The Magic Of A New Language

As a travel writer, I have realised over the years, the importance of being able to communicate in other languages. Although most countries have a wonderful grasp of the English language, sometimes it is good to be able to delve a little deeper into culture and life by speaking another language. For me, I have always struggled with this. Despite my studies in English language, I have struggled picking up other languages when I've tried to learn. For a few years, I've been slowly trying to learn Greek but without having a solid teaching method, I am still only at elementary level (if that sometimes!).

Where To Stay In Greece
It's not just wonderful as a traveller to be able to speak another language, but also for the mind itself; because learning another language can help decrease your risk of developing dementia in later life, and also it's just brilliant for the mind. I remember travelling to Belgium just last year, in an area that is perhaps not particularly tourist focused, on a layover from a trip. Not being able to speak much French didn't really help when everyone there could barely scrape two words of English together, which was to my surprise as I've never experienced this much, but it really did make me stop and think again about trying to at least be able to grasp a basic knowledge of a couple of languages. That is why Listen & Learn is a brilliant website for people wanting to learn a new language right from their own city. With so many to choose from also, it is simple to navigate and you can enjoy learning straight away. I have always been fascinated with Greek mostly because I adore the country and now I have friends there, who I'd love to be able to communicate with in Greek as well as English! I've also had a desire to learn French, after finding out that I have French heritage from many years ago. This is all part of an exciting journey which I know will make me feel an even more confident traveller. There are so many exciting ways to learn language but putting them into practice is key. Babbel and Duolingo are also great resources, but as with any new goal you set yourself, the desire to want to learn is paramount.

Setting the time aside to learn can be the most difficult. I have found myself doing little bits in between work or maybe in bed at night but having a better routine with it will allow your brain to kick into gear more. Taking an hour or two hours to specifically sit and learn will help you to realise that it's time to learn! Use flashcards for specific phrases and start practising reading text in another language as well as listening to the language also, because this will help you to process the language quicker, as usually hearing someone speak in another language is very daunting, especially when they speak quickly and it's hard to grasp what they're saying. However all in all, this is a challenge I will be continuing on with and I'll be sure to document it here as I go! What language would you choose to learn if you could?!


*This is a collaborative post

Nature In Doncaster

Sometimes the best parts about the spring/summer season, is getting out of the city. The hustle and bustle and thrill of the busy city centres is great, but sometimes, it's nice to escape and take a wander into the depths of the countryside, to clear your mind, get in that vital exercise, or maybe just to walk your dog. Doncaster has some lovely park land and their famous Potteric Carr Nature Reserve which makes for the ultimate Sunday spot. Let's take a little peek at what Doncaster has to offer in the suburbs and how you can get a taste of that beautiful Yorkshire air! Did you know that walking just an hour a day can reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke, so there is no better excuse than getting outside and seeing what the world around you has to offer. Let's begin with some of Doncaster's most treasured nature spots.

Fun Fact: Yorkshire Wildlife Park is Britain's first walk-through Safari!  

Potteric Carr: Calandar

Nature Reserves/Walks 

For those beautiful summer evenings, there is only one place for it. Doncaster is incredibly proud of Potteric Carr and rightly so. There's something for everyone. Not only does it boast beautiful views, lakes and walks, there is plenty of nature to soak up. Birds are free in their natural habitat here, and you're more than likely to spot bitterns and marsh harriers. It's brilliant for families and children to experience nature first hand, and be on the look out for butterflies and wildflowers, it is at its most beautiful this time of the year. For entry, the price per adult is £4.50 which allows you access all over the parkland, but access to the visitor centre and cafe is free. Plenty of little walk ways, will make you feel as if you're in the depths of a forest, it's the perfect escape from traffic and busy lives. Next to look at is Thorpe Marsh Nature Reserve, with plenty of lakes, small woodland areas and full of farm animals grazing in the fields beyond, and all the incredible birds that love to nestle into the woodland. Dogs are allowed here, on a lead and entry is free. Thirdly is Sprotborough Flash Nature Reserve, another local parkland, listen to the sound of sheep, the trickle of the gentle waters of the river Don and enjoy the fresh air. This is a quieter alternative by the river, which is a little less cultivated but still full of immense charm!

Fun Fact: Queen Victoria had her own private bathroom built for her at the Mansion House when she visited Doncaster! 



Parks

There are a lot of parks in Doncaster. In fact, there are 19 in and around the city and you can scroll further down to see what they are all called! Askern Boating Lake is popular with water sports lovers,  there is lots to do and a good range of play facilities, so who said you needed to trek all the way to the Italian Lakes to have some fun boating! Each park offers something a little different. Let's highlight a couple to see what else Doncaster has to offer. Sandall Park in Wheatley, is brilliant for joggers and runners. Westfield Park is a brilliant stop for kids, Bentley Park, complete with a bandstand, is a beautiful picturesque park with a huge amount of history to digest. The Bentley Pavilion is an attraction in itself and offer many events round the year, one worth looking at! It is most certainly one for the Instagram feed.

Fun Fact: King John stayed at Coinsbrough Castle in 1201!!! 

Bentley Park, Donaster Council
For all the tourist information you could possibly need, head over to Visit Doncaster! There really is so many outdoor activities to do in the city, I have been pleasantly surprised when on my quest! There has been surprises around every corner. Picnics are definitely on the agenda I'd say, with all this lush green around. Doncaster itself is surrounded by stunning Yorkshire countryside, so if you're not much of a shopper and you find cities too anxiety-inducing, then Doncaster has plenty of wonderful outdoor spots to go to!! Did you also know that spending an hour out in the fresh air can aid digestion and strengthen your immune system? Brilliant to know! Doncaster is ready and waiting for you!

All the parks you can visit in the city! 




*This was a collaborative post with Visit Doncaster 

Post Travel Self Care




Keeping a simple, but zen like routine on an evening before bedtime is vital if you want to stay relaxed and get a restful night's sleep. If you've been on the road, or traveling anywhere, your body can feel a little out of whack. It is one of the most common things in the world to suffer with sleep problems, insomnia, anxiety and a huge portion of our society is struggling with at least one of these. It can be beaten, it takes time, patience and a little assistance.

Adopting the Danish concept of Hygge, basically in a nutshell, means simplicity and calm to create balance and harmony in your life, and this can be easily achieved during the evenings also. It can easily be broken down into sections, so you can create the perfect balanced evening without compromising too much on your Instagram-stalking sessions and catching up on your Netflix. Balance is everything. Moderation is key. Find out what you love, adopt it into your lifestyle, and be in the moment. This is something we can find tricky to do; especially if we suffer with anxiety. Stepping out of this way of thinking can be difficult. Some of these seem self explanatory, but at its core, it is balance.




1. Start your Hygge evening routine with a herbal tea and cosy clothes

If you don't like herbal tea, opt for another night-time drink but herbal teas, with camomile and lavender are proven to warm you inside and give you a little bit of zen. Pour it into your favourite cup. If you don't have a favourite cup, find one. What you drink it out of is so important. Be in your favourite cosy outfit. Something that's right for the time of year; perhaps a soft dressing gown.

2. Take a bath - tale as old as time but so important

Run a hot bath and drop in some of Neom's Scent to Sleep oils. Add candles and also download an app that has free sound effects; this can be really nice to add a spa effect and find something delicate to listen to. We all have our preferences, something that makes you feel relaxed, play around with new sounds and you will find one that makes you feel an inner calm. Do something in the bath that makes you feel happy. Netflix, YouTube, perhaps a book, or even pick up your phone. Cutting out all technology and things you love will not always help relax you. You may have a strange anxiety separation from that alone. Just make sure you save some time to be in the moment.

3. Use some lovely skin products

I love to treat my skin after travelling or even just as a pick me up or part of a self-care routine. I have been enjoying these lovely items from Clockface Beauty. First I use the face mask, really light and creamy and then use their serum for some additional moisture; lovely herbally scented and great for night time when you're looking to wind down. Scroll for photos!








4. Climb into bed and get cosy

Spritz your pillow with Neom's Scent to Sleep pillow mist, which smells divine and luxurious. Don't force yourself to turn off too quickly. The body takes time to relax, but you should already be feeling at least a little calmer. Take a few deep breaths and get comfy in bed. If you like to read in bed, then take this time to have a little read. It's OK to have the TV on if this is something that comforts you. Get into a comfortable position in bed, this is key. We all have our go-to positions but sometimes they may not be the best positions. Sleeping on your back is better for your posture and physical state. Sleeping on your side isn't the best, but sleeping on your right side is good if you suffer with digestion problems, it helps drain the stomach. Sleeping on your stomach can ease breathing issues but it can cause your blood pressure to rise a little; if you're usually fit and healthy then this shouldn't be a problem. Another added element would be, invest in a nice quilt, something you really like and a design that will make you happy. If your bed isn't as comfortable as it could be, then consider getting a memory foam mattress topper for a comfort upgrade!





If you don't sleep, don't panic. Often it is the worry of not sleeping that stops us from drifting off. Instead, just keep your mind focused on something happy, something you're looking forward to or want to do. Open the window for a little fresh air, sometimes this can aid you to fall off to sleep.


Book A Villa With Clickstay!

I am constantly on the hunt to find the perfect home away from home in a city that is ready and waiting to be explored. I always find that part of the magic of travelling is doing things in your own time, with the excitement of the city's culture and being part of a community and seeing how the locals like to live. Clickstay are a company who offer holiday homes, villas rentals and apartments in worldwide locations, for the ultimate self-catering experience. They have a variety of homes for one person, or a big group, which is lovely for the times you're taking a bunch of friends or extended family. They have so many properties which are just perfect for groups of 11, 12 and more, which is perfect if you're sharing the price! Clickstay have over 67,300 homes and have helped over 600,000 travellers, with safe and secure booking systems, that's another reason why I am proud to be affiliated with Clickstay, they're truly there to ensure you curate a wonderful trip for yourself.

One of my favourite cities in the world is Athens. Clickstay have such a wonderful variety of properties, some of which I've shown below! Athens is a place where I've made friends and a place I constantly love to see evolve and grow, so finding a place to call my own whilst I'm there is essential as part of a wonderful experience. Sometimes, it would be nice to invite a friend back to cook for them whilst I'm there, it really makes you feel as if you're living like a true Greek and this goes for any location, from the South of France, to Ireland, or maybe further afield like Florida if you're heading to the parks. I'm constantly browsing all the lovely properties, with a very easy to navigate site, you'll be able to find everything you need, including lots of photos and you won't be disappointed with your finds. From inexpensive to more luxury properties, there is definitely something for everyone. There are plenty of customer reviews to look at too so you can make sure you're booking something that's just perfect for you. Take a little peek at their Villas in Greece.




A Piece Of Paradise...

Clickstay and their dedicated team make booking really easy, and now is the time to take advantage of any villas that are still available before the booking rush in summer. Spring is a lovely time to take a trip to the Amalfi Coast, or perhaps even Majorca, which is an easily accessible and pretty island that is just ready and waiting for you! Pick a villa or home with a private pool, your own terrace, relax and cook outdoors if you wish and soak up the fresh air. Clickstay also regularly promote competitions and giveaways, which is another reason to love them! Another destination that I love is somewhere a little closer to home in the UK...so if you're looking for somewhere you can drive to, then maybe their Lake District properties will be for you! Here are a couple of the properties that I'm desperate to try this year when the weather is good for walking and boat trips! A little cottage in the countryside is always a good idea!



*All photos courtesy of Clickstay 

They are definitely competitive with pricing and their team are available daily to assist and you can of course find them on social media (which is super quick and easy). So if these photos haven't tempted you in some way then maybe some of their other destinations will entice you to book a little romantic getaway or a girly celebratory trip, or maybe you're wanting to treat your mum, the possibilities are endless! Click below to book and see where your next holiday may take you!




Ten Things I Learned In New York

If you're wanting to take a bite out of the Big Apple, then you've probably trawlled through hundreds of Blogs, photos on Instagram and any article you can find on where to stay, what to do, how to get around. I had the pleasure of visiting New York in December, and despite its bitter cold temperatures nipping at me constantly, I was very much in love with the spirit in the air and of course the decorations!





Here are Ten Things that I learned in New York, along with a couple of tips, so hopefully when you next travel to New York, you can get the most out of your trip and make it one to remember!

1. Everywhere Looks The Same

The streets (or blocks) in New York look identical, it is a concrete jungle, a maze, although there is a mathematical way of remembering where you are, mostly because most of the streets are numbered, 55th street, 59th street etc, therefore, you can always keep track. I'd suggest getting some savvy apps on your phone before hand, perhaps not a street map, as of course they can look too touristy and make you a target for theives. In between the identical streets are parks, little places to stop, plenty of shops and even more cafes to feast your eyes on, but beware of how far you've travelled if you're on foot as the one thing I really came to realise was that most places, aside from the main tourist attractions, are deceiving in their looks.

2. Plan, Plan, Plan!!

There is of course nothing better than having a day without plans in the city, but we came to realise that our trip was slightly wasted because we did not have an itinerary and found ourselves walking the same streets and hadn't methodically planned how to get around or what to do. Back then I was a total travel newbie, a very naive young traveller who hadn't thought this would be a problem, but we didn't see nearly as much as we could have seen when we went. Plan thoroughly, find out transport options, find the places you really want to see, look at tours even. I think I'd definitely plan more tours next time, to get out of the city, as sometimes it can be a little overbearing for anxious travellers, and there are places not too far from Manhattan that are just as intriguing.

Also make sure you book a transfer from the airport well in advance as taxis will be very expensive and even dangerous so be sure to book something reliable! I always book Welcome Pickups!



3. We Found No Good Coffee

The Americans are famous for their cups of Joe, but unfortunately we could find nowhere that really had the taste of the coffee we Brits know and love from anywhere other than a Starbucks. Blatantly untraditional of course, as there are so many little cafes in the city, quaint and fresh, many vegan which is fantastic, but the cafes we found, including our hotel, were just not upto scratch. It is most possibly choice, but I'd opt for the more cute artsy cafes, even vegan cafes which probably take a lot of pride in their work. I don't know why we had such bad luck with coffee but I certainly did end up drinking a lot more herbal tea (which is definitely good -even though the caffiene was needed!)

4. Broadway Shows Are Hellish Expensive

If you're in town wanting to see a Broadway show, then make sure you've saved up. We tried to book through our hotel, probably a big mistake, and the cost was over $100. Now, it was probably more than worth it, but it hadn't been something we had budgeted for to such an extent. Again, down to lousy planning but most Broadway shows are quite expensive although some may have family tickets or slight discounts, they are going on towards $100 so make sure you've got them booked before hand and make sure you really research your seats. To look at booking Broadway shows, click here.



5. Flagging Down Cabs Can Be Life-Threatening!

Trying to flag a cab down is so tricky, especially in busy Manhattan. you have to juggle traffic and people, try not to get run over and then after all that, they may drive straight past you. The signs on the top of the cabs light up when someone is occupying them, so look for the ones that aren't lit up. It is definitely difficult and this is why people opt for the underground, however, I fully understand that this isn't for everyone, it wasn't for me. I had nothing but poor experiences of London Underground and something told me NYC wouldn't be much better. Cabs are relatively average price around the city; they don't like to take you too far. If you want to flag a cab down, look for a store with a guard outside or doorman, give them a little tip and they'll happily flag one down for you safely without you having too put any effort in.



6. Tipping Will Get You Everywhere 

It's exactly how it is on old American movies. Nearly everyone will respond well if you throw in a tip. I had been desperate to visit the restaurant, Serendipity, but the queues were insane and many people have booked days in advance. After visiting the restaurant hoping to get in, the restaurant manager said we couldn't get in. Although after asking politely again, and showing him a twenty dollar note, he happily put us on the guestlist! I'm certainly not one for bribery but in NYC, it certainly does seem to make life a little easier.

7. The Cold Is Bitter

I wouldn't advise a trip during the winter months. As beautiful and magical as it is, it is bitter cold in the winter months. The cold in NY seems to be much more clingy and icy than we have here. I believe in December the temperature can reach upto -10c. It often does feel like that even if the temperature is much higher. So be sure to pack all the thermals you can get your hand on. Scarf, hat and gloves are essential!

8. Central Park Will Make You Feel Like You're In A Movie

It's been shown in so many movies. It's beautiful anytime of year, although there's a certain kind of magic in the air at Christmas. The ice rink is in full force, the lights are glistening and it feels very special. Getting lost in Central Park is undoubtedly a fun and interesting thing to do when in the city and to get you away from the hum of the business NYC streets. Of course New York is crowded but there is a way to escape the madness. The park is beautiful in the warmer months for picnics and ice-creams and really does take you to the heart of the city. A little oasis in the heart of this concrete jungle!

9. The Plaza Hotel Is A Must See

I am usually the type of tourist who loves to hotel hop. I'm a huge lover of hotels and finding new ones, grabbing coffees in their swanky bars and checking out their restaurants. You'll be surprised how many Michelin star restaurants are inside hotels. The Plaza Hotel is regal and beautiful and you've probably seen it appear in certain movies. It truly is a beautiful hotel and it's a must see, they have a little library, places to drink coffee and more! If you can afford it, I would suggest booking an afternoon tea there! Scroll down for a VERY old photo of me! (2009 in fact).



10. Everywhere is Instagram Worthy

Even though when I visited in 2009, Instagram did not exist, for travellers today I can honestly say that everywhre is unbelievably cool for photos. It's New York City, everywhere looks and feels like a movie set. Of course some of the most Instagrammable spots (according to tourists) are:

  • Washington Street 
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Westlight
  • Barney's New York
  • Brooklyn Bridge
So that's it. My top ten things I learned whilst visiting the Big Apple. There is so much to do in New York but one of the top things I would say is eating and coffee shop hopping. There is no guarantee of the weather, so hiding away from the rain in cute coffee shops is a very good way to help pass the time.  If you are looking for a home away from home in the Big Apple or anywhere on your next trip, take a little look at Clickstay! [Not sponsored]





*Some links may be affiliate links - this is at no extra cost to you but I get a small commission based on any sales 




The Doncaster Diaries: Doncaster Art Fair & Art In The City

The one event that really symbolised Doncaster's diversity and art scene, was the very successful Doncaster Art Fair. Run by local talent, Chinwe Russell, the event aims to showcase the work of Yorkshire artists and designers, at specific locations across the city. It's a celebration of the creativity and Yorkshire hospitality, it's incredible for the public to be able to meet and greet the artists and buy directly if they should wish. This is the third edition of the fair and all times have proven to be incredibly popular. March 31st saw many people flock to the locations across the city to see what this fair had to offer. You can find many photos of the 50+ exhibiting artists below.  The locations were: The Rum Rooms, The Magdalen, Marketplace Alehouse.

The Art

The art is a real eclectic mix of classic and contemporary with plenty of colours and styles for every taste. It is an encouraging event for artists and locals to see the type of art that the city is producing and exposing them to new exciting pieces! A lot are inspired by oil or water colour paintings but there were also a delightful mix of monochrome prints, lots of nature inspired pieces with dazzling colours and a lot being the epitome of Yorkshire beauty!

Photos: Chinwe Russel @DoncasterArtFair





With a relaxing atmosphere and a leisurely stroll around the exhibitions, you can see many of the artists work on display. A welcoming fair, with plenty to do and refreshments also. Here are some of the featured artists:










Finding Art In Doncaster 

Doncaster has much art to offer, the famous Doncaster Art Gallery and Museum offers many exciting exhibitions, currently After The Coal Dust until April 21, which is a free exhibition which looks at an intriguing collection of black and white photographs of post-industrial towns in the region, by a local couple, John and Bridget Gill and their daughter Freya, capturing life and communities including the hardships and history of the coal mining industry. It highlights what has been left behind following the closure of the mine, showing raw and real images. Then following on from this, towards June, the museum will host Terence Bennett's work, and his passion for landscape art including spanning over sixty years of ever changing industrial landscape in the region.

Doncaster Community Arts is another incredible asset to the city, which features an award winning team of artists, musicians and performers who deliver creative programmes to local people, young and old, which is based at The Point in Doncaster. A place to create and share art, this inspiring place is helping improve the lives of residents. Art is booming in Doncaster and it's just another reason to visit the city and experience it for yourself!

Doncaster is ready and waiting!


*This was a collaborative post with Visit Doncaster 



The Doncaster Diaries: New Wool Market

Doncaster, for me, always represented the heart of South Yorkshire. With its industrial history, huge stone factories and buildings and plenty of Yorkshire hospitality, Doncaster was always going to be a city that represented a lot of fierce passion! It is of course, renowned for its famous St Leger Stakes, the oldest horse race in the world, and Doncaster Racecourse itself is a magnificent spectacle for people visiting the city. However, its time we talked a little bit about what Doncaster really has to offer. This is the first in my mini series "The Doncaster Diaries", where I'm going to explore all of what Doncaster has to offer in terms of tourism and the first stop is the newly refurbished Wool Market, which was both bustling and enticing! It's recently had a 7 million pound makeover and has really been kitted out with the most incredible food stalls, and shops, which make it a definite stop if you're ever in the city. See below the little quirky cute touch inside - family friendly and still incredibly stylish!

Family friendly
Location

The location of the Wool Market is central, on the edges of the main city centre, close to the railway station and car parking is also available! It's opposite the corn exchange and market stalls, which are full of clothing, bric-a-brac and lots of affordable finds which make it a brilliant weekend trip. Not only is it brilliant for a midday stop, but it is also open until 9pm most days which makes it perfect for the impending summer evenings sitting with a beer and socialising.

Google Maps
Shops & Food

The whole place has a bright airy feel, despite the busy atmosphere, it did not feel in any way claustrophobic and each stall is well placed and plenty of seating areas for the array of delicious treats, sweet and savoury, on offer. The shops inside the Wool Market are incredibly eclectic. Accessories, children's toys, homeware, a shoe shop for men and even a nail salon which add to its appeal and highlight local trade and the importance that its had on Doncaster for many years. The last thing I expected to find inside was rhinestone studded heels, yet there were lots of stylish pieces to feast your eyes on, including handbags and jewellery.

The food is probably going to be the part that everyone wants to hear about. From pizza stands to the popular novel concept of rolled ice-cream, the Wool Market offers a little something for everyone, no matter their tastebuds. There's a taste of each continent to be found, and stalls of beautifully decorated stalls, an incredibly Instagrammable floral cafe, with coloured tables, fluffy cushions and prettily decorated cupcakes! There's also a traditional pub, the Don Valley Tap, with a full antique styled bar, old school beer and plush brass interiors which is a true touch of Yorkshire. Some other names include, The Rustic Pizza Company, Scrapes Rolled Ice Cream, Taste of Peru and many more. They also have a vegan and vegetarian stall which I was so impressed with, it's lovely to have food that is inclusive of every lifestyle! I was also thoroughly entertained with both singing acts and people dancing to salsa which really gave the place a festival feel, as if you'd stepped into a Spanish holiday destination! Very welcoming, buzzing and so much food to consume! It was also a hit for all the families and kids too.

"Local, fresh and healthy!" a very proud statement and true to its word!

True to its word! Great traditional food




Colours galore!
For anyone who lives in Doncaster, you're already probably well aware of the market opening and probably already popped down to see what it's all about! It's a lovely place for friends to go, or for a cool beer after work - it's time to start taking advantage of the lighter evenings! There has already been so much media interest in the Wool Market which is such a positive for Doncaster and well deserved. A lot of time and dedication has gone into relaunching this place and it's definitely not a let down! If you want to keep on top of everything that is going on at the market, including fun events for everyone, then take a little peek at their Instagram page @woolmarketdoncaster or @visitdoncaster for everything you need to know about the new and very exciting Wool Market! See what Ros Jones (Mayor of Doncaster) is saying about the new opening!

Keep your eyes open for some more incredible and exciting things to do in Doncaster, because Doncaster is now and it's ready and waiting for you!

*This is a collaborative post with Visit Doncaster