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 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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t put a damper on my hamper

One of the guys at work is having a baby. Well, not him obviously, but his wife is. I say obviously, but there was that time when that man had a baby, so you can never be overly sure with these things. Anyway, I digress. I feel like the perfect gift in this situation is always a hamper, it can never not be a hamper. We knew the little one was going to be a girl, so I set about getting a collection going at work to get a few bits to buy them a present. I sent a card around with a ‘collection’ envelope, entitled “Ross is having a baby!”. Someone very helpfully changed my post-it note so it read “Ross’s wife is having a baby!”. Thanks pal, I’m not sure that was necessary, but I’m really glad you did that in your tiny scrawly penmanship. I’m pretty sure everyone knew what was meant, but TY bro. Not.

But whatever, let’s not put a damper on my hamper, because I LOVE choosing presents for people. It’s genuinely one of my fave things to do, and I think I am pretty good at it (most of the time, anyway). I put a fair amount of thought into these things and always try to go for something which they will like and use, rather than it just being your average gift.

So, I always prefer getting lots of little bits and pieces when it comes to a gift, so a hamper is ideal. You can fill it full of cute little bits and bobs, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth if you are on a budget. I had a browse through the likes of Tesco, Boots and Marks and Spencer and here is a list of what I ended up getting:

  • Cotton wool pleat
  • Sterilising tablets
  • Sudocrem
  • Johnsons baby powder
  • Johnsons baby bath
  • Ultra-soft baby wipes
  • 2 bibs
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • Polar bear towel
  • Dress, babygro and tights set
  • Bunny toy



The trick here is to get items of all different sizes and shapes so you can display them nicely in your basket. You need some small items to fill up gaps, some taller items to give you a bit of height and some soft items that you can use to pad out the bottom and drape here and there.

I started by draping the cute little towel over one corner of the basket, and using the rest of the towel to pad out the bottom of the basket so you would be able to see everything once it was all in there. I then spent ages fiddling about trying to display the dress set nicely. I started off by taking the hanger out and draping the outfit over the side, but it looked a bit weird. It looked a bit sad and droopy and I wasn’t a fan of that; it looked like it had given up the ghost. Kind of like when you see someone come out of a bar really drunk and they just “rest for a moment” over someone’s garden wall until 7 in the morning. So, I actually ended up putting the hanger back in and using it to support the dress so it stood up nicely.

After wrestling with the dress for a while, I got it in place and I set about adding the rest of the items in. It was pretty plain sailing from there. I put the cotton wool pleats over the other side to give a bit of height, and then popped in the wipes, the baby powder and the bath stuff. I propped up the sterilising tablets. I propped up the sterilising tablets again. Then I propped them up again, until I lost my patience and quickly shoved in the Sudocrem at the front to support everything.

All I was left with was the bunny, the bibs and the tiny little sockies. I slid the bibs in at the back and arranged the little socks at the front. Lastly was the pink bunny toy. This was harder to position than I had imagined, mainly on account of it being literally the softest toy in the entire world, and wherever I placed it, it just slithered out. I eventually managed to jam its leg behind the bath stuff to anchor it in. I felt a bit sorry for the bunny, but it was being difficult and I feel it deserved what it got in the end.


When we gave it to him, he was so pleased with it. He had such a big smile on his face and I was so happy for that. This is why I like gifts. When you give someone something they weren’t expecting, or something really thoughtful, and they have that look of pure joy on their faces; that’s what gifts are all about. I guess what I am trying to say, is that things don’t have to cost the earth, and it really is the thought that counts.

Bonnie

The one with the birthday bacon

I had quite the weekend of socialising this weekend. On Friday night Claire came round and we made pasta and drank prosecco. Finally, I’ve found two things I am actually good at – drinking prosecco and eating pasta… Perhaps I should have been Italian.


The requirement for a second bottle was unexpected, and we had to emergency chill it in the freezer. There was no space in the freezer, so the peas had to take one for the team and make their new home on the floor, rather than in the bottom drawer of the freezer, but I’m sure they were fine with that, it was so we could have prosecco after all.

One prosecco…
Two prosecco…

Two bottles of prosecco in and an artfully made pesto pasta down, we went out for a couple of cocktails. As we got there, Claire realised she didn’t have her ID and she’d left it at home. We knew we wouldn’t get in without her ID, but it was worth a shot anyway right? You never know! We tried, and as expected we failed. Even offering photos of Claire’s 21st birthday from her camera roll did nothing to sway the bouncer, so off we toddled to give Claire’s boyfriend a call and rectify the ID issue.


We managed to source a drink in another bar where the ID process is distinctly more lax, so we were satisfied for the time being. We used this time to have a goss and a bitch sesh; because what else do girls do over a cocktail? Claire’s ID turned up (thanks Pete) and we were on our way to the bar. We had a couple of drinkies, but to be honest, all we wanted to do was goss, and it was a bit loud in there – so we made our way to a pub where we could bitch to our hearts were content, without having to shout over a Calvin Harris remix.


After what I can only describe as the most disgusting glass of wine I have ever had the misfortune to sling down the hatch (which I didn’t hesitate to mention to the bouncer who was hanging around), we needed another cocktail.

Face says it all

I couldn’t even tell you what we ordered, but it was probably the least tasty cocktail I have ever experienced in my life. We got talking to a table of randoms and managed to palm off our drinks on them, in return for something that was distinctly more to our taste.

#ootd

All of a sudden it was 2am and we were in McDonalds procuring ourselves a chicken legend meal each. The Uber turned up and it wasn’t long before I was getting more chicken legend meal on the seat than I was in my mouth. Apparently, I refused to drink any of my diet coke and Claire was left with more diet coke than anyone can drink and a tip was required to satiate the aggressive Russian Uber driver and stop him from giving her a 1 star rating.

Only acceptable one of the both of us

The next morning, I was suffering, I’m not going to lie. I woke up and tried to get out of bed and I simply couldn’t. There was no way I could get up without vomming, so I had to retreat back under the covers and lay there and question what I was doing with my life until I could slide out of bed and get myself a drink of water. I couldn’t make it all the way to the sink in one go, so I had to have a rest on the loo for a bit and press my cheek against the cool tiles until I recovered enough to make it to the sink and turn the tap on.
It took the whole day to recover, multiple naps and some pop tarts to get me back up and running again. It was Tara’s 21st birthday so there was no way I could cancel, I simply had to go out. I got all dolled up; pink was the theme this evening, so I had a pink skirt on and I went all pink on the eyeshadow front. PINK PINK PINK. I started off lightly and had a diet coke, I was feeling like I needed to ease myself in.


Tara’s mum was practically forcing alcohol down my neck. All of a sudden there was a glass of prosecco in front of me and the thought of drinking it was turning my stomach. But, because I am a trooper, I forced it down the hatch.

The classic “waiting for your mate in the loo” pic

The night went on and we headed into Kingston, to da club. Tara got a tonne of free drinks cos she had that 21st badge on, and I got precisely no free drinks. But, there was a point where she couldn’t drink all the free drinks, so I did end up with a free drink, but it wasn’t intended for me, but I’m not sure that’s the point.

We had a good dance, and I mean a GOOD DANCE. So much so, that by the time we got home we were pretty much sober. We had a cheeky chicken wrap before we started the Uber journey, because basically the entire reason we go on a night out is for the food at the end. We had Imran the Uber driver, and I have to say; genuinely the best Uber driver I have ever experienced in my life. Us and Imran, we put the world to rights, and we even gave him a “compliment” as we exited the vehicle, and I have never given an Uber drive a compliment in my life. You should take that as a compliment in itself Imran.

When we woke up I made Tara a birthday bacon sandwich and put some candles in it.

Cutie! Oh and #notmydad

Because when you don’t have a cake, birthday bacon is probably the next best thing. In fact, I am now starting to wonder why we even bother with birthday cake, and why we don’t just have birthday bacon sandwiches instead.


I think that would be a better way to celebrate. I’m going to make it a thing starting from now. I can see no situation where this wouldn’t be a goer… Unless you were a vegetarian. Or worse, vegan.

 

Bonnie

October Edition: Things that have made me happy this month

There’s a tonne of other things that have made me happy over the last month, but these are just a few of them, and the ones I had photos of to show you. It’s the little things in life that make the biggest difference I think. These are some of the little things. These little things have created some of the biggest smiles this month. I’m not 100% sure why I have decided to post about this, but it has been a really nice post to write and I think I will make it a monthly thing.

I guess it’s because I have been feeling really good this month; way better than I have been feeling at other points during this year, and I thought that was a worthy thing to shout about. Maybe this will inspire some of you others to write about things that have made you happy this month. If it does, then you people pay way too much attention to me 😛

 

My new tiara:

So, a little story behind the tiara. The long and the short of it is, I met this guy on Tinder and we arranged to go on a date. We went to an Italian and I was super nervous (obvs, because I get super nervous about these things), oh, and coupled with the fact that he’s possibly the most beautiful person in the world. It is safe to say my nerves were no longer nerves, and they had escalated into major nerves. I’m not sure if any of the words I was saying were making any sense, but oh wells.

Anyway, he bought me a frickin’ tiara. A frickin’ tiara. A TIARA. Uhm, yes please. Firstly, no one has ever bought me anything on a date ever. Secondly, no one has ever bought me a tiara ever. And thirdly, no one has ever arranged for a tiara to be brought out to me by a waiter on a plate. I want to wear it forever but I don’t want to ruin it. I legit want to wear it to sleep because it is that glorious.


IT’S A TIARRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!

 

Excuse the dressing gown

I deleted Tinder:

Tinder is a dick; nuff said. I am so glad to have that little flamey icon gone from my “entertainment” folder. The fact that it was even in that folder shows how little faith I had. I feel like I am slating Tinder, when I actually think it is a kind of good idea. Places like POF where anyone under the sun could message you, I was certainly no fan of. At least with Tinder, you know you are attracted to them and they are attracted to you and it means you don’t have to have those awkward conversations where you basically have to tell people you don’t like their face, but by saying things like “you aren’t my type”. Non-fan of dat. So, byeeeeeeee Tinder and all my matches, I hope life treats you all well. Unless you were a dick, and in that case I hope your lives are merely “fine”.



I got some clothes made smaller:

This was a really nice feeling. I had a few pairs of trousers and a jumpsuit that were way too big for me around the waist, so I took them to the tailors and had them made smaller. They weren’t super expensive or anything like that, but one of my pairs of trousers were pink and I couldn’t give those up, and I had never had a chance to wear my jumpsuit and I think it is pretty fierce, so I want to give it an outing. It was the best feeling to get these taken in, and it proves that going to the gym and eating vegetables rather than pizza, has paid off. Yay!


Boots:

It is autumn, and that means it is boot season. So, I have been busting out the boots at every available opportunity. I seem to be a fan of an ankle boot, and I have accumulated more pairs than I thought I had. Oh, and stacked heels. I am such a fan of a stacked heel, there are no better heels in the world. Stacked, stacked, stacked.

 

This isn’t even nearly all of them

This note:

This little note made me happy. Things like this make my day, if not my week. One of the girls at work always gives me the crusts from her pizza. This might not seem like something to gush over, but I think it is the best thing in the world. Getting someone’s leftover crusts might not seem like a huge thing, but having someone that thinks about you enough to save their food and leave you a little note; they are the best people in the world.

Bonnie

Pumpkin Pie Recipe – perfect way to use up spare Halloween pumpkin

Okay, so I made this and it is pretty damn tasty. It is the perfect way to use up some of your Halloween pumpkin, because let’s be honest, no one ever knows what to do with that. It’s nice and decadent and it’s a bit different from your usual pie fillings. I really like this, and it makes a killer photo with all your pumpkins scattered around.

Exhibit A

It doesn’t take too long to make, maybe an hour and a half all in. It would have taken me an hour and a half if I hadn’t had a major disaster in the middle of it. I had made my pastry case, and I was just getting it out of the oven having blind baked it to perfection, when my entire brain shut down and I dropped the tin on the floor.

Had it been anyone else, I am sure the tin would have sailed straight down and landed on its base with no harm done. But, obviously, that didn’t happen. The tin came crashing down on its side, making a proper racket and causing the cat to hurtle out the cat flap so fast, he nearly took it off its hinges. The perfectly baked pastry case flung out to the left-hand side and plopped unceremoniously into the cats’ water bowl. WTF. There was no saving the pastry case, so I just let it drown until I could bear to begin the clean-up operation.

This recipe is a bit of a mash up of recipes from here, there and everywhere. Plus as bit of my own, because I can never follow a recipe to the tee and I always add or change something. So, enjoy making your pie. Oh, and don’t drop your pastry.


For the pastry:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 150g cold butter
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp water

 

For the filling:

  • 500g pumpkin
  • 1 (400g ish) tin condensed milk
  • 175g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt

 

You will need:

  • Medium pan
  • Large bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Blender
  • 23cm deep tart tin
  • Baking beans
  • Whisk

 

Method:

To make the pastry, cut the butter into cubes and add it to a large bowl with the flour and sugar. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and combine until it forms a smooth ball. If the mixture is still too crumbly, add a tablespoon of water to bring it together. Wrap your pastry in cling film and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Whilst the pastry is in the fridge, you can make your pumpkin puree that you need for the filling. Cut 500g of pumpkin into small chunks and place in a medium pot. Cover with water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.

Drain the water from the pumpkin and using a blender or a stick blender, puree the pumpkin until the lumps have gone. Set this aside to cool down.

Get your pastry out of the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface until it is about the thickness of a £1 coin. Place your pastry in the tin and press the pastry into the tin, making sure you press it into the edges. Put the pastry back in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.

Heat your oven to 180c. Once your pastry has chilled, line the pastry case with foil and pour in your baking beans. Blind bake your pastry case for 15 to 20 minutes, until the case is golden.

Whilst you are blind baking your pastry, you can make your filling. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, condensed milk, sugar, eggs, spices and salt. Whisk together until the mixture is smooth.

Remove your baking beans and foil from the pastry case, and pour in your pumpkin mixture. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the filling is stable and a knife inserted comes out clean.

 

Then enjoy! I left mine to cool most of the way and then cut myself a big old slice and served it with a dollop of crème fraiche. Crème fraiche is a bit more acidic so it goes nicely with the sweetness of the pumpkin and it’s not as luxurious as cream, which I am not a major fan of.  Oh also, it was lactose free crème fraiche, because my body is not a major fan of the whole lactose thing.

Bonnie

I’m having a quarter-life crisis

A quarter-life crisis. Who even knew that was a thing?! Well, it turns out it is, and I am having one. I want to change my job, I want to stop doing stuff, I want to start doing different stuff. I’m not sure what is happening. I thought this was only supposed to happen when you were about 50 and you went out and bought a convertible car and got your nipples pierced. I’m not going to buy a convertible, because quite frankly I can’t afford one, and I’m not going to get my nipples pierced (although I did consider doing so when I was 16).

But this is weird right? Has anyone else experienced the quarter-life crisis? Is it just me? Or is this actually a really normal thing for a 23-year-old to experience? If it is, then I am wondering why I haven’t heard about it before. But here I am, sitting in front of Strictly Come Dancing with my cat, alone on a Saturday night, watching Aston Merrygold do a spooky Halloween themed paso doble, criticising his leg extensions, accompanied by a cup of tea, pretty much questioning my entire life. Maybe this is a mid-life thing? I shouldn’t be so concerned as to whether Anton Du Beke has had a face-lift, should I? No other people my age are worried about things like that, are they?

But anyway, back to my quarter-life crisis. I want to quit my job, mainly because I hate it, but also because I feel like it’s just not creative enough for me. But I also don’t want to quit, because I have no idea what other jobs to look at, let alone actually apply for. Is there anything else I can do? What skills do I have? Will anyone want to employ me? What can I actually do? I genuinely have no idea. Will I be able to make any friends at my fictitious new job? Or will I end up having lunch in my car because no one likes me? Because that is a definite possibility.

I’m in on a Saturday night, looking like a complete crazy cat lady. Sitting in my jim jams on the sofa, blanket tucked around me, with panda eyes so dark, that I’m not even sure I look human anymore, and I may have actually started morphing into a panda. I’m 23 and I am in on a Saturday night. This shouldn’t be happening. Why aren’t I one of those popular people who have a tonne of superficial friends they can call in times like these?

I’d like to learn a new skill. I really want to learn how to sew, like proper sewing with a sewing machine so I can make my own clothes and alter stuff. But when is there time to learn how to sew? I feel like I don’t even have enough time to go to sleep, let alone learn a new skill. There are so many things I want to do and learn and see, but when is there time to do all these things? I can’t do all this, have a social life, go to work, go to the gym, eat and sleep, can I? There is simply not enough time in the day.

Urgh. My mind went spinning out of control so I thought I would go for a nap. I laid there for a bit hoping I would fall asleep. Obviously, I didn’t. What actually happened was I laid there for an hour staring at the ceiling, singing my own version of Calvin Harris’s “Feels”, where I replaced the word “feels” with “ceilings”. I can promise you now, that “don’t be afraid to catch ceilings”, will be top of the charts in the not too distant future.

Anyway, so I haven’t really solved my quarter-life crisis. All I’ve done is watch Strictly, stare at the ceiling and change one word in a song to make it my own. So… yeah, that was my evening. Productive eh?

 

Bonnie

Wronged at the water cooler

I was HANGING at work the other day, not going to lie. I’d been out with some of the work lot the night before and drunk A LOT. Like, really a lot. I didn’t get into work until 9 that morning, and considering I am supposed to start at 7.30, turns out I was a little late. But no matter, we will press on with the day. I was fine, sitting at my desk quite happily, until we got to about 11. This is when everything started to go a bit downhill. I started getting a bit of a shake on and my eyes weren’t focusing on the emails I was pretending I was reading. I needed a break, a few minutes away from my desk – that will sort me right out. Did it fuck.

I went to the kitchen area to get some water from the water cooler, and low and behold there was precisely no water left. I could see there was no water left, but I had to press the button down just in case there happened to be a secret store of water that would mean I didn’t have to change the bottle. But I had no such luck. Not even a drip was relinquished by the water cooler. Urgh.

You aren’t supposed to change the bottle on the water cooler yourself, because it’s heavy and whatever, and you are supposed to call one of the maintenance guys to come and do that. But nobody got time for dat. When you are experiencing the unquenchable thirst, the pain of having to wait for a heavily tattooed Polish man to come and assist you is a no go. Water simply must be had.

So, I did it myself. Normally I’m fine and I switch it over no problem, but today was a different story. I took the empty bottle off the top with minimal trouble, and after a bit of wrestling, I managed to peel the sticker off the bottom of the new water bottle. Here’s where it started going a bit awry. I grabbed hold of the handle of the water bottle and gave it a bit of a lift (testing the water if you will). It was no heavier than usual, so I engaged in the lift and hefted the new bottle off the rack and in the direction of the cooler. It was at this point, that I lost it. All of a sudden, my arms failed me and I seemed incapable of lifting the bottle any higher than my waist. Crap. I really had to engage the core to heft that water bottle into the right position. Clearly, I need to work on my clean and jerk, because this was not happening, and I had visions of me dropping the bottle with an almighty bang and me having to chase a rolling bottle down the corridor.

 

Anyway, somehow I managed to get the bottle into the cooler, and I stood waiting for the water to filter through the system. This can take a bit of time, so I assumed a leaning stance against the counter top, much like a cowboy leans against the bar in a Western, but probably much less cooly. Elaine the cleaner sauntered around the corner and I geared up for our daily chat which consists of one of the following three options.

Option number 1: Elaine proclaiming “Aint it hot in here?!”, when it really isn’t, but obviously I just agree because I am polite and British. I strongly suspect this has something to do with her being “that age” rather than it actually being warm in the office, but we won’t mention that.

Option number 2: Elaine asking if “I’ve much planned for the weekend”. This one usually first rears its ugly head on a Tuesday, when I obviously have nothing planned, and surfaces on a pretty much daily basis until I come up with an answer which satisfies her. I’m not sure I ever satisfy Elaine with my weekend plans, as they usually consist of “nothing much really”.

Option 3: she says something which I have no idea how to respond to. Well, I do know how I would like to respond to it, but I often can’t say what I want to out loud.

Option three is what we came up against on this day. I was standing near the water cooler, having just replenished it with a fresh bottle. Elaine saw me do this, as she reminded me I shouldn’t do this and I should get one of the maintenance blokes to do it. I glossed over this comment, as Elaine and I have discussed this many a time before, and she is well aware of my feelings with regard to waiting for people to do things for me.

As I stood there with my bottle in hand, waiting for the water to filter through so I could fill my bottle with the cool refreshing liquid I had just hailed up there, Elaine did a thing. She did a thing that would change my feelings towards this woman forever. She took a plastic cup from the dispenser. This may seem like a small thing, but the act of removing that plastic cup from the dispenser carries big meaning. But, not only did she take one plastic cups… She took two.

I stood there with a look of fire in my eyes. I knew where this was going. I could tell what was about to happen without her even opening her mouth to utter those words. I was steeling myself for the question; I was staying as calm as possible so as not to flip my lid. Just as I had thought the moment was going to pass, the words came. The dreaded words, “do you mind if I go first?”. The torrent of abusive phrases that swam through my head at that point don’t even bear thinking about. Somehow, I managed to keep my mouth shut, how I did that I will never know.

Through gritted teeth and the most clenched jaw you have ever seen in your life, I uttered the words “sure, not a problem!”. Not a problem? Of course it’s a bloody problem Elaine. Who on Gods earth do you think you are woman? You have quite literally stood there and watched me struggle to begin the process of quenching my thirst. You have unhelpfully reminded me that I shouldn’t be taking action to quench my thirst – which is precisely no help to a thirsty person, and now, NOW, you are going to actually ask me if you can have first go at the water?

You know what Elaine? You know what? Have it. Have all the water. Just go straight ahead. Don’t mind me or anything, you just take what you came for and leave. Don’t worry about the fact that I have gone to a serious amount of effort to get us to this point. Don’t you even bat an eyelid. There are words for people like you in this life. I didn’t want to say it Elaine, and I didn’t want it to come to this. I am ashamed to say that as she pottered back to wherever she came from (hell most likely), that under my breath I uttered the words “liquid larcener” at her back.

Water cooler

The one with the bastard sink

Started the day off with a major hunger on. The fry up called, and I answered. I treated the three of us and cooked breakfast (don’t say I don’t treat you guys).


After that the sink broke a little bit. The pipe underneath the sink appeared to be leaking, and there was rather more water outside of the sink pipes than there should have been. I informed Les of the sink/water situation and he attended the scene. Much swearing ensued, and after calling the sink a “bastard” approximately a thousand times, the issue appeared to be fixed.

It wasn’t. The water was spewing out. The sink was even more of a bastard than it ever was before. Many sodden tea towels later, a rather red in the face Les managed to staunch the flow and fixed the bastard sink. Bastard.

I wanted to go to Bushy Park today, but I felt like I needed to give Les a hand with some gardening before I went out. Seeing as the bastard sink had put him a couple of hours behind, I thought I would oblige and assist him. I donned the gawjus Tesco tracksuit bottoms and the sexy Eminem t-shirt and headed into the wilderness.

It was my job to pull up the carrots and beetroot we were growing. I always think it is an excellent idea to grow things, until you have to look after them and water the plants and weed the earth. My god I HATE weeding. But somehow, some stuff had grown, and there were some healthy-looking beetroot specimens and some things which I was told were carrots.

I was quite pleased with the beetroot, but I am not going to lie – the carrots are shit. Some of them are so short and fat and don’t really resemble carrots. One of them is miniature and would probably win an award for the “longest time growing for nothing” award. One of them looks more like a turnip, and one of them is actually yellow. WTF.

 

Smallest carrot ever

 

Turnip or carrot?
Carrot or parsnip?

I thought I had done my time, but I hadn’t. There was weeding to be done. Oh hell (remember I hate weeding). I did my best, but I am not going to lie, there were a lot of weeds interspersed with actual plants which needed to stay in the ground, so it was pretty hard going. I weeded this bit for approximately 5 hours and hardly made any progress. When I say 5 hours, it was more like 15 minutes, but time takes on a whole new level of slow when you are crouched in the mud pulling up what you are hoping is grass and not a flower.

I finally managed to escape to Bushy Park with Gail. The whole reason I wanted to go was because it was rutting season and all the boy deer would be out doing their thing and showing off to the ladies. There is definitely a joke in there somewhere about them being horny, if only they didn’t have antlers.

 

We saw some of the lads out and about in the park, making that weird mooing sound, I’m not sure whether the girls find it attractive or not. I don’t know if I would be overly keen on a giant antlered man mooing at me whilst I was trying to eat my grass, but who knows – the ladies like what they like.

 

A couple of the boys had a bit of a to do and it call kicked off when one of them gave chase and started pelting after the other one. Nothing much happened in the end, and it was a bit disappointing. I feel like it was all for show, and the ladies barely even looked up as it was going on.

 

We went for a wander through the park and did our best to avoid getting run over by kids on bikes. There was one hairy moment where there was a kid coming at me from behind on a tiny bike, he was bending and weaving like this was the slalom section of the race and I had to take a dive into the long grass to avoid being taken out.

As he whizzed off with his mum following closely behind, another kid tried to take her out, but on a much bigger bike. My internal organs all simultaneously cringed as her foot got caught on the wheel of the bike. All I could imagine was her foot getting caught in the spokes and her going flat on her face, and me not being able to do a single thing to help because I was laughing too much. Somehow her foot managed to untangle itself and we were safe.

 

After Gail and I had taken a romantic turn around the grounds, we headed out and stopped for a coffee. In this coffee shop, I actually had a smoothie called a “Cool Pina”, which had lime, pineapple, cucumber and almond milk in it (unfortunately no alcohol). It was really tasty and I imagine it would be described as “refreshing” if they were to make an advert for it with many descriptors. I felt refreshed as I sipped this refreshingly fresh fruit smoothie.

Bonnie

The Fast Arm Slow Feet Hypotheses

I was jazzed today. I went into work feeling GREAT and I was sure I was going to get as much done as humanly possible. As you can imagine, it didn’t really work out like that, as usual. There was a ridiculous amount of traffic on the way this morning, and a journey which usually takes me 10 minutes, ended up taking me 40 minutes. I was not happy about this. There were temporary lights (which I am pretty sure should be in Room 101 – no justification required please Frank Skinner) and I crawled all the way there. In fact, crawling would have been quicker, I’m sure of it.

Eventually I got to work, and I remembered that we had a 2 hour long gathering of the whole company, so watch presentations about all the new stuff that is going to be happening and how good or badly we had done over the last few months. Now, I am super sad, and I love watching these things – all my mates think I am a complete loser. But I like hearing about what other departments are doing, and I like watching people speaking. Also, there are always videos to watch, and I LOVE a video.

Turns out, 2 hours is a long time to concentrate, and I did have to glance at some graphs on a screen, which is quite a distressing thing for me to have to do, and by the end of the 2 hours I was slumped in my chair and staring blurry eyed at the ceiling. Even the complimentary breakfast was doing nothing to keep me from losing concentration. That took us up to 11, and then it’s pretty much lunch time, so there was no point in really starting anything.

It was katsu chicken curry on the menu today as well, and one never gets much work done in anticipation of katsu. No one. It didn’t even bother me in the slightest that I had to queue for 15 whole minutes to get my lunch. In fact, all it does it prove that katsu is THE BEST and it simply cannot be beaten, ever. I ate it all and I felt sick, but it was worth it. I’m still not sure it’s gone down.

Ellie and I went out for a walk at lunch and discussed the finer points of whether it is easier to walk with fast feet and slow arms, or slow feet and fast arms. It was quite a conundrum, and a puzzle worth solving I feel, so we gave it some thought.

Our reckoning is, that it is easier to walk with fast feet and slow arms, because you can almost waltz it, but if you are fast-arming it, your feet have no choice but to engage in the fastness, and you can’t stop yourself from zooming along like a complete cretin. By the way, to get to this lofty point of knowledge, we had to test our hypothesis, and unsurprisingly, walking like this down the road gets you a lot of looks from the people driving past… A lot of looks. Especially when you are walking past a hospital. I’m not sorry about it though, despite the fact that we must have looked like we were clinically insane escapees, we have done some ground-breaking work on the matter. And that, friends, makes us pretty much scientists.

After all that walking, and at various speeds, I was rather tired, so there was next to no chance of any achievement happening after lunch. Plus, there is only so much you can achieve in one day, and no one likes an overachiever do they?

 

Bonnie

The one with the slippery nipple

I was back at work today. My God, I did not want to go. I even had a tiny cry last night because I didn’t want to go to work – just like a kid not wanting to go back to school after the summer holidays. How sad is that? No need to answer, I know it is sad, and I know it is crazy, you really don’t need to tell me.

I got to work and I took the greatest pleasure in deleting all of the emails I got whilst I was away. I couldn’t remember how to do anything at all, and it took me about 10 minutes to figure out where I needed to save this document, after not having to save it for a month. I wasted a lot of the day on staring blankly at me screen, not being able to recall what I was supposed to do with something, after I had got it.

I also wasted a good amount of time perusing the Macmillan coffee morning charity bake sale. I had completely forgotten about this, so I didn’t have any change, so I had to hit up my contacts and I managed to source myself £1 to get a gluten and dairy free brownie, which was actually surprisingly nice.

Finally, after many hours of waiting, it was time to go home. Well, not quite, it was actually time to go swimming. Seeing as I haven’t done any exercise whatsoever in a month, this was a fairly daunting prospect. I told my friends that if I didn’t make it in tomorrow because I had drowned, that it had been nice knowing them.

I got to the pool, got changed, and quickly realised that I had forgotten to bring a hair band. After scouring the surfaces, the hairdryer area and the showers, I could not locate a hairband. I even went out to reception to see if there was a spare one, but to no avail. Nuts. Trying to swim without my hair tied back isn’t really an option. I have a lot of hair, and if I leave it down, it’s like trying to swim with a bucket of cement on the back of my head. Which is hard, as you can imagine.

I couldn’t see an option. There didn’t appear to be a way around this. Until I looked down at my swimsuit. Now, this isn’t the usual swimsuit I wear, normally I wear a sporty one that flattens everything out and makes you more streamlined, whilst simultaneously squeezing all your back fat out of the back of your costume in horrifying lumps. But today, I had a more fashionable swimsuit on, because I couldn’t find the ghastly sporty, back fat enhancing number.

This swimsuit had a lace up bit at the front. It is like a v neck one, but with some loops and a bit of string that you can use to make cleavage by tightening it up, I guess. I’m sure you already know what I am thinking here. I’m thinking, that I will untie the string bit, take it out of the loops, and use it to tie my hair up. It’s a brilliant idea! What could possibly go wrong? Don’t even start, I know I’m an idiot. I know. I KNOW.

So, I action my plan, and after a bit of fussing I have my hair tied back, and what is now a swimsuit with a VERY deep v neck. I plop into the water, and let’s just say, there were a certain degree of movement, which wasn’t present when the string was instated in its rightful place. I’m not sure I can swim like this; the nips are barely covered. I’m convinced that if I push off from the wall that my swimsuit it going to slip and I will basically be boobs out in the swimming pool. Lifeguards will be looking on horrified and small children will be heard crying in the background.

But, I’m here now, so I might as well make the most of it and try and swim. I tentatively push away from the wall, and everything is going swimmingly (pun intended) so far. Everything is remaining in place, all is where it should be and life is good. I swim for a bit, I do a few lengths, everything seems fine.

I push off from the wall a bit harder, and all of a sudden everything is distinctly less fine. Very much, distinctly less fine. There was a certain coolness against the skin where there wasn’t before. Chillier in places than one is perhaps used to. And when I say that, I mean that nips weren’t in, they were bordering on the out. I didn’t want them to be out. I very much wanted them to be in and a woman was heading towards me, and she was wearing goggles, and she was most definitely going to see, and I was most definitely going to die of embarrassment.

I stopped in the middle of the lane, pulled my swimsuit up violently (and in the process, gave myself a minor wedgie) and scrambled back to the wall. I think I had managed to preserve my dignity, somewhat. Christ Bonnie.

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 15: Propelled Planes and Frog Games

Today we fly from Port Elizabeth to Hoedspruit, which is around the Kruger National Park area. I can’t say I am sorry to leave Port Elizabeth. There is nothing there and it is one of my least favourite places I have ever visited. We fly from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and from Johannesburg we fly to Hoedspruit. The plane we took from Joburg had propellers – it has been a very long time since I have flown in anything with props. I think the last time I flew in a plane with props was when we were in Canada when I was about 10 or 11.

We had a wait of a couple of hours in Joburg airport, and we sat and had a coffee and I caught up on a few bits of life admin. This coffee place is the second place I have been able to find almond milk on this trip, so I was a very happy bunny.

We boarded the plane and set off to Hoedspruit. The airport there is so cute, it’s arrivals and departures “lounge” and more of a garage, it’s tiny. It reminded me of when we flew to a place in Australia and we had to take our own luggage off the plane. This wasn’t quite so involved, and they brought our luggage round on the back of a tractor.

We jumped in our hire car and set out to find the place we were staying; Thornybush Lodge. This turned out to be more easily said, than done. The instructions we had were not helpful, to say the least. We ended up driving round in a big circle, only to realise we had driven past the lodge right at the beginning and hadn’t clocked it (thinking it couldn’t possibly be that close). We eventually got there, after driving down loads of bumpy, dusty dirt roads. Which was really fun, well, for me anyway; not so sure about those in the back.

 

We spotted a fair few animals on our way, seeing giraffe, impala, and warthog. Quite a find, considering it was the heat of the day and it was about 33 degrees when we got there. Giraffe are so majestic, and it was amazing to just see three of them nibbling leaves off the trees as we drove past.

We get to the lodge and we are greeted with homemade lemonade and lunch. The lemonade is delicious, as was the lunch, and there are different salads to choose from and light bites. Super scrummy. We then had 30 minutes to sort ourselves out, and we were out on an evening game drive at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

We are in what is called a “tented camp”, but to be honest, these tents are so posh, they are more like houses! They have proper beds and showers, and I even have an outside bath. The rooms point directly into the bush, so there is a chance you might see some wildlife wandering around when you open the curtains in the morning.


Whilst we are out, we see different types of antelope in abundance, including the tiny Duiker, which is very shy. We see loads of birds, including the Hornbill, who you might know from the film, The Lion King. We tracked some Elephant for a bit, but they were much faster than we were, and they made it across the border before we could see them.

By far the best experience though, was when we paused in the truck and a huge male lion leaped out from the river bed to our right-hand side and strolled straight in front of our vehicle. He was massive! The size of his paws was incredible, and he had a big gash on his right hind leg where he had been protecting his Pride from neighbouring male lions.

 

Shame it’s blurry eh?

We followed him along, and he led us to where 4 members of his pride were laying out, snoozing in the sun. There were two young males, who were about 18 months old and two females. In a few months’ time, the young males will be kicked out of the pride to fend for themselves, as they will be well on their way to maturity.

I love this photo of them all in a line

The lions lolled about in the sun, laying on a nice flat bit of ground where we could get a really good look at them. We were so close, it was unbelievable; I had never thought I would be that close to a lion in my life.

After a long time watching the lions and learning about them (did you know that male lions could form a coalition? And they will look after multiple Prides of female lions in the area together? No, me either!).

 

A young male, about 18 months


We headed on for a bit, and found a good place to watch the sun go down. The sunset here is beautiful, and it is wonderful to watch the vibrant colours as the sun goes down, and the stark contrast of this in comparison to the dark trees in the foreground. We had a cheeky little alcoholic beverage as we watched the sun set, and I walked around the area and found some giraffe bones that were 5 years old to take a good look at.

 

Leg bone

 

Pelvic bone

We set off again and came across some baboons playing around in the trees, so we stopped to watch them for a bit. It always amazes me how agile monkeys are, they seem to defy gravity as they are leaping through the trees.

It was dark now, and we were looking for a leopard around the dry riverbed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much luck, but we did see a tree frog, a hare and a cute little bushbaby chilling in a tree!! We headed back to the camp, and the first thing you notice is the sound of the frogs. They are SO loud, and they don’t stop. The only time they stop croaking for a bit, is if someone disturbs them. They stop for a few moments, but soon enough they are at it again. I wonder if it is all a big game to them, and whether they think it is hilarious to croak, knowing we can do precisely nothing about it.

We had some dinner, and then we were off to bed. We’d been up since 5.30 this morning, so we were fairly knackered. I sit here writing this, to the sound of a symphony of frogs. I wonder if they will ever stop, or if I will be dreaming of frogs… Or dreaming of throttling frogs.

 

Wildlife seen today:

  • Giraffe
  • Wildebeest
  • Common warthog
  • Lesser bushbaby
  • Duiker
  • Impala
  • Nyala
  • Baboon
  • Vervet monkey
  • Lion – male/female/cubs
  • Scrub hare
  • Tree squirrel

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 14: I Think I’m Getting Scurvy

Again, we attempted to find something to do in Port Elizabeth, and again we failed. We ended up stopping at a beach for a bit, where it seemed like everyone who had nothing to do hung out. It was overcast and really windy, so we didn’t end up staying for that long.

 

Interesting light at the beach (only interesting thing, mind you)

We went for a wander down the beach, and there was loads of coral washed up on the pebbles. I hadn’t seen any coral washed up on any of the beaches before, so this was interesting to me. There were all different types, and it was everywhere you looked. I would like to know why it was washing up on that beach in particular, but I can’t come up with an answer… It must be something to do with the positioning. Maybe I’ll never know!

 

Said coral

I noticed one of the signs on the beach saying “zero tolerance” and then a list of things that weren’t tolerated, I couldn’t quite see what wasn’t tolerated, so I wandered a bit closer to take a look. On the list of things that were not tolerated, were dogs, lighting fires, alcohol and guns. Now, are guns and dogs really at the same level of public nuisance? Last time I checked, guns and dogs were definitely not in the same category. If you take your dog for a walk on the beach, do you go to prison for the same length of time as if you take your gun for a walk on the beach?! I think not.

Anyway, there is still nothing to do in this place, so we went back to the hotel and I read my book for a bit. I’m reading The Good Immigrant, which is a book written by 21 black, Asian and ethnic minority writers in Britain today. I’m only a couple of chapters in so far, but it’s been a good read. It’s interesting and it goes into different people’s experiences that they have had in their lives, and I like stuff that is real life.

I had a strawberry and banana smoothie and some sushi for lunch at one of the cafes on the bay, and went and chilled back at the hotel for a bit. I feel like I haven’t eaten enough fruit and veg on this holiday and I think I am on the verge of getting scurvy. I had better watch out for that.

We went for dinner at the same place we went to last night, which was Something Good. Seeing as it was so nice, we thought we might as well go back there and have what we knew would be a decent meal. There was live music on when we got there, which I love love love. It was just one guy doing covers of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan songs and that kind of stuff, but live music is good and it cheered me up being able to sit and chill, listening to the music. I opted for a tipsy lemonade, which is a homemade lemonade with a double vodka in it. Yummy!

I am on my way up to Kruger National Park tomorrow, starting off in a tented camp for a few nights. Who knows if there will be wifi? Not I! So, if you don’t hear from me for a few days it’s because there is no wifi, or I’ve been eaten by a lion.

Bonnie

South Africa Day 13: Onion Rings and Diamond Rings 

We went out in Port Elizabeth determined to find something to see and something to do. Turns out, it wasn’t that easy. We were supposed to be visiting friends whilst we were in Port Elizabeth, and we had planned to spend time with them, but as everything worked out, they ended up being in the UK whilst we were here in South Africa. If we’d known this earlier, we wouldn’t have stayed here so as long and probably would have been here for just one night instead of three.

I looked like a decent day, so I donned a summer dress and lace shirt, seeing as it was nice and sunny out. This was a big mistake. Over the course of the day it got windier and windier, and my skirt kept blowing up. It was impossible to hold down properly, and I dread to think how many people got a view of my butt. Sorry everyone!

We stopped for a drink at a café called Angelos which was on the beach. This tiny section of Port Elizabeth seems to be the liveliest part (but we didn’t know this at the time). I had a pineapple and apple juice, which looked pretty and tasted very much like pineapple and apple juice together. So, we are winning so far.

We head to Richmond Hill which is billed as being an up and coming area of Port Elizabeth with bars and restaurants. We arrived, and it was completely dead. There were no people there and no one was sat in any of the bars or restaurants. I appreciate it is the off season at the moment, but the lack of people made it very uncomfortable. We stuck out like sore thumbs and everyone was staring at us. So, it didn’t take us long to head back to the car and drive away. So far, Port Elizabeth is the only place where I have felt a bit threatened. It feels like everyone is staring at me all the time. People beep at me from their cars and shout things out the window. It’s super uncomfortable feeling like someone’s eyes are leering at you all the time.

That being said, I did have a man contact me on Instagram and ask me out on a date. He lives in the area and wanted to take me out. I said that I didn’t think there was much point, nice though he was, as I was leaving the next day to carry on my holiday. He invited me out for a drink in the evening, but, alas, I declined. I didn’t think his idea of a first date would be spending the evening sat at the dinner table with my parents. Maybe he was going to offer me his hand in marriage? Who know?!

We had dinner at a place called Something Good. A few people had mentioned it as being a decent place to eat, so we cut our losses and headed for it. I had a rock shandy to drink, the alcoholic content in it was zero to none, but it tasted like ginger beer and it was good. Gail had a tipsy lemonade, which was a homemade lemonade with vodka in it, which was really tasty.

For dinner, I had The Hangover burger, which came with a fried egg, cheese, caramelised onions, tomato, bacon and a jalapeño popper. I also treated myself to a side of tempura onion rings, which turned out to be an excellent shout. Oh, and the waitress said she loved my top, and I do so love an outfit compliment. It was all really tasty (especially the onion rings). The only downside was that my jalapeño popper gave me unbearable hiccups, and I thought they were going to tear out of my chest. I have never experience internal fire like it. But this is the fault of the consumer, rather than the fault of the jalapeño.

Bonnie

South Africa Day 12: Board Shorts and Busy Ports

Oh, I forgot to tell you about dinner last night! It was soooooooo yummy. We went to this Italian restaurant called Mauro’s Restaurant in St Francis Bay. It is right in the harbour and serves some really tasty stuff and has a few speciality dishes.

The waitress there was great, and she took loads of time explaining the menu, their specialities and the specials they had on offer that day. I went for two of their speciality dishes, one which was a prawn soup (it was like a bisque with a mild curry flavour) and a scampi linguine, which came with tomatoes and a pesto sauce.



Both were beyond delicious, and I couldn’t fault either of them. They were both so flavourful and you could tell that some real time and effort had gone into making the dishes special and well balanced. If I ever come back to St Francis Bay, I will definitely be going there again. It doesn’t look hugely appealing from the outside, but I would advise you to look past this and go on in anyway. The owner of the restaurant (Mauro, funnily enough), came over and introduced himself to us at the end of the evening, and we had a good chat. He was half Austrian and half Italian, and had lived in South Africa since he was young, going back to Italy to train as a chef.

The next morning, I said goodbye to my room, which was about as close to the beach as you could get without being in a beach hut, and headed up to breakfast. I went for scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and tomatoes. I don’t think I have eaten this many eggs in my life, and I am probably on the verge of turning into a chicken any moment now (I think I can feel a beak forming).

We headed off towards Port Elizabeth after breakfast and noticed a sign for Jeffrey’s Bay on the way. We followed the signs for Jeffrey’s Bay because we had heard it was a good surfing spot, and we quite fancied watching a few surfers catching the waves. We got there, and it definitely has the surfer vibe. There are loads of guys around with sun bleached hair, in board shorts and bare feet (just what you want from a surfer, I think). We made our way to the beach, and there were about 30 kids all splashing about in the water. It looked like they were a class from a school as there were some teacher looking types on the beach with them (what a great school trip).

The beach at Jeffrey’s Bay is beautiful. It’s perfectly sandy and stretches on as far as the eye can see. We spotted some surfers up the way, so we ditched the shoes and the socks and made our way over to them.

There was a mix of guys and girls out there catching the waves. We stood there watching them for a while, riding the waves and falling in and doing tricks on their boards. There was one guy who was way better than the others, and he was doing some really cool tricks and running from one end of the board with another. I wish I was that athletic, and in my dreams this is how adept I will be at surfing when I have a go. In reality, however, I doubt I will even be able to stand up on the board for even a millisecond and will probably crash headfirst into the waves, if I can get anywhere near them.


Once we were done watching and I had had a paddle in the sea, which wasn’t anywhere near as cold as I had expected, we had a quick drink at a café and headed on our way to Port Elizabeth.


As we drove into Port Elizabeth, there didn’t seem to be a load of stuff here, and it was looking pretty industrial, which I guess is to be expected at a port! But it looked really busy, again, as I imagine a port should be. We found out hotel, which turned out to be pretty easy to locate, and we were shown to our rooms. I lucked out with a twin room, which was way bigger and much nicer than the double Gail and Les are in (heh, heh). It’s nice and noisy here and it sounds like a city. There is lots of beeping or car horns and shouting, which is making a nice change from the silence everywhere else.

It was dark by the time we got out for dinner and in the end, we settled for a Greek place called La Kouzina in Port Elizabeth, which turned out to be really nice. We shared starters of dolmades (vines leaves stuffed with rice), falafel and tzatziki and pita bread. The vine leaves were warmed through and they are a billion times better like that than they are cold. I ordered a mango daquiri, which was also really good. Often, I find daquiris can be a bit hit and miss, as a lot of the time they don’t get the ice smooth enough and it is way too lumpy, but this one was on point.

I had a main was good too; I had a wrap thing with chicken and hummus in it, which was tasty. I had another mango daquiri and I ended up finishing Gail’s second caipirinha cocktail (in which many lemons were harmed in the making of), and I was beyond full by the time I had sunk that. But I did it, not wanting to let a good citrusy cocktail go to waste. Because waste not, want not, right? I’m full of good deeds.

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 11: Elephant Sneeze and Weak at the Knees

Today was a real day of firsts. We had breakfast outside on the veranda at the lodge we were staying at and the monkeys were running around and trying to steal people’s food. There was this one monkey which jumped right on the table in front of this guy and he screamed like a complete girl and looked genuinely terrified, which I thought was tres amusant. The staff had a slingshot which they used to scare off the monkeys. Just one look at it and they were off like a shot, back into the trees.

We travelled back towards Tsitsikamma National Park and pulled in at the Elephant Sanctuary, The Crags on our way. We had heard some mixed reviews from people about this place. Some people had said it was amazing and they had had a wonderful experience there, and others had said they found it a bit depressing. Most of the people who hadn’t enjoyed it had already been on a safari and seen the animals in the wild. We have become savvy to this mistake, and we always leave things like safaris to the end of the holiday, because we know you can’t beat experiencing animals in their natural habitat. Anyway, it was an incredible experience.

There are two different packages you can do, one where you take a walk with the elephants and you get to learn all about them and feed them, and another, where you do all of those things and then get to ride an elephant at the end. We chose the option with the elephant ride, because how many people get to say they have ridden an elephant?!

We started off by taking a tour of the grounds and the guide showed us the area in which the elephants sleep (which is always open so they can come and go as they please), then we had a look at the space where the elephants get to roam around in the day. He said it wasn’t as big as they would like and there weren’t very many trees, so they took the elephants out into the bush on a regular basis so they could do all the things elephants like to do. All the elephants here had been rescued for one reason or another. Some of them didn’t have any tusks and some of them had had a portion of their trunks cut off (they assumed as a result of being stuck in snares).

We got to hold hands with the elephants and go on a walk with them. When I say hold hands, I mean my hand and the elephants trunk. The elephant I was walking with was the Matriarch, and she had no tusks, but her trunk was fully functioning. They walked a lot faster than I had expected and she ended up pushing me along because I was going too slowly so I had to speed up.

We walked through a bit of the bush and stopped in an area where the keepers explained about the elephants. We got to touch the elephants whilst the keepers explained about each individual elephant and told us loads of interesting information about them. One of the cool things I learned was that elephants cry when they are upset, angry and happy, just like humans do!

The elephant I was with kept sniffing my trainers, and I was convinced that my feet must smell or something. But the guy told me that they remember by smell and not by sight, so they spend a lot of time sniffing around new people, and that if I came back in 10 years-time, she would remember me.

We got to give them some food, and then the elephant I was with sneezed all over me. Yuck!!! I’m so glad I was wearing my sunglasses, because I got elephant snot all over them and I think I would have been blinded if I’d been hit in the eye [hilarious]. It was pretty icky, but then, how many people can say they have been sneezed on by an elephant?

We walked back to the area where they spend the day and we got to feed them all some pumpkin. I know elephants eat a lot, but I hadn’t really seen what that meant in action. They ate a whole massive bucket full of pumpkin when we got back and they were still after more! By the end of that I was completely covered in pumpkin and mud and elephant snot, but it was so worth it.

After that we got to have a ride on the elephants. This was a great experience and the guide who was on there with me explained even more about the elephants and how they had come to be here. Again, I was surprised at how fast they moved and you could really feel all their muscles working underneath the blanket we were sitting on. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it was going to be, and to be honest I have had worse journeys in cars!

 

All so soon, the experience was over and we were heading on our way. But not before purchasing something from the shop so we could further help the elephants. I now have a cute yellow enamel bowl with a pair of elephants on it, which I will be using to consume all of my food as soon as I get home.

 

After the elephant experience, it was on to the second experience of the day. Bungee jumping – eek! It was with Face Adrenaline at Bloukrans Bungy, which is a 216-metre-high bungee jump off of Bloukrans Pass bridge. It’s the world’s highest commercial bungee jump, and the highest jump from a bridge. It’s also the highest bridge in Africa. I have never done a bungee jump before, so I thought I might as well start out with the highest one.

It was me and 5 or 6 other guys, all of whom were German. We walked across a walkway underneath the bridge, and you could see beneath you the whole way down. Loads of people don’t even make it past that bit, so I was doing well so far. When you are up there, there are so many guys working the ropes and stuff, there are easily 10 of them up there. They play music when you are up there to keep you pepped up and to try and stave off any fear.

They put you in order and they strap your ankles up and get you ready for the jump. They check, check and re-check that you are strapped up properly and then it’s time to go. They are taking photos of you and filming you the whole time, so there is evidence of every part of your journey. They made a big show of checking my safety (I don’t know if this was because I was the only girl, but they definitely took longer over me than they did any of the others).

Because your ankles are strapped together, you have to hop to the edge of the jump platform supported by a couple of guys. Then you put your arms out to your sides like you are Christ the Redeemer and they count you down. 5,4,3,2,1 and jump. You have to bend your knees and push as hard and you can and jump out as far as possible. It’s the strangest feeling as you leap through the air, because at that moment you are completely weightless and your life is quite literally out of your hands. You free fall for 5 or 6 seconds, and you start to wonder if there is ever going to be tension on the cord as you plummet towards the bottom of the valley.

 

Looking concerned
Looking less concerned just before the jump

All of a sudden you feel the tension and you are on the recoil. You bounce up and down about 4 times, looking rather like a ragdoll, and then you hang there waiting for the guy to come and get you. You hang upside down for quite a while, spinning around, having no idea if anyone is coming to get you. Out of nowhere, a man’s butt appeared in my face and I was being pulled up into a seated position and being winched up.

 

Moi


When you get up there they unhook you and unstrap you and pull you up. My legs had gone all wobbly from the adrenaline and I could hardly walk when I got off. I’d gone completely weak at the knees! I would definitely do it again, it’s exhilarating and that moment of pure freedom and helplessness is worth its weight in gold; there is nothing else like it. I have some proper photos of my experience, but I can’t get to them at the moment – but rest assured I will be showing you them as soon as I can.

 

View from the top

Bonnie

South Africa Day 10: Crashing Waves and Close Shaves

It was a glorious day today; the sun was out and the weather was beautiful. We went up for breakfast and I had some boiled eggs (which I haven’t had for years) and an orange juice. Oh, and I found the resident kitty! Which made me happy as Larry. He was really old (17) and he meowed a lot which I loved, and we had a good chat.



I took a couple of photos of our villa in the sun, and the views from the veranda. I donned the dungarees, a white shirt and put my hair in space buns, and we headed out.

We drove into Tsitsikamma National Park and headed towards the Storms River Mouth. Here they have hiking trails you can walk along and there is one trail with suspension bridges you can walk across.

 

Having worked up a bit of a thirst, we stopped for a coffee at the restaurant there, and the coffee came in old fashioned enamel cups!

The restaurant was right by the sea, and there were some seriously big waves coming in and crashing against the rocks. The scenery was beautiful (I don’t think I’ve seen a bad view yet in South Africa).

We decided to go for the suspension bridge trail first. We walked up and up through the trees and there was loads of bird life flitting about around us and some great lookout spots along the way. We also found a couple of good spots to take some photos, and I ended up clambering up into a tree for a good pic. I almost ended up falling out because I put my hand down to steady myself on a branch that wasn’t attached, as it turns out. But I managed to grab on and save myself from any unfortunate mishaps – close shave! If I’d fallen out of that tree my pride would have been very much dented, and I probably would have landed on someone and squashed them, which would have been mortifying.

After about an hour we got to the suspension bridge and made our way across it. As per usual, on the suspension bridge, there was someone doing their best to rock it backwards and forwards to scare everyone (dick). Once they had stopped being an ass, we go across to the other side where there was a little pebble beach and some rocks.


I perched on the one of the rocks and we sat and looked out at the waves rolling in. Out of nowhere the waves started crashing against the bottom of the rocks we were sitting and the water came spraying up the side of the rock. There is a great picture of my turning round in shock to see the wave crashing up behind me.

We headed back across the bridge after taking a few more pics now there were a few less people on there, and headed back down the trail. We stopped for a quick snack and another drink at the restaurant and then headed towards another trail, which was a bit shorter. It was only a kilometre long, this trail, but it was a really steep ascent with hardly any steps. We were doing a lot of clambering over rocks and swinging around on bits of trees.

We got to the top of this trail and there was a great view of the ocean where you could sit and watch for whales. We wouldn’t have been able to see anything much because the water was so choppy, so we started out descent. We were supposed to walk alongside this waterfall, but as we got to it, you could hardly see it because the trees were obscuring the view, which was a bit disappointing. I trotted down the remainder of the trail and ran back to the car which was about a kilometre away. I collected the car and brought it back to Gail and Les, as they had been a bit behind me on the trail. Running in dungarees is distinctly harder than in your gym kit, which is hard enough as it is. Not going to lie – I got a proper sweat on.

We went back to Hogs Hollow Country Lodge and got ready for dinner. I wanted to get up there a bit earlier than we had the night before, as they served canapes before the meal and last night I only managed to get myself one canape, which is certainly not enough. We didn’t end up getting up there for dinner in time for me to get myself more than one canape [insert cry of anguish here]. I am determined to get at least two tomorrow, even if it kills me.

 

There were some new people at our communal dinner table and there was a couple from Aberdeen who had decent chat. I got talking to the husband and he seemed to take quite a shine to me and we had a really good conversation. He even showed me a video of some people bungee jumping off the bridge in Tsitsikamma National Park (which is what I am going to be doing tomorrow). And he jumped on the defensive when someone at the table said that young people can’t hold conversations anymore. Love this guy! It’s always nice when you get talking to someone you get on with and who clearly enjoys talking to you as well. The joys of the communal dinner table eh?

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 8: Almonds and Upgrades

We were moving on from Wilderness today to a place near Plettenberg Bay, called Hog Hollow Country Lodge, which is in The Crags. For breakfast, I went all out and had eggs benedict accompanied by chakalaka. I never usually have breakfast, so eating a full meal in the morning time is very rare for me, but I didn’t fancy any of the buffet options and I feel kind of weird not having anything, so I went for the eggs. It tasted very much like eggs benedict and it reminded me why I don’t have this kind of stuff in the morning; it’s just too rich and sickly. But it was still yummy.

We popped down the road to Knysna and stopped in a cute little coffee shop there, and low and behold, they had almond milk. I haven’t seen any option for soya milk or almond milk whilst I have been out here, so I have been drinking black coffee, which is fine, but I do so love almond milk. I was a very happy bunny, so much so that I even took a photograph of my almond milk latte.

We drove up to The Heads in Knysna, which had a view of the bay and you could see out to sea from there. We saw a tonne of different birds whilst we were walking around up there and we even saw a cute lil’ mousey thing.

 

After that we stopped off at Plettenberg Bay, where there really isn’t much to look at. So, we did what we usually do, and stopped for a coffee and a cake. In this coffee shop out waiter took quite a shine to me (for some unknown reason) and kept looking at me when he as attending to our table. He seemed really shy and he didn’t speak to me, but he kept looking up at me from under his eyelashes and then looking away embarrassed. If I am ever looking for a husband in South Africa I will make it my mission to find him.

We headed back to the car, and after a brief altercation with the parking attendant in very broken English and a torrent of Afrikaans, we were on our way. We haven’t had any trouble with any of the guys up until now. You give them a couple of Rand for looking after your car and seeing out of your parking space and you are on your way. But this guy clearly wasn’t happy with his payment and decided that he needed to shout at me and stick his head in through the car window. I don’t mind giving these guys a bit of change, but to complain that you haven’t received enough money for doing precisely nothing is a bit cheeky in my opinion. They wave you out of a space in which you could easily back an artic lorry out of.

 

We made it to Hogs Hollow Country Lodge, The Crags and we sat on the veranda and awaited our rooms having been provided with a glass of champagne each (don’t mind if I do). Whilst we were sitting there some Vervet monkeys came down and were running around us and chasing one another along the railings and over the canopy above us. As I had my champagne I hand, I didn’t manage to get any photos, but I will be rectifying this as soon as I can.

When it came to our room, it turned out we had been upgraded. This meant we were staying in The Villa. Now, The Villa is more like a mansion, it’s MASSIVE. It has its own pool, the kitchen is bigger than ours at home, the baths are pretty much swimming pools and it even has a pool table and a table tennis table. Pure madness. I’ll show you it on a nice day, rather than it on an overcast day; so here are some pics from the site. It is every bit as incredible as it looks.




The service here is amazing too. When we came back from dinner, someone had been in and turned down my bed, put a hot water bottle between the sheets and placed a bedtime story on my pillow. I thought I was going to pass out because it was so cute and thoughtful.

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 7: Chilled Vibes and Pizzas of a Serious Size

It turns out there isn’t that much to do in the area around Wilderness, but to be honest, I was quite pleased as I really wanted a chilled day. After breakfast overlooking the bay, we went for a walk along the beach. I probably didn’t choose the best outfit to go wandering along the beach in; a burgundy corduroy skirt, a shirt, tights and trainers.

It was also kind of overcast today, which was a shame, but you can’t be blessed with perfect weather the whole time you are on holiday! We walked down the steps to the beach and as we were nearing the bottom of the steps, I realised the steps were broken. When I say broken, I mean the bottom flight of stairs weren’t there. They just stopped and there was a drop of about a couple of metres. There was no way I was walking all the way back up to go down another set of steps, so I decided to jump off. This could have gone very badly on account of how clumsy I can be, but fortunately I managed this without too much trouble.

We set about walking along the beach, and I was looking for a good pebble to pick up. I normally look for a heart shaped pebble when I am at the beach, but these were all way too smooth and round. But I did find a pebble that is pretty much a perfect circle, so that is now safely stowed in my rucksack.

We got down to the end of the beach and climbed up a set of steps which were much better maintained, and ended up in what appeared to be someone’s garden. We walked along the road a bit hoping to see a town or somewhere to get a drink, but there wasn’t one, so we decided to head back down to the beach to walk back.


We were on top of a massive sand dune, which I ran down, ending up with about a kilo of sand in my trainers. Sigh. We walked all the way back and selected a set of steps which came all the way down to the beach and walked back up towards the hotel.

After I had emptied all the sand out of my trainers, we thought we would drive to Mossel Bay as the guide book had stated it was an up and coming area. We got there and up and coming it certainly was not. If this was up and coming, I dread to think of what it was like before. There was quite literally nothing there. We sat and had a coffee and whilst we were drinking our drinks we read a leaflet about things to do in Mossel Bay. It turns out there is an iron museum in Mossel Bay. As in ironing, as in laundry. What?! In the leaflet it said that is contained over 900 different irons, some of which are rare. There is even an exhibition displaying different washing machines and mangles. TO be quite frank, I would rather roll myself through a mangle than go and see that. A little disappointed, we made our way back to the hotel.

Seeing as it was only the afternoon, we thought we would head down to the spa. So, I donned a bikini. Shortly after, I remembered why I never wear a bikini. It’s actually not comfortable wearing an underwired bra posing as a swimsuit when you are trying to relax, and I always end up so conscious of tummy rolls the entire time I am wearing one. I know I’m not supposed to worry about it, but I definitely still do. Maybe every roll’s a goal? Maybe not. Probably not. Anyway, I wanted to go in the steam room and sauna but they were both closed. Grrrrr. Fortunately, the lady working in the spa turned on the steam room so we could go in there and we sat in the jacuzzi and bubbled around for a bit whilst we waited for it to heat up. After sweating out what I am pretty sure was all the water I had in my body, I exited said steam room and went to get ready for dinner.

We struck out for dinner and ended up in a little place in Wilderness Village, a place called Cocomo Restaurant. We went in there because it looked busy and it was absolutely rammed. It does live music every night and it does these amazing looking pizzas. These pizzas are basically the size of the moon. I have never seen pizzas this big in my entire life. They cook them in their own wood-fired pizza oven and they have a serious amount of topping on them, scrimp on topping they do not. I am not ashamed to say I ate the whole thing, not ashamed at all.

I shouldn’t have eaten it all, because it took me about an hour to get to sleep because I was so incredibly full. But I feel like it was worth it.

Bonnie

South Africa Day 6: Tall Tales and Beached Whales

Today we were travelling from Hermanus to a place called Wilderness. With no stopping, it would be about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from one to the other. We left the B&B at about 10am and headed towards Cape Agulhas, which is where the Indian and the Pacific oceans meet. It is the southernmost point of the continent of Africa, so it’s a pretty special place. We parked up and we decided to walk the rest of the way, which was just over a kilometre.

But first I needed a wee, so I made for the loo. As I walked into the cubicle, I realised someone had left their phone in there. So, I grabbed it and made my way back to the sinks to see if it belonged to anyone. Fortunately, the woman was still there and she was very thankful and thanked me for being such a kind stranger (yay for praise!), but then proceeded to ask me if I would put it in her bag and zip it up as her hands were still wet. I feel like this was a bit of a liberty to take, but obviously, I obliged because I am British and I couldn’t possibly refuse and run the risk of being seen as rude.

 

We started walking down the boardwalk to the most southern pointy bit of Africa. Some of the rock formations here were really cool and they were completely different colours. There were some light grey rocks and some dark brown rocks and some of them had orange bits in them. The views here were breath-taking, but it was also super windy here, so the weather didn’t lend itself to a selfie unfortunately (“how will we live without a selfie. Bonnie?!” I hear you cry).

When we got to the place, there was a prime photo taking spot where there was a sign which stated that this was the most southern point and where the two oceans met. We had to wait for a bit until it was our turn and I ended up having to take a few photos of people. I always end up being asked to take photos of people, I’ve been told it’s because I have an open face, but I actually think it is because they look at me and know that if I made a run for it with their camera, they would be able to catch me.

We took a few photos here and I clambered up onto the top of the rock the plaque was fixed to. It was pretty high and I really had to jump to push myself up on top of it. I got a little bit stuck and I looked like a beached whale rolling around on the top of this thing. But no matter, all in a bid to get a good pic (I’m not sure it was).


Then wandered up a bit and I clambered around on some of the rocks; because I can’t stop myself from doing childish things like that. Then, we turned back and headed towards the lighthouse.

After all that walking, we had worked up quite an appetite, and headed back towards the town to a little roadside restaurant we had spied on the way in. This place was basically a little shack on the side of the road, but it cooked your fish and chips to order. It was so yummy, the batter they put on the fish was super light, and the chips were just the best things. Needless to say, I ate the whole thing, to the point where I felt fit to burst.

All too soon we were back on the road and heading towards Wilderness. We drove for wat seemed like forever, through endless countryside and farmland and even through a township where all the kids waved at us as we drove though (so sweet). I got to the point where I was super tired from driving and I needed to pull over for a break. We stopped off in this tiny town where we couldn’t even find somewhere to get a coffee. Eventually we stopped to ask this guy who was standing by the side of the road and he very kindly invited us into his kitchen/museum/antique shop place.

 

I wish I could tell you the name of the place so you could all go and visit there. Not because the coffee was incredible or anything, but this guy was seriously good value. The amount of pure bullshit that he was spouting was absolutely incredible! I had to turn away and look at the wall to stop myself laughing out loud. The number of things this bloke had done in his life and the number of different jobs he had done, he would have had to have been about 150 years old to achieve all of this. He was telling us that he was training to be a pianist when he was scouted for his talent for opera. He supposedly trained as an opera singer and then lived in Milan for 7 years. My suspicions began to arise when he told us that he was fluent in Italian but could now barely even say hello in the language.

 

Next, he was telling us that he trained to be a chef in Italy, and then re-training in traditional South African cuisine when he got back to the country. He then went about telling us that he had a doctorate in speech therapy and he worked with the same group of eleven children from when they were two to sixteen. He gleefully told us that they had all finally learned the gift of speech around the time they were sixteen and he left them as they no longer needed him. I feel like he can’t have been very good at his job if it took him all that time to get them to speak. But then, I don’t have a doctorate in speech therapy, do I?

 

By far my favourite bit of this yarn he was spinning, was the bit at the end, where he was telling us that he was due to travelling to Milan to perform in an opera. In this opera, he would be accompanied by Andrei Rieu. I must have misheard, surely? Surely, he meant he would be accompanying Andrei Rieu? No, he didn’t. He is genuinely telling us that THE Andrei Rieu, was going to be accompanying him in an opera. Unbelievable. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my life as I did when I got back to the car. I had been holding it all in for so long and I couldn’t stop it any longer. I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. And then I laughed some more.

 

Eventually we made it to our hotel in Wilderness, which is really beautiful, and I found myself a chair suspended from the ceiling to sit in. I tried to fight the urge to swing in it, but I couldn’t, and soon I was swinging wildly about the place in my spherical seat. Les enjoyed giving me a bit of a push, and the highlight of the evening was when he went to put his phone in the inside pocket of his jacket and it fell all the way through. More laughter ensued (and much snorting) and I seriously got the giggles.  I think I had got a bit hysterical at this point.

Bonnie

South Africa Day 5: Whales Tails and Fails

Today we were going whale watching a few miles outside of Hermanus. We had to drive to the place in the morning for 9.15 am so we could get on the boat and go and see some marine life. Seeing as I was going on a boat, this seemed like the perfect time to don my nautical tee. I got this t-shirt from Primark for like £2.50 and it is white with blue anchors and tiny red hearts printed on it – super cute. Obviously, I teamed this with dungarees, and I went for white trainers and a white scrunchie (because I do so love colour coordinating).

We headed down to breakfast and the table was beautifully laid out (another shout out to Les Baleines bed and breakfast in Hermanus), and everything looked super scrummy. There was yoghurt already waiting on the table for us, and a muffin, granola and a piece of fruit each. I declined the yoghurt on account of the whole dairy thing, and Les quickly relieved me of the bowl. To make up for it I ate his granola out of the little jar and I ate Gail’s too. I inhaled my muffin too, which was really good and served in a tiny flower pot (appealing to my obsession with miniature things).

Soon we were on the road and heading towards our whale watching trip with Dyer Island Cruises. When we got there, we were greeted with coffee and muffins after we had signed in and paid for our trip. We were taken through a safety briefing, and we were also given a talk about the African Penguins on Dyers Island. Not so long ago, there was 23,000 penguins on the island, and now there are only about 2,000. This is due to the harvesting of the penguin guano from the island, which the penguins used to burrow down into to make their nests. The team at Dyer Island Cruises are doing some really cool stuff to help the penguins. They have devised some penguin houses which they make out of 100% recycled materials, which they put on the island for the penguins to nest in them. Apparently, the penguins love these things and they are desperate to get in there are soon as they can, and they are already carrying in twigs for their nests before the team have finished!

We got kitted out with a life jacket and a fetching orange waterproof jacket to keep off any spray, and we headed down to the launch point. I hadn’t realised that the boats were taken out of the water after they were used, so we got to watch the guys reverse the massive boat into the water on a trailer with a tractor and let her slip. We all got on and took our seats. Now, this boat had four 250 engines on the back of it, which had some serious oomph behind them. The second we were out of the harbour, we were going full throttle and absolutely flying over the waves. A few people got seasick, but fortunately I don’t get seasick like this. Put me on a boat in a force 8 and I’ll have no problem, but on the ferry from Dover to Calais I’ll get sick as a parrot – funny eh?

 

Sexayyyyyy

Not long after we got out to sea, we saw our first whale. It was a Southern Right whale, which gets its name from being in the Southern hemisphere and being considered the “right” whale to hunt. They were considered the best whales to hunt because they spend a lot of time near the surface, they move really slowly and they also float to the surface once they are killed. There’s a little fun/not so fun fact for you.

Hey girl

This whale was super chilled and she was lazing about and rolling around and laying on her back. She showed us her flippers and we chilled there with her for about half an hour.

 

Catch you on the flip side


Then, behind us there was a young male, who leapt out of the water and breached. I missed the first one (which was the best one) but I saw the next two which were slightly less enthusiastic. I managed to sort of get a picture of it.

After that, they spotted some more whales off in the distance so we headed over in that direction towards them. As the boat was moving away and we went over a wave I managed to lose my balance (the boat was barely moving) and I ended up kneeing a fairly hefty chunk of metal and I have a nice purple bruise on me knee – standard. The funny thing is, I actually pride myself on my sea legs and being good on a boat and not getting seasick. And there I am going arse over tit when we go over the tiniest wave known to man. Lets just say it caught me off guard okay? FAIL! Anyway, we moved over to the whales which had been spotted. At first there was just two, but then soon another pair appeared and all four of them were hanging out together. The spot where we saw the whales is a breeding ground, so I think they were there to make babies.

One of the females was diving and kept showing us her tail which I managed to get a few snaps of, which I am pretty pleased with! It’s so hard trying to judge where and when they are going to go down and come back up, so I had my camera at the ready the entire time and took so many photos – most of which I deleted because they were of precisely nothing because I had missed the good shot.

Once we were done with the whales, we left them to it and headed over to the Cape fur seal colony on Geyser Rock. There are 60,000 seals here so it was super noisy and busy (and seriously stinky).

Sealed with a kiss

They were all playing in the water around the rock when we got over there. They were splashing about and jumping out of the water and messing about with one another. There were some really little ones there as well, which were super cute.

All too soon we were on our way back to the harbour. We had been out for hours and hours, but I still didn’t want to go back. I love nothing more than seeing animals in their natural habitat and it was such an amazing experience.

 

Suns out, tongues out

After that, we had some soup and a bread roll at the place, then we were on our way back to Hermanus. It was still early in the day, so we went for a wander around the town and stopped for something to eat and drink in this cute little café called Aromatish Café and Bakery in Hermanus. They do the best looking cakes in there, and we had a milk tart, a slice of banting cheesecake and a carrot cake to share. Delicious doesn’t even describe it, particularly the banting cheesecake which I have never had before. It had an almond base to it, which is way better than the biscuit base on your standard cheesecake which I always leave.


Before we went bck to our B&B for the evening, we went down to the beach and had a drink in a beach bar type place called Dutchies which had been recommended by a few locals and then went for a paddle in the sea. Which was FREEZING, but it was fun running into the sea and then running away from the waves. It was like being a kid again – so freeing.

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 4: The Road to Hermanus

Today we are making our way from Cape Town to Hermanus via the coastal road. We went and dropped of our rental car from yesterday and picked up our rental car, which we will have for the next ten or eleven days. We were geared up for a difficult trip around the city, with my crappy map reading, but it actually wasn’t so bad. Everything is much easier in the day light and we recognised a lot of landmarks and road names as we were driving along. We stopped off at the first car rental place to drop off Gail and the luggage and paused to have another look at the map, to try and locate the second car rental place to drop the car off at.

The view from our apartment in Cape Town

The second we stop, that is when I lose my bearings on the map and start getting really confused. I have no idea which direction we are facing once we have stopped and the whole map thing makes even less sense to me than it did before. I try pointing the map in the direction we are travelling, but then I can’t read the road names and I start to get flustered – stupid illogical brain. But, as it so happens, the other car rental place was literally 100 yards from where we were. All we had to do was drive across the intersection. This was made much more difficult by a massive truck with a digger loaded onto the back of it, trying to make its way up this narrow road, and a very impatient Fiat Punto behind us.  After a tiny bit of gesturing and waving, we managed to free ourselves of the truck and angry Fiat man, and made it to the place to drop the car off.

We loaded all of our gear into the back of a Hyundai Tuscon and made our way out of Cape Town. At this point I feel the need to mention that I have never made it out of a city so easily, as we did Cape Town. It was really clearly signposted and once you were on the right road, you were out of the city in no time. As we started driving towards the coast, we headed past a few townships (which I love looking at). Townships are like shanty towns or favelas, for those of you that don’t know. And all the houses are made out of bits of corrugated tin and plastic and whatever else can be found. Soon we were driving down the coastal road, but it was a teeny bit overcast and everything was looking a bit grey.

After a failed attempt to find breakfast in Gordons Bay (which was basically a ghost town and made us feel super uncomfortable), we found somewhere to eat in Pringle Bay. We found a cafe with some seats outside and I settled for a rosti stack; which is posh for hash browns, bacon, tomato and omelette. But a glorious stack it was, and it certainly filled a hole.

Yummo!

The waitress who served us was really sweet and she was practising her English (she spoke Afrikaans) and she was telling us about a riot that was going on in a neighbouring town, which had meant some of the staff couldn’t get in today. We had to go through this town to get to our next destination. Gail wanted to find a route around it, whereas I wanted to drive through it so I could see what it was like (classic Bonnie). It was my turn to drive, so I decided we were going to drive through said riot town, so we could have a look.

As we were driving towards the town, we could see some smoke rising. It looked like there was either something on fire, or a very big chimney spouting a lot of smoke. As we drew closer we could see there were lots of smaller fires as well as this big one. It was difficult to see whether it was houses that had been set on fire, or just fires that had been built, as it was up on a hill. As we got into town there were loads of police blocking off the main road and the fire engines were on standby. We had to bypass the main road and weave our way through the back streets to make it out of the town.

Once we were out of the town we headed towards Betty’s Bay. As we were getting closer to it we started seeing some signs for penguins. Yay! Another penguin colony! I followed the signs and we entered the bay where the penguin colony is. It was much smaller than the penguin colony at Boulder’s Bay and the penguin colony at Betty’s Bay was infinitely better in my opinion. The jackass penguins at Betty’s Bay were much closer and there were hardly any people there, so you could take all the time you wanted to look at them and take photos. The colony of African Penguins at Betty’s Bay was about a quarter of those at Boulder’s.



We wandered up the viewing platform and we came across one little guy right next to the walk way. I could have reached out and touched him, and I was desperate to, but I stopped myself. Knowing that A) he would have bitten me, and B) you shouldn’t touch them.

So cute

I took about a thousand photos of this little penguin and had a long conversation with him about the price of fish. Well, more just the random rambling (normally) one sided conversations that I have with animals I come across.

That face tho

After I had my fill of the penguins we started heading back to the car and we saw a dassie, which is like a big rodent thing and looks kind of like a guinea pig. This little guy was clearly in need of a back scratch and kept rolling around on his back. He looked so funny and it made me laugh like a complete idiot (checkout my Insta to see a video here).

Jus’ chillin’

After that we whizzed all the way to Hermanus without any stops and located Les Baleines bed and breakfast after much driving around. This bed and breakfast in Hermanus is all kinds of beautiful. The rooms are gorgeously decorated and the bathroom is incredible. It’s worth staying a little outside of the town for such an amazing place. For dinner, we went to Burgundy restaurant on Marine Road. It had been recommended by the staff at the B&B and in a couple of the guide books too. The food was incredible. End of. We started off with some homemade bread which was sweet and full of seeds and nuts, and I had a main course of bobotie which is a kind of curry with an egg topping. I had the veggie version which was made with lentils and came with pumpkin fritters. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Bonnie

South Africa Day 3: Cape Point, penguins and pics 

Today we were travelling down to Cape Point by car, and for that, we needed to hire a car. Last night we had asked the lady at the front desks to arrange us a hire car, but when we came down the next morning it seems she had forgotten, so we had no hire car. Great. We thought it might be a good idea but o see if we could pick up our hire car for the next leg of our journey a day early.
Turns out, this was not a good idea. It took the woman at reception FOREVER to sort this out with the car hire company, and then we got told we couldn’t have the car until 2 pm, which the woman said yes to without asking us. Clearly 2pm would have been way to late, considering at this point it was 8.30 in the morning. We asked her to cancel that (which she looked less than pleased about) and set about arranging a separate car for us to hire for the day. There were no cars left with the same company, and she had clearly had enough of our unreasonable demands at this point, so she put us in a taxi and sent us on our way to hire a car from Thrifty.

When we got to the place, it was closed. I like to think that she knew it was shut and the place had moved units and she just sent us there to mess with us, but we will never know the answer to that. The note on the door pointed us towards another unit, but having no idea where that was, we were a bit stuck. Fortunately we managed to wave at our taxi driver before he made it round the corner and he came back and picked us up and very kindly dropped us where the car hire place were operating from for free. What an amazing bloke, whoever you are, I salute you and I am forever in your debt.

By the time we got to the car hire place it was about 10 o’clock and all of the hire cars had gone. Winner! (that was sarcasm by the way) and we were stuck with a pretty pricey Mercedes hatchback. We couldn’t work how to out the blasted thing in drive, so we had to call the guy back out to show us, which he looked terribly amused about. Eventually we were away and driving. It took us a little bit of time to figure out where we were on the map, not helped by the fact that the scaling in the map was way off and you were looking for a road that you had actually gone past 2 minutes ago. We managed to get out, and soon enough we we’re heading down the road to Cape Point after only a tiny family argument in the car.

We drove back towards Hout Bay, where we had been the day before and decided to stop for some breakfast. Just before Hout Bay we spied this busy looking little cafe called Ta-Da, so we went in there. It was full of people and had an amazing vibe and an even more amazing breakfast menu. This place was basically like a shack on the side of the road, with wooden benches out front. I settled on a French toast combo, with fried banana, bacon and syrup – which was all kinds of yummy.

All kinds of yum in my tum

We sat there and watched some kids climbing around in the trees, in what was a beautiful Sunday morning and after a while we went on our way, but not without a trip to the loo first.


Cape Town is experiencing a major drought at the moment, hence the sign, but it made me laugh and I do love having something torrid on the back of the toilet door. We carried on driving down (or up? Not sure) the coastal road, stopping at view points along the way to take in the scenery and get some pics.

View looking back to Hout Bay


After a couple of hours we made it to The Boulders where they have a colony of penguins you can view. Now, I love me a penguin, they are so cute the way they waddle and they look like little old men. The viewing platform was chocca with tourists, but I still managed to get some decent pics and a selfie, of course. We spotted another viewing platform, so we made our way back the way we had come and around to the other platform.

Many mini penguins
Many mini penguins avec moi

On the way we saw some penguins chilling in the bushes with their babies. Amusingly one of the penguins tried to bite Gail when she was crouched down trying to take a photo of it.



We stood and watched the penguins on the beach for a bit, the best bit is when they try to walk up the beach after coming out of the water and a wave creeps up behind then and knocks them over, so cute!


After we’d had out fill of penguins, we carried on towards Cape Point. Along the way there warnings about baboons on the side of the road, so by the time we got to Cape Point I was dying to see one, and I wasn’t disappointed! We saw some adult ones jumping from car to car, and I saw a little one messing around with a car arial, who posed for a nice photo for me, before he started scratching his ear.

Baby baboon

We started walking up the hill to Cape Point, I quickly dismissed the funicular railway because I like to think I am a hardy, athletic type [insert laughing, crying emoji here] and I started ploughing my way up the hill, leaving Gail and Les in my wake and narrowly avoiding some baboons who came pelting towards me.


After clambering up what felt like a million steps, we made it to the to of Cape Point, whilst catching our breath and mopping our brows, we looked out over the water and took the opportunity to take some photos. Then we started heading back down the steps, which I personally find worse than walking up, as it’s pretty hard on the knees.