A Guide To American Horror Story

I have a secret that not many people know, I love a good gorefest. You may be surprised, but I've always been into horror as a genre. When I was a teenager I used to love the books of Stephen King, Graham Masterton, and Dennis Wheatley. The book The Shining by Stephen King is a favourite even now, and the film with Jack Nicholson is still scary even though it was made all those years ago. The sight of Jack Nicholson with an axe growling "Here's Johnny!" still give me the shivers even today. This film though plays heavy on the psychological terror and isn't as gory as some, like the 'banned' films I grew up on in the 80's. Working in a video rental shop I saw my fair share of horror films for free. Films such as The Beast Within, The Exorcist and horror classics such as Hellraiser and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Fast forward 30 years and Netflix. Ever since I had Netflix I have been glued to a series called American Horror Story. Ok, if you haven't heard about this series where have you been? Seriously. Shortlist magazine, called it one of the scariest shows on Netflix, and I disagree. It is THE scariest show on Netflix not one of them!

Real life people are woven into American Horror Story. Marie Laveau was a voodoo priestess from the series Coven who actually lived in New Orleans 

American Horror Story is an American anthology TV series, each season is like a self-contained miniseries with many of the same actors but a different story each time. With seasons called Murder House, Asylum, and Freak Show, this show is in your face horror, not for the squeamish that's for sure! Murder House and Coven are my favourite series.

Murder House is the first season of American Horror Story or AHS to its fans. It's creepy and scary and brought AHS to the notice of people everywhere and got me hooked. It centers on the Harmon family, Ben who is married to Vivien and their daughter Violet, who move from Boston after Vivien has a miscarriage and Ben has an affair. They move into a restored mansion, unaware that the house is haunted by the ghosts of its former residents and their victims.

My favourite season though is Coven, about witches and voodoo in New Orleans. Coven follows a coven of Salem descendants who reside within Miss Robichaux's Academy in New Orleans. When I visited New Orleans in March I had to do the voodoo tour and see where Marie Laveau a voodoo priestess lived in New Orleans. This is where the AHS writers are very clever. They weave real life stories into the horror.

Marie Laveau is heavily featured in Coven, her character is played by Anglea Bassett in the series. This person who actually lived in New Orleans in the 1800's was a very intelligent woman, a hairdresser to the rich of New Orleans, and she gained her power from listening to women gossip and using this information. She had a gift for showmanship and was also a Catholic surprisingly. She was granted permission to complete her voodoo rituals behind St Louis cathedral, and would remove curses, read minds and be a spiritual guide. A lot of filming for Coven was actually done in New Orleans too, so if you are a fan of the series I highly recommend visiting if you are in the area and doing a voodoo tour.

To me, though, the best thing about AHS is the acting. So many of the cast have been nominated for awards with Jessica Lange winning numerous Emmy and Golden Globes, as well as Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, and Lady Gaga (yes she is also in the series). Many of the same actors come back season after season, playing new but equally as frightening characters.

So if you are a fan of horror, and you haven't already seen it, catch AHS now. A new series Roanoke has just started showing on the FoX channel and you can catch the first four series on Netflix. If you are new to the phenomenon that is American Horror Story check out this guide to American Horror Story brought to you by My Voucher Codes.

How Dental Implants Could Change Your Life

Tooth loss can occur from a number of different incidents, such as age, accidents or decay. No matter how you lose a tooth it can have a great impact on self-esteem and confidence, especially among adults. 

As well as affecting the appearance of your teeth and smile, losing teeth can also affect how you eat and chew. If you have quite a few missing teeth, it’s increasingly important to replace them as soon as possible, not doing this will cause a lot of strain on the healthy teeth you do have. 

Image HconQ - Shutterstock

Dental implants are the perfect treatment to replace any loss of teeth and can provide a healthy and natural-looking smile. Whilst composite veneers are great as a minimally invasive tooth covering, see  https://www.cosmeticdentistinbrisbane.com.au/cosmetic-dentistry/composite-veneers/ Don’t let missing teeth affect your smile or confidence. Here are 3 reasons why you should consider dental implants.

1. New smile = new confidence 

Don’t let one or two gaps in your smile bring you down. Investing in implants whether you need one or several, will have a dramatic impact on your smile and will have a great effect on your confidence too. 

Think of the upcoming plans you have, whether it is a family party, or say a Christmas get-together, imagine what that added sense of self-esteem will do to your whole appearance. Trust me when I say this treatment can be life-changing. Ollie & Darsh the experts know all about that.

2. For improved oral hygiene 

Making the decision to have dental implants can be for a number of reasons. Among those reasons is to restore oral hygiene, if teeth have rotted or decayed general oral hygiene will be poor. Implementing implants means your mouth and smile will immediately benefit from improved hygiene. 

What’s really important to remember is to keep them clean so that they stay fresh and clean for years to come.  This can be achieved simply by adding flossing into your daily routine to ensure you get between the gaps. Sticking to normal toothpaste with no added baking soda or other ingredients that pose the threat of wear, can ensure this too.

3. For a long-term & cost-effective solution 

So investing in implants will cost, but that cost, in the long run, is actually a lot more cost-effective than most treatments. Once the posts have been inserted, individually designed replacement teeth are screwed in to create a natural and even smile. This technique means the implants are long lasting, with no need for replacements. 

Dental Implants Liverpool 

Ollie & Darsh the private dental practice in Liverpool can offer their expertise in a free consultation! Any foods you’ve been unable to eat or you’ve shied away from will no longer exist with dental implants, the beautifully natural solution to missing teeth.

* Guest post collaboration

How To Cook The Perfect Steak

When I go out of a meal there is one thing I do like, a perfect steak. My husband doesn't eat a lot of meat and therefore I would never cook steak in the house. It's hard to cook the perfect steak too, isn't it?  To get it just right, with that delicious seared edge but melting in the mouth centre is extremely hard. When I go out for a steak, I find they often don't season it enough, or it is cooked too much for my liking. I am definitely a medium girl.

The chefs at Barbecoa, Jamie Oliver's steakhouse and barbecue restaurant in London, know how to cook a perfect steak. In fact, they make their business out of it, but there is more to Barbecoa than that. In Barbecoa as well as fantastic steaks aged to perfection they cook delicious slow cooked meat, serve some of the best cocktails you could wish for, and make the most extravagant outrageous desserts. It's not posh cooking but it is comfort cooking, serving food you really want to devour in no time. Food that is good for the soul.

The infographic below features expert advice on how to cook the perfect steak, from Steve Pooley, Chef Director with Jamie Oliver. One of the secrets is getting the steak up to room temperature beforehand. If you fry it from cold it will stop the heat penetrating through as efficiently. Another secret is using animal fat for frying or an oil that has a high smoking point, whatever you do don't use olive oil, as it can burn and you need to get the pan super hot to get the caramelisation on the meat. To be honest reading this infographic has made me realise cooking the perfect steak, isn't that hard after all. I feel a trip to my local butchers coming on.... Steak anyone?

*PR collaboration

Bidvine Photography Review

We can't all be skilled in everything, and now you don't have to be as Bidvine can come to the rescue.

Bidvine puts you, the consumer, in touch with professionals that can help you, freeing you up to spend time on things that really matter. Maybe you need someone to fix your washing machine, a maths tutor for your kids, or a photographer to take a family photo shoot, well Bidvine can help you find competitively priced skilled people and by comparing quotes you are in charge and can choose the best person for the job. 

It's such an excellent idea don't you think?

To get a quote is simple. You search for the skill you need, put in your postcode and voila! At the moment it is only open to England but I can see this service expanding in the future. 

So I tried this out looking for a photographer in Bristol. When you go through the process online it asks you relevant questions to help you get the exact service you need. For my request of a portrait photographer it asked me the following questions, with multiple choice options:-

What type of portrait do you need?
Where will these photos be taken?
What style of images are you looking for?
In what format would you like the final image?
What is your estimated budget for the photographer's services and images?
Where can the service be delivered?
When do you need Portrait Photography?
Anything else the Portrait Photographer needs to know?
Where do you need Portrait Photography? 

Multiple choice questions help narrow down what is required

Once you fill all the details in, you can create an account to save the details with your email address or with Google Plus or Facebook. Then once you submit your request they will get in touch will professionals for you and you sit back and wait for the quotes to come into your inbox.

I was expecting this process to take a few days, possibly a week but I was pleased to find the first email in my inbox within 30 minutes, and all quotes received within a day. These also go into your Quote List on the Bidvine site. This is where you can view each company's portfolio, qualification and references, reviews and more. 

The photographers matched sounded a good fit, and you can see them all in the My Requests section. Profiles can include credentials, licences, references and more for you to review and Bidvine review every service provider's profile before it goes live.  Once you hire someone for a job and the work is done, you can then review your experience on their site. This is an incredible useful tool as these reviews can only be placed by authentic customers.

In summary, I thought the Bidvine concept was great. The website is straightforward to navigate and all the hard work of shopping around is done for you.  The best part is, that it's free for the consumer to use. The professionals pay Bidvine for the opportunity to quote for you and you pay the professional for the service performed direct.  

Let me know, what do you think of Bidvine? Would you use this service?

*PR collaboration 

Inspiring Women With Georg Jensen #IamNeverTooMuch

There are many inspiring women in the world. Women who are politicians, humanitarians, businesswomen, campaigners, and writers. Women who are leaders in their careers, and who strive to cut a different path in their area of expertise to come out on top.

These women are smart, they are driven, they are authentic to themselves and others. They make their own success in a still male dominated world. They are feminists and they are leaders. They may have had many struggles but they have come out on top.

Malala Yousafzai  Pakistani activist for female education - copyright Southbank Centre, Flickr CC license

Women like Malala Yousafzai. This young Pakistani activist for female education was the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. Her family has a background in education, running a number of schools. As a young girl, she defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. In return, she was targeted by the Taliban and shockingly shot in the head by a gunman in 2012 when she was just 15. Two other of her classmates were also injured. Luckily she and her classmates survived.

Today she continues to be an active advocate for girls education worldwide. A fund set up in her name helps children in education around the world, and she went on to receive the Noble Peace Prize, the first Pakistani ever. An outstanding inspiring young woman you must agree.

Jessica Ennis-Hill - world champion triathlete - copyright Al King, Flickr CC license 

Women like Jessica Ennis-Hill, MBE. This quietly spoken unassuming British triathlete is an amazing role model to women everywhere. The World championship record holder and gold medal winner from the 2012 Olympics, always has a smile on her face and after having a baby, went on to win a silver medal in the 2016 Olympics. Besides her athletic achievements in 2014, the star bravely spoke out when her local football club, Sheffield United, was considering re-hiring convicted rapist Ched Evans on his release from prison. She didn't have to do that but she stood up for what was right and declared it the public eye, even after threats of rape online because of her stance. What an inspiring woman and mother.

Jessica says "I'm proud of the way I've dealt with setbacks. It's hard when you feel down and you think, 'Why is the world doing this to me?' But you have to pick yourself up again."

Jennifer Lawrence - outspoken Hollywood star, copyright Gage Skidmore, Flickr CC license 

Although she is a Hollywood star, Jennifer Lawrence is a real inspiration to women. She's sassy, she's down to earth, she's funny and she speaks her mind, which is refreshing in such a fake industry. She's also an advocate for equal pay for women in Hollywood. When she was paid less than her male counterparts in American Hustle considering she is a bankable star with a billion dollar Hunger Games franchise, she spoke out about it, and rightly so.

She also loves her food and tries not to conform to the Hollywood pressure on women to be skinny. One of my favourite quotes of Jen's is "‘I think that people are built the way that they’re built. There’s that Kate Moss quote that’s like “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and I can name a lot of things that taste better than skinny feels: bread, potatoes… a Philly cheesesteak and fries.’ Although she is a Hollywood star she is relatable and strong and that is what makes her inspiring.

Behnaz Shafieli, motocross rider - one of George Jensen's inspiring women

There are actually too many amazing women in the world to mention in this post, Angelina Jolie (actor, breast cancer campaigner, humanitarian), Katie Piper (model, campaigner for facial disfigurement) JK Rowling (single mother, inspiring author) are but a few more. These are famous, inspiring women. Women who never compromised their personalities. Women like the women, Georg Jensen, the jewellery and silverware brand, use in their new campaign. The difference with the Georg Jensen campaign is that they use inspiring real-life women, that are strong role models, but that you may have never have heard of. The heart of the campaign You Can Never Be Too Much You is that women can never be "too much" of anything. You will always be too much of something to someone, but if you round your edges you loose your edge. The message is, keep being exactly who you are. The campaign transcends ideals about beauty and focuses on personality first and must be truly applauded for that.

Women featured include Dominique Crenn, Behnaz Shafieli and Suzanne Bier.

Dominique Crenn, one of George Jensen's inspiring women

Dominique Crenn is the first female chef in the U.S. to earn two Michelin stars. and in June this year, she was awarded the title ''Best female chef'' at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Award. A culinary achievement I think you will agree.  Another of Georg Jensen's inspiring women is Behnaz Shafieli, an Iranian professional motocross rider. This is even more of a challenge in Iran, as she comes from a country where women are banned from driving motorcycles on the road. The last of Georg Jensen's inspiring women I am going to mention is Suzanne Bier, a female Academy Award-winning director making it in an industry that is totally male dominated. When you consider research undertaken in 2015 by the Centre For Study Of Women In Television and Film, called ''Celluloid Ceiling'', found that only 9% of directors are female, then that is a surely a considerable achievement. 

To find out more and check out the other inspiring women, search for the campaign #IamNeverTooMuch on social media and check out the video below.

Tell me your inspiring women. Who are your role models, who do you admire and why?

Top Facts About Berlin You May Not Know

We visited Berlin a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed our time in this memorable city, visiting the sites for which Berlin in known such as the remains of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and The Brandenburg Gate.

As you probably know, Berlin the capital of Germany is a city rich in history, some of it dark but always fascinating. During World War 2 it was the headquarters of the Gestapo, the German secret police and Hilter spent much of his time there. If you are interested in the history of this a visit to the Topography of Terror, an exhibition on the former premises of the SS headquarters, is highly recommended, but leave the little ones at home due to the nature of the exhibit.

The Brandenburg Gate

After World War 2 Germany was divided into two separate countries, East and West Germany. East was communist under the control of the Soviet Union and West was democratic and allied with Britain, France and the US.

Part of the Berlin Wall that still stands

People in East Germany started to leave and move to the West as they didn't want to live under a communist leadership and to prevent this in 1961 the Berlin Wall was built. People were stunned as the wall seemed to go up overnight, and until the demise of the wall in 1989, over 5000 people escaped to West Germany. Guards on the wall were ordered to shoot anyone trying to escape and over 200 people were killed.

The sign illustrates how Berlin was split into East and West after WW2 and prior to 1989 at Checkpoint Charlie

As you can see the modern history of Berlin is dark and at times depressing but don't let that put you off visiting this amazing city. Berlin is also known for its diverse architecture, its interesting nightlife,and its creative industries. With a booming street food scene and a number of Michelin star restaurants, foodies will also not be disappointed.

Below are some facts about Berlin you may not know about.

Top Facts About Berlin You May Not Know
  1. The city of Berlin is nine times bigger than Paris and over 180 kilometres of the navigatable waterway.
  2. With more than 4,650 restaurants, 900 bars, 190 clubs and 175 museums, you will never be bored or hungry.
  3. It has more bridges than Venice.
  4. In 1924 the first set of traffic lights in Europe was installed in Potsdamer Platz. Today you can go and admire a replica of the lights in the same spot. 
  5. There are more doner kebab houses in Berlin than there are in Istanbul. 
  6. The International Berlin Beer Festival has the longest beer garden in the world.
  7. It is Germany's biggest university city and over 130,000 students study in Berlin every year.
  8. Of Berlin's 3 million population nearly 30% have a migrant background.

Tell me have you ever visited Berlin?

LookIng After Your Car This Winter

With Winter approaching, now is the time to get your car ready for the colder months. Here are some top tips on car care and things to do now before the Winter.

Check your battery

Make sure your car battery is charged and in good condition. During the Winter you will use your heater and lights much more than normal and this can put much greater strain on the battery. If your battery is old it may be worth buying a new one.

Top up your anti-freeze

Top up your anti-freeze in your radiator and in your windscreen wash. Both essential Winter procedures. Of course, both of these tasks use completely different fluids, so buy the correct one. Topping up your windscreen wash is straight forward but topping up your radiator is slightly more complicated. If you are not sure how to do it, check out a respected site like Halfords which has a video on how to do it, or take it to your local garage.

Check your tyres

You need good quality tyres with excellent tread for the Winter months to avoid any accidents on icy roads. Check your tyres or get them checked by the local garage. You can buy a tyre gauge to check them yourself and always check the car's manual for the correct depth and tyre pressure. You don't want to total your car on the icy roads!

Check your oil

Make sure your oil is at the correct level to lubricate the engine and prevent it becoming overheated. There are many guides online on how to check your oil and your car manual will also explain but if in doubt Halfords does an oil check and top up for you.

Prepare for emergencies

Make sure you have some essentials in your car for an emergency, like a breakdown. I always carry a blanket, a phone charger, a torch with spare batteries and a first aid kit in the car. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) also suggests a fire extinguisher should be kept in a car, in the case of emergencies. De-icing spray or a windscreen scraper is also an essential piece of kit.

Consider breakdown cover

For peace of mind consider breakdown cover. Many start at less than £50 pounds a year and I feel is essential for peace of mind. I always remember being stuck on the M4 motorway near Bath in snow on Boxing Day a few years ago. We had breakdown cover which was a huge relief, and I don't know what we would have done if we hadn't.

Rent a garage or a buy a carport

A garage or carport can protect your car all year around, but is especially useful in the Winter. A garage will protect the car from the cold, the rain and ice but can be expensive to build or rent if you don't have one. A carport is a great alternative. 

A carport, which is a shelter for a car, with a roof and often side sheets can be surprisingly affordable whilst still protecting the car from the worst of the cold weather. They also protect you from the elements whilst getting in and out of the car, particularly useful if you have shopping or if you are a carer and have to move those with a disability, the elderly or young children with you in and out of a car. If you do move house in the future, many are portable too so you can take it with you, check out the selection from 123V.

Brush up on your driving skills

Break, the road safety charity has a section on driving in the Winter on their website, and I think it's always good to read up on this before the season starts. Be careful, be cautious and if the weather is treacherous don't go out. 

So these are some of my tips for looking after your car (and yourself) this Winter. If you are not sure on how to do the practical elements of preparing your car your local garage may offer a 'Winter Check' which will cover most of these elements. It's also a good idea to ensure your car is up-to-date with its servicing too. 

Do you ensure your car has a Winter check up? 

*PR collaboration

Win A Mirai Face Brush and Cleanser Ends 15/10

Today on my blog I am giving you the chance to win the Mirai face brush and cleanser worth $248. The Mirai face brush is a deep cleaning brush for your face, that really gets into your pores and give a super clean feeling. It's kind on the skin though and super gentle yet still stimulates and they say it gives a smoother more vibrant appearance. The company that makes it also says it reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and you will start seeing immediate results after a couple of uses, so I can't wait to try it! 

Made by the True Company, a worldwide oral care and skin company, that have produced innovative products for the last thirty years, you can be reassured that the product is well made and it also has a 5-year warranty for peace of mind. 

Features include

  • Superior Deep Cleansing experience with Mirai Face + Mirai Cleanser
  • Advanced Anti-Aging skincare
  • Mirai Cleanser Formulated for maximum results
  • Silicone bristles compatible for all skin types
  • Unclogs pores, removes oil, and makeup
  • Makes skin feel more elastic and healthy
  • Uses the safest silicone that is compliant with all worldwide regulations
  • Rechargeable features. Just charge and go!
  • 5 Year Warranty 
I will be reviewing this product on my blog soon but for now here is a chance to win one! 

If you like this competition, you can enter daily via Twitter so bookmark this page and whilst you are here check out my other competitions too.

Win a Mirai Face Brush and Cleanser worth $248

SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky
As seen on www.loquax.co.uk

The Sandwich Generation And Why Eyecare Is Important

I am a certain age - mid 40's with a child in university and parents who are not getting any younger. My father has had two heart attacks and although his health is well controlled at the moment, I dread the phone ringing in case he has another one. It's a constant worry to me. 

My mother-in-law lost her husband last year so we go around there daily to check on her. She is in excellent health but at nearly 80 we do wonder what is around the corner. My son is in his second year at uni and always seems to come back home with a minor ailment. I'm giving him the talk about eating fruit and veg and getting exercise every day but I do wonder if he listens, a typical teenager. Now, I don't want this post sounding all doom and gloom as it's not, we have a good life but these are some of the things that we have to think about.

I am part of the ‘Sandwich Generation’, a term invented in 1981 by social worker Dorothy Miller, which describes those who are “sandwiched” between looking after young children and ageing parents, as their primary caregiver. 

This group is also growing as with the advancement of health care, the elderly are living longer than ever and women are having children later in life. 

As a primary carer, it is especially important to look after your health. I know I go for regular dental and optical checks, as well as visiting my 'Well Woman' clinic. I dread to think what will happen to my elderly parents or son if something happens to me - it doesn't bear thinking about.  I think it's important to have health care insurance as a back-up in this situation like the Medicare Advantage plans for 2021 in case something does happen.

Eye checks are so important too. Many people in the 40-60 age range feel that they are too young for glasses and also too young for eye disease, instead of shrugging off the need for regular optical checks, yet this is precisely the age in which reading glasses become much needed and eye disease increases. I've been short-sighted all my life and my last eye check flagged up the need for simple reading glasses. 

Recently, the 
Association of British Dispensing Opticians commissioned media agency, the Relations Group, to interview 2,000 members of the ‘Sandwich Generation’, asking them about how they look after their own health, that of their parents and their children.

They found that one in four people aged 40-60 spends more time looking after the health of others than their own, which isn't surprising. 

Of those that look after others, 17 per cent admit that their own health suffers due to the demands of this, 20 per cent feel pressured by their growing responsibility and almost three-quarters place their child's health above their own. Well, you do, don't you?

The research found that looking after their eyes was a key area that was sacrificed due to lack of time, with some people not having been to the optician for a staggering 9 years or more.

Dispensing Optician and ABDO Board member Jo Holmes says, “Regular eye tests are readily available to everyone in the UK near their home. Many optical practices are open at weekends and have late night opening. A sight test is a vital health check and can detect early signs of eye disease before permanent damage occurs. Don’t just look after others: look after your own eyes too.” 

Do you look after anyone? Do you take regular eye checks?

*Collaborative post

First Time Travellers Guide to Bandung Indonesia

Bandung, the capital city of West Java, Indonesia, is nicknamed Paris of Java because of its resemblance to the European atmosphere. Located in the lush Parahyangan mountains, it is also known as Kota Kembang which means Flower City. The well-known tourist destinations attract a large number of tourists and travellers from all across the world. There are many things to do in Bandung as well as tasting the local food and shopping for local handicrafts and many travellers say that one of their best vacation experiences has been in Bandung. There is a huge variety of important Indonesian attractions in the area, and the food is cheap and delicious. 

Ge-dung Sate in Bandung Copyright: tangyan Shutterstock

If you are travelling to Bandung for the first time, why not make use of Traveloka, which happens to be one of the leading portals for hotel & flight booking online in Indonesia. The GH Universal Hotel is a very popular choice as they offer an unparalleled experience of hospitality.  This is the hotel for you if you are looking for a comfortable stay at a great price!

After checking in, and a short rest, get ready to discover the wonders of the city. It is time for shopping and sightseeing. If you are serious about shopping, head for the factory outlets at Jl Riau or Jl Dago where you will come across an endless variety of clothes, bags, shoes and other accessories under all the famous brands. You will be able to find excellent bargains at these factory outlets with many items at half price. 

  • Kawah Putlih Copyright: Sylvia sooyoN Shutterstock 
Next explore the great outdoors and there is plenty to explore. Visit the stunningly beautiful lake, Kawah Putih, which is just two hours away from Bandung city where the sulphuric lake sources out from a volcano. Then, head for another volcano, Tangkuban Perahu, which is dormant and you can drive up to its very rim. 

Explore the Villa Isola, perched at the northern part of Bandung. It was built by an Italian millionaire and offers a breathtaking view of the city. Another architectural wonder is Gedung Merdeka that came to the attention of people for hosting the first Asian-African conference in the area. Go to Gedung Sate which is a public building popular for its design. The building's central pinnacle -resembles the shape of the Indonesian traditional dish satay. It was built by and used by the Dutch companies, but the place is open to the public.

View from top of Gunung Batu, Bandung Copyright Wander With Jo

Ciater Hot Springs are very popular among the locals as well as visitors. You can take a dip at one of the less crowded private hot spring pools and do not forget to take your bathing suits with you. You can even go hiking in Bandung.

Another must-visit tourist destination is the Lembang Floating Market where you will find superbly landscaped surroundings, Telly Tubby like bunny holes; boat rides, Indonesian food and goods. This is the place for the avid photographers. Kampung Daun is an incredible, traditional rustic village or 'kampong', great if you are seeking an outdoor dining experience.

There you have it! Now that you are well familiar with Bandung and what it holds for you get ready to enjoy and plan a great holiday in Bandung, even as a first timer.

Have you been to Indonesia? If you haven't would you like to go? If you like my travel posts check out my travel section.

*Guest post

48 hours in Barcelona

Barcelona is frequently on the top of the polls as the most popular city in Europe. However, if you have limited time you may wonder how to pack it all in for a weekend break. Here is my suggested itinerary on what to do in Barcelona in 48 hours.

Day 1 

Am - Tour of Barcelona

To gain your bearings go on a tour of Barcelona. Three main ways to do this are: self-guided with a good travel book or app, Hop on Hop Off bus trip or a guided tour.

We took a Sanderman's New Europe free guided tour of Barcelona after being impressed with the same company in Prague. The idea with this tour is that although it is free you tip at the end, what you think the tour was worth. We couldn't fault the tour which lasted two and a half hours and covered the city centre, and Macu, the tour guide was excellent.   The tour visited the Gothic Quarter (Bari Gothic), Barcelona Cathedral, Santa Maria Del Mar and much more. We learned about the history of Barcelona and about the Catalan people. Highly recommended. We even learned about the Spanish Inquisition - Monty Python would have been so impressed!

Have lunch in the atmospheric Bari Gothic area. The centre of old Barcelona, many buildings date from medieval times. There are many narrow streets opening out until peaceful squares. Stop and have some tapas and sangria whilst people watching.

PM - Casa Batllo

Casa Batll√≥ is an architectural masterpiece by Antoni Gaudi. The modernist exterior has an inner beauty. There are few straight lines, and much of the exterior is decorated with mosaic tiles. Inside areas are likened to sea creatures, the roof is arched and is shaped like a dragon. 

As you enter the building you are given a small tablet and headphones for the augmented reality tour, and through this the building really seems to come to life, adding to the already worthwhile experience. If you are a lover of architecture you must visit, I thought it was excellent.  There is only a certain number people let in every hour so I would get tickets in advance online to be sure you get the required time.

Spend time back at your hotel to freshen up and relax.

For dinner try eating al fresco ate La Boqueria food market, just off La Rambles. This bustling food market has many cafes and stalls serving tapas and fresh fish. Alternatively, have dinner in one of the many restaurants such as 7 Portes. Try one of the infamous Paellas, washed down with wine, good conversation, and laughter. 

Day 2 

AM - Sagrada Familia and the Picasso Museum

Antoni Gaud√≠, one of the most famous figures of Catalan culture and world architecture, spent over 40 years designing Sagrada Familia and when he died in 1926. The work was then taken over by his collaborator and today it is still 10 years off being finished being funded by entry fees. 

This beautiful cathedral is like nothing I have ever seen, being in the Art Noveau style, the ornate interior is beautiful and awe-inspiring, with geometric curves, ornate detail, designs of plants, animals, and wonderfully coloured stained glass windows. Go even if you are not religious. Highly recommended also to book your tickets online to avoid the queues.

After the cathedral, visit the Picasso museum. With over 4000 works of art, you can learn about the man and his life. A perfect stop for any modern art lover.

Have lunch in one of the many cafes, bars or restaurants in Barcelona, then go back to your hotel to freshen up before tonight.

PM - the Tapas Experience tour

If you want to get a true flavour of how the Spanish eat, try a Tapas Experience with Sanderman's New Europe. As we enjoyed the free tour the day before, we decided to pay for this, which cost 20 euros and consisted of a visit to three tapas bars, a selection of 7 tapas and 3 drinks.

Our guide Montse was fun and explained the history of tapas. Legend has it that tapas was created when people put a slice of bread or meat over their glass of sherry between sips to protect it from fruit flies. 

The tour ends with an explanation of how to drink from a Spanish Porron, which is a traditional wine pitcher. First, we tried with water, then the brave ones amongst us tried the red wine. It was tremendous fun, helped by the fact most of us already had a couple of glasses of wine or beer at this point! You can read more the Barcelona tours we took on the travel blog we write together Fly Drive Explore, including our top 5 places to visit in Barcelona.

Mr W trying the Spanish porron

So this is what we packed into 48 hours. If we had more time we would have visited Parc Guell, Gaudi's beautiful park with amazing architecture. We stayed at Eurostar Marina Hotel. A stylish 5-star hotel which was an oasis of calm.

If you are not sure where to stay in Barcelona, check out this helpful article. If you are doing Barcelona on a budget this backpacking Barcelona city guide is also useful.

Tell me, have you been to Barcelona? What are your top tips?


Accessible Travel In The UK For Wheelchair Users

As an able-bodied traveller, I am lucky, I don't have to worry about accessibility when I am out and about on my travels but some people aren't so lucky. If you do have a disability which means you are wheelchair bound you do have to consider how easy it is to get to the tourist destination, including the parking facilities for wheelchair accessible vehicles, whether the destination has places to eat and shop with aisles wide enough for a wheelchair to get through and whether toilet facilities have handrails and wide enough doors to get,

The UK leads the way in equal opportunities and diversity and tourism businesses have obligations under the Equality Act 2010. This means that service providers must think ahead and take “reasonable” steps to address barriers that impede disabled people. When you think that 12billion is spent every year in England on a trip where a member of the party has an impairment, according to Visit Britain, you can see what an important issue this is.

Historic buildings do have restrictions though, and making sympathetic alterations can be a challenge, within the listed building status, but as you can see from the infographic below, places that you wouldn't think would be accessible really are. Did you know for example that St Paul's cathedral has a new lift enabling wheelchair users to access the upper crypt and that Edinburgh castle has it's own mobility vehicle to show those with accessibility difficulties around the fortress? You can even scale Schiehallion mountain in Scotland

Local to me, St Fagan's, the museum of Welsh life,  has ramps almost everywhere, dedicated disabled car parking, and a motorised Disabled Tour Vehicle (DTV) to transport visitors around the site. Whilst the Science Museum in London is fully wheelchair accessible and disabled visitors receive concessionary prices for the IMAX 3D cinema – with support workers admitted for free.

Are there any places you go to, or visit regularly that are particularly accessible for those with mobility problems? Let me know.


*PR collaboration

Surprise... I'm Going On An Adventure

I have to admit, I'm not one for surprises, so when I won a holiday with Surprise Trips, at the Traverse blogging conference in Cardiff it took me by...well surprise!

Surprise Trips is a company run by Expedia. The premise being you pick a date, an airport and 3 places you don't want to go as well as the length of time and a maximum price and they book it for you. Sounds scary? It is, but fun all the same.

Your surprise destination is revealed via a message when you get to the airport two hours before. If you are wondering what to pack, they also send you a weather update approximately 72 hours prior to your departure time. All packages include flights and a minimum 3-star hotel, and luggage is just hand luggage. Now that's a scary proposition for me on its own.

As I was going with my husband, we decided to embrace the adventure and go with the flow. Mr W said to me, don't try to work it out, it ruins the fun.

So we promptly put the holiday in the back of our mind until a few days before.

72 hours before the phones pings, and an email saying our destination weather has been updated. Yikes! We look, it says it will be hot and humid but wet. Queue frantic Googling of weather forecasts, flights that leave from Birmingham two hours after our arrival time there and an overall feeling of slight panic. Mr W was worse than me!

We thought we narrowed it down to Athens or Bucharest. Exactly two hours after we arrive at the airport there are two flights leaving, Milan or Lyon. Milan would be amazing but it doesn't correspond to the weather forecast. 

So on the morning of the trip, we arrived at the airport, excited but nervous, we sat down and waited for the email. Almost exactly on time, it arrived,  we clicked on the message and a little video played out. Here is a video of the experience leading up to the trip

We were going to Milan! The fashion, shopping and food mecca.

Yay! I do a little happy dance and then get Mr W to check the rest of the details. We are flying with FlyBe and we are staying in a converted monastery not far from the train station. The hotel on TripAdvisor has a mixed review but it looks ok, and the stay includes a buffet breakfast, which is a huge plus point so we don't have to pay for that.

We go over to the FlyBe check-in and use our passports to scan in the machines to print our boarding pass, which works perfectly. We only have hand luggage so no need for bag drop. We then go through security, stopping off in Pret-A-Manger for a coffee and a snack. Before long it's time to board the plane. The plane journey goes smoothly and after a short flight we touch down in Milan. 

Mr W researched how to get from the airport to the hotel while we were in the Uk and it was straight forward as the train station is attached to Milan airport. That is what is great about Surprise Trips, although no transfers are included they make it easy for you to get to your destination hotel. As we got off the train in Milan north a short 5-10 min walk later we arrive at the hotel. 

The hotel is beautiful from the outside, a bit quirky inside. It's an old monastery, now a conference centre. The room is a bit dated but clean. Wi-fi is free but spotty and there is a small flat-screen TV in the room with an English channel and a fridge. Breakfast was included and was actually a very good buffet breakfast with hot and cold options, a definite plus point to the short break.

Milan is an interesting compact place, and the hotel was placed perfectly to walk to the major attractions. The museum housing Leonardo Da Vinci's'  The Last Supper was very close to the hotel but we couldn't manage to get tickets in time, although we did some of the other attractions like the Duomo Cathedral which was beautiful

My Thoughts On Milan

All the locals are dressed very smartly.
It appears a wealthy city, certainly in the centre.
Waiters are either very friendly or abrupt.
You can eat fairly reasonably although there are lots of pricey cafes too.
You will get bitten by mosquitos so bring some repellant. 

What To Do In Milan

Visit the stunning Duomo cathedral
Window shop At Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II for designer goods
See The Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece
Take a day trip to Lake Como or Lake Maggiore

My Top Tips For Booking A Holiday with Surprise Trips

Try and let go of that inner control freak. I normally plan a holiday to an inch of its life but I couldn't here. Enjoy being liberated of the planning.

As you can only take hand luggage think of clothing in layers. I took dresses that I could wear with leggings and cardigans and left the many handbags and shoes I normally take at home. Think simplicity. 

Pack for most weather conditions. The only slight disappointment was that our weather forecast was simply wrong, however, most of Europe is hot in August so we decided to pack the heat. It was hot in Milan but not humid and clear and with no rain. I wonder if this aspect could be improved.

Most of Europe is in Euros so we decided to chance it and buy some before we go, we were right to buy but if it was a country that doesn't take Euros (like Switzerland or Budapest) you would have to buy currency at the airport or at your destination. 

Check your data plan on your phone before you go and use free wi-fi and apps such as Tu-Go from O2 to make texts and phone calls.

One thing I learnt from the experience is that life is liberating with only hand luggage, no waiting for your suitcase on the carousel, no having packed too much that you don't wear and much easier to carry your small case to the destination. Check out this post on what to pack in a carry-on bag.

Milan probably isn't a place I would have visited but I am glad I did.

Here is Mr W's video of Milan, from the travel blog we write together, FlyDriveExplore.


So if you decide to book a trip with Surprise Trips I would say embrace your new adventure. So what if it's somewhere you wouldn't have gone normally, you are there now so enjoy!