When I was invited to be featured in Woman and Home magazine, in an article on “Blogging for Fame and Fortune”, my first thought was “OMG!!! Fame at last!” quickly followed by, “OMG! how will I lose a stone in 2 weeks?”.
My initial chat with Nathalie, the features writer, to test the water was quickly followed up by a confirmation that yes, they would like to include me in their feature and would I be available next week for the shoot? We did a long telephone interview which was really just a nice chat covering such weighty questions as; How did you get into blogging? What tips do you have for others who want to start a blog? and What was the proudest moment in your blogging career?
A week or so after that initial call, during which I lived mainly on grilled chicken and salad, I was driving up the road to the house in West London where the photo shoot would take place, most of the spare tyre firmly in place. Ah, well at least Woman and Home is a magazine that makes a point of featuring normal women and their achievements, not just pencil thin celebrities, and I was hopeful that a bit of hair and make-up could work wonders.
I knocked on the door of a small cottage, which opened up into a huge sitting room that was open to the roof with wooden beams and huge skylights. With huge, squishy sofas scattered with pretty silk cushions, glass lamps and Moroccan silver trays, I could totally understand why they’d chosen this as their photography location. It looked like a love pad made for parties as well as a great location for a spring feature photo shoot.
I was to be featured along with two other bloggers in a feature about about “Blogging for Fame and Fortune”. I’ve certainly had some fun in my 5 years writing my blog but as for the fame and fortune – well maybe some day! The other bloggers were Ren Behan, a food blogger at RenBehan.com and fashion and lifestyle blogger, Josephine Lalwan of Chic at any age, who was certainly looking very elegant with her chic grey bob and fuschia pink silk shirt. It seemed that we had been picked as being ladies of a certain age, as most of the people featured in the magazine seemed to be in their 40s and 50s.
Sharon, the picture editor greeted me and introduced me to the rest of the team, and I settled into the kitchen, now in use as a beauty parlour with Liz and Sarah-Jane at the ready to do my nails, hair and make-up. I sipped my coffee made by Jim, the photographic assistant, had my nails painted and my already clean hair was blow dried and left in curlers. After half an hour of make-up, with numerous shades of beige eye-shadow, my ‘natural’ look was ready for me to move on to wardrobe.
In ‘wardrobe’ which was actually a small room crammed with two rails of clothes and half a floor covered with shoes, I met Rachel the stylist and her assistant Amy.
My first job was to strip down and put on a nude Spanx roll-on to keep the spare tyre under control, which was slightly humiliating but certainly did the trick of creating a smooth sillhouette. “Don’t worry” confided Rachel, seeing my doubtful look, “some of my red carpet clients have to wear 2 spanx on top of one another”. Looking through the rails we tried on a few different outfits and settled on some tight Eileen Fisher white jeans with a coral orange vest and drapy cardigan from Rohen Chen both of which I loved, plus some very high gladiator style LK Bennet heels which left me tottering around although they looked very elegant.
Back into the living room which was now a photography studio, Angela the photographer had her big lights and tripod set up and I was positioned by the door surrounded by luggage, as if I was just about to leave for a glamorous weekend in Marrakech. Angela was full of fun and clicked away from behind her tripod, scattering plenty of encouraging comments around; “OK my gorgeous creature?” Click, ”Lovely!” Click, “Excellent!” Click, “Beautiful my darling!” Click. I shifted my weight slightly from one leg to the other, holding an ipad in one hand and a large leather holdall (which wouldn’t have passed the Ryanair police) in the other. Every few clicks one of the team would rush forward to tweak my clothing, powder my nose or cover me in a cloud of hair spay.
The attention to detail showed by this crew was even more rigorous than my habit on blog trips of taking five of the same shot that drives my husband crazy. A hundred or so photos later, all slight variations on the theme, and we were done. I could breath again as I unpeeled the Spanx and slipped back into my own clothes. Now I got the chance to be the spectator as Josephine the fashion blogger was photographed looking very thin and elegant in an emerald green cocktail dress (a brand that’s favoured by Nigella Lawson). This time the piles of clothes were arranged around her and she held a pair of high heels in her hand, the props of a fashion blogger obviously!
I was fascinated to see how the photos were instantly transferred to Angela’s laptop and I could see them popping up as I sat behind her during the shoot. The man arrived at the door to deliver lunch – no waitrose sandwiches but slices of herby chicken, squares of quiche studded with goats cheese and a watercress and beetroot salad. Lovely!
Poor Ren, the food blogger was still standing around in curlers in her dressing gown, waiting for lunch to finish so that she could be photographed in the kitchen surrounded by cookery books. At that point I’d completed my part of the shoot so I said my goodbyes and headed back to Bristol to tell my family all my stories. Just another day in the life of a travel blogger masquerading as a fashion model. All great fun, but I won’t be giving up the travel blogging (or the day job) just yet!
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
Stokes Croft is a bit of a rough diamond in Bristol, a neighbourhood full of street-art, that leads up from the shopping heart of Bristol and has shabby edges but a creative heart. This part of Bristol was my choice when I was asked to suggest a ‘Hidden Gem’ by LookInsuranceService for their Hidden Gems Map. Stokes Croft is one of the best street-art heartlands of Bristol (and the others aren’t far away) where you can still see a Banksy mural above the Canteen cafe. With live music every night there are plenty of cafes to hang out at and be sure to stop at the PRSC (People’s Republic of Stokes Croft Gallery) where they can tell you about all the street art happenings in the area.
Walk up from the bottom (perhaps you’ll also have time to explore the Bearpit where there are also plenty of murals) and you won’t have to look far to find great street art around every corner, up every side street and decorating many of the shop-fronts. The area has fought hard to keep its independent character and you’ll see the murals protesting against the local Tesco store, seen as a sign of the creeping, faceless commercialism which the locals want to avoid. You’ll be spoiled here for inexpensive places to eat, hang out and make use of the free wifi. Don’t be put off by some of the locals who look a bit down and out – I walk up and down here to work every day and I’ve never had any problem.
If you make it up as far as Jamaica Street, take a look down the side street at the painted hoardings which change all the time and pop into the PRSC gallery where they sell artworks, postcards and other locally made souvenirs, some from the Jamaica Street Studios next door – look out for their Open Studios event in June if you like an ecclectic mix of art.
If you want to learn more about the street art culture of Stokes Croft and Bristol, it’s worth taking a walking tour with Where the Wall every Saturday, who will tell you all the tales from the neighbourhood. Not far off is Nelson Street which for the last two years has been repainted by international street-artists in the See No Evil festival and there’s also the Upfest Urban Art Festival on North Street in Bedminster, south of the river.
Where to eat on Stokes Croft
You won’t be going hungry on Stokes Croft with many inexpensive cafes, and more springing up all the time. Here are my recommendations;
The Canteen takes up the ground floor of an old office building, Hamilton House that’s now an arts and business centre. This cafe is always crowded, with live music every night and food that’s cheap and wholesome (a free mug of soup with every meal!)
Pieminster – The premier pie company of Bristol with a lunchtime stall in St Nicholas market too – love the Chicken of Aragon (Chicken, bacon and tarragon) but the more traditional among you might go for the Kate and Sidney (Steak, kidney and ale).
Cafe Kino – A spacious, airy cafe where you can sit in the window and watch the world go by. The food is vegan, local and organic and they hold musical and arts events downstairs.
Poco – On the corner of Jamaica street, they specialise in tapas style dishes with an inspired mix of world flavours. Being Stokes Croft of course it’s locally sourced, organic and sustainable with a target of zero waste.
Patisserie Leila – This patisserie and coffee shop makes an elegant change and I always drool over the cakes in the window and sometimes treat myself to a few macarons on the way home.
If you’d like to find some other hidden gems around the UK, take a look at the Guide to Britain’s Hidden Gems from Look Insurance Services and add a hidden gem from around your neighbourhood.
More Street Art in Bristol
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
If you are taking a cruise that stops at Guernsey in the Channel islands and are wondering how to spend your time ashore, this article is for you. Here are my suggestions for what you may enjoy, whether you choose to take an organised cruise excursion or explore on your own. At the end of this article you’ll find details of my giveaway of a unique Guernsey souvenir.
The island of Guernsey was the final port of call on the four night European Sampler Cruise on Crown Princess that we took in September with Princess Cruises. As the harbour at St Peter Port is not large enough to accommodate cruise ships, we took the tender (the lifeboats are used) in order to get off the ship and onto Guernsey. If you’re new to cruising like me, you may not be aware that it is something of an organisational feat to get up to 3000 passengers off the ship in small boats, so if you are keen to spend as much time on shore as possible, you need to make sure you go to the tender station as early as possible. The Crown Princess arrived at Guernsey at 7am, so we made sure to have an early breakfast and by 9am were standing on the quayside.
To Excursion or not to Excursion?
We had visited Guernsey before in the spring of 2012, when we hired a car and so we had seen many of the main attractions on the island. For this reason, we decided not to book any shore excursions, but to use our time to meander at our own pace and explore a bit more of St Peter Port. The bookable cruise excursions would typically take you on a scenic drive of this beautiful island, stopping at The Little Chapel, Sausmarez Manor and sometimes the Gold and Silver Workshops, and I think that it is worth considering these if you prefer everything to be organised or are not very mobile. I probably wouldn’t take the excursion covering Castle Cornet as this is easy to see on your own and a short walk from where the tender drops you. If you are keen to see the smaller islands of Herm and Sark, excursions could be good options, due to the logistics involved in arriving onshore and then taking another ferry to these islands, and getting back in time for the 4pm cruise departure.
If you prefer to make your own arrangements, there is a reliable network of buses to get around Guernsey which is quite a small island, and most places are a 20-30 minute ride from St Peter Port. The bus station is just along the quayside, opposite Castle Cornet, and you can find information about buses and timetables on the HCT Guernsey Bus website. There is a flat fare of £2 per single journey or £4.50 for a 1 day bus pass, which is excellent value. The No 91 “Guernsey Vaeux” bus service runs 4 times a day on a continuous loop around the island, which makes an inexpensive sightseeing tour, although if you get off you’ll probably have to use one of the other buses to get back to St Peter Port. If you’re an active traveller you could consider hiring a bike from just behind the Tourism Office, or just walk around St Peter Port and along the coastal path as we did.
A wander around St Peter Port and the Candie Gardens
One thing we hadn’t appreciated was that on Sundays most of the shops in St Peter Port are closed, so the atmosphere was very quiet. After having a look around the Tourist Office on the harbor front, we decided to walk up the hill to the Candie Gardens, dominated by the statue of Victor Hugo looking out towards France. We had a coffee in the small café in the Candie Gardens and then took a look around the Guernsey Museum, with an exhibition all about the Beatles and life in the 1960s, as well as artworks and archaeological objects telling the history of Guernsey through the ages. The Candie Gardens had some colourful floral displays and in summer this would also be a lovely place to come and sit with a picnic and a great view over the bay.
Hauteville House – the Victor Hugo House
Had it not been closed on Sundays, we would have loved to have a look around Hauteville House, the home of the celebrated French poet and writer, Victor Hugo. If you love art and culture this is one thing I would not miss on Guernsey, and although I had seen it on my previous visit, I wanted to show Guy, who had not. If you are not booked to see the Victor Hugo House as part of an excursion, you need to be aware that you will be shown around the house with a guide by timed entry, which can be booked by ringing or e-mailing the museum in advance or by simply arriving and then booking yourself on the next available tour.
Victor Hugo arrived on Guernsey in 1855, as an exile from France because of his political views. He purchased this former corsair’s house set on the hill with views over the harbour and set about transforming it into a richly decorated showcase for his ideas and exotic tastes in antiques and gorgeous textiles. The tour will take you from room to room, with explanations of how Hugo found the old oak chests, Aubusson tapestries and Chinese silks that he collected like a magpie. On the first floor are the magnificent rooms that the family used for entertaining, while on the top floor is a glass conservatory, where the author worked in private, with views across to Castle Cornet. Once the tour is complete, you can wander around the lovely, country style walled garden with roses, fountains and herbaceous borders. Read my article about Victor Hugo – decorateur extrordinaire at Hauteville House on Guernsey
For more information – Guernsey’s Victor Hugo Website. Cost £7, open April-September
Another major attraction in St Peter Port is Castle Cornet, the military fortress at one end of the harbour, that now houses five different museums under one entry ticket. The earliest parts of the castle date back to the 13th century and it came under siege in the 17th century during the English Civil war with a large garrison being maintained throughout the 18th century. We didn’t have time to pay a visit on this trip but had previously seen the “Story of Castle Cornet” Museum, with different roomsets showing how the soldiers lived in the barracks and the history of the castle. Other parts of the castle house the RAF Museum, the Maritime Museum and gallery, Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum and Royal Guernsey Militia Museum. There is also a cafe and a walled garden that’s planted in 18th century style. It’s worth being at Castle Cornet at mid-day to see and hear the firing of the noon-day gun which is very loud!
For More Information: Castle Cornet Museum Website Cost £9.75 Open March-October
La Valette Military Museum
On our last visit to Guernsey, we had visited the German Occupation Museum which is found in the parish of Les Houards, close to the airport and houses a collection of artefacts from the German Occupation during World War Two. This time we stopped at the La Valette Underground Military Museum which you can easily reach on foot if you walk along the seafront to the furthest end. The La Valette museum is housed in underground tunnels built by the German Army using forced labour during the Second World War and contains memorabilia such as uniforms, equipment, medals and posters as well as giving an opportunity to see the tunnels.
Both museums have an old-fashioned and slightly home-made feel compared to the multi-media hands-on experiences that many larger museums in Europe have become. The memorabilia from the period of the occupation is in glass cases although there are some models dressed in uniform from the era. Of the two museums I prefered the German Occupation Museum as it did a better job of telling the story of the occupation for real people on Guernsey through videos and audio recording. If you’d like to visit you can get there on the No 93 or 11 bus from St Peter Port bus station. The German Occupation also had a nice little tea-room downstairs although there was an outdoor refreshment kiosk overlooking the bay just opposite the entrance of La Valette Underground Military Museum.
For More Information: German Occupation Museum Cost £5 Open April-October, La Valette Underground Military Museum Cost £5 Open March-November. Read my article about Guernsey, the German Occupation and Potato Peel Pie
A walk to Fermain Bay
If you’d like to stretch your legs and see something of Guernsey’s rugged coastal scenery, you can take a walk to Fermain Bay along the cliff path from St Peter Port. We had visited Fermain Bay on our previous visit, so we knew there was a delightful cafe set above the beach, where we might try some Guernsey Gâche, the local fruit bread. After passing the fortress of Castle Cornet and some outdoor bathing pools, the path took us past the Clarence Battery, an 18th century military garrison where some canons were on display among the fortifications. We continued through woodland, with glimpses of the sea, until an hour later we arrived at Fermain Bay where we stopped for refreshments at the Fermain Bay Café, next to a defensive Martello tower.
On our previous visit to Guernsey we had also visited the gardens and sculpture trail at nearby Sausmarez manor and walked further along the cliff path to the German WW2 fortifications at Jerbourg Point. If we had more time, these would have been additional things to do during our shore excursion, with perhaps a bus ride back to St Peter Port in time for our 4pm cruise departure. In summer, Fermain Bay is a lovely place to swim, so it would be worth bringing your bathers and a towel from the ship.
For More information: You can take the bus to Fermain Bay from the St Peter Port bus station on Routes 11 and 91/93 which runs every 30 mins, and takes 10 mins.
On our previous visit to Guernsey, we stopped at Sausmarez Manor, a beautiful Queen Anne manor house surrounded by gardens and a woodland sculpture trail around a lake. The house was not open when we visited, although there are guided tours on certain days, and if you wish to book one of the cruise excursions I would certainly look for one that includes a tour of the house and gardens. At the front of the manor is a formal lawned garden, with a smaller garden with herbaceous borders to one side.
These gardens around the house are free and for an extra charge I enjoyed the sculpture trail which is like an outdoor art gallery, with sculptures in a woodland setting beside the lake. There is also a charming small tea room in a conservatory beside the house. Although we didn’t visit Sausmarez Manor on this occasion, it would be easy to visit independently by bus from St Peter Port, or in a combined visit walking or cycling to Fermain Bay.
For more information: Sausmarez Manor , admissions to gardens and sculpture park £6 Guided House Tours £7. You can take the bus to Sausmarez Manor from the St Peter Port bus station on Routes 11 and 91/93 which runs every 30 mins and takes 15 mins
The Little Chapel
One stop on almost every cruise excursion is the Little Chapel, a tiny chapel just a few paces long covered with broken crockery, shells and mosaic. The chapel was built by a local religious brother modelled on the grotto at Lourdes and the first couple of versions didn’t make the grade so this one was built in the 1940s. This labour of love was decorated over some years but it’s quite small and so you’ll probably only be there half an hour. If you want to visit the Little Chapel independently you can take the bus which runs hourly from St Peter Port.
For more information: The Little Chapel, the bus from St Peter Port Bus station to The Little Chapel on Route 71 runs every hour and takes 15-20 mins. The Little Chapel is free but relies on donations.
Visiting Sark and Herm
The smaller islands of Sark and Herm can be reached by ferry from Guernsey and visited as a day trip, although you’d need to plan your timings carefully to be sure to get back in time for the cruise departure. As the Sark crossing is longer, and can be cancelled in case of rough seas, this is one that I would probably do as an organised cruise excursion to take any pressure off you in case things go wrong. The island of Herm is smaller and the crossing only takes 20 minutes so this is more feasible to visit independently, when you can enjoy the unspoilt beaches and walking paths as there are no cars on the islands.
On our previous visit to Guernsey, we visited Sark and would highly recommend it, especially if you have already visited St Peter Port before and want to experience a place where time seems to have stood still since the 1950s. As no cars are allowed on Sark, the main ways to get around are on foot, by bike or by horse-drawn carriage and on arrival you will have the opportunity sit in a cart with bench seats known as the toast rack and be dragged up the hill by tractor.
At the top of the hill is the main village with a few shops, bank, pub and places where you can hire bikes or a horse-drawn carriage to take you around the island. We hired bikes at Avenue Cycle Hire and headed in the direction of Little Sark which is joined to the main island by a narrow, fenced causeway with a sheer drop on either side, known as La Coupee. We took a detour to the beautiful beach at Dixart Bay which is reached down a narrow, wooded lane, before continuing to have lunch at La Sablonnerie Hotel hotel on Little Sark where we dined on fresh lobster with a butter sauce at a table set in the rose garden.
After lunch we cycled back to the other end of the island to visit La Seigneurie Gardens, the residence of the Seigneur or Lord of the island. The house is not open but the gardens are open on most days through the summer and there’s also a nice cafe for lunch with a cost of about £3.50 to look around the gardens. A stroll in the sunshine around the walled garden with lovely herbaceous borders, fountains and a maze to get lost in was most enjoyable.
For more information: Isle of Sark website: the ferry crossing is run by the Isle of Sark Shipping Company, costs £27.80 return (at time of writing), running 4 times daily in peak season and the journey is 55 minutes. Herm website: the ferry crossing is run by Trident Ferry Company which has a kiosk on the harbour front close to where the tender drops you and the ferry runs several times daily and the journey takes 20 minutes. Please consult the ferry timetable when booking and be sure to book your return crossing in good time, as if you are late, the ship won’t wait!
There are plenty of things to enjoy in your cruise stop on Guernsey and my tip is to have an early breakfast and disembark your cruise ship as early as possible, so you have time to enjoy it all. If you decide to take one of the cruise excursions, you will be able to visit a number of the places I’ve mentioned in this article and have the convenience of easy transport and a guide. However, don’t be afraid to take the reliable bus service to explore on your own or just visit the many interesting things in and around St Peter Port on foot.
As a fun souvenir of Guernsey, I have a Guernsey Monopoly Game to give away, which I was kindly sent by the makers as they used some of my photos on the board. This giveaway, is for subscribers to my monthly newsletter which includes details of future reader offers. Unfortunately, due to the cost of postage I am only able to send the Guernsey Monopoly to a UK address. All you need to do, if you’d like to enter the draw for the Guernsey Monopoly set is to;
1. subscribe to my newsletter below
2. Let me know in the comments that you’d like to be entered for this draw.
That’s it! As a subscriber you’ll be sent my monthly newsletter plus occasional details of other reader travel offers and giveaways, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
My 4 night European Sampler Cruise with my husband was hosted by Princess Cruises who offer cruises to European and Worldwide cruises to allow you to explore fascinating destinations and escape completely on board their elegant and spacious ships. Our cruise took us from Southampton to Rotterdam to Guernsey before returning to Southampton. You can keep up with latest updates for Princess Cruises on their Twitter page @PrincessCruises and on the Princess Cruises Facebook Page.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey