Stress over Holiday Mess

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-Can you turn around? I forgot my bank card!

The taxi driver looks back at me, nodding, as we are about to pull into the train station.

-I’m usually so organised…

-Well you’re not today! He chuckles.

-Definitely not. I say this half in agreement, half annoyed at myself. I plan everything meticulously. I don’t need my bank card as I have my travel money card and foreign currency, I explain. I just forgot I needed it to print my train tickets at the station.

I run back into my house, grab the card and jump back into the taxi. Luckily, I make sure I am always early for things, so there was enough time for two trips to the station!

Feeling very rushed, I print the tickets but notice I still have ten minutes before my train departs. So lucky. Lucky enough to even buy a toastie from the Costa on the platform before I find my seat on the train.

We’re on the train. It’s destined for Manchester airport and that is enough drama for this holiday, thank you. Sinking into the not so comfortable seat, tucking into my toastie and listening to the new Lana album, I receive a message on our group chat. I’m going to Prague with two of my school friends and they should be driving to the airport soon. My friend has forgotten her passport! She is in Liverpool and it is in Bristol. Even by my calculations, it’s not going to happen. Music off, cue a few frantic phone calls. Reluctantly accepting the situation, our group of three dwindled down to two.

Has this ever happened to you? Let me know in the comments.

 

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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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