Happy Birthday Me

The other week was my birthday, and as a sort of birthday present to myself I decided to go away. I had been thinking over a few different ideas; Disneyland Paris… Amsterdam dressed as a Disney Princess… Ibiza… Tayto park… in the end I went  hiking in County Kerry. Although it may not sound like the big party weekend that a birthday weekend should be, it was still a great weekend away.

Due to indecisiveness the booking of my four day mini holiday only happened on the Monday / Tuesday before my birthday. I rented a car and then jumped on bookings.ie to find cheap accommodation. I was determined to spend my first 2 days (one night) hiking part of the Kerry Way in the Black Valley, but the other two nights I was open to wherever the cheapest accommodation would be.

In the end my accommodation bookings looked like this Thursday night – Black Valley, co. Kerry, Friday Night – Cork City, co. Cork, and Saturday night Ballinskelligs, Ring of Kerry, co. Kerry.  That might sound like I was tramping from one side of the country to the other and then back again but it turned out to work really well. The Wild Atlantic Way a costal scenic route which starts in Kinsale co. Cork and makes its way all along the south and West Coast to Derry in Northern Ireland. I had already completed part of the Wild Atlantic Way from Tralee almost all the way to Galway back in October so decided that for the second 2 days of my trip I would complete the Kinsale to Tralee part of the route including the Ring of Kerry.

So with a sort of plan in hand 6am Thursday morning I set off to Killarney co. Kerry to start my mini adventure. After my Canadian Tim Hortons breakfast, in the Obama Plaza in County Offlay I arrived in Killarney about 10.30am and went in search of the Tourist Information Centre for a map of the area I wanted to hike. It turned out the Tourist Information Centre didn’t really have any proper hiking maps of the area, but I had read and been advised that the trail was well marked so wasn’t too worried and after parking my car at the Lake House Hotel headed off on my overnight hike.

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The Kerry Way – Killarney to Black Valley

With the exception of the area around Torc Waterfalls (a main tourist attraction for Killarney) the path was very well signposted and I had no troubles finding my way.  My only beef would be that the signposts didn’t indicate how far it was to your next destination which would have helped gauge whether I needed to hurry up or could slow my pace and enjoy the scenery.

In total the hike into my B&B in the Black Valley was about 20km ascending about 350m as you walk over the mountain range into the valley. use7I was especially taken by the views shortly after I passed between Torc Waterfall and headed over the top of the range before I headed back into the valley towards Galway’s Bridge. Up here you could see down into the valley below but were not quite at the peak of the range, you had a mix of jaggered rocky mountain sides and open fields with little running streams and wild deer grazing, which eventually lead to one particular field with a small waterfall with a pebble shoreline where you could sit and enjoy a break. It was all starting to make me think of the Jane Austin tv movies I had seen over the years and it was easy to imagine this landscape hadn’t changed much in the last 200 years, especially when there was not a power pole or any other sign of industrialisation in sight.

After 5 ½ hours of walking I finally reached the Shamrock Bed & Breakfast. The B&B was the last B&B in the Black Valley before you reached Bridia Valley, and my feet were well tired by the time I reached my destination. The B&B is run by Sheila, who I would consider a typical country Irish grandmother; tough as old boots, says her prayers 3 times a day, is always well stocked on scones and soda bread, and told it as it was. When I arrived she quickly settled me in, started a fire in the dining room and set me up with tea, scones and a WiFi password. I had pre-arranged dinner to be included with my stay however as it was a Thursday and the parish priest only gave Mass on a Thursday evening I would have to wait until after the service finished at 8pm for my dinner, but as I had just been filled up on scones I wasn’t fussed. Sheila returned from Mass and quickly began to dish out a 3 course meal of Potato and Leak Soup (my favourite), Beef and Vegetable Stew, and Apple Pie and ice-cream all homemade and all so delicious. With a full stomach I soon headed to bed for an early night.

use5The next day I was up and out of bed by 7.30am, where I was again greeted by an array of food from my host. I had told Sheila the night before I didn’t want too much for breakfast, a little bacon and maybe some eggs would be fine but in traditional grandmotherly style a plate piled high with bacon, scrambled eggs, fried tomatoes, toast, fruit, orange juice, tea, jam and butter sat on the table waiting for me. I ate heartily knowing the 20km journey I had to make back to Killarney would be exhausting and knowing I would probably only stop to eat a banana on the trail. After breakfast I profoundly thanked Sheila and headed back the way I came.

This time round I stopped to have a look around the ruins of an old abandoned house probably not more than 100 years old, which stood next to the ruins of another much older structure. The house was already being reclaimed by nature; the roof had long since disappeared, ferns covered the floor and there creepers all over the walls. It was humbling to see how quickly nature had reclaimed these buildings.

use4I finally arrived back at the Lake House Hotel (as planned) in time for lunch. I had previously visited the Lake House Hotel with some of my extended Irish relations and had really enjoyed the food here as well as the view out across the lake so it was a no brainer to finish my journey here. I was able to get a window seat and celebrated the completion of my 40+km hike (and my birthday) with a glass of red wine and an amazing leg of roast lamb.

After a very long lunch break I jumped back into the car and headed off to Cork to start Part 2 of my weekend journey…

Keep an eye out, I will be adding Part 2 of my Birthday weekend mini adventure over the coming days!

For more information on the Kerry Way, Shamrock B&B, or the Lake House Hotel  click on the hyperlinks!

She’ll be right… It’s just a little concussion…

Part 3 (if you haven’t read Part 1 on Adventures and Naps blog page, or Part 2 – click on the links first!)

After my big weekend of learning to sail, I was not surprised to wake up Monday feeling completely exhausted. Again I was a little surprised that I still had my sea legs, but I suspected they would go away as the day progressed. Over the weekend I had sustained numerous small knocks to the head and one pretty solid knock from the boom of my dinghy and I still had a headache from it, but there was nothing I could do but go to work and get this day over with. I was sure after a good night’s rest I would be 100% by Tuesday, and until then I would just have to get by.

Within an hour of getting into the office I realised something wasn’t right, the sea legs had turned into a constantly slight warp in my vision, concentrating on anything was taking all of my effort, my comprehension of basic conversations was basic at best and my speech had apparently seriously slowed. I decided that maybe those booms to the head had, had a greater effect than I had realised.

Doctors are expensive in Ireland and the Irish health system is about 15 years behind what I was used to in Australia so I wasn’t particularly fond of going to a doctor. But I really had no choice. So I packed myself up and after reassuring my boss several times I would be fine, I found myself in a local doctor’s surgery. MRi’s are not standard so I ended up having ‘an old fashion’ physical examination with the doctor asking me to follow her finger and touch my nose, while she used a little hammer to bang my bruised knees checking my reflexes. After a 15 minute examination the doctor advised, that without a proper scan of my head she could not be certain, but suspected that I had a mild concussion.  She wrote me a letter and advised that if my situation worsened to head to a hospital, otherwise I was to rest for the next couple of days.

In a haze I proceeded home to rest, stopping off at the grocery store to buy something to eat. On the trip home I remember being accosted by a woman on the bus, but for what I have no idea; I remember calling my mum to tell her what happened; and then I remember standing in my bedroom at home realising I did not have my bank card. Somewhere on the trip home I had lost my only Irish bank card. I had enough sense to cancel my card then and there and in the days since I have still not found the card, so god knows what happened to it.

sailing donnaOver the next couple of days as I began to recover I realised just how bad I had being. I returned to work on Tuesday, feeling better than I had on Monday but probably still not really right to be at work. The room would still warp from time to time, and my comprehension was still mediocre at best but as they say… fake it until you make it. Being new to the company and still on a temporary contract I didn’t want to let something as trivial as a mild concussion get in the way of a possible permanent position.
By Friday for the most part I was back to my normal self.

As I had talked to people afterwards as my concussion became general knowledge around the office, the common question I was asked is ‘Will you go sailing again?’ and the answer is a definite YES. I really did enjoy my weekend, I really enjoy sailings, and as I become a better sailor the likely-hood of a knock to the head decreases. Next time though I may just wrap some bubble wrap around my head just to be on the safe side.

If you haven’t yet read Part 1 or Part 2 of this adventure follow the link to Adventures and Naps where I guest posted Part 1. While you are there have a read of Alanna and Tyler’s adventures, and if like me you like what you read – don’t forget to follow them!

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One of the seals who live in Dun Laoghaire Harbour

 

Level One – Dinghy Sailing

Part 2 (go to Adventures and Naps to read Part 1)

Following my sailing taster several weeks ago, I decided to start my sailing experience from the very beginning and complete a Level One – Dinghy Sailing course. The course is run over a weekend and last week I finally got to get out there and completed the course.

I showed up again all bright eyed and bushy tailed at the Irish National Sailing School (INSS) at Dun Laoghaire Harbour excited for the weekend ahead and full of notions that I would take to sailing like a duck on water. In truth, I was just as bad (or good) as the rest of my fellow newbie sailing enthusiasts.

If I thought the 1720 was a small sailing boat, it was nothing in comparison to the 3.5meter (11’6 foot) Laser Pico I was going to start my sailing adventures in. The level one course is a very basic introduction to sailing, but I am happy I choose the level one dinghy course over the level one yacht course. With the dinghy course you are the only one in the boat; you are in control and responsible for the rudder, the sails, and the boom; and when you lose control of the rudder, sail or boom you are the only one to blame. You learn about wind direction and how the direction of your sail effects how fast or slow you cruise through the water, about no go zones, and how to tack and jibe. A basic introductory lesson to sailing but one that any person starting out really needs to have.

picosBy the end of my first day I was feeling very confident in my abilities, I was lured into a false sense of ease by the lack of exhaustion in my upper body which I had been expecting, and as I had managed not to capsize all day I was now a master of the seas. The couple of small bumps to the head from the boom when I failed to react quickly enough or the freezing rain in the afternoon hadn’t ruined what I had felt had been a great day.

I woke the next morning to not quite sore but exhausted muscles and the ongoing feeling of sea legs which had not quite disappeared from the day before. The second day of sailing was spent much more on the water, refining the skills we had learnt the day before. As we came in for lunch you could see in the attitudes and conversations of my fellow novice sailors that we had set out that morning expecting to be masters of the harbour, but we quickly began to feel that everything we had learnt the day before had somehow already slipped away. The morning had been rough on our morale, and the picking up of wind which had led to a few more booms to the head had done nothing to improve our situation. But we persevered, and after lunch we began to feel like masters of the harbour again as we sailed our Pico’s around our little course congratulating ourselves for not capsizing and ignoring the 12 year olds sailing around us like pros.

CertBy the end of the weekend, with my Level One – Start Sailing certificate in hand, I felt thoroughly happy with my sailing adventure. I had really enjoyed sailing in the little Pico’s and already had plans on my next holiday to rent a little dinghy and sail around the bay of a new city. But I have not lost sight of my Mediterranean dreams and am already planning to undertake my level two course in August.

If you haven’t yet read Part 1 of this adventure follow the link to Adventures and Naps where I guest posted Part 1. While you are there have a read of Alanna and Tyler’s adventures, and if like me you like what you read – don’t forget to follow them!

Weekend Adventures, Kevin the koala and my Epiphany

DSC_0146During the week I made a new friend, he’s an Australian who’s been living in Ireland the last few years. His name is Kevin and he is a koala.

After meeting Kevin he very quickly grew on me, I think the idea was that he was something familiar from home, but without knowing it actually hit another soft spot. You see my mother has a little teddy bear called Yellow Ted, I gave him to mum years ago and now that my parents are retired Yellow Ted travels Australia with my parents. Yellow Ted even has his own Facebook page  where he shares his adventures… it is very cute and I love reading it and seeing his pictures.

DSC_0202Don’t worry, I am not about to set Kevin up with his own Facebook page. But Kevin the koala reminded me of Yellow Ted. So this weekend when I decided to go on my mini adventure Kevin came with me.
It had been a couple of weeks since my last mini adventure and I had decided to walk from Greystone to Bray via the Cliff Walk before heading to Powerscourt House and Gardens. I started the Cliff Walk at a decent hour, about 9.30am and the track was quiet. The walk itself has a lot more untamed beauty to it than Howth Heads or any of the other trail I have done in Ireland so far and I really enjoyed it.

I had lunch and ice-cream in Bray and headed over to Powerscourt House and Gardens. I love Powerscourt. When my mother was 17 she lived in Ireland and went to Powerscourt. We had a picture at home of her in front of the main water fountain feature there. When I first went there 8 years ago I took a photo in that same spot, and today I went back to that same spot and had another picture taken of me in front of the same water-fountain.

The gardens at Powerscourt are amazing, everywhere there are people, friends, couples, families just wandering around or laying on the grass enjoy the serenity of the place. I could have spent an entire day there, and I wished I had brought a picnic blanket and some lunch to just sit in the sun and enjoy the day with friends. But as usual I was doing this adventure alone, I had actively decided not to invite anyone on my mini adventure and for once I was starting to regret my decision.

I can be stubbornly independent. For the last 10 years I have almost always traveled on my own and am so use to it I find it difficult to  travel with others. I like to decide where I go, what I do, what I don’t do, where I eat, when I eat and not have to worry if the other people do … I don’t like having to spend an entire day in mindless chatter. I can go minutes, even hours happily being in peoples company without talking to them. Pretty much I like things my way. I know, I know, not my most endearing quality but at least I recognize it and can work on improving it.

Anyway being at Powerscourt today, just Kevin and I, brought this all to the forefront of my mind as I wondered the gardens. After sitting in the Japanese Gardens at Powerscourt for some time pondering my newest epiphany I  decided that I am going to make more of an effort to invite my friends to come with me on my mini-adventures. Because lets face it, sometimes the things that we most dread or the events that make us most anxious usually turn out to be some of our best adventures…. or misadventures.

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Impromptu Road Trip to Belfast

A couple of weeks ago I was between homes, I had moved out of my old house before my
new house was ready following a string of irreconcilable differences between myself and the main tenants of the house (i.e. parties starting at 11pm on a weekday, moving additional people into the house – one I am pretty sure had a drug problem, people going into my room when I wasn’t there, and generally making me feel unsafe).  A work colleague and his partner had graciously let me stay in his spare room and had made me feel well at home introducing me to his friends, and eating all their food; but they was off away for the weekend and for 1 night I didn’t have a place to stay so I decided to book into a hotel for the night.  DSC_0374

I had rented a car to put all my stuff in for the move, so I had a transport and an entire country to pick my hotel from. Finally Friday afternoon I made my decision and booked a hotel in Belfast. I drove up straight after work and arrived about 9pm. I had booked into a hotel called the Balmoral about 6km from the city centre, and from the outside it looked like a decent place. I didn’t really have any plans and was pretty exhausted so ended up just hanging out in the hotel room and watching telly (considering I don’t own a television it was kind of a treat). The hotel room stunk of cigarette smoke and all the facilities where basic but otherwise it wasn’t too bad.

I went to bed and was woken up about 2am by yelling, and I mean yelling. Three people in the room next to me were getting into a massive domestic in the hotel room, and by the way they shouted, swore and carried on you could imagine that these people where all flannel shirt wearing, front teeth missing and mullet haircut yobbo’s. Security came and told them to keep it down, which they did for about 15 minutes and then they were at it again. This carried on until 5am when security finally kicked them out of the hotel but it was too little too late for everyone in the surrounding rooms.

But I didn’t let it put a dampener on my visit to Belfast, and in the end I was up and out of the hotel by 9am and on my way to the Titanic museum.

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I had intended to spend maybe 2 hours max in the museum and then have a quick look around the city before driving back to Dublin. The museum was fantastic, I am not really a reader of all the little bits of information they put around the place at Museums but thank-fully a lot of it is audio and visual as well so you really get a great sense of everything around you.  The museum is divided into sections and runs through everything to do with the Titanic; from Belfast the city at the time the Titanic was commissioned, to building the ship, examples of the different classes on the ship, the sinking, the survivors, the review into the sinking, movies made about the titanic, and finding the wreckage years later… Everything about the Titanic is covered and really makes for a fascinating tour.

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Four hours later I stroll out of the museum and with no time to look at the rest of the city I jump in the car to head back to Dublin. Now it wouldn’t be a road trip without me getting lost, so after missing my exit and the next exit being closed I decided to use Google Maps to get me back to Dublin…. Well that was an adventure.  I ended up going through every little country village between Armagh and Newry before I ended up back on the national motorway and on the right road to Dublin. I was hungry and constantly on the lookout for a little village shop, café, bakery or something to get some lunch but if these places did exists in the little villages I drove through I didn’t see them. Eventually I got back on the motorway and decided I would just have to settle for something at one of those big petrol station / MacDonald / Insomnia all in one stops.

By late afternoon I found myself back in Dublin and pulling up with a car full of gear out front my new home in Irishtown. I was greeted by my new, very excited housemate and after we finished fixing my not quite complete bed I was ready to settle myself into my new home. It had been a ridiculously crazy week, and even my relaxed overnight adventure to Belfast wasn’t as relaxed as I had planned but I did enjoy Belfast and I am keen to get back up there again very soon and check out the rest of the city. My next trip to Belfast though I think I will take the train… J

Meetup – Starbucks, new people and Lilli’s Bordello

The weekend is here again so that’s my cue to launch myself on the general public and try to make some new friends. After last weekend’s fail in the local pub’s I decided to give Meetup another go and tried another coffee and chat Meetup group who meet weekly at Starbucks. This one, I am happy to say was a success!

The group was great. They meet in an upstairs area of Starbucks every Saturday and pretty much have the place to themselves, which means you know everyone there is there to chat and meet new people. The organiser is an energetic Irishman who introduced himself to everybody and helped introduce new faces to other people in the room. Walking in was initially overwhelming, although an outgoing person I do find it difficult to introduce myself to new people when I don’t know anybody in the room. But I had a crack at it, and have to say I am getting better at it. As the afternoon progressed I felt a little more confident walking up to complete strangers and introducing myself.

By the time the event was over I had a small group of new acquaintances and we decided to head down to a nearby pub for a drink and some dinner going to other Meetup groups. In the end three of us decided to head to the Meetup group I had wanted to attend, Saturday Night Drinks and Dancing at Lillie’s Bordello… in hindsight the name really should have given it away, this wasn’t a meet new friends, have a drink and dance meetup group like I had assumed. The type of “friends” you made here was usually only for the night and the average age of last night’s patrons was probably 35 – 55 years.

After some very awkward encounters – imagine a man who reminded you of an Australian trucker telling you about the effects of cider on your bowel movements while ignoring all of your blatant rejections – and within 10 minutes of walking through the door we were about to leave when some of the other younger people we had meet at the Starbucks showed up with the same misunderstanding of what this group was about.

Lillie’s Bordello is a swank little night club and the drink prices weren’t too bad so we decided to grab a corner lounge and isolate ourselves a bit from everybody else. As the night went on, a few other younger people came in and joined us and we ended up having a great night chatting, learning about other Meetup groups of interest, laughing and some causal drinks. By the end of the night we were all exchanging numbers or sending Facebook friend requests and not entirely regretting our choice of meetup event.

lillies bordello

Lesson learned: Meetup groups that have social events on during the day are more likely to be focused on meeting new people / making new friends. Meet up groups that are on after 8pm at night in a nightclub are more about “hooking up”. All in all it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon/evening and I definitely think I will be heading back next week for the coffee and chat at Starbucks.

 

If you are interested in the Meetup groups I went to this week I have linked their pages so you can find out more about them:

Coffee, Chat and Cake @ Starbucks 

Saturday Drinks and Dancing at Lillie’s Bordello

 

 

How do you spend a weekend in a new city?

One thing I have to say about moving to a new city on your own is that you have to be prepared to spend a LOT of time by yourself. This is my third weekend now in Dublin since I moved here and again I have spent the majority of it by myself.  Meeting new people is difficult and you really do need to be constantly putting yourself out there if you want to build new friendships and social networks. If you want to sit at home and watch television all weekend that’s cool but that’s not me.

This weekend I planned to do three things which I hoped would help build my social network or at least push my comfort zone a little. I attended a Meet Up group event, went to the Andrea Roche Modelling Commercial Open Day, and went to a new pub to watch the Six Nations Rugby.

The Meet Up group were meeting at a coffee shop in the city center about lunch time Saturday and I had the Open Day after that so I threw on a more dresser outfit then I usually would have worn and headed to the catch up. The Meet Up group wasn’t the right group for me, a little too old and a little too bitchy about life, so I was only there for 45min before I left and headed across town to the Open Day.

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I wish I had thought to wear my little red cap into my mini photo shoot!

I really had no idea what to expect with the Andrea Roche Modelling Commercial Open Day, and it did push my comfort zone buttons a bit, but in the end I am happy I went along. I had found out about the open day after being side tracked looking for a new hairdresser (I figured modelling agencies and Dublin fashion bloggers would be the best people to seek advice for in where to find a good hairdresser experienced in working with blonde hair). I was nervous about going, I am not a 6 foot, size 2, busty blonde but I figured it wasn’t going to cost me anything but my time, it was something different, and I may actually enjoy it.

I walked into a small conference room with about 30 people from 2 – 40 years of age. It was mainly teenage girls, women in their 20’s, and a couple of parents with their children, and everyone critically judging everyone else who walked in the door. There were five people in particular who struck me the moment I walked in; a blonde with a dream-catcher tattoo on her back and the most amazing black and white chequered overalls; two 6 foot brunet’s who instantly reminded me of a BooHoo campaign; and a couple who completely looked the part for a modelling agency.  Later I found out that the guy from the couple was a Dublin YouTuber (Rob Lipsett) with a pretty big following, so I wasn’t far off the mark.

I sat there for about an hour waiting to have my mini photo shoot, watching what the other people did waiting for my turn to came around. Finally my name was called and all that ‘I’m just here to give this a go and have some fun’ was out the window. I had no idea what I was doing and felt so conscious of myself with all these other people sitting there watching you. The photographer was great though, she was really encouraging and whether the photos where any good or not she made you feel like you were doing everything right.  After my photo shoot I sat down with Andrea and her commercial booking agent where we had a quick discussion about my being from Australia and then about commercial modelling, and then I was done and out the door. Now it may have all been a bust and nothing may come from my little adventure but I gave it a go and who knows, maybe the photos came out better than I thought!

After all that I still had the Rugby to go. After my failings in the pubs of Malahide I thought I would give the Old Borough in Swords a shot. I was running late after the Open day and arrived at half time for the Ireland V Scotland game and was disappointed to find the pub almost empty. I ordered myself a drink and sat down at one of the bars near the sports screen prepared to watch the second half of the game. The second half came and went (not a very impressive game I have to say!) and then it was time for the England v France game and another drink. Again the bar stayed ridiculously quiet, a few people came up and sat at the bar near me, a few people constantly stared at me from a across the room but again I could not get anybody to talk to me. Thankfully I was there to watch the Rugby as well and with England beating France I did not leave entirely unsatisfied with my venture.

After my busy Saturday, Sunday was a very much spent by myself. I am currently living out in the beautiful Malahide (not a convenient place for someone who wants to be in the middle of everything but it does have some amazing parks, running trails, the beach, and little coffee shops at your disposal). I slept in until 7.30am (I do really like being out and about and enjoying the day) before heading down to Devoted to Food in Malahide village for breakfast. This place is still relatively new and not well known, but if you are ever looking for somewhere to go on a weekend for coffee and scones I would highly recommend this place – it also has a locally sourced fresh fruit, veg and butchers attached to it which is remarkably good value.

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Hot Chocolate and buttermilk pancakes with bacon and Canadian maple syrup…mmmm

Apart from that I spent the rest of the day at Malahide Castle and on the running trails, it’s really hard not to want to workout and spend your day outdoors when you have beautiful places like Malahide to workout in.

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My housemate’s were having an impromptu BBQ when I got home from my run so I had a bit more of an opportunity to be social Sunday afternoon before we called it a night. A great way to finish off the weekend.

As you can see weekends in a new country can seem very lonesome, but I know they will get better. I have already started to meet new people and as I meet more people and get to know them better I will have more opportunities to go out with them and meet other people through them. But I am enjoying my time, and I am enjoying putting myself out there even if sometimes it does seem like a fail! This week I am off to look at some apartments in the city center and attend another couple of Meet Up events (this one is for 20 Somethings so may be a bit more eventful!), I also have some more blog idea’s up my sleeve as well so please watch this space!

Charmaine Xx