Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Devon, the English Riviera

How much do you know about Devon? Our answer was not much until the weekend.

Last year we celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary in Santorini, it was wonderful.

This year we stayed closer to home and the destination of the  'English Rivera' had a certain charm. Heading to Devon from Birmingham was actually a lot easier than expected, a 2 and a half hour drive down the M5 gets you to Exeter and an extra half an hour will get you to Devon's area of natural beauty, Dartmoor National Park and the English Riviera.

Our destination was East Allington which is best described as the middle of nowhere. I chose the Airbnb for three reasons 1) it sounded delightful and 2) it was dog friendly 3) it was near beaches

For a number of reasons if we travel in the UK it is now an absolute requirement that Bisbee comes with us and Devon was an amazing destination for a dog friendly getaway.

Devon is a county in the southwest of England, further west than Bristol but not as far west as Cornwall. In any part of Devon you are never more than 25 miles from a beach! Those beaches can be sandy or pebbly but in all most all cases they are stunning locations.

On checking into our Airbnb we tucked into our Chinese takeaway picked up on route, thanks JustEat, and I started rifling through the suggested walks and places to visit. I am so glad that almost all Airbnb's we have stayed at have local guides on offer. After half an hour our weekend was planned.

Saturday Morning
After an amazing nights sleep we were up fairly early to head to South Milton Sands, a sandy beach that's dog friendly all year. There are other beaches that are dog friendly in the area but only October to April. On arrival we were met by a National Trust tent that wanted to charge £5 for parking. Slightly horrified at the cost and our lack of cash we made a quick decision to join the National Trust. This wasn't to get out of paying for parking - although that was a plus - it was actually on my birthday wish list as I having a growing list of National Trust places to visit.

After sorting out membership and parking we headed to the beach. The weather wasn't great but on arrival we walked into a surfing event that meant the place was bustling. We decided to stretch our legs and walk to the far end of the beach. With interesting rocks to climb and plenty of space for Bisbee to run it was the perfect morning.

As we went to leave and find somewhere for lunch we spotted rock pools that led out to the stone arch we had admired from the beach and the adventurers in us took over - before we knew it we were knee deep in seaweed and avoiding the crabs and slippy rocks. Thankfully we survived the experience without injury!

Lunch was at a lovely cafe over looking the River Avon at Bantham, a lucky find after arriving at Bantham beach to find another £5 charge for car parking.

As per UK weather we had all seasons
A quick pit stop home to charge phones, refill water bottles and we were off again. This time to Dartmouth.

Saturday Evening
On driving into Dartmouth we had no idea what to expect. On arrival we were met with a marina full of boats and a cute town hanging on the banks of the River Dart. As we explored we found out that Dartmouth - Bayards Cove specifically -  was actually the launch point for the Pilgrim Fathers heading to America on the Mayflower and Speedwell. Well it was until the Speedwell sprung leaks and both ships returned to Plymouth. They both departed again but some 300 miles out the Speedwell sprung further leaks and was deemed un-seaworthy returning to England while the Mayflower continued. Rumour had it that the Speedwell crew didn't fancy a life in America and sabotaged the voyage!

At the edge of the town are ruins of the castle and forts that once protected the town from attack. There are also buildings dating back to medieval and Elizabethan times, including the Butterwalk built in 1635 that hosted Charles II. The earliest street is Smith Street - recorded in the 13th century. We found a lovely pub/restaurant called Bayards Cove for dinner and had a delicious chicken, bacon, spinach, cream cheese and gratin dauphinoise potatoes meal - so, so good! Oh and dog friendly :)

Sunday Morning
First stop of the day was Paignton. A traditional British seaside town that seemed a little run down. We arrived as a half marathon was finishing which may of been bad timing but it helped us decide quickly that it wasn't where we wanted to spend the day.

Our next stop was Cockington, half a mile from Torquay and the most picture perfect village. Full of thatched cottages that are home to restaurants, shops and plenty of other things to explore. The village is a must see if you are heading to the area. Parking was a reasonable £1 an hour in the main car park that is opposite the Country Park. We headed to Cockington Court a manor hall set in a massive park that includes lakes, a mill and a cricket pitch. Perfect for letting the dog run free.

After strolling for almost an hour we headed for a Devonshire Cream Tea at the Weavers Cottage Tea Room. It was as quaint as it sounds, flowery tea cups, traditional tea pots and a cake stand with fresh, warm scones and delicious thick cream and jam.

The sun was shining, the flowers were out and we were having a thoroughly lovely time.

Sunday Afternoon
The heart of the English Riviera is Torquay and this was where we spent our Sunday soaking up the sun, strolling the promenade and admiring the views. On one side of Torquay is the sandy beach, unfortunately not dog friendly at this time of the year, but lovely to see all the same. On the other side is the marina stretching as far as the eye could see. In the distance the hills frame the bay, it is a beautiful location.

Just behind the seafront is a town centre jam packed with a mix of traditional seaside shops and the usual high street offering. It really has everything and i'm not sure an afternoon was enough to do it justice. We spent our afternoon walking to Torre Abbey and back to the marina. It took less than a hour but allowed us to see what was on offer. There were market stands and a band set up by the gardens that meant we were entertained as we walked.

You can see why Torquay has been a holiday destination since Victorian times.

We finished the day with fish and chips from Rock Salt, highly recommended, they were everything we wanted from our day at the seaside - even if I had to fight the seagulls off!

We were sad to leave and will definitely be back, who knew there was so much to see so close to home. Birmingham may be in a landlocked part of the country but a 3 hour drive to the English Riviera is well worth it.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Travel Makes the World Go Round!


Okay, okay so if you've been to our blog before you know we love to travel. Here, there or just about anywhere it doesn't matter just give us the opportunity to explore and we'll take it.

In fact we have just come back from a weekend away in Devon but more on that in a future post.

The reason for this post is to share a travel post I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do for A fellow travel enthusiast, adventurer and wanderer in this amazing world of ours.

Having followed Mel's blog for a while we were keen to participate in her Globetrotters feature. Partly because the name Globetrotter sounds cool and partly because if anything our travels have given us stories to tell.

We always appreciate any blog that brings together travel advice and experiences and hope by sharing stories we are adding some value to The Wandering darlings already amazing blog. Make sure and check out the featured posts for great tips!

If you want to check out our post click here.
This pic was taken on our recent trip to the Grand Canyon, as I wrote the post before our trip this highlight missed out but you can our post about it here.

Happy Travels

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Think it's hot now?!

Okay it is hot right now! Hot and clammy right. And that's an observation not a complaint - I try to avoid complaining about the heat as I am so desperate for it an all other points. I even pay to have hot holidays so I can enjoy the heat.

Although as Laura always tells me British heat is humid so that makes it feel hotter than it really is so I have to let her complain - occasionally.

The thing is after waking up from a rather warm 28 degrees Celsius sleep I was about to say how hot it was when I saw a friends Facebook post saying that it was 58 degrees where they were in Death Valley. Now that is hot!

When we visited Death Valley it was raining so we never got the EXTREME heat. It was still hot but mid 30's hot not 58! Now if our friends car thermometer was right then they were experiencing RECORD BREAKING temperatures as Globehunters published a post recently about how hot it can get around the world and at the time they published the article it contained this fact:

It turns out California also had the hottest rainfall - surprisingly not in Death Valley when we were there but:

Reading the article it tells you where the hottest temperatures have been recorded on each continent and I found the Europe one pretty interesting, and helpful for knowing where to head for my next trip to the sun:

If you want to check out the whole article click here

So things might be hot right now but they could be hotter!!!

Hope you have found your way to cope - ice packs under the pillow and in front of fans are our current go-to's!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Glenilen Farm Yoghurts - Our Verdict

How's your summer health kick going? Is your beach bod ready to go? After a trip to Vegas we are trying to get back to being good - what has made it slightly better easier is having a delicious alternative to the sugar treats we've been craving.  Mainly in the form of yoghurts! Surprisingly refreshing on a hot day and better for you than an ice cream!

So when we were contacted by Glenilen Farm, and asked to try some of their yoghurts we couldn't refuse.

Just a quick side note before we continue, in the UK they spell yoghurt with an H, I, as an American, like to say it like it as if it's a battle cry 'YOG-HURT, so it's not a typo it is just one of those British vs Americanisms :)


We were so excited when we opened the cool bag to find the cutest little glass jars! Such lovely packaging - the little glass jars are adorable, better for the environment than the usual plastic, and reusable! I immediately started planning what I would make to put inside them once I'd eaten the yoghurt. There are plenty of ideas on how to reuse the pots on their website, including candles and desserts. I’d love if the larger pots were also glass!

The yoghurt is from a little family farm in County Cork, Alan and Valerie's family have owned Glenilen Farm for generations. Valerie started selling cheesecakes made with milk from their cows in 1997, and the business has grown from there. The cows are treated very well, kept warm in the winter, allowed to roam and they are never over milked. You can read the whole story here.

Because of this, the yoghurt is absolutely delicious - and good for you, too! It is natural yoghurt absolutely no artificial additives or preservatives, with limited sugar/sweeteners, and fruit at the bottom. It was refreshing to know that the fruit wasn’t loaded in sugar, especially as we are attempting to eat healthier and cut out sugar at the moment.

My personal favourite was the blueberry flavour, which I found most sweet, and Sarah enjoyed the mango and passion-fruit most – but really, all three flavours we tried were scrumptious.

You can find a whole list of products available here.

Glenilen Farm know how important environmental sustainability is, which is why as well as selling yoghurts in glass jars, they are using solar energy, harvesting rain water, and making other small changes that will make a large impact. I would say just like us but we're small time with our water butt and couple of solar panels.

So here's a question - do you know how yoghurt is made?

Strange question I know but when looking into Glenilen Farm I cam across some interesting stats so thought I would make this post educational as well as informative!

If you don't know how yoghurt is made don't worry you're not alone, in fact out of the 2039 people surveyed here was the result:

So the actual answer is......

Fresh milk (and/or cream) is fermented using lactic bacteria starters or “cultures”: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. The bacteria are added to heated, pasteurizedhomogenized milk, and the milk is then incubated at a specific temperature to maximize the activity of the bacteria.
The bacteria convert the lactose (milk sugar) to lactic acid, which thickens the milk and gives it the tangy taste characteristic of yoghurt.
The yoghurt is then cooled and can be flavoured with fruit, sugar, other sweeteners or flavourings. Stabilizers, such as gelatin, may also be added.
(Thanks Wikipedia)

Now you know how the yoghurts made - and in case of the Glenilen's - the au natural way why not get creative - we have the Greek Yogurt Fruit Pots on our to try list! Check out the recipe and other ideas for healthy snacks here.

And so to the final note, if you are in the UK and fancy trying them you can find these yoghurts at Sainsburys and Waitrose – we would definitely recommend you check them out, we enjoyed them enough that we actually bought more once we had finished the sample! The full website can be found here: 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Neon Museum, Las Vegas

Have you heard of the Neon Museum? If you haven't check them out on Instagram, that's where we found out about it before our trip to Vegas.

Put simply the Neon Museum is a sign graveyard, stacked full of amazing neon signs, some in working order and some not. Located about 15 minutes car ride from Vegas (we recommend a taxi) in an area locals describe as 'not that desirable' this is definitely a more random Vegas find.

One key point to note is that you NEED to book ahead, and not just a day ahead. When we went to look at tours a week ahead of our visit the only time available for the week we were staying in Vegas was at 2pm on Sunday. The evening tours, when some of the working signs are turned on can be booked up months in advance.

The other thing worth noting is that there is no roof and therefore no shelter so if you go on a boiling hot day bring water and a hat. The museum provide sun umbrellas and a free water fountain but it is worth being prepared. The signs reflect the heat so for the hour tour prepare to get hot!

Each tour is guided, this is for a number of reasons. Firstly the signs are dangerous, some are massive - like stories high massive, some have rusty sharp edges or broken light bulbs. Secondly the guide provides context, history and some really interesting information about the signs and how they came to be in the graveyard.

In our short trip we learnt about how different signs were used, how different colour neon effects were created, how the use of neon has changed over the year and our guide gave an interesting back story of Vegas. Did you know that Elvis only played in Vegas once in heyday because his promoter had set up a gig in a club but when the youths, that loved Elvis, turned up the bouncers ID'd everyone and sent them packing. Elvis's audience was so small he thought the town hated him and he didn't come back....for years! Strange when you think of Viva Las Vegas being synonymous with the place.

Our group covered the age range of 31-65 and we all loved it and learnt something. While some of us were a little more distracted with photos others were engrossed with the stories. The rest of our tour group was made up of a range of people all their to see something different.

Opening in 2012 the Neon Museum is:
'The nearly two-acre campus includes an outdoor exhibition space, known as the Boneyard, which features more than 200 signs, seven of which are restored, a visitors' center housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby and the Neon Boneyard North Gallery which houses additional rescued signs and is used for weddings, special events, photo shoots and educational programs.'

There is history in everything, even the check in lobby is interesting, it is set up inside the La Concha Motel lobby that was moved to the location in 2006 to save it from demolition. Originally it was built on the strip. This is the story of a lot of the signs. Originally signs were built for hotels or businesses on the strip or around Vegas but as they have been replaced the signs have been gifted to the museum. Sometimes by the venues or in most cases by the sign companies - it turns out renting signs was more common that buying them due to the cost.

In fact the cost of making a bespoke sign actually put a company out of business - the sign was this duck.....the company a car wash who had spend $250,000.....on A SIGN!

This sign had to be dis-assembled as it was too big..... any guesses on what it originally said?

Moulin Rouge - did you get it?
We really enjoyed the tour and the experience and if you like a great photo opp and/or a bit of history make sure this is on your to do list....just book ahead!

Have you been? What did you think?

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Visiting the Grand Canyon

A week a go we did a summary of our trip to Vegas, you can see the post here

One of the highlights of the trip was our day at the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is certainly grand and deserving of it's 7 wonders of the world status! It is as breathtaking as you think it will be and more beautiful then you can imagine. The colours, sights and quietness are unexpected and mesmerising. 

The part we visited was on the southern rim about a 4-5 hour drive from Vegas to see one small 22 mile part of the 277 miles of canyon!

We started our day early, not quite as early as hoped thanks to one of the rental cars not being ready for our 7.30am pick up but we were all packed up and ready to hit the open road by 8.30am. A last minute late night Walgreens dash had allowed us to stock up on road trip essentials so all we had to do was load up and head off.

Road trippin crew
Our group was split into two cars, the youth car that included Laura and I, my sister and her boyfriend. The other car was the parents cars with my Mum and Dad and Aunt and Uncle. With the sun shining we had the roofs down we headed to the highway. 

We made it an hour into the journey before stopping in Kingman for lunch and to stretch our legs. It turns out that the back seats in convertible cars are tight. We had known that from our road trip across California, and detour via Death Valley, and had advised the rest of our group but they wanted the experience and who were we to argue. My sister is pretty small so didn't find it too bad. Her much taller boyfriend was a little squashed but as I had my chair moved forwards he seemed okay. 

In hindsight the adults should have had a proper car - my Mum and Aunt had a harder time as my Dad needed his chair further back to drive and my Uncle needed his pushed back because of his knee. Turns out the wind got a bit much for their ears after a while too. Ah getting older ey!

Our final stop before reaching the Grand Canyon was a toilet break that turned out to be a wonderfully random shop packed to brim with souvenirs, treasures, stuffed animals and a LOT OF COWBOY stuff. I even got to check out a tepee. It was just by Ash Fork.

When we arrived at the Grand Canyon park entrance we had to pay $30 per car for 24 hours. At the entrance we were also given a map that I then used to plan our visit. As we had arrived later than expected we had to make a few adjustments and pick out the key views to see before dusk. 

On arrival you drive into Grand Canyon Village. There is a large shop that stocks just about everything and has a place to top up your water bottles for free. Here you can also drive a loop to see the the Grand Canyon train and all the accommodation that is available to stay at. 

The first view of the Grand Canyon appeared behind trees as we drove on the main road alongside the rim as we followed the map we had:
To see the full map click here
Our first view was a Pipe Creek Vista and what a view!

As we made our way along the south rim we stopped at the various pit stops and each view was spectacular for different reasons. The size was incomprehensible. Someone said that each view allows you to see the equivalent of a fingernail on a body. For some reason that really gave me a perspective. 

At Grand View point I took the opportunity to get my namaste on, the tranquillity allowed you to feel really zen and for a brief moment and there was barely anyone else around. 

Our final stop on the south rim was Desert View Tower. It is a 70 foot high tower that allows spectacular views up the canyon. The tower is decorated inside with artwork that is worth seeing and has a history of the area. Plus it's free to enter so it is well worth checking out. 

Thanks Wikipedia for this image

This is the view from the top:

Inside the tower:

The sunset as we headed back and we had to be a little careful of the wildlife, especially these beautiful mule deer that were as big as the car. 

The drive back to Vegas was long and dark but my wonderful wife did a superb job doing most of the drive after tiredness hit me an hour an a half in. Most of the back seat passengers only awoke when the bright lights of Vegas welcomed us back.

We were aware that the West Rim is closer to Vegas but having looked into the option we thought we would opt for the iconic views and make the drive to the South rim. 

The West Rim is owned by Hualapai Indians who charge $82 entrance fee to walk the Skywalk out over the canyon but they don't let you take your own photos - which as i'm sure you can understand is not something we would happily forego. 

And there are the helicopter tours from Vegas that worked out about $250 per person, for 8 people this would have been a pretty expensive trip. 

Depending on your budget and available time it is worth assessing your options.

Even though it was a long day for us to reach the South Rim it was definitely worth it in my opinion!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Wedding Feature: Bridesmaid Confessions

Hello there.

How are you?

I'm currently sat on a train with a storm to the left of me and blue skies to the right, the UK weather can be so confusing sometimes. I was sure it was summertime.

Anyways talking of summer, and hoping it turns up in the not too distant future, this time of year is our wedding anniversary month and that always has us reminiscing about the June day back in 2014.

It seems every year we get the opportunity to celebrate in a special way or receive a lovely reminder about our wedding and this year is no different. Earlier in the year we were contacted by Bridesmaid Confessions to do a feature talking about our wedding. The request was simple - answer a few questions. The result ended up with us taking time out to reflect on our wedding and all the elements that went into it. Especially the role of our bridesmaids.

The end post is wonderful trip down memory lane highlighting our decision making processes and the planning we put into the day and the surrounding activities.

If you would like to read the post click here:

If you have any questions about our wedding just let us know or click Wedding in the top bar to see all our wedding posts. Crazy to thing it was almost 3 years ago.