Welcome to apackedlife.com.

This blog launched in 2017 for people with a passion for travel, planning and getting the most out of life.

What brings you here?

Love travel, preparing to travel, and writing about your travels?

Have little and not so little stationery stashes all over the place, and love journals, planners, diaries, washi and stickers?

Have a desire to organise your world, discover life hacks and enjoy your leisure time more?

Then this is most definitely the place for you.

Well howdy, Y’all.

And forgive my broad Tennessee.  Since we got back from our road trip taking in Nashville, Memphis and the Mississippi Delta last year, I’ve loved the thought of Y’all.  To me it encompasses all that’s right about southern courtesy, and bringing people together.  Let me pour you an iced tea, and we’ll sit on the porch awhile.

Despite that introduction, I’m actually a Brit.  I live in Middle England, in a ramshackle old house which is home to me, my husband and a growing collection of books, stationery, planners, travel accessories and music.  Together we love travel, books and music.  Separately, I like stationery and bringing order to things.  He likes to create chaos.  So we were made to be together.  You’ll get to know us a bit better here.

When I’m not travelling, rustling papers or getting on with life in general, I have a property business and a little gluten free bakery.  After signing up for National Novel Writing Month last November I realised how much I like writing.  This blog was born out of that love, although I’ve been blogging elsewhere for more than ten years.

What you’ll find Here

I cover all kinds of travel: travelogues, planning for travel, equipment and luggage, packing and preparation, and a look at some favourite destinations.  I talk about my secret love for Belgium here, share misadventures aboard Juliet in St Petersburg, and encourage you to hit the road.

In a similar planning mode, we talk about stationery and planners, journaling and record keeping.  If you know what washi is, we may be part of your tribe.  And if not, hang around here and let us bring you over to the sticky patterned side.  We have bullet journals, confessions of a stationery addict and perhaps unsurprisingly, travel journals.

The lifestyle section covers life hacks, how to guides, including how to live your best life, healthy living, goals and self-development.  I share my old house blues, secrets of getting a good night’s sleep, and how to tame a wardrobe behaving badly.

Welcome, And Let me Show You Round

The headers will take you to the blog’s main topics: travel, planning and lifestyle.  The side bar breaks that down a bit more.  If you’ve come here for something specific like packing advice, or bullet journaling I’d suggest starting there.

Subscribe to stay up to date

I’d love you to stick around.  Why not subscribe, and I can let you know about new content on the blog.  And I’d love it if you told me what you’d like to see more of.

How can I help?




Every year in Birmingham, around about the middle of November, there’s a faint scent of ginger, mulled wine spices and sausages in the air.  It may not always feel like crisp winter, but there’s a definite scent of seasonal cheer when the Birmingham Christmas Market rolls into town.  The city is partnered with Frankfurt, so for the past fifteen years, that’s been the source and inspiration for the market.

Birmingham Christmas Market - Santa sleigh

Birmingham Christmas Market: Overview

Last year’s market saw 4.6 million visitors. 

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We’d touched down in the land of the Delta Blues in the middle of a Tennessee heatwave, but on this, our last day in Memphis, the sky was ominously deep with cloud and the promise of rain.  It almost seemed a portent for our destination of the day: a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum.  Writing about this has been on my mind for a long, long time – more than a year now –

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I don’t know if, like me, you were ever a fan of the blond quiffed one.  If so, you might remember the incompetent detectives Thomson and Thompson (Dupond et Dupont in the original).  Despite their bumbling, their search for clues seemed to hint at to what to do in Brussels when you’ve already seen the well-known sights.  Armed with some mostly sunny weather, an intermittent map connection and some trusty flat boots, I took some time out to search for a different Brussels.   

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You may have worked out by now that I’m a little bit in love with train journeys.  If I allowed myself to have favourites, then surely the Eurostar would be among them.  It takes me quickly and easily to some of my favourite places.    There are no worries whatsoever about baggage restrictions, nor the bustling unpleasantness that can be some airports at rush hour.  Welcome to the easy route between London and the rest of Europe.

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I’m lucky enough to have clocked up a lot of miles travelling for business as well as pleasure.  Of late, I’ve been working away a fair bit, and this prompted me to think about what makes for a good planning and packing experience when setting out on a trip.

Business Trip: the Practical stuff

Let’s begin with work.  Firstly, do you have any instructions about the event that will inform your packing list?

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I’m one of those people who has mixed feelings about the whole Christmas thing.  Although I’m no candidate for Scrooge’s title, I can’t always get into the full-on festivities.  But one place has made my snowy, sparkly, spruce-smelling soul happy, and that’s Antwerp at Christmas.  So, in plenty of time for your 2017 festivities, I’m setting out what the beautiful city has to offer.  My pictures are all from visits in 2016.

Introducing Antwerp

I make no apology for being an avid Belgophile,

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English spa towns like Leamington have a fascinating history.  Back in the days when Jane Austen was coyly decoding the way in which a love rival held her fan, people were flocking to spa towns to take the waters.   The health-giving properties of mineral waters were discovered long before the days of water sommeliers, and there was a boom in towns with access to the crystal clear nectar.

The English Spa Towns

There are a surprising number of English Spa towns. 

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It’s not bad, this getting older.  And aside from the alternative being officially Not A Good Idea, age brings knowledge about how to best enjoy the loves of your life.  So let me share with you my favourite travel hacks from 50 years on road, rail, sea and air.

Hacks: Before You Go

  • First, know yourself.  Travel is meant to be pleasure and not pain if you’re doing it right.  So plan somewhere that fits with your preferences.

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For someone who was once discouraged from continuing with art at school because I was just so pants at it, I’m mightily fond of sculpture. And when I found out there was a whole garden – in fact more of a walk in the woods – with massive outdoor sculpture in North Devon, I had to go there.

Now if you’re not particularly fond of art, don’t backtrack immediately, because I have to tell you that this place is stunning. 

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Nostalgia tastes sweet, and never more so than when mixed with a tang of salt at the seaside.

Time spent at the seaside

I was brought up, pretty much literally, as a beach baby in England.  My parents moved to the coast when I was a small dot. I spent a lot of my childhood as a sandy toed beach urchin, towel and book under one arm.  Although I now live about as far as you can get from the coast in England,

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