Where My Heart Belongs

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Whites, blues and all things nice

 

‘Dad, are we there yet? Are we there yet? Dad? Daddy?!’

Something I asked constantly  from the backseat of the car. As I got a little older I realised how annoying this was and could tell I was about to get told off so changed it to, ‘When will we be nearly there?’ I thought this was very clever of me (aged eight). I now realise it was in fact rather amusing for my parents to hear me try and say this complete mouthful every five minutes.

That feeling of sheer excitement to finally drive over the hill, or around the corner to get that fist glimpse of the sea has never left me.

The first sighting of that blue sparkling water, the smell of the seaweed, the sound of the waves and clinking boat sails is one of my favourite childhood memories.

As a teacher I am very lucky to have the time to book trips away whenever the pennies allow it. This half term my boyfriend and I were determined to get away somewhere. My first thought is always somewhere near the sea, somewhere warm but this sort of destination costs and is not always possible.

One day Maldives, one day!

We needed somewhere not too far as we only had a few days and Salcombe in Devon sounded perfect. Quick check of the weather, B&B booked, ASBO cat left with food and water (and the box she has taken to sleeping on) we were off.

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Our B&B

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Bathroom goals

We stayed at The Fortescue Inn in Salcombe.

This was very easy to book and good value for money. We were about as central as you can get to all the beautiful shops and pubs.

They are in the middle of a refurbishment and our room had recently been finished. It was immaculate and very nicely decorated. The bathroom had a gorgeous bath and huge shower!

I was told they are getting all the work done in time for the Summer season and as there are not many places to stay so centrally, I have a feeling they will be booked up very quickly.

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Seaside colours in Salcombe

Car unloaded we immediately set off to explore beautiful Salcombe. With the sun shining we strolled through the streets looking in some of the clothes shops and then found ourselves in Love the Sea Gallery.

The owner Tina chatted away to us telling us all about how she visited Salcombe 18 years ago and never left. Her husband Nick is a marine photographer who takes the most beautiful photographs of the beaches, showcasing his passion for Salcombe, sailing and love of the sea. If you love all things beach this gallery is definitely worth a visit.

I’d had a recommendation from twitter about a restaurant called The Winking Prawn in North Sands. This was a glorious walk following the coast and took about 30-40 minutes.

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Walking views

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On the way to North Sands

I almost squealed with excitement as soon as we got to the beach. Although it was February it felt so warm and plenty of children were running barefoot on the sand.

We decided to eat first and enjoy a drink in the sunshine. This was the best part of the trip for me. A stones throw from a beautiful beach and seafood and wine on the way.

The Winking Prawn

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Seafood, fries and wine in the sunshine

I can’t recommend this place enough! The food and wine were great and it had a lovely atmosphere. They even had a dressing up box for children…or your 38 year old boyfriend. He put the Zippy head on and his impression was actually very good as most of the queuing customers heard. Awkward.

After an epic lunch we walked on to the beautiful beach. The five year old in me immediately wanted to run in to that sea but being February I opted to stay dry. After a good walk around we settled on some rocks and just sat and watched the sea. Bliss.

After a while I noticed a little girl playing by the rock pools. Her trousers and most of her coat were completely soaked. She was having the time of her life! She did not care she was wet and sandy she was too busy exploring. This was ME!

What I loved more was that her parents were letting her do this. No fuss about her getting wet and dirty, they were allowing her to be free and experience the beach. Something she will probably always remember like I do.

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North Sands Beach

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North Sands Beach

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I love you too

After some convincing to leave we headed back to the B&B to look at places for dinner. Again I took to twitter and asked for any recommendations.

We had wanted to see the Salcombe Gin distillery but it was closed. Sob. Something to try next time.

I read from a tweet that The Victoria Inn served lots of gin and good food and boy they were not wrong! My pasta dish was absolutely delicious. It was the kind of meal you really take your time over because you just don’t want it to end. It did end though and I was very upset about it.

I will be going back!

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Spinach and ricotta ravioli with rocket and parmesan (I dribbled typing that)

Now, something important to mention. The Fortescue Inn is quite popular at night and our room was above part of the bar area. We had been warned it can be a bit noisy but were assured it wouldn’t go beyond 11.30pm. It was a little noisy but they provide ear plugs and the noise stopped after closing time.

If you like your early nights or have children this will be something to consider.

We both slept very well however, and enjoyed an excellent cooked breakfast which was included in the price.

On our second day we decided to visit Hope Cove and South Milton Sands.

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Hope Cove

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The short walk to South Milton Sands from Hope Cove

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South Milton Sands

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South Milton Sands

This was the beach that I got that instant surge back to childhood. It was the smell. Seaweed and sand make me SO happy.

For me, being by the sea calms me and puts things into perspective.

I am a real worrier and sometimes this is quite overwhelming. Being next to the sea gives me space to think, order my thoughts and feel calm. Next to the crashing waves and never ending view of sparkling blue, my worries turn into little dots on the horizon.

Being on the beach is when everything else can just wait.

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Paramotor over South Milton Sands

There is a little cafe called The Beachhouse that serves drinks, food and ice cream. I was sat drinking my tea as a paramotor passed overhead. I can only imagine the views. He probably saw my tea and was very jealous. It was Twinings after all.

Another walk along the beach we set off back to Hope Cove and the car.

We had just enough time to stop in Dartmouth for a quick look around and a pasty.

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Pasty stop at Dartmouth Harbour

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Pretty pastel houses on Dartmouth Harbour

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Dartmouth

The Harbour here is very pretty and the perfect place to eat a pasty! Plenty of shops to look around and if we’d had more time we would have explored further.

For a mini trip we managed to pack quite a lot in and the journey time of almost four hours was completely worth it.

We both managed to switch off, enjoy our time together and create some special memories. We even made a pact to try and visit at least one beach each month.

You may have noticed the seaweed in the first photograph. Yes it came home with me! I have collected it for my class as we will be doing an ‘Under The Sea’ topic after Half Term but secretly I wanted to bring some of the beach back with me.  It smells so good!

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Keep your toes/boots in the sand

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Feeling five again

My best childhood memories were created on the beach and I intend to keep adding to them. The sea and all that comes with it are the things that make me the happiest.

Do more of what makes you happy, keep those toes in the sand.

Clair x

Beauty And The Lakes

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The Hiking Essentials

‘Climb every mountain…’ Believe me after a mini holiday to the Lake District I am most certainly going to try!

It was that strange twilight zone part of the Christmas holidays. Christmas hysteria has gone and now you’re waiting for New Year to happen. No one knows what day it is, we’ve watched the obligatory Home Alone, fist pumped at the opening credits and eaten our body weight in cheese.

Time to venture out into the world again and get some much needed fresh air and exercise. What better place than the Lake District.

I had never been before, much to the shock of my boyfriend. It reminded me of the time I told my class I hadn’t seen Frozen….utter shock, tumbleweed…simply not acceptable. (Yes I watched it and bloody loved it!)

That was the decision made and we booked one of the last remaining available B&B’s.

Maps purchased, bags packed, ASBO cat left with enough food to feed all her neighbourhood friends and we were off!

We stayed in Bowness on Windermere and I instantly fell in love with the place. It reminded me of what I imagine a ski resort would look like. Plenty of restaurants, cafes and outdoor clothes shops around every corner. Useful when you have forgotten your hat, not useful when you really, REALLY want a RAB jacket and keep seeing them EVERYWHERE. It all looked so cosy and inviting with fairy lights in most windows and candles burning on restaurant tables. Hygge overload.

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Lake Windermere

Even in bleak January,  Lake Windermere took my breath away. It has such a calm beauty you instantly feel relaxed and refreshed.

Hiking around the lake can be fairly easy going. Not too steep and the stunning views keep changing to keep you interested and excited. With so may route options you can pick what suits your fitness level.

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Still dreaming about this view

Luckily my boyfriend is an expert map reader so navigated us on a rather spectacular hike around the lake, through a forest, a stop for lunch and plenty of time for a good nose blowing. Something I always forget-tissues! It gave us the time to relax, enjoy the beautiful scenery and burn some of the Christmas calories off.

I think after 15 miles we did a good job. I was well and truly exhausted but the kind of exhausted that makes you feel great.  Yes your legs are starting to give way and your feet hurt but come on, power through there’s a cocktail at the end of it!

Sitting under a heat lamp, with a blanket for extra warmth this was the perfect end to our first day of hiking.

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The BEST cocktail I have ever had! Lychee & Pomegranate 

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Post hike relaxation, thawing and dreaming of dinner in my six layers…

The next day we took it easy and had a look around Ambleside. There is a little walk you can do to see the Stockghyll Force Waterfalls. This is worth seeing and is a perfect little walk in between long hikes. It has plenty of shops (uh oh) to mooch around and lots of nice cafes to grab some lunch.

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Make A Wish

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Moody January Skies

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Stockghyll Force Waterfalls and my new Tog 24 hat

After a stroll around Ambleside and escaping another gorgeous Tog 24 shop.  We were relieved that no one purchased a RAB jacket (boo), so we had the money to spend the evening celebrating New Year’s Eve with more cocktails, a curry and watching the awesome fireworks around Lake Windermere!

To kick start 2017 we set off to Langdale Pikes for an epic day of hiking.

This place is unbelievably beautiful I just couldn’t take it all in. My iPhone 6 did a pretty good job of capturing some images but you have to see it to believe it.

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Langdale Valley

This hike started by following a never ending pathway of steps alongside a waterfall. Now I am not too unfit but I felt it going up these steps. It really was exhausting but the beauty of the views just made me keep going.

Plus every time someone overtook me my competitiveness streak kicked in and I was determined to get to the top. A few secret foot stomps and swearing later we were about half way.

I was promised tea at this point so I kept going!

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Post Tantrum

Hiking in the winter means you are constantly taking off layers to only put them back on again ten minutes later. It was a lovely sunny day but very, very cold. As we got nearer the top the wind picked up and we were walking up some steps completely covered in ice. I will be honest this terrified me. All I kept thinking about was slipping on the ice and falling off the mountain (dramatic I know but I was tired and in need of tea).  An extremely sporty looking chap then practically skipped past me on his ‘run up the mountain’ so I thought right, yep I am being a baby.

Deep breathe, keep going, I will get to the top!

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My new best friend, I couldn’t feel my face!

Was it worth it I hear you ask. After I had blown my nose for the hundredth time and my heart rate had come down to a sensible level I stopped to take it all in. The views at the top are just incredible. The air was so crisp and we were the only ones up there for a while. We sat down for a break and just took time to appreciate where we were.

I could have stayed up there for hours but we only had time for the best cup of tea and cookie I have ever had! It was absolutely freezing at the top so you just had to keep moving. I ended up wearing another pair of trousers and two more jackets to keep me warm enough.

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It was totally worth it!

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Feeling accomplished and very happy

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Hello 2017 I am coming for you

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Not a bad way to start the year

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I’m the queen of the castle

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Dark clouds looming on our way back down

I am not a fan of coming down mountains. I always feel a bit anxious and unsteady as it’s so easy to lose your balance. Plus it’s so hard on your legs! They had turned to jelly by this point so I was ecstatic to see that the way down had a few flat areas to give me a break.

I kept looking back to see how far we had come. The weather dramatically changed on our way down so I am glad we left when we did. The top of the mountain looked quite eerie and frightening with the dark clouds looming above. Hard to think you were up there drinking tea and loving life half an hour before.

Once back down and a never ending hike along the road back to the car, we once again enjoyed the post hike glow. Hot shower approaching and dinner booked, I was a very happy girl.

Bags packed, full or well used muddy hiking gear we set off home planning our next trip. You know you have found somewhere special when you have planned your next visit before you have even left.

Lake District see you in the Spring. I will be the one running up that mountain next time…ahem, maybe a jog?

Clair x

A Leap Into Adventure

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Back in 2014 I was a classic cliche. I had been dumped, moved back in with my parents and let’s be honest a little miserable. My life was not going quite how I had planned and I wanted to do something about it. I needed a massive change to pull me out of my comfort zone.

During a day at school I was sat inside the Explorer Dome (basically an inflatable igloo). They are a fantastic company that visit schools and entertain your class with brilliant facts and tricks all inside the dark cocoon of the dome. It had been a particularly good session with the children learning about places around the world. It ended with the image of the earth projected onto the side of the dome. The session leader simple said: “There is a very big world out there, make sure you go and see as much of it as you can.” That was my mind made up.

I started looking into teaching abroad and  was amazed to see how many jobs were available. I was quite tempted but the thought of leaving my family, friends and the job I love made me re-think.

I was still craving an adventure so started looking into travelling. My three week Easter break was the perfect time to go as it would give me the time to pick a far away destination. I thought if I am going to do this make it worth it.

I had heard through a friend about a company called G Adventures and started my search. I picked Indonesia and found a trip travelling from JAVA to BALI. All fired up I checked the dates worked, looked at flights then came back down to earth. Was I actually going to do this? Go to Asia by myself on a trip with people I had never met? This was not the Clair I knew, but as soon as my Dad had said “you need to do this” I knew I had to. As the little arrow hovered over ‘confirm your trip’ I had slight heart palpitations. I had done it, I was going to Asia in less than six weeks.

Friday 4th April arrived (major heart palpitations now) and I was all ready to go. I had squeezed as much as I could into my backpack so that I almost toppled over like a weeble. I am 5ft 2″ so yes the the backpack was almost as big as me. One last goodbye and I was in the car with my Dad on the way to the airport. This was a very quiet journey. I was majorly scared. I got out of the car gave my Dad a hug, said goodbye and walked away trying not to cry. I made the stupid mistake of looking back and desperately wanted to go back and say I couldn’t go through with it. What was I doing?!

Obviously I pulled myself together and walked through those airport doors. I am so glad I did. Don’t get me wrong I was absolutely terrified but the thought of two weeks of adventure made me keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I got to Dubai and a few deep breaths later found the departure lounge for my connecting flight to Jakarta. I tried to sleep and think I managed about two minutes before my eyes opened as the wheels touched down. I was in Jakarta, definitely no turning back now. Gulp.

I fumbled through immigration to get my Visa having no idea which queue I was meant to be in. Being the capital of Indonesia you would think it would be a well organised, clearly signed airport. It isn’t so just ask the backpacker in front of you!

Reunited with my backpack I went to find my transfer driver expecting to see a sign with my name on, he wasn’t there…deep breath. I was swarmed by taxi drivers but luckily I had been prepared for this and had looked to see what taxi’s to use. Once I had been rescued and bundled into a taxi I finally started to calm down and relax. I had made it. All I needed to do now was get to the hotel and meet the trip leader.

I finally arrived and was immediately greeted by Panji our tour leader. I was then introduced to the other three people on my trip and we were off. The next few hours were a blur. Walking through the streets of Indonesia, feeling the heat and eating my first meal all slightly hallucinating from lack of sleep.

The next two weeks were packed full of temples, visiting volcanoes, going to a remote floating fishing village, tea plantations, rice fields, tasting (and blowing your head off) with JAVA coffee, being the only tourists in among the locals and finally seeing Bali.

Trip Highlights Gallery

Overall the trip was fantastic. Although there were only four of us we got on brilliantly and after a few days we relaxed and started to have a real giggle together. We got to see so much of the local way of life, the culture, food and the delicious durian fruit (it’s awful)!  All too soon the trip had come to an end and we were getting ready to go home…or so I thought. I was just not ready to go home the next day. Unfortunately my extended stay of two weeks was not a result of me being spontaneous, I was mugged on our final night.

This resulted in me spending the next two weeks cancelling flights, visiting the consulate (in tears so they would let me in), getting new passport photos, re-booking flights home, telling work I was going to start the Summer Term two weeks late and a whole load of stress.

That stress changed me. I hadn’t wanted to go home. I am not saying I am glad I was mugged but I wanted an adventure and boy did I get one. It taught me that actually I can cope when I am on my own, I can be brave and I don’t need to worry about the small things. It is a constant reminder that I can push myself to do things I never thought I could. It was a scary situation to be in but I coped.

I made it home two weeks late and immediately went into work to check I still had a job. Thankfully they were pleased to see me (slightly suspicious and distracted by my AMAZING tan) and still to this day I endure the odd joke about being early…

Things I learnt (the hard way)

  • Never travel without insurance. I had it and needed it after being mugged and losing my bank card, iPhone and PASSPORT!
  • Note down important numbers for the Embassy and Consulate.
  • Take a credit card for emergencies.
  • Research which local taxi’s to use.
  • Take spare passport photos (I had a nightmare trying to get this done).
  • Have a photocopy of your passport (the embassy will want your old details).
  • Don’t carry any money, your phone or passport in the same bag. It’s best to conceal them under your clothes in a money belt. I met a girl in immigration who had been carrying her main backpack on her back. She had a smaller backpack on her front to keep her possessions safe-they pulled it straight off her.

Why I have a soft spot for G Adventures

  • Friendly and always very helpful customer service.
  • You can find out who else is booked onto your trip (ages and gender) so you can avoid being with a group you just know you wouldn’t gel with.
  • You can choose what style of trip you want. They offer Active, Classic, National Geographic Journeys, Family, Local Living, Marine, Yolo, Rail and Private Groups.
  • You can choose whether you want to be away for a week or a few months!
  • You get to see the ‘behind the scenes’ places instead of only seeing the main tourist spots and standing in endless queues. In fact we traveled for an entire week before seeing other tourists.
  • They are open to suggestions and strive to tailor the trip to what you want to get out of it.
  • They come and rescue you on a moped when all your things have been stolen hours before starting a new tour…

So did all of that put me off? Absolutely not, as soon I was home I booked my next trip. It was just the start.

My first leap into adventure was a bit frightening but the life experience I gained and needed far out-way the negatives. I am far more confident to try new things and challenge myself. I also made a friend for life who I traveled with again (with passport this time).

If I can take a leap, so can you.

Clair x

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