Thursday, 11 August 2016

My day out at Severn Valley Railway

I know a day out to a heritage railway might not be an ideal birthday day out of choice for most people, but I was really excited to visit the Severn Valley Railway for the first time on my birthday last week. The Severn Valley Railway is a steam railway running between Kidderminster and Bridgenorth. It's a 16-mile long track with a journey taking around an hour on a steam-powered train. We passed through some stunning countryside, including a view of the West Midlands Safari Park .(I managed to spot some elephants and rhinos!)
This is a picture of a class 7800 train

This is a picture of a train ticket

If you get a day rover ticket like Martyn and I did you can get off at any station, have lunch at one of several pubs along the railway and river and explore some of the beautiful towns and villages on the route. It really is a full day out and we were there for about 7 hours! We started our journey at Kiddersminster station which was only built in the mid-1980’s (despite looking much older) by the SVR and is modelled on the design used for Ross-On-Wye station built by the Great Western Railway. We headed all the way to the end of the line (on the No. 7812 Erlestoke Manor, Ex-Great Western Railway, built in Swindon 1939, Class: 7800 'Manor'to explore Bridgnorth and decided to stop off at all the stations on the line on the return trip. 


This is a picture of Severn Valley Railway train

Bridgnorth was once one of the busiest river ports in Europe, but today, the Severn is a quiet haven for anglers, walkers and wildlife. The river divides the town into High Town and Low Town, the two being linked by seven sets of ancient steps and a Victorian funicular, the Bridgnorth Cliff Railway.

This is a picture of Bridgnorth town

Bridgnorth really was the most beautiful town and I feel in love with it, its historical buildings and quirky cliff railway.  The cliff railway is the oldest and steepest inland funicular railway in the UK and was opened in 1892. A ride on the railway might not be for you if you are afraid of heights as there is quite the steep drop on the journey from the high town to the low town. 


"If you approach the High Town by the cliff railway you feel you are being lifted up to heaven." - John Betjeman


After a stroll around the pretty little town we headed back to the railway to explore the stations and the engine room. The Severn Valley Railway has its own visitor centre at its Highley station, which is home to their reserve locomotives, fascinating exhibitions, a gift shop and restaurant with panoramic views across the stunning Severn Valley. The railway scenes in the movie The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe were filmed at Highley station.

This is a picture of highly train station on the Severn Valley Railway

this is a picture of a steam train on severn valley railway

The Engine House has a display of full-size steam locomotives, the King George VI royal carriage, a travelling Post Office and much more. It reminded me of the National Railway Museum which I visited last year. There is also a smaller museum at the Kidderminster station with lots of signalling equipment and signs.  I loved having a peek in the royal train. It looked pretty austere compared to the one used by Queen Victoria that I saw in the York museum, King George VI did not want to travel around the UK during the war in opulence whilst the public were being bombed and surviving on rations. 

This is a picture of the King George VI royal carriage



A day out on the Severn Valley Railway is something everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. You do not have to be a train enthusiast to enjoy the Severn Valley winding its way through the stunning Shropshire countryside. It would be a perfect place to visit with kids at Christmas for a train ride with Santa or for a grown up day out enjoying a cream tea in the First Class carriage. The Severn Valley Railway gets a huge thumbs up from both myself and Martyn. 



Gemma
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Sunday, 31 July 2016

I wore what now?

Today I'm delving into my photo collection as part of #IWoreWhatNow with George at Asda and sharing the best examples of crimes against fashion with you. I'm hopefully going to give you something to laugh at because some of the photos below are seriously embarrassing. I'm not even sure why I've decided to share some of these... I always wanted to wear dungarees and my ninja mutant turtles t-shirt because I thought that was super cool but my mam had other ideas... I existed entirely in white and pink with lots of frills and bows and lace until the age of 5 which was the Valleys look in the late 80s. 


Lets kick this off with 7 year old me in coral, everything is coral. My socks were probably coral. Look at my brother, isn't he cute? He REALLY loved Pluto. 


I'm thinking I was about 7 here again and in my Disney obsessed phase. I thought I was Belle and forks really are dinglehoppers. 


This is probably the first and last time I managed to look demure, ladylike and photogenic. I imagine I picked this dress out from the Woolworths Ladybird catalogue for a Christmas party. Little did I know I was anticipating the Peter pan collar trend by about 15 years. This is definitely one outfit that I would still wear now and I actually have a pair of patent shoes just like those and you can get some cute lookalikes for your little ones here.


I don't understand this look at all, green velvet? All lime and shiny... Check out that fringe.


I think this is my 2nd Birthday party and I look really happy because there's coconut cake on the table. Some things never change because cake still makes me smile. 


First day of high school and I'm wearing Kickers,  I HAD to have Kickers.


This is probably the most ridiculous photo of me and the most Shirley Temple I ever managed to look. 

Even though I wore all of these outfits about 20 years ago some of them are pretty timeless. The 90s look is back in, parent still like to make their little princesses wear frilly party dresses and kids always love Disney. 

Late 80s/early 90s me would have totally worn these current items from the George kids clothing section - 


Do you have fond memories of a party dress you wore as a kid or are you trying to forget a particularly hideous outfit you were forced to wear?

*Post in collaboration with George, all words and views my own as always.



Gemma
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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Travel post - A day in Innsbruck


Innsbruck is situated next to the river Inn, at the heart of the Austrian Alps, this means the city has a beautiful and dramatic appearance, with peaks that loom over the town and it's pretty buildings. Martyn and I visited the city on his 40th birthday and managed to cram in a lot of sightseeing into one day. We caught the train from our base at Zell am See and we managed to get some super cheap single tickets in advance for €9 each way. I think a lot of visitors tend to head for Vienna or Salzburg when visiting Austria but I'm glad I visited Innsbruck with its Habsburg legacy and stunning Old Town. 

Innsbruck is definitely one of the most picturesque cities I have visited in Europe and I wish I could have spent 48 hours there but I did manage to see some of the main sights and get a good overview of the city in just one day. 

Our first stop once we arrived in Innsbruck was to head to the Touristinformation Innsbruck. You can buy tickets for buses and trams, and the Innsbruck Card, which offers free entry to most of the city's key attractions as well as unlimited public transport: 24 hours costs €29; 48 hours, €34; 72 hours, €39. Martyn and I picked up a 24 hour card and nearly made our money back after visiting one attraction. The main activity we wanted to do that day was to get the Hungerburg Funicular and the Cable Railways to get panoramic views over the city. A round trip costs €24 alone so the 24 hour card was pretty good value. We headed straight to the cable car as the weather was looking bright and clear and we didn't want to risk our views being obscured by cloud later in the day.





We started at Congress station where you catch the Hungerburg funicular(a cable operated shuttle) to Hungerburg - transition to the Cable ride to Seegrube and if the weather is clear you take the next cable ride to Hafelekar. We were treated to phenomenal views at all three stops along the way to the top. Planned and designed by architect Zaha Hadid, the cable car Hungerburg has pretty unique stations and was by far the most modern and striking architecture I saw on my holiday in Austria. 


Once we had made our way back down the mountain we visited the Court Church, also known by the locals as the 'Schwarzmander Church' thanks to the 28 life sized bronze figures that stand guard watching over the tomb of Emperor Maximilian I.  The tomb is actually empty but is a work of great craftsmanship. I particularly loved the way we were introduced to the life of the emperor and his acheivements through originally presented displays before a door opened to the magnificent tomb. Maximilian I made his family, the Habsburgs, dominant in the 16th Century and added vast lands to his holdings such as the Netherlands, Hungary, Bohemia and Spain. 





We spent the rest of our day in the Old Town which is the focal point for most visitors to Innsbruck. The decorative Helbling Haus (picture above), was one of my favourite buildings even though it is a tad over the top. Originally a Gothic townhouse built in the 15th century, over the years the exterior has changed quite a bit, most notably in 1730 when the front was adorned with the many bows, ribbons, and other ornamental Rococo details seen on it today giving it a bit of a doll house look. 

Visitors gravitate towards the Golden Roof (comprising 2,657 copper tiles) on Herzog Friedrich-strasse, still the city's main landmark five centuries after it was built. The Golden Roof, or Goldenes Dachl, housed the very first government  of the Hapsburg Dynasty. Its gold tiles were placed on the roof in honor of Emperor Maximilian I’s marriage to Bianca Maria Sforza. We enjoyed strolling around the cobbled streets looking at the mixture of architecture in the Old Town.


Martyn and I felt like our day in Innsbruck was a little rushed and would definitely like to return and have more time to visit places like the Imperial Palace and experience the nightlife. I would highly recommend making Innsbruck a stop off on any inter rail itinerary and you could even visit for a day trip if you are staying in areas such as Munich or Salzburg which are only a couple of hours away by train. Hopefully I won't have to wait too long to return to Innsbruck. Maybe I can add it to the honeymoon itinerary...




Gemma
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Monday, 18 July 2016

A Big Catch Up - July 2016

It's been a tad quiet here the past few weeks because I've been doing boring things like overtime in work and working late shifts but I've also been super busy doing exciting things and seeing some wonderful plays and musicals. 

The thing I'm most excited to talk about is The Cursed Child. Unsurprisingly, the first round of tickets for the play sold out last October faster than you can say stupefy but my friend is always amazing when it comes to getting tickets so we were lucky enough to see the play during the previews. The story picks up 19 years after the end of the original series of books, with Harry working at the Ministry of Magic, now a father of three. Harry struggles with his past and his son Albus finds it difficult to live in the shadow of his father and his famous legacy.  

I'm going to #KeepTheSecret and not spoilt the plot of anyone but I can say it was bloody fantastic. I've never seen anything quite like it in terms of staging and the crew did a wonderful job creating magic on stage. There were a few moments that made the audience gasp and I felt like the whole thing passed me by in a blink of an eye because it was so enjoyable. If you're going to see the play or thinking of getting tickets you will need to dedicate a whole day to it. The play comes in two parts both around 2 hours 40 minutes in length with a two hour break in the middle. 

I adored Scorpius and Albus and it was great to see some of my favourite characters return. I don't think the plot will please all the Potter fans but as the events happen after the book series I guess you could pretend it didn't happen and enjoy it as a play in its own right if it isn't to your taste. I'm going to try and get tickets to see it again at the end of next year so I can take it all in properly and maybe sit closer to the stage so I can try and figure out how they created all the visual effects.


I've also managed to fit in another trip to London to see Les Miserables with my mum for her birthday. I listen to the original cast recording of Les Mis constantly and I've read the (huge) book and obsessed over the movie so I was well overdue a visit to see it in the West End. It really didn't disappoint and the actors who portrayed Valjean and Enjorlas were stand out members of the cast. I've not stopped singing Red and Black since seeing the show. I've already planned another trip to see Les Mis and Dreamgirls on the same day in the new year. I also saw Billy Elliot in the beautiful Millennium Centre and I cried when Billy's dad was called a scab and thought it really was a top notch, West End level of performance. It's touring across the UK at the moment so I would highly recommend seeing it if it's in your area. 

I also had my first proper girls night out in about two years, drank too much gin and danced to the new Britney track which I love (has a Zayn - Pillowtalk vibe). I've also made a real start on the wedding plans and been to view some venues like Chapel (photo below). I'm finding the whole process a tad stressful at the moment and it would be a lot more fun if I had 20k to spend but being on a budget means  I have to haggle and weigh up what's really important to me and Martyn. 

Viewing some potential wedding reception venues also prompted me to do a trial run of my wedding cake which needs a bit of practice and finesse as my first attempt was a bit sloppy but incredibly tasty.  I also got some lovely new dining rooms chairs as a early birthday present from Martyn and spruced up the dining room with plants which I will inevitably kill by overwatering them.


Being rather busy has meant that I've missed out on a lot of blog reading recently so if you've come across a great post or want to share one of your own please leave me a link in the comments. 

That's us all caught up, I'll be spending the rest of the week in work in front of the fan trying not to melt and drinking loads of iced coffee. 




Gemma
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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Travel - Zell am See - Austria


I don't typically like to visit the same place more than once on holiday as there are so many places I want to tick off my 'to visit' list but I made an exception for Austria. Zell am See and Kaprun are primarily known as ski resorts in the winter but they make a great summer holiday destination too. Even though we visited the same region last year there was still plenty of things to explore in Zell am See and the surrounding areas so we didn't end up repeating everything we did previously. 

Zell am See is one of the most scenic and well-loved lakes and mountains resorts in Austria. Located, directly on the shores of the beautiful Lake Zell, it is also close to the Hohe Tauern National Park and the magnificent Grossglockner mountain region. Most of Zell am See’s medieval centre is traffic-free with plenty of little shops and cafés to visit. There are magnificent walks accessed by cable car on the Schmittenhöhe mountain, and the resort offers a wide range of sporty activities and lake cruises. Just a short drive away is the pretty mountain village of Kaprun is an ideal place for walking and cycling, with year round skiing on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier. We spent our holiday using the town of Zell an See as a base and headed out to the surrounding areas like Kaprun and got the train to Innsbruck for the day(post to follow about Innsbruck, it was beautiful!)



It really is beautiful in Austria (photo is of the Kitzsteinhorn glacier). I'm thinking about putting Austria on my possible honeymoon European road trip destination list. I keep finding myself scrolling through my holiday photos and sighing, as lovely as the mountains are here in Wales they just can't beat the beauty of the Alps.



There is plenty do do around the lake including cycle tracks, lidos and pretty churches to discover.  Schloss Prielau is located in idyllic grounds, just 200 metres from the north shore of Lake Zell. The former residence of writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s family was first documented in 1425. Since 1980, Schloss Prielau has been owned by the Porsche family, who converted it into a country hotel 



If you've visiting Zell am See I recommend heading to Mitterberghof  for the best views of the lake but make sure your car can deal with steep inclines and has a good handbrake (long story, saw my life flash before my eyes). 

For a more detailed post about what you can see and do in the area head to my round up post from last year. Writing this has made me miss Austria so so much and not just because my supply of Austrian chocolate and soft drinks has run out. 

Gemma
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