Our family travel bucket list

Sometimes I live in fantasy land and have a dream that I will leave work, hubby will take a sabbatical and we'll remove the children from school for a year to travel the world. I strongly believe there is no better education for your children than travel - the enriching experiences, exposure to other cultures, sights, smells and history of actually visiting somewhere just doesn't come close to reading about somewhere from a text book. However in reality, unless we win the lottery, I very much doubt this dream will ever come true. With that in mind I have created a list of the top three destinations I would like to take my children before they grow up. Let me know what you think.


Our family has a keen interest in Roman history and our eldest son is actually in the middle of an 8 week school homework project where he is creating a Roman comic telling the story of how Rome was founded and has created his own Roman blog. As we live in Northumberland we are very lucky that we are close to Hadrian's wall and have spent many an afternoon here exploring forts, climbing the wall and discovering history. We are keen to learn more and I can't help but think how fantastic it would be to take my children to Rome and let them see the Coliseum, Pantheon and all of the places they have read about on the internet for themselves. 


Before I travelled to Marrakech with my husband I would definitely not have considered it as somewhere to take our children but I have definitely made a complete U-turn. I would love for them to experience the magic of Jemaa el Fna for themselves. Where else can you drink freshly squeezed orange juice, sample a huge array of street food, watch street performers and magicians and become entranced with snake charmers and storytellers? It certainly beats a night at a mini disco that would form part of a more traditional family holiday.

Camper Van trip around Cornwall

As a family we love glamping. Nothing beats the freedom that staying outdoors gives you and it is the perfect way to get away from it all. I have a little dream that one day we will hire a VW camper van and go off on an adventure around Cornwall. Just driving wherever the day takes us, stopping off at beaches along the way before finding a farm or campsite to park up for the night. I would just love the freedom the be able to do this and think it must be the ultimate way to travel. Cornwall is a much-loved destination of mine as we used to spend our Summer there as a child. I would really like to return with my own children and discover hidden coves, eat cream teas and navigate the winding country lanes for myself. I am really determined to tick this from our bucket list soon! I love this photo of Jack enjoying al-fresco breakfast on a glamping trip last year and imagine this would be what every morning would be like if we were to stay in a camper van.

This is our entry to the Transun Travel Bucket List competition which closes at 11:59pm on 30th April. Details can be found here. Let me know if you have entered or where your top three travel bucket list destinations would be.


Our second honeymoon in Mexico

When we were married in 2006  I had only just given birth to Harry a few months earlier. We still did want a few nights away for our honeymoon but understandably did not want to go far. We ended up booking a lovely log cabin in Yorkshire for a few nights and actually ended up having an amazing time. We did kind of feel like we had missed out on the opportunity to have a proper honeymoon though so a few years later when Harry was a little older booked a seven night holiday in Mexico. We left Harry in the capable hands of our parents - I know not everyone could do this but personally, I didn't mind doing this when he was younger and wasn't missing out - I have to be honest though, I'm not sure I could leave my children for a full week now they that are older and a few nights is probably the most I could manage without the guilt kicking in!

The Grand Palladium Kantenah Resort and Spa

I was blown away by every review I read about this hotel and knew nowhere else would compare. 5* luxury with a fabulous spa, 24 on-site bars, 7 pools, a night club, direct beach access, a la carte dining every night - it certainly sounded like the luxury honeymoon I had dreamed of. We booked with first choice - I won't let you know the cost but it was eye watering and I can't ever imagine a time we will spend that amount of money on a holiday again! It was worth every penny though. I always email hotels prior to a visit (and this was way before I started blogging) and explain we are staying for a special occasion and anything they could do to make our stay that little bit more special would be hugely appreciated - sure enough we were given a free upgrade to a superior room with whirlpool bath. Lovely!

The Grand Palladium Resort hotel beach in Mexico

The Spa

The spas in 5* resorts are stunning! There were infinity pools, saunas, lazy rivers, bubble pools, steam rooms, plunge pools.....it was amazing and it was never ever crowded. We always felt at though we had the spa to ourselves. The spa was adult only and the perfect place to escape for an afternoon nap.

Lazy river, Grand Palladium Spa, Mexico

The food

We were completely spoilt for choice! We enjoyed an a la carte meal every evening. Our favourite meals were the Japanese restaurant, a Brazillian steakhouse and the beach BBQ. Breakfast was also special with freshly ground coffee and unlimited champagne available. Talk about spoilt!

The Bars

We stayed ultra all-inclusive so everything was included in our stay. The resort complex is huge and there were over 20 bars to choose from with a variety of live music, entertainment and shows to watch in the evening. Our favourite place was the 'premium bar' which was hidden away - I don't think many people knew about it as it was empty quite a lot of the time. We used to play a few games of cards and share a bottle of Disaranno between us! 

Later on in the evenings we would listen to some music in another bar, have some beers in the sports bar or head to the hotel night club until the early hours. I really can't imagine doing this anymore - I am definitely a completely different person in my thirties than I was in my twenties!

Here are some more photographs from our stay - It's fair to say my photography skills have improved since 2008!

We had been to Mexico and explored a lot of the typical tourist attractions (swimming with dolphins, snorkelling ect...) before and really just wanted to relax during this break. This was certainly achieved with days by the pool, beach or spa and evenings filled with fine dining and alcohol. This trip certainly was the second honeymoon we dreamed of.


Chez Mal Newcastle - The official launch party

We returned home on Thursday evening with a goody bag full of treats (thanks Malmaison, Toni & Guy, ESPA, Benefit and LabelM) and a personal note Vincent Garrington, General Manager of the Malmaison Newcastle thanking us for attending - well Vincent it was my absolute pleasure. The official launch party at Chez Mal pretty much tops any party I have ever been to. We had such a wonderful evening and were highly impressed with everything the newly refurbished Chez Mal has to offer and definitely think the stylish Brasserie & Craft Beer and Cocktail Bar is going to be our new go-to destination for date night.

Firstly, I will apologise for the quality of my photographs! A DLSR camera isn't a great accessory when you are asked to 'dress to impress' and there is no way I could squeeze it into my sparkly clutch so I relied on my iPhone to take a few snaps. 

As our taxi pulled up outside the iconic Quayside building, you could feel the exciting buzz as you walked along the red carpet, were snapped by photographers (yes really), handed a glass of champagne and asked to head upstairs and help yourself to cocktails. 

Chez Mal has been completely refurbished and the transformation is staggering. The famous purple corridors and dark, moody corners have been upgraded to give the whole place a fresh and modern feel. The bar and brasserie have now switched places and are un-recognisable. The bar area seems larger and more spacious with plenty of seating areas available making it a perfect place to meet with friends after work. Our friends Chloe (New Girl in Toon) and Simon, Laura (What Laura Loves) and Rachel (Happy Little Syllables) had already grabbed us a table so we headed over to enjoy the fabulous live performances courtesy of Rachel Sweeney and Annabel Pattinson.

 As Chloe put it - Steve and Simon swapping 'I live with a blogger' horror stories. 

Much to the boys' delight, we were seated right next to a pop up bar serving 'smoked old fashioned' cocktails which were a real hit with the crowd and seemed to go down a little too easily!

Pina Colada's seemed to be the rest of our table's cocktail of choice which were freshly prepared using premium spirits by the friendly and knowledgable bartenders.

Sometimes service can be painfully slow when cocktails are made properly but this was definitely not the case Chez Mal - the staff were all extremely speedy and service very prompt throughout the night despite the fact that the place was packed with guests who had high expectations and some of the cocktails on offer sounded very complex indeed (one even has Jalepenos listed as an ingredient). The staff really are a credit to Chez Mal.

We were informed that dinner was to be served at 8:30pm and I couldn't believe we had just eaten before we left for the party. Apparently there were the finest fillet steaks, lamb cutlets, cheese boards and seafood on offer. We were reliably informed that the dessert section was also to die for! I can't believe we missed out but everyone we spoke to had such high praise for the food that we will definitely be returning soon to sample what the brasserie has to offer. We did try a few canapes which were perfect.

The gossip of the evening was that Mark Wright would be attending the party as a guest DJ. I really didn't believe this and rolled my eyes despite my friend Rachel being adamant it was true. Well as I was chatting to Ashleigh Money Saver and Donna from the North East Hub there was some definite excitement around the DJ booth so off we popped to see what was going on.

It turns out Mark Wright was in the building after all! He wasn't keen on taking photographs with guests whilst he was setting up his set though and I definitely think I caught him at a bad moment (however twitter shows that he did take some photos later on). His set full of 90's tunes was absolutely spot on and we table danced along to classics such as 'Two can play that game', 'Another night, another dream' and 'I love you baby'. Chez Mal's house DJ's Adam Walker and Chris Shaw were just as good (if not better) than Mr.Wright and you can catch them playing live sets in the bar area every weekend until 1am.

After quite a few cocktails we decided it was time to mingle and it was lovely to meet Claire Barber who has been handling the PR for the Newcastle Malmaison. There was a rumour (and twitter proof) that Sting was also in the room but we weren't lucky enough to find him. I was however very excited to meet Karen (Monkeyfooted Mummy) who I actually run the North East Network of Brilliant Bloggers with but have never had the chance to meet in real life! It was fantastic to finally put a face to somebody I probably chat to every day online! We also bumped into Scarlett and her family from GoggleBox. They really were the most lovely and down to earth people and were full of praise for Chez Mal (Scarlett informed us she had eaten far too much meat but couldn't resist as it was all amazing). Of course I had to take a selfie or two and they were happy to oblige......

Time really does fly when you are having fun and we decided to change our taxi to later in the evening (in hindsight this was probably a bad move with school runs and work to consider the next day but as I say, you only live once!)

We left Chez Mal just after 11pm wanting more and the next day I could not stop thinking about what a wonderful evening we'd had so I booked us into the Malmaison Newcastle for an overnight stay, meal and more cocktails next month (keep your eyes peeled for a future review with decent photos next time!). Congratulations to everyone involved in what was most definitely Newcastle's party of the year. The evening was a huge success and we can't wait to return for more.

Fancy trying Chez Mal for yourself? 

  • Steak, Lobster & Bubbles - This Summer enjoy melt-in-the-mouth steak, a 1/2 lobster, fries and a glass of Malmaison BubbleTime Champagne in the Chez Mal Brasserie for £25pp. Click here for details.
  • Eat, Drink, Sleep - Enjoy an overnight stay in a stylish, refurbished room, a three course meal for two from the Prix Fixe menu and a cocktail each from only £105 per room. Click here for details.


The Northumbrian coast - Craster and Low Newton

We are so fortunate to live near such beautiful coastline. We have such diverse beaches and sometimes you are very lucky to enjoy a beach all to yourself! We enjoyed a piece of this coastline last year with a trip to Craster and Low Newton.

Fishing boats in Craster harbour, Northumberland

Craster is a small fishing village and has a very traditional feel. There are some beautiful seaside cottages available to rent (on my bucket list to do this!), one friendly pub, a cafe and the famous smokehouse with adjoining restaurant and shop. There is only one car park (£2 per day) which is where the tourist information site is located.

We began our visit with a trip to the beer garden at The Jolly Fisherman pub. If you  are lucky to get a table here you definitely should. The views are spectacular. A pint of real ale, a freshly brewed cuppa and 3 juice's set us back just over a fiver. Very good value for money.

Beer Garden at The Jolly Fisherman Pub, Craster

Next we paid the famous smokehouse a visit.

Craster Smokehouse, Northumeberland

If you go at the right time of day, the kids can watch the fishermen at work. You can also see the smoke working it's magic and the smell is very enticing! The staff in the shop are very knowledgable and happy to answer any questions. We bought 4 famous Craster kipper fishcakes, some kipper pate and 2 large scallops. Yum!

Next it was time to enjoy the lovely coastal walk - it is 1.5 miles to Dunstanborough castle. We normally walk about half way and back with 3 sets of little legs to consider! The views of the castle are fantastic and there is a lot of coastline to explore. Wish we had remembered our nets and buckets!

Craster to Low Newton Walk

Craster to Low Newton Walk

Craster to Low Newton Walk

After our walk, We headed back to the car and popped into the visitor centre. The staff here were so friendly and giving lots of people advice. We gave the kids £3 pocket money each to spend for being well behaved and they were very happy with a toy unicorn, feather quill and wind up penguin! Easily pleased!

I had heard lots of great things about The Ship Inn at Low Newton but had never visited myself. It is only 5 miles from Craster and our car parking ticket could be used in the car park at Low Newton too. So off we went.

The Ship Inn, Low Newton

 The coastline here is again, absolutely beautiful. It is completely different to rocky and rustic Craster though - Low Newton is a never ending perfect sandy beach. This picture is taken on the walk from the car park down to the pub.

It was a warm but overcast day when we visited The Ship Inn. I would hate to see it in the height of summer!! It is the busiest pub I have ever seen! All of the tables were taken inside and out so we joined a handful of other families and sat on the grass outside - it probably worked out better that way as the kids had freedom to run around while we waited.

The menu has a strong emphasis on locally sourced food (in particular seafood) but I did find the children's menu very limited - just one choice (a children's picnic at £3.95 which does not include a drink). The food was absolutely delicious though, all home cooked and plentiful and was very good value for money. There is also a micro brewery on site!

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip along the Northumbrian coast and are already planning to return in the Autumn. Our eldest wants to take some ropes and hooks so he can climb parts of the rocks he couldn't reach today!!!! 

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