A surprise trip to… Paris!

So, I’ve been waiting for MONTHS to find out where we are going for my surprise birthday trip. I’ve been pestering and pestering, trying to guess and even force the information out of a certain someone, but to no avail. I know it has to be somewhere in Europe… I’ve narrowed it down to two Cities: Rome and Paris. The week prior, I was 100% sure it was Rome but then it suddenly dawned on me that someone might want me to think it was Rome, when in fact it was absolutely not Rome. Or am I second guessing myself? Maybe it is Rome. Nah, I’m being bold and I’m punting for Paris now. Probably. Almost 100% likely.

Today is the day. It’s all a big secret and I’m still not allowed to know where we are going. I head home from work, get my stuff together (including all the emergency ASOS purchases) and we head to the train station. On the train we jump, but only after having waited an extra 30 minutes due to delays, of course. We are heading up to London – will it be to the airport or to the Eurostar? Drumroll please… to the Eurostar! We’re going to Paris!!!!! How exciting! [insert grinning emoji here].

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We seat ourselves on the Eurostar and I am presented with a picnic for the journey – sparkling wine and everything, which I proceed to consume without a glass, straight from the bottle (classy, aren’t I) but if you don’t have a glass, what are you to do? By the time we arrive in Paris I’m feeling rather merry, which makes the walk from the station to the hotel all the more fun. We are staying at the Maison Souquet hotel, which is just around the corner from the Moulin Rouge, it also used to be a brothel, so I’m expecting great things… I was not disappointed! There was plenty of brocade, velvet, deep colours and more tassels than you could shake a nipple at – perfection. I even had a birthday card from the hotel!

 

It was pretty late by this point, so it was straight to bed for us, to ready ourselves for the next day’s sightseeing and exploring. Not going to lie, I was beyond excited and feeling like the luckiest person alive by this point. I would have been quite happy to spend the next few days shut in our hotel room and I still would have had the best time.

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It won’t surprise you, that the first stop we made on our trip, was to a boulangerie, namely Du Pain et des Idées, billed as one of the best bakeries in Paris. We turned up outside and there was a queue out the door, which is always a good sign. So we waited our turn, deciding what we were going to have, taking the opportunity to inhale the baked wonderfulness. I settle on a croissant and a pain au choc, whilst my companion keeps it simple with deux croissant (check me out). Ooh la la.

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Needless to say, the bakery did not fail us. Hands down, the best croissant I have ever had in my life, and I have had a fair few. The buttery goodness was next level. Flaky, soft and buttery, all at once. I don’t know how they do it, but they certainly do do it. After we were done swooning over croissants, we head off for some sight-seeing.

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We wander down to the Canal Saint-Martin, then over to the town hall, where I was asked to take a photo of someone for the first time on this trip. I have an unrivalled knack at getting chosen by other tourists to take photos of them, I think it is because I look completely non-threatening and they know that if I try to run off with their phone, they will definitely be able to catch me. Stupid approachable face. After that we head to Tour Saint-Jacques, where we sat in the grounds for a bit of a rest, seeing as it was above 30 degrees at this point and we’d been walking for a while. As per, a slightly dishevelled man sat much too close to use on the bench we were sitting on and soon we departed to Sainte-Chapelle, which has some rather wonderful stained-glass windows (as well as a man recording said stained-glass windows on camcorder, which was a bit of a throwback).

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After that we popped along to see the Notre Dame in its scaffold-clad state. I’m fairly sure there were more people there taking photos of it scaffolded up than there would be on a normal day. Then, our tummies called, and we treated ourselves to a scrummy baguette, took it down to the river, and sat on the bank with our legs hanging over the edge to eat. There is no better way to eat a sandwich, in my opinion. This was to be swiftly followed by an ice cream from Berthillon. I opted for a scoop of peach and a scoop of blackcurrant (because I love that tang). Again, there was a queue out the door and we were not disappointed.

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We wandered along to a place called 59 Rivoli which is an artist exhibition space. If you like weird art and climbing up a crap tonne of stairs, then this is the place for you. I’d have liked to have a proper look around here, but I seemed to be on the verge of death. I was sweating like absolute madness and I didn’t seem to be able to cool down or take a good lungful of air, no matter how hard I tried, so we ended up having to exit. But not before inadvertently wandering into a room filled with cotton-wool-stuffed tights (weird).

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After replenishing myself with liquid in a nearby café, we mooched along to Palais Royal, where we sat and did a bit of people watching and had a bit of a smooch on a bench, in true Parisian fashion. We were about done in by that point, so it was back to the hotel for a rest and shower, before heading out for the evening to see a cabaret. I’d been to Paris previously and to the Moulin Rouge, so we decided to go to Le Lido instead, for something a bit different.

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Before, dinner time! And much to my companions dismay I had decided to take charge of proceedings and choose a restaurant. Which in my book, means going out, wandering the streets and walking in somewhere and hoping it’s good. This method has never failed me yet; however, it does make my companion rather uncomfortable, which makes it even more enjoyable for me. We walk past a few places and nothing is jumping out at me, until we stumble across a tiny pizza place called Magna (which is well worth the visit, if you’re in the area). This place serves ‘folded pizza’, which essentially means they make a pizza, fold it in four and place it in a cardboard cone, for ease of eating on the go. This pizza was incred. And obviously I was super smug about this, as is my right.

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We had a bit of time before our show at Le Lido, so we thought it would be nice to walk along the Champs Elysees. However, it turned out it was not nice to walk along the Champs Elysees as it was TIPPING it down with rain. Needless to say, we got soaked to the skin and ended up seeking shelter in a restaurant.

Whilst waiting outside Le Lido to get in, we spot a Kim Jong Un impersonator striding about, trying to persuade tourists to have a photo with him for the princely sum of €5. He had a surprising number of takers. He was also unexpectedly convincing, apart from the bit where we heard him speak, as he sounded rather more like an east-end market stall holder, than he did a North Korean dictator.

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We take up position in Le Lido. I have to say, I was slightly disappointed by the show at Le Lido, I was expecting something similar to Moulin Rouge, where they have a whole load of drama and danger, but Le Lido was entirely dancing. It was good in its own way, but if you are interested in more than boobs bouncing up and down and little knickers, then I’d recommend Moulin Rouge, which also has boobs bouncing up and down and little knickers.

What will tomorrow bring?

Bonnie

To Brighton and Back

For reasons unknown to even myself, I quite like a bit of Olly Murs and he was on in Brighton recently, so we thought we’d head down to Brighton to see him and make a bit of a weekend of it. I haven’t been to Brighton since I was a kid – all I was really expecting, was people wearing interesting clothes and the opportunity to buy vegan shoes. Well, I can tell you, Brighton did not disappoint on either of those fronts.

On our way down we stopped off at Westmeston, which is on the northern slopes of the South Downs (according to Google maps). We had a short wander up the downs (harhar) dodging a number of cow pats along the way. It’s a nice view here and I can see why people would like walking along here, but I don’t like walking along here, or anywhere, because I just don’t really see the point in it unless you are going somewhere… like to the shop to get food, or to a restaurant to get food…

On our way back from our short walk I managed to offend some dog walkers by loudly proclaiming that “poo is definitely a fetish thing”, having reached this topic after having avoided said cow pats and dodging a couple of dog ‘presents’. It must have sounded like it was my fetish thing (which it most definitely is not), so I can understand why they looked at me so, but we’d merely slipped into this convo after I narrowly avoided slipping in the aforementioned cow pat, so you can see how we got there. They did look truly horrified, and I don’t blame them.

 

You have to pay for parking everywhere here, which we categorically refused to do, so we dropped our stuff off at the AirBnb, drove out of the centre and plonked the car in a residential area and started the trek back into Brighton centre. Trek is not an over-exaggeration btw – it took FOREVER. The road just seemed to go on and on and on and on. It didn’t seem to matter how fast or powerfully I put one foot in front of the other, I just didn’t appear to be getting anywhere. People have climbed Mount Everest in a shorter time than it took us to walk back into Brighton, and that’s not even a lie.

To stave off the impending tantrum, we stopped at the Tinto Taperia, for some tapas (if you hadn’t already guessed). Tapas can be a bit hit and miss, but this got a decent rating online, so we thought we’d give it a go and we weren’t disappointed. I’m a big fan of padron peppers, so we weren’t leaving this place without trying some of those, and their patatas bravas and chopitos (deep fried baby squid) were on point, meaning I left one very happy customer. My experience marred only by having to listen to the man on the table next to us talk about marathons, but you can’t have everything.

 

Not to break from tradition, the following evening it was tapas for dinner again or ‘small plates’ according to the restaurant, 64 Degrees in Brighton Lanes. Unfortunately it was tipping it down with rain when we left and en route to the restaurant, I took a shortcut across the front of a hotel as it was under cover. Needless to say I lost my footing in the rain and I went down hard, into a massive puddle of water. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, I then couldn’t get up because the bastard tiles were so slippery I actually needed help to get up off the floor.  Rising from the puddle, I found myself completely sodden and dragging myself to dinner, the evening topped off by me getting my coat pocket stuck on the door knob in the restaurant. Excellent.

The food was epic here and we sat up by the kitchen, so we could see everything being made. If you are ever doubting how hard people work in a kitchen, take any opportunity to sit and watch your food being made, because they do not stop! The food was beyond yummy and I’d recommend you book, as the place is tiny.

The following day we’d arranged to have lunch at the Gingerman restaurant. This place popped up on loads of different lists of ‘best places to eat in Brighton’ and the menu looked good, so we were game to give it a try. The food was great, I can’t deny that, but the service was utter crap. Our starters came without too much trouble, but the second lot of drinks we ordered got completely forgotten about, as did our mains. You’d think this would be pretty difficult in a restaurant this small It’s a tiny restaurant, so you can see every table in there with a casting glance) but you didn’t have a hope in hell catching either of the waitresses’ eyes.

Usually you can feel it when someone is staring at you, but it seemed that no matter how long or how hard my eyes bored into the back of their heads, it didn’t make an ounce of difference. In a matter of moments there would have been smoke coming off the back of their heads (that was the level of laser stare I was giving them) when eventually one of them came over with our long forgotten drinks and the main courses we had waited 45 minutes for.

The couple next to us even got served their mains before their starters, so I don’t think we were alone in our experience. We wanted dessert – we’d had our eyes on the apple crumble soufflé from the off – but we’d waited so long now, that we were too hacked off to sit there and wait for another course. It’s a shame, because the food was really good there, but not good enough to make up for the fact that it took about thrice as long as it needed to take, as well as being ignored by the staff for the entire meal… it’s not like I was up for a deep and meaningful conversation with them or anything, but it would have been nice to get the bill before the turn of the century.

 

To cheer ourselves up after this, we went for a wander around the streets of Brighton, taking the opportunity to dive into all the retro, vintage and second-hand shops (and there are a lot of them) we could find. In one of the shops, we came face to face with what I think you would term a ‘complete nutter’. In an antique shop, we were standing looking at some furniture when an old Gollywog toy fell down in front of me. I’d just picked it up to pop it back on the shelf, when I heard some incredibly deep and raspy breathing. I turned round to find an overweight and sweating man, loudly exclaiming (at the same time as loudly mouth breathing) that Gollywog toys “couldn’t possibly be racist”. He had a wild look in his eye and we dodged around him pretty sharpish.

We decided that seeing as we were in Brighton, beside the seaside, we ought to have an ice cream. Earlier on in the day we’d wandered past an ice cream shop with a massive queue in front of it, so, thinking that queue = good, we headed to Gelato Gusto. I lucked out here, because they do dairy free ice cream and it was AMAZING!! You never get good dairy free ice cream, it’s always really melty and icy and it’s always super obvious that it’s dairy free. But not this one – this was hands down the best dairy free ice cream I have had and I’d go as far as saying it was just as good (if not better) than the dairy options there. AND they had sprinkle cones, which made my life.

 

The evening brought with it the Olly Murs concert we had come to Brighton for. Upon entering the concert venue, we came to realise there were two distinctive age groups and we fit neither of them. There were the very young, say, 12 or 13 and there were the quite-a-lot-older, say, 55. Out Olly came, and boy, was he appealing to the latter. There was much more grinding up against the mic stand and gyrating than I had bargained for and at one point someone even shouted “get your cock out Olly”. Ick.

Despite the oddly sexual nature of the show, I did very much enjoy it. I’d forgotten how many absolute bangers Olly Murs had released and he did a few covers of some well-known songs. It was more like a party than it was a concert. He did seem to only play the first 16 bars of each of his songs though, which left me wondering whether he had somehow lost the rights to his own music… but I had a genuinely great time, so you’ll receive no complaints from me, Olly.

Bonnie

Madrid Part 2: dining conceptually

Today we head to DSTAgE for lunch. DSTAgE is a ‘concept’, which essentially means they do interesting things with food and a lot of the things on the menu you won’t have seen before. It has 2 Michelin stars, so we’re expecting good things from the 14-course tasting menu. The first thing I’ll tell you, is that it isn’t easy to find. There’s no sign above the door and no name printed on the window, so we end up wandering up and down the street for a few minutes, with no idea where it is. Eventually, we hedge our bets and tried the only door without a sign above it, and it turned out to be the right place – perhaps you need to locate them conceptually or something?

Now, I’m not going to lie to you, there were a few properly weird things on this menu, and they weren’t things that I would necessarily be keen on eating again. But, it’s a 14-course tasting menu and it’s a ‘concept’ so there are bound to be some odd things on there. Despite some strange textures, tastes and combinations, it’s interesting to see what these conceptual chefs manage to do with food. How they come up with these ideas and make these things edible, I’ll never know.

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We start off with a squid something or other (as I recall, it was squid, coated in squid, covered in squid) served at the bar on a bed of ocean paraphernalia, with plenty of wafty dry ice. This was followed by a prawn dish, which was made on a block of Himalayan salt (very on trend) in front of us and was topped with the ‘legs and moustaches of the prawn’. This sounds super weird and it was served on some kind of leaf at the kitchen, but it was surprisingly nice, considering we were eating moustaches.

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I disagree on all levels, however, with what I think was either our 6thor 7thcourse. They brought it to the table but refused to tell us what we were going to be eating, encouraging us to guess after tasting it, which would have been fine, if all the other courses hadn’t been described in minute detail. So, needless to say, we were incredibly suspicious of course 6 or 7 (whichever it was). It looked dubious, to say the least. It was brown and layered and had a suspect sheen to it. I was pretty sure I knew what it was at this point, but I was trying to convince myself that I couldn’t possibly be right, so I cut a piece off (it provided much resistance) and popped it in to my mouth.

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As soon as it was in there, I knew my guess had been correct. I chewed, experiencing feelings of both intense pleasure (because my guess was right) and incredible revulsion (because what I had guessed was not something pleasurable to consume). It did not go down easily, let me tell you that for free. It kept trying to resurface and I had to concentrate exceedingly hard so as not to gob it back out on to my plate. My gullet was putting up a fair fight against this going further down, and I don’t blame it for a moment. I’ll put you out of your misery if I must – IT WAS FISH SKIN. And not just one piece of fish skin, it was layers and layers of fish skin; it was akin to a fish skin lasagne and it was about as good as it sounds, which is disgusting, let’s be frank.

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The fish skin course over, it moved along much more pleasantly for the rest of the meal, meaning there was nothing I wanted to spit out. Even if I didn’t like every single course, I can appreciate the amount of effort that had gone into it. I had my meal with the wine pairing, which I think is worth it, but do be prepared for a bit of a bank breaker with this one, it was not cheap.

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Someone looks pleased with their candy floss…

We head back over to watch some more tennis. It’s obscenely hot sitting in the sun today and I’m concerned that I’m going to sweat myself down to 0% water content. We meet up with one of the tennis players’ father’s and spent a good chunk of the day with him and end up heading back to the hotel the players are staying at for a drink or two. I must admit, that when I say ‘we’, it is the royal ‘we’ in every sense, because I absolutely do not know a single tennis player and I’m 100% riding the wave of other people’s successes in life here.

We have another terrifying journey back to the apartment we are staying in. One of the cars put on to ferry the players about is arranged to take us back and we hop in. The guy has pretty limited English and we pull away and nearly smash into the back of a parked car. Close shave. It turns out that he has no real idea where he’s going and is jabbering at us in Spanish we aren’t really getting the gist of, until the hand signals come clear to me and I realise he wants us to put the directions on Google maps for him. This would have been fine, but he drove the whole way one handed with the phone in his hand, constantly turning around to try and speak to us, which is less than conducive to a smooth and un-hair-raising journey. We manage to make it back in one piece, but it was another journey resulting in some fairly jellied legs.

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The following day and it’s time to go home. We’ve got some time to kill in the morning, so we go for a wander around the shops in the area. We’ve been staying in Plaza de las Salesas; a square right in the middle of what I guess you would refer to of the ‘hipster’ quarter of Madrid. There are loads of vintage shops around there (I’m a big fan of second hand things) so cases in tow, we browse the retro clothes shops of Madrid. This area is well worth a visit – there’s SO much stuff in these shops and there are so many of them – you’d be hard pressed to come away without buying something (obvs I bought something). We took the opportunity to have an ice cream and make use of the instant camera I carted all the way here with me (an Instax Mini 90 if you’re interested), which returned a pretty cute result I feel, despite my hand looking completely weird.

Bonnie

Madrid Part 1: Rafael Nadal gets the (ruck) sack

We’re in Madrid to see the Mutua Madrid Open (that’s tennis, for those of you who don’t know); we know someone who’s a doubles player and she’s sorted us out with some tickets so we can go and watch her, under the guise of coaches. I’m entirely dubious that anyone would ever believe that I’m a tennis coach of any sort. Perhaps the only type of tennis coach I could possibly pass as would be the under 10’s and even then, I’m not too sure if anyone’s going to believe it. This is highly amusing to everyone at work and I’m taking a constant ribbing, with everyone referring to me as ‘coach’ each time they ask me a question.

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We have a mooch about in the morning after we arrive and treat ourselves to a hot sandwich filled with Serrano ham, cheese and tomato, which we consume sat on a set of steps in a square – the only way to consume a takeaway hot sandwich, really. We head to the ground to register ourselves, which was the most lengthy registration process I have ever experienced in the world – there was this online form to fill out and they wanted every single piece of personal information (including the name of your mother’s first cat).

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Basic bitchin’ it with my Aperol Spritz

Eventually we’re registered and we meet the player who sorted us out with the tickets, head to the player’s lounge with her and grab something to eat. As we’re heading in, I’m having to smoosh my way through a bit of a crowd. I’ve got my rucksack on and as I’m squishing my way through the throng, I swing round and manage to whack someone with my bag. I turn around to profusely apologise (cos British and I can’t just walk away with a clear conscience having thwacked someone with my rucksack) and realise that I’ve smacked someone rather famous with my bag… RAFAEL NADAL. Christ! I did think it felt rather solid when my bag made contact with this individual. I apologise for my luggage related faux pas; he says it’s okay. Phew. I’m just hoping I’m not affecting his game with my clumsiness… I’d hate to be responsible for a loss on his part because I’m not sure how I’d live that one down (fortunately, it turns out I wasn’t).

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We sit and watch a couple of matches. You can get up and move around from match to match whenever there’s a break, so you can watch as many or as few as you want. Or, if a match isn’t turning out to be super interesting, you can head off and find another one which is more to your taste.

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Not my most flattering angle…

What was interesting, however, was the Uber ride back from the ground. It started as it meant to go on, with our driver pulling up on the wrong side of the road and then proceeding to attempt to reverse back to us (whilst still on the wrong side of the road) with cars behind him beeping furiously. He seemed unperturbed. Our level of embarrassment reached its peak and we leapt in before he could finish this manoeuvre and we headed away. We were travelling at speed (‘home James and don’t spare the horses’ style) bombing it down the main road and up to the roundabout, narrowly avoiding a cyclist. He’s hurtling along, before he realises he’s missed the exit. We screech to a halt on the roundabout and before we know it, he’s attempting to reverse back around the roundabout so he can come off at the right exit, in full view of the police, no less! The police aren’t having any of that and start on the whistle (accompanied by some wild gesticulations) until he gives up and flies forth towards the next exit.

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We’re careering down narrow cobbled streets, thundering along at an exceptional pace considering the circumstances and red lights seem to mean nothing to him. Through we go, without even a mild consideration for the highway code until we meet something we definitely need to stop for: a pedestrian. The brakes are slammed on, we screech to a halt. My organs continue to move forward inside my body. My nerves are shot. Praise Jesus, it isn’t too long until we’re at our destination and I stumble out of the Uber with legs like jelly, unable to stand unaided. Good God. Of course, I still give him a 5-star rating.

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If there be tapas, I be smilin’
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BEAUT

The next day is Sunday and there aren’t any matches on, so we head out for a mooch around Madrid. We have a look in some interesting shops and have a browse around the Museo Nacional del Prado, which is well worth a visit, as there’s a lot in there to look at (plus, some saucy old nudes, which I’m a big fan of). After that we headed over to Parque del Buen Retiro. We had a bit of a chill on the grass there as it was pretty warm at this point. The park was rammed as there was a holiday in Spain, so even finding a space to lay down my jacket to have a snooze on was a bit of a mission, but of course, we managed.

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There’s a lake in the park and you can hire out a rowing boat and pootle around in that for an hour (which I did last time I came to Madrid), but the queue for the boats was so long that it just wasn’t going to be worth waiting for it. But it’s a good laugh if you get to have a go – they’re basically like bathtubs with oars, which are notoriously tricky to control, if you’ve ever tried to row a bathtub.

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Hot stuff

On our way out of the park we stopped for a drink at one of the cafés and I treated myself to a horchata, which is a milk made from sweetened tiger nuts which have been soaked and ground. It usually comes with a load of crushed ice and is such a good drink in the heat – yum. We went out for tapas for dinner at a place called Entre Santos. The food here was great – it has a pretty small menu (but that’s a good sign when it comes to a tapas menu) and the drinks were good too! I had a basil cocktail which I’ve never seen on a menu before, and it came in a little wooden box in a little clear bag, which was super cute and super tasty. It’s better than it sounds, I promise – I’ve made it sound like it was served in an old Tesco’s carrier bag. Definitely would recommend this place.

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On our way back, we somehow managed to get locked out of the apartment… we were stuck on the outside of the main door and try as we might we couldn’t get the key to work in the lock. We were trying every which way to unlock the door, but the key was categorically refusing to turn. Forlorn, and fully against spending the night cuddled up on the doorstep (as it was getting pretty chilly at this point), we ended up having to call the host of our AirBnb and ask for help to get in. As soon as we’d done that, we thought we’d give it one more try, and with a jiggle of the key we were in. So, it turns out, we weren’t stuck out there after all; we’d simply failed to employ any common sense or outside-the-box thinking. Our AirBnb host was most pleased to not have to come and help the idiot English access the building, and I don’t blame her, to be quite frank.

Bonnie

St. Lucia Day 9: the finale

Having been told Soufriere market was worth a look around, we thought we’d head out and spend our last morning in St. Lucia having a mooch about. You’ll remember that we went to Castries on the basis that it was ‘worth a look around’? We should have been much more cynical about this than we were, but we weren’t. So, we went to Soufriere market to have a browse, and low and behold – there was nothing to browse. Sigh. It was really just a tiny market for people in the town and it wasn’t even a market in the recognisable sense of the word. It was mainly just people selling things from the doorsteps of their homes, be it second hand clothes or mysterious bric-a-brac, but ‘people selling stuff they no longer want from the doorstep’ is a bit of a mouthful in comparison to ‘market’, so I can see why they went with it.

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Soufriere from above

Other than that, there was a slightly more bustling area of market, where fish were being sold out of a wheel barrow and you took home your decapitated fish in a bin liner… each to their own, I guess. Perhaps you’d call that character? Personally, I’d just call it horrifying, but it depends on your opinion on wheelbarrow/ bin liner fish. Perhaps our opinions on those differ?

We began our drive back to the airport and with a bit of time to kill, stopped off at the Choiseul Art Gallery on our way. They have loads of different things there, from baskets woven by local people, to earrings made out of sea plastic, pots and ceramics made there on the island, to paintings and drawings done by the owner herself. They are a husband and wife team – he spends his time turning interesting materials in to jewellery-worthy states and she crafts, creates and paints, ending up with some completely different pieces of art that are quite unlike other bits and pieces I’ve seen.

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Final view from the hotel

She took us on a tour of the place when we arrived (once we had been greeted by their friendly dog Rock, and a couple of not so friendly dogs) and she took time explaining how everything was made, about the people who were making it and the materials they were using. One of the materials she’s using is the hard shell of the calabash, which is a big, round gourd type thing. Everyone we had spoken to who had mentioned the calabash, had been quite vociferous about how horrible it was to eat, and how they did their best to avoid it at all costs. She asked us what we knew about the calabash, clearly knowing that this would be the only thing we knew about it. In full knowledge that I was being set up, but with very little I could do about it, I told her that we know it isn’t very nice to eat.

A gleeful look in her eye told me she was primed and ready to inform me otherwise (I can only assume this is how she gets her kicks). Looking very pleased with herself, she told me that it was in fact, edible (not that I’d said that it wasn’t, being well aware of the game that was afoot). According to her, you could live off of it on a desert island, which is hardly a ringing endorsement, considering that you would literally eat anything half-edible if you were stranded on a desert island, would you not? With an awkward smile and a nod from me, she took this as further encouragement to sing the praises of the calabash. I’m wondering where we are about to go with this. Is she about to tell me that the Queen ate a slice of calabash and deemed it edible? Is she about to tell me that Prince Charles at a slice of calabash and deemed it edible, because that certainly would not hint toward edibility in my eyes. No, no, it wasn’t the Royal Family she used as advocacy for the calabash, oh no. it was none other than her dogs. Her dogs had been eating the calabash for years and they were still alive… this is how she tried to sell this idea to us! Well, this certainly explains why those dogs looked so angry…

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Not my calabash pic

Nearing the airport, we need to fill up the car, following the directions to the nearest fuel station, we promptly take a wrong turning and end up on the business side of the airport in front of a police officer. We stop to ask her the way to the fuel station (turns out you can literally see it from where we were) and she very kindly gives us directions – such a nice lady! We turn the car around to leave and my companion here, attempting to indicate to pull back out onto the road, instead turns on all of the windscreen wipers, starts spraying the windscreen, causing the windscreen wiper to emit an almighty squeal against the window, as it was so dry. The poor police officer is standing behind us having been spritzed with the windscreen wash, looking rather quizzical and I’m now laughing hysterically, practically in the footwell having lost all control of myself. I still cannot think about this without laughing, it just sets me off, the look on that poor woman’s face as we drove away.

We’re on the plane, getting seated and it comes to light that I’m seated next to the longest man in the world. He’s more legs and arms than I have ever seen. It feels like all of his limbs are on my side, I no longer have any armrest because his stupidly lengthy arm has commandeered the entire thing and his knee is protruding half way across my seating area. Fortunately, I’m not that tall, but I’m still not appreciating having half the space I am supposed to be provided with. I give him secret evils through the back of my head. I’m after a sip of water, so I take a glug of water before my companion promptly makes me laugh, causing water to come pouring out of my mouth, only to be sprayed all over him. The longest man in the world was not amused, watching from his vantage point of my seat.

The flight was generally uneventful, apart from the member of cabin crew who looked incredibly uncomfortable for the entire flight – I can only assume he was terribly constipated, based on the face he was making. On one hand, I’m happy to be going home because I like being at home, but on the other hand, I’m sad to be leaving, because I’ve had such an epic time, it’s been so eventful and I’m going to miss it when I get back, but I think that has a lot to do with the company and much less to do with the place, coupled with the fact that I do seem to be quite eventful.

Bonnie

Fave pics from the holiday:

St. Lucia Day 8: Prince Charles’ choice

It turns out that having a hotel room open to the elements isn’t necessarily such a great idea in practice. It turns out that the elements not only keep you awake, but they wake you up as well. And not only are you at the mercy of said elements, you are also at the mercy (so it turns out) of the wildlife. The wind is insane up here, which makes sense, as you’re essentially half way up a mountain, but it makes SO MUCH NOISE. And don’t forget the sun – that little sun does insist on rising before 7 am and that little sun does insist on forcing you to wake. As does the bird who comes in at some ungodly hour to peck at the choux bun the hotel left on your pillow last night. Grrrrrrrr.

As much as I like to moan, we did wake up to a rainbow arcing over the Pitons, so I really shouldn’t complain too much. We’re off for some more whale watching and we head down to the town of Soufriere, where we park up outside the place and meet a man who introduces himself as ‘Usually Darren’. Now, I can’t say if this is his given name, whether he isn’t always Darren or whether there’s a man named ‘Unusually Darren’ and this is the only way he can differentiate himself from said Darren. Usually Darren is very kindly going to look after our car whilst we are on the boat – thanks UD.

The whale watching tour goes off without a hitch, apart from one couple who board the boat and immediately proceed to remove their clothes, until they are sitting there in their swimmers. What? This is all kinds of weird – who goes whale watching with a big group of people you’ve never met, and with speed, decide it’s appropriate to remove your clothes. I was uncomfortable. They were, of course, British.

Once we get out there and I’ve forgotten about the mostly naked British people, we find some pilot whales. I’ve never seen a pilot whale before, but they give the impression of being quite stumpy, round and cute, even though they are about 20ft long. They don’t do a great deal, so there was no jumping and splashing about, but it was good to see something we haven’t seen before, nonetheless.

Back on dry land, Usually Darren is excited to see us back at the car. The car hasn’t been stolen or broken into, so it goes without saying that we must part with our cash and Usually Darren must receive it. Back at Ladera resort, we take the opportunity to go and watch the hummingbirds. They have a seating area with feeders around it, so you can watch the birds come and go. It still amazes me how quick they are – here one moment and gone the next – you don’t even see them go. I get a few decent snaps of their comings and goings, but it’s particularly tricky to capture these speedy creatures.

That afternoon we head to Fond Doux Plantation and Resort, where you can take a tour of their plantation. This is apparently Prince Charles’ resort (or the eccentric Prince Charlesy version of a resort) of choice on the island and if you know anything about Prince Charles, this should tell you all you need to know about this place. Boy oh boy, was this an experience. It started off with us booking in for the tour, assisted by a man with THE longest fingernails I have ever seen in my life. They are well over an inch long and I cannot stop staring at them whilst he’s booking us in – I cannot focus on anything else. Booking completed and fingernail staring time over, we both need the loo, so we head to the respective male and female bathrooms, which are quite literally the same room, just with what appears to be a piece of cardboard to separate them from one another. But at least you can chat to one another whilst you are doing your business. Weird? Yes.

We’re greeted by our tour guide – Clinton. Clinton appears to have sprinted here as he’s dripping in sweat. My suspicions are swiftly confirmed by his greeting of “Hi guys, I’m Clinton, I ran here”. Well, with that settled, we begin our tour of the plantation. He starts off pointing out a few of his favourite plants and giving us some info about the banana plants. He tells us that this plantation used to supply Hershey’s (who apparently own Hotel Chocolat) with cocoa but they had started growing their own cocoa and no longer had any need for Fond Doux. Clinton clearly harboured some ill-feelings towards Hershey’s and loudly and frequently proclaimed that Hershey’s would no longer have the best chocolate in the world now they were growing their own cacao, ensuring us that Fond Doux would soon be giving them a run for their money and that they were going to ‘show them’… K hun.

Clinton was now bounding around in the bushes, plucking off flowers for us to sniff and admire, each time assuring us that this was his favourite plant and informing us of its various qualities and uses, half of which seemed to be hangover cures, the other half of which were ‘to make you big and strong’, which involved him flexing his arm muscles each time he said so (I think we may have even caught a glimpse of abs at one point). Clinton then spots a cinnamon tree, gleefully eyeing it up before springing over there to cut us off a piece of bark to nibble. He stood there beaming at us. This was another one of his favourite plants.

With a sideways glance at one another and a questioning widening of the eyes, it dawned on us that Clinton may not just be simply high on the spice of life. Clinton may, in fact, simply be high on spice. This guy was something else – floating through the plantation, practically giddy with ecstasy (hopefully not the pill kind) giggling along to his own jokes and wafting through the undergrowth – it was tricky to keep up with him at times, as he’d get so excited about the next cocoa pod to look at, he’d flounce off, leaving us in his dust, hurrying to catch up.

I don’t know what Clinton had been smoking, but it was certainly some potent stuff and would probably have taken out a whole herd of cattle with one whiff. Never have I seen a man quite so high in charge of a tour of a plantation. In fact, never have I ever seen a man quite so high in charge of a tour. Or, for that matter, quite so high.

Despite the vehement protestations against Hershey’s we’d been hearing from Clinton all afternoon, we went to Hotel Chocolat’s restaurant in St. Lucia, Boucan for dinner, which is on their plantation. Now, it’s worth mentioning that everything on the menu contains chocolate. I genuinely did not think this was possible, but it is, and they have done it. Chocolate in your dinner may sound like a weird concept (and it is) but it worked. The same cannot be said, however, for the cocoa nibs (which I will hereon refer to as ‘nibs’). NIBS ARE THE WORST. I’m not even overexaggerating here, nibs are legit the worst things to have happened to the world, since forever. They are crunchy and yucky and bitter and weird, and they seem to increase in your mouth as you are chewing them instead of reducing. They defy the laws of chewing.

Not only that, but they would sneak up on you! You would take a bite out of something, 100% sure that it contained no nibs, in fact, you would bet your life saving on it and then out of nowhere, you would find yourself chewing on something akin to a splintered table leg. THE WORST! The fish had nibs in, the meat had nibs in, the sauce had nibs in, the butter had nibs in… even the drinks had nibs in. EVERYTHING HAD NIBS IN. Honestly, I thought I had died, woken up and found myself in nib hell. Were the pillows of the hotel stuffed with nibs? Did boiling hot nibs rain down upon you from the shower head? Where does it end? I feel it only ends when you spontaneously combust, exploding into a sea of nibs… nibs cascading across the floor, because you are no longer made of flesh, you are made of nibs. You are nibs.

Bonnie

St. Lucia Day 7: low-flying bananas

Today we check out of Sugar Beach resort, leaving behind any chance of meeting and befriending The Cloon. We didn’t make much use of our 24-hour butler service, but I’m going to miss Dwight The Butler very much. It was nice to have the option of not having to do anything yourself, ya know? If I’d wanted to, I could have called “Dwight Dwight Dwight” and had him come and run me a bath, had I been so inclined, or called him to come and rescue me from that wall I got stuck on the other day, or even to climb the wall for me. But I didn’t, mainly just because I feel awkward about getting people to do things for me that I can defs do myself… where do you look when they’re doing these things for you? If someone’s running a bath for you, do you just sit there on your phone, not making eye contact? Because that seems rude? Or do you engage them in conversation whilst they’re running your bath for you? Will they get annoyed because you’re interrupting their work? Who knows?

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A couple of evenings ago I got myself in to a situation with the other butler (not Dwight). She’d come to do something inside – no idea what it was, I think it may have been to turn down the bed. Anyway, she was inside, we were outside on the balcony, and I was discussing with my companion how awful it must be if you get people staying here who are madly racist and make racist comments. She let us know she was leaving and I, still making my point about the fictitious wild racists, continue proving my point, by verbalising racist comments that a racist may make, just as she was exiting our place downstairs. Great timing! Now, it has been recently drawn to my attention that I can be quite a loud person (this came as a huge shock to me as I’ve never identified as a loud person) and I’m still not 100% convinced of the truth of this, but everyone else I’ve subsequently spoken to has agreed that I can, on the odd occasion, be a tad on the loud side. So, that means she definitely heard me. And that means she definitely thinks I’m wildly racist.

We’re going to the capital city of St. Lucia today – Castries. Apparently, there is a market there and a few bits to do, so we hop in the car. We’re in a Suzuki Jimny which doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the steep and winding roads of St. Lucia (either that or its the driver who isn’t a big fan). Either way, there were some points where I think we could’ve been easily out-paced by a tortoise, as we were juddering up the hill, violently jerking between first and second gear, the engine whining constantly in protest (which I don’t blame it for at all, as I’d have been exactly the same, in fact I probably was).

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We’ve noticed that if you know someone in St. Lucia, when you pass them in the car, you give them a little toot of the horn and a wave, so we decide to do a little experiment. Our aim is to find out whether people just wave when they hear the horn toot, assuming they know the tooter and the tooter knows the tootee, or, whether they actually recognise who is tooting and will only wave if the tootee knows the tooter. You get me?

We give it a try and the first attempt falls flat on its face – we drive past someone, realise we have our first opportunity, scrabble for a toot on the horn and make precisely no sound. There is no toot. Okay, we’ll put that one down to experience. Our next opportunity arises; we pass a woman walking up the hill and give her what we think is going to be a toot. It is, in fact, a loud blast of the horn. I think we over-compensated on account of our last failed attempt and instead managed to give the poor woman a heart attack. Attempt two ends in failure. It’s time for round three. Attempt three is the one for us, we can feel it. We pass a guy on the side of the road, execute what can only be referred to as the ‘perfect St. Lucian toot’, we wait, expectant of the turn and wave from the man. We get nothing. NOTHING. Wow. Well, it seems as if the tooter and tootee do need to know one another. Interesting.

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We eventually make it to Castries after what seems like an absolute eternity. It takes an oddly long time to get there, I will say that much. I’ll be honest with you, because I’m clearly not here to rose-tint my holidays; Castries was not worth the drive. As much as I would have loved it to be, it really wasn’t. There wasn’t much there, the market was full of souvenirs (and a particularly amusing set of ‘Bob Marly’ merch), there wasn’t much to look at and there seemed to be a lot of homeless people. We tried our best, but there just wasn’t anything going on there, unless we missed the great attractions of Castries… but I don’t think we did.

On the way back we stopped at Marigot Bay – supposedly one of the beauty spots of St. Lucia. Again, I felt it left something to be desired. It was essentially a bay populated by stonkingly rich people with yachts. Yachts so posh, that the fenders had little jackets on to keep them looking smart. Yes, it was pretty, but it wasn’t THAT pretty, and I fail to understand why it is rated quite so highly. We are on our way out of the Marigot Bay area when we come across a man selling fruit – we are getting peckish at this point, so we think we will grab some bananas. A couple of bunches of fairly battered looking bananas greet us – suspiciously battered bananas. But what have we got to lose? I’m convinced that they’ve been stolen from the neighbouring banana plantation, but you have to do something to make a living and I’m happy to reward resourcefulness.

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Marigot Bay

These are HANDS DOWN THE BEST BANANAS I HAVE EVER EATEN. They were SO good. So sweet, so ripe, so yummy. YASSS! There’s nothing worse than the smell of sweating banana skin in the car, so as we pass a bit of rainforest, I chuck my banana skins out of the window and in to the greenery. The driver thinks this is an excellent game to play and insists on me winding up the window most of the way, as he’s 100% sure he can get his out of this small crack of window. I on the other hand, am 100% sure he will not be able to get his out of this small crack of window. He winds up for the throw, keeping one eye and one hand on the wheel. I see the banana skin come sailing by, almost as if in slow motion. I turn to watch it as it hits the inside of the window, rebounds and promptly smacks me in the face. This was quickly responded to with booming laughter from the driver’s seat, as the banana skin slides off my face and into my lap. I just took a banana skin to the face. A BANANA SKIN TO THE FACE. Am I actually a character in a cartoon and I just don’t know about it?????

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We arrive at our final hotel – Ladera resort. Ladera is situated between the two pitons, with a great view between the two. Our room is open to the elements, so we’re never without the amazing view. We have our very own pool, complete with a very Instagrammable swing chair and we’re greeted with a bottle of bubbles on arrival. It didn’t take me long to polish this off and start swimming tipsy circuits around the pool. I had to do something to help me recover from the banana skin to the face.

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Bonnie

St. Lucia Day 6: wet Wednesday

Last night we attended the manager’s cocktails on the veranda at the hotel. You essentially meet the main members of staff at the hotel, from the manager (obvs) to the head of hospitality etc etc. The one who particularly caught our eye, was the sommelier. Reason being, was that we were attempting to figure out his nationality based entirely on the way he looked and miserably failing, that and the fact he was clearly trying to breathe in so he looked thinner, but kept letting his tummy go when he thought no one was watching. It was impossible – he definitely didn’t look French and that would be WAY too obvious, considering his job, but where could he be from? There are so many other wine nations. In the end, we reduced ourselves to checking the hotel website for his name and then stalking him on LinkedIn (low, I know).

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Double parked hun?

We eventually settled on him being either South African or Argentinian. Our research informed us that he’d attended multiple wine schools in France, but we simply put this down to the best wine schools being there, so he probably travelled to learn, right? We also found out that he went to Uni in Lyon, but again, he was probably an expat kid (on account of him either being Argentinian or South African) so that made sense. He just can’t be French, because he doesn’t look French. The French have a certain look about them, don’t they? You know what I mean – you always know when someone is French before you speak to them. He came over to speak to us. It was time to find out whether it was South Africa or Argentina. Well, turns out he was French. Who saw that coming?!

There’s another waterfall just down the road from the Sugar Beach resort, called the Piton Falls. It has hot baths where you can relax, listening to the sound of the waterfall and it’s quiet and peaceful. It took us about six attempts to get there, which was less relaxing and peaceful – each time we left the hotel, we realised we’d forgotten something else. The guy manning the gate clearly thought we were a pair of complete loons. It got so awkward as well, because each time you go back through the gate you feel like you have to justify why you’re going back in and make some kind of amusing light-hearted joke about having forgotten your wallet, or your swimsuit, or your towel… it got to the point where we no longer had anything to say to the man on the gate, and just resorted to hanging our heads in shame and avoiding eye contact – this is the appropriately British thing to do, once all banter has been exhausted.

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It’s fashion, look it up

Back at the resort, it’s beach time. We’ve kind of had enough of chilling on the beach, so we opt for an activity – namely, the banana boat. Now, I haven’t been on one of these in years and this is essentially an inflatable sofa being towed around at high speed, attached by a piece of string, to the back of a speed boat. We get on without too much trouble (this is usually where I literally and figuratively fall down) and we are away, only after having signed a form saying the resort isn’t liable if we drown or get our heads cut by the propeller. It’s all good at first, we’re merrily bobbing along, making our way to open water and nothing too dramatic is happening – I’m feeling a bit nervy, but I think anyone would be in this situation, don’t you?

So chill

We’re speeding up. We’re whizzing across the waves at high speed, and then I see the turn coming – the boat has turned right but the inflatable sofa hasn’t caught on to that yet, so we are swinging wildly out to the left, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH – the scream has come out and I can’t stop it now, I’ve broken the seal. Each time we swing out to the side and get whipped back in, I am screaming, SCREAMING at the top of my lungs like nothing you’ve ever heard before – like a banshee on steroids. Apparently this is all too funny and my companion is falling about laughing (as much as you can fall about on an inflatable sofa). I can’t even hear his guffaws over my screaming, but I can see the belly laughs happening. I want to say something to him, tell him to shut up, but each time I open my mouth to speak, a shriek just comes out. The guy driving the boat is looking back at us, clearly concerned there is something wrong with me (which there is) and attempting to decipher whether he should be stopping or continuing.

By now, the laughter has infected me and I’m exhibiting an impressive combination of laughing uproariously until we swing out, then seamlessly slipping into a long, drawn out scream as we head off in the opposite direction to the boat. We’re now at the point where I’ve been laughing, screaming and bumping over waves for such a long time, that I’m desperate for a wee. Each time I scream it makes me laugh and each time I laugh it’s making me need to wee – we’re hurtling over waves, getting splashed left right and centre. I’m laughing so much that I can no longer see and I can’t say for sure whether the water on the inflatable sofa is sea spray or wee. I have no control over myself. None. After 10 whole minutes of screaming, laughing and (maybe) weeing, we are back on dry land. My tummy hurts from laughing so much and I can barely walk in a straight line. I am drunk on laughter.

The rest of the day seems to continue in a similar fashion. We’re chilling in our plunge pool with some music on and I’ve treated myself to a Piton beer (super lady-like). I’m looking at the wall next to the plunge pool and I’m pretty sure that it’s possible to climb on to the wall, run along it and scoot up the incline, onto the railings and over on to our balcony (I’ve had a few drinks at this point). I decide that we simply must try, so I set about scrambling on to the wall from the pool. I can’t imagine what this looked like from behind, other than a giant sausage with arms and legs, trying to heave itself up an on to what was a surprisingly high wall, with absolutely no grace whatsoever. I eventually flop on to the wall, where I realise how high up the balcony is, how steep the incline is on this bit of wall and how smooth it is.

Such a lady

Try as I might, this is not happening – there is no way I’m managing to clamber up this bit of wall and leap over on to our balcony – the wall is soaking wet from the pool water, it’s too slippery and I can’t get any purchase… someone else seems to manage this with complete ease, however and I’m left, crouched on the wall. It’s at this point I realise that I can’t get down either. It’s too far to jump and I can’t climb down either, as my feet are nowhere near the floor if I hang over the edge. HELP! Because I’ve had a few drinks, I start to find this pretty amusing, and soon enough I’m laughing to myself, crouched on the wall alone, soaking wet from the pool. I’ve laughed so much now, that I need a wee again and I’m very much struggling to hold it in, in my current position – crouched on a high wall, in fits of laughter, whilst feeling nervous about never being able to get down and dying on top of this wall.

My companion offers to lift me down, which I abjectly refuse to go along with because A) I don’t want him to have any idea how heavy I am, B) I’m not actually sure if he’s going to be able to lift me down, and I really don’t want to hear him grunt as he takes me weight (because that would be terribly upsetting would most definitely ruin my day) and C) I’m a bit tipsy and I don’t want to fall on him and squash him. After refusing for what was probably around 30 minutes, I’m eventually persuaded that I won’t flatten him into a pancake and I awkwardly half fall/ half jump on to him, clinging to him like one of those little koalas you used to get attached to the pull-cords of lights back in the day. Always glamorous.

Bonnie  

St. Lucia Day 5: the high-light of the holiday

Today we leave Anse Chastanet resort and move on. I’ve enjoyed staying here a lot – it’s fun, it’s vibrant and it’s lively. There’s been music each night to entertain the guests (some of it particularly entertaining – renditions of the Bee Gees with a St. Lucian accent are certainly interesting). The beach is great, and you can walk over to another beach as well, if you get tired of the main one. It has a really chilled and relaxed vibe to it, it’s got a traditional feel to it, which is something I really like, and it has plenty of character. I would defs recommend staying here.

We’re leaving the resort and we have a car to take us back to the car park, the guy taking us back greets us with a “hi guys” and helps us put our stuff in the back. Now, I’ll admit I’ve played that description mad cool, because his “hi guys” was squeaked in literally the highest voice I have ever heard in my entire life. So high, in fact, that I’m surprised it hasn’t resulted in the dogs of St. Lucia following him around like he was the Pied Piper, because it was THAT high. What made this even more shocking/ unexpected/ hilarious/ incredible, was that the voice categorically did not match the owner of said voice. This guy was so tall and plenty broad making the amusingly high voice even more amusing. He’s now affectionately known to us as Long Marv and he’s quite impossible to forget – it just seemed to defy all logic and biology.

As we are heading along in the car, he’s diving deeper and deeper in to conversation with us and it’s becoming quite impossible for me not to giggle. A couple of sideways glances at one another, a stifled smirk and me furiously pressing my lips together in a bid not to allow my laughter to escape (resulting only in me emitting a Mutley-esque noise) and I cannot cope. Yes, I know you shouldn’t laugh. But I cannot cope in these situations – there is no way on earth (without quite exhausting human effort) that I can keep my lols inside me – and you all know that as soon as you try to stop laughing, it becomes progressively more impossible until you actually explode. I was trying my absolute best not to laugh but that all went to pot when we went over a bumpy bit and his voice cracked, sending it EVEN HIGHER. I was weak by the end of it. I was hysterical for the next hour. It made my life, no word of a lie.

The Cloon’s room? Maybe?

We make our way over to the next place we are staying: Sugar Beach resort (which I insisted on calling ‘Palm Beach’ or ‘Palm Springs’ for the entirety of our stay). Sugar Beach is supposedly The Cloon’s resort of preference in St. Lucia, so I am expecting a Nespresso machine at least. We arrive and are greeted with a cooling lavender towel – a cooling lavender towel is actually cooling, whereas a cooling mint towel is really not cooling and actually burns your sinuses out – so that made for a change. It felt very calm here and we had our very own butler (Dwight) to show us to our room, taking us past some cool art, through the door to our very own plunge pool and into what I would definitely call a villa, not even close to being a hotel room. By the way, there was a Nespresso machine, of course – called it.

Room with a view… and a plunge pool

We decided we would head to the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens for a mooch around as they looked pretty and there’s a waterfall there. As we arrived we were accosted by a man selling beaded necklaces in the car park; he was clearly very keen on us making a purchase right there and then, because he wanted to get home, so he could go and watch the cricket… so a couple of minutes later, armed with a necklace made from beads that we really didn’t need, we head in to the gardens, fairly sure that the car wasn’t going to get broken into or stolen.

Werk it gurl

There were lots of cool flowers and plants there, but to be honest, plant pics make me feel a bit uncomfortable when I look at them – they feel way to specific and detailed to make for comfortable viewing. The waterfall left something to be desired considering we’d been able to go under the waterfall the other day, but it’s still worth a look.

There’s also a sweet little Japanese bridge which is perfect for a pic or two and there are lots of hummingbirds buzzing around – which are nigh on impossible to get a good picture of because they are literally the fastest things in the world and they NEVER STOP MOVING. I did, however, manage to get a pretty epic pic of one chilling on a stalk, and when I say ‘epic’ I just mean in focus and not ridiculously blurry.

As you may, or may not know (and if not, then I don’t blame you) St. Lucia has a volcano – the Sulphur Springs volcano and it’s the ‘world’s only drive in volcano’… apparently. I’m not too sure why it’s known as this, seeing as all you can actually do is drive up to a parking spot on the volcano, you don’t actually get to drive inside an actual bit of volcano, so I feel this is somewhat misleading.

Let me tell you something, it’s known as ‘Sulphur Springs’ for a very good reason, on account of it smelling like rotten eggs, very strongly. Despite the strong smell of an egg sandwich, one you’ve had it sitting in your lunch box all day, ya know? Before finally opening it (having been getting progressively warmer throughout the day) and you get that strong whiff of pungent egg. Despite that, it’s a pretty neat place. You used to be able to walk on the crust of the volcano, until a tour guide named Gabriel (ironically) jumped up and down on the crust to prove its strength, and swiftly disproved his point by falling through a hole and burning himself up to his waist. Now, understandably, you have to view the volcano from a viewing platform, which is a shame, but I would much rather not have a singed bottom half. They did name the hole after him though, so silver linings and all that.

Once we had our fill of the eggy smell, we thought we would take advantage of the mud baths, which supposedly have medicinal properties (I’ll be honest and tell you that our main attraction was painting one another in mud and swimming around in the baths like muddy ducks). We don our cozzies and head to the mud. We set about daubing one another in the good stuff, going straight for the face, so we look like we are part of some kind of racist comedy.

I’m a child, and I can’t help myself, so I draw a penis on my companions back (because why wouldn’t you? It would genuinely almost be rude not to). He has no idea, so he’s merrily going about his mud bath experience with a phallus on his back. A few dirty looks get thrown his way, as do some amused glances. I can barely contain myself and I have to expend a huge amount of effort holding in my laughs along with my intense desire to blurt it out. I manage to hold it in until the last moment, when I can no longer contain my amusement and I tell him about his back penis amid gales of laughter.

Remember when I said we got sunburnt? So, it turns out, if you apply mud to a sunburnt back, it becomes pretty adherent. To the point where we had been through 4 separate baths and it was still standing firm, as it were. The only way to rid oneself of a back penis in this situation, is to give it a good scrub. However, given the fact that one is exceptionally sunburnt, as you can imagine, scrubbing is a tad on the painful side. I did my best to rid him of the back penis, but my scrubbing was only tolerated for so long. It really did stick there. For ages. Days in fact.

Bonnie

St Lucia Day 4: it’s alright once you’re in

Today is the day we go whale watching (we went with Mystic Man Ocean Adventures) – I’m now no longer allowed to set the alarm, so we get up and away without any hassle whatsoever, which is fine, but distinctly less fun, don’t you think? We head down to the boat and wait around for the guy to come and pick us up, forgetting that everything is on Caribbean time here, in the Caribbean, meaning that 9.30 doesn’t really mean 9.30, it actually means “when I get there, somewhere in the realms of 9.30, because there’s no rush”. We eventually leave, having had to make awkward conversation with some Canadian people in hats, and when I say ‘hat’, I don’t mean like a cap to keep the sun off of your face, I mean like a proper brimmed hat; the kind you would use if you were a horse rancher, which I don’t think either of them were… but Canadians.

We pop on to the boat and head around to the next bit of cove, where we jump on a catamaran with a bunch of other people (I think we are the only culture who pops and jumps anywhere). There’s quite a few of us on there, so we opt to go and sit on the nets at the front of the boat. We think this will make an excellent vantage point (which it did, and I could tell everyone wanted to be sitting where we were sitting, but “you snooze, you lose” in my opinion) but we fail to consider the fact that: A) there is nothing to lean against, so we had to engage the abs the entire boat ride (or in my case, just roll around each time we hit a big wave and then struggle back up) and B) nets have holes in them, holes let things through, boats go on water, meaning bottoms get wet.

I managed to avoid the worst of the splash, probably only because I was rolling around like an empty Coke can in the breeze each time we went over a wave, in comparison to my companion who has distinctly better core than I do, who managed to stay in place, getting decidedly soaked.

We were on the lookout the entire time for whales (we both love whales and any chance to see them we will be taking it) unfortunately we didn’t see any whales (wah) but we did see dolphins! All the dolphins in fact; we saw spinner dolphins and common dolphins and there were absolutely loads of them – the whole family had come out to play. The guy doing the tour estimated that there were about 100 dolphins around us!

They were leaping out of the water, circling around the boat and swimming right underneath us. They were splashing around and playing, doing somersaults and all sorts – it was like the dolphin gymnastics! Some of the height these guys got was incredible, if you’d spun around at the right moment you would have sworn you’d just seen a flying dolphin. The spinner dolphins are the ones doing all the acrobatics and the pan-tropical dolphins are the ones who are mooching along more sensibly.

The rare hover dolphin

Once we were back on dry land again, it was time to head up to Jade Mountain hotel, which is just behind the one we were staying in (Anse Chastanet) and owned by the same guy (I’ll come on to him later – not physically of course – perhaps in a later post, as I don’t feel that a few sentences about this will do him and the situation any justice). We went for lunch in their restaurant which has a view over the pitons across the water. It would have been lovely up there if it wasn’t a complete wind trap. Each time you put something down on the table, it slowly started making its way across, before catching a gust and plunging to the floor. My sunglasses, napkin and menu all suffered the same fate. The loo was also really nice here, if you are interested (which I am), because nothing beats a good loo and it’s not at all weird that I’ve included a photo of it.

The food was good, but I have to say, the service felt a little uncomfortable. It was all very quiet and I felt as if I had to be on my best behaviour, which soon slipped, but nonetheless… we got asked about 8 times whether our food was okay, and it got to the point where we were replying to questions more than we were eating.

After that, we asked if there was a room available for us to look at – the architecture here is supposed to be really cool (it looked a bit communist for my liking… so many pillars… but each to their own). The rooms at the front are open to the elements and we were shown a room which had two out of the usual four walls. We asked what you would do if there was a hurricane, seeing as you are missing half your walls and there is no way to block said hurricane, and were told that you should hide in the bath… there weren’t two baths, so I only assume that one of you had to sacrifice yourself to the wind.

Excuse the terrible hair

I’m on board with interesting architecture (despite the hotel looking a tad like a fit-flop if you go for the aerial view) and making the most of the view you have and all that jazz, but I do feel somewhat as if missing half of your room is a bit much, especially seeing as you have paid an extortionate amount of money for this room, only to be provided with a mere fraction of it. But maybe that’s just me.

What else is there to do in the afternoon in St. Lucia than spend it on the beach? So, down we head. We are sitting there chilling, managing not to steal anyone’s water,  chatting our usual rubbish and making an extra-ordinary amount of noise laughing, when a guy spots us and comes over on his way down to the water. He asks us if we have been for a swim yet and we tell him that we’ve been snorkelling a couple of times and where the best spots we’ve found are. He asks if we are going to come in to the water, “we might in a bit” we reply, and away he goes, donning his inflatable life jacket on his way – this was entirely amusing, but 100% expected if you’d have met this guy – he was super cute and super, super camp.

Anyway, he’s plunging into the water and messing about with his other half (also super cute) and they are yelping and shouting and having an all-round great time, before looking back at us where we are sat on our sun-loungers and exclaiming “it’s alright once you’re in”. I mean, have you even been on holiday if someone doesn’t say that? I think not. This phrase is literally the most ridiculous thing you can say to anyone about the water, but we still all insist on saying it to everyone when we are in the water and they are thinking about it. I swear to God that someone would plunge into the icy waters of the Arctic, be in the throes of contracting hypothermia and still proclaim that it’s “alright once you’re in”, simply because we, as British people, cannot help ourselves.

Bonnie

St. Lucia Day 3: alarmingly tricky hike

Day 3 was the day we were going for a hike to a waterfall. I was supposed to set an alarm to wake us up well in advance of said hike to the waterfall, so we could take our time and get breakfast. I did set the alarm, honest to God I did, it just turns out that I actually accidentally set it for a weekday and this was the weekend. So, whilst I technically did set it and no one can say that I can’t, it didn’t exactly go off because I didn’t exactly do it quite right. But it’s all fine, because we woke up in time… it was just that it was 3 minutes before we needed to be there waiting for transport. Oops!

We missed breakfast, but fortunately we were given a box of fruit to keep us sustained on our hike, so I inhaled most of that during the drive there. The fruit is great in St Lucia everything is so fresh and juicy and yummy and tasty and I could genuinely have just lived off all the fruity yumminess whilst I was there, but I don’t think my tummy would have liked me for that. We were on this hike with a couple named Deborah and Pete and the guide decided it would be the right thing to do, to shorten their name to ‘DP’, which we both thought was tres amusant, especially as they clearly didn’t get the reference. The guides name was Smith and if you put that together with his DP-related humour, I’m sure you can imagine exactly what he was like.

Smith was possibly the most pants guide I have ever experienced, but in all of the best ways. He was much more interested in chatting about his life, telling us what an excellent person he was, as well as providing us with Shaggy-esque renditions of his own rap lyrics. In fact, I’m pretty sure that he didn’t have any idea about any of the nature and wildlife we were wandering past. At one point we heard the call of the rarely seen St Lucian parrot, in all fairness he drew our attention to the call of said parrot, but then promptly dragged us down the path so we couldn’t spend any time looking for it in the trees (clearly he had something better waiting for him at home).

Some of the journey down was a bit on the perilous side, and I’d chosen to wear white trainers and the hike turned out to be exceptionally muddy, leaving my trainers in a rather sorry state – no one told me it would be muddy, you see. After some half-hearted facts about some of the native trees and a less than satisfactory answer to my questions about why bamboo was brought to St Lucia (‘just cos’ was about the essence of it) we arrived at the waterfall. Considering I’m now sweating profusely, it seems like a sensible idea to throw myself under the waterfall to cool off. So that’s exactly what I do. Smith was particularly insistent that he should take some photos of us under the waterfall (despite my protestations that I was only going to look like a slightly rotund drowned rat wearing trousers).

It turns out that he spent most of his time not taking photos of us under the waterfall, but taking selfies of himself with the waterfall in the background. There was precisely one photo, ONE photo that he’d taken selfie-style where we were even in it. ONE!! And even in that one, we are completely not in focus and clearly not the focus of the photo even slightly. Cool. I look like a chubby drowned rat and I’m not even in half of the photos on my own phone. Thanks a bunch Smith.

Now the real fun begins, and when I say ‘real fun’ I actually mean ‘not fun at all’ because it wasn’t even remotely fun, not even a bit ever slightly. We had to walk back up to the top. Now, walking isn’t my favourite thing at the best of times, walking up a hill is worse, walking up what is definitely a mountain is worser and walking up what is definitely a mountain, in a rainforest which is practically dripping it is so humid, in 30-degree heat, is the worst of the absolutely worser worstest.

The trek back up this mountain was so unbelievably difficult that I thought I was going to die, or worse, vomit. It took all my worldly effort to not throw up down my front. This was so strenuous, that genuinely wouldn’t have minded if meteor had struck me right there and then because I was that desperate to put out of my misery. I honestly wouldn’t have minded. What made it even worse, was that DP were finding the whole thing impossibly easy. They were bounding up this mountain like mountain goats, in their weird open sandal hiking shoes. We eventually get to the top and I am literally gasping for air, clearly the altitude is getting to me (nothing to do with me being a bit unfit). We still have a sludgy road to trudge down and I’m sulking, walking on my own whilst Smith is trying to sell a private bird watching tour to my companion on the down low (I can only imagine this would involve precisely no bird watching).

I throw myself into the back of the transport, absolutely shattered and very ready to get back to the hotel and get out of the clothes I am in which are soaked with a mixture of waterfall water and sweat. DP leap into the back with us and I can just about hear them say (over my heavy breathing) that they were ‘glad that the hike wasn’t too hard’ and that it was ‘just the right amount of difficulty for the heat’. At this point I internally lose my shit. How is this even a thing? I literally thought I was going to die on the walk back up this bastard mountain and here you are, HERE YOU ARE saying that it wasn’t even that difficult. There are literally no words for these thin, thin people whose knees are wider than their thighs. NO WORDS.

Once I was over the mental destruction caused by the comments of the thin people, we made it down to the beach for a chilled afternoon on the beach and went snorkelling again (but plastered in sun-cream this time to avoid any further burning). We had dinner at the beach bar of the hotel, which attracted an extraordinary number of cats. I’ve no idea where all these kitties were coming from, seeing as we weren’t anywhere near anything residential, so I can only assume they came together via boat.

We went to the bar for a nightcap where they had a band and a load of people were dancing. We pulled up a pew, because there is no better way to pass the time than by watching slightly drunk people attempt to dance with one another whilst wearing flip-flops. Our eyes soon came to this slightly older man who had a rather interesting dancing technique. By ‘interesting’ I mean that he was literally humping about the dance floor. Any woman who passed by him got gyrated in the direction of. It was not a pretty sight. Watching woman skirt around and away from this man thrusting towards them was the absolutely highlight of the day. There is no better viewing, than the viewing of an exceedingly uncomfortable situation.

Bonnie

St. Lucia Day 2: source of the mysterious rustling noise

So, day 2 is the first proper day that we have in St. Lucia and needless to say we achieved literally zero. I woke up annoyingly early, so I sat in bed and read my book for a bit – I had planned to rinse through it on the plane, but I got distracted, got to talking and read approximately one sentence of it during the 9-hour flight. So, I finally get to reading my book (something about something political in Nigeria… Maybe?) and I’m ploughing through the paragraphs quite merrily until I hear a rustling nearby. I think it might be my roomie stirring, so I dive back into the political hemispheres of maybe-Nigeria and get back to my read.

And then there’s that rustling again… I’ve got my meerkat on and I’m searching around the room for the source of the mysterious rustling noise, but I can’t see anything that looks even remotely like it might be making a sound. So, back to what I think is possibly politics in I’m-not-too-sure-if-it-was-Nigeria. AND THEN THERE’S THE RUSTLING SOUND AGAIN! I’m up and out of bed now, having wrestled with the mosquito net, getting my foot stuck in it and nearly hanging myself in the swathes of fabric, I’m scouring the room for the source of the mysterious rustling noise.

Needless to say, I find absolutely zilch and come to the conclusion that whatever it was, probably got frightened away as I was doing 10 rounds with the mosquito net. Back in bed, reading about what may no longer be about politics in perhaps-but-I-don’t-remember-now-anyway-but-might-be-Nigeria. Rustle-rustle, rustle-rustle. What the heck is this?! I’m just going to ignore it. I don’t even care anyway. It can’t be anything sinister. Rustle-rustle, rustle-rustle. Oh my life, this is so annoying, what on earth can it… CHRIST – BIRD!!!!! Not going to lie, I nearly shat myself in bed. My heart was SLAMMING and I got a proper jitter on. A little bird had made its way into the room and was mooching about looking for something to eat – the source of the mysterious rustling noise! Who knew a miniature bird could cause SUCH drama.

Little shite…

We officially decided we would have a lazy day (not that it was ever really in question) and we headed down to the beach. Many steps later we arrive on the burning hot sand and find ourselves a couple of sun loungers. We are soon greeted by an attendant who says ‘can I set you up’. I have literally no idea what this means, because as far as I am aware, getting ‘set up’ means either you are getting the blame for some sort of criminal enterprise or you are being forced to go on a horrendous blind date with one of your friend’s colleagues who they assure you ‘isn’t that bad looking’. Anyway, it turns out that ‘set you up’ actually meant sort you out with towels and the like, which was of course, fine, but somewhat less interesting than being blamed for a crime you didn’t commit.

Bird for breakfast anyone?

We’re lounging on the beach chatting our general shit and probably annoying everyone around us with our general loudness, when we decide that it would be remiss of us not to go snorkelling on such a nice day. The sun is shining, the sea is shimmering and the snorkel awaits. Equipped with our snorkels and flippers, we head to the water to see some under-sea scenery. I’d forgotten how impossibly hard it is to put flippers on when you are tasked with doing so on the sand, getting sloshed by waves and generally have pretty limited balance.

The real fight, however, begins when you have your flippers on and then have to walk further into the sea. This, it has to be said, is literally an impossible task. This cannot be done effectively and it cannot be done gracefully – there are no two ways about it. Tottering from side to side and spending an extraordinary amount of time with my legs splayed like Bambi, trying to regain control of my flippered feet, I made it in, relatively unscathed (though I couldn’t say the same for anyone watching – I imagine they came of plenty scathed).

We flopped about in the sea for a while, chasing after fish with particularly limited success (it’s almost like they can see you coming) and I’m almost pretty sure I saw the arse end of a turtle! It turns out that after taking on much sea water through the top of my snorkel, we’d been splashing about for more than an hour, so the snork back was pretty arduous and my ankles were feeling the arduousness.

Having worked up quite the thirst, we head to the bar for a bite to eat and something to drink. I forget what we had, but it was definitely nice. Having secured ourselves a bottle of water in preparation for the rest of the afternoon on the beach, I nip to the loo quick. I go about my business and return, water in hand, ready for the beach, only to find that there is already a bottle of water on our table… What? How has that happened? How are there now two bottles of water?????? It turns out that I managed to steal someone else’s bottle of water from the loo after they had left. I stole. Someone else’s. TOILET WATER. Obviously this was uproariously funny, resulting in it being brought up continuously for the rest of the day/ rest of the holiday/ rest of my life, never to be let go. Each time we walked past a table with a drink on it, I was firmly warned not to go stealing other people’s liquid refreshment. HAR HAR HAR.

I maintain that it was an easy mistake to make and that it was quite simple to accidentally exit the loo with a drink which didn’t belong to you, but apparently that isn’t the case.

Photo credit to someone who managed to clear the beach better than I did

After an afternoon spent on the beach, interspersed with laughing attacks related to the water stealing saga, back to the room we go for a sluice off and a change of clothes before dinner, where we both realise we are ridiculously burnt from our snorkelling. Our backs are quite literally bright red – we are human lobsters. Lobsters, in fact, are possibly less red. The front of me was white and the back of me was red; I looked like a Swizzels drumstick. What horror has befallen us! I’m sure we put on practically a whole bottle of sun-cream, but clearly it was not enough – this is skin cancer central. Wah. Dinner was interesting… you soon realise how often your back comes into use when it feels like the top layer of the skin is being scraped off each time you lean on it.

Bonnie

St. Lucia, Day 1: fire towels

There’s nothing like a holiday to get you back on the blog post hype, right? I’ve been silent, I know, and I’m sorry… kind of. Like, I’m going to apologise for it because that’s what you’re supposed to do and all that, but I’m not even really sure why we bother to do it. Life happens or you just don’t feel like writing anything, or you literally just forget that your blog even exists until you get that reminder from WordPress about making a payment to renew your domain. All I’m saying, is that I don’t feel like anyone really cares for the apology, ya know? So, I’ll say soz, but I’m not even sure I mean it, or that you really want me to say it.

Anyway, so I went on holiday and I wanted to tell you about it. I went to St Lucia which isn’t a place I had even remotely considered going, but when the offer came up, I thought ‘why on earth not’, because you might as well go to these places, even if you don’t actually have any idea where they are or what there is to do there, or even why you might want to go there at all. So off I went. Off I went at the crack of dawn.

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View from the hotel

I had to get up before the birds had even started to sing (it was THAT early) and lugging your suitcase down 2 flights of stairs is not the one at any point of the day, let alone at daybreak. After clanging my way down the stairs with a suitcase which was 100% at least twice as heavy as when I had packed it the night before, I was in my Uber away to the airport. I was incredibly pleased to hear the camp-as-you-like voice of Steve Allen wafting towards me from the LBC breakfast show. In case you weren’t aware (which you most definitely won’t be, on account of me never having told you) I am a huge Steve Allen fan and it causes me great pain that his show is on unfortunately early in the morning, meaning I rarely get to listen to him on the radio, unless I want to be rising with the morning sun (which I really do not).

We’re making haste in the Uber when I begin to develop a rather unfortunate-feeling tummy ache, and by ‘unfortunate-feeling’ I mean that I feel as if my bum hole is about to explosively disconnect itself from the rest of my body. I shouldn’t have eaten those 20 chillies with my lunch yesterday, but I did, so there. We’re trotting along the motorway at a fair clip now, which would be fine, if the Uber driver didn’t keep getting perilously close to the van in front of us, then braking hard and swerving to avoid the impending collision. It would literally have been easier to drive inside the back of the van and ponce a lift all the way there. I don’t know if he was trying to slipstream or what, but it would have been much better for my explodey-bum-hole situation if he wasn’t doing whatever he was trying to do.

We landed in St Lucia a while later. Oh, and when I say ‘we’, I don’t mean myself and the Uber driver, in case you were worrying. I went on holiday with someone I actually know, I didn’t just strike up an incredible and intense relationship with my Uber man and whisk him away to a Caribbean island. I do however accept that something like that happening is always a possibility and I would never put it past myself – the feelings between a girl and her 5-star Uber driver are not something to be sniffed at.

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A moodier view from the hotel

We arrive at the airport and set about procuring our hire car, which takes an exceptionally long time and is mainly down to the fact that there were so many people trying to help at the car rental desk, that they actually began to hinder one another’s progress. To the point where I think that there were actually 2 of them working at one computer. But we make it out of the airport unscathed, if a little sweaty, and begin to make our way to the hotel. I’m very excited by this point, not about the fact that I am on holiday as such, but mainly due to the density of goats (hands down best farm animal and I will accept no argument) on the street AND the fact that there are actual real life bananas growing by the side of the road. Did you hear me? REAL LIFE BANANAS!

We make it to the hotel in one piece, but only just. The fancy-ass hotel we are going to is down a road which I can only describe to you as being the most ridiculous (not fancy-ass) road I have ever had the misfortune to travel along in my entire life. This road (if you could even call it that) is the lumpiest and bumpiest thing I have ever experienced. It was so ridiculous that it caused uncontrollable laughter to be expelled from my face. It was so ridiculous that at one point, I think I actually got hit in the face with my own boob, and I’m not even over-exaggerating. There is no lower point in life, than the point where you get pelted in the face by your own chest appendages. I don’t know how the physics of the earth managed it, because this should definitely be a thing which is physically impossible (like licking your own elbow, or doing the splits) but I can only assume that I am some sort of exception to the rule… You might even say I was the 8thwonder of the world, but obviously I will leave that for you to decide.

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Such a cute room

We arrive at the Anse Chastanet hotel in Soufriere (after a complete boob bashing) and we are greeted with a ‘cooling’ peppermint towel. I don’t know if any of you have applied peppermint directly to your face, but it’s not an experience I would describe as particularly ‘cooling’. In fact, it was rather fierce and much like setting fire to a Polo mint and then shoving it up your nose; that’s the kind of experience we are talking about here. My face was burning, my nose was burning, my throat was burning, and I even think my lungs were burning. My very existence was burning. I wouldn’t have been surprised if smoke started billowing out of my arse, resulting in my becoming the muse for the next How to Train Your Dragon film.

Bonnie

Burgundy be bringing me fame (maybe)

Aight, so, here’s the thing. I actually properly love burgundy as a clothing colour. I like it because it always goes with my skin tone and the colour of my hair, and not everything is matchy matchy when you are ginge, I tell you. It’s a strong colour, which always look way better on me than wishy-washy colours; I’m too pale for them (I think) and I just become a wishy-washy person, ya know? I don’t even just love it for Autumn either, I just generally love it as a colour and bust it out whenever I can, but without looking like I only own burgundy garms.

I’m trying to get back on the Insta hype, but I’m finding it hard, I’m not going to lie. Like, how do you become Insta-famous when you legit have nothing interesting to take pics of in your life? How???? Urgh. Anyway, one of my top girls suggested that I come up with some sort of theme for it, or at the very least, some form of plan. The word ‘theme’ and ‘plan’ made me audibly sigh as I consumed them via ear hole, and as much as I hate theming and planning, I have to admit that she is right. She is correct. Correctamundo. As much as it pains me to admit it.

that jumper tho

I couldn’t embrace the theme life – I chop and change too much and I have -38% chance of sticking with anything I decide upon, so I elected to colour-coordinate it. The whole thing isn’t going to be the same colour (don’t worry, that would end me), but every line of 3 tiles is going to have a colour theme. Which brings me back to the whole burgundy thing. This weeks’ set are all having a burgundy theme, whether you like it or not.

I’m hoping that having a colour theme is going to make it easier for me to post, whether that actually becomes a reality, is another matter. The last time I attempted to reach for Insta fame, I lasted for about 2 weeks before I crumbled, having gained about 1 follower. It’s too hard work, like, it’s really hard work and I don’t know how people do it. The second I post something, I’m staring at the screen like “WHY HASN’T ANYONE LIKED IT???? IT’S BEEN 2 SECONDS!!!!!!!!”. I find myself unbearable, and that really is saying something.

Rambling… bring it in Bonnie… Right, I’m going to aim for 3 or 4 posts a week (probably more like 3) because there is just no way I can post on a daily basis. Some people are out there posting like 3 times a day – whose life is that interesting? Because mine certainly isn’t! I don’t do enough cool stuff, eat enough cool stuff or wear enough cool stuff to post that damn regularly. I’m getting hot under the collar trying to choose a colour for next weeks’ tiles (check me out on the vernacular) because I’m just not sure that I have enough yellow items to keep me on the straight and narrow.

This post started out with me wanting to get you to follow my Insta, but the whole ‘pushing the content’ thing didn’t really happen – I just ended up having a bit of a rant about how hard it is to the Insta thing and basically moaned about not being cool enough. But, well, if you happen to come across my Insta, if you just happen to happen by it, give me a follow? And if you are feeling exceptionally friv, how about you like my 2 burgundy themed posts? Treat me, you know you want to.

Bonnie

The false pocket infuriation

This weekend I went to Cambridgeshire to see one of my girls for her birthday. She was having a bit of a ‘gathering’ on the Saturday night with a bunch of her friends. I still feel uncomfortable about calling a group of people coming together of an evening and partaking in a few beverages, a ‘party’. There is something about the word ‘party’ which just makes the whole thing a little too serious and pressured. Like, if only 3 people turn up to your gathering, it doesn’t matter. There’s no judgement, it’s not a big deal – it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a gathering. But a party? A PARTY needs people. There is a requirement for attendance, so you don’t look like a complete looser. If only 3 people turn up to a party, your life is as good as over, is it not? Can you imagine? A party and only 3 people turn up. The ground would have to swallow me up there and then. It could not be lived down.

Anyway, I went there early so we could spend some QT and I’d help her set it all up on the Saturday. We went out for some drinks at the local Spoons on the Friday night. We thought it would be appropriate to share a bottle of prosecco, seeing as it was her birthday – and any excuse for prosecco right?

I’d decided that space buns were going to be a thing that day (mainly due to it being 32 degrees and me really not enjoying my hair being stuck to the back of my neck with sweat). I teamed those little bobbles of gloriousness with my new mustard yellow crop top with the pom-pom fringe, some big gold hoops and the dark blue maxi skirt everyone seems to love.

Everyone asks me where this is from, and I always tell them it is from River Island (which is not a lie), but I also have to explain to them that I bought this when I was an actual child of 15 and I’ve had it ever since (it’s been through various stages of tightness during that period). Because so many people have said they like it, I don’t want anyone to go mooching about the shops trying to locate this skirt that was in Spring/Summer Season 2009. As funny as that would be, I just can’t do that to my fellow ladies. I also just kind of don’t want them to wear the same clothes as me, because if they did – I would have to burn the skirt, which I don’t want to do, because as everyone says, it’s a nice skirt.

Where was I???? Oh prosecco! Well, it turns out I was very much wrong about the pro being a good idea. This prosecco was THE WORST prosecco I have ever consumed in my life. I can’t even explain what it tasted like; all I can say was it was legitimately one of the worst alcoholic beverages I have ever had the misfortune to consume. It almost tasted mouldy.

Oh, and to top the night off… You know how I said about wanting to burn my clothes if I ever saw anyone wearing the same thing? Well, I certainly wish I hadn’t said that out loud, because the universe clearly decided to punish me for it, by burning a huge great hole in my skirt when someone dropped their cigarette ash on me. URGH!!! Is this genuinely a punishment for being a bit of a brat about the clothes thing? Because it really does feel like it and I can now only assume that they whole world is entirely against me.

Whatever. Back to the gathering… I was finding it hard to decide what to wear for this, obvs there is no need to be super smart, but I wanted to look decent as well as minimise the sweat level as much as possible. Do you know what this calls for? This calls for the new wide leg, high waisted light blue trousers. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.

They tie up at the waist and nip you in just nicely and skim over everything else. I teamed them with a white tee with a blue and a red stripe on it, flatform sandals, chunky gold hoops and some tortoiseshell mirror sunglasses. I loved myself so much in this outfit, ngl. I felt fash AF.

The whole gathering thing started off a bit slowly, because no one really knew each other. But a bottle of vodka later and I was still sitting outside at ridiculous o’clock – putting the world to rights with my new mate Tim. We were discussing (in an alcohol fuelled state) the fact that we both felt as if we should achieve more and make a bigger difference with our brains, but were so far achieving precisely nothing of note, as a result of extensive procrastination and a generally lack of belief in oneself – and the classic ‘it’s easier to just not try’ thing, which so many of us suffer at the hand of. In addition, we discussed how incredibly unfair it is that women’s trousers never have sufficient pockets, and that the false pocket is possibly the most infuriating invention in the entire world, and he is certainly not wrong.

Bonnie

Another day, another slice o’ pie

23rd June

Heading back to Moresby island today in preparation for our boat expedition the following day. We had to go back through Queen Charlotte to get there, meaning we HAD to stop at Queen B’s café, we really didn’t have a choice. First, however, we went for a little mooch around the town. We treated ourselves to another totem pole viewing and saw a truck load of bald eagles circling around above us and chilling on the beach.

Couple of baldies

As well as a row of ravens sitting next to the kid’s park. I think they wanted to have a go on the slide but thought we’d judge them if they hopped on (I would have FYI).

I had an enchilada at Queen B’s, which was scrummy and topped it off with a slice of pumpkin and pecan pie, which beat that enchilada hands down, even though it was a pretty good enchilada. But ain’t no enchilada as good as no pie. U get me?

We got to our hotel on Moresby Island, which was The Sandspit Inn. My door didn’t really shut, but that was easily overcome by using my total bodyweight to yank it shut after me. If you think about it, it’s pretty much an additional safety feature – no one is going to waltz in and steal my things if the door is too big for the frame and they can’t open it, are they? No, they aren’t. After battling with that for a while, I laid on the bed and vegetated for a while/the rest of the evening.

The evening was turning into night and I was looking forward to bedding down and getting in a good night’s sleep before we started exploring via boat the next day. No sooner than my head rested upon the pillow, did the hotel bar turn into some sort of club and start pumping out all of the bass. I don’t mind a bit of loud music, but it really is a surprise when your hotel turns out to be an absolute slave to the sesh and not the least bit interested in their guests getting a decent amount of shut eye. I can only imagine how loud the music would have been if my door wasn’t quite so snug in the door frame. Silver linings and all that.

Bonnie

BFTs: Big Fuckin’ Trees

22nd June

We headed to a place called Port Clements today, there’s not much there and to be honest it wasn’t really worth the drive, but we did stop for another slice of pie on the way there (see, told you I’d opened the floodgate). The pie was at a place called Angela’s place, which happened to be another gas station-cum-diner, or a ‘social café and fuel station’ as per the sign.

I’d say that this pie had a better filling than the previous nights, but the pastry wasn’t as nice… So, I can’t say which one was better… I’d possibly lean towards the first one as the whole experience was just a little better.

We stopped to see the Golden Spruce on our way back, which was a GIANT let down. Basically, it used to be this big gold coloured spruce tree, until some proper nut job cut it down in a protest. I’m all for a protest and that, but cutting down a super old one-of-a-kind tree? Nah. You can have a little read about that sitch here, if you’re interested. Anyway, so we went there to look at this stump, which was exactly that – a stump. I’ll give you £1 if you can even see a hint of golden in this pic… thought not.

In this park, there were some huge trees, like, properly massive trees. Well over the wingspan of one girl. Some of them, it probably would have taken about 8 or 9 of you holding hands to go all the way around the tree.

I feel like most of what I talk about revolves around food, but I’m actually fine about that, so here’s some more about food… Because dinner was SO good last night, we went to Sherri’s Gas Bar & Grill again to eat. We had a summer salad, which was mad tasty – I’ve never had raspberries, blackberries, mandarin and nuts in a salad before, but I WILL be having it again, Mouth-watering doesn’t even begin to do this justice.

Following on from yesterday’s crab cakes, I couldn’t help but opt for another crab-containing meal. I had a crab patty burger, which was NEXT LEVEL. It was just… I can’t even describe it, it was so yummy. Moist, perfectly seasoned, beyond fresh. I could wax lyrical about this crab burger for the rest of the day if no one stopped me. Is anyone going to stop me? I tell you what would stop me though; stuffing my face with another crab burger.

Obviously, there was room for pie. Apple pie and lemon meringue pie (promise I didn’t eat both slices on my own). Apple pie was distinctly better than the lemon meringue – nicely spiced, pastry was fierce and the whole thing was just on ittttt.

Yummo. See, pie is becoming a serious problem for me. Like, it may even be an addiction. I’ve had 3 different kinds of pie in 1 day. HELP!

Bonnie

A sweaty selfie looks less than healthy

21st June

The day started off well with a breakfast of pancakes, streaky bacon and maple syrup. I feel like I haven’t really eaten that much maple since I’ve been in Canada, which is sad, because it is the land of maple syrup. I’d always thought that every single Canadian drank maple syrup like water… maybe I’m wrong… but if I lived in Canada where the maple be good and the maple be cheap, I would not be having the good stuff on a rare occasion.

We headed to Tow Hill (which I naively had thought was ‘Toe’ hill), I don’t know why, but toe on your foot just made more sense to me than towing your car, ya know? Anyway, we headed down there. Down there? Up there? Who knows, but we headed there. We were expressly told not to drive our hire car down any gravel roads, so, naturally, we headed off down a gravel road to this toe place. Once you get there, you have a bit of a hike up the trail to get to Toe Hill. At points, this gets pretty steep, but it’s all on a board walk, so there is no risk of falling to death or anything like that.

We headed to the beach first to have a look at the hill from there, and there is also a ‘blowhole’ on the beach too – but you can only see this do its thing when the tide is midway in, there’s a fair swell, Jupiter is in rising and the North star has combusted.

I decide that merely viewing the blowhole from afar is simply not good enough, one must in fact, climb atop the blowhole to truly experience it. So, I did.

The rock formations here are pretty cool, ngl. It was good to have a mooch around and have a look in the rock pools and scramble around very un-elegantly on various bits of rock I came across.

Next on the list was to hike up the actual hill. Now, this was the steep bit. To say I got a bit of a sweat on would be a gross understatement of the facts. I tried to take a selfie where I didn’t look too hideously warm, but I’m not quite decided on whether that panned out or not – I’ll let you decide on that one.

Once you get up to the top of the hill, it’s a pretty decent view. You can see out across the beach, and see people catching crabs, fishing and digging for clams.

We popped back down the hill (which was distinctly easier than the heart attack inducing haul up) and headed to Agate beach, aptly named, because there’s a tonne of agate to be found on there.

I can’t really say whether this was agate or not, but it looks kinda like it, so we will say it is, just so I can feel pleased with myself.

Dinner was swiftly becoming a priority, so we headed back down the gravel road we shouldn’t have been driving down, hit up the B&B for a change of clothes and bounced out again. We went for dinner at a place one of the women we had met at the top of Toe Hill had suggested. She said you have to look past what you see on the outside, because it essentially looks like a rough old petrol station – which turned out to be the entire truth.

Anyway, it was called Sherri’s Gas Bar & Grill, and it genuinely does look like a run-down old gas station from the outside, but I promise you it is worth going in there – the food there is one of the best meals we had on this trip, if not THE best. I had crab cakes for dinner and the crab was fresh caught that day, and it was DELISH. I can’t even rave about it enough; this crab cake was the best crab cake I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Swiftly followed by a slice of rhubarb and strawberry pie, which had been made by one of the local ladies, which was again, DELISH.

That first slice of pie seemed to open up the floodgates, and much pie was consumed after that point. Much to the detriment of my waistline upon my return home (the scales groaned under the additional weight, I’ll tell you that now).

Bonnie

Pickle spears and little deers

19th June

The next couple of days involved travelling back to Whitehorse, the only notable happening was the consumption of some pickle sticks at the Airport Chalet in Whitehorse. I’ve never had a pickle stick in all my life – in essence, they are sticks of pickle (or gherkin if you are from da UK) which are bread-crumbed and then fried, resulting in the most glorious tasting things I have ever had the fortune to eat in my life.

We experienced a rather wonderful sunset as we were flying back to Vancouver – quite vibrant in colour, and I love the lil moon peeking through.

20th June

The following day saw us travelling to Haida Gwaii. Haida Gwaii is what used to be known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, in and around that area there are loads of cool first nation island ruins, where you can see the houses that existed on the islands, old house frontal poles and mortuary poles. First, however, we are heading to Masset where we have a few nights stay at the Eagles Feast House, which is a guesthouse right on the water.

When we land, we have about an hour and a half drive to where we are staying. The island is so peaceful, like, I’ve never been anywhere to tranquil in my entire life. It just has this aura of relaxation about it. The islands are being overrun with deer, and they are everywhere! We saw a little one on our drive toward Queen Charlotte, such a little bambi!

When we were in Queen Charlotte we stopped at this great little café called Queen B’s.

They have daily specials and everything is home-made and delicious. I had hummus, pita, salad and soup, accompanied by a cranberry sparkler.

We took in some totem poles, before arriving at our B&B in Masset, where I had a nice room overlooking the water.

I was looking forward to some downtime in Masset, we hadn’t anything planned, and it would be nice to have a break and just not really do anything. All the travelling we’ve been doing has resulted in a haze of tiredness. So, I settled down that evening for a date with Jake Peralta, of Brooklyn 99 (taking advantage of the free WiFi of course).

Bonnie

Did you hear the one about the bear?

18th June

On the agenda today: making it back to Dawson City. We drive pretty much the entire way, without seeing a single thing; clearly our luck is never going to change, and we are never going to see a single interesting animal at any point during this entire month-long holiday.  Are there even animals in Canada? Does a single mammal exist, larger than a squirrel? Well, it turns out, they do exist.

We’re not far away from Dawson City when we see a grizzly bear at the side of the road. I think we nearly all died in our seats – we genuinely couldn’t believe what we were seeing. All this time without seeing a bear, listening to everyone else we’d met telling us about all these amazing bear sighting, and we hadn’t even caught a glimpse of one. And here one was, literally a metre away from us, and with a 1-year-old cub!!

They were scared of passing traffic (particularly the little one) and each time a vehicle came past, the little one shot up onto the bank and into the trees, out of harm’s way.

We probably sat there for about half an hour, just watching them go about their business, munching on the grass and mooching about together. Bears are just glorious, are they not? If you think they’re not – then I am not interested to hear it, quite frankly.

High on bear spice, we carry on along down the road, only to see a MOOSE!! It wasn’t a daddy moose – so there were no giant antlers, but it was a moose all the same. The lady moose ran across the road, then made her way across a pretty deep stream (unsure at what point it becomes a river) and popped back out the other side. Our luck is truly changing!

We get to Dawson City and check into the Westmark Hotel. Now, this is by far the nicest hotel we stayed in on this holiday – but it is also the worst, and I’ll tell you for why. No WiFi, that’s why. There’s WiFi in the communal areas, but you can’t get WiFi in you room and I am SO not about that life. Why would you do that to people? WHY??? It’s like they are tantalising you with the possibility of good connectivity, and then just whipping it away at the last moment. I would rather stay in a much less nice hotel, with a normal WiFi policy.

That evening, we went to Diamond Tooth Gerties. Diamond Tooth Gerties is a gambling hall, where they do shows each evening; a ‘Vaudeville’ show (according to Wikipedia). Diamond Tooth Gerties is also Canada’s oldest casino – this knowledge is also courtesy of Wikipedia. For not that many Canadian dollars, you can spend an evening in Diamond Tooth Gerties – not only can you spend a night there, but your ticket is valid for the rest of the month, so you can spend the whole month there if you want to… or was it the rest of the year? I can’t remember now. Either way, it was a long time.

You can have your fill of dancing girls doing the can-can and flashing their bloomers. Many a quick change is done, and Diamond Tooth Gertie herself has a good old sing-song. Okay, it’s not the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it’s a definite laugh.

The splits are done many times (as was much wincing on my part) and legs were more often above heads than not. They even get up a few guys from the audience to have a go – which is more than amusing.

Ooh, something I completely forgot to mention! In Dawson City, it can legit be 15 degrees Celsius, and EVERYONE is out in their flip-flops and shorts, and I mean EVERYONE. I’m sorry, but +15 is not warm enough to take your jacket off outside, let alone wear minimal clothing. These people are complete nutters, I swear.

Bonnie

Today, ft. more driving ‘n’ wind.

17th June

When is there not driving to be done? There is always driving to be done. In Canada, one does not simply, not drive. Here, people think 2 hours is a short drive… Like, HUN, 2 minutes is a short drive – 2 hours, and you will need to present a strong business case to gain my attendance.

Anyway, we were heading back to Eagle Plains, which means we were going back through the mountains where it had been snowing a mere day or two prior. Well, when we passed back through that area, it was literally like a different planet. Snow was not a thing, it was well above freezing and there was actual sun.

The only downside to this, was that it was obscenely windy. So windy, that getting a decent selfie was impossible. So windy, that in every single photo of me, you can see my forehead. My forehead is a thing few have seen. Even worse than that, it looks like I have a Rod Stewart mullet going on, which is less than ideal. People were starting to mistake me for dear Rod and began asking for off the cuff renditions of Maggie May (I was only too obliging).

I can’t even describe to you how knotty my hair was after braving the wind at the Arctic Circle sign. It was almost like it had been woven into a mat: that’s how tangled up it was.

Also, how cool is this hazy mountain vibe? It looks like it was born to be on a gallery wall. All the pinks and greys and blue are just everything to me.

We stopped for a bit by the river to have a rest and stretch our legs. I made the MASSIVE error of getting out of the car and going for a wander down the river banks – I experienced major regrets. I don’t usually get bitten by mosquitos, but this was most definitely an exception. If I’d been wearing trousers like a sensible person, then none of this would have happened, but I wasn’t, I was wearing tights. Obvs not just the tights, cos that would be weird, but a tights and dress combo, like a normal person.

I got savaged by these little winged assholes, so, I had some properly mangy looking legs for like a week. Hot or not? Most definitely not. But, on the plus side, I did find a pebble that looked like a heart – so silver linings and all that.

It almost makes the mauled legs worth it… apart from the fact that it really doesn’t.

Bonnie

Having your arm in the socket is overrated

15th June

Had another pretty chilled day today – the place we are staying at keeps huskies, and if you are short on things to do, you can take one out for a walk. So, this is exactly what I did. Let me tell you one thing right now: HUSKIES ARE MAD STRONG. I don’t know why this came as a surprise to me (seeing as they pull sleds for a living) but by the time this walk was over, my right shoulder was dramatically less in the socket than it was when it began.

I even took out one of the smaller ones who was only a year old, but she was still ridiculously strong. Like, it was more like being pulled along by a horse than it was a dog. As a result, I think they should measure things in husky power, rather than horse power.

Even though I’m a fully paid up member of the ‘don’t really like dogs’ club, even I have to admit, these pups were frickin’ cute. Even when they did stop to drink out of puddles which were more mud than water and pause to consume what I think was some sort of moss. Yick.

I even let one eat a piece of dog biscuit out of my flesh and bone hand. But between you and me, that was the 4th bit of biscuit I had provided, after wussing out and dropping the other ones each time the doggo’s face came at me. But don’t tell anyone, please.

After my arm had been stretched sufficiently (if only I could do that with my legs), resulting ruined ligaments and tendons for life, we popped out to find the local car wash. The trouble with the roads around here, is that your car gets properly dusty.

Then, the dust gets everywhere, and when you get out of the car, you end up with mud all over the back of your trousers. Not that that happened EVERY SINGLE time or anything… it’s almost like I never learn.

Bonnie

Chilly feets and gnarly eats

14th June

We’re up nice and early again today, and once I’ve consumed a bucket of coffee and snacked on some more of that granola, we’re on our way to Tuktoyaktuk. Tuktoyaktuk (or ‘Tuk’ if you don’t have all day) is a hamlet which is north of the Arctic Circle, on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Until recently you couldn’t access Tuk unless by plane or ice road once the ocean had frozen. Just last year, they built a road, so you can drive all the way there from Inuvik. Because the road is pretty new, there is a low weight limit on it, meaning trucks still can’t get down there. But I am not driving a truck, so I can certainly get down there, and paddling in the Arctic Ocean is pretty tempting isn’t it? Especially when I don’t know a single person who has done that.

So, we head off; the journey takes about 3 hours in total, and let me tell you now, that journey is BORING. The scenery the entire way looks exactly the same, apart from a couple of pingos which appear out of the landscape along the way. A pingo is a mound of ice covered in earth, and this area is known as the ‘land of the pingos’. Yes, there are pingos, but I don’t think there are quite enough to legitimately name the area ‘land of the pingos’… ‘area containing some pingos’ would be much more appropriate I feel, but that is another argument for another day.

The first section of the drive is a little… well, a little uncomfortable, let’s just say that. There are some bitch-ass ruts on this road, and I felt like I was either going to smash my head into the roof of the car or hit myself in the face with my boobs – that’s how bumpy this was. This pic doesn’t do it one iota of justice, but I promise you a smooth ride, it was not.

As we were driving along, we came across a lonely little caribou in the road. I’m not sure if this little one was a girl or a boy, but it was pretty damned cute, so I am going to make her a her. Anyway, she was all on her own, which was kinda sad, because I feel like they aren’t really supposed to be in their own, so I am guessing she missed the rest of them when they made the migration or something… Or maybe she got left behind for some reason. Anyway, I managed to get some cute pics of the little lady, and she went for a bit of a jump around and trot along the road in front of us.

Once she’d sauntered off into the distance, we carried on, eventually arriving at the Tuktoyaktuk sign, for the obligatory pics.

As we drive in, we come to the realisation that the sea if still frozen – we were not expecting this! Usually by now it’s completely melted, but there is a definite amount for freezage going on here. We were booked onto a tour with an Inuvialuit lady, who is native to the area, and called Eileen. Once we have located Eileen, after borrowing a helpful Canadian lady’s phone, she comes and grabs us, and we head to her house. Now, I have to admit, I was dubious about the entire thing. When you arrive here, it really does appear if there is nothing here, not just limited amounts of things, but literally nothing, and in all honesty, it looks a bit of a state.

Eileen serves us up some traditional fare, some of which was edible and some of which was distinctly not, but I am proud to say I tried it all. There was caribou stew, which was surprisingly nice and dried whale meat, which was unsurprisingly un-nice; it just tasted so much like dead whale, I cannot even begin to tell you. We had some muktuk, which is the skin and blubber of a whale and this is genuinely rancid. Eileen was telling us that people cover it in brown sauce, and I can 100% understand why, because you do not actually want to taste that stuff when you are consuming it. Dried musk ox was the chewiest thing I have ever attempted to consume in my life, and I am sorry to say, that one had to come back out of my mouth as there was no chance that was going down the hatch without resulting in much retching. The smoked white fish was genuinely really tasty, and the piece de resistance was the bannock. Oh, the bannock [insert lovestruck emoji here]. If this bannock had DMs, I would be sliding right into those because this was the tastiest thing in the whole of Canada, hands down, no argument. No word of a lie, I am 97% sure I ate an entire loaf of it.

Eileen looking fierce in her mum’s dress parka – who knew there was such a thing as a dress parka?!

Her husband, Billy, took us out into his trappers’ tent and showed us some of the different animals he had trapped in his time. Whilst this was interesting, and really cool to see how they made a living, I’ve not got any pics, because dead cute ‘n’ fluffies actually breaks my heart. We headed back out and went to see the first Tuk sign, which was put there in the 70s, and is in relatively good condition, all things considered. Here we are looking like a few heavies outside da club.

After that, she took us to see her smokehouse which was on the beach, right next to the ocean.

I took this opportunity to remove my shoes and socks and have a paddle in the Arctic Ocean. Just to let you know – it’s cold AF. Like, next level cold, so cold that I have never experienced a chill like it. Icy doesn’t even do it justice!

It’s also really hard to get your shoes back on after you’ve gone for your paddle (as exhibited in the below photographic evidence).

Your feet are numb to the core and the pebbles are massive and the whole thing is a bit of a palaver; but it is SO worth it, just to say you did it. Even if I did get a higher than desired level of silt in my suede shoes.

Bonnie

A lazy day and school bus suppers

13th June

You may have noticed that I missed a day out, if you did – then thank you for religiously reading this – you and the one other person who isn’t my mum should probably get married or something. Anyway, the reason I missed a day out, is because on that day I did literally nothing. I didn’t wake up until about 1pm, and for a couple of reasons; firstly, because the sun is up here until about 1am, and secondly, because all the driving had knackered me.

When I did wake up, I sat in bed and read my book, replied to a bunch of messages and emails, progressed to watching re-runs of Friends, Will & Grace and 2 and a Half Men and then ate a fat bag of granola and drank about a gallon of coffee. All in all, a pretty productive day, wouldn’t you say? I needed a break in all honesty – holidays are tiring when you are on the move constantly, never sleeping in the same place for more than a couple of nights, driving and straining your eyes looking for the non-existent wildlife of British Columbia.

The next day I managed to rise from my coffin at a slightly more reasonable time, but in all honesty, achieved about as little. What I did achieve, however, was the consumption of food. There aren’t many places to eat in Inuvik, in fact, the only options you have are a couple of hotels and one family-run restaurant. If I were you, I wouldn’t bother with the hotels and I’d stick with the family-run, which is called Alestine’s, if you’re interested.

Alestine’s is only open from 5pm-8pm in the evenings, so make sure you get there on time. This place is a cute little shack on Franklin Road, where they do all their cooking out of the back of a bright yellow school bus.

The service is friendly, and you’re served by the wife of the family, who is rushed off her feet constantly because of the popularity of this place. They have about 5 main course options on the menu and one dessert, which are given to change as and when things are in and out of season, or when the chef fancies something different. We entered in and who else did we see sitting in there, but Susan and Michael! We promptly park ourselves down on their table and ask them what’s good on the menu. After taking that in, I order the fish tacos at the recommendation of Susan. I’ve never had fish tacos, but when in Rome and all that…

My fish tacos soon arrived, and boy did I enjoy them. They came with fries (as does everything in Canada) and they were filled with fried white fish, mango salsa and a light coleslaw. YUM!! I wolfed those down in about 8 seconds flat, got my hands covered in sauce and ended up with chutney all round my face – so it was a good meal for sure. It took all my mental strength to try and not wipe my hands on my trousers. I’ll leave you to decide for yourselves whether I managed that or not.

I’m so bad with wiping my hands on my trousers. I KNOW I shouldn’t be doing it, but I literally cannot help myself – the desire is too overwhelming. It’s clearly much more ladylike and polite to wipe ones’ hands upon a napkin of a serviette, but I just feel like my trousers really do the job better, and it’s obviously way better for the environment if I shun all serviettes and refuse to use them. That practically makes me an eco-warrior, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it??????

Bonnie

“You’re bringing the Arctic Circle into disrepute”

11th June

Overnight it continued snowing, and when I looked out the window in the morning there was still a smattering of snow. I’d been looking forward to being snowed in and having to dig the car out and put on the snow-chains to be honest – but no such luck. All I got was to slip about a foot on the metal grid out the front of the hotel #MichelleODrama. Because it’s all kindsa of mountainous between here and the next stop (Inuvik) we decided to set off with an American couple we’d met in the hotel, called Michael and Susan. Safety in numbers and all that!

Because I’m a born daredevil, I opt to drive first and lead the pack as such. No sooner do we get down the hill from the hotel, does all the snow disappear – muchos dissappointios! However, in the place of the snow, was a sludge you would be hard pressed to call a road. There were some spots which were black-ice-level slippery. Some impressive skids were done in the 4×4. I think I pretty much held my breath for the entire drive – that’s how hard I was concentrating.

We start climbing up towards the Arctic Circle, the snow has made a reappearance and the temperature is dropping big style. By the time we reach the Arctic Circle sign it’s -5 degrees Celsius, the wind-chill factor making it a cool MINUS 20!!!! Chilly does not even cover it. The sign appears out of the snow and we pull over to get some pics. Now, this was a dramatic 10 minutes, even for me. I stop the car and I get out… And only I get out… It turns out that in the cold and snow, the passenger door and the rear doors have frozen shut and we can’t get them open. No amount of tugging is opening those bad boys, so an amount of clambering had to be done to exit the vehicle.

I was desperate for a wee by now, so I headed to the loo. It’s so windy here, I was almost blown past the lav – but I made it in eventually, after a long battle with the door. I get in there, and the loo seat is covered in snow. This is something I have NEVER experienced in all of my loo visits. A good inch of snow stands between my bare arse and the toilet seat… Hovering seems a good idea at this point.

After a tricky few minutes I exit the loo, struggling to do my trousers up in the freezing conditions, only to hear Michael (the American guy) shouting though the wind at me “Bonnie, do your trousers up! You are bringing the Arctic Circle into disrepute!”. Needless to say, this did not help me with doing my trousers up – not only were my hands frozen, they were now jiggling around uncontrollably as a result of intense laughter. And I was trying to run.

It was way too cold to get any decent photos, so we accept that we will have to stop on the way back and get the pics. Seriously weak selfie game was exhibited.

Ooh, I forgot to mention! When I got out of the car here, I got a high 5 from Michael saying I was a great little driver. Never has anything made my life more than this did. He is my new fave person.

I carried on driving and I’m not going to lie, it got beyond terrifying. Obvs I loved how terrifying it was, but it really was scary. It started snowing heavily and visibility was non-existent. All I could see in front of me was white, and the occasional flash of the lights on the RV we’d come up behind. Driving down this road, the wind was whipping up the snow from beside the road, meaning I couldn’t see where the road was or where the other cars were.

There isn’t anywhere you can stop, and even if you did stop, you run the risk of getting hit by another car who just hasn’t seen you in the snow – so I press on. This was white knuckle – I’m not gonna lie. When I eventually got out of the car, my hands were screaming in pain from how hard I’d been gripping the steering wheel. Even though I thought I might vom from the fear, it was EPIC and I would drive through another snowstorm in a heartbeat.

After the treachery of the icy mountains, the rest of the drive was pretty mundane. We crossed over on a ferry, entered into Port McPherson and stopped for something to eat at the tourist centre. Again, there’s hardly anything here, but a break was definitely required, and the local food cooked at the tourist centre was really yummy, making it worth the stop. They had bannock, soup and fish, all done on the BBQ, and they had a tipi set up that you could have a look in. One of the guys explained about putting up the tipi and told us it was his first time – pretty good for a first attempt I think!

As we were coming into Inuvik (which was to be our home for the next couple of days), we paused to stretch our legs. There was a short hike, which I opted for, turning out to be the most non-event hike of my life.

A lot of climbing and a whole load of nothing to see, apart from hella bear poo. But a selfie at the top was required all the same. Selfie game much closer to being ok point.

We arrived in the evening at Arctic Chalet, Inuvik, which was where we were staying. We had clearly interrupted the woman who runs its dinner, and she did not seem best pleased.

Apologising profusely to Judy, we were handed some keys and pointed in the direction of some wooden cabins, where snow-covered loo seats haunted my dreams.

Bonnie

A rare moose sighting

10th June

Today’s the day we start the serious driving. Our aim on this trip is to reach the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyaktuk in the North West Territories – it’s about as far as you can go without actually plopping into the ocean. The first leg of the journey is to travel from Dawson City to Eagle Plains and you’re driving on the Dempster Highway. Again, ‘highway’ is a fierce stretch for what is actually a gravel road. We’re hoping to see some wildlife along the way – it’s not a massively busy road, on account of the number of people wanting to drive in the wild wilderness being relatively slim, so we are thinking our chances are pretty good. We really should have learned by now, that we are not blessed with frequent and numerate animal sightings… but we started our travels with high hopes nonetheless.

There weren’t many places to stop on our previous journeys, maybe one or two gas stations and places to eat along the way. On the way to Eagle Plains, there really is nowhere to stop. There is nowhere to get a drink, there is nowhere to get something to eat and there is nowhere to get gas, so make sure you fill up before you go. It’s about 400km and it takes about 7 hours – less if you drive like your 18-year-old son, and more if you drive like your 81-year-old nan. The first place to stop off along the way is Tombstone Interpretive Centre, here you can learn about the wildlife in the area, stop for a rest and grab yourself a cup of Labrador tea from the stove. Labrador is a plant btw, not the dog.

There’s a few trails around this area, but because it was a bit miz on that day, we didn’t opt for anything strenuous. We followed the Beaver trail along to a beaver dam, in the hope that we would spot some of the toothy little fellows.

As I am sure you have already guessed, we did not. The most we saw was a sign of beaver habitation – a gnawed stump of tree.

The dry spell continues, as do the heart crushing feels. A chipmunk would do at this point… ANYTHING!! Whilst I was waiting patiently for a beaver to swim by (none did), I did see a squirrel (which I bet you can’t even see in this pic) and a bird. WOOHOO!! Not. No offense squirrel and bird, but we have you at home and you just aren’t what we made the journey for.

We continued along our way, keeping our eyes peeled for bears, moose and the like. We came across a creek; a red creek. This creek is red because it’s essentially rusty, which is pretty neat and it really stands out in comparison to the hundreds of very non-red creeks we had driven past that day.

So much of the scenery Is gawj, but as it was drizzling constantly there weren’t a lot of good photo ops.

After many, many hours of driving, we make it to Eagle Plains… just as it starts to snow. Now, we had heard that snow had been a possibility, but only on the high grounds, so we had thought we weren’t going to see any of those white flakes. Well, it turns out that Eagle Plains is pretty much atop a mountain, so snow shouldn’t really have been that unexpected.

It’s chilling right down now, and we’re glad to get inside the one and only hotel in Eagle Plains – the Eagle Plains Hotel (no one messed around with a creative name for that one, did they?). The most interesting thing about this place is that it was built in the 80s and not a single thing has been done to it since. There is a fairly large crack in one of the windows in the dining room which has probably been residing there since about 1984. Amusingly, in the dining room the tables come equipped with a miniature sled containing your sugar, coffee cups, pepper and salt (with an extraordinary amount of rice in it). When I say extraordinary – I mean the salt to rice ratio was pro rice.

This is the only place to get food, so you have to eat here, but they have a relatively decent menu considering they are in the arse end of nowhere, and they have daily specials too. In the bar you are greeted to what I would imagine is approximately a national parks-full of taxidermy mammals. On the plus side, we did finally see a moose… Positively devilish don’t you think?

Bonnie

No Sourdough Sourdough Joe’s

9th June

Last night we went for dinner at Klondike Kates restaurant in Whitehorse. We are told it’s the best restaurant in town, but I’m slightly disinclined to agree with that. The food was nice, and the service was friendly, but it was no better than anywhere else we ate. In fact, other places were more fun and enjoyable. I don’t know whether it was entirely down to the atmosphere inside, and in my opinion, some of the other restaurants are better.

After we’d eaten, we went for a walk that someone in the hotel had recommended. To get to the walk, you have to cross over the river on the ferry, oh, and it’s a really easy walk.

The ferry comes and goes as there are people to use it, so if you wait there, they’ll come and get you, which is neat. We crossed over as foot passengers on the ferry, which takes about 10 minutes once you set off. Also, here ferry guys though – we watched this ferry go across so many times and not once did they make a single mistake. I swear they actually must be Gods or something… because it was genuinely impressive!

Once you come off the ferry and walk up the road, to get to the walk you need to take the first left into the campground. Keep walking through the campground until you see a yellow gate (a 10 or 15 minutes’ walk). Head through the yellow gate and down towards the beach – on your left-hand side there will be a break in the trees and you can cross a stream over a little bridge and you’ll be walking next to the river.

Across the river, you can look at the hills and keep your eyes peeled for some wildlife! Obviously we saw a grand total of nothing, in-keeping with the rest of the holiday.

As you walk along, you’ll come to some steamboat wrecks on your left. These were left here at the end of the gold-rush when they were no longer needed (they were beached on the banks of the river and have been left there).

These are pretty cool to look at – there are a few of them there at different stages of dilapidation – the ones further back are in better condition. I went for a bit of an investigate and wandered round the back and climbed up on top of one of them to have a look.

The sunset is beaut here, coupled with the fact that it never really gets dark (it was 20 hours of sunshine when I was there), so you can still walk around happily at 10/11 o’clock at night.

The next morning we went across on the ferry again, but this time by car. We wanted to drive up the Top of the World Highway and take a photo of ourselves next to the sign… so we drive for a while and didn’t find the sign, and we drove for a while more and didn’t find the sign… turns out the sign is no longer there… so we drove a LONG while for literally no reason! But, we did find some snow, so that was a win, kinda.

I took the opportunity to stake my claim on the snow, with a classic year 8 ‘Bonnie was here’. Do not judge me…

And a couple of people threw some snowballs at me… Hmpf… bullies!

We popped to Sourdough Joe’s for dins – FYI no sourdough is served here, despite the name. The food was yummay here and IMO it’s the best restaurant in Dawson City. It’s got a chilled vibe and it’s a bit of fun, making for a very enjoyable dinner.

After that we headed back to the hotel and popped into the bar. They have a guy who plays some tunes at the piano each night from 7 until 9, and I have never seen a man enjoy playing the piano more than this guy does.

Some jaunty tunes, a couple of Yukon Gold’s later and some money in the tip jar, made for a great end to the evening.

Bonnie

It’s Mine Time

8th June

Breakfast was calling me, and Riverwest Bistro answered with a breakfast burrito. If you’re looking for places to eat in Dawson City, Riverwest Bistro has plenty of options. It’s a bit of a diner joint and it’s by no means upmarket, but the coffee was fresh, and the food was good, so you’ll have no complaints from me.

We went for a mooch about the town, stopping off in the Northwest Territories Visitor Centre. This place was really good, the lady working there (Dawn) was incredibly informative and hugely knowledgeable – it’s worth popping in there if you need some information about the drive up the Dempster Highway.

Whilst we were in there, we got to talking and she mentioned that there were some cyclists heading up the same way as us who needed a food package dropped off, as it was too heavy for them to carry with them. We offered to take their food package up with us, and feeling like exceedingly good citizens, we headed off with the food package (which turned out to be pretty damn heavy after you have been carrying it for 20 minutes). I can only imagine they were concealing bricks in their food package for some unknown reason.

To fill up our afternoon, we booked ourselves onto a goldmining tour. We had wanted to go on a trip with a native guy in a boat, but he was all booked up – so that was a no go. A shame, to be honest, because we’d been recommended this in the visitors centre and they seemed genuinely excited about it, so we were a bit disappointed, but you can’t have everything. We chose a tour with Goldbottom Mine Tours, departing at 1.30. I have to be honest, I wasn’t bowled over by this tour – I think it was lacking a little something. However, I do think you should go on a gold mining tour whilst you are here. Gold mining is the entire reason this town exists and it’s worth getting to know a bit about it, and the tour was still enjoyable, even if it wasn’t outstanding.

I’ll tell you a little bit about what goes down during the tour. You start off outside the tour office and head up the road to the Goldbottom Mine site (it’s a bit of a bumpy ride). Whilst you’re travelling, the guide talks about the mining history of the area before you stop off at the site and switch your shoes for wellies. The tour guide takes you for a look around the old house there, which is full of cool artefacts and has been done out to look like it would have back in the day.

You head up to a mining site which is in use at the moment and if you are lucky, you’ll get to talk to one of the guys who is mining there. We spoke to a guy named Dale, who told us about the machinery he was using and how much gold he was extracting on a daily basis – this was by far and away the best bit of the tour.

After that we headed back to the Goldbottom Mine site and he showed us how you separate the gold you have panned for from the black sand and other bits and pieces you end up with. This was interesting, and apart from the rude American woman basically rugby tackling me in a bid to get a photo, went off without a hitch. Once we were done with that, the tour guide showed us a huge nugget of gold which one of the people who owned the mine had found.

Here the rude American lady saga continues. We’re standing listening to the guy explaining about the nugget and she’s standing behind me, and I can feel her touching my hair. I pass it off as an accident and continue listening. Then she touches my hair again… Now I know this clearly is no accident, like, she’s kind of tugging on it – does she really think I can’t feel this? Hey, rude American lady – that’s actually attached to my head you know!!!!! CREEP. I end up having to move because I can’t actually address this out loud in front of all these people. The funny thing is, I’m pretty used to people touching my hair; people ALWAYS touch my hair. But, it’s usually accompanied by a verbalisation of the hair touching intentions, such as, ‘isn’t your hair long’, or, ‘isn’t your hair a pretty colour’. One does not simply touch another person’s hair in creepy silence. So, I placed myself out of reach of silent hair stroker and pretended it never happened.

Now it was time for panning for gold! This is where I came slightly unstuck, as I didn’t really know what I was doing and the man just kind of left you to it. I think they could do with working on this section of the tour, as I wasn’t the only one who found this frustrating. Eventually he came back and explained, but I was already miffed by this point, so I enjoyed it less than I wanted to. Also, Goldbottom Mine Tours, if you’re listening, a hot drink and a snack wouldn’t go amiss at some point in the tour. Whilst we are getting sorted with our wellies, it would be easy to sort out some tea and coffee and a biscuit, which I know would be appreciated by your tourists. Oh, and if you could weed out the hair strokers beforehand, that would be GREAT.

Bonnie

The Road to Dawson City (which is not a City)

7th June

Back to the Burnt Toast Café, Whitehorse for some breakfast before the next leg of the journey. The girl serving was rushed off her feet – they were busy yesterday at lunchtime, but this was something else – they definitely need to get someone else in to help! There was a bit of a wait for food and people just kept on coming in (clearly this is the place to be! Either that, or there’s not really anywhere else to go, or a combo of the two). Anyway, the wait was well worth it, because the food was delicious. I had the Breakfast Sandwich, which consisted of a bun, filled with an egg, bacon, tomato and spinach, accompanied by hash browns (fried potatoes). BEYOND SCRUMMY!! And just the right thing to stave off the hunger on a 7-hour trip to Dawson City.

We hit the road, heading in the direction of Dawson City. The drive from Whitehorse to Dawson City is a long old drive (about 530 kilometres) and it takes a while, especially when you aren’t used to the gravel road and you’re on the lookout for wildlife. We saw precisely nothing the whole way, despite someone having seen 10 bears the day before. There are campgrounds along the way, and they are always nicely located. We stopped at one on a lake, which was really pretty – and they are always a good comfort stop as well – there really aren’t that many places to stop for a wee!

Ooh, so there’s this place you HAVE to stop at if you are driving from Whitehorse to Dawson City, it’s called Braeburn Lodge (located on mile 55 o the Klondike Highway).

You have to stop here because they do these GIANT cinnamon buns. When I say GIANT, I am not over exaggerating – they are literally the size of your face and so frickin’ tasty as well. There is no way you can drive past this place without stopping. It’s so out of the way that you get Carnation Evaporated milk with your coffee!

If you go to the loo, you’ll see people have decorated the back of the toilet door with graffiti (obviously I can only speak for the ladies’ loos here – I can’t say for the men’s – and I’m certainly not brave enough to go in there and check for you). But anyway, people are telling you what their names are, when they came and where they are going from and to. The one which stood out to me most, however, was one which read ‘7/10 would poo here again 2017’. That speaks to me, in a serious way.

Stop off at the Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site – there’s a nice trail here which goes down a set of steps first, then travels upwards. You get a great view of the Yukon river here, where there’s a tiny island with some nesting birds atop it. To walk to the top of the trail and back would take less and an hour, I’d say about 45 minutes… I took it upon myself to run it, so it didn’t take me very long (all that pent-up energy again).

We get to Dawson City in the afternoon; it took us about 7 hours to get up here in total. 7 hours on the road and we didn’t see a SINGLE animal, not even one! This was all kinds of disappointing, especially considering we’d heard about a guy who had seen 10 bears the day before – I think we were almost expecting them to be lined up along the highway with a welcome banner. They were not.

Dawson City looks like a cowboy town. I don’t know what I was expecting from the name ‘Dawson City’, but this wasn’t it. I think this place has definitely been named in jest, because a City this is certainly not. All the facades are wooden clad and painted in bright colours, it’s right on the river and it looks super cute.

To be honest though, at that point I was so tired from all the driving that I hardly knew my arse from my elbow. We were staying at the Downtown Hotel in Whitehorse, as hotels in Whitehorse go, it was good. Good Wi-Fi, coffee machine and clean and comfy. Oh, and it has swinging saloon doors on the front, so if that doesn’t persuade you to stay here, nothing will. I elected to skip dinner (a bit of a first for me) and headed straight to bed. Needless to say, I woke up beyond hungry and wondering why on earth I had elected to miss a meal.

Bonnie

On the way to Whitehorse

Today is the day we go to Whitehorse! This is where the holiday bit of the holiday begins. As nice as it is, when you’re with family, it’s not the same as actually being on holiday. This is where we’re beginning our journey up through the Arctic circle and all the way to Tuk, so I can paddle in the Arctic ocean. Woohoo!!

Having got up at ridiculous o’clock (turns out you can still screech to a halt at red lights when there’s no traffic on the road) and arrived at the airport and made it through security, I was on the hunt for some breakfast. After having a wander round the available options, something caught my eye – something I thought too good to be true… FRUIT SALAD!! Never have I enjoyed a plastic cup full of fruit, in an airport, so much in my entire life. Honestly, I could feel the threat of scurvy leaving my body and I felt as if I could conquer the world. It really is amazing how much of a difference vitamin C makes to your existence.

We jumped on a prop plane and flew a couple of hours to Whitehorse. I was sat next to a guy who was backpacking… Well, I don’t actually know if he was a backpacker, but he certainly smelled like he was backpacking (unwashed clothes have such a distinctive smell). Safely arrived, we picked up our car from Go North Car & RV Rental. There aren’t many options when it comes to car rental in Whitehorse and the reason we used them was because they were the only rental company that would give us a full size spare tyre. Why is this important? Well, most of the roads we would be driving on are going to be ‘all weather roads’, which essentially means gravel and potholes. Services are few and far between, so if you get a flat, you aren’t going to get to the next spot with a donut tyre.

Once we get there, we check in at our hotel: Town and Mountain Hotel, Whitehorse. Again, there aren’t a tonne of options when it comes to places to stay in Whitehorse, but it was clean, so no complaints (and there was decent Wi-Fi)! Oh, quick thing – all hotels here look like they were built in the 70s and haven’t changed since, and that would be because they WERE built in the 70s and HAVEN’T changed since. All the artex and chintzy bedspreads you could wish for.

I’m properly rav by now, so we head out to find some lunch. We come by a place called the Burnt Toast Café and liking the look of it, head in. The walls are black and there’s rock music pumping out of the door, based on that, the food has got to be tasty, right? And I was right [insert drooly emoji here].

To continue staving off scurvy, I opted for a salad – but to be honest, the whole menu sounded DELICIOUS and based on everyone else’s food I saw coming out, it looked it too. I had the Gnarly Barley salad, which came with goats’ cheese and a maple and balsamic dressing; I can’t even begin to explain how yummy it was.

We went for a mooch around the town and had a look the gift shops… I’m still waiting for something to jump out at me to buy, I’ve not seen anything which speaks to me yet. We were looking for something to do for the rest of the afternoon; having read about the Takhini hot springs, we decided we’d give that a try. We got beyond lost trying to get there and ended up having to stop and ask someone. Let’s just say, that signage in Canada seems to be pretty much non-existent, rendering it nigh on impossible to locate anything if you don’t know where it is (much driving around was done).

Eventually we located it (FYI it’s further away than you think it is) and went for a dip. It cost $12 to get into the Tahkini Hot Springs and I think it’s worth it. There are two different hot pools at Takhini; one warm one and one hot one. It’s not glam here, but it’s relaxing and out in the open with a nice view. It would be amazing here in the ice and snow and they even have a ‘best frozen hair’ competition… I may be returning… To make it even more enjoyable there was a cute little chipmunk hanging around at the side of the pool having a snack. They are SO cute, AND it didn’t run away as I splashed over in its direction to stare at it (if only people were like that too).

After a hard day of lounging, it was time for dinner – turns out you can work up quite an appetite doing 100% of nothing. There was only one other place which stood out to eat: Klondike Rib and Salmon.

It’s hella popular and you can’t book – so there might be a bit of a wait, but that’s good – a wait means people love it! I had the special, which was 2 salmon skewers, a half rack of ribs, focaccia, garlic mash and roasted vegetables.

It was SO yummy, and SO much food; more food than a human should consume, I’m sure (of course, I ate it all). It’s fun in there, it’s a laugh and it’s bustling and busy, accompanied with great food – what’s not to like? If you’re looking for places to eat in Whitehorse, this is the one.

Bonnie

Watching Whales in Vancouver

5th June

I have literally no idea what I did on the 5th June. All I have in my camera roll is a photo of maple syrup biscuits… Which, by the way, are hella tasty, so you should definitely get some if you happen to be in a supermarket in Canada. All this photo tells me, is that I must have been in a Walmart. That can’t have been ALL I did for an entire day, can it? I’ll have to have a think about it, I’m sure I’ll remember.

All I do know is, that getting up at 4.30 am to go to the airport to catch a flight to Whitehorse is looming. Oh wait, we went whale watching! That explains why I don’t have any photos on my iPhone – they are all on the camera camera, because there isn’t much of a chance of you getting a good photo of a whale in the ocean on your iPhone, no matter how good a photographer you are.

It was about an hour and a half’s drive from Vancouver to Steveston. Which is where we managed to catch a whale watching tour with Vancouver Whale Watch. We didn’t book, and we were fortunate to get the last 3 spaces on the boat which was just about to go out – close call! There are a few companies you can book with if you are interested in whale watching in Vancouver – they are all pretty similar and follow the same whales. It was a little bit of a grey day, but I was hoping that the lack of sunshine wasn’t going to stop the whales from coming out to play.

On our way out to sea we saw a few California seals chilling on some rocks; as much as I would like to like California seals, they are really not a pretty sight. I’m all for any kind of animal, but they aren’t about to win any beauty contests – cute they are not.

However, they do look pretty regal and commanding up on those rocks, even if they do STINK of fish… you can certainly smell them before you see them.

We picked up the pace, heading out to sea at a fair clip, looking for some orca, or killer whales. Now, these are my absolute fave marine animals – they are so unbelievably clever, and they have some serious emotions going on – I’ve no idea how you couldn’t love these guys. They all hunt in different ways, for different prey, depending on what is abundant in the area in which they exist. It’s so cool how they live together in their pod as a tight knit family unit, communicating all the time with one another. It’s so cool to listen to as well and we know so little about what they are saying to one another; it’s pretty majestic.

There were a couple of pods in the area and these are whales which live in the area. We found the pod we were looking for, made up of about 5 orcas and they had some little ones in tow.

It’s wonderful watching them surface; they are SO beautiful and it’s especially wonderful seeing the little one with its mummy. We also got to see the little one breach, picking up some pace and flinging himself out of the water and re-entering with a big splash! Unfortunately, I missed the photo opportunity – better luck next time!

We spent a long time with that pod, sitting and watching them in all their glory. Rolling around in the water and having what seemed like some good fun. After a while, we needed to start heading back, so we turned around and started making our way, stopping to see some harbour seals sunning themselves on some logs.

These guys are so much cuter than California seals, they are so chubby and roly-poly with massive eyes and they are just how you want a seal to look.

As we were heading back, we caught up with another pod of orca and these ones were much more active! Tails were coming out of the water and slapping back down, and they were a lot closer to our boat as well.

The little ones in this pod seemed to be having a whale of a time (pun very much intended).

Seeing this makes it all very much worth it. You never know what you are going to get with whales. They could be really active, or they could be calm and relaxed, but either way, it’s always a good experience and something well worth doing.

I LOVE WHALES!!

Bonnie

R.I.P Dungarees: Squamish and Horseshoe Bay

4th June

Today we headed up to Squamish and Horseshoe Bay; a couple of hours outside of Vancouver. It’s a pretty drive once you get out of Vancouver and get past all the red lights and stop signs available to screech to a halt at. I do so love coming to a smooth stop – I’m really starting to miss it… Anyway, we stopped off at Shannon Falls on our way up. You can walk up the trail here and you come to a pretty waterfall. There are a few steps to go up, but it’s not too tricky. It took us about 30 minutes to walk up, take a few photos and come back down. There are two levels on the Shannon Falls trail – the first gives you a view of the whole waterfall from the front, the second (a bit further up) gives you a more side on view, so you can see the torrent of water coming down.

I had some pent-up energy (on account of having done precisely no exercise since the last week) so I took a little jog up the steps… That certainly relieved me of all that pent-up energy.

We carried on our journey to Squamish. There isn’t a tonne of stuff in Squamish; it’s more about the journey to be honest, but there are some nice gift shops with some native art in them and some places to grab a coffee and a bit to eat. We stopped for lunch at a little place called Green Olive Market and Café, run by a husband and wife. I opted for a Greek salad for the following reasons A) Who doesn’t love a Greek salad? And B) I was starting to worry I was getting scurvy because they don’t seem to eat vegetables in Canada.

On our way to Horseshoe Bay from Squamish, we pulled in at Porteau Cove. As the name suggests, it’s a cove (who’d have guessed it). It’s got loads of drift wood which is well worth a climb over – I managed to get pretty far without having to touch the ground and without falling off. I hear balance is key here.

It’s really pretty here, with the water in the foreground and the mountains in the background and it’s so peaceful as well. It’s also got a campground there (Porteau Cove Provincial Park Campground), and if you were camping it would be a great place to stay I think.

I had a bit of an incident on the beach here at Porteau Cove. We’d walked down to the water to see how cold it was (pretty cold) and whilst we were down there, my mum asked me if I would show her how to do a squat – she’s thinking about working on her fitness and strength, you see. Now, I don’t profess to be a professional squatter or anything, but I definitely do them and I have done them in the gym as well, so that’s as close as you can get to professional in my eyes. So, I give her a quick demo on how to squat.

To show off my best squatting form, I prepare, get my feet in the right position and lower myself into a properly deep squat – I’m talking more than 90 degrees here. I regret this, and I’ll tell you for why. When I lowered myself in to the deepest of all squats, a thing happened. The thing that happened, was that I split my dungarees… My FAVOURITE dungarees [insert anguished emoji here]. As a cool breeze caressed my right buttock, I can only describe myself as entirely forlorn. I’m trying to look over my shoulder to see said split. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there – I heard it go and I can feel a certain chill overcoming my arse. Fortunately, I’m wearing a jacket which covers the split, which is a small mercy. Dejected, I head back to the car and I even sit in the front (a major risk to life), which I think shows the true extent of my pain. R.I.P dungarees – R.I.P… Rip… You get it? See, I’m funny even when I’m broken hearted.

We arrive at Horseshoe Bay, which again, is really pretty. We take a look round a souvenir shop and have a bit of a wander, trying to work up an appetite for dinner. We sit on the pier for a bit and watch some Amish people larking around in a group. They are all young – I’d say 25 and under. Whilst I am questioning the combination of ankle length, pink, floral dress and walking boots, one of the men wanders by, carrying a rather fetching replica Gucci handbag. I’m assuming it was his partners handbag, but I think it would be rather more fun if it was his, don’t you?

We went to Trolls for dinner. People seem to rave about it, so we thought we would give it a go. They are famous for their battered salmon, so I was after giving that a try, but they were fresh out of it, so that was a no go. I opted for cod, as the only other fish option was halibut and I wasn’t feeling that.

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t bad by any means, it was tasty for sure, but I’m not sure it’s deserving of the reputation it has. I’m not sure what the moral of this story is, but I’d imagine it’s something along the lines of not believing everything you hear.

Bonnie

Getting lost on the way to Granville Island

3rd June

An interesting night’s sleep is the only way I can explain it. I was on a sofa bed, and I’ll have to say that ‘sofa bed’ is a bit of a stretch here – it’s really just like sleeping on the floor, but with a bit of foam underneath you. Now, my issue here isn’t comfort (it’s actually surprisingly comfy to sleep on), more the proximity to the floor. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of dogs, in particular the smaller varieties. My mum’s cousin has two rescue dogs, and unfortunately, they’re of the small variety and they sleep in the front room, not too far away from the sofa bed. Now you see my issue with the proximity to the floor?

I could hear them breathing, I could hear them rustling, I could hear them looking at me. I laid as still I could just in case my movement stirred one of them (if anyone even thinks of moving during the night, the bark alarms go off). I even slept with my trainers in the bed next to me on that night, for fear of them being sniffed by an unwanted snoz. Eventually I got over my crippling fear of tiny dogs and managed to get to sleep – but only after I’d taken the battery out of the clock which was insisting on incessantly ticking right next to my head. For some reason I woke up about 4am; I’ve no idea, but I couldn’t get back to sleep so I sat up and read my book for a bit (the lines now distinctly less blurry) until it was time for some breakfast.

We headed out to Granville Island after breakfast. We got majorly lost on the way there, not helped by the fact that my mums cousin seems to shun all technology, so there was no sat nav to follow and no Google maps to consult. After a while of driving around aimlessly, hoping that the right road materialised in front of us, we stopped off at a gas station to ask for some directions and got on our way to Granville Island (now heading in the right direction). It was a bit of a miserable day in all honesty and Granville Island is cute, but there’s not a tonne of stuff there – certainly not enough to keep you there for the whole day. There’s a market where you can buy crafts, fresh fruit and veg and all sorts of different foods. There’s also a few gift shops, galleries and boutique shops which are nice for a mooch around.

Granville-Island Market

There are also some cool silos there which have been painted by a couple of Brazilian street artists who are brothers, from Sao Paolo. These silos are at the Ocean Concrete factory and are a bright and colourful injection.

After we were done there, we had a little drive through Stanley Park. It would be a great place to hire a bike and cycle round (we saw a load of people doing this), but the drizzle was turning to rain now, so a cruise round in a Jeep would have to suffice. But here’s what it looks like when it’s not raining.

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After that, we popped up Burnaby Mountain to have a look at some of the totem poles. It was still pretty overcast, which was a shame, but that didn’t stop me taking a totem pole pic.

Totem poles, Burnaby Mountain

Oh, I’d almost forgotten – on that day, we’d also gone up to walk over the Capilano suspension bridge. We got there, and we were gobsmacked at the price; the tickets were just shy of $47… Having been over it before when I was a kid, we bypassed it based on the price. Extortionate! If I hadn’t been over it before, I’d have probably forked out for it, but bearing in mind that this is ONLY for entry to a national park and a walk over a suspension bridge, legalised robbery sprang to mind.

Bonnie

The Holiday Begins: Canada

I’ve actually been in Canada for 2 weeks now… scratchy wifi and equally scratchy motivation have led to my lack of posts about my holiday. But, currently staying in a chalet in the middle of nowhere, has motivated me to start writing about it. Whether that’s because I want to tell you about my holiday, or it’s a result of pure boredom, we’ll never know.

 2nd June

I’m boarding a 10-hour flight to Vancouver, Canada, after an evening celebrating my best friend finishing her Uni work for the year. We celebrated with beer, wine and prosecco. These celebrations resulted in a terrifying hangover and a tour of the toilets in Heathrow Terminal 2. Much retching was done during the tour. After sleeping off said hangover with a couple of hours sleep on the plane, I managed to amuse myself with a few films on the plane (not that I can remember what any of them were now). I’m not a big film watcher, but the binge watch was necessitated by the fact that I couldn’t read, on account of all the lines being wobbly in my book – must have been some problem with the printing.

I haven’t been to Canada since I was a kid – I was maybe 10 or 11 when I was last here. So, I’m quite excited to come back! I’m not going to any of the places I went as a kid, but I remember it being a beautiful and relaxed country, so I’m hoping it is something like I remember.

Anyway, we get to Vancouver and it’s about lunchtime. We had to queue for years ‘n’ years to get through passport control, then queue for a bit longer to get out of the door. A lot of queuing, a lot of queuing. We get outside, and we’re waiting for my mums’ cousin to come and get us. To cut a long story short, we waited for a while (yes, more waiting) and after some reuniting hugs, we set out on our way to Coquitlam. My mums’ cousin has an interesting driving technique, let’s just say that. Not once did we slow to a stop, it seems that screeching to a halt at stop signs and red lights and blasting through amber lights are the only options – hair raising doesn’t even cover it.

We topped the night of with a surprisingly nice burger from White Spot. They do this really amusing thing here, where even if they blatantly have a restaurant full of tables available to seat you at, they make you wait 5 mins and then call your name (like there are tonnes of other people waiting) and tell you they are ready to seat you – what is with all of that? So, we eventually get our table in the super busy restaurant (super busy it was not) and sit down for this burger. Now, I don’t know if it was hella tasty due to the fact that I hadn’t eaten much since the night before, or whether it was just a genuinely good burger – but I can tell you now, I’ve never enjoyed a burger more. Good meat to sauce to accompaniment ratio; minimal bottom bun slip; nice ‘n’ juicy (they say it’s not a good burger unless it’s messy). I was so hungry, I didn’t even manage to take a photo of said burger. Hope you don’t mind a photo-less blog post…

Bonnie

Let me talk to you about chorizo.

Nothing aggravates me more than people saying chorizo with the Spanish lisp. Each time I hear it, rage boils up inside me. It boils up inside me so much, so much, that I actually get red in the face when I hear it said. So red, that I resemble chorizo. But chorizo without the lisp, on account of me hating the false Spanish lisp. Do not mock my chorizo sausage self with your pretend lisp. Do not.

I am as fired up about this as the spicy chorizo sausage itself. I am the flaming spice of anger. Just, why do it? We all know you are not Spanish – we all know, it is clear to us. Never has a thing been clearer, really, has it? You are not Spanish, and you do not have a lisp, therefore, I conclude you are not entitled to say chorizo in such a manner.

You just sound poncey (there, I said it). You sound like you are trying to be something you are not, which is exactly what you are trying to do – you are trying to be a Spaniard. Just say it like every other British person has said it since the dawn of time. Say it how it is, say it like you have no culture and have never heard it said another way. Just say it how it looks, please, with a “z”, not an “th”. I beg of you.

Never has someone sounded more of a loon, than when they try to pronounce something in a language they do not speak. You have never sounded more of a nob than when you do this. But, sure, if you want to sound like a complete and utter nob, then carry on. Carry on lisping over your chorizo. Like the second people mention the use of a haricot bean, they all of a sudden become a Parisian and it becomes an “aricot” bean. Christ.

Why do you have to put on the accent? It’s like the entire sentence starts off in your rough East London accent, and then all of a sudden you become some sort of Spanish prince mid-sentence, only return to your quite blatantly not Spanish prince accent directly after. Who are you kidding? Who do you genuinely think you are kidding? Precisely no one, that’s who.

No one believes you know your stuff. No one is suddenly under the impression that you are world class chef. No one is thinking you are some kind of well-travelled, cosmopolitan individual. They all know the only reason you are even talking about chorizo is because you’ve seen it on Masterchef. It’s not like you wandered past the artisan sausage stall and saw it hanging on a hook, was it? All that happened, was that you saw it was in the reduced section in Tesco and thought “ooh, I’ll give that a go, I saw it on the telly last week, John Torode mentioned it”.

I reckon it was Jamie Oliver who started it. He seems like the kinda guy to start this kinda  thing. He’s the sort to say chorizo with a “th”. Now I’m writing this, I do seem to recall that Jamie Oliver had a lisp. I say “had”, because now I’m thinking about it, the lisp does actually seem to have disappeared somewhat. I won’t dwell on this, however, as I feel I am treading on thin ice with the Jamie Oliver lovers of the world and one doesn’t wish to be accused of being horrid about him.

Anyway, you chorizo people are not who you report to be. You are a lie. You are lying to us, and you are lying to yourself. You are no more Spanish than I am, and to be quite frank you sound like a monstrous arse when you say is. ChoriZo!!

Bonnie

Thanks mum, I owe you one

Mother’s Day. You have to do something for Mother’s Day, don’t you? You have to, to show you care to display your love. It’s not that you love your mum any more on Mother’s Day, or that you love them less on other days, it’s just a way to show it, a day to encourage you to say thank you to your mum.

So, I’m going to say thank you, and I’m going to say it here because I know you’ll read this. And sometimes, a public thank you is better than a private thank you. It proves that you want everyone else to know that you’re saying thank you. It might sound a bit backward from the start, and it might not sound like your usual Mother’s Day thank you (I can guarantee that, in fact). In fact, you might even think it doesn’t sound like a ‘thank you’ at all, but it will, by the end. I promise – so stay with me.

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I still have that towel… and you still have those glasses…

My mum doesn’t really cook (in fact, she burns a lot of things), and she doesn’t really clean, she never has done, much. She was never a stay at home mum; she went back to work relatively quickly. I didn’t grow up in what I’ll call a ‘traditional’ household. It wasn’t mummy at home and daddy at work household. It wasn’t old fashioned at all, in that sense. You might be thinking this makes her a bad mum, you might be thinking it wasn’t the ‘right’ way to do it. And, yeah, sometimes I found it a bit difficult, sometimes I wondered why my mummy didn’t do the laundry like other mummies did, or why my mummy often burnt dinner and no one else’s did. Maybe it was a bit different, a bit odd. Sometimes I felt like things weren’t done right. And maybe they weren’t, maybe they were – I’ve no idea.

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Anyone else think we look super related?

But what this did do, and what she did do, was teach me how to do things for myself and a lot of valuable lessons. She taught me that a woman wasn’t defined by cooking and cleaning, and she taught me that a man wasn’t defined by going to work and providing for the family. She taught me that jobs should be split. Household chores should be fair, everyone can do something, everyone can do everything. Work should be fair; everyone can go to work. Women aren’t limited to the home and men aren’t limited to the workplace. The family should be equal. An equal and fair place, where there weren’t ‘blue and pink’ jobs, where if you hated hoovering or cleaning the lime scale in the bathroom, that didn’t make you any less of a woman.

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Good job mum! 

We had fun, so much fun when I was a kid. Hosting tea parties, making tents out of blankets in the front room, having picnics on the floor inside. You don’t forget things like that. Ever. Those memories stay with you forever and ever. My mum taught me it was alright to be silly and just a little bit weird. She taught me it was alright to be myself, that it was good to be myself. That I was good, just right, just the way I am. Even though I worried a lot as a kid, and I still do now, that’s alright. It was always alright. How I was, was how I should be, and I learned that from her.

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And, when you think about it, these are good lessons to have learned, even if you didn’t realise you were learning them at the time. So, thanks mum, I owe you one. You’re the best. Oh, and happy Mother’s Day.

Bonnie

Babies in bikinis: bore off!

Why? Why??? WHY??? Why would you put your child in a bikini? Perhaps I’m missing something, but I really don’t understand it. Last time I checked, 4-year-olds didn’t have cleavage to show off or a tan to get, so what’s up wid dis? Please, someone explain it to me. I’m flippin’ the bird to baby bikinis. I’m giving the finger to feckless swimwear attitudes. And, to add to that, I hate anyone who puts their baby in one, y’all are not ma people.

It annoys me, I’m not going to lie. In fact, I find it very annoying. V annoyeaux. To the point where I get a rage on at the pool and ruins my swim. This probably makes me sound like I foam at the mouth in the pool and mutter obscenities under my breath (which I basically do), and I’ll explain why.

They look ridiculous, actually, properly ridiculous. Tiny children wearing grown up clothes, looks ridiculous. Miniature adults – no one needs that in their life. It’s just like when people put makeup on their kids or put them in heels and a skimpy dress; it actually makes me gag, its horrifying. Why does anyone want a 5-year-old to look like a 35-year-old? It’s beyond me, it honestly is.

Why are bikinis for year 3’s even being made? Whoever is making them should be removed from the swimwear industry forthwith. Not only do they look ridic, they are entirely impractical, and you know it. They are impractical for adults, let alone children. Tiny children have nothing to anchor a bikini down and hell inevitably ensues.

They jump I the pool and their tops come off – I couldn’t count how many kids I’ve seen with a bikini top round their neck because its ridden up when they’ve jumped in the pool. They dive in, and their bottoms come off, and parents are spending all their time pulling up bikini bottoms and stopping their kids from being throttled by their own swimwear. Why put children in clothes that come off as soon as they are in contact with the water? Why cause yourself this hassle? If they were in a swimsuit, none of this would have happened. There would be no strangulation and no accidental bare bums and you could all actually enjoy your swimming. Imagine that!

I don’t feel like the process of having to yank your swimwear around is enjoyable for a child. We know it isn’t enjoyable for adults, so it’s going to be less enjoyable for children, surely? I reckon kids wanna have fun in the pool, without having to worry about their bikini coming of when they are trying to wriggle into a rubber ring, don’t you?

Please, do me a favour, and just go for the swimsuit next time. A one-piece, a simple one-piece. Poolside doesn’t need to look like the swimsuit round of Miniature Miss World. Ease my pain and enable me to have a stress-free swim on a Monday and Friday aft. Stop forcing me into blind rage over kiddie swimwear. You don’t know the trouble you cause me, do you? Well, I guess you do now…

Bonnie

 

Oh snow, how I love you so

Snow today! Snow, snow, snow snow! Not gonna lie, I was praying for a snow storm all day I could go home, and I bet you were too, weren’t you? I know you were, so that question is mighty irrelevant.

I know people love to moan about the snow, but it’s really not that hard to deal with. If you can go out in it, go out in it, and if you can’t, you can’t – so stop stressin’ people. In fact, let it snow so much that the whole country comes to a grinding halt and we can just stay at home and have snowball fights in the street. And I don’t mean the kind of ‘grinding halt’ where a few trains are cancelled and delayed and we all feel like we are living in the war… I mean COMPLETE GRINDING HALT. How wonderful would that be? It would be wonderfully wonderful unless you are one of those people who hates having a free day off (weirdos).

Before I went to work I took a shameless selfie of me in the garden wearing my teddy bear hat – you can’t pass up a snow selfie, it’s not like it snows every day is it?!

I made it to work with limited trouble this morning, apart from a slightly dramatic slide over a hidden mini roundabout, which I found terribly fun despite the clear risk to life on the completely empty street. I did have a real life near death experience when I got to the car park however. I got out of the car in all the snow related regalia (teddy hat and mittens), threw my rucksack over my shoulder and started heading towards the stairs. I walked over painted white line, sneakily concealed by the snow. As my boot made contact with the hidden line, my right foot shot out in front of me. I had no control. All control was lost. I was now in some sort of lunging situation in the car park, which was embarrassing in itself, as I am certainly no seasoned lunger. I could feel the strain on my right leg. The muscles in my right thigh were screaming, and I could feel intense pressure on my knee.

Mitz

If someone came now, it would possibly be too mortifying for words, and I probably wouldn’t be able to make it through the door to work and show my face. It wouldn’t be long before someone else comes into the car park and sees me in this horrifying display of lunge. No one shall see this! No one! With Herculean effort, I managed to get my right leg back under the power of my being. I willed it back from the point of no return, to the point of safety under my body. How I did this, I will never know. It was touch and go for a while there. I saved myself from the full fall – a slip is more than enough to shit you up.

Bonnie

Sorry, and some other things

URGH!! I’m sorry I’ve posted a grand total of nothing in the last few months. I’m sorry, but it simply has not been possible, I’ve had loads on. On the other hand, I’ve also has like minus 10 motivation. So, there it is, I’ve been honest with you and I am sorry, but such is life. Some days one has the motivation, some days one doesn’t. Some days, one refers to oneself as “one”.

Anyway, I’ve had loads on at work and I’m in the process of trying to own an abode. Which is a distinctly long and dreary process. It’s also stressful, because you have no idea what any of the words mean that people are saying to you, and because you don’t want to sound like a complete idiot, you nod along knowingly when estate agents are talking to you about square footage and the like, whilst secretly having precisely no idea what any of this means. What does a square foot look like? I have no idea. Each time I try and envisage said square foot, all I end up doing is picturing a particularly square foot. Why does my brain do this to me? Sigh.

What I am trying to say here, in a roundabout way, is that I have been very busy with other things and my mind has been very busy with other things. This has resulted in me not really having time for other things, or space for other things in my brain, for that matter. But I’m back now and that’s all we really need to worry about, isn’t it? You’ll have missed me, of course you will, but I’m here now and you don’t need to worry any longer. Your mind may rest. It may rest assured, that for at least another few months I will be here. And if I am not here, you will at least know I am trying my best to be here, even if I am failing to achieve that. That will be a comfort to you, I’m sure.

Also, I’m writing a book! I’m not 100% sure what it is about yet, or where it is going or if I will finish it, or if I will really start it in all honesty. But I have some words on a page and I can now say I am writing a book, which makes me sound a lot more impressive than I actually am. AND it gives me something else to talk about, other than the usual nonsensical rubbish I usually talk about, so we can all be glad about that, can’t we?

Bonnie

Christmas Recipes: Gluten Free Mince Pies

Gluten free is becoming more and more popular. Some people are going GF as a dietary choice or to have something to hashtag on Insta, and some people are actually real gluten free-ers. I’ve a mate who is a real gluten free-er, and she was saying she hadn’t appreciated mince pies enough before she had had to stop eating anything with gluten in it, so that got me thinking. Surely gluten free pastry can’t be that difficult to make, can it?! Plus, I’ve just made more than enough mincemeat to feed an army, so I need to do something with it. You can find my recipe for homemade mincemeat here on my blog, it’s so yummy and it will beat any shop bought version hands down, and it’s simple to make too.

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So, I got Googling and I found a few recipes for gluten free shortcrust pastry. They were all much of a muchness, with xanthan gum cropping up in all the recipes I read through. I got some gluten free flour, which, by the way, is the weirdest thing to touch ever; it feels like cornflour when you touch it and it made my insides feel uncomfortable when I was rubbing it into the butter.

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In the end, I decided to follow the gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe from the Tesco website, and you can view the original here. The reason I chose this one was because it got 5 stars, whereas others had got 4.2’s and the like. Moi being moi, I changed the recipe a little bit, as you know, I find it impossible to follow a recipe to a letter. I added some lemon zest to the pastry because no Christmas recipe is complete without some sort of zest.

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I like a mini mince pie, and for multiple reasons; they look super cute, people will be really impressed at their miniatureness and you can have more than one and not even feel remotely guilty about it.

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Ingredients:

  • 225g gluten free white flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 110g cold butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 egg

 

Method:

  1. Weigh the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, xanthan gum and sugar.
  2. Tip in the butter and, using your fingers, rub the butter and flour mixture together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the egg and combine until you have a smooth ball of pastry. If the mixture is dry and crumbly, add a teaspoon of water at a time until your pastry forms a smooth ball.
  4. Wrap your pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat your oven to 170°
  6. Flour your surface (making sure you use your gluten free flour) and roll out the pastry until it’s about the thickness of a £1 coin. As I was making mini ones, I rolled it out even thinner than this, but for a normal sized pie, the thickness of a £1 coin will be about right.
  7. Grease the pie tin you are going to be using, and cut out rounds of pastry and press them evenly into the tins.
  8. Place a spoonful of mincemeat into the pastry. For my mini ones, I used a teaspoonful of mincemeat. For larger ones, it will be about a dessertspoonful.
  9. Cut out the stars to top your mince pies, and place them on top, pressing them down slightly to secure them.
  10. Brush the tops of the mince pies with a splash of milk to give them a bit of a sheen and place them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are golden brown.
  11. Leave them to cool for a bit in the tin and then remove them to a rack to cool completely. Dust them with some icing sugar before you serve them, and I promise, everyone will have more than one!

 

I found it was a little difficult to handle the gluten free pastry in the beginning; it was cracking when I was trying to put it in the tin. After I’d kneaded it a bit more and re-rolled, I found it much easier to handle – so, I would suggest giving it a little bit more of a knead than you would your usual pastry, before you start rolling it out. I shaped the pastry slightly before I pushed it into the moulds, to try an combat a bit of the cracking – which worked quite well.

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You could put proper tops on the top of your pies if you wanted, but I prefer the stars. This is mainly because I can never manage to keep the mincemeat inside the pies when they have a lid on, and it always seems to sort of explode everywhere and look like a complete brown car crash on the plate (yuck). The stars resolve that issue, and they look nice and festive as well.

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If you make them, I’d love to hear how they go!

 

Bonnie

Christmas Recipes: Mincemeat

We love this mincemeat at home – it beats any mincemeat in a jar, absolutely hands down. It’s beyond tasty, and the nice big chunks of fruit and almonds in the mix make it even better. Plus, there is no suet in this mincemeat recipe, so its suitable for vegetarians and you don’t have to eat chunks of actual animal fat – winner! This is also the only recipe I have seen with cranberries in, and I can tell you; they make all the difference.

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I’ve found dried cranberries to sometimes be tricky to get a hold of. You should be fine over the Christmas period, but they aren’t standard stock in some of the smaller shops, so you are best going to something like a Tesco Extra (other stores are available, teehee). Oh, and make sure you have some jars to store your mincemeat in. We always have tonnes of empty jam jars hanging around in the cupboard, but this recipe will fill 4 jam jars, so make sure you have enough!

it’s so simple to make, all you do is add all the ingredients to the pan and cook it for 10 minutes once the butter has melted – it is genuinely that simple. I made the fatal error of not selecting a late enough pan, so I had to tip the mixture into a bigger pan. I wonder if this ever happens to Mary Berry? I doubt it, she is too good to make such rookie errors.

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Overflowing pan 

I doubled up this recipe because we make lots of mince pies in the run up to Christmas and we keep making them after Christmas as well! Plus, we had so much dried fruit in the house, it wasn’t all fitting in the tin, so I used this as an excuse to get rid of a fair few bags of the stuff. This recipe is from Mary Berry (gotta love Maz), and the original recipe is here if you want to take a look at it. It’s pretty close to Maz’s original, but I can never leave a recipe untouched, so there are some small changes.

 

Ingredients:

  • 175g currants
  • 175g raisins
  • 175g sultanas
  • 175g dried cranberries
  • 100g chopped mixed peel
  • 1 small cooking apple
  • 125g butter, cubed
  • 50g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
  • 225g light muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 200ml brandy

 

Method:

  1. Peel and core the apple, then chop into small chunks – about the same size as the sultanas.
  2. Measure all the ingredients (apart from the brandy) into a large pan and heat gently, until all the butter has melted.
  3. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, then leave to cool.
  4. Once the mixture is cool, stir in the brandy.
  5. Spoon your mincemeat into sterilised jars and you are good to go!

 

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Glistening and gleaming 

When you stir in the brandy, you’ll probably think it looks like a lot – but trust me, it’s just the right amount. If you don’t have any brandy, you can use either sherry or rum, they work just as well, but will give a different flavour.

This mincemeat keeps forever; we still have some in the cupboard from last year. The combination of the butter and booze allows it to keep well. You can make it well in advance if you are one of those people who is very organised and prepared (I am not, as you may be aware).

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The finished articles 

Bonnie

Make your own Christmas wreath – I did!

Each year I make my own Christmas wreath to hang on our front door. There are tonnes of beautiful wreaths out there to buy, but I always find they are a bit expensive and they are never quite how you want them to be. Plus, I enjoy making my own one and I get a lot of pleasure out of making a gorgeous wreath for everyone to see when they come to the door. You might have found the thought of making your own Christmas wreath a bit daunting, but I promise, if I can do it, anyone can! The main point here, is that you have fun with it, and I’m a fan of anything which looks rustic at Christmas anyway.

I have been doing this for a while now, so I have all the bits I need, but there are a couple of things you will need to buy before you get started:

  • Wreath ring; the one I have is 20 inches across, but it will depend how big your door is as to what size you will need. Take a look at the one I have from Amazon, here.
  • Binding wire; this is the wire florists use to make their arrangements. I tend to go for wire like this, it’s dark so you can’t see it.
  • Wreath hook; trying to hang thig on the front of your door with a piece of string will be a complete nightmare (I promise, I tried) so a wreath hook like this is what it’s all about.

It’s important to have an idea of the kind of look you want to achieve before-hand. You need to think about the kind of foliage you are going to use and how you are going to decorate it. I tend to keep mine pretty simple, but you can add as much to it as you like.

Here are a few photos of ideas I have seen online that I think are super cute:

I mostly use ivy in my wreath, and there are a couple of reasons for this. One being that our garden is full of it, so I don’t have to go trekking high and low to find it. I also really like the different colours in the ivy and the different sizes of leaves – this helps it hang nicely on your wreath ring. It’s also very easy to work with as it’s so bendy and flexible.

I decorated it with a red bow made out of a length of red ribbon and some pinecones. I used to use holly when I first started doing this, but we have a door knocker instead of a bell and I got a few complaints about people being speared in the hand when they tried to knock on the door (all part of the fun I say).

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you can see the holly issue 

Once you have sourced all your bits and bobs to decorate your wreath with, head out into the cold and cut yourself some foliage. If you want to use bits of Christmas tree; head to your local seller and ask if they have any bits you can use that have been cut off or have fallen off. If you notice a holly tree in someone’s garden, knock on the door and ask if you can cut a sprig or two off the bottom – most people have been more than happy for me to do this in my experience. And you can always rummage around in the garden of friends and family for bits of tree.

The first time you do this, you will have no idea how much you need. But, to give you an idea, I used about 20 lengths of ivy which were about 1 foot or a foot and a half long. I headed out to the garden in my sexy plastic gardening clogs and dressing gown, and released a tree from the clutches of a load of ivy, and headed back inside.

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I cut off some lengths of binding wire, between 2 and 3 inches in length. I make sure I have these ready, as by the time you are grappling with branches and wreath rings, you don’t want to be snipping up bits of wire.

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I start off with some thicker bits of ivy to give myself a bit of a base and some coverage. Plus, it’s easier to wind your wire round these big bits when there is nothing else on your wreath ring. I hold the ivy up to the wreath ring, then bend a length of wire around the ivy and twist the wire together at the back to hold it in place.

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I keep going round and round in circles until my wreath ring is completely covered, and I don’t have any bare patches. At this point I then go and put it on the door. This gives you the opportunity to take a step back and make sure you are happy with your wreath. I often see parts that need a bit more added or a bit taking away. If one bit has too many leaves, you can snip off any you don’t want.

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Once I’m happy, I add my decorations. This year I only wanted to add a couple of pine cones at the bottom and a big bow, but you can add holly, baubles, ribbons, or even some battery-operated lights! The opportunities are endless with your wreath! Last year I used holly, some extra red berries and a little robin (who I couldn’t find this year). I wanted it to look a bit wild and unkempt this year, and I think I achieved that. Next year I am sure it will look completely different and I will be coming at you with something that doesn’t even look remotely similar. If you want to make your own wreath and you do have a go at it, please let me know how it goes!

Bonnie

The 2 Day Hangover

The work Christmas party was on Wednesday. Ohhhhhhhh the work Christmas party was on Wednesday. That was days ago and I am still not okay. Who even knows what happened that night? Not I! I thought I didn’t drink that much… Turns out that was a lie! Christ.

drunk camera man it seems…

I woke up the next morning feeling a bit tired, but that was about all. But, as time went on, I started feeling a bit retchy and my tummy a bit churny. No bother – I’ll just have some water and that will sort me right out. It didn’t. Just a little bit more water, that won’t make me feel sick at all. It did. I’ll just sit here for a moment, next to the loo and I’ll rest my eyes for a bit – I won’t be sick. I was. Hell. HELL. Urgh, but at least I wasn’t sick ON anyone this time, so I’ll take that as a win. I shoved all my stuff into my bag and met the girls downstairs for a spot of breakfast. I kept retching at the breakfast table which was less than glamorous, and I could barely manage half a slice of toast on account of each bite resurfacing in a less than lovely manner.

da outfit – looking pretty Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat 

Dress is from Zara (but I bought it like 6 days ago and obvs it’s already gone from the site) and boots are from ASOS. I do love a boot at a party, because you can wear socks and socks are comfy and I love them. Plus, no one likes chilly toes. But, I digress.

There was a coach taking us back to the office in the morning. I made it down the stairs with a bit of retching along the way and managed to deposit myself on the coach without too much mishap. The coach seemed to go over every bump possible and round every corner as fast as possible. It was like the driver was trying to make me vom as fast as possible. It’s any wonder I didn’t vom all over the girl in the seat in front of me, I would have done as well if she’d carried on shouting over my head. It got so bad that I had to stop talking because I feared that opening my mouth may result in sick coming out of it, and I NEVER stop talking, ever. So, it was bad.

I made it to work without being sick in the coach, but I didn’t last much longer. I stumbled off the coach in a daze, by this time, it was now tipping it down with rain. I grabbed my sodden bag and dragged myself up the steps and into the office. I ditched my crap, threw of my coat and legged it to the loo just in the nick of time. Charging to my favourite cubicle (far right-hand side), I threw myself through the door, locked it behind me and made connection with the cool white ceramic. Ah heaven. As I retched up the half a litre of water I had drunk on the coach I wondered what it was like to feel well. When was the last time I had felt well? Was it when myself and one of the girls had pushed the button for the lift, got in and pushed the button to go one floor up, travelled up, got out of the lift, only to realise we’d stayed on exactly the same floor and we had stumbled out on to the same floor we were just on. However, I don’t think anyone noticed. All they noticed, was us bent double, laughing so much we could barely walk straight. But I’m sure they were all none the wiser as to what had happened.

Anyway, where were we? Oh, that’s right, I was clinging onto the loo. Sicking done, and mouth wash swilled, I headed back out into the office and switched on my laptop. It was then that another wave of nausea hit me and I had to make it swiftish back to the loo. Clinging to the loo again, trying to remember the last time I felt well. Was it when myself and my team were headed to the photo booth? It might have been. We went in there and had a few photos; we all had turkey hats on in one of them (we fondly call that the triple turkey). On the way out, I leant on the wall of the photo booth, only to quickly find out it was an inflatable photo booth which wasn’t at all ready to hold my weight. At that point Ben came running out for a photo, absolutely smashed. We raised this point, at which point he informed us he wasn’t at all drunk, and proved that point by throwing his whole glass of wine over his shoulder.

Photo Booth 1 

Anywhere, where way we? So, I was vomming in the loo, then I went out for a bit of fresh air. I had a bit of a retch out there and I was worried I was going to be sick in the top pocket of my dungarees. At this point, the decision was made by my manager that I should take the rest of the day off. I can tell you now, it was a sorry Uber ride home. I got straight into bed, after drinking about 3 points of water, and slept until 6 pm. I don’t know where all that water went, but it didn’t even generate a wee!! How dehydrated was I?! I struggled downstairs to heat myself some chicken soup (which took me about 3 years to eat) and I was back in bed again. I had more water, but I think had turned into some kind of sponge, because I was still absorbing it.

Photo Booth 2 

I made it to work and planted myself at the desk. Ready for a fruitful days’ work. And then it hit; The Hangover 2. I could barely finish half my breakfast and the retching was happening again. I was slumped down on my desk when it started snowing – I could barely muster half a level of excitement at the arrival of snow. The retching happened again. I managed to force down a sausage roll at lunch time and dragged myself out for a walk with Ellie and Ben. It was freezing. Freezing I tell you. The rest of the day passed in a blur. I’m not sure what happened. Did I do any work? I couldn’t say. I got my emails down from 125 to 70, but I can’t tell you whether that was because I replied to them or because I just kept opening them, reading them and never responding to them. Either way, I’ll take it as a win as I have less emails than when I started.

Photo Booth 3 

Finally, the retching has stopped. But I keep having horrifying flashbacks. Like, flashback to the time when I told this guy that “his name made him sound better looking than he was”. Genuinely horrified at myself. Genuinely horrified. But, at least that is one less person I have to be nice to, because he will just ignore me forever now. And that’s a small win, right? Not really, but I need to put a good spin on this. Sorry bro.

Bonnie

DIY: ripped jeans

I wanted some ripped jeans, but A) I can never seem to find any I like, B) if I manage to find some I like, they never fit, and C) I feel like paying for jeans with holes in, is a rip off (literally). The other day I bought some new black jeans as my other ones were a bit on the faded side, so I decided I would make my old black jeans into ripped jeans. If you want to learn how to make your own ripped jeans, then I will warn you – this is no comprehensive guide. In fact, this probably more of a description of how not to do it.

But, I was pretty sure this was a good idea, because it’s thrifty, I could have them exactly how I wanted them and they would be one of a kind, and I really like wearing and having things that no one else has. Making my own ripped jeans – what could go wrong?

I had no idea how to go about this, so instead of looking it up or watching a helpful Youtube video on the matter, I decided to go straight in with it and “use the force”. I thought about using scissors to do it, but I decided a Stanley knife would probably be easier and work better. My thinking on this was that I would end up with strange angled, and very straight slices on my jeans, and I wanted more of a “rough” look.

Original jeans

I got up a photo of some ripped jeans I liked the look of and used that as a reference, and I just started attacking my legs with a Stanley knife (clearly safety was not a concern for me). I started off with the rip on my right knee. I pinched the fabric so I didn’t slice my kneecap off, and punctured the fabric with the Stanley knife. I widened the rip so it was nearly reaching the seams, but not quite. I wanted the hole to be quite big and to have a fair bit of knee on show (oioi), so I made another puncture a couple of cm down and extended that until it met up with the sides of the previous rip. I kept doing this until the hole was big enough and basically my entire right knee was out.

Next, I did the rip on my left thigh; making sure it was in the right place, I pinched the fabric and made the incision. At this point, I got a little bit more nervous about actually hacking into my flesh and puncturing a vital blood vessel, but that still didn’t stop me. I informed a few mates that I was doing risky things with knives (just in case the worst case to the worst, they would at least know what happened and would be able to tell my parents it wasn’t intentional) and I felt a bit better. I kept widening the rip until I had achieved the desired size, and I moved on to the next rip.

The next one was the top of my right thigh, and I repeated the process. I then decided I wanted to be pure gansta and make a rip where the front pocket on my left thigh was, so I could be super cool and have the pocket lining poking out the hole. This needed a much bigger hole than I had ever thought (turns out there is quite a lot of pocket). I took it a little bit too far, and now I need to be a bit careful about which pants I wear – because if I wear my Bridget Jones knickers you will be able to see them through the pocket hole… But no matter, I shall wear uncomfortable pants, because I am told fashion hurts. And I am a fashionista to the core (I’m not).

I decided I needed a bit of hole action in the shin area, because it was all looking a bit smart below the knee, so I poked some holes (very haphazardly) in the shin area. I had to take off my jeans to do this, because there was no way I could poke holes with a knife without poking holes in myself. I expanded the holes a bit and made sure they looked nice and rough. Perfect!

I made some more small holes on the back of my right calf, because I always think ripped jeans look insane when they are perfectly preserved at the back. It looks like whatever caused the rips at the front just didn’t bother to scuff up the back. Like, you got mauled by a bear and at no point did it come into contact with the back of your jeans? I think not. Anyway, I did another rip on the back of my right leg in the thigh area, about half way between my knee and my butt.

I thought I would go all out and make these super saucy jeans (no ketchup, just sauce), and make a rip pretty close to my right butt crease. It’s not high enough up so you can actually see right butt crease, but it’s closer than not close at all.

I’m not going to lie, I am pretty damn pleased with how these turned out. I had visions of accidentally ripping too much, and ending up with a strange pair of shorts. Or one normal leg and one really short leg. Yeah, I probably should have done a bit of research before I started, but I was confident in just going for it. This was probably down to these jeans being super old, and the fact that they would have ended up in the bin anyway, so if it went horribly wrong, it didn’t really matter. I almost think that if I had thought about it too much, it probably would have been a whole lot worse, and I took it slowly, so it was fine.

My top tips for making your own ripped jeans:

  • Have a photo you can copy
  • Make small rips at first – you can always make them bigger but you can’t make them smaller
  • Add some rips to the back so they look a bit more original

I am looking forward to wearing these – I think I am going to team them with my new burgundy fishnet tights. So, I will probably look like a very festive prostitute (ho ho ho), but equally I don’t care, because I have my very own ripped jeans, and you do not. Please, refer to me as the new Alexander Mcqueen from now on, as I am pure fashion and sooooooo extra (not).

Alex

The comfort food cogitation

Does anyone else have comfort food? I know we all eat comfort food to make ourselves feel better (or try to, anyway) but does anyone else have a meal or a snack they turn to, that makes them feel better?

I have two which I turn to in a bid to make myself feel better, and both are equally disgusting or delicious, depending on who you are, and whether you are a gluten free/vegan/plant based diet/thin person. My go-to comfort foods are heavy in the carb department – as all good comfort foods are.

My first comfort food is Marmite pasta; and you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. There’s something about this beige/brown bowlful of food which is incredibly comforting. I don’t know if it’s the simplicity of it, or whether it’s because I link Marmite with childhood, and allowing those Marmitey childhood feelings to resurface makes me feel better. But once I’ve eaten it, feel better I certainly do. Funnily enough, having it in the chipped bowl makes me feet better too. I feel like the chipped bowl gets me, it knows me.

 

If you’re interested, all you do is cook yourself a portion of pasta. Then, over a low heat in a small pan, warm a spoonful of butter and a spoonful of Marmite together and stir to make a sauce. Then pour the salty goodness over your pasta. Tuck in and you will be in heaven, unless you hate Marmite, then in which case, you will be in hell.

My second comfort food is a ravioli in tomato sauce, from a tin. This old chestnut gets carted out when we are in dire straits. When all hope is lost, or I am feeling very unwell, the tinned ravioli never fails to make an appearance. I’m sure a lot of you will think tinned ravioli is truly grim, but again, it has positive childhood connotations and memories for me. I had tinned ravioli for lunch today. I drove past Sainsbury’s on my way back from work and all of a sudden, I needed it.

 

But I’ve gone from using ravioli to make my tummy ache better or my sore throat better, to using it to make my head better, or my mind better. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? I’m not quite sure, I’m not sure if it matters either. There’s something about eating ravioli from a tin, wearing your jim-jams, sitting in your bed, snuggled up in your blankets that gives me a feeling of safety, and safety is akin to comfort, right?

Now I’m thinking about it, I don’t know if these are comfort foods, or more foods that I use to tell people I’m either feeling unhappy, or I’m feeling ill. The second I get the ravioli out my dad goes “that’s when I know you aren’t feeling well”. So, maybe I use these things to signal to those who know me best, that I’m not alright, and I probably need a bit of help. Sometimes I guess I don’t even need help, but I just need someone to ask, “are you okay?”, or “what’s up”. Having someone recognise that you aren’t alright, and to make themselves available for you to not be alright and have a little cry, is what we want really, isn’t it?

These things don’t really make you feel better, but they make you think you feel better. Kind of like a placebo effect, but instead of taking sugar pills, you are eating pasta out of tins. They are creating a reaction inside your brain, and your brain is tricking you into making you feel better or happier for a moment. I’d imagine all of these comfort foods are attached to a nice memory or a nice time in our lives.  As long as they work for you, that’s the main point.

 

So, what is your comfort food? I’d love to know.

 

Bonnie

When is a hill not a hill, and actually a mountain? When it’s Box Hill, that’s when.

We went for a walk up Box Hill this weekend – turns out it isn’t a hill and it’s actually a mountain, but that’s another matter and far be it from me to email the National Trust and ask them if “hill” is really an accurate representation of the facts. But walking up Box Hill is one of the top things to do in Surrey (apparently), and you should do these things at least once, shouldn’t you? It was my turn to drive and I was weirdly nervous about it. I say “weirdly” like I never get nervous about anything and it’s totally out of the ordinary for me to worry unnecessarily about things (it’s not, as you know). But, WEIRDLY I was really nervy about driving and I kept worrying I was going to forget how to do it because that does happen sometimes. I feel this is on account of driving being a learned skill. It’s not like creativity, you can’t forget how to be creative, you are just a creative person. But you can forget how to drive, because you aren’t a car. So there. It’s a thing and it happens and I definitely can’t be the only one this happens to. It probably happens to Lewis Hamilton as well. Probably.

As it turns out, I didn’t forget how to drive and all my driving was impeccable I’d say, and I didn’t struggle too much with the sat-nav and managed to follow it quite capably. I seem to find it hard to have both the verbal directions and the screen directions, and I can’t concentrate with them both and I end up paying zero attention to the road, which isn’t ideal, so I tend to mute the woman and just look at where I am supposed to be going. Also, I don’t really like her telling me what to do and I feel I should be able to make my own decisions, and that by muting her, I am taking back some ownership.

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Wait. Let’s back track for a moment. I said “we” went to Box Hill. “We” as in two people, two people as in a couple and half of this couple isn’t one of my weird selection of friends, for once. The other half of this couple is a real boy! Well, man really, but I am just trying to assure you he is a real person and not a cardboard cut out (he isn’t, I promise), but I’m now worried that I have promised when I didn’t need to and now you don’t believe me. ACK! Oh well, believe what you want, but he’s real, I promise… Christ. Oh, and not only is he real, but he is hella handsome. So step back bitches – he’s mine. Don’t make me hurt you.

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Anywho; we (yasss!!) got to Box Hill in one piece and started on our (yay!!) merry way along the stepping stones walk. Our “merry” way lasted for approximately 6 seconds before the path turned into a treacherous set of steps, slick with mud and the souls of those who had fallen. Seriously, I have slipped about less on an ice rink. The situation was diabolical and I am genuinely surprised I didn’t end up on my arse, caked in mud, next to the skeleton of the last girl who slipped as a result of her inappropriate footwear and never made it out alive. Some of us ended up on our arses, but it wasn’t me… HEH.

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Watching people slip and slide around activated my inner cringe gauge and I genuinely have aching abs from all the internal cringing I was doing, plus all the laughing I was doing at people falling over. I did a lot of laughing. I laughed until my face hurt and I couldn’t really breathe much and I lost the ability to walk (see, the learned skills just escape me).

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We got to the stepping stones and I was silently willing someone to fall in. I know it’s not right to will people to make a fool of themselves, but I genuinely can’t help it and I couldn’t stop my mind urging them to make a fatal error and slip into the water. Alas, no one did, and I know I shouldn’t say it’s a shame, but it’s a shame. I posed for a quick photo on the stepping stones, which turned out to be the only in-focus pic of me from the entire day (thanks hun, the next David Bailey you are not).

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Rocking the nerdy camera-clad look
Finally, we were on firmer ground. To have grass beneath my feet was for the world to be right again. I was living the dream. There was a cute little footbridge, upon which I challenged my masculine company to a game of Pooh sticks. The masculine company didn’t know what that was, so I graciously explained the rules of Pooh sticks to the obvious newcomer to the field, then selected my stick. I released my stick from my grasp, sure that I was going to win (considering I had experience on my side) then dashed over to the other side of the bridge to await my sweet victory. Shit. I lost. Can you even believe I lost? I lost!!!!!!! I hate losing. I’m convinced it was a fix, there is no other explanation. How did he win????????????????

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After the Pooh stick fiasco, we headed on up the hill. Oh wait, not the hill, the mountain, and not just any mountain, it was akin to trekking up Mount Everest. I was half expecting Sherpa Tensing to pop up and offer to carry the bags. If only he had, it may have reduced the amount of sweating that was done. I had to take my coat off half way up. I had to stop and take a photo of some cows, not because I wanted photos of cows, but purely so I had an excuse to catch my breath.

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I give you: cows
I’d got to the point where I couldn’t really get a decent lungful of air. Every breath hurt, and I was 99% sure I was close to a lung collapsing. To our shame, as we got to the top of the hill, we were met by a literal granny, who was bounding up the hill, assisted merely by the arm of a woman I assume to be her daughter. If I can get up a hill with breathing apparatus at that age, I will be impressed, let alone walking unaided – which I struggle with now to be honest.

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photo credit @notdavidbailey
Bonnie

The Malteser reindeer consideration

Why are Malteser reindeer so good? Why? They are other worldly in comparison to other festive chocolate treats. I am convinced they are a gift from the heavens. Nothing this tasty can have been created by one of us mere mortals. These came from a higher being; of that I’ve no doubt. I am surprised they haven’t been depicted in paintings of the birth of Jesus, and I’m equally surprised that they weren’t given at least one mention in the Bible. I’m fairly sure Mary whipped one of these bad boys out of her knapsack whilst she and Joseph were travelling on the donkey.

I’ve done a serious amount of thinking about why they are so damned delicious, and I have come up with a few reasons. These are the kinds of things I think about when I am sitting on the loo, treating myself to a change of scenery for five minutes. I feel my best work is done seated in the cubicle on the far right-hand side of the ground floor ladies’ bathroom at work. Many an epiphany has been had with my back resting against the cistern and my head resting against the loo roll dispenser. Possibly not the most hygienic of places to do great work, but I doubt Einstein would judge my choice. Whatever works for you, right?

I digress; I was supposed to be explaining why Malteser reindeer are the tastiest deer in all the land, and now I shall. Hold onto your hats people, because this is going to be a bumpy ride.

  1. Chocolate to filling ratio

In comparison to your average run of the mill Malteser, the reindeer has a distinctly thicker chocolate coating and this makes a huge difference. The thicker chocolate layer protecting the delectable creamy Malteser filling is a deal breaker and a maker. It takes this treat from average to mind blowing in the first bite. Just thinking about taking a bite of one of these bad boys is genuinely causing me issues in the world of excess saliva production.

  1. Reindeer shape

I am 100% sure that when a snack if shaped as something cute, like a little reindeer, it tastes 100,000,000 times better. No lie. There is something inherently enjoyable about decapitating a reindeer in one bite. Also, because it isn’t a uniform shape, there isn’t a strict uniformity in biscuit to chocolate ratio. Every mouthful is different, yet equally enjoyable.

  1. Availability

They are only available once a year. Yes, they get reinvented at Easter to become bunnies, but the scrummy reindeer is only available for a couple of months of the year. The second Halloween is over and the Christmas treat aisle is at full capacity in Tesco, it’s game on. The most wonderful time of the year has begun. You can never over indulge to the point where you will never want another one. They are only around for 8 weeks. That is not enough time to eat so many that you will never want to look one square in the eye again. There is an extended “off season”, where you have 10 months to recover. To forget about their chocolatey goodness, then start to yearn for a taste of sweet reindeer as the weather starts to turn colder and the nights draw in. The once-a-year deer know the game, and they play it oh so well.

 

There is no greater feeling than tearing open the wrapper on the first Malteser reindeer of the season. The scrumptious waft of deliciousness emanates from inside the wrapper. It’s an “eyes closed” moment as you take a bite of your first reindeer of the festive season. This moment is almost akin to love making. The passion I feel for these things is near to unrivalled. Are these better than sex? Well, no, let’s not be entirely ridiculous. These are not better than sex. They come close, I’m not going to lie, but they haven’t quite made it to that level yet. Can the two be combined? Is that a thing that can happen? (if you’re reading this, I think we need to talk, because I’m not sure I’m going to stop thinking about this as an option any time soon). Anyway, they aren’t better, unless you are having terrible sex, in which case they might actually be better than the sex you are having. If that is the case, have more reindeer and that will probably make you feel better about the whole sex thing. And at the very least, you will eat so many that you will feel entirely sick and your “not tonight dear” won’t be a falsity this time.

 

Bonnie