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A weekend by the sea in Cornwall

smashleighjayne
Fowey Harbour

It’s not very often I get to go on multiple little trips away in one year. After years of pretty much staying put in London, I’m absolutely loving it and am always thinking about the next break. I have loads of bloody holiday to take at work too so I should probably start actually sorting myself out.

This weekend, I was well chuffed to be Captain Charley’s +1 for the Sea and the City trip to Cornwall with Travelodge. I used to go to Cornwall all the time as a kid with my family for caravan holidays so I knew it would be an entirely different experience as an adult. For a start, I’d be more interested in exploring small towns and trying new food than dancing with Sid the Seagull and Lizzy the Lizard.

After a traumatic journey to meet the girls where I not only missed a train but I then missed my stop once I was on the train and had to turn around again… (I know, typical me), we were off on our five hour journey to St Austell. Praise be to Jasmin for volunteering her car and her role as driver. We wouldn’t have made it here without you.


Charlestown Cornwall
The lovely seaside town of Charlestown

I’d never heard of St Austell before and, after we had checked into our Travelodge, we eventually googled what to do on our little holiday, over freakshakes, pasta and hotdogs at the always classy Frankie and Benny’s. It turns out that cornwalls.co.uk said that ‘although some might describe it as pretty grim, it does provide an ideal centre for some of the loveliest beaches in Cornwall’. We did notice that it was, as Charley dubbed it, ‘the Chav Centre of Cornwall’, and when we asked some of the locals what we should do on our weekend away, they, in no uncertain terms, told us there was nothing to do in St Austell.  Hasty planning on phones over dinner was then underway. Note to self: Research where you’re actually going BEFORE you get there.


One thing I remember as a kid was that the beaches in Cornwall were always gorgeous, I mean, they have actual sand and everything. It was top of the list of things we had to do. After the absolutely wonderful (although slightly sticky) weather we have been having in London, I packed skirts and sandals in a positive mental attitude. When we opened the curtains the next morning, it was grey and drizzling. As the Scottish say, it was pretty dreich. Oh well, a little rain never hurt anyone!


smashleighjayne

Smashleighjayne
Left to Right:

Now, despite the negative statements we have seen about St Austell, they were definitely right about it being a ‘centre’, we had a whole day of adventures where we visited the beach and I had a little dance in the rain, explored the gardens of the fancy and stately home of Lanhydrock and popped by the harbour of Megavissey. As well as jumping out of the car in a tiny village because the houses were so instagrammable. Such blogger clich├ęs.

smashleighjayne
My awkward/limping strideby with Jas. Picture by Charley.

smashleighjayne
Here's my stupid 'I have Ice cream' face - Picture by Jas
Walking, eating, sitting, driving. We made sure we could see as much as we could and eat as much as we could, not a single moment was wasted. We tried new things and got to know eachother even more and, all in all, we had the BEST time.

smashleighjayne

Breaking up our wanderings, Charley and I not only used our little Travelodge to sleep and refresh (dude, are those beds COMFY by the way), it also became a little blogging hub for us. A place to bounce hashtag thoughts off each other and remember anecdotes and quotes from the night before edit photos and check Twitter. Thank you Wifi. It’s the reason why I have this post up sooner than any other I have done this past year. I’ve actually had time and a place to do it!

smashleighjayne

Cornwall is so much more than just sandy beaches though. There are National trust building scattered all over the joint, brewerey's and independent bars, AMAZING food and, well, too much to discuss in one post. watch this space instead for more things to do in Cornwall.

In the meantime, you can keep up with our adventures and more that Cornwall has to offer on Instagram right here:

#BangarangByTheSea


#SeaAndtheCity



What Harry Potter means to me: 20 years later



I have never hidden my love for Harry Potter, not once over the past 20 years. It's all a part of my charm, really.

From the "Boy who Lived" to "Nineteen Years Later", the Harry Potter books have been with me through everything and have shaped the person I am today. I have been to midnight releases, seen the play twice, become an ambassador for Lumos and I am still waiting for my Hogwarts Letter. Everything I am started with a few notes written on a napkin all those years ago.

There are a lot of people who dismiss the Harry Potter books as children's books which will always irritate me, they are so much more than that. These books introducted me to the most wonderful love and the most harrowing grief. They helped me to understand the horrors of the world even if I couldn't stop them. The held me as close as I held them and they kept me safe. Certainly not just a children's book.



When I first picked up these books at the age of 9, I had no idea, as cliched as this sounds, the journey I would go on. I had no idea that a book series would bring me so much happiness and also so much heartache. I didn't know that they would become a security blanket for all of the hardest moments of my life and I had no idea that at the age of 28, I would be as excited as I was yesterday when I finally bought my first set of robes.

I can't really explain why these tales of a boy wizard mean so much to me but I can tell you a few times I have needed them and how they helped me.

When I was little, I was quite smart, I don't mean like a child genius, but I was clever and as a result I was bullied. It didn't stop when I got older either. The same thing happened all over again when I went to Secondary School. As a kid, I automatically assumed something was wrong with me. Hermione Granger taught me there wasn't. When I was going through the motions again as a teenager, she reminded me there was nothing wrong with me. I used her as my inspiration to always aim for the very best. Yes, Hermione didn't have the best time for a while and also did a 'I'm running to the toilet to cry', but she was the 'brightest witch of her age'. Being smart was her strength and i would also be mine.



When I moved to University, I was afraid. Not as in, scared to death, but nervous. I was moving out of my home town and moving to a strange city where I knew NO ONE. I was alone. But then I remembered Harry's first journey on the Hogwarts Express. He was alone in a whole new world let alone a big city. He did alright, didn't he?

Last year, my Nanna got sick and passed away. The first thing I did when I was packing to go up to Scotland to see her was pack the The Prisoner of Azkaban. I bloody needed it. I had my own Dementors to fight and will do for a while over the coming months. I used it as my talisman. I used it to feel safe and strong. The Dementors are still there but I have my own little Patronus whenever I need it.



These are just a handful of times where I have needed these books. Not all the times I need them are hard either. I use Harry potter and the Philosopher's Stone as my travelling book whenever I'm going on a long journey. Gary and I have spent all day watching all of the movies and doing Harry Potter puzzles just because we can. I read it in the bath, I read it on the tube when I've had a tough day at work and I am always carrying at least one thing that is Harry Potter related.

I feel extremely proud an honoured that I am a part of a family beyond imagination. I've made some of my closest friends through our mutual love for these books. Harry Potter has given me strength so many times and I'm sure it will be the same for my children, when I'm finally brave enough to part with the exact copies I have held dear for so long.



I will be there when they find the Stone. When they close the chamber. When they save Sirius. when they join the Order. When they mourn for Dumbledore. when they mourn for them all. It'll be as real for them as it is for me.

Happy birthday, Harry Potter. Thank you, Jo.

What the hell is going on in my head?


Over the years I have battled with my own Mental Health problems and have come out shining at the other end regardless of the hard work it took to get there. I may have been exhausted but there was a massive smile on my face.

Over the past year or so I have been experiencing something different and I have mostly kept it to myself. After beating one thing, I didn't want to admit that something else was wrong. I'm not really sure what it is, I have a rough idea but I could be entirely wrong.

I have tried really hard to not let it show. I smile as much as I can and have been known to be 'annoyingly positive' (direct quote from a former employee). Like wearing a mask.


There are a couple of things that could have triggered this, the past few years really have had their ups and downs. I've been made redundant twice, been diagnosed with epilepsy and I lost one of the most inspirational women in my life, my Nanna. In short, it's been pretty shit (except for some things) and over the past 12 months it has been especially hard to cope.

What exactly is happening, though?

Sometimes I can't sleep and sometimes I struggle to breathe. I shove headphones on so I don't have to talk to people and sometimes my whole body feels heavy.

The other week, I wrote about a drop in my body confidence recently, and that's certainly had an effect on how I feel as I go about my day to day. I've found myself wearing more baggy clothes and where I can't, cardigans are my saviour. I'm always worried that there will be a nasty glance or nasty comment and it's been a while since I have felt confident in my own skin.


I have proper 'imposter syndrome', I've not long started a new job and have convinced myself (pretty much every morning) that they're not going to want to keep me. I know it's stupid but my brain tells me 'you're not good enough', 'you're terrible at this job', 'you're way out of your depth'. I absolutely adore my job so it does put a dampener on things every morning and I find myself on the edge of my seat frequently.

I'm reaching a milestone in my relationship that I have never reached before. It's always been at this point when they leave... As I approach that milestone I am constantly questioning every move I make, unintentionally causing arguments because , in my head, he's going to leave anyway.

The rational part of my brain knows this is stupid. It knows the whole thing is stupid but there is still that little whisper and I end up doubting myself on all levels and wish people just couldn't see me.

Maybe it's not anxiety, i don't really know. Maybe there's something else happening up there that I don't really understand but I'm sure I'll work it out.


Body confidence in fashion


I am 4ft 11". I have size 2 feet so pretty much NONE of my shoes fit. I get mistaken for an 18 year old (if not younger) and jeans shopping is an absolute bloody nightmare. I don't own a single pair that I don't have to roll up... I really struggle to try new things and fashion styles because I'm convinced I'll just look even shorter and dumpy than I am so I tend to just stick to jeans and a t-shirt. The safest of all choices. I can blend in, rather than stand out.

Recently it has really been winding me up and my body confidence is at an all time low. I recently had a fitting room breakdown while trying to find a new dress for a wedding when one I ordered didn't get close to doing up. The size I always used to be.

The dress itself.
My constantly changing body as I get ever closer to 30 (next year, guys), is something I have really been struggling with. I know I'm not big by any stretch of the imagination but I have been used to being a certain size for my whole life so when I look back on older pictures (some even from just 2 years ago), I feel a little sad inside.

However, I am refusing to mope and am trying to embrace it instead. I have joined a gym and have been going to classes regularly, I have also decided to be braver in my fashion choices. There's only so many times I can wear jeans and the same Harry Potter t-shirts on rotation.


Even last year, the idea of wearing something full length would be a nightmare. I convinced myself that it would just make me look shorter so tend to stick to a more midi length. Bold prints and anything more than a subtle floral were a no go because a pair of jeans I once had with blue flowers made me look like a potato.

I've decided 'Fuck it'. You only live once and I'm always envious of people who can get away with it so I might as well give it a go.

At the weekend I went to Scotland to visit my family. We were going to be going 'out out' and I had brought nothing with me that was appropriate and the jeans I wore up were covered in dog hair from cuddles with Stanley within about 5 minutes. I had to go shopping and ideally on a budget.

After having no joy in T.K. Maxx (other than a pair of shoes IN A SIZE TWO), we headed to the local super markets. It was in Asda that I found this amazing Maxi Dress. Hating fitting rooms and the mirrors in them, I quickly shoved it on over my jeans and t-shirt just to see how ridiculously long it was. Only two long by an inch so a bit of wonderweb will sort that out, in the meantime I'll just wear MASSIVE shoes.



I actually felt ridiculously happy in this dress. I wore it to afternoon tea at the Cupcake Cafe Bar in Torphicen (JUST LOOK AT THOSE CAKES) and had plenty of room to eat ALL the food and still feel awesome at the same time. I feel silly for avoiding proper maxi dresses. It certainly didn't make me look shorter, I felt amazing and looked amazing. *sassy hand lady emoji*

Next. A Jumpsuit. I have tried a jumpsuit before and just looked and felt like a sausage that was about to burst, even though I was tiny at the time (yeah, I know). I was lumpy in all the wrong places and returned it the next day.



THIS one from the delightful Tesco, caught my eye immediately. Who doesn't love a cold shoulder with tropical/floral/madness print? wrong people, that's who.

I picked it and doubted myself for a long time so I did what I never do and ran to the fitting room and obviously sent a picture to the Bangarang girls. They are my to for all advice and we share 'what do we think of this outfit' pictures a lot knowing that everyone will be honest. This one had mixed opinions because of my tinyness and the length. Until I paired it with my new shoes and leather jacket.

What I never realised is that jumpsuits can be really flattering. They're smart and casual at the same time, it hid all the parts I didn't like, I found myself wanted to stand out. I felt like a superwoman. Silly to some but very different for me.


I danced so much that night, I was more confident and happier than I have been in a long time. The power of a jumpsuit.

I'm really glad I tried something new that used to worry me so much and will definitely be looking for more as I go on my merry way.

What do you think of Jumpsuits?

Spending a weekend in Bucharest



One of the best things about a big group of friends is how you are always making plans. Half of the time they don't happen but every now and again you actually go through with it. We all have big adventure plans, a lot on our own and a fair few as a group and I'm pretty sure we're all trying to hit as many countries as possible.

Throw back to Black Friday 2016 and seven of us had randomly booked flights to Bucharest... for a grand total of £40, why would you not? I seriously have a new found love for Ryanair and I'm not even ashamed.

None of us had ever been before, I was convinced they used Euros and I had no idea how VERY FAR AWAY it was. Like, near Russia far away. Or not, but pretty far.

My last girls' holiday was in my second year of University with a bunch of friends from home went to Barcelona and pretty much spent the whole time drinking (we also took in the culture etc but most of my photos from that time, we are either hammered or in the process). Going as a grown up is an entirely different experience. You find yourself wanting to explore more, appreciate things like the architecture and be more than happy to miander the cobbled streets looking out for much more than just the next bar.


The first on our list of things to do was to just get out. After lugging our suitcases up three stories (the lift in our building was scary as hell), we donned some makeup and warmer clothes and headed out to explore Bucharest.

Romania is unlike anywhere I have ever been before. To be fair, I haven't really travelled as much as some of the other Bangarang girls (*looks enviously at them all*) but I have been around! Eastern Europe is like a different world of its own. Political tensions and previous changes are clear in everything from the street art, the buildings to the big protests we didn't realise were still happening.

Milly's bright pink hair made her our own personal prop and go to strideby for all photos

Our first day in Bucharest was mostly exploring the Old Town, and mostly going in search of food. When you travelling with a bunch of bloggers it's guaranteed that content is just as important as the experience. We were all pretty snap happy, shouting for stride-bys taking 100 pictures of the same thing to get the perfect angle and looking for tiny details. It's no surprise that what could have been a ten minute walk took over an hour. #BloggerProblems.

Our first stop for dinner that day was Distrikt 42 in the Old Town where we realised just how CHEAP Romania is when my entire meal cost the equivalent of £9 and a pint of beer was roughly £1.34. I mean, it was almost too good to be true.


Fueled and knackered, we headed back to our apartment (costing us a grand total of £30 each... SUH CHEAP), laden with prosecco and snacks. Pyjamas were thrown on instantly and we settled down to an evening of cackling. Friends are the best.


Our first full day in Bucharest was supposed to start with Brunch. The night before we had passed The Urbanist and once we saw the work BRUNCH, our hearts filled with joy because we are such massive blogger cliches. Turns out Brunch in Bucharest isn't what you think. It's pretty much just sandwiches and coffee... sad.


After downing coffee (Especially Erica who had hers like a shot) we headed out in a desperate search for food.



It seemed like luck wasn't really on our side that day in terms of food. After walking for what felt like an age, we discovered Fabrica. It looked like a cool old dive bar you'd see in Biker movies and was covered in art. felt like our kinda place. Crepes and omlettes were promptly ordered as the hanger was getting real. An hour later, only half of us had eaten (I was a lucky one), the manager was shouting at the chef in Romanian and we prompltly paid up and left.

After stuffing our faces with pastry, we went on our separate ways for a bit. A group of us went on our own mini architecture tour while others went shopping.

Bucharest feels slightly decaying but in a beautiful way. It's like the city is tired. It really is gorgeous. It's also full of holes and hazards so we took to screaming HOLE at eachother after many an incident of nearly falling over...


My favourite game: Taking pictures of Katy taking pictures

GRINGOTTS. Well, not really but it made me think of it

Classic Erica
Our last evening was spent attempting to spend the last of our money in Bucharest's oldest Inn, Hanul Lui Manuc. We failed. Despite how much we ordered (amazing traditional Romanian dishes) and the fact we upgraded from the House Wine, we still left with pennies. My share of the meal came to a grand total of £16.40. Mental, eh. Tuirns out taking roughly £100 each for a weekend was double what we needed.

After a 36 hour round trip in Bucharest, I have decided I'm going to see more of Eastern Europe with Riga already top of my list (See Being Erica's blog for why).

Picture by Little Miss Katy

I have to say that going on holiday with my favourites is up there as one of the best things I have ever done. If ever you get an opportunity to sahre something as awesome as this with your besties, just do it. You will not regret it.

Picture by Little Miss Katy

To see more of Bucharest and decide whether you want to vis yourself, here are the rest of the girls' posts :)




*Note, I have been working on this post (paragraph by paragraph) since precisely the14th March. I have no idea how it took me so long but it did. I am useless.

Spending a long weekend in Dublin

Dublin at night

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably would have noticed that I went to Dublin. I'm still working may way through all of the pictures in an attempt to make my Instagram account look gorgeous.

I have made it a bit of a plan to travel more, even little weekends away (taking inspiration from Erica, Charlie and Katy) and when I was stuck for ideas for my boyfriend's birthday present when my original idea fell through, I came across the best deal on Skyscanner and booked immediately.

Dublin has been on my 'I must bloody go there' list for ages, especially since a colleague lived there and raves about it. My greatest literary love is from there and I bloody love a Guinness. Why would I not want to go?

For a city that is quite small (a population of only a million people according to my Irish friend), there really is so much to see and do that we didn't have time to do as much as we wanted. Still really sad that I missed out on the Leprechaun Museum...

Here are a couple of things I did and loved that I thought you would enjoy too.

Trinity Library - The Book of Kells and the Long Room


Trinity College Dublin


This is pretty much the ONE thing on my list that I desperately wanted to do whether Gary liked it or not. I'm a proper book weirdo, I love the smell. I sometimes walk into Waterstones JUST to get a hit. Yup, I am strange.

The Book of Kells is a display of the four Gospels in Latin and is shockingly beautiful but for me, I mostly wanted to go into the Long Room. It's a library of over 200,000 dusty old tomes and is considered to be one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. The pictures speak for themselves really.



JUST LOOK AT IT

I will never forget that smell. I also wish I had taken my proper camera. iPhone pictures really don't do most things justice.

 You do have to pay to visit the exhibition and go into the Long Room and there can be a pretty hefty queue so I suggest you book in advance online so get to skip right on in.

The Guinness Store House

This one is pretty obvious really and doesn't really require much explanation. As a Guinness fan, it would have been stupid not to go.



Visit the Temple Bar

A friend told me not to go to Temple Bar but I totally did anyway because I am SUCH a massive tourist sometimes and I have no shame. The whole area of Temple Bar is obviously a tourist trap. The prices sky rocket just when you walk into the area and I believe it's the busiest part of Dublin. But it was wonderful.


I said on Twitter that the air itself seems to sing as there really is music everywhere, this is even more true in Temple Bar. Bands and musicians seem to play all day every day. How can you not feel happy there?

Temple Bar Music Dublin


Walking everywhere

As the city is so small you can walk everywhere. The architecture is wonderful and you're bound to stumble across something amazing down one of the tiny streets.

Dublin Ireland
look how adorable and wonky it is

Try the food


This is a bit of a weird one. You might be thinking 'the food in Ireland can't be that different', well it's not really. There are different combinations of things and different ways of cooking things that just make them burst with flavour. All the food I ate, definitely fit into the 'hearty' category and I didn't eat the same thing every day.

explore Dublin


Visit Oscar Wilde

This is something I didn't know about. I knew my hero grew up in Dublin and that he attended Trinity College (one of the reasons I wanted to go), but Gary, bless him, discovered where he was born and the monument to him. I was so happy that he let me go on my own little pilgrimage You can see it all over my face!


Doesn't it all just look wonderful? Bet you want to go yourself, right? Why wouldn't you?

Well, before you book yourself a flight, here are an other extra couple of things you need to know before you go:

It may be cheap to get there, but it's not cheap to stay

It's VERY expensive. Probably on par with London, if not a bit more. Save those pennies first.

Check Tripadvisor before you book your hotel

I did not do this and it ended up panicking on our first day there. Turns out where we were staying wasn't as bad as the Tripadvisor reviews made out to be but we were essentially using it as a bed and nothing more. We spent so much time exploring that we literally needed something to drop into at night.

You can't Instagram everything as much as you may want to

There are building works pretty much everywhere at the moment so half of the stunning architecture or street art will be obscured by scaffolding and fences. Not ideal when you've recently become a bit of an Instagram fiend.

Be prepared to go back

I'm going to. Most definitely. I loved it all so much,