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What E Saw, What B Saw: IndieTracks

What E Saw, What B Saw: IndieTracks

Last weekend was a tale of two very different music festivals in Derbyshire - lucky for us, we were guests of the event which didn't come to a muddy premature end...

This was Elle's first visit and Becca's third to IndieTracks - a wonderful blend of indie pop music and steam trains, held at the Midland Railway Centre near Ripley.

Our Saturday was spent exploring every inch of the festival site , from the quirky church to the heritage railway museum, enjoying upbeat tunes and tasty treats along the way.

Highlights included: sitting on the floor of a steam train luggage carriage watching David Leach perform with his ukuele; taking a pew (literally) for The Hearing's ethereal set in a beautiful model church; indulging in delicious vegan ice-cream (winning flavour was the cherry) and woodfired sourdough pizza (eaten on the converted train carriage bar); spooking each other out while walking round the empty museum warehouse - and finally, not getting wet!

Of course, we brought our cameras along for the ride. Here's a little look at what E saw and B saw...

what e saw...


Travel: Hermanus

Travel: Hermanus

This weekend I'm getting increasingly excited about my upcoming trip to Amsterdam - for our annual mother/daughter getaway - while praying for my cold to go away. Perhaps three years is a bit premature to deem an event "a tradition", but I think these things can be as much about intention as they are past evidence!

It started in September 2014, when mum won a holiday of her choosing through her work (yes, I know!) and decided this was the opportunity to go on her dream holiday. Being hugely interested in all things nature, and a David Attenborough worshipper, she'd always fancied a safari - so that was the starting point for what turned out to be an amazing 10 days in South Africa.

I've never fully written about our trip online, so thought I'd take the opportunity now (as I sit under a blanket feeling a bit grotty) to share some of our experiences on what is one of the best holidays of my life, so far.

To start... Hermanus

After the 11 hour flight from London to Cape Town we were picked up by car and travelled another 90 minutes to the seaside town of Hermanus.

Why here you say? Because during springtime in SA it’s where you can stand on the coast and clearly see Southern Right Whales frolicking in the waves. We also thought it would be a calm location to relax into the holiday before we tackled the more touristically-demanding streets of Cape Town.

We weren't disappointed. Not only did we see the whales almost immediately after arriving - helped by the whale caller, a man who blows a huge pipe whenever a whale is spotted - but we continued to see them from the comfort of our hotel balcony.

And when we weren't looking at the whales, there was plenty of other nature to wonder at - from the dassies (who the locals consider a nuisance but we thought were quite cute!) to the absolutely stunning flora and fauna, set against the sea.

Hermanus also offers lots of lovely boutique shops, with a few surprises - including an antiques shop with it's own retro cinema (sadly there was nothing being screened during our visit). In one shop I bought some locally-made, brightly coloured pottery as a memento.

Where we ate

When travelling I generally use two methods to find the best places to eat - search Tripadvisor for restaurant reviews and/or ask a friendly local where to eat. These proved very successful for us in Hermanus...

  • The Eatery: This lunch spot was recommended to us by the owner of a beautiful shop selling regional crafts. We both had vegetable and beef soup, with a thick slice of toast - delicious! Add in two coffees and a bottle of water, and it came to just R95 (around £2.50 each!) - it was a this point we realised just how favourable the exchange rate was for us.

  • The Cuckoo Tree: Run by a mother and daughter, this restaurant has only a handful of tables - including out in their lovely courtyard, which is also frequented by lots of garden birds. We had a delicious two-course lunch - I opted for toast topped with roasted veg, goats cheese, salad and nuts, followed by an almond and fruit tart with homemade orange ice-cream (see above) - delicious!

  • Bergundy: Only 30 seconds from our hotel, this is where we ticked off two SA specialities - malva pudding (like a light sticky toffee pudding) and bobotie (spiced mince meat and dried fruit topped with a layer of egg - very tasty but also very rich - we only managed to half a portion!)

Next, we travelled on to Cape Town...

Travel: A day at Sandringham

Travel: A day at Sandringham

We're big fans of Norfolk and have reported back from holidays there - including one weekend together - a number of times (see here, here, here and here for examples!)

So it's no real surprise that I found myself back in the eastern county just a few weeks ago, when Paul and myself gatecrashed my parents' summer holiday.

Most of our break was spent in and around our beach-side cottage and nearby Hunstanton - playing the 2p machines, eating our weight in fish and chips, taking short walks with the dog, playing board games and watching Wimbledon on the telly.

However, within this busy schedule, we (that is me, mum and Paul - dad took the opportunity to enjoy some time without us!) did find time for a day trip to the Queen's Norfolk retreat.

I'd visited Sandringham once before as a child, but only had a hazy recollection of standing by neatly trimmed hedges with my Granny, on a hot summer day. I'll definitely remember it clearly the second time round.

First stop was the museum, which contained a number of interesting displays on the history of the house and the Royals' relationship with it since 1862, plus a selection of vintage vehicles and gifted objects from all around the world. I was particularly amazed by a mini replica of a James Bond car, made for one of the princes, which took three months to make - who knows how much that's worth!

After refuelling at the stable cafe (one of the best cheese scones I've ever had) we headed into the house itself. Only a section of the downstairs is open, but as someone who can quickly develop "museum lethargy" I actually preferred this  - not to say I wouldn't have jumped at the opportunity to peek inside the Queen's bedroom given half the chance!

Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere in the world.”
— King George V

The thing that really made the house visit special was the attitude and the knowledge of the museum guides, who were dotted around each room. Not only did they know their stuff, but they delivered interesting nuggets of information with humour and energy which really got across the history of the house, but how the rooms are still used today. I'm not sure I entirely believe that Prince Philip himself uses a ride on mower to trim the grass, as one guide suggested...!

However the star attraction, particularly on a sunny day, has to be the 24 hectares of gardens. They're a mixture of highly manicured and more natural landscaping, dotted with sculptures, and overall stunningly beautiful. We took in the beautiful view looking back at the house, as we strolled over to the estate church, and wished we were floating in a boat on the lake.

Altogether we spent around four hours exploring the house and grounds, which felt a good length of time, before making our way back to our home-away-from-home on the coast. A fully recommended trip out.

Have you visited Sandringham - what were your impressions? What's your tip for a sunny day trip out in your neck of the woods?

Travel: Positano

Travel: Positano

This time last year, five friends flew out of rainy London to spend five days enjoying the beautiful town of Positano, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

I’m starting this post in fairytale style, because that’s sort of how it felt – full of stunning scenery, lovely sunshine and completely stress free.

I’d say the holiday could pretty much be divided into – eating, climbing steps, messing about on/in the sea, reading, playing cards, absorbing sunrays.

We stayed in a large AirBnB apartment with a seaview veranda, which was pretty close to everything we needed and was owned by an Italian guy who sounded more British than us!

I wanted to share a few photos with you, as well as a few recommendations for things to do an eat – my only regret of the whole holiday was not thinking ahead and hiring a vintage Fiat 500.


  • Hire a pedalo: When we looked back over the holiday, all agreed a big highlight was the hour we spent on the pedalo we hired from an old guy on Spiaggia del Fornillo – it was equal mix sunbathing, taking the slide into the sea, and (perhaps a little cruelly) pedalling away at speed from whoever had just entered the water!

  • Take a boat to Bagni d’Arienzo: For just 8 euros a small boat will take you to and from this private beach, just 5 minutes along the coast, and you’ll secure a sun bed for the day. That’s if the boat doesn’t break down! We ended up taking a water taxi – and pretty much had the beach to ourselves as a result. Sunshine + a good book + cocktails delivered to your sunbed + dips in the sea = bliss. When the skies turned grey, we decided to walk back – and earn our afternoon pizza!
  • Use your legs: Part of Positano’s beauty, is the way the buildings all stack up on each other over the beaches – but this also means lots of steps wherever you go. The locals must all have the most incredibly toned legs. Putting in a little effort to walk to places was definitely worth it though – for example Spiaggia del Fornillo had a much prettier and less crowded beach than the main Spaggia Grande – and the walk to it was a visual joy
  • Meet the locals: On our last night, walking back from dinner, we were attracted by loud music and followed our ears to what seemed to be a party in a hotel car park. A party which seemed to be almost exclusively made up of Italians, who were handing out endless trays of food which seemingly appeared from nowhere. Feeling intrigued but a little like gatecrashers, it was great when the woman manning the drinks table called me over and offered us all a beer, for free – explaining that this was the town’s mayoral election party but of course we were welcome to join in. So we did – even having a dance to the upbeat band (who played our favourite song – see below!) and applauding the candidate, even though we had no idea what he was saying!


Food probably took up 90% of our time – when we weren’t actually eating it, we were thinking about it

And we were so enthusiastic about getting tucked into piles of silky pasta and scoops of creamy gelato… that I barely took any photos of our culinary adventures!

So, in text, here’s our foodie highlights…

  • Casa e Bottega: (pictured above) a homeware store and organic cafe in one, we had breakfast here on our first morning (my fruit, granola and yoghurt was so light and fresh, and I heard satisfied grumbles from those who opted for poached eggs and spinach) I went back for lunch one afternoon when the others were off elsewhere and had the most amazing salad – smoked mozerella, courgetti, sundried tomatoes, yum
  • Da Vincenzo: recommended by the owner of the apartment we stayed in, we ate here on our first evening and were in no way disappointed. The complimentary mini, deep-fried goats cheese calzone we were given was described by more than one of the party as ‘the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth’.
  • Ristorante Saraceno d’Oro: we ate here twice, not only for the incredible food (a place to get great pizza) but for the brilliant atmosphere. We sat outside both evenings and were treated to super friendly service plus the bonus of being entertained by the lively Balkanic Jazz band – we perhaps got a little overexcited when they sang our song of the holiday Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano (you might know it from the film version of The Talented Mr Ripley!)

PS. The catalyst for us taking the holiday was built around our friend Matt Horan being booked to shoot a wedding there – you can see his stunning photos HERE!

Travel: 5 days in Iceland

Travel: 5 days in Iceland

Iceland seems to be one of those holiday destinations that recent-returners absolutely rave about. The only negative reported back seems to be "it's expensive", but always swiftly followed by, "but worth it!"

So post-Christmas, when most Brits are seeking out some winter sun, my boyfriend and I instead decided to hop over to Iceland for a five night self-drive break- to see what all the fuss is about. 

How did we find it? Read on...

Blue Lagoon


Touted as the must see attraction in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa - and was a brilliant introduction to our holiday. We spent three hours exploring the vast open air pool, applying silica mud masks and drinking from the submerged bar, as the sun went down and the steam rose from the hot water.

We'd read reviews saying the place could feel overcrowded, but that definitely wasn't our experience - at times it felt like we were the only one's there. A beautifully surreal experience.

Where we stayed... and ate...

Despite the name, we unfortunately weren't lucky enough to spot the Aurora Borealis while staying atThe Northern Lights Inn, however we did enjoy the real novelty of sleeping on a geothermal power plant surrounded by volcanic rock - and the convenience of being based right next to the Blue Lagoon. We were pretty much a captive audience for dinner, but luckily the hotel restaurant, Max's served up delicious fish and veggie dinners.

DAY 2 & 3: Reykjavik

What we did...

Reykjavik is definitely a city to be seen on foot - it's pretty small for a start. Due to time-restraints and the weather, we didn't make it to all of the places we'd like to have visited, but here's a few of our highlights...

  • A walking tour - it was absolutely freezing on the morning we joined the walking tour around Iceland's capital, but it says a lot about his knowledge and humour that we stuck it out to the end (and believe me, I was very close to disappearing into the nearest shop at any moment). The great thing is, the tour - which takes you past many of the city's key historical landmarks and is full of fascinating trivia - works on a pay-what-you-can basis. Our favourite fact: a large proportion of Icelanders won't deny the existence of elves (see here for a brilliant example of this) 

  • The frozen lake - obviously this won't be the case if you visit in the height of summer, but it was pretty cool/unnerving to walk across what appeared to be a snow covered field - until you got to the very edges and saw the swimming swans...

  • Hallgrimskirkja- definitely make the time to appreciate Iceland's large church - and the views from the top of its tower - from all angles. It really is all quite impressive and possible the best thing we saw in the city.

  • Yoga - yes, really. On a spontaneous whim, we signed up to an hour long yoga class at a very small (there was just room for four attendees!) studio close to where we were staying - 101 Yoga. The instructor kindly switched between Icelandic and English for us - as we could just about follow the counting, but definitely not translate the 'down dogs' and 'cobras'!

Where we stayed...

I'm a big fan of AirBnB - I love the idea of borrowing a temporary home in a foreign place, especially as I often find myself exploring a neighbourhood outside the main tourist areas. Kiddi's apartment was comfortable and warm - and located directly opposite one of the city's public swimming baths. Like most in Iceland it had outside geothermically heated pools, which we enjoyed one evening alongside groups of chatting locals.

Where we ate...

  • Svarta Kaffid - soup served in a bowl hollowed out from a whole loaf of bread - both the meat and veggie options were absolutely delicious, and absolutely too big a challenge to finish!
  • Glo - a largely veggie restaurant (with vegan and raw options) where you choose you main dish, followed by three sides - definitely my kind of eating!
  • K-Bar - a Korean restaurant and bar with an interesting fusion of foods on offer 
  • Reykjavik Roasters - very cool to sip a cup of delicious coffee while watching a guy roast a the next batch of beans right in front of you, and I thoroughly recommend their Swiss mocha - super tasty and just a little bit indulgent.

DAY 4 & 5: The Golden Circle

We'd decided from the start that we'd wanted to hire a car to explore some of the island, but after reading a number of travel forums and blogs which warned of crazy winter road conditions - one dramatically claiming it was "suicide" for holiday makers to tackle them - we decided to scale back our ambitions slightly. We settled on hiring a 4x4 for two days, to cover the popular tourist route The Golden Circle - which we figured should be pretty safe as most coach tours do the whole thing in one long day.

On the morning we picked up the car our hostel for that night sent us an email to warn us that if we were unlikely to arrive by 1pm, not to bother trying as the roads were set to close due to a snow storm. So, taking on as much local advise as we could, we took to the road - sadly by-passing some of the sights we'd planned to stop at - to safely reach our destination. All I can say is I'm glad Paul drove that first day, and our hire car had studded tyres.

We still enjoyed that day, and filled the next with site-seeing - but definitely a lesson  in how different Iceland's weather is to the UK. Here's some highlights...

What we did...

  • Fontana - the roads were closed for almost 24 hours, which meant we shared this outdoor spa with very few other people. It was quite an odd experience being almost entirely submerged in a 40 degree geothermal bath while our heads were out in winds of 40mph!
  • Geysir - the actual geysir, which all others are named after, only blows after volcanic activity - so I'm pretty glad we didn't see it. Plus the smaller Strokkur is still an impressive and strangely mesmerising natural wonder - reaching heights of up to 30m, around every 10 minutes. I never expected us to watch it bubble and explode so many times.
  • Gullfoss - the 'Golden Waterfall' was another impressive natural attraction, falling over two stages - and we were lucky to see a beautiful rainbow shimmering over it in the sunshine.
  •  Hveragerdi - we actually only stopped in the town's little shopping mall here to grab a coffee and a cake, but discovered a small but fascinating exhibition about the earthquake they suffered in 2008 - and the ancient fissure under its foundations.

Where we stayed... and ate...

We both agreed that Heradsskolinnd hostel in Laugarvatn was our favourite accomodation of the holiday. The former school has been wonderfully renovated to incorporate much of the old classroom furniture, library books and educational posters, giving a really cool vintage feel to the place. We had a private double room with a shared bathroom and showers - which was not a problem at all. And they served great dinner and breakfast in their restaurant, which was next to a really nice lounge area which felt really cosy and snug - especially knowing we were essentially snowed in!


The five days flew by and I can absolutely see the appeal - absolutely stunning scenery, good food, wonderful natural attractions...

Yes, it's a little pricey and definitely not a shopping destination because of that - BUT I genuinely can't wait to go back and explore more, perhaps next time, in the summer!

Have you been to Iceland? How did you find it and what would you recommend for my return visit?