A Dog Friendly Getaway in South West England

To celebrate the arrival of our puppy Baxter, Alex and I decided this summer we would do a staycation rather than go abroad. We thought South West England would be a good shout, we wanted Baxter to experience the beach and the sea, and it is just a lovely corner of the world isn’t it?

Devon was our choice of destination, but it isn’t the easiest place to get to either. Tucked away on what I call the Toe of England, it is around a 4 and a half hour journey from our house in Hertfordshire, because of this we added a couple of stops on the way and on the way back. Baxter likes the car, it’s a good excuse to nap, but we would have felt a little mean keeping him cooped up for well over four hours.

Our first stop was a great Air BnB near Salisbury in Wiltshire. Just over 2 hours from our house, I booked the room the night before, not really knowing what I was going to find. Lucky for us we turned up at the most beautiful country home, our room wasn’t just a room, it was in a stable block and came with a double bedroom, bathroom, large living area and a gorgeous kitchen, result! This was a great option for us and Baxter as we could walk around the village (Great Cheverell) without having to worry about cars!

Baxter is crate trained, we didn’t want him feeling out of sorts in a new place so we took the crate with us, he slept in the living area that night and we didn’t hear a peep. We left Hertfordshire around 10am that morning, stopped for lunch on the way, and enjoyed an hour in Salisbury before heading to our accommodation just over 30 minutes away.

The next morning we got up early and headed off towards Devon, we had around 2 and a half hours to go so we didn’t want to leave too late, plus I was super excited about our hotel! On the way to Devon, we drove via Shaftesbury in Dorset, most of whom will recognise its most famous street, Gold Hill, featured in a Hovis advert in the 1970s. This was the perfect spot for some breakfast, and even though one of the houses was covered in scaffolding, the view wasn’t too shabby either. We ate at a lovely little cafe that was dog-friendly called Gusto, they do a brilliant cooked breakfast!

Soon it was time to take off, from Shaftesbury we travelled through so pretty Dorset villages before heading towards the motorway into Devon. As we drove deeper into Devon we zipped off into Dartmoor National Park, and by zipped I mean we drove a fair way at no faster than 30 mph because the roads here are pretty but very narrow with high hedges, all drivers need to be alert and ready to meet oncoming traffic. After around half an hour we turned left into the gates of Bovey Castle and half a mile later we were driving up to the most beautiful stately home! We were greeted by a member of staff who kindly parked our car for us (the only time I have ever been treated to valet parking!) and then Alex and I went for a little explore around the grounds before checking in.

Bovey Castle was built in 1907 for the second Viscount Hambleden, who happens to be the son of stationery magnate William Henry Smith – better known as WHSmith. After being in the family for a number of years it became a hotel operated by Great Western Railway, it was then taken over once again and expanded before being renamed Bovey Castle in 2003, and in 2014 it was bought by the Eden Hotel Collection who have created the wonderful hotel we had the pleasure of visiting on our holiday.

Bovey Castle is a wonderful dog-friendly hotel that provided Baxter with his own comfy mat, treats and bowls, he seemed very impressed! The best part is the hotel is surrounded by extensive grounds so it was the perfect place for Baxter to explore and enjoy his walks, everyone we met in the corridors wanted to fuss him so it definitely seems like dogs and humans live harmoniously here!

Bovey Castle is a 5* hotel with a wonderful spa, an award-winning 18-hole championship golf course, and two brilliant restaurants. On the first night we dined in the Great Western Restaurant which was fancy but not stuffy, the food blew us away, there is also a great vegetarian menu available.

From Bovey it was very easy to explore Dartmoor National Park, somewhere I had never been before! The landscapes are beautiful, wild and rugged, sprinkled with some very cute villages such as Widecombe in the Moor and North Bovey. Each time you drive over the brow of a hill you are greeted with a spectacular view, and often free-roaming ponies and cows (and sheep of course!). This was incredible dog territory, Baxter had a wonderful time here and there was also a brilliant dog-friendly pub in Widecombe called the Ruggleston Inn – the best pate I have ever eaten!

After 3 days in Dartmoor, it was time to head to the north Devon coast, a very underrated part of England. We drove to Appledore, around 1 hour 20 minutes away from Bovey and had a relaxing evening by the seaside, spending some quality time with Baxter and Alex’s family. That afternoon we took the short drive over to Westward Ho Beach and made memories we will never forget… Baxter’s first time on the beach and first time off the lead! I will cherish the image of him jumping around free in the sea for the rest of my life, he absolutely loved it. It was a dog-friendly beach and with lots of other dogs off the lead, we had nothing to worry about, each dog and their owner was very friendly and well behaved! We had a brilliant meal that evening at The Royal George, truly one of the best pub meals I have had – views over the sea and Baxter was allowed in as well.

We stayed at the Seagate, a smallish pub in the centre of the village. It was an okay stay but for £102 we had an awful night’s sleep due to the cramped and overheating rooms. I would recommend it perhaps for one night if nowhere else was available, but it is not somewhere I would return to!

After 4 days in Devon, it was time to turn back and head north, we had booked a stay in Bath and one in the Cotswolds so the journey home didn’t seem too long. It took just over 2 hours to reach Bath where we arrived on Great Pulteney Street for our stay at No. 15 Great Pulteney.

Great Pulteney Street is in the heart of Bath and I honestly don’t think we could have picked a better place to stay. The street is lined with stunning Georgian mansions, straight down to the famous Pulteney Bridge, one of just three in the world that is lined by shops. Luckily for us, No. 15 Great Pulteney offers its guests a free parking permit, so we didn’t have to worry about constantly putting money on the car, a big bonus for us, and we were able to park right outside the hotel, handy for us seeing as we had a bazillion bags!

No. 15 Great Pulteney is a stunning boutique hotel residing in one of Bath’s classic terraced houses (although I always say they are more mansions than houses!). The hotel itself reminds me somewhat of Mary Poppins’ bag… it looks quite subtle on the outside but once you go in, it grows around 5 times in size! There was a lovely restaurant called the distillery, a beautiful bar area where you could eat if you wanted your dog to join you, the reception and seating area is flanked on one side by a huge dolls house containing the room keys, and if you head down to the basement you may just stumble upon their spa. When I say spa I don’t mean a relaxation area with a couple of treatment rooms, I mean a beautiful underground sort of bunker with a gorgeous Jacuzzi area covered in smooth cedarwood and a fabulous sauna, all within exposed stone vaults ceiling. The treatments are divine (I had the most relaxing facial) and if you want champagne, you can have it!

Our room didn’t disappoint either. Most people have come to realise I am extremely fussy when it comes to windows, in fact, I constantly whinge at home to Alex about the windows on our house! Our bedroom came with the most magnificent Georgian sash window, the perfect size to let all the light flood in during the day, and at night there are wooden shutters so you can have the best night’s sleep. Baxter’s crate fitted perfectly under the desk, and once again he was surprised with his own doggy mat, treats, and even food and his own pink ball! A short hop, skip and a jump from our room was the hotel larder, complete with a freezer full of ice cream, a fridge full of milk, water and soft drinks and on the cabinet tops were vases full of brownies and flapjacks… heaven!

After an afternoon in the spa whilst Baxter napped, we went to dinner in the bar area so Baxter could come with us. Everyone that came in fussed over him again! It was the university’s graduation that week so we were joined in the bar by a lovely family who was celebrating their daughter’s graduation, they had come all the way from the US! There was also a lovely Canadian couple and a French lady, it is nice to see that so many people are visiting more cities outside London now. Bath is definitely becoming a tourist hot spot but is very worthy of it!

That evening Alex and I put Baxter to sleep in his crate (puppy’s need 18-22 hours a day!) and then had a walk into town. It was so lovely seeing the city at golden hour. It was pretty quiet and the sky was gradually changing from blue to yellow, to orange, to pink, I have never seen Bath look so wonderful. Then seeing as I had done nearly everything I wanted to on the trip, Alex and I stopped off at a craft beer store on the way back to the hotel, which made him very happy! Less than five minutes from our hotel, Beer Craft Bath was Alex’s idea of heaven, boasting at least 500 different beers at any one time. I’m not a beer fan myself, but I did have a brilliant pineapple cider, perfect for a summer’s night. Baxter would have been more than welcome to come too but 1) Baxter loves beer so we prefer to keep him away from it, we don’t need a drunk puppy, he is hyper enough, and 2) he was snoozing soundly in his bed.

After a good night’s sleep (thank goodness we had a fan in our room), we got up early, had breakfast and headed straight into town. Alex hadn’t been to Bath in years and of course, this was Baxter’s first time so we soaked up some of the main sights – the abbey, the Pump Rooms, up to the Circus, Roya Crescent and then back down to our hotel. We didn’t want to walk too far because it was hot, and Baxter is a black dog so overheats quickly, and puppies shouldn’t be constantly walking either. Bath is a compact city so you are able to cover a lot of it in a short space of time. Of course, if you want to go up the abbey or into the Roman Baths etc you would need a long weekend, but we didn’t have the luxury of time so we will have to come back when Baxter is a little older!

Around lunchtime, we left Bath (sadly) and drove 30 minutes to Castle Combe. Alex had never been, I have been multiple times (I can’t stay away), and I wanted to show him what I deem to be one of the prettiest villages in the whole of England, maybe even Europe! I have never come in high season before but to be honest, it really wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be and I was still able to get lots of lovely pictures! It is a great day trip to take if you are spending a few days in Bath or nearby.

Castle Combe is in the southern portion of the Cotswolds, lighter in colour than the honey-coloured brick of the northern Cotswolds, Castle Combe is nestled in the Wiltshire countryside with a babbling stream running past the sweet English cottages. Another very dog-friendly village, Baxter was even allowed to look round the church with us, and the church actually holds pet services so your sweet pup can be blessed by the vicar! There are a couple of pubs in the village which are both dog-friendly so this is also a lovely place to stay and enjoy some lunch, I would recommend eating outside on a nice day as the village is a lovely spot to watch the world go by.

As it got warmer we decided to put Baxter back in the airconditioned car so he could have a snooze, we drove 30 minutes to Bradford on Avon where we would be spending our final night. We knew we wouldn’t be able to check into the hotel until 3pm so we found a lovely spot in Bradford called Timbrell’s Yard where we sat in the courtyard and enjoyed a cider in the sun. Baxter was more than welcome in or outside and there were treats for dogs available and doggy bowls so he didn’t get thirsty. I was starting to think we should just move to the south-west considering they love dogs so much…

Whilst having our drinks I decided to look up the Dog House, as our previous night in Bath Baxter was given a ‘Dog House’ puppy box by the hotel which contained his treats, ball and food. I was intrigued as to where to get more of the treats from as Baxter enjoyed them so much and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact Dog House is actually located in Bradford on Avon itself and has a shop and cafe open to the public! Hurrah! We quickly finished our drinks and walked over to the shop where we were greeted with the most wonderful array of toys. All the toys on sale were made from recycled plastic, so we went crazy buying him flamingos, frisbees, monsters and different treats. Baxter even picked his own toy from the shelf (the monster) and he loved it so much we couldn’t say no…£50 later we left the shop and drove a couple of minutes out of town to Widbrook Grange.

I have stayed at Widbrook Grange before and I knew it was dog-friendly which is why I wanted to book it again. Set in a pretty farmhouse, the hotel is surrounded by beautiful gardens and with lots of lovely shady spots for when it is a little too hot. There is also a restaurant, living area and even a pool and gym so it has everything you need really. I stayed in the same room as last time but this time around it came complete with… you guessed it, a doggy bed, bowls and a box of treats! Once again, Baxter was a very happy boy.

We spent the afternoon relaxing before having dinner in the garden, there were other couples and families with dogs which were a great excuse to get Baxter socialised and let him have a play. The only problem we have with Baxter is he is VERY playful, and when he comes across a 10-year-old dog he doesn’t really understand why they don’t want to play with him. But it was okay as the waiter gave him all the attention he needed anyway so we could enjoy our dinner in peace (we are currently trying to stop him begging for food, easier said than done that’s for sure!).

Sadly when we woke up the next morning it was time to go home, the clouds were grey like they knew I felt gloomy… Lucky for me we travelled past Lacock on the way home so I could take one last photo!

 

Paros: Naousa Vs Parikia

When researching holidays to Paros in Greece you will more than likely be faced with the decision of choosing between the main town of Parikia, and the smaller town of Naousa. Both are beautiful locations so how do you choose between the two?

When I first started organising a trip to Paros I didn’t really have any concept of the size of the island or how long it took to get anywhere. I could see from a map that the ferry I would be arriving on from Mykonos would take me to Parikia in the west of the island, so that is where I started my search. However, the more I looked, the more I realised there were some great hotel and B&B options in Naousa to the north of the island.

It was more by chance than planning that I ended up in Naousa. As we were only spending 4 days on the island, I didn’t want to be too far from the ferry terminal, this was my one and only concern about Naousa. However, I shouldn’t have worried, there was barely any traffic on the island and getting around is more than easy!

Images: Naousa

Location:

As I stated earlier, Parikia is to the west of the island and where the ferry traffic comes in. This means it has all the amenities you could want from a town and is a convenient place to stay. However, my issue was the seafront where the ferries come in. Something I look forward to about my holidays is spending time by the sea, but the ferries were offloading so much pollution I could barely breath when I had to walk off it. This did not go into any of the streets behind the ferry terminal however so don’t let that put you off too much!

Naousa is only a 15-minute drive from Parikia, so it is no bother at all getting to and from the ferry port. Paros is a smallish island, just 21km long so even getting to the south of the island took no more than 30 minutes! I preferred the location of Naousa as the harbour front is absolutely gorgeous and less industrial looking, with no road or traffic running alongside it. The majority of the centre of Naousa is pedestrianised too.

Naousa to Lefkes: 11km (17 minutes)

Naousa to Parikia: 10.7km (18 minutes)

Naousa to Pounta (ferry to Antiparos): 18km (25 minutes)

Parikia to Lefkes: 11km (17 minutes)

Parikia to Pounta: 8km (12 minutes)

Image: Naousa

Beaches:

Paros has a number of nice beaches, Naousa has some nice ones you can walk to and is just a few km from some of the nicest on the island such as Kolimbithres Beach and Santa Maria Beach too! There is a lovely beach not too far from Parikia named Parasporos, but you will definitely need to hire a car for this one.

Transport:

As Parikia is the largest town on the island, it offers the best public transport with buses running to many sites of interest such as Lefkes, Naousa and many nice beaches. You can also take a short bus journey to Pounta where you can take a 5-minute ferry to the nearby island of Antiparos. The main ferry terminal is also in Parikia and it is easy to get a taxi from here.

Naousa also offers a good taxi service but I would recommend hiring a car if you stay here. My sister and I hired a car from for two days and we were able to see everything we wanted and even take it on the ferry to Antiparos.

Images: Parikia

Shopping:

Whilst Parikia is bigger, I thought the shops in Naousa were far superior. Parikia had more gift shops and things were cheaper, but if you are looking for really good quality clothes and beautiful boutique stores then you can’t beat Naousa, this aspect reminded me a lot of Mykonos.

Dining:

Like the shopping, I felt the restaurants and cafes were better quality in Naousa than they were in Parikia and you could also enjoy the setting before. As I said above, Naousa is pedestrianised and there is no road along the harbour front. This means you can enjoy a really nice meal next to the sea with no ferry pollution or cars driving past. There were also lots of options within the maze of streets in town where you could dine al fresco with no cars around you either. The quality of food in Naousa was superb, some of my favourite restaurants were Mitsi Ouzeri which was right on the seafront, we had the whole place to ourselves at lunchtime, a wonderful experience, we also loved the Mare Nostrum which was located on the main harbour, and lastly, the Yemeni Taverna which is in one of the small side streets.

There were also many lovely dessert options in Naousa, our favourites being Nonna Crema which serves the BEST ice cream on the island, and also 32 Agosto where you can choose an ice lolly and toppings to go on it!

Images: Naousa

Cost:

I think Parikia has got to win on this one. As there are more options for restaurants/places to stay, accommodation and food are a little cheaper. Naousa is an upscale town, similar to prices in Mykonos so really can hurt the budget if you’re not careful!

Images: Parikia

Conclusion:

Both Parikia and Naousa are stunning places to visit and we would all be very lucky to get there. However, for me, Naousa comes out on top because it is so quaint, picturesque, and has everything you need!

Lefkes: The Ancient Capital of Paros

Normally I’m quite on the ball when I travel, I look up all the places to go and I know the destination inside and out before I have even stepped on the plane. But my trip to Paros was different, this was a holiday with my sister, this wasn’t a photography trip. However, anyone that knows me knows that part of my enjoyment of a holiday is taking hundreds of photos, I can just take them without the pressure of having to capture certain content. My sister knew I would be wanting to visit some different places on the island and it was actually she who stumbled upon Lefkes.

I had seen photos of this town before but I never knew where exactly it was, so I was pretty chuffed to discover it was only a 20-minute drive from where we were staying in Naousa!

Lefkes is a traditional mountain village in the heart of Paros Island. Whilst it is not on the coast as many of the other towns and villages, its mountainous location means you still get stunning sea views and you can see out to the island of Naxos, it also means you can find a bit of a breeze! The village was the original capital of Paros, now Parikia, and began to thrive in the 15th century. The original residents came over on boats from Crete, they built their village on the mountain to protect them from pirates.

Walking through Lefkes is like walking through time, backwards. The whitewashed sugar cube houses are still inhabited by local people. The population of the town dropped rapidly as many of its people moved to Athens for economic reasons, however, now that tourism has reached the island, the 545 inhabitants are able to live a largely peaceful life with some economic prosperity.

You can walk through the town on foot, there are parking spaces available too, however, there are no cars able to get into the village centre (one of the many reasons why Lefkes has remained so unspoilt). It is a photographer’s paradise, and if I had the time to get back into painting, I would have loved to sit here with an easel for the day and painted until my heart was content.

There are a number of churches in the village, as well as tavernas for eating and drinkings and a couple of tourist shops too. The Church of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) is the largest church and overlooks the village. This Byzantine church is made of fine white marble that shines in the sun, it is also home to rare and valuable Byzantine icons that you can look at. Luckily the village has retained its authentic feel, with many of the residents tending to their olives, grapes, chickens and even donkeys! I imagine if we all had the chance to live here for a while we would have improved attention spans, blood pressure and our stress levels would be minimum!

My sister and I visited in early June which I would highly recommend. The sun shone and the temperature peaked around 27°C (80°F), we were treated to undisturbed views over to neighbouring islands. It was also a pretty quiet time to visit, I know during the height of summer some tourist buses arrive, I would have been slightly gutted had that happen when we came…

For those who don’t drive, you are able to visit Lefkes by bus from larger towns and villages such as Parikia and Piso Lavardi. If you want to visit by bus from Naousa you will need to first get a bus to Parikia and change to get one to Lefkes. You are also able to get a taxi from Parikia and Naousa which cost around €10-€15 and takes just 15 minutes. Please note if you have mobility issues you will struggle to walk in and out of the village as it is very hilly with some steps.

Is Paros The Best Island in Europe?

The readers of Travel and Leisure magazine have recently voted Paros as the best island in Europe, and the second best island in the world. I decided to try it out for myself and on 5th June I boarded a plane from London Gatwick to Mykonos before heading to Paros to experience the island for myself.

There are thousands of stunning islands in Europe, and like Paros, many of these are in the Mediterranean. I am sure we have all heard of Santorini, Sardinia, Ibiza, Mykonos and Corsica etc, but how many of us would have known where Paros was if we had been asked 5 years ago? I certainly knew of many Greek islands, but not this one.

In June 2018 Paros saw 77,594 visitors to the island. The island is in the stunning Cyclades Islands of the Aegean Sea, just 5 miles from neighbouring Naxos. A brilliant spot for windsurfing, Paros is home to a number of stunning beaches, as well as a sprinkling of picturesque towns such as Naoussa and Lefkes.

I have visited a number of Greek islands including Mykonos, Corfu, Lesvos and Kefalonia, but nowhere quite took my heart like Paros did. But why? The towns themselves are characterised by those typical Greek, whitewashed streets with pink Bougainvillea raining down on them. Beautiful fishing villages and ports can be found all over the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean as a whole. But being able to walk through the streets of Naoussa during one lunchtime in June, I thought I had reached heaven. For this island did not seem quite so overrun as so many others do, my sister and I at 1pm had a vast amount of the harbour to ourselves, we enjoyed a seafront meal without being surrounded by hoards of people.

Don’t get me wrong, Mykonos is beautiful, Kefalonia and Corfu too, but when you add in the peace and quiet, you know you have really reached somewhere special. But what lies in the future of this quaint island? In 1998 Greece saw 6.2 million tourists. In 2018 this number reached over 32 million. Nowhere in Europe has seen such a sudden and sharp growth that Greece has. Whilst it is great for the struggling Greek economy, I do believe we are at serious risk of trampling all over the charm of these islands.

The islands offer a maze of stunning streets, ones that look like they belong in a painting rather than real life, but what happens when you have 5 cruise ships bringing in 15,000 visitors alone each day? These streets get blocked up, prices increase, the islands chase the tourism rather than focusing on the historic charm. Luckily, Paros does not tend to get these cruise ships (other than the odd much smaller one), instead, they stop in nearby Mykonos, and I truly believe that is why the island has remained as wonderful as it is. But times are changing and with Instagram putting this island firmly on the map, I imagine beautiful Paros will undergo some serious changes over the next decade.

When I spoke to one of the locals she told me how she hopes Paros Airport will grow enough to bring in more tourists. Currently, you are unable to fly direct from the UK, I felt like hugging her and telling her everything she needs is already here. However, when these people rely on and make their money from tourists, you can’t really blame them for wanting more, can you?

Can Mykonos Really Be That Beautiful?!

10 years ago if you had mentioned Mykonos to me, I wouldn’t have a clue where it was. Fast forward to 2019 and we can all recognise a photo of it straight away. Thanks to Instagram, there are various places around the world that have gone viral due to their beauty. Mykonos is one of them.

However, I have been disappointed by a number of places I have first seen on Instagram, so when I was boarding a plane from London to Mykonos, I reminded myself not to get too excited, all those photos I had seen had probably been taken at 5am and edited to the max.

We arrived on the island around 9pm (thanks Easyjet for the delay!) and it was dark. We took a taxi to our hotel and instantly I felt like everything would be okay. Our hotel was absolutely gorgeous, and considering we hadn’t paid that much for it, it was a bit of a bargain too. It was a classic whitewashed, sugar cubed building, with a pool overlooking Mykonos Town.

The next morning I set my alarm for 7am, I wanted to find my way into town before the rest of the tourists. However, upon doing this, I realised a few hours later that I really didn’t need to! You see, in Greece, people don’t really get up too early. Mykonos is not a party island in the sense of Ibiza, but there are a good amount of bars and clubs that people sleep until midday. The people you see wandering around at 9am are either locals who are setting up their shops for the day or cruise passengers!

It became apparent within a few minutes that Mykonos is not only as beautiful as the photos online suggest, but even more so. Because in a photo you cannot capture the sounds, the smells, and the atmosphere.

I was only on the island for a few days, because of this I didn’t really have the time to go too far. My sister and I were spending the majority of our time on the nearby island of Paros, Mykonos was just our stepping stone. Mykonos is dotted with stunning boutique hotels with incredible infinity pools, thanks to the nature of the island’s terrain. It is a hilly island with picturesque towns spreading out towards the sea. I am sure there are many beautiful villages to explore, but Amie and I stuck to Mykonos Town, the largest town on the island and also the most convenient place to base yourself when you want to be close to the airport and the ferry port.

Mykonos Town is a maze of white streets with chequered pavements, blue shutters and depending on what time of year you visit, lots of pink bougainvillaeas. The main attraction is Little Venice, a collection of streets that lead down to some fantastic bars and restaurants on the seafront. This is also a great place to be at sunset!

Mykonos Town and the island as a whole is also home to a thick dusting of gorgeous churches, perfect for sheltering in when you need a rest from the sun. The reason there are so many is due to an ancient law in which islanders had to build a church on their land before they could build a house!

As you can see from the photos, you don’t have to be a photographic genius to show off the island’s beauty. Those who have followed me for a while know I am a photoshop novice, and whilst I use Lightroom to add filters over my photos, I have no idea how to add or take away objects from a photo, what you see is quite honestly what you get. This is the Mediterranean at its finest.

Week 1 of getting a puppy: What to expect

Okay so you have spent a year stalking random dogs on Instagram and tagging your husband in them all saying ‘pleeeaseeee can we get one!?’, or is that just me? Just kidding, it was actually my husband that initially raised the idea of getting a pup! However, the process between liking dogs and actually committing to one is much more complex than seeing a picture, going out and bringing an adorable bundle of fluff home.

I won’t go too much into how Alex and I finally chose our puppy Baxter, I will write something separate on that. But here you can expect to find the reality of week one with an 8-week old puppy.

Alex and I had read many horror stories online, people telling us puppies cry all night and we won’t sleep through the night for the next 6 months. We read that our puppy would be distraught leaving his home and he was for sure going to throw up in the car. We assumed it would be a week (or a month!?) of wiping up wee and having our furniture ruined, but it wasn’t half as bad as the online dog authors would have us to believe.

When we picked Baxter up, he was more than happy to come with us. Our journey home was around an hour and he didn’t cry or whine once. He was a little wriggly, and thirsty, so we had a portable dog water bottle which was a Godsend. We got out our car (that was full of newspaper because we assumed he would be sick/pee himself, he didn’t) and took him into his new home. We took him straight out into the garden and put him on the grass where he did a wee, we gave him lots of praise, cuddles and of course a treat. We then took him inside and put him on the floor and let him explore for a while, we were relieved that he ignored our shoes.

We didn’t want to put too much pressure on Baxter so day 1 was all about letting him decide what he wanted to do and when. In the afternoon we showed him his crate (where we hoped he would sleep), enticing him in with treats, keeping both doors open so he knew he could get out. We also put a water bowl inside his crate and that seems to be his go to drink now which is great, he already was seeing the crate as a safe place.

For the rest of the afternoon, we zigzagged between playing in the house and taking him out into the garden to pee. I think we only had one or two accidents inside. We had bought a lot of toys for him (dogs get bored easily and like variety), but we only gave him a few so he wasn’t overwhelmed.

Day 1 was a success, we had a slight scare in the evening, however. We sat down to watch Eurovision and Baxter was tired from playing, his breathing rate went from very fast to VERY shallow. So shallow that we thought he had stopped breathing altogether. In a blind panic we tried to wake him, he was very floppy and unwilling to wake up, cue Alex and I bawling our eyes out thinking we had somehow killed our dog on day 1. However, after around a minute, Baxter decided to wake up and find out what all the fuss was about. This episode taught us two things, firstly that we needed to always be aware of who to call in an emergency and what to do, and secondly, a dog that is in a deep sleep doesn’t want to be woken up and it takes him/her a while to be fully alert. It is also completely normal for dogs to breathe slower when they are asleep, no need to panic!

Once Baxter was back to being his sleepy self, we picked him up (around 9:30pm) and put him in his crate, along with some of his cuddly toys, blanket and a blanket with his mum’s scent on too. We left his water bowl in the crate too, not everyone thinks this is the right thing to do but we found that after 3 days and it’s part of his routine to have his water in there now.

He was very good at going into his crate, we gave him a treat to occupy him whilst we shut the door and put the blankets over it. We cover almost all the crate with blankets so it feels like a den for him, but it’s important to make sure he can breathe in there, so there needs to be enough air circulating!

Baxter did cry a little when we first shut him in the crate, we felt so mean! When I had a dog growing up, we didn’t have a crate for him, so I really wasn’t used to putting a dog in what looked like a cage! But he stopped crying after around 5 minutes and this is when Alex and I decided to go to bed as we didn’t want to disturb him. After having our showers and getting ready for bed, we heard Baxter whimpering for around 5 minutes, then all went silent. We ended up going to sleep around 10pm (usually we would go to sleep at 11:30 or around then), we were expecting to be woken up regularly through the night.

However, Alex and I slept and slept and did not get woken up, then we woke around 4:30am, because Alex had a sore throat. We looked at the time and started to worry that we hadn’t heard a peep from Baxter. We originally planned to get up during the night and take him out to the toilet, we thought he would cry if this was needed. We both started panicking, thinking our beloved pooch must be dead! Alex went downstairs to check on him, he didn’t want to put me through the trauma of finding a dead puppy! When he lifted the blanket up and peered inside, Baxter was sat up looking at him! Hurrah! He was alive! To celebrate, Alex took him out to the toilet then popped him back in his crate and came to bed.

Silence fell on the house again, but Alex couldn’t sleep due to his throat, so he ended up going downstairs and sleeping with Baxter on the sofa (or trying too…).

On day 2 we gave him his breakfast around 7am, then played with him for around an hour and let him sleep. We then played with him some more, wanting to tire him out as we were taking him to Alex’s mum’s house. Alex’s mum Jo is our main doggy sitter for when Alex and I can’t be at home, so we wanted him to get used to her and her house as soon as possible.

Transporting Baxter 10 minutes down the road to his ‘grandma’s’ house was also easier than we thought. We bought him a medium-sized, soft car carrier with a built-in fluffy floor that feels like a blanket (yes, we spoil our dog). We gave him a treat for going into the carrier so well, and strapped him into the car, he whimpered at first but was then good as gold again. He enjoyed exploring grandma’s house and loved her big garden. He spent the afternoon playing with a big football, learning how to kick it around.

The one mishap we had was when Baxter fell into the fishpond… Alex and his lightning reactions fished him out within seconds but he was one soggy doggy for the rest of the afternoon and he was in shock. It’s important when/if this happens that you try and get your puppy dry as soon as possible, spaniel’s are very prone to ear infections so this was our main concern.

Night 2 was another success, I heard him whimpering for around 30 seconds at 4am but then he went straight back to sleep!

Sleep

Sleep was the thing I was most concerned about, I had read SO many conflicting things. Some people saying he will wake me every two hours, some saying he shouldn’t have water in his crate, some people even insist on having dogs in the bed (no happening in my house!) and some say you should get up in the night and take them for a toilet break.

Baxter’s bed time routine goes a little something like this:

  • Dinner at 6pm
  • Toilet break
  • Playtime for an hour
  • Toilet break
  • Nap & sofa snuggles from 7pm-9pm
  • Toilet break
  • 15 minutes play
  • Last toilet break
  • Into his crate

So far this has not failed us (touch wood) and he manages to sleep through the night without having an accident. We do not restrict water before bed as we believe if he wants water, he is thirsty and needs it. The last 15 minutes of play is gentle playing, we don’t want to get him hyper but we want him to be tired enough to sleep. The sofa snuggles at night are our favourite, he is extremely calm and a lot more sleepy than in any point during the day. He becomes very tired from 8pm onwards and just wants a cuddle. We do not recommend poking and stroking them when they are asleep, just let them be, as tempting as it is to fawn over them.

Biting

Biting, after sleeping, was another of my concerns. Our downstairs is open plan and we have a glossy kitchen. We were really worried he would bite the heck out of the furniture. However, he so far has not attempted to bite the furniture at all, he licked the breakfast bar and decided he didn’t like it.

When he is excited, especially in the mornings and especially when Alex gets home from work, he can get scratchy and bitey. This is him playing, this is how he played with his siblings and is totally normal for dogs. This is what winds me up the most, but it’s important to stay calm and not shout at your dog, you don’t want him to be scared of you or his new home!

When Baxter starts nipping us, we say ‘ouch’ very loudly, and look away from him and ignore him completely until he has calmed down. It’s only week one so we can’t expect miracles from our puppies. In week 1, do NOT wear expensive or new clothes! He put holes in two of my dresses and then I decided from now on, I will wear scruffy clothes until he has learnt not to bite. He especially loves dangly things and floaty sleeves! Oh, and frills…

Toilet Training

Luckily for us, we have laminate flooring across the whole of the downstairs (except the study). This means any accidents can be cleaned up quickly and no fuss is made. If your puppy has an accident inside, there is no need to tell him off, just don’t give him any praise.

We originally took Baxter outside every hour for a wee, each time he would wee we would tell him well done! And give him a treat. We have had minimal accidents indoors with this approach. However, one thing I have noticed is sometimes we will take him out for a wee, he does one, then he comes inside and after 10 minutes pees on the floor. So now after each wee he does outside, we take him back out for another one 5-10 minutes later as sometimes they don’t let it all out!

If your pup does pee in the house, normal household cleaning products won’t fully break down the smell. So whilst we cannot smell it, your puppy can and may end up peeing in the same spot again. You can find special dog stain removers that break down the smell!

Food

Unlike adult dogs, puppies need food more regularly throughout the day. We felt it was important to get Baxter onto a routine as soon as possible so he has set meal times. He has a medium sized breakfast at 7am, a medium sized lunch at 12pm and he has a slightly larger dinner at 6pm. In between, he will have some treats which really helps with training. By keeping a routine with his food, it has really helped him cope with the household changes from moving from his original home and has offered him a great sense of comfort and security.

Socialisation

Whilst puppies are not allowed out (except for the garden) until they are fully vaccinated, it is really important you socialise them with all types of people, and if possible, other dogs.

The first day we had Baxter we kept him at home so he didn’t feel too much change. My mother and father in law came over to meet him in a very calm and more familiar environment. On day 2 we took him to my mother in law’s home, we wanted to get him used to her house as she will be the main carer when I have to go away for work.

He loved exploring her house, we made sure to stay by him so he felt safe, we walked him around her garden as well so he could familiarise himself. My mother in law gave him some of his own toys and had bought some the same as he has at our house, she has also bought him the same bed.

The next important bit of socialisation came when I invited my sister over with her two young children April (4) and Luna (19 months). Both kiddies are terrified of dogs, and Luna is terrified of all things fluffy. Dogs are able to sense situations well and Baxter was on his best behaviour immediately. We put his harness and lead on him so we had control over him at all times, we didn’t want him playing chase and scaring the girls. He mostly sat and watched the girls play, April plucked up the courage to stroke him and walk him on his lead. Both April and Baxter got a little overconfident and Baxter became more playful which ended up scaring April and causing some tears. This scared Baxter a little but it was important we got him used to all situations so we were happy with how things went.

Even though you can’t take your pup out until a week after he is fully vaccinated, you can still take him for walks. Alex and I took Baxter for a 20-minute walk around town. This gets him used to all the sights and sounds of the area, from sirens to lorries, to buses and aeroplanes! He definitely doesn’t like motorbikes…

Training

On day 1 we had Baxter sitting on command. Of course, we got a little ahead of ourselves thinking we had the world’s most intelligent, well-behaved dog in the land. We don’t, although he is pretty good!

How did we get him to sit? Treats.. lots of treats! Hold the treat in front of him and above him so he has to look up. Tell him to sit, he will instinctively sit as he looks up at the treat, we then give him lots of praise, and the treat, for sitting down. We have also managed to get him to ‘stay’. At first he would stay for about 1-2 seconds, now he will stay for a good 5+ seconds. Again, we used treats to do this, he learnt he would get a treat until he was invited to eat it.

The thing we struggled more with was ‘drop’. Dogs explore the world with their mouths so they want to put everything in it! In the first week we didn’t want to give too many commands so didn’t really work too much on drop. But him biting my clothes and refusing to let go did start to wind me up. Week 2 I started working on him to drop, 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening (not when he has just woken up or when Alex got home, puppies don’t take notice of commands when overexcited).

He has gotten a lot better, although he can often take some time to think about whether he actually wants to drop or not. I play a game of tug of war with him, I then tell him to sit, which he does, and I hold the toy still. I then bring out a treat, as I waft the treat under his nose I say ‘drop’, and he then makes a choice of treat or toy. Treat will win 9 times out of 10, so as he releases I tell him ‘good boy for dropping’ and feed him a treat. On day 2 he would drop before seeing the treat… result!

One of the most important parts of puppy training is positive reinforcement, praising the pups when they do something right! Then you will have a happy, well behaved furry friend.

Let’s All Move to Norfolk!

I don’t know what you know about Norfolk, but I can’t be the only one that instantly thinks of Norwich’s most famous broadcaster, yes… I am talking about Alan Partridge. But let’s be real here, Norfolk is a lot more than a comedic parody act that we all love to hate.

Norfolk, in the far east of England, has an interesting Saxon history. Being set within the right-hand side ‘bulge’ of the United Kingdom, this is one of the first areas that our Scandinavian neighbours arrived it. Norfolk was the northern half of the Kingdom of East Anglia and was ruled by the Anglo-Saxon Wuffing dynasty, unfortunately, we don’t know all that much about the people, it seems they didn’t like writing things down… Norwich is the hub of the county and was even the largest city in England after London during the medieval times, right up until the Industrial Revolution. This surprises some, Norwich is often thought of as a ‘country city’, surrounded by thousands of fields and undeniably is one of the most secluded cities in the UK.

Because of its isolation, Norfolk is one of the least densely populated counties of England, but this also means you can buy a beautiful home for the fraction of the cost of houses in the home counties. Norfolk is beautiful, with one of the longest coastlines in the country, perfect for dog walkers, country lovers and people who just enjoy clean air.

Below are some of my favourite houses currently on the market in this not so small corner of England:

The Green, Saxlingham Nethergate

In a world of ever increasing house prices, it seems nuts to me that it is possible to buy a beautiful period property with over 3 acres of land for just £595,000 ($759,000 USD). No, I’m not saying that’s affordable for everyone but when you consider a 3 bedroom home in Hertfordshire with a tiny garden costs far more than this, it is a bit of a steal.

This Grade II listed cottage dates back to the 17th century and has been recently updated by its current owners (underfloor heating included) so you don’t have to do a thing!

The Street, Wramplingham

A little more pricy than the house on the green, this Georgian country home is on the market for an eye-watering £1.65 million, but it is set within 6 acres of stunning gardens. The house is Grade II listed but an extension has been added onto the back of the house so it has undergone a level of modernisation.

The downstairs reception rooms make full use of the views out into the garden and there are a number of bay windows (my favourite!)

Belmont Grange, Scole

With 3 cottages that can be let out, £2 million doesn’t seem like the worst price tag in the world. After all, Norfolk is a very popular holiday destination, so during the high season, there is a fair amount of money to be made!

Morningthorpe, Norfolk

This beautifully restored manor house is on the market for a cool £1.6 million! Its charm, beauty and grandeur make it a great home to possibly turn into a wedding venue or something of the like.

Grade II listed, this home dates back to the 17th century and has oodles of its past dotted all around, it was substantially extended in the 18th century but still has the original staircase built in the 1600s. All the bathrooms have been refurbished, a brand new kitchen wing, the introduction of heating and the roof has been completely replaced too.

Whitwell, Norwich

This Grade II listed home is currently under offer to one very lucky buyer. With total privacy and seclusion, the residents of valley farmhouse can enjoy the full country experience at this house. There is also an onsite barn that can be converted into a number of different venues or uses.

It is thought the home dates back to 1700 and fell into disrepair until the 1970s when a previous owner bought and refurbished the property.

All properties can be found via the Savills and Knight Frank websites. Please note this article is in no way affiliated with either business.

London: Wisteria Watch

It’s that time of year, we have seen the cherry blossom, the magnolia, and now it’s time for the wisteria, perfect purple petals cascading down some of the most beautiful houses in London. The wisteria is like a fairytale, and walking around houses that cost millions of pounds might make you feel like you are in one for a few hours. Oh, did I mention the smell? Wisteria doesn’t just look pretty, it smells delicious and the fragrant scents waft from the branches all the way down the streets.

Whilst London is a large city with great transport links, there is nothing better than seeing each area on foot. For that reason, I won’t pinpoint each location in this write-up, where is the fun in that? Take a walk through London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and see which of these gems you can find…

These three (above) are all on streets next to each other, so once you find one, you will be sure to find the others! Don’t underestimate these beautiful flowers, the vines they grow on spread fast and aggressive, the branches can even snap some objects that get in the way of their path.

My favourite doorway in Holland Park, when the wisteria is out that is! Wisteria vines will work their way into any crook or cranny they can reach, so it’s generally advised to not plant them too near to your home… oopsie!!

There is no shortage of pink doors either, across the whole borough! If you keep your eyes peeled in Notting Hill you can even find one complete with goggly eyes, no wisteria though sadly! Sun is essential to the growth of wisteria, so don’t be surprised if you walk down a street where one side is covered in wisteria and the other side is bare as a baby’s bum!

This street in Chelsea, Cheyne Walk, used to run alongside the River Thames, however, after the construction of the Chelsea Embankment, Cheyne Walk now runs parallel behind it. Cheyne Walk takes its name from William Cheyne, Viscount Newhaven who owned the manor of Chelsea until 1712. Most of the houses were built in the early 18th century. It’s a nice spot to be, probably why Mick Jagger lived here!

If you decide to take your dog on a walk to see these flowers in bloom, just be wary that wisteria is poisonous to animals, and humans! The first Wisteria was brought into Europe in 1816 by an English man. If you fancy planting some of these yourself, don’t worry if they don’t bloom first time around, wisteria is notorious for taking years to flower!

How is Instagram Changing The Way We Travel?

Around a year ago someone wrote on Instagram ‘where would you travel to if you couldn’t post it to Instagram’. There were so many places popping into my head, Antarctica, Zanzibar, the Maasai Mara, New Zealand. These places alone made me realise why it was such a good question, for these are the places we should be going to anyway.

Most people would look at pictures of the places mentioned above and think, well they are beautiful so why wouldn’t you Instagram them? I agree, they are stunning, however on Instagram we all get stuck in a niche, and as beautiful as a lioness and her newborn cubs are if I post that on my Instagram I can guarantee my followers would either scroll past or at least do a double take on who posted them.

As soon as you start travelling for Instagram, the sooner the joy of travelling leaves you. It becomes a job, a mission to get certain photos. I get pre-travel anxiety… what if it’s busy? What if the weather is bad? What if I don’t get any nice photos? For two years this was the norm for me, I didn’t question it. But recently I realised I wasn’t enjoying these places as much as I should, I wasn’t sitting back and watching the world go by, I was watching everything through a lens.

Travelling for myself

In March I booked a trip to Thailand with Alex, a gift for his 30th birthday. Usually, when I go abroad I reach out to hotels and ask if they would like to collaborate with me, this is where I stay at their hotel for free in return for publicising them on my Instagram account. This is pretty normal when you are a travel blogger, but as soon as you do that, the trip becomes a work trip. The reason we do this is that we could never afford to travel to all these places if we were constantly paying for hotels, our followers enjoy seeing our travels and this makes it possible, so I’m okay with that. I know some people are against such collaborations but as long as the user is being honest in their reviews, I believe it can benefit the brand, the traveller, and their audience.

Thailand was to be different for us, this was a gift from me to Alex, this was a time he desperately needed to relax and so did I. So I went online one evening and I booked the whole thing outright, my bank balance was in a fair bit of pain, but the excitement and thought of going on holiday to relax outweighed that scary feeling of clicking on ‘confirm payment’.

On the plane I felt relaxed, there was no anxiety of ‘what if I can’t get any good photos?’. For four days we stayed on an island named ‘Koh Yao Yai’ in the Andaman Sea. For four days 23 hours of my day were spent without a camera in my hand. I took some photos, but they were just holiday photos, as I would have before Instagram came about, no pressure. Those four days will stay with me forever, pure happiness and relaxation. I have never been so calm and neither has Alex. He often benefits from the travel collaborations I partake in, but if I’,m honest, my constant need to photograph things does get on his nerves.

Not surprisingly, the world didn’t burn down around me because I wasn’t Instagramming every day and sharing every moment of my trip. My followers all wished me safe travels and a happy holiday, to be honest, they were probably in need of the break too! They were all still there when I did check in, and when I did post photos of my holiday they told me to get back to relaxing, and rightly so.

The last few years I have been going through phases where I think ‘what is the point in life?’. Not in a morbid or depressive sense, I genuinely was confused. Were we supposed to wake up, work, eat, go to sleep and repeat every day? What was I supposed to be doing now that I freelance? Should I be doing something every moment of the day in order to be productive? I used to go on holiday and love every second of it, this was before Instagram before I was taking photos of everything, but now I find myself worrying that if I’m not taking photos then I am wasting an opportunity.

I can’t believe it took me a few days in Thailand to realise that the point of life was not the same for everyone, even between Alex and I I’m sure it’s different. For me I have learnt the point of life is to be happy in each and every moment, to always be present, to realise that I don’t always have to be doing something, seeing something or sharing something.

I don’t think it is just me that is guilty of this, I don’t think it’s just full-time Instagrammers that are guilty of this, I think we all are in part. We all share snippets of our lives on Instagram, and usually, these tend to be the best snippets. But this is destroying the way we travel, and it is destroying the enjoyment of travel. We are choosing picturesque locations to point and shoot rather than choosing life-changing experiences and interactions.

Finding a new world

Instagram has connected the world in more ways than we can imagine. How many of us have discovered incredible new locations through this platform? I certainly have. If it wasn’t for InstagramI’m not sure my husband and I would have found El Nido 5 years ago, a beautiful place in the Philippines and one I will never forget. I am off to Paros in the Greek Islands in June, again, I would not have known this place to exist had I not seen it on Instagram. I am taking a break with my sister, again I have no pressure at all to post a thing, so it is a week in the sun I can just enjoy with her, relax, and if I want to whip out the camera I can do it on my own terms.

Keeping it real

Personally, for me, I try and keep my photos as real as possible. There are some incredible photos out there, people who are talented at photoshop and naturally want their photos to look as best as possible. But for me, I have been disappointed in certain locations I have seen on Instagram compared to what they were in person. When you have a certain amount of followers I believe you have a responsibility to be truthful, if you know your photography is influencing others to visit specific destinations, then be honest with your editing.

There has been a rise recently in the people that I follow who share ‘behind the scenes’ of their photos, I love this, it takes their audience on the journey from shooting the shot, editing it, and posting it. It gives their followers a taste of the real thing and the perfect version, that’s fine by me, people know what they are getting into. I have seen amazing ‘visual art’, Instagrammers who create magical scenes in real places, they can fill the sky with stars, add a perfect rainbow behind the Eiffel Tower, and even get a picture-perfect shot of Big Ben from a plane window. Of course these scenarios are often not possible, if you look up at the sky in any major city you will notice the light pollution has destroyed our chances of seeing the stars, anyone that has flown into London City or London Heathrow Airports know you can see major landmarks but they are far too distant to capture in a half decent photograph. The Instagram accounts that post these images will often provide a disclaimer, their audience knows it isn’t real but they enjoy the art, that’s fine by me. However, I have seen instances where an image is clearly faked, the author has written about it as if it’s real. Their audience comment on these images, telling them how beautiful the location is, how much they want to see it for themselves. These comments are often left unanswered, so people will travel to these places expecting to see something that does not exist, that is a sure way for someone to end up disappointed.

Erasing ‘undesirable’ locations

I hadn’t thought about this too much until I was in London the other week. London has become one of the most Instagrammed cities in the world, and it’s not surprising. We have many recognisable landmarks, incredible history, great people and on every street corner there seems to be a restaurant decorated entirely for the purpose of enticing ladies and gentlemen who wish to take a snazzy photo.

What I am about to explain is something that I am personally guilty of, and many of my friends. This isn’t a dig, like I said, it is something that I do but only recently have I realised this. London is a huge city with over 8 million people in it and 32 different boroughs. But unless you live in London or are particularly familiar with it, you have probably never heard of Hounslow, of Enfield, you have probably never seen the high rise council blocks in south-east London, the sound of police cars whizzing to their next location. The rubbish on some of the streets, the homeless men and women who have no place to go, and the street fights on a Friday night. No, they aren’t ‘picturesque’, not in an Instagram sense anyway.

In London, we like to see the colourful houses of Notting Hill, the cherry blossom of Greenwich Park, the bookshops of Chiswick, the fancy cafes and houses of Kensington that we could only ever dream of one day owning. In fact, it is rare for me to see on my own feed even images of the famous landmarks such as Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. When I go into London with the purpose of taking photos, every place I end up tends to be a street in which houses cost millions of pounds. But behind these homes and pretty facades are tower blocks of men, women and children living in poverty. Take Grenfell for example, a story that shocked the world, a fire in which over 70 innocent people died because the local council cut corners to save money so its most vulnerable residents were not sufficiently protected. Did you know Grenfell Tower, not just a haunting shell of a building, can be seen from those areas of Notting Hill in which we all stroll through and share photos of flowers from?

We have all portrayed London as a very middle-class city, one which is pretty, ornate, and dare I say whitewashed? Not one that is currently going through a crisis of knife crime, lack of police resources and families who are struggling to feed themselves. I’m not saying London is bad, far from it, at the end of the day it is beautiful, it is democratic, anyone who lives there is living a much better life than many other places in the world, but it is not the perfect world you see on Instagram. I am sure the Parisians would say the same about Paris, I am sure those who live in Naples don’t spend every weekend driving along the Amalfi Coast stopping for lunch in Positano, this is a worldwide issue.

Why Instagram itself is guilty

I’m sure when Instagram was created, the two men behind the idea never dreamed that it would turn into what it is today. It speaks volumes that they have left the company they made, because they didn’t like the direction it was taken in.

The algorithm was brought to Instagram after it was taken over by Facebook. This algorithm often rewards those who post photos we can all recognise. This is because it is natural for us to double tap on an image we see often and have been conditioned into thinking is perfect. Views of Amalfi Coast, Santorini sunsets, swings over Bali and pictures of cake in front of Peggy Porschen’s very pink facade.

We see these images over and over again, but I don’t think the blame lies solely on the user, but with Instagram itself. The algorithm, whilst somewhat useful at times, more often than not doesn’t offer the chance for a photographer to take a new creative direction and try something they haven’t done before. I could post 10 photos of the same street in Castle Combe all from different angles, I would probably get a huge amount of likes on this, but, is that really what I want to do? Instagram is addictive and competitive, it has been created like this on purpose. It was designed to hold our gaze for as long as possible, we all fall in the trap of posting what we know will do well because let’s be real, more likes feels better than fewer likes doesn’t it?

Overcrowding

Thanks to Instagram, new destinations are constantly being thrown into the spotlight. Destinations that once had a very small tourism industry are suddenly being inundated by hoards of tourists. The infrastructure in these locations often buckle under the strain, but of course, you wouldn’t know that from a photo would you?

Authorities in Thailand had to close a beach in the Phi Phi Islands. This beach in Maya Bay was firstly famous from the Leonardo DiCaprio film ‘the Beach’, so received a lot of tourism from this. However, in the last few years, the tourism blew up to unprecedented levels, thanks to the constant stream of images we would see online. Too many tourists caused terrible damage to the marine life and ecosystems in the immediate area, the beach is now closed until the reefs have returned back to what they once were.

It’s not just Thailand that is being damaged by tourism, but places all over the world. Take Santorini for example, one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, now under a constant stampede of feet. Santorini has become one of the most recognisable images on Instagram, because of this their tourist numbers have exploded. In 1998, Greece peaked at 6.8 million tourists, in 2019, 15 million, in 2018 that number has reached a whopping 32 million tourists and there is no sign of that number dropping. It has seen the highest increase of any European destination! It is important to not the second largest jump in tourism was between 2010 and 2014, numbers increased by 7 million. Instagram was released in 2010, the largest jump has been between 2014 and 2018 where it jumped ANOTHER 10 million, this is the period in which Instagram saw the biggest boom in new users.

Any visitor to Santorini will be happy to tell you the truth of the destination… a beautiful island currently being destroyed by tourists who think they have a right to access people’s private properties for a photo, who climb across the roofs of resident’s homes so they can get the best sunshine shot, and the poor donkeys forced to carry heavy tourists up and down hills. I have not been to Santorini, and although I have been itching to see it, I don’t think I will be going anytime soon. This has been one of the major reasons I chose Paros for my personal holiday instead, although I fear that will one day end up the same.

The cost of a selfie

Just that phrase makes me shudder, it makes me feel like I am a parent whinging on at my child. But it’s true, how many people are putting themselves at risk for a photograph, just for Instagram? I have personally done it, stupidly, I actually had someone shout at me for it.

In 2015 an Australian tourist fell to her death in whilst trying to recreate the famous Instagram image at Trolltunga in Norway, a rock that juts out 700 metres above Lake Ringedalsvatnet. Despite a serious hike to get up and down to the rock, tourists come up in their hundreds to take a photo, some even have the audacity to complain about the lack of toilets and mobile signal at the top, as if this rock is some sort of set up tourist attraction rather than a natural feature in a beautiful landscape.

The solution?

Travel mindfully and don’t mimic others. Travel to the places you want to travel to, if you see something you like on Instagram, do your research, read reviews and check all is as it seems. Remember to live in the moment and watch the sunset with your eyes, not through your phone.

This is all advice I want to follow, I will keep sharing my experiences on Instagram and the places I visit, but I will be travelling where I want to go and not spending the entire time getting the ‘perfect shot’.