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FAQ: Traveling Around Europe in a Van with Our Dog!

Last year we went on an epic 2-month road trip around Europe in our converted campervan with our dog, Alfie. It was one heck of an experience! In a nutshell we covered 6,150 kilometres, 920,692~ steps between the 2 of us, 9 countries, 15 cities, 10 towns, 24 areas of natural beauty, 17 lakes, 3 summits, over 48,000ft altitude gain (4,265ft of which was a toboggan run!), 19 bucket list items, 2 roadside assistance breakdowns, 1 gas leak that resulted in the van catching fire.

It was something I wanted to do for a while, and as soon as I could commit the time and money to do it, we got on the road. When we got back from our travels we got asked tons of questions. So I decided to put together a post on some of the things we get asked the most. I’m planning on slowly writing about each location that we visited (eventually!), so stay tuned.

FAQ: Traveling Around Europe in a Van with Our Dog! | UK Lifestyle Blog

What was your favourite stop?

It’s difficult to say because we went to so many different places and they were all so wildly different. But sitting underneath the majestic Toblerone mountain, Matterhorn, in Zermatt, Switzerland was one of the most awe-inspiring views I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. I could have sat there all day marvelling at the view (to which I did…).

What did you learn

We learnt so much, more than I ever thought we would. From learning about Low Emission Zones in cities and driving regulations in Europe through to stuff that really changed my perspective. For example, I learn that if I don’t work every minute of every day, my business doesn’t fail. I also learn that having a work fire extinguisher is essential when you’re travelling in a camper van.

FAQ: Traveling Around Europe in a Van with Our Dog! | UK Lifestyle Blog

Did you guys argue

S and I don’t really argue. Occasionally we bicker about how I have too many clothes or about how S doesn’t clean his desk, overall though we’re pretty relaxed. Living in a tiny van for 2 months was going to be a test for us but we barely argued, other than when we got lost a couple of times. Even in horribly stressful situations we somehow still managed to laugh through it.

What went wrong?

In the beginning, EVERYTHING. The van broke down, we had a gas leak and set our ‘home on wheels’ on fire, S snapped off the door handle, our electric cool-box broke, the wing mirror broke off. But we worked through it and we were rewarded with the trip of a lifetime. Sometimes we felt like going home but I’m so glad we didn’t because the majority of our bad luck passed in the first week and it was 100% worth it.

FAQ: Traveling Around Europe in a Van with Our Dog! | UK Lifestyle Blog

How did you work and travel?

We’re so lucky that we can work from anywhere in the world, as long as we have our laptops. We both had 45GB of data and used personal hotspots to work, and we charged our laptops on the solar panels on the van. It was difficult trying to concentrate when you’re somewhere new and gorgeous every day, so we welcomed rainy days, although we only got about 3!

Would you do it again

Everybody asks us this. 100% we would do it again. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I wish I could do it all over again right now. Unfortunately, life gets in the way and we can’t just travel all the time. We could have carried on but we have other priorities in our life, so we need to juggle that. One day though, we’ll be back on the road when the time is right.

FAQ: Traveling Around Europe in a Van with Our Dog! | UK Lifestyle Blog

Was it difficult travelling with Alfie?

Absolutely not. I thought taking Alfie was going to hinder our trip, but bringing him with us had no negative impact. We had to make a couple of adjustments but everywhere we went in Europe was so dog-friendly. We loved having him with us and he enjoyed being walked 12+ hours a day. He was so well behaved, even when he went on a gondola in Venice!

How much did you spend?

We get asked this a lot, too. We never calculated how much we spent on the van, diesel, food and exploring. It was far from cheap, which is the reason we’ve decided never to work it out. Let’s just say, It would have been cheaper to fly/drive to each destination and stay in a hotel every night for 2 months… But alas! we had an unforgettable adventure, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

FAQ: Traveling Around Europe in a Van with Our Dog! | UK Lifestyle Blog

What would you do differently?

Surprisingly, not much. Everybody said our van was too small to travel around Europe in, and whilst a larger than would have been nice, we didn’t spend a huge amount of time in it so it didn’t matter much. When we do it again, we’ll be doing it with a much newer van. I love that Boris was a retro beauty, but spending a week broken down at a garage in Belgium was pretty stressful.

2019-03-16T01:17:53+00:00 April 1, 2019|Van Life|

Why You Should Visit the Lake District this Valentine’s Day

After Christmas, I always get the urge to book a holiday. Yesterday we booked exclusive use of a gorgeous castle farmhouse cottage in Somerset for New Years weekend, and just as I was booking it I started thinking “where else can we go later this year!?”. We’ve recently come back from London, Paris and Tokyo (more on that shortly!), so we’re thinking something a little bit more relaxing and far warmer this time. Don’t you ever feel like you need a holiday after you come back from a holiday when you go away for a bit of adventure?!

There are a few places on the cards such as Croatia, Greece and Egypt but we’ll probably wait a few months until it heats up. In the meantime, we need some mini-breaks to satisfy our itchy feet. Valentine’s day is on the horizon, and a short getaway is perfect for indulging in some romance *hint to the boyfriend that may be reading this* and treating each other to attention that all too easily escape a busy working week.

Why You Should Visit the Lake District this Valentine’s Day | UK Lifestyle Blog

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For those who aren’t keen on grand gestures or who would rather stay closer to home, like us, there are plenty of spots in the UK that are just as romantic as Italy. In fact, an alternative to cliché romantic locations can be far more appreciated. It shows consideration, creativity and most of all, that you’re not taking tips from the movies. One place in particular that offers true romanticism and escape is the swoon-worthy Lake District.

Surrounded by picturesque lakes, dramatic fells and gorgeous greenery, the Lake District is the perfect spot to whisk away a loved one for some TLC. If you idealise a quiet haven for just the two of you, there are secluded spots that enable you to turn off technology, enjoy each other’s company and absorb the striking views. However, for those who prefer a little more of a cosmopolitan touch, there are small towns and villages that boast shops, bars and renowned restaurants to suit fine dining connoisseurs and bargain hunters alike.

Why You Should Visit the Lake District this Valentine’s Day | UK Lifestyle Blog

The Forest Side, Michelin Star Restaurant in the Lake District

When it comes to food, the Lake District is a particular hotspot for fine dining experiences, with numerous Michelin star restaurants to hand and Michelin recommended eateries in almost every town. For those who want to experience the true drama of the Lakes, you can venture to the Michelin recommended restaurant The Samling. Here, you can taste sophisticated, environmentally inspired dishes that are theatrically presented before a striking backdrop of Lake Windermere.

In close proximity to here, you can head to the famed Holbeck Ghyll for considered, local dishes and a divine tasting menu, or you can head to The Forest side in Grasmere for a sophisticated interpretation of local produce.

The Lake district is fast becoming notorious for its quality restaurants, introducing head chefs from all over the country. If you ever managed to watch Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan’s “The Trip”, you’ll understand the sudden appeal for the Lake District and high-end eating. Not all food is catered to the higher end and higher budget, however, and there are plenty of characterful small restaurants in the area. 

When it comes to creating a romantic atmosphere, sometimes these can be much more effective, creating a sense of intimacy and warmth. Be sure to look out for hotels with restaurants too, as these tend to boast some of the best views in the area. The Inn On The Lake in Ullswater boasts a lake-side position and is secluded by forests and hills for a wonderfully romantic meal. With a sophisticated menu and a bar next door, you can easily spend a whole evening and top it off with a stroll around the grounds.

Spending Valentine’s Day in the Lake District can be a great way to enjoy new experiences together and make the most of the outdoors. Without having to pay a penny, you can enjoy hikes or gentle strolls, suitable for all levels of fitness. An entire day can be spent rambling the countryside, exploring the fells and forests of Borrowdale, Derwentwater or Penrith. You can even fit a hike into a day or two spent at the shopping hub of Keswick, with an adventurous hike up Castle Crag or Cat Bells.

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Why You Should Visit the Lake District this Valentine’s Day | UK Lifestyle Blog

To really amp up the romantic atmosphere of your trip, you can also hire a boat at Ullswater or Derwentwater and enjoy a romantic row over the gorgeous lakes. Perhaps you’ll take a leaf out of famed Lake District poet William Wordsworth’s book and recite a little poetry of your own.

Landscape and dining aside, there is an abundance of romantic activities that you could do whilst staying in the Lake District. The romance of the area has seen an influx of artists and poets take root here, in turn creating a plethora of small galleries and shops. In Keswick, the stunning, traditional cinema called the Alhambra makes a delightful alternative to large commercial cinemas, or you can browse bookstores and quaint shops in every picturesque village.

Whether you want to indulge your senses or just stay cooped up inside with your loved one, a trip to the Lake District is the perfect way to enjoy each other’s company this Valentine’s Day.

2018-06-04T01:31:13+00:00 December 28, 2017|Uncategorized|

How we spent the perfect festive weekend in London (and you can too!) 🎄

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… But no, really, it is! There are just 9 days until Christmas and I can feel everybody around me beginning to panic as the big day looms. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas, but I’m constantly so busy that I don’t feel like I have the chance to get festive anymore.

Running my own business, managing a blog and being a university lecturer leaves little time for me to get into the Christmas spirit, so I need to make a real effort to dedicate time to enjoy one of the most beautiful times of the year. Last week I decided that I wasn’t going to let Christmas pass us by, and we headed to the airport to catch a 7-am flight to London to get Christmassy. 🎅🏼 🎁

How we spent the perfect festive weekend in London (and you can too!) 🎄 | UK Lifestyle Blog

We’ve teamed up with glh Hotels who have recently launched London Covered – an interactive online map which features ‘trips’ to follow using pre-loaded points of interest. We jumped at the chance to give this a whirl, as it takes the stress out of planning.

Watch the Muppets at Snow Kingdom ❄️

Backyard Cinema is a hidden ice kingdom buried deep within the heart of London (more specifically, South London – just a 5-minute walk from either Borough or Elephant & Castle station.).

The cinema is based in Mercato Metropolitano, a 45,000 square foot market space offering a mixture of Italian and London based artisan producers. Before curling up to watch a movie, we decided to fill our bellies with tasty food, because we just couldn’t resist!

How we spent the perfect festive weekend in London (and you can too!) 🎄 | UK Lifestyle Blog

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Equipped with a lantern, we travelled through a secret cave of ice and walked across a frozen lake on a suspended bridge before opening the door to the Snow Kingdom cinema *the video below perfectly captures the experience*

We were greeted by staff who directed us to blankets, a bar full of sparkling cocktails and warm drinks, before showing us to bean bags at the front of the room.

When we first read about the cinema, for some reason, we thought it was outside – I guess the word *yard* threw us! The weather was miserable that morning and we were worried about sitting in the cold. Little did we know, that we were super warm and comfortable in the shelter, we had absolutely nothing to worry about!

It was such a lovely and novel way to watch a Christmas movie. We even looked at the upcoming showings and there are some of my favourites coming up, including Elf, Mean Girls and Titanic! 💙  I’ll definitely be coming back…

How we spent the perfect festive weekend in London (and you can too!) 🎄 | UK Lifestyle Blog

Treat yourself to a tasty lunch at the Coppa Club

Once we finished watching the Muppets, we headed over to the Coppa Club at Tower Bridge to have some lunch (you’ll notice throughout this article that food is regularly featured; I blame the cold weather!). Next to the Tower of London on the banks of the River Thames, Coppa Club is a lovely restaurant that has been tastefully decorated.

There are currently igloos out the front of the restaurant that you can dine in, decorated with sheepskin rugs and elegant candles, they looked incredibly cosy! I say ‘currently’ because I assume they aren’t erected all year around but I have no idea why they wouldn’t be. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a table booked in an igloo but the view of the Thames from our window seat wasn’t too shabby.

We ordered a couple of mocktails (cucumber and mint cooler, yum!) and took in the view.

How we spent the perfect festive weekend in London (and you can too!) 🎄 | UK Lifestyle Blog

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Go ice skating at the Tower of London ⛸

If you’ve never been to the Tower of London at Christmas, you’re really missing out. As soon as we stepped out of the tube station, we felt super festive. The Tower was lit up with dancing snowflakes, and Michael Bublé tracks echoed through down the streets. I would definitely recommend heading to the Tower of London ice rink in the evening for this experience alone, but it was also really quiet when we joined our session at 5-pm.

I’ve only been ice skating a handful of times in the last 10 years, so I was a little bit apprehensive when putting on my skates, but the staff were super friendly and helpful when we arrived. After being put at ease that I probably wouldn’t break my hip or slice off a finger, we took to the ice! The first 15 minute was a little wobbly but before I knew it, I was back to my 8-year-old former self, feeling confident and free.

How we spent the perfect festive weekend in London (and you can too!) 🎄 | UK Lifestyle Blog

We spent 45 minutes on the ice, which was the perfect amount of time. I honestly thought I’d duck out sooner than that because I was feeling so anxious about it, but I ended up having so much fun.

Sip hot chocolate at Southbank Winter Festival ☕️

If you want to get into the Christmas spirit but avoid the chaos of Winter Wonderland, then head over to Southbank. The stalls ranged from tasty chocolate waffles to beautifully handcrafted leather handbags, which as you can imagine, was hard to tear me away from. It’s busy enough that there is a great atmosphere but equally, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic and you don’t spend ages queuing to get to stalls or bars.

My brother (a now Londoner) came and met us straight from his work near Liberty House, Oxford Street. I didn’t give him much notice but luckily he was able to come and see us briefly. I don’t get to see him much anymore, as he’s always so busy with work and going on adventures with his girlfriend, so it was nice to catch up. We sat by a fire, drank hot chocolate and chatted about our recent trips to Asia the week prior.

How we spent the perfect festive weekend in London (and you can too!) 🎄 | UK Lifestyle Blog

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We stocked up on brownies and other chocolate delights before heading back to our hotel.

Check-in to a suite at the Thistle Trafalgar Square

Whenever I go to London, it’s always about luxury and indulgence, for me. We had also just come back from spending 10 days away on our recent trip to Tokyo and Kamakura in Japan, we needed a little TLC. We checked-in to the suite at the Thistle hotel, just stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square.

The room was fitted with a state-of-the-art flat screen LCD TV, rain shower, bathrobe and slippers. Upon arrival, there was also a bottle of wine and chocolates waiting for us in the living area, which is a lovely touch, even if we don’t drink alcohol. The bed was enormous, S and I could starfish on the super king-size bed and still not be touching.

How we spent the perfect festive weekend in London (and you can too!) 🎄 | UK Lifestyle Blog

Unfortunately, my photography skills and Sony RX100 couldn’t do our mammoth room any justice, so we’ve sneakily pinched an image of our *exact* room from the Thistle Trafalgar Square. Even this picture doesn’t show the wardrobe, dressing table and ample of living space. I can only really suggest that you go and book the room yourself and see!

I ran myself a steaming hot bath and took advantage of all the complimentary toiletries (who doesn’t?!). I had the BEST nights sleep before leisurely waking up at 9-am. We filled our bellies before jumping on our afternoon flight back to the Motherland of pasties, Cornwall.

The food at the Thistle Trafalgar Square is worth a mention too… I’m a self-confessed snob when it comes to buffet breakfasts in hotels. Don’t let my petite frame and my size 6 waist fool you, I’m always hungry and usually eat more than my 6ft boyfriend. Thank the Lord, the Thistle didn’t disappoint – they had everything, from high-quality pork sausages to a selection of cured meats, and plenty of cereals and yoghurts. Kudos! 🍳🥓

Needless to say, our mini-break in London was perfect to get into the Christmas spirit and to feel a little pampered. Want to do the same route as us? You can find the London’s riverside festivities route online.

Goodbye London, until next time!

2018-06-04T01:31:13+00:00 December 15, 2017|Travel|
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