Oktoberfest 2016

F.R.I.D.A.Y

12:00

Becka, Vicky, Gemma, Ceri and I arrive at Heathrow Terminal 2, all set for our flight to Munich.


17:00

Touch down in Munich, and head to our hostel. There are people dressed in lederhosen and dirndls everywhere!

19:00

After a quick pit stop in the hostel, we head straight out to find somewhere to get a beer (and dinner).

We found a traditional German restaurant called Lindwurmstüeberl (catchy name), and ordered five steins of beer – ladsladslads. The waiter had to help us translate the menu, and in the end we all ordered schnitzel and French fries, which went down like a treat.

Stein #1

23:00

We had intended to have a quiet evening of dinner and drinks, but sadly for our livers, our hostel happened to be next door to a bar playing cheesy music! So we ventured in, had a few more beers and partied the night away to Justin Bieber.

S.A.T.U.R.D.A.Y

08:30

Our alarms went off.

11:00

After a *slightly* delayed start (a shower rota, lots of plaiting, and a McDonald’s breakfast) we finally made it into Oktoberfest.

We managed to get to a table inside a tent where everyone was up dancing on the tables. The only place you could order beer was inside the tents from a waitress at a table, so getting to a table this late in the day on a Saturday was a stoke of luck! Saturdays are the busiest day in Oktoberfest, and some people queue for entry outside the tents from 7.30am!

12.15

Unfortunately, the table we were on was reserved from 12.15, by a group that were prepared (…unlike us!)
Luckily, it was a beautiful warm September afternoon, so we headed straight outside and sat down at a table in the sunshine. The outside tables don’t have quite the same crazy atmosphere as the inside tables, but music is still fed outside through speakers. There were a few more children outside – remember that Oktoberfest is meant to be a family festival! We made friends with some Germans and drank the afternoon away, trying to avoid talking about Brexit.

The Löwenbräu tent

New friends!

My and my beer friend

19:00

We had an impressively long day outside, but were ready to get moving around again and get some circulation to our numb bums after sitting stationary for so long. So we went outside to try out some of the theme park rides. Fun fact: as well as being the world’s largest beer festival, it is also the world’s largest travelling funfair!

The fun fair


First we went on a waltzer ride which was fairly cheap and lasted ages… And the beer managed to stay down which is a plus!

Next we went on a Wild Mouse ride which was more expensive and lasted less than 60 seconds. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Hands in the air like you just don’t care

Survived the ride!

20:00

And then we went to a bar inside Oktoberfest that didn’t serve steins! And pint glasses felt so small and inconvenient without a handle. It reminded me of one of the pop up bars inside Winter Wonderland in London. I think the beer was Hofbräu Beer, and it tasted much fruitier than the lager in the tents.

21:00

Our guilty-pleasure-pure-cheese bar next to the hostel was actually a pizza restaurant during the day! So we popped back for a pizza (and another stein). As it got late, the benches and tables were cleared away to make way for the dance floor, and we were coaxed onto it by a group of mum’s and dads who had left their children at home and felt it appropriate to get frisky with each other. Fun!

00:00

Bed time. (And Vicky threw up a sausage in the sink)

S.U.N.D.A.Y

07:30

Today we were far more prepared! Alarms were set for 7:30, and we were up and showered very quickly. Ceri went on a coffee run to McDonald’s, and then we set off straight away, with Gemma and Becka’s hair still dripping wet from the shower and ready to plait when we got into a tent.

Wide awake…

We got to our chosen tent at 8:30, half an hour before it opened! But it was worth the wait as we got a table in pride of place – right in the middle of the tent next to the stage! We were able to order steins as soon as our bottoms touched the benches…. So I ordered my first beer at 9am!

One more song! One more song!

Down it down it down it

10:00

Gemma had a TC. I ran outside to get a sausage. There was a choice of red, white or long sausages; I chose red.

German sausages and sauerkraut

11:00

We were joined by another group at our table, who turned out to be the Fanatics, a tour group that Ben and his friends had gone away to Greece with two years ago! What a very small world it is.

International friends

Ben’s BFF

12:30

Finally the band started up… And the rest of the day is a bit of a blur.

16:00

The last photos that we remember being taken were found on our phones at this time.

Slayers


17:00

Ceri fell off the bench and (quite literally) knocked some people (or their beers) out with her killer dance moves. She sent all the steins on the table behind us flying, handed them €20 euros for the damage, and carried on doing her thang.

21:00

I went to dance on a different table with some people who thought I was German.

23:00

The music came to a crescendo and the band finished. It was time to leave… Booooo!

The girls with their traditional gingerbread necklaces


23:10

But party didn’t stop there! Ceri and I both made our way back to the cheesy bar independently of each other, and had a little reunion when we got there.

24:30

Time to call it a night!

M.O.N.D.A.Y

10:00

We checked out of the hostel, and managed to resist going for a McDonald’s breakfast.

Today was our sightseeing day, so we started to walk towards central Munich, looking out for a cafe to stop in along the way.

We found somewhere and most of us ordered currywurst.

Lunch spot


11:30

Gemma ordered an apple studel and sneezed it across the table.

12:00

Next, I had a hangover-friendly itinerary planned out of places for us to see. We walked through the city to Marienplatz, (the main square) and took some happy snaps and had a nose in the town hall. It was a beautifully sunny day and lots of people were out and about.

Marienplatz

The cathedral

13:00

We hopped on the U-Bahn (underground train) to Englischer Garten. Englischer Garten had been recommended to me as one of the main places to see in Munich and described as the Munich version of Hyde Park. I had been told that there was a nudist section, but I thought this was only one little area of the park.

Little did we know that as soon as we entered the park, we would come face to face with a few too many old men with everything on display. One man had even thoughtfully decided to wear some sort of chain thong, drawing more attention to ‘himself’.

The only fully-clothed section

We found a part of the park where people had their clothes on, and sat for a bit soaking up some rays and letting our hangovers wear off.

14:00

Next up, we marched back into the city centre in search of the Hofbräuhaus Brewery. This is one of the oldest breweries in Munich – dating back to the 16th century – and is known for it’s pretty interior, upbeat atmosphere with a band, and of course, it’s beer.

Hofbräuhaus

Cooling down

After all this excitement, it was finally time to return to the hostel, collet our things, and catch our flight. Boooooooooooo.

It was a great and very memorable weekend: a cross between a boozy city break and a crazy festival.

My advice is: if you get the chance to go to Oktoberfest… definitely go! The prolonged hangover/ recovery period/ holiday blues lasting the whole week when we arrived home and went back to work were 100% worth it; it was amazing. We met people from all over the world, learnt some German, drunk twice our body weights in beer, and got to wear fancy dress for a whole two days. What more could you want from the world’s largest beer festival!?

Goodnight and goodbye Munich. We’ll be back!

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Cahoots: boozy cocktails and vintage charm

Cahoots (noun): acting together with others for an illegal or dishonest purpose. Synonyms: conspire, collaborating, conniving.

‘Secrecy’ seems to be the name of the game with Cahoots, the vintage-themed underground bar off Carnaby Street which is set in a tube station. And this is probably what makes it so popular, well-known and sought after.

Vintage babes

I went to Cahoots for Ciaras birthday. Ciara had mentioned that the bar sounded cool, so I made sure that we make a reservation for her birthday back in March so that we could definitely go!

Both the website and the email booking confirmation explained the theme of the bar, and also swore us to secrecy about its existence (So I’m breaking all the rules with this blog…)

Read all about it

Cahoots is tucked away in a nook just off Carnaby street. If you didn’t know it was there, you could easily walk past it without spotting it – the only thing that might give it away would be any people waiting outside to go in.

The bar is underground, so the wartime bunker/ tube station theme ties in well with the setting. There are shiny tiles leading downstairs to the bar which felt like a very clean and narrow tunnel down to a tube platform.

Mind the gap

At the end of the tunnel, I half expected to turn the corner and walk onto a platform with the bar inside the tube carriage – was my imagination running away with me!? – but it was fashioned more like a waiting room/ train carriage/ cluttered bunker.

The bar

In the tube

Drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll

We were a large party and we had booked, so we had quite a good table that was enclosed in a sort of cage structure that could have been used to hold luggage over the seats in an old train. I think if you walked in without booking (after, of course, waiting for at least an hour outside first) you could sit at a small table in the middle of the bar, or stand up at the bar.

Under cover


The website states that 40s vintage dress is encouraged. But we didn’t pay too much attention to the dress code, thinking that nobody would really adhere to it. But how wrong we were!

Men and women had gone all out, with women in 1940s tea dresses, victory curls and bright lipstick. Some of the men had donned a white shirts with braces – some of them even looked like they had curled their facial hair for the occasion. Luckily my friends and I wake up looking glam, so we just dressed as our stylish 2016 selves.


The cocktail menu was enormous! It looked like a newspaper and every column and ‘article’ listed all the different drinks you could choose. There were so many that it took us a while to decide what we wanted, even with our waitress sitting down with us to talk through the menu. There are different sections and categories of drinks listed in the menu/paper, and at around £10 a cocktail, you need to make a good decision!

Tea with a twist…

Cocktails or cockfails?

My first drink was called Keep Marm’ and Carry On. Adhering to the prohibition theme, it came in a cute teacup and saucer and was served with a biscuit layered with lemon curd and a berry… How cute!

A good selection!

The birthday girl

In our group of eight we ended up with a good selection of cocktails on our table. Luckily none of us had one of those moments where you take the first sip of cocktail and grimace and question what an earth you were thinking when you ordered it… Because they were all very tasty!

Half way through the evening, conversations were brought to a halt by the wail of an air raid siren. There didn’t seem to be much significance to this, apart from maybe to reinforce the wartime theme in case you had forgotten for a second what bar you were in.

God save the Queen

There was a mix of couples and groups of friends in the bar and everyone looked equally excited to be there.

This could have been because they had been waiting for hours on the door, or because (like us) they had booked the table months ago and had been counting down the days in anticipation ever since.

Which way to Cockfosters?

Move down inside the carriages!

When we emerged from the underground, a chunky queue line had taken over the narrow street outside, and people were glammed-up and huddled under umbrellas in the rain waiting to come in. Cahoots can ask its patrons to keep mum about the bar, but the constant hoard of people outside it speaks volumes.

It’s a great place to visit for something different, and it’s worth booking it five months in advance, or even getting dressed up to wait in the rain to go in!

I spy…

Good slurping action there Matt

Part 3 – Ometepe 

Ometepe is an island made from two volcanos rising out of a huge lake that is almost as big as a sea. It doesn’t look very far away from the mainland on the map, but the ferry crossing from San Jorge takes a whole hour.

 

On the ferry

The pink splodge on this map shows where we stayed, and where we went!


We were staying in an Eco Lodge on the stretch of land at the top of the island that connects the two volcanos.

The Eco Lodge was pretty cool to experience, although I wouldn’t want to stay in one on every trip I go on! It was very environmentally friendly – we weren’t too sure about the non-flushable compostable toilet though… It felt like we were camping!

Our home in Ometepe

My bed (with a very important fly net)

The straw roof

Wednesday 20th July 

After only seeing Ometepe at nighttime when we arrived, we woke up and needed to get our bearings and make a plan of action. The lady who ran the hostel round the corner was super helpful, and made us muffins and smoothies while we talked through possible activities with her.

The smaller volcano

We decided to walk to Ajo de Agua, a natural pool at the base of the volcano. Along the way we saw some amazing scenery and picturesque volcanic beaches.

The walk probably took an hour, so when we got there we were definitely ready for a dip in the water to cool off!

Emily marching towards Ajo de Agua

The refreshing pool

Splashing around

When we finished in the pool there were horses waiting for us to take us back down to the beach. (We had arranged for this to happen… They didn’t just turn up!)

Emily with her horse

It was the first time I’d ridden a horse so I was very cautious with the small one that I was paired with. I got used to it quite quickly- I just didn’t like it when they cantered and I had to grip on as if it was a bucking bronco!

Could the horse sense my fear?

The horses took us back along the beach in the direction of where we were staying, and dropped us off near a lovely hotel with a restaurant on the beach.

We met some Swiss friends that we made at the Surfing Turtle Lodge there and had dinner and a few cocktails.

In comparison to everywhere we had been so far, Ometepe was very quiet. Some bars and restaurants are very secluded because of the lack of public transport and means to get around, and there are no street lights on the roads and lots of wild horses roaming around.

A house on the island

We stumbled across a dark building that slightly resembled a bar on our way home and they opened up especially for us! I don’t think they were expecting anyone to find them! The owners seemed amused when we diluted their rum with coke and didn’t just drink it neat like they do…

Thursday 21st July

Today was our action packed activities day! (And compared to he other busy days, that means a lot!)

We set our alarms for 7am, and dawdled down to a nearby cafe to have breakfast. Scrambled eggs on toast was perfect to set us up for the day ahead.

As there is no public transport in Ometepe, you need to rely on taxis, walking, or renting bicycles, quad bikes or motorbikes. The other option is to hitchhike, which is exactly what we did! We were lucky and managed to wave down a truck where we could sit in the back. It was pretty cool – my first hitch hiking experience!

The truck dropped us at the base of the San Roman waterfall, which was the starting point for our hike. Even though it was still early, it was already roasting hot!


The hike up the side of the volcano to the waterfall was really fun. I felt like I was on the set for The Jungle Book film, and we saw lots of interesting wildlife including parrots, birds, butterflies, cows and lizards.

Up to the waterfall we go!

On the right track…

The top of the trail was worth the hard work hiking up there, because we were met with a stunning waterfall! We paddled underneath it to cool off and it was beautifully refreshing.

The heroic moment that we reached the top

Dancing in the waterfall?


After eating lunch at a family-run beachside restaurant, we tracked down somewhere to go kayaking. It was late in the day by this point and the sun set at 5.30pm, so we were lucky that we could go out at all!

A typical Nicaraguan meal of plantain topped with pork and chicken, and chopped white cabbage in the middle

Homemade hummus


The place we got the kayaks from was basically someone’s house, and just like when we went horse riding, if it hadn’t been recommended to us as an option by the helpful lady at the neighbouring hostel, we wouldn’t have known where to go or that it even existed.

We had a boat ride down to the mouth of the river that flows down between the two volcanos, and then climbed out and into the kayaks.

On the water

Emily in her boat

I was struck by how peaceful it was paddling up the river. All we could hear were birds and insects, and there were no people, buildings, or road noise to be seen or heard. I really felt like I was acting out a scene in a movie – it was beautiful and an incredible experience.

A scene from The Jungle Book?


A guide came out with us, and he led the way and pointed out Cayman (small alligators) and turtles. At one point he actually scooped a turtle out of the water and put it on top of the kayak for us to see! We paddled down the river, ducking under tree branches and wildlife-spotting as we went.

Me with the guide

Having explored the river, we turned round and paddled back across the lake/ sea around the island and back to the kayak launch.

When we returned, our food was waiting for us! We had two huge freshly-caught grilled fish, homemade guacamole and humus, salad, salsa, plantain, potatoes and rice – a feast!

The last supper!

Unfortunately we couldn’t finish the fish, but we still had room for more drinks! So we grabbed a taxi to the party hostel nearby and finished our evening (and my trip!) there.

I had a great time in Nicaragua, and I will remember it as the most action-packed trip I’ve ever been on! Emily and I definitely made the most of our time by doing something different and exciting every day and staying in so many different places. Nicaragua is a great country to travel round in a short timescale because all the best places to go are so close together.

I’ve already made a bucket list of places I want to go… So bring on the next holiday!

Part 2 – the West coast and San Juan del Sur 

The next phase of our trip meant saying goodbye to León and moving on to my favourite place… the beach!

Saturday 16th July

We woke up and had a lazy start to the day sitting at the beach bar and drinking freshly squeezed juice. It was a beautiful day and we decided not to waste any time and move straight on to the nearby Surfing Turtle Lodge.

Nutella toasties + freshly squeezed juice = happy me!

The Surfing Turtle Lodge had been recommended to us so we knew we needed to check it out!

The journey there involved taking a taxi to the water crossing, waiting for a tiny boat to collect us, loading our backpacks onto it, and a 10 minute journey across the estuary. There, a cart pulled by a horse was waiting to collect our backpacks so we could walk alongside it through the nature reserve to the Lodge.

The horse in charge of our bags

The Lodge was really cool: it was made up of a main building with a bar, and then beach huts scattered away from it. It had a really nice backpacker vibe and lots of people there were travelling alone, so everyone was chatty and keen to get to know each other.


We swam in the sea and sunbathed, and at 4.30pm got ready for the event of the day; a volleyball match!

Emily and I both underestimated how competitive volleyball could get, and forgot that lots of Americans play volleyball in ‘gym class’ – so they’re very good at it!

Needless to say, neither of us won player of the match. Afterwards, we had a private volleyball lesson with two of the guys there who recognised that there was some room for improvement! And after this we played another match feeling much more confident and actually winning some points for our teams!

 

Playing volleyball meant that we made friends and were firmly part of the community. So after dinner we took part in some more organised fun: a game of ’30 seconds’ – or as we know it – ‘Articulate’!

Emily is well practised in playing articulate, and she got very competitive! The game went on for quite a while and had three different rounds, and everyone got really into it.

Next, there was a bonfire on the beach, and a ‘Tomas’ tournament (a variation of beer pong), and then an actual beer pong tournament. Emily also taught the gang how to play a flip cup game, which resulted in everyone getting quite drunk very quickly!

It was so much fun and it was definitely one of my favourite evenings of the trip!

Sunday Funday

We woke up early the next morning to make our way further down the west coast to San Juan del Sur. It wasn’t easy getting up after our mad night of games, but we had time to recover during the four hour trip to our destination.

Sunday madness


San Juan del Sur was absolutely crazy because it was SUNDAY FUNDAY! We struggled to find a hostel at first because everywhere was so busy, but luckily we managed to find a budget hotel on the edge of the very small town.

Sunday Funday is a pool crawl between three different hostels, and it seemed like every traveller around had flocked to San Juan for it! It happens every Sunday, so it was well organised with security on the doors, a lifeguard, multiple bars and a drink token system so you didn’t need to take cash up to the bar. There were lasers and a DJ and lots of very drunk people!

My opinion that the event was well organised was slightly shattered when the bus came to collect us at the end of the night. The last hostel was on a hillside and we needed to get shuttle busses down to a beach bar in downtown San Juan. Unfortunately there was big a crowd of people and we got a bit squashed!

 

Monday 18th July

We opted for a more chilled out day today to get our breath back after Sunday Funday. We explored San Juan del Sur and seized the opportunity to do some shopping and pick up souvenirs. San Juan was the last place we would see an ATM for a while so we made sure we were stocked up with cash! The local currency is the cordoba (Although everywhere accepts dollars) and everything is pretty cheap.

There are lots of street food stalls in San Juan, and we found these the best places to eat. The local cuisine mostly involves rice and beans, plantain, fajitas and burritos – all of which were delicious! The street food was cooked right in front of us and tasted really fresh and healthy.


We were feeling a bit worse for wear after the pool party, so we found a cute Air B&B and decided to chill out for the rest of the day. The views were amazing!

Travelling in style

Tuesday 19th July

Today was our last chance to catch some Nicaraguan waves and go surfing. We went to the main waterfront in San Juan del Sur and hired surf boards for a couple of hours. The waves weren’t as big or as frequent as the waves I’ve experienced on my Uni surf trips, but it was good for beginners and great for us as we only wanted a gentle surfing session!

Surfing pro?

Without taking the time to even dry off from the sea, we hopped in a taxi and headed east to San Jorge to catch the ferry to the volcanic island of Ometepe.

img_0993

HELLO Ometepe!

Stay tuned for more about Ometepe!

 

NICARAGUA: Part 1

This summer I was lucky enough to travel around Nicaragua in Central America with my friend Emily. This is a map of Nicaragua, and if you look closely, the pink splodges are the places I visited:

nicaragua-political-map2

The route we decided to take led us up to León, out to the beach, south to San Juan del Sur, across to the Isle de Ometepe, and then back up to Managua. Here is my trip diary:

Wednesday 13th July

The moment I had cleared Managua airport and stepped out onto Nicaraguan soil, Emily and I hopped straight into a taxi. There is little to do in Managua, so we decided to start our journey a two-hour-drive North West of the airport, in León.



Thursday 14th July

After a long sleep to get over the jet lag, we set off on our day sightseeing around León.

We found a local shop selling some towels that Emily wanted, and navigated our way around the grid of roads. The town is quite small and it was easy to walk around without needing public transport – but you probably don’t need much more than a day to fit in everything you want to see.


It was really hot in the city and we were recommended a traditional canteen to visit for lunch. You could pick as many dishes as you wanted from a food counter and the price of your meal depended on what you selected. I chose a spoonful of about four different dishes, including chicken fajitas, roasted veg, beans and a fried burrito filled with cheese. I think it cost less than $1.50, and it was so big I couldn’t finish it all!

Next, we climbed up to the roof of the Cathedral. You must remove your shoes to walk on the bright white roof, and you aren’t permitted to climb onto the domes – something that Emily and i were told off for! (Tourist activities are all very safe because you can go to prison if a visitor dies or gets injured on a site that you are running.)

The bright white rooftop was really pretty, and a great backdrop for photos!


We then proceeded to part two of our Nicaraguan culture tour and went to an art gallery. We were only people there… so it was very different to the National Gallery which was the last gallery I went to!


In the evening, we were very much in the right place at the right time. We ventured across the road from where we were staying to Bigfoot Hostel, and were invited to play a game of beer pong with the bar staff there (I’m excellent at beer pong by the way!) The staff then invited us to go salsa dancing with them in a big group that they were assembling.

The bar we went to holds salsa nights, and it was packed full of travellers and locals alike. You could easily spot the locals from the first-timers: the locals were astonishing to watch and moved very gracefully and effortlessly, unlike the first-timers such as myself who were looking at our feet most of the time! I’m pleased to say that I think I mastered the very basic steps, (forwards, backwards, side to side, and being twirled) and had a few good dances.

Friday 15th July
Today we went Volcano boarding up the Volcano Negro. Most hostels run volcano boarding trips where you can have one run down the volcano, but we booked with Quetzeltrekkers, who are a non-profit volunteer-run organisation based in León. With them, you get two trips up and down the volcano, snacks, lunch and two litres of water for the same price as you would pay for one run with a hostel.

We had an early start as the truck set off at 8am from the Quetzeltrekkers building, and even at this time it was hot, humid and sunny.

Emily and I sat at the back of the truck, so I felt a bit sick from the bouncing motion as the truck rebounded off the bumpy road. Fortunately this passed in time for us to be loaded up with a heavy rucksack and volcano board to trek to the summit of the volcano.

 

The trek to the top was quite hard work at first, but the breathtaking views made up for it. We had two stops on the way up, one to look at the views and to take a detour to see where the volcano was releasing sulphur, and the second one was to see a crater. It was beautiful and the first time I’ve climbed a volcano!


At the top, we stepped into special volcano boarding jumpsuits. Of course, mine was about five sizes too big for me and the gusset of the suit was down by my knees! This didn’t make a difference when we were sitting down on the boards, and it was probably a good thing that I had surplus fabric to protect me!


There were two tracks and you could board down in pairs. All you needed to know was that you had to keep your feet down flat on the ground and try to sit up straight (or lie back if you wanted to go faster). I wasn’t very good at steering and kept toppling to one side and falling off! I had a few good stretches where I managed to pick up some speed, and gave the others a show with my very dramatic finish where I rolled down the last few meters of the volcano! Fortunately, the worst injuries that Emily and I suffered were just a few scrapes and bruises.

How you’re not meant to do it!

We had a quick snack on the bus, and then set off for round two of the volcano surfing. This time, I decided to try out volcano running, which also meant that I could enjoy the hike more on the way up without the weight of the board and backpack behind me. The hike was much better, and not having the heavy weight meant that I could take in the scenery and get lots of photos!


Running down the side of the volcano was like nothing I’d done before – it wasn’t my average run home from work or jog across Wimbledon Common. I felt like I had more control than I did on the board, but I still wouldn’t have been able to stop if I’d wanted to because I was going so fast! It was an adrenaline fuelled day, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to do it.

Afterwards, we had burritos back at the ranch, and then jumped back into the truck to go back to León.

After the exertion of hiking and the adrenaline of the volcano boarding, we decided to get a taxi 30 minutes out of León to the beach. We found the small hotel on Air B&B, and I think it was one of the best places we stayed. It was right on the beach, with a really cool bar area and hammocks on the balcony next to the room. It also had a lovely sea breeze, which made a big difference from the stuffiness of León!



We had a swim in the sea, where I got completely taken out by a wave and lost my sunglasses. RIP.

In the evening, we walked to a local restaurant and had lovely seafood with some fellow travellers.

Breakfast on the beach


Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Nicaraguan adventure! New post coming soon.

 

Off to camp! 

Happy campers!

Last weekend I went to Sayers Croft Field Centre near Ewhurst in Cranleigh. The adventure holiday park is nestled within a healthy 56 acres of woodland, meadows, ponds and fields, and it’s popular for weekends away for school groups, scouts and guides.

The park is really for children, but as a friend works there, me and my rowdy group of pals descended on the camp for the weekend.

The Centre was built in 1939 to provide fresh air for inner city children and a refuge for evacuees. Most of the dorms there today are the original dorms from this time.

Our home for the weekend

Retro cabins

The cabin in the woods

When we had dropped our luggage off in the dorm, we headed straight to the rock climbing wall.

Water tower-climbing

The wall wasn’t very tall because it exists to be climbed by children. We mastered the small wall, and the wall on the other side was slightly harder because it had fewer footholds.

Only Matt and I were brave enough to climb up the second children’s wall!

Nice glutes

Monkey boy Matt

Owning the wall

Our next activity involved driving to Sainsbury’s to buy supplies – not very Lara Croft, but we needed lunch!

When we had topped up our energy, we decided to try some archery. Surprisingly, it was indoor, but this didn’t make it much easier, as the ‘wind’ still managed to take hold of some of the arrows and guide them away from the bullseye… It was definitely the wind.

Guided by our ‘qualified’ instructor

It was good fun, and we did a shooting game in two teams. My team won, of course!

I was surprised by the size of the Sayers Croft plot. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it’s actually been declared a local nature reserve, and it’s looked after by the Sayers Croft Trust. We went for a walk through some of it, and it is beautiful.

Such a beautiful pond

Magical meadows

The Celtic roundhouse – educational, and fun

We were very lucky for the weather over the weekend. It was sunny, not too cold, and perfect for bumbling around doing activities.

Is that a tent, or are you just happy to see me?

The famous five

Next top model…

Thrillseekers

In the evening, we set up a fire and cooked a BBQ on it. It was delicious! I love an outside fire on a sunny evening.

Great technique

It was also the Eurovision weekend, and staying in a cabin in the middle of the countryside was no excuse to miss it! So we abandoned the nature and ran inside for some Europop.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early ready to have a go on the low ropes.

These are the same as high ropes like you have at Go Ape, but they are only a meter above the ground because they are for young children.

The (very) low ropes

Ready to go!

They were good fun, but they took a long time to do because only one person at a time could climb across each section of the rope.

Hang on there, Matt

The leap of faith

Looking very safe

You’re in safe hands, Gemma

To round off the weekend, we headed to the pub. It was a nice country pub with a sunny pub garden, and a good chance to reflect on the weekend!

It was a really fun weekend, and even though it was a park for children, I think we made the most of it!

Go camp!

Homeslice

The last few times I’ve tried to get a table at Homeslice, I’ve barely been able to take a step into the tiny restaurant because it has been so full of people. But I knew this must be a good thing – and it’s popular for a reason!

Luckily, when Laura wanted to go for a celebratory meal to mark the end of her exams, it was a Monday night, and we were in luck.

Homeslice sells delicious soft pizzas that are large enough for 2-3 people to share. They are all priced around £20, and you can go half and half with toppings.

We were still told it would be a 35 minute wait by the staff on the door, but by the time we had walked to the pub round the corner and ordered a drink, it was already time to return because a table had become free!

Sitting down at the table after having downed my pub drink, it would have been easy to miss the huge chalk board on the wall by the door that was the only menu.

I’m not really sure how people on busier days manage to choose their food, because the board was almost completely obstructed by the queue of hungry people trying to get a table! But we could see a tasty option near the top, and went for it.

We went for the ‘salami, rocket and Parmesan’ pizza.

It was delicious, and the size of the pizza slices reminded me of the fabulous giant pizza segments that I ate in Times Square a few weeks ago.


The crust was doughy, puffy and chewy, and the base was very thin so the pizza was floppy. There was a thick layer of toppings, and it makes me hungry just talking about it…

We ordered prosecco while we were there, but you can also order wine – by the magnum.

It was great! A hidden gem in the middle of crowded Covent Garden, and if you can be patient enough to wait for a tale, it’s oh so worth it.