Sunday, 11 August 2019

Staying in a Winnie the Pooh Airbnb

The Ashdown Forest has a special place in my heart. It's somewhere that Stuart and I have spent a lot of time and it's my own Disney playground - 1 hour 30 minutes from home. A. A. Milne used to spend a lot of time in the forest and it's where he was inspired to write Winnie the Pooh. Ashdown Forest is the real life 'Hundred Acre Wood' and today visitors can track down the book locations via various trails in the forest. From Pooh Bridge to Gill's Lap, there are lots of places for people to visit and there is even a Winnie the Pooh shop and tearoom in the heart of Hartfield (the Sussex village where the new Christopher Robin movie is set). After many day trips to the Ashdown Forest, we decide to book a countryside retreat for a few days in July and wow, did we discover a Pooh paradise in the forest.

Hundred Acre Wood studio in the Ashdown Forest

Eve's Hundred Acre Wood studio is located in a quiet part of the forest, about 10 minutes in the car from Hartfield. It's only been listed on Airbnb since 2018, but it's been extremely popular from the get go and I can certainly see why - the Pooh theming is adorable. The forest is incredibly remote so you need a car to stay at Eve's place but she has plenty of parking and you'll be grateful for your car when it comes to finding the Winnie the Pooh attractions.


Winnie the Pooh artwork at the Hundred Acre Wood studio

Eve let us into the airbnb at midday, which was extremely helpful for us as we wanted to refrigerate the food and drink that we'd brought from home. When we're staying in an airbnb we tend to take snacks with us so that we can save some money and this trip was no different - we arrived loaded down with our supermarket shopping. Once we were inside we quickly noticed Eve's attention to detail. Winnie the Pooh artwork was dotted on the walls alongside a hanging quote and some nature-themed home accessories: all reflecting the studio's spectacular location. The studio was light, bright and airy for a relatively small apartment, making it a lovely place to stay in the Summer.


A Winnie the Pooh quote in the kitchen at the Hundred Acre Wood studio

In terms of kitchen facilities, there was a kettle, toaster, fridge, microwave and 2-ring hob. There was no oven, but for a couple of days it's pretty easy to cope without one. There was a monsoon-style power shower, a hair dryer and many toiletries, so you certainly had everything you needed for a mini break. As a note, if you fancy watching TV make sure you bring a tablet or laptop from home as there is no TV in the studio. We watched on demand services via my laptop and were happy enough on the 2 evenings.


Winnie the Pooh's house in the Ashdown Forest

Eve's studio backs onto the forest and if you're a fan of walking, you can take lots of hiking trails direct from the studio. We were mainly there for the Pooh walks so we always drove straight from the airbnb down into Hartfield, but if you're keen to explore more of the forest when you're visiting, definitely bring some walking shoes.

How to book

The entrance hallway at the Hundred Acre Wood studio

If you're new to Airbnb, you can sign up via my link and get some money off your first trip. Eve's place is very popular on Airbnb so make sure you book in advance to secure your Winnie the Pooh retreat. She's very responsive on the platform and will work around your schedule.

Eve's place is a dream holiday home for any Winnie the Pooh or Disney fan. We had a lovely couple of days in East Sussex and would highly recommend her airbnb. It is so special being able to stay in the heart of the Hundred Acre Wood.

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Sunday, 28 July 2019

We are getting married in 2020

A side step away from my usual travel content, but as the title says... Stuart and I are getting married! After we returned home from Malta, Stuart proposed at home in Canterbury and it was absolutely perfect the proposal: quiet, private and just the two of us. We told our family and friends a short while later and then May and June were dedicated to deciding what type of day we wanted, booking a venue and choosing a date. We're both quite private so we knew we wouldn't want a big spectacle and as most of you may expect, the honeymoon is just as exciting for us as the big day (travel is our thing).

Kat and Stuart's Wedding - April 2020


Both of us are extremely organised people, so we knew that getting it all arranged for 2020 wouldn't be a struggle. It was just a question of when in the year we'd like to get married. December is my favourite month of the year, but we were concerned it'd be too cold to get married then. On the flip side, we knew Summer could potentially be too hot for us, so we decided to look at April, May or October. We booked a series of venue viewings and when discussions moved to dates, we decided April would be the perfect time of year for us. So April 2020 is when we'll be tying the knot, how exciting!

Kat and Stuart in Westgate Gardens, Canterbury


Originally we talked about the Ashdown Forest as we've spent so much time there together and it'd be a dream to get married in the Winnie the Pooh forest, but venues in the forest are incredibly expensive. We then thought about Tunbridge Wells as it's a stones through from the forest, but when it got down to the realities of planning a big day and all of the appointments we'd need to attend, we realised that choosing a local venue would be far more convenient. In the end we decided on a Canterbury venue, which I'll be keeping secret until the big day, but it is absolutely beautiful and very us.


We've decided to keep the formal bits of the day quite small as neither of us wanted to have tonnes of people present at the day, but we'll then have more of our friends and extended family to the evening party.

A close up of my engagement ring in Westgate Gardens, Canterbury


We are going to be saving our pennies for a big destination honeymoon in 2021, but in 2020 we do have a 'mini moon' planned for shortly after the day. We're going to stay in Dubrovnik, Croatia for a few days and hopefully visit both Montenegro and Bosnia whilst we are staying nearby. We have half board accommodation so we'll be able to relax in the evenings at the hotel after we've been sightseeing during the day. Both of us are incredibly excited for this trip, especially as we will potentially visit 3 new countries!

Planning our Wedding has been so exciting and after a few months absence from my corner of the internet, I thought it was time for a life update. I do intend to write a few articles about our Wedding planning experience, particularly my hen weekend, the mini moon and a round up of the entire day, but these will be dotted in amongst my usual travel content.

Thanks for bearing with me whilst we plan our next chapter.


Sunday, 21 July 2019

Amsterdam in a day

In early May we spent the bank holiday in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. A trip that had been in the diary since September and when easyJet released their Spring flight schedules, Amsterdam was a much anticipated trip for Stuart, my family and I. Hotels in Amsterdam are by no means affordable (particularly when you need 3 rooms) so we booked an Airbnb on the outskirts of the city which was big enough for all of us. It was located in Zaandijk: a village next door to Amsterdam’s popular Windmill park and it had a distinctly Dutch feel in its architectural style. Approximately 20 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal, Zaandijk was a little too far out of the city to be considered Amsterdam, but there was certainly space for larger accommodation there.

Everlasting tulips at Amsterdam Flower Market

Flying out on the Saturday afternoon of the early May bank holiday weekend, we landed at Schipol Airport in the early evening. From Schipol we travelled straight to the Airbnb and by the time we made it over to Zaandijk, it was time to head out for dinner. Arriving in The Netherlands so late meant that we weren't able to make it to Amsterdam city centre that evening, so it was important that we woke nice and early on the Sunday morning, giving us a full day to explore the Dutch capital.

Houses in Zaandijk, The Netherlands

On Sunday morning we headed to Zaandijk railway station at about 8am, arriving at Centraal before 9. Centraal train station was such a gorgeous building, surrounded by canals, busy roads and a series of tram pick-up points. Near the station we found a lovely brunch spot that serves fresh banana bread, croissants and granola parfaits. It was the perfect place to stop for some breakfast, before a morning of sightseeing. From the plaza outside Centraal we strolled into the centre of Amsterdam, first reaching Dam Square.

Dam Square, Amsterdam

Amsterdam is build upon a network of canals and Dam Square was the last major site in the city that we reached, before hitting the canal streets. We found a good few tourist shops in Dam Square and we were able to pick up some of our usual must-have souvenirs: a Christmas decoration and a Dutch-themed pin for our board.

A street in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The canal streets were full of parked bikes, markets and waterfront hotels. One of these markets was the city's famous Flower Market which is my favourite place in the city. The Flower Market is home to a series of market stalls that stock tulip bulbs, artificial tulips, clogs and flower-themed souvenirs. This is the place where you can create your very own artificial tulip bouquet that will last a lifetime. I could've spent hours there choosing tulips as they are my favourite flowers! Next time we visit Amsterdam, an eternal bouquet will be top of my souvenir list.

Amsterdam Flower Market

Continuing on with the tulip theme, our next stop was Amsterdam's Tulip Museum. A little museum with extremely affordable entrance fees, the Tulip Museum is the place to visit if you like unique museums. We learnt about "tulipmania" and why the flower is so important to The Netherlands, along with how the flower is cultivated and tips for producing the best quality bulbs.

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

Our final museum visit of the day was Anne Frank's House and it was such an emotional experience. Learning about the ordeal the Frank's and other families went through was an eye-opening experience and it left me feeling quite upset afterwards. It is such an important museum to visit as you get to see the hiding place in real life and really understand how difficult life was for Jews in Europe in the 1930s and early 1940s. If you visit Amsterdam, book your tickets to Anne Frank's House two months in advance. It is a very popular museum and tickets aren't available on the door.

Anne Frank statue, Amsterdam

From Anne Frank's House we walked back to Centraal and joined one of the last boat tours of the day. For an hour we cruised along the canals of the Dutch capital, taking in the historic sites from the best view in the city. The boat had a glass roof and it was so wonderfully sunny and warm for the duration of the cruise.

Canal boat dock in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant near Centraal Station, before heading back to the Airbnb. Our 10 hours in Amsterdam went very fast, but we got to see a lot of the city during that one day.

Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What were your favourite tourist sights?

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Thursday, 9 May 2019

Things to do in Malta

Over the Easter Weekend we visited Malta for a whirlwind Mediterranean city break, arriving on the island on Good Friday and heading back home on the bank holiday Monday. It wasn't my first visit as I'd stayed in St Julian's Bay back in 2014, but it was my first time staying in Sliema - one of Malta's popular harbour destinations. Sliema is a short taxi ride from the island's major cities: Valletta and Mdina, so we were well placed for a weekend of exploring. Despite being a relatively small island, there is lots to see in Malta and in today's post I'm going to share some ideas about how to spend your time on the island.

Views of the Maltese capital Valletta from Sliema Harbour, Malta

1. Visit Mdina: the walled city.

Mdina: Malta's walled city

Mdina is an elegant, old city on the Western side of the island. It is entirely surrounded by a wall and you need to cross a bridge to reach the entrance. Once you step inside you will be amazed by the pristine condition of the buildings. Mdina is extremely old, but the beautifully kept houses and walkways make you forget the city’s age. The city is quiet and it’s easy to get lost in the maze-like streets, but that’s part of the fun of exploring Mdina; you never really know where you’re going to end up! Game of Thrones was filmed there and it’s a popular tourist destination on the island so make sure you visit early in the morning.

2. Go on a boat tour of the Sliema and Valletta harbours.

Sliema and Valletta harbour boat cruise, Malta

 For under €20 per adult, you can explore the Sliema and Valletta harbours by boat. Boats depart hourly in peak season and you can join the harbour cruises for a 1-2h tour. The two main Maltese harbours are expansive and in my opinion the best way to appreciate the sheer size of them is to explore them by boat. The waves can get a bit choppy so if you suffer with sea sickness it might not be a great activity for you, but it’s certainly fun getting to sail on the Mediterranean Sea.

If you’re visiting in Summer you’ll really appreciate the sea breeze when temperatures soar and you get very little shade. When we visited in April it was the opposite and quite chilly. In order to prepare for all climates, make sure you pack some sun cream or a jumper for your time on the boat.

3. Have lunch at the oldest cafe in Valletta.

Caffe Cordina: the oldest cafe in Valletta, Malta

Valletta is a tiny capital, but that doesn’t prevent it from having a vibrant, exciting atmosphere. Take Caffe Cordina in the heart of the city centre, it’s always full to the brim and one of the busiest cafes in town. It’s considered to be the oldest cafe in Valletta and it is fantastically ornate inside, making it a unique place to visit for a bite to eat. Sandwiches are relatively affordable, so definitely stop at Caffe Cordina for a light lunch and a bit of Maltese history.

4. Have dinner in Sliema Harbour.

Sliema Harbour at night, Malta

Sliema is full of restaurants and there are plenty of traditional Maltese or Mediterranean eateries beside the water. Sliema is where you’ll find Maltese "cafe culture" at its best, so make sure you head to this area of the island for a hearty meal. We ate dinner in restaurants around Sliema Marina on all three nights of our trip and the food was excellent.

Malta is a relaxation destination that is absolutely full of history and culture. It doesn't have the hustle and bustle of France, Italy or Portugal, but that doesn't make it any less of a place to visit. You'll really enjoy spending your time city hopping, admiring the harbours and eating some of the island's wonderful cuisine.

Thanks for reading my blog today.