Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Cefn Onn Park


As I'm about to move out of Cardiff (again) in a few weeks I thought I'd share one of my favourite places in the city, Cefn Onn Park. 

Cefn Onn Park is in the Lisvane area of Cardiff and thankfully very close to where my parent's house is, even when I was in Caerphilly it was only a 15 minute drive away from my house. I've probably spent hours and hours here over the years, walked a variety of dogs and seen it through all seasons. It's really a wonderful place for a walk at any time of the year. 



Once you're out of the car park and you've walked under the M4, the further into the park you get the more the roar of the motorway fades until you hardly hear it and you could be in the middle of the countryside and not in a capital city. It had a huge variety of trees and plants, as well as a pretty impressive pond.


Once you've headed up the paths you come to an open field boarding Llanishen golf course, a great place for picnics as long as you watch out for golf balls coming your way! You're afforded a stunning view of the trees within the park too from the field.


I feel like I've let people into a bit of a secret when it comes to this place, but I think it's one worth sharing. I'm going to miss being so close to it when we move to Monmouth, hopefully we'll find equally lovely places to walk close to our home when we get there.


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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Visiting the Harry Potter Studios


For my birthday this year Jon treated me to a day out at the Harry Potter Studios, a place I'd been before but when he asked what I wanted to do for my birthday this seemed like a great idea for the giant Potter nerd that I am. We had to book the tickets back in March to get the time slot we wanted, having learnt our lesson after we attempted to get tickets to go last November and they were sold out ages before.

It was an absolutely sweltering day, the complete opposite to the freezing cold weather I experienced last time I was there. Things had changed a little since my last visit, last time I just waltzed in and joined the queue near the cupboard under the stairs, but this time there was a huge queue for security checks to get in. Jon strolled through the checks but I had to get my bag searched, which was actually more thorough than any airport bag check I've ever been through.

I won't spoil the first bit of the tour for those who have yet to visit, so I'll jump straight to the Great Hall. I love this part of the tour so much, if it wasn't for all the other visitors and for looking up and not seeing the Enchanted Ceiling, you could be at Hogwarts. It was amazing to get to see the costumes up close, especially seeing Daniel Radcliffe's costumes and how Harry changed over the years. 


Out in the main studio area you're free to wander around with no long lines of people waiting to see things, which is nice and gave a much more relaxed feeling as you could take as long as you wanted looking at sets. After seeing the Gryffindor common room up close, I don't know why you'd want to be in any other house when it comes to such a cosy room to hang out in.


Hello random person taking a selfie with us...


There have been a few changes and additions since my last visit. I don't remember seeing The Burrow set previously, but I loved it. I've always thought it sounded cosy from the description in the books, as well as how it's portrayed in the films and the set really did a good job of making it feel homely.


I've not included any photos here as it's so new, but the Forbidden Forest part of the tour is great fun. I won't spoil it but lets just say that if thunder and lightening scare you, you may want to skip it...

When we headed out into the backlot I discovered that things had changed out there too. There is now a large eating area, we contemplated getting something but it was packed so we decided to skip it. The Knightbus is still going strong, though strangely most people seemed to be taking photos next to it but not going on to have a look. I was disappointed to see that Tom Riddle's grave has been moved inside and placed way up in the roof space, that was one of my favourite props when I last visited.


The biggest surprise for me came when I realised that they've now opened up part of the Dursley's house! I was so excited to be able to go in this time, and loved the letters flying around the living room.



Back inside was probably Jon's favourite part of the tour. He's not a fan of Harry Potter really, he's seen the films but not read the books (don't worry, it's a mission I will one day complete), however he's really into design as a product design teacher so he seemed much more into this part. This part of the tour felt the most cramped, there were large groups of teenagers from tour groups going through at the same time as us so the room filled up pretty quickly. Having said that, I still managed to see everything.


After we'd finished the tour and I'd had a very comprehensive browse around the gift shop (hello new Deathly Hallows keyring) we headed to the restaurant for a quick sandwich and something to drink. Our ticket for entry to the tour was at 12.30pm so we'd pretty much spent lunch in there so I was in need of food by the time we got out.

It was a really magical way to celebrate my birthday, something I'd recommend to any Harry Potter fan out there. I can feel a summer of re-reading the books coming on...
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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Life lately, lazy blogger strikes again

I truly am a lazy blogger. I had such grand plans to write at least once a week since about February, I even had ideas scheduled in my diary but I don’t seem to be able to get around to writing anything. I don’t know if it’s because I need somewhere to write that isn’t my bedroom, or if I’m just rubbish at this blogging lark. Instead I thought I’d catch up on what I’ve been up to in the last few months.

Battle on the Beach


Back in March I headed off to Pembrey to support Jon taking part in Battle on the Beach. We went last year and I had a great time so jumped at the chance to go again this year. This time around I had my own mountain bike so I was able to go for a ride on the beach the day before the event and got to try some of the course. I’ve been asked a few times if I’ll have a go next year but my fitness levels need to drastically improve if I do have a go. To be honest just watching is fun for me, seeing hundreds of riders hurtling over the sand and then tearing down the beach is an amazing sight.

A 1940s wedding


Last month Jon and I went to a 1940s themed wedding in Somerset. I love a wedding and have never been to a themed one before so it was exciting. My nan picked out my dress from Weekend Doll and I ordered a sweet little hat from ebay to go with it. The wedding took place is a gorgeous village church with the reception at a nearby hotel, the reception room was decorated with bunting and each table named after a war time plane. The evening party was like a tea party with all the music coming from the 1930s and 40s, they even had a group of vintage singers to keep in with the theme.

Topping off the wedding, on a personal note, was staying at the gorgeous Devonshire Arms with a bathroom of dreams. This is bathroom inspiration if ever I saw it.

Edinburgh


The weekend after the wedding we flew up to my favourite UK city, Edinbugh. I adore this city, it’s a real mix of things to do and see. Jon had only ever been on a stag weekend previously, which we decided didn’t count so it was nice to show him around. We stayed in an Airbnb apartment just off Leith Walk, which I cannot recommend enough. We loved it so much that it got to a point where we started thinking about how we could make an apartment work for us…with eight bikes between us, it can’t but it’s nice to dream.

We did all the usual things while we were there, including Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat. We met up with a few of Jon’s friends, which was nice as I’d not met any of them and it meant eating at places we never would have found otherwise. The standout for me was going to Dishoom for breakfast twice (I’m obsessed with their Akuri), and dinner at The Devil’s Advocate then drinks and having to wander back to our apartment at 1am…

House hunting


Finally, something that is both more and less exciting than anything else we’ve been up to. We’ve been house hunting in Monmouth and the Forest of Dean for two months, I think I’ve had six viewings in four houses. We’ve put offers on two houses we’ve seen, with the latest offer going on a house in Monmouth a week ago. I’m not good at being patient so having to wait over a week to know the outcome of this offer is testing me, but hopefully we’ll hear soon. In the mean time I’ve been buying small bits and pieces (and rose plants…) with the view that they’ll work in any house we end up buying, but to be honest I think my heart is now set on this house even if it’s not the most spectacular of the houses we’ve seen. It has definite potential to be a lovely first home for us, I’m excited to hopefully spend my time decorating and cooing over Farrow and Ball some time soon. The fact that it's 15 minutes away from the Cannop trail centre is just the icing on the cake, being able to go out after work will be amazing.

Perhaps once we're in a house with an office, and I've got access to a Mac (I work better at a desk than on a laptop) I'll get back into writing. I have a feeling that the opportunity to blog about interiors won't pass me by.

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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Skiddaw, a Valentine's Day walk


For a couple that don't do Valentine's Day, we chose a pretty brilliant way to not celebrate it. On our recent visit to Keswick in the Lake District we decided to walk up Skiddaw, which was almost on the doorstep of our Airbnb house we were staying at.

The highest thing I've walked up is Pen y Fan in South Wales, which at 886 metres above sea level is shorter and much less steep than Skiddaw which stands at 931 metres. I kitted myself out in proper walking trousers and a new pair of hiking boots thanks to having lost mine in my house move and off we went. Apart from looking up the mountain the day before and being terrified at how windy it was up there (50mph winds...) I hadn't really done any research as this was very much a Jon thing. This meant that as we stood at the start of the pathway up the mountain I may not have been too thrilled by how steep it was, there is photographic proof of my lack of enthusiasm but that doesn't need to be shared here. 

All I'll say is that jelly babies and the promise of a lunch break near the top got me through it but it was definitely worth the tiredness and aching limbs. After a slightly bit of dicey scrambling up an ice and snow covered rough path we got some amazing views over Keswick and onto the peak of Skiddaw. Unfortunately to get to the peak we had more walking over snow and ice but this time going down, with lots of slate hidden underneath waiting for one of us to fall over onto it. At the bottom of the final climb up to the peak of Skiddaw we stopped for lunch, this seemed to be where everyone stopped as the hillside was dotted with walkers tucking into their lunch looking out over stunning views.

The final part of the walk to the peak was the most brutal in terms of weather, and it was the only part where I felt a tad unsafe and cold. There were thankfully no 50mph winds but it certainly wasn't a calm day up there despite the blue sky. We didn't stop too long up there as it really was cold and as soon as I stopped moving cold started setting in on my legs, but we stopped long enough to chat to two other couples who had walked up with their dogs (further cementing the fact that a dog is definitely in our future when we're more settled) but then headed back down to get warm and to find a pub for dinner.

I really can't think of a better way to spend Valentine's Day.



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Thursday, 12 January 2017

2017


Now that 2017 has had a bit of time to bed in I thought I'd look ahead to what 2017 has in store for me. Despite 2016 being widely acknowledged as fairly awful, on a personal level I had a good year. I got to see lots of new places and do things I never thought I would like tearing around a mountain bike trail or standing in a damp field for 24 hours supporting guys racing. It turns out that I really quite enjoy doing both things so I'm hoping that 2017 will see me do more of that. Jon and I have a biking weekend planned for the end of May and I've got my eye on Swinley Forest as the blue trail there is immense fun. Jon has lots of races this year so there are lots of events planned in the diary when I'll be called on to throw energy gels at him and give him the odd kick up the bum to keep him going.

Later in the year we're buying our first house together. I've pretty much always moaned about being out of Cardiff so the fact that I'm moving even further away probably seems a bit odd, but for now it's the only way Jon and I will be able to be together without one of us changing jobs.

So far we have two holidays planned, one next month to the Lake District to celebrate his birthday and another in April to go up to Edinburgh. Jon has only ever been there for a stag do so I'm not counting that as a proper trip, whereas I absolutely adore Edinburgh so I'm looking forward to going back and seeing more of the city.

On a more personal level, I'm hoping to come off Roaccutane as I've been on it for nearly a year. I'd like to get fit as I feel like the end of 2016 left me feeling slow and lethargic. I'm back in Cardiff for a few months until the summer so I want to get out on my bike more, hopefully commuting to work a few days a week and I really want to get back to zumba as I love dancing as a way to get fit.

I'm also hoping that this year I'll stick to blogging, last year I was terrible at it. Even if it's once a week, hopefully you'll see more of me in 2017.

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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Iceland



I've wanted to visit Iceland for years. Early last year a brilliant deal on Secret Escapes popped into my work inbox and after quickly sending it to Jon we were booked on a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice in October.

I should probably start off by addressing the cost of visiting Iceland. The one thing I kept reading and hearing about Iceland is how eye-wateringly expensive it is so I did lots and lots of research to find the cheapest places to eat and low cost things to do. The hours of pouring over forums and travel blogs paid off though and the trip didn't break the bank, but yes, it definitely wasn't cheap.

Blue Lagoon



Spending the day at the Blue Lagoon was a dream come true, and despite going on a day when it was blizzarding and pouring with rain at the start of the day, I loved it.

We went for the the Comfort package which got us two types of face mask, a drink and a towel on top of lagoon entry. For us it worked really well, just having to show a wrist band to get a drink and knowing we wouldn't have to wait around to pay on our way out (£10 for a pint by the way...) was a perk.

On the day we went it was the first snow of the season, getting onto a coach in a blizzard and driving through what seems like an alien landscape was amazing. It took some coaxing from Jon to get me to run out of the lagoon building and into the water, it was freezing outside! Once I was in the water I soon warmed up as long as my shoulders were under the water. The great thing about the lagoon is finding pockets of extra hot water, I passed lots of people exclaiming that they'd found a hot patch and savouring in it for a while.

We took a case with us so I could put my iPhone in it to let us take photos, I can testify that it was 100% waterproof thanks to a slight mishap that saw Jon drop it into the water. Those things do not allow your phone to float. I'm sure you can imagine the utter panic over the next few minutes til he found it with his feet at the bottom of the lagoon.

Another thing I'd read was how it's best to keep your hair out of the water as it wrecks it. The Blue Lagoon supply conditioner in the showers that you are required to use before you go into the water, my tip would be to pile it on. More than you think you'll need, layer it on. I didn't put enough on and ended up going under the waterfall (amazing for tight muscles in my shoulders) so my hair was in a state until we got back to the UK and I was able to buy clarifying shampoo. I washed it twice with that, then with regular shampoo and followed it with two lots of regular conditioner and it was back to normal.

Food and Drink






I researched places to eat extensively before we went away, I wanted to ensure we ate good food without weeping when the bill came. Still, the cheapest meal we had was soup in a bread bowl with a pint each. This was roughly £30 from Svarta Kaffid. I really liked this restaurant, it was super cosy and a great place to escape the cold and people watch for a while. We both had the spiced meat soup with a pint of local beer, I'd recommend it to anyone looking for something cheap but tasty in Reykjavik.

Another place I'd come across before we got to Iceland was Cafe Loki. It was right across the road from Hallgrimskirkja, which made for a great view over early dinner on our first day in Iceland. We both really wanted to try traditional Icelandic food and this place was great for that. I decided to go for the meat soup offer which was a big bowl of meat soup, a cup of coffee and lamb pate on rye bread. All of it was great, the soup contained plenty of meat in good sized chunks. Jon opted for gratinated mashed pie, which came with salad and rye bread. I had immediate food envy, which for me is quite something as I don't tend to like fish normally. Hopefully I'll be able to replicate this dish in the future. We both decided to have pancakes for dessert, not something we necessarily needed but who can resist a pancake?

On our day designated to exploring Reykjavik we stumbled across Reykjavik Roasters. It was almost like sitting in someone's living room, with vinyl being played and crochet doilies on the tables. I loved it. The coffee was strong with a good kick, just what I needed after walking around for most of the day.

Hallgrimskirkja





Hallgrimskirkja is one of the most iconic buildings in Reykjavik so there's more or less no way of going to the city and not running into the church. It's huge and imposing and offers the best views of the city. We seemed to have picked one of the windiest days to go up to the top of it which resulted in hilarious photos of the two of us not being able to see anything thanks to my hair flying everywhere. The inside of the church was modest despite how large the structure is, it was nice to find a place to find a bit of peace despite it being full of tourists on the day we visited.

Reykjavik 


Reykjavik is a small city, unless you're really into shopping (and spending heaps of cash doing so) it's easy to see it in one day. We started off by walking down to the sea from our hotel and walked along the seafront towards the city, past the sun voyager and to the Harpa. Cardiff has it's Millennium Centre, which as a building I've always found impressive but Harpa was even more impressive. 

Wandering around the city we came across various trolls and creatures in the street, I love the fairy story culture the Icelandic people have. We also managed to find a Christmas shop, obviously I had to go in and buy a decoration! The troll head (way nicer than it sounds, I promise) was hung up proudly at Christmas.

I loved our trip to Iceland, we were already planning a two week trip before we got back so we can get out and see the landscape. Here's to more travelling adventures in 2017.

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