The Beast From The East

On the first day of snow, all adult Brits wake up with an overwhelming sense of excitement. We all have nostalgic thoughts of when we were teens or kids, numb to the cold weather, and would spend all day rolling around in the snow. I hate snow, and even I had a moment this week, looking at the unspoilt blanket in the street, thinking that I might want to build a snowman. I didn’t in the end, primarily because I hate snow!

If you are living in the UK, I bet you’re sick of hearing about The Beast from the East and Storm Emma. Roads have been blanketed, trains have been cancelled, flights have been grounded, and schools have been shut. Temperatures have dropped to -12 and some areas of the UK have been given a red warning by the Met Office, as the storm has caused a risk to life.

Despite the festive fascination we have with snow, we aren’t as prepared for extreme weather conditions as other countries because, quite frankly, we don’t have them all that often. Unfortunately, not only has the landscape frozen, life in Britain has frozen too.

For the past three days, I’ve been working from home, marking exams and planning lessons. I’ve tried to catch up on some house work. I’ve also caught up on some TV shows. But what I can’t seem to forget is just how behind I’ll be when I get back to work next week. I doubt I’m the only one feeling this way. A number of non-essential operations in hospitals have been cancelled, and therefore need to be caught up. People who haven’t been able to (or haven’t wanted to) leave home haven’t gone to shops, or restaurants, or attractions, which ultimately means businesses don’t make a profit.

I hope that this extreme weather lets up soon; I feel a bit like a prisoner in my own home.

What have you all been doing this week? Let me know in the comments section!

30 Minute Chill Skills

Hi lovelies!

This is my first, official post with my new focus. From now on, I’m going to be writing about the Time Strapped element of the blog, rather than the travel side, sharing all the little things we do.

Sometimes – or most times – you have a really busy day, and need to take some time to chill out. Dan and I have totally different ways to relax. We both work full time and sometimes, we only get half an hour to chill before we are busy again, either working, out and about, or doing chores. We know we are not alone, so here are our 30 minute chill skills!

Have a quick shower

Sometimes, after a really busy day, you can’t help but feel greasy and grotty. I know lots of girls prefer a bath (I definitely do) but sometimes you simply don’t have the time. On a normal day, Dan will spend a whole half hour in the shower, and I think it’s more about getting some personal, quiet time than actually washing. But there’s truly no better way to relax your muscles than to have a hot shower, plus you come out feeling refreshed and squeaky clean.

Watch an episode of a sitcom or reality TV

Dan’s go-to is seems to always be Impractical Jokers, whereas I tend to sway more towards Say Yes To The Dress. When relaxing, you need to be able to switch off and not have to think too hard about what you are watching. A murder documentary might be a bit too taxing on the brain, but an episode of The Big Bang Theory is in a sweet, bite size chunk.

Catch a quick bit of shut eye

There are all sorts of tips for the perfect nap, but science suggests somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes is the best length time. That means you can slip in a well timed nap to your busy schedule and hopefully feel refreshed and motivated afterwards. I’m useless when it comes to napping, but my dad was a pro. At bang on 3pm, he would fall asleep anywhere and I’ve always envied him for it!

Go for a walk

Sometimes, fresh air is best. Even a walk down the street allows you to get away from the rough stuff going on throughout the day. Most of us have some sort of shop nearby, so there’s nothing wrong with taking a quick ramble through your local area, taking in the sights and sounds, and treating yourself to a little something.

Exercise!

Ironically, exercise is a fantastic way to wind down. It releases a plethora of hormones that surge through your body, cheering you up and chilling you out. Dan is totally a runner, and besides the fact he is training for a marathon, he gets a real kick out of going out for a run. Me, on the other hand, I’m useless. Instead, I like to do a 20 minute HIIT work out or yoga routine. Joe Wicks has some great routines on his Youtube channel and there is a great App called Daily Yoga that I’ve been using for a few years.

 

Have you got any other ways you like to relax in 30 minutes or less? Any top tips that you would like to share? Leave a comment and let us know!

Until next time 🙂

Disneyland Paris – One Year On

Last February, Dan and I spent three days in Disneyland Paris at the end of the UK half term. We met at the end of February in 2016, so the trip to Disney somewhat served as an anniversary holiday. I won’t repeat my top tips for going as you can read them here, but what I will do is track some of our best experiences in pictures.

Friday

We started by riding the Eurostar.

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Dropped our bags off at our hotel and had a look around…

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Then made our way to the entrance. On a Friday afternoon in February, there were no lines, so our bags were checked and tickets were bought in no time.

Disneyland Paris

Instead of diving into the main park, we took a slight diversion and decided to go to Walt Disney Studios first.

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There we hung out with Rex,

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Rex actually responded to something I’d said when we took this picture.

saw some classic sights, and rode some ‘Rocking’ rides,

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then watched a pretty darn awesome show!

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For a whole hour, you can watch performers demonstrate mind blowing car and motorbike stunts. Disney displays ways that directors coordinate and film high speed car chases, showing off real tricks. I don’t want to give away too much, but you do get treated to seeing Lightning McQueen!

Once we had lapped Walt Disney Studios, we went into the main park and managed to get a ride on some of the bigger attractions: Big Thunder Mountain and the Indiana Jones ride. With only a couple of hours before the park closed, we were more interested in having at least one ride, waiting for 45 minutes in line. It was a good decision. There was not a point in the next two days where the line was shorter than 2 hours, so we were pretty thankful we opted to prioritise the rides over dinner.

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It was that night that we also managed to nab a front row spot to see the firework display, and I might have felt a little overwhelmed by it. Yes, I had a little cry, but no one saw.

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Saturday

The next day, we flew out of bed and made our way to the main park. For the life of me, I cannot remember what we had for breakfast, but I do know that we made a beeline for Fantasyland. There we wandered through the castle, squealed in delight on the Mad Hatter’s Teacups, and were genuinely horrified by It’s A Small World. Even more so, we felt like big kids, pretending to pull the sword from the stone, or channelling our inner princess.

On Saturday, we managed to get on to the remaining rides we wanted, primarily the Buzz Lightyear ride and The Haunted Mansion, but we also spent nearly an hour waiting in line to get on the Pinocchio ride, which was not worth it at all. However, we did spend the rest of the day prancing around, finding nuggets of entertainment – see below.

After the best part of a day wandering the park, waiting in line, and battling for Fast Passes, we decided to watch the 5pm Parade. We stood on a corner for absolutely hours, shoving other people out the way in a very un-Disneylike style, but it was well worth it.

Dan was particularly excited to see the army toys, while I literally lost all composure when I spotted Mary Poppins on a carousel.

That evening, we decided to hit the Disney Village instead of watching the fireworks again. We munched on BBQ ribs in Planet Hollywood (go straight after the parade. You’ll get a table in no time) we then spent a couple of hours in the Sports Bar watching rugby, before hanging out in Billy Bob’s Saloon, where we watched a band perform some classic country and western songs, with a slight European twist.

Sunday

I’d been sniffling and sneezing since before we arrived, but by Sunday, I had a full cold. My nose was running, I was icy all the time, and I had a pounding headache, even though I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol the night before. We were evicted from our room at 10am, but were able to leave our bags in the luggage room.

That morning, instead of attempting to hit some more rides (due to my dizzy spells) we simply wandered around and took in the sights for a final time. The best and by far most terrifying way to do this is by getting on the hot air balloon in Disney Village. I’m terrified of heights and falling, but Dan had been talking about it all weekend, so I had to give in.

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And so rounded off our weekend in the second most magical place on Earth – after Disney World, Orlando, of course.

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Just as a bonus, here is my favourite corner of the whole park. See if you can find it next time you go.

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Where You Should Book Your Next London Party!

On Saturday, I enjoyed the first marriage celebration of the year. I mentioned a few posts ago that Dan and I were invited to four weddings (and hopefully no funerals) so last weekend saw the first hen night. Having only been to two hen nights before – one being my aunt’s around 2013 – I’m still unversed in the procedure, however, our planners did an absolutely fantastic job.

The location was settled in London. As it was a single night affair, with most of the guests living in Essex, there was no need to book hotel rooms, saving us all some cash. Instead, we booked a white limo to take us to our first destination: Revolution on Leadenhall Street.

Revolution

London bar

Clearly, if you want to have full reign over a place, you need to go mid-month, and in February. We 29 party guests effectively had the whole bar to ourselves which made the event much more special. Split into two teams, we were treated to nibbles, an array of exciting shots, and a nuclear blue slushie cocktail. I went straight for the Love Hearts shots, which tasted uncannily like the sweets, but my alliance soon swapped to the Bakewell Tart shots. Also I can’t knock the pretzels we were able to pick at the whole night through.

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The staff members looking after us for the evening were Flo and Adam. Dealing with 29 fairly rowdy women could be quite daunting, but Adam was cool, slick and funny, whilst Flo was a quintessential flirty barman. Where Adam was focused on teaching us how to make pretty awesome cocktails, Flo was coordinating party games.  The first cocktail we made was some sort of pink number, where a couple of us were blindfolded and led by our friends. The next, a Pornstar Martini, created while literally hugging each other. Finally, I had to abscond Flo and join Adam for a calmer but nonetheless personal experience.

Dinner was selected in advance and delicious. I ordered a chicken burger, spiced quite strongly with flavours I can’t quite remember, which came with fries, and for dessert, I had the most delicious cheesecake, ever. In hindsight, I should have taken a photo at least, but due to the hours before of drinking anything and everything, I completely forgot!

Once we had spent a few hours in Revolution, I went outside and hailed a London black cab off the street to take me to Sway. On a Saturday night, it was just £10 for five people to travel across London, and we arrived safely in just 15 minutes.

Sway

Sway Bar London

Sway Bar, on Great Queens Street, near Holborn station, has numerous rooms, Instagrammable decor and great music. Since it was a hen night, the organisers reserved a table in the cocktail bar, which included a waiting service that was actually invaluable. While there we hopped between the Cocktail Bar and the Club for a few hours, dancing, chatting and completely enjoying ourselves.

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It’s a good job we had spent so much time drinking in Revolution, as we were spending £11.50 for two single spirit and mixers, and had mini heart attacks when two doubles and two Tequila shots cost us £31! Girls were walking through the dance floor with trays of Jagerbombs costing £7 each or three for £20. As someone who is more used to hitting bars in Essex that have deals like ‘All vodka mixers cost £2’, I could see myself spending hundreds of pounds, so I only bought two drinks. A more cost effective choice would be to all pitch in to buy a few bottles of wine to share, rather than stick to individual drinks throughout the night.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of Sway, but know that it is probably a bar more suited to people with a bit more money than me. It’s not a location where you are likely to find 40,000 uni students drinking Sourz shots, so if you have the funds for somewhere classier, make your way down.

Summary

You don’t always have to spend a fortune on a hen do, or any party for that matter, as long as you have great company. However, to save tears and tantrums, it’s definitely worth doing your research about the locations first. Cheers to the party planners who got this one spot on, and cheers to the staff at Revolution for making us feel special.

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Great photo taken by my friend Caroline Insta: @theatre2906

Big news!

Well, not that big…

We booked a holiday! As well as our trip to Edinburgh, which is less about seeing Edinburgh and more about Dan running a marathon, we have taken the plunge and splashed out on a trip outside of Europe.

After trawling through multiple websites (primarily TUI), and researching Hurghada, Jibacoa and Cape Verde, we settled on a location I had been reserving for next April.

On 31st July, Dan and I will be flying out to Cancun Airport, to spend 11 days in Playacar, just 3km from Playa Del Carmen, and although I am terrified of flying, I am so excited! We’ll be staying at the five star Riu Palace Mexico, making the most of the all inclusive board. We’ll also be booking as many excursions as possible.

Chichen Itza is one of the new seven wonders of the world, a ruined Mayan city a couple of hours drive from the coast. We went to the Colosseum last year, which is also on the list, and now I’ve got an itch for seeing them all. Tours cost roughly £50 per person for transport, entry prices, a guide, and often lunch.

Tulum is another area where you can find ruins to explore. I don’t really know much about it, but it looks interesting, so it would be like an actual adventure, since we don’t really know what to expect.

Another fascinating place I would like to visit is Xcaret, an eco-archaeological park, less than 8 miles from our hotel. Again, in all honesty, I’m not really sure what it is, but it looks pretty darn cool.

To top it off, I am eager to spend a night out in Playa Del Carmen. Though I understand the nightlife there isn’t quite as wild as Cancun, it’s a popular tourist destination. The chances of us ending up in Coco Bongo one night is pretty high, as long as it’s not the night before we go on an excursion!

Have you been to Playa Del Carmen and have any advice? Any where else you think we simply must see? I’d love to hear your experiences.

When plans change…

This year, our plans for a holiday every six weeks, has been somewhat stamped on by real life and adulthood. Between us, Dan and I are off to four weddings (each costing £100 a pop at least in gifts). Not only are we invited to the weddings, we are close friends of the bride and groom, which means only two things: hen and stag parties! I am invited to two, and he is invited to three. In actual fact, Dan is the best man at one of them, so it’s up to him to plan a party. I’m lucky that in my job, I get a collective 13 weeks off a year – teacher life – but Dan has to book off the odd day here and there to celebrate his friends’ nuptials, which has totally eaten away into his annual holiday.

Now, I love a wedding; I am so excited to see my friend get married to her childhood sweetheart, to be part of the family as Dan’s sister and her partner tie the knot, and to cringe while Dan struggles through a speech he wrote at the last minute (because I know that is what is going to happen). But, I wanted to commit to travelling this year. With the cost of three stags, two hens and four weddings, Dan and I aren’t only time strapped, we’re cash strapped too.

We talked about hiring a camper van and exploring Scotland, or the Jurassic coast. We looked into flying out to Mexico for two weeks, and having a week or so in Slovenia. We considered having a few long weekends to mooch around the UK at a slightly slower pace.

Alas, we now know we won’t be able to spend our year city-hopping the way we had planned.

Instead, I’m focusing on the local area and planning day trips in the south east of England. We’ve already spend a few hours at Hampton Court Palace and Bushy Park, and spent afternoons wandering around Hadleigh Castle, only a couple of miles from home. I’m sure that no matter what we do, we’ll make the most of our time (and remaining cash)!

Until next time…

How to save time when packing for your city break!

I love a weekend away, whether it be to a foreign country or somewhere a little closer to home, and I especially like a city break. Luckily, the UK isn’t short of cities. We have 69 to choose from, including the big four: London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. You could relax at a southern seaside city, like Brighton, Plymouth or Southampton. You could see what one of the newest cities, like Inverness, Newport or Chelmsford, has to offer. You could step into Victorian times in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. Or, you could explore the history of the UK’s oldest cities: York, Canterbury, Bath, Winchester.

Whatever your choice, you need to pack for the occasion, and here’s where we come in. Whether you are the kind of person that bungs two t-shirts and a pair of pants in a plastic bag, or someone who takes half their wardrobe for four days, you need some help.

Pack light, but not too light

Nothing is worse, especially if you are taking public transport, than carrying a bag that weighs more than a backpack full of textbooks. Not only does it slice your shoulder to pieces, or get in everyone’s way when you’re walking to your hotel, a massive bag means you will be packing an array of unnecessary items and you will take an eternity to do so.

However, packing too light means that you are under-prepared. What if the weather turns suddenly? What if you spilt bolognese all over your only cardigan? What if you left your jumper in a cafe? The rumours about the UK are true: the weather is horrific, so make sure you have your rain jacket in case you’re caught in a downpour.

Count in essentials out loud

Every time I go away, I count the socks and pants into my bag to make sure I have enough. No doubt, I always bring an extra pair, but there’s nothing worse than getting to your destination to find that you have to wear your pants inside out for a day. It makes you feel grimy, and I can vouch that you will spend your time walking round, thinking about your dirty underwear.

I do the same with toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, shower gel, moisturiser, etc. Before I started saying the item I was putting in my bag, as I put it in my bag, I would always forget my toothbrush. The amount of cheap toothbrushes I had to buy from an off license at 9pm is ridiculous.

Saying things aloud commits it to memory. You’re less likely to forget the really important stuff and less likely to spend hours digging through your bag to triple check that you put your favourite shirt in there.

Day to night stock outfits

Why pack two different outfits for the day and the night? This was the mistake I constantly made when I first started going away for short breaks. I expected myself to be hitting the club every night, dressed to the nines, when in reality, I went to a couple of bars on one of the nights, and every other night was spent sitting in bed in the B&B because I had blisters.

Pick a few statement pieces to wear both day and night, like a black dress, or neat jeans. Your jackets should be appropriate for both occasions, but I always bring an extra pair of shoes (I always walk around in Vans but wear boots, heels or sandals in the night). Then you can simply pack a couple of tops and accessories to dress up or dress down your statement piece.

Does it matter if you are basically wearing the same style outfit for three days? I don’t think so!

Finally… write up a list before you go

How are you going to manage all the above? Draw up a list. I love a list that can be reused and breaks everything down day by day, so I created my own document to use this year. I’m going to laminate the sheet to make the most of the millions of white board pens I have laying around, and I’ll never waste hours packing for a trip ever again!

Download the free, adaptable and printable City Break Packing Guide and Countryside Packing Guide