Seven Days in Sorrento

Our recent week in Sorrento was a great, active break – and we felt we fitted in everything we hoped to do and one week was the perfect length of time. So here I share with you my ideal seven days in Sorrento.

  1. Explore Sorrento and find the station

We all do the same things on our arrival in a new place, don’t we? Get your bearings! First find Sorrento main town and the nearest train station.

We actually stayed in Saint’Agnello, a nearby town east of Sorrento. It was a 15-20 minute walk to Sorrento, which in the July heat was quite exhausting so if you can afford to I would recommend staying in the main town. We found our way to Sorrento, explored the winding streets and the many shops within.

Important parts of Sorrento to find is the stairs down to the port. This is on the main Corso Italia road, on the Piazza Torquato Tasso. You will see a railing with a view of the sea, to the left are the steps leading you down to a road. It is only a short walk to the port where you can pick up a boat to Capri. There are a lot of steps, however I believe there is also a lift somewhere west of this point – though we never used it.

Also find the station, if like us you’re happy to travel cheaply to the many sites around Sorrento you’ll need to find this. In Sorrento this in on a little road just off of Corso Italia. if you headed east from the steps. The road Via Ernest De Curtis is on the right, and you will see the sign for Circumvesuviana, the name of the train line.

We found a nearer station in Saint’Agnello, it was a little dirty inside but walk up those steps and the station is fine! (We circled the whole building checking it was the right entrance!) You may wish to walk to Sorrento in the hopes of getting a seat since Sorrento is the start of the line, but at Saint’Agnello we spotted the front carriages had empty seats (right if looking at the train line) so made a beeline for those.

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2. Pompeii

We spent out first full day in Pompeii – this may have been a mistake as we weren’t ready for the climate, though we were aware of the vast size of the site! You may wish to move this later in your week.

We took the Circumvesuviana line to Pompei Scavi station and on exiting you will be greeted by tour companies. It is your decision if you want to use these but we did. It cost an extra 12 euro on top of entry fee but it meant we skipped the queue and had a guide to point out the important aspects of Pompeii life. (Make sure you have cash to pay for your ticket into the site.)

Our tour lasted a couple of hours, but only covered one area of Pompeii so we stayed another couple of hours to visit the Villa De Mistri and the colosseum. (Yes, they are polar opposite locations!) The Villa De Mistri is a fair walk away from the main part of Pompeii, but you see beautiful gardens and then the site itself is rather different to every other home you see. Then we headed across the site to view the colosseum, you can enter it by going around the side – it isn’t obvious at first look. There is also an indoor museum next door where you can view more artefacts.

There are plenty of places to eat around Pompeii, we weren’t shocked by the prices in our one (exiting Pompei by the colosseum) but we may have walked off the beaten track slightly. Definitely allow yourself a full day here!

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3. Amalfi Coast

To visit the Amalfi Coast we bought tickets for the ‘City Sightseeing’ tour bus. We thought it was good value being 10 euro there, and 6 euro to come back again. Plus the on board commentary via headphones. Be warned though this bus is not ‘hop on hop off’ like others you may have used to explore big cities. It only stops once during the journey to a town I don’t recall the name of, and it’ll be another 6 euro to get back on at this point.

And make sure on your outbound journey you sit on the right! We were excited to have front seats on the left that we didn’t think about the fact the coast was on the other side of the bus! We sat on the left on the return to get a better view.

At Amalfi we spent a few hours exploring the town, we headed up to the shops and explored the outside of the cathedral. We were duped into buying expensive ice cream because we took a seat (it costs a lot extra to sit in at some of these places, but they do give you more and in a fancy glass, just find out prices first!)

There is a small area to sunbathe and paddle, we preferred sitting on the cliff top looking over them and enjoying a glass of limoncello.

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4. Mount Vesuvius & Herculaneum

On the train again, the stop is called Ercolano. Be aware, even though a station is crossed out on the map the train still stops there! I was thinking London Underground and noticed the stop before Ercolano was crossed out so we were a little concerned when we first left the train. This must be a regular occurrence as the train driver pointed us and other tourists back on the train!

Leaving the station there is a tourist company to the left that will drive you to Mount Vesuvius. I’m not sure how regular their coaches are but we were not waiting long. We paid for our ticket in the office, and were given a little red sticker on board when showing our ticket. Mine came off my bag strap on the coach so I stuck it to my vest, by the time I was off the coach it was in my armpit so I took it off and stuck it to my bus ticket. James lost his too and we found one on our journey up Mount Vesuvius. It was fine boarding again for our return as we showed the ticket, but maybe just stick your sticker to the ticket to be on the safe side.

Head straight up! There is more walking than you realise, even when you think you’re near the top. We just had enough time to walk up and back, toilet (you need to pay the guy sitting nearby…) and a can of drink before the coach returned.

Once we were back at the station we headed to Herculaneum. If you had come out of the station you are almost walking straight ahead off you, just keep walking in that direction and you find the entrance at the bottom of the road about 5-10 minutes walk. This was a lot quieter than Pompeii and we were able to wander around at our own pace. The free guide was really useful, there are numbers around the site that link to the information in the book. We managed to go the wrong way around but it seemed everyone was doing the same!

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5. Capri

There are many different options for Capri, there was a massive ferry taking people over but we went with a smaller tour. It was 45 euro and took us along the Sorrento coast, over to Capri, toured around the island, we saw the coral grotto and the green grotto. We saw the outside of the famous blue grotto, but the hoard of boats, and queue along the coast for row boats kind of killed the mood of this. We weren’t going to have the time to queue for a row boat so we skipped this, it sounds amazing inside though.

The boat trip was about two hours and following a week of sun and walking it was a welcomed rest! Once on the island we wandered around the shops looking at the Capri bells, knowing we would be buying one for our Christmas tree. We stopped for ice cream and explored along the coast to the end of the beach. We weren’t prepared for lying on the beach too long, plus our time was short as we only had about 2 hours before the return boat trip.

If you’re looking to explore the island at a leisurely pace this tour would not have suited you. We had no idea where we were going though and were quite happy just chilling around the harbour.

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6. A day exploring Sorrento

Sorrento isn’t really a ‘beachy’ holiday, but you can have a day lying by the sea on a sunbed with on demand service if you like.

We spent the morning wandering the streets of Sorrento picking up souvenirs and searching for anything quirky. We walked further and further west until we came to a stretch of beach covered in sunbeds, and signs indicating the sunbeds were free to their customers so we bought some drinks and had a lie down. If you’re that way inclined you could spend a whole day in this area.

There isn’t a whole lot to do in town, we ended up going back to the hotel to change into nicer clothes for the evening meal, the only time we had done this. The shops were open fairly late too so we look around at clothes. Then a late night waffle.

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7. A day in Naples

Our last full day was in Naples. The train journey is roughly 2 hours and is the full way along the Circumvesuviana Line. It is a little rough on leaving the station but the area gets nice as you walk on.

Our day consisted of visiting the National Archaeological Museum, which has free entry on the first Sunday of each month. We picked up an audio guide for £5, and they have free lockers since you cannot take large bags in with you. The museum has lots of exhibits around Pompeii and Herculaneum, including mosaic art and sculptures. It is definitely worth a visit if you spent time in one of the two sites. There are vending machines inside if you need a drink or a snack.

After this we found the Underground Naples tour and descended under the city streets to see the town it was built on. This tour was a good price at 10 Euro. We were shown the ancient Roman site and given lots of new information, which helped with understanding Pompeii a little more too.

There are plenty of places to eat around Naples, it was hard to choose somewhere for our last meal!

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So this is what I considered to be a great way to spend seven days in Sorrento, and hope it inspires you!

Our adventures in Reykjavik

One month ago I was in Reykjavik. A four day trip with mixed feelings of highs and lows, it has taken me a while to tell the tale. Unfortunately that means my memories of such events has started to diminish, and unlike Paris I don’t have a fully detailed travel journal to refer back to. So here is four days in Iceland from memory.

Day one. Getting through the blue lagoon.

Our early morning flight got us up and awake at 2.30am. Arriving at Keflavik airport we spotted the name of the tour company we were using and got our tickets to the blue lagoon. By mid morning we were at the world famous spa. So here is a story in itself as a spa is something I’ve never done before in my life! James and I split into our single sex changing rooms and I now had to fend for myself and figure out the dos and don’ts of spa life. I managed to get myself changed, four days worth of luggage in tow, then had to figure out the locker system. We had wrist bands to open them but I hadn’t realised I was looking for an open locker, I was just wandering around pressing my band to the scanners expecting it to find one for me! Once I had found a convenient corner locker a nice American lady helped me shut it and I headed onto the showers. After a quick wash and lots of conditioner I left the changing area to find James waiting for me. Apparently I’d taken ages and James was worried I’d melted down in anxiety in the middle of the lockers!

The blue lagoon was lovely. So nice and warm and calm. We tried on the face masks, floated around the whole area looking for warm spots, enjoyed a blueberry skyr smootie, and James went for the sauna. After a couple hours we left, changed back and went exploring the outside area and enjoyed the views. This was a little off the beaten track so was also very quiet. We returned to the bus and got ourselves dropped of in Reykjavik.

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When we got dropped off though we managed to get ourselves to the wrong hotel! There are lots of Foss Hotels in Reykjavik and luckily our one was only round the corner to the one I mistakenly thought was ours. After checking in and dumping our bags we explored the city and had an awesome dinner in this little pub themed restaurant. We headed back to the hotel for a nap before our bus was due to pick us up for the Northern Lights tour at 10pm.

We were downstairs at the hotel by 9.20pm, as it states pick up starts half hour before. But the bus never picked us up. To cut a horrible story short, somewhere between the travel agent in the UK, the holiday company they book through and the tour operator in Reykjavik someone printed us tickets for our chosen time of 10pm, but we were actually booked on the earlier 7.30pm. The 10pm didn’t event run that night, and we would’ve been happy to go at 7.30pm had we known. It was very frustrating, left me feeling very worried for the rest of our excursions and disappointed not to see the lights. We were able to go on the tour the following two evenings, spent 1 hour 45 mins standing in the freezing cold watching the sky both nights and saw nothing, and we were aware that people had seen the lights the night we were booked for. That explains the whole story, so I won’t be mentioning it again.

Day Two; Reykjavik city life

The next morning after our lovely breakfast at the hotel we wrapped up warm and headed to the small city to explore. First we went to the coast and watched the waves crash onto the rocks that stood before us. We walked along to the new Harpa building. A place to get out of the cold but we were surprised by the inside. We explored the shops, all at this time of year with beautiful Christmas decorations. Wandered the building and its interesting architecture.

Next we headed into town and found many Christmas themed shops. James took to one in particular and discovered the story of the 13 Yule Lads of Christmas. We now have this cute little Christmas story in our living room, and it shares the secrets of this family who visit in the run up to Christmas day. After the shops we had a drink in a coffee shop and read the new book. Next we walked up to Hallgrímskirkja, the church at the centre of Reykjavik and the tallest point in the city. We paid to go to the top and looked out at the views. The wind was so strong that day we had to hold onto the bars across the windows to hold ourselves up!

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Leaving the church we explored further to find a strange little bridge to another venue holding events, explored some more and found ourselves in a cosy little coffee shop again for a rest. (Somehow James led us in the staff entrance, James insists he is correct but we definitely left through the public entrance!) As we sat I read through our guide book and found the few sites I wanted to make sure we visited during our short stay. One was the art museum,Hafnarhús, showing the works of Icelandic cartoon artist Erro.

Leaving the coffee shop (through the correct door!) we found ourselves opposite the art museum from my book! Being close to 5pm we walked in to look around the shop, but we then realised the gallery stayed open late on Thursdays and decided to visit there and then. The works of Erro were very thought provoking and showed a lot of dark feelings, giving the time period he was creating this work. We visited the rest of the gallery too, I also enjoyed the work of Örn Alexander Ámundason and their blunt explanation of the art you were looking at, James was not quite as impressed. We both enjoyed Yoko Ono’s ‘One More Story’ exhibition, which promoted working together, peace and activism. This exhibit included a lot of opportunity to take part, but I especially liked the chess set all white and the implications of keeping track of the game if everyone is the same.

For dinner we headed over to the Hard Rock Cafe. We had a nice meal, picked up some shot glasses for our collection and James was of the impression it was fairly new. I don’t know why. But it did turn out it had only opened 3 weeks earlier.

Day Three; the Golden Circle

We headed out on the obligatory Golden Circle tour on our third day. This took us the see how tomatoes are grown in the giant green houses outside Reykjavik, watching the geysers exploding, take in the views of the Golden waterfall, and then head to the Þingvellir National park for a walk along the canyon formed by two tectonic plates. The photos do all the talking on this day, and the video of the snow storm the amazing coach driver drove us through. Still need to get the photos off the camera so that is still to come!

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Oh yeah, I wore my Girlguiding jacket the whole time!

Day Four; shopping and visiting the Vikings

On our final day we made our way around the shops to pick up the souvenirs we had wanted to bring home (but were too concerned about our money to pay at the time!). We also headed to the Saga Museum, a small exhibition following the early history of Iceland and the first settlers. This museum was a collection of lifelike models accompanied by an audio guide to explain the stories of these famous figures. It was very informative and even though it was a fair walk to the other side of the city it was well worth it.

Our final meal was a fancy fish and chips at this nice restaurant alongside the volcano house (which, if we had more time we would’ve taken in the film here). After lunch we took our final walk through the city before collecting our bags, and getting the taxi back to the airport.

Random Tips for Iceland!

  1. It really is expensive!
  2. The water smells of sulphur, you won’t be looking forward to your morning shower.
  3. You won’t find many bugs.
  4. Go before Christmas to enjoy the festivities!
  5. You only need a backpack, just pack lots of layers. No need to lug suitcases around.

How to spend 3 days in Paris

Earlier this month James and I had an amazing few days in France. We travelled on the Saturday, spent the day at Parc Asterix on the Sunday (blog post coming soon) and then three days sightseeing in Paris. Here is our experiences and my suggestions to those looking to do the same. Please keep in mind this is from September mid-week, and the experiences during a busier period may differ very much.

Day One: Buy three day tickets for a Parisian hop-on hop-off bus tour. We had a lot of talk about whether to buy these or use the metro but decided on the tour bus as we would see all the sights, rather than pop up out of a metro station. Plus the tour we chose included recorded commentary and included 4 different lines, and one bus stop was a fifteen minute walk from our hotel.

Head to the Arc de Triomphe and climb to the very top. It is awesome to see the sights from the top of this impressive building. In every direction there is a road heading toward you, and the traffic running around the roundabout beneath you is entertaining itself.

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Then head over to the Palais de Chaillot for an awesome photo op of the Eiffel Tower. From here we took the boat trip included with our Bus Tour tickets all the way to Notre Dame. (Do some extra research here, we were not impressed with the boat tour, it wasn’t open top and the plastic sheeting above you is covered in their adverts so spoilt the view.) Once at Notre Dame we took a bus tour to the catacombs. Next tip, check with each site that it is open on the day you decide to visit! (Catacombs is closed on Mondays, our entire visit was not pre-determined).

We decided to walk back the bus route to visit the Jardin Du Luxembourg where we sat and chilled for a while after all the walking of the day.

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Day Two: We took the bus to the Musee d’Orsay and spent all morning looking at the galleries. We saw Van Gogh exhibition and the impressionist exhibition. We were shocked to see people taking photos, and even selfies with the art. This was Tuesday morning, we got there just after opening time, and the queue was maybe 10-15 minutes. If you’re under 26 you get a reduced rate too, along with many other sights in Paris!

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We found a nice little place to pick up a panini and cake and sat by the Seine and ate our lunch. Unfortunately a gang of wasps joined us too. From here we took the bus to the Eiffel Tower and climbed up the first two tiers. You cannot walk to the top tier, but it is so high it would take so long! We enjoyed the sights of the first two tiers then joined the queue for the lift to the top. This took nearly 2 hours, be prepared to wait. Once we reached the 2nd tier was decided to join the queue straight away and enjoyed the view while we waited. It gets quite cramped when you get to the front, and there seemed to be 2 queues merging into one. The lift took about a minute and a half, then your have plenty of space to observe Paris beneath you. You can even see the actual top of the tower:

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Be prepared to queue to get down again too!

Day Three: We headed straight to the catacombs as I had read there were long queues to get in. By heading straight there, I still mean we got there a good half hour after it opened and the queue was already very long. They only allow a set number of people in, and as you spend roughly 45 minutes exploring it the queue will always take a long time. We queued for 2 hours, and this was from the 2nd entrance to the park. I don’t know why the area smelt so weird too. There is a McDonalds near by if you want to pick up a drink while you wait, plus it has a toilet (but not a very nice one).

Once inside the catacombs I would strongly suggest purchasing the audio guide. You can put two headphones in so you can share. Then head down the very long staircase into the tunnels.

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There was a lot to learn in the tombs and the guide was very informative. On exiting the catacombs turn right and right again to walk back to the entrance (in case you’re confused about where you’ve left!). It is about a 20 minute walk back, which we hadn’t factored into our busy day.

We took the bus back and spent the next hour taking the blue bus line around the contemporary side of Paris.

Finally we headed to the Louvre for the evening. On Wednesdays the museum stays open late, so this fits perfectly into our schedule. At this time of day the queue was almost non-existent. And how I wish we had bought the audio-guide, as to be expected with the world’s biggest museum there was so much to see! We spent a lot of time in the ancient Egyptian exhibition, plus the Greek, the sculpture and the paintings exhibitions. You can also purchase a 3ds guide to the Louvre, I really felt I missed out by not having a guide so do consider it!

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On reflection there isn’t too much I would do differently. Perhaps a little online research to purchase advanced tickets like we did for Rome. But this also kills some of the excitement of exploring a new city for the first time. I wouldn’t be so nervous about restaurants either, we had some amazing meals I didn’t even go into here. The audio guide at the Louvre would be on my list, I do find it odd you cannot get one once you’re inside.

In conclusion, this was an amazing trip, even better than I had expected. It restored my faith in city holidays and cannot wait for our next one.

My current happy lifestyles

Hello world. I’m sorry I’ve been so out of touch with this blog of recent. Last year I was working on and achieved my Look Wider & Commonwealth Challenges through Girlguiding, and due to the amount of time it took this blog took a backseat. Unfortunately, as a result I haven’t picked it up again as regular as I would like. So I thought I would check in today with a life update and how well things are going at the moment.

I was inspired to write this post as I was watching a lot of journal advice videos on YouTube. I wanted to start my own, but felt very strange about it. That led me to think I should just input all my feelings right now onto here instead! This post may be more of interest to future me than those of you who aren’t me that read this, but maybe you’ll find something of interest here.

Since February of this year I have been running regularly, which has been fantastic for me. I know now that I NEED exercise to live a happy existence. It is very noticeable when I don’t exercise how rubbish I become. I really started working on my fitness when I checked my BMI and I was 1 pound away from being considered overweight. And now, since May, I have lost over a stone. I’m loving running (hatching Pokemon eggs is an additional motivation) and I had an awesome run this morning! Smashing PBs.

I also realised a few months ago that overeating bad food is another thing that triggers me being rubbish. I had a huge pizza takeaway (I’m talking stuffed crusts, mozzarella dippers, wedges and all sorts of dips) and the next day was very difficult. It actually put me off my favourite takeaway for a while, and last time we had pizza we were both very careful with what we ordered. I also started eating salads for lunch at work, which I think has had a major impact considering I used to eat cheese sandwiches everyday. Our bread goes mouldy every week now. (Put it in the freezer!)

Another positive impact in my life is using a Bullet Journal. I started one in May as I felt my current day to view diary wasn’t working for me. I love my bullet journal. If you don’t know what that is please Google it, there is so much info online I’m not going to go into details here (but plan a post about how I use it in the future). I write daily lists of what I need to get done, check my daily intake of water, everyone’s birthday and special dates are there, and I use it to show gratitude, log my planking and make sure I keep up with my comic drafting. It takes a little time each week to draw up my weekly log but it is good to review where I’m at and ensure I’m not missing things.

I’ve also been meditating. I love to meditate for 5 minutes after exercising. I think it is having a positive effect on my outlook. I do struggle to find 5 minutes (yeah I know, right) on the few days I don’t exercise, but this is what I’m hoping to improve on. Then I can extend some sessions to 10 minutes. Just need to avoid being late for work!

In the last week or so I am starting to draw more. I am in the process if drafting my graphic novel, something I started in January, and I upped the number of pages I’m drafting per week from 6 to 12 and it is pushing me to draw more regularly. Some days I am just drawing very rough outlines but it is getting me closer to drawing the final pages. My other motivation is to post on Instagram every other day, so I need quality drawings for that.

I’m loving collecting and reading graphic novels. I picked up two today, Andre the Giant (I loved WWF as a kid) and Paper Girls. The first was something I wanted to buy earlier and didn’t, the second was an impulse buy following watching the awesome Stranger Things. I’m in the middle of reading Maus (I know, it has gone unread on my bookshelf for years) and it is an intense read but I’m breathing in anything comic right now. (That includes my 1996 Rugrats comics my Mum found in the loft.)

Brownies starts back this week. We had an awesome trip to the Science Museum this summer. Perhaps something I should’ve written about. And I’m going into this term determined to run a better programme. The plan is to run this term around taster activities from interest badges that the Brownies are interested in (while following You, Community, World and Promise activities) but I’m starting with a discussion on badges to get all questions answered, and then some pulse raising Healthy Heart activities for the first week back.

James and I have some adventures in the pipeline, both Paris and Reykjavik before Christmas so I should have some more inspired posts over the next few months. Plus my bullet journal and camp blanket are other topics to cover. I want to post about my favourite graphic novels too.

So there we have it. My September check in and everything is currently running smoothly, who knows what tomorrow will bring though!

Brownie Christmas Sleepover and a Very Scary Cave!

When we stayed at Belchamps Scout centre in the summer we came across a leaflet for their Christmas sleepover. As a leader it was fantastic! Imagine giving your Brownies an amazing residential experience without all the planning. I feel I could easily stop running the usual Brownie Holidays and adopt regular visits to these fully catered adventures but it does come with downsides which I’ll discuss later.

We arrived Friday night in the dark, lugging all our overnight bags and pillows through the forest to our holiday house. The Brownies arrived one at a time and we got them settled into their room. As we hadn’t done anything like this before, all the planning out of our hands, we only took 6 Brownies and 2 Leaders (all signed off by our residential advisor). We shared a holiday home with another Brownie unit so we got all the girls together to introduce each other, then we headed to the large indoor hall for relay games. Our six Brownies against the other 12 Brownies, and two teams of Cubs. The Brownies were very gracious at hearing they came second overall, when they knew they were the real winners due to an error by another group which went unnoticed, meaning they won the final game. No moaning from our girls at all 🙂 The relay games were a bit of fun, and this was followed by campfire songs outside. Though I was just as gutted as my Brownies at forgetting to bring our blankets with us! We learned some new songs and helped the instructors with the ones we already knew like the banana song and the pirate song. We then got to meet Father Christmas! (Not had to deal with “Why is Brownie S saying there is no Father Christmas?” before…) Then we headed for a hotdog before bedtime!

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Saturday was a full on day of activities! We were up and at breakfast by 7.30am, then the girls had 10 on site activities led by instructor Chris and work experience instructor Liam. Each activity was 30 minutes which was loads of time for our group of six. We started with mini crossbows which some of us were accustomed to following Brownie Holiday last year. Swallow and I joined in, but I felt a bit rotten when I knocked down the can castle!

This was followed by the traversing wall, the girls were fab at this and played a game called sharks where they had to avoid being the last off the floor.

We then headed for the demolition derby. Basically an inflatable with four stands and a large boulder to knock each other down! It was a little lacklustre but that may have been the girls were a bit too small to push it hard enough to knock each other off, but they still enjoyed it!

After getting loads of new badges in the shop we tried slacklining. Having never heard of this before I wasn’t expecting much but this turned out the be a fantastic activity. The idea is to walk along a fabric, elastic tape which was tied between two trees. The girl walking had the assistance of the rest putting their hands up to lean against. It showed great teamwork! They then attempted a more difficult task. Two girls on the tape facing each other, with two escorts steadying them across. They had to figure out how to pass each other without stepping off the tape. Well, they figured it out first time! It was great! They each then had a go at some tricks on the tape assisted by Instructor Chris.

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Next was the assault course. A couple who came to Brownie Holiday last year knew what to expect… a lot of mud! But they all had a go, got muddy, and cleared the course. Girls can!

They faced each other in the bungee run. Raced each other on the pedal karts and had a short go at archery. We also made smores, including a new ingredient – dough??

I was nervous about the Brownies going into the caving experience. From the outside it was a large box. Nothing more that we could see. The Brownies were given their helmets, Instructor Chris said he would lead them in and then leave at the exit before entering the main cave. I asked if they would get stuck and he said some have been stuck before but he can guide them out. I was worried, so it didn’t help when we got to the entrance and one Brownie was already freaking out and asking me to join her! I looked at Swallow and decided I had to go in! I was given a helmet and had the girls led me into the mineshaft. It was completely dark, no light at all. The girl who asked me to join them was already crying out and there wasn’t much we could do until we got to the exit following the mineshaft. She was encouraged to go through the cave with a light on her head, how lucky for her! I somehow ended up wriggling around on the floor, pitch black, unsure where to go with only feeling the fake rocks to guide myself. Four girls, including the one with a torch, vanished quickly. I was behind with tiny Brownie, and another who was further ahead that I didn’t know she was scared too. Instructor Chris ended up helping her through the maze while I went ahead just trying to figure out how to get out! All six Brownies, and myself, somehow made it through the cave and I couldn’t have been more proud of them!

During the Saturday we had a lovely Christmas dinner, and a finale singsong. It was a fantastic sleepover, Brownie R described the motto of the weekend ‘Learning to Work Together’ and I completely agreed with her.

Some downsides include conflict of Brownie Holiday rules with the other group and the impact on our Brownies (some even refused a drink!), the Brownies had no input in activities, helping with housework or cooking, and it really wouldn’t count towards the Brownie Holiday badge so we will continue our regular residentials but we are definitely planning to return next year too!

I think all the Brownies gained confidence through trying new activities, re-enforced friendships with Brownies they might not necessarily have worked with before and built a little bit if independence being away from home. My favourite moment of the whole sleepover though was a natural moment on Friday evening. The Brownies were given Christmas pencils from Santa, I was holding two with Christmas Trees on the top for a couple of girls. One Brownie then started dancing her Snowman around the Trees and starting singing” Rocking Around the Christmas Trees…”, and we all joined in the whole song, it was such a lovely moment I won’t forget!

Independent Living Octant – Phase 1

Phase 1 of an octant must be about trying new things and should last for a couple of hours. These are the adventures I had to achieve Phase 1 of the Independent Living Octant…

Phase 1: Budget for buying a house

The very first aspect to work on when we considered buying a house was setting a budget. Setting up the figures on a spreadsheet I set a budget based on our net incomes, and researched the likely costs for utility bills, council tax and insurances.  I also considered how the costs would differ in two different towns, looking at travel, house insurance and council tax. Also on my budget was the cost of running two cars, a food budget, TV licence, healthcare, mobile contracts, clothing, gifts, and a reasonable amount of savings.

I then researched how much we would need for the cost of moving. This included the deposit, stamp duty, possible conveyancing costs and homebuyer survey.

Once we knew how much we could pay monthly for mortgage repayments I started to research how much local banks and building societies could lend to us.

Phase 1: Research solicitors and conveyancing

Having never needed a solicitor before, researching one was completely new to me. I started by finding names of solicitors that family and friends have used. I then called around these companies to get quotes for conveyancing. I found other local ones and could receive online quotes to compare the prices. We wanted to have all the possible searches so I ensured the quotes we were given included these.

The first house we put an offer in on fell through, and this gave us the opportunity to review the service we had received from our chosen solicitor and decided to research again to find someone more approachable. This time we chose a solicitor who was not recommended to us by family but someone I found myself. This solicitor kept in regular contact with us, answered all our questions and helped us through to buying our house.

Phase 1: Decorate and furnish new home

On moving into our home we needed furniture. As affordable options, I bought a range of flat pack items from Ikea and spent the first week building them. This included a TV stand, a dining table, six dining chairs, a sofa bed, a coffee table, two chest of drawers, two sets of bedside tables, a shoe rack and three bookcases.

While the room was empty we also decided to paint a wall of one bedroom. We chose the colour, bought rollers, masking tape and a step ladder, and prepped the room with plastic sheets and newspaper. The wall took one day to paint two coats.

Creativity Octant – Phase 1

I’m not sure where my post went for the activities I did for the Phase 1 of the creativity octant so here it is again!

Phase 1 of an octant must be about trying new things and should last for a couple of hours. These are the experiences I had to achieve Phase 1 of the Creativity Octant…

Phase 1: Bake a chocolate & mango cake

As part of the hostess badge the Brownies were working on, the girls wanted to bake a cake. With little knowledge on baking I decided to have a test run at home. I found a great recipe in the 2014 Brownie Annual and used this, as including chocolate and mango made the cake appear yellow and brown, like Brownies!

I learnt to put more icing sugar into the icing mixture, as what I created turned into a runny mess! I somehow expected the icing to set once I spread it on top. I also forgot to include milk into the chocolate sponge mixture so this came out quite dry.

My second attempt came out a lot better, the sponge was softer and the icing was more firm. It was interesting to use mango in one of the sponges and the icing, I would never imagine putting fruit into a cake mix.

I used this experience to help the Brownie make a great cake between them, which we all enjoyed!

Cake

Phase 1: Try creating ‘feltie’ characters

Inspired by a book I was given as a present (“Felties” by Nelly Pallioux) I decided to try and stitch a ‘feltie’ character. The pattern for this dog was taken from the book.

To make this character first I made templates of each piece and cut them out of felt. The eyes are two small beads stitched to the felt, and the nose is also stitched. Some parts are glued together and then the head a body pieces were made of two same sized pieces of felt stitched together, I added stuffing as I went. This one character took over two hours to create; I hadn’t done much sewing before so this was a practice piece.

Considering this feltie only fits in the palm of your hand, it was a bigger challenge than I expected. But I thought the outcome was worth it.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

Phase 1: Learn to knit

I was inspired to learn to knit by seeing the many charities asking volunteers to make blankets and scarfs, and wanted to try to help.

I had a beginners knitting set given to me with the intention of making a scarf.

Learning to knit was a real challenge for me; I want to start something again if it doesn’t look perfect straight away and while learning to knit my work looked far from perfect.

I learned to cast on, knit and purl using online tutorial videos uploaded by other knitters. Understanding whether I should knit or purl the next line was difficult at first. I spent 2-3 hours practicing on my this piece, but decided that knitting might not be something I would be able to continue doing as it took me a long time to create something I wasn’t satisfied with. I think if I decide to take up this hobby again I will invest in joining a class or group to be able to make the most of it. However, I am proud of what I did achieve.

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