Thursday, 21 September 2017

A Day on the Wensleydale Railway

On Wednesday 6th of September it was my Dad's 60th Birthday, so being the dutiful daughter that I am I took they day off work so that we could spend the day together. My Sister is currently on Maternity Leave and my Brother in Law also managed to get away from work for the day and with my Parents newly retired we had a rare opportunity to spend the whole day out celebrating my Dad on his 60th Birthday together.

We had a bit of a tough time deciding on what we would do during the day as we have done quite a few of the local attractions near by to us. We had originally discussed going to Northumberlandia but this was quite far away from where we live and as we had plans for the evening for a meal with some of our family friends we thought it best to stay slightly more local. So instead we decided on the Wensleydale Railway which is much closer to where we live and also something we haven't done before.

The Wensleydale Railway is a volunteer run vintage railway running between Leeming Bar, just outside Northallerton to Redmire in the Yorkshire Dales. As well as running steam trains they also re-purpose old diesel trains and basically any vintage trains that they can get hold of are used.  We weren't lucky to be attending on a day when the Steam Trains are running but if you check the website they will have the dates advertised there subject to change because as im told steam trains arent always reliable but that just adds to their charm.
 As we were queuing up to get on the train there was a carriage being set up for afternoon tea which looked amazing and my Mum got talking to one of the volunteers and they say the afternoon tea train ride is very popular and books up months in advance so if this sounds like something you would like to do bear that in mind.  Also when we arrived there was a coach load of people arrived so we did worry that we may not get a seat for the five of us and my 3 month old nephew, but luckily there were more than enough seats to accommodate everyone and we settled in nicely. We had brought with us a little picnic to eat on our journey which felt very civilised and with the gorgeous scenery racing past it was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

We only had time to go as far as Leyburn a small dales market town on the line as we needed to get back home in enough time to get ready for our evening meal out with friends. When we arrived in Leyburn we took a steady walk into the town and had a cup of tea and a biscuit then a little wander around the shops before heading back to the station for our journey back to Leeming.

We all had a really lovely time and it was so nice too see parts of the local countryside you wouldn't normally get to see as it runs through some remote parts of the dales. All the staff and volunteers were very friendly and clearly passionate about the Wensleydale Railway. The Wensleydale Railway run themed events on the train throughout the year such as Gin Tasting, Hog Roast and Jazz Evenings and at Christmas they do Journeys where Santa joins passengers for some festive fun!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Life As An Open University Student - A Degree in International Studies

So I briefly touched on the subject of what I am studying with the Open University and that is International Studies. I want to talk about why I chose this particular subject and where I hope this degree will lead me in the future.

I've always had a keen interest in current affairs and in particular what is happening overseas and how this effects how we doings in the UK as well as wanting a career that will allow me to travel or work overseas it seemed that the right fir for me would be a job in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I looked into the kind of qualifications diplomats and Embassy workers have and one that i saw pop up a few times was International Studies so i decided to look more into the subject area and decided that this was the degree that not only suited my career aspirations but also sound like something I I would want to study, I didn't want to have to force myself to go through the motions of getting a degree for the sake of it.

As I mentioned before I did look at doing this course through Leeds Beckett University part time but didn't want to work part time so I decided to go with the Open University and the flexibility that offered. As well as the flexibility to fir the learning around my full time job the open university gives you choice in the kinds of modules you can study which again was very appealing as you can tailor your overall degree to the areas within it that suit your interests.

The Open University covers a wide rage of topics under the umbrella of International Studies looking at areas such as International Development, Environmental Impacts, Living in a Globalised World, The British Isles and the Modern World and Understanding Politics in the Modern World to name a few. This means I can pick and choose the kind of topics i want to study as i move through each stage.

I am about to start the module International Development at Stage 2 which is the equivalent of second year if I was studying full time. I might discuss this particular topic in a separate post to give more info and details and also it gives me something else to write about haha!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, are any of you looking to study with the OU? Or are you interested in International Studies? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Travel Inspiration - My Parents

There is no doubt about it, I get my desire to travel from my Mum and Dad! I have been travelling with them in some way shape or form since I was born and the places we have been to and experiences we have had are ones I'll never forget!

Both my parents grew up in families with little money and so were not able to travel widely and they both decided to join the Army when they were able to as a chance to travel and see the world which they have done by the bucket load since. Some of my earliest memories are of me, my mum and dad and sister piling into a car and going away whether that was to visit our family who live all over the UK or to Europe. One of my first holidays that I can remember was the four of us hoping on a ferry over to France to visit Disneyland Paris and also a caravan stop just South of Paris. We took games and had BBQ's it was so much fun.

When I was 6 my Dad was posted to Rinteln in Germany for three years and as a family we used this as a springboard to Europe travelling to Austria and Italy for summers away. I remember we went to Venice in the middle of Julys blistering heat and it was in the hotel pool that I found the confidence to swim with no armbands! Another holiday saw us travel to Austria with our caravan and we visited all the sites from the film the Sound of Music a family fave, me and my sister recreated the scene where the Von Trapp kids danced around a water fountain singing our heads off was such a laugh for us all.

When I was 12 my Dad reconnected with an old army friend of his that he lost touch with when he and his family moved out to Australia. This was in the early days of the internet and it was pure fluke that they made contact again. About a year after they found each other again our family flew out to Australia to spend 3 weeks with my dads friend and his kids and we all got on famously. Had my dad not reconnected with his friend I don't think I would have had such an amazing opportunity to travel so far at that age. My dad and his friend are still in contact now and his family have been out to see us and my mum and dad have gone back to Australia a second time.

Since myself and my sister have grown up my Mum and Dad have had a whole new lease on life heading abroad at least twice a year for holidays and trips away they always make sure they have a trip planned so they always come home to something to look forward to, a mantra I try to implement myself. They have been to so many different countries its unreal and so inspiring I want to see and experience as much of the world as my parents have and that is why they will always be my travel inspiration!

Who is your travel inspiration? Why do they inspire you to travel? Please let me know in the comments section.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Life As and Open University Student - Why the OU

Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash
As you may or may not be aware I am two years in to a six year course studying for a degree in International Studies with the Open University. If you are not aware aware of how the Open University works the basic premise is that you study for various qualifications from home part time for the most part fitting in study around your life and work.

Studying in this way allows me to continue to keep my full time job and work towards a qualification that I hope will open more doors for me in the future. When at the age of 26 I finally decided what direction I wanted to take my career in after seven years working in administration for both local and national government I knew that a degree in International Studies would be the best option for me. I looked at doing a degree part time at Leeds Beckett University but that would have meant that I would have to have dropped hours at my job to part time to accommodate this, I wasn't earning much at this point and the thought of taking a pay cut at that time in my life was not feasible I had bills to pay and life etc. so this was when I looked at the Open University.

I had heard of the Open University before and so I took a look at their website and low and behold there it was International Studies, as soon as I knew I could study part time from home and I could also keep working full time too it was a no brainer and I set about filling out all the necessary forms to get me started. I'm lucky in that the job I have is a Monday to Friday 9-5 kind of job so I can fit studying into my life pretty easily.

Because I had been out of full time study for a few years it was recommended that I do what they called an access course which would give me the credits I would need to study at degree level, now I'm not entirely sure how the credit system works but it made sense at the time. So I started my access course in the October of 2014 and finished in the May of 2015. I passed that course with a distinction which I was pretty happy about and I'm glad that I did this access course as it gave me a good idea of what to expect from learning with the Open University remotely talking to tutors over the phone or via email it was a good insight.

Since completing the access course I have completed two years of my actual study for my degree this is known as stage one and is the equivalent to one full year at a normal university. I have passed both these modules so far but as these two modules were compulsory and covered a very board subject area  for students that will go on to study Criminology, Psychology as well as my subject of International Studies I found it difficult to motivate myself to actually sit down and read and submit the assignments as these are areas that do not interest me whatsoever. Ill be completely honest I kind of winged it these past two modules putting in the bare minimum effort purely because I just wasn't interested in what they were trying to teach me.

I'm excited to start my next module this October with the module topic being International Development. This topic is definitely the kind of subject I want to get my teeth into so I'm hoping this will help keep me motivated to sit down and put the effort in.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

What I Love About Autumn

I saw a tweet a couple of days ago listing all the things that that the user loved about the Autumn and ill have to admit I got a little bit excited myself, being born in the depths of winter the Autumn/Winter is definitely when I thrive.

So with this excitement I thought I would share with you what my favourite things are about this time of year.

1. Cosy-ing up on the sofa under blanket 
2. Hot Chocolates
3. Darker evenings
4. Big cosy jumpers that hide a multitude of sins
5. The crunch of leaves under your feet 
6. Wood lit fires 
7. Bonfire Night - Fireworks are so magical
8. Hot home made soup lunches with a crusty roll
9. Dark colours back in my wardrobe plums, maroons, deep reds
10. All the American TV shows returning to our screens
11. A crisp chill in the air
12. Scarves, gloves and woolly hats
13. Cold but bright sunny days
14. Walks in the countryside all wrapped up for the cold
15. Not having to worry to much about a beach body for at least six months
16. Wearing boots again
17. Hearty evening meals like Toad in the Hole and Pies
18. Warm cosy pyjamas and fluffy slippers
19. A big soft dressing gown felling like its giving a nice big hug
20. Home made sausage rolls 
21. the excitement of Christmas being just around the corner!

So these are some of my favourite things about autumn and I cant wait for it to get here! What do you love about Autumn please let me know in the comments?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Lost Luggage - Lessons Learned

Two years ago I embarked on a pretty awesome two week trip to the US and Canada which involved multiple destinations and therefore multiple flights. It was on this trip that I experienced the loss of my hold luggage. At this point in my life I had been on a fair few trips but was by no means a seasoned traveller and I certainly didn't think that my luggage would ever go astray that was something that happened to other people, not me! How wrong I was.

To give you some context myself and my parents set off from our local airport Newcastle (NCL) headed to Toronto (YYZ) Canada, as this wasn't a direct flight we had a stop over of a few hours in Heathrow Airport's (LHR) new Terminal 5. It was at this stage of the journey that we made our connecting flight but our luggage did not. If you aren't aware Terminal 5 has an all singing all dancing new baggage system behind the scenes. Unfortunately on the day we travelled this all singing all dancing system failed and there was no viable back up in place. So not only was our flight affected but also thousands of others were affected too. So when we arrived in Toronto we were informed shortly after landing in baggage reclaim that the bags were not loaded onto the flight. I think if we were staying in Toronto for the full two weeks of our trip there would have been a good chance that our bags could have been reunited with us but as we were only there for 3 days and moving on to Las Vegas and Los Angeles it made tracking that bit more difficult.

We waited at the British Airways desk that was opened in Baggage reclaim to be issued with a credit card with money loaded on, so that we were able to buy some essentials etc. We were advised that this could be done on-line through a website that British Airways had provided, but this link wasn't working so we decided to wait in the queue and have something there and then to ensure we could buy some essential items. I would certainly advise you take this option as it seemed as though the link to apply for money wasn't working its thought due to the high number of people trying to access this site so those travellers who didn't wait likely were unable to claim this emergency fund.

I have learned quite a few lessons from this experience that have made me a more savvy traveller and I've also realised how little I actually need to pack for a two week holiday, before this I was the notorious over packer! If at all possible try and pack everything you need into a carry on eliminating the need for a checked in bag, you can always get essentials such as liquids you are unable to pack etc. at the other end. If you do need to take a bag to be checked in make sure you pack a few items in a cabin bag so that you aren't left short at the other end should you need anything.

I was finally reunited with my bag on my return home from my two week trip, British Airways decided by the time they had located my bag and my location it would be easier to send this to my home address than to my Hotel in Los Angeles. Thank god for travel insurance is all I can say!!

Have you ever had your luggage go missing? What was your experience with being reunited with your luggage? Please let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The History of Rome Podcast ~ My Companion for the Daily Commute

About July/August last year I began to grow tired of my usual song playlists on my commute to work and the radio stations were no help to busting my boredom. Now my commute unlike may other is only 15 minutes nothing I know compared to a lot of people who can have upwards of an hour to pass the time, but I found myself just going through the motions and then being completely demotivated on my arrival at work which then lead to a less than productive day.

It was following a conversation with a colleague that I discovered the History of Rome Podcast. I am a massive history nerd and I particularly have an interest in Ancient Rome so I knew this Podcast would be right up my street! My colleague said that he had downloaded it from ITunes, but me being an android user I didn't have access to that on my phone, what I would be using to listen to the Podcast. Luckily a quick search on Spotify and there it was so I mediately followed and downloaded the playlist and began to listen.

The podcast is a series that traces the rise and fall of the Roman Empire from the days of Romulus and Remus to the very end dealing with why the Empire fell when it did. There are 179+ episodes to this series so I knew that it would keep me busy for a good while. I had a brief idea of what happened during the reign of the Roman Empire but I didn't have a definitive timeline of which emperor was ruling and at what time and also what each emperors strengths and weaknesses were as some Emperors were more effective than others. 

As well as charting the comings and goings of each Emperor and their successes and failures in battle the podcast looked at a variety of different topics that encompass the Roman Empire from the daily life of a Roman citizen, to how the Romans celebrated 'Christmas'. It covers everything you could possibly want to know about Ancient Rome and my inner history nerd was more than satisfied. The podcast finished recording in 2012 and the podcast producer Mike Duncan is now recording a similar series based on the Revolutions of American history.

As mentioned I started listening to this podcast around July/August 2016 and I still haven't finished yet, it usually takes me my journey to and from work to listen to one episode give or take and I have had a few breaks for times when I have not been in work etc. It has had a massive impact on my concentration I find my mid is engaged by the time I reach work and I'm more alert ready to start the day and has had an impact on my productivity at work. So if you have an interest in Ancient Rome like me or you are just looking for a new podcast to listen to to broaden your knowledge base then i cant recommend The History of Rome enough!

Check out the Podcast accompanying website for more info here

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Surviving New York During a Snow Storm

I made a recent trip to New York City and it just so happened to be the week that Storm Stella hit the north east coast of the US.Not the best timing for a Trip to the US but what's a girl to do when the flights and hotel are booked and a lot of time and effort had gone into the planning of the trip, you just grin and bare it and hope that its not has bad as everyone predicted.

I arrived in New York on the Sunday before the storm was due, to freezing conditions but the sun was still shinning, that's OK I an cope with the cold as long as the sun is out. If the weather can stay like this for the next four days I am winning, but alas this was not to be. It was similar weather to that what I arrived to on the Monday cold but bright so I was thinking usually it warms up a bit before a big snow storm maybe I have got away with this maybe the snow will have been blow off course and will by pass us and I will be lucky to have gotten away with it!

How naive I was, I awoke to snow covered roof tops and inches of snow covering the roads and footpaths with snow falling thick and fast as well as huge gusts of wind, winner!! Not to be deterred and hoping that the snow fall will stop any time I ventured out. I had been told that the museums should still be open and the like so I jumped on the Subway down town with the plan of visiting the Ground Zero Museum and Workshop. As I came out of the subway station a short walk from the Museum I saw Starbucks and it was open, so I decided to grab a quick breakfast before making my way to the museum, while I was enjoying a bite to eat and taking full advantage of their free WIFI I checked Google maps to see how far a way the museum was and how long it would take to walk it was then that a little alert popped up on my screen telling me that in actual fact the Museum would not be open today!! Bloody hell I've come all the way down town what can I do now? I thought best thing to do would be to visit the 9/11 Memorial as this was outdoors and something you can just walk up to. Unfortunately due to the bad weather I could see the Memorial but I couldn't get as close to it as you normally would be able to but was still very moving to be in the place that the horrible tragedy took place. Having paid my respects at the Memorial I thought I would nip in quickly to Target that was just a little further along the street to see if I could get some Knicks clothing for the Basketball game I had tickets for that evening.

Oh My God!! Trying to walk 300m up the street was incredibly difficult the now was not falling as massive hail stones punching you in the face no matter how well wrapped up I thought I and coupled with that the winds had picked up and were reported to have reached 60 mph. As you can imagine it was very treacherous conditions and it was starting to get a little dangerous. Once I had, had a little look in Target and hoping that the wind and hail would ease off I headed back out in search of the Subway station to head back up town, I didn't want to get stuck down here far away from the Hotel. I got off the subway at Madison Square Gardens, as I had, had no luck finding anything with the New York Knicks on I figured the Gardens would have a shop I could pick something up. As I came to ground level I was fortunate to find a discount sports clothing stores and picked up a T-Shirt. Once done in their the wind and hail had picked up again so I ran into TGI Fridays and decided that this was as good a place as any to grab some lunch and once again wait for the wind and hail to die down a bit before heading out, I was lucky this place was open as a lot of businesses had made the decision to close that day for the safety of their staff.

By this time a lot of the day had gone, trying to walk in 60 mph winds takes up a lot of your time!! So once I had eaten I headed back to my hotel to freshen up before heading back out for the Basketball that evening. When I headed back out the snow and hail had finally stopped and the wind had died down considerably so the worst was now behind me, thank god!!

The next day I headed back out to pick up where I left off with my New York sight seeing, taking in a tour of the Rockefeller Centre and a little stroll around Central Park. I was amazed at how quickly the roads and pathways had been cleared, there were people out doing this on the Tuesday and it looks like people had worked through the night to ensure that everything was done for the Wednesday. The snow unfortunately piled up at crossroads and I found a few crossings to be a bit dicey trying the clamber over huge piles of snow but for the most part getting around by foot was no problem at all. By the Thursday I had noticed massive trucks scooping big piles of the snow into the back and it appears that it gets shipped elsewhere to melt as the city just cant handle that amount of melted water!!

New York in the snow is so pretty and Central Park in particular was magical. Apart from losing one day of sight seeing the city was incredibly resilient and bounced back pretty quickly and was back to its busy bustling self in no time at all. I would definitely need to re-visit this amazing city in the summer one to do all the things I didn't get a chance to but also to experience how different the city can be in the warmer weather!

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