Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places, Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger, Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The meaning of life - It's 42!




sunset over the cote dazure, mandy charlton, travel writer, photographer


According to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy the meaning of life is 42, being that I reach that on Monday I'm crossing my fingers and toes that is actually true.

41 for me was a bit of a weird age, it started off quite badly as I remember it but then it just got better and better until I found myself having the most fun I have ever had.  

In work I've photographed portraits and great travel destinations, beautiful weddings and I've written about some of the most glorious places in the country and Europe, I visited 5 countries in 4 days, went on my first cruise, holidayed for a week in Edinburgh and reviewed some of the loveliest dog friendly places in the country with Holly Bobbins my chief doggy travel expert.

41 was the age I went to my first ball and the age I really learned to appreciate the friendships you have with women, it's been the age of actually letting people in my home, I never thought I would see the day I actually let a TV crew into my living room, I think I got 10 bonus brave points for that one.

There's a comfort and knowledge that comes with age, especially as a woman I think, society places so many pressures upon us, the ways we should look and feel and think and we're judged on every little thing, I think somewhat we still have a long way to go to be seen truly as equals but we're breaking through glass ceilings every day and whilst there's still a long way to go I'm glad I've had my time on earth when I have.

I'm having a weekend in a luxury cottage this weekend, part travel assignment and part rest and relax with my gorgeous friend Li who I don't see enough of since she moved away from Newcastle, along with our wonderful daughters I think we're going to have a lot of fun and a stress free time.  What's even better is that Holly Bobbins will also be there assessing the dog friendliness of the property, I'm already pretty sure we're going to be delighted with what we find.

Monday is my birthday and I'm going out to dinner with some of my favourite people, a tale of 11 invade As You Like It will be a definite tale to tell next week.

I'm working on plans for the things I want to achieve this year, I have some travel assignments I'm working on at the moment, trips which are sure to be exciting and I can't wait to share those with you, I'm in the process of arranging Barcelona at the moment, we're just working on which dates are going to be best.

One final thing to look forward to is the fact that it's February next week, spring is on the way, I like to count down to spring as often as possible because I loathe winter so much, I'm already noticing that it's getting lighter in the mornings and it's getting dark just a little later in the evening, the promise of lighter, warmer, brighter days to come. Lets all celebrate the fact that we've now made it through January, Payday for most of the known world tomorrow and then you can all get on with planning lovely spring photo shoots or Mothers Day presents or Easter or making the final arrangements for weddings, I still have availability for 3 more weddings this year, I won't be taking on anymore once I have those final 3 so if you are still looking for your wedding photographer then get in touch!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, I might still be hiding under a duvet but at least I can poke my head out thinking about the promise of spring to come!


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Friday, January 22, 2016

10 weekends away to take in 2016

steps to castell de bellver, palma de mallora, travel photography, mandy charlton, destination photographer, travel writer
The steps which lead from the sea up to the Castell Bellver, Palma De Mallorca

In case anyone hasn't noticed, it's still January (how can that even be, hasn't it been January for 43 days already?) and it's dark, raining and spring still seems too far away to start getting excited about, or is it?  While the days are dark and staying under blankets planning my next adventure I've found myself amidst travel brochures, guides and internet articles trying to plan 10 weekend breaks away this year.  Whilst it's my year of adventure I'm going to make sure I have at least 10 short breaks away as well as a couple of weeks during school holidays.  It's not that hard to achieve as long as I work like a trojan during all of the other times and some of them will come about as a natural consequence to writing about travel.  I might just mention that I have a travel assignment next weekend to stay in a luxury cottage in Alnmouth and even though I don't expect it to be tropical temperatures a trip to Alnmouth in Northumberland is always delightful whatever time of year it is.

Here's 10 other trips I want to take this year - 

  1. Barcelona, the beautiful city of Barcelona was where I disembarked from my European cruise on the Norwegian Epic and so all I got to see were the outskirts as we drove from the ship to the airport, it's a city I've read so much about at the climate is generally kind for most of the year, flights are reasonable and quick all year around the promise of so much art, culture and the magnificence of Gaudi's architecture mean I have this as my number 1 destination I want to visit in 2016.
  2. Rome, similarly this was the place I embarked upon the Norwegian Epic so I didn't get to see any of the city itself.  They say no one can quite believe their eyes when they come out of the metro to be confronted with the Colosseum right there in front of them almost in the centre of the historic city, I want to make sure I have some time to live like the Italians do, If Pisa was anything to go off I am sure I will fall head over heels in love with Rome.
  3. Florence, it's noted as one of the safest cities in Europe which means I won't mind too much if I have to go on my own, on the day I went to Pisa I could have taken a bus to Florence but the temptation of climbing the leaning tower of Pisa was just too much and so I feel I must visit Florence for nowhere on earth is home to quite as much art and beauty as the beloved Italian city of Florence.
  4. Palma de Mallorca, I've spent just a few hours in this stylish city, the main port of the spanish island of Mallorca, it seems like art and culture were nestled together with sunshine and beaches and stylish marinas, perfect for that weekend getaway with the girls.
  5. Dorset, it's not all far flung adventures on aeroplanes, there are many destinations I'd love to visit with Holly Bobbins, you know she loves the train, it may take a couple of days to get to one of England's most beautiful counties with Holly in toe but I have a feeling it's a dog walkers paradise.  I know when we had holidays in Somerset we nearly made it to Dorset but not quite so I've been meaning to go ever since.
  6. Brighton, I'm already in the early stages of formulating plans for a road trip to Brighton with my lovely friend Harriet, neither of us have been and it's actually quicker to drive to Brighton than it is to drive to London because it's one straight road and I've always felt that the laid back, cosmopolitan green city by the sea would be somewhere I'd fit in perfectly.
  7. Bamburgh, just a little further up the coast from Alnmouth is the beautiful little village of Bamburgh, it's the perfect dog friendly place I can get to easily on the bus with Holly during spring or summer thanks to the wonder of the Arriva Max X18 service I can go the scenic coastal route with a beagle at my side and a spring in my step.
  8. Keswick was once named as Britain's most dog friendly town so I think it's only right that Holly Bobbins go and investigate, there are a wealth of hotels, shops and places to eat where you can take your dog but it's 4 years now since they held the official title so it's time for H.B Bobbins serious travel investigation, and yes there will be Barks out of 10
  9. Amsterdam, the last time I was in Amsterdam I was young and foolish and 24, lets just say I didn't see as much culture as I would have liked so this year I am on a mission to go back there, especially now that I have been through Schipol and know it's probably the best airport for shopping in Europe!  Or, I might even take an Amsterdam mini cruise from North Shields with Abigail, although you don't get a lot of time in this amazing dutch city there's probably enough time to soak up some culture, visit the Anne Frank house and hopefully take a trip on a boat around the canal, you know I love a boat trip.
  10. Eurodisney, so Looby is 12 now, she still loves Disney (as do I at the age of nearly 42) but I feel that we must do Disney whilst it's still magical and before she becomes a jaded teenager with Kevin the teenager style strops (they've already begun people, take cover), I know it's gaudy and commercialised and it's not the place to visit if you're on a diet but I think Looby and I could have the best weekend ever at Eurodisney and with the Eurostar being cheap if you book in advance I think this Parisian treat is within our grasp and you never know we might even get to see some of Paris whilst we're there.
So there you go, some dog friendly, some child friendly, some full of culture and some you just want to go to if you want a good time, I'd love to hear your top tips for places and you want to visit in the next 12 months, maybe we could even go on an adventure together!


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Friday, January 15, 2016

Snow, Holly Bobbins and Seasonally Affective Disorder

I've had seasonally affective disorder for as long as I can remember but in the last 10 years of being a photographer and self employed I find it's the only month of the year when I want to hide myself away and hibernate until spring.  I've found throughout the years that I have formulated various coping strategies ranging from actually hiding way like a hermit until the light improved to going out as much as humanly possible, I bet you can guess which worked best.

I recorded a video out there yesterday morning in the snowy sub zero temperatures but I would have had to walk Holly Bobbins anyway and I wanted to embrace the snow, feel some light on my face and get my circulation going.


This is the start of my weekly vlogs and I hope that you'll tune in either here or over on my YouTube channel

Obviously as we get further on I hope that my videos will improve but at the same time I think I just want to keep it as one woman sharing her thoughts on life, love and everything in between, it's the same as my blog really but now you'll be able to see me a little more.



The best thing about my job and my life as it is now is the travel element, I'm due to go away to a luxury cottage for a weekend in Alnmouth on a travel assignment at the end of January and I can't wait to share that with you in photos, in writing and also in video.  I've recorded video snippets throughout the last 10 years, my favourites are the ones of the girls growing up, especially the ones of Looby in our living room when she was a tiny dot, I did those with my first ever video enabled camera, it wasn't even a DSLR, it was a Fuji bridge camera which was terribly heavy and really not very good, I only had it for about 6 or so months before getting my very first DSLR, a Canon 350D, fond memories...

When I think about the way I live my life now I notice the one big change that brought about so many other little changes, it wasn't becoming a single parent in so much as it was about becoming myself and the arrival of a certain 4 pawed arooing beagle by the name of Holly Bobbins, I love my dog, she truly healed me in many ways than one, she saw inside my heart and reached into my soul and embraced every inch of her human mummy.  I will never stop being grateful for her love.

I still have seasonally affective disorder now but I have great friends who come over and with whom I go out with and I go out and make my legs work and my heart pump when I walk Holly in the park, sometimes I even get that winter sunshine on my face and I can feel it tingling in my soul promising me that one day soon the warmth of spring will return once more and I'll feel on top of the world.




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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Will 2016 be the year Mandy Charlton finally conquers YouTube?


Every year I set myself some goals, things I want to do both personally and professionally and for the most part I do try and complete them.  This year of course is the year of adventure and so I want to find more interactive ways to reach people.  YouTube seems the obvious choice, I've had an account with them for a very long time, in fact I'mm one of YouTubes early adopters, it's my 10 year anniversary this April, it's my 10 year anniversary of my blog at the end of February, makes me feel quite old when I think about it like that, YouTube itself only launched 11 years ago!



So, when I was on my travel assignment for Cruise International magazine on board the Norwegian Epic I shot some videos and they're all going to go live to coincide with the publication of the article which comes out on February 12th 2016 and I'll finally be able to tell everyone about it, it's been killing me to keep it under wraps for so long.  Last night though I created a trailer with a preview of some videos yet to come, it's a bit of fun and it's not 20th Century Fox quite yet but I do hope that many of you will give it a watch and if you're also on YouTube or you have a Google account you can subscribe to my channel

I honestly don't know where this journey will take me and it's just a bit of fun, it's there to help me engage even further with you, the dear readers who turn up here to read my blog and take the time to email me or leave comments.  Nothing in my 10 year journey would have been possible without you all.

It's snowing outside my window currently, Holly Bobbins didn't seem too keen on the flaky white cold stuff bleaching down from the skies and it really has been pretty much a constant blizzard since I got out of bed at 7.30am and according to the weather it's not likely to stop until this afternoon, in the words of a very famous film heroine "Do you wanna build a snowman?"  I really hope it doesn't stop so that Looby and I can build a snowman when she comes home, I am definitely borrowing her snowy moon boots (Ssh, don't tell her, she's at school and she'll never know) and taking Holly Bobbins for her very first proper walkies in the falling snow.  There's been very little in the way of snow since I adopted her but I'm guessing with all of the sniffs she loves she's going to get a very cold beagle nose today, don't worry, you can be sure that I'll make a video of her first proper time in the snow.

Have a great day everyone, wrap up warm, go have a snowball fight with someone you love and then exchange warm hugs over some creamy hot chocolates, the ones with the flakes and marshmallows and the cream!
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Monday, January 11, 2016

11 of the best dog friendly places in North East England


Holly Bobbins, my wonderful beagle best friend who loves adventures, days out, holidays, pubs and cake!




It's been a while since Holly Bobbins and I compiled our last list of dog friendly places in the north east so I thought it was time to give you all an update and to help you in your quest to find the friendliest places to take your pooches we'll be scoring places with "Barks out of 10"  Holly came up with that, not me, honest! During our visits we are either on our own, with best friend Petunia the Husky or sometimes we join other lovely doggies too! I should also add that this list is in no particular order and that it was supposed to be the top 10 but I really couldn't narrow it down past 11!



Petunia the Husky is Holly's best friend forever, they see each other nearly every day and we often go out for cake together.

  1. Teasy Does It - Holly and I love Teasy Does It, we go here a lot, there's a friendly welcome, great cake and treats available for all four legged friends. It's located on Heaton Park Road. Barks out of 10 - 9
  2. Heaton Perk - I'd been a regular customer for years but it was only by chance that I found out that they're dog friendly, it's a very chilled out vibe and the food is great, it can get very busy at weekends but we love it in summer when you can sit outside in the lovely backyard. It's located on Heaton Park road, pretty much opposite Teasy Does It. Barks out of 10 - 8
  3. Lola Jeans - I've visited Lola Jeans a couple of times, it's in the city centre on Market Street so a great place for lunch should Holly Bobbins and I fancy ourselves a bit of an urban walkies, they do incredible platters and great tasty morsels, it's got a really chilled out vibe and big comfy sofas and if you are visiting Tynemouth you'll also find another Lola Jeans in the centre of Tynemouth Village.  Barks out of 10 - 8
  4. Heaton Ingredient - A new kid on the block based on Heaton Road, it opened last year and we've never had anything but a lovely welcome, it's petit and the food is amazing, make sure you try the french toast or the Porridge on a platter with toast, perfect breakfast to set you up on a cold and frosty morning. Barks out of 10 - 9
  5. Brandling Villa - Holly Bobbins and I think this the epitome of what a dog friendly place should be, I think in part to the fact that Frank the resident beagle often comes down into the bar for a wander and Holly has the hots for Frank ;) This pub goes to so much trouble that they even have their own doggy menu!  Barks out of 10 - 10
  6. St Mary's Inn - Holly Bobbins and I stayed here, you can read about our dog friendly mini break to the St Mary's Inn and then if you have the woofing puppies you might just want to head there yourselves, I love that you can turn up and have the best afternoon tea, it's the same chef as Jesmond Dene House hotel, a favourite of mine although not dog friendly unfortunately.  Barks out of 10 - 10
  7. The Beehive The Beehive in Earsdon is super dog friendly, you can have a doggy meal deal and you sit in a special dog friendly room, your dog can even partake in some dog beer (non alcoholic) and the rest of the menu for humans is simply fabulous. Barks out of 10 - 9
  8. Surf Cafe, Tynemouth This cosy cafe gets so busy because of the amazing food that you have to be lucky to get a seat but if you can you can be sure the staff will make a fuss of your dogs and give them treats and maybe a tummy rub. Barks out of 10 - 9
  9. Cafe Des Amis I love this cafe in Morpeth, I go there so often they know Holly now and her best friend Petunia, they get treats and cuddles and the staff are always delighted to see us, the dog friendly conservatory is at the back of the coffee house and it's always warm, don't forget to try the cafe coffee, the cafe sandwich and the half and half cake!  Barks out of 10 - 10!
  10. Kitscheners Vintage Cafe This quirky vintage cafe in the dog friendly Land of Green Ginger and dogs are given the loveliest welcome, treats and water bowls, the food is casual dining and they have great cakes and pancakes! Barks out of 10 - 9
  11. Keel Row This lovely little pub sits on the way to Seaton Deleval and has welcomed Holly Bobbins and Petunia the Husky on many occasions, the food is amazing value for money and it's all home cooked, just like granny used to make! - Barks out of 10 - 8
Frank, resident beagle of Brandling Villa

KT belongs to Laura of Sharpe Recruitment and we love her


Do you go to anywhere you would like to recommend Holly and I try, perhaps you are the owners of a dog friendly pub/cottage/restaurant or coffee house, if you are then I want to hear from you, Holly and I are actively looking for new places to stay and review so get in touch right now!




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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

10 reasons to love January...



warm cosy lights of january




January, first month of the year and for me it's a month which I'll be honest, isn't my favourite month of the year. I don't mind if it snows, in fact I quite enjoy a snowy ramble with Holly Bobbins but you can keep your dark, wet, dank and damp and give me some sunshine in return.

Now there are reasons you might love January so I've compiled you a little list - 


  1. You got engaged and you're planning your wedding, believe me I would love January too, well if you've happened upon my blog because you're looking for quirky places to get married in the North East of England or you're just looking for a wedding photographer in Newcastle you should probably read my post about my favourite Doctor Who themed wedding I shot last year and you should also contact me especially if you are just planning a smaller wedding.  I don't shoot a lot of weddings now but I'm looking to take on about 4 more this year so get in touch before everyone else does.
  2. A lot of what I do now entails being commissioned to write about and photograph holidays, travel destinations and dog friendly places to stay so January is always a good month to start planning adventures even if it's a little while before you can actually escape, I'm always looking for new commissions so if you have a particular hotel, guest house or interesting holiday you would like me to review, photograph and write about do get in touch, I take on commissions from publications as well as the actual holiday providers themselves.
  3. January is the best month of the year to have friends around for dinner and I've just heard today that if you (like me) have seasonally affective disorder then you'll find that hugs are a great help and can even work better than a SAD Lamp, although I'll be honest I've just got one of those too, I am determined to defeat it this year even though I don't think it's ever got light this week, even Holly Bobbins seems to think it's perpetually nap time (I know how she feels, I might just hibernate).
  4. Speaking of hibernation, really if you are going to do that then doesn't January just have to be the best month of the year for duvet days? I'm thinking cosy bed socks, duvet or knitted blankets on the sofa and a pile of your favourite heartwarming movies.
  5. January has to be the best time of year to visit a cosy coffee shop, particularly if it's dog friendly, then you can say you've taken your pet for a walk and warm up with hot chocolate and a slice of your favourite cake, I'm quite spoiled living in Heaton as we have Teasy Does It, Heaton Perk, BLK Coffee and Heaton Ingredient which are all dog friendly, Holly Bobbins is a big fan of them all.
  6. Find your word for the year, every year I have a theme for the year and this year it's Adventure, it's been a long time coming and I plan to have as many as possible, I'm not entirely sure where they'll all take me or what they'll involve but for me 2016 is most definitely the year of adventure.
  7. I've been thinking for a while that I really have a lot of things I want to do in my home, a grand decoration plan that might just happen, especially because I have lovely helpful friends, I'm planning total redecoration although it'll be on a budget but I really want to have a home I can entertain in as well as just feel excited to be in, after all it's nice to have somewhere amazing to come home to in between my travels and adventures, I think I need to start getting to grips with Pinterest!
  8. If ever there was a month for getting the photos of your computers and cameras and printing them and putting them on your walls it has to be January.  I have a ton of photos I haven't printed yet and I'd love to get as many as I can into photo books and frames and onto canvases, it's a quick and easy way to brighten up any room and my own picture wall is ready for a makeover.
  9. They say that January is the best month of the year for starting diets and exercise plans, well I'm not a fan of dieting but I do try to live by the Slimming World plan, it's been a Godsend to me and I've lost over 3 stones in weight, I also try to get out most days and do 10K steps, if you can do this in January you'll find you can do 15K easily by April.  I'm happy to say that I've been at my target weight now for over 6 months.
  10. Box sets, box sets, box sets, if ever there were a time to catch up on all of the amazing TV you've missed whilst you were out being social in autumn it's got to be January, I can recommend Jessica Jones on Netflix if you need a suggestion.
Whatever you do this January, don't be beaten by the grumps, lets all just plan to make 2016 the best most fun filled year ever!
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Monday, January 04, 2016

And so that was Christmas...

I can barely believe it's over, those twinkling lights, the promise of magic, the expectation of wonderful packages underneath the tree...

I have to admit that our tree is still up, the lights are still twinkling, apparently it's unlucky to take down the decorations before or after the 12th day so tomorrow we have it scheduled in our calendars to de-Christmas!

I have to admit to having had the most wonderful Christmas and New Year, it was filled with the best of times, the most amazing friends and one or two slightly fuzzy heads.  I don't think I stopped for breath much over the festive season and I have loved it.  I love my life now, it's full of fun and friendship and laughter and hugs.  I'm surrounded by the most wonderful friendship group of people who I love dearly, they really are the people I would proudly choose as my family.

Every year I choose a word, that word becomes the focus of my year and whilst last years word was "Renew" this years word is most definitely "Adventure".  Even though it's the dark days of January and I'm sort of feeling the effects of seasonally affective disorder I am already planning and plotting to make this the year I want to write about, I want to fill it with new and interesting experiences, people and places, I want to journey overseas and also in the UK, I want to take Holly Bobbins for many dog friendly adventures and I want to make sure my kids have the best year ever.

of course I can't achieve this without working super hard, I worked the hardest ever last year and I've no intention to do any different this year because when I work hard I create the means for us all to have a better life and that's what it's all about really, fun, adventure and happiness.

I'm excited as we go into 2016, I actually can't see what happens next, I hope to get more travel photography and writing assignments overseas and I cannot wait to see my article about my cruise from Rome to Barcelona on the Norwegian Epic published in Cruise International Magazine on February 12th, I'll probably be queuing at WHSmith to get my hands on a copy!



























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