5 reasons to visit Belize

January always gets me thinking about the year ahead and our future plans for holidays. I know I seem babied-up to the max at the moment, but before Violet came along, travelling was my passion. We used to spend every penny on our long haul holidays and exploring the world. Even though I can’t see us booking a far-flung holiday as Violet is still a bit too small, I still dream of the places I want to visit as soon as we are able. We travelled quite a bit to South America in the pre-Violet years, holidays to Brazil and an amazing trip through Peru, but I’ve never really done much of Central America (yet!). So, one place that’s been firmly on my bucket list has got to be Belize. I have always dreamed of those golden sand beaches, rainforest adventures and the once-in-a-lifetime experience of diving with a whale shark!

My dream trip would involve staying right on the beach, I’d book a couple of Belize beach rentals along the coast so I could really experience different areas of Belize and in between dips in the pool and sunbathing, I’d explore rainforests, go diving and sample the local food. It just looks out of this world.

Belize is located in Central America, was formerly known as British Honduras. It’s actually one of the only English speaking countries in Central America. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea, making it an ideal holiday destination with warm weather, beautiful scenery and so much to see and do.

So, I wanted to write this post today to talk about my top five things I’d love to do when I visit Belize one day, here they are:

BEAUTIFUL BEACHES

I am a beach bum at heart, so a place with beautiful beaches is always a draw, especially if I am staying right on the beach with views of the ocean from our room. I mean, if you are going all that way you want it to be perfect – right? Belize doesn’t have huge beaches, but the beaches it does have are beautiful with golden sands and some of the best snorkelling in the world.

SWIM WITH WHALE SHARK

The Whale Shark is one of the largest fish in the world. What an experience it would be to swim alongside one! I’m sure I’d be terrified by their sheer size, but they are one of the most gentle and docile animals in the sea. They also only eat plankton so there is no worries about being their next meal either. The best time to catch a glimpse is during the months of March, April, May, and June – around the full moon.

MAYAN RUINS

I love to soak up the history when I travel, so visiting some of the many Mayan ruins in Belize would be a must. Belize was the epicentre of the Maya population between 300-900AD so boasts some of the most majestic ruins, with sites at Caracol, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, Altun Ha, and Lamanai being some of the most popular.

PERFECT WEATHER

Belize is one of the unique places in the world that has great weather all year round. The average yearly temperature is 29℃, the summer months are not overly hot and the winter not too cool – perfect! This is ideal for a family holiday as you know what to expect and won’t be too surprised by the weather!

JUNGLE ADVENTURE

Surrounded by lush tropical rainforests, there is so much exploring to be done! The Rainforest areas are the perfect place to hike or canoe, finding out the secrets of the rainforest, such as which plants are used for medicinal reasons. Ancient ruins hide within the jungles so you never know what is round the corner. There is also the worlds only Jaguar preserve, so you could come face-to-face with a big cat too.

So, thats my top list – hopefully you’ll agree that Belize sounds like an utterly amazing country and the perfect destination for a family holiday. We will get there one day, I’m sure! 😊

Family Weekend Away in Hampshire Part 2

Welcome back to our little mini-adventure away in Hampshire! You may have read Part 1 (if not, read that first!) we arrived at our little B&B – The Red Lion in Odiham, had a lovely dinner and spent our first night, so this post is all about the next day….

It was a grey and drizzly day so we decided after breakfast head to Little Play Town which is a couple of doors down. I thought this would be like soft-play but it wasn’t, it was actually such a lovely idea – it is a complete mini town for children. It had different sections like a market, shops, construction site, beauty salon, vets and more. In each section children can role play and dress up. Violet was a bit little for it all really as it was aimed at walking babies and onwards but we still went along. She did enjoy exploring all the sections and watching older children playing, she learns so much from older children so I’m sure she was taking it all in. I wish we had something like this in Brighton, it was SO sweet and perfect for helping little ones learn too. Violet would love to go again when she’s a bit older!

After that we had a little explore around the quaint village of Odiham. It was a bit rainy, so we didn’t go far but we got a good feel for the place, I loved the cute shops and tearooms! We went for a spot of lunch at the French Creperie, which had an awesome undercover garden area, so we got to sit outside whilst keeping warm!

I think the theme of this little break away was relaxing and eating as we headed back to our room for a rest before dinner time. Violet chilled out and played with the toys that were provided so we could have a bit of a doze – perfect!

For our dinner on the second night, we headed out to the Duke of Cambridge in Tilford, this took us around 15-20 minutes in the car and is a sister pub to the Red Lion.

The Duke of Cambridge is a gorgeous country pub, the perfect place for sitting in the sunshine in the summer or a cosy evening by the fireplace in the winter. We were shown to our table which had lots of space for the pushchair (which we brought along this time, after Violet’s meltdown the night before!).

For starters, we both went for the Halloumi fries – and no, I don’t mean we shared this dish, we ordered ONE EACH. Whoops, that was a lot of cheese for a starter, but worth it as they were delicious. 

Next up the main courses, I went for a special of the day – the Fishcake, which was presented impeccably and tasted amazing, the green beans were so fresh and cooked to perfection. V went for the Vegetarian Wellington  (are you noticing a pattern here, she loves a Wellington!) – this was a good variation on the one from the previous night, with the lightest, fluffiest pastry that gave me proper food envy.

Onto the best part of the meal…. thank goodness this time Violet kept her cool and let us have pudding as we wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on these….

We went for the warm Chocolate Brownie with Salted Caramel and the Earl Grey Eaton Mess – which we just popped in the middle to share – yum!

After our giant dinner – honestly, I was STUFFED, we headed back (rolled) to our B&B room to snuggle up for the night. Thankfully, we had a much more restful night. Violet was a bit more sure of her surroundings and didn’t seem so unsettled, so we slept SO much better. The bed was so comfy too!

As this trip is all about eating, it wouldn’t be right to leave it without one more food snap. Needless to say the breakfast on our last morning was also amazing.

All in all, going away to Hampshire was a real treat. It wasn’t the relaxing mini-break we had before Violet came along, but we made the most of it – to be honest, just having all our food made for us with no washing up is a mini-break in itself! We had a lovely time with memories I’ll never forget.

** If you fancy a stay at The Red Lion Odiham (I recommend it!) then you can get a complimentary bottle of wine to your room with this code: Fizzypeacheswine (see T&C’s below) **

The Shop Small Guide – Brighton

Sponsored post in association with American Express®

Oh beautiful Brighton! A city that I have lived in since I was just 18 years old and although I moved away a couple of times, it just kept drawing me back. There is no place quite like it. One of the most colourful, diverse and vibrant cities in the UK – there is always something new to surprise me around every corner.

One of the things I love the most about Brighton is the shopping, especially going to the one-of-a-kind North Laine and The Lanes areas of town to explore some of the smaller, independent shops that the city boasts. The amount of small shops in Brighton is vast, plus the selection we have is so unique too. If you need anything from vintage clothing to an inflatable flamingo – you’ll find it here and more!

This Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a day when people across the country are encouraged to get out and support local small businesses. So, with my love of shopping in my hometown and supporting local businesses, I recently teamed up with American Express to show you how I like to shop small in Brighton not just on Small Business Saturday but all year round. To help inspire you to explore new areas, I have put together my favourite routes through the cobbled lanes of Brighton – visiting wonderful small shops, exquisite restaurants, and taking in some of the beautiful sights you can see along the way in my vibrant and colourful hometown.

BRIGHTON PIER

No trip to Brighton is complete without a trip to Brighton’s iconic Pier. A brisk stroll is the perfect way to start your day, with an ice cream in hand, whatever the weather. Try your luck on the grabber machines or brave the rollercoaster rides. Take a look back at Brighton’s beautiful skyline and get a glimpse of the city before you head out to the shops.

CHOCCYWOCCYDOODAH

Choccywoccydoodah is quintessentially Brighton, an internationally famous chocolatier and cake shop creating the most outstanding, creative chocolate and cakes you’ve ever seen. The window display is something to be marvelled at, a tourist attraction in itself. There is a cafe upstairs in ‘the secret room’ that serves one of the best hot chocolates in town. My top recommendation would be their layered chocolate bar, which is so thick you have to break it with a knife!

42 JUICE

Brighton’s 100% Organic and Raw Juice Bar 42 Juice is the perfect pitstop to rejuvenate and hydrate. They serve the freshest ingredients that pack a nutritious punch to boost your health and wellbeing. The bright and airy space is ideal for watching the world go by and an absolute Instagram dream. The “I am GLOWING” smoothie is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted and I could literally feel the goodness flowing through my system.

PAVILION GARDENS

The Royal Pavilion is an exotic palace in the centre of Brighton with a colourful history. Built as a seaside palace for King George IV, it’s certainly unique in its architecture – seamlessly mixing regency grandeur with Far Eastern styles from India and China. The Pavilion Gardens is a tranquil hideaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. The perfect spot for a picnic, you can take a few moments under a tree to relax and unwind away from it all. Beautifully maintained throughout the year, the garden hosts the same plants as it would have done in the 1820’s. The Pavilion Gardens is the perfect spot to catch local musicians and amateur dramatic performances too

CHILLI PICKLE

Chilli Pickle is a nationally acclaimed Indian restaurant, passionate about Indian culture, local produce and traditional methods. Their unique take on dishes stand out from anything I’ve ever tried before – it’s got to be one of the best Indian restaurants in Brighton! You have got to try their Grand Thali for lunch, washed down with a mango lassi – my favourite!

LITTLE BEACH BOUTIQUE

Brighton is bursting at the seams with talented creatives, and the little beach boutique is one of the best places to shop locally sourced gifts and handmade items! The shop has a real eclectic mix of items, from handmade jewellery, to children’s slippers – there is something for everyone. The owner Suzanne also creates stunning glassware with a Brighton theme too. I picked up a gorgeous Violet coloured glass coaster with the outline of The Pavilion for my bedside table, it’s so pretty!

BLUEBIRD TEA CO

This has got to be one the best tea shops in the UK! People come from far and wide to try their amazing blends. Stocking every flavour you’ve ever thought of; this shop has something for everyone with super knowledgeable tea ‘mixologists’ who have all the information you need too. For the perfect warming winter drink, try the Spiced Pumpkin Pie tea, it’s one of their best.

NOLA BOUTIQUE

Nola Boutique is the perfect place to pick up designer womenswear at affordable prices. With chic and stylish décor, it’s an instagrammers dream. My top purchase here would be a cable knit hat or this gorgeous grey sweatshirt with gold feathers – just in time for winter!

LAVENDER ROOM

Lavender Room is one of the most elegant, stylish shops in the North Laine – stocking beautiful products for you or the home, with a carefully selected eclectic mix of products it just oozes Brighton style and character. I’d highly recommend the locally made anti-stress essential oil candles, they smell just divine!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of my favourite small shops in Brighton. If this has inspired you, visit amexshopsmall.co.uk to find out where you can support small businesses in your area throughout the year and get some further ideas for your Christmas shopping.

What’s more, if you’re an American Express Cardmember you will be rewarded for supporting your local high street with the Shop Small offer. When you spend £10 or more in a single transaction using your registered American Express Card at a participating small business during the campaign period (2-17 December 2017) you will receive a £5 statement credit. There is no limit to the number of participating businesses you can receive your £5 statement credit from – however, you can only claim it once at each small business. Terms apply.

But the Shop Small offer is just one way that American Express can make every day more rewarding. The range of Cards from American Express are packed with ways to reward you for your purchases*; from Membership Rewards® points that can be used to treat yourself to virtually anything to discounts at top restaurants and hotels, money back on everyday purchases, or collecting frequent flyer miles* – check out the American Express website for more information.

Family Weekend Away at The Red Lion Odiham – Part 1

There is one thing I really miss since becoming a mother. That is travel and our breaks away. Before we had Violet, travelling was our ‘thing’. We’d spend all of our hard-earned cash on trips away, reaching Peru, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Cape Verde and more, but since Violet a trip to France has been all we could manage – it’s a totally different experience travelling with a baby and we’ve not even plucked up the courage to try a flight with her yet.

So last weekend we decided to go on a little mini-break to get away from it all. We had been invited to visit The Red Lion in Odiham, which is a gorgeous little village nestled in Hampshire countryside and most importantly, only around an hour and half drive from where we live too, so we took them up on the offer. It was the perfect situation – a holiday and a brand new place to explore, without hours of travel time too. Ideal!

Our room was clean, modern and comfortable, with a big squishy double bed with impeccably perfect white linens. I loved how each room name was RAF themed – ours being Javelin, being that Odiham is so close a large the RAF base. The scent of the gorgeous ESPA reed diffuser in the room was amazing and so inviting, they have got to be one of my favourite brands too so this added a lovely touch. Waiting for us in the room was a handy welcome pack with information about the B&B and local things to do, plus some artisan chocolates with a festive feel in Gingerbread and Cranberry & Orange flavours.

I was touched by the effort the team at The Red Lion had gone to to making us comfortable as a family – They had already set up a Graco Travel Cot, included blankets for Violet and also a monkey bath mitt and her own towel. Plus, you should have seen her face when she saw there was a toy box in the room – she was in her element! It’s the attention to detail that makes all the difference I think.

After unpacking and settling in we sat down for a well-deserved coffee. Even though we travelled less than 2 hours, going anywhere with a baby can be stressful – all the packing and organising is unreal! The rooms are equipped with coffee machines and a well stocked mini bar (although sadly we didn’t utilise that as much as I wish we had!). We also brought along Violet’s perfect prep machine which makes things so much easier. Plus thank goodness Violet is over 8 months and we don’t need to sterilise bottles anymore, so the steriliser was one less thing to worry about and leave at home!

One of my favourite parts of the room was the GORGEOUS bathroom, which being the useless blogger I am, I didn’t get enough snaps of – but it had the prettiest tiling, a huge rain shower, ESPA toiletries and again, more thoughtful touches for Violet with Child’s farm hair & body wash and some bath time alphabet toys to play with too.

After a chill out in our room on the comfy bed and a mini-nap (because, you know – baby) we headed downstairs into the main pub restaurant for some dinner. It was so lovely to know our dinner would be made for us and all we had to do was potter downstairs to be waited on hand and foot, just what the Mumma’s needed! The pub has a real cosy, friendly feel – we sat right by the open fire and ordered two very large G&T’s to kick off our first mini-break as a family.

The Red Lion are dedicated to producing locally sourced, fresh food so I was excited to give their Autumn Menu a try. Yes, I am that person that looks up the menu online in advance and decides what she wants so I knew exactly what I wanted to order and couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

For my starter I had the Chalk Stream Smoked Trout with pickled radish and cucumber, dressed leaves, buttered granary bread, the fish was absolutely delicious and perfectly complemented by the sharp taste of the pickles. V had the Baked Garlic Mushrooms topped with Norbury Blue Cheese crumb and rustic bread.

For our main course V went for the Goats Cheese and Pear Wellington which was served with honey-roasted beetroot, new potatoes and shallot sauce and I had the classic, Fish & Chips which was a lightly battered haddock (fresh from Brixham Market, chunky chips, minted peas and tartare sauce. It was clear my fish & chips was made with only the freshest ingredients, it had the classic British taste without being overly greasy, which is perfect. I had totally food envy over V’s dish though, Goats Cheese and pear is such a delicious combination – although sadly at this point in our meal Violet decided to have the biggest meltdown in the restaurant, so V ate her meal in about 2 minutes with a wiggly, tired and grotty Violet under her arm. She’d just hit the ‘too tired’ button after being fine in her high chair previously! It was a bit of a shame as I was then left eating my main course on my own – but this is the reality of travelling with a baby. I decided to skip pudding to go and help out with bedtime, although I’d had my eye on the Autumnal-Spiced Crumble all evening but motherhood called. Never mind, next time.

I headed back to our room and began the long task that was bedtime, which seemed even trickier as we were in a different location. Eventually we got Violet down but she didn’t really sleep well, we’ve only been away once with her and she was only 4 months so I think now she’s more aware of her surroundings, being somewhere strange did take it’s toll. As she’d wake quite a lot during the night.

I can’t say we had the best night’s sleep, our room was really comfortable and warm with a huge squishy bed so I was comfy but the one thing that let it down was that we were placed right above the pub so our room was very noisy, especially as our windows opened out onto the street, so all the people smoking outside were standing below our room, chatting louder and louder and louder (and then singing) as the night went on. I didn’t really get to sleep properly until the pub had emptied. I then listened to them cleaning up (including hoovering) until it finally it went quiet about 1am! PHEW. When we were arriving, most of the rooms seem a bit further back away from the main entrance so I think noise might only be an issue at the front, so if we visited again I’d ask to be further back next time.

In the morning we headed down for breakfast – fuzzy headed after a rough night with Violet. Good thing they do REALLY good coffee and it was strong too! Breakfast was a mix of continental and cooked options to suit everyone (think this is just sat/sun).

As you can see the breakfasts were HUGE! This was the vegetarian cooked breakfast option. Before this arrived we’d already shovelled a pastry each too! Violet also loved the breakfast, trying some scrambled egg and beans – she was in a better mood after her disastrous evening. We slowly downed our coffees and came to life, ready to handle the day.

So, if you’ve stuck with me this far – that is the end of part one of our weekend away in Odiham, I’ll be posting our second night soon, featuring our day out exploring, Little Play Town (which is SO cute) and more tasty food snaps!

** Lastly – If you fancy a stay at The Red Lion Odiham (I recommend it!) then you can get a complimentary bottle of wine to your room with this code: Fizzypeacheswine (see T&C’s below) **

A Family Day Out at Drusillas Park

Drusillas always reminds me of happy memories of my childhood – I’m not sure I could count the amount of times I’ve been there when I was very small, so going back as a Mum with my own little girl was definitely a special day for me.  I’m sure it’s changed a LOT since my last visit (maybe 20 years ago?) as I didn’t seem to remember as much as I thought I would, but that was good as it felt like a brand new place to explore all over again and hopefully Violet will hold the same magical memories of family days out too, just like I do.

So, we decided to head to Drusillas Park on Monday this week. It was the perfect day for a family day out as it was gorgeously sunny but cold and crisp too. We wrapped up warm and headed out – meeting Violet’s bestie Liv and her Mummy too as we thought it would be lovely for the babies to hang out and do something fun together with not just boring adults for company!

As you arrive at Drusillas, you are greeted by the sound of monkeys in the enclosure right by the carpark, Violet was already looking all around to see what the strange noise was, I couldn’t wait to show her!

We headed through the entrance to the first section – The Zoo. It’s clearly marked and signposted all the way around, plus we had a map and guidebook as there is just so much to see we didn’t want to miss anything along the way. There is a large array of animals to see at Drusillas. They are known as the UK’s best small zoo and I can see why as the variety of species is extensive! There is something to surprise you around every corner, with every inclosure immaculately clean (even the stinking bats, they are so smelly!) and creatively constructed to keep animals entertained, protected and comfortable, yet allowing a good view too. It’s not just like a zoo where you walk around each animal and look at them befhind the glass either – some enclosures have ‘secret viewing areas’, little bubbles where you can pop-up and view the animals from eye-level and see-through tunnels for the animals to run through before your very eyes. I imagine for children this must be so much fun and I’m sure Violet will love exploring all the different tunnels when she’s a bit more mobile!

Another thing that really struck me was how many activities, animal facts and interesting displays there were as we went round to accompany the animal enclosures. Violet is a little small for animal facts, but when she’s bigger I can see her being facinated and the trip being far more educational than your standard zoo trip. There are also activities like the Animal Spotters book with little stamps to collect as you walk round and Zoolympics, where you can try and match yourself to each animal in speed, sound, ability to climb etc. Hours of fun!  After a good mooch through the entire zoo section, the Mummies all needed a well-earned coffee break whilst the bubbas both had their mid-morning nap. They were so good and both had at least 30 mins sleep, we couldn’t believe it – must have been all that fresh-air and excitement looking at all the different animals. The Explorers Cafe also serves Starbucks coffee too, so that was a nice touch and much needed!

We then entered the play & rides section of Drusillas. As it was an off-peak day the rides were on a rotation basis so we just had to check the timings and make sure we were in the right place at the right time to hop on, I believe the rides are on constantly in the busier times though! They have a couple of massive play areas that the little ones were a bit too small for yet, like the Go Bananas Adventure Playground and I’m sure by next summer they’ll love the Get Wet! Splash pad too – but we skipped these bits for now but I’m sure on visits to come we’ll get lots of enjoyment out of them! We headed down to the Hello Kitty Secret Garden. Ok, I’ll tell you a secret – I’ve been wanting to come here for YEARS but it felt a bit silly coming without a child – so my inner 15 year old Hello Kitty/Sanrio fanatic was screaming with excitement inside. The Hello Kitty area is suitable for all ages as the little ones loved the bright colours and characters, plus there are two rides you can take babies of any age onto as long as you hold onto them on your lap. So, of course we had to go on them – multiple times so everyone got a go! (Luckily Violet!). You can also visit Hello Kitty’s house and on certain days meet the lady herself, but on the day we went she must have had another commitment! 🙂

The last ride of the day for us was the Safari Express. Running only once on the hour in off-peak season, make sure you check the timings of this one before your trip as you don’t want to miss out! Luckily, we were standing right by the station as boarding began so we hopped on. The babies absolutely loved this bit – maybe more than the other rides, the music and scenery captivated their attention, plus they are able to sit together and even held hands on the way round – so sweet!

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Drusillas, there was way more to do than I’d realised – for all ages. I’m sure it’s a place we will return to over and over again as Violet grows up, especially as we are only 20 minutes away.

There are lots of exciting Christmas activities at Drusillas too if you fancy a visit, we saw them all being set up and they look magical! A Winter Wonderland, Santas Cottage, Meet the Reindeer and a Husky Cave, just to name a few of the activities over the Christmas season – we will certainly be taking Violet back for a festive visit – I can’t wait!