Category: travel
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Lea Marston Hotel Review 2019.


Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel
*The Lea Marston hotel offered me a complimentary stay in exchange for an honest review*

Location: Haunch Ln, Lea Marston, Sutton Coldfield B76 0BY

The Lea Marston Hotel situated in Sutton Coldfield, a 20-minute drive from Birmingham city centre itself, is an enjoyable 4* experience with a choice of spa and gym facilities included within the price of the room, what's not to love. Whether you want a massage or to play a round of golf the hotel has plenty of offerings for you to indulge in. The hotel has recently undergone a variety of refurbishments which has revamped their on-site Hathaway's pub and also a complete revamp of the reception area along with the Aurtrim bar and conference rooms. In a secluded with location surrounded by grounds which are great to explore, sit in within the summer months and of course play a round or two of golf. 

On the day of our stay, Rob and I arrived and were able to easily park as there is a huge on-site car park, as we had both booked treatments, these were first up and I went straight in to enjoy my treatments which were a deep tissue back massage and  an Elemis facial, I paid £70 for two treatments which were 55 minutes in total, the massage was amazing one of the best I've ever had and I enjoyed the facial too. The only thing I would suggest for the facial is to be advised what Elemis products are being used and what for, as I've had them in the past and been told what was used throughout, it would be interesting to learn more about the products for possible purchases in the future. Whilst I was in the treatment room, Rob went to explore the spa and see what it had to offer. After my treatments, I headed to the reception desk to ask if I could check in a little bit early and they were super lovely about it and gave me our room number and key. Also during this time I also set up a tab for all of my drinks and other things I may do whilst staying at the Lea Marston. Then it was time to find the room. The hotel is mostly on the lower floor with a few separate rooms upstairs which makes the hotel super accessible. Our room was the very last one at the far end of the hotel, which felt like it was forever away, however, when we made it, it was worth the walk. 

For a deluxe room, the quality of the things within the room was amazing, including a flat-screen TV with Sky, an amazing shower, a heated towel rail, lots of lovely mirrors, gorgeous bathroom and some magazines on the table. Along with a variety of tea and coffee and an offering of biscuits and fresh milk can be provided if wanted. The room had plenty of plugs, as well as USB plugs on the wall to allow you to be able to charge a variety of things at once. After putting down my stuff, I saw Rob had phoned me and was trying to find me, I had texted him to tell him the room number but he never got this. We quickly realised that within the room we couldn't get any phone signal or 3G/Wifi, which I did find quite annoying. I did plan on doing some story updates from the hotel and tweets but was unable to do so, plus neither of us could message our other halves. Even without the phone signal, the room was advised to have great wifi which didn't connect for us at all. 

Once we had unpacked we hopped into the car and headed to Pesto which was nearby and I was so happy to find one outside the Trafford Centre. We ate food there (a lot of it) and then headed back to the hotel to enjoy the spa. I did find the food to be a little pricey on site, especially for a main meal which is why we looked elsewhere, however, all day I was tempted by room service. The hotel itself has some really cool decor and statement pieces which I enjoyed to look at. 


Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel

I was super excited to head to the spa once our food had rested, however, as I ate so much for dinner we decided to do some walking around before heading off to the spa. There were so many lovely areas in the hotel to explore and we looked through the newly refurbished Hathaway's bar, and I fell in love with the amazing umbrellas on the ceiling as they're so quirky and brightened up the room. We also had a look around the Atrium bar and decided we'd head back later for a drink. 

Finally, we had rested our food enough to enjoy the spa, the changing rooms within the spa are great, with lots of lockers which allow you to use them by entering a code set by you, so it's great not to have to carry around a key or find a coin. The spa itself has one large pool which is the same depth at both ends which threw me a little. A spa pool which is essentially a Jacuzzi without the heat. There is a fully air conditioned gym which looks out on to the spa and then finally sits a steam room and a sauna. The health club is open quite late so I think we picked a great time to go. We hit up the steam room first which actually made me feel amazing, my skin still feels good now which is amazing. After washing off we went between the spa pool and the swimming pool for a while before heading back into the steam room. All of the facilities were kept well, spacious and you felt relaxed and able to enjoy your surroundings.

We dried off, went back to the room to drop our stuff off and then headed to the newly refurbished Atrium Bar, it is a super modern room with a great feel to it. Due to the day in which we went it was fairly chill but I enjoyed the atmosphere within. We both enjoyed soft drinks and popped them on my tab. After a couple of hours we headed back to the hotel room and watched some TV, it is great to have Sky as you are able to explore more channels. When it came to going to sleep we decided to switch the aircon on due to how hot we both get in our sleep, however, we had no idea how to do so as there weren't any instructions. I decided to attempt to figure it out but after 10 minutes I gave up attempting to do so. The room was pretty stuffy that night as the duvets were super thick (comfy, but thick) and I felt like it could have been avoided with some instructions. The beds, on the other hand, were luxury, the linen felt amazing and the bed itself was like a dream. However due to the heat sadly, this meant I didn't have the best sleep and when I woke up at 7am I decided to watch some TV. When Rob awoke we headed for breakfast and we were both super excited as we are huge breakfast fans. 

Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel

We were quickly seated at breakfast and offered a variety of different tables to sit at. Then we were offered hot drinks, we both decided to get coffee and then I headed off to my favourite part of all buffet breakfasts the toaster. I grabbed two slices of white bread and popped them in the toaster. Nex,t to the toaster, they had tons of condiments which you can't fault. Despite it only being about 45 minutes into breakfast time a lot of the food appeared to have gone before we arrived and wasn't refilled. The pastry box had tons of choice but only appeared to have the scraps left which were disappointing as they tasted stale also, I wondered if this was due to it being during the week. Rob decided to get lots of fruit and some cereal and was made up of the choices on offer. Being a vegan Rob did find it hard with the hotter options for what he could have. I am a vegetarian, so I went for beans, toast, eggs and hash browns. The eggs were amazing, I could have eaten them for days. However, sadly the hash browns weren't cooked properly. The hot choices on offer were sausage, fried egg, scrambled egg, bacon, beans, black pudding and mushroom so there is a wide choice of options to choose from. 

Throughout breakfast, I had my fair share of juices and I also had an apple and a few pieces of cheese, yum! Once we had both finished we headed back to our room and packed to go home (via an Ikea detour). When it came to checking out, our bill seemed massively over what it was supposed to be, turns out they forgot to remove the treatment in which Rob had and paid for at the time, which was an extra £40. As we only had the drinks put on the tab alongside my treatment it was £79 in total which I was pretty happy with. We said our goodbyes and headed out of the door. I left feeling a lot more relaxed and happier than when I went in the previous day and would go back for another spa day for sure! 

Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel
Lea Marston Hotel

*I was kindly gifted bed and breakfast at Lea Marston Hotel for 2 in exchange for this review, however, all thoughts are my own and completely honest based on our experience* 





Budget Travel: 5 tips for your dream holiday on a budget!

*This is a collaborative post* 

The start of the year in the UK has some pretty rubbish weather, if it's not raining it's so windy you feel like you may actually fly away and in some places, the snow fell heavily. It always makes me want to get away from the UK as soon as possible. As much as I enjoy city breaks within the UK, at this time year, I want to go somewhere hot. I decided to compile some tips for planning the ideal getaway for less so you can jet off as soon as possible. Let me know in the comments what your top tips for planning the perfect getaway for less are. 

Be open to go 'anywhere':
If you're looking for a bargain, it's worth being open to a few places which you'd be happy to go. Check out the reviews of the place online first, to check out what is around, what is good for tourists and dependant on who you are going with, will depend on what you are looking for. There is no point in paying for a cheap getaway if there is nothing to whilst you're there. Prioritise what is important to you to see and where you're going e.g. if you're looking to go to the beach make sure there is one within a short driving distance as you don't want to be racking up the costs when travelling. If the beach is within walking distance even better. When heading off it's worth looking into travel passes beforehand as some places have a great rail system which means you don't have to hire a car which racks up another huge expense. Seat 61 is a great blog with some amazing tips when it comes to travelling in Europe, check out this post for more information about train travel in Europe. 



Pick a less 'mainstream' place and get insurance:
A place which is a huge tourist hotspot will usually allow places to hike up their prices. With everything from the restaurants, hotels and local attractions being upped in price as so many people want to visit, they can do that. Before choosing a place which may be less touristy it's worth looking into the safety of the place. Although the chances of a disaster striking while you’re on holiday may be relatively low, it is difficult to ignore the ever-present risk of something unpredictable happening. As climate change is likely to be the cause of more frequent weather extremes. Finding a holiday destination immune to wildfires, flash flooding and severe storms, may not be quite as easy as you first thought.

However, when you find the destination of your dreams, most of us will take the risk as it's worth it for us. Sectors connected to the travel industry, such as insurance, recognise that there is a thirst for travel and are adapting their products to ensure that they offer a wide choice of covers to enable travellers to protect themselves against crisis’ and disasters. For example, Insure4Retirement, a specialist Over 50s Home and Travel insurance provider, in partnership with Just Travel Cover, offer a Crisis Response Service with their Ready2Go Gold travel policy. A key benefit of this cover is a dedicated phone number which gives travellers access to immediate assistance and an unrivalled set of skills if disaster strikes while they are abroad.

Investing insurance may seem an annoyance for most of us as luckily most of us do not end up needing to use it. However, if the worst did happen, it's a great reassurance to know that the support is there when it is needed. Plus, if anything medically was to happen and you aren't covered, those medical bills aren't cheap.


Don't go during peak times:
It seems obvious, but picking the date in which you jet off is super important. It's worth comparing dates before going. Choosing your days wisely as jetting off midweek can often be cheaper than the weekend of the start of the week. Plus look up school holidays, not only in the UK but the place you are going to visit as families are more likely to want to go during these times, which tends to hike up the price a lot. 

Consider an indirect flight:

On a budget, flights can be one of the more expensive parts of a holiday. However, they no longer need to be. Taking an indirect flight and stopping off there for a few hours can often work out cheaper than going direct. Although it can be annoying (and boring) being in an airport for extended periods of time when you could be already sunning it up. You can get massive savings on your flight, giving you more funds to spend on your holiday. Sites such as Skyscanner have your back for finding the cheapest flights. 

Do your research about the place your visiting: 

Planning what you want to do in advance can save you funds too. If you want to do set things it is worth booking them in advance as you are more likely to save than rocking up on the day. As well as fitting your plans around the place you are going, it is likely it is going to be more expensive to do outings on a weekend than mid-week. Usually going out of season can save you a ton of money, going after all of the schools are going back and when the weather is starting to change, can make trips cheaper too. 



I hope you've enjoyed my post on tips for travelling on the cheap side hopefully it helps you find some great deals, for you to enjoy whilst still pinching those pennies. 

I'd love to know your tips for planning your dream holiday for less in the comments.



Planning the perfect getaway.

*This is a collaborative post* 
We all have different ideas about what constitutes the perfect holiday. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to spend time away with family, a loved one, or enjoy time away on your own. There are, however, a number of common characteristics everyone should consider when looking for the perfect holiday destination.

Facilities:
Unless you’re looking for a getaway that takes you off to the middle of nowhere, you’re going to need certain facilities. Check whether there are any popular tourist attractions because you might not want to spend all day sat by the pool or on the beach. Other facilities you might want to look for include medical facilities, shopping, eating establishments, banks or money changing companies, cinemas, and opportunities for relaxing.
Entertainment:
How would you like to spend your time when you’re on holiday? Are you looking forward to 7 days relaxing next to the pool or are you looking to experience some of the local cultures? Eating at local restaurants, listening to live music, dancing the night away at a local club, or watching the sun go down over the ocean are all enjoyable things to do if you’re looking for entertainment.
Accommodation:
There are many different types of accommodation available, depending on where you want to stay. Bed and breakfast, all-inclusive hotel, boat, barge, beach hut or luxury villa are all possibilities. There are a variety of villas in Orlando, for example, each with their own pool, where you can enjoy the finer things in life. Spending a couple of weeks in such lavish surroundings is bound to lift the spirits.
Weather:
If you’re travelling abroad, from somewhere in the UK, you’re going to want weather that’s a little more special than the odd sunny day interspersed with rain. After all, you can get that if you stay at home. Whether you want snowy landscapes, blue sea, sand and blue skies, rolling green hills or snow-peaked mountains, there’s a destination to suit you. When you’re doing your research, check out the weather you can expect, depending on the time of year you decide to visit.

Safety:
Not every country in the world is safe to visit, and if you do the right research, you’ll easily find out those that are and those that aren’t. There’s nothing wrong with venturing off the beaten track, but it pays to find out as much as you can about the location. The internet is an amazing tool and there are also a wide variety of travel apps you can use to guide you.
Cuisine: 
Half the fun of going away on holiday is the opportunity to try different things, one of which is the local cuisine. Tasting the local food is all part of the adventure. Try a pasta dish in Italy, paella in Spain, a vegetarian curry in India, or sushi in Japan.

2019: Travel, Targets and Taking Back Control.



This post is in collaboration with Jet2. 

I can't believe how many days are left of 2018, we are swiftly moving towards 2019, and this time of year is often full of reflection, accomplishment and future dreams for most. Each year we start out of with the biggest goals and often don't' accomplish them. For the last two years, I've gone for the approach of not trying to make each new year a new me, more like a more refined version of me and it helps with relieving the pressure of needing to change. This year I set myself some mini goals which were things as simple as getting my hair cut often to help it grow, nail my skincare routine and do more social things and I am happy to say these were all something I was actually able to do! My 2017 goal was to return back to the blogging after struggling to commit to my blog after a tough few months, and my goals were just to stick to blogging at a pace in which I felt happy, I got rid of my 4 times a week posting schedule and went for a when I can type of approach and my content has become a lot more substantial and I've fallen back in love with writing, two years later I am still loving it. So I hear you say, what about 2019? I want to make 2019 a year where I actually go and see some places, experience some things and live a little more. 


With the help of Jet2, I think this may be something which is actually possible. With a lack of funds being one of my top reasons for struggling to be able to explore. I've learned that Jet2 have a variety of package holidays that include flights and accommodation which helps when looking into the planning process as it feels like one less step to worry about. Their site is full of helpful tips including advising you what is nearby, how far to visit different locations and shares a variety of reviews from other customers. In their brochure, it even tells you the cost of a pint in the local area which I think is a great added touch. When looking at city breaks section of their site, it advises what is great about the hotel you want to stay, what you can do and also some information about the place. As much as I'd love to go back to America (without my parents in tow) for my anxiety, I feel like I need to try to tackle a city break or two first. 


In 2019 I'd love to visit Venice in the warmer months as I went as a teenager and remember there being so many great things to look at and enjoy but I didn't have long in Venice so it would be great to spend a weekend there and then Berlin or Krakow around Christmas time to really experience what the Christmas markets have to offer. As much as I enjoy visiting the Birmingham one most years it would be amazing to experience this in another country. Jet2 kindly sent me a hamper full of goodies which you would find at a traditional Christmas market and it's got me in the mood for planning myself a weekend getaway for early December next year. The photos of these places which I've seen on other blogs look amazing! 2019 is going to be the year I attempt to take the plunge and break out of my comfort zone and jump on a plane, train or even boat to visit new places. 


For 2019, I am hoping I can keep my anxiety at bay and visit the places I want to visit and explore this country (a work in progress) as well as others. For anyone who has travelled or been on trips with anxiety/other mental illnesses, how did you overcome your fear and just do it? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@dungareesdonuts) as I'd love to discuss it further with you. As far as my other 'big' goals for 2019 go, I am yet to set many, however, Will and I did get engaged this year so it would be great to start the wedding planning and begin to save for a deposit towards our own house. For the smaller goals, I want to keep this year's goals going, as well as adding getting a better sleep pattern in place, and also cutting down the amount of time I spend on my phone as since Apple has added in the reports to share how much time on a weekly basis, I've spent looking at my phone it has shocked me (anybody else shook by how long they actually spend on their phone?). I want to spend less time looking at the screen and more time enjoying life. 


Let me know in the comments what you want to achieve in 2019 and also what goals you set yourself for 2018 and did you manage to complete them?

Exploring Birmingham: The German Markets and Christmas Shopping.


I was recently asked to explore Birmingham as part of a campaign, as part of this collaboration I was given some spending money to explore Birmingham, however, all thoughts are my own as always. As someone who lives only a 30-minute train ride away from Birmingham, I couldn't wait to spend my time in the city, especially now the German Market was in full swing. Despite living close to Birmingham, I don't spend enough time here, there is always so much to explore, with the Bullring, Mailbox, Grand Central Station and it's many shops and also outside of these places, there are miles of streets full of shops and restaurants too. If you are travelling to do your Christmas shopping here, I'd recommend staying in a hotel as there many hotels in Birmingham and it's great for splitting up what you want to do and gives you a little break in between shopping. I mean there is so much walking my feet can do, and if you're like me and want to go pretty much everywhere it can become a little much.  

So I headed to Birmingham on Tuesday, ready to take on what Birmingham has to offer. When we arrived, we decided that food would be a great place to start, because who wants to shop on an empty stomach? I decided to try one of the many places in Grand Central and went to Tortilla which is a burrito bar which serves a variety of yummy food including tacos and nachos, which was an amazing experience and so reasonably priced too. Stay tuned for a full review of Tortilla in the near future. 

With a belly full of food we headed outside to the German Market, which is a Frankfurt styled market it runs from New Street to Victoria Square, it is packed with stalls full of amazing food including crepes, hotdogs and chocolatey treats. There are pop up bars accompanied by adorable little tables, which are selling German beers and hot chocolate. Stalls which were selling coffee beans, popcorn and marshmallows. Along with an assortment of gift stalls which had a generous offering of Christmas decorations, jewellery, hand-painted ornaments and rainbow candles. Will and I decided to get some keyrings for ourselves and one for our friend. I went for Jessie keyring as she's my fave and I've had a similar one in the past which I loved. After we had a long mooch around the stalls we headed back inside of Grand Central. 
Bullring bull



German market

German Market

We went to a few shops within grand central including John Lewis and Hema, before heading through Link Street, which is where we found Driftroom a quirky store selling a range of gifts and lighting and we spoke to the shop owner who was happy enough for us to take photos of the goodies within. After 30 mins in the store, I decided to buy a new card game 'cat chaos' which I can't wait to play and then we left. I was tempted to buy one the bigger lights but it was the idea of carrying it around and on the train which made us leave it behind. We popped into the Disney Store and Debenhams also, where I purchased a jar of personalised Nutella. After this, we headed to Selfridges which is four floors of gifts, clothes and of course more food. We had a look at all four floors which we don't often do, as I wanted to check out all it has to offer, and treated myself to a few bits from Paperchase and lusted over a Gucci bag. Once we had a look around we headed to Eds Diner to get some dessert, where I had waffles sandwiched together with Nutella and Will had cheesecake covered in peanut butter and chocolate sauce, washed down with a large Pepsi max each and with that we headed home to get the train. 

I had a fabulous time exploring Birmingham and if my feet weren't super painful I could have spent another few hours there for sure. I hope you enjoyed this post and if you'd like to see more posts on Birmingham let me know in the comments below. 

Selfridges Robin Christmas

Driftroom

Disney Store Birmingham

Eds diner cheesecake

Eds Diner Waffle

*I was gifted some spending by Hotels.com in return for this post, all thoughts and opinions are my own :) 

3 Top Holiday Bucket List Destinations

Back in 2016 I did a post about places I want to visit and it is still to this day one of my most viewed posts of all time, I then reached out to you guys on Twitter and asked if you want more travel posts and 95% of you said yes! So since then, I have been wanting to bring you more travel-focused content and over the last few months, I think I've been doing that pretty well, including my posts about travel anxiety, wanderlust in the UK and when in Spain. So I decided to bring you another post about where I want to visit in the world next, now I am overcoming my travel anxiety and wanting to do more things, I thought it would be the perfect time to get planning. 


Amsterdam:
Amsterdam is a place which has been on my list of places to visit for a long time, and this year it is *possibly* happening! With everyone in my office at work talking about it recently it has prompted me to get it sorted. With so many amazing museums including the Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh museum (I've also been told I need to check out the sex museum, by a fair few of my friends) Along with other things like canal boat tours, the flower market and even the red light district. Amsterdam sounds like a place of lots to do, and you able to pack a lot into a few days so great for a long weekend away.


Mauritius: 
A newer destination that has been added to my dream holiday list is Mauritius, which is full of beautiful beaches and lagoons and has so much to do. When looking at the Visit Mauritius I found out so much about the island and what you can do, I was drawn to visiting Port Louis as that is the capital city of the country. There are so many amazing things to do such as visiting the photography museum which is compiled of art from Tristan Breville, lots of shopping (gotta love the shopping) and there is even a China town. Which came from when Chinese migrants in 1780, and today there is still very much a Chinese culture and it is filled with restaurants and supermarkets!  


Budapest:
The last destination on my list to visit is Budapest, this destination for some reason has always just seemed appealing to me. Again, there are many museums to visit such as the pinball museum and the Holocaust memorial centre. As well as that there are some unique things to do like go for a dip in the Szechenyi baths and shopping at the central market hall. I've also heard some great things about the cuisine in Budapest. 

Where is on your list to visit? 

*Collaborative post