7 TIps For Cutting Business Costs

Whether you are starting a small or medium business or you are already established, it is important to keep a keen eye on business costs. I used to have my own jewellery shop so I know how important this is. You may only break even for the year at Christmas time and it may be a fine line between profit and loss. Here are some tips for cutting your business costs and making sure you go into profit.

Use your time wisely

As they say, time is money, so stop procrastinating and be more productive. Simple things like using a diary,  using a pay stub generator, delegating responsibility to the staff so you are free to do more important things, planning your time effectively and setting goals to establish what you want out of your business can all help you use your time wisely. 

Use your space effectively

If you work from home or work in an office environment it is important that your workspace is organised and clutter-free. There are different companies that provide effective storage solutions such as warehouse storage solutions in Harrogate offers this service to its clients all over the UK. Being efficient with storage space means you can fit more supplies in the same cubic footage, allowing you to bulk order thus saving money.

For small businesses, this may mean a trip to Ikea, whilst medium and large businesses may mean utilising shelving and racking solutions for your office and warehouse. Buy a wall planner and put it in a prominent place so you can see your diary at a glance enabling you to plan better.

Shop around for the best deals on utilities

You probably compare the cost of your home utilities like electricity and water but why not shop around for the best deals with your business utilities? Also online sites such as Go Compare allow you to compare your business and electricity costs at a click of a button thus finding you the best company for your needs and saving you money. 

Consider taking on an apprentice

Apprenticeships allow staff to take on-the-job training whilst gaining a qualification. You get staff trained to your specifications, and the cost to the employer is less than a regular member of staff as they are on an apprenticeship wage. Taking on an apprentice is a big time commitment, however, so you have to factor that into the equation when deciding to take one on.

You can also apply for funding to cover the costs of the apprentice’s qualification if you’re providing their formal study as well as being their employer.

Outsource workers

Whether you are looking for payroll services or an admin assistant, it could be worth outsourcing these responsibilities. You could even outsource the running of your IT systems by hiring one of these managed IT services providers. Sites such as People Per Hour or Elance are excellent for sourcing these skilled people. As you are not taking on a permanent member of staff you will only need to pay the rate agreed for the task, thus cutting out holiday and sickness costs.

Even technical experts can be outsourced to work on an hourly basis as opposed to a monthly wage.

Ask for discounts from your suppliers

After all, if you don't ask you don't get, so it's worth asking for discounts with your regular suppliers. You could always shop around for better deals and ask your current supplier to match them. They will appreciate your loyalty if you stay with them.

Use free conferencing and phone calls

Skype will allow you to speak to people all over the world, cutting down the need for national and international travel. Their business service starts at only £1.30 a month.

Also, sites such as Free Conference allow you to make conference calls with no fees, limitations or downloads.

So these are 7 tips for cutting business costs. Can you think of any more?

* In collaboration with Warehouse Storage Solutions

Summer Fashion Wish List 2016

Summer is upon us and it's time to go clothes shopping! Here are some of my favourite fashion items that are in the shops now.

On The Beach Look

Vix swimsuit £190 Rayban sunglasses £95 Clio sandals £105

You can never go wrong with a classic black swimsuit. This one from Vix has a deep V neck and exposed sides for a modern and sporty look. Teamed with ancient Greek style sandals by Clio that are flat but still stylish and glamorous tortoise shell Rayban sunglasses, you will look tres chic equally lounging by the pool or sipping cocktails on the beach.

Relaxed Weekend Look

Paige tribal top £165, Zatchels fringed bag £75, J Brand cigarette leg jeans £190

A classic wardrobe staple, these authentic soft stretch denim jeans from J Brand are in a deep blue indigo. Teamed with a flattering loose fitting top in a tribal print design by Paige and an on trend fringed suede shoulder bag, from Zatchels this relaxed weekend look has a hint of 70's retro. All you need now is some over sized sunglasses and you're good to go.

Special Occasion Look

Quiz maxi dress £59,  Jenny Packham trapezium clutch bag £45, Quiz silver wedges £29.99

This Quiz chiffon maxi dress with an intricate detailed bodice in pale blue is perfect for a prom, wedding or day at the races. Teemed with silver sparkly wedges from Quiz and a stunning trapezium clutch bag from Jenny Packham at Debenhams, you will certainly be turning heads on that special day.

What do you think of the items I have chosen? Do you have anything exciting to buy clothes for this Summer?

*PR collaboration

Henryka Jewellery Review And Giveaway Ends 23/06

Henryka is a jewellery company that design and hand craft beautiful and unique silver jewellery. They use a selection of pretty gemstones such as turquoise, amethyst and especially amber in which they specialise. Amber is fossilised tree resin which has been appreciated for its colour and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Every item of amber jewellery is unique and special with the natural pattern being different in every piece.

From contemporary modern designs to antique style pieces and with a range of necklaces, rings and earrings to more traditional brooches there is something for everyone on the Henryka Jewellery website. For my readers I have chosen some of my favourite items below.

A beautiful selection of milk amber and turquoise pendants and turquoise earrings 

A selection of unique amber jewellery in different designs

As you can see above the jewellery is really different, and many designs take their inspiration from nature. The dragonfly pendant is a favourite of mine and how unusual is the kingfisher pendant, very eye catching?

Henryka Jewellery have been very kind to me and I have been sent a beautiful pair of cherry amber earrings to review. 

As you can see below these stunning silver earrings are set in a vintage drop design, with beautiful ornate silver work. The length is approximately 4cm and if you have long or mid length hair they are a great length, to be on show and not to get lost in your hair.

The colour of the gemstone is a dark cherry red amber. Also available in a cognac, green and traditional orange amber, these earrings are stunningly beautiful and very classy. I didn't realise that amber came in a variety of colours and I think the cherry colour is especially striking.

Priced at £38 these earrings are unique and would make a great gift for a friend, family member or to keep yourself. If you like jewellery that is that little bit different I would highly recommend checking out the Henryka Jewellery website.

Henryka Jewellery today are offering my readers £10 off their order. There is no minimum spend on this and all you have to do is enter the code JLOVER10 at checkout. With earrings starting at £7, grab yourself a bargain now!

Also Henryka Jewellery are giving you a chance to win a £50 voucher to spend on their site. Entry is via the Gleam application below. Also don't forget to check out my other competitions! Good luck.

Win a £50 Voucher

Terms and conditions
You must be 18 + to enter 
Open to entrants in UK only
One entry per household 
Winner will be contacted within 7 days of the competition ending 
If I do not hear from the winner within 28 days I reserve the right to redraw 
Please allow 28 days for delivery 
Giveaway Ends 2016-06-23 11:59:59 PM GMT

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder 

As seen on www.loquax.co.uk

Kids, Summer And Planning A Big Old Adventure

With the recent heatwave lighting barbecues across the country, the weatherman predicting an oh-so hot summer and those long six week summer holidays for kids just around the corner it’s, believe it or not, just about time to plan a summer of adventure and excitement.

If, like myself, your bank card is having a panic attack at even the mere suggestion of theme parks and rollercoasters, check out this helpful ebook created by a variety of Britain’s best parenting bloggers. Containing hundreds of activities, destinations, and fun days out, each of the ideas within the book has been tested by a blogger just like myself and has budget friendly ideas perfect for both kids and your bank balance.  Even though all the days out aren't free, some do cost, they still represent value for money.

My suggestion for the book was A FAMILY RITUAL WITH DOCTOR WHO. I wrote

“I grew up watching Dr Who with my dad. It was a ritual on a Saturday night and Tom Baker was my hero! My son then became a big Dr Who fan when he was younger, in fact he still is. It’s filmed all around South Wales and we have visited the Dr Who exhibition a few times.”

The Dr Who exhibition is not free but for fans of the show it is a great day out.

Another of our favourites was DIGGING FOR DINOSAURS by Jenny at BrickCastle.

She wrote

“One of our favourite summer activities is to get out in the garden with the sandpit, bury some toy dinosaurs and salt dough fossils and let the kids dig for them. It’s such an easy activity but one that is fun and exciting and lets them have some fresh air!”

It just goes to show you don’t need to be spending £££ to be outside and having lots of fun this summer. 

pin for later

No doubt Dr Who will be back on my wish list this summer. Let me know if you have a favourite destination from the ebook!

Meet The Bloggers - Joy From Pink Oddy

Today I am interviewing Joy from the blog Pink Oddy in my Meet The Bloggers series. 

Can you tell my readers about yourself and your blog.

My name is Joy and I am married with 4 boys. My blog really started out as place to try and help others whilst encouraging me to spend more time doing productive things with my children (even if that is just getting them outdoors and off their tech).

What inspired you to start blogging?

Justin Bieber. He followed me on Twitter and I saw the massive impact that the internet can have. I got 4 times as many followers in a week and thought that I should harness blogging and social media to share knowledge that may be of benefit to others.

Tell me your proudest blogging achievement.

Just hearing that I am helping. I have had my blog featured in the local National Autism Society e-mail.

What brands have you enjoyed working with?

A lot of brands are really good and I have enjoyed working with them, it would be unfair to single any out as I may forget others. But I do appreciate the ones that go the extra mile or really take them the time to share my content.

What brands would you like to work with in the future?

Any that will help myself and my family further develop our health and fitness because that is where I am at. I actually do have a brand who have just given me an e-mail address to contact them.

Do you have any tips for new bloggers?

Don’t believe all you read. Not all bloggers are honest as others. Why this is important is you need to just be confident with yourself and not compare yourself.

What is your most popular blog post to date?

It is a post about why you should book a Sun Holiday in January - which also goes into the whether they are worth it, or if there’s a cheaper way for people to book.

What is your favourite blog post of 2015 and why?

It was one about teeth brushing on my Sensory Seeker blog. I really had to tune myself in with my son to help encourage him to have his teeth cleaned and I wanted to pass that information on. I have had good feedback from it and even had an occupational psychologist asking for my advice in the comments.

Do you have any specific goals for 2016?

This year I am focusing on myself and my family. Blogging is really going to take a back seat more and I have made a move to using Instagram more.

Don't Believe The Hype For Wet Wipes

I love using wet wipes - they are so useful to remove make up, mop up spills, freshen up and even cleaning leather. I buy flushable wipes often especially when I go on holiday as you never know what the toilets are going to be like in remote places. That's the responsible thing to do, isn't it?  I was therefore surprised to find that flushable wipes aren't as environmentally friendly as I first thought.

Copyright: MilanMarkovic78 Shutterstock

United Utilities are heading a campaign to raise awareness of this fact. In a recent survey of 1000 people over a quarter admitted to flushing wet wipes down the loo. This is causing a huge problem. Even if wipes say they are flushable, they don't break down like toilet paper does. Instead they get stuck and mixed with the oil, fats and waste that goes down the pipes cause significant blockages. Water companies then have to deal with the problem to the tune of millions of pounds a year. This cost has to be passed onto the consumer as well in increased water rates. This is without the call out fee which can be a minimum of £100 as well on top of any work that has to be done. 

Water companies are also not responsible for fixing blockages on domestic properties and insurance companies won't pay out if its not caused by one of the three P's - Pee, Poo and (toilet) Paper.

Some easy ways to avoid this.

1. Remember the three P's - only three things should be flushed Pee, Poo and (toilet) Paper.

2. Use tissues to remove your makeup.

3. Keep a bin in the toilet so wipes can be disposed of properly if you have to use them.

4. Consider using toilet roll and / or cloth wipes to wipe a baby's bottom.

These wipes get washed up on the beaches too, adding to the rubbish found on our beaches. Information from the Marine Conservation Soceity tells us that there has been a 50% increase in the amount of wet wipes washed up on the beach. Recently I took some photos of the town beach at the end of my road and you can see below that there are a couple of wet wipes washed up with other rubbish.

So if this post has made you think or you want to find out more check out the Think Before You Flush campaign by United Utilities. There is a free downloadable pack specifically for parents which included activities and posters to help raise awareness of this issue. 

Also included in the downloadable pack above is details of a cool competition with 30 prizes available.

#3PPromise Photo Competition 

There are 30 prizes of £25 Boots vouchers are up for grab. Take a look at the Parent Pack and you’ll see what the 3P Promise is all about. All you have to do to enter is tweet a picture of yourself with and maybe your children making the 3PPromise. Be creative, make your photo fun. Use the hashtag #3PPromise and include @unitedutilities in the tweet, and your pic will be automatically entered in the draw. You can also enter on Facebook too.  For competition terms and conditions visit http://www.unitedutilities.com/3ppromise.aspx.

My Favourite Summer Dresses From Quiz Clothing

Summer is nearly upon on, and here are my favourite Summer dresses from Quiz Clothing.  With Quiz you can always rely on high fashion, competitively priced clothing, aimed at forward-thinking, fashion loving ladies. Quality is excellent too and staff are customer-focused and friendly.

Going Out

Here are some of my favourite going out dresses. From body con dresses to skater and maxi dresses, Quiz has a great range of going out dresses for everyone. The dresses I have picked above are cute and sexy at the same time. The cream lacy dress is truly gorgeous whilst the simple two-part dress with white cami and black skirt on the right is classic and chic. My favourite of these is the middle dress with the black flower waist detail. Although it is a body con dress it is demure too yet still hugs your curves.

Occasion Dresses

If you have a prom or wedding to attend or want a dress for a day at the races, these dresses will 'knock em dead. The variety of occasion dresses from Quiz clothing is large, from flowery designs to floaty chiffon numbers these occasion dresses are pretty and perfect for that big event. The blue flower print skater dress is so much fun and the pale blue chiffon number is simply beautiful.

Maxi Dresses

If you want to feel glamorous, or pretty as a princess, a maxi dress is a perfect choice. Whether sipping cocktails in a beachside location or attending a day at the races, you really can't go wrong with a maxi dress. The maxi dresses I have picked above are all similar in subtle blush colours, with exquisite bodice detailing, and a loose-fitting skirt that skims your curves. 

Tell me which of these dresses do you like? What is your favourite style of dress for an occasion? 

* PR collaboration 

Cheerz Photo Site Review

Cheerz is a photo website and app that allows you to print your photos and personalise your gifts. You can even have your photos printed as if they are Polaroids.

The company got in touch with me recently to see if I wanted to review one of their new products - a photo album that you can personalise.

Now it's no secret that I love to travel and I also love to take photographs. In days gone by (now I sound old!) I used to keep all my photos as prints and spend ages putting them in an album. In the last couple of years I have become a convert to the personalised photo album like the type Cheerz sells.

Firstly you upload your photos to the website or app. Depending on how many photos you have and the size of them this can take some time, but it's a straight forward process. As you are waiting for the photos to upload comments come up on the screen such as,  'Whoa! Your photos are really lovely', which is a nice touch. 

Now the software will allow you to alter the effect of each photo and move the positioning slightly but it will not allow you to do heavy editing of your photos. I would suggest you edit your photos before the upload in software such as Picmonkey or Photoshop.

Photos can be uploaded from your computer, from Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus. Once you have uploaded your photo you can set the occasion, the colour, assign it a number, and give it a name. 

When you set the occasion it has pre set designs to add to the cover and you have a choice of 6 colours. Picking a name and number prints it on the spine of the book. Some of the pages allowed you to add captions to the page - this may depend on the size of photo you select.

You then have a choice of selecting the photos yourself and putting the photos on each page or allowing the software to do it for you. Initially I tried allowing the software to do it for me, but for more flexibility and if you have time I would suggest you pick the photos yourself. This allowed me to collect groups of photos in sections, for example I put all my photos of the museums together.

If you change your mind you don't have to place all the photos you have picked, and you can choose extra pages for an additional cost. In the standard photo book you get to place up to 150 of your favourite photos depending on the size of photo in the book. 

The software recognises if the photos are a poor resolution and if this happens it shows as an exclamation mark in the top right hard corner. If you have placed a photograph across a double page and it is showing this I would suggest placing the photo somewhere else where it is smaller and then the resolution would be higher.

I think the website and photo album creation software is easy to use. It would be useful to have more editing facilities for the photo once uploaded, such as being able to crop the image and adjust the brightness. There are lots of free editing software out there though.

The photo book is a hardcover and a lay flat format, priced at £35. 

Cheerz also sells photo magnets, posters, invitations as well as lots more. The app is very useful when you are out on your travels as you can upload your photos there and then, Wi-Fi and 4G allowing.

When the book arrived I was very impressed! The photos were excellent quality and the book looked very professional. The pages were thick card which was great. Other photo books I have created before with a different company had paper pages. 

I really think this photo book is a quality product, and you do get what you pay for. I would certainly order again.


Meet The Bloggers - Rachel from umeandthekids

Today in my Meet The Bloggers series I am talking to Rachel from the blog umeandthekids. The idea behind Meet The Bloggers is to find out about bloggers you love or discover new blogs you haven't heard of before. 

Can you tell my readers about yourself and your blog.

My name is Rachel and I blog at umeandthekids, a Parenting and Lifestyle blog. I love to feature party ideas for kids and teen advice posts.

What inspired you to start blogging?

I had to stop working due to getting M.E and still wanted to communicate with the world. I started reading other blogs and thought why not and I started my own blog and haven't looked back.

Tell me your proudest blogging achievement.

When I have been approached by big brands who want to work with me and my blog, the comments I have received from my lovely readers and how my competition linky has gone from 10 people joining to over 150 every week!

What brands have you enjoyed working with?

I loved working with Coca Cola, Lush, Yankee Candles and more recently L'Oreal. 

What brands would you like to work with in the future?

I would love to work with more beauty brands like Benefit and MAC as I am a massive fan of their products.

Do you have any tips for new bloggers?

Don't compare yourself to other blogs and be proud of the small steps you will take at first.

What is your most popular blog post to date?

My fear on having my second baby and would I ever love them the same as my first child http://umeandthekids.com/second-baby-can-love/ I got some great feedback and didn't realise just how many people felt the same.

What is your favourite blog post of 2015 and why?

In 2015 I started doing party posts and love coming up with themed party posts, It makes me want to be a kid again!

Do you have any specific goals for 2016?

To be more organised and attend more blogging events like Brit Mums again.

Win With English Provender Co. Ends 31/05

English Provender Co. make a range of chutneys, pickles. curds and condiments that are packed full of excellent ingredients and are really flavourful and tasty.

They believe in passion, quality and simplicity. In making their products they use traditional open pan preserving methods. like you would do at home, with all natural ingredients.

I was lucky enough to be sent some products recently by the English Provender Co. to try. I've tried some of the pickle before, which was very good and had an authentic homemade taste, so was looking forward to trying some more of their products.

The plum and Bramley apple chutney is a lovely mild yet fruity chutney perfect to add an extra taste to sandwiches, and I think would appeal to children. We liked the sweet tomato and chilli chutney and the hot chilli and red pepper chutney with crackers and cheese. Both were spicy without being too hot.

The Moroccan spiced chutney has ginger, cumin and coriander and would be excellent served with samosas or to pep up a middle eastern salad. 

I am thinking of trying the caramelised red onion chutney in a gravy to serve with sausages as it would give an excellent depth of flavour.

The Proper Pickle range is crunchy zingy grown up pickle. The chunky and finely chopped pickle was excellent in a cheese sandwich and would be the best accompaniment for a hearty Ploughman's lunch with ham, crusty bread and salad. The beetroot pickle has rich and fruity flavours whilst the pickled onion pickle has a deep strong flavour with the yellow mustard seeds.

English Provender Co. also makes the 'Very Lazy' range of items such as Very Lazy Garlic and Very Lazy Chopped Red Chillis, all which are preserved in a jar. I love this idea as it is so easy to have this in your cupboard to add flavour to any dish.

We really enjoyed the pickle and chutneys in our household. My favourite was the hot chilli and red pepper chutney, It was simply delicious and spicy and fabulous with cheese, crackers and a few grapes.

Today on my blog I am given you a chance to win a selection of English Provender products, which could include pickles, chutney and other such delicious goodies. The selection may differ to those shown.

Entry is simple through the Gleam application below and the winner is picked at random. Good Luck!

Win A Selection Of English Provender Chutneys

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder 

As seen on www.loquax.co.uk

Technology And Wi-Fi Access

In this technological age, access to computers and wi-fi is almost a basic human right. In fact, many people feel the right to Internet access is important in order to exercise freedom of expression. 

Several countries like Costa Rica have adopted laws that require the state to work to ensure that Internet access is broadly available and/or preventing the state from unreasonably restricting an individual's access to information and the Internet. 

Being able to access the Internet is important for communication, education, business, and even healthcare and tourism, that is why being able to access Wi-Fi is important for developing nations. Workforce management systems such as those by Advance Systems can often be done online too.

On another level, have you ever thought how people at sea or even space are able to access Wi-Fi? I'm going to Kennedy Space Centre in the summer and looking at this infographic below, it appears astronauts now have better Wi-Fi than people on board ship. So that trip into space looks more inviting than ever now! Tim Peake, move on over...

Would you be able to manage without Wi-Fi?

* PR collaboration. Infographic courtesy of https://www.globalnavigationsolutions.com/

How To Fund A Holiday

Sometimes you just need a break, we all do from time to time. Perhaps things have got on top of us, work has become very busy, family life has become increasingly hectic and it feels like ages since you've been on holiday. Maybe you have had a health scare or a death in the family and you think, 'What is it all for?'

Lots of research has been carried out on how experiences like holidays give you more satisfaction than material objects like new clothes or the latest gadget. Yes you do get that initial buzz but you adapt over time and the excitement soon wears off. A holiday shared with people, with loved ones, connects us to them. Reminiscing about the holiday in years to come, brings smiles and laughter.

What are your favourite holiday memories? When I was a child I remember going camping with my family every Summer to Tenby in West Wales. The weather wasn't always the best as Wales is notorious for the rain. 

One time it rained and rained so hard, but it didn't let us stop having fun. We all piled into the car and went into Tenby to have lunch and do some shopping and exploring. When we returned the tarpaulin on the tents in our field had become uprooted. We were lucky, we just managed to get to our tent before it had the same fate, the tent flapping in the wind and some of our possessions were wet. We laugh about it now, the British are good at laughing in the face of adversity but those type of memories are the things we remember. 

We remember silly things from our holiday memories that bond us as a family. My dad cooking bacon on a camping stove every morning in Tenby for our breakfast, a monkey stealing my ice cream at Penyscynor Wildlife park, visiting Barry Island pleasure park once a year, going on the same rides and having sausage and chips in a little cafe, every time.

Experiences like going to the top of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa will last with you forever.

Now I have a family of my own we have made our own holiday memories.  My son remembers his first trip to Orlando to celebrate going up to secondary school as if it was yesterday. The size of the doughnut he had in Universal Studios that was bigger than his hand, getting soaked through on the rides but drying off in an hour as it was so hot and humid and getting stuck on the Dudley Do Right ride, - at the top! 

The time we went to Dubai and ventured to the top of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa was incredibly memorable too, the people didn't look as small as ants - the buildings did! Then later watching the sunset go down over the World's only 7-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab. 

As we love to travel, we mark special occasions with big holidays and these holidays do cost money, though. When my son finished his GCSES we went to California to celebrate, when we had our 10th wedding anniversary recently we went on a road trip to New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville.

There are many ways in which you can save for your holidays including putting your spare change in a tin every week, using cashback sites like Quidco and Top Cashback, doing surveys and mystery shopping, and using comparison sites like Trivago and Tripadvisor to get the best deal on accommodation. There are so many things to pay for so all these ways to save money help. When we went to Turkey we had to pay for the Turkey visa requirements for example, and when there are three of you all these costs add up.

Even if you have done all this, you may not have quite enough money for that perfect break. I try and save for my holidays, as I live for my holidays,  but at times it can be hard. Every spare penny goes on funding them and on occasions things do happen which can eat into your savings. A couple of years ago we had problems with our car and every penny went on getting a new one. At times like this, I considered a holiday loan.

Holiday loans are especially useful for a honeymoon, a trip around the world, or going on a road trip. Experiences of a lifetime that can be expensive. A low-interest personal loan can be a very convenient way of paying for this type of trip. 

If you are considering funding a holiday with a personal loan always check the Annual Percentage Rate (A.P.R), the lower the better, and avoid high-interest loans and payday loans. Some companies let you pay the loan off early, without any penalties so you save on interest. It's always a good idea to check for any hidden costs in the legal jargon and read through the terms and conditions carefully. Spreading the cost of that holiday of a lifetime can really help you budget for it.

How do you fund a big holiday? 

*PR collaboration

48 hours in Nashville

On our recent road trip to the American 'deep South', we took in New Orleans, Memphis and the last stop was Nashville. 

Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and primarily known for its music, especially country music. It's a place with a happening vibe (whatever that is!), and has live music bars everywhere, playing mainly country, but also blues, and rock and roll. This is our 48 hours in Nashville.

Day 1

We arrived at the Loews Vanderbilt hotel in the morning and as our room was ready we settled in and unpacked. Then we decided to walk to Broadway.  This is where all the live music 'honky tonk' bars are. Big mistake, it was just that bit too far, so we came back and took a taxi down. After exploring some of the souvenir shops we decided to visit the Johnny Cash museum.

The Johnny Cash museum is a great tribute to 'The Man In Black'. Packed full of memorabilia, it tells the story of Johnny's life and really is an excellent but compact museum. From classics like 'I Walk The Line' to 'Ring of Fire', his deep voice and rebellious nature appealed to many and some say he became a bigger star now after his death.  

My father loved Johnny Cash and my husband does too, so recently I have been listening to his music more and more. Walking through the museum, listening to his music and watching his videos, I felt quite emotional. He really was an amazing songwriter and watching his videos in the museum, especially his cover of the 9 Inch Nails song Hurt, had me on the verge of tears. 

He had a strong relationship with his wife June Carter Cash, and seeing the poem he wrote for her at her funeral and the heart he laid at her grave was another emotional point. Highly recommended.

After the Johnny Cash museum, we stopped at one of the bars on Broadway for lunch. There are lots of well-known bars here like Tootsies, Legends Corner and the Tin Roof. All the bars play excellent music day and night and the singers really are of a high standard. Working for tips you can imagine how good they are. We ate at The Tin Roof. Food was simple but perfect - a great burger, and fabulous hot chicken - moist chicken in a really spicy hot chicken coating for which Nashville is known. 

After lunch, we thought about visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame or The Ryman Auditorium. We decided on the Ryman Auditorium as we couldn't pack both in, in the time we had. 

The Ryman Auditorium is a historic live music venue in the centre of Nashville. Formally a tabernacle church, it was made famous as being the venue for the Grand Ole Opry, a live country music show that has become a Nashville institution. The show is still held here on selected nights in the Winter, whilst the rest of the time is held at a purpose-built theatre at Opryland. The history of the building is incredibly interesting and if you pay for the tour you are shown a presentation of how it became an iconic building, the lady that managed it for years, the stars that have played there and how it became the official birthplace of bluegrass music.

After the tour, we returned to the hotel for a rest. 

That evening we decided to stay in one of the restaurants close to the hotel as there was a big basketball tournament on. As we were staying slightly out of the centre in the Vanderbilt area, we decided on eating at Maggiano's. This great Italian chain restaurant is always super value and we can never fault the food, as we have also eaten at their Orlando branch. What I like is that it is always full of families enjoying the food, giving it an excellent vibe, and they also do smaller portions of the mains and desserts so you never feel stuffed.

Day 2

On day two we woke up refreshed and excited about our second day. After a lovely breakfast in the club lounge, we decided to visit the Parthenon.  Yes, you heard correctly, Nashville has a replica of the Parthenon from Athens in their Centennial Park, 10-minute walk from our hotel.

The building was originally built for Tennessee's 1897 Centennial Exposition and serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. The Parthenon has a small entry charge and also serves as Nashville's art museum which is interesting to walk around. 

The highlight of the Parthenon for me was the huge statue of Athena at its centre. This was finished as recently as 1990 but stood plain white until 2002 when it was beautifully gilded to be much closer to the ancient Athena Parthenos. It's a massive surprise to see this statue and in Nashville of all places.

Live music at The Tin Roof

After the Parthenon, we went down to Broadway to listen to some music in the bars again. Tin Roof was fast becoming a favourite of ours now but there are so many music bars you are spoilt for choice. I would have like to have gone to Roberts Western World as they have line dancing classes but as there was a huge college basketball tournament on we couldn't get in. It's easy to spend a good few hours having food, a drink and listening to music, so we did!

After returning to our hotel late afternoon we got ready for the highlight of our trip as we had tickets to The Grand Ole Opry. Unfortunately, our taxi drive took three times the normal length we were stuck in traffic for what seemed like forever. The taxi driver said it was normally bad at rush hour but it was exceptionally so that night. So fair warning here, allow yourself plenty of time if you are travelling to the Opryland area for food before a show.

We ate in a restaurant close to the show which I admit wasn't the best so I will gloss over that, and then managed to get to the show with minutes to spare.

Chris Janson at The Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry is the longest running live radio show in the world and runs twice a week. The show features all country music artists and there is usually 6-8 on the bill. That night we saw The Gatlin Brothers, The Oakridge Boys and Chris Janson amongst others. 

Before we went we researched the artists online, and I would highly recommend you do that if you are going to the show as we recognised some of the songs that played instantly. I had heard of the Gatlin brothers before but none of the other artists. 

There were 8 singers and bands so you have a lot of choices if you don't like one but they were all excellent. As it's a live music show they have adverts in between and that was funny to see the host talk through the sponsors and adverts as the show was on stage. We really enjoyed the Grand Ole Opry, it was excellent and a real taste of country style America. My husband laughed at me when I heard the Gatlin brothers song "An American with a Remington", as I thought they meant a Remington shaver, not a gun! One of the main sponsors was an American homestyle restaurant chain and after listening to their advert, I must admit I really want to go to Cracker Barrel now.

That was the end of our Nashville trip and our tour of the deep South of the USA. The next day we would be visiting the Jack Daniel's Distillery at Lynchburg on our way back to the airport to take our flight home.

Taking a trip to Nashville has really made me into a fan of country music. If you like music at all especially county, you really have to visit one day. A brilliant weekend, just brilliant.