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I’ve wandered past Jamie’s Italian in Liverpool One many times over the years, but never actually got around to visiting until I was invited recently to sample the restaurant’s brand new Monday to Thursday evening menu. Besides being an opportunity to dine somewhere new (we tend to stick with a few tried and tested favourites when eating out), this was an excuse to arrange for my parents to babysit and have one of those extremely rare date nights. We went on a Thursday evening and the restaurant was almost full; bursting with chatter. We were seated in a cosy spot near the corner, with the whole floor in view. The first thing I noticed was the decor featuring wood-panel walls and contemporary cluster pendant lighting; an eye-catching combination of modern and rustic. I liked the stylish design along with the warm atmosphere.

The new menu of Italian classics with a twist here and there offers a three-course meal for £18.95 (after 6pm Monday-Thursday). We shared a couple of starters, the Cured Meat Plank and the Primavera Bruschetta (lemon courgette, peas and beans with hazelnut and lovage pesto and Bella Lodi cheese), before moving onto our mains of prawn linguine, a signature dish at Jamie’s, for me and a 35-day dry-aged sirloin steak and chips for Andy. While the starters and mains were lovely (although we both found the bruschetta a tad bland), it was the dessert that was the biggest highlight. Andy had the Baked White Chocolate Cheesecake, while I opted for the Molten Chocolate Praline Pudding. This lava cake was honestly one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever tasted. It was so beautiful I was actually ‘mmmmm-ing’ out loud with every spoonful of warm chocolate sponge and melted chocolate, with vanilla ice cream and crunchy praline pieces.

Along with the great food, another plus was the friendly waiting staff. Jamie’s Italian is perfect if you’re after a value-for-money Italian restaurant in Liverpool with relaxed, stylish surroundings. There’s also a tempting cocktail menu and attractive outside area – ideal for enjoying alfresco dining on balmy summer evenings. If I didn’t have a baby to feed when I got home, the Sicilian Daiquiri featuring Bacardi Carta Blanca and Oakheart rum with lime juice, vanilla syrup and fresh mint would’ve had my name on it! Definitely an excuse to return ;-)

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Thank you very much to Jamie’s Italian Liverpool for hosting us. While I was compensated for the meal, all views are my own.

 

Jamie’s Italian

45 Paradise Street

Liverpool

L1 3EU

 

 

 

The rows of glossy multicolour stared at me, teasing with their bold titles of countries, cities and continents I’d yet to visit. I was in the travel section of a book shop; somewhere I’d previously frequented in search of inspiration for the next trip. This time was different.

Rather than being like a child in a sweet shop, excitably flicking through books to absorb photos and details of incredible places across the world, I felt a bit lost. At this moment in my life, the travel section teased rather than inspired. This pick a mix of guides and memoirs represented what I longed for but couldn’t have: regular travel, spontaneous last-minute bookings, solo travel, romantic weekends away, the time and means to go gallivanting to some far-flung destination or, heck, anywhere for that matter. I used to live and breathe everything travel yet now I found myself yearning for it, missing it…almost mourning it. Life had changed. I was a mother now.

Alison see my travels

Travel plus baby in the Isle of Man.

I chose to be a mother. I’m happy being a mother. I love my baby girl more than words can describe. Despite the ups and downs of first-time motherhood (and there have been plenty!) my daughter brings me great joy every single day. Seeing her beautiful smile, hearing her adorable giggles, watching her grow and develop. It’s all a great privilege. The good far outweighs the bad. Those smiles, laughs and hysterical moments more than compensate for the tears, tiredness and that pesky ‘I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing’ and ‘I’m going to be fat and unfit forever’ insecurities.

The reality is that in starting a family, travel has fallen by the wayside – at least for the moment. I push myself to get out for a walk in the park with the pram most days, but there’s always that next feed and nappy change to be conscious of. There’s never any room for spontaneity when it can take a couple of hours to simply get out of the front door sometimes! Days feel very regimented and restrictive. I’ve struggled with this a lot, but am trying to come to terms with the fact that, while certainly not impossible, it’s not as easy and convenient to travel anymore. It’s not completely hopeless though and I’m definitely readjusting to the idea of travel plus baby. After six months, I can feel myself slowly relaxing into motherhood and begin to break out of that bubble.

travel plus baby

Walks in the park have kept me sane while on maternity leave.

People travel with babies all of the time and there are plenty of inspirational family travel blogs out there to draw advice from. However I do sometimes feel depleted reading idealistic stories of couples who manage to go on epic adventures with a baby in tow. There was a story circulating around the internet a few months back of a couple travelling around the world with a two-month-old baby. While part of me thought ‘good on them’ for breaking societal expectations and taking such a young baby on a long-term trip, another part of me was irritated by the smiley, picture-perfect images that albeit portrayed just the positive aspects of the situation.

When Gabby was this age, I spent the majority of my day stuck on the couch cluster feeding. I was a milk machine. I still am, but to a much lesser degree. The early months of motherhood left me wondering if I’d ever have any kind of freedom again to travel regularly. A lot of what’s on the internet nowadays is designed to be aspirational rather than realistic. I personally appreciate reading blogs and articles that ‘keep it real’ and don’t present a sugarcoated version of reality. So, from now on, that’s what I’m going to aim to do here.

 

Making travel plus baby happen

 

We’ve already had our first little holiday with the baby to the Isle of Man – a family visit to Andy’s parents. Despite the slow start due to a flight that couldn’t land, Gabby managed to sleep in transit, apart from a few small whimpers. She also seemed to be in her element spending precious time with her Grandparents and seeing plenty of new surroundings. These were definitely hopeful signs. Using a baby carrier was a godsend for navigating areas that weren’t pram friendly, such as the narrow, uneven passages through the Isle of Man’s glens.

I’ve also got a family holiday in Sorrento coming up in September to celebrate my mum’s 60th. While the original plan was for Gabby to stay behind with Andy for the week, this isn’t turning out to be the most practical idea for various reasons (still breastfeeding, baby won’t take a bottle…just starting to generally really worry about leaving a 10 month old for a week) so this is most likely to be travel plus baby rather than my first baby-free break. 

As my maternity leave nears its end and the baby brain fog begins to lift slightly, I’m starting to feel much more positive. Everything is different now. I’m different. Life is different. But rather than dwell on what can no longer be, I’m going to embrace travel plus baby as a grand new adventure in itself. And as for getting a baby-free break of more than a few hours. A weekend away with Andy maybe or a little spa break. I know this will happen eventually. For now, I’m going to cherish this time. After all, I know she won’t be a baby for long.

 

 

“He’s missed the runway”, a lady in front of us exclaimed as the engine of the descending plane suddenly went into turbo and began climbing again. As a rather nervous flyer, I began feeling a bit panicky. Worried thoughts ran through my head. What’s going on? Is that woman right? Has the pilot really missed the runway? Then the announcement came.

The weather had deteriorated in the Isle of Man. We were to wait it out for a while to see if the situation improved, otherwise we’d have to head back. A chorus of sighs followed. We waited and hoped as the plane began circling like a vulture. Small glimpses of the Irish Sea were visible through gaps in the clouds. I expected to see white horses or something signifying stormy weather. But the water looked on the calm side. Plus, there wasn’t any turbulence. I glanced down to my six-month old sleeping peacefully on my lap and hoped her first flight would manage to reach its destination. But it wasn’t to be. This was only supposed to be a quick 30-minute trip from Liverpool. Frustratingly, almost an hour and a half after taking off from John Lennon Airport, we were right back where we’d started.

We didn’t know at the time exactly what the ‘bad weather’ described in the announcement entailed. Was it heavy wind and rain? Or was it that eerie Isle of Man mist we’d encountered on previous trips? When we got home and chatted to the family we were supposed to be visiting over there, we discovered the latter was the culprit. After taking off from Liverpool, a thick mist had set in, completely covering the airport at Castletown so it wasn’t safe to land. “Manannan must’ve been in a bad mood”, I remember saying. According to Manx mythology the sea God Manannan would wrap his cloak of mist around the island to protect it from invaders.

“Those who live on the island will appreciate how unpredictable the weather here can be,” the pilot had said when making the announcement that the plane would be turning back. After visiting many times, I knew what he meant. As a tiny, sparsely sheltered island in the Irish Sea between northwest England and Ireland, the Isle of Man is no stranger to bizarre and changeable weather. A perfect sunny day can quickly transform into a gloomy rainy picture and vice versa. Along with its numerous ancient remnants and untamed natural beauty, the weather plays a part in its mysterious moody charm. Whether it’s bright and sunny with a glossy veneer or wet and gloomy muted by mist, the Isle of Man is always beautiful. Despite not making it there the first time round, we managed to get booked on the same flight the following day. Thankfully it was mist free so we were able to land and begin our little holiday.

Alison see my travels

Sound looking out to the Calf of Man.

Before long our lungs were being refreshed with delicious woodland air as we wandered through Ballaglass Glen in the north of the island – soothed by the sounds of fast-flowing water from the Cornaa River leading to cascading waterfalls. The woods were carpeted with bluebells in their impressive spring finale. The colours, the smells, the sounds, that wonderful fresh air; I was in my happy place. We always take in the glens when visiting the island, but this was the first time seeing the verdant views blooming with bluebells.

This was also the first time travelling with our baby girl. Strapped to my chest in a baby carrier, with her facing forward so her curious eyes could fully take in the surroundings, my steps were much slower and careful than usual. I wanted her to enjoy this amazing place, but my motherly instincts were always focused on keeping her safe – especially navigating some of the narrower, muddy patches with steep drops to the side.

We passed by an isolated cottage in the middle of the woods and I immediately thought of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. This derelict stone building, a remnant of the glen’s mining heritage, really played into the enchanting scenery. As did the striking wooden sculpture of a bearded, Gandalf-like fellow known affectionately as The Wizard of Ballaglass located next to it.

Wizard of Ballaglass, Ballaglass Glen, Isle of Man glens, Isle of Man travel

The Wizard of Ballaglass.

bluebells, bluebells in woods, Ballaglass Glen

Beautiful Ballaglass bluebells.

Ballaglass Glen waterfall, cascading waterfall, woodland waterfalls

Cascading waterfall at Ballaglass Glen.

After visiting the Isle of Man several times over the past eight years, as Andy’s parents live here, we’d pretty much seen and done it all. However there are certain things we do time and and time again, which never get tired. This includes driving to the south of the island, taking in Port Erin with it’s lovely beach that’s atmospherically back-dropped by the stark cliffs of Bradda Head, topped by the historic Milner’s Tower.

Then there’s Sound, one of the island’s most picturesque points, and Castletown with it’s attractive castle and harbour. Also, no Isle of Man holiday is complete without a double scoop of the award-winning Davison’s ice cream, boasting an array of tempting flavours such as coconut, chocolate orange, banoffee pie and Turkish delight.

Castle Rushen, Isle of Man castles, Castletown

Castle Rushen, Castletown.

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Tiled mermaid art in Castletown.

Port Erin, Isle of Man, Bradda Head

Port Erin beach with Bradda Head in the background.

 

Until next time Isle of Man.