A surprise trip to… Paris!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will tomorrow bring?

Bonnie

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To Brighton and Back

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Bonnie

Madrid Part 2: dining conceptually

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Someone looks pleased with their candy floss…

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

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

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

Bonnie

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

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

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

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Basic bitchin’ it with my Aperol Spritz

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

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

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Not my most flattering angle…

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

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

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If there be tapas, I be smilin’
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BEAUT

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

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

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Hot stuff

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

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

Bonnie

St. Lucia Day 9: the finale

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

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Soufriere from above

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

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

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Final view from the hotel

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

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

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Not my calabash pic

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

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

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

Bonnie

Fave pics from the holiday:

St. Lucia Day 8: Prince Charles’ choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

St. Lucia Day 7: low-flying bananas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marigot Bay

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

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

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Bonnie

St. Lucia Day 6: wet Wednesday

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

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Double parked hun?

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

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

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It’s fashion, look it up

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

So chill

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

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

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

Such a lady

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

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

Bonnie  

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

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

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

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

The Cloon’s room? Maybe?

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

Room with a view… and a plunge pool

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

Werk it gurl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rare hover dolphin

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

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

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

Excuse the terrible hair

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

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

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

Bonnie

St. Lucia Day 3: alarmingly tricky hike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

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

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

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

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

Little shite…

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

Bird for breakfast anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

St. Lucia, Day 1: fire towels

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

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

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View from the hotel

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

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

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

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A moodier view from the hotel

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

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

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Such a cute room

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

Bonnie

Another day, another slice o’ pie

23rd June

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

Couple of baldies

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

BFTs: Big Fuckin’ Trees

22nd June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

A sweaty selfie looks less than healthy

21st June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

Pickle spears and little deers

19th June

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

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

20th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

Did you hear the one about the bear?

18th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

Today, ft. more driving ‘n’ wind.

17th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

Having your arm in the socket is overrated

15th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

Chilly feets and gnarly eats

14th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

A lazy day and school bus suppers

13th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

“You’re bringing the Arctic Circle into disrepute”

11th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

A rare moose sighting

10th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

No Sourdough Sourdough Joe’s

9th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

It’s Mine Time

8th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

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

7th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

On the way to Whitehorse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

Watching Whales in Vancouver

5th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I LOVE WHALES!!

Bonnie

R.I.P Dungarees: Squamish and Horseshoe Bay

4th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

Getting lost on the way to Granville Island

3rd June

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

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

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

Granville-Island Market

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

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

Stanley Park.jpg

stanley-park-seawall

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

Totem poles, Burnaby Mountain

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

Bonnie

The Holiday Begins: Canada

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

 2nd June

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

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

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

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

Bonnie

South Africa Day 20: Elephant Fights and Hyena Bites 

First thing we saw today were a couple of giraffes having a cuddle. I’m sure they weren’t really having a snug, but that’s what it looked like to me, so that’s what I’ll say they were doing. Anyway, it looked CUTE, with their necks kinda twisted together.

We were out looking for a leopard today. There had been some sightings, and we were combing the area looking out for those beautiful spots. The other guests who were in the truck with us hadn’t seen a leopard yet, and they hadn’t done any other game drives, so the ranger was trying his best to find one.

We found some more elephants. There were two young boys play fighting with one another, which was so cool to see. I’d never seen them do that in real life – they were just like human teenage brothers! They were pushing and shoving each other and one of them turned and ran into the bush, swiftly followed by a tusk in the rump from his playmate.



They thundered off into the trees and we could hear them messing around in there; crashing into trees and crashing into each other it seems. There was a little one in the herd who was just staring to learn to use his trunk to strip leaves from branches. It was so endearing watching him learning. Struggling to control his trunk and tackle the branches, was just CUTE. They are so like humans in so many ways.

We stumbled upon a hyena laying out in the open. He was so chilled, and it turns out he wasn’t far from their den – so it looked like he had been kicked out. Maybe he came home late or something and Mrs Hyena wasn’t happy? Who knows!



Not long after that, we got a call telling us there were some hyenas feeding on a baby giraffe. They couldn’t tell whether the hyenas had taken down the giraffe themselves or whether they had snaffled it off of a leopard. Poor little giraffe. But that’s life I guess – and it’s interesting even if it is a bit horrible, so we decided to head over there to take a look.

On our way over there we hit a roadblock, a giraffe roadblock. There were 6 giraffes standing in the road in front of us, and more to the left and the right of us. They were non-movers.


We had to wait until the one at the front decided they were going to follow the rest of the group, and ran towards us and went to our left. Soon the others followed suit and the road was clear. These guys were probably the group that the little one was taken from – which would explain why they were acting kinda strangely.


We got to where the hyenas were feeding on the baby giraffe and they were all laying around on the ground. Their tummies were so full that they couldn’t get up, they looked like they had swallowed footballs! They were fit to burst, and all they could manage was to lift their heads and glance at us when we arrived.

Look at that tum

 

They soon lost interest in us when the pups arrived and started squabbling over the remains of the giraffe. Mum had to wade in, and one of the little ones didn’t take kindly to her interference and started trying to bite her ankles – which was hilarious to watch. He was snapping and snarling at her as she tried to stop them arguing with one another.



This was a really nice sighting for our last one of our holiday. We have been really lucky with everything we have seen. Seeing the Big 5, then the Super 7 and only being one off seeing the Dangerous 9. All we need to do is stumble upon a Nile crocodile and we will have a full set (somehow, I don’t think that is likely). Some of the sightings we have had of these animals have been one of a kind and once in a lifetime kind of sightings. They haven’t just been glimpses of tails and ears in the bush, 300 metres away. We have seen animals up close and doing their thing. Which is beyond amazing.

I am really going to miss waking up each morning and seeing all these amazing animals. Going back home and opening the curtains to the odd one-legged pigeon and urban fox rummaging through a bin, isn’t quite the same. I’m sad to leave. I’m really, really sad to leave.

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 19: Lions Sleeping and Hippos Creeping 

We are at a new place now, which is a lodge rather than a camp. I have to say, I much prefer the camp. There were loads less people and the whole experience was much more personal. We got here yesterday afternoon, so we had a game drive in the evening. I got a really good photo of a giraffe as the sun was going down, with the last of the sunlight on his face.

We also saw a hyena going down to the water to drink, which was pretty cool. I hadn’t seen one in the light yet. There was a hippo in the water, and they are super territorial, and as soon as the hyena had started drinking, the hippo was on its way over to it.

It got closer and closer to the hyena, until the hyena decided it was time to scoot off, well out of the reach of the hippo. It sauntered off up the bank and disappeared into the bush.

The next morning, we were out nice and early, and the first thing we saw was a hyena. They aren’t usually out and about at this time, so it looked like she was coming back from a hunt. Kind of like a “morning after the night before” thing.

We saw some more white rhino, which were lazing about and chilling. After our rhino encounter, we saw some elephants, and there were little babies! I don’t know what it is about baby elephants, but they are so endearing.



Just as we were heading back to the lodge, we found some buffalo. This now means I have officially seen not only the big 5, but the super 7 too! There were about 150 buffalo in the herd, and we watched them for a while.

It was interesting to watch the birds on the buffalo picking off the ticks and parasites from them. Their bright red beaks stand out against the brown of the buffalo.

Buffalo weren’t as ugly as I thought they would be, and their horns reminded me of an old fashioned Swiss milkmaid.

That afternoon, the first animals we happened on were a group of lesser mongoose. I love these little guys, as the interact with each other constantly. They are always chattering away and playing. Pulling each other’s tails, chasing after one another and engaging in a bit of rough and tumble.


We saw another hippo in a watering hole, and a giraffe came down to drink at the edge. It isn’t often you see a giraffe drinking and it was cool to watch the way they have to splay their front legs so they can reach the water.


Both hippo and giraffe kept a beady eye on one another, but there was no aggression shown by the hippo. I guess this must be because the giraffe doesn’t really pose a threat.



Just around the corner from these guys, were some lions. Yay, more cats!!! There were a few females and a male.

I still can’t get over just how much they are like out domestic cats at home. They do all the same things, and it’s so cute to watch.



Watching them stretch out and move around is beyond enjoyable. They all had a good wriggle and stayed dozing in the last of the afternoon sun.

Bonnie

South Africa Day 18: Elephants from the Shower and Cheetah Power

After yesterday’s game drive, some elephants visited my tent. Eek! As it happened, I was in the shower. The showers have glass doors which look out into the bush, so, if an animal happens to wander by, you can see them whilst you are having a shower. An elephant walked past, just as I was rinsing the conditioner out of my hair. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Do I run for the camera? Do I just carry on washing my hair?? Do I just stroll out there naked??? Who knows.

In the end, I grabbed a towel and wrapped it round me, and walked onto the veranda, dripping with water, to watch the elephant go about its business. It wandered on by, and went to find some food down the other end. I was just about to get in the shower when another elephant appeared. I wasn’t going to let this one go without a photo, so I grabbed the camera from inside.

The elephant walked down towards me, stopping to snack on some leaves and things as it went. I think it stopped to look at me for a bit, we made some pretty intense eye contact, and then the elephant wandered on by.

Another one came down, and the same thing happened, but there was less pausing this time. I guess because the other ones had proved it was safe to come through, so the elephant didn’t feel the need to eye me up in such great detail.

That afternoon on the game drive, we also saw rhinos. I’m not going to put any photos on here, because of the whole poaching sitch, and I don’t want to be the person that hashtags it on Instagram and points poachers in the right direction.

But we saw white rhino and we saw black rhino too. Funny story actually, we had seen the white rhino and we were driving off to our next port of call. I just happened to look over my shoulder, and I saw some rhino running along behind us. I had just assumed they were the same ones, so I didn’t say anything, and as it happens, the girl behind me in the truck saw them too and we both thought the same. It wasn’t until one of the guys told us what we were looking for, that we both piped up and said we had seen them.

The guys practically had their jaws on the floor, and I don’t think they believed us at first. But low and behold, there they were. Cool little fact about the rhinos, they are actually called wide lipped and hook lipped. It is thought that the Afrikaans word for wide was accidentally mistranslated to white, and from then on, they were called black and white. Another theory, is that because the black rhino is so aggressive, people thought it had demons in it, and it was possessed. And that the black and white thing was a bit of a ying/yang concept.

 

The next morning was out last game drive here in Thornybush game reserve, and I will be really, really sad to leave the Chapungu camp. As it was the last day, we decided to go searching for the final thing on our list; cheetah. The last cheetah sightings were way down in the south of the camp, literally as far as you could go. It was going to be a really long drive there to try and find these guys.

We drove for what seemed like forever. We stopped for a coffee and a leg stretch at a watering hole with some hippos in it. I was about half way through my coffee, when Jacques (the ranger) herded us into the truck and packed all of the coffee stuff up. We were driving at the speed of light, bouncing over the bumps in the road and narrowly avoiding thorny trees and branches. We slowed down and approached another truck which was stopped on the side of the track.

On our left-hand side was a female cheetah, making her way along through the bush. Shortly followed by 4 cubs [insert major heart explosion here]. These little ones weren’t even 2 months old yet, and they were still sooooooo teeny.



They are heart meltingly cute. They little tails stick up in the air when they run and they are so fluffy. They were all bounding around and playing with each other, just like little kittens. They were scrambling up trees, pushing each other out of them, and clambering back up again. They break my heart. It’s like they hold actual power over me.



We couldn’t get close because they were so small, and the guys don’t disturb them when they are that little. But just seeing them playing with each other, was enough to seal the deal for me, and ensure that I would definitely be coming back here again.

I didn’t want to leave the camp, I’ve had such a wonderful time there. I just wish I could stay on forever. It’s the best place.

Wildlife seen today:

  • African fish eagle
  • Elephant
  • Hippo
  • Cheetah – mummy and cubs
  • Banded mongoose
  • Nyala
  • Kudu
  • Impala

Bonnie

South Africa Day 17 (AM): Elephant Herd and Cats that Purred

We were up and away quickly this morning and out looking for a leopard. The guys were determined to find one this morning, and I think they were willing to go on all day to look for one of these elusive cats. We started off where we had lost the male leopard last night, and spotted a couple of warthogs on the way, having a munch.

It turns out, he is new to the area and hasn’t quite established a territory yet, so he is keeping himself to himself. We followed some tracks, but they disappeared across some hard ground, and we couldn’t see which way he had gone from there.

We drove down the riverbed looking for more tracks. It seemed that the leopards had been out in force this morning and there were loads of calls on the radio for leopard tracks leading in every direction. Out of nowhere, we were racing down the riverbed. Someone must have heard something on the radio! A leopard had been spotted, and the guys weren’t taking the chance of a leopard eluding us again.

You could tell how excited the guys were, and we raced towards where this leopard had been spotted. We rounded the bend and you could see her. Wow. She was so gorgeous. And accompanied by her 6-month-old male cub. OMG!! I nearly had a heart attack there in my seat. I love cats at the best of times, but these kitties are so beautiful. The markings on them are out of this world and the way they move and act just makes me want to explode, they are just like kitties at home, just bigger, and so beautiful.

 

Cub left, mummy right

The little one was feeling playful and affectionate this morning, and he kept walking in front of his mum and brushing up against her. He was stopping her to try and get her to play, but she wasn’t having any of it.

He was bounding around, just like a little kitten. Playing with things on the ground, running up trees, and generally making a nuisance of himself. They were chatting with one another and you could hear the little one calling and purring to his mummy.

He started jumping around in the trees and trying to jump on his mum. This made my heart MELT.


His mum stopped and he carried on walking, he had spotted a bird up ahead. He made a good job of stalking this bird, but to no avail, as it flew off as he was about to pounce. Mum looked on in amusement.

It was time to make ourselves scarce and leave these two to it, so we headed off in the direction of some elephants. We drove into the riverbed and waited. One elephant appeared and made its way up the bank.

 

Little and big

The another one appeared, and another one and another one. They were all sliding down the bank on the left-hand side, and walking back up the bank on the right-hand side to feed.



There were lots of mummies with their babies. They looked so funny when they were trying to slide down the bank after their mums; we even saw one sliding on its bum.



One even trumpeted at us and tried to charge at the vehicle. He was a boisterous little one and he ran off to wreak havoc and bother the other little elephants.



There was one female digging for water in the river bed, the dug down far enough and was drinking water from the hole she had made. Her baby then came to try and get some water, its trunk was too short and the little one ended up having to get in the hole to get something to drink. Sooooooo cute!!

In total, there were about 30 elephants in this group. We didn’t count them exactly, but there in front of us, we counted 20 and a few had already wandered past and were straggling behind.

On the way back we saw some more zebras who looked like they were cuddling. They were actually grooming each other’s backs and getting the spots they couldn’t reach by themselves. Apparently, they sleep this way sometimes, and it’s kind of like a combination of a pillow and “I’ll watch your back, you watch mine” situation.

We saw a few vervet monkeys in a tree and a huge male kudu, just as we pulled into the camp.



Wildlife seen today:

  • Warthog
  • Giraffe
  • Impala
  • Nyala
  • Kudu
  • Leopard – mummy and cub
  • Elephant
  • Zebra
  • Vervet monkey
  • Baboon
  • Steenbok
  • Dwarf mongoose

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 16 (PM): Elusive Cats and Flying Hats

We’d had some lunch and chilled for a bit, and whilst we were sitting at the lodge some ngala came up really close to us and were eating some of the vegetation nearby. These creatures are so sweet and they have such endearing faces and eyes.



The wind was still up and it was looking fairly overcast, plus it was quite chilly. We went out to see if we could see a leopard. Victor (the tracker), or Uncle Vic as he is affectionately known as, found tracks of a female leopard. We couldn’t quite tell where she was headed, but he made a guess and we scouted about for a bit, but didn’t see anything. He guessed that he had probably headed off in a particular direction, and we would come back later to see if we could find her.

We saw a few giraffes on the airstrip, which was cool. Apparently, they are a nightmare when light aircraft come in to land and the guys need to clear the runway. The giraffes come straight back onto the tarmac as soon as they are shooed off and they have to be kicked off again.

There wasn’t much to see this evening as it was still windy and it makes the wildlife go to ground as they can’t hear and smell as effectively. We drove around for a while following various tracks of various animals, and came up with nothing. We were trucking steadily along when I happened to look up at something which had caught my eye (I assume it was a bird) and my hat flew off. Rats! I wouldn’t have worried about it, but it was brand new and I was using it to try and protect my face a bit from the windburn that was removing my top layer of skin. We skidded to a halt and the hat was retrieved, in one piece, but somewhat dusty.

We headed to a small body of water, where we managed to see some hippos. Hippos are the most dangerous animals by far in Africa, particularly when it comes to humans. They are exceptionally territorial, and if you get to close or upset them too much, they will try to kill you. They don’t eat meat at all, but they don’t think twice about getting rid or something causing them bother.

Classic hippo yawn

 

The guide told us a story about an impala he had seen running away from some wild dogs. The impala had tried to swim across the water, but the wild dogs had met it at the other side. It tried to swim back, but the hippos had had enough, and killed the impala right there in the lake. They then wandered off to the other side of the water. This goes to show how angry they can be.

We also saw a tawny eagle standing at the edge of the water, taking a drink.

We trucked on for a bit and came across some wildebeest running around madly in a clearing in the bush. They were playing and chasing after one another, and kicking up quite some dust. They kept running around in circles and butting in to one another, it was really funny to see. We also spotted some hyenas running down the road and they crossed in front of us. We suspected they were heading towards the giraffe upon which we had seen the vultures feeding earlier.

We followed the hyenas, but as soon as we got back to the giraffe, we got a call on the radio about the leopard we had been tracking earlier. It turns out she had done exactly what the guys had thought she would do, but we had missed it. We raced in the truck to see if we could make it to the area before she disappeared (having to dodge a few bushes along the way), but we missed her, and she disappeared into the thick bush. Damn.

After that, we got another call from one of the guys saying that a male leopard had been sighted next to the airstrip, so we went that way as fast as we could. By now, you could feel the guide and the tracker getting frustrated, we had been after a leopard all day and we hadn’t managed to see one. As we got to the area where the leopard was sighted, we couldn’t see anything. He’d slipped into the bush and the guys were struggling to locate him in the dark, and the dense thicket. All of a sudden, we managed to catch a glimpse of the male leopard, winding his way through the undergrowth, but it was only for a second. Just enough for me to recognise that it was a leopard.

We’d lost him again and we really couldn’t see him this time. In multiple locations, we tried navigating through the bush using the truck. We came crashing over fallen trees and poor Victor on the front was having to fend off the branches and thorns like a madman, practically bending over backwards and laying on the bonnet to avoid being attacked by a tree. I came a-cropper on a number of branches, including one which decided to spear my hood and strangle me a bit.

It started raining, and it was decided it was time to head back to camp. You could feel the guys were raging about having not been able to see the leopard, and were upset that they hadn’t been able to show us. The elusive leopard strikes again! Funny, considering they are the most abundant cat in the area. But you don’t get to be the most abundant cat in the area for nothing. To be honest, I think we all thought it was a great laugh crashing through the bush and getting impaled with branches. Well, I did anyway.

 

Wildlife seen this afternoon:

  • Giraffe
  • Hippo
  • Tawny eagle
  • Wildebeest
  • Spotted eagle owl
  • Hyena
  • Leopard (briefly)

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 16 (AM): Excited Rangers and Cheetah Wagers

We had a 5 am wakeup call this morning. When I say wakeup call, I mean someone came and knocked on the door of my tent to make sure I was awake. At 5.30 am we had coffee and rusk (which is a little bit like biscotti in the sense that is hard and best dipped in your hot drink), up at the lodge, and we jumped in the truck and we were on our way.

The guys had been hearing some interesting stuff on the radio last night, and we were in for a long and fast drive, to try and see something special. They wouldn’t say what it was, because they don’t want to disappoint you when you can’t see what they were looking for, but they were clearly buzzing about it and were super excited. I had my suspicions it was a cheetah, whereas Les thought it was a rhino… we will see!

We saw some zebra on the way, which the guy called pyjama donkeys (such a good name). Zebra are so vibrant in comparison to the other animals in the bush, and once you have spotted them, they really stand out against the background… If you can spot them in the first place!


We then spotted some elephant in the bush, it looked like there was only one or two about. The guys wanted to keep on trucking to catch up with whatever we were chasing, so we left the elephant and carried on. At about 7.45 we got to what we were looking for – a pack of wild dogs, amazing! Apparently, these guys haven’t been seen for in ages, they have been up in the northern area for a long while and this is the first time they have come back south in a long time.

 

Mummies and daddies

They need an area of around 20 hectares in which to hunt, and they have the highest success rates of all predators. Some packs of wild dogs have a hunt success rate of 97 percent, how good is that?! They have incredible stamina, and they work together to run their prey down. The lead dog follows the animal they are chasing, and the others work to cut the prey off on the left or right-hand sides. They also use slipstreaming to help conserve some energy, and the lead dog switches over with one behind, to give itself a break.

 

Puppies!

There were a group of 6 adults and 7 pups. They had started off the season with 12 pups, so they have had a better than 50% survival rate, which is really good. They were so sweet, with their giant ears and all laying on top of one another in a big bundle. They were beyond cute.

 

Puppies! Puppies!

We started off on the chase after the thing we were originally chasing, but over the radio the guide had heard no trace of the animal we were after, and seeing as it was another hour away and the wind was getting up, he decided not to continue going after whatever it was. We had the fortune of coming across a mummy giraffe and her baby, alone in the bush. The baby giraffe was less than a week old and he was still unsteady on his legs and was sticking close to his mum.


This little one was so beautiful, and I could have spent all day watching him. His legs were all gangly, and he looked so ungainly when he was running to catch up with his mum who had crossed the road. They are such wonderful creatures, and the height of them just seems impossible.

Running to mummy


We drove down a bit further and saw another, slightly older female, who was expecting a little giraffe, or “carrying”. She was very tall and she had beautiful markings, which were so different from the giraffe before.

We saw an eagle in its nest in the top of a tree, and then we spotted an elephant. And then another elephant. And then a whole herd of them!

There was a little one too, who trotted across in front of us. They are so sweet and they always look like they are smiling and happy.

There was a young male who flapped his ears at us and trumpeted. The males stay with the herd until they are about 22 years old, after which, they get pushed out by the females to go it alone.

A young female legged it across on front of us, and I got some great photos of her in action, with her ears flapping and her tail swinging around.

We watched them roaming around in the bush for a while and doing their thing, then carried on up the road. We saw a female lioness with her two cubs, a boy and a girl, who were about 6 months old.

They were laying out in the open because it was windy, and this gives her better visibility and makes it easier for her to protect them when she can’t hear as well. These guys “belonged” to the male lion we saw yesterday. It turned out, he was just around the corner, and was fast asleep in the grass.

He has a big gash on his leg (which looks worse than it is), but it is taking a long time to heal because he is travelling so much.

They guys took us to a giraffe which had passed away from natural causes (a big male), and it was surrounded by vultures. They were stripping the meat from the carcass and fighting with each other. The giraffe had only been there for a day and a half, and it was already pretty much gone.

 

Gruesome eh?

The vultures make such a racket, and they bicker with one another constantly, and I can’t say they are the most attractive of birds. They don’t have any feathers on their necks like the long ones on the rest of their body; this is so that they don’t get covered in animal innards when they are scavenging inside a carcass.

We saw a few warthogs and I managed to get a really good photo of a hornbill, who had been proving difficult to get a good snap of.

Considering this was all between 6 and 10 o’clock in the morning – I think we did pretty damn good. Oh, and it turns out that the animal they were looking for this morning was a female cheetah and her cubs. Ousshhhhh – I win the wager!!

Wildlife seen today:

  • Kudu
  • Impala
  • Ngala
  • Zebra
  • Eagle
  • Vervet monkey
  • Wild dogs
  • Giraffe – mummy/baby/lone female
  • Elephant – herd/lone male
  • Lion – male/female/cubs
  • Vultures
  • Warthogs

 

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