My husband and I were lucky enough to win a Valentine’s package at Bournemouths Oceana hotels that includes a one night stay at The Cumberland, drinks at The Suncliff, a spa treatment at the Ocean Beach & Day spa and dinner at The Royale.
First up was a spa treatment at the Ocean Beach & Day spa, as soon as you walk in there is a relaxing atmosphere about the place, you have soft lighting, candles, relaxing music and it is nice and warm. We each had a 30 minute treatment, I chose an Indian head massage and Dean had a shoulders neck and back massage, they were both amazing and we felt very relaxed after, the staff were very friendly and professional.
We were given a fantastic 3 course meal at The Royale, the service was fast and very professional. Each course was presented elegantly and we couldn’t wait to tuck in and we were not disappointed. We had the Chinese menu and the chow mein and sweet and sour pork were delicious. We cannot praise the staff enough they were fantastic.
We were given drinks at The Suncliff hotel, once again the staff were fantastic. There is a good choice of drinks and plenty of seating here, this is a nice quiet bar and ended a great day for us.
We spent the night at The Cumberland hotel, we had a superior room which was clean and spacious. The amazing thing about this room was the terrace overlooking the beach, there is enough room for a table, chairs and two sunbeds, this would be fantastic in the summer. Inside there is plenty of storage, you have a safe, kettle, hairdryer and free WiFi but unfortunately no fridge. The bed is large and very comfortable, there is a decent sized tv on the wall with plenty of channels and a decent sized bathroom which was very clean.
Breakfast is a basic buffet which includes a cooked breakfast and a continental breakfast of pastries, cereals, yogurts and fruit. There is a good sized pool on the grounds but unfortunately it was too cold for us to try it out.
Ok there are a couple of negatives, the room is in need of updating ( they are currently refurbishing some rooms) and the window needs a good clean. The car park is too small for the size of the hotel and you will be lucky to get a space. But the staff in all four hotels were incredible and a real credit to Oceana, we can’t praise them enough.
What is better on a Sunday morning but a nice long walk to blow the cobwebs away, we decided to take our dog to the New Forest which is a short drive from us. The New Forest is situated in Hampshire and is an impressive 150 square miles. On our particular walk we went to Rhinefield Ornamental Drive which has several walks, we decided to walk The Tall Trees Trail which is 1.5 miles long, here you will see Giant Redwoods and Douglas firs. Two of the tallest trees in the New Forest, the Redwoods, are here and are around 150 years old.
One and a half miles wasn’t quite long enough for us so we went off trail and walked another two miles. There are cycle paths and picnic areas and the scenery around you is just stunning. The New Forest is definately a fantastic place to visit and is nature at its best.
Compton Acres is a large privately owned garden in Poole Dorset founded by Thomas William Simpson in 1920. There are a number of themed gardens which are just stunning, we went in March and plan to go back in the summer when more of the flowers have bloomed but what we saw was beautiful especially the Heather garden.
The Wooded Valley was designed to reflect the beauty of Mother Nature with as little evidence of man’s intervention as possible.
The Rock and Water garden is one of the largest privately owned rock gardens in England, its construction used many hundred tonnes of rock.
The Heather garden has over 100 different forms of heathers, it is particularly beautiful in early spring.
The Japanese garden is regarded as one of the best and most authentic in Britain.
The Italian garden is designed to be enjoyed as a spectacle with water, fountains and topiary.
The gardens include lots of steps and bridges but you get a choice of an alternative path that will exclude these. There is plenty of seating scattered throughout the gardens so there is plenty of opportunity to rest. There is a cafe with a good selection of food and drink however it is a little pricey but with all the seating in the grounds a picnic would be ideal. The carpark is free with plenty of space and there is a gift shop which I loved it is full of different items from plants to books and children’s toys.
An adult price is £8.45 and it is open all year round, all in all a good day out.
My husband and I love to try out new products so we were delighted to get the chance to try Optrex’s new product, the Warming Eye mask. We turned the tv off, sent the children up to their rooms and made sure our dog was in her bed, we wanted 10 minutes quiet to try our new product.
The purpose of the Warming Eye Mask is to relieve and relax tired eyes in 10 minutes, perfect for someone that has been in front of a computer screen all day or a traveller on a long haul flight but just as good for 10 minutes relaxation.
The mask comes in a sealed packet, once opened you unfold the straps, put the white side over your closed eyes and easily slip the straps over your ears, it is a comfortable fit. It took around 30 seconds before we noticed the heat coming through and at around 5 minutes I would say it was at its hottest, but not uncomfortably so, it felt incredibly relaxing and reminded me of being pampered in a spa. The mask had almost completely cooled by around 10 minutes and when I took the mask off my eyes felt refreshed, this lasted for about 2 hours.
The masks cost around £4.00, they are disposable but you get two in a pack. Overall we think it is a good product if you need a quick fix for tired eyes.
Avon Heath in Dorset is a great place for a family walk, there are treasure trails and family activity trails. There is miles of heathland so it’s a great place to wear the children and dogs out and it is well signposted so you won’t get lost.
There is wildlife and some rarer species to look out for are Sand Lizards, Smooth Snakes, Woodlarks and Nightjars.
There is a fun play area for the kids as well as a large picnic area and a cafe, all day parking is just £3.70.
The chocolate Easter egg trail is great fun my boys loved to do this when they were younger. You go around the heathland finding clues and marking down the write species in your paper at the end you get a nice chocolate surprise. This year it starts on the 8th April to 23rd April. * A small fee applies *
Being a nice day we decided to walk from our home in Poole to Sandbanks, it really is gorgeous down there and when the sun is shining it has a Miami feel to it. The beach is very clean and has fine golden sand, there is also a cafe, children’s playground and crazy golf. The harbour is perfect for windsurfing and as a child I remember collecting cockles with my family.
On the Sandbanks peninsula you have Rick Steins restaurant, with it being only 10am we were too early for food but we had a delicious hot chocolate and to our pleasant surprise we were given a free slice of cake which was divine.
We only saw the drinks menu but there is so much choice, being a gin fan I was pleased to see about 10 different gins on the menu some I hadn’t even heard of. We look forward to going back and trying out the evening menu.
In February 2017 we decided to join a ramblers group, we love to walk and visit beautiful landscapes so it made sense to us to join a local group and find new scenic walks.
Our first ramble was a 6 mile hilly walk at Swanage and Studland. I was surprised at just how fit the group were, bearing in mind they are about 20 years older than ourselves ( we are in our 30’s ). We struggled to keep up and would have liked to take more time to see the sights but we didn’t want to keep the group waiting. February probably isn’t the best time of year to start this activity as it was very cold and there was alot of mud. We walked from Swanage to Studland and Old Harry Rocks, after a brief rest we carried on to Agglestone Rock.
Agglestone Rock is a sandstone block of about 400 tonnes in weight perched on a conical hill. It is a beautiful sight out in the middle of nowhere, if you are ever in Poole I recommend seeing this precious sight. We were glad when the walk was over as we were exhausted but we look forward to the next one.
My husband was lucky enough to win us a 2 week meditteranean cruise on P & O’s newest and largest ship Britannia visiting places such as Cadiz, Cartegena, Barcelona, Rome, Livorno and Guernsey.
We had never been on a cruise before and even though we were incredibly excited we were a little anxious in case we got sea sick and after hearing horror stories about the dreaded sickness and diarrhoea bug I had pictures of us being confined to our cabin for the duration of the trip. But we needn’t have worried we loved it and it is one of our favourite holidays to take.
One thing I hate about flying is the waiting around in busy airport terminals. Getting checked in to go on the ship was incredibly easy, before we even got in the Southampton terminal our luggage was taken from us and would be sent straight to our cabin. A few weeks before departure you are given an allotted time of when to check in which stops the terminal from being overcrowded, there were still alot of people but there are plenty of seats, we waited about 20 minutes before we were called to the check in desk. We were then given our key card for the room which they link up to your bank account and as well as your key you use it to pay for everything on the ship, your drinks, shop purchases and the casino which I think is a fantastic idea as you don’t need to carry cash around with you.
After a quick walk through security you are on the ship, there are plenty of lifts and stairs for everyone to use, there are plenty of signs and room numbers telling you where to go and we found our cabin quite quickly.
We were lucky enough to have a superior deluxe cabin which consisted of a balcony, a lounge area with sofa, desk, small table and tv, a double bed and tv and a bathroom with a toilet, bath and shower. The cabin was spotlessly clean and we were equipped with a safe, plenty of hangers, hairdryer, binoculars and a fridge.
We had a lovely lady assigned to our room for a daily clean, fresh towels and in the evening she would bring us an Horizon newsletter which lets you know all of the next days activities.
Our Cabin was near the top deck so early in the morning we would hear sun loungers being moved about but that is the only negative.
There is so much to do on the ship that you will never get bored, its impossible to name everything here but these are a few of my highlights.
On our particular trip we had the option to have a cookery lesson with Marco Pierre White, the cost is a little pricey at £100 but i believe it is worth it, its something to tell friends how many people do you know that has cooked with Marco ?
In our lesson Alex James from Blur was also there to help us out. We were in a group of about 10 people and we had two dishes to cook, a lobster spaghetti and a parmesan risotto. Marco would talk us through the dish first then we would go off and do I ourselves under their guidance. I can honestly say Marco is nothing like his tv persona, he is an incredibly likable down to earth guy he even signed my son’s birthday card at the book signing.
There is a theatre that has something on every night it could be a musical, comedy show or magic act, there are two showings but i advise getting there in plenty of time as it will get full up. In The Live Lounge there is plenty of music acts, my favourites are the UB40 and Bon Jovi tributes acts. There is a cinema, library, casino, plenty of bars and restaurants and 4 pools which I advise getting there early if you want a sun bed. There are plenty of shops to browse in selling clothes, jewellery, books and snacks.
There is a spa on board, my husband and I had a hot stone massage, it was very nice but beware the heavy sales patter at the end trying to sell the Elemis products which are not cheap.
Once aboard you are allocated a restaurant for your evening meal, we were given the Peninsular but all the restaurants are very nice and you do get the option to change if you are not happy. For our evening meal we had four courses that might consist of risotto, grilled chicken, sticky toffee pudding, cheese and crackers and coffee. All of fantastic quality and very good service.
For breakfast you could go up to the buffet restaurant or have room service, which we did most of the time. They do a good continental and a cooked breakfast but watch out for the toast it could break teeth. For lunch you could go to the buffet restaurant or choose a sit down lunch in one of restaurants and eat four courses.
The food is included in the price, you pay for your drinks but there are deals on offer that you can get at time of booking or even when you are on the ship. There is so much food on offer throughout the day that you will be spoilt for choice.
We didn’t go on many excursions as we wanted to enjoy the ship while it was quiet and grab a sun bed. You can book your trips after you have booked your cruise there are a few different ones for each port, if there is one you would really like to do book quickly as they will get full up.
We got off at Barcelona as hubby wanted to see the Nou Camp, I personally wanted to go to the watermark, it was a good day, we had an enthusiastic tour guide full of knowledge. We would definately go on more excursions next time, the coaches pick you up from the port and bring you back a few hours later. If an excursion is not for you then you are able to get off the ship and do your own thing but please get back in time they won’t wait for you.
There are so many highlights on this trip, I have to give a shout out to the staff they can’t do enough for you and the service is fantastic. They do automatically take a tip for the staff for your card which is £5.50 a day if you feel that is too much you can get a form from reception and change the amount but to me, on this trip, they earned every penny.