A holiday photo diary written by a blogger? I'm so original.
You might have read my post a little while back about my love of a staycation in the UK because it's all me and my family have ever done. Every time I've been aboard it's been sans la fam and to me, a family holiday is a little cottage somewhere in the UK with plenty of cream teas and seaside. Can't beat it.
This year as I've mentioned 54895746 times, me and my boyfriend hopped on my parents holiday (soz guys) cos we couldn't afford to go anywhere and lol their accommodation had a spare room....it's like it was fate.
We stayed in a gorgeous new build cottage that was built to look like a rustic barn conversion in the arse end of nowhere on a turkey farm in Steep, Hampshire. Except lol when we got there it had better wifi than I have at home and Netflix so the rural life was not so ahem, rural.
Staying so close to the Hampshire border (we were like 5 minutes from Petersfield) we were able to go pretty much everywhere with ease. West Sussex was about 15 minutes away, we popped into Berkshire briefly about 50 minutes away, the heart of The New Forest was an hour and a half away and Portsmouth/Southampton were probably only an hour. We even made it over to the Isle of Wight with ease. Idk, maybe when you're on holiday you don't want to jump in the car for an hour but for a family whose mother enjoyed rally driving in her youth, it doesn't really faze us.
Most of the fortnight me and my boyfriend spent with my parents and travelled about in their car for ease (a Ford Focus fits 4 people MUCH more comfortably than my baby C1). We basically wanted to go see most of the same places and revisit our old haunts (looking at you Lymington, Lyndhurst, Portsmouth & IOW) so we stuck around together. On a few days that they wanted to go off and do their own thing i.e visit gardens, me and Joss had a lie on, made dinner for ourselves and then met them somewhere in the afternoon. I put Joss on my car insurance for the fortnight and left his C1 (yes, matching cars guys) at home cos it's an old lady compared to mine. This meant we shared the drive down and the drive home and he could drive around Hampshire when I needed to navigate and I could drive when he wanted a pint. It worked REALLY well considering it's the first holiday we've been on where I could drive and bizarrely, having him on my insurance not only didn't cost me extra, I actually received a refund on my policy of £2.19. Go figure.
Places I'd Recommend:
Any National Trust property within Sussex or Hampshire. I'm going to do a post on the Nat Trust in a few weeks but me and my Mum & Dad are all members and I got the value of my membership back in 3 visits. You know what you're getting with a National trust property. Some kind of stately home, castle, abbey etc full of information and history, a beautiful countryside location, maybe a lake or two and some formal gardens to boot. They're a solid day out and normally have amazing lunches too. We went to Petworth House, Mottisfont Abbey and Uppark whilst we were away.
RHS Wisley. Now I'm not all that big on visiting gardens that are gardens and nothing else. My mum is a member of a Horticultural Society and is a big gardening buff so she loves them so we always go to a few on our travels. Wisley is the Royal Horticultural Society's flagship branch and I have to say, it's something else. I happened to go on the hottest day of the year so I couldn't even see it all because I was melting but it was stunning and your Instagram grid would thank you for taking it there. It's also where I bought Rico the pin flamingo watering can so there's that too.
Portsmouth Dockyard. I have been to Portsmouth too many times to remember in my years holidaying down that way. I have done the Spinnaker Tower 3 times, I've done the historic dockyard 3 times and I've done Gunwharf more times than I'd like to admit. However, this year we decided to do the side we'd never done before - we decided to go to the opposite side of the docks and see what Gosport had to offer. It's literally opposite the Spinnaker and Gunwharf and the Victory and we spent the day at the Submarine Museum and Explosion! a museum of weapons and bombs and um well, explosions. So it might not be your thing, I have to admit explosion didn't interest me and Mum all that much but Joss and my Dad LOVED it. Even though the subject matter wasn't my shabang, I could appreciate what a fabulous museum it was and how much information was there - oh and they had a sign up outside saying there was a rare Pokemon in there so Pokemon Go fans should definitely head down. If you are into all the naval history and you are down that way I'd 100% recommend buying a pass for all the historic dockyard attractions. It lasts for a whole year cos you'd never get round it in a day but gives you access to the Mary Rose, HMS Victory, Explosion, the Submarine Museum and I don't even know what else (I think there was 10 attractions).
Places To Eat:
Eating for once was not one of our main priorities whilst we were away, so unlike me. We tended to just grab something from Maccies or Beefeater or Harvester or something on our way home from places so seeking out cute little country pubs and the like was something we never found the time to do.
We did however eat a lot of lunches in attractions, particularly English Heritage or National Trust properties and whilst they can be really super expensive for a dinner, the food is to die for. Whatever you do, you MUST have a cream tea in a National Trust property, they are incredible.
If you're in Portsmouth, Gunwharf Quays can be a bit overwhelming for eating out because there are SO MANY options. We ate at The Slug & Lettuce and I honestly can't recommend it enough. Be savvy with your timings because it got heaving and they didn't have any tables by the time we were eating (I think we nabbed the last but one) but it's essentially under the Spinnaker Tower. The view is INSANE and they have eating outside too which you should make the most of on a nice day. You know where you are with a Slug & Lettuce but this one was something else, simply because of the location. Oh and they had 50% off on a Monday which is when we ate and the bill came to less than 4 jacket potatoes in Arundel Castle FYI.
If you want cute cafe's then you NEED to go to The Buttery in Chichester. Just on the high street in the shadow of the cathedral, it's in the crypt (yes you read correctly) and it is ADORABLE. It's so reasonably priced, the portions are huge, the toasties are to die for and there's table service which you don't always get in a caff. It's so Instagrammable you will die.
On the Isle of Wight we ate at our old haunts; The Old Smithy in Godshill for the BIGGEST lunches you will ever see and the chippy attached to The Amusements & Jungle Crazy Golf in Shanklin which does some of the nicest chippy chicken nuggets I have ever eaten.
Tips For Visiting:
If you can, stay on the border.....any of them. Staying that bit further out of The New Forest means prices for accommodation are brought down ten fold and you're still close enough to explore. Being on one of the borders means easy access to a bunch of other counties you might not have been to yet and 9 times out of 10 there's an A road or a motorway close enough to get you where you need to be, fast.
Use discounts. We had loooooads of Tesco Clubcard vouchers to use up and if you didn't know, if you use them as 'DaysOut' tokens, the value is QUADROUPLED. We used vouchers in multiple places and it even paid for our ferry over to The Isle of Wight, something that can end up being really expensive. Other than that, investigate a National Trust card before you go. If you think you're going to be going to a few properties it's probably worth signing up. It's expensive in one go but you make the value back very very quickly and then you have it for the whole year to use again and again. It also gets you into some Nat Trust car parks for free which is always a bonus. And if you don't go for either of them, google where you want to go beforehand. Nearly all of the places we went to had discounts if you bought the tickets online instead of on the day and most of them just needed to be used up in a month, not booked for a specific day. I also managed to get us money off two Beefeater meals buy using the points on my reward card for money off vouchers and we got into the cinema for free using my Odeon reward card too.
The Benefits Of A Staycation:
I am a big advocate of the staycation, especially when money is tight. Don't get me wrong, you can sometimes get a flight to Spain cheaper than a cottage in Devon but if you do it right, it doesn't have to cost too much.
The absolute biggest benefit of a staycation for me is taking the car. Even though there's only 4 of us on our family holidays these days (soz brother and family), we still take 2 cars. It just gives us the flexibility of sharing the driving, of going to separate places and oh my lord the space. Gone are the days of capsule wardrobe packing, with a car I can take what I want and fill it. And when it comes to coming home? Gone are the days of paying extra baggage because you bought too many souvenirs. Gone are the days of worrying how to get that vase home to your mother, with a car, everything can pile in. Need extra space? Put the back seats down.
You know what you're getting. If you're a fussy eater like me, knowing you're on home turf when it comes to dinner is a big advantage. If you also have dietary requirements or an allergy like me, you're onto a winner. No need to learn how to say 'I have a nut allergy' in whatever language the country you're going to speaks, when you're still in the UK chances are you're eating in the same places as at home and you know where you are.
You're close to home. Being in the UK means no phone charges. Having a brother and his fiancé at home and even better, my niece at home, it was easy to stay in contact, FaceTime and text without any pesky charges. Same goes for my grandparents and the neighbours looking after my Mum's garden (lol heatwave). It also means if god forbid something did happen at home, it was only a dash back up the motorway should we need to be there. The biggest advantage of still being in the UK in my mother's opinion was that she had booked a trip (she's Trips Secretary of her Horticultural Society) for the first week we were away. Her coach was going to Highclere Castle, home of Downton Abbey which is so popular she had to book it two years in advance. Cue booking our summer holidays and whadda ya know, the only fortnight my Dad and Joss could have off was during trip week. Luckily for Momma Rees, we stayed a mere 50 minutes away from Highclere so the coach drove up from Wales and she met them in Highclere so she could still go and enjoy it. Having said that, it was fucking weird seeing my next door neighbours and my Mum's besties plus some of the people I work for whilst I was on hols. Can't have it all.
Cheers to my Dad for getting in my photos there.
We had SUCH a good staycation and honestly I cannot recommend that part of the world enough. We've been down that way so many times since I was so young and just driving into the New Forest or off the Ferry onto IOW just made me beam - it really is my happy place.