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Tenby travel – the best of Welsh seaside charm

Tenby travel – the best of Welsh seaside charm

There are several things Sarah and I have in common: our passion for dogs (we love all kinds), food (my favourite is Thai) and travel, and they pretty much follow in that order.

With the Easter holidays finally upon us we jumped at the chance to get back on the road and Wales was on the radar, particularly Tenby and travel around the southern coast. Dogs and Thai food an expected bonus.

We arrive by train (book on Trainline or National Rail three months in advance for the best rates), having travelled from London’s Paddington station, via Swansea and across the southern coast.

As always we were eager to explore our new surroundings and everything Tenby might hold for us. Sarah and I decided to base ourselves at Croyland guest house which is conveniently just a five minute walk from Tenby train station, a stone’s throw from the centre of town and the dramatic cliff-top ocean views of Wales’ stunning coastline.

Tenby harbour

Armed with our cameras we strode into town excited by what lay ahead. Within minutes of our departure we are confronted by Tenby’s iconic coastline.

The first thing that catches my eye is the sheer expanse of the sea which looks like a rippling blanket of aqua-blue embracing the coastline’s vertical rocky cliffs.

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Tenby’s picturesque harbour can’t be missed. I’d seen it many times on postcards, pictures and advertisements, but there’s nothing like witnessing the real thing. Lean fisherman unload their haul while squabbling seagulls cry overhead, keen to scavenge whatever is left of the loot. We drink in our surroundings and click happily, capturing the scene which is dominated by the famous pastel tinted houses perched along the overhead hills.

Our trip to Wales 2016

The beautiful beach below reminds us of our fine sandy offerings back in Australia. I discovered it was during the Georgian and Victorian (19th Century) period that Tenby became popular with tourists because they believed the waters had therapeutic healing powers.

The appreciation of families and the abundance of happily barking dogs enjoying the cascading waves on the shore below was certainly leaving the impression that this place never fails to impress.

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A foody aroma entertains our senses so we set off in pursuit of a meal. For lunch we eventually chose the cosy family-run Caffe Llew – homely and highly recommended! It’s situated just down from the 800 year old St Mary’s Church. Of course, we later discovered many pubs, cafes and restaurants offer meal and drink deals, and we didn’t have a negative dining experience here, so would suggest all are worth a try.

The medieval town of Tenby is encased by an imposing stone wall – a reminder of an earlier period when it was once fortified by the Normans. Its maze of narrow cobbled streets, colourful houses and medieval buildings is wonderful, and it’s easy to envy those who get to dwell here just a little bit longer.

Tenby truly tops our list of most charming seaside stops, and not only is the town itself well worth hanging out in for a few days, but it’s the ideal place to explore the surrounding southern coastal region of Pembrokeshire.

Travellers tips

Cash

We’re used to using cards for everything, but we discovered more often than not in Wales (especially the smaller towns like Tenby) cash is king, so don’t be caught short because swiping ain’t going to get you far here.

Wifi

Actually, we had great difficulty with coverage and internet in Wales (bit challenging when you’re a travel blogger). Let’s just say that you need to have an idea of where you’re trying to go, because it’s not really helpful if you’re relying on Siri and just as she’s explaining how to navigate the Google map you’ve got open, she gives you the silent treatment because your coverage has disappeared in the middle of the Welsh countryside.

Train travel

Be organised here because while the train network is extensive, the timetable often has gaps of two to three hours, so you do need to be on time for connections. The upside though, is that they do have ticket facilities on board, so you can jump on at the last minute without fear of being penalised for not having paid the appropriate fare.

Car hire

Despite its status as a tourist destination, you can’t hire a car in Tenby. You can however, source hire options in nearby Kilgetty, Pembroke Dock or Carmarthen. If like us you’re coming to the area by train, from Swansea or Cardiff you’re likely to pass through Carmathen on the train anyway, so could get off there and pick up your car then drive to Tenby. Alternatively, you could catch a train from Tenby to Kilgetty or Pembroke Dock as we did, and hire from there. Book in advance though, as this whole area is popular and a car is essential so they do book out.

Here’s a glimpse of our southern coast adventure and the kinds of places you can explore from a base in Tenby including St Govan’s Chapel, Stackpole and Carew Castle…


Don’t miss the Gower Peninsular and Cardiff – read about it here.

6 of the best London views (free or under £5)

6 of the best London views (free or under £5)

It seems no matter where you look in London a crane isn’t too far from sight. Construction is cranking at a frenetic pace, with new skyscrapers and tower blocks quickly altering the cityscape. Contemporary architecture boasting eccentric names means unique structures like the Shard, ‘Gherkin’ and ‘Walkie Talkie’ now rub shoulders with older smaller cousins like St Paul’s Cathedral, Monument and London Eye.

There is one thing most of these structures have in common – they’re expensive if you want to enjoy their views! So, here we have presented some of our fave alternatives that are free or inexpensive to enter.

6 of the best London views free or under £5

Walkie Talkie building Travellivelearn

Walkie-Talkie building (20 Fenchurch Street)

The Walkie-Talkie is one of our ultimate go-to destinations when family or friends arrive in London. The viewing platform is called the Sky Garden and it’s set over three storeys of elegantly landscaped public gardens.

As you exit the lift you’re greeted by a spacious and airy cafe/bar which connects seamlessly to the outside viewing platform. The Sky Garden boasts wonderful uninterrupted views across London, plus three restaurants if you fancy a meal. Entry is free BUT you need to book your place in advance

Nearest tubes to the Sky Garden: Monument, Bank, Tower Hill, Cannon Street

Monument

The Great Fire of 1666 blazed for three days and destroyed much of medieval London. To commemorate this significant tragedy, Sir Christopher Wren designed the world’s tallest stone column, the Monument.

Monument is 202ft (61.5m) high and is situated 202ft away from the house of Thomas Farynor, who was the king’s baker in Pudding Lane (where the fire started). Climbing the 311 steps won’t you leave breathless but it will surprise with great views of the ‘Cheese Grater’ (122 Leadenhall Street) and Tower Bridge.

Find out more about our visit to the Monument

Nearest tube: Monument

Monument view travellivelearn

Greenwich Park

Dating back to Roman times, the former hunting park of Greenwich offers the best views of Docklands, Canary Wharf and the city of London. Additionally, it is home to the historic National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory perched on top of the hill. The world-famous prime meridian and home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is only a stone’s throw away. Pack a picnic basket and make a day of it in one of London’s best and most beautiful Royal parks. There’s much to see and do in Greenwich, so we’d suggest setting a day aside to explore. Park entry is free.

Nearest tube: Cutty Sark or Greenwich (or catch a Thames ferry)

Tate Modern

We first discovered the lovely view from Tate’s restaurant when our friend, Nicole, invited us up there for a catch-up drink when we were visiting London as tourists in 2009. We now take our own guests here!

Aside from housing an amazing art collection dating back to the 16th Century, Tate’s positioned on the Thames, and you can make your way to the cafe/bar for free to check out the amazing river view, Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s worth splashing out on a beer or glass of bubbles (like Sarah does) when you’re visiting, and head up at nightfall to see the city sparkle. Entry is free (although special exhibits do have a separate charge).

Nearest tube: London Bridge, Blackfriars, St Pauls, Southwark

Saint Paul's Cathedral Travellivelearn

Emirates Cable Car

If you don’t mind being suspended by a thin cable 90m (300ft) above the River Thames, then the Emirates cable car is a truly memorable experience.

The journey between the Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Dock lasts an unforgettable ten minutes and provides a spectacular setting against the glass and steel of London’s skyscrapers. From the comfort of your cabin, you’re presented with bird’s eye views of the O2 arena, Canary Wharf, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Thames Barrier. Use your Oyster Card (London transport card) and receive a 25% discount.

Nearest tube: there are several options, check the routes here

Heron Tower

Heron Tower (officially 110 Bishopsgate) is a commercial skyscraper near Liverpool Street station in the city and is home to two of London’s finest restaurants, the acclaimed Sushi Samba and the Duck and Waffle.

Sarah and I have indulged in many a cocktail at Sushi Samba while enjoying the 360-degree views of the city. You can almost touch my favourite building, the ‘Gherkin’. The elevator ride to the top is both terrifying and exciting as it shoots up the side of the building like a bullet train. Entry is free.

Nearest tube: Liverpool Street

Have other tips or a comment to share on the best London views? Drop us a line below…

 

London’s best views – 5 reasons to visit Monument

London’s best views – 5 reasons to visit Monument

I’ve been lucky enough to live in this great city and have experienced many of London’s best views over the past few years.

But I have never experienced the Monument, Sir Christopher Wren’s  202 feet (61 m) stone column built to commemorate one of the most famous events in the city’s history, the Great Fire of 1666.

London’s best views | 5 reasons to visit Monument

History

The world’s tallest stone column just outside Monument tube station pays homage to the Great Fire and the rebuilding of the city. Apparently if you lay the column on its side, it measures the exact distance between it and the house of Thomas Farynor, the king’s baker in Pudding Lane where the fire started at 2am on Sunday 2 September.

Before the fire was finally extinguished it destroyed 13,000 houses and 90 churches; including part of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Monument - street travellivelearn

Waiting time

Unlike many attractions in London where you have to line up in long queues regardless of the weather, I only had to wait six minutes for entry to the Monument. Better than what I anticipate the wait at the London Eye is!

Monument view travellivelearn

Cost

Entry into the Monument is only £4 for adults (as at February 2016) compared with the Shard (over £25) and London Eye (over £20).

Exercise

If you’re an active person you’ll love the 311 step climb to the top. It’s a great way for toning your bottom and legs while experiencing London’s amazing skyline.

That said, don’t worry if this sounds daunting, it’s actually a pretty easy climb, the average person taking around four minutes to make it up to the top (not counting if you have to wait for children loitering in the stairwell along the way).

Monument stairwell travellivelearn

Views

As you exit the stairs onto a small ledge you’re met by a simple wire fence separating you from the 166 drop to the ground below and magnificent 360 panoramic views of the London skyline. The Monument offers wonderful views of the Shard (hard to miss), Tower Bridge, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe), Leadenhall Building (affectionately known as the Cheese Grater) and Canary Wharf in the distance.

London skyline Travellivelearn 2

There’s plenty more to do in this part of London too. Monument is a very short stroll from a brilliant free attraction, the London sky garden, also featuring some of London’s best views.

Impact of social media on youth: helpful rules for happy households

Impact of social media on youth: helpful rules for happy households

The impact of social media on youth is highly debated in the media. Does social media expose your child to danger, what do you think?

Possibly, but I believe the risks can be reduced, as long as we’re prepared to be curious about how the younger gen consumes digital media, and understand how they are using social platforms so we can make sure they’re doing so safely and age-appropriately.

Impact of social media on youth

At the end of summer term, my school held a disco to celebrate year six students finishing primary school. To capture this momentous occasion, students were allowed to bring in smart phones/mobile devices (normally banned during school hours).

They embraced this freedom with vigorous enthusiasm. My colleagues and I watched in amazement as the serious selfie-obsession (video and photos) unfolded before our eyes. Sadly, some students preferred to play on their devices, engrossed in games (missing the significance of the event) and chatting with friends online, who were at the disco! We also witnessed some students vent frustration and anger at not being able to upload their images. They were missing out on ‘likes’, you see; the more ‘likes’ achieved, the more popular they perceive themselves to be. Not a totally healthy reflection of real life – thanks Kim K and co.!

Did you know?

The most frequent activity amongst children today is engaging in social media? Any site which allows your child to interact socially, such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Twitter, Youtube and gaming portals are all classed as social media.

I’ll be honest, I love social media and technology. This digital revolution means we benefit from a fantastic flow of information, learning and open communication. But, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility,’ and this applies to adults (parents, teachers, carers) and children, who of course due to age, are more vulnerable to peer pressure and dangers of digital as they experiment in this space.

It’s no great secret that the digital age has a dark side, and there can be collateral damage associated with it. There are many dangers kids will encounter on their journey through adolescence, including as they navigate social media and its boundaries. Remember, this is NOT about your child being naive, immature, untrustworthy or naughty – kids are kids, and there’s only so much they can be expected to navigate safely on their own.

What are the dangers?

  • cyber bullying,
  • sexual predators,
  • criminals,
  • sharing or consumption of inappropriate photos and video
  • sharing too much information which can lead to anything from your home being burgled, to a young person sharing photos-not-set-for-public-consumption, tagged with your precise physical location!

As a parent (and teacher, for that matter), if you lack a basic understanding of social media, and find it difficult to communicate with digitally-confident children, you are manifesting a disconnect between you and the youngster in your care.

Here are ways to help you navigate this new socialisation and to bridge that technical gap.

Social media and teens – helpful rules

Talk to your child

…about specific issues they may be dealing with, or what other children may be encountering online.

Become curious and better educated

…about the many technologies children and teenagers are using. There are plenty of ways you can learn more – local courses, YouTube tutorials, personal coaches or simply ask questions on areas that are new to you.

Instigate family discussions concerning online topics

check privacy settings (including location settings on mobile devices), and keep an eye on online profiles for inappropriate posts. On the point of security, if you’re worried, seek advice and assistance from your local mobile phone store, an IT or digital media consultant, or speak to your mobile / broadband provider.

Discuss the importance of your supervising online activities

…through active participation and communication. If the child in your care is out with friends or socialising and playing somewhere in the ‘real world’, I’d expect you would know where they are, who they are with and that they’re being effectively supervised. The same rules apply to online activity. You should be aware of ‘where’ online they are hanging out, and who it is they’re liaising with. Wonder how kids can get into trouble? Press play on the video linked above – you’ll realise why it’s important to take control.

Keep all devices in a public area

…in the home such as places you can monitor as you’re cooking or wandering through a room e.g. lounge, kitchen, dining. I’d also urge you to seriously consider why any child needs to take a mobile device to bed… (actually, we adults shouldn’t either – it’s a dreadful habit – put them away at night!).

Be prepared

Have a strategy in place for if/when your child may be exposed to inappropriate content.

Set aside quality time with your child

…doing things they are interested in, and vary activities across digital and real-life platforms.

Be available

All adults lead busy hectic lives, but it’s our responsibility to make time, be informed and implement safety strategies

…for online activity, just as we do for anything our kids are involved with.

 

Child psychologist, Dr Richard Woolfson believes, “Parents need to maintain an open dialogue and encourage children to share both good and bad online experiences, and make sure they keep up with the latest social media crazes, and work with their children rather than trying to control them.”

The world is a different place to when we were children, and things are vastly changed compared with even as recently as ten years ago. As a parent or carer, it’s critically important to remain aware and prepared for how this type of communication and technology truly impacts and works in kids’ lives and in the home. Develop rules that fit best in your household – just because another family does it one way, if a certain rule or process doesn’t sit right with you, use your discretion. Above all, seek information and educate yourself – it’s not good enough to claim that new technology ‘aint your thing! But who knows, by learning something more, you might end up enjoying this new frontier as much as the kids do.

-By Cooper Dawson

Got a question? Drop us a line on Twitter or Facebook.

7 tips to encourage your child to read

7 tips to encourage your child to read

I strongly believe that to help a child reach their learning potential, it’s important parents and teachers encourage reading. Students are more likely to do well in school if they read; even if writing and reading isn’t a child’s favourite thing, literacy skills can be developed over time, and this means that life in and outside of the classroom can be all the more enjoyable and successful, at all ages.

School is made easier too, which is a really critical reason why you should encourage your child to read. A strong reader has a broader vocabulary, wider general knowledge and an increased understanding of cultures (important for thriving and developing compassion in our contemporary multicultural society).

Parents/guardians, it’s vital you show an interest in your child’s reading development, because you are your child’s first and ultimate life-long educator.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” –Emily Buchwald

Why you should encourage your child to read

7 tips on how to influence your child to love reading

  1. Read with your with child every day

Make your child read aloud for fifteen minutes, ensuring they stop for punctuation, difficult words and share ideas on what the meaning of the story is. Children who read have a broader vocabulary which helps in their writing and exam tasks. Also, ask your child to explain to you what they have read (e.g. talk about characters, setting, understanding of the topic and themes); this is vital in helping kids succeed in future exams and assignments.

  1. Choose reading material of interest to the reader

I always say to parents that I don’t care what kids are reading, as long as they are reading! Ensure children are reading their favourite material, whatever it may be (although do encourage consumption of a variety of genres and media (books, magazines, digital content) as your children grow. They’ll be more engaged across the board, and happier to de-construct (talk to you about) it.

However, if you find a child struggles to read the text, they may be reading above their ability; if you perceive there are issues, talk to a teacher to determine what the child’s reading level is. It’s better to work from where they are at. The aim is to make reading (and subsequent writing and literacy tasks) enjoyable, not challenging.

  1. Be patient and make literacy learning fun

It’s important that reading is presented as an enjoyable experience. As a parent, be patient. If you feel your little one is encountering difficulties, be supportive and encouraging. Remember, the main aim of reading is to make it fun; and, practice makes perfect – all the more reason this should continue outside of the classroom and into the home with regularity.

  1. Link to the outside world

Children want to see that what they’re reading is connecting to their ‘outside world’. As a family, it’s a great idea to research a topic together. For example, if you’re going on a holiday, investigate the destination together. Or, if your child is into games / gaming, take this opportunity to read reviews on the applications of interest to them. Reading is about what your child likes, not what you like. Embrace that – it will mean they are more engaged in the reading process and will feel uplifted and appreciated becasue you respect their opinions.

  1. Play [literacy] games

There are hundreds and hundreds of literacy games on the internet as well as app downloads on mobile devices; these are fun and interactive. We all know that kids are tech savvy so this is an ideal chance for your child to explain to you how a particular game works. This activity positions them as the expert in the situation, while giving them a chance to read and explain on topics of interest with enthusiasm. Simply search for relevant games on Google, or seek ideas from your child’s school.

  1. Experiment with audio books

I find audio books are an excellent way of introducing children to stories read by passionate presenters who can make the words on the page come alive. Kids can read along while building their vocabulary.

It’s also helpful if you read in small passages with your child, and have them apply their comprehension skills as they move through a story, explaining characters, setting and theme along the way.

  1. Weave literacy learnings with a field trip

It’s important to surround your child with books and writing, whether this be at home, on a field trip to a community or school library, university or book store.

In this experience, children will witness first-hand how books contribute to education, knowledge and development; and that reading is a life-long practice, not just something that you do in school.

Importantly, parents – your role is critical in influencing your child to be an enthusiastic reader. If you don’t show an interest, they won’t. Your kids model behaviour, so demonstrate that reading and writing is fun, important, and makes for a fulfilling future.

Cooper Dawson

Feature image via Flickr creative commons, US Department of Education