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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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Travelling Made Easier Thanks To Fox

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Travel | Posted on 21-08-2015

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We’re a little over halfway through the summer holidays and I’m sure long journeys have been undertaken with the children to get away for a week or so. We’ve just got back from a weeks staycation at my in-laws, but I’m sure lots of you have been off to sunnier climes and no doubt some of you have found yourselves trailing the kids through the airport and onto long flights to get there.

We’ve not put either of our boys on to a plane yet, but its something we’ll inevitably do at some point in the future. Whilst the idea of lengthy flights with bored confined children is bad enough, the hour or two or more you have to hang around an airport before you can even depart strikes me as torturous. Thanks to a new initiative by Fox though, departing from Gatwick might not be too bad.

As of last week (August 10th) they launched a new service where holidaymakers can download movies onto their portable devices – phones, tablets, laptops, etc – from their “Movies On The Move” selection before they travel whilst at the airport. Films include Night At The Museum, Penguins Of Madagascar, and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. So many short haul flights or package holidays don’t have in-flights movies so keeping the children entertained is vital.

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For me this service would also be indispensable whilst waiting at the airport itself, and clearly cheaper then taking the kids around the duty free shops! And what’s even better is that films will be available to download via a free, high speed, wireless, broadband connection in the children’s soft play area, located in the upper South Terminal departure lounge. And you can also download a special “Movie Of The Day” app which will give you special flash sale prices on selected movies meaning you can set your child up with with lots of quality entertainment for less. Result.

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I think this sounds brilliant. Little Man is addicted to his tablet so would no doubt love being able to watch movies whilst we wait at the airport and on-board. I can see us taking the boys on a short haul flight in the years to come so we would all benefit hugely from this service. Long haul with these two will have to wait!

Review: Tommee Tippee Steri Bottle

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Information, Product Reviews, Travel | Posted on 10-11-2014

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On my recent trip to the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough I decided I didn’t want to drag our steriliser all that way just for one night, and what was eventually just a few hours in the hotel. Its a large, though essential piece of equipment and as you will all know packing space is often at a premium when travelling with babies. We are Tommee Tippee fans here, having used their bottles and equipment with Little Man and repeating this with Little Dude. A few weeks before my trip I was offered the chance, purely by coincidence to review their brand new Steri-Bottles, and thought I’d found the perfect solution.

Steri_Bottle_TommeeTippeeWe were sent two packs of their Steri-Bottle twin packs to test out on our trip. Little Dude has been using Tommee Tippee bottles since day one after a rather traumatic birth left me unable to even consider breastfeeding so I thought these bottles would be ideal for him. The bottles come ready to use and already sterile. They are incredibly well packed, and the instructions ensure you don’t touch the teat or the inside of the bottle when unpacking them or when preparing your feed. They are single use BUT are recyclable which I love. They sounded too good to be true.

Sadly for Little Dude they were. Despite almost six months of daily Tommee Tippee bottle use these bottles were not for him. The teats were too different to the ones he’s been using that he simply refused to drink from them. We use ready made formula which he isn’t the biggest fan of, much preferring it to be made fresh in the Perfect Prep machine, but whether it was cold or warm, or ready made or fresh, he just wouldn’t drink it. I’d taken some of his usual bottles with me too, so we had to do a bit of make shift sterilising by soaking bottles and teats in boiling water fresh from the kettle.

In theory these are brilliant. A safe sterile way of feeding your little one if you’re away for the night and can’t face lugging your steriliser with you. I guess the ultimate test is whether your baby is as fussy as mine! Great idea Tommee Tippee, sadly not for us though.

Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Travel | Posted on 06-11-2014

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Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel – a former farmhouse and barns all of which have been converted – which has, so I’m told, the reputation of being the best hotel in Yorkshire. After receiving the invitation to head north and review for them I checked out the website, looked at photos and even spent a little time reading up on it on travel review websites. As I’m sure you’ll agree, it looked stunning and sounded amazing – but could it really live up to its reputation? Would it be worth the 600 mile round trip? Here’s what we thought.

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Things certainly looked optimistic when we arrived. Hard to believe this photo was taken on the first weekend of November isn’t it? Admittedly it wasn’t hot by any means, but unseasonably warm certainly. A short walk up this path led us from the spacious car park to the hotel reception where we checked in. Now the hotel was expecting me to arrive with my husband so we’d actually been booked into the Honeymoon Suite. We’d arranged to have Afternoon Tea upon arrival so it was agreed that we’d eat that in there – we could of course have eaten in the hotel lounge, the bar or on the terrace, but we wanted to give Little Dude the chance to roll around after his journey – whilst they set us up with a twin suite. We were escorted to the suite and enjoyed a comfortable sit down whilst we waited a short time for our freshly made Afternoon Tea to arrive.

Ox-Pasture-Afternoon-Tea-SussexMummyOkay so its a bit of a shame that the table in the Honeymoon Suite was in front of a radiator, but I’m sure you can appreciate how impressive this Afternoon Tea looked. Two large fruit scones, four small jars of jam, some clotted cream, finger sandwiches – egg mayonnaise, roast beef and horseradish, and cream cheese and cucumber – which were crust free, a selection of miniature cakes – profiteroles, bite sized lemon meringue pies, tiny cheesecakes, chocolate brownie squares and a mint chocolate slice, as well we a large pot of tea. Now we’d seen photos of these Afternoon Teas before we’d set off so we’d eaten nothing since breakfast, and it was most definitely worth the wait. It goes without saying that the cakes were without doubt the highlight – though we were certainly ready for a cup of tea or two after our journey – but the sandwiches were delicious too. At £15 per person I think this is very well priced for the quality and quantity of food that you receive. We’d arrived a little later in the day than we had hoped – I blame the M1 for most of our trouble – so we were a little concerned that if we ate it all we’d be full for the day. This didn’t stop us from tucking in with gusto however and we thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful.

After eating our Afternoon Tea, changing Little Dude’s nappy and getting him some milk – though I’m pretty sure he wanted a cake – we were helped to our actual room for the evening. A spacious beautiful suite overlooking a pretty courtyard with a rather nice view of the gardens and Yorkshire countryside beyond.

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The suite was made up of three well sized rooms. A living area with two large chest of drawers, a large wardrobe, comfortable sofa, coffee table, TV set, and drinks facilities. There was a bedroom which had been set up with two single beds, a desk, a chest of drawers, another TV and a travel cot they’d set up for Little Dude’s use. Finally there was a bathroom which boasted a huge bath, two basins – all three coming with waterfall taps, a walk-in shower and a toilet. Now whilst the bedroom and living area were well equipped and comfortable, the bathroom was, for me, the highlight.
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The entire room was tiled floor and walls, with the suite itself a bright white with silver taps. Complimentary toiletries were supplied along with cotton buds, cotton wool and tissues. I thought this was a nice touch and something more than you may expect from hotel bathrooms. There were plenty of towels on offer and room for you to unpack your own bits and pieces. Sadly I didn’t have a bath – I’d probably never have gotten out if I had – but Nana did use the shower. Whilst she loved the large shower head the walk-in nature of it did result in a bit of a death trap. The “cubicle” had two walls and a glass partition, the fourth side was open to the rest of the bathroom. Whilst the floor in there did of course slope towards the plug Nana did manage to distribute water throughout most of the room. Either a steeper slope or a less enthusiastic shower head needed here I think.

Our original plan was to take dinner in the Courtyard Restaurant. Now as all parents know plans tend to need a bit of adjustment when small children are involved, and after spending the best part of the day in the car getting little sleep, Little Dude wasn’t in the best of moods. He wanted to roll around, have cuddles with Mummy and generally chill out – and who can blame in. We decided it would be best for him and the sanity of the other guests for us to eat in our room so we called reception and they brought over some menus. There was a great selection of meals on offer and it took a fair bit of deliberation before we settled on our dinner for the night. I started with Duck Liver Parfait with Melba Toast and Cranberry Compote, followed by the Beef dish which consisted of a Mini Beef Fillet, a Tender Brisket, Creamy Mash Potato, Mushroom Duxelle, Baby Turnips and Carrots. For dessert I chose the Lemon dish which included Cheesecake, Yogurt, Mousse and Ice Cream.

Ox-Pasture-Meal1-SussexMummyIt just looks incredible doesn’t it? Everything was so beautifully presented, so perfectly cooked, and SO delicious. Despite having eaten a substantial Afternoon Tea just a few hours before every last morsel from my dinner was eaten and thoroughly enjoyed. There was just enough and once I’d eaten I felt comfortably full. I hate getting a mountain of food in restaurants which is heavy and overly filling so you end up leaving so much of it and its such a waste. Not the case here. Don’t get me wrong, the servings were not small, it was just a well balanced meal and everything complimented everything else.

Nana went for three different courses. She began with Marinated Herring fillet, served with Pickled Cucumber and Tartar Dressing. To follow she enjoyed a Pork dish which was made up of Slow Cooked Belly, Tender Loin Stuffed with Apricot and Sage, Savoy Cabbage, Sautéed Potato, Homemade Black Pudding and Red Onion Marmalade. She finished with a Caribbean cocktail dessert which included Coconut Panacotta, Mango Rice Pudding, Passion Fruit Sorbet, and Pina Colada.

Ox-Pasture-Meal2-SussexMummy

Am I making you hungry yet?

Our meal was delivered efficiently and courteously to our room, the waiter tiptoeing in every time in case Little Dude was sleeping and for fear of waking him. We also had a bottle of wine brought over in an ice bucket, which was also lovely. You got the impression that nothing was too much trouble yet that they were acting as they would with any guest, not just us because they knew we were there to review. A truly professional service.

An excellent nights sleep followed – yes, even with a six month old who slept through till 6.30 – and after feeding him his milk and getting dressed we ventured over to the dining room for our breakfast. A high chair had been set up by our table ready for Little Dude who settled in quickly and tucked into his porridge whilst we waited for our cooked breakfast to arrive. There was the option of a Continental Breakfast with pastries, yogurts and fruit, but we chose to set ourselves up for the day. Large pots of tea were also supplied along with a rack of toast with a selection of jams. We went for the full Yorkshire breakfast, and as you can imagine we weren’t disappointed.
Ox-Pasture-Breakfast-SussexMummyPerfectly cooked bacon, delicious local sausages, mushrooms, black pudding, cooked tomato and the nicest scrambled egg I’ve ever eaten. In fact my breakfast looked so tasty that Little Dude decided it was rude of me not to share. Despite having eaten a bowl of porridge and half a fruit pouch, he also packed away half my scrambled egg. Hopefully I’ll manage to replicate it at home for him too.

I don’t have cooked breakfasts very often so this was something of a treat. I thoroughly enjoyed it all, and the beautiful setting of the restaurant overlooking another gloriously designed courtyard made for the perfect start to our morning.

Now sadly for us it was soon time for us to make our way home. Another epic journey down the M1 awaited, but not before a brief walk through the gorgeous gardens of the hotel. They were truly breathtaking and we commented time and time again how perfect they would be for wedding photos, with so many lovely spots. This was one of my personal favourites, the ideal place for the happy couple to take a breather during a hectic day. This cute pagoda is located in a quiet corner of the front garden. It would also be a lovely spot for a relaxing drink.

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The car soon beckoned and we reluctantly set off. We’d not spent very long at the hotel at all, but it had certainly made an impression. The staff were friendly and intent on ensuring everything was perfect for everyone, without being overbearing or in your face. The setting is breathtaking, and its hard to believe you are just a few minutes from the sea. The suite was perfect, ideal for couples enjoying a romantic break, but also just right for families with small children. The hotel was incredible, nothing was too much trouble, and whilst it is without doubt a luxury hotel you feel nothing but welcomed.

Without question I would heartily recommend this hotel to anyone. Was it worth the 600 mile round trip and the chaos of the M1? Without a doubt. You can find full details of the hotel, including rates and events on their website.

 

 

 

 

Review: The World Of Beatrix Potter, Bowness-On-Windermere

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Days Out, Holiday, Product Reviews, Travel | Posted on 19-09-2013

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No trip to Cumbria would be complete without a visit to The World Of Beatrix Potter, a delightful attraction in Bowness-On-Windermere all about the counties most famous and much loved resident. We were given free entry to the exhibition, but when you read on you won’t be surprised to learn that we returned again during our stay in the area as Little Man loved it so much.

From the outside the venue looks small but it is so well laid out they fit a wealth of information and entertainment in there. Your journey begins with a short film, less than 5 minutes long, talking about Beatrix and the books she wrote. Familiar images appear on the screen and even Little Man was transfixed. Upon ending a door opens as if by magic and you enter the World of Beatrix Potter. Beautifully set out you walk down a path where along the way you meet many well known characters from the books. There are also touchscreens where you can learn more about each book – available in 9 languages – which Little Man did enjoy poking. He merrily walked through the world looking at characters, pointing out animals he recognised, and waving at most of them as he went by.
Peter Rabbit was of course the most prominent character throughout, but you’ll also find Pigling Bland, Jemima Puddleduck, Jeremy Fisher, my favourite Miss Tiggywinkle, and many many more. The whole attraction is beautifully created and a paradise for fans young and old.

Despite the size of the attraction they have even managed to fit in a garden outside, just like Mr McGregor’s. Plants, vegetables and flowers are set about in a lovely compact garden complete with the famous scarecrow made from Peter’s blue jacket and a commemorative statue featuring the famous rabbit and his friends. Keep your eyes open for Mr McGregor though – you never know when he might pop up and find you.

Wandering back inside you continue though the displays before you reach a larger room which tells you more about the life of Beatrix Potter, where she lived and how she fell in love with Cumbria. There are yet more great interactive areas, include a large touch screen table where you can colour in drawings of the characters, and a large wall screen which is controlled by a small touch screen nearby. This takes you on a virtual walk through the much loved parts of the Lake District where Beatrix’s books were set or where she got her inspiration from. You get to see her home there – Hill Top Farm (a National Trust site now which you can visit) – and the stunning surrounding areas. There is also another short film to enjoy as well as plenty details about her long life and the people who appeared in it.

A final walk past yet more models and displays brings you out in the gift shop. It is incredibly well stocked with books, DVDs, ornaments and toys featuring most of the characters you’ve just met. Admittedly its a little on the pricey side – Little Man’s new Peter Rabbit toy cost £14.99 which seemed a tad steep – but its not wholly unexpected. Entry into the attraction itself is great value for money – just £6.95 per adult and £3.65 for over 3’s – so there’s enough left for a little souvenir.

Once you’ve visited the attraction it is suggested you pop downstairs to the tea room. We didn’t do this on our first visit as we had so much to do, but on our return we started out trip with lunch in the tea rooms. It is family friendly of course, with a child’s lunch box available which is always a winner with Little Man. Its very well priced – my High Tea consisted of sandwiches, scone with jam and cream, two small cakes and a pot of tea for just under £8 – and everything we had was delicious and freshly made to order. A great treat.

The World of Beatrix Potter is a wonderful attraction for all ages which even Daddy was happy to do twice in three days. A well organised and well thought out site for fans young and old. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Travel: The Volvo V60

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Camping, Product Reviews, Travel | Posted on 16-09-2013

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We are just returned from a week away in Cumbria. If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll be aware that its been a very busy and packed week visiting lots of tourist spots across the county from our based beside Ullswater. There’s going to be a series of posts on our week away, but first up is my review of the transport we had to get around.

You’ll remember a few weeks ago I borrowed a Volvo V70 for a few days, driving it to Longleat with my family, and then down to Southampton before my trip over to Cowes. Well for my camping adventure to Cumbria the team at Volvo sent me a V60 to use.

I was sent the V60 D2 Business Edition which comes with a built in sat nav, Bluetooth connectivity, six speed gearbox, rear parking sensors, and has no road tax to pay. It’s a diesel engine with amazing fuel consumption and low emissions, so is ideally suited to long journeys. During the course of the 10 days we had the car for we did 1100+ miles so this was the perfect car from that point of view. It was also incredibly comfortable which was essential as we spent many hours in it driving up and down the country, and we found the sat nav indispensable for getting us from attraction to attraction. The car was incredibly responsive whilst being steered on the roads and hills throughout Cumbria, and I felt like the tyres were gripping the road the entire time. The area has a lot of single track roads with passing points and lots of steep hills to go up and down. I always felt totally in control of the car which is of the utmost importance when you’re travelling with your child in the car. The automatic windscreen wipers and headlights also meant I just had to focus on driving.

Whilst I am certain this car was the right choice for our long journey with regards to its fuel efficiency, its comfort and its sat nav, I did have a couple of problems with it.

The boot capacity was dire. You never travel light with children, but we didn’t take anything that we didn’t use. We had clothes and a pile of camping equipment. We didn’t have a tent thankfully as I don’t think it would have fit in! The boot was rammed full, we were unable to close the retractable parcel shelf, and the back seat and foot wells were full too. There was a hidden tray beneath the floor of the boot, but to be fair not much fit in there as it was so shallow. I did like the clip to hold it open though. Packing and unpacking was something of a logistical nightmare to be honest, and I do wonder if the V70 would have been a better choice because of its immense boot space. Saying that we were after something economical to drive, and the V60 was certainly that.

My other main gripe was with the switches. As I mentioned before the headlights had an automatic option, or you could adjust them manually. The dial for this, the release button for the diesel tank cover, and the boot opening button were grouped together to the right of the steering wheel. Unfortunately I couldn’t see these switches without peering around the steering wheel and the windscreen wiper stalk – hardly safe when you’re on the move! The Sat Nav was a pleasure to have in the car, but it was also a menace.  A dozen and one buttons, controls and notifications to deal with. I’m so glad my husband was in the car with me to deal with this. Again, not something you want to be distracted by in transit.

On the whole the V60 was a pleasure to drive, and a great car for long journeys. We had the Business Edition which is primarily marketed as a company car, but also makes a reliable, economical and comfortable family vehicle. Unfortunately though it was a little short on boot capacity which made transporting things an issue. Not the ideal vehicle if you’re off camping, but certainly one to consider if you’re looking for something economical and eco friendly.

Travel: What’s Your Favourite City?

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Holiday, Information, Travel | Posted on 03-07-2013

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Do you have a favourite city? I do. I’ve recently come back from two nights in Dublin, my favourite city. The break was short, but much needed. Two nights on my own in the city I love . For the first time in a long time I was just me, not someones wife, or mother, and not a blogger or writer. I wasn’t working – well, I did have my phone on me so did do a bit of emailing but I wasn’t really working – I could just do what I wanted, when I wanted. And it got me thinking. What is it about this city that pulls me in and makes me want to return so many times?

I first went to Dublin in 1998. It was the first year of my A-levels and a friend of mine and I went on a day trip. We took the ferry from Liverpool with his mum and sister – a very early start if I recall. The pretense of the trip was a bit of a booze run, but I wanted to see the city. Back then the attraction for me was a boyband I liked at the time – I’m sure I’m not alone in being a Boyzone fan – not that I was expecting to bump into any of them. I’d seen the city on one of their videos and, being something of a fan of the Irish accent, wanted to go and see it for myself. I didn’t realise then that it would be the first of many trips I’ve taken over there in the last 15 years. The fact that my friend and I returned ourselves for a day trip a few months later should perhaps have been a hint though.

My first big trip to Dublin came at the end of 1999. The very end in fact. I went with a good friend from Norway to Dublin for New Year. The turn of the Millennium seemed as good a reason as any to go to Dublin, and this time I’d be staying for a few days as opposed to a few hours. The appeal had changed a little from that first trip. The music was still prominent – the new Irish boyband of Westlife were in fact responsible for my becoming friends with my co-traveller – but we were also off to see Temple Bar and all it had to offer. Lots of alcohol if I recall. My main advice is to never be in a city changing its national currency if you’re likely to be hungover. The change to the Euro occurred on January 1st 2000, and it was baffling.

From the year 2000 I have returned numerous times, at least once a year up until recently. I’ve been for New Years again, St Patricks Day, on trips with my Mum, my Norwegian friend, and in more recent times my husband and even his family. I have so many incredible memories that all stem from that city. Shopping till we literally couldn’t lift our suitcases with my crazy Norwegian friend, a friend I also accompanied to Sligo for the day in early 2002 when I nearly got hit by a car. The car was being driven by one of Westlife, so not all bad. Watching a St Patricks Day parade before a night out which largely included green drinks and some very dubious walking. My last trip to Dublin with her occurred in 2008, just a few months after I was married. We went to Croke Park for a huge Westlife concert and that was an unforgettable night in itself. I returned again on my first solo trip just a few weeks later to do some genealogical research for my new in laws, or at least that was the reason I gave at the time.

River Liffey Dublin City Ireland Hapenny Bridge

My last visit to Dublin for many years was in 2009. My husband was turning 30 and his younger twin brothers were turning 21. Clearly a cause for celebration and their parents had the genius idea of going to Dublin to do it. Needless to say the younger members of the party spent a lot of time in and around Temple Bar for the few days we were there, and I was a bit like Tourist Information having been quite as many times as I had.

From 1998 to 2009 I went to Dublin at least once a year every year. A cycle I planned to continue, but pregnancy and Little Man’s arrival soon put a stop to that. Returning this last week was a pleasure. I spent two full days in the city and for the first time didn’t step one foot into Temple Bar. I frequented Grafton Street and Henry Street – shops galore – and spent a delightful two hours sat in the sunshine of St Stephens Green reading a book. I ate leisurely breakfasts in cafes – Bewley’s Grafton Street is a MUST. I rode the hop-on hop-off bus around the city, taking in the sights, hiding from the rain, and remembering great times. The bus is something I have done every time I’ve visited. Its such fun and so convenient. The numerous buskers – of varying skills – that litter the main shopping streets are always a hit, whether they are singing, playing music, or attempting to look like statues. The highlight of my latest trip was an evening out with a good friend. The last time I saw him was during my second visit of 2008 so it had been far too long. You wont be surprised to learn he has a musical connection to my story, having been in an Irish boyband himself several years ago.

Dublin Grafton Street Performers Buskers Statues

My reasons for going to Dublin have changed since that first trip 15 years ago, but my love of the city hasn’t. I wish I could put my finger on what it is about the city that makes me return year upon year. I just recall feeling at home there even back then on my first visit, and that feeling was as strong this week as ever before. Will I be going back? You better believe it. Trips to Dublin will be something I always do, and I hope to take Little Man with me soon. Yes, I may well venture out of the city on my next trip, but I suspect Dublin will always be at the heart of it.

What’s YOUR favourite city?