16/11/15 – A typical day in the life of a foodie and travel bug

On the go once again. Originally, we’d had this almost-week off planned for going to Norway to primarily see the Northern lights, but unfortunately, that idea fell through because of expenses/travel times/not enough holiday, etc. Of course, we needed to find another way to fill that time (perish the idea of just spending my week off at home) so we hit the travel sites to try and find somewhere new to go. We went for our finding of a mini cruise to Amsterdam, as that killed two birds with one stone in being another new country to see and our first time on a cruise.

Since we’d gotten such a good deal on our impromptu trip, we decided to do the same thing we did when we went to the Isle of Wight and spend the night beforehand nearer to our boat destination to avoid any panics about getting there on time and accounting for traffic and whatnot. So after packing everything up and putting aside the spare forty minutes to watch new Walking Dead before leaving (Daryl heavy episode is definitely a good going away present), we popped into Asda and Gregg’s for a mix of snacks, alcohol and pasties for the food. Since I couldn’t decide between a sausage roll and a sausage, cheese and bean melt, I just had both. Life of a foodie.

It took us about two and a half hours to get to Hull. I was on DJ duty again with Kel driving, since I hadn’t fancied the idea of leaving my nice car for a few days inĀ  random car park. We hit the musicals and Disney playlists for our usual duet sessions. I had to break out my completely brand new attempt at a Russian accent for my part of Vlad in one of the Anastasia songs. Let’s just say it’s a good thing we don’t do these in the company of other people. Wouldn’t want to risk offending an entire nation now.

We got to the Campanile Hotel, which I’d reckoned looked like a Mario house online. Turns out it’s the restaurant that looks like Mario house. The hotel itself looks like a full-on American motel. And of course, our room was upstairs. I thought we got past this stage a few years ago. Room was small and a little too cold to be cosy, so we put the heater on full blast and closed the curtains. We had to have a hunt to find an available plug socket, as everything seemed to be internally wired. We managed to establish that the only one we had was where the TV was plugged in. So we can either watch telly or charge something. Our choice.

Whilst Kel had a nap, I broke out the cookies, Doritos and Red Bull and started reading Jurassic Park. Since I’ve got NaNoWriMo going on this month, I want to primarily use my spare time for writing, but as my new project’s about dinosaurs, Jurassic Park works good as inspiration. Maybe a little too good though, since I got a bit carried away and ended up reading a third of it. This is why I shouldn’t be allowed near books, especially good ones. And damn, this is a good book. Why have I never read Michael Crichton works before?

When Kel came back to the land of the living, we headed over to the restaurant for some foods. I had a Magners and then some gammon with chips and a side of onion rings. Holy crap, it was a big side of onion rings. It was like what they tried to pull on me at TGI’s. All very lovely though. We had a natter and I spent a lot of the time watching a guy who looked a lot like Arthur Darvill and trying to establish if it was actually him or not. I eventually decided it wasn’t, as he’s Brummie and his accent sounded too far out.

After food, we retired back to our room for the night. I made attempts at writing, but kept getting distracted by what Kel was watching. Which was doubly annoying as they were all shows that I don’t even watch – I’m A Celebrity, Gogglebox, the news… People think I’m weird for not watching the news, but can you really blame me when it’s always so damn depressing and horrific? The attacks in Paris are just an awful, awful example of that.

We had a good natter about superhero stuff and just general gossip after we’d switched both the telly and the lights off. We do this a lot. Spend all day with each other, then only really wanna talk to each other when we’re trying to go sleep. Suppose it was just as well we weren’t that eager to get to sleep, since all the fucking birds were up and tweeting from about eleven o’clock anyway. Crazy birds; it’s goddamn night time.

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22/9/15 – Finishing up with a lazy day

Got up earlyish, had a natter to Flick’s mom whilst getting ready, then headed down to the beach again. We spent a good hour or so looking for stuff, but all I could find was more fool’s gold – which has quickly become boring in the sense that it didn’t come from a dinosaur. I did give Kel a lot of laughs though as every time I found something that I thought could be something, I’d show it to Flick, she’d dismiss it as ironstone/flint/fossilised wood and I’d throw it back on the sand. Apparently it looked like I had many strops. It was super windy out, some of the waves managed to soak my jeans even over my wellies and the seaside air makes me feel super drained, as well as making my hair all gross, so I was actually pretty happy to quit this time. I guess being short-sighted doesn’t make me well adapted to hunt for things on the beach anyway.

We did a quick co-op run – snacks for all and Red Bull for me – then came back for lunch. We had curly fries with cheese and onion potato bakes and some Mexican falafel things, which I wasn’t too keen on because of the texture. In between, Flick showed us how she does her waxwork paintings. They’re so pretty – the effects she can do on them are amazing! After that and food, we went into the office and Flick showed us and talked through the props she uses on her tours. Much more exciting than you’re probably thinking as it includes teeth and jaws of a great white shark, a giant vertebrae from an Apatosaurus, the nose of a swordfish and a replica of an Allosaurus claw.

From then, we pretty much spent the rest of the day binge watching more Friends. Jenny’s friend Greg came round in the evening, so the five of us had a few hours of Cards Against Humanity. I won, woohoo! Though is it a victory to be classed as the most inappropriate one? Oh, who am I kidding; of course it is! When Greg left, we moved back downstairs to Jen’s cave to watch a couple more episodes of Chuck, then we had to go pack everything up before bed. Thankfully, we’re an old hand at living out of a suitcase, so our stuff had barely even spread about the room that much.

I was hoping for an uninterrupted night’s sleep to be ready to travel back home in the morning, but since my alarm worked fine and I was able to avoid another migraine, it was time for the dreaded ghost attack I’d been afraid of all visit. Apparently I couldn’t escape untraumatised. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, this is exactly what happened, so take from it what you will. At about six in the morning I could hear somebody stepping around a lot outside our room, then I heard someone clattering about with metal pans in the kitchen, which was opposite our room, and the cats meowing. I first thought nothing of it, as I just assumed somebody was up and in the kitchen early. That was when the drawers in our room started opening and closing. I didn’t see anything, as I kept my eyes shut tight, because obviously things aren’t as scary if you can’t see them, right? Wrong. I was absolutely bricking it, particularly as I could hear the cats meowing even more and I know that animals are meant to be particularly bothered by spirits and such.

Thankfully, the noises soon stopped and I was miraculously able to get back to sleep. But then, before leaving for the ferry, Flick’s mom asked if either of us had got up around six and said that she’d heard the noises too and assumed it was either us or a supernatural ghost. They’re completely used to this kind of thing happening, so none of them were bothered in the slightest. Wish I could say the same, rather than having an absolute freak-out. Let’s see how long it is now before I can sleep properly again.

Though at least that happened on the last night. I was definitely relieved to be getting out of that room. Maybe I’ll have to stay in a nearby hotel next time I visit! Flick and Jenny saw us off onto the ferry, which was sad but also funny, as we were all doing dramatic waving – to the point where we couldn’t see each other anymore. I have two saving graces about having to come home. One is that Flick’s visiting Birmingham in just a few weeks anyway and I get to keep her for at least a whole weekend. The other is that we go to Gran Canaria tomorrow for a week. All inclusive with self serve sangria, fuck yeah! I certainly know how to make the most of my time off work!

Goodbyeeeee!

Goodbyeeeee!

21/9/15 – Back to the tasters

Guess what? I really did wake up with another migraine. I think the beta blockers I’ve started taking only works for about three or four days. Boo you, tablets. I took one of my meds and tried to sleep it off. That worked a little too well though, as my alarm then decided not to go off and Kel had to wake me up with not so much time to get ready. Had to quickly get dressed, straighten my hair and have some toast before Flick’s dad dropped us off at the Needles on his way to walk Twiggy.

We spent an hour or so at the Needles. Watched some glass blowing, went to the sweet shop (everybody surely knows how much I love sweets, so of course I came away with a cup of pick ‘n’ mix) and a few touristy shops. The weather was super miserable, so we had a quick glance at the actual needles out at sea, before retiring to a coffee shop in the dry whilst we waited for Flick’s dad to finish his dog walk. I decided to forego the hot drink idea and had half a Magners with some blackcurrant instead. Yum!

Flick’s dad dropped us off at the house so we could get our own car and head back out again. We tried the House of Chilli a second time and on this round, it was open! So it was back to the tasting session. This place had more bowls of the various jams and sauces, but with pieces of tortilla for dipping instead. There were a lot of really nice ones, including the general sweet chilli sauce, a spicy cheese dip and most of the balsamic vinegars. My favourite was a garlic and chilli dipping sauce, which I bought a bottle of. We also tried some chilli pork scratchings and I managed four of the super hot ghost chilli based sauces before having to run back and douse the fire with bits of tortilla and the nicer sauces. Safe to say I won’t be taking any of those home!

Why didn't I believe the sign?

Why didn’t I believe the sign?

I filled up on pick ‘n’ mix in the car to get rid of the chilli tastes and we headed into Godshill, which is one of the little town areas. We went into another touristy shop so that Kel could get an Isle of Wight themed magnet. I didn’t want to feel left out, so I bought a funny little cow teddy. Since Chuck has been one of our main watchings whilst we’ve been here, I’ve named him Casey. Seeing as he’s a big hunk of amazing man and I love him. We then visited Jenny at work in the fossil shop. I tried to buy a stone with a cute little Apatosaurus printed on it, but she insisted there was no charge, which was very sweet of her.

Since the weather was still incredibly crap, we decided to call it on the outings for the day. We came back to Flick’s and had more cheese pizza and bean burgers for an early tea (I’m really gonna have to get me some of those at home) followed by millionaire’s cheesecake and cream. Yummy scrumboes! We binged on the rest of Friends season six and I showered at some point in between, whilst the girls then played cards with Jenny and their mom.

Once I was all clean, we then moved into Jenny’s ‘cave’ to watch Chuck. Seriously, I am so jealous of these guys having their own friggin’ apartments within the house. My room isn’t even big enough for me and the dog! We watched five episodes of Chuck and I was seriously stoked, because not only did that include the angel of death episode – a personal favourite of mine – it also had Brandon Routh’s first appearance. This is the man who made me forget how to walk. No, seriously, he walked past me at a convention and I actually just stopped and did nothing. Because pretty boys tend to make my brain not work.

Jenny had to stop after the five episodes because of getting up for work. We decided to call it quits too, as we want to try more fossil hunting at low tide in the morning. Went to bed with my total of worries having gone up to include no ghosties, no migraines and hopefully my alarm remembering to work!

19/9/15 – Welcome to the lost world

Got up around half five, which was actually an improvement on yesterday morning (starting work at six always sucks, but Fridays also means we get cakes from Lynn, so silver linings, yo). Straightened my hair and packed up the little things we’d unpacked last night. Found our packed lunches waiting – nicely more than basic with fat cheese sandwiches, extra size bags of Quavers, Wispa bars and little cartons of apple juice. Well done, Roebuck. We approve. We moved everything back to the car and headed to Lymington.

We’re definitely in some backwards country area. We had to drive through some creepy misty marshlands, which immediately put me in mind of Silent Hill, mixed with that scene from Lord of the Rings. We realised we could actually see the mist moving over the top of us, so of course it switched to Harry Potter, as that could only mean Dementors. There weren’t really any other cars about – just a very menacing looking lorry that was following us through the mist. Great. Now it’s turned into Duel as well.

With the help of Kel’s Aussie satnav Bruce, we found the ferry port pretty easily. We double checked what we were supposed to do about boarding with some very nice holiday-makers, then grabbed some hot chocolate from the Costa’s inside, before getting back in the car. Didn’t have to wait long before we could board. We left the car in the parking bay and headed up onto deck for a bit. Not for long though, as it was cold and too bright to really see much without sunglasses. We retired to the lounge instead to break into our packed lunches/honorary breakfasts. Thanks again, Roebuck.

The ferry was nice, uneventful and only took about half an hour. Then the drive to Flick’s from the port wasn’t even ten minutes. Oh, we realised that her house happens to have giant dinosaur models outside. I’d seen pictures of them before, but hadn’t realised they were actually in her garden! There’s a Stegosaurus, a baby Triceratops and two Pachycephalosaurs that look like they’d being rudey dudey with each other. Of course I appreciated all the prehistoric types lurking around.

Well these would certainly stop drunk people from trying to break into your house. Not sure if this is a problem in the Isle of Wight though

Well these would certainly stop drunk people from trying to break into your house. Not sure if this is a problem in the Isle of Wight though.

Finally got to see Flick. Had some happy hugs and then she showed us around on a grand tour. Her house is feckin’ huge! Her little apartment within it is absolutely lovely. Me and Kel are sharing a twin room downstairs, so we didn’t have to lug cases very far. We even have our own en suite! Settled in a little, said hi to the rest of the family, then went through some options on what to do. We decided on Seaview Wildlife Encounters and headed out.

It’s a cute little place. Not exactly big, but it offers very hands on experiences with the animals. Most of the animals you can feed, particularly the millions of ducks that are roaming around (there was quite a hilarious moment when Kel was feeding some and then a gaggle of geese came screeching and waddling over at high speed). You can also walk through a lot of the enclosures, where the animals just wander around and you can stroke them if you like.

Wallaby friend!

Wallaby friend!

We watched the various feeding displays – I skipped on some of the feedings myself, mostly the birds as I’m not a big fan, but I did feed the wallabies and a macaw. We got to fuss a lot of the wallabies too, as they really didn’t mind the contact with people, and I also stroked a white and pink macaw that clearly loved getting attention. We broke for lunch in between. I had some very lovely sausages and chips, as well as a strawberry slushie. I do love slushies. The weather got surprisingly good as the day went on. I’d started the day in a jumper and ended up way too hot in just my Deadpool party t-shirt. Kel even sunburnt the back of her neck! Apparently the Isle of Wight is even crazier than England for not being able to decide on a temperature.

Once we’d seen everything we wanted to, we then headed to a donkey sanctuary instead, which Kel had wanted to visit. Apparently when they first moved here, there were two new donkeys called Felicity and Jenny (which are the names of Flick and her sister), so of course that was an amusing coicidence and we had to try and find them. Didn’t see Jenny, but Felicity was there and being very antisocial. Flick was not impressed with her namesake. One donkey decided it absolutely wanted to be my best friend and came trotting straight over for some fuss, practically trying to get through the fence. Sadly it was one of the only ones who didn’t have his name displayed anywhere, so I guess I’ll never know the name of my new friend.

Donkey friend!

Donkey friend!

After donkeys, we came back to Flick’s for a little while to have some food. We had a cheese pizza and something called bean burgers. I’d asked why Flick had so many of them in her freezer and she said it was because they were amazing. And they really were. Spicy, Mexican kinda tasting breadcrumb patties made of different beans and cheese. Yum! We got some brownie bite things out of the freezer too so they could defrost, then drove out to the beach to walk Twiggy and go fossil hunting!

Flick basically does guided tours along the beach to teach people about the paleontology based history of the island and to look for fossils in the process, as it’s a total hotbed for it. Since I’m a total dinosaur buff and being a paleontologist was my dream job growing up, this was just heaven for me. Flick taught us about some of the dinosaur fossils that were discovered here and showed us the historic levels in the cliff-side, as well as some genuine Iguanadon footprints in the rocks along the beach. It was really interesting and so cool to see Flick technically at work. She really knows her stuff! The whole time we were walking, I tried determinedly to find something awesome, but sadly I was being overoptimistic with it. All I managed to find was a rock with some seashell fossils in it. Not the giant dinosaur bone or arrow head that I’d hoped. We had to come back when the sun set, because it quickly got too dark to see anything, but I’m still determined to do better next time!

When we came back, we had our yummy brownie bites (after Flick had some fun trying to microwave them for the right length of time), then retired up to Flick’s apartment with Jenny in tow to play games. We played Cards Against Humanity first, which I wasn’t sure if they’d like too much because they’re nicer people than we are, but I guess nobody can resist the humour of it unless you’re really easily offended. We had ten rounds of that and had a real laugh over it – Flick even won! I came second. I’d been trying to play tactically, but not soon enough. As Flick said herself, “I like this answer too, but you used David Bowie on me!” I get how she works. After that, we played our Harry Potter trivia game for a while. More laughs, this time mostly over Seamus Finnigan’s impossible to understand accent in the films.

Kel was starting to fall asleep by this point, so we retired downstairs to bed. This was where I was trying not to freak myself out. Flick’s told me a lot of stories about her house being haunted, though I think she now knows not to let on about stuff like that. I have an overactive imagination when it comes to paranormal things, so it’s really better if I don’t know. It takes a lot for me to stay somewhere after knowing it has spooky history. Thankfully, Flick is that ‘a lot’. If no ghosties get me in the night then hopefully we can just forget about the whole thing.

22/10/13 – Everybody do the dinosaur

Skyped Mom this morning before heading to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. They had the best dinosaur exhibit I’ve ever seen – complete with whole skeletons of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Deinonychus, Triceratops, Diplodocus, Plesiosaur and a lot of ice age creatures, among others. They have the largest complete Megaladon jaw ever found, the best Tyrannosaurus hands and feet, and some of the best Triceratops feet too. They also had an actual sample of preserved Triceratops skin, proving they were actually bristly, rather than scaly like everyone originally thought! They had a ‘pet a dinosaur’ exhibit too with a preserved impression of Edmontosaurus skin, which you were actually allowed to touch. That was pretty damn awesome (can you tell I’m a huge dino geek?)

They had a cool Egyptian exhibit as well (and a gemstone display that we got lost in since it was all in the dark. Good logic there, Houston). There were three partially unwrapped mummies in there. I think mummies are fascinating, but they still creep me the hell out at the same time – especially seeing perfectly preserved, millenia-old human faces.

We grabbed some Maccy’s for lunch, which we then ate in the car, ready to get on the road again. Had a petrol stop and then a three-hour drive. Some idiot truck driver got really petty about being overtaken, so what did I do? That’s right, I kept on overtaking him. It was really quite amusing! (Just keep trollin’, just keep trollin’). We stopped off at another Maccy’s to steal their wi-fi since we didn’t actually have a room for tonight. Kel took care of that whilst I took care of a praline and cream McFlurry.

It didn’t take long to get to our hotel from there, but once again we couldn’t be bothered to go back out so we ordered in more pizza and sat and watched TV. Patton Oswalt popped up in some other show we’d been watching. Great, now he’s haunting me too! Then we watched a good chunk of Criss Angel. Now I love watching magicians do impossible tricks, but this just horrified me more than anything. He freaked everyone the fuck out, but in a bad way (not like Dynamo). He split two people in half, like really split them in half. He was even picking the pieces up, it was horrible – everyone literally screamed their heads off and then legged it. Now apparently on the next episode he wants to raise someone from the dead. Talk about messed up. Safe to say we won’t be watching that or it’ll be hello nightmares.

That’s the old palaeontology dream kicking in right there…