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48 hours in Finnish Lapland: Searching for Santa in Saariselka

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some unforgettable destinations - across Asia, Europe and North America.  Yet, I’ve never considered any of them a once-in-a-lifetime experience (although it’ll be a long while before I hike the Great Wall of China in August again).  If a destination is that great, then with a little luck and hard work,you can return.
However, as our recent trip to Lapland approached I realised that this was actually one of those trips. 
Mini is almost six, so very much still a believer, as are her classmates.  Her cousins are also old enough to maintain the magic, or deal with the consequences.  
More importantly, she can dress herself, sleep in hotel beds and pop off to the toilet when she fancies.
So, last January, we booked a two-night break in snowy Saariselka, within the Finnish Arctic Circle, with Santa’s Lapland.  

As it was only a weekend, we opted to fly from Exeter, our local airport, cutting out the eight hour round trip to London.A good decision, too, as…
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Copenhagen and an Icelandic ash cloud: a welcome travel interlude.

Eyjafallajokull's Easter eruptions.
Back in December 2009, I struggled with finding the perfect Christmas present for my boyfriend of almost two years (now Mr Dgtl) and, as we both loved travel, I eventually opted for a surprise trip to Copenhagen at Easter. 

Yes, April 2010. When Iceland's Eyjafallajokull's volcano caused a spot of travel bother. 
But before we took on the ash cloud chaos, I had to survive keeping the secret; Mr Dgtl's Mum was terrified we'd be away for Christmas Day and asked him outright when he was going to Denmark, leaving her with a ten pound turkey.  Thankfully, I was able to indulge in some creative fibbing as a distraction.
Fast forward four months and we set off on our mini-break; four nights in Copenhagen, with a hop over to Malmo, Sweden, across the Oresund railway and road bridge. 

What I'm listening to for driving inspiration

I don't know about you, but I'm motivated by music. 
Working, dancing or driving, I love music.  

I've been lucky enough to see my favourite singer-songwriters live lots of times, since heading to Blackpool for my first concert at the age of 11; almost missed seeing Shakin' Stevens as I was so ill with excitement the night before. But I struggled on, and a love affair with live music was born.    
As a lifelong writer, I probably appreciate country music more than most other genres, with a couple of rock storyteller exceptions.  

Tingles start behind my ears at a kick drum or steel guitar, but as long as the story is there, I'm hooked.  

There's been a definite surge in my writing lately, which I'm sure has something to do with the music in my trusty Fiesta. 

I also downloaded a free 30 day trial of Amazon Music Unlimited in the summer, and basically any new artist I wanted to explore, I can download for a listen, before I make the CD-buying decision (course, wit…

5 Reasons why Beach Staycays are better than LongHaul Vay-cays

I know, I know, next month is the start of Autumn, and once again it's raining.  
But you don't need a long haul trip to a faraway land (AKA the sun) to feel rejuvenated. 
Here are my favourite five reasons for enjoying a seaside staycay, rather than jetting off on a long haul vaycay.  
PS: Just so you know - I'm planning on a few long trips more than once next year.  But that's for the shopping and music :)

1. Money
There is a definite argument for saving money by having a staycay (no need for an extortionate passport or four) but normally overseas there are cries of “either eat well or visit that gorgeous landmark”.  Enjoy a weekend at your nearest seaside, and it’s not so bad paying £2.50 for an ice cream on one of the world’s best beaches, even though we could almost buy a tub of Ben and Jerry’s for that price. 

2. Weather
Ever wondered why us Brits are great at discussing the weather?  Spend a weekend near the beach in the summer.   On a holiday in the proper sun, our fai…

Chicago: 48 Hours in the Magnificent Midwest

I first discovered Chicago in 2013, and have been fortunate enough to return several times since, usually for 24 or 48 hours, so I highly recommended this HIIT city destination. 

I also managed to fit in a 12 hour shopping trip layover when I visited Belize in April 2016.

A serial East Coast traveller (remember when everyone travelled to New York for a weekend break?) a work opportunity arose that saw me book a flight to Chicago for onward travel to a little student town called Champaign; four-hour return Amtrak trip, and well worth a visit for a true taste of America (they even have a freakin’ Dairy Queen).
Flights Flights are around 9 hours direct from the UK, and, depending how organised you are, range from £500-£800 for economy return.  
Hotels For reasons I’m about to go into, I enjoy staying at Hilton O’Hare (the only airport hotel; handy for layovers) or the Hilton Rosemont (one MTR stop from O’Hare and an entertainment haven).  City-centre hotels are very competitively priced, sta…

24 Hours in Cardiff

I love celebrating Christmas in May, don’t you? 
Last weekend I enjoyed a whirlwind visit to Cardiff, seeing (the fabulous) Tom Chaplin, off of (the amazing) Keane, thanks to my Christmas present from (the gorgeous) Mr D.
Now, I never have a bad time in the Welsh capital, and have stayed here a fair few times - love how accessible the city, the shops are open until 7pm! Anyway, no time for city-centre shopping on this trip. 

Here’s how we managed to spend our 24 hours of parental freedom:

Waikiki in a Week

You know when they say it’s better to live with no regrets? I will never regret spending a week on Waikiki beach, even though I lost a day.
The infamous south shore beach on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu (which holds the capital, and is site of the international airport) Honolulu, was the scene of a spontaneous catch-up for my friend Kathy and I in 2008. We hadn't seen each other since we returned from teaching English in China two years previously; she lives in Canada, I live in England.   
So how did Hawaii happen?