A family holiday to Singapore

A few weeks ago we went on a family holiday to Singapore. Many of our family members thought we were nuts taking a toddler and a baby on a 14-hour flight (and I have to admit I was a little fearful myself) but it literally couldn’t have gone better. The kid’s were like a total dream. The epitomy of perfect children. Seriously. Cali slept nearly the whole time both ways and Hux was either asleep or silently glued to his iPad (so grateful to Steve Jobs right now). We flew with British Airways & the staff were super helpful and lovely at all times and I really can’t fault their service.

So, why Singapore? Well, some of you may know that my husband Nick is a food & travel writer so food has always been a driving force in our decision making about where to travel to and this was no exception. Nick was desperate to go and eat in a Hawker Centre and try chicken & rice and lime juice and all the rest of it. And then we’ve got Huxley. Huxley is OBSESSED with animals. Like really, next level obsessed. He knows all sorts of crazy animals that I’d never heard of before (hello binturong, pangolin, echidna, sengi…), he can tell you what they eat, what part of the world they come from and knows loads of crazy facts and is always glued to David Attenborough or Andy’s Wild Adventures. So, yeah, the amazing world-renowned zoo was also a major factor in going to Singapore, and we were not disappointed.

Singapore with a baby & a toddler

Toddler using chopsticks

Luckily for us, Hux has never been a particularly fussy eater. He’s happy to eat most things and will try everything we put in front of him. The first place we ate had photos of whole cooked chickens on the wall and he kept pointing & saying he wanted that so he was pretty disappointed when it came all chopped up and didn’t have a head with a beak. Also, total shocker to us, he’s a complete pro with chopsticks! They’d done Chinese New Year at nursery the week before and had been practising picking up cotton wool with chopsticks so when we sat down to eat, he just picked his up and tucked right in!

Singapore Aquarium Sentosa Island

Sentosa Aquariam Singapore

Singapore Aquarium Sentosa Island

The first ‘animal’ place we visited was the aquarium on Sentosa Island. This was actually the only time we went to Sentosa Island, despite it being a super popular tourist destination. Hux was still a bit little for Universal Studios and the water park there unfortunately. The aquarium was awesome though. It used to be the biggest in the world until China stole it’s crown and it’s definitely suitably impressive. I could have sat in front of the huge water tank watching the manta rays all day.

Singapore River Safari

Giant Panda at Singapore River Safari

So the zoo in Singapore is actually split into four different zoos and it can be quite confusing! There’s Singapore Zoo, the River Safari & the Night Safari which are all next door to each other on the same site and then there’s the Jurong Bird Park which is in a completely different area of Singapore. You can buy a 4-in-1 pass to all of them for a cheaper rate which is what we did.

The next ‘animal’ thing we did was the River Safari and the Night Safari. When you book your Night Safari tickets, you have to choose a time to visit. As we had kids, we chose the earliest time, which is 7pm or 7.30pm (I can’t remember now!). So, we arrived at the River Safari about 2pm as that only takes a few hours to get around, then we sat in the restaurant area and had some food while we waited for the Night Safari to open. This is a great way to do it as it saves on the cab fare from the city. (I wouldn’t recommend doing the Zoo & Night Safari in one day though as the Zoo is way too big and you’d be too exhausted to enjoy the Night Safari properly I think).

The River Safari takes you on a journey around all the different rivers in the world. The displays are mainly fish and crocodiles but it’s also home to the Giant Panda enclosure & the red panda. I’ve seen Giant Pandas four times now (Beijing Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo & Singapore Zoo) and this enclosure was by far the best. You felt almost close enough to touch the panda! We did see that there could be queues to see the panda but we went mid-week in February and we almost had the whole place to ourselves so no queues for us! There’s also a great monkey bit where you walk around and the monkeys are just roaming free next to you which was quite cool. The only bit we missed out on was the boat ride as Hux was about 1cm too short! This takes you round to see other animals like the jaguar.

The Night Safari was pretty cool. We started off by watching the show where the animals are brought down to the stage through the crowd so you get a nice, good look at them and then we went on the tram ride around the zoo. Hux did start nodding off a little bit on the tram ride but we managed to get him excited enough to keep him awake and then he got a second wind and was chirpy as could be! The tram ride is pretty cool as there aren’t really any fences or glass so it feels like you’re on a real safari almost and being in the dark gives it a real edge! Obviously the downside is that if the animals don’t happen to be out in full view as you drive through then you’ve missed your chance. However, you can go back and walk around some of the route on foot to see any animals you may have missed. A word of warning though, it really is quite dark! Huxley walked into a fence at one point! So if you’re scared of the dark I wouldn’t recommend it! It was a bit unnerving to be walking underneath huge hyenas who were looking out over the path!

Feeding the flamingoes at Jurong Bird Park Singapore

Feeding the ostriches at Jurong Bird Park Singapore

Feeding the penguins at Jurong Bird Park Singapore

The next ‘animal’ place we visited was the Jurong Bird Park. To be honest, we nearly gave this one a miss as we thought it would be a bit dull but then we saw that you could feed some of the birds and we knew we had to go! Huxley LOVED feeding the ostrich and the penguins. I think it was $2 per feed but that’s a total bargain compared to the feeding experiences you have to pay for at zoos in the UK. He enjoyed feeding the flamingoes but he was just chucking bread at them from a distance and he’d fed lorikeets at Longleat Zoo before so he wasn’t too fussed with those but having a fully grown ostrich snatch a banana out of his hand was quite something! There’s also a water park for the kids at the Bird Park which was a welcome respite from the blistering heat.

Gardens by the Bay Singapore

To give ourselves a bit of a break from animals we decided to visit Gardens by the Bay. We didn’t actually go inside the conservatories as there’s loads of free things to do there and we thought the kids might get a bit bored so we wandered over to the Far East Organization Children’s Garden which is a big splash park with a play park hidden in the trees. After that, we hung around to watch the light show in the supertree grove. I think Nick was expecting it to be a bit lame but actually we were both really impressed. There were lots of people laid on the floor staring up at the trees from below which looked really chilled (but obviously impossible with two little ones!).

Family at Singapore Zoo

Feeding the giraffes at Singapore Zoo

Feeding the elephants at Singapore Zoo

Ring-tailed lemurs at Singapore Zoo

Feeding the rhino at Singapore Zoo

Elephant show at Singapore Zoo

One of our last days in Singapore was spent at Singapore Zoo. We really did save the best for last! We got there at opening time as we’d heard the queues to feed the animals can be quite long so we headed straight for the elephants at 9am and it was so worth it! There were only three families there waiting to feed the elephants so we got to spend ages with them and were allowed to buy two baskets of fruit so both Nick & I could have a go with Hux. It really was amazing. After that, we spent most of the day zig-zagging around, running about in the intense heat like crazy people from one end of the zoo to the other trying to make sure we saw all the shows and made all the feeding times! It was pretty full on but worth every second! Huxley felt like a proper zookeeper after feeding elephants, the rhino and the giraffes. It was great to be able to get so close to so many of the animals too. Hux sat right next to a lemur and you could walk right up to a fruit bat feasting on watermelon. The orangutans and other monkeys have trails that go right above your head as you’re walking along the path. It’s so brilliant, I can’t recommend it highly enough. You feel like you’re actually in the jungle with them at times. There’s also a water park at the zoo, and a KFC right next to it which again, was a very welcome break from the heat and a good excuse for us to sit down for a few minutes!

I would recommend a family holiday to Singapore to anybody in a heartbeat. The food is great and really cheap if you eat in the Hawker Centres, the people are incredibly friendly, it’s super easy and not too pricey to get around in cabs or on public transport and there’s so much to do there! I actually wish we’d had an extra couple of days there as I felt like 9 days wasn’t really enough – even though our cab driver from the airport laughed at us & said that was too long when we said how long we were staying! I wouldn’t hesistate to go back either – and no doubt we will as the zoo is extending and opening tons of new stuff in 2020. And when Hux is older we’ll be able to explore Sentosa Island a bit more and visit a few more attractions over there too.

Huxley’s 3rd birthday

Huxley turned 3 on Friday. I’m a little shell-shocked by it all to be honest. I know it’s such a cliche parenting thing to say, but I really don’t know where the time has gone! His birthday was pretty low-key this year due to the fact that I’m huge and can’t go far – can I just say how nervous I was all day about going into labour!? (For Huxley’s first birthday we went to Weymouth Sealife Centre, for his second birthday we went to Marwell Zoo).

This year we decided to take him to the cinema in the morning as Cineworld are currently running a promotion to support Children in Need where every day this half term, the tickets are £2 each and you can see Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory or Ice Age: Collision Course. Hux has only been to the cinema twice (and not since February) so it was still a really big, exciting novelty for him. I showed him all the trailers for the movies the night before and he chose Ice Age (much to mine & Nick’s despair!). Sadly, we were the only people in the cinema which is a real shame as it was for a good cause but I suppose half-term hadn’t really kicked in on Friday.

After the cinema we went to Toys’R’us as he had a voucher to spend and we got him a Schleich whale, a Schleich Anhanguera (which is a flying dinosaur – I had to Google it!) and an Elsa doll. After that it was definitely time to eat! I was starving!

Harvester had recently contacted me and asked if I’d like to review their newly refurbished branch in Poole. Never one to turn down free food, I jumped at the chance and they kindly sent us £50 to spend on some lunch. It was really smart in Harvester and I was impressed at how modern it looked, while still retaining a cosy, family-friendly pub feel. It was filled with little cosy nooks and inviting looking fireplaces as well as having practical plus-points like a bottle-warming area for parents with babies.

Harvester Parkstone Poole

harvester seahorse refurbishment dorset

family friendly harvester seahorse poole

harvester seahorse alder hills poole dorset

Obviously one of the best things about Harvester is the unlimited salad bar and I wasted no time stocking up on crunchy croutons and creamy potato salad. Nick & I both ordered the same thing, the Harvester ’83 combo which comes with fries, gravy, corn on the cob, half a rotisserie chicken and a half rack of ribs. Deeeeelish. The kids meals are £5.99 for a main with 2 sides, a drink & a dessert. Hux had a swirly sausage with peas and chips but he’d gorged on popcorn at the cinema so didn’t eat all that much of it. He didn’t even seem that excited at the prospect of ice-cream so we could tell he was full and tired!

Harvester seahorse alder hills poole

schleich toys

family-at-harvester

harvester unlimited salad

Nick skipped dessert while I went for coconut panna cotta with mango coulis. I’m usually a chocolate person but there’s just something about coconut that wins every time. Nick was pretty impressed with the beer offering though and opted for a pint of Brewdog in place of dessert. The total bill came to £41.51 for a beer (£4.55), two adult main courses (£25.98), a kids meal (£5.99) and a dessert (£4.99) so it was pretty budget friendly!

harvester 83 chicken ribs combo

harvester 83 combo poole

coconut panna cotta with mango coulis at harvester

After a quick whizz around the toy sale at the huge Sainsburys next door, it was time to head for the beach. Hux was adamant about going in the sea and it didn’t seem to bother him at all that it was freezing cold. He really, really loves the sea and I think he’d have spent all day chasing the waves back and forth but it was already gone 3pm by the time we got there so we only stayed about half an hour.

alum chine beach october

alum chine bournemouth october in the sea

autumn on the beach bournemouth

alum chine beach bournemouth dorset

We finished the day off at Nick’s mum’s house where he played with his cousins – I have no idea how he managed to stay awake the whole time. He didn’t even fall asleep in the car on the way home! Needless to say he was pretty grumpy for the next day or two from being so tired!

A trip to San Diego

After spending a day or two in Los Angeles, the plan was to have a nice, easy drive down to San Diego and maybe stop in the shops at Disneyland and visit Huntington Beach again on the way. Turns out, the weather had other plans for us and with it threatening to rain the entire time we were in San Diego we decided to wake up super early in the morning and drive down a day early so we could go to the zoo. I’m pretty glad we did as this turned out to be the best day weather-wise and the day we were meant to go to the zoo, it rained torrentially all day!

If you watch my vlogs at all, you’ll know that Huxley is OBSESSED with animals so San Diego Zoo was basically like taking him to the Holy Grail. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so excited. As we walked through the gates he started singing ‘We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, How about you, you, you?’ which I didn’t even realise he knew! Bless him. It’s been about 6 weeks since we went now and he still studies the zoo map every single day and asks at least once a day if he can go back. He was totally besotted with the pandas. I didn’t take that many photos as I was trying to enjoy the day rather than snap photos of giraffes and tigers that a million other people had taken before me. You all know what a rhino looks like anyway! The elephant enclosure was amazing and the general feel of the zoo was exactly as you’d expect – totally awesome! Loads of beautiful green plants and the enclosures were all really lovely looking. The only thing we messed up on was that we took the sky ride thing across the zoo once we’d walked halfway around. I thought it was a return journey so we left Huxley’s bike and then because the queue for the return journey was ENORMOUS, we ended up walking most of the way around the zoo without Huxley’s bike which was a bit of a fail, especially with me being pregnant and it being so hot! It was an awesome way to see the zoo though as you could see all the animals chilling in their enclosures from above. (You can watch my vlog here if you want to see a bit more).

San Diego Zoo Giraffes

Panda at San Diego Zoo

I have to admit that after everyone telling us for months how much we’d love San Diego that we were both a little bit disappointed. I’m sure the crappy weather didn’t help as we’d basically planned to spend every day at the beach but instead we were scrambling around trying to find other things to do to fill our time and to be honest, we didn’t find much. We’ve got no interest in SeaWorld and the Safari Park was too expensive and we didn’t feel like San Diego had that much else to offer. The same thing happened to us with New Orleans though. We both agreed that it wasn’t somewhere we would rush back to and that it was nowhere near as good as San Francisco. I think we’ve both decided we’re definitely more NorCal people. Sorry Southern California!

One of the days we decided to check out the Mexican border and nearby town of Chula Vista as they are said to have the best Mexican food. We wandered around an outlet mall and bought a few souvenirs in the Disney store before looking at the enormous barriers and deciding we didn’t fancy standing in a queue for up to 6 hours with a toddler just to say we’d been over the border – especially as we lived in Mexico for 3 months anyway a few years ago so it’s not like we’d never been before. We drove to the funniest looking Mexican restaurant ever called Fernandez Catering. Literally on the side of a motorway and looked like someone’s house and we were definitely the only non-Mexicans in there. It was bloody awesome. Nick had a beef stew called a ‘birria’ but I didn’t eat anything because my pregnancy sickness was overwhelming at that point.

Fernandez Catering Chula Vista Birria

We visited two other Mexican restaurants nearby after that where I managed to eat a pastor taco (thankfully!) and it turned out to be probably the best damn taco I’ve had in my life. I have to admit that I spent most of our San Diego stay asleep as Huxley was a total nightmare going to bed while we were there. I have no idea why as he’d been no trouble at all during the rest of our California trip. But it got to the stage where we were having to drive around for an hour or two at midnight in desperation trying to get him to fall asleep. Yeah, that didn’t make it very fun.

There was one day where the sun poked it’s head out for a little while and we decided to go to La Jolla as people had told us how nice it was. Again, it was okay, but didn’t stand out in my mind as being that great. Huxley enjoyed seeing all the sea lions on the beach though (despite the smell!). People were swimming in the sea with sea lions swimming around next to them but when we got to the beach there was a warning sign saying not to swim because there’s so much yucky stuff in the water so we left them to it and went further down the coast for a dip.

La Jolla San Diego

Watching sea lions at La Jolla San Diego

Sea Lion on the beach La JOlla San Diego

San Diego beach

Beach at San Diego

As you can probably tell from the moany tone of this blog post, I wasn’t sad to leave San Diego and I was actually pretty damn excited about getting back to San Francisco. We drove about 8 hours all the way to Santa Cruz with a few hours stop in Los Angeles for some food. Thank god for iPads!

Driving in California

A trip to Los Angeles

At the end of our stay in California we tagged on an extra 10 days as a holiday. I know it probably sounds like we were already on holiday but Nick had been working really hard and we definitely needed the break. Granted, driving 8 hours down the coast with a toddler in the car isn’t the most relaxing way to spend a holiday but Nick had been banging on about going back to LA from the moment we returned home from there in 2010. Being a food writer, LA is obviously the place that gets talked about the most. It always has the newest, most innovative restaurants and most trends seem to stem from whatever is happening there. So, it was only natural that our entire trip was based mainly around where we were going to eat! (No changes there!)

Our first stop was a place called Ohana Poke Co on Sunset to try a poke bowl, which are all the rage right now and I can’t seem to open a website without a mention of one recently. And rightly so. It was light, fresh and totally delicious. Just what you want in the beating heat of a bustling city (or a nice beach in Hawaii I’d imagine!)

Ohana Poke Co Los Angeles

After that, we went straight to Grand Central Market, which is a little bit like Borough Market in London and is the home to the famed Egg Slut, whose line was by far the longest! The cool thing about Grand Central Market is that there are tables scattered around all over the place so you could go with a bunch of friends, all buy something from a different vendor but still all sit together at the same table without having to feel awkward about it. Not only that but it’s a photographer’s dream, with all it’s neon signs, cool hipsters and Instagram-worthy food porn shots waiting to be taken. (Sadly not for me though as mine are all blurry!)

Now totally full of food we drove to Griffith Observatory which is somewhere that we didn’t make it to on our last trip to Los Angeles because we were stupid enough to ditch our hire car! Personally, I think the trip to LA is worth it just for this. Not only are the views from the observatory arguably the best in the city, there are tons of awesome hikes you can do from there all while being watched over by the Hollywood sign. Add to that the fact that when the observatory is open it’s totally FREE. It’s a beautiful building to wander around and has some fascinating displays inside.

Hollywood sign from Griffith Observatory

Hux at Hollywood Sign

After that, yep, you guessed it, more food. This time at Guisados, a Mexican place that Nick really loved. I wasn’t quite so sold on it but I think that’s because we ordered a mixed platter so I had no way of knowing what was going to be spicy and what wasn’t and that along with being pregnant and nauseous meant that I didn’t have the best time there.

As I’m writing this I can’t quite believe we did this all in one day but after that we went to Echo Park. Rather than staying at a grotty motel on the side of a freeway, we were staying in an awesome Airbnb in Silverlake. This meant that we were much closer to all the cool restaurants and our stay had a really lovely ‘neighbourhood’ feel to it. Our Airbnb hosts were amazing and I’d highly recommend their place to anyone looking to stay a few nights. The view of Downtown from the shower is unreal! Anyway, I digress! So, we went to Echo Park and it was golden hour and the light was dreamy and the air was warm and it was just so perfect. I actually spotted mega bloggers Evelina & Racquel Natasha snapping outfit photos a few meters away as we watched the turtles swimming in the lake! They are both SO BEAUTIFUL. Echo Park is another must-see when visiting LA for me, especially if you have kids.

Echo Park, Los Angeles

Echo Park at Sunset

The following day we got up nice and early and made our way to what is quite possibly the hottest brunch spot on the planet right now, Sqirl. We were a bit anxious as it’s notorious for having queues around the block no matter what time you arrive so we were pleasantly surprised to find no more than 4 people stood in front of us when we got there! I have to admit that a lot of the time I’m not that adventurous when it comes to food and it’s usually Nick forcing me to try stuff, and with also being pregnant, all I really wanted was a fry-up. But Sqirl is definitely NOT that kind of place. They are credited with being the ones who made #avotoast what it is today. They serve theirs with hot pickled carrots, garlic creme fraiche, sorrel and za’atar. See what I mean? Not your ordinary breakfast offering! So, I did initially turn my nose up at a lot of the menu offerings as some of them sounded truly bizarre. I played it safe and chose the quiche (which was probably the best quiche I’ve ever eaten alongside Tartine in San Francisco & Big Sur Bakery) and a side order of bacon (which was also out of this world) and Nick ordered their famed crispy rice salad. We added an order of ricotta on toast at the last minute after seeing someone tucking into it at the table and I can honestly say that was the best decision we made that day. It was truly life changing. You wouldn’t think that ricotta and toast would work. But trust me, it REALLY DOES. I also had a homemade rhubarb lemonade that was insanely scrummy. Seriously, if I could eat there everyday for the rest of my life I’d be a very happy lady.

Famed ricotta toast at Sqirl LA

We’d planned to spend the rest of the day at the beach and playing in the sea. Unfortunately for us, the weather had other ideas. It was beautiful and warm and sunny in Los Angeles, until you got to Santa Monica. I’m not even kidding. It was literally just the beach that was shrouded in fog. You could see the clear-cut line where the cloud ended and the rest of the sunny city stretched away from the ocean. Being British, we of course soldiered on and settled down on Venice Beach despite not being able to see more than a metre in front of us. To be honest, once I laid down on the sand, it was actually gloriously warm and I could easily have fallen asleep there.

Fog at Venice Beach

After about an hour, we decided that we wanted the sunshine back so we parked up outside a Starbucks to use the free wifi like total tourists as our mobile phone credit had run out and Googled ‘water parks’. Unfortunately, due to it being only April, most of them were still closed but then Google threw up a lovely looking little park called Coldwater Canyon Park nestled in the middle of the mansions of Beverly Hills. It was amazing. There was a beautiful little manmade creek running the length of the grass which Huxley happily played in for hours. It was nice and shady and there were toilets and a regular play park right next door. And you could ogle all the incredible houses and keep your eye out for superstars at the same time. Dream!

Coldwater Canyon Park, Beverly Hills

After that we decided to return to Griffith Observatory to watch the sunset. It was crazy busy but totally worth every second. The sky turned a million different colours in the space of about an hour and it was great fun watching all the lights gradually switch on and it felt like the city came to life beneath you. They had the huge telescope open so you could get a look at Jupiter but the queue was quite long and Huxley was already getting a bit grouchy at this point so instead I queued up outside one of the smaller telescopes on the front lawn and got a glimpse of a teeny tiny ball of light. It was awesome.

Griffith Observatory sunset

Griffith Observatory sunset los angeles

 

If you’d like to see a more detailed account of what we got up to in Los Angeles then you can watch my vlog here.

 

 

A day at Muir Woods National Monument

A few weeks ago we went to Muir Woods. Muir Woods is a national monument (which is slightly different to a national park but don’t ask me why!). It’s just outside San Francisco and is totally beautiful. It’s basically a huge forest full of enormous redwood trees. I’m not sure why we’ve never been before as it’s super close to the city but it’s just something we hadn’t got around to.

Muir Woods National Monument Entrance

Anyway, we turned up one Saturday, about mid-morning to find a nice long queue into the car park – it was the first sunny Saturday in about 4 weeks so we should have known it was going to be busy! After some sneaky parking manoeuvres we were off and ready to go. Our visit also coincided with their Junior Ranger Day which was cool because it meant Huxley got some stickers and an activity pack to fill in as we were walking around. They let us in the front gate with his little bike but we found out later that they’re not allowed in (neither are pushchairs – so bear that in mind if visiting with a baby/toddler). I actually felt rather awkward pushing his bike around as there are tons of signs about keeping quiet and his bike can be pretty noisy so we ended up carrying it anyway just to try and not disturb the peace!

Muir Woods California

Nick & I both had mixed opinions about Muir Woods. It’s obviously very beautiful but due to it being a national monument and so close to a major city, it’s also VERY busy (it’s the most visited national monument in America). I’ve just read on Wikipedia that in 2017 they are introducing a reservation system to limit the number of cars able to enter every day so that’s something else to bear in mind if you plan on visiting next year. We thought the traffic was bad when we arrived mid-morning but it was nothing compared to the insane queues we saw about 3pm when we were leaving. Add to this the entrance fee of $10 per adult too and we really started to question whether it was worth it. We’ve been to other places further down the coast in Big Sur (and I’m sure there’s more further north too) where you can see redwoods for free. We’ve just parked the car up at a random location and gone on a mini-hike in the woods and it’s been just as beautiful – and I’d go so far as to say nicer as there aren’t a million other people there.

Muir Woods Redwood Trees California

We had a really lovely time at Muir Woods but I don’t think we’ll go back. It’s not super breathtaking like Yosemite is and I think there’s better places to see redwoods but if you’re on a whistle-stop visit of San Francisco then it might be worth adding to the list if you’ve never experienced anything like this before.

Muir Woods National Monument

Nick & Hux

Nick & Hux at Muir Woods

Me & Hux at Muir Woods

Family photo at Muir Woods

Junior Park Ranger Day at Muir Woods California

Life in California

Oh my goodness I am SO behind on all of this! To be honest, I haven’t been taking a lot of photos the past 2 weeks as it’s been raining for 12 days straight. Thankfully that’s over now and it’s back to glorious sunshine and wonderfully warm.

So I’m afraid there isn’t any real structure to this post, it’s basically just a photo-dump of all the nice things we’ve been doing recently. Our weeks have been filled with trips to the park, hiking in the hills and visiting San Francisco zoo.

Our first hike was back when we were still staying in Sonoma. We decided to do the Sonoma Overlook Trail which is a 3-mile round-trip and has stunning views over Sonoma and the valley – and San Francisco – which nobody had told me about so it was a very nice surprise! Huxley was amazing and walked nearly the whole way up. He loved spotting all the different animals we saw along the way. On the way down we even spotted some deer that got really close to us! He fell asleep shortly after that, bless him!

View of Napa Valley from Skyline Wilderness Park

View of Sonoma from Sonoma Overlook Trail

Huxley hiking

Sleepy-sausage

Our favourite park to visit right now is Crane Park in St Helena, it’s so beautiful and always full of kids. We stayed there for 5 whole hours one day! St Helena is a bit further up Napa Valley and it’s just incredible.

St Helena Napa Valley California

Crane Park St Helena Napa Valley California

Napa Valley California

We had dinner at In’n’Out Burger a few weeks ago. I’ll probably get things thrown at me for saying this but I really don’t rate it. The burgers are okay but not that different from McDonalds but the real killer for me are the fries. They taste powdery and dry and are so vile I could barely stomach them. But Huxley had fun with the dinosaur stickers and little hat that they gave him so it was worth it just for that.

In-n-Out burger California

In-n-Out burger Huxley

We visited San Francisco zoo a few weeks ago after Huxley had been going on and on and on about seeing some animals. We all thought it was amazing and were very impressed. The whole place is so green. There are trees everywhere. Huxley loved seeing the lions, tigers, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras and penguins – the only thing missing was an elephant but there’s one at Oakland Zoo which we might visit soon. Huxley could have stayed and watched the hippo all day I think. All he wanted was to see the hippo do a poo and all I can say is that the hippo delivered! I’ve never seen someone so excited about some poop! They also had a little farmyard area where you could buy food to feed the goats and brush their hair.

Feeding goats at San Francisco zoo

Brushing a goat at San Francisco zoo

Zebras at San Francisco Zoo

Chocolate-ice-cream

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

View of Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

 

 

A day at Lake Tahoe

Our first weekend here was a Bank Holiday, President’s Day to be exact, which celebrates George Washington’s birthday, and we decided to spend our time visiting Lake Tahoe. It’s somewhere we’ve both always wanted to go but on our previous visits to California, Big Sur, Yosemite and Napa had won out.

It’s about a 3 hour drive to Tahoe from Sonoma, which in American terms is considered ‘just down the road’. We had fun pointing out all the big chain restaurants we could spot on the side of the freeway and I was really surprised at how quickly the huge snowy mountains came into view on the horizon. The fun really started when we pulled off the freeway and started up the winding mountain roads. I definitely squealed like an excited child at the first sight of snow.

We’d been tipped off by a friend to take the scenic route past Donner Lake for some spectacular views and I’m so glad we did. Check this out….

Donner Lake California

Donner Lake near Lake Tahoe California

After a quick photo pit-stop we continued on to Lake Tahoe itself, which is about 30 minutes further. We drove past loads of places doing tubing (which is sliding down the snow in a massive inflatable rubber ring) and it looked SO MUCH FUN. I was absolutely desperate to do it with Huxley but we decided to see the lake first and go on the way back (unfortunately we had far too much fun at the lake and Huxley fell asleep in the car so I never got a chance to do it! Boo!)

We decided to drive around the North side of Lake Tahoe on this visit, which I think is a lot quieter than the South end. To be honest, I was totally surprised at how uncommercialised it seemed. I was expecting massive Nike stores and McDonalds all over the place but it all seemed to be independent ski shops and mom-n-pop restaurants which was really nice. We did take a quick dip into the massive resort of Northstar, which is where the Ritz-Carlton is and it was a totally different vibe. It was insane. Everyone looked like they were DRIPPING in money. It was so swanky. Northstar’s slogan is something like ‘the way it should be’ and I have to say I probably agree. We actually didn’t end up venturing in as parking was crazy.

Anyway, our first stop in Lake Tahoe was King’s Beach which was a little dull. We had a quick explore of the beach and then decided to hop back in the car and drive round a bit further. I hadn’t actually realised that Lake Tahoe was split almost down the middle between California and Nevada until we drove over the state line. The difference was clear almost immediately. The Nevada side of the lake was much less built-up. I think the next bit we stopped at was Sand Harbor. It was totally beautiful. The water is crystal clear. Everything was so blue and it was like being in a dream.

Being February, there was snow on the beach which Huxley really enjoyed but it was sunny enough to be pleasantly warm. We threw snowballs at each other, explored all the nooks and crannies of the rocks and built a snowman on the beach (whose head Huxley proceeded to eat!).

Sand Harbor Lake Tahoe Nevada

Lake Tahoe Nevada February

Lake Tahoe in February

Huxley at Lake Tahoe

Making a snowman on the beach at Lake Tahoe in February

All in all it was an amazing day and a trip that I would definitely recommend to anyone. We’re desperate to go back and try out some of the fun activities on offer and I know Nick can’t wait to get himself back on a snowboard again. California really does have it all!

Settling in Sonoma

So we’ve survived our first week in Sonoma! Huxley and I have been alone all day every day for an entire week and I haven’t cried yet (although I’ve come close!). I’m not going to lie and paint a picture of sunshine and roses. I’ve had a bit of a tough time this week. Huxley has reverted to not eating or drinking anything other than milk or cheese – and not the normal orange cheese that you get here – it has to be the super expensive pre-sliced, pre-packaged white cheese that looks the same as it does at home. He’s also regressed in the potty training department a little bit too. This has made him very clingy and means he doesn’t want to go out anywhere. I’ll admit that there was a day when I shut myself in the bedroom for 20 minutes just so I could have some peace and quiet. (Is it bad that I’m already Googling relaxing holidays for when we get back?? I’ve got my eye on Mallorca* right now.)

The one shining beacon of hope in all of this is that we’re in California so the weather has been outstanding every single day so far. It’s so nice to be able to make plans and actually be able to stick to them and not have them rained off. That said, it is due to rain 3 days this week so it’ll be interesting to see how well I cope then!

This week I’m going to try harder to make dinners that look like normal food but have tons of hidden veg in them. I saw a great recipe video on Facebook for a ‘hidden veg’ mac’n’cheese that I’m dying to try out. Nick and I have managed to eat fairly well, with plenty of incredible avocados and oranges, I just worry about Huxley not getting enough good stuff but I’m hoping he’ll settle down soon enough and get back into the swing of things (until we have to move house again at the end of February – and we haven’t found anywhere to stay yet!!)

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom and I’ve had some really lovely moments with Huxley this week. We went for lunch at a diner together, got ice-cream at Baskin Robbins, had an amazing time at Sonoma Train Town and have had a blast running around the amazing parks they have here. We’ve also been out to eat as a family at The Fremont Diner and El Molino Central. We’ve just returned from a long weekend in Lake Tahoe too which was incredible (post coming soon! Or you can watch my weekly vlog!)

Palm Tree California

Small club sandwich at Big Bear Diner Sonoma

Hux eating bacon

Pretty house in Sonoma

Huxley in California

Huxley eating Baskin Robbins ice cream

Huxley at Sonoma Square Park

Hux eating a cookie

Mint It's It ice cream sandwich

Traintown Sonoma

Carousel at Sonoma Train Town Railroad February

Feeding goats at Sonoma Train Town

The Style Box at Sonoma Train Town

*This is a collaborative post

Our first week in America!

To quote Adele, hello from the otherside! We’ve been here a week now and are nicely settled into our house in Sonoma so I thought I’d do a bit of an update as to what we got up to over the past week. (You can also watch my weekly vlog if you’d prefer to see it in video form!)

Hux was an absolute angel on the flight. I was a bit worried about taking an active 2-year-old on an 11 hour plane journey but he did really well. He fell asleep literally the second the plane took off and slept for about 2 hours. Once he woke up he was so well behaved (thanks iPad!) and the only time he cried was when we came to land because I think his ears were hurting him. So all in all, it was a win!

We spent the first 3 days in San Francisco which was a bit crazy and busy due to the SuperBowl which happened on Sunday. It was the 50th one and security was nuts in the city. We had to walk through body scanners and everything just to get to the Ferry Building! Our first meal is always at Gotts Roadside. It’s one of my favourite places to eat in the city and one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. The garlic fries are insane.

Ferry Building SuperBowl50 San Francisco

Bay Bridge at dusk San Francisco

Jetlagged Hux

The next morning we woke up at 2am (thanks jet lag!) and lazed around until about 5am when Hux started getting restless so we walked to Bob’s Donuts which is possibly the best place ever. It’s open 24 hours and they make the softest, most incredible doughnuts – and it’s SO CHEAP. It’s not at all fancy and we love it so much.

Bob's Donuts San Francisco

Hux eating Bob's Donuts

After that we did a bit of shopping in downtown and Nick bought me a new North Face down jacket for my birthday. Then we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf (which we hate but we wanted to visit the Patagonia store there) before going to the Exploratorium as it just so happened to be their quarterly free entrance day. The Exploratorium was AMAZING! So much better than I was expecting. It’s a bit like the Science Museum in London but everything is hands-on so it would keep kids entertained for HOURS. Hux was probably a bit little but he had fun running around. If you had kids that are like 8+ they would have a blast. From there we walked to Nick’s happy place, Red’s Java House. We turned up at like 4.02pm and they shut at 4pm in the winter but luckily the guy took pity on us and let us in for a beer and a cup of tea!

San Francisco Exploratorium

Red's Java House San Francisco

On Wednesday we basically spent the whole day at Dolores Park as the weather was beautiful and obviously visited Tartine. I know I say this about everything, but you really can’t miss Tartine if you visit San Francisco. It’s so perfect.

Dolores Park San Francisco

Quiche at Tartine San Francisco

Tartine San Francisco

Hux

The Style Box Dolores Park

On Thursday we went to Outer Sunset to visit Mollusk Surf Shop before hanging out on Ocean Beach and watching the enormous waves crashing onto the beach. Then we drove to the Warming Hut so that Huxley could get a proper look at the Golden Gate Bridge. We also spotted Miss Universe having her photo taken while we were there!

San Francisco Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Hux at GGB

After that we drove to Moraga as we were staying with Nick’s friends for a few nights. It was super beautiful and we had a great time, although I didn’t really take any photos while we were there. On Friday they took us to Tilden Park which is a big mountain with incredible views of San Francisco (seriously though, it’s now my life goal to buy one of the houses on the side of the mountain with that view!). It also has a pretty lake, a farm and rather randomly, a carousel.

View of San Francisco from Tilden Park

Carousel at Tilden Park California

Saturday morning we got up and went to Walnut Creek as my iPhone needed upgrading so that we could use the American sim cards we’d bought. I needed a new one anyway and am due an upgrade in June but it’s nice to have it a bit early! Then we just made our way to Sonoma and got settled in our new house (for the month!) before heading to Safeway to buy lots of yummy food (read: mainly avocados).

On Sunday a friend of ours invited us to his house to watch the Superbowl. He’s really into barbecue, which is how him & Nick met and he made some amazing food. We didn’t watch any football but Hux had a great time running around the pool and throwing a ball in and getting it out with the net!

Now I’m just settling in to life in Sonoma. I’ll admit I haven’t found it easy the past few days. Don’t get me wrong, Sonoma is gorgeous and there’s tons to do here in the way of beautiful hikes and the weather has been incredible but Huxley has been a total pain. He’s probably just missing home and is a bit confused but he’s just been in one of those moods where he won’t listen to what I’m saying, he won’t do anything I ask him to and all he wants to do it sit around watching TV and eating junk food. He fell asleep at 5pm today though (hence how I finally have the time to write a blog post!) so maybe he’s just exhausted. Who knows?!

Cafe Boscanova & an Aztec print wrap

So, good news! Nick went to the hospital this week and his broken leg is finally mended! Hoorah! That means no more stupid plastic Lego-man boot and more importantly, he can drive again! Wooohooo! That means that every single 10-minute trip to Screwfix or Bradfords or the tip doesn’t have to be a big family affair anymore! (I hope you can tell by the number of exclamation points in that paragraph how excited I am by this!)

I’m going to try and get back into the swing of daily posts, or at least, more frequent posts because let’s be honest, I work from home so some days I literally sit in the house in my pyjamas all day and nobody wants to see that! (I realise I’m now posting this on Tuesday but I had a very busy weekend painting our lounge and was too exhausted to sort all of this out!) The upside of being self-employed is that my day-to-day life is actually quite varied. I used to blog nearly every day when I first started blogging and I worked in an office 9-5pm so it can’t have been that interesting! That was way back when you could wear any old outfit on your blog and take the pictures in your bedroom and it was all good! No photographer boyfriends, marble-backed flat lays or swanky lattes in sight!

So I’m going back to basics. And if that means that you see the same t-shirt a couple of times then so be it. It’s real. It’s who I am. And nobody likes pretending to be something they’re not.

Today we went into town as Nick had a meeting and I went off to see my friend while we waited for him to finish. Then we popped to Zara to pick up a new winter coat for Huxley and I picked up the blanket wrap I’ve been lusting after from Marks and Spencer. (Although I could easily have bought at least four others in there. Their blanket wrap game is strong this season!)

Marks and Spencer Limited Edition Aztec Print Hooded WrapMarks and Spencer blanket cape with hood

Wrap: Marks & Spencer | Top: H&M | Leggings: H&M | Shoes: Tesco

In between all the lounge-painting that happened this weekend, we did manage to sneak off to our favourite breakfast spot, Cafe Boscanova, for a bit of a break!

Hux Cafe BoscanovaHux colouring in BoscanovaCafe BoscanovaBoscanovaPlaying with Woody and Buzz Lightyear

(This one’s just a random shot from dinner that night because the light in our kitchen was nice!)

Hux

I’ve mentioned here and there about trying to go away long-haul before Huxley turns two as after that, you have to pay full adult fare. With everything that’s going on with the house at the moment I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’re REALLY excited about Sri Lanka but the weather just isn’t right at this time of year and we’d rather pay the extra bit of air fare to go in Jan/Feb when the weather is going to be perfect. We have been looking at some more low cost holidays just to try and get away for a bit of winter sun. Somewhere like Morocco would be perfect as Marrakesh would be busy and street-foody and exotic enough to keep Nick happy while still being warm enough for Huxley to splash about in a pool.