Road trip to the South of France – Part 3: aftermath

The hotel

The hotel was gorgeous, with a little balcony over looking the sea and across to Saint Tropez, and a cosy little French feel, although all the service expected of a Best Western. After the stress of getting ourselves packed and moved, we wandered into the gorgeous town and felt ourselves relaxing. On our wanders, we found L’Amiral,  a beautiful restaurant in the marina which was pretty pricey but we decided to treat ourselves and booked it for that evening. We wandered back to our hotel and went down to the pool and read our books.  Feeling suitably relaxed we got ready for dinner and walked back up to the marina. The meal was amazing! We had such a gorgeous meal, the service was brilliant and we truly relaxed and forgot all about our car nightmare.

The next morning we opened the curtains to torrential rain. The view across the water was nothing but grey and Saint Tropez had disappeared! We read in our room for a while and by lunchtime it had totally cleared up and was blazing sunshine again. We walked back into the town and found a nice restaurant for dinner that evening. Looking for somewhere to have lunch in the meantime, we went to Cafe Maxime for lunch and it was brilliant. My husband had a burger and I had a chicken burger – the best I’ve ever eaten!! That evening we wandered back and walked through the beautiful cobbled streets in Sainte-Maxime and stopped off for a lovely Italian meal.

Where is our car?!

Monday morning we woke up and we got straight on the phone to our insurance company and asked them to call the garage and make sure they looked at our car first thing. We had worked out that if we left by Monday lunchtime at the latest and drove all through the day and night, we might just make it home in time for work on the Tuesday. Nothing. We kept checking and by lunchtime it was clear they hadn’t looked at the car let alone fixed it. We spoke to our insurance company who then decided that they would buy us both flights from Nice back to Birmingham International that evening, and they would pay for one of us to return another time to collect the car and drive it home. It wasn’t ideal but they were so good and covered the flights as well as the hotel and taxis. The taxi to Nice airport on its own was 200 Euros!

So once again we packed up (which was slightly trickier now that we had all our luggage from the car to pack into two bags for the plane!) and we were waiting for our taxi at 4:30pm when we received a call from the insurance company. The garage had finally looked at our car and the quote to fix it was 3,900 Euros!! More than the car is worth! They said the diesel particulate filter needed replacing which is incredibly expensive. Not knowing what else we could do, we went ahead with the flight and considered our options once more.

  1. We pay the money, get the car fixed and then fly back and drive it 1,000 miles home
  2. We just leave the car and have it scrapped in France as the repairs are more than the car is worth
  3. We try and get the car home some way and get it looked at / fixed in the UK instead.

Home at last

In the end we made it home safe and on time, and called garages near our home in the UK. We were quoted £950 to get the repairs done and we paid £250 to have the car repatriated – which was cheaper than driving it home in terms of fuel and toll roads anyway. When we did get the car back, we took it to our local garage who managed to unblock the diesel particulate filter and it only cost us £95! We were so relieved, but also so happy that we had bought the European breakdown assistance. For £35 we accessed a weekend in a beautiful hotel, flights and baggage home and taxis totalling more than £1,000! Moral of the story – get European breakdown cover!

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Road trip to the South of France – Part 2: the disaster

St Tropez
Road trip to the South of France – Part 2: the disaster

Continued from the first part of the story!

We decided to explore a little more and travel to Cannes and Antibes…and this is where our trouble began. On the windy day at Saint Tropez, our car engine lights had come on, including the diesel particulate filter.

St Tropez
St Tropez

We read that you should drive the car in a low gear at high revs to clear the issue. We had been doing that but the light had stayed on. Anyway, we set off for Cannes and drove along the coast – breath-taking. We continued on to Antibes at on a roundabout with a VW garage on it (of all places) the car suddenly shut down. We could drive it but it wouldn’t go over 30mph and more engine lights came on. We pulled up to the garage but found it was shut for lunch.

My husband and I, we have realised, take it in turns to flap when something goes wrong, and this time it was his turn. He wanted to turn around and try to head back but I assured him that if we just waited, went for some lunch, we could come back and go into the garage for help. He agreed and we went into the centre of Antibes and had a look around. We parked up and went into a beautiful hotel and looked out to the sea – and saw Abramovich’s yacht! We wandered along the front and found a beachside restaurant, Le Bord de Mer Chez Vincent in Juan Les Pins where we sat down to consider our options and get some food. I have the most amazing St Jacques scallops while my husband moped over a pizza and took the occassional picture of Abramovich’s yacht.

St Jacques Scallops in Antibes
St Jacques Scallops in Antibes

We finished up and came up with a plan. We had taken European breakdown cover with AXA for just £35 (best £35 we’ve ever spent!) We called and they advised us to try the VW garage first. We went in and they said they were booked up for the next week and couldn’t help but did advise us to drive with low gear and high revs. We left a little crestfallen and called back our insurance company. They decided they’d call round other VW garages but in the meantime we should try and head back to Port Grimaud if we could, or sit and wait to be towed but they were advising it would be a few hours at least. We bit the bullet and tried to head back to our campsite.

This involved going on the toll motorways with a car that at times (momentum and downward hills helped this) wouldn’t go over 30 miles an hour!! We were nearly back when the insurance company called and said that the only garage they could get us in to would be near Marseilles and could we drive there? On the basis of the last terrifying hour, we asked if they could instead recover the car and tow it there which they were happy to arrange for the next morning at 8am.

Now at this point it is probably important that I tell you that this was Thursday. We were leaving the south of France on the Saturday morning to drive half way up and stay, then continue our journey on the Sunday to get to Le Touquet on the Sunday. Our crossing was Bank Holiday Monday in the morning, to be home and back to work on the Tuesday. So basically, we needed to get the car back on Friday evening at the latest in order to pack it up and get on the road…

So the mechanic turned up on Friday at 8am and looked at the car. He drove it and decided that he couldn’t fix it and it would need to be taken to the garage. He left with the car and we settled down for our last day on holiday and waited patiently for news of the car. We had heard nothing by lunchtime and spoke to AXA who chased the garage. Nothing. We chased again at 4pm and were advised that the garage hadn’t even looked at our car and that they were shut until Monday now!

This time panic set in with me. We had to check out the next morning by 10am and had nowhere to go and no way to get home! My husband got on the phone and the insurance company really came through for us. They said that they would pay for us to stay in a hotel for the weekend, with a budget for two nights of £300!

My husband selected a lovely hotel in nearby Sainte-Maxime, The Montfleuri Best Western, with breakfast included and AXA went off and booked it for us. They then booked a car to come and get us and take us to the hotel the next morning. So we packed up and checked out on the Saturday morning and were met by a private car which took us to our new hotel.

 

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Road trip to the South of France – Part 1: getting there…

On our way to the South of France
On our way to the South of France
On our way to the South of France

We set off in our VW Passat at around 6pm on Friday night to get to Dover for our first overnight stop on our road trip to the South of France. We stayed in a Premier Inn near to the ferry terminal – but it was so busy and on a main road so didn’t get much sleep. Mentioned this on check-out and they gave us a refund on their ‘Good Night Guarantee’ which was a bonus!

Crossed over to Calais and made our way south to our first stop in Macon. I’d booked a Budget Ibis much to my husband’s dislike but for £30 it was a bargain! We arrived around 6pm, and sat outside at their restaurant and had dinner and (a fair few bottles of) wine. The food was incredible and was finished off by a crème brulee and a mint chocolate mousse (one each but we shared 🙂 ). It was a beautiful night and we sat outside and soaked up the atmosphere until around 11pm before retiring. We got up the next morning and added breakfast for a reasonable 6Euros each and we were good to go.

I took over the driving and we followed the road south through Lyon on to the south coast. We arrived at Grimaud around 2pm and checked in to our Eurocamp caravan.

We’ve stayed in Eurocamp before and the caravans are always clean and have everything you might need. We set off out again through Sainte-Maxime and found ourselves a Carre Four where we stocked up on wine, cheese and other essentials!

During our time there we visited Saint Tropez – on the windiest day I’ve ever known! – and on our way back got a text from my dad warning that there was an imminent strike in France meaning there would be a severe shortage of fuel. With a 1,000 mile drive home we pulled into a garage and filled the car to the top with diesel…just as well we did. The next garage we passed had queues of 20 or more cars and over the next day or so the strike really took hold and most garages were closed, those that we open were reduced to 20 Euros of fuel at a time!

Port Grimaud is amazing – like a little French Venice – and we spent some time here. Another day we rented sun beds on a tiny secluded beach and crossed the road to a pizza stop and had the most amazing pizzas.

Clearly, however, nothing – not even holidays – is a straightforward affair with me… find more of the story here

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Update!

I started a new job in August and I must say its been a crazy few months! However I do have some great blogs lined up reviewing recent holidays, musings and a few recipes that I think SW followers might enjoy!

Sorry for the hiatus!

Cake decorating

Cake class
Cake class

One of my interests is cake decorating. To those who know me, it does not sound like the kind of thing that I would like doing, but I was keen to give it a go and once I did, I realised not only how fun it was, but actually how relaxing it was too…

 

Christening Cake
Christening Cake

It doesn’t sound like it, but as long as you’re not under time pressure or fixed on exactly what you need to be making, it can be a real de-stressor.

IMG_3057

I first went to a half day cake decorating class with my sister-in-law and we produced – may I say it – some flippin’ awesome looking cakes. Fast forward a couple of months and I found a local 10 week course in cake decorating and went along. In this course we decorated Halloween cakes, Christmas cakes and learnt some really useful skills such as how to make roses. (See aforementioned roses in the picture above for my mum’s birthday cake).

Red Velvet Cakes
Red Velvet Cakes

I’ve since done cakes for family birthdays, christenings and anniversaries and absolutely love it. What I do need to work on, however, is my actual baking skills. I can make a basic victoria sponge but have never attempted anything else other than a one-off batch of red velvet cakes which looked good but didn’t match in terms of taste!

I’ll share some pictures as I go along but let me know if you have any requests and I’ll see what I can come up with!

Cake Class
Cake Class

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Afternoon Tea at the Burj Al Arab

Sunset on Burj

We headed back to our hotel, got ourselves ready and got a car to…the Burj Al Arab! It was awesome! We had spoken to the concierge at reception about visiting there, and they told us about the afternoon tea options. We booked up earlier that day and now was the time to go! We crossed the private bridge and pulled up outside, greeted by the male and female attendants. It really was spectacular. We travelled up the escalators that were lined with marine fish tanks and got to the top where there was a really impressive fountain. We looked around for a while and then took our seats for the fantastic afternoon tea.

Burj Al Arab lobby 21

Afternoon tea seems a bit misleading…this was not sandwiches and scones. This was a seven-course feast for the senses and it was absolutely spectacular. We had opted for the alcohol-free option, so instead started the tea with the most amazing prune juice.

Afternoon Tea at the Burj 1 - Copy

After this followed a course of sandwiches, of scones, beef and pureed potato(!), sweetmeats – all were amazing! Not only this, you get a spectacular view. We opted for the lower down restaurant, overlooking the private bridge and over to the Jumeriah Beach Hotel. It was really beautiful, and the staff were so lovely.

Burj Al Arab Lobby

This was pretty pricey, the equivalent of around £95 each, but honestly – it was definitely worth it. The food and drink was exquisite, the surroundings amazing and really? When else are you going to go into a 7 star hotel in your life? Its such an iconic building, and I was so happy that I got to go in and see what it was like.

Burj Al Arab foyer

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Things people don’t understand unless they wear contact lenses…

I’ve had many conversations with people who have perfect vision about contact lenses and there is so much of this world that they just do not understand. And lucky for them… about contact lenses and there is so much of this world that they just do not understand…

Taking off make-up is a nightmare.

You have to take your contact lenses out first, or you’ll scrub them a) out b) to the back of your eyeball if you attempt to rub your mascara or eyeshadow off whilst wearing them. So you have to try and remove them first. Good luck. The amount of mascara some of us wear means getting past our almost solid eyelashes to fish out this little disc of vision. On top of this, if you don’t wear dailies – you’ve got to get all the residual make-up off the aforementioned lens before storing it away for an overnight soak.

Putting them in water seems like a good idea

I have done this on occasion – particularly if I’m somewhere where I know I need to be able to drive myself home the next day (or frankly make it home under my own steam using any other method of transport other than being delivered back to my door – yes, I am that blind). However, my friends – a married couple who are an optician and ophthalmologist respectively – recoiled in horror when I told them this. Apparently there is some horrific water-borne bug that if it gets trapped between your eye and lens…well, bad things happen.

Falling asleep watching with your lenses in is AGONY

You’re curled up watching a movie, your eyes get heavy, you wake up half an hour later feeling like the someone has put glue on your eyes and set it with a heat gun. All the moisture from your eyes are gone and your lenses are firmly bonded with the top layer of your eyeball. Cue trying to remove them without ripping off the top layer of your cornea…

Swimming is terrifying

Ever seen those people who seem frightened of water touching their face? Well, chances are, they wear contact lenses. Having your contact lens washed out of your eyes is terrifying for three reasons – 1) the general chlorine mixed with contact lens drama is bad enough 2) if your lens does get washed away – you can LITERALLY SEE NOTHING 3) Scary microbes that live in water are SO BAD for your eyes, you should avoid them at all costs.

Uncontrollable winking

This is often seen in offices, coffee shops, in the street – basically anywhere. A little bit of insight (pun, ha!) – this is someone who has something on their lens. Whether its an eyelash, a blob of mascara, a hair or some random airborne item – it is now lodged on their lens and short of taking the lens out, the second best option is to blink your eye rapidly hoping to dislodge it. Also, it hurts like a MOFO so it’s literally impossible not to wink crazily, usually whilst water is pouring out of your eyes…

Unplanned night activities are stressful

Now this sounds rude, but not in that way – although that way also applies here. Many a night I’ve been out, or over at a friends and they say ‘oh, just stay at mine tonight’. This drives fear into my heart. I haven’t got my lenses case or my glasses! I panic that I’ll be blind come morning if I don’t have the appropriate place to store my lenses and so inevitably have to make excuses that I have to go home unless I’m sober and have my car in which case I can hop into my car, drive all the way home, pick up my eye-related paraphernalia and head on back to the party / outing / meal that I was at safe in the knowledge that I have my lenses stuff with me and now the world is my oyster!!

Only putting one in and trying to make it through the day makes you look like a psycho

We’ve all been there. You’ve either dropped or damaged a lens but either don’t want to wear your glasses (or if you’re me – have no idea where your glasses are). This results in winging it with just the one and what ensues is the inevitable inadvertent winking at individuals whilst trying to focus your good eye on something, a constant battle to try and focus both eyes at the same time and a splitting headache.

You can lose a lens in the back of our eyeball but it will not end up in your brain

A friend of mine’s mum was an optician and I remember my friend telling me how a customer came in because he had lost his lenses, and her mum proceeded to fish around 3 lenses out of each eye that had got lost in the void somewhere…how? I do not know.

Dubai

Dubai was never somewhere I had ever thought of visiting, until I met my now-husband. Growing up he’d spent up to 6 weeks of the year in Dubai where his dad often visited for work, and it became a bit of a family tradition for them. (Note, on my family holidays we went to visit my Gran in Scotland, or in our caravan to France, or to Center Parcs or bizarrely named holidays parks like Sandy Balls…yes, really!)

However, he was always keen to return and I, too, quite fancied seeing this place that is growing in popularity, and where a lot of people I had known from school had moved to and now lived and worked.

View from our room

Not long after my husband lost his dad, and very soon after we got engaged (I unknowingly booked it the day before he proposed!), we booked to go on a dream trip. Two nights in Dubai, two nights in Bangkok and 10 nights in Koh Samui, an island off the coast of mainland Thailand.

Hotel

We booked to stay in the hotel in Dubai where my husband stayed as a child with his family, Le Royal Meridien on Jumeriah Beach. Before going, I decided to try my luck via twitter with Le Royal Meridien, to see whether we could get a room similar to those he used to stay in with his family, or even just an acknowledgement from the management in memory of his dad (he had visited this hotel more than 20 times as a child, staying for long periods at a time). They were great! I gave them my husband’s name and our arrival date and they said they’d see what they could do. On arrival, we were upgraded to a Royal Club room in a separate section of the hotel. It was huge and really plush.

Room upgrade

We did notice though that when we opened the balcony door, the heat was so intense all the glass and mirrors in the room steamed up. I found taking pictures a challenge too with the lens steaming up with the change in temperature from the cold air-conditioned room, to the humid outdoors that was hitting 40c by 11am!

We got ourselves ready and went downstairs to go to the pool and sunbathe for a little while. We found a spot and lay down…and got back up pretty sharpish. The heat was so intense and neither of us thought we’d be able to sit out for long. We got into the pool and swam around for a while (mostly cooling off!) and then went to the swim up bar and ordered some smoothies. We decided to give the beach a go, and thought we could perhaps do a little snorkelling off the beach…OH MY LIFE. The sand was absolutely excruciatingly hot. We both had flip flops and the sand was so fluffy that even with shoes on, the sand would scorch your feet. Since my husband last visited they had moved the beach (this is Dubai after all!) and made it a lot longer – so a much longer walk down from the path across the sand to the water. We ended up sprinting but we genuinely did both burn our feet.

We ran into the water…such a strange feeling…the water was hot! It was like lying in a bath. A lot of the time you get in the water to refresh but this felt really weird to be in the sea when its hot! Regardless of this, we swam around and enjoyed ourselves. We were sweeping the sea floor with our hands absent mindedly while chatting when my husband produced a dried starfish! He had scooped it up!

After a while we braved the run back to the walkway across the beach, and then went over to where the boat shack was. We saw that there was a tour of Dubai by water later that afternoon, something my husband had been really keen to do when we were there. We booked on and went back to the room to get ourselves ready.

Later that afternoon we wandered down with about 8 other people and set off on our boat trip. The boat trip was great as you got to see a lot but in the shade of the boat with the cool sea air on you. It travelled around the Palm and over to the Atlantis, then round to the Burj al Arab. We got some great shots of this and the Jumeriah Beach Hotel, and then we were taken past the Sheikh’s yacht parked on his private island – absolutely huge! We then glided through the marina and back to our hotel. The trip was great, and gave you a great perspective of Dubai from the water.

We relaxed and had dinner in the hotel that night – buffet style but absolutely incredible!

Atlantis, The Palm

The next morning we were up early and had breakfast at the hotel – again, absolutely delicious! We then got a cab to a local mall and wandered around for a while. The highlight was the macaroons we bought (divine!). We then got another taxi up to the Atlantis on the Palm.

DubaiThis hotel is incredible – featuring a full-size aquarium within it that you can visit, but throughout the hotel there are walls of glass where you can see the marine life passing by.

There are long shopping arcades and then a part closed off to the public for guests only. I wasn’t really paying attention but my husband led me towards it and the security guard let us through! We went out the poolside and had a quick look around, and up at the impressive building, then went back in.

Dubai

We head back to our hotel, got ourselves ready and got a car to…the Burj Al Arab for Afternoon Tea (see post). As the sun was setting, we came out of the Burj Al Arab and walked across the private bridge to the Jumeriah Beach Hotel (shaped like a wave). It was really nice inside, but for my husband who’d visited so many times before, he was a little disappointed – more about the lack of spectacle, which he felt it used to have.

DubaiWe went back to our hotel and packed our bags, ready for our next leg of our Far Eastern Adventure, Bangkok!

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How to make the most of ‘me’ time

I don’t know about you, but I can get very nervous if I’m on my own with time stretched out before me. Anyone else been there? A bit of scheduled time where you will have time to yourself and then that thought hits you…what am I going to do?!

I call it The Fear.
That feeling that creeps up upon you until you feel like you’re drowning in panic when you have no plans, and there is no-one else around.
When I was younger, I remember saying to people – “I don’t get bored”. When challenged on this, I reassured them – “seriously, you could leave me on a chair for 5 hours on my own and I would not get bored”.
I wonder now what it was that so assured in my younger self that I would be totally happy with no-one but myself. But more than that. Totally happy with nothing but my thoughts.
Now the idea of being alone with nothing to do and no-one to talk to terrifies me.
But how often do we read or see articles about how to make the most of your limited time? How to multitask in life to achieve everything? How often do we feel strung out and need nothing more than a bit of rest time?
But if that time comes unexpectedly, you get The Fear. So here are a couple of relaxing – or at least therapeutic – activities to make the most of the ‘me’ time without getting The Fear:

  1. Paint your nails – a relaxing, absorbing pastime that leaves you feeling and looking better. I dream of having perfectly manicured nails, and I always used to, but now I feel like I don’t have time. Well move aside vegetating on the sofa, these nails need doing! If nails aren’t your thing – just take a bath, or have some sort of pamper. You’re worth it!
    [Note: do not do what I do. Paint nails when you have to be somewhere 30 minutes later…that just ends in tears / smudged nails]
  2. Organise – we all have that one drawer (entire room of the house) that needs sorting. One of those, – four hours later, sat in a pile of papers – kinda sort-outs. But the thought of doing it can be daunting, and it’s one of those things that once you scratch the surface, you’re in it for the long-haul. However, set yourself this kind of challenge when you have time on your hands and you’ll not only be doing something productive but, more often than not, you’ll get engrossed in the task plus stumble across all those nik naks you forgot about.
  3. Photographs – when I was younger I couldn’t wait to finish the film in my camera to go to the chemists (seriously, I was only born in the mid 80s but I sound so old!) to get it developed. Now those days have gone but I think its both a good and a bad thing. You upload your pictures off your SD card and onto your computer or external hard drive – all safe and sound but do you ever look at them?
    Ever have those afternoons as a child where you stumble across faded pictures of your parents on the beach or old men who turn out to be your dad’s great uncle – those opportunities will pass us by if we don’t have hard copies of our pictures.
    How about sort your photos into folders online, by date, and then upload onto a photo printing site like photobox and get them posted to you? You can pick up some cheap photo albums and spend a few free afternoons or evenings reminiscing whilst putting together some great albums of great times.
  4. Indulge – this may differ for people, but I am the type of person who loves getting new toiletries and make-up, but confession time. I’m too scared to use them. Anything that is particularly nice or expensive I squirrel away as I want to keep it good. But why? Its such a waste. I used to do the same with new clothes – didn’t want to take the tag off them. How ridiculous. So I’d be wearing clothes I didn’t really like, cheap or old make-up and standard chemist-bought toiletries, all to ‘keep it good’! So indulge – take the cellophane wrapper off that make-up, pour yourself a bath and use that beautiful bath oil, light those expensive candles. Indulge.
  5. Read a book – now I love reading, but when do you get the chance? Often we’ll feel guilty about sitting doing nothing but reading but do it! Reading exercises our mind and can be a really relaxing pastime.
  6. Clean. Now a lot of you will be groaning at this, but have you ever gutted your house and then sat there feeling amazing? I love that feeling but I hate cleaning. I know this is about ‘me’ time, but some of the ‘me’ time is to actually put your time to good use. Taking care of your home, which is more often than not your biggest expense in your life, is worth the time and trust me – you’ll feel brilliant afterwards.
  7. Reconnect – when you’re so busy and have work, life, family and financial commitments it can be easy to let those carefully nurtured friendships slip away. Use your ‘me’ time productively and reconnect with those people. Go through your phone or social media contacts list and send messages or call those that you haven’t spoken to in a while but want to stay a part of your life. I did this recently and contacted, and eventually met up with, three different people from my life who I don’t have mutual friends with and otherwise would never see. Its great and gives you new perspectives and new topics of conversation. So try it, just contact three people and see what rewards it brings.

TheUnglamorousGirl

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My First Time Camping

Many people have been camping – either with scouts, as kids or even when travelling… I am not one of those people. I had never been in a tent, never slept outdoors, the closest I’ve come is to staying in caravans. My husband had mentioned it several times over the last couple of years but nothing ever came of it.

Until the first weekend in March.

I was having a bad week and feeling really sorry for myself, and my husband asked if perhaps I’d like to go away overnight. That sounded brilliant and just what I needed. He found a place in Wales with glamping pods and suggested we try there. He called back later to say they were fully booked, but that they had camping space…? Of course they did – it was the beginning of March in Britain!

Tent

Cue my husband coming home late one night armed with a full array of camping equipment – a tent, two sleeping bags, a lantern, two torches, a gas stove, replacement gas canisters, two ground mats, a mallet and extra tent pegs (“just in case”). Unbelievably he managed to source all of this for a couple of pounds over £100. By my reckoning, that is what we’d spend on one night in a hotel for the two of us, and so we’ve at least broke even if I try it once and hate it.

So I went along with my husband’s plan. The Saturday morning, we’d pack the car and head off for Wales, pitch a tent, go walking, go to a local pub for dinner and back to our cosy tent with a view over Fishguard Bay in Wales…

So, on the Friday night when my husband was at work, I went back to the camping shop and bought a blow up double bed, foot pump and whistling kettle for the stove – making me sleep outside in Winter is one thing, depriving me of comfort or tea is quite another! I went home, packed everything we’d need, got a few munchie supplies like cans of juice, crisps, bananas, some biscuits and also packed a Tupperware box with breakfast – bacon, sausages and eggs.

I packed some thermal leggings and my brother’s old and cosy fleece that I love, and lots of socks! I packed jogging bottoms for my husband to sleep in and our walking shoes (which I found in the garage after much searching). All was ready!

We got up and headed off around 9am, working our way initially towards Aberystwyth before heading south along the coast to get to Fishguard Bay. On our way over we wound round country roads and saw into some pretty spectacular locations. Not far from Aberystwyth we spotted a really pretty visitor centre and decided to stop for a look. There is no way I’d know how to pronounce this but its definitely worth a stop.

Kestrel trail

Had it not been drizzling and, frankly, freezing cold we would definitely have gone for a walk round the trail as it looked fantastic!

Trail map

We wandered round and popped into the centre and actually ended up having our lunch – I had a brie and cranberry panini – AMAZING! Anyway, I digress…

We got back into the car and continued on our way towards Fishguard. As we had stopped for lunch already we just drove through Aberystwyth and continued to our camping spot. On our way along the coast we did stop a couple of times to soak in the beauty – it was incredible, and even more incredible is realising that this is on your doorstep. There are points where it could have been Canada or California, it was lovely.

View en route

We finally arrived at our campsite at about 2pm. We went into the shop / office and paid £22 for our spot – naturally we had our pick of the pitches as there were no other campers there! The glamping pods we’d originally looked at were full though, as were the static vans (some even had hot tubs). We then got everything out of the boot and stared at it. How were we, two individuals with no real experience between us, going to do this? The answer – with great ease and within 20 minutes! Honestly, I was shocked how easy it was. Our tent had just two poles that crossed and held up the structure, we pushed in the pegs – done! We put the air bed inside and pumped it up from outside – done! A colleague of my husband had also leant us a foldaway table and chairs, something that opens up like a pub bench – that was a lifesaver!

We wandered up to the shop to as we decided that if we were going to go for a full breakfast, bread would be a necessity! When we got there, the lady had told us they’d just sold their last loaf but would we like her to bake us some rolls?! Er, hell yeah! How lovely of her – and the rolls were amazing. I think there is a picture of me enjoying one of them the next morning…

Views 3

We then set off south along the coastal path and it was spectacular. You could see right across the bay and the water was so still. We hiked for about an hour before finding ourselves on the edge of a cliff with a view straight down to the sea. We sat and caught our breaths for a moment, then turned and headed back.Views

We decided to head into Fishguard itself to get some dinner…forgetting that there was a big England vs Wales rugby match on. The place was largely deserted so we wandered around and found ourselves in a tiny pub filled with Wales supporters and the rugby on in the corner. We had a couple of drinks (I ordered in my Scottish accent rather than my husband in his English accent!) and watched a bit of rugby. We then set off in search of food, settling on an Indian takeaway (there really was not much choice). We ordered that and took it back to the campsite, by which time it was – I kid you not – completely dark. We set up our make-shift bench and plastic plates and cutlery and proceeded to eat our Indian food lit by torches! It was actually really fun but getting pretty chilly by this point!

We headed up to the main block, got ourselves ready for bed – by this I mean adding a lot of layers and brushing our teeth – and got into the tent. It was quite cold but we read our books (mine was rathering fittingly Wild by Cheryl Strayed) and then went to sleep. We had a bit of a disturbed night but that’s to be expected with our first time camping but got up in the morning refreshed.

Breakfast!

We then set up our gas cooker and made cups of tea and the most epic bacon and sausage rolls! We sat and munched on those whilst looking out over the bay, heaven! We pottered around for a bit and then packed up ready to head home. It was much easier than I thought and we were on our way by 10:30am. We drove to Aberystwyth which I can highly recommend on a nice day – seaside town with gorgeous views and a nice little town to walk around. We had the obligatory fish and chips on the front, washed down with some brilliant ice creams and we were done. We got back in the car and made our way back to the midlands after an awesome weekend.

Aberystwyth

So the outcome? I would definitely go camping. After seeing how nice and well-equipped the main block was at the campsite I’d have no hesitations in going again for a longer period knowing that there’s some home comforts 30 yards away. I’d definitely get a larger tent if we were going for a longer period of time as we’d bought the basics and the tent was just big enough for us both to lie down in for the night (4 man tent, yeah right!). On top of that, doing this trip made us both realise what beautiful locations and wonderful views there are close to home and that perhaps we don’t always need to go abroad to explore new places – there’s some fantastic places right on our doorstep and we should definitely explore them more!

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