November 2016: This month I have mostly been…

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Feeling: More centred

An unintended step back from reading blogs and a lot of time on social media this past month perhaps combined with a little more focus on what I’m doing in life has meant I’ve felt less inadequate this month than I sometimes do. I don’t really ever intentionally compare myself with other people on the internet but sometimes I feel that the accumulation of things from all sides on the internet (dreamy holiday shots, fancy meals out, Pinterest-perfect interiors) sometimes unintentionally and subconsciously overwhelms me a bit and makes me lose sight of the things I have and am grateful for and what I’m doing with my life. It’s something I probably need to do a bit more often.

Reading: Marching Powder by Rusty Young

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After finishing Good Omens at the start of the month I moved onto a book I’ve had on my shelf for a little while, Marching Powder. Over summer I asked on Twitter for book recommendations for summer and Victoria of A Spoonful of Sugar recommended Marching Powder. What she didn’t know when recommending it was that Banged Up Abroad is a rather guilty pleasure of mine and so although I rarely read non-fiction, I couldn’t resist a book all about the story of a British drug smuggler imprisoned in San Pedro prison in Bolivia. It’s an interesting tale and one that sounds too unbelievable to be true – having to buy your own prison cell, wives and children living in prison with inmates, backpackers coming on tours. But apparently it’s all true!

Watching: Gilmore Girls: A year in the life (NO spoilers!)

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No spoilers because, of course, everyone should be able to enjoy a show without spoilers and also because I’ve only watched Winter and Spring so far. I thought Winter was pretty damn perfect actually, although I was less enamoured with Spring. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Gilmore Girls but Spring had a slightly different feel to it. I’m looking forward to finding the time to sit down and watch Summer and Fall.

Planning: My masters dissertation

My MA project plan was due in on 1 December so that’s mostly what I’ve been planning this month. When I signed up for the MA I imagined I would just come up with my short proposal and title and that then, once on the course, I would be able to just crack on and do the research. In actual fact, I had to submit a 1500 word plan to my supervisor who will give me guidance on it before I start actually writing my dissertation. It’s actually much harder than you might imagine to write a plan of how 15,000 words are going to be structured when you haven’t actually delved into the detail of a subject. It’s also pretty hard to want to find the time to really think about it all when I get back from a long day at work (a problem I’m just going to have to learn to manage over the next year).

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Where to get the best view in Bled

Lake Bled has Pinterest-perfect views from pretty much any angle. Before we went I was keen to see the iconic views of Bled that you see in the photos, i.e. the lake from above with the island sat like a jewel in the middle. It seemed clear from the internet that there were a few different viewpoints, so where do you get the best view in Bled?

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It’s worth starting with a warning that the best viewpoints (even the most accessible of them) are not just a bit of a climb, but a proper clamber. The most iconic views come from three viewpoints called Ojstrica, Mala Osojnica and Velika Osojnica. The route to all viewpoints starts from the South-West bank of the lake. At first there’s a climb up past a few houses and then up what looks like a dry stony riverbed – it’s not but I imagine it looks pretty much like a river when it’s raining. I would definitely advise wearing sensible shoes, comfortable clothes (I went kitted out in full workout gear) and packing water and maybe a snack, this is definitely more hike than stroll. It doesn’t look too steep but it is a real tester of a hike, pretty though as you wind your way through the woods.

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Ojstrica

The first viewpoint that you get to is Ojstrica. Branching off from the main trail you climb up a rocky outcrop to a viewpoint looking out over the trees – there’s no health and safety rails here, it’s definitely not one to attempt in inclement weather conditions. We visited more than once, once to suss it out and then again as part of a longer hike up to the other viewpoints (hence why the sun is shining in some of my photos and not in others).

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Don’t fancy perching on the rocks? There’s a bench up there where you can sit and contemplate the view, which is excellent, especially on a sunny day.

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After clambering down back to the trail you can continue on up the hill to the two higher viewpoints – Mala Osojnica (685m) and Velika Osojnica (756m).

Mala Osojnica

At a fork in the path you choose one or the other viewpoints, we went to try and find Mala Osojnica first but I must admit that we struggled. After the fork the proper signs run out and arrows and dots on trees start. It’s all very Alice in Wonderland and at points you find red arrows pointing in opposite directions on the same tree. We eventually found ourselves at a bench looking out onto a gorge but couldn’t seem to find our way onto the right side of the hill which I knew should give us a view out onto the lake.

Velika Osojnica

Giving up on Mala Osojnica, we headed back to the main path and headed on the trail to Velika Osojnica. Again, not signposted, it was probably more guesswork than anything else that got us to the viewpoint in the end as we did have a few false turns and there was nobody else on the trail when we were. But, after steep climbs and clambering up hills and over branches, we made it to the top and were rewarded with a gorgeous view down over the lake. If you don’t fancy spending a few hours exerting yourself, then the view from Ojstrica will probably be enough for you, but if you fancy a good leg work out, then hiking up to Velika Osojnica does give you a great view, undisturbed by others.

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Bled Castle

An alternative option would be to visit Bled Castle and see the view from there. Looking West rather than East it offers an alternative viewpoint over the lake and you get a bird’s eye view of the lake and all of the boats on the lake. You could always do what we did and visit for dinner at Bled Castle.

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Lakeside

Of course, if you aren’t up for a climb for an aerial view, the best view of Bled can be found from the wooden boulevard on the South West side of the lake, just south of the rowing club and campsite near where the trails to the viewpoints start.

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We were pretty damn lucky to stay in a wonderful Airbnb in Bled with a great view (and kayaks so we could see it all from the water), but Bled is just gorgeous from any angle, in fact, it might actually be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. We definitely want to go back.

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Kew Gardens in autumn

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A few weeks ago we decided to have an early autumn trip out to Kew Gardens, it was a bit of a disaster as my boyfriend spent time lying around in bed instead of getting ready and then the tube wasn’t going all the way from Whitechapel and we spent ages at Westminster waiting for a train that promised to come but never did before we tracked down a member of staff who looked at us like we were idiots because we had failed to follow the instructions he thought were being given out to people on the screens but which clearly weren’t. We got to Kew much later than I would have liked and we ended up being a bit mardy at each other for most of the time. Not one of our finest days. However, all was not lost as we had decided that it was actually pretty cost effective to sign up to become a Friend of Kew – rather than paying something like £15 each for tickets, I instead signed up to the option that allows me to take a family member plus one for £62 and now we can go as often as we like in a year. We knew we’d use it and it’s proving to be a good decision.

The first time we went we were a tad early for the best of the autumn colours and so the other weekend we paid a return visit to try and catch them at their best. It was a misty weekend but dry (apart from a little mizzle in the air) and so I put my stompiest boots on and we set off for a wander around Kew. We weren’t the only ones with that same idea, it turns out that Katy of Little Miss Katy had a similar idea, she took some beautiful photos of her visit.

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The colours were beautiful, from browns, to yellows through to gorgeous red of the Japanese maples.

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Last time we went to Kew we got in and headed right, this time, we decided to head left and see where we ended up. The genius thing about Kew is that unless you spend at least half a day there, you won’t see everything in one visit, so there’s always more to discover. We headed towards the Pagoda and Japanese gardens, which were shrouded in mist.

Everything was beautiful coated in a fine layer of raindrops.

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We decided to get up close and personal with the treetop leaves with a walk around the Treetop Walkway, an 18 metre high steel walkway. It’s definitely not one for those with a fear of heights as it really is high and does sway slightly. For those without heights though, it’s a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the area.

Our favourite area of the park from our previous visit – the Mediterranean Garden was looking suitably Mediterranean, without much of a sign of autumn.kew019 

If it’s all a bit nippy outside, the ideal place to warm up is the Palm House – steamy and humid inside, it houses a mini tropical rainforest and its basement contains a small aquarium. Within minutes you’ll be peeling off the layers and dying to escape back into the chill of the autumn air.

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We are definitely going to be heading back to Kew on a regular basis as we have so much more left to explore. In fact, I’ve already booked to visit for Christmas at Kew when my mum comes down for a visit in a few weeks’ time. Although Kew is the other side of London from us, having a direct tube link there makes it actually much more convenient than places that are much closer to us.

It’ll be lovely to see it in every season, it’s a membership that will definitely be worth the money. I’m not a member of anything else in London, what else is well worth the money?

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A weekend in York – part 2

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As I mentioned in my previous post about my visit to York, I got up early (as I tend to in new cities) to explore with my camera before everyone else wakes up and starts filling the streets.

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York is a beautiful city to have all to yourself. It’s surrounded by three and a half kilometres of city walls and 2.5 million people walk along all or part of the walls each year. In the early morning it’s just you. And a view of the Minster, of course.

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Dotted around York are points on their Selfie Trail, a selection of iconic York views from which to get the perfect York selfie. The one on the city walls offers a fantastic place from which to get a selfie with the towers of the Minster. I am not a selfie girl (I have a camera roll full of me trying to be cute or nonchalant in selfies like other girls but where I’m actually just gurning, look ridiculous or look miserable as sin) but if you are the kind of person that can be cute that close to a camera then hunt out some of the most picturesque spots and make sure you tag @visityork and use #yorkselfie on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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Selfie attempted but definitely not perfected I strolled over the bridge to Museum Gardens, botanical gardens set across ten acres in the middle of the city.

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Established in the 1830s by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, the gardens are set in the surroundings of the medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, which are still standing in part. It’s a lovely place for a stroll and I imagine in summer it’s a fantastic place to enjoy the sunshine.

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Anyone who has been to York will tell you that you can’t visit York without paying a visit to the Shambles, York’s most famous shopping street. It’s a narrow pedestrianised street lined with beautiful old buildings which contain a variety of small shops selling food, jewellery, gifts and more. By day the street is full of people browsing and shopping but in the early morning you can have it all to yourself.

Make sure you explore properly, we found the tiny Margaret Clitherow Shrine tucked between the shops, a quiet place of contemplation just metres from the bustling street. York is full of hidden surprises!

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Located at the end of the Shambles, make sure to hunt out Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate – the longest street name in York, belonging to the shortest street in York (just 32 metres long).

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With the sun climbing in the sky I headed back to our hotel, the Hedley House Hotel and managed to successfully extract my boyfriend from his duvet burrito. We headed back into the city for a day of exploring and, in preparation, fuelled up on breakfast from Bettys. Sadly with decided against one of their tiny owl brownie cupcakes or a colourful pumpkin and instead went for a fat rascal to go with a takeaway cup of tea from Spring Espresso.

Caffeined up we headed to Clifford’s Tower (another attraction we got into for free with our York Passes). Clifford’s Tower was originally built by William the Conqueror to subdue the rebels of the north, it was twice burned to the ground, before being rebuilt by Henry III in the 13th century. The tower takes its name from one grisly incident in its long history, when Roger de Clifford was executed for treason against Edward II and hanged in chains from the tower walls.

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Although there isn’t much to particularly experience there, you can climb up to the top of the tower and get a great panoramic view of the city.

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From there we had been planning to visit the nearby Merchant Adventurer’s Hall, a medieval guildhall, but unfortunately it was closed for a private event (which was a shame, it looked so pretty).

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Instead we decided that we’d visit Barley Hall, a medieval house. Until the 1980s the house was hidden under the relatively modern facade of a derelict office block and it was only discovered when the building was going to be destroyed. Now restored, it has been decorated to replicate what it would have looked like around 1483.

We played medieval games, learnt stuff about Henry VIII that we didn’t in school and saw costumes from The Tudors and Wolf Hall.

 

To finish off our day before we got the train back home to London we decided to take a little river cruise to see the city from the water of the river Ouse.  We hopped on at the Lendal Bridge stop and settled in on the top deck. As we cruised along we got a bit of a history of the city and even got to spot some of the cats on the York Cat Trail.

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After a final wander through the city we had run out of time, but not of things to do. We still had a number of things that we would have loved to see if only we’d had another day there. We certainly made the most of our time in York and that was definitely helped by having access to the York Pass which meant that we got free entry into all of the attractions we visited (including the river cruise).

I suppose the best thing about leaving things not done though is that it gives us an excuse to return to York one day – perhaps next year for York Christmas Festival, I bet the city’s even more beautiful at Christmas.

If you’re planning your own York adventure (and you definitely should) then the Visit York website is chock-full of ideas and is a great place to start planning. If you’ve already been, then do let me know what we missed out on and should definitely see next time around!

This post was written in collaboration with Visit York. 

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