Choosing a Sperm Donor: Navigating the world of Donor Banks

choosing a sperm donor
Is my donor Bradley Cooper?! Read on to find out…..

Deciding on a sperm donor has been one of the things that people I know have been most fascinated about, and I understand why! It’s not a conversation that comes up that often in anyone’s day to day life, and I get it, there’s so many questions you want to know the answers to.

To respect the privacy of my son, I won’t get into intricate details on the donor I chose, but I will explain the overview, and tell you as much as I feel is okay.

In a previous blog post, I talked about when I was in my early thirties and the thought of a donor didn’t sit right with me as I thought I would always look at my child and wonder who the other half of them comes from. Well let me tell you, you should never say never in any situation in life, because when that might be your only option, you find a way to accept these things and roll with it. That’s not to say it’s an easy process.

I knew that Cryos International donor bank, based in Denmark, was the largest bank in the world. So I started there. You create an account, and just like that you have access to men’s profiles with varying degrees of information. Some men want to remain completely anonymous, which means there will be no photos of them, and only very basic information such as height, weight, hair colour etc. Other men are more willing to offer up details on themselves, which means as well as the height/weight stats, you’ll find out their favourite childhood memory, occupation, favourite food, where they’ve travelled to, details on their family including height, weight, eye colour etc, and you also get to hear the donor’s voice as they read out a short letter.

I wanted as many details as possible! You can set your preferences, for example if you were looking for a donor with blue eyes, brown hair, weighing between 70 – 95 kg, with a height between 5ft 10 – 6ft 2, and they were of German ethnicity, you can choose those options. It’s extremely detailed! There is also the option to pay a 3 month subscription fee to get access to adult photos. Not everyone uploads these, but many do.

So what was my plan of attack? As well as Cryos, I looked on other donor banks including those in USA, which do provide a wealth of info on their donors, but I found that every extra bit of information you wanted seemed to cost more money, so I eventually gave up on searching there. I never entertained the idea of using a UK donor bank, as there is a real shortage of donors in this country, and the information given is extremely basic with no photos of the donor provided. I also searched the European Sperm Bank, another large and popular site, and SellmerDiers based in Denmark.

Choosing the donor you feel comfortable with will be based on different factors for every woman. Some will prioritise education, others will prioritise looks and height. I scrolled those sites for daaaaaaays, and it really becomes quite tedious. Early 2020 I had a short list, and decided to pay 250 euros to see adult photos. My priorities were things like height and weight, their age – I didn’t want a student donor as I felt they were more likely to be donating for the money, rather than someone who was older and more likely donating to help women. I looked at their occupation, answers to their specific questions, and I’m not gonna lie, I judged them on their looks. If they had adult photos and I knew I would never be interested in being chatted up by them in a bar, I moved on. Shallow? Maybe. Do I care? No. I was paying out a mountain of cash for this decision!

I had a couple of friends I shared these donor profiles with, and when I was at work nannying, I would go through these profiles with the mum I worked for who is also a dear friend to me. It was helpful to get their feedback, and also not share these profiles with anyone else, as everyone will always have a different opinion, and I think that could make you very confused on who to choose. I had two on a short list, but I wasn’t 100% convinced, it was more a case of ‘these are the best two available’.

But then covid took over the world, the IVF clinic I chose shut down, along with everything else in the UK, so the whole process was put on pause. By the time the clinic reopened, my 3 month access to adult photos had expired, and I wasn’t prepared to pay out another 250 euros.

This time around I found some profiles that I hadn’t seen before, and as I scrolled through the website for the gazillionth time one day, I came across a profile that really sat right with me. The donor is married, with two children, has a really great job, and his answers to everything were brilliant. I could see three photos of him as a baby and a toddler, and he was very cute. They are also required to do an emotional intelligence test, and he scored very high on this. The clinic also write their own review on each potential donor, and it really was the best review I’d read on anyone. And the bonus part, the clinic wrote ‘He has a striking resemblance to Bradley Cooper’, I meaaaaaan, you can’t go wrong with that! Hah!

A quick check of the donor profile with my trusted few, who all agreed he sounded great, and my decision was made. I placed my order (makes it sound like I was getting a pizza from Uber Eats!), and that was that. You’re then sent a tracking link, and can watch all the updates as the sperm is flown from Denmark to your UK IVF clinic in either a dry ice container or a nitrogen tank.

Whilst I don’t want to get into exact specifics of cost on this IVF journey, I also understand it’s important for women considering this to have some idea of what the financial side of things looks like. Factors that will determine the price are things like a quota reservation, which is a payment you make if the country you reside in only allow a certain amount of women to become pregnant by a specific donor, shipping costs and your choice of shipping ie dry ice or nitrogen, whether you’ve chosen an anonymous or ID release donor (the child can make contact at 18 years old, I chose this option), the sperm quality, the amount of sperm straws you’ll need, one straw is used for each IVF egg collection, and a whole other bunch of options.

I was having 3 egg collections so this drove the price up, and it was slightly over £3,000. Not a cheap process. And this is why many women opt for a different route, and use apps to find donors that are willing to help for free, or have a friend donate. The cost of IVF and all the parts that go with it is crazy, and it does frustrate me that all the money that was spent would’ve been a huge head start to mine and Hudson’s life, but what can you do!

Another little piece of info that I’m sure you’ll find fascinating: There are websites and private Facebook groups that those with donor conceived children can sign up to so they can potentially find donor siblings, aka Diblings. I am signed up to these groups, and I do know that Hudson has some diblings in Europe, however the parents have never replied to my message, so I have no details, but it’s a weird and wonderful feeling to know this.

Having a baby via donor has meant a lot of emotions and thoughts to process. I was so focused on honouring his Danish side that it actually worked against me and I found it hard to ‘connect’ to the idea that this baby was also 50% me. I did deal with anxiety and stress in the beginning of my pregnancy over this and eventually found that stepping back and letting things be with the Danish side of things, helped me connect better to the idea that this baby IS mine.

So there we go, I hope this gives you some overview of the process, and as always, I welcome messages and emails if you have any specific questions.

Annmaree x

Oh Baby! The Start of My IVF Journey

IVF journey
IVF journey

And what a journey IVF is! Particularly when your only choice is to go down the private route, but I’ll get on to that later.
When I decided to go ahead with my journey to be an SMBC (solo mother by choice), I was truly jumping into the unknown. It’s overwhelming, and you keep asking yourself ‘Am I really going to go through with this?!’. You worry about everything from finances, to your potential child’s emotional wellbeing as a baby that will come into this world via the modern day science of using a donor. And of course there’s your own emotions and ability to cope. Worrying isn’t a bad thing though, because it’s a journey where you need to consider every angle, both the good and the challenging.

I started where I’m guessing a lot of people start. On Google. I knew my only option to become a mother was via IVF, and that adoption was something that was not going to work out for me.

I Googled SMBC forums, and that’s where I started learning and gathering information, by reading posts from other women either starting their IVF journey or sharing their stories. There was info on IVF clinics all over Europe and so I started researching various places.

I made a short list, which consisted of a clinic in Russia, a clinic in Denmark and a clinic in London. And then I made contact with all three, setting up phone calls, video calls and in the case of the London clinic, attending an open evening.

Whilst making contact with clinics I also went for what felt like a gazillion tests, and these tests are not cheap when you’re going private. So let me explain that part first. We have the most amazing NHS (National Health Service) here in the UK, and I am so grateful for this free public service, but sometimes, and in my case, I couldn’t utilise the IVF services of the NHS. To be eligible you need to be in a heterosexual relationship, meet certain age criteria and have been trying for a baby for a certain amount of time.

Although I still scraped in (just!) on the age limit side of things with my local hospital, because I was going through this process on my own, I didn’t qualify. I’ve found this a bitter pill to swallow to be honest. It’s a big enough process going it alone, without being lumbered with the costs of private fertility clinics. There is one exception as I know someone will bring this up if I don’t mention it, if you’re solo or a same sex couple, and you’ve attempted multiple IUI’s (which is where they inject sperm into a woman when she’s ovulating) and they’ve failed, you can then utilise the NHS system, but you have to spend a bunch of cash first with the IUI’s, so either way it’s still a costly experience.

Back to the tests. My first test was something called an AMH test, which tests the capacity of your ovaries to provide eggs that are capable of fertilisation. ie the quality of your eggs. This came back ‘average for my age’, so that was a good enough start. Next up was the Antral Follicle fertility scan, an internal scan that evaluates a woman’s ovarian reserve – ie her supply of eggs. This all came back looking average for my age too.

There’s a bunch of other tests that need to be done, from HIV to Hepatitis B amongst others. This was definitely a costly exercise, but one where I also found out I’d somehow contracted Hep B at some point! A slightly frightening diagnosis when a random doctor at a private clinic just said to me ‘You have Hepatitis B’. What?! I made an urgent appointment with my GP who sent me to hospital for further tests, and thankfully the virus was no longer living in my body. I’ve no idea how I contracted it, or when, and I never will!

The Russian clinic were brilliant and quick to respond with zoom call appointments, but the flight distance and the likelihood that UK were heading into covid lockdown meant I decided to rule this option out.

The Denmark clinic was by far the best clinic in every aspect. Their efficiency and amount of information they required was mind blowing, and although a little frustrating to gather all the details they needed before they would even consider speaking with me, I was so impressed by them. I had a wonderful zoom call appointment with one of their team, but then again the covid lockdown was looming so it wasn’t possible to go with them.

I had some initial consultation appointments with the London clinic just before lockdown, and decided it made the most sense to go with them, not to mention it was a fairly short bus ride from home to clinic. But as I mentioned above, covid, then lockdown, and that was that, I just had to wait things out.

There wasn’t a lot I could do between March and July, until the London clinic finally started accepting patients again. During that time I spent HOURS searching donors, which is probably the part that people are most curious about, understandably! And I will talk about that in the next post. When the London clinic finally opened, I had to pay for most of my tests all over again, because the results have to be less than 3 months old. My poor, poor bank account! But all I could do was have a little sigh to myself, and just keep moving forward.

To Be Continued….

Oh Baby! I’m pregnant.

Pregnancy announcement
Pregnancy announcement

I’m pregnant.
I’m 42, almost 43 years old.
I’m going to be a mother for the first time.
This is my longest held dream.
And here I am.
This is the beginning of my story on becoming an SMBC (solo mother by choice)….

I clearly remember when I was a child, maybe around 7 or 8 years old, telling my mum ‘When I grow up I’m going to have seven children’. I think my mum’s response was something like ‘Oh right!’ in a ‘WTF?!’ kind of tone.

I did all sorts of unchild-like things when I was just a child myself, keeping a notebook with pages and pages of favourite boys and girls names, for when I one day became a mother. I think it’s still in a box back at my parents in NZ! I even spent my pocket money on a very well known (in Australia/NZ) eighties birthday cake baking book, that only mum’s bought, but here I was, the proud owner of the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake book, at around 8 years old.

I’d spend hours with anyone who had an actual baby, just besotted by them. I sewed my first toddler outfit at 13 years old, and modelled in the school fashion show with my family friends daughter wearing the romper I made for her. Which by the way was bloody cute and impressive for a 13 year old ;o)

Pregnancy announcement

There are so many other memories similar to above, from babysitting because I loved it so much, my childhood career plan of owning a kindergarten, and somewhere back in one of those storage boxes at my parents there’s a poem I wrote to my future child, when I was around 18 years old. I also started buying children’s books and storing them from around the same age. A bit cray cray, yes, but I always wanted to be a mother.

When I was 22 I moved from New Zealand to London, and that took some adjusting, as I was used to suburban life in NZ, where most people met their partner at high school and were already buying houses and getting engaged. I felt like that was the path that equalled success, and my life was far from that in the UK.

As time went on and I settled into UK life, making friends and living in house shares, I no longer felt sad for myself. To be perfectly honest I actually felt sad for my friends that had settled down so young. Here I was in London, having the time of my life, multiple vacations each year, some that would last six weeks. My only concerns in life were having enough money for those travel adventures, and new outfits to go to nightclubs. My friends and I would have amazing house parties, always be out and about around the city having all sorts of fun adventures, and I was 100% content. People would ask me what my future plans were, and I would tell them I didn’t have any, because I was having fun living in the moment. That’s the beauty of London, it’s Peter Pan land, you don’t really ever have to grow up if you don’t want to. You can continue to have fun without responsibility your entire life if you choose, and no one bats an eyelid. I truly love London for that.

As I entered my early thirties, I remember questioning myself as to what I wanted from life. One of those questions was whether I still wanted to have children. When you’re having fun and living life to the full, it’s hard to consider giving up that time for a child. I thought about it a lot, trying to work out what I truly wanted. Eventually I knew 100% I still wanted to be a mother someday.

I was single, and I remember thinking ‘Right, I’ll wait until I’m 38, and if I don’t meet anyone and have a child by then, I’ll adopt’. I’ve always dreamed of adopting, but what I didn’t realise back then is just how complicated a journey like adoption can be, especially as a single person. It all seemed so easy in my thoughts, but in reality it’s not. I also remember reading an article around this time on women who were using donor sperm from the largest sperm bank in Europe, a clinic called Cryos situated in Denmark, to create their dream of having a family. My thinking back then was that I would find it too hard to do that, to only know one half of my child and wonder who the other half of them was created by. I also remember having a peek at the website, to see what it was all about.

Pregnancy announcement

Fast forward to my late thirties. Yes I met someone in my mid thirties, but life is complicated, and I will not going into any details about our journey out of pure love and respect for them, but to carry on my story, the pull to move to the next stage in my life and create a family became bigger and bigger, so by the time I hit 40, it was affecting my mental health in a very damaging way.

I had been working as a nanny and/or Private PA for 20 years, giving my all to other people’s children, which I absolutely loved, but at the end of the day I would go home and knew there was a piece missing in my own life.


Anxiety, OCD and panic have been a part of me my entire life, but this desire to be a mother, and the fear I might miss out, leaving it too late, was making me crumble. Unless people knew this about me, no one would have guessed the mental and emotional struggle I was going through, and by 2019 it reached a breaking point. I had to do something, to give it my best shot at becoming a mother, one way or another….

To Be Continued.

The Hayloft, Devon

The Hayloft, Devon

The Hayloft in Devon is never far from my mind. Particularly when the option to travel had been taken away from us!

Staying here last year for two nights was such a dream. From the interior design that is just perfect and so well thought out, with no detail missed. The hosts are wonderful, as is their very friendly dog Rosie who joined us for wine and cheese one evening :o) And lets not forget about about that bath! (see below!)

This was one of my favourite short travel stays ever. I can’t wait to go back. For now I will just scroll through my photos, reminiscing, as I often do. I hope you enjoy them too x

https://www.thehayloftdevon.co.uk

The Hayloft, Devon
The Hayloft
The Hayloft Devon
The Hayloft, Devon
The Hayloft, Devon
The Hayloft, Devon
Devon
Devon
The Hayloft
Pancakes
The Hayloft, Devon
The Hayloft, Devon
The Hayloft, Devon
Rosie
The Hayloft, Devon
The Hayloft, Devon
Honesty Bar
The snug
The Hayloft, Devon
Hayloft courtyard
The Hayloft, Devon
The Hayloft, Devon
Flowers
The Hayloft, Devon
The Hayloft, Devon
The Hayloft, Devon
The Hayloft, Devon

My Festive Home

I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas Day. Considering I’ve spent most of the year at home, this year has flown by. Every year I look forward to September, when Autumn arrives and I can decorate my home with pumpkins. And then no sooner have I got rid of the pumpkins, it’s time to decorate for Christmas.

I love the cosyness that a Christmas tree and twinkly lights bring. My festive home is something that brings me so much joy. I’m sharing some snaps below from around my little Winter Wonderland.

Happy Holidays everyone,

Annmaree x

My Festive Home
My Festive Home
Christmas decor
My Festive Home
Christmas decor
My Festive Home
gingerbread house
My Festive Home
My Festive Home
My Festive Home
My Festive Home
My Festive Home
Christmas home decor
My Festive Home
My Festive Home
Christmas home decor
My Festive Home
My Festive Home
My Festive Home
My Festive Home

Apple Picking at Castle Farm, Kent

Castle Farm Kent
Castle Farm Kent
Castle Farm Kent
Apple picking
Apple picking castle farm kent
Apple picking castle farm kent

Well hello there! It’s been awhile! I haven’t had a whole tonne of stuff to post about this year – unsurprisingly! But I’m not even going to mention the global pandemic, I think we’re all a little tired of hearing about it.

I am so happy it’s Autumn here in the UK, it’s my favourite season. I love summer, but mostly when I’m on vacation, or back home in New Zealand. Autumn to me is that time to slow down, stay in a little more (LOL – like we haven’t been doing that all year!), pop on cosy clothes, take lots of walks in nature with warm coffee, and of course visit an apple orchard!

I know not everyone is as obsessed with all things Autumn as I am, so when you meet a new friend in 2020 (I mean how’s that for an achievement in a global pandemic!), and you hit it off from day one, and they are also just as obsessed with Autumn, you of course make plans to go apple picking, with a wagon of course.

My Autumn loving friend Becca and I had the most beautiful, sunny Saturday morning trip to Castle Farm in Kent, back in late September. We arrived early, to avoid any potential crowds, and soaked up the sunshine whilst wheeling the wagon around the orchard, picking apples. The orchards have an apple variety called the Norfolk Royal Apple, and is the only commercial grower of this type of apple. The apples are known as the Disney Snow White Apple, because they are the most perfect looking red and shiny piece of fruit you ever did see.

With a wagon full of apples we called it a day, and head back to London. Becca’s husband made them a delicious apple crumble with their haul, and in our household we made apple pie, apple strudel (which was a total gluten free fail) and apple compote for pancakes. Yummmmm!

Aaaah Autumn, I love your cosiness and all your lovely activities. It really is the most amazing season.

Annmaree x

Apple orchard
Apples
Apple orchard
Apple picking castle farm kent
Apple picking season
Apple picking
apple picking
apple picking

Detour | Back in NYC

Brooklyn
New York

As we woke up at our Airbnb in Scarsdale New York, there was the realisation that we were about to head to our final destination, before our amazing road trip came to an end. This time we’d be saying goodbye to our beloved rental car and hitting the pavements of NYC.

Salem New York
Salem New York
Salem NY

But there was just one little detour I needed to make before we drove into Manhattan. Being just before Halloween, there were a tonne of fun events going on, and some of them were based in Sleepy Hollow, NY, the village made famous by Washington Irving’s 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, later turned into a movie.

I’d seen some fun Insta photos that I wanted to try my hand at, so a very long story short later, we arrived at the Horseman’s Hollow tour, but only wanted to take photos, and not wait around a couple of hours for the tour. I plucked up the courage to ask what my chances were of taking some photos, and I wasn’t hopeful. But sometimes when you ask nicely, you receive your wish. In the end, the head costume director escorted us to the location I’d wanted to take a few snaps, so we did a super quick little photoshoot, thanked him profusely, and were soon back on the road, on our way to NYC!

NYC

This was to be my seventh trip to NYC, one of those trips being a three month working stint back in 2007. I feel very fortunate to have visited this famous city so many times, and for it to feel so familiar as soon as I set foot on the sidewalk to explore.

New York
New York
NYC

We had three full days to cover as much ground as possible, visiting favourite old spots and discovering new ones.

Some of my favourite spots:
Tacombi in Nolita (there are various locations), for the most amazing tacos and corn esquites.
Blockheads (there are various locations), for amazing $8 frozen margarita’s and huge burrito’s!
B On Top at The Gansevoort, located in the amazing Meatpacking District, one of my favourite areas in NYC, B on Top is a rooftop bar in the stunning Gansevoort Hotel, where I once had the best stay over a Christmas trip to NYC in 2010. The views are amazing from the bar.

New York

Blue Bottle Coffee in Williamsburg (there are various locations), for really great coffee, and in the perfect location to sip whilst browsing all the super trendy stores in the neighbourhood.
Erin Mckenna’s Bakery, a gluten free and vegan bakery located in the Lower East Side of NYC, I visit every.single.time I’m in the city. Even if you’re not gf, the baked goods here are to die for! I bring a box of them back to London to store in the freezer, they’re that good.

NYC
NYC
NYC

Williams Sonoma, there are various locations but my favourite is the store at Columbus Circle. (Unfortunately in the UK, due to GDPR, we can no longer view their website :o( ). Williams Sonoma is the most amazing kitchenware store that sells everything from seasonal cookie cutters, to amazing bake mixes (including gf), and I always stock up on a tonne of stuff when I visit.
Tompkins Square Bagels, located in the East Village for the most amazing bagels, and gluten free options too!

Brooklyn

And some of my favourite new spots:

Time Out Market, located in Dumbo Brooklyn, is a 24,000-square-feet market with 21 eateries, three bars and a demo cooking area. The place is HUGE, and there’s everything your hungry heart desires here. Don’t miss the views at the top, where you’ll find more food, a bar and an amazing outdoor area looking back towards NYC.
RH NYC, located in the Meatpacking District, RH aka Restoration Hardware, is the most chic furniture store you’ll ever set eyes on. The building is huge, and when you walk in it feels like you’ve entered a multi storey art gallery, but instead of paintings, there’s furniture. And the best bit, you can order alcohol from their in-house bar and sprawl out on a chic sofa or bed whilst you drink. Their rooftop restaurant looks amazing too, and I’d love to visit in summer where they have an outdoor area which would be the perfect cocktail o’clock spot.

NYC
NYC
New York

Starbucks Reserve, located in the Meatpacking District, this is a Starbucks like no other. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of their coffee and never visit a regular store, but this one was a must-visit. A 23,000 square foot building, on the ground floor is a 360-degree central coffee bar, a lounge, roasting area, Italian bakery Princi, and a station where customers can buy and grind their own beans. A lounge with another coffee bar, sits on the lower ground, and on the top level is the 60-foot-long Arriviamo Cocktail Bar. I mean…. you wanna take a look right?!

NYC

We spent our few days strolling and ticking things off our to-do list. The weather was perfect, and although it was Autumn, it was still warm enough to stroll in shorts and a light coat.

NYC
NYC
New York

This trip to NYC didn’t excite me in the way it has previously, and that sounds so spoilt! But! Maybe it’s a combo of visiting so many times, of the fact that London has so many of the same stores and restaurants, and also an age thing where I don’t necessarily want to spend my time rushing around a city on vacation.

Brooklyn

But what I did learn on this trip, is that the next time I visit, as I’m sure I will, I’ll leave some of the old haunts off my to-visit list. I realised on this trip that I was revisting places that no longer interested me. I guess that happens over time and as we get older! So the next trip’s plan is definitely to do less, giving me more time to enjoy my favourite neighbours, those being the Meatpacking District, Lower East Side, Upper West Side, Brooklyn and Williamsburg.

Brooklyn New York
New York
NYC

On our last day in NYC, we woke up a little fuzzy headed, having been out for drinks with a friend the evening before, but we were determined to pull on our running gear and run through Central Park.

We jumped on the subway towards the park, and started our run. It was one of the highlights of my trip. There were so many people out running on this beautiful sunny morning, and I felt a part of the city in that moment. Finishing our run we walked down one of the main streets of the Upper West Side, and found a great coffee spot, where I ordered a decaf almond latte and the barista handed it to me announcing loudly in his NYC twang ‘DECAF. Almond Latte. DECAF’. Alright mate! Sorry I didn’t want the caffeine hit! Haha, it did make me laugh, such a crime to order decaf if you’re a barista I guess!

NYC

We strolled as we drank our take-out coffees, and this moment was one of my favourites of the entire trip. Just soaking up the buzz of the city, but at a slower pace.

That slow pace didn’t continue however, as the clock ticked, and we still had places we wanted to visit and I needed to pack a suitcase worth of food (not even kidding). The sun set, and before we knew it, we were in a taxi on the way to JFK airport. Goodbye NYC. Another adventure over, but the memories are always there to fall back on, and to excite me to plan my next trip.

Thanks for reading,

Annmaree x

Brooklyn New York
NYC
NYC

Detour | Onwards to Connecticut

Essex Connecticut
Essex Connecticut

After a couple of days in sunny Rhode Island, we packed up our car and pulled up a Google map, as we were on our way to another state, Connecticut this time.

We only stayed on night in Connecticut, but we covered a lot of ground in that time, and we loved what we saw.

Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut

Our first stop of the day was at Clyde’s Cider Mill, a place that kept popping up on websites when I was researching the trip, so we decided to check it out. Clyde’s, based near a town called Mystic, is the oldest and last steam powered cider mill in USA. We did some taste testing, and a little bit of shopping in their sweet little store and jumped back in the car toward Mystic.

Mystic Connecticut

Mystic, Connecticut is such a beautiful coastal village to visit. You may know the movie Mystic Pizza starring Julia Roberts? This is the place the movie is based on, and yes there is a pizza store there with the same name.

We were so lucky with it being a perfectly warm, sunny day, and so we slowly wandered around the main street, which is full of some really fab shops, which meant a little bit of shopping was in order!

Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut

Spotting some great restaurants, we decided to check-in at our Airbnb in the nearby town of New London, and head back into Mystic a little later for dinner. But not before pulling over as soon as I spotted another pumpkin patch farm ;o) Complete with goats and farm dogs. I was in farmyard heaven!

Connecticut

I knew our Airbnb was going to have a bit of wow factor when I found it online, but seeing it in real life was a whole different ballgame. The place was HUGE! Built in 1852, the house felt like a movie set, with so many grand rooms to explore and staircases leading to different parts of the house. I’m not gonna lie, it did have that slight spooky feeling and I was half expecting a ghost to float over me when I got into bed that evening ;o)

Mystic Connecticut
Mystic Connecticut
Mystic Connecticut

Back in Mystic for the evening, we had an amazing meal at Grass & Bone, a butcher shop and restaurant, with a very cool interior and delicious food.

Connecticut
Connecticut
Essex Connecticut

Waking up the next morning, as is the theme of any road trip, it was time to pack up and keep moving.

Our first stop for the morning was at the most charming town of Essex. This small village, surrounded by ocean, is truly adorable!

Connecticut

We picked up Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Essex Coffee and Tea Company and wandered down the main street in awe of the stunning large houses, which were mostly all decorated for Halloween.

This little Connecticut village was a highlight of my trip, it really is a picture perfect place, and one I recommend visiting.

Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut

Departing Essex, we drove northwest to visit a few other sweet Connecticut towns, and we ended up getting one of the most memorable lunches of my life from a tiny little place called Warren. The Warren General was an unexpected surprise for such a small area. A super chic general store selling the most delicious deli sandwiches, salads and cakes, AND they had gluten free bread, hallelujah! The Rueben sandwich they made for me was the most amazing sandwich ever! I still think about it.

And the best bit about this stop for lunch, the very stylish owner used to live in Sloane Square, London, another unexpected surprise when we were in such a small place.

Rach Martino Noelle Downing

It was time to start heading south towards New York state, where we were staying for one night before heading into Manhattan, but I had one place I wanted to visit before we arrived at our Airbnb. Some of my favourite Instagrammers, Noelle Downing and Rach Martino, always take a tonne of fun Halloween photos at a pumpkin patch called Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard, so I wanted to check it out.

As we drove towards the farm, I remember thinking to myself ‘I wonder what it would be like to meet them’. We pulled into the carpark, and wandered into the store as the heavens had opened up and we decided to wait and see if the rain might clear. A few minutes later, I realised that standing in front of me was Noelle, Rach and another Instagrammer I follow Jag Lever. I literally couldn’t believe it, and felt like a nervous 12 year old until I gathered myself together, and introduced myself. It was such a crazy co-incidence seeing them at Harvest Moon, with them being the reason I’d visited in the first place.

The rain never cleared up, so photos were impossible, but bumping into these Instagram gals made it worth the journey anyway!

Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard New York

Back on the road, we head south to Scarsdale, New York, where the rain continued to pour, but we had the cosiest sleep in a beautiful, large home, before heading to our final destination: Manhattan.

Until next time, thanks for reading :o)

Annmaree x

Detour | Boston to Rhode Island

Rhode Island Pumpkin Patch
Newport Rhode Island

… Before I share my adventures from Boston to Rhode Island, let me just start by saying my blog got hacked in January, and it’s taken an age to sort, hence the huge gap between my New England blog posts. So now it’s all sorted, I’m back to share this amazing journey of mine!

Boston
Boston
Boston

In my last blog post here, we’d driven from New Hampshire to Massachusetts, and we were now driving south to Boston for two nights. I’d always planned to visit Boston, but after all my US trips, this was the first time I’d actually be setting foot in the city. And honestly, I was disappointed. Hence the lack of photos!

We arrived early evening, locating our Airbnb, a little way out of the city, which was fine because we had a car and Uber’s were easy to get. It was pouring with rain, and we were knackered, so we found a Wholefoods supermarket, bought some snacks and spent a really interesting evening in with one of our hosts, who relayed his story about being put in prison. Don’t worry we didn’t have to barricade our door that night, it was a horrendous story and really opened our eyes to the racism issue in America.

Boston
Boston

After an early night, we got up the next morning and head in to the city. Spending a good chunk of the day walking around, we hit all the popular tourist spots, and cool neighbourhoods before I declared ‘I need a treat, this place is kinda sucking my soul out’. Boston may very well be somewhere you love, because we all love different things, but I just couldn’t get into the swing of the place at all. There were pretty parts, but not enough to make me think WOW!

Heading back to our Airbnb for a power nap, we got changed and head back in to the city for what we were ultimately visiting for. A Ray LaMontagne concert. Some of you know exactly who this singer/songwriter is, and others won’t, if you’re in the latter camp, I suggest you look him up and start listening to his music! It was such a bucket list concert, in a beautiful venue called Wang Theatre. It made our trip to Boston worth it afterall, but needless to say this city won’t be somewhere I’ll be visiting again in a hurry.

Rhode Island

The next morning we packed up, said our thank you’s and goodbyes and hit the road. We did a quick detour over to Cambridge so we could say we’d seen Harvard University. I have to say, Cambridge is beautiful, and we picked up great take out coffee from a little indie cafe full of students tapping away on their Mac’s. So if you are going to Boston, I really recommend visiting this pretty part of the city.

Back on the road, and this time heading towards another state: Rhode Island. Sometime around midday we made one of my favourite daily pitstops, a visit to a giant supermarket. I loooove American supermarkets, like obsessed love, I could spend hours in them, being equal parts shocked at the excessive amount of food they stock, whilst also loving that I can pretty much pick up anything my heart desires. Which I would, and that would mean loads of delicious snacks for the car journey! :o)

Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island

We’d booked an Airbnb in Providence, Rhode Island and as we drove in to the city early afternoon, I noticed a lot of drug addicts, drunks and homeless people on the side of the roads. There was an air about the place that didn’t make me feel terribly safe. A quick Google search opened our eyes to the issues that Providence faces, and we suddenly weren’t sure what to do. Should we stay or not?

After grabbing a bite to eat, we head south to Newport, where we’d originally hoped to stay, but hadn’t found suitable accommodation. Newport is a beautiful coastal city, with yacht filled harbours, pretty shops and a really cool laid-back vibe. We loved it immediately, so we hung around and spent the afternoon and early evening there, before deciding we should just suck it up and get back to Providence for the night and maybe change our plan for the following day.

Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island

Back in Providence, I did a quick Google search for food spots and we head to an area called Federal Hill. It turns out they were having a huge street party with food, drinks and live bands and I have to say it was really fun! We listened to great music, ate street food and then finally made it back to our Airbnb just before midnight. Our accommodation was really cool, but we felt we’d rather cut our losses and move on the next day, than stick around the city, so the next morning we packed up yet again, found a really great coffee shop for a take out coffee and hit the road.

My understanding of Providence is that there are some really great places and things to do there, you just need to know where they are. I did feel quite uneasy in the city, but again maybe that was just because I didn’t know enough about the place.

Rhode island

We decided we’d spend a night in Newport, and just shell out for a hotel, so our plan was to spend the day relaxing there. However, I was having pumpkin patch withdrawals by this stage so we made a couple of pitstops en route :o)

Rhode Island
Rhode Island
Rhode Island

Our first stop was at Dame Farm & Orchards and it was the cutest! With corn mazes, wagon rides and pick your own options, I was one happy gal! The pumpkin patch area was adorable, with little radio flyer wagons to wheel your pumpkins around in, which I obviously took advantage of for a photo or two ;o)

Rhode Island apple orchard

After oohing and aahing at the cuteness of all the pumpkins, we moved on to our next destination, Barden Family Orchard, a pick your own farm. It was a perfect, sunny day and we wandered through the orchards and I pretended I was apple picking, so I had some photos for this blog post ;o)

Even if you’re not planning to purchase pumpkins and apples, these farms are so lovely to visit, and always have amazing farm shops attached to them with the most delicious food and drinks to purchase.

Rhode Island apple orchard
Rhode Island apple orchard
Rhode Island apple orchard

Back on the road and Newport bound, we arrived mid afternoon, but still needed to find accommodation. Thank goodness for the power of the internet and free roaming, we pulled the car over and did some searching before deciding to book a night at the Yankee Peddler Inn. The inn is a big, beautiful Victorian home with a quintessential American flag flying out the front. The location was perfect, and after checking in, we strolled down to the harbour area.

Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island
Rhode Island

There’s some great shops, restaurants and cafes down around the waterfront area, so we spent an hour or so wandering and checking everything out. It’s such a lovely, relaxed place where you can really slow down and unwind.

Newport Rhode Island

Later in the afternoon, we took a drive around Newport including a drive-by the famous Newport mansions. The mansions were built as summer homes in the 1850s to 1900s by wealthy American families, often used as their summer homes. You can tour some of the mansions, and I’m now regretting we didn’t do this. They are HUGE and architecturally amazing. The Great Gatsby movie used one of the mansions as a location to film scenes.

Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island

A quick pitstop back at the hotel to grab a jacket, we head back down to the harbourside for an early evening glass of wine, as the sun set and turned the sky into the most beautiful vibrant colours.

Newport Rhode Island

Dinner was out on one of the piers. We devoured lobster bisque for dinner, which was so so delicious, and a must try when you’re visiting Rhode Island.

Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island
Newport Rhode Island

We decided to squeeze in one final cocktail at a local bar, where we got chatting to some friendly locals, before calling it a night and heading back home to the hotel ready for our next adventure in the morning.

It was great to tick Rhode Island off the bucket list. I really loved my time in Newport, and I’d recommend visiting during summertime or early Autumn, to enjoy the boat rides, the harbour and that gorgeous warm sunshine.

Until the next post, thanks for reading!

Annmaree x

Detour | New Hampshire to Massachusetts

new hampshire

New Hampshire

It was a sad farewell to Vermont, a state I found so incredibly beautiful, as we crossed the state line into New Hampshire for the next part of our adventure.  Arriving late afternoon into the town of Campton, we had booked this Airbnb room for the night.

Surrounded by forest, and with the basement all to ourselves, it was the perfect place to rest our heads for the night.  Kari our host was lovely, and the room was spacious, and the bed so comfy.  We had booked knowing there were no shower facilities at this place, but for one night we’re not that precious and that’s what a basin and a warm wash cloth is for anyway! :o)

New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire

We dropped our bags and then took a drive through some nearby towns and past some amazing scenery.  The surrounding area is very popular during ski season, so there were mountainous ranges covered in bright orange trees everywhere we looked.  We grabbed a bite to eat in the nearby town of Lincoln, before calling it a night and heading to bed, ready for our long drive the following day.

New Hampshire

Our first stop the next morning: Polly’s Pancake Parlor.  Every time I’d researched this part of New Hampshire, Polly’s had come up as a recommendation.  And when they offered gluten free pancakes, it seemed a no brainer.

New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire

Open since 1938, we’d be warned it was very popular with people returning time and time again, and the wait time could be up to two hours.  We took our chances, put our name down and waited around 1.5 hours for these popular pancakes.

Sitting outside in the sunshine, we were surrounded by senior citizens which was a bit cute!  We got chatting to a couple next to us, and the wife told us stories of when she’d visited Polly’s with her mother and the restaurant was just a small shed in those days.

New Hampshire

Our table was finally available, we’d spent the previous 1.5 hours deciding what we’d eat, so we were ready!  Your server takes your order, and also cooks your pancakes as you’ve requested, which is a unique way to run things.  I didn’t mess around, I had banana stirred into one batch, and blueberries and chocolate chips into the other.  This was all topped with maple syrup and maple cream (better than maple syrup!), and by that last mouthful I was declaring I’d never eat again.

New Hampshire

When we’d be waiting for our table outside, we got chatting to a group of three family members, who turned out to be sitting behind us in the restaurant.  As we went to ask for the bill, our server informed us the man behind us had covered our bill.  We were speechless.  We turned around to thank them and insist that it wasn’t necessary, but the man told us he felt compelled, which was really one of the loveliest things that has ever happened to me.  Proof that good people are out there everywhere.  I was so grateful and still am.

New Hampshire

We waddled back to the car a good 10 pounds heavier and took a drive around the surrounding area. The scenery was amazing, trees with rich oranges and reds everywhere.

New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire

It was time for us to get back on the road and drive through The White Mountains, an area of New Hampshire that’s famous for its jaw dropping fall scenery.

New Hampshire

And it really was jaw dropping.  As we wound our way through forests and past mountains, we saw foliage so brightly coloured like nothing we’d ever seen before.

New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire

It was such a beautiful drive to take, and made all the more magical by the colours that come with Fall.

New Hampshire

Exiting the White Mountains, we made our way across the state line and into Massachusetts, driving towards our next destination for the evening, called Newburyport.

Newburyport Massachusetts
Newburyport Massachusetts
Newburyport Massachusetts

Another Airbnb booked, I was really looking forward to our stay at this place.  Not only did the place look lovely on Airbnb, there was also a dog at the property – a total bonus!

We booked this Airbnb and it really was as lovely as the photos I’d seen on Airbnb.  Our host Skye was a fantastic and fascinating woman with the most amazing stories to tell.  Whiskey the dog was a real character and our room, along with the rest of the house was stunning.

Newburyport Massachusetts
Newburyport Massachusetts
Newburyport Massachusetts

We took a short walk into town, and soon discovered just how beautiful Newburyport really is.  A seaside town, it has both the beauty of the harbour as well as a picture perfect main street, full of fantastic bars and restaurants.  We sat down to a delicious chilli bowl in a very cool pub, before wandering back to chat with Skye and get a good nights sleep.

Newburyport Massachusetts

Following breakfast and goodbyes the next morning, we packed up the car and drove back to the main street.  We grabbed coffee, picked up a few foodie bits and pieces to bring back to UK, and had a nosey in some of the shops.

Newburyport Massachusetts
Newburyport Massachusetts
Newburyport Massachusetts
Newburyport Massachusetts

Newburyport is definitely somewhere I would return again, I loved the vibe of the place, and don’t get me started on the amazing houses!  Oh my word, they were amazing!

Newburyport Massachusetts

After driving around and having me jump out and snap a gazillion videos and photos of all the Halloween/Fall decorated homes, it was time to bid farewell to this beautiful place and get back on the road.

Pumpkin Patch Massachussets

As with anything in life, sometimes the best things that come your way are the most unexpected, and this happened to be the case when we were driving south and discovered Tendercrop Farm in Newbury, MA.  Pulling into the carpark, all I could see in front of me were hay bales and pumpkins.  Needless to say, my Fall loving heart was overflowing with happiness!

Pumpkin Patch Massachussets
Pumpkin Patch Massachussets
Newburyport Massachussets

The store inside was amazing, full to the brim with delicious gourmet food and the most amazing flower store on the second floor.  The indoor pumpkin barn was the best thing I’d ever seen, with the shelves lined wall to wall with huge pumpkins.  Literally an Instagrammer’s dream!

Russells Orchards Massachussets
Russells Orchards Massachussets
Russells Orchards Massachussets
Russells Orchards Massachussets

From one farm to the next, we next visited Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA.  The heavens had opened up at this stage, so I couldn’t visit the farm animals (pigs and donkeys and a whole lot of other cute little guys!), but I soon cheered up when we entered the farm store to discover not only fresh apple cider donuts, but also gluten free apple cider donuts too! Hooray!  These are a popular donut you’ll find during fall season in USA, and so I was so happy for myself that I could partake in this tradition, and partake I did, sitting in the passenger seat stuffing my face with them!

Russells Orchards Massachussets

With donuts to munch on, we were back on the road and heading to our next destination: Boston.

Until my next post, thanks for reading!

Annmaree x