Category: Travel

I used to have a bit of a fear. I didn’t like doing things on my own. I’ve got friends who would happily go to the cinema alone or eat in a restaurant by themselves but I never felt comfortable doing any of those things. I’d feel like all eyes were on me and I just the thought was enough to make me cringe.

As we get older, we do start to lose that horrible feeling of self-consciousness and realise that the world is not looking directly at us. If anything, we’re pretty invisible. Last year, I started going to the gym. At the first, it was with a friend, so any awkwardness could be laughed off, but when my friend could no longer find the time to gym, I was faced with the option of ‘go alone or stay at home’. I was tempted to jack it all in and vegetate in front of the television but the desire for a healthier lifestyle made me choose the first option. Initially, I was self-conscious but after a couple of solo visits I realised everyone else was too busy focusing on their own work-out to be scrutinising my sweat sessions. Hitting the gym became my ‘me time’, a chance to work out and spend quality time with myself.

I started to realise that I could do things on my own….

I’ve been desperate for a break away for years. I wasn’t fussed on where – abroad or closer to home – but I needed a trip away. When it became clear that going with someone wasn’t going to be possible, I decided not to wallow in self-pity at home but to bite the bullet and go solo!

So, I spent three days of the half term in London. It might not seem like a big deal to some people, the kind of people who travel alone all the time, but for me it was huge. I can be quite an anxious person, so the thought of being away from home, where so many things could go wrong, worried me for a short time after I’d booked the trip, but the possible adventures my trip could produce soon dawned on me. Being a huge theatre fan, I was determined to see a show or two whilst in the West End and I realised that I could see whatever I wanted! I didn’t have to compromise with anyone because this was my trip! I made all the decisions. So, on my first night I saw Les Miserables, a show I’d wanted to see for a years, and I was not disappointed. On the second night I saw David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho which was hilarious and extremely topical. Not once did I feel odd for being a solo audience member. In my time in London, I visited all the places I’d always wanted to see. I went to see Van Gogh’s painting in the National Gallery, spent a few hours in the British Museum, had a coffee at the Theatre Café and shopped in Covent Garden. I literally did not stop walking (just ask my poor feet!). I didn’t have to consult with anyone because each decision was my own to make – and it was very liberating!

So, if you’re the kind of person who would turn down the chance to do something great because it would mean doing it alone, take the plunge and be brave. This half term break has been the best for a long time because I didn’t let anything restrict my fun – I grabbed it and made the most of it! Not only did I have an awesome time but I learnt a bit about myself.  Travelling solo reminded me that I have strength, I can be brave and I can relax, and I can be comfortable in my own company. So my advice: Do it for yourself, go solo and enjoy!


The week started in London. Packed with people, jostling and bustling, the hub of everything. It ended in the middle of Wales, nothing but green, the odd sheep and the small matter of 24 eight year olds. My surroundings may have shifted but I was no less busy. This was not a jolly holiday where I could put my feet up and enjoy the view. This was a year 4 residential.

Now, don’t be fooled, I love residentials. I only have vague memories of trip to Fishguard in year 6, but I have clocked up four as a staff member so far, and each one has been brilliant. I couldn’t pick a favourite between Nant BH, Pentrellyncymer and Glanllyn – each has been filled with fun and, most importantly, fantastic food. (I mean it – you get fed well at these places. If I had to pick a favourite activity it would absolutely be breakfast/lunch/dinner time).

My home for two nights last week was Pentrellyncymer. As with all three residential experiences, the staff were brilliant, giving expert advice whilst acting as figures of trust (and fun!) for the children and staff. I’ve never met a miserable instructor and this latest batch were wonderful with the children.

I know I’m not alone in believing that learning cannot be limited to the classroom and there is so much that can be taken from residential visits. Children are given the chance to experience activities they may never do. How often do you start you day canoeing and end it gorge walking? Naturally, some of the children are a bit nervous at the start, but by the end they are converted to outdoors warriors. A stand out moment from the last visit was a girl pulling herself over a waterfall, waterproof trousers overflowing with large quantities of river, but with a great big grin across her face. She didn’t complain, she thought it was hilarious. She had transformed into Jungle Jane. Admittedly, I never thought I’d enjoy the kind of activities we undertake on these visits, but from my first trip I was addicted. I love watching the children’s faces as they learn a new skill or conquer a fear and I love getting soaking wet in the river or scrambling to the top of the climbing wall. It’s such a change of environment from a classroom. It’s great for the children to experience the beautiful Welsh countryside too. We’re so lucky to live a short car journey from stunning views and a passion for our country should be instilled as early as possible. Wales just has so much to offer!

It’s a tough job, for the instructors, to convert what can be a frightening experience into one of adventure and enjoyment. They always manage to do it with style. This trip was particularly successful, especially as it was Year 4’s first trip away.  We only had one or two tears and even they were quelled with a mug of hot chocolate and a piece of toast. It’s easy to forget just how scary that first night away from home is, but the centre staff do such a good job that it is rarely an issue.

My favourite thing about these trips (apart from the food….did I mention it’s amazing?) is the fantastic bonding opportunities they provide. You can see connections strengthening between the children as they take part in team building exercises and rely on each other for support during the more demanding activities. I also think it’s a great chance to develop that important teacher-pupil bond. Earlier in the year, I went to Nant BH with year 6 and I certainly felt like my relationship with some of the class had strengthened on coming back. You are their figure of stability and trust more than ever whilst they are away from home. Although the instructors know what they’re doing, they’re strangers to the children at first, whereas you are a figure of familiarity and they therefore rely on you to support them. Sometimes you find the ones you struggle to connect with in school end up softening on these trips. I’ve certainly seen that happen. You also see these children in a different light when they’re away from home. This week I’ve seen an often anxious and nervous girl reach the top of the climbing wall, smiling all the way. I’ve seen a quiet year six boy become the leader of a canoe fleet. (That’s right. He became a Viking.) The change can be incredible and wonderful to witness.

It’s not just the children the benefit! Those late night chats whilst you wait for the children to nod off are the basis for staff bonding – highly important, especially when aided by a buffet of chocolate. We always end up giggling at the end of the day, recounting our adventures and sharing tales. It’s a vital team building exercise!

So, a lot can be learned from a good residential. The children pick up fantastic skills and they also get a taste of independence – being given the opportunity to make decisions and look after themselves in a safe, supervised environment. For staff they are an endless treat and I can’t wait for my next one.

I don’t often get to go away, so when I do I like to squeeze as many things into my break as possible and I certainly did that this weekend in London. Z and I had excitedly booked the break a few weeks ago and the countdown has been on ever since.  So, apart from the selfies, giggling, bus-singing, celebrity impressions and a near death experience at the hands of a waitress, here’s a quick run-down of what we got up to…

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Southwark Playhouse

Our journey started with spotting Joe Woolford (from Eurovision..? We only mix with the A-listers, you know) at Chester Station. It was the start of many spots. Both of us get uselessly star-struck. I become mute and frozen with fear and Z develops this faux-suave swagger and becomes a bit over familiar.

This didn’t bode well for the main event of our trip – A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Southwark Playhouse. There were two main appeals to this production which made us book our tickets a few months ago. The first was that it was a MSND, which is my favourite Shakespeare play, and secondly, it starred Freddie Fox and Maddy Hill. Well, my obsession with EastEnders obviously explains why I was interested to see Maddy but not a lot of people know about Freddie. Last year, during the run of Cucumber on Chanel 4, I had a bit of a mid-mid-life crisis. Mad busy with teacher training, I had a bit of an identity crisis when suddenly, on my TV screen, was this character that I recognised. I’ve never connected with a character so much and it made me a bit fraught to be confronted with someone I saw so much of myself in. It was bizarre and, even though I’ve bought the box set, I’m still not ready to re-watch Cucumber.  Cray-cray, right? .Anyway, mental-TV-melt-downs aside, I’d been a Freddie Fox fan ever since and I was really looking forward to the performance. The play was fantastic, possibly the best production of MSND I have ever seen. We were sat in the front row and the actors performed literally right in front of us (I had to lean back at one point to avoid being hit!). It was wonderfully intimate and a production which really grabbed the audience. There was no set, no costumes, and no lighting effects. Just seven actors and a bare stage.  Scenes were vividly described meaning the audience had to do a lot of work but it was SO effective. All the actors were incredible. I’ve got so much to say about this production I could easily write another post about it. If you’re in London this week – go and see it. To top our night off, we got to have a chat with Freddie afterwards. (Cue star-struck gawping and mumbling whilst Z takes charge of the conversation. Why didn’t I ask for a picture?!). He was very appreciative of our praise and very lovely. In the bar, we told the Director, Simon Evans, just how brilliant the play was and he humbly advised us to tell the cast. However, I wished I’d assured him that it wasn’t just the cast that was brilliant – his passion and hard work shone through so he was just as worthy of our high praise.

London Pride

The Saturday didn’t quite start as planned. I was very brave at the start of our trip. I absolutely hate the idea of the tube – being stuck underground in a crammed tin can is not my cup of tea – but I tried it for the sake of my friend. However, Saturday morning my worst fear happened. Our train stopped in a tunnel. Cue panic-stricken-G. Thankfully our stop only lasted 4 (very long, sweat-inducing) minutes but I vowed never to tube again! *shudders*

We visited King’s Cross, the Harry Potter shop and platform 9 ¾ , where we spotted our next famous face – Harriet Thorpe.

We stumbled on Pride by accident, only finding out the week before that it was even on. I’d never been to a festival like this before but I had such a great day. The atmosphere was incredible – nothing but love and enjoyment. Just what we needed. Everyone was happy! My town is no stranger to closed-mindedness, so it was fantastic to be in a place where everyone was accepted. We had an amazing view of the parade, which was so overwhelming, I cried. (Sensitive Stanley got emosh over the Orlando tribute bus – a lovely tribute.) The highlight was of course the Ab Fab float featuring many Patsy’s and Edina’s. It was lovely to see all kinds of people lining the streets – whatever religion, whatever race, whatever sexuality. We even spotted a little old (straight) couple with pride flags painted on their cheeks. Aww.

After the parade, I got to visit the Theatre Café, a place I’ve wanted to go to for years. We were lucky enough to be there during a visit from the cast of a new musical, Exposure. Neither of us were brave enough to tackle the open mic but I do highly recommend the brownies!

Our Saturday ended soggily. We’d traipsed around London – visiting all the usual landmarks (armed with selfie stick) like Big Ben, the Eye, Leicester Square, Parliament Square etc – but eventually the heavens opened and we got absolutely drenched. I’ve wanted to see Book of Mormon for a long time so we entered the ticket draw (fab idea) but that’s where our luck ran out. We left ticketless and soaked. (Also, I hate to say it, but I do feel a bit annoyed theatres can get away with charging so much for their tickets. I’m a total theatre supporter but there was no way I was paying £150 for a ticket for Book of Mormon. It’s a shame these awesome shows can’t do a bit more for their fans by lowering the price.) So, anyway, we ended up getting totally lost. The buses back to Hammersmith were diverted due to Pride so the quest to find the bus stop led us all around London (and mostly in the opposite direction to where we should have been. But we did see Kitt Harrington so all was well).  By the time we got back, we were desperate for a drink.

Shopping Sunday

After a hectic Saturday, I was in need of chilled day. We visited Holland Park (home of Edina Monsoon, darling) and the Kyoto Garden which was absolutely beautiful.  A real island of peace and tranquillity in a hectic city. We then bus hopped to Harvey Nic’s and Harrod’s where I got totally carried away collecting London-themed treats for my new classroom. Back in Hammersmith, we had dinner at Villagio (amazing carbonara) before hitting the town for a few drinks. That was the plan anyway, but we spent so much time wandering round that we got too knackered to drink and went to bed. (26, I promise. Not 66. 26.)

Monday was a rush to Euston, but we did have time to spot Matt Baker and have breakfast at Patisserie Valerie. Fabulous.

Anyway anyway anyway, a fab time was had by both. Now, back to reality….*sigh*