Category: Travel

Marmaris, Turkey – the Friendliest Place!


Our recent trip to Marmaris in Turkey was literally a tale of two parts.  The good however significantly outweighed the bad.

Although I love the idea of travelling the actual travel day is incredibly hard, especially if you are struggling with mobility.  As mentioned in a previous post, this trip started on the right note with a wonderful night at the Carlton Hotel in Blanchardstown.  At 4 am all excited we set off on our new adventure to a place that we had never visited before. (read about our wonderful night here)

Arriving in the friendliest place

Almost 5 hours on a budget airline is tiring.  It was wonderful to land at the brand-new airport at Dalaman and to feel the sun on our shoulders.  The transfer system here is very slick, and we were soon installed into a smart little mini bus, complete with a cooler of drinks.  All the transfer buses stop off half way, and I was delighted to stretch my legs and treat myself to my first Turkish ice cream – it was called blue sky – and looked exactly like the sky above us.  I was curious to try it and wondered what it would taste like – hard to describe but the closest I could get was caramel delicious.

A word of warning

Before we arrived at our hotel we knew it wouldn’t be great.  We had been doing some research on Trip Advisor and were a little worried to be honest.  The reviews were shocking.  We already knew that it was a five-story hotel that had no lift.  When I found this out I called ahead and explained my mobility issues and thankfully we were in a room on the first floor.  The hotel was very run down, but thankfully clean (this is important to me).  We had also booked full board – and one look at the dining room, the food that looked like it was recycled for each meal, and the kitchen led us to a quick decision that we wouldn’t be eating in.

On the plus side the location of the hotel was perfect, only 5 minutes from the beach, with easy access to the town and lovely eateries.  It also had a great rooftop pool, that had me taking a daily dip!

It is important to check things out.  We do travel on a budget, so were not expecting 5 stars.

The most delicious food always served with a smile

The food in Marmaris is amazing.  Let me just say that.  From a gorgeous Cappuccino to a full mixed grill, everything was fresh and delicious.  It was also extremely affordable, and served with a smile.

The first morning we went for a walk along the seafront.  After a while I was hot and tired, so we chose a restaurant for a refreshing drink.  Vamos appealed to me from the sidewalk, and it was a good choice.  Although we were only having a drink, I read the menu (I always do this – its ok to dream).  I noticed a starter of watermelon and feta and never mind that it was 11am I ordered it.  The portion that arrived was enough for three!  They quickly brought extra utensils and told me that this was not the normal portion size but that they decided to treat me.  It was fresh, juicy and so delicious.  And, it set the tone for a foodie holiday.

A firm favourite on the Turkish menu was lava bread.  This is literally a balloon of bread – crispy and light served with salsa, garlic yogurt and garlic butter.  I think we shared one every day, and I am missing them already.

Food was so affordable and the quality was outstanding.  We indulged in gorgeous kebab skewers, the most delicious pizza, and tasty gorgeous Turkish breakfasts.  If you fancy, there is always a great English breakfast – available in most restaurants.

Great value for money

I had underestimated how much spending money we needed – primarily because we ate out all the time.  After one attempt at drawing cash from a Turkish language ATM which was stressful, we realised that it was easy enough to choose a multiple language version.  By this stage I thought I was accustomed to the Turkish Lire.  I had bought three pairs of Birkenstocks, and we had tried out all sorts of treats from the supermarket.  I drew a couple of hundred lire, and then realised that it was barely 30 Euro.  Your money goes a long way in Turkey.

We booked our budget trip with Love Holidays.

A long walk to Icmeler

We love to walk.  Even though I walk slowly and with my trusty stick Stan, I am game to see how far I can go before I need a rest.  One day we decided to visit the next village – Icmeler.  I am not sure why we thought we could walk there, but we did.  We walked and walked.  I got hotter and more tired, and started complaining.  Himself kept on saying, it’ll be around the next corner.  After about six or seven corners I called time and we popped into a café with a Wi-Fi sign for a cold drink.  I checked google maps – it was 8km further!!!  Suffice to say we went back to the hotel for a swim and took a taxi the next day. I fell in love with Icmeler, bought the most delicious Turkish delight and indulged in yet another Lava bread.

Be prepared to lose your inhibitions

I had heard about a Hamman – a Turkish bath.  Feeling brave I booked in and descended the stairs to the Hamman spa.  Now, please remember that I am fabulous plus sized lady.  I was shown the changing room and offered a Turkish towel which is probably slightly bigger than a large dish towel.  I blanched!  A young lady came to assist and managed to truss me up in two towels – I had elected to keep my underwear on (for now).  After a sauna, I was shown into the Hamman room and invited to lay down on this large marble slab.  There was then a confusion of communication and eventually and English speaker came to clarify – did I want a man or woman to wash me.  A woman please!

This was a great choice as from this point on I realised that I had to simply give up on inhibitions and enjoy the experience.  I was given an invigorating aloe vera scrub, followed by a massage with what can only be described as pillow cases full of foam.  It was sublime.  The experience concluded with a full body (and I mean full body) oil massage.

I have shared my turkish bath story with a few people.  I have told that I didn’t sell it well.  Yes, it is an extremely intimate experience – but I would do it again.  Just remember to leave your inhibitions at the door.

Sailing away with pirate ships

The bay of Marmaris is extremely picturesque. From the first moment, we glimpsed it on arrival, I wanted to paint the misty hills that enclosed it.  The first morning we noticed Pirate ships on the bay, and I was intrigued.  There are several ships all offering day trips around the bay.  In the end, we chose the Black Pearl, primarily because of the friendly man who engaged with us.  I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a pirate ship, but then again we got to watch the Pirate ships instead.

This day out was brilliant value and included all drinks on board as well as a delicious lunch.  The views were stunning and so inspiring.  We dropped anchor at various spots for swimming, sightseeing and to view truly magical caves.

My lasting memories of Turkey

When I think back on my trip, the overriding memories are of the friendly people, and the kindness of strangers.  For the most part, people are honest and kind.  We had great chats with locals and other tourists, and felt truly welcomed.

We will be back – and next time we will stay in the lovely Icmeler but of course we will visit the beautiful bay of Marmaris.

Thank you for reading.

Kerry xx

 

The best way to start a holiday!

I love going on holidays.  What I don’t like is the getting ready.  I get quite stressed about the packing in case I leave anything behind.  My other big stress is getting to the airport.  To drive or catch a bus?  Where to park?  Quite honestly I don’t normally want to be around myself the day before travel.

The Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown offer a service called #StayParkFly –  you can stay over at the hotel the night before you fly, and leave your car there.  They then offer a shuttle service dropping you right at the airport.

I was delighted to collaborate with the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown on our recent visit to Turkey. We were flying at 6am on Sunday morning so needed to be at the airport at 4am.  And, yes the shuttle bus was available at this hour of the night.

This was such a cool experience that I decided to dedicate a full blog post to what I am now calling the first day of the holiday.

Day 1 of my Holiday

On Saturday afternoon we took a leisurely drive up to Dublin arriving at the hotel mid-afternoon.  I have visited the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown before and I know the rooms are lovely but we were given a real treat and upgraded to a suite.  I felt like a movie star!  We settled in with a cup of tea and some lovely little cakes.  I stretched out like a star fish on the bed and himself watched a little TV.

Instead of my usual stress I felt so relaxed, like I was on holiday already.  And what better way to celebrate the beginning of a holiday than a wonderful G&T!  The bar is so lovely and welcoming and all the staff were super helpful.

We needed an early night (as we had an extremely long day ahead of us) so we had an early dinner.  A delicious juicy steak for himself and some yummy pumpkin ravioli for me, before heading off to our gorgeous room for a bubble bath and an early night.

Watch a video of my ‘room tour’ here

Day 2 of our holiday

The next morning I woke up and instead of being stressed, I was excited!  The attitude of the staff at this hotel is fantastic.  Before 4am we came downstairs with our bags to be greeted with a smile, and two little bags with take-away breakfast of croissants, muffins, fruit and water.  Our cheerful driver Michael set off for Dublin Airport – next stop for us – Marmaris, Turkey!

You know the feeling when you come home from holiday.  You have been travelling hours on a mini bus and a budget airline and you are beyond tired.  This is normally the time when you have to either climb on a bus for another few hours, or play the game of find the car in among hundreds of cars in the long-term parking.  By this stage my fatigue normally has me close to tears.

What a difference this was.  Despite our plane being delayed, the cheerful driver Michael was waiting for us, he had even called ahead to check that we knew where to find him.

I can honestly say that the wonderful service from the staff at the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown contributed to a wonderful holiday.

Kerry xx

Our stay at the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown was gifted to us.  Thank you very much!  Thank you also to Sinead from the Irish Blogger Agency.

p.s.  The next installment of our holiday in amazing Turkey will be coming soon!  And it includes my take on a Turkish Bath!

12 Tips for Travelling on a Budget

I love to travel.  There is something about visiting a place that is not home that captures my imagination and quite simply excites me.  I had to find a way of travelling on a budget.

We are on a very limited budget.  I am in fact on a medical pension which makes it even harder to travel, but not impossible.

My excuse was that I couldn’t’ afford a holiday

For many years I was the person that said I can’t afford a holiday.  I looked on with envy as many people jetted off to sunnier climates and felt frustrated and a tiny bit left out.  What I didn’t realise is that there are a few tricks and techniques which make it perfectly possible to travel – on an extremely limited budget.

  1. Book out of season – it’s one of the advantages of being a little older.
  2. Be prepared to trawl the internet – the deals are there to be had, you simply have to spend time looking. Our favourite site is www.loveholidays.com
  3. Be flexible with dates, and places, you might have to compromise a little but I promise it is worth it.
  4. Let go of the 5-Star dreams. We travel on a budget and understand that if you aren’t paying 5-star rates you won’t get a 5 star hotel.  However, you might get a really clean self-catering apartment in a perfect location.
  5. Choose self-catering. Although we have tried various options, but if I am honest I do prefer self-catering.  It is fun going to the supermarket and figuring out what might be delicious.  It is also a lot cheaper.  A bottle of wine, or even a bottle of water from a supermarket is more affordable than one in a restaurant.
  6. Eating out is cheaper than at home – just remember to do your research. Trip Advisor is great for knowing just exactly what you are getting.  I love the European café culture – so am always happy to pay for a great coffee and a pastry and sit and write in my journal or simply watch the world go by.
  7. Save! Yes, no matter how cheap it is savings are going be needed.  I am personally very happy to have baked beans on a baked potato for dinner for a few nights and know that I can make the holiday payment.
  8. Choose to pay monthly. I find it quite difficult to save up a lump sum, but many holiday operators offer the option of paying monthly.  We allocate 10 Euros each of our weekly budget to paying off holidays.  It is easy enough to find 10 Euro and we are heading to our third European holiday this weekend.
  9. Research transport options. You might be able to pick up a bus pass for the week for as little as 10 Euro.  I love to walk on holiday but sometimes you need to catch a ride.
  10. Think of the extras. I used to get caught by extras like check-in fees, and parking.  Parking can be quite a chunk of spending money if you don’t get it right.  One option would be to stay at an affordable Dublin hotel which offers a shuttle to the airport and parking while you are away.  We are delighted to be staying at the Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown before leaving for Turkey.  An added advantage is that we need to be at the airport at 4am.  This way will be rested and ready for our holiday.
  11. Look into the local currency. If you need to convert your spending money before you go.  (And yes you guessed it I save that too for a few weeks before the trip)
  12. Check out mobile phone and internet access with your service provider. The last thing you want is a rude bill on your return.

It is exciting to go on holiday and the best part is when everything is sorted and paid for before hand.  I am off to pack my bag, tick off my checklist and get ready for Turkey.

I hope you are inspired to go travelling on a budget.

Follow me on Instagram @fabulouskerry to see how we get on.

Thanks for reading.

Kerry xx

How to pack fabulous into a 10kg carry-on bag!

Packing for a week in a carry-on bag is the biggest holiday challenge for me.  I want to be comfortable, feel fashionable and pretty and still not incur excess baggage costs.

It starts with shoes …

Shoes are the most important item in my holiday wardrobe.  Firstly I must be comfortable, and walking is always a huge part of the holiday.  In addition shoes are the heaviest item in your luggage and when you have 10kg for a week’s worth of style some forward planning is needed.

I was recently introduced to Hotter shoes.  These fabulous shoes have transformed my wardrobe and my foot comfort.  So stylish and super comfortable.  My pale blue Flare sandals are a dream to wear.  They are seriously stylish but are so well designed that they even have fastenings that adjust – absolutely perfect for me as my feet swell in the hot weather.

Blue is a favourite colour for me – and like denim they go with everything!.

Red shoes, in my opinion are magical.  Gorgeous soft buttery leather and a padded,shaped innersole make these Nirvana mary-janes so comfortable, while still being fashionable.  The design of this shoe is perfect with dresses, leggings or jeans.  Such a versatile choice that I know will take me through the seasons.  A great choice for travelling!

How to pack for Summer sun

Summer means colour to me.  Banish those blacks and greys and get happy.  I love summer bright dresses that you can simply slip on and be ready to go the beach or eat dinner al fresco.

I start packing by laying out the clothes I think I want to take on the bed.  Then, I count the days and consider contingencies.  Most often do a bit of editing because we often take too much.  The next items to go in are shoes.  I normally travel with three pairs.  For a summer holiday, a pair of flip flops, a pair of sandals and a pair of shoes suitable for walking and travelling.  As I wear a lot of dresses, these all need to be pretty!  My Hotter sandals and shoes in blue and red were the first items in the suitcase. A quick glance at my holiday wardrobe assured me that they were the perfect choice.

My packing checklist

I work on a little checklist for all my trips – just to make sure I have all I need and nothing extra.

This would be for a seven-day trip.

  1. Footwear – sandals, flip-flops, shoes
  2. Dresses x3 – normally a couple of maxi dresses and a shorter one. (I do wash and wear)
  3. Leggings x 1
  4. Tops (for leggings) x 2
  5. Wrap/cover-up
  6. Swimsuit
  7. Cardigan
  8. Underwear
  9. Modesty tops (Little vests to go under my dresses and protect my modesty somewhat)
  10. Capsule make-up and cosmetic collection (it all fits into a little zip lock bag)
  11. Hair – yes I take my heated rollers with me everywhere, hairbrush, hair ties and pins.
  12. Medication – I do have to take a good bit with me – so that is a second zip lock bag.
  13. Extras – travel adaptor, phone charger, my journal
  14. Accessories – a fold up beach bag, sunglasses, and a few key pieces of costume jewellery.
  15. Handbag – I checklist all the items in here too – no harm in being prepared.

Tick everything off the list and then roll pack.  This way I fit everything I need in.

Yes, it can be done!  Carry-on luggage only.

I wouldn’t have believed it could be done.  It is possible to save on checked luggage and fit whatever you need into a little suitcase.  I do think it is all about choices, and for me it definitely starts with choosing the perfect shoes.

This is a sponsored post by the fabulous Hotter Shoes.  I was gifted the shoes which have honestly become my favourites.  I wrote about choosing the shoes and the wonderful service offered by Hotter in this blog post.

Thank you for reading, and I hope I have inspired you to book that summer break – and save the cost of check-in baggage for a nice dinner out on holiday and maybe a glass of wine.

Kerry x

Tenerife – it creeps into your heart until you don’t want to leave

Everyone has different expectations of a holiday and of course different budgets too.

We were so excited to be visiting Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife.  Endless hours had been spent on YouTube looking at travel videos.  I was very curious to experience ‘black’ sand!

The holiday didn’t get off to the finest start.  Despite being excited, the trip was long.  A four and a half hour flight, plus a couple of hours drive and of course airport waiting time all added up.  It meant that we arrived late in the evening a little tired and grumpy if I am completely honest.

Travelling with a budget airline on a short trip is fine, but absolutely no frills on a longer flight is a little more challenging.   The holiday had started and were eager to get going as we had a 90 minute transfer from the airport to our destination at the north of the island.

Something went wrong and we found ourselves waiting for more than an hour.  Eventually a small group was loaded into a mini bus that was not road worthy and we set off.  This was not the way I was expecting to start my holiday.

We travel budget style

We are on a budget and more than happy to compromise on luxuries for the chance of some sun on our bones.  Resorts wouldn’t necessarily be our choice either as we enjoy walking and soaking up the local culture.

Our hotel, Travador, was in the older part of Puerto de la Cruz, and despite the website reporting a big upgrade it was a little tired.  We eventually realised that it was the public rooms that had been upgraded and that the rooms were in progress.  Never mind, it was clean (a biggy for me) and the location was absolutely perfect.

Walking our way around Puerto de la Cruz

Both my partner and I suffer from arthritis, and one of the reasons we travel is to take advantage of the dry heat which makes such a huge difference on our pain and inflammation.  There are days at home where I struggle to walk.  In Tenerife I was walking 10 0000 steps a day (with my trusty stick Stan), but walking nevertheless.

On our first morning we started exploring the town, which in a weird way reminded me of South Africa.  The beautiful gardens which were part of the city scape incorporated Bougainvillea one of my favourite childhood flowers as well as many other trees and flowers.  I took hundreds of photos that first morning.  The heat on my back and the paw paw (papaya) and guavas outside the shops were enticing.

Location is really key – especially if you want to be able to walk everywhere.  After treating ourselves to coffee in an outdoor café we found our way to the beach only a 10 minute walk from our hotel and it was at this point that I started to fall in love.

It is odd looking at black sand, because it’s different to what your head says it should be.  The combination from an artist’s eye however is breath-taking.  The sea reflects an exquisite turquoise shade as it brushes across the sand.  I took loads of photos and can’t wait to get into the studio to try to recapture this amazing colour combination.

A beer and a beer shandy were just what we needed after our long walk and we simply sat back and enjoyed the magnificent view.  These positions at the beachside café became a daily indulgence.  Sometimes we indulged further tasting the local cuisine or a naughty ice cream.

There is something about the sea that calms and relaxes me completely.  I can look at it, walk along the shore line dipping my toes into the waves or simply close my eyes and take in the smell of the salty waves and sun on the sand.  I did a fair bit of the above in Puerto de la Cruz.

Musings from my journal

I journal every day.  It is part of my routine and certainly something that helps me in so many ways.  When we are on holiday, journaling time has to be planned for.  Most days this took place in a little café a stone’s throw from our hotel where I could order a pot of tea and a pastry for the princely sum of 2 Euro.

During the holiday I came up with these seven realisations/lessons that I learnt from my week in Puerto de la Cruz.

  1. It really doesn’t matter what you look like.  On the beach I saw woman (and men) of every shape, size and age all wearing bikinis and other skimpy swimwear.  They were happy and sunning themselves and not beating themselves up about what they looked like.  I made a pact to give up tangling with my sarong and simply relax and enjoy.
  2. I love the coffee culture. People watching is such fun and there is nothing nicer than whiling away an hour over a delicious café con leche and perhaps a sneaky pastry.  Costing less than 2 euro – including the nibble, I can afford to indulge.
  3. My IBS is better on holiday. I realise this is a bit TMI (too much information) but it is really relevant to me.  IBS is part of my life and a side effect of fibromyalgia and other conditions not to mention the many pills that I have to pop.  I think it could be all the walking (see point 4) or simply being truly relaxed and keeping hydrated.  It could be lack of stress.  I just know that somehow I would like to hang onto this advantage when I get home.
  4. Walking! Instead of dancing all night I could walk all day.  I walk fairly slowly and use my trusty stick much of the time, but I really enjoy it.  We walked on the beach, along the paved walkways which stretch across Puerto de la Cruz and wound our way through quirky back streets.  Yes, my feet got sore, and I got tired, but it felt so good to be moving with the sun on my back and a few breaks along the way to enjoy the atmosphere.
  5. My joints – the bane of my life with arthritis are much, much better in a dry heat. It is amazing to rely less and less on pain relief over the week, and of course to be able to move more.  The sad side of this is that within 48 hours of being back in Ireland, these positive effects are gone.  (Never mind I can book another budget holiday).
  6. You can travel on very little money. Both my partner and I are on a very limited budget.  Holidays are only possible if we budget carefully before hand and afterwards.  We invest a lot of time into digging out the best deals possible.  We are fairly flexible with dates which means that we can avail of the best offers possible.  This holiday was booked through Love Holidays and was paid off on an instalment plan.  We don’t mind the lack of luxuries, but do love the warm air and the sense of excitement that travel brings.
  1. Be adventurous! In everything.  We had a giggle every morning when we came down for breakfast because it wasn’t what we are used to.  Peas, carrots, and one morning pizza.  There were some really yummy cakes and pastries too.  Everyone is different and every culture that you visit has different cuisine.  Try things – you might not like them, but then again you might be back for more.

Highlights and low notes

As with any journey there are particular highlights.  One of mine was the night we treated ourselves to dinner at a little restaurant and were in turn treated to a feast of flamenco dancing.  I am very much an off the beaten track person, and would prefer to try smaller eateries.  One of the best meals of the trip was a shared plate of the local Canarian potatoes (wrinkly potatoes) – basically salted boiled new potatoes with two mojo sauces eaten at the beachside café.

On a low note, it took us 27 hours to get home.  A technical fault on a Ryanair flight had us diverted to a different airport and drinking tea at 4am in an airport hours from our car.  It wasn’t easy and it definitely meant that we arrived home tired, rather than relaxed.

Thank you for reading about my travels.

Kerry xx

Reading inspires me to travel to dream destinations

Reading giving me itchy feet.  It inspires me to travel to destinations that have until now only existed within pages of a book.

When I was about eight years old I didn’t read.  I didn’t like it – I thought it was boring.

I was then introduced to my first thriller/mystery and I was hooked.  I forgot about anything or anyone around me.  Nothing much has changed in the ensuing years.

These days I read on my kindle which is on my phone.  I still love a paper book, but I also love the ease of reading an e-book.  It is easy to hold and more importantly with me wherever I go.

Wednesday Quotation

I am delighted to be back bringing you a Wednesday quotation.  And this one from my favourite childhood author Dr Seuss really inspires me and tells a story of where I am in my life right now.

The more you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you will go.

I read every day.  Sometimes I forget things because I am absorbed in the story that transports me to places in my imagination.  I read fiction, I read travel books, I read inspiration and I read personal development and self-improvement books.  When I get a chance I still read childrens books too.

No matter what you read when you crack open the pages, virtual or not, you are learning.  You are learning about people and you are learning about places.

I am so excited to be travelling to Tenerife for some sun very soon.  There are lots of trips planned for this year and the next. My wish list that gets added to regularly, and sometimes directly in correlation with something I have read.

Travel does cost money and so many of my dream destinations will remain dreams for a while, but at least I can read, and research and allow my imagination to soar.

Thank you so much for reading

Kerry x

 

The Delights of Manchester and More!

There are two kinds of travel for me.  Travel to visit friends and family and travel to places where you can be anonymous.  I love both.  (They can of course be combined!)

Finding time for family

I was reflecting on my travel schedule and realised that for the first time in 22 years I wasn’t going to be with my son for mother’s day.  This had me immediately reaching for my phone and looking for flights.

My son got his dream job and moved to Cheshire just outside Manchester six months ago.  Coincidently my brother and his family moved to the same area a year before when then made their big move from South Africa.

Booking a flight to Manchester seemed like the perfect solution.  A bit of travel, a bit of mother and son time and of course family time.  There is nothing quite like spending time in conversation with someone you have known your whole life (well almost).

A different departure

Due to my health issues, I need to travel assisted most of the time and get quite unsettled in busy loud situations, so I decided to try Shannon Airport as an option to Dublin.  What an absolute pleasure it was – the airport was quiet, clean and very efficient.  And I must pay tribute to the assistance staff who were helpful and kind on both legs of my journey.

I was collected at the airport by my brother and headed back for the first of many cups of tea and hours of conversation.

The adventures begin

The next day my adventures with my son started.  We started off with Sushi for lunch at Zuma – a fabulous little eatery with bottomless Miso soup.  This has become a bit of a tradition and I would really be bereft without a visit here.  My son went back to work and I had a wander around Wilmslow which is a gorgeous town with quirky shops and high street favourites.  I finished up with a cappuccino and cake and my journal – simply the right formula for a little thinking.

That evening I had a wonderful treat.  David has subscribed to a great foody idea.  Hello Fresh delivers carefully curated recipes and the precise ingredients you need to make a tasty dinner.  He has always been interested in cooking and this seems to be a great way to increase your exposure to different cuisines and learn new skills.  The chicken and courgette curry with delicious coconut milk served with flavoured rice was lip smackingly delicious.  I was savouring the flavours in my mouth and not even thinking of dessert.

It was early to bed for us because we had a great day planned for Friday.

We headed off via train and Uber to the Intu Trafford Centre.  This is really quite a magnificent destination – in fact I would call it an experience rather than a shopping centre.  Quite regal architecture invites you into a world under one roof.  I had my phone out and was snapping photographs straight away.

I have always tried to hold onto the childish delight in new experiences and the self playing piano was just the kind of novelty to put me in the right mood.

We wandered the shops being drawn into various establishments, and then we passed  and the most magical display of confectionary I have seen in a long time.  It was time for coffee and a treat.  Unicorn cake for me and an unctuous Ferraro Rocher cupcake for David.  After a nice sit down and a few plans we returned to the shops.

On my first visit to the UK many years ago I discovered Molton Brown.  This has to be my all time indulgence.  Evocative aromas and silky sensations.  I was invited to sit down and give my hands a mini spa treatment.  A cleansing scrub, a bath oil that was literally so sensuous I was swooning and then some luxurious lotion.  I was literally oohing and aahing.

The visit to this emporium was probably the highlight of my visit to Trafford especially when David told me he was buying the oil for me for Mother’s Day.  It was truly something that I loved (I think he got the idea I loved it from my behaviour in the shop).  This kind of gift is perfect as it keeps on giving.  Everytime I have a bath I will be transported back to my special day.

We finished our visit with a yummy visit to Wagamama – a healthy treat and special mother son time.

Cocktails in a Laundrette

The following day we were on the train again and then caught a cab to a laundrette.  Yes, a low-key, tatty looking laundrette with washing machines and baskets of undies.  Behind the door disguised as another washing machine was the most magical cocktail bar ever!

The Washhouse in Manchester is all about storytelling – in the form of delicious cocktails.  The host welcomed us and even as we walked towards our table my eyes were darting about looking at the amazing creations.  Each cocktail has a story and this is played out in the ingredients, the wonderful and creative presentation and of course the taste.

Three is a magic number so we each had three cocktail experiences.  Everything but a Beach – was a trip to the seaside.  The cocktail was served in red bucket and was a wonderful salty but fruity hit and it was served in a sandpit complete with a fallen ice cream cone.  The sand was delicious!  It was all delicious.

My second choice was the Tea-Total – and no it wasn’t a mocktail.  Everyone who knows me, knows that I love my tea and this drink was perfection.  It was served in a little tea-cup complete with a couple of biscuits and floating pink rose buds and the best part, a photograph of David and I pegged to the cup.  (another gift that will keep on giving as it came home with me!)

I finished up with Hard Breakfast – an orange and bourbon based glass of yum served with a tiny toast and marmalade side.  This was the strongest flavour of all my choices so I am glad I ended with it.  As we made our way to the station in the cold wind, my tummy was warm and my heart was delighted.  What a wonderful Mother’s Day treat.

Home comforts

On Mother’s Day the treats continued as my son and his cousins prepared a wonderful lunch for the moms and my brother.  Crumbed Camembert, Lime and Tarragon Chicken and a home-made Toblerone Cheesecake was a menu that couldn’t be beaten.  Thank you to you all – it was a delicious and comforting way to end off a visit that will be remembered.

I enjoy all sorts of travelling and this trip was a delight at every step.  So many of us have family spread out all over the world.  Creating wonderful memories through travel as like jewels in my mind.

Thank you for reading about this month’s adventure.  I wonder where I will go next ……

Kerry xx

 

My Holiday with Stan – in Beautiful Albufeira

I have wanted to travel more for a long time.  Most of my ‘holidays’ for the past 20 years have been about visiting family and friends and exploring Ireland prior to our big move.

Now, don’t get me wrong I am not complaining.  I love my regular trips back to South Africa (of course stopping off in Dubai as often as I can), but I longed for a holiday that was simply that.  A trip where my choices included exploring, resting and simply being present –in a beautiful place.

This January I escaped the cold and wet in Ireland and travelled to Albufeira in the Algarve along the stunning Portuguese coast.  It was a package deal from Love Holidays and I can honestly say that it was money well spent.

So who is Stan?

Well you might be thinking he is a real life man, but he isn’t.  Stan is my walking stick.  I had to start using a stick last year after having a terrible fall which resulted in concussion as well as some other complications.  I actually fell twice.  It seemed that I didn’t understand concussion and went out a couple of days later and simply crumpled like a crisp packet on the pavement.

I suffer from quite severe arthritis which affects my hands, knees and feet.  This is complicated by other auto-immune diseases that affect my fatigue levels and my balance.  Hence the addition of Stan to my life.  Stan is sexy, or so my Mom tells me.  I have chosen a beautiful paisley design and tried to inject some personality into my stick.

Onwards to Albufeira

We flew from Dublin, and chose to drive up from Galway early in the morning and park at the long-term parking.  Note to self – book this in advance it is much cheaper!   I most often fly using the passenger assist option.  As I had a companion (as well as Stan), I tried the regular way and managed fine.  I think it helped that the airports were not that busy.   Soon we were on the Aer Lingus plane drinking a cup of Barry’s tea and chatting away about all the adventures to be had in the Algarve.

Our transfer was easy enough to find and soon we were whizzing through orange groves on the way to Albufeira.  The sky was bright blue which was a stark contrast to the Irish grey we had left behind.

I was not expecting a luxury hotel, that isn’t what we booked.  What I was looking for was clean and comfortable.  At the Eirasol apartments we got exactly that.  A really friendly welcome and a sparkling clean apartment which was so well located, but more about that later.

Pain and Portugal

I am in pain most of the time.  My arthritis means that life is a game where you get different pills and potions and try them to relieve the pain.  I had heard that the weather could make a difference, but I was sceptical.  Very hot weather makes my joints swell.

The Portuguese winter was just right.  Like Goldilocks I felt that I had found a temperature that worked for me.  Within 12 hours I could feel a difference and within 24 I realised that I hadn’t taken a pain-killer for a whole day!

Simply having lower pain levels gave me more energy and also made me feel brave enough to get out and do things.

The simple things – travel on a budget

Our trip was a budget trip.  We didn’t have the funds for expensive tours or lots of eating out, but we were determined to enjoy ourselves.

The beach was a top priority so we set out to find our way to the see walking though cobbled streets (with Stan to ensure that there was no chance of falling).  The beach when we found it was sublime.  Blue sky, a long stretch of golden sand as far as the eye could see and turquoise glistening sea with frothy white waves.  As I was a bit tired from the walk, we simply sat and gazed.  Eventually the call of the sand and sea was enough and we started walking.

Dodging in and out of the surf, with my dress hitched up into my knickers we ambled along.  Picking up shells to admire, we chatted with other fellow beach walkers.  If you told me when we set off that I would be able to walk from our starting point to the old town I would have laughed.  I did though, I plodded along and was very grateful to Stan for his help.

Albufeira is very hilly, but the clever people who have developed this town have taken everything into account.  There are escalators that take you up or down to the beach!  How cool is that?

After our long walk we treated ourselves to and ice-cold beer at the seafront.  We then wandered through the old town before taking the escalators up the hill and taking a tuk tuk ride back to the apartment.  I felt giddy speeding down hills with my hair tangled behind me.

Taking time to be present and enjoy the special moments in Albufeira

Every day was special.  I like the idea of the open-topped buses as I think it is a great way of getting to know a place.  Our tour was two hours long, but definitely gave us a sense of what we wanted to see for the rest of the week.

This included some great foody moments, a visit to the local market, shopping in the old town, breakfast on ‘the strip’, and of course many more walks along the beach.  We found a fabulous restaurant where the young man kissing me below promised that if we sat down we would be happy!  His natural exuberance was contagious.

The apartment we had chosen was really conveniently located and in easy walking distance to bus stops (great service at a great price).  The beaches and the local supermarket – Pingo Doce, where you could get everything and at really good prices were an easy walk.  Self-catering certainly helped on the budget side.  It was also fun as we explored new foods and figured out that butter was the block with a cow on it – not the other one!

A perfect holiday

If I could describe a perfect holiday for me it would have to be great weather, good company, yummy food and lots of rest, not in any particular order.  In Albufeira I certainly had that.

Although I was a bit embarrassed at taking my walking stick Stan, I realised that many people have sticks.  Truthfully Stan allowed me to do so much more, to walk with confidence.  I am simply content as I am, a 53-year-old fabulous woman who walks with a stick!

Thank you for reading about my trip.  Lots more travel to come on the blog this year.

Kerry xx

Life is Fragile, and we need to treasure it.

Life is so fragile.  It may seem robust when we look at the hurley burly of traffic, deadlines and positive goal setting.  The truth is it is extremely fragile and although it is trite to say, we really only have today promised.

After returning from my adventure in South Africa, I found myself sitting on my sofa on a wet Saturday afternoon wondering.  I had such a wonderful time spending time in the country of my birth.  It was simply an awesome adventure in the sunshine.  And yet here I was in my living room, feeling a little sorry for myself.  I was surrounded by laundry drying indoors and contemplating the choices I have made in my life.

I think we all know this feeling.  The what ifs, and what could be if only something would change or was different.

Life is fragile

I then got news that a dear friend in South Africa had her life completely altered between going to bed and facing the new day.  Her husband was shot and killed.  This was a man in the prime of his life, father to two young men and husband to my friend.  His life was literally snatched and he no longer has any tomorrows.

The friends and family that are left behind have had their lives altered to such a degree that their tomorrows are dramatically altered.  A complete act of violence has created a fork in the road, and placed a road block on the original path.

This is just a huge reminder to me that life is fragile.  When I hear of tragedy and loss I am always reminded that we have an obligation to live each day with joy, remembering to be kind to others and to embrace possibility.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think it is very important to have dreams and visions and to strive to be a better person every day.  I constantly dream and plan for a future where I am living a life that is filled with all that I desire.  I work towards this too and practice journaling every day making plans for travel, work and creative pursuits.

I also continue with writing my book (almost complete now) where I share how I have changed my own life.  But, truthfully as we are reminded so often life is fragile.  It is delicate and should be nurtured and appreciated every day, and every minute of every day.

Cherishing my Adventure

I had so many wonderful experiences on my trip and I have the pleasure of being able to look back and remember them.  A bit like the song from the Sound of Music, these are a few of my favourite things.  Memories of moments, memories of people and reminders that living each day like it is your last is the only way to live this fragile life.

  • The bitter sweet taste of creamy cappuccino shared with my Mom and Dad.  Spooning the foamy froth from the bottom of the cup and relishing the bubbles popping on my tongue.
  • Sitting in my parents living room watching my son graduate with tears in my eyes because I wasn’t there, but joyful ones because I got to watch.
  • The prickle of heat sitting outside having breakfast and watching whales frolic in the ocean with my wonderful friends in Port Elizabeth.
  • Watching ice cream melt in front of me because I was so absorbed in chatting to a client in person that I had only ever met on Skype.
  • Waking up to freshly prepared fruit including African paw paw (papaya) prepared by my Dad.
  • Meeting my Facebook friends in real life.
  • Presenting my Deep Dive events and getting to know such wonderful woman, and understanding the value of woman who support woman.
  • Taking my joy of craft to a new audience.
  • I know I ate far too much cake, but I have no regrets.  The cake that was served with two forks for sharing was always the best.
  • I felt so connected to my African roots in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve watching and photographing my favourite zebras and then laughing so much when it was pointed out that the Zebra in front of my lens was excited and showing off his private parts!
  • I had really special times that were not traditionally high points.  Spending time working alongside my old friends, and simply chatting.
  • I drank many cups of tea and spent many hours just being with the people who are special and the richness of my life.
  • I saw old friends and met new friends.  I had a princess birthday party in October when my birthday is actually in June.  Thank you to my special mom and dad for making this happen for me.

Life is a fragile vessel

I could go on and on sharing little memories, and although I won’t bore you, I am making a mental promise to myself to life me my life as though it is a precious and fragile, but valuable vessel.

A vessel filled with memories and lessons learnt and lots of capacity of future dreams.  But most of all I am going to life my life relishing every single moment of every day and know that when I lay my head to sleep at night that I have lived and added to the lives around me.

Life is fragile and tomorrow isn’t promised for any of us.

Thank you for reading

Kerry xx

I am dedicating this blog post my friend Nikki Bush and her family.  Her late husband  no longer has any tomorrows as a result of senseless violence.

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