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

Monday, February 29, 2016

This Easter, Visit Whitby!

I can't lie, I adore Whitby, the pretty little coastal Yorkshire town has had a long standing place in my heart.  There's nowhere like it, it's quaint cobbled streets awash with pretty little gift shops and an abundance of restaurants and cafes serving a multitude of fish based dishes.  It doesn't matter if you want plain old fish and chips or the best seafood platter teaming with jewels of the ocean, it's all available in Whitby. 

The Jewel in the Whitby seafood crown is the much applauded Magpie Cafe, it's never without queues, even at it's takeaway section but if you can prepare yourself for just a little wait (if you don't visit in peak season at noon) then you'll soon be rewarded with boat fresh fish guaranteed to give even the harshest of critic a very happy seafood filled tummy.  Even the house champagne, a very reasonable decadence satisfied my bubble loving palate.

Whitby though isn't just about the fish and chips, there's an ease to the pace in the winding streets of Whitby that lends itself to relaxation, within moments of arriving you forget the stress and worry of the world you've left behind, the smell of the sea air fills your lungs and with each breath you feel your shoulders drop just a little as the calm of the seaside takes over.

I'd never been to Whitby on a girls trip but I cannot recommend that you immediately take one highly enough, there's just something amazing about spending time with your girlfriends, while going with children and partners is lovely, there are also the pressures that go along with that.  Going with girlfriends is almost as good as a solo travel experience but what you lose with solo travel you immediately gain when you have your closest friends by your side.  The camaraderie, the laughs and giggles, the inside jokes, the ability to have many conversations at once because you know each other so well, I'm so appreciative of my friends and it's a joy to get to spend extended time with them.

Whilst Whitby is a joy to spend time visiting at any time of year, I love to go at Easter, the weather is improving but it's still not too busy, if you go during the summer months be prepared for queues everywhere, as I mentioned earlier try to avoid eating between 12-2 if you don't want a long wait, during the Easter holidays though it's not quite so much of an issue barring the bank holidays when it feels like half of Yorkshire has come to the seaside.  

Here's just a smattering of pretty photographs of our wonderful Whitby Friday.





My beautiful friends, Harriet, Laura from Sharpe Recruitment and Julie from Epic Times
























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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

10 Years of Blogging, A Celebration




sunset, newcastle, mandy charlton



On the 28th of February 2006 I made my first tentative post on this very blog, I didn't for one moment think that I would still be blogging 10 years later.

My blog is like a potted history of my life, it's there in all it's glory for anyone and everyone to read but just like me in real life I don't hide things, I'm not the keeper of any great skeletons in my cupboard, believe me, my house is so cluttered I could not fit skeletons in!

Several times over the years the tone of my blog changed, at first it was a diary, I covered my mental health, my sons Aspergers and our daily lives at home during my battle with agoraphobia.  Then it became a place to share photographs as my business started to veer it's photographic nose into the light for the very first time.  Shortly after I would decide to stop blogging but luckily it didn't last for too long before I returned although at that point I decided to focus my blog about my work posting hundreds of photographs, an archive of portraits, weddings, commercial expeditions all interspersed with just one or two personal posts.  Then a couple of years ago I came back to blogging as it is now, I share a mix of life, work, travel and everything in between and it seems to work so well, I regularly get 300-700 readers a day and in a good month I'll have 20,000 people who all come back to read my words each week.  My only wish currently is that I get back to blogging every day instead of my inconsistent once or twice a week and sometimes not even that but blogging is like my mind I guess and sometimes it's busier than others and sometimes it just can't come up with anything valid to say.  
You know that some of my days are genuinely without any exciting events!  (Sheesh)

I wonder where I would be without my blog, it's been my place to cry and rant and muse and even amuse from time to time, it's been my place to share my love of travel, my passion of travel photography and venturing to places far and wide.  The thing is, I could show friends or my children every single photo that I take but honestly, they'd be bored to tears so I collect them here, I curate blog posts and galleries of images which lift my own spirits and hopefully make other people smile too but I also know that if a particular post just isn't your thing then you'll skip it or miss it but hopefully return to the next one.

I've had some turbulent times over the last 10 years and so have many of my readers and this place has served as therapy for all of us, I have had messages and comments and conversations with people and some posts have genuinely helped other people as much as they have helped me.

You may have noticed over the last 18 months that my blog has mainly been the happiest place on earth, don't get me wrong, turbulent times still happen, strong emotions and occasional mental health hiccups are still there to be battled but mostly my blog has always reflected the place I am in my life and for the last year at least I can honestly say I have had the best time ever.  I have the most brilliant and wonderful friends, I've come to really love and appreciate the friendships of other women, something I'd perhaps missed in the past or maybe I just found the best group of friends anyone could ask for, friends who laugh with me, cry with me, hug me, understand me but also never judge me even when we all know I could take better paths, you know who you are if you are reading this now.

I cannot say with all certainty that I will still be blogging in 10 years time, no one knows what the future holds but for me, I don't see any end in sight, as long as there are adventures to be had, travel destinations to visit, either alone or with Holly Bobbins, as long as there are experiences and emotions to share then I will very much always remain a writer and a recorder of history.

I want to say a huge thank you to all of the people who read my blog, who do send me messages and leave little comments, sometimes just a few words can make a huge difference to my day and bring a smile on my face, I always try to reply to comments where possible and that feedback makes me realise just how many real life people do actually read my ramblings.

My blog is going to continue as it is now for as long as I can envision, I have trips planned, travel writing and photography assignments in the offing and this blog has lead to many of those amazing experiences so I hope you'll keep stopping by to read the next great chapter of my big adventure we like to call life.
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Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Lake District is Open for Business.






February half term is a funny time for holidays and days away, the warmth of the sun has rarely touched us yet in the frozen north and even if you do venture out you can often fall victim to the temperamental weather and a fun day out turns into a soggy disappointment.  That being said I have read so much about the dog friendliness of Keswick, once named as the most dog friendly place in Britain, that I could barely wait another day before Holly and I went to check it out.  Now I should say that if you don't drive getting to Keswick can be an interesting journey as there's no rail station at Keswick but you can get a train from Newcastle to Carlisle, then Carlisle to Penrith and finally hop aboard Stagecoach service X50 from Penrith to Keswick.  It's slow travel, so I'd suggest if you are travelling with your four pawed companion that you may want to have a walk in Carlisle park and some lunch, maybe at the Circle Cafe Bar which seems to get rave reviews on Doggie Pubs. Thankfully because I was going with Abigail a car was available with best friend Petunia the husky coming along for a proper doggy day out.



Keswick is keen that tourists return after the terrible floods that saw parts of it disappear under water in the dreadful December floods, it's a town which is very much getting back on it's feet and although it wasn't hugely busy when we visited we did note that more people were accompanied by friendly 4 legged friends than were without dog and that's got to be something to smile about, I applaud a town where you don't have to worry about where you're going to have lunch or if you'll be able to pick up a souvenir or two because dogs are so openly accepted everywhere.  


As I said to Holly Bobbins (oh come on now, you can't tell me you don't talk to your dog, what if they're sitting waiting for an answer?), the Lake District entire is a dog walkers paradise and what you have in Keswick is a dog walkers paradise situated next to dog friendly tea rooms, lunch spots and quaint gift style shops crammed with undiscovered pretty little items, many of which openly invite your four legged friends to peruse the wares by your side.



We had lunch at Bar Metro, American bar and diner, dog friendly, child friendly, burgers, nachos, burritos, vegetarian and meat eaters have nothing to fear with an extensive menu of American based foodie treats sure to keep even the fussiest of eaters quite happy.

After lunch, we came to our main reason for visiting, a trip down to the lake and a big walk to work off the one too many calories in the lunchtime feast we'd just experienced.

I love the beauty of rolling mountains and hills, whenever I visit the lakes I spend a lot of time saying "Wow" awestruck at the beauty of nature, the sprinkling of icing white snow on the top of the mountains, the winter browns and purples of the trees and the stormy skies make for such beautiful brooding photographs that it's no wonder so many poets and artists return to the area each year to ponder life, love and the meaning of everything.  If you are at all creative this is the place for you to stand alone on the edge of a lake, bathed in the solitude of your thoughts surrounded by the misty mountains, just make sure you take along a jumper or a raincoat as even in the summer the mists have been known to roll right in at any given time.

It's a great thing when your teenager puts down their smart phone and enjoys the surroundings as much as you do, it's an even greater thing when your teenager starts to take as many photos as possible because she herself has the overwhelming urge to be creative.




Abigail lasted a whole 3 hours, several shops and an afternoon cream scone in a cosy coffee house before she decided she'd had enough and wanted to go home, that's pretty good for a teenager, I loved watching her running with Holly and Petunia, gambolling on the hill side running with a childlike abandon, dare I say it having fun being reconnected to her mamma for a couple of hours, it's always a joy to spend quality time with Abigail, even though she comes for dinner every Monday night and I see her every day it's definitely not the same as having her living here in the same house, I miss my girl and I'm delighted that she wants me to buy her a digital SLR camera for her birthday, she's very serious and studious in her schooling and I hope having her camera will give her that creative break she sometimes needs to free her mind and soul from the pressures she places on herself.






Our visit to Keswick was far too short but at least I confirmed for myself the very dog friendliness of this quirky little lake district town.  I plan to holiday here this summer with Looby (she couldn't come for this adventure as she was off having one of her own in Edinburgh) and Holly and then we can truly get to grips with dog friendly adventures on boats and trains enjoying epic surroundings and the friendly chatter of strangers you meet when our with your dogs, whilst the lake district can be the ultimate place of brooding and mulling and solitude you'll always find that you are never alone with a dog by your side.









If you are the owner of a dog friendly cottage, hotel or B&B in Keswick and would like to collaborate do get in touch at mandy@mandycharltonphotography.com





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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cruises For Singles, Norwegian Epic from Rome to Barcelona



Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
The approach to Pisa, I took a bus from the port of Livorno and this was my first sight of the Basilica and leaning tower of Pisa


Nearly 3 months ago I went on the most amazing assignment for Cruise International Magazine, I sailed from Rome to Barcelona, a 4 night cruise on the Norwegian Epic, it's been so hard to not talk about it but finally, the article is published, you can get your sticky mitts on a copy of the magazine (I'm on pages 76-79) at any newsagents with a good selection of travel magazines.  It's a thrill to be published anywhere but to have 4 whole pages in a magazine you can hold in your hands breathing in the smell of print is something quite special indeed.

You can also read my Solo Cruising experience on the Norwegian Epic digitally of course but I for one shall mainly be seen clutching a stack of copies for the foreseeable future.

travel photography, mandy charlton, uk travel photographer


If you've never thought of travelling on your own before then I heartily recommend it, there's a freedom that comes from travelling solo, no schedules, no plans, no one else to answer to just long days full of exploration or relaxation if that's more your thing.  On a cruise you can do as much or as little as you like.



When I travelled on the Norwegian Epic it was the end of November, the weather was cold, damp and windy back in the UK and my vitamin D supplies were badly in need of restoration.  Believe me, there's no tonic quite so potent as standing ankle deep in the warm waters Mediterranean sea with the sun shining brightly above you, now try imagining that you're doing that and you're in Cannes, land of the famous, rich and privileged.  Every day there was something which made me pinch myself, simple things like sharing the sunset with Abigail and Looby over Facetime, sitting at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa looking out over Tuscany, peering out of the aeroplane and seeing the green patchwork landscape of Italy below you, or the realisation as you look down from the highest point of Palma De Mallorca that it's November and you're wearing flip flops and a summer dress.  There were so many special memories which I've saved in that special place inside me, places I go to when I mediate or need to clear my mind and yes, I took a couple of hundred photos, you can see my Highlights of Rome to Barcelona on YouTube.  I thought rather than posting all 190 images at once I'd compile a slideshow set to lovely twinkly music and so if that's your thing go click that link.



I think the thing that sets apart Norwegian Cruise Lines from many of the others is the fact that they do offer studio cabins for single people, no single supplement, your own compact studio (with a bed big enough to starfish in) with lots of hidden storage and my favourite thing, the mood lighting!  I also loved the studio lounge where I would gather in the early evening for drinks with my new found friend.  You're never alone unless you want to be, they have boards you can sign yourself up for dinner or to go to any of the shows, there's just no pressure to do anything!  One night I dined with a group of my new found cruise friends, a grand Thanksgiving dinner and on the other nights, executive chef Alok Kumar  (a culinary magician) had arranged for me to try some of the speciality dining experiences.  one highlight was sitting right at the back of the boat with a huge round moon shining brightly over the waves as we sailed having the finest filet mignon I've ever tasted.  For the first time in my life I felt like a VIP.



In just 4 days I visited more of the world than I had for most of my adult life, if anything my itchy feet just continue to get itchier and I hope this publication leads me to further journeys, adventures and experiences around the world.  Solo travel may to some seem a little intimidating but you know what I think cruising Norwegian style means that even the most anxious of travellers needn't worry because you're always so well looked after.  Even the time when I went to put my dinner tray outside my cabin and locked myself out of the cabin, oh how we laughed as I stood barefoot in the corridor, exclaiming "halp" thankfully my cabin steward never seemed far away and I was back inside my cabin in no time at all.




I met so many wonderful people on my cruise but at the same time I spent so much time just enjoying my own company, strolling through the streets of Cannes, wandering the pavements of Palma De Mallorca and ambling down the Italian avenues in Pisa noting how curious it is that the proximity of McDonalds and the leaning tower of Pisa are quite so close.  I think I'm very lucky to have experienced these places outside of the main tourist season, no where was too busy, even Pisa, I've heard that in summer you can wait for many hours to climb the tower, book ahead, they only let so many up at one time because of the general state of the tower (let me just say that Italian health and safety isn't quite at the same level as British health and safety and tour guides, well you'll just have to experience Italian tour guides, wink wink).



I don't know where or when my next adventure will be but I know I have the bug for solo travel and more so cruising, it's like entering a magical bubble for a week and leaving reality aside and that is never a bad thing. The only problem you might have is that you'll never want to rejoin the real world again.








I'm always looking for more companies, individuals and publications to collaborate and work with, please direct all enquiries to -





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