Welcome to the Lylia Rose UK money and lifestyle blog. I'm Victoria Sully, a busy mum of two, wife, full-time blogger and online money-maker. I’m passionate about making money online, saving money, self-employment, healthy living and blogging. I’m on a personal mission to be healthier and wealthier! Thank you so much for joining me.
As the sky is becoming greyer and the nights are getting colder, you can’t help but begin to think of your next holiday. There are your classics: a European city break, a couple of weeks by the beach, or perhaps just escaping to the English countryside. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, but have you considered going on something slightly different for your next destination? You’d be amazed at the number of ways you can see the world.
Glass Igloo, Iceland
By Tarja Mitrovic (Flickr: Rovaniemi - Igloo village) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Northern Lights manage to make their way onto many a bucket list. It isn’t hard to understand why, the natural beauty can illuminate the sky and creates an unforgettable moment. Most people aim for a remote spot and hope for the best - you need a clear sky and no light pollution. Did you know you can stay in a glass igloo in Finland and sleep under the stars? It is a luxurious experience, bringing you all the wonders of nature in a cosy and comfortable setting.
If you have a passion for classical music, why not combine it with your next get away? There are some amazing opera holidays available. You can explore the beautiful country and experience opera the way you’re meant to, in beautiful, historic buildings with just the right acoustics. Take a sip of Italian wine, listen to the opera and take in the scenery. Your senses will be blown away and you’ll leave with memories that are sure to last you a lifetime.
When you hear Croatia, you’re most likely to picture crystal blue waters and ancient cities. You can get the best of both worlds by exploring the beautiful country by bike and boat. It can be a tour like no other as you get to experience the best that Croatia has to offer. You can cycle through pieces of history, before boarding a boat and absorbing all of the beautiful sights of this gorgeous country .
This recently has been voted as Europe’s top hidden treasure. It has something for everyone: historic sites, glorious beaches for sunbathing, numerous hikes and delicious dinner spots. It is adrenaline, adventure and ancient all wrapped into one. You can make your holiday exactly what you want to be. You can go kayaking or quad biking. Equally you can spend an entire day exploring important places of Spanish history. Just make sure you go out and discover this gem for yourself.
Coincidences. Are they really just coincidences or do you believe it is fate trying to tell you something? I’m not sure if there’s an exact term for it, but I’m talking about when two things happen in a short space of time. For instance, you think of someone you haven’t seen for ages and then you bump into them. Or you’re humming a song in the shower one morning and then it comes on the radio. The one that happens to me most often has actually happened with this blog post - it's where something I've just learned about pops up again. Until a few weeks ago I had never before heard of the Camino de Santiago, known in English as the Way of Saint James. A colleague at my husband’s work booked a six week sabbatical recently to walk one of the pilgrim’s ways of the Camino de Santiago. It really interested me to learn more as I’d never heard of it before. Then, out of the blue, I was contacted to see if I wanted to write about this very walk on my blog! What a strange coincidence. Or perhaps it’s a calling for me to do the walk myself? In this blog post I will explain to you what the Camino de Santiago is.
Whilst six weeks may seem like a long time and you may not be able to take such a long break from work, it’s also possible to do a route that only takes 6 or 7 days which is arranged by a tour company such as Santiago Ways. This company will organise your trip for you by organising the route and accommodations for you, leaving you to enjoy the trip without the hassle of trying to arrange these yourself along the way. They take this bother out of the pilgrimage for you, but still provide you with a unique experience of the walk (or cycle if you prefer). They provide a meal plan and even luggage transfer, leaving you to walk without the weight of heavy bags between rest stops.
The Camino de Santiago is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, north-western Spain, following ancient pilgrim routes created in the 9th century. It is believed that the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great are buried there and were discovered in 812 AD. There is not one exact route as pilgrimages begin from all different points, but with the end goal of ending up in this same place. Both the French Way (Camino Frances) and the Routes of Northern Spain are listed as a UNECO World Heritage Site.
Why do people walk the Camino de Santiago?
Hundreds of thousands of people walk the route each year for all sorts of reasons. According to Wikipedia over 300,000 people walked it in 2017! That’s an incredible number of people and I can’t believe I have only just come across its existence. The French Way is 800km which is quite a task. So why do people want to walk it?
Many people choose to walk it for religious reasons, which is why Ben’s work colleague took up the challenge as she is a Christian, but there are plenty of other reasons why people from all walks of life take part each year:
Religious reasons – this is the most obvious reason to want to walk the Camino de Santiago, but it’s not the only reason. I find the walk intriguing and inspiring and I’m not a religious person.
A break from modern life – an escape from reality, from the internet, from news, from social media, from work and from the hustle and bustle of life in general
A challenge – some of the walks are very long, 800km, and so to any of us to walk this distance continuously is a huge challenge. Even the shorter week-long walks will prove challenging as we are not used to walking all day long every day.
Exercise - for hikers, walkers, cyclists and those of us who like to stay fit and healthy, it's an amazing health and fitness journey.
To see the sights – some of the walks are listed as World Heritage Sites which makes them an important part of history the walk is an attraction in itself. The routes are filled with history and plenty of culture to see along the way.
For a spiritual journey – not in a religious way, but in a self-discovery and self-reflection way. It’s the perfect way to think deeply and learn more about you without being surrounded by constant distractions.
I am definitely interested in walking one of the routes one day, but perhaps when the children are much older or have left home! I'm not sure it would be so fun with a three year old and six year old! For myself though, it's definitely a challenge I'd like to complete.
At the end of August I visited Cotswold Wildlife Park with the kids, my mum and sister. It’s a place that I’m familiar with and I’m sure I’ve been once per year since having the children. We have fond memories of going with my late mother-in-law and enjoying a picnic in front of the rhinos. It was at that moment we told her we were expecting another baby - Reuben. I’m sure we went a second time with Ben’s mum and we also went with my mum. Bella even went on a school trip there! In this blog post I will share my very honest review of Cotswold Wildlife Park.
I even remember the first time I went with my husband Ben as we totally planned it wrong! Having been to a few other zoos and wildlife parks that only took a few hours to wander around, we decided to head to Cotswold Wildlife Park near to lunchtime. Big mistake! There was so much to see that we couldn’t fit it all in! According to the website today it says they are home to one of the UK’s largest zoological collections.
You can probably guess this is going to be a highly positive review as I’ve been so many times! I usually prefer to go somewhere once and then try somewhere new, but this is a place we like to return to every year as it’s such a wonderful family day out.
There are so many animals to see. Bella absolutely loves the penguins and my favourites are the giraffes and wolves. The experience with the animals is very interactive. It’s possible to go up to head height with the giraffes to really experience them. For the wolves there’s a wooden bridge over their enclosure.
The children’s farmyard is also great. It’s a petting zoo and you can even go in with goats! We have more great memories here such as a little perhaps two year old Bella clinging to Ben as she was scared of the Pygmy goats!
One part of the park I love is the gardens, plants and flowers. It’s exceptionally maintained and always looks beautiful. I can always tell a lot is invested into the upkeep and it’s always spot on. Some gardens in similar attractions leave a lot to be desired, but at Cotswold Wildlife Park they are always on point. The cactuses and tropical flowers always stand out to me as well as the ginormous leaves which look larger than our three year old Reuben!
For the kids there’s also a humongous activity playground which is hard to drag them away from! For around 50p each, if I remember that correctly or maybe one pound, we had a ride around the park on the Bella train! It’s actually called Bella!
The park is always so clean and well maintained which definitely makes a big difference. We normally take a picnic, but there’s plenty of food options there with a large restaurant.
It’s a great family day out and I really can’t think of any recommendations for them or any negatives, which is rare. I’ve barely even touched on the number of different animal exhibits, but visit their website for more information and to learn more: www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk
It’s that time of year when we all start thinking of winter activities. I’ve already done nearly all my Christmas shopping and it’s wrapped and waiting in our attic! I love to be prepared and get the winter expenses out of the way as early as possible so we can enjoy a stress-free December without money worries. We can then relax in December and take part in some activities and festive meals out knowing everything else is already paid for.
I’ve been looking into Santa trips for the kids and want to try and book a local boat trip with Santa. Every year I try and take them to see Santa in a different place! Last year was on a steam train, the year before in Prezzo (he came and sat with us at our table!) and the year before was in a gypsy caravan at a local bird park! Talk about variety!
I do get very excited about winter and Christmas as I look forward to the children being excited leading up to the big day and on the day itself. Wrapping up warm and cosy and eating delicious food in front of our log burner is also so fun. Plus Ben gets a few days off work and for me I have around a week with no work or very minimal work, so it’s the only time of the year I truly get to switch off and relax!
Every year there are some winter activities that I want to do and still haven’t got round to doing! Here are the winter type sports I really need to do:
I have never ever been skiing! We have a dry ski-slope in Gloucester and there are real indoor snow centres just under 2 hours away from us. I’ve always been a little fearful of trying to ski as I fear I’ll just be rolling down the hill and not be able to get the hang of it! I also can’t just go and try it out at any of these centres as you need to be able to ski before using the slopes. So I’ll need an adult lesson, or pack of lessons, to get me started. I don’t know if I’ll have time to schedule this in this year, but it is definitely on my bucket list! Who knows, I could be an expert at skiing and I just don’t know!
Soon the kids will even be old enough to try skiing, so I may even learn with them! I’ve just been looking online and it is possible to book family ski lessons so this is definitely a fun activity for the future once Reuben is a year or so older. Many centres also offer ‘learn to ski in a day’ type courses and they provide food too (this is a great Christmas present idea, hint hint). All you need to do is turn up in some warm and waterproof clothes such as girls ski jackets, waterproof trousers and a war hat. Then they’ll provide the equipment and then you’re on your way!
Something that looks super fun at the ski-slopes, and doesn’t require any ski knowledge at all, is tubing - whizzing down the slope in a massive inflatable ring or ‘doughnut’! They can be linked together so you can go down together as a couple or a family, or with your friends! It looks so fun and I’m actually considering this for mine and Ben’s next kid-free date!
I love ice-skating! Ben and I went ice-skating this year on one of our dates and it was so much fun, though the place we chose was like a youth club and we were the oldest there! But, for the past few years both Gloucester and Cheltenham have had outdoor ice rinks and we have totally missed them. It’s not often we go to town and we usually have our children with us, so with Reuben only being three now he was always too young for us to partake in things like this. I’ve no idea if the ice rinks will be back this year, but I really hope they are and we can plan a visit. Bella, now six, might even fancy a go!
Those are the three activities I really want to try this year or next. Hoping I can tick off tubing and outdoor ice-skating this year. I’ve just text Ben to ask if he wants to go tubing when my mum has the kids next which is October.
With childcare and some planning these activities should be pretty easy for us to arrange, aside from the ski lessons they are not too expensive. However, I also have some dreamy winter bucket list ideas which do cost and arm and a leg, but hopefully one day we will make these happen:
Now, I’m not one for the cold at all, in fact I absolutely detest it, but one day I would love to take the kids and visit Santa in Lapland! There are 3 or 4 night breaks available with the magic of Christmas at the heart of many tour operators. There are real reindeer rides to go and meet Santa, husky sledding, toboggan fun, igloos to visit and more.
See the Northern lights
I would absolutely love to see the Northern Lights and this can be tied into a magical Santa Lapland trip in Finland or it can be arranged separately with one of the best places apparently in northern Norway to see the spectacle. They look so magical – colourful whimsical beams and wisps of light across the night sky. Some scientists predict they’ll fade over the next ten years, so we’d better plan this one soon so we don’t miss out.
Not too big a bucket list for winter and I may be able to tick two off this year!
Today we were very kindly invited to Sudeley Castle and Gardens for the children to try their autumn trail and play in the adventure playground – a huge wooden fort! The castle is located in Winchcombe so not far from us in Gloucester at all. It’s within Gloucestershire and set amongst the picturesque Cotswolds. In this blog post I will share my honest review of Sudeley Castle and Gardens.
I’ve been to the castle before, but too long ago to properly remember much about it. I vaguely remember going as a child and again in my early twenties with a friend. I rightly remembered this castle is more about the gardens and an exhibition, rather than being the castle itself that can be explored such as looking around dungeons, original rooms and climbing towers. You are able to go in the castle, but to see the exhibition which is more like a museum of artefacts from the 15th century castle and lots of information about the various people who lived there, including being a royal residence of King Henry VIII and later lived in by his sixth wife Katherine Parr who is buried in its chapel.
I do find it all very interesting and I would have explored the exhibit more, but I had a three year old and six year old tugging on my arm to get outside to do the nature trail! It would be great to somehow make the exhibit more entertaining for younger children, but perhaps they will enjoy it more once older. Bella also found it a bit spooky! To be fair, we didn’t see the whole exhibition as we exited perhaps half way through or so as the kids were so desperate to go outside, so I can’t comment on it fully.
We did have a great time exploring the gardens and doing the nature trail. The autumn nature trail definitely gave the children something fun to do and allowed us adults to explore the gardens with entertained children! They were so excited every time they located a bird box which contained a wildlife stamp for their autumn trail sheet. There are ten stamps to find all around the gardens and an information card in each bird box about the wildlife that is on the stamp. Amazingly the first stamp was of a dragonfly and as we started walking away a dragonfly flew right in front of us! It couldn’t be more perfectly timed!
The gardens and the autumn trail definitely made our day. There are so many beautiful trees, plants and flowers to see, but also ponds filled with koi carp. We all equally enjoyed the pheasantryand even spied a peacock resting on top of one of the aviary’s. Sudeley works closely with the World Pheasant Association and currently houses 16 rare and endangered species of bird from around the world. We spied some really beautiful pheasants with really striking colours.
The children’s day was probably made by the awesome adventure playground. There is a brand new wooden fort which was completed in March this year. It looks amazing and the kids loved climbing up the staircases to various levels, attempting the climbing wall and whizzing down the slides. There’s also a zip line which is Bella’s favourite park activity right now, so she was in her element! There’s a 10 piece obstacle course suitable for big kids and adults, as well as a smaller obstacle course for the little ones. The kids had a blast running around and trying all the different wooden climbing frames and obstacles.
Next to the adventure playground is ‘Lost in the Willow’ a living willow maze which is more like tunnels created from the leaning willows to run through and explore, finding the huge badger cleverly twisted out of sticks in the middle. There are certainly a lot of outdoor things for the kids to get involved with at Sudeley to explore nature and learn more about wildlife. Dotted around the gardens, paths and walks are several animals made from wood such as a deer, snail and elephant. There are also a few metal sculptures to spot such as twisted leaves and snowy owls. For the ages of my children, the outdoors was definitely a lot more fun and inclusive.
The castle also holds many events each year and we just happened to pick a day of the Classic Car Rally to attend. We had no idea this would be on, so it was a surprise. The kids loved looking at the cars too, even three year old Reuben who like the ‘nengines’ best! I’m pretty sure my husband Ben enjoyed looking at all the cars too!
One event I haven’t been to, but I’ve heard great things, is their ‘Spectacle of Light’ event which looks quite amazing. I searched the hashtag #spectacleoflight on Instagram for a peek and the entire castle grounds are lit up with light shows and displays all over the place. It looks so magical for both adults and children so I’ll definitely pencil in a visit one winter.
Overall we had a lovely time at Sudeley and were glad we had the opportunity to visit. The new adventure playground is spot on – the kids could quite happily play there all day! The autumn trail was fun for the children to complete as we explored the castle grounds and Sudeley should definitely consider leaving a trail in place for the children all year round. It’s currently only on this September to October. I’d love to return one day and I think to make the most of a visit with children it’s best to coincide it with an event such as the Spectacle of Light or one of their many Halloween or Christmas craft workshops.
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