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Being a Harry Potter Fan as an adult

St Dunstan in the East London

I know, I know. Being a grown up Potterhead isn't exactly big news or something new. But hear me out a bit.

There have been a couple of times this month alone where I feel people have mocked my life choices. They have blatantly taken the piss out of  my sheer passion for this fictional world that sometimes feels more like home than anything else.

I've had someone flat out laugh at me when I told them I was a big fan, someone say 'the funniest part of that was you looking so serious' when I told them I wore Gryffindor robes in Christ Church College and someone say it's time to stop acting like a kid.

I'm sorry, but screw you.

St Dunstan in the East London

I feel like I have had constant debates with people over whether or not Harry Potter is for kids. As much as I believe it's not, that's down to the individual person at the end of the day. But whether or not you think it is for children, it doesn't make it OK for you to make me feel small.

I have a passion for something and I don't think that's something to be ashamed of. I'm sure if I also spoke to people about my love for Shakespeare, travelling or even computers games, I wouldn't be met with nearly as much mockery as I do when they find out about the Harry Potter world I am enveloped in.

Sure, I don't try to hide it from people, but why the hell should I? People wear football shirts and talk about the latest controversy on XFactor without feeling like they should hide what they're interested in so why should Harry Potter be any different?


The Harry Potter world is something that's grown far beyond that last page and the grounds of Hogwarts. And it's growing every day. We have a whole swathe of people from my generation who have named their children Harry and Hermione. We also have a bunch of much stronger young people as a result of being inspired by the heroes and heroines within those pages.

Even the March For Our Lives protests in America this year could be partly attributed to the strength gained from Harry Potter. The young people mobilised and marched onwards with placards quoting 'Expelliarmus!' and 'Dumbledore's Army Still Recruiting'. There are real life 'Death Eaters' in this world, and there's a whole generation of people ready to fight back. 


Yes, pretty much 30 and I like Harry Potter. I like to dress up, buy wands and cuddly toys. I read the books every year and have been to the Studio Tour more times than anyone I know. But it's all OK. I'm perfectly happy with the way I am. Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean it's wrong or silly. I've had so many opportunities and life experiences gained from this world of magic and I will continue to show my love for it.

Maybe soon I'll stop feeling hurt when people laugh at me but until then, I'll just seek solace in the Prisoner of Azkaban, remember 'Expecto Patronum' and carry on.

Things to do on a weekend in Prague

exploring the grounds of Prague Castle

It seems like bloody forever ago that I went on my first 12 in 12 trip! Especially considering I booked everything back in September... After years of wanting to go and going through a touch of Instagram envy, I finally got to experience this pretty city for myself, with one my favourite person in the world too!

From the second we were in our taxi from the airport and driving down the hills and winding streets to our hotel, I had already decided that I was in love with Prague. A journey down was fill of bright colours, some tired looking buildings (which I love). It really doesn't take much to please me, does it?

We stayed in Praha 5 at the NH Prague City hotel which was roughly 20 minutes from the airport and a walkable distance from the Old Town. That part isn't the prettiest of neighbourhoods but the hotel itself was lovely. I was mostly excited about the cable car between the two different parts of the hotel, but I was devastated to learn that it was out of service when we arrived. Bloody refurb.

Spending a weekend in Prague can be easily done, obviously depending on what you want to do! Personally, I felt the two days and a bit we had there weren't quite enough, there's a lot we missed and I really wanted to do ALL THE THINGS. If you're going for around the same time, here are a couple of suggestions. But there is so much more.

Try the local brews

Czech Republic is well known for its pilsner, but there's also a growing craft beer scene. I actually had one of the best beers I have ever tasted in the Three Roses pub in the old town. All the beers they sell are brewed in the pub itself and there's even a little family tree of everything they have ever made as well as the person who made it. 

It was our favourite place to go for a quick pit stop between tourist-ing and the staff are so friendly. They made you feel at home in a way and were full of jokes all the time. I 100% recommend it to all beer fans out there.

Tasting locally brewed beer in prague
This is not the Vienna Red but it's still pretty tasty

One little thing, though. We noticed that the menus didn't have percentages on them so LORD KNOWS how strong the beer we were drinking was. No wonder we felt tipsy most of the time!!

Also, bars and pubs run on a tab system so try not to make a tit out of yourself like I did and think you pay in rounds...

Goulash for days

Not gonna lie, I lived on it. I know it's the ultimate cliché when tourists visit Prague but it has been one of my favourite dishes for a while so I loved having it in the place it was born, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

Traditional Goulash in Prague

As with every where, it can be difficult to tell which restaurants are obviously tourist traps (like all the Angus Steak houses in London...) and which are local specialists. The gem we found on our last day was Restaurace Mlegnice right near the Old Town Square. There were queues out the door at one point and we ended up sharing a table with two other couples. The food was the best I'd had all the weekend  so it's no wonder it's on Culture Tip's best restaurants in Prague list. (note, this is also how we found out about it...) 

Catch the Changing of the Guard at Prague Castle

Yes, I know. not exactly everyone's kinda thing and we all know and we Londoners occasionally laugh at the swarms of people who hang around outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, but I do love a bit of Pomp and Circumstance and a Marching Band. 

Prague Castle Changing of the Guard


The actual changing of the guard happens at 12pm but it can get really busy so don't be surprised if you have to queue to get into the castle afterwards! 

Actually go in to the Castle Grounds

If only for the architecture, it's worth a visit. Gary and I weren't too fussed about going in to the actual castle, we were more than happy to just wander and #LookUp.

For one thing once you finally get to the castle, the view alone makes those bastarding steps absolutely worth it. 

Prague Skyline

I mean, look at that.

Within the Castle Grounds, there's way more to do than we had time to. This is mostly due to us sleeping through our alarm and not arriving in the time we planned. There the St. Vitus Cathedral that we only saw from the outside... parts of it were under refurbishment and the one part that was open to the public had the world's biggest queue!

St Vitus Cathedral Prague

St Vitus Cathedral Prague Castle


There's also Golden Lane which was top of my list to see. It's one of the oldest parts of the castle and from what I've seen online, it's just so cute.

I can't give you a personal opinion on this one or any of the pretty photographs I planned to take... we didn't get to go. This is reason #86767907 we'll be going back to Prague. If only for the Instagram.

Visit Charles Bridge

View of Charles Bridge from the river


Possibly one of the most popular spots in Prague, it's constantly busy. When Gary and I arrived on the Friday (at Golden Hour, BOOM) it was rammed. We decided to get there a little earlier the next day but it was STILL busy. We went a long it anyway and I took as many pictures as I possibly could. My one recommendation for you would be to get there at bum fuck early. 

Charles Bridge Architecture


For more things we wanted to do but didn't get to...

The Astronomical Clock

The one thing I wanted to do and it's UNDER REFURBISHMENT!! A large portion of the clock and Tower itself is being reconstructed until June 2018 and parts of the Town Hall will also be closed.

My heart broke when I saw the Scaffolding all over it so here is an advanced warning to you, you might not get to see it. 

Painted ceiling of the Old Town Hall in Prague
#LookUp

For one small stroke of luck, Gary and I were still able to actually go UP the tower and in to the Town Hall. It wasn't the same but still very pretty and once again, delivered on stunning views over toe Old Town Square

Prague Old Town Square


The Jewish Cemetery

When I was researching places to go and things to see, this was pretty much near the top of every list. However, we arrived a little too late. The Cemetery and Synagogue close early on a Friday in preparation of Sabbath the next day. As we left again on the Sunday, we didn't have time to re-arrange our visit.

All around it are a bunch of antique shops and Jewish bakeries (all were closed for us) so if you get to go yourself, let me know where the best places to go are!


 If there's one piece of advice I could give you about visiting Prague, it would be to realise that everywhere is really easy to get to so make sure you get yourself lost. You never know what you're going to find down any cobbled streets. See all the things, drink all the beer and have all the food. Have the BEST time. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to start looking up flights so I can go back. 

Above the City on the London Eye

London Eye VIP

NGL, the London Eye has never interested me, even at the height of its novelty in the early 2000s. It didn't interest me either when I worked for their sponsor in 2016! I've always thought of it as a giant, overrated Ferris Wheel. At one point, I was flat out refusing to go on it.

But I went on it. I caved and went on it. Mostly because Milly offered me a spot in her private booth.

I suck.

Millennium Bridge London

Despite being strongly against a trip up the London Eye for so long, I have made it a mission to step out of my comfort zone in quiet little East Finchley, to see more and spend more time in the city I have called home for over a decade. Even if that means falling into over priced Tourist Traps.

I wouldn't say the London Eye experience surprised me, it pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin, but the views are most definitely worth it. It was nice to see London from another perspective.

There was definitely a couple of things I enjoyed that truly made the trip.

Coca-Cola London Eye

We had our own private booth which meant we were able to run around and see every angle as well as giggle with ourselves. I'm not entirely sure how many people the capsule can hold, but I do think it would have been a less enjoyable experience if we had been crammed in with other people.

It reminded me of why I loved London. I mean, our city is stunning from every angle but seeing it from above made you really take in the splendour of the whole thing.

The people I went with. I really do have some of the best friends to enjoy everything and this time we even took the boys. It is funny to have the boys with us, it gives them a moment to not only appreciate how much effort goes into creating content constantly, it also gives Gary and I a chance to do more together. Full time jobs and busy schedules (mostly mine) restricts us a tad.

We also got to being you this 'Behind the Insta' shot. Good ol' Instagram Husbands.

London Eye

London Eye

In short, I still think it's overrated but I wouldn't be entirely against going back on it. I do think the cost is a little ridiculous for what you get and how it really is just a giant Ferris Wheel but going with great people makes it an experience to remember.

Have you ever been on the London Eye? 

A snapshot from Prague

Prague Castle

When I was a teenager, my favourite band was AFI (they still are one of them...) and my favourite song was Silver and Cold. Back in the day when we all used to watch music videos on the actual TV rather than YouTube, I was in love with the music video for Silver and Cold and decided after I had seen it from the very first time, that I HAD to go to Prague and stand where Davey Havok did. 15 years later, I hadn’t really changed and finally did it!!

For gifts for Gary, I try to get him more experiences, rather than just ‘stuff’. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy him geeky memorabilia because I know he’ll enjoy it, but at the same time, I want to see more of the world with him. What with him being my favourite person and everything.

For Gary’s last birthday, I got him a little weekend trip to Dublin so we could drink all the beer. For anniversary last year, I booked us a holiday to Prague, so I could be Davey Havok and we could drink all the beer. Slightly for me, and more for him.

Charles Bridge Prague

I’ve wanted to see more of Central and Eastern Europe since I went to Bucharest with the girls, but Gary has been to SOO many places on my ‘I want to go there’ list because he is of the age of all the stag do’s. It was a struggle trying to find somewhere he hadn’t been so I started dropping suggestions about Prague earlier on in the year before I finally booked it in September.

Other than the little emo in me (THERE YOU GO, GARY! I BLOODY SAID IT AND I KNOW YOU’RE READING), there was so much drawing me to Prague and not just how I’m constantly inspired by the people around me who had been before and loved it.



I love clocks, there’s a big bloody famous clock in the town square.

I love architecture (part of the reason I live in London) and the whole place is absolutely gorgeous.

I love walking and getting lost, this is very easy to do in Prague... Seriously. I lost count of the number of times we walked in completely the wrong direction.

Visit Prague

Looking back on it, it was a far cry form my trip to Cyprus the following week with more walking over three days than I generally do in a week. I already miss it. There's something magical about the city that I can't really explain. It's a far throw from London (still busy though) and for me it always felt self and welcoming. The people we met were ridiculously friendly and I have found my favourite beer in the whole world.

Our trip to Prague was short and sweet and I will be going into more detail of everything we did in the less than 36 hours we had there. For now though, just know that Gary and I loved Prague so much, we're already planning a trip back.

Prague bridges

3 ways to make a rented flat feel more like a home


Like most people of my age, especially in London, I have moved around A LOT since I left home for university. At one point, there were 5 moves in 5 years. 5 different times my dad had to hire a van and help me lug all my stuff up different ends of the Northern Line, 5 flats where I felt like I hadn't really settled and never felt at home, regardless of where I was or who I lived with. Everything was just temporary.

Fast forward to 2012, I found a gorgeous flat with my best friend and I haven't left yet. Although my friend has since moved out, the boyfriend has moved in and we even got a cat (like a little family!), it still felt like just a rented flat and nothing like our own.

Obviously when you rent, there is very little you can do to make your mark. I'm pretty sure I have had the same white walls and cheap beige carpet in every place I have lived to date. Gary and I decided that we're going to finally try little things to make our little place more homey. So far, I am much happier

Star Wars Canvas

Obviously, as much as I wish we could, we're not allowed to actually paint. It's sad and makes things feel a bit soul-less. We've recently got our hands on the biggest Star Wars canvas you have ever seen from Photowall (seriously, it's bigger than me) and it's already made the room feel brighter and more like ours. That with the bunting and family pictures (yes, we're those people) scattered all over the joint have added our own little touch that I'm in love. Who wouldn't want a 5ft Star Wars canvas on their wall? I know I'm not the only one who has gone down this route either; Little Miss Katy has recently moved into a new place and is planning a canvas wall.


can we please appreciate Dobby 'helping' Gary hang the canvas?

Like PROPER adults, Gary and I got a bunch of vouchers over Christmas. Normally, I'd spend these on shoes or clothes but the time has come for me to stop spending my money on general crap. Instead we invested in a shaggy pile rug for the living room. I mean, can you get more grown up?

It's absolutely massive and not only has it made a more cosy vibe but it makes the room warmer as we're covering a big match of dull and not exactly heat retaining laminate flooring. The cat bloody loves it though. Since we got the rug,. he's barely left it and has a tendency to go on one of his 'mentals' all over it, it's adorable.

Aloe house plant


As you may have seen on Instagram, I bought my own little Aloe recently and am trying to bring more nature into the home as well. I have been such a sucker for all the people on Instagram sharing pictures of daffodils in beautiful vases that I've had to go and get some myself. It was like plant and spring FOMO. Just having them there is making me smile though, even if they're not a premenant feature to my mantle.

So far, I have managed to keep my aloe alive and my flowers aren't wilting JUST yet so maybe I'll be able to make my own little jungle soon!

Sure, these aren't exactly ground-breaking interior design tips, but when you're so restricted every little step can help. I already feel so much happier and comfortable in my own little space. Who knows, I may be in that flat for another 5 years, or it could all be temporary. Either way, I've been saying 'home' more rather than 'the flat' and that's what we're aiming for.

If you're looking to add some character to your place, I have a special 20% discount on canvases from Photowall. Just use SmashleighjayneCampaign2018.




*Disclaimer: This post was in partnership with photowall in exchange for the most awesome canvas ever but all words are my own

A Villa break in Cyprus



I've said it before and I'll say it again. I really don't understand how to relax properly. Until recently, I never really took holiday from work unless I had somewhere to be, and whenever I go away I have to make sure I rush around and see all the stuff. Normally, I'm just as tired (if not more) when I get back than I was when I left, which I'm sure is not the point of taking a holiday.

Villa Holidays had never been something to consider when planning my various jaunts and trips away. I have done all-inclusive experiences before with family and found that it all started to feel restricted and confined. I would get bored just sitting by the pool for the 10th day in a row because you couldn't really leave the resort (depending on where you go). I know it's such a first world problem... but that's the way I am and I LOVE to explore, rather than just sit.. However, after the hectic couple of months I've had, a weekend in a villa with the girls is just what the doctor ordered.

James Villas Cyprus

Our gorgeous villa in Aphrodite Hills Resort was by far the best part of our holiday as I didn't feel exactly inspired by Cyrpus itself (more on that to come). When we arrived we all felt that it was very uniform and VERY Desperate Housewives and was such a massive contrast from other places we have stayed. Nothing like the Hostel from my first girls' holiday, that's for sure. A 5 bedroom temporary home with our own garden and a private pool. What more could you want?



Sadly, lounging by the pool in gorgeous sunshine wasn't exactly on the cards for us as we had planned. For a country that sees over 340 days of pure sunshine a year, we had exactly one day of it over our weekend. Although the odd blue sky could be spotted between the clouds, we mostly had to deal with wind and much greyness. However, when the sun did arrive, we got to experience much more of what the resort had to offer.

Aphrodite Hills Resort Cyprus

I am not sporty at all. My P.E. teachers at school knew I was a lost cause so eventually just gave up on me. But, when you're staying on a resort with all the facilities, it would be such a waste to not experience them for yourself. On that one Sunny Day we had, we were treated to our own Tennis and Golf lessons.



I've considered picking up a racket before, especially since we have free tennis courts around the corner from my house, and I really didn't expect it to be as much fun as it was. I was absolutely AWFUL and can't imagine myself signing up to Wimbledon in the future but I hit the ball a couple of times, giggled until my ribs hurt and had more fun 'doing a sport' than I ever had before.


To me, golf is the most boring sport in the world. I haven't changed my mind on that and the concept of a sport where the whole point is to do less of the sport than other people completely baffles me. But seeing 8 NON sporty girls on a driving range with people who actually enjoy trying to hit a ball really far, was definitely memorable. I'm sure we annoyed people.

If I thought I was bad at Tennis it was nothing compared to golf. I kept missing the ball, couldn't hold the stick (yes, I know it's not really called a stick) properly and if I did hit the ball, it rolled away very sadly and was far from souring through the skies like the other girls / the instructors. I was just useless.

See for yourself. I don't even know what's happening here:


Worn out, a tad sweaty and ravenous from all the physical activity, we got to experience more of what the resort had to offer. From exploring the full range of accommodation, trying local brews and lunch at one of the many onsite restaurants. The reward I needed for doing the stuff, I'm sure.


I have to admit, the whole experienced surprised me. It's made me realise that sometimes it's OK to just be. You don't need to run around until your feet hurt and spend endless hours researching the best places to eat and drink. Sometimes you just need some of your best girls, a card game and some prosecco. Sometimes it's OK to do nothing but eat sit and laugh at each other. And it's actually quite nice.








*Disclaimer: our stay at Aphrodite Hills Resort was free in partnership with James Villas. However, all other travel costs were our own and all words are mine.

Intentions for 2018

Highgate Pergola

It's my first week back at work and I am so very tired. Also sick. Already the conversations around New Years Resolutions have began. Mostly with people saying they want to lose weight or are going to do Dry January.

I don't believe in New Years Resolutions because I'm an actual pessimist. That and I rarely stick to anything, especially if I vocalise it. But, obviously, just like everyone else there are a couple of things I'd like to change, but not just because it's the New Year. I already started before Christmas. Little bit by little bit. I guess this is what happens when you start becoming more of an adult.

In my mind, if I consider these as intentions, rather than resolutions, I might actually stand a chance as I have made no promises to myself or anyone else!

Reduce my use of Single Use Plastics

I recycle a lot, especially at work where we have separate bins for everything, including one JUST for coffee grounds. However, Blue Planet this year did traumatise me. It made me realise that I really wasn't doing enough.

In the past few weeks I have been upping my game. More things at home are being recycled. I have a Pokémon water bottle for #Hydration throughout the day rather than getting new bottles all the time, I have stopped with the paper cups for coffee and take my ceramic one with me now.



Make my flat more like a home

The problem with living in a rented place, you can't really make a mark on the place you live. It annoys me but I know I will never be able to afford a house. Any time soon, anyway. Gary and I have wanted to create more of a home for a while so decided to just do it rather than make excuses. 

Before Christmas, Gary re-arranged the living room giving us more space, we've just bought ourselves a big fluffy rug (which the cat LOVES), I have been completely brutal and thrown so much stuff out, and I just bought myself a cute little house plant that I'm determined to keep alive. Currently in my Amazon basket I have a bunch of new Scatter Cushions and throws to match the colour scheme I have in my head and will be finding a way of putting more pictures of friends and family up without using nails and potentially losing my deposit!

Aloe Houseplant


Be nicer to myself

Not only am I going to stop putting myself down all the bloody time (well, try to anyway), I'm going to treat myself better. If I'm sick, I'll stay home and not wear myself down by insisting on working. I'm going to carry on going to the gym, I was really good at it last year and it honestly makes me feel so much better. I'll drink more water because I have ALWAYS been shit at that and hydration is awesome. I'm also going back to actually cooking instead of just relying on Iceland and take-away. Gary and I fell into such an awful habit of it last year and I already feel so much better after making proper meals again. 

These are all very simple changes just to make me a happier person. Knowing my luck though, now that I have written them down, I'll probably forget all about them by March and will fall into old habits. Let's not though, OK AJ? Think of the planet and your bloody happiness.

Do you have any intentions for 2018?


Come on 2018, let's do 12 in 12

Completely unrelated picture.

You know what's hilarious... when I originally wrote that title, I put 2017. Because I am stupid and, as I'm writing this, it's that weird bit between Christmas and New Year where I don't know what day it is, who I am or what the hell is going on... Typical, eh?

So, 2018 is going to be a bit of a big one.

It's the year I turn thirty.

Yes, the big 3-0. The one with the baby face is going to (supposedly) be an adult. It feels weird.

Next year is going to be the year of seeing and doing. Mostly seeing. Since I left uni, I have pretty much just worked. It took 6 years for me to go on my first proper holiday for ages and I now spend most of my time planning things I want to see. So I'm going to do it.

I have seen a lot of people doing 12 in 12 and have been desperate to do it myself. I'm not talking about 12 trips away to exotic destinations though, I don't earn enough! BUT I will be having 12 little trips. Whether that means a weekend in Bath, it counts because I have never been there.

We have a couple of things already in the pipeline which is awesome. But I do have another 9 that I need to plan. At the moment anyway.

Where am I going

As with most people, January is pretty much going to be a write off while we all recover from the Christmas induced poverty and the dreaded five week month. It's going to be SO HARD.

In February though, I have TWO WEEKENDS booked, one after the other. Yay for me!

Prague

Picture from Charlie, Distracted 

I have wanted to go to Prague for, like, ever. When I was a teenager, it was because AFI filmed the video to Silver and Cold there and I wanted to stand where the beautiful Davey Havok stood.

I'm not going to lie, I'm still going to do this. Now as I am wiser in my years (lol, no) I want to go because it looks absolutely gorgeous. I want to ride along the river, admire the architecture and see THAT CLOCK.

Picture from Charlie, Distracted 


And drink cheap beer. All the cheap beer...

I booked the trip for Gary's anniversary present so I really hope he enjoys it as much as I do. If not... oh well. I win *laughing crying emoji*.

Cyprus

Another Bangarang weekend on Holiday. Yay!! Thanks to James Villas, the girls and I will be jetting off for a spot of winter sun. At the moment, we don't really have a plan about what to do other than RELAX but knowing us lot, the group chat will turn into mini itineraries and top destinations. I know there are vineyards so we'll inevitably end up in one at some point. 

All I know right now is that I am very excited and cannot wait. We will have the best time. Again. 

New Zealand

We have no definite plan for this one yet, Gary dropped the bombshell last week! It's going to be our one BIG TRIP and we're going to start all the planning (with spreadsheets, coz I love a bloody spreadsheet) in January. At the moment, I have mostly been looking at the best times to go, and June is looking promising.

As far as I know, because it's the other side of the world it isn't exactly going to be hot, but I really don't care. New Zealand has been on my Bucket List since I first saw the Lord of the Rings and all of Charlie, Distracted's posts on it have filled me with such Wanderlust. The root plan is to spend time with friends who moved back over a couple of years ago and we only really speak to now on drunken nights out when we get them in Skype. Top of my 'I MUST DO THAT' list is obviously Hobbiton. I mean, why would you not?

We're thinking of around 2 weeks, we can spend a week with friends on the South Island and seeing things around there before we hire a car and shoot off on our own adventures. But we'll have to see. 

The North Coast 500

This is my plan for the birthday. I love Scotland, it's part of me and will always feel like home. If you haven't heard of the North Coast 500 yet, it's pretty much like Scotland's version of Route 66. 500 miles driving around gorgeous and cold coast lines and stopping off in random places in between. It's another one we need to plan properly but I'm hopping we'll actually be on the road for my birthday, 30th October. It's also Gary's birthday in October but because he's not having a big milestone, I get to be a little bit selfish, right?

Also, question... As we'll be staying in lots of places I have never been to before, would this count as one of my 12 in 12? Or multiple? Thoughts on a postcard please.

Where I want to go

Germany

The only place I have been to in Germany is Stuttgart as a stop off point for our awesome drive to Italy when I was 16. A bloody long time ago now!

There are so many places in Germany I want to go to that I don't know where to begin but I think I'd like to see the Christmas Markets for my Nanna. As you may know, my Nanna passed away in 2016 (the WORST year) and she bloody loved Christmas and I want to do something for her.

Whitby

Ahhh, the home of Dracula. It's far from exotic but there is a goth festival. I'm a proper bookworm so always love wandering around places of Literary significance. Just like Oxford, the home of the Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, His Dark Materials and the  Lord of the Rings.

Bath

Already mentioned this one in passing but it's definitely somewhere I want to go to. I also have friends nearby which is handy. 

Somewhere random in Wales

I *have* been to Wales. My Uncle is in the RAF so we used to go and spend Christmas with them in Cardiff. But that's it. 

I really want to see more of that beautiful place and Gary and I have discussed going camping there together. Will probably be a summer activity so I don't get too cold.

The Peak District

Driven through it many times, but have never actually been there. Maybe it could be a stop off for the night before we hit the North Coast 500? That's definitely an idea.

Bordeaux

I LOVE France. I used to holiday a lot there when we were kids and two years ago, Gary and I went to Nice and had the best time. 

Really, I mostly want to go to Bordeaux for the wine. That's what it's famous for! Plus, it gives me the perfect opportunity to polish up my very rusty French.

Back to Paris

I'm considering this one of my 12 in 12 because last time I went was with an ex boyfriend and I really want to experience it with Gary and have better memories. Plus, I don't think he's been before.

When I last went, we had 2 days in Disney Land with 2 days in 'Proper Paris' and there's so much I didn't get to do or see. Like visit Montmartre, pop by Oscar Wilde's grave (and try REALLY hard to give it a sneaky kiss)... be a proper tourist down the Champs-Élysées and see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Pretty much all the things.

A flying drive through visit... on that same drive to Italy when I was 16


Amsterdam

I mean, it's not exactly far, is it? Skyscanner is an absolute blessing with return flights from £40 and there's always the train from St Pancras. No excuse not to go really. Plus, it looks awesome.

Budapest

Another cheap one east ways that's been on the list for years. After going to Bucharest last year, I desperately want to see more of Eastern Europe and that's not just because it's cheap AF...

Budapest Mini Adventures
Budapest parliament building from 12 Awesome things to do in Budapest by Milly

If I keep going, this list will be absolutely ENDLESS but here's a snapshot of destinations I think will actually be achieveable for my attempt at 12 in 12. It'll probably all change when I see bargain flights or train tickets somewhere but I am determined to do this thing and have the best 30th year full of adventures.

Why I actually love Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland 2017

I'm one of those people who loves to hate Winter Wonderland. It's busy and full of tourists, you'll be queueing for days and every time I go, it always bloody rains. But I love it. Despite always having a bit of a moan...

It's not very often you can get a lot of mates together (for me, it's next to impossible... I'm looking at you, Bangarang) but every year, all of Gary's uni mates + me gather together for yearly shenanigans at Winter Wonderland. Every year we've been, we've been a bit rubbish about it and mostly hung out in the Bavarian Village getting pissed (which is still awesome) but this year, friends who live further away stayed at our house so we had a full day of it.

Winter Wonderland London 2017


Things I like about Winter Wonderland in General

Everyone seems to be cheerful

I don't know what it is, it could be the copious amount of booze, the fact that the arrival of Winter Wonderland shows that Christmas is SO CLOSE, or they're just genuinely happy people.

I'm always miserable but find the happiness of our friends and the people at Winter Wonderland infectious. Meaning I tend to smile all day.

All the Mulled drinks

Mulled Wine and Mulled Cider are one of the greatest inventions on this Earth. This year I discovered Hot Toffee Apple Cider and was in my own little Heaven. That was before we discovered the Apple Pie Southern Comfort though... which actually tastes like Apple Pie in a cup.

It's not as expensive as you think

one of the main things people complain about is how expensive Winter Wonderland is, but in reality it isn't. For example, I bought a pint of Cider and Blackcurrant (classic me) at it was £5. Considering the exact same thing in my local pub is £4.90... I really don't think that's too bad.

Things I liked about Winter Wonderland this year

Oh, the things you can do when you plan on spending more than just an evening there...

We barely had to queue

Could be because we got there around 2:30 rather than 6... but we barely had to queue at all. Maybe we just got lucky!

The night before, we booked tickets to the Magical Ice Kingdom which meant we got to go into a separate queue and jump the horde at the gates. When we got to the roller-coasters, we seemed to just walk straight through and get on them, and we barely had to queue at the bar until around 8pm. Pretty good running I'd say.

Winter Wonderland London 2017


The Roller-coasters are actually amazing

I LOVE roller-coasters. When I was growing up, my mum and brother were very much the 'bag holders' and I found out recently that my dad really doesn't like them either. BUT he came on every single one with me so I didn't have to go on alone. Legend.

I've normally avoided put up and take down roller-coasters at fair grounds because I didn't imagine they'd me all that safe. However, with an event as big as Winter Wonderland, you'd think they'd go under many, many safety checks!

You know, what? They were amazing. We didn't go on every single one but the ones we tried were fantastic. First round we went on Ice Mountain, which was very similar to Space Mountain at Disney Land. Gary became Designated Bag Holder for the BIG ONE though that had around 8 loops. I have discovered that after 4 years in a relationship with that boy, spending a whole day at Alton Towers may be off the cards...

I screamed a lot and got off each ride with a massive grin on my face. I'm still gutted that we didn't go into the Haunted House (because OF COURSE they'd have one...) but there's always next year.

Winter Wonderland London 2017


There's music everywhere

I can't explain how much I love music and how it has shaped me over years so if there's a bugger tonne of music, I'll be happy. We made the foolish attempt of a day of Whamageddon until we realised every bloody stall was playing the same music... after we had run away from one bar in different directions and I spilt Mulled Cider all down my coat (twat). In each main bar you have different stages with DJs and performers too. Towards the end of the night, we settled into one of the smaller bars in the Bavarian village and were delighted by the performance of a 60 year old man performing 'sexy and I know it' and 'Gangnam Style' before a traditional German brass band (which I loved). I haven't giggled that much in a while.

It's worth paying for more than just food and drink

As I've mentioned, we got tickets to see the Magical Ice Kingdom, an immersive experience of ice sculptures themed around under the sea. Cue me creating an Instagram story of everything using the lyrics for Under the Sea from the Little Mermaid. I'm cool, I swear.

Not only did we have the joys of skipping the queue at the beginning, but we also had the best time in sub zero temperatures.

The Sculptures were absolutely incredible and we discovered my coat is not suitable for an ice slide. All in all, it was so worth the £10 and if you get a chance to see it, you should.

Winter Wonderland London 2017


I probably had the best time at Winter Wonderland this year than I have at any other time. I'll definitely be checking out what new things will be there next year and will maybe go even earlier to make sure I actually have a full day of giggling like a maniac.

Winter Wonderland London 2017