I'm a bit later than my blogger friends with this one but a couple of weeks ago I was invited to join Gail from Is This Mutton and Anne from Mutton Years Style and I for the Prêt-à-Portea Afternoon Tea at The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. The afternoon tea is inspired by the world of fashion and the cakes are based on the latest looks from the catwalk. Ideal for a style blogger meet-up.
I made my way into London a bit earlier and indulged in a black cab from Marylebone to New Bond Street so I could spend some time in Victoria's Secret, then I browsed in & Other Stories and one or two other stores before grabbing another cab to the hotel.
It is a stunning hotel with a first class welcome and attentive service. We had a spacious and bright table looking out of the window and were given plenty of time to choose our blend of tea and then later we indulged in a bottle of champagne.
Ever wondered what do do in Dartmouth in 48 hours? Last weekend I had a flying visit to Dartmouth with my daughter. We left after lunch on Friday in the hope of avoiding the worst of the traffic but that wasn't to be and it took us 6 hours to get there! Not good at all, I had wanted to get the train but as it was a fairly late decision to go, the tickets were too expensive (top tip - book 12 weeks in advance).
We stayed at Just B who provide the bed without the breakfast! Good name! The room was so central that we were literally just off the main shopping street and two minutes from the harbour and River Dart. We were lucky to get a last minute reservation with it being summer and such fabulous weather, the room was quite small but we literally needed a bed and shower room so it didn't really matter.
Friday evening we had a very enjoyable dinner at Bayards Cove Inn and this is another good place to stay - they didn't have any rooms for our dates but my husband and his sister stayed there a few weeks ago and really liked it.
We started with breakfast on Saturday morning at Cafe Alf Resco because we could sit outside and watch the world go by! And they are dog friendly and provide a little portion of sausage for their furry customers!
With it only be a flying visit we then decided to visit our favourite place nearby, Coleton Fishacre, a beautiful National Trust house and stunning gardens on the Kingswear side going towards Brixham. We have been before when the children were younger and loved it so much, it was a treat to go back. The gardens are full of colour and flowers, lots of interesting paths and secret corners to explore, and they lead down to the sea and the views are spectacular - a word of warning though, it is quite steep coming back up! But it is worth it and do try and get to the second viewing point as well, you will be rewarded with the best view of the Devon coastline.
It is fairly easy to get to from Dartmouth, you can take the lower ferry over and drive but it will get busier in the summer holidays (expect queues for the ferry), you can get a bus but then it is a 30 minute walk down the lane to get to the house (not so good with children or in the heat) or we decided to get a taxi to take us door to door. Parking spaces are a premium in Dartmouth during the high season and we didn't want to risk losing ours!
Seriously how wonderful is this weather! I wore shorts or a dress all weekend and din't need a jumper at all. These are the Richmond shorts from Boden and I picked up this pair in the sale recently. My blouse is from Hobbs last year, my bag is Accessorize and my trainers are from Vionic - take a look at my review here.
We then headed back into Dartmouth for a wander around the shops, there are many of the big chains like Jack Wills, Joules, White Stuff etc but also lots of individual shops which are worth a wander around, I loved Escape to the Coast and enjoyed chatting to the owner who had relocated from near us to Dartmouth and was loving it.
Dinner Saturday night was at Bushell's Upper Deck - my only requirement was that we eat somewhere with a view and wow what a view! And the food and service didn't disappoint either, we asked for a window table and look what we got!
Sunday was extremely hot and we thought a river trip would mean a cool breeze, it didn't! But anyway, we took the ferry to Greenway to visit Agatha Christie's house. As time was limited due to our drive home we didn't go into the house this time, we just walked through the gardens, we then got the little ferry across to Dittisham - very quaint, you ring the bell when you want to summon the ferry and it arrives to take you on the quick trip across the river. There is a cafe at Dittisham, The Anchorstone Cafe, which has wonderful views but best to book if you can, it was too busy and we were unable to get a table, we will save that for another visit. They do run their own water taxi though so worth considering as an alternative to the busy ferries in Dartmouth (call to book).
On Sunday I wore a previous season beach maxi dress from Accessorize, with my silver bag from Accessorize (similar here) and my men's trilby from Marks & Spencer.
Then sadly it was time to go home, we had a late lunch at Beth's Bistro - another absolute gem to recommend!
I am in love with Dartmouth, we have been visiting for many years as we have family that live nearby but this is the first time I have actually stayed in the town which was extra special. There are so many gorgeous walks and places to visit - a walk to Dartmouth Castle is a must! And the views along the coastline near Dartmouth are breathtaking.
Dartmouth is ideal for families and children, romantic weekend getaways, girls weekends, as well as a longer holiday to explore the whole area. I want to stay at the Dart Marina Hotel if I get a chance another time!
PS Quick outfit post below - this top is from Hush and is so soft, cool, flattering, and floaty, it is cotton and I love it! I wore it with jeans (below) but also denim shorts. It isn't the cheapest at £65 but I think it will be a wardrobe staple for years to come - Hush Finsbury top.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, Some of my links are affiliate links which means that the brand knows you have come to their website from here and I may get a small commission if you buy something and keep it. This small income goes towards the running costs of my blog so I am very thankful for every click.
A couple of weekends ago I went back to the village where I grew up. I go back once or twice a year but for this visit we stayed at a hotel near the village and the weather was so wonderful we were able to have a wander around and it brought back so many childhood memories.
I lived in Bearsted from the age of 4 to the age of 14, so not a long time but those years were most of my childhood and my memories are special and my time living there had a big impact on who I am today.
I made two great friends on the playground at Thurnham Infant School and we have mostly kept in touch for the last 45 years since I moved to Buckinghamshire. Busy lives and young children meant we went quite a long time without managing to meet up, but now our children are grown-up and with social media making contact so much easier, we try and get-together two or three times a year. We always giggle - a lot!
I was so fortunate to have such a wonderful and carefree childhood. Growing up in the safety of a village community, surrounded by countryside and with my best friends.
Childhood friendships and so special and I feel very luck to have Nicola and Joanna in my life still. Our chats have changed over the years from boyfriends, to husbands, to children, to divorces and now menopause and aging parents but we still enjoy our time together.
When we arrived on Saturday the annual carnival and fayre was taking place on the village green - they were commemorating 40 years of the fayre and I realised, I was at the very first one - in fact our mum's helped organise it! As we wandered around the village on Sunday morning, it bought back so many memories ....
Cycling to Holly House Stores for our quarter of sweets.
Collecting vouchers and going to the village garage to collect our smurfs.
Sitting on 'my bench' on the village green and watching the cricket (yes I did have my eye on a boy that I really liked and yes he did come and chat to me sometimes)!
Fishing for tadpoles in the village pond.
Harvest festivals and Brownie and Guide services at Holy Cross Church. And my sister's baptism.
Playing 'It's a Knockout' style games on the field behind the church.
Making our 'pound grow' to help raise money to build a Catholic church in the village - we used to make sweets and sell them from our front garden!
My dad 'going to Japan' from the village station - well that is what my sister thought, he actually got a train to Heathrow of course.
Cycling very fast down the hill outside our house, which we thought was enormous, but looking back at it now, it is tiny!
The bottles of school milk waiting for us at Thurnham, sitting under the old oak tree at playtime and walking to school across the golf course and listening out for the first cuckoo.
Walking to Mote Park swimming pool via Banky Meadows, with my baby sister in her pram and my other sister sat on the front of the pram in a special seat with me one side and my friend Nicola the other side, both holding the pram handle.
Tobogganing at Banky Meadow! Avoiding the stream at the bottom!
Endless summer days in 1976 running under the sprinkler or in the paddling pool in our back garden.
First Holy Communion parties in our garden.
Buying sweets and magazines at Taylor's on the village green or Hoods on the Maidstone Road.
Decorating our floats for the carnival and loving the journey through the village.
The Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations and street parties.
So many wonderful times! I could go on but instead I will share my photos from our weekend away.
Holly House Stores is no longer a traditional sweet shop!
Not Dressed as Lamb
I was originally going to run this interview series monthly but there are so many inspirational women doing amazing things that I decided twice monthly would be much better. I love meeting these women and am constantly amazed by 'how on earth they do it' - this week I am interviewing my sister Heidi. I am the oldest of three sisters and Heidi is the middle sister. We are lucky to live quite close to each other and between us we have eight children and all run a small business so life does get pretty full on.
I have written about Heidi on my blog before - I love going on one of her Oxford tours, she really is a fantastic tour guide, she loves history and presents it so well. We have been with our children when they were younger teens and they agreed it really wasn't boring at all! Now there is an accolade, Heidi makes children and teens very welcome so don't be put off - a visit to Oxford and a walking tour of the city would make an excellent summer holiday activity.
I have secured a special offer for my readers and full details can be found at the end of this post.
Here Heidi tells us more about her life and her business and how she manages to do it all!
Hi Heidi, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
This August I will be 48 and heading ever closer to the big 50! It is hard to contemplate as I always considered that to be very old but times have changed and 50 is not so bad (at least that is what I am telling myself!).
I grew up in Kent with my parents and two sisters – one older and one younger. At 12 we moved to Buckinghamshire and I found that tough at that age but am now so grateful for the move as it got me to where I am today.
I have been married to my husband and best friend for 19 years and we have three wonderful children… and a dog! I now live in Oxfordshire in a small village on The Ridgeway.
And tell us a little bit about your business venture and what inspired you?
At 18 I travelled alone to Vermont in the USA and spent a year as an Au Pair. It was a big step but I had always had 'wunderlust'. It was here that I met one of my closest friends who was also an Au Pair but from Germany. At the end of our year, Stephanie and I travelled coast to coast on Amtrak trains.
This was just the beginning and on returning to the UK, I worked for a travel company based in the UK but that took me to work in The Netherlands where I was a tour guide.
My next adventure was as a holiday representative in Turkey where I completed three summer seasons and met more lifelong friends.
As the years passed, I decided it was time to return to the UK and worked for a travel company who offered bespoke tours to Australia, America and Canada and I would often travel with my job.
After I met my husband Jonathan, and I became pregnant with our first child I returned part-time to the travel company but by my third child, I knew it was time to consider my options. I think it is important for mum’s to be at home as much as possible during the early years of childhood but I needed to work so I looked at what I was good at, what I enjoyed and what was around me and decided I'd love to become a Tour Guide in Oxford.
I wrote to the Tourist Information Centre but was disappointed to learn that they had just run a course and did not have any plans for another one for another 3-4 years. My heart sank when I received that letter ‘we will keep your details on file’ but they did! After those 4 years passed, I received a letter asking me to attend an interview. I had to prepare a 5-minute talk on a subject and present it at The Oxford Town Hall to a group of professional Guides. Although I was used to public speaking and presenting, I had not done it for some time (motherhood can strip away your self-confidence!).
But I was delighted when I received the call to let me know I had been selected for a 9-month training course to become a fully qualified Green Badge Guide. It was a tough and challenging 9-months and on more than one occasion I wondered what I had taken on. At the end, you sit three written exams and two oral. Luckily I passed and started working for the city of Oxford. I then took the leap to start my own business – Walking Tours of Oxford.
What does an average day look like for you?
There is nothing average about my job or my day – each one is unique but the kids help me to form a routine. I'm up by 7 am and then it is the chaos that any mum will know only too well – trying to get them all out the door.
My eldest is now away at University so just the two left but when they were all younger and with three of them, I felt I had done a whole day’s work before 9 am!
I do confess to breathing a sigh of relief when they are all out the door and peace descends... I then have a quiet breakfast, check my emails and reply before taking our dog, Ozzie on a walk along The Ridgeway. That is a great time to think and contemplate the day ahead!
I usually then head into Oxford for one or two tours (I have done four tours in a day and am exhausted by the end!). My clients are from all over the world and the tours I offer are vast and varied – from standard university tours, to Harry Potter, Gargoyles and Grotesques, Morse / Lewis and Endeavour ….
Once my last tour finishes, I will either have to rush towards home and collect the children from various locations or if I am lucky, I might be able to steal an hour at the gym – I love to go swimming!
What has been your biggest challenge?
As far as the business is concerned – SEO and social media! Also trying to not let things get to me too much but that is par for the course with your own business!
What advice would you pass on to someone wishing to change career in midlife?
Make sure it is right for you. Running a business is challenging and stressful and not for everyone. You need a good support network. If you have those in place, then I say go for it. Love what you do and it will shine through!
Do you have a signature style, an everyday look that you love?
When I am out on my tours – and that can be in all weathers, my main objective is comfort all the way! During the winter months it is smart jeans with waterproof boots, waterproof coat and a colourful scarf. I love a smart tailored blazer if the weather permits! – Summer brings much more scope and when the sun shines brightly, you can’t beat a cool summer dress.
How do you balance your business with family life?
Luckily my children are older now and with that comes a little bit of space. My eldest is studying at Oxford University so he is away during term time. The past 6-weeks has been very challenging with my middle child taking GCSE’s and on ‘study leave’ which means that my schedule has been completely thrown into chaos as I have had to take and collect at very erratic times. I just manage it all somehow, because you have to!
What is your biggest achievement to date?
I know it is a cliché, but unquestionably my children. They have all turned out to be well balanced and caring individuals who strive to reach their full potential at school and university. That aside, then it is my business which has not been without it’s up and downs!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
With the children ‘grown up’ I hope that I will have some more ‘us’ time for my husband and myself. We met, had our first child and married within an 18-month time frame so we never really had time to ourselves so that will be special. I want to do more travelling as I love to explore whenever I can. I have done most of the States, Canada, Europe, South East Asia and Australia but India and Africa are definitely on the agenda. I would also love to live overseas again. More than that, I would just like my children to be happy.
How can we get in touch with you and find out more about you or your tours?
Walking Tours of Oxford is Number 1 for tours in Oxford on TripAdvisor – so you can find our listing there. Check out my website – walkingtoursofoxford.com and of course social media – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Thank you so much Heidi, I don't know how you do it but I am glad you do because I love your tours!
You can read a bit more about my visits to Oxford and tours with Heidi on my previous blog posts - a private tour of Oxford here and my more recent visit - a day out in Oxford here.
And below are the details of the special offers Heidi has set up for readers of Fifty & Fab:
Firstly she is offering her Morse, Lewis and Endeavour Tours on a Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 2.00 pm throughout the coming season - this offer is available until 31st October 2018. All you have to do is follow this link and make your booking with Eventbrite at the special rate of £14 per person (plus booking fee). You will need to enter the passcode: johnthaw to access this special rate.
She is also offering her Simply Oxford University Tour - one remaining date - Friday 22nd June 11.30 am at the reduced rate of £13 per person (plus booking fee). To book this please follow this link and make your booking with Eventbrite - you will need to enter the passcode: oxon1167 to access this special rate.
Alternatively if you would like to find out more about her other tours and availability for a private tour then do email Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post and does not contain affiliate links.
Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
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