Adventures at Home: Pembrokeshire, Wales

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It was the first weekend after school broke up in July and I was geared up for a nice, weekend break in sunny South Wales. Of course, things didn’t go to plan! First, J. and I were planning a weekend camping together, but this soon became a group thing with a few of his old coursemates and housemates. Luckily we are all good friends…

I spent a lot of my childhood exploring North Wales, living only a short drive away in Merseyside. Many memories were made getting lost in Snowdonia on expeditions for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, so it was good to go south for a change.

We stayed at a campsite only a short drive away from nearby Pembroke which has an impressive castle and a high street with some shops, pubs and restaurants. A little further along was Tenby; with its pastel-coloured houses along the harbour, it is a picturesque little seaside town, which we enjoyed going to on both Saturday and Sunday morning for a stroll along the narrow streets and get a spot of breakfast.

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J. and I arrived early on Friday afternoon to the campsite, well before the rest of the group. We were welcomed by nothing less than torrential rain. Looking forward to a ‘summer holiday’, and definitely too optimistic in our choice of clothing (jeans – what was I thinking?!), we were very unprepared to put up our tent and regretting everything.

Sitting in the parked car for a few minutes we agreed we were not going outside. A lady knocked on my car window and asked me to meet her in the reception to check-in. Poor thing had got soaked for that! J. said he was staying put, so it was up to me to brave the weather. It’s not like we don’t have the equipment – I have waterproofs and everything but didn’t bother to pack them. Definitely the wrong decision.

The rain was not subsiding even after quite a while, so we agreed we would just have to put the tent up and get soaked. Get soaked we did. Two hours passed and still the rain was hammering down on the tent. We were getting hungry so it was time to once again get wet, just when our clothes were starting to dry! I called my mum and said suggested we just put the tent down and go find a B&B. It was so tempting but we were too stubborn for that!

There was not much parking in Pembroke. But by the time we got there, we found some free parking only available after 6pm (hooray!). Unfortunately, the main pubs and restaurants were about a ten minute walk away – of course! Walking down the street, we were turned away by a few places as they stopped serving at 7pm and were closing up. So odd as it was a Friday night! Eventually, we found a pub/restaurant/hotel which did food, so we sat down at last. We looked out the window from our table, jaws dropped – it had stopped raining the second we found shelter – typical!

After being well fed, our clothes were drying quickly and one of our friends finally arrived to join us. We were waiting for three more, but after horrific traffic all the way from Sheffield and 2 hours of stagnancy on the roads, they arrived in the thick of night at 11pm. Car lights were useful in helping to put the tent up!

After the nightmare of the rain on Friday afternoon, we were grateful that there was no more for the rest of the weekend! We spent Saturday afternoon relaxing on Stackpole Beach which is known as the best beach in Wales! The walk along the clifftops makes for a dramatic arrival to the beach, but because of this, it is not very accessible for those with restricted mobility. There were a lot of sand-flies as well which wasn’t great, but the views were spectacular.

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On the way back to the campsite, we stopped in Pembroke to pick up food for a BBQ which was a great way to spend our only real proper night together there.

Pembroke is a beautiful, little corner of Wales which has some lovely villages and beaches to visit. Luckily, after a terrible start weather-wise, we were treated more kindly for the days that followed, with some sunshine. Although, this is Wales, we should have known better! Next time though, I think we will rent a cottage together, or at least go glamping/book a B&B. I think my DofE days are past me!

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Adventures at Home: English Heritage

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As a Grad with my own car (a luxury I didn’t have last year), it is so easy to get out and about now. There is nothing better than jumping in my car and heading off on an adventure – even for the day. Bonus points if the sun is shining and the windows are down!

What is English Heritage?

Last August, my boyfriend and I bought membership for English Heritage (they have student discount!), which has given us unlimited access to over 400 historic places for 12 months across England.

English Heritage is a charity that cares for and maintains these historic sites. I don’t know anyone else in their 20s with EH membership, and some have probably thought us as a little, old couple for buying it, but they are the ones missing out.

Hands down, it has been the best small investment I have made all year.

 The Perks

Knowing I now have a free pass to countless places of interest, I have been making the most of my weekends and days off; exploring England, getting some much needed fresh air and brushing up on my British history knowledge.

It’s great rocking up to one of the sites, showing our membership cards to gain free entry to the car park (win)  and even a free audio-guide when touring historic castles and homes (double-win).

The staff at all the sites I have been to have been lovely and helpful which adds to the experience.

Joining English Heritage has given me the incentive to get out more and do something when I would usually laze around watching TV.

I have been to many interesting and beautiful sites this year but there is even more on my English Heritage ‘bucket list’ – yes there is such a thing on their Member’s Area web page, and it’s addictive! I have English Heritage Wanderlust.

Stay tuned for the Top English Heritage Sites You Have to Visit

Robyn

Adventures at Home: Winchester, England

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I have really been exploring the South recently! This time, it was to the quaint, historic center of Winchester for a lovely day out.

The city reminded me of York, but what puts Winchester on top is that it is the city less-traveled. There is plenty to see and do but you do not have to push through the hoards of crowds to get around – my kind of place!

From the train station is a short walk to anywhere in the city. Our first stop was the famous cathedral. Your ticket includes a free tour and remains valid for the rest of the year should you wish to return; we didn’t do the the tour but the guides who we spoke to were very knowledgeable and happy to answer our questions. The cathedral is perhaps most famous as Jane Austen’s final resting place – of course we paid her a visit, but it is also home to a 10th Century Bible. A very impressive book, huge and detailed. Written on velum, it has been impeccably preserved.

Only a few days earlier, I was watching a TV documentary about Jane Austin’s life in Winchester and Bath and then it just so happened that that weekend, I was walking on the same streets I saw in the documentary. History in action.

Our next stop after a pub lunch was Wolvesey Castle. A free English Heritage site, and well worth the visit to get to know the Bishops of Winchester who made this their home during the Medieval period. The bishop was the most influential and powerful man in the city and our visit here gave much more context to how important Winchester was at the time, second to London! Nowadays, the site is a ruin, next door though, the new residence of the Bishop of Winchester can be found.

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After a bit of window shopping on the busy High Street, we had a tea and cake stop at the nearby Winchester Café. On offer was a superb selection of cakes and teas. Spoiled for choice with regards to the tea selection, the waitress recommended the apple and mint tea – wow, it was so good. On the menu I read that it had won awards, so it was no surprise really.

From there, it was a short but uphill leisurely walk back to the station to catch the train.

Adventures at Home: Stonehenge

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Many travelers coming to England have Stonehenge firmly in their itineraries, and it bewildered me that I had still not been there – it is one of the most iconic, mysterious and historical sites in my home country. Located in the south of England, in Wiltshire, Stonehenge is actually quite far for me to get to, and it has only been in the last few years that I am really beginning to scratch the surface in discovering the south of England.

With J. based down south now, it is only just over an hour’s drive to Stonehenge which makes it an excellent day trip. It is worth researching your visit before you go; Stonehenge may seem to be in the middle of nowhere, but there are plenty of interesting places nearby to see if you have time, including other English Heritage sites such as Woodhenge or Old Sarum.

The drive should have taken just over an hour, but this stretched to nearly two hours due to traffic congestion only 2 miles short of Stonehenge – a dual carriageway turns into single lane. This is extremely frustrating as it is a major road network and the main access road to Stonehenge. You feel so close and yet so far at the same time.

After about 45 minutes of stopping and starting the engine, we got through the bottleneck to find Stonehenge on the right of the road.

J chuckled: “right we have seen it now, let’s go!”

It’s true, we had seen it from our car, but we would have to go round three sides of a square to get to the Visitor Center.

Waving our English Heritage membership cards at the stewards, we were able to get free parking, just another perk of being an English Heritage member.

We booked our tickets in advance online through the English Heritage website which they recommend. Despite being members and getting free entry, the online booking not only saved us having to queue for the tickets but it also secured a time for us to get in. The heightened security upon entry seemed excessive, but I guess this is one of the most important historical sites in this country. Every bag was meticulously searched, we were all scanned in and I was even questioned where I came from. It is a necessity to keep us and Stonehenge safe, but it’s a sign of the times.

There is a shuttle bus from the Visitor Center which takes 5 minutes to get to Stonehenge. It is a very accessible attraction for all to see which is brilliant. Alternatively, you can take a relaxing 2 mile stroll through fields. We were not in a rush so we walked there and got the shuttle back.

We timed this all brilliantly as by the time we got back in the car to go for lunch, the rain came pouring down!

We took an audio guide which gives plenty of information about the history and significance of Stonehenge. I was very intrigued by how they changed the original road layout, as there used to be a main road which was right next to it! You could have touched it from your car seat.

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We drove through the beautiful Wiltshire countryside (in the rain) to find some nice pub food. It’s a lovely little slice of rural England round here. After recharging my batteries with a refreshing lime and soda and a gourmet steak sandwich, I felt quite tired but still had to drive back the hour and a bit home. As Old Sarum was only two minutes down the road, we jumped back in the car to have a look at this ancient hill fort/royal residence for the ultimate stop of the day.

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A much quieter attraction to Stonehenge, but still a significant place, Old Sarum is the oldest settlement in this area; a royal palace for Henry I and where the Doomsday book may have been presented to William the Conqueror. After a dispute in the 13th century, the decision was made to move the cathedral in the grounds to an area nearby. The settlement which grew around it became Salisbury and ultimately, Old Sarum dwindled in power.

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This was a fascinating insight into history, and I am sure this is only a taster for what this region has to offer.

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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