I love a good Christmas market.

I’ve been to a fair few – Bristol, Bath, Edinburgh, Bruges even – and one of the things I love is that actually, wherever you go, you get vaguely the same loop of bratwurst, Russian dolls, furry hats, handcrafted wooden candlesticks and weird wine bottle holders made out of metal. There’s something comforting in the familiar, like visiting a National Trust property anywhere in the country and knowing you can bank on a nice cup of tea and lavender soaps in the gift shop.

Bruges Christmas market

Bruges Christmas market

In 2010 I went to Birmingham Christmas market. I had only recently met my boyfriend at the time – he was a student there – and we (or me at least, I’m not sure it’s something everyone does…) were in that exciting yet awkward phase of trying to do and say everything you think the other person would like, meaning that neither of you ever make a decision about anything.*

“Shall we go to the Christmas market?”

“I don’t mind. Do you want to?”

“Sure, if you do?”

That sort of thing.

We did eventually get there and it was really lovely. There is always something magical about being out in the dark, Christmas lights twinkling everywhere you look, crowds of people laughing, scoffing their bratwurst and chugging back the mulled wine. The smells of a Christmas market are glorious – food cooking, festive spices brewing – it captures the very essence of Christmas.

TOP TIP: If you do fancy a trip to Birmingham Christmas market I would recommend treating yourself to a nice Birmingham hotel rather than staying in a student house in Selly Oak where central heating is considered an unnecessary luxury.

The downside of Birmingham, in my experience at least, is that it can get very busy. We did end up in one of those shoulder to shoulder situations at times, where you can’t really look at anything as you are just trying to walk upright and not slosh your tepid mulled wine over anyone. If you fancy a bit of a quieter location for your Christmas shopping, you could try staying in Coventry instead.

Same bratwurst, shorter queues.

Do you have a favourite Christmas market?

Bee in Bruges at Christmas

Bee in Bruges

*I have to confess that I probably don’t grow out of this as a relationship grows. Something to talk to the therapist about.

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Visit all the counties in England.

Tick.

See the Dark Hedges.

Tick.

I made some pretty good progress on my list of 40 things to do before 40 over the summer, so I’ve been thinking about what I can do next to keep the ball rolling.

One of my favourite items on the list is ‘Hang out in a 19th century Ottoman mansion and take a cruise up the Bosphorus’, so with work deadlines looming and a pile of dirty washing festering in the basket on the landing I decided that the best thing to do with my time would be to look at pretty pictures of Turkey on the internet. Pinterest obviously is lovely for pictures, travel blogs for personal recommendations, and travel companies like First Choice can be useful for information about flights, accommodation and places of interest.

The list item was inspired by this newspaper cutting, so obviously I have to stay here, but what should I do when I’m not chillaxing in the rainforest shower, tucking into the Godiva chocolates and admiring the statement lamps? View Post

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Do you remember that Homebase ad where they build a house out of containers?

Homebase container

I always thought it looked pretty cool. It reminded me of playing Sylvanian Families when I was little* and spending ages organising the furniture in the little box shaped houses. I never imagined that one day I would get to sleep in a real actual container.

Well, you know what’s coming don’t you?

A couple of weeks ago Belle and I did spend the night in a container, and not because we were trying to sneak across any borders, but as part of a visit to Thorpe Park and the new Shark Hotel.

“The hotel is made of containers,” I told everyone.

“Seriously though,” they said, “what was it like?”

“Like sleeping in a container,” I said, and showed them the pictures: View Post

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Dark HedgesLast week I ticked one more thing off my list of 40 things to do before 40. It’s a good job quite frankly, as time is slipping away and I’m a little behind schedule. The lemon curd may have been mastered, but I’ve yet to get anywhere near a water bed, let alone Iceland.

Last week was all about the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland, inspired by something I cut out of a newspaper a couple of years ago. I really like cutting things out of newspapers and magazines, partly because I like the idea of trying new things but also just because I find the scissor action very satisfying.*

The Dark Hedges is an avenue of beech trees, planted in the eighteenth century by the Stuart family in a bid to impress visitors as they drove up to their home. Bee and Belle may have been fairly nonplussed – ‘Is this it? Just some trees?’ – but it certainly impressed me.  View Post

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As avid readers, (which you all are obviously), you’ll know that we recently went on a bit of a motorhome adventure, in a van very kindly lent to us by Bailey of Bristol.

This was it:

Bailey Approach Compact

Motorhome crush

As well as being great fun, and an opportunity for us to listen to countless mystery novels on audio book, it was actually part of a grander plan. It isn’t for nothing after all that a girl is prepared to wheel a box of her own poo across a field of holidaymakers. It was in aid of ticking off another item from my list of 40 things to do before I am 40; specifically to visit every county in England. View Post

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