Adventures at Home: Yorkshire Wildlife Park, England

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Waking up at 8am, I looked out the window to heavy rain – total wash-out, not what I was hoping for a day out with some friends.

Undeterred we decided to go to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, after sitting on the living room sofa for half an hour trying to come to a decision about what we should do for the day.

We actually live very close by, and it has been a place on my local bucket-list for quite a while.

What is it?

It really is a sanctuary for animals and conservation while also being interactive for visitors. Not only can you learn about the animals and their habitats, but also about what the Park is doing to support the (critically) endangered animals that they work with. It is also quite big, so be prepared to do some walking if you want to see everything!

The highlights of the park

My favourite area was the Lemur Woods, for of course, the lemurs! I love these little guys so much, they are so energetic and interesting to watch. For the lemurs, you are allowed to enter the enclosure to get up close to them.

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snack time

Still, the experience was not as exciting as the time one jumped on my head for some fun at another animal sanctuary. These guys were a bit more reserved here.

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So cute and on my head too!

The South America Viva enclosure was brilliant to see the tiny but incredibly cute squirrel monkeys and marmosets!

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Look at him though!

There was quite a lot to see but there was just one problem – it seemed that we had our timings a bit wrong, as most animals seemed to have been on their afternoon nap!

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Sleepy sleepy

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Polar bear lunch

On the other hand, the polar bears were tucking into a meaty lunch!

It was a lovely afternoon out, even though the weather wasn’t. I would definitely go back as it is so fascinating observing all these animals and it acted as a good break from work.

What is your favourite animal?

 

The low-down:

How to get here there: situated near Doncaster, England, close to key travel links such as the A1, M1, M18 and the east coast main line linking London and Edinburgh via Doncaster.

The cost: check online, as there are a range of discounts available
What’s on: check the website to see what times the daily talks/feeding times are to plan your day

Summer Update

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All has been quiet on the blogging front over the last few months since my break to Amsterdam and Brussels, but reality has been far from it. This is just a short post to let you know what’s been happening, and for what to expect in the upcoming posts!

In the last few months, I:

  • took my final university assignments, 10 exams and 4 essays in total, which added up to about 50% of my final degree mark – so glad that’s over! There wasn’t much (read: any) travel/fun during that time.
  • escaped very quickly after exams to South East Asia for 4 weeks. We travelled North to South Vietnam, across to Cambodia and finally into Thailand. Got some much needed Vitamin D along with some unforgettable memories and strange but hilarious stories to share.
  • came back to a 2:1 in my degree (!). Graduation was the most incredible day I have had in recent years that I can remember; it was so special to celebrate 4 years of hard work with my friends, family and coursemates.
  • left my beloved Sheffield, my university city. Said goodbye to friends who all seem to be moving abroad for the foreseeable future. I moved an hour away to a new area, where I don’t know anybody, which disappointingly has very few PokéStops… but what it does have going for it, is it does have a Sainsbury’s, so at least I won’t starve.
  • have been preparing for my new life as a MFL Trainee Teacher starting in September. Mostly by trying to make my wardrobe sophisticated enough so that I will be able to convince the kids I am old enough (young face problems)!

 

I am so looking forward to sharing my South East Asia Series on the blog with you. There is also a trip to Italy at the end of August that I am squeezing in before my course starts, so I only have three weeks of anticipation before I jet off again. In the meantime, I am hoping to see more of Yorkshire now that I have a car; English heritage sites and trips to the coast are on the cards!

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Trip to Hathersage/Peak District on my last day in Sheffield!

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Sunday Snapshot: Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK

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Earlier last month, Kam and I went on a day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakesphere. This was my first visit to the historic town, and although the weather was bleak, the rain kept off long enough for us to enjoy the outdoors.

Quaint, extremely touristic but worth the visit, Stratford is essential if you are interested in learning more about Shakesphere and what life was like ‘back then,’ all while marvelling at some stunning Tudor and Elizabethan architecture. It really is incredible to see that these buildings – complete with thatched roofs, precarious, creaking staircases and wooden beams – are still standing today.

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Anne Hathaway’s House

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Outside Anne Hathaway’s House

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Anne Hathaway’s House gardens

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Anne Hathaway’s House gardens

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French Play, Feb 2016: Sheffield, UK

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Deviating from my usual travel-related posts, this update is somewhat different. This week, I am performing in The Department of French’s very own Annual French Play. We have been rehearsing since November and it really is amazing to see it all finally come together, after much hard work and many post-rehearsal evenings spent in the pub. We are putting on Épisode de la vie d’un auteur (Jean Anouilh), a farce, best desribed as:

“A play in one act, this comedy is about an author confronted in turn with suspicions of his wife’s infidelity, a Romanian journalist, plumbers, telephone interruptions, his mother, an old army pal, a housing inspector and a love-sick, suicidal friend. His housemaid can’t stop crying and, despite his best efforts to remain calm, his world is collapsing around him.”

I will be playing La Dame, an insistant lady who keeps calling (badgering) the main character, asking for my first husband. Where is he? Will we ever find out..? But this is only a sub-plot of something much greater.

It really has been fantastic to be a part of the Cast again during my final year at Sheffield; to acquaint myself with another French play in depth, practice the old français outside of the classroom (always useful) and have a laugh.

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So, if you’re in Sheffield, what’re you waiting for?  See full details below:

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/210872902593809/

ÉPISODE DE LA VIE D’UN AUTEUR (Performed in French, English written synopsis provided). French and Non-French Speakers all welcome!

17th, 18th and 19th February 2016. Doors open at 7:00pm, curtains at 7:30pm.

Address: The Drama Studio, The University of Sheffield, Shearwood Rd, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 2TD.

Tickets: £5 each, with seat reservation.
Ticket Sales: Mon-Fri 12-2PM in the Jessop West Foyer.
For ticket reservations by email, contact:
d.mccallam@sheffield.ac.uk
j.dobson@sheffield.ac.uk

Venez nombreux/See you there!

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A Magical Visit to Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

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As part of my commitment to seeing a bit more of the UK since my Year Abroad (which now feels like a distant memory), I visited Alnwick Castle in October. Home to the Duke of Northumberland whose family have resided there for an incredible 900 years, it is a stately home better known as Hogswart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as it was a magical film location for the Harry Potter films. And more recently, the Downton Abbey 2014 Christmas Special!

As a lover of all things Harry Potter and Downton, Alnwick was like a dream come true.

The trip was organised by the Student’s Union and we took a coach up from Sheffield which took three and a half hours without stops. I’d recommend buying a ticket for both the Castle and the Gardens. You do not want to miss out on the interior of the castle, nor walking round one of the most beautiful contemporary gardens in the country.

The Poison Garden is a one of a kind in this country; you get up close and personal with some of the most deadliest natural killers in the world and learn all about them from an expert guide.

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They are not kidding!

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Belladona – so beautiful but so deadly

Some plants have to be caged for security!

Some plants have to be caged for security!

The castle has responded positively to its involvement as a filming location for Downton Abbey. This was the first time the interior of the Castle had been used as a film set. They have installed a short documentary in the Coach House about what it was like to have the Downton Crew filming there. Not to mention, each of the state rooms used in the filming have information points about what happened in there in the episode, some have the outfits worn by the actors on display and the dining room for example, has kept the name placards for each of the Downton characters for where they sat for dinner. As a huge fan of this television series, it was hugely satisfying to find out all these small details.

There really is so much to do here in a day. There are many exhibits on local history, archeology and artifacts and war history, aside from the main rooms. There are daily activities for childen (and adults), involving broomstick flying (Harry Potter themed), archery, guided tours of the cellars, etc. and the Castle has it’s own café and picnic areas. It is also in close proximity to Alnwick town, where you can visit the famous Barter Books (which I regret not visiting!).


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Before boarding the bus back to Sheffield, we visited the Alnwick Garden’s Treehouse area, which is one of the largest treehouses in the world. It has a cosy little coffeehouse, the Potting Shed, where we sat for for a quick hot drink and a slice of cake. There is also a restaurant which looked very tempting. All of this is decorated with very atmospheric outdoor fairylights which make it look magical and homely.

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Although quite a drive away, our day trip exceeded my expectations and I would highly recommend a visit to Alnwick Castle to anyone. Next on my ‘Castle list’ to vist will hopefully be Highclere Castle, also known as the wonderful Downton Abbey! Untitled

Surviving Week One of Final Year

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I can’t believe we are already in October, the last month has completely whizzed by. It’s crazy to think that three weeks ago I was still in Iceland, when so much has happened since then!

I moved back to Sheffield two and a half weeks ago, it’s my second home so it’s great to be back. Moving back to a city I already knew was reassuring – I know all the bus routes, the good restaurants and how to get to class without looking at a map. That’s the easy part.

I came back the week before Freshers Week, as I had secured a job at the University as an Information Assistant. I had a key role in being a point of call on campus to help new students settle in and make the week go smoothly at the Student’s Union, and answer questions regarding anything and everything! I did get some odd questions. It was full on at times and quite tiring, but extremely rewarding. My uniform involved a bright orange t-shirt, which meant that I was very noticeable on campus and you could spot me from miles away. The leaflet distributors avoided me, but anyone who had an issue came straight to me. The Intro Week Team did embrace the orange, with the mentality that ‘Orange is the New Black.’ Some people did laugh at me when I walked to university one day though because of my uniform, that was a bit harsh. After having been away from Sheffield because of my Year Abroad, it was great to get stuck in with events on campus and feel like I belonged again.

Although I have now finished as an Intro Week Assistant, I have been welcomed back to continue with my job as a Student Mentor at a local school one morning a week. I really loved being a part of this Outreach Scheme two years ago, so I am pleased to be doing it again.

Moving into my new accommodation was rather tricky… I stored all my belongings at James’ house over the summer, before I moved back into Student Accommodation two weeks ago, while I had my car over the summer. I guess we could have got a taxi, but we managed to schlep all my belongings in various boxes and bags down from Crookes on the bus (yes, the bus!), to my new flat near the campus. We did manage it in two runs, so we were quite pleased with that but I wouldn’t recommend doing it.

There have been quite a few things wrong with my room: broken window, broken shower curtain, bathroom floor needs ripping up and tiling again as it isn’t stuck down properly, a sick patch (ew!) hadn’t been cleaned on the floor next to my bed… I could go on. After a lot of nagging though, I am settling into my new abode quite nicely and it’s great living a two minute walk from my Department, having my own en-suite again and bills all-inclusive!

The first week back to lectures has been overwhelming, as we have been bombarded with information and the teachers have given us no reason to ease us in; already I’ve had to prepare presentations, start my reading, get to grips with tricky translations and more. We were even given tips on how to do well on our final examinations in June 2016 on Monday. Not like it is nine months away or anything…

Despite studying during my Year Abroad, I was not expected to study near as much I have to in Sheffield, so it has been a shock to the system somewhat with all these responsibilities and most days I have had to have a siesta for 2 hours in the afternoon and go to bed at 10pm to fight away the exhaustion! You can differentiate the final years from the Freshers easily; the Freshers are all bright-eyed and eager to start their studies, while the final years are already stressed, exhausted and have probably moved into the library.

Many Freshers have come up to me to chat as I look young and they presume I am in my first year too and they are looking to make friends. When I give them the bad news that I am in fact in my 4th year, they either look horrified and walk away from me, or say ‘oh, you’re so old!’ I have never been called ‘old’ by an 18 year old before, but it has happened many times this week and I am so confused. I am still mistaken at times for 12 or 13, so I am in this very strange space right now. I still try to chat with them but there just seems to be this barrier which separates us, as they are nervous to be chatting to someone ‘so old.’ I went away for a year and now I am in this whole new category of person that I need to come to terms with.

With all this stress and pressure, I have started going to an Ashtanga Yoga class with the Yoga Society on Tuesday evenings. I love yoga as it is so relaxing and this is something I am trying to stick to weekly from now on as I know it is good for me! Plus, I have never gone to a yoga class for £2.50 (so cheap!). After five years of yoga practice, I was amazed when I managed to do Crow Pose for the first time this week! I thought I would never manage it. I’m going to try and practice it every so often so I don’t lose it.

In order to go through with my ‘Post-Year Abroad Resolution,’ to explore more of the UK and do things of interest at home and not just places abroad, I have signed up to some events organised by the university. Next Sunday, I am going to the Harry Potter Studios! I am so excited to go, however it is a 4-hour drive each way in one day, and I am going to be exhausted. I also have a full day of work training the day before, so I need to prioritise my workload that I need to prepare for the following week. Stress. But it is so worth it.

Throughout the semester, I have also booked to visit Alnwick Castle one day, do a day course Certificate in Emergency First Aid in the Workplace for my CV, and a short 4-week course in British Sign Language with my housemates, to break up from all the studying. It’s a good idea in some respects, but I worry of all that extra study time I am going to miss. Then again, I forget sometimes that I also have to live.

I still have posts I am uploading weekly of my incredible trip to Iceland to share with you. I hope you enjoy them. I will also be updating regarding my final year at university and the occasional fun activity I partake in (*cries*).

Anyway, I have to go, as I’m off to the Jewish Society Friday Night Dinner now (which I have sorely missed for the year that I have been away!).

So, I’ll say Shabbat Shalom, and will post very soon.

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A Day Trip to York, England

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Despite calling Yorkshire ‘home’ for more than two years already since studying at The University of Sheffield, I was quite embarrassed when I came to the realisation that I hadn’t seen much of the region at all, or even in more general terms, the UK. This is something I am working on though now.

During my Year Abroad, I travelled around France and Spain extensively at weekends and during holidays. Since I have returned to the UK for the next 12 months at least, I felt it was time to devote some new energy into appreciating the beauty on my doorstep and not just in exotic destinations abroad that are out of reach for now. Well, while I still can before the new academic year sets in; weekends will be spent mostly in the library over the next year!

Yorkshire-wise, I have been into the Peak District where I climbed to Stanage Edge in Fresher’s Week of my first year and I also went to Chatsworth House last summer, but I have hardly ventured into other parts of Yorkshire. I remember some Erasmus students in my Second Year who would travel around the country during weekends while I would either be studying in bed, or studying in the library and they were somewhat unimpressed with my lack of energy to get out and about.

It’s easy to have so much more enthusiasm when you are abroad, exploring a different culture. You are in ‘adventure mode’ and that is certainly how I felt when I lived in France, Spain and Portugal. I do love living in Sheffield though and I am content enough to spend my free time there, as there is so much going on at the university for me! I have society events, part-time jobs and circles of friends, all of which I had zero access to when I was abroad.

With a weekend free, James and I decided to book train tickets to York for our first visit to the city. Famous for its Minster, historic walls, cobbled streets and other heritage sites, it is only one hour from Sheffield.

Walking into town from the station

Walking into town from the station

I understand that we visited York on the Saturday of August Bank Holiday, so we didn’t choose the best day to go in terms of avoiding the crowds, but there were so many tourists!!! Due to the narrow streets, the heavy crowds made it difficult to get around and it was quite stressful.

The short walk into the city center from the train station was very pleasant though. We climbed up the steps to walk along a part of the city walls on the way in, not something you do every day! Then we crossed the river:

Walking across the river from the station

Walking across the river from the station

Our first stop was to admire the outside of York Minster. Tickets are not cheap to enter, as we found out with most attractions in York, however their website does state that it costs £20,000/day to run York Minster and this is the reason why they charge so much for entry! I see why they have to do it, but if they charged a little less, we would have been more inclined to go inside.

York Minster

York Minster

Walking around the old streets, we came across some beautiful old buildings on every corner:

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Walking down the Shambles

Walking down the Shambles

We ate at a small pub in one of the main squares for lunch before walking towards the other side of the city to the York Castle Museum. Entry was £5 for us as we were under 26.

The museum is housed in a former prison, and you can see some of the original cells which have projectors in each room with recordings of individual inmates sharing their story of how they ended up in the prison.

The rest of the museum is a fascinating collection of social history, reflecting everyday life in Yorkshire. Upstairs, there are ‘period rooms,’ examples of a farmhouse room, how a living room looked in the 1950s, a kitchen in the 1940s etc.

Downstairs you can explore Kirkgate, a recreated Victorian street which was originally built in 1938. This feature is the most iconic part of York Castle Museum and it was incredible to walk around! The street houses real shop fronts and products that were from that era, all originals, and thanks to extensive research, every single shop is based on a real York business which operated between 1870 and 1901! You are walking through history in this place.

The street has its own schoolroom, police cell, Hansom cab, Cocoa House and cobbled street. A few years ago, they added on a new backstreet, Rowntree Snicket, to portray the life of the poor who lived in Victorian slums in York; there is a very foul-looking toilet shed and an example of a working class home, showing where a family would live (one single bed only – mother slept at night, father slept during the day). The alleyway is dingy and smells awful thanks to the artificial scents. There is a candle factory there though and our guide said that the smell coming from that room is very real, because the candles were made with animal fat. It was all quite revolting so I was happy to get out of there! I wouldn’t last very long as a Victorian…

They also gave a talk on the Victorian Cocoa House which was run by Quakers. Their philosophy is that alcohol is bad, so they drink hot chocolate instead. The Cocoa House was a meeting place where families were welcome, different to the pubs where the adults could go but children had to stay at home, and there was entertainment free of charge. It was a way of educating the poor into a ‘better way of life,’ without alcohol and spending quality time with the family.

Clifford's Tower

Clifford’s Tower

After a tour through the rest of the building, we got some fresh air and had a look at the iconic York Castle next door, which was built on a conical mound by William the Conqueror. It’s an English Heritage site, so it is free entry if you have membership, otherwise entrance is £4.40 for adults and £4 for students. Other than climbing to the top to get a view over York, it didn’t seem like there was much to do inside, and TripAdvisor reviewers had been “disappointed” with their visits for the price of the ticket, so we decided not to go up.

After some retail therapy, we ate at Pizza Express which is located in a large Victorian building, much in keeping with the rest of the historic city, before catching the train home to Sheffield in the evening.

York was a wonderful place for a day trip, very historical and plenty of things to see and do. It has a very different vibe to Sheffield, which has been shaped more by its industrial past, but is now a beautiful, green, hilly city that’s full of students. I am biased though.

I’d recommend the York Castle Museum as somewhere you must visit when in York; the exhibits have been well researched and thought through, it was an education. We also enjoyed walking around the walls and seeing different perspectives of the city for free.

Here’s to visiting more of the UK this year!

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