Sunday 6 October 2019

Rome Honeymoon - Day 6

Another place I have always wanted to visit to say that I have been there is Venice. Venice is quite far away from Rome so I felt a little ambitious attempting to plan a day there but decided it would be a nice thing to do. I booked this as a little wedding gift for James as I knew he would also love to go. I had managed to convince him it was too far to travel, around a 6 hour drive so hopefully it was a nice surprise for him.

I looked on various travel websites for day trips to Venice and they all came out at around £180 per person. When I really looked into it, essentially this price covered the cost of the high speed train ticket and then when you get to the other end, a guide gives you a map and a skip the line ticket and sends you on your way. Venice isn’t a huge place and I thought the price was a little expensive so I looked into getting the train tickets separately.

I went onto Trainline, a reputable company and looked up train tickets. I managed to get us 2 return tickets, first class for only £140 for both of us. A massive saving and worth shopping around for. In this day and age, google maps is just as good as receiving a paper one in my opinion.

The train was comfortable and we were provided with a newspaper, drink and some snacks both ways. The journey took just over 3 hours. When we arrived at Venice we just decided to walk w wherever our feet took us. We headed over the bridge and found this area to be quieter than the other side which seemed more touristy. We enjoyed wandering little alleyways and streets and finding our way through not really looking at anything in particular.

Everyone said "you have to go on a gondola ride!" but in all honesty, I don't actually know where we would have got one from. Maybe being off season it wasn't as obvious but there weren't many about at all. It also costs €80, which I would have paid but we just didn't get the chance.

I had pizza for lunch, and James had a steak salad and chips. It was hard to find somewhere to eat, but we got there in the end after looking at Tripadvisor. Everyone was drinking Aperol Spritz which looked absolutely delicious and refreshing. I was jealous, I totally need to make some when the baby is here. Instead I had a fanta and pretended I was drinking the delicious prosecco cocktail (which was only like €3 as well - gutted!)

After lunch we continued to walk around and buy a few magnets/memorabilia as you do. We then found the more touristy side which was jam packed! We got some snacks for the way home as well and carried on walking. I think we walked nearly 9 miles on this day and wow did my feet feel it by the end.

We finished with a gelato and made our way back to the train station where we then went back again. 


Tuesday 4 June 2019

Health Lab Plant-Based Beauty & Wellness Balls Review*

Summer is on its way and it won’t be long now until we have a new arrival in the house when our baby decides to make an appearance. I don’t know about you, but I always feel like I want to get out of the house more and make the most of the days when the summer is here, but it can be hard to muster up the energy for such activities! And I have no idea how I will feel with a newborn thrown into the mix.

I was recently sent some Health Lab Plant-Based Protein Balls which I thought would be perfect for me. As well as offering a much needed energy boost, these balls are also made to promote happy skin and positive gut health made from the finest plant based ingredients across the globe.

Some of the flavours include chocolate, salted caramel, peanut butter and berry. The protein, probiotics, and hemp balls are all vegan friendly and the entire range is also gluten free. There really is something for everyone. The 8 flavours and their unique health benefits include:

Thrive: Choc Brownie Protein Balls
Game Changer: Salted Caramel Protein Balls
Power: Peanut Butter Choc Hemp Energy Balls
Pick-me-up: Espresso Hemp Energy Balls
Happy Skin: Choc Sea Salt Collagen Balls
Skin Hero: Choc Cherry Collagen Balls
Gutsy: Mixed Berry Gut Health Balls
Glow: Choc Matcha Gut Health Balls

I have found that the balls have been great to take the edge off my hunger or between meals, during pregnancy I often need a bit of a boost and want to choose a healthy snack and these energy balls have been the perfect addition to my diet. I think they would also be great if you were breast-feeding and needed a healthy way to get in those extra calories. These would also be ideal for people with busy lifestyles or as a pre/post gym snack.

I have tried many varieties of ‘energy ball’ and these have to be the nicest ones I have had, often the flavours can be bland and boring but these felt like a real treat and kept me away from eating an alternative unhealthy sugary snack.

Available now in Wholefoods and in Waitrose and Holland and Barrett, RRP from £2 for a 40g ball.

*I received these items free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not influenced in any way.

Thursday 16 May 2019

Rome Honeymoon – Day 5

Today was another early start and jam packed day of sightseeing with a 45 minute journey to today’s first activity. I had booked us tickets for the Colosseum for 10:30, again somewhere I was recommended to book skip the line tickets for. Rome really wasn't as busy this time of year as some of the photos I have seen so it wasn't really necessary as there was barely a queue anyway.

We got in and had a look around and walked around the whole Colosseum. In hindsight, I wish I had paid for a tour here as it gives you access to extra areas and we would have had a better idea of what we were looking at but it was still great to see all the same. I remember when I went to see the Statue of Liberty and was very underwhelmed, it looked tiny compared to what I expected. The Colosseum was not like that, it was huge and was exactly what I had hoped it would be.

Our ticket also included access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill so afterwards we headed across the road here. There was quite a big queue for this and it was really warm and there wasn't any shade. An attendant came up to us and said we could skip the queue as I was pregnant, so she let me in a side gate and then James got to go to a shorter queue. It was a bit pointless really as I still had to then wait about 15 minutes in the blazing sun for James to get through. It would have been better if we had gone in together but it saved us a bit of time anyway. In here, it was really nice looking around at various ruins and climbing up high to get a great view over the city. By this point through we hadn't eaten or had anything to drink for hours so we were getting a bit tired.

We left the area and went to find food and found a place called Pizza Forum. I had risotto and James tried Gnocci for the first time. I think this place was a chain restaurant but it did the trick and we could finally have a drink and a sit down. 

I really wanted to visit the ‘mouth of truth’ or Bocca della Veritá so looking on the map this wasn’t too far from where we were. We hopped on a bus and found the church. There was a queue for a photo but we must have only waited about 15 minutes in total and it was shaded. You could pop a donation in the pot if you wanted, but essentially this attraction was free and it was fun to get a photo.

We still had some time to kill in the afternoon so we headed to the Baths of Caracalla. We only had about an hour here as they closed but it was quite cheap to get in and was good to see a proper Roman Bath set up.

This put us at about an hour from our apartment, so we made the journey back and got freshened up for dinner. James found a place on Tripadvisor called Tommi's Burger Joint so we thought we would give it a try. It was really good. Similar to Five Guys I would say. Service was fast and there was loads of different sauces and toppings you could add to your burger free of charge, Probably one of the best burgers I have had in a while and a great atmosphere too.


Tuesday 7 May 2019

Rome Honeymoon – Day 4

We woke up early again today to head to Vatican City. Luckily we were only 5 minutes from here so we didn’t have to get up quite as early as the day before. It was recommended to me that we get skip the line tickets as queues can be as long as 4 hours! So I pre-booked these online before we went for 9:30am, just after opening time. Turns out being pregnant means you can pretty much skip any line anyway - but it was good to have a backup plan. 

The Vatican museum was vast and had different areas. I think we managed to explore it all. It was great to end up at the Sistene Chapel to see the famous Michaelangelo ceiling. You weren't allowed to take photos in there however. We ended up walking absolutely miles this day, mainly around the museum.

After our morning of exploring, we decided to grab some lunch. I once had a friend tell me he bought 2 gelatos and 2 drinks in Vatican City and it was something ridiculous like €60, so we left the area and went and found somewhere local to our apartment in Borgo. We found a place that had been recommended by many other bloggers and vloggers called Pizzeria Bonci. When we got there we could see it was very popular as the queue was huge. We took a ticket and awaited our turn in line. The counter was stacked with many different types of pizza with all different toppings including broccoli, potato and then your standard pizzas too. You choose what pizzas you want, and how big and then you pay for them according to weight. It's a great idea. We had 3 fairly large pieces each and it was just over €20. They box it up for you and you can then take it away and eat it as there isn't much seating outside.

We then went and got our first Gelato of the trip from Old Bridge Geletaria, which was absolutely delicious and a huge 3 scoop cone was only €4!

For the afternoon, I had plans for us to head back to the area of Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Piazza Navona so we could wander in our own time but I think the previous day had caught up with us so instead we just chilled out at the apartment for a few hours before dinner.

We both had a bit of an upset stomach (we think it was the pizza, as it is sat out and then re-heated when you order) so we stayed in for dinner and cooked bolognaise jacket potatoes.


Monday 8 April 2019

Rome Honeymoon – Day 3

After a busy first full day in Rome, today was about to get busier! I have always wanted to go to Pompeii but thought it was miles from Rome. When I found out you can do a day trip there, I had to get us some tickets. I am very thankful to everyone that donated to our honeymoon fund at the wedding, the generosity of our friends and family meant that we had a bit of extra money to book excursions and things that we could only dream of doing. Due to the time of year, this actually included a visit to Naples instead of Mt. Vesuvius, which suited me just fine as I don’t think I fancied a long climb/walk up a volcano!

A 7:30am start meant getting up early for us as the meeting point was about half an hour from our apartment on public transport. Luckily the buses and metro start really early so we didn’t have any problems planning out routes and I wrote down the names of all the stops we needed to take before we went. We left in plenty of time just in case there was cancellations or no bus came and we had to walk but we still managed to be late as the metro station was closed. We couldn't actually find the meeting point. We literally ran from the metro and still didn't know where we were going. Google maps was rubbish. James called the tour operator and the lady on the phone directed us to the office. We got in and showed our ticket. At this point we were 20 minutes late. They spoke in Italian to each other and looked at their watches concerned. Thankfully the bus was still waiting as another family was running late. We got dropped off at the coach and got on (it was packed as everyone was waiting for us) but I am so thankful we got on or I would have been devastated!

The tour began with a coach journey to Naples. We got to stop off at Naples Bay and it was beautiful. I would love to come back to Italy and stay this side one day. We then made our way to Pompeii, it took just over 3 hours. When we arrived in Pompeii we were treated to a pizza lunch before starting our tour. We then made our way to the ruins and another tour guide took over from there.

Pompeii was absolutely massive, you would need a whole day to properly look around the ruins here and I'd love to come back. It's very eerie seeing the ruins and then seeing Mt. Vesuvius leering over you in the background thinking it could technically erupt at any given moment. We had around 2 hours in Pompeii to explore with our guide. He really brought Pompeii to life, if we were here alone we wouldn't have really known what we were looking at but it was great to see what used to be shops, homes and even a brothel.

I found it fascinating that you could even see marks in the road where the chariots used to drive, over many years they have left lines in the road. It was great to see all this preserved history.

After a long day we headed back to our apartment, we grabbed a takeaway from a local place called Mama Eats and took it back to the apartment to eat. We then went to bed ready for another day.


Friday 29 March 2019

Rome Honeymoon – Days 1 & 2

It’s been a while since I’ve done any form of travel post (or post at all for that matter -oops!) so I thought I would share some of the highlights from our recent Honeymoon to Rome. Neither of us had been to Italy before and we were both excited to explore. We got married in December and originally I wanted our honeymoon to be a ‘lay on a beach and do nothing’ kind of holiday, however my husband is better suited to having things to do. Looking at anywhere warm in December was proving difficult, most places across the equator were lovely and hot but either cost an absolute fortune or there was a risk of the Zika virus, no good for travelling when pregnant.

Photo by Dan Sunderland
Eventually we decided to go a few months later, to give ourselves something to look forward to. We chose Rome as we knew there would be plenty to do, on what is probably our last ever child free holiday together for a long time! I anticipated it would be cold, but it’s not the type of sunbathing holiday anyway so none of that mattered. As it happens, the weather was pretty good most days, lovely and sunny in the afternoons.

Our flight was on a Monday, so to save us time and stress I booked us in to a hotel at Gatwick for the Sunday night where we had a picnic in the room and got a nice early night. Breakfast was included the next day and after that we headed to our Purple Parking carpark and got a shuttle bus to the airport.

Our flight was lunch time, so we got some snacks/drinks for the flight and off we went! We arrived in Rome around 4pm. I hadn’t booked any transport to the hotel so hoped we would find a reputable taxi rank but being flustered when we got there with no clue where to go, we got in a taxi with a company that ended up costing nearly 3x the price it should have done. Lesson learned, we arrived safely at the apartment and to be fair to the taxi driver he did give us a tour and explain what we were seeing for the 45 minute journey.

Our apartment was one that I found on Airbnb and very reasonably priced. The location was near to Vatican City and also close to Metro and bus routes. When we arrived we got settled in before deciding to head to a nearby supermarket to get a few bits for the room. The good thing about having an Airbnb was that we had a kitchen area so we knew we could prepare some food at home which was a bonus, and a money saver. We stocked up on snacks and breakfast foods and then came back to the apartment to rest ahead of our first full day.

Day 2 we woke up early and got ourselves ready. I booked us in for a free tour at 9:20am and it was about a half an hour journey to the start point. I am pleased I booked this as it gave us a chance to familiarise ourselves with the location and we also got to learn a bit about the history of Rome. The tour was really good and lasted a good 2-3 hours. There was no obligation to tip at the end however we did because we thought it was fantastic and really well organised. We visited Spanish Square and Spanish Steps, Immaculate Conception Column, The house of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Saint Andrew Church, Bernini’s Angels, The famous “Galleria”, Column of Marcus Aurelius, Prime Ministers House, Temple of Hadrian, Pantheon, The Tomb of the Kings, Tomb of Raphael, Saint Ignatius Church, Andrea Pozzo’s Tromp l’oeil and finally the Trevi Fountain.

After the tour we decided to find somewhere for lunch. We ended up at McDonalds as the area we finished the tour in was a little bit busy and it was harder than we thought just to find somewhere for lunch. It's all very well finding a nice place for a slice of pizza but these places don't have any seating so it was sometimes easier to pop into a McDonalds just for a sit down.

After lunch we headed towards Castel Sant'Angelo. I had planned both bus routes and walking routes so we could play it by ear and see how I felt. Castel Sant'Angelo was right near to our apartment, so luckily for us afterwards it was easy to stagger back home and freshen up.

For dinner, we tried to find somewhere nearby on Tripadvisor. The 3 places we picked out we couldn't actually find - we found this a lot, the names had changed on some of them. We walked around and finally found a little pizza restaurant and sat outside under giant patio heaters. I really felt like I was on holiday and the pizza was great - first full day was a success.


Monday 14 January 2019

Living DNA Test and Results - Review*

Have you ever wondered about what your past was like? Where you've come from, or where your ancestors originated from? I have always been curious, however never acted upon wanting to find out. Late last year I was contacted by a company called Living DNA who can provide a home DNA test which gives you an accurate view of your ancestry.

I couldn't wait to try this out and eagerly awaited my test kit to arrive in the post. I received my DNA testing kit and it came with everything I needed including clear and simple instructions. I made an account and linked my test to it so that I could be updated when it was received.

I had to take a swab of my DNA from the inside of my cheek, all instructions and kit was provided so it was really quick and simple to do. I sealed my sample and popped it in the pre-addressed envelope. Results can take up to 8 weeks to arrive so I posted this as soon as I could.

Christmas came and went and I finally got an email saying my results were in, and I logged onto the website straight away to see what they said. The results were well worth waiting for.

This kit costs £99 and can be purchased over on the Living DNA website. Are you curious to find out where you came from? Living DNA give detail on your family ancestry stretching back 10 generations with a breakdown of countries and regions. As a female, I could only see my maternal ancestry (the motherline) and the migration paths going right back to when the first humans migrated from Africa.

As expected, my results showed that I am 100% from Great Britain and Ireland, which confirmed what I knew about my family history already. The exciting part is, the Living DNA test breaks this down into regions, which again, matched up to what I know about some of my direct relatives, including where I come from too, as you can see on the below map. The sub-regions included East Anglia, where I am from, Ireland, Yorkshire and Cumbria!
Screenshot obtained from Living DNA 
I then had a look at the Motherline ancestry map, which proved very interesting indeed. I don't know a lot about my ancestry, or how far back it goes and where people originate from so I cannot confirm if these results are exact but I still thought it was fascinating.

My motherline haplogroup is a collection of related family lines that I am connected to through my MtDNA. I share a common ancient ancestor with all of the people who also share this haplogroup. These can be associated with geographic regions and the map below shows where this group is most commonly found today.

You can also check out your migration map, which shows the journey your ancient ancestors could have taken as they moved across the globe. 

As you can see, there's quite the variety of regions in my map! Some very surprising results and really makes me want to delve further into my family history as I could uncover some amazing information. Overall, I am really pleased I took this opportunity on as I have uncovered some amazing things and feel like I have only scratched the surface of what I could find if I put some time into doing some proper research. 

If you'd like to embark on this journey yourself, head over to Living DNA and order your kit today. The sooner you get started, the sooner your results will be back.

*I received this DNA Kit free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not influenced in any way.
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