Book Review: Swim Bike Run: Our traithlon story by Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee

Brownlee book

A friend recommended this for the ‘a book about sport’ in our 2018 reading challenge.  She’s not a big sports fan – but had really enjoyed this – so I followed suit.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Swim, Bike, Run – The ultimate guide to triathlon by Olympics heroes Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee

A Number One Bestseller
This is the story of how two skinny lads from west Yorkshire became the best triathletes in the world.
Meet the Brownlees: Olympic Champion Alistair, World Champion Jonny. Brothers, training partners, rivals. They have obliterated the competition and set new standards for swimming, biking and running.
In this revealing, often very funny book they take us inside their world. It’s both a riveting story of the races, the success and the brotherly rivalry, as well as a guide to triathlon with sections on how to swim, bike and run and packed with advice on nutrition, injury, and mental approach.

This book will appeal to readers of cycling and running books like Mark Cavendish’s Boy Racer and Running with the Kenyans, as well as fans of Chrissie Wellington’s A Life Without Limits and Andy Beckett’s Can’t Swim, Can’t Bike, Can’t Run.
‘Sport has two new heroes: a couple of nice lads from Yorkshire’ The Times
Alistair Brownlee, 24, is a British triathlete from Yorkshire. He is the reigning Olympic champion, a back-to-back European champion and a two-time World champion.
Jonathan Brownlee, 22, is also a British triathlete from Yorkshire. He is the reigning World Champion, a two-time World Sprint champion and an Olympic bronze medalist.”

Bizarrely, the weekend before I started reading this, I’d been chatting to a friend whose eldest daughter does triathlons (like the Brownlees, she started as a competitive swimmer and has moved across) and she told be about the wetsuit temperature rules (and that the good swimmer prefer not to wear them) – and exactly the same information was shared within the first chapter or so – it felt like fate!  Given it’s the only triathlon fact I knew, I felt quite smug.

The book follows their lives and alternates between Alistair and Jonny telling the story.  It’s really interesting – even for someone like me who knows little about their sport (although, was screaming at the TV during their 2012 Olympic race – and any other time I’ve watched them #armchairviewer)

Whilst the sport story is interesting – and their dedication to their training – the relationship between them as brothers and competitors is also explored – which is very interesting indeed.

I did really enjoy it – it’s not a type of book I often read – but I kind of felt it finished too soon.  I would like to have known what happened afterwards and more recently (although I appreciate the book was written before their dramatic 2016 race in Mexico where Alistair practically carried Jonny across the line in a world championship race)

I almost felt guilty too – because the one time ever that Alistair has been disqualified in a race was last weekend – as I was finishing the book.  I sort of felt responsible – because I was reading about him and therefore super interested in the results…. #guiltcomplexextraordinaire.

As well as being interesting and informative – it’s also really funny at times – they seem like they would be a real laugh (and they like cake!)  Definitely worth a read.

 

 

 

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Book Review: Happier Thinking by Lana Grace Riva

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I was emailed by the author of this book asking if I’d like a copy to read and review.  Never one to turn down a free book I said yes!  Here’s the blurb:

“Changing how you think is possible. I wasn’t always so sure that was true until I experienced it myself, but I know now we don’t have to just accept unhappiness. Not always anyway. This book is my collection of tips and suggestions that have helped me achieve happier thinking. It’s sort of a gym for my mind. I’d love to tell you it was easier than the real gym but well… it’s not really. It takes time, effort, and practice but it’s absolutely well worth the rewards.”

It is a little book and I read it in a couple of sittings.  Nothing in it is earth shattering, and you’ve probably read similar in magazine articles about positive thinking and being happy – but it was great having it all in one place.

I found myself thinking about what Lana had said later in the day.  Things like, just because the day started badly, you don’t have to assume the whole 24 hours will be a write off.

I can immediately think of a number of ‘glass half empty’ people that this book would be great for.  I can also imagine it’s the sort of book I need to read relatively regularly just to remind myself to be more positive and see the best in situations.

I don’t want to share too much of it – as that would ruin it if you read it.  The summary at the end is also the chapter titles – and a really good aide memoir for positive thinking.

Whilst I don’t think this is a world changing book – it could definitely be a mood changing book, and if it helps one person – then it’s definitely a good thing.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

One of the prompts in my 2018 Reading Challenge is a book with an ugly cover.  I therefore contemplated reading Fire and Fury due to its very ugly cover:

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but I just couldn’t bring myself to!  I kept seeing really positive reviews of Dolly Alderton’s memoir, and decided that was much more appealing than reading about the orange one – so I went for that instead, as there is scribbling on the cover so that can count as ugly?!

Everything I Know About

Here is the Amazon blurb:

“When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Timesdating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you’ve ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. It’s a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you and you alone are enough.”

And what other authors have said about it:

‘A wonderful writer, who will surely inspire a generation the way that Caitlin Moran did before her’ Julie Burchill

‘If Nora Ephron is the cool aunt you wish you’d had, Dolly Alderton is your favourite cousin. I loved it and I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t; it’s a genuine delight’ Kristen Roupenian, author of Cat Person

I’d already read Dolly’s article in the Sunday Times Style magazine called ’30 Things I’ve Learned About Life At 30′ – which I loved – so I guessed I was going to enjoy her book.

Now, I think I am older than target market (this is becoming a recurring theme in my book reviews.  Do I just need to accept I’m mid 40s?!?) as Dolly was 28 when she wrote it but I really enjoyed it. I also felt that Nina – in the last book I read – should really read it!

It’s sort of autobiographical – but jumps around rather than being strictly chronological.  There are also some hilarious random chapters which are (I am assuming fake) emails about weddings / baby showers / hen do invites – and texts to people – and these were all laugh out loud funny.  Totally should have written LOL to be down with the kids…….

Dolly’s reliance on booze / hard drugs / casual sex is also looked at in detail – so definitely don’t read if that’s not your bag.

What I LOVED was Dolly’s relationship with her friendship group – and especially her best friend Farly.  The friendship changed over the years – but was the one constant throughout the book.  They definitely went through their ups and downs together too – and clearly love each other completely and utterly as friends.

I read it really quickly as I was enjoying it – and Dolly’s writing style is great.  I feel like I want to buy a copy for all of my 20 something cousins!  I also really want a follow up in about 5 years to find out how everyone is doing…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One night in Joburg

(To the tune of ‘One Night In Bangkok’ , or ‘One Night In Heaven’ – take your pick!)

This summer the Price family went on an African adventure.  Between our stays in  Zimbabwe and The Seychelles – we had an overnight stay in Johannesburg due to flight timings.  Joburg felt very different to Cape Town.  It felt more of a sprawling city – not hemmed in by a huge mountain, so it could just spread and spread – and there were people EVERYWHERE.  It felt a bit more daunting.  We literally travelled from the airport to our hotel and back again – so didn’t see anything that the city or surrounding area had to offer.  The Saxon hotel, however, was incredible.

We were lucky enough to stay in one of their villas – which are generally used by visiting dignitaries, celebrities and royalty to avoid the paparazzi in the main hotel!  We’d missed Katy Perry by a week, and Nelson Mandela by a few years (he finished his autobiography ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ in the hotel).  It’s joined to the main hotel by a skywalk (and as our son is Luke, cue lots of jokes about Luke Skywalker!)

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We had 3 of the 7 luxury suites in Villa One and it was wonderful.  Partly – it was nice to be back in proper civilisation after a week in the Zimbabewean bush – and to have Molton Brown toiletries (even if the husband did call them Melton Mowbray – a small village in Leicestershire, UK famous for pork pies?!?)

The kids loved the (heated) pool – and us adults loved the complimentary bottle of champagne in each suite.  I have to confess we didn’t quite manage all 3!

We all enjoyed the super quick wifi (the one thing Zimbabwe lacked!) and the most amazing steak we’ve ever eaten.  The food was great for dinner and breakfast – although slightly slow (I guess it has to come across from the main hotel) and that was the only minor negative of the whole stay.

 

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The stay was brief – but fabulous.  We managed to leave ‘liony’ behind – he was camouflaged by the white bed sheets, being a white lion himself.  However, a call from the airport saw him being chauffeur driven to be reunited with a distraught 8 year old before we got on our flight to Mahe!

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If you find yourself in Joburg – we would thoroughly recommend the Saxon – just a shame our stay was so brief.

Note:  This is not a sponsored post, we paid for everything we did.  All of it was organised by our wonderful Travel Counsellor Michelle.  We just wanted to share the amazing trip we had – and keep a record of it for us to look back on. 

 

 

 

 

Cape Town – with kids! A funpacked few days in South Africa.

I’ve mentioned before that we were holidaying in Africa this summer – well, that started in the city of Cape Town.  There were 6 of us – my husband and I, and our kids – who range in age from 15 down to 6.

Here’s a random selection of things we did during our stay:

  1. Our accomodationThe Cape Grace hotel – right on the V&A Waterfront was fabulous. All of us thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.  The location was perfect, the views stunning, the service exceptional – and the wifi strong (which is a pre-requisite when travelling with children!)

    We made use of the outside pool area – although admittedly were the only people in it due to it being midwinter! And I had a couple of excellent massages in the spa as I was struggling with a dodgy back.


    The taster menu in their restaurant was stunning – but equally, room service was also excellent – and very convenient in our 3 bedroomed suite, and we even ate on the balcony being hardy Brits!

    I had a slight work crisis whilst there – and the staff were great, printing out documents for me to work on.

    The suite was stunning – and perfect for our large family. We would definitely stay there again and highly recommend it for anyone visiting whether for work, as a couple, friends or families.

  2. Random dog charitySo this is a slightly weird one – and wasn’t in our planned itinerary – but was a highlight for the kids in particular! Close to the hotel, in Nobel Square, there was a pop up dog rescue run by a charity for re-homing dogs.  Whilst adopting a dog on holiday was clearly out of the question – you could also pay to take them for a walk for 10 minutes, or to play with the puppies and we did both!


    The children loved it! You could also pay to name a dog – but there weren’t any nameless ones when we were there – however, the 8 year old has told everyone how she walked ‘Tonya Harding’ #nottheiceskater
  3. The Big Red Bus TourWe did this on our first day – and it gave us a real feel for the layout of the city and close surrounding area.  The weather was kind so we could sit on the top deck of the bus and enjoy the sunshine and commentary. We’ve done bus tours in lots of cities and it really helps you understand the geography and history (I am such a geek!!)  Sadly the cable car to the top of Table Mountain was closed for maintenance, but the bus took us to the base station which still gave amazing views across the ocean to Robben Island and beyond.

    At one point we thought we’d spotted a whale – turned out it was a rock – but we’d somehow incited the whole bus into taking photos of it………

  4. Robben IslandTalking of Robben Island (or Robin Hood Island as my husband mistakenly called it – which is only amusing if you’re familiar with Hall Green in the South of Birmingham where a traffic roundabout is called that!) We were all really looking forward to this – especially the 6 year old who had learnt about Nelson Mandela at school last year.  But we were thwarted because the weather was bad and all ferries were cancelled. So it’s the on planned thing that we missed out on during our whole trip!
  5. The Cape WheelWe’d spotted this from our balcony and thought we should give it a go.  Like the London Eye – but smaller.  You had some great views from  the top – although it did make me feel a bit motion sick!  (It doesn’t take a lot, I feel sea sick on a swing or a lilo!!)

  6. Cape TourWe had been driven from the airport to the hotel by the wonderful Nazeem from Ilios Travel – and he was our driver for our Cape Tour – assisted by the fabulous guide Rian.  It was great to be driven around by such knowledgeable people – and they were both keen to answer any questions or queries we may have had.  We visited some great locations – explained more below – but it was definitely worth investing in a private tour as it gave us such flexibility with what we wanted to see -or not see.  We would definitely recommend Ilios to anyone visiting South Africa.

    We stopped at various points on the route to admire the views.  One was the beaches in Clifton which are numbered 1 down to 4.  1 is for the beautiful (or in some cases surgically enhanced) people – the husband is convinced that would be his?!?  Then it’s beach 2 for sports activities, beach 3 for the local LGBT scene, and beach 4 for families to chill out.  I feel we are far more beach 4 than 1 but didn’t want to burst his bubble!

    We also stopped at the Farm Village in Noordhoek for a coffee where our 15 year old managed to find a tack shop.  It sold the specific fly mask she’d been after for her horse that THE WHOLE OF THE UK had sold out of – so obviously we had to buy it and bring it back!!

  7. Cape Point LighthouseThis was great – although very windy!  We caught the funicular up and down – but there is still a lot of walking up and down steps to see both lighthouses and the amazing views.  Totally worth the effort though!

  8. Cape of Good HopeI had – mistakenly (although seemingly a common mistake) – thought this was the Southern most point of Africa – but in fact, it’s the most South Westerly.  But anyway – it was beautiful to see.  The sun was shining and it was REALLY windy – but great.  We had to queue to get photos taken – but apparently it was nothing compared to the queues at the height of the season!

  9. Penguins at Boulders BeachThe penguins were fab!  You get to learn a bit about them – and see all different sizes of penguins on land – and swimming.  We’d been warned it was a bit smelly – but it wasn’t at all – perhaps because it was winter?  The kids now also know all the facts about why African penguins are different to penguins that live on snow and ice!

  10. Kirstenbosch Botanical GardensThis was our last stop on our day trip – and everyone was getting a bit tired!  But we still had a great time in the gardens.  There’s lots to see – and we probably only witnessed a fraction of it.  At least we could tick it off the list!!

  11. Two Oceans AquariumWe hadn’t planned to go to the Aquarium – but when our Robben Island trip was cancelled, we thought we’d try it (basically as we were up early and it was close to the hotel!)   We were really pleased we did as it was great.  There were lots of exhibits to look at – as well as some interactive quizzes for the kids to do.  (Oh – and free wifi – which is always a winner!)

  12. Scratch Patch – and Cave GolfWe are lucky enough to have a number of friends from – or who’ve been – to Cape Town.  A number recommended Scratch Patch – which we may not have found without the insider knowledge!  The original one was in Simon’s Town and opened in the 1970s.  This one, just behind the waterfront, was great.  Our little girls loved ‘scratching’ to find  beautiful gems to bring home from the millions of rocks covering the floor. We started off with little bags (thinking of the luggage allowance!) but ended up buying medium ones too, as there were just so many to chose from!  Whilst the girls enjoyed this – the boys played Cave Golf – an inside mini golf course (thankfully with only 2 of them playing this didn’t descend into the argumentative chaos that whole family games of crazy golf have!)

  13. The Ferryman’s TavernWe ate and drank at the Ferryman’s Tavern on the V&A waterfront 2 consecutive days – and the waiter remembered our order!  I’m not sure if this was because my husband massively over tipped him the first day due to a currency conversion issue, or because the husband was drinking gluten free beer – or just that he was a great waiter – but it made us feel like locals!!
  14. The V&A WaterfrontWe’ve already mentioned lots of places we visited on the waterfront during our stay – but it really was a great location.  Lots of places to eat and drink and watch the world go by – and great shopping.  The shopping mall was a mixture of familiar names from back home – and also familiar names from trips to the US that aren’t on the UK high street – all in all we had a great time.   Generally things in SA seem cheaper than at home – which is always a good justification to buy more!

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    Chatting to Nelson in Nobel Square

 

Having missed out on Robben Island – and the fact that as we had the kids in tow the husband and I didn’t do any wineries – we kind of feel that we have unfinished business with Cape Town – but are already looking forward to a return visit in the future.

 

 

Note:  This is not a sponsored post, we paid for everything we did.  All of it was organised by our wonderful Travel Counsellor Michelle.  We just wanted to share the amazing trip we had – and keep a record of it for us to look back on. 

 

University (Parcel) Challenge

We have just seen my eldest niece for the final time before she goes off to a foreign country for University (Wales!).

a) How can she be old enough to leave home?
b) What excitement can we send her through the post?!

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There is actually form for this where her family is concerned.  When her Dad, my brother in law, was on tour (with the RAF – he wasn’t in a pop band, despite how good he is at karaoke!) we took great pleasure in sending him ‘interesting’ parcels.  The first – which he was quite chuffed and possibly a little smug about (before he opened it) was a Cliff Richard calendar!!  That stayed on the wall in the mess long after he came back home.  We also sent a bucket and spade when he was in the desert (and some sensible stuff too I promise!)

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Back when I was at uni – a quarter of a century ago – there was no social media or smart phones to stay in touch with family and friends at home.  Your options were to queue up for the payphone (with your fancy pants card that meant you could phone home cheaper than using cash) or rely on Royal Mail.  I remember being so excited whenever I got post.  My Nan would send chocolate, Auntie Mavis would send stamps, and my sister (my niece’s Mum) once sent me a letter with a little plastic bag inside with her nail clippings and the weird bits she’d pulled off her verucca using whatever the 90s equivalent of Bazuka was.  I am hoping her parcel sending will have improved since she was 13, or my poor niece is going to be very disturbed ………

So what to add to the first care package? I’m thinking multivitamins, ear plugs, alka seltzer, antibacterial handwash, Berocca, Pot Noodles, an ironic 90s indie poster to go on her wall, a pair of Doc Martens (all students still wear them, right?), sick bags, spare mobile phone for when she loses hers, name stickers for her contents in shared fridge, family photo, cuddly toy, sink unblocker (although she has a fancy pants en suite – none of the ‘sink in the corner of your room’ to vomit in and block), air freshener, Febreeze, can of Red Bull…….

and possibly a fake passport and a wad of cash in case my husband and one of her other Uncles do go down to fresher’s week like they’re ‘promising / threatening’ so she can leave the country very quickly…….

 

 

 

Book Review: Nina Is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi

Nina is not ok

I chose this for my 2018 Reading Challenge as ‘A book by an author of a different ethnicity to you’ because it popped up on Amazon as a book I might like – and I liked Shappi Khorsandi on I’m A Celebrity last year.  As good a reason as ever to read a book?!

Here’s the blurb:

“Nina does not have a drinking problem. She likes a drink, sure. But what 17-year-old doesn’t? 
Nina’s mum isn’t so sure. But she’s busy with her new husband and five year old Katie. And Nina’s almost an adult after all. 
And if Nina sometimes wakes up with little memory of what happened the night before, then her friends are all too happy to fill in the blanks. Nina’s drunken exploits are the stuff of college legend. 
But then one dark Sunday morning, even her friends can’t help piece together Saturday night. All Nina feels is a deep sense of shame, that something very bad has happened to her…”

I think I am slightly over target age for this – but it’s really good.  Whilst I didn’t drink quite as much as Nina as a teenager – I do remember the hungover shame the next morning in my mid 20s.

I like Nina a lot – and her friends.  I feel for her Mum – and wonder how I would cope if that was my daughter.  I also secretly really like Alan her step Dad – when the chips are down he is ace.

The book is brilliantly written with a really dry sense of humour – and just so true.  Little things like Nina kicking her dresser really hard (but not so hard that her jewellery fell off and got all tangled up).  Just very cleverly written.

The descriptions of rehab are also really interesting – and AA meetings / sponsor set up.  I can see the massive benefits – and detriments – of sharing with people going through the same or similar addictions.

It also highlights the issues that social media and smart phones bring to teenagers lives.  Yet again it made me incredibly grateful that my teenage years were in the 90s before the advent of such things.

A number of the reviewers on Amazon have said that every 15-25 year old should read this.  I squirmed a bit at this, as my eldest is 15 and there is quite a lot of sex in the book – but hey, at her age I could probably find you the rude bits in Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’ in a matter of seconds – and she watched bloody Love Island – and this is way more thought provoking than that drivel.  However, I’m sure if I recommend it she won’t read it anyway!

I would recommend this to the age range mentioned above – but also to those of us with kids that age – it is really though provoking.  I will definitely look for other books by Shappi Khorsandi as I really like her writing style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zimbabwe – a once in a lifetime holiday destination

When people talk about favourite holiday destinations you expect the Caribbean, the Algarve, maybe the South of France or Italian Lakes, perhaps Florida for a Disney-fest – but I would like to add Zimbabwe to that list.

When we said we had Zimbabwe on our itinerary for our African Adventure this summer, friends vocalised their concerns with the political situation – especially with the violence after elections just days before we were due to travel. We were heading to Victoria Falls, over 900km from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe and where the majority of the troubles have been, and so were hoping that all would be well.

We flew into Vic Falls and had to wait HOURS to get through immigration – as all visitors have to purchase a visa (in US$, as Zimbabwe no longer has its own currency) and then these are hand written and stuck into individual passports. It was a time consuming process – but eventually worth it.

So here are the Price family’s top tips for a once in a lifetime trip to Zimbabwe:

1. AccommodationMatetsi River Lodge

This was our first destination and it was AMAZING! We were lucky enough to stay in their River House – which sleeps 8 and has it’s own private dining room and kitchen, so you don’t have to go to the communal areas at all.  We honestly felt like the only people there – despite there being 18 other suites. Like the whole resort it is right on the banks of the Zambezi with stunning views across to Zambia.

The rooms are well appointed – with air con, loads of storage, modern bathrooms, mosquito nets – and stunning views out across the river.

We also had our own private pool. It wasn’t heated – but all of the kids, and the husband, managed a brief dip.  It was winter when we were there – but I can imagine in summer it would be a great place to chill and escape the heat.

Some of the wildlife does venture down to the lodge – so you do have to be a bit aware.  I have to say I never thought I’d hear my daughter yell ‘Mum, Mum, a monkey has just stolen my gluten free breakfast biscuits’!!  The cheeky thing had crept through a gap in the door as the girls were chilling in their room, it had swiped a packet of biscuits, climbed up a tree, perfectly opened the packaging and sat munching the gluten free delights!  It was quite a sight.

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The gluten free monkey!

On the subject of being gluten free, Matetsi handled this dietary requirement brilliantly – and made some fabulous GF options available.  They also coped with a very fussy 8 year old who pretty much ate chicken nuggets and chips for every meal.  The rest of us were more adventurous and the food was wonderful.  As were the drinks – gin and homemade lemonade being my tipple of choice after Chris, the wonderful butler, rustled one up for me the first day.  All of the food and drink was included in the price of the stay.

Our laundry was washed every day, also included in the holiday cost, which with 6 of us was incredibly useful.  The final evening the housekeeper had run us a bath and left a bottle of sparkling wine in an ice bucket next to it, for when we got back from our game drive – now that is perfect service! (I won’t include the photo of us in the bath – do not fear!!)

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Candlelit bath with wine #perfect

I managed to have an open air full body massage whilst we were there – there is a separate spa / gym / pool / wine cellar complex  – and it was wonderfully relaxing, and needed after being thrown around on game drives!

We have been lucky enough to stay in some amazing places around the world – but Matetsi will hold a special place in all of our hearts forever.

2. Game Drives

Matetsi allocated our Guide, Clever (yes, that really was his name) and Tracker, Mongoose (I don’t think that really was his name – but it was what Clever called him the day we met and it stuck!) the afternoon we arrived.  We went straight out on our first game drive and it was fabulous.

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Our transport for drives

Within minutes of leaving our house we’d seen loads of elephants at a water container.  Then we saw impala, zebras, kudus and lots more – along with an amazing sunset.  And this was just day one.

We were up early for our game drive the next morning and it was cold.  Proper bone chilling cold – which we hadn’t prepared for at all (the other mornings we layered up in ALL OF THE CLOTHES we had!) When we got in the vehicle there were blankets and HOT WATER BOTTLES – which was incredibly welcome.  We were delighted to see lions that morning- which is not a given – and it made the bone shaking coldness worthwhile.  We were also helped by Mongoose setting up a drinks station where we could have rangers coffee (coffee with a huge shot of Amarula in it!!) to warm up.

As well as game drives, Clever and Mongoose took us fishing on the Zambezi!  I am not renowned for my love of the water – but Mongoose having set up the drinks and snacks on the boat before we arrived definitely helped.  As the 15 year old so eloquently put it – ‘Mum’s only in it for the wine’!!

On one drive Clever collected some elephant poo, reconstituted it by soaking it in some water – and then drank the water!  This is seemingly a common thing for local people to do for its health giving properties!  Mr and Master Price both partook.  I didn’t (and informed Mr Price he had to clean his teeth before he could even think about a kiss that day!)

All of the drives were amazing – and we saw different things every time.

You do get a bit blase a few days in – with ‘oh look, more impala’ as if you’re talking about sheep when driving through Wales or such like, but to then see elephants walking across the plains as the sun sets – takes your breath away.

3. Elephant Interaction

We moved on from Matetsi to The Elephant Camp – about half an hour away, and closer to Victoria Falls itself.  We were lucky enough to have the 4 suites in West Camp to ourselves (there are 12 further suites over in the main camp).

It wasn’t quite up to Matetsi accommodation wise (but I’m not sure anything would have been!) but we were staying in tents (admittedly tents with a lounge area with sofas, and a full on en suite) but I’m taking it as a camping trip!!  (I’m renowned for my love of camping about as much as my love of boats!!)

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Every tent should have a living area with sofas and a minibar!

The main attraction about staying here was the chance to interact with the elephants who live on the camp.  In the 1980s Zimbabwe culled lots of elephants – this resulted in many orphans, and the Elephant Camp took them in.  They have continued to take in orphaned and injured elephants ever since.  The elephants can roam around the park in the day – but at night are stabled.  They are used to interacting with humans and so visitors can go and see them and feed them.  Having seen lots of elephants in the wild in the preceeding few days – it was wonderful to get up so close to them.  All of us enjoyed feeding them – and when one coughed all over the 15 year old, it was very amusing for the rest of us!

 

4. Sylvester the Cheetah

The other amazing thing that The Elephant Camp had to offer was the chance to interact with their resident Cheetah – Sylvester.  He was orphaned as a cub (his mother and the rest of his litter killed by a lion) and so has been brought up by the rangers.  He therefore lacks the hunting instinct to be let back into the wild.

Older children are allowed to take Sylvester for a walk – but because our youngest kids are only 8 and 6 that wasn’t an option, but we could still do the interaction.

It was amazing to see such a majestic creature up close.  The photos were incredible (although it does look like our 13 year old is trying to be all ‘gangsta’ rather than a public schoolboy from Worcestershire…….)

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Price family cheetah selfie (although it would make a good album cover!)

5. Victoria Falls

My parents visited the Falls at a similar time of year a few years ago, from the Zambian side – and there wasn’t much water, and they could actually walk onto the river bed – so we didn’t have high hopes for water flow.  However, it was perfect!  There was enough water to be truly spectacular – but we could see quite a lot without getting completely soaked (although we did by the end!)

We started off with a walk with our guide who had collected us from the Elephant Camp.  He was really informative telling us about the geography and history.  Interestingly whilst there is a statue of Livingstone at the Zimbabwean side of the falls, he didn’t actually set foot on that side, having ‘discovered’ them from the Zambia!

We walked along going to many different view points – which got progressively wetter as we went along!  We walked all the way down to the bridge across the gorge that connects Zimbabwe and Zambia (built in England and shipped across many years ago.  It reminded me of Ironbridge in Shropshire)

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After that we went to the Lookout Cafe for lunch.  The food was fab, as was the wine, and the view over the gorge quite spectacular!

From there we were picked up and taken to do ‘The Flight of Angels‘ – a 13 minute helicopter tour over Victoria Falls.  The 15 year old and 8 year old refused to fly – but the 13 year old and 6 year old did (there is no lower age limit).  The four of us had an amazing time – bucket list stuff.  It gave a real insight into the geography seeing it from the air.  And I managed not to throw up – which is unusual for me!!  It was spectacular.

 

The whole thing  really was a once in a lifetime trip – and one we would thoroughly recommend to anyone considering a safari.  We didn’t see any political trouble at all – and aside from a slightly ear flapping elephant, and being within striking distance of a lion, didn’t feel unsafe at all.

So there you go – Zimbabwe is now high up on the Price family favourite holiday destinations list!!

 

Note:  This is not a sponsored post, we paid for everything we did.  All of it was organised by our wonderful Travel Counsellor Michelle.  We just wanted to share the amazing trip we had – and keep a record of it for us to look back on. 

Book Review: The Anniversary by Hilary Boyd

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I was lucky enough to be sent an advanced review copy by Penguin of this new book out in September 2018 in return for an honest review.  Here’s the  blurb:

“Is the one you tried to forget the one you can’t live without?
Stella once thought that if she never saw Jack again, it would be too soon.
But life has other plans for her and her stubborn, handsome ex-husband.
Looking after their daughter in a time of need, Stella finds herself unwillingly reunited with the man she shared the best years of her life with – followed by the worst.
Where tragedy once tore them apart, now Stella and Jack are being drawn back together. But each of them has a new partner and a new life.
Should they fight temptation?
Should the past remain the past?
Or are some loves simply meant to be?”

The book is set in the current time – but with flashbacks to the family tragedy 27 years earlier.  The back story is filled out over time in a way that keeps you wanting to know more. Whilst you find out early on what the result was of the tragic event – you don’t know how and why it happened (and I won’t ruin it by giving too much away here – I loathe reviews that ruin a fundamental part of the story – and I’m pleased the blurb doesn’t in this case).

I really liked Stella and Jack – and you’re routing for them both in different ways.

Their daughter Eve (co-incidentally one of my daughter’s too) is very much stuck in the middle – and I found her a bit annoying at times, but pregnancy can make anyone a bit annoying (I’ve done it 4 times, and I’m sure was annoying every time!!)

I devoured the book in a few hours on holiday – but it felt like the kind of book you want to romp through as it moves at quite a pace – and you’re picking up the history too.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a reasonably easy read – although appeared to have some randomly complicated words in at times – you could almost picture the writer using the synonym feature on her computer to get a fancy pants word as it generally wasn’t highbrow language!!

I don’t think I’ve read anything by Hilary Boyd before – but I will be sure to look out her back catalogue now for other holiday reads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

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I was lent a copy of this by a friend – and told it was really ‘different’.  Now, I’m always nervous of ‘different’ having used exactly that word to describe Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ – some of my friends still haven’t forgiven me for putting then through that!  Anyway – I read the book without reading the blurb first – which is always a risk!!

But here it is for you:

“Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.
Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.
But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.
When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.
As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?”

I LOVED this book – from start to finish.  It’s difficult to know what category to put it in – there is a lot about the physical act of seeing, but also non physical blindness to things going on around you – as well as a romance and thriller aspects – very difficult to pin it down to a genre.

The whole concept of ‘curing’ a ‘broken’ sense is something I hadn’t even considered until a few years ago when a friend’s son was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at birth.  Cochlear implants were an option for him – and as someone with no experience of the deaf world at all, I just assumed it was a no brainer, and anything to make a child ‘normal’ (I cringe writing that now) should be grabbed at.  I hadn’t realised – until my very patient and forgiving friend – explained to me the complexities of ‘curing’ deafness has massively opposing views in the deaf community.  At the age of about 1, my friend’s son did have the implants and is thriving as a funny, feisty, bright, articulate, handsome, loving and loved 6 year old – and his implants are something that will be an intrinsic part of his life forever.

I think this gave me slightly more of an insight into Nova’s operation than I would have had if I’d not even considered ‘repairing a broken sense’ before. Obviously in her case it’s totally different as it’s sight not hearing, and she’s 32 – so has lived without seeing anything properly her entire life to date.  She’s an independent, successful woman working as an interpreter for the police – and the aftermath of her operation plays out for her professionally, personally and psychologically.

Nova’s path crosses with Kate in hospital. I have to say I’d made assumptions about how Kate’s injuries would pan out – and I was totally and utterly wrong! But their lives become entwined in a complex and ever changing way. The support they show each other – in different ways at different times – is beautiful and very real.

Also, being a ‘builder’ in my day job helped me appreciate some of Kate’s geeky architect references, for example the soundproofed new flat – I love it when there are seemingly irrelevant facts that interest me!

Nova and Kate’s relationships with family and friends are fundamental to the story but work really well – you see them as rounded people without any of it being forced – it’s just written really well. I don’t want to give too much of it away – you need to see what I mean when you read it.

This book does make you think about how we ‘see’ – and Nova’s rules of seeing are dotted throughout – some are practical – and some with a much deeper meaning – but all very cleverly done.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone and everyone!