings had a charming faded feel about them. Traces of the old town remain and we noticed some beautiful old architecture in amongst the new.

Beautiful architecture in Tropea

Watching the world go by

Tropea definitely has a laidback feel, nothing is done in a hurry. My son and I chilled out in restaurants, played card games and chatted without a piece of tech in sight which was a nice change. We noticed lots of elderly men sat around on benches through out the day and I learned they are referred to as ‘Noni’ – grandfathers. They looked like they didn’t have a care in the world – how wonderful.

‘Noni’ watching the world go by
Resting ‘Noni’ in Tropea

Just when we thought Tropea could surprise us no more we would stumble across another part. It might have been a town but venture just to the edge and you were reminded that indeed you were still in Italy with its lush greenery.

Red wine with a view
Cheers to that view!

Eating in Tropea

It seemed every corner we turned there was tables set out encouraging you to stop again for a glass of wine or some yummy Italian food. Eating in Tropea is very reasonable. You could pick up a freshly made pizza for less than ten euros.

Tropea restaurants hidden away
What a charming Italian restaurant

Lots of seafood dishes are on offer and not forgetting what Tropea is know for – it’s sweet red onions. There was no shortage of them to buy around the town.

Red onions of Tropea
Red onions of Tropea

What to do

There is no denying Tropea is not a place with tons to do but that is its charm. It’s a seaside town so if sun, sand, relaxing and dining sounds like a dream to you then pop Tropea on your bucket list. We spent our days mostly doing the above. So what else is there to do?

Well Tropea is on a main railway line so exploring in either direction would be an option. However nowhere in the surrounding area looked quite as charming as Tropea so we stayed put.

Bike riding

Bike riding in Tropea
Bike riding with the port behind

We did hire bikes to go exploring a bit further one day. Firstly we headed for the port but the hill it was at the bottom of made us decide to just stop mid way down as my son was moaning about having to ride back up!

As we rode out I enjoyed the scenery but we never made it as far as another town. I would have kept going but my son was not happy in the heat. That said Italian drivers are a little crazy! We had to be extra careful on the roads. I think in the height of summer this may not be a great idea when it’s busier.

Trips

There were a few trips available out of Tropea. Two of the most popular being a visit to campo vatico and the nearby Aeolian islands. Campo Vatico is essentially a beautiful beach and given we had already spent ample time at the beach we opted for the latter. We visited Stromboli, Lipari and Volcano, but more about this in next weeks blog post.

End of our week in Tropea

As our week in Tropea came to an end I was grateful I was lead to such a stunning destination through Instagram. I felt revived after a week of doing very little, however I was ready to go home. This is a destination perhaps to be enjoyed with your lover not a tween! My son who requires constant entertainment was bored quite often despite my attempts to make it fun. However the quality time did us both good and there is no denying that south Italy is truly beautiful.

Amazing sunsets in Tropea
No caption needed!

Have you visited Tropea or anywhere in the Calabria region? What did you think? If my blog post has inspired you to visit let me know…

Rachael 🙂 x

To book Colomba D’Oro hotel in Tropea

Posted in Personal Development

June Goal Review

I almost forgot to do my June goal review! I’m lay on my sofa feeling pretty exhausted right now. Life has been so busy this blog post is actually a day later than planned. Anyway… Happy July! July already? Yikes!

June goal review

So I decided at the beginning of the year I would check in with my goals every 3 months. I reviewed them last in March, you can check out that post here. So what’s been happening since then? Or not happening!

1. Fun & Adventure

I shared last time that I had booked a sky dive, well I actually did it this month, go me! Of course this was worthy of a blog post of its own so you can find out what I thought and how it went here.

Visit Disneyland Paris was top of this category. We made it there in April and had a fantastic time as always. I also had visit Paris down but sadly we were there when Notre Dame burnt down and that was one of our main reasons for visiting the city. I have been before but not for many years. I would love to watch the Moulin Rouge so a future trip here with my other half could be on the cards.

2. Career

*Sigh* My goal was to start a YouTube channel for my dance school, in March I amended that to working on my Instagram instead which was going great. I’m sad to admit that has fallen a little by the wayside. I’m still posting but not like I was. I need to up my game again!

3. Friends and Family

Not exactly excelling at this right now! But hey, I’m not the only one busy I guess. I did go swimming with my nephew for the first time though. Look how cute he is!

Spending more time with friends and family

4. Financial

Finally a big tick next to this one in my June goal review! Still stayed of debt and saving in my new pension pot every month. It’s easy to put money away in it when I’ve labelled it in my head as future amazing holidays pot! Ha ha!

5. Spiritual

Oh dear… well let me see, I only meditate if I’m at yoga so epic fail on the meditate every day goal. I always think I don’t have time but then they say the people who don’t need to meditate the most. I occasionally do my daily affirmations when I’m up early and remember!

6. Fitness

Okay so I am still managing yoga 2-3 times a week which is good. The other goal here was improve running on treadmill. I actually hate running, I don’t know why I set this goal! I wouldn’t say I’ve improved it but I am definitely still pushing myself to do it.

7. Personal enrichment

Read more often… hmmm I read on holiday does that count?! This needs addressing really. Also in this category was take a floristry course and I did! Okay so it was only a day one but I loved it and made this beautiful arrangement. It’s definitely spurred me on to do a course over a series of weeks.

June goal:  Flower arranging

8. Self care

Drink more water, check (most days), body brush 3x a week, I’m managing 2. Smoothie a day? Probably about 4 a week. Lastly sticking to a good morning routine – FAIL. I want to work on this for next review and in turn that should help my meditation goal.

So that concludes my June goal review. How do I feel about my goals mid way through the year? I would say happy enough. However in all honesty I don’t think I’ve really thought about them much since my March review. I need to check in between my goal reviews on here to ensure I am on track or what’s the point in making them?

Have you checked in with your goals? How’s it all going? Maybe you didn’t set any… well with still half a year to go why not set some now?

Rachael 🙂 x

Posted in Personal Development

Eco Friendly Mission

I am on a relatively new found eco friendly mission. When I was a little girl I was obsessed with nature. I use to make posters about animals, extinction and saving the planet. I loved dolphins in particular, raising money for the protection of them and donating regularly to the whale and dolphin conservation.

Growing up…

Recently I have been casting my mind back to 8yr old me. Sat in my room drawing the planet and the words ‘save our planet’ ens crawled around it. Drawings of animals close to extinction dotted around the paper. I was so passionate about conservation back then. But as I grew up the issues our planet faced sadly slipped to the back of my mind whilst I tried to navigate the grown up world.

The planet needs us now more than ever…

Fast forward to 2019 and it is definitely time to wake up. If 8yr old me could see me today she would certainly think I’m not doing enough. The planet needs help more than ever… it’s no secret it’s at crisis point. But we must all pull together to make changes… remember little changes add up to big things.

The plastic epidemic…

The plastic eperdemic stretches much further than straws which initially grabbed the limelight. However I suppose they are good a place to start as any. I came across this thought provoking quote…

Being eco friendly is everybody's responsibility

A video of a sea turtle that went viral having a plastic straw pulled out of its nose was a wake up call for many. Since then we’ve seen whales cut open on beaches with stomachs full of plastic. What are we doing to our oceans? Allowing 8 million tons of plastic to enter it each year that’s what. It’s heart breaking.

Issues our planet is facing…

But lets be real here… plastic is only one of many issues our planet is facing. Others are over population, pollution, global warming, natural resource depletion to name a few.

My wake up call…

Last year I moved house and that was the start of my wake up call for me. I was faced with a mammoth task of packing up my 3 bedroom house and making it fit into my boyfriends which was already full of stuff. A mass clearout impended and it caused me to seriously look at my own consumerism habits. You can read my post on mindful buying here.

What am I doing now?

Now before anyone shoots me down I’m not claiming to be some kind of eco warrior… this is the start of my eco friendly journey. I’m just a girl waking up fully to the issues our planet is facing… and I want to do my bit. I have made the small obvious changes like most. Ditching plastic bottles, plastic bags and taking recycling seriously. But I know I can do so much more and I want to.

Join me!

I have spent the last month really reading up on the subject of helping the planet and making more eco friendly choices. I am going to commit to making one change a week to help our planet. If your reading this and feeling inspired then join me! I’m calling my new venture my ‘eco swap mission’

Follow me on Instagram @thepretendgrownup where hopefully I can you inspire to make some changes with me. If you do don’t forget to use the hashtag #ecoswapmission. I will also be blogging at the end of each month about the swaps I’ve made and how I’ve found them.

I’m on a mission to make 8yr old me proud… better late than never! 🙂

Rachael x

Posted in Personal Development

First Sky Dive… Would I do it again?!

So I have completed my first sky dive… OH MY LIFE I actually went through with it! I questioned my sanity in the weeks leading up to it… I mean who in their right mind willing launches themselves out of a flying aeroplane?! Me! I did, ha ha! I’m still buzzing, can you tell?

Ahh the good old bucket list, many things are on it but none quite as terrifying as a sky dive. I like to challenge myself and this has been on my list forever. Booking a charity skydive to raise funds for the MS Trust seemed like a great plan. I mean if people sponsor me I can’t wimp out right?! So I rang up and booked at skydive northwest in the lake district. Luckily for me my sisters partner Dan wanted to do one too so I had a sky dive buddy.

We arrived at the centre on a slightly gloomy and windy Sunday morning and was relieved that jumps were going ahead. After handing in our forms we were taken for a 20 minute briefing. Clear instructions were given about everything, I felt well informed which is good given my life was literally in someone else’s hands!

Ready to sky dive
Attire on, feeling brave? not really…

Obviously as first timers Dan and I were doing tandem jumps. My instructor told me he did his first jump at 16yrs old alone (wtf?!) and had been jumping for 30 years. This eased my mind, he clearly was a competent sky diver.

Once kitted up we entered the air field and headed towards the aeroplane. Honestly my nerves at this point were building badly. More so when I got inside the plane and realised just how small it was.

Boarding the plane
Not feeling as confident as I look!

The plane quickly climbed and my ears were popping and I was trying to not panic! We went up fast and I kept thinking oh this must be it… but no! Up and up we went. The exact height we were jumping from was 14,000ft… but honestly this meant nothing to me! I don’t have a great concept of distance.

At last the door opened and the cabin filled with air and became much louder. At this point you realise you’ve never been in a place with the door open, I mean why would you?! It was pretty scary. Three guys who were jumping alone left the plane. As I watched them tumble down and my heart was in my mouth.

All aboard the sky dive plane
Terrified… can’t even muster a smile!

Then the door shut and apparently we were to go higher… excuse me?! This is when he head fell off. What do you mean higher?!! I started to internally panic thinking I just can’t do it, I just can’t do this!

On the edge ready to jump
Dear God, please don’t let me die!!

But soon enough the door opened again and it was my turn. I shuffled forwards with my instructor and I don’t think my heart has ever beat so fast! As I sat on the edge with my head back (as instructed) I thought I this is it, I actually might die!

Then we left the plane, holy crap we were out! I couldn’t tell you if he counted or anything but we were out! The initial fall was scary.

Freefalling!
Yikes! I can’t believe I did it!

But afterwards it was weird… your going down obviously but it’s just like the winds under you holding you up. The camera man was encouraging me to wave etc but I was too scared to move. I attempted a smile but it made my teeth cold ha ha!

First time sky dive smiling
Smile for the camera…

The free fall was a minute and let me tell you it was the longest minute of my life! I was kind of enjoying it but at the same time thinking where’s the parachute?!! It must have been a minute now…

I could see a cloud below me and it was coming faster and faster… silly as it may sound I was worried about going through it. As we entered it I think I held my breath for a few seconds ha ha! But nothing to worry about, except it was even colder and I now could see nothing.

Flying through the clouds
Look I’m flying!

Then with a slight hoist back up as my body dropped vertical I realised that was it, the free fall was over. I kind of breathed a sigh of relief that indeed the parachute had not failed. Oh wow look at the world below me! I took in the views whilst trying not to dither (did I mention I was cold?!) it was very peaceful.

Parachute finally opens
The moment we dropped into a vertical position as the parachute released

Soon enough we were coming in to land, remembering my briefing and also a reminder from my instructor I lifted my legs high as we swooped down. I was smiling my head off at this point, I think it was a mixture of relief and feeling amazed that I had indeed gone through with a sky dive.

Survived my first sky dive!

I Raised £466 for the charity the MS Trust. It’s close to my heart as my lovely mum has MS. Thank you so much to all those who donated.

Would I do it again? Yes and no… if I was somewhere amazing on holiday and I thought the views would be worth it absolutely. Am I about to throw myself out of a plane as a new found hobby? Definitely not, I will stick to my thrills at theme parks!

Would I recommend it? 100% yes… why? because life is for living and you should try everything once 😉

Rachael 🙂 x

You can book with Sky Dive Northwest here – http://www.skydivenorthwest.co.uk

Posted in Holiday Happiness

Travelling as a Single Parent With One Child

Travelling as a single parent with one child wasn’t something I thought I would ever do. It was a decision I was faced with after I split up with my sons dad when he was just 18 months old. As an Aquarius I’ve always had that needing for adventure and excitement and as daunting as it was I wasn’t about to let the fact I was a single parent stop me.

Single parent  travelling
Paphos when my son was younger

Over the years my son and I have taken many holidays just the two of us and whilst I have a grateful heart and lots of memories it has come with challenges along the way…

Packing…

This has got easier now he’s older but travelling alone with a writhing toddler, full size suitcase and pram is not fun. But you need so much stuff! I will never forget the time I went to Orlando and shopped way too much… I had to wear wedges to the airport as they wouldn’t fit in my case. My son was just 3yrs old, I also had two full size cases on this occasion plus the pram and a wild toddler. This still unsurprisingly wins my most hellish journey to date. I would not recommend wedges and a toddler full stop, let alone in an airport. Packing light is the answer… these days hand luggage only and a small back pack each win the day. It also helps that he can now manoeuvre his own luggage.

You are the only set of eyes

I guess this is not too dissimilar to at home only throw in anything water related and you are on pins… you are the only set of eyes on him. This has got easier as he’s got older and can swim well but none the less I still can’t fully relax without constantly looking up to check on him. When he was little it was even harder. Want a drink? toilet? This involves battling a wet squirming tantruming toddler out the pool to go with you. Aside from this you have the whole leaving your stuff unattended drama or face loosing your sunbed.

Night times are lonely

When he was little I sat in the kiddy disco on my own with a glass of red watching him join in. I always felt really self conscious and definitely lonely. It was hard sitting around the seemingly other perfect happy families and often I would have a little cry back at the room once my son was in bed. Fast forward to him being older and discos are not his thing. We now get to go wander out and choose somewhere to eat but hanging around after food is not his thing either… once the meals done he’s bored. We end up back in the room relatively early whilst he uses the Wi-Fi to watch some crap YouTuber and I read my book.

I am his entertainment

He’s lonely… I watch other siblings play together in the pool. Chasing each other in and out the sea, they will forever have each other. I watch dads energetically entertain their children with slight envy. I’m his only friend… so you know what that means? I don’t get a minute. He needs me to play and entertain him and I do. Whilst he was small and could jump into the pool and into my arms it was fun, I would chase him round being a shark. But it’s not the same now he’s older… try as I might he calls me boring.

He’s desperate to make friends

Okay so maybe is more due to the fact he’s an only child… but he lingers round other kids desperate to make friends. Talk about pulling on my heart strings. Sometimes he does make a friend and my moaning for 10 minutes on the sunbed soon turns into begging him to spend 10 minutes with me. I can’t win. I’m either at his becon call or he would sooner spend time with some kid he has just met.

Hotel is everything

Get the hotel wrong and your in trouble. My days of wanting to go to a resort where kids entertainment are bouncing round the pool like they’ve drank 10 cans of red bull are long gone. I don’t want to be cohurst into doing water aerobics with 15 people I don’t know who probably don’t exercise all year! No offence. I’m all about the joining in and making the most of it… but that’s not my idea of fun so now my sons older I avoid such resorts. But it’s a fine line… finding a hotel that ticks boxes for him and me is tricky.

Excursions

Booking excursions is a great thing to break up your holiday. But not always so simple when you are the loan parent. Take recently on a trip to Italy… we booked an excursion to see Stromboli volcano afternoon into evening as we wanted to see the eruptions at night. But I soon realised this would entail us walking back from the port on our own at 11pm at night in the pitch black. Suffice to say we switched to a day one. These are the kind of things you have to consider when holidaying as a single parent… is what your doing safe?

But let’s look at it another way…

He’s my travel buddy

My son, my friend… maybe not forever but I’m grateful of somebody to go travelling with. Just the two of us get to decide on destinations and that’s exciting, we’ve been to some amazing places.

Mature beyond his years

Travelling just the two of us means he’s had to step up and be there for me. Whilst I try to remain the adult I have to confess I do lean on him at times. My son has an outstanding sense of direction and is very mature beyond his years in navigating us around new places, using public transport and communicating with people with an air of confidence I find inspiring. This comes from travelling so much from a young age, these skills will no doubt aid him later in life. I also won’t be worried when he leaves the country (okay maybe a little bit still!)

I can afford more

The cost of taking only one child is less and this has influenced luxury holiday choices. I also can’t actually remember the last time we went away only once in a year. Yep we share so many magical holiday memories that we will both forever treasure.

Conclusion…

Life may not always be the journey we planned but never let that stop you doing what you want to do. Going away as a single parent was daunting initially, hard work at times but it’s oh so worth it. We’ve made memories that will last a lifetime.

Travelling with my son
More recently in Italy

If your reading this and your yet to make that leap of travelling alone with your child, just go for it. Go explore, discover and try new things. You get 18 years if your lucky before they won’t want to go away with you anymore… make the most of them.

Rachael 🙂 x

Posted in Personal Development

Do You Have a Bucket List?

Do you have a bucket list? An actual physical written down one or is it just a mental record in your head? Confession… a while back I bought this bucket list book. I proudly shared it on my Instagram but then guess what… I never wrote in it! My bucket list remained in my phone. Whoops!

Bucket list book

You see the book is really lovely and whilst I’m happy to record it in my phone writing my life long dreams in the book feels like a serious commitment. Why would that be a problem you ask? Isn’t a bucket list suppose to be things you want to do?

Well of course but it doesn’t mean the list doesn’t scare me in more ways than one. Firstly some things on it I’m not sure how I will ever achieve them from a cost point of view. Secondly some things actually terrify me! Like many peoples bucket list it’s a list of my wildest dreams… places I want to go, things I want to achieve, moments that will make my soul soar.

Record your goals

Inside the pages of this book there is space to record the goal, your inspiration and then ultimately when you achieved it. So as you can see once it’s written down you have a commitment to making it happen. That or forever be faced with a record of things I dreamed of doing but never achieved. Yikes!

It just so happens a week today I will be crossing off a major bucket list thing – skydiving… yup, I’m going to throw myself out of a plane and honestly I keep getting little bolts of pure fear through me when I think about it. I’ve already paid for it and I’ve already put it back once! If there was ever a time to be filling out this bloody bucket list book it’s now.

If not now when?

There’s no time like the present so they say… so I’ve finally done just that, I’ve spent the afternoon officially filling in the pages. It’s a known fact that you are more likely to achieve goals if you have wrote them down, so go me!

No way am I being left with a book of forgotten dreams… so let’s hope that theory is right! Here’s to entry number 1… My skydive for the charity MS Trust. You can read my story here and sponsor me if you wish – https://www.justgiving.com/Rachael-Scott11

100 bucket list things

Did I manage 100? No… when it came down to it I realised I am doing pretty darn good anyway, I’ve already done tons of things I dreamed of. Had I started this earlier it would definitely be full now but I’m kind of glad it’s not as it means I can add more things as and when I am inspired to.

Have you crossed something off your bucket list you never thought possible? Tell me about it in the comments!

Rachael 🙂 x

Fancy a bucket list book? Etsy has some great options, check them out!

Posted in Dining out

A Night at the Ivy Manchester

Back in January I booked us in the Ivy at Manchester for the bank holiday weekend. The other half and I do not go out as much as we should so I declared that when we do go out we should go to the nicest places (I’m not daft, ha ha!) I have heard good things about The Ivy and let me tell you… with good reason, it’s amazing. As soon as you approach the door it’s clear to see attention to detail is not lacking. First off the door men are wearing fabulous floral suit jackets. I stopped outside the entrance for a quick photo.

The Ivy consists of not one but three restaurants – the Brassiere, the Asia and the Roof Top Garden. Our booking was for the Asia on the middle floor. Stepping out of the lift and looking left into the restaurant was an instant WOW moment… just look at that illuminated emerald green floor, honestly the photo doesn’t do it justice.

The Ivy decor

As we were early we positioned ourselves at the bar to indulge in some cocktails and soak up the atmosphere. There was a DJ playing music which added to the cool vibe, it was pretty loud for a restaurant but I quite liked it. The decor was vibrant and obviously oriental in style, it looked as if no expense had been spared. Surprisingly the cocktails were normal price around £10-£15 each and very nicely presented.

Yummy Cocktails

After half an hour we were seated at our table and handed the menus… but never mind the menu just look at that napkin ring!

Ivy Asia Menu and napkin ring

The menu is designed for sharing like tapas… the idea being you choose a few dishes from each section. The lighter dishes being at the top through to heavier dishes and finally dessert. We didn’t find it hard to pick at all… it was a mouth watering menu to say the least. My other half was quite concerned about the lack of knife and fork but I was too distracted by the cute fish the chopsticks were in and the salt and pepper octopus.

Attention to detail at The Ivy

Anyway onto the food! We started with shaved vegetable salad, avocado and miso. Now I have to confess I’m not a salad girl… I would never normally pick it when out but it was a great choice.

Shaved vegetable salad

Next up was yellowfin tuna tataki, citrus and white Soy. Oh my gosh the combination was perfect, the flavours were divine! I wished there was more…

Yellow fin tuna tataki

Butter fried milk chicken would have been our next choice however it was sold out so we settled for fried chicken gyzo with truffle sauce and it did not disappoint.

Fried chicken gyzo

Onto the last two dishes… slow cooked pork belly with asian barbecue sauce, simply mouth watering.

Slow cooked pork belly

Then salmon fillet teriyaki, yummy! We accompanied these with some egg fried rice and steamed broccoli.

Salmon teriyaki

Now if you don’t do dessert I’m afraid we can’t be friends ha ha! I LOVE dessert and will always have it even if nobody else chooses to. So last up was red dragon dessert and yes it was every bit fabulous as it sounds… dark chocolate and honeycomb… oh my!

Red dragon dessert

Bizarrely I feel the need to mention the ladies bathroom. I had been told it was really quite something and it was. A statue was the centre piece and the celling was adorned with flowers. Each toilet had it’s own blush pink marble vanity unit. It felt very glamorous to say the least…of course it was full of girls taking photos!

Ladies bathroom at The Ivy

A night at the Ivy… well what can I say? I think you can tell that I was a big fan. The decor, atmosphere, food, cocktails… I loved it all and it’s safe to say I will return. If your in Manchester you should definitely check it out but be sure to book in advance.

Have you dined in any of the Ivy restaurants? Were you impressed? let me know in the comments. I would love some other nice restaurant recommendations too…

Rachael 🙂 x

To book the ivy – https://theivymanchester.com/

Posted in Personal Development

You can do anything but not everything…

You can do anything but not everything… something I realised off the back of my digital detox weekend a couple of weeks back.  As an ambitious 17 year old I launched my own dance academy and have never looked back since. Driven by passion and a desire to be successful I have been teaching and running my business for almost 20 years (yikes!)

Too much self help?

For some time now I’ve been delving into the world of business, productivity and self improvement by watching YouTube videos, listening to audio books and reading. But could too much self help be a bad thing? I was starting to feel like I was under achieving and became so overwhelmed that I felt like I was going to have a breakdown.

Is one business not enough?

Not only was I single handedly running my business I was also in the process of setting up two more. A dance wear company and a fitness one both driven through the platform instagram.  Heading for burn out I had to take a step back and think what am I ultimately trying to achieve here? You can do anything but is trying to do everything a mistake?

You see everything comes at a cost and running my dance business with over 200 pupils is a mammoth task alone. I am busy enough already so why do I now feel the need to add more? Because I’m literally being brainwashed. Statements like “everyone should be making money online these days” had really got in my head and I started thinking I should be investing in a second business and making a second income.

Time for me?

This was further fuelled by analysing other peoples lives on social media! I know, what a nightmare… now I won’t go into that as that’s a whole nother blog post. But my impending breakdown was coming from a place of feeling I don’t have any time to enjoy the simple things in life. I might go to yoga, indulge in the odd massage and facial but I literally run in and out of these squeezing them into my otherwise manic day. Bottom line… I just don’t stop!

No headspace…

My mind was constantly in overdrive with all the tasks I was failing to do. If I tried to take time out feelings of guilt would creep in massively. It actually got that bad that when I was with other people I was never fully present. I might have been there in person but my mind was literally in a world of its own and I had no head space. I convinced myself I didn’t have time to just chill out at home… a day of doing nothing was just not on my agenda. Is it any wonder I was heading for burn out!! I started to wonder have I actually become addicted to being busy?!

Time to re-evaluate

Breaking point came when I realised that my situation wasn’t going to change. If I keep pursuing ideas and striving to be better I will forever be stuck in a place of not being satisfied and feeling stressed. I want to be able to look forward to a day just chilling out, being fully present with family, not feeling guilty that I’m not doing the million and one things in my head.

I am enough…

So I’ve made big changes… I’ve realised I am already killing it. I am successful and it’s time to own that.  I have created a lovely life and I should be proud of myself. I’m doing what I always set out to do and I love it as much now as when I was 17, not many people can say that. I’m where I’m suppose to be, it’s okay… I don’t need to try and take on the world. You can do anything but not everything.

Am I reaching my full potential? Maybe not… maybe I have got more to give but is it worth the stress and time? Like I said everything comes at a cost. A cost to your mental health and happiness is just not worth it. It’s time for me to just be… enjoy my life as it and start to reconnect with the things I love. Not constantly be pursuing another dream. My life is passing me by whilst I’m trying to build an even better one! Right now for the first time in ages I feel at peace with myself and it feels amazing.

Can you relate to this? Are you constantly consumed by your own thoughts and ideas and never really present? Maybe it’s time to free yourself from a tortuous cycle… remember, you are enough.

Rachael 🙂 x

Posted in Disney

Top Tips for Disneyland Paris

You’ve saved up, you’ve booked the trip, you’ve bought a Mickey tshirt, your excited! But what more do you need to do? Research! Knowing my top tips for Disneyland Paris will make your trip more enjoyable.

What makes me qualified to advise you… 6 trips in total to the park. On my last trip I spoke to several couples who were relatively bewildered and stressed with their first time Disney experience. Whilst Disney is portrayed to be magical it can also be overwhelming so let me help manage your expectations and give you advice!

15 Top Tips for Disneyland Paris

Top Tips Number 1 – Stay in Disney

First of my top tips -get the most out of your trip and stay in Disney. The magic hours are worth it alone (see below) Disney offer a range of hotels and I’ve stayed in the cheapest Santa Fe most times and Newport Bay once. I keep going back to Santa Fe because, well I’m not in my room… I’m in Disney! If you like me and will spend all your time in the park maybe a higher end hotel is not worth the extra splurge. If your combining a trip to Disney and want to head into Paris no problem you can catch the train right outside the Disney gates anyway!

Top Tip 2 – Two days is not enough

People say you can do Disneyland Paris in two days… I beg to differ. There are two parks – the Magic Kingdoms and Hollywood studios. A day in each in theory would be ideal but honestly to do everything it’s just not possible. The studios is a more manageable size but it has many shows which will see you waiting approximately an hour before they start if it’s busy. The Magic Kingdom definitely requires more than a day to fully absorb all on offer.

In my opinion the perfect time is four days. This will give you time to explore both parks fully and at leisurely pace. You have time to see all the shows, parades and ride your favourites again. Sometimes it’s nice to just be in Disney. We sat off by the castle on our last trip listening to the music playing, people watching and just enjoying the magical feeling of being in there.

Top Tip 3 – Dress comfy!

Okay so I did a whole other blog post about this – what to wear to Disney so it might be worth checking out. But comfy is the name of the game and trainers win the day. I actually wore a long skirt one day as we were going to venture into Paris and I wanted some nice pictures there but we ended up staying in Disney. The skirt was so annoying!! It got caught on a few rides as I exited etc and was so impractical! I went back to the room to change into leggings.

Top tip - wear comfy clothing to Disney

Top Tip 4 – Get the Disneyland Paris app

You can still pick up paper maps at the entrance of the park but Disneyland Paris also has its own app now. It’s definitely worth having as everything you need to know is on there. One of the best things on it is it shows the wait times for rides. We found these to be relatively accurate most the time but there was one time we darted across the park to big thunder mountain as it said 15 minutes only to find in reality it was 50!

Top Tips number 5 – Magic hours are golden, use them!

So your staying in Disney and they tell you about magic hours. This is when all Disney hotel guests are permitted to the park an hour prior to the general public. DO NOT MISS MAGIC HOURS! The trip we’ve just been on we arrived in the park after flying at mid day and it was hell. Over an hour queue for everything!

Head for the popular rides

Fast forward to the second day when we were up and out and in the park for our magic hours and we got on several rides. Do your home work about popular rides and use your magic hours to experience them with little to no queue. Not all rides are open straight away but a good selection are…in Fantasyland Peter Pans flight is a must! Later in the day the queue for that is always in excess of 70 minutes!!

You might be tired come day 2 or 3 and the prospect of hearding your kids to the gate for magic hours might not seem appealing but better this and do several rides then head out later with the crowds and queue endlessly with winging kids anyway. Some days we went back to our hotel for an hour around 2/3pm and had a rest – another bonus of being in Disney accommodation.

Top tip - queue for Buzz Lightyears laser blast early

Top Tip 6 – Single riding saves time

Some of the busier rides have the option of single rider. This is a god send trust me… take Ratatouille for instance… at one point the queue was 140 minutes… single rider 25 minutes. On rides your rarely talking to the person your next to, your enjoying the ride!

By doing single rider you will queue way less and ride much more. You still queue together, ride separate, then you both get off within 5 minutes of each other anyway. Sometimes you end up in the same cart too as one single rider is at the front and one at the back. One thing to mention though I think 7 is the youngest you can do this.

Top Tip 7 – Dining tips for Disneyland Paris

Where to start with top tips for dining… hmmm. Okay food in Disney is often hard work. Firstly plan and book your evening meal or you will end up eating fast food options. Bistro Chez Remi is hugely popular (see photo below) and any character dining too. But you need to book just somewhere if you want to eat something substantial.

Despite several Disney trips we really messed up this last time… on the last day we had no meal booked and put eating off in favour of fun! By 8:45pm we were starving and pretty much all the restaurants in the park shut bar a few dining options on Main Street. Nightmare! We queued 50 minutes for a hotdog and fries at Casey corner. Arrghhhhh

Dining plans… yes or no?

With reference to dining plans I’m very on the fence about these. Often they are added as ‘free’ but I would never pay separately for them. Why? They just aren’t convenient. Your tied into certain restaurants along with certain choices, not good with fussy kids! However dining in Disney does not come cheap so they may be a good option for some.

Breakfast in the hotel is the best choice if you can make it prior to magic hours. Deciding to get breakfast in the parks on a dining plan will see you stood in a huge queue and unless you want a total carb fest, avoid. Buffet restaurants are the best option for evening meal because then you have lots of choice (yep handy for when your kid decides they don’t like something!)

Book Bistro Chez Remi in advance

Dining in the Disney Village

The Disney Village offers lots of dining options too and the food is better than in Disney I would say. The village gets busy at peak dining times. Rainforest cafe remains a firm favourite with families but you can be waiting a while for a table. Bonus is they don’t take bookings so you stand a chance of getting in if you don’t mind the wait. My son has always loved it in there… especially when the pretend storm hits, it’s a cool option for kids and the food is a reasonable standard.

Top Tip 8 – Don’t miss out on character dining

Character dining is a must and you can do it in the Disney village or in the parks. We’ve always chosen to do the breakfast.. I love dining in Plaza Gardens right by the castle in Magic Kingdom. The breakfast is buffet style with plenty on offer for all tastes. Whilst you get your morning fill 5 characters will come around the restaurant to interact with you and pose for pictures.

No trip to Disney is complete without character interaction… it doesn’t matter how old you are despite saying you won’t you inevitably will find yourself hugging a character. Queues in the park to meet characters are long. For Mickey Mouse and the princesses you can expect to queue over an hour. Character dining eliminates this and it’s totally worth the cost and maximising your time.

Top tip - book character dining

Top Tip 9 – When and where to shop

Disney have merchandise nailed and I am a sucker for wanting to buy it! Your kids will want stuff inevitably so maybe set a budget per child. Princess dresses don’t come cheap most are priced over €50. If your savvy buy one at home to bring. Dependent on when you go a coat may be essential therefore covering the expensive dress you just bought! I’ve just been in April and most days were still coat wearing weather.

Mainstreet USA shopping

You will find shops through out Disney but the main place to shop is Main Street USA. I love browsing the stores here but there is so much stuff and it’s easy to loose each other if it’s busy as one store often connects into another. Shops on Main Street are open after the park closes for one hour. If your on a short trip save your shopping until then but be aware it’s VERY busy at this time. Just to mention if you are staying in a Disney and make purchases before 3pm you can send them to be collected at your hotel- perfect!

Disney Village shopping

Aside from in the parks you can also shop outside in the Disney Village. This is open late and most people take advantage of that and shop after park hours so that’s when it is busy. In the day it’s relatively quite and nice for a browse if you can spare the time. Much of what you will see is the same as in the parks though anyway. I LOVE the Disney gallery – be sure to check it out.

Shopping in Disney

Top Tips number 10 – Watch the parade it’s magical!

Nothing will make you feel more Disney like than the parade. But get your spot early! You will see people starting to sit down on the kerbs of the parade route at least an hour before. It’s worth the wait! Choose a spot and rest those feet! It’s advisable to get a drink and snack prior to sitting down away from the parade route… queues get silly long for things like popcorn on Main Street at this time. Just to note, if you have already seen the parade then it is a great time to get on rides as queues can drop down a little whilst it is on.

Where to watch

You will get a great view of the parade from anywhere as long as you get there early. But my advice would be to get on a corner then people don’t crane there necks to see what’s coming. Also be careful where the sun is… you want it behind you so it’s not in your eyes. If you can face the castle too that’s a magical bonus!

Top tip - for a perfect parade view

Top Tips no. 11 – Don’t miss the fireworks!

Nobody does fireworks like Disney… it will forever ruin your firework expectations. I’ve seen them so many times and they still bring tears to my eyes. You can view them from anywhere in front of the castle right down Main Street. They project images on the castle and also on fountains that come up either side. Then of course they have the lasers and fireworks.

The best view

I find the best view to be standing behind a flower bed in front of the castle. You don’t want to be too close but not too far. Further down the street you will struggle to see the fountains. Standing behind a flower bed ensures that if someone puts a kid on there shoulders your view isn’t totally ruined as there is space between you.

Top Tip 12 – Advice on taking the perfect photos

When I come home from Disney I always get asked the same question… “why is it so quiet?” It’s hard to get perfect photos in Disney when it’s busy but not impossible. I would advise on one morning of your trip being there for magic hours and heading straight to the castle to get a picture with less people in. As soon as the gates open to the general public you can kiss goodbye to castle pic you dreams of. But also be clever with your angles too… sometimes you can still get a great photo when it’s busy if you experiment.

Take castle photos first thing

Top Tips no. 13 – Don’t get bored in queues

Queuing is tiring and boring and just because your in Disney that doesn’t change. You need to be prepared for this with kids. In this day and age with smart phones and iPads it’s easier than ever to pass the time. But do you really want your kid absorbed in a screen in Disney? I’m not saying don’t do it but use it sparingly.

Games I love still are rock, paper, scissors I spy, games where you describe a character and the other person guesses who it is. We also played an alphabet game where we had to both think of a Disney character for each letter! That was a good one and really got us racking our brains.

Top Tips no. 14 – You will need a portable charger

One full charge on your phone will no way last you a day in Disney. Between taking pictures, videos and your kids rinsing your battery playing games you will need a portable charger. My portable charger would supply two full charges which was handy. Don’t forget to charge it up in the hotel room though as well as your phone between uses… something I didn’t do one night, doh!

Last Top Tip 15 – Take a refillable water bottle

Drinks are over priced in Disneyland Paris and water is no exception. On our recent trip I had a slight meltdown when I all I wanted was a bottle of water and queues were mega everywhere!! Take a refillable bottle as the water is totally safe to drink in Paris and it will save you a fortune and you won’t get caught short like I did yelling “all I want is a bloody drink!!”

Final words…

So I hope my top tips for Disneyland Paris make your trip more enjoyable. Remember it’s going to be busy so you just need to embrace that, so do what you can and don’t forget to just enjoy being there too. Disney done right is a truly magical experience and you will always look back on it with a smile.

Character photos make the best memories

Do you have another tip or two? Let me know any Disneyland Paris tips you think I’ve missed! Got a blog post about Disney? post the link to yours in the comments as I would love to read it.

Rachael 🙂 x

Book the trip of your dreams right here – www.disneylandparis.com