summer scenes #4 | a weekend in Ingleton part 2…

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Hey evryone, what with all the exciting things going on this summer, looking at these photographs it feels like an age since I was in Ingleton, but it is barely even a fortnight. Today I’ve got the second lot of my snaps from our quick get away. If you missed the first lot take a read here.

wpid-img_20150809_195345.jpgWe woke up Sunday morning to a really rather early but surprisingly generous full cooked breakfast, then checked out and head out to explore the town of Ingleton itself a little bit. The weather had taken a turn for the worst but it was still fairly mild, and the rain held off so we were happy.

Ingleton is a tiny place. With one street dotted with a few gift shops and one or two cafe’s but the views of the surrounding countryside are beautiful. We couldn’t have spent a whole day in Ingleton itself but it made for a very pleasant morning walk before we decided to get adventuring once more, this time heading to Ingleton White Scar Caves.

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White Scar Cave, in the Yorkshire Dales, is the longest show cave in Britain. A guided tour takes you about an hour and a half and includes, two underground waterfalls, stalagmites, stalagtites, and all the caving facts you could need. The caves remain a constant 8 degrees all year round regardless of the weather outside so be sure to wear something warm, and like with the waterfall trail sensible shoes are a must! Oh, and those glamorous hard hats? They aren’t just for show, a lot of the tour involves walking through passage ways with very low, natural formed ceilings, they call one stretch the ‘gorilla passage’ you can guess why! Entry to the caves is only £9.50 for an adult, and a beautiful guide book, filled with photographs much better than mine is only £3 and makes a nice momento.

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After all that adventuring, I was hungry again, or at least I told myself I was hungry again when we saw the cake counter at Frumenty & Fluffin! There was Salted Bannana and Chocolate Cake, Strawbery, Lime & Coconut Cake, Rice Crispie Cakes, Shortbreads, Strawberry Tarts, Banoffee Pie, Apple Crumble Bars and so SO many more to choose from. I was in cake heaven (also known as vegan hell). I couldn’t resist and went for Toffee Apple Cake with a pot of Lady Grey, and Rick had a Banana Milkshake and their best selling scones with jam and cream. This was definitely one of the best cafe’s I’ve been in in a while, and not just because it looked like my dream home! I just about managed to finish my cake (Rick didn’t) which meant the drive home was a sugar filled hyper active one!

Speaking of driving, for the first time in my entire life, I got behind the wheel of a car. I went forwards, backwards and round. I’m think I’m more than well prepared now for my first lesson in September. In fact I might just take my test and save myself a whole load of money!

We left Ingleton pretty early and headed home. We wanted to stop off and explore some of the towns on the way back but it was a Sunday afternoon and most of them were closed apart from the pubs, and neither one of us could face any more food!

We did briefly stop in Gisburn which is just up the road from me, for a walk and a play on the zip line. I’d put up a video of the young man playing, but he has threatened to retaliate by putting one of me up – in slow motion!

And that was the end of our little holiday! I hadn’t even been away from home for 48 hours but it felt like we’d been exploring for a week. I was so relaxed afterwards. When you can’t afford a real summer holiday, or a full week in the sun at any time of the year, you can start to feel a little claustrophobic, but for me this year, the summer has been packed with so many wonderful moments away from reality, i’m (just about) staying sane!

Live life & take a weekend away x

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my top 5 tips and picks for edinburgh fringe…

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As you read this chances are I’m either, watching a show, drinking cider, or crying with laughter. Or if I’m really lucky, I’ll be doing all three, because today I head up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015.

For those of you who have heard of the fringe but never really paid any attention to it, the fringe festival is the biggest arts festival of it’s kind in the WHOLE WORLD. It combines theatre, dance, drama, comedy, circus, kids shows, poetry, storytelling and music, into a 3 week long cultural haven that over takes the whole of the city centre. If you think music festivals are big, this is much bigger! This years fringe brochure has over 3000 shows for you to choose from, and if you’ve never visited the festival before this fact alone can be a bit overwhelming, without then trying to factor in finding accomodation, venues which are often hidden away in the back room of a shop, or the basement of a church, and just the whole atmosphere of the city itself. Which at this time of year is ELECTRIC.

I like to think of myself as a bit of a seasoned pro. I’ve been going to the fringe for 6 years now, to work in a venue, as just an audience member and this year as a programmer. One year I WILL go up as a performer, but that will be one very big and very expensive adventure.

This year, as part of my job, I’m heading up to the fringe to find and see some of the best shows happening in the UK right now and hopefully then bring them back to Lancashire. I’m not bragging, I’m aware of just how lucky this makes me. I’m also aware that because of this, and because of my history with the festival, I’m privy to alot more information, tips and tricks than most people visiting will be. As sharing is caring, I thought I’d put together a post of my top 5 tips for anyone visiting the festival, and the top 5 shows I’m looking forward to seeing.

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  1. It can be bit of a military operation…

Going to Edinburgh and getting the most out of your time there can feel like a bit of a military operation, but the planning and researching of what to see where and when is half of the fun! As I mentioned before, there are A LOT of shows happening all at once, and they are all of varying quality. The fringe is an open access festival meaning that if they have the money literally anyone and everyone can take a show and perform at the festival. Everyone from youth groups, university drama societies, internationally acclaimed acrobats, and the best new writers and comedians in the world descend on Edinburgh in August, meaning you could close your eyes and walk into the best show ever, or you could find yourself sitting in a dark room, with a very numb bum and a bored brain for an hour and a half. Doing a little bit of research before hand, into what shows you want to see and who they are by is the best way to make sure you don’t end up filling your trip with terrible shows! A quick glance at a companies website, or a look into one of the many ‘top picks of the fringe lists’ (including mine below) is a pretty safe bet to finding a whole trips worth of good shows. Plus now the festival has begun, reviews come out daily, if not hourly thanks to twitter so you never need to go into a show entirely blind if you don’t want to.

2. Take a risk…

Having said that, Edinburgh Fringe is all about taking a risk and trying something new, or giving something a chance. If you’ve never seen physical theatre piece put one at the top of the list. Shows at Edinburgh are infamous for pushing boundaries. One of the best things I’ve ever seen was an overnight, 6 hour long version of Medea, which included having a nap, hot chocolates, gin, and breakfast with the cast when it was all done.

If that all sounds a bit too out there for you, and the whole arts thing is new to you, then you can take a risk in other ways. Keep some of your trip completely unscheduled and walk into a free fringe show, without having to risk spending money on something you might hate. Walk down the royal mile, pick your favourite leaflet and go and see it without checking out the reviews first. Or just take up a promoter on their free ticket offers.

The people performing there, have taken a huge risk too, so lets support that! It might be that the best thing you see is by a completely unheard company performing in the smallest room, for free, and part of the beauty of it is, that you feel that you’ve stumbled upon the fringe’s best kept secret!

3. Wear sensible shoes & other pieces of advice your mother would give you…

Ok, so I’m cheating with this one a little bit, but when you go to Edinburgh it will almost definitely rain, and you’ll no doubt be out from lunchtime at the latest, until the wee hours of the next morning (at the earliest). Wear sensible shoes, there’s a LOT of walking involved in a visit to Edinburgh, between venues, up hill, and depending on how adventurous you are sometimes with the shows you see too.

With all that walking, you’ll want a good stock of snacks with you, to keep you going! You’re out all day and not only is it tiring, it’s also expensive, a bunch of bananas can go a long way.

Other essentials include, something warm, something waterproof, and something to get you through the hangovers!

4. Somewhere to rest your head…

Now if you’re reading this, chances are your trip is already planned, and you’ll have seen just how expensive accommodation can be! Edinburgh is a beautiful city with expensive hotel rooms all year round, come festival time, these prices soar. Luckily you don’t have to rely on the hotels, lots of locals clear out for the month and rent out their home to festival goers, but the supply is there because the demand is there, so finding cheap digs is like finding a golden ticket.

My top tip for accommodation is either the Caledonian Hostel in the city centre, which keeps their beds and rooms reasonably priced, and you can sometimes find a bed for the night last minute. Or my trusty digs are up at Queen Margarets University out in Mussleburgh, which is about 5 minutes out on the train and a 20 minute taxi ride at night. It isn’t the most convenient location, in that generally once you’re out, you’re out for the whole day, but what you pay in sleepiness and taxi fares, you more than save on the cost of the rooms – which are also en-suite and come with access to a kitchen! Plus they often still have rooms available throughout the festival (my friend decided on Tuesday he would join us this weekend and managed to nab a double room). You can’t book through their website, but give them a call, they are lovely and incredibly helpful people!

5. Don’t just sit in the theatre…

It can be tempting when you’re at the festival to try and cram in as many shows as humanly possible, but put some time aside to explore Edinburgh itself, whether that’s climbing Arthur’s Seat, wandering around the castle or just sitting in a cafe enjoying a coffee and watching the city buzz! Enjoy the company you’re with, meeting new people and letting it all sink in.

Production shot from The Soaking of Vera Shrimp, taken from The List Edinburgh website.

Ok, if you’re all packed and ready to go but still have a few spots on your itinerary that need to be filled, here are the five things that I’m really looking forward to seeing over the next 4 days. I’ve pre-booked to see 13 shows, and that is leaving my evenings and Monday free to watch things I hear about while I’m there. I will attempt to post mini reviews on everything I’m getting up to over on twitter, and hope that these shows live up to my expectations!

  1. The Soaking of Vera Shrimp by Rosie+Me at Pleasance Courtyard

As a solo story telling performer, obviously, I’m interested in seeing shows from other solo storytelling performers. The Soaking of Vera Shrimp is described as ‘part science lesson, part story-telling, this is a poignant and playful solo-show about love, grief and never giving up’  This show appears on a lot of industry ‘must see’ lists. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s a ‘one woman show’ this isn’t an autobiographical rant, but the story 14 year old girl who finds she has the superpower to read raindrops.

2. Foil, Arms & Hog: Skiddlywup at Underbelly Cowgate

If you read my post about holidaying at home, you might remember I mentioned going to see this incredibly funny and attractive Irish trio back in may. Watching Foil, Arms & Hog is a little bit of an Edinburgh tradition for Lucy and I. Silly and clever, this is a sketch group that changed my mind on not liking sketch comedy! There’s a lot of comedy at the fringe, but these guys consistently sell out venues. There so popular, on Friday’s and Saturday’s they are doing two shows a night! So don’t leave it till last minute to buy your tickets!

3. Ross + Rachel by James Fritz, produced by MOTOR at Assembly George Square Theatre

You’ll find a lot of shows at Edinburgh Fringe playing with pop culture references but this show isn’t so much the story of Ross & Rachel but all the romantic hopes and dreams the ultimate lobster couple represent. Another solo show and again very popular with the industry lists – which is rare for a show with such a poppy title! “Ross & Rachel tells the mind-bending, heartbreaking story of what happens when a couple that was always meant to be together, gets together” and is performed by Olivier Award nominated James Fritz.

4. Little Thing, Big Thing by Fishamble: The New Play Company at Assembly George Square Theatre

Fishamble are an Irish company that I’ve never seen before, which again is a brilliant thing about the fringe, getting to see shows from all over the world. Little Thing, Big Thing, is set to be a ‘darkly comic thriller’ which isn’t something I would normally go for! Even people who work in theatre, have their comfort zones, mine, paradoxically is the more contemporary experimental stuff, and I tend to err away from the more traditional work but this show sounds like it combines the too. Plus who can resist a story about a Nun on the run?

5. Fable by The Flanagan Collective at Summerhall

The Flanagan Collective are a company I’ve been aware of for a while but never had the chance to see or work with, so when I heard they had a new show coming up to the Fringe I made room in my schedule for it. Thy’re known for mixing, theatre, folk  and music together and creating a bit of a party feel for the audience, and it sounds like Fable will be a continuation of this. Plus they are performing over at Summerhall which has really come out as one of the top venues for new exciting work over the last couple of years. If you want to see more contemporary work, that the critics rave about, I’d recommend booking a whole afternoon of shows just in this one venue!

So there you have it, my guide to this years Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Check out the official Fringe website for all shows, and more information on planning your trip. I’d love to hear from you! Are you heading up the fringe this year, or have you been before and have your own top tips to share with me? Like I said, I still have time in my trip, so any reviews or recommendations please throw them my way! You can catch me all weekend over on twitter.

Live life & What The Fringe?! x

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the train diaries: yes! Barcelona…

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I can’t believe it! A month since my adventure has passed already, and here we are at the last of the train diaries (and sorry it is a day late!)! My final stop was of course the wonderful Barcelona, where I arrived to beautiful sunshine and a stunning Miss Sophie, can you tell how happy I am to have some company?

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I’d had a really early start that Friday morning, I wanted to get as many hours in Barcelona as I could (and by hours, I mean jugs of sangria) and I managed to make it to Plaza del Catalunya for lunchtime. We’d found the PERFECT apartment on Air BnB located just off Las Ramblas. Unlike in Valence, this flat is solely rented out to holiday makers and visitors to the city, so while there was no cosy chat with the host, it was really lovely to be around people from all over, including Belgium and Switzerland and erm… London. Plus our room was DEAD CHEAP, granted it was more of a cupboard than a room, but if all you need is somewhere to leave your stuff and sleep, then why bother spending any more? This is the flat we stayed in, and if you look there are actually bigger rooms available.

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The rest of the day were all about soaking up the sunshine, catching up (aka: me unloading all the words I had stored over the last 7 days on to Sophie) and drinking Sangria on the beach before heading out that night for some tapas, a wander around the squares and a relatively early night, ready to be a tourist NINJA the next day.

And of course, all good ninjas need a good breakfast, so we headed to the markets, and part of me died with happiness…

Freshly baked pastries, fruit salad and a mango and cocconut juice that I am still drooling over. The markets off Las Ramblas are what dreams are made of, they make you want to leave the UK, set up home in a bohemian Barcelona flat, and by fresh STUFF every day from the market. Stuff which of course you carry back to your flat in an adorable wicker basket. In all honesty I’m still contemplating the viability of that as a life plan.

When Sophie finally managed to drag me away from the markets, we made our way across town to La Sagrada Familia. And this is when I first realised: Barcelona is not small. Barcelona is HUGE.  Luckily it is also dotted with wonderful Gaudi buildings and what have you, so Barcelona by foot is worth seeing. just don’t expect to be able to see it all by foot, because if it is humid and sticky and you get a little lost, you will get moody, and that is just a fact of tourist life.

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My number one recommendation for you would be to book your tickets for the La Sagrada Familia in advance. When you arrive there is a que around the block, and chances are even once you get to the front of that que, you will still have to wait for an hour or so before your admittance time. It is pretty simple to do online, and you can even do it on your phone whilst your in the que, if like us you didn’t plan ahead.

Tickets secured and a few hours to spare we decided to head up to Park Guell, and this is when we should have given our feet a rest, because Park Guell is at least an hour a way from La Sagrada (at least – meaning if you don’t get lost) and it is up hill. Repeat after me ‘Barcelona has a Metro.’ However, despite getting sticky and irritable a picnic in the park was still a delicious way to have lunch. We didn’t pay the 7 euros to go and sit on the bench, mainly because as already mentioned we were irritable and then we got on our high horses about how it was a public space and that that isn’t what Gaudi would have wanted, oh, and there was another que. Ticket to sit on the bench or not, the park is still gorgeous, buskers hidden in secluded caves and views across the city, I would definitely recommend visiting the park, particularly if you’re blessed with a beautiful clear day.

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Having climbed down from our high horse and filled our bellies with bread and olives (which, will come as no suprise, having been fed I was much less irritable) we then wandered back to La Sagrada Familia. If you have read my other train diaries, you will know I saw more than my fair share of European Cathedrals, but well, that Gaudi, he certainly broke the mould didn’t he!

And you’ll also note: that this was one tourist attraction that I actually managed to go inside of!  Although my luck hadn’t completely changed as the towers were shut due to bad weather. I’m not going to try and describe the church to you. It’s beautiful, awe inspiring and more than a little insane.

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We dragged our tired and weary tourist feet back to our flat, whipped up a little pasta and cracked open several more bottles of Sangria. With the floor to celing windows thrown open and a little music we rested up (drank) before heading out to see Barcelona in a different light (ie. no light/through squiffy eyes). We weren’t really sure where to go, so a quick look on Google Maps ‘suggestions’ feature directed us to El Bosc de les Fades, which I described on Instagram as disney land for grown ups.

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A magical enchanted forest and reasonably priced drinks just of Las Ramblas (sorry about my super vague directions – basically everything in my head is ‘just off las ramblas’) I would definitely recommend starting your night here! We got chatting to some Americans studying in Barcelona, and I felt the envy sweep in as it suddenly dawned on me, this was the last night of my adventure. And well you have to make last nights, last, don’t you? So we headed to another cocktail bar, one we found entirely by accident, ull of locals where the pina coladas were only 4 euros, got chatting to a group and before we knew it we were swept into a club behind velvet curtains (not as dodgy as it sounds or looked) and danced to 70s hits until 5 in the morning!

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Sunday morning came along (I refuse to say the morning begins until after I have slept) and we were two very glum little travellers. The end of a holiday does that to you doesn’t it? We sat taking the city in, eating brunch at an amazing Vegetarian restaurant, lost in thoughts of the life we were returning to.

And I realised how lucky I was to not only have been on this amazing trip but to be able to go home to a life that I liked. This year has been all about becoming the person I want to be, and it really felt like 10 days travelling in Europe showed me that that is exactly what I have managed to do. I’m in no way a completed project. I still have so many goals that I am working towards, and I doubt that list will ever really get any smaller. It is just in my nature, but now more than I have ever been before, I am well equipped to tackle the mountains I decide I must climb. And that’s it, the great conclusion of the train diaries. Not quite Eat, Prey, Love and not a giant quest of self discovery, but on some level it was one of self realisation. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my wee jaunt I can’t wait for the next one!

Live life & go on the adventures you feel you must x