21 January 2013

Back To Bilston

So, my American experience came to an end on the 15th of January 2013, bringing me back to Bilston! It's back to the markets both outdoor and indoor, the famous chip shop and many other quirks that make Bilston so special. From Newark, New Jersey to Bilston, West Midlands I can safely say it feels really strange to be back! Can you guess where I went first Bilo?

Landing back on to British soil was one thing, getting back to the West Midlands was a complete other story. As the signs changed and the landscape grew more industrial I knew that Bilston wasn't far away. I had just spent close to a year in New Jersey and New York, it was time to get back to the good stuff, but I really needed the comforts of home. The Major called me back without haste on the same day that my Virgin Atlantic VS2 flight landed into London Heathrow Airport. My first week back home has been great, hearing the familiar tones of the Bilston accent, I don't care what anyone says we have a different way of speaking compared to those Wolverhampton folk! A new chapter called me back to Bilston, I thought I was ready for this change WV14?!

Nothing changes, I recognised the usual sights as me, my auntie and cousin made our way towards Bilston town centre. Pete's pantry passed us by with the same looking shop front, we have a few long-standing businesses that have lasted the test of time and recession. B's got an outdoor and indoor market that serve the local shoppers just fine with whatever bits they see fit to buy each week. It was funny to the usual sights of the locals gassing about their week and how they spent their Christmas and New Year's during 2012. Getting our bits and bobs we went to the necessary places without wasting any time because the cold and slush was horrible to deal with! Funnily enough this isn't my first Bilo' blog, I posted 'Bilston... There's No Place Like Home!'. Oh, I'm back to Bilston for now!

Bilston keeps it simple, whether that's been a habit or just the way things have turned out? I can identify certain similarities with Bilston and the Ironbound District because both places are famous for certain types of foods and lots of small businesses operate along one high street. Both winters in New Jersey and the West Midlands played no games, I was greeted with a bleak first few weeks of weather that's been snowy and wet. My Newark winter was freezing with lashing of snow and a healthy serving of ice that made walking to Newark Penn Station perilous to say the least. Bilston's High Street is still going strong, not a lot has changed over the year I have been in America but I wouldn't have it any other way. The Ironbound was only thirty minutes away from New York City by train, whereas Bilston has the Midland Metro to connect it to Birmingham. Yes, I need to face the facts and get on with university!

I have to say that my visit to Bilston and reason for blog was completely random! Most of the shops remained the same since the last time I had been to Bilston's High Street, many staples such as Pete's Pantry Bakery and David Clark's Men's Outfitters are still trading, these shops have been a part of Bilston for a considerable amount of time. It is great to see that these businesses are withstanding the test of time! Newer additions such as Argos and Specsavers have made their mark on the high street, offering a range of local and mainstream brands for the towns people to benefit from. If the truth was told I did miss the outdoor and indoor markets in strange way because Bilston has a formula that keeps something alive for this town, the economic downturn has been cruel to some parts of England but Bilston has kept on trading throughout this tough time. Things come to an end naturally, I'm back to the town that I call home with new eyes and the desire to move forwards. Yes!

St.Leonard's Church stands at the beginning of the shopping parade, a timeless fixture of Bilston that has not seemed to change over the years. There was a church on the corner of Wilson Ave in Newark's Ironbound that was close to my apartment, something about that church just wasn't the same compared to Bilston's own St. Leonard's Church. I do think that the St. Leonard's Church looks exceptionally picturesque in amongst the wintry snow that has recently fallen upon the region. This church as been a prominent feature of this town for a serious amount of time, I remember visiting here on school outings from my first primary school in Bilston after moving from London as a young boy. Not matter how much I want to leave Bilston for better opportunities I always find myself coming back for more! Seeing St. Leonard's was nice but every time I come back to Bilston it grounds me.

Well, I'm back to Bilston for the remainder of the winter holiday from university and it won't be long until I'll be back in the city of Birmingham. Being away from home did make me miss Bilston and it's many quirks but I left for America for a reason to work and to see that my future will not be spent in Bilston even though it's where most of my nearest and dearest live. Not much happens in good old Bilston but home is where the heart it, so I'm not going to be shady about that fact because that would be out of order. Yes, it was bizarre to see Major's after one year of Brazilian culture from living in Newark's Ironbound District but that time has gone and I'm looking to the next phase of university in Birmingham. Major's chips still taste the same, also after living in America for close to one year it was amazing to get some real cheddar cheese! I wonder how it will feel to return to Bilston in the future after I've been away again? It's true to say that Bilston never ever changes!

Bilston, I'm Back?!

Joseph Harrison

19 January 2013

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse: Newark's Rebirth

Virgin Atlantic Airways brand new Clubhouse has arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. The rebirth of Virgin Atlantic Airways presence at Newark Liberty International Airport has brought a fresh, modern and sophisticated vibe to this premium hub. Forget that other British airline because we all know that Virgin Atlantic does it better! Serve it EWR!

Marvel at the dazzling spotlights when stepping into Newark's brand new Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Clubhouse. This cutting edge Clubhouse invites the privileged Upper Class and Goldcard guests to relax and feel like Rockstar's before boarding their flight to London's Heathrow Airport. With a new location after security this Clubhouse enables guests to luxuriate in a glamourous setting by either enjoying a spot of breakfast in the morning or a signature Virgin Atlantic cocktail before the evening flight to London Heathrow. Be greeted by one of the professional and welcoming Clubhouse Host's as each and every guest is transported back to the high society of New York City. Are there any belongings to store in the wardrobe? The spacious wardrobe space allows for coats, bags and any other personal items to be stowed away, guests can enjoy the Clubhouse to its full potential. Newark Liberty serves Upper Class style!

Missed the familiar reads of England such as; The Daily Mail or The Independent? Please take a copy to read as there's always enough for everyone. A wide range of business, travel and lifestyle prints are available to browse through. Enjoy a cup of early morning Earl Grey tea catching up with the fast-paced world of business, or when the sun goes down stay in-line with the world of celebrity with a Gin & Tonic whilst reading the gossip columns, it all makes sense! I guess its true that Newark's Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse keeps everyone in the loop? Newark meets New York City at this Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, guests can step out of their chauffeur driven limousine from the vibrant and cosmopolitan streets of NYC to the striking and ever so slick Newark Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, obviously after checking-in any luggage and clearing security but that's just the name of the game! Some would say that Newark Liberty is located much closer to NYC compared to JFK? Of course Newark wins it!

Preparing for any flight can be stressful so guests can take their stresses away and lounge at the Skyline themed seating area. Immerse each sense to truly feel the NYC vibe as guests enjoy the comfort and hospitality of the Newark Clubhouse. Be catered to and feel like a Rockstar for the attentive and professional Clubhouse Hosts cater to their passengers requests, nothing is ever to challenge for the hosts! Stay connected with the use of free Wi-Fi access, so keeping those daily affairs in order is no trouble. Keep up to date with flight Information by taking a glance at the Upper Class departure board, conveniently located to the left of the entrance. This Clubhouse features streamlined facilities such as showers to refresh and recharge before that overnight transatlantic flight. Keep feeling like awesome from point to point during that Newark Clubhouse experience with Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Enjoy express check-in and security treatment, then make your way to the Clubhouse as quick as possible because the sanctuary of Newark's Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse awaits. Look no further than the friendly and knowledgeable the Clubhouse Front Desk team, who go above and beyond to assist their guests. Guests have the freedom to seek advise about their assigned seat or asking for information about their flight is all in a days work for these professionals, don't just fly with Virgin Atlantic because its all about the Clubhouse experience! The only thing that really needs to be accomplished whilst lounging in this Clubhouse is relax and enjoy the entire guest experience before that world-class Virgin Atlantic flight to London Heathrow airport. There's one thing about this Newark Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse that stands true, someone has definitely brought sexy back with the rich red, black and grey interior design fittings for its just gorgeous! Nothing compares at EWR!

Feeling peckish? Order from the select Newark Clubhouse menu and enjoy superb food that is freshly cooked to perfection. Guests have the opportunity to choose breakfast in the morning or a evening meal before the night flight, this menu has been meticulously designed to suit different tastes. Breakfast is best for Newark's Virgin Clubhouse serves the best bacon sandwich and freshly baked pastries to accompany that early morning coffee. Experience one of the best Full English breakfast's in Brick City! Going hungry at this Clubhouse is sure as a difficult task to even imagine. Those night-fliers can choose the Poached Haddock accompanied with roasted potatoes, spring onions also served with a flavoursome Pepperint sauce. Don't worry frequent fliers of the VS18 or VS2 flights for this Newark Clubhouse menu is switched up regularly, a whole new culinary experience awaits everyone!

Working up quite a thirst? Take a seat at Newark's Clubhouse Bar to enjoy a signature Virgin Atlantic cocktail. Choose a Gin Fizz, Virgin Red Head or even a Cosmopolitan! I would wholeheartedly recommend the Mojito, this freshly made cocktail has the perfect blend of Bacardi rum and mint. Choose from the extensive range of spirits and liqueurs and take every opportunity to kick back and enjoy the new Clubhouse at Newark. Did some say that it's Champagne O'Clock?! Take our night flight and enjoy a wide range of fine Champagnes on offer! Not crazy about the bubbles? Then enjoy a glass of white wine from Bordeaux, France or go 'Rouge' with a cheeky glass of 'Signal Cannon' Merlot from South Africa. Please don't be shy, because life is a celebration for all of the finer things. We don't need JFK to experience the unique style of Virgin Atlantic hospitality because Newark's Clubhouse represents with its world class Clubhouse and team! I used to be a Clubhouse Host!

Who Brought Sexy Back?!

Joseph Harrison

18 January 2013

Orlando: The Fabulous Three!

I made the short trip from New York to Orlando to see my Disney friend Zach Airstarr, my fabulous co-worker and friend that I met during my Internship at Orlando's Walt Disney World Resort. This GaGa loving diva touched my heart, I knew that I had made a friend for life, something told me that I needed to get back to Orlando without haste! Oh, I saved the best until last!

Touching down in the Sunshine State to catch up with Zach, so much time had passed since we had last saw each other. Those Delta cookies didn't keep my hunger at bay so we had a Kiki at IHOP! After our quick bites we continued our Kiki! If truth be told I had chosen to be stupid by living out of a rucksack the past week, travelling light proved to be restrictive. So we hit the Orlando Premium Outlet to find me some new threads for the weekend ahead. American Apparel was my retailer of choice, I had just been paid so we shopped like Material Girls! I wanted to find Pacsun but never did so we went back to Zach's place ready to meet his boyfriend Dawin. 2011 seemed like a really long time, in a strange way Orlando felt like home!

Our dinner of choice turned out to be a lovely meal at 'Bahama Breeze', I enjoyed some lovely 'Bermuda Swizzle' cocktails, but by that time my hectic turnaround from New Orleans via Atlanta and my early morning departure had caught up with me. From shopping to a KiKi, then finally a episode of 'Sex and The City' before turning in for the night. It did feel ace to be in a place to visit friends from Disney much like my Toronto weekend, my other trips were much more independent so being with Zach and Dawin was an absolute treat! My first day back in Orlando was amazing, it was even a pleasure to arrive back into Orlando Mc Coy International Airport since I was last there on my way back home from my Disney Program. Yes, my Industrial Placement would be going out with a bang!

Bright and early 'The Fabulous Three' all set off for Walt Disney World Resort, our original plan was to visit the new 'Fantasyland' at Magic Kingdom but with us using the staff passes it was a blackout day, we hatched another plan to ditch Magic Kingdom for EPCOT! Never mind, our plans changed so we visited Epcot. It was quite strange walking through Future World North as it was the location that me and Zach made our Disney days fabulous. Feeling hungry, we made our way to Mexico on the World Showcase. I had to pinch myself for I was back in the security of the Disney bubble even if it was for a few hours at least! I loved the tacos and enchiladas from the Mexican pavilion at the World Showcase, we dined with the world in our view. Seeing 'Spaceship Earth' since working at Disney was amazing, getting back to my all-time favourite Disney Park. I was finally old enough to drink around the world!

Margaritas all round for us as alcohol can be consumed at Epcot, a policy that I agree with 100%! Norway served me a lovely pint of Carlsberg beer, somehow I don't think Carlsberg is Norwegian but I enjoyed my pint all the same. The weather was beautiful and was a welcome change compared with the rain that was served in New Orleans throughout the previous trip. We eventually reached the United Kingdom section, I led the way by going to the Rose & Crown pub to order an ice cold pint of Strongbow Cider! I hadn't indulged so much with boozing during my work placement in New Jersey apart from the odd occasions, I was ready to turn up around the world at EPCOT's outstanding World Showcase! Yes, I went back to the Rose & Crown pub in the United Kingdom pavilion for another pint of Strongbow Cider! Mexico served some lunch and the rest of our chosen countries kept the drinks flowing! I was living to be back at Walt Disney World again! I needed a nap before the night!

Disney was great but we were ready to marry the night! Going to the gargantuan Walmart nearby I found yet more Strongbow Cider! I never got the chance to shop at Walmart in New Jersey! I was living for that boozy shopping trip! Getting ready, we applied a range of luxurious fragrance's before hitting the club! We will always be the 'Flower Bomb Bitches!' Pulse Orlando wasn't popping, cruising down the North Orange Blossom Trail we turned the party up at Orlando's Parliament House! The Latino's were looking fresh to death, I was definitely living for that night at PH, Orlando! Slaying on the dancefloor I loved life with Zach and Dawin, at that moment I realised that I have such lovely friends! Finishing our drinks it was time to grab some McDonald's before resting our heads! New Orleans was equally as memorable with Fiorella but I had gotten over my cold, I was living for a Disney themed and fabulous weekend in Orlando! Yes, my Orlando, Florida experience was on-point!

Packing my rucksack, I bid farewell to the crazy canine that is Fendi! That dog has it's own drag name, I was living for the ratchet and scandalous behaviour of Orlando's infamous Drag Dog! Of course, Miss Fendrea Shitzonyou loved me! Getting back to Orlando was the perfect way to conclude my final week in America after finishing my Industrial Placement, reuniting with Zach for our weekend to remember was everything to me and more! It's true to say that I have a special love for my international friends that I don't see an awful lot of the time, I love them all for very different reasons! It was true to say that Zach and Dawin welcomed me into their home and into their hearts as I felt a part of each activity that weekend. I truly loved my Orlando weekend, from the KiKi in IHOP to dancing for my life at Orlando's Parliament House! I boarded my JFK bound flight with a quiet demeanour, I was going to miss my Orlando lovelies very much! Zach, I kept my promise to return!

Yes, Flower Bomb Bitches!

Joseph Harrison

17 January 2013

Flying High... Delta Air Lines!

I wanted Delta Air Lines to be my airline of choice to fly me to New Orleans, USA and Orlando, USA. Would I experience exceptional customer service with the added Delta flare? How would their problem solving skills help a under-the-weather me get back to New York's LaGuardia Airport in time for my early morning departure the next day?! I am part of the 'jet-set!'.

New York's LaGuardia Airport showed us Delta's own terminal on my first trip to New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport. Myself and my dear friend and travel companion Fiorella witnessed the beginning of Delta's early morning operation. As captured Delta Air Lines have a revolutionary way of serving their customers before a flight. Replacing waiters and waitresses with iPad's that take food and drink orders while keeping guests up-to date with their flight status. A chef is present cooking the food, accompanied by another person making hot and cold beverages for purchase. Whilst this technological forward service allows Delta passengers the opportunity to experience something different, could this approach decrease customer interaction?

Also the choice of convenience stores were slightly high priced, I'm always on a tight budget though. Throughout my travelling time with Delta Air Lines using LaGuardia Airport I found the prices of items such as water and chewing gum too high, after working at Newark Liberty International Airport I found it easy to compare the cheaper prices at Newark compared to New York's LaGuardia Airport. I suppose this wasn't Delta's fault but the selection of the amenities could have more of a variety when referring to the price? Maybe not, but who am I to judge? Being a passenger is a great experience, so by each step I took through out my Delta Air Lines experience I know that those issues were quite superficial. But, I thankfully enough to made it from LGA Airport from Newark on-time DL!

Throughout my journeys with Delta Air Lines I was quite Impressed with their in-flight efforts. On my previous New York JFK to Manchester night flight the cabin crew conducted their in-flight service with an abrupt tone. Whereas, on my New Orleans bound flight the service was delivered using hushed tones due to the early morning departure time. Unfortunately, the in-flight announcements were proclaimed with a monotone voice but all the same informed us well enough. Eating something before boarding is advisable because meals are not served on domestic Delta services. But, Delta Air Lines do serve a small selection of complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. I enjoyed the Delta cookies, mini pretzels and peanuts on-board my five Delta Air Lines flights. I did choose to purchase a gin and tonic twice for $14.00 due to Delta only charge for alcoholic beverages. I was excited to fly DL!

On the whole the services given by the Delta crew shone through and championed the level of customer service I experienced before from JFK. Throughout my time in the United States I have had the opportunity to experience the service of other American carriers such as; Southwest Airlines and United. Thinking about Delta's service I was pleased with their in-flight services and judging by my previous experiences with this airline I would select Delta Air Lines again. I know what airline to choose upon my next trip to the United States of America! Both flights from LGA Airport to New Orleans and Orlando departed on-time, I landed early into Orlando so that did impress me! Having flown both internationally and domestically with Delta Air Lines I felt satisfied with my flights. Maybe with the Strategic Alliance between Delta and Virgin Atlantic I can fly with both airlines on a return flight? Those Delta passengers made me laugh with their hefty cabin baggage!

My original plan was to simply take two round trips flights from New York to New Orleans and then onto Orlando but nothings ever that simple! I decided to get to the airport early to seek about taking a different flight, so I could rest before jetting off to Orlando. After taking care of a $150.00 change fee I was ready to embark on my flights to LaGaurdia via Atlanta. Clearing the TSA airport security check-point was simple, but after realising that my connection flight from New Orleans to Atlanta was delayed I contacted a Delta agent to find a solution! Luckily, a helpful agent changed my ticket in a flash. Pushing back from the gate, ready to leave for Atlanta the captain announced a delay in our departure due to the heavy rain! That rain poured!

Touching down in Atlanta with forty minutes to spare before my flight to New York's LaGuardia Airport, I transited through the terminals to catch my next flight, only then I could relax. Who knew that I would be revisiting this airport and the state of Georgia?! On the whole my change of plan worked out well, I arrived at my hotel early at 18:30 allowing me to relax before my fabulous Floridian weekend. I experienced the same excellent service during my Orlando flights, arriving back into New York's JFK Airport. The Delta Air Lines ground and cabin crew were fantastic on all five of my Delta flights between NYC and Orlando via Atlanta. I was amazed by the new technologies being used and thankful for arriving back to JFK early. Yes, I would definitely fly with Delta Air Lines again!

Delta, Work! 

Joseph Harrison

14 January 2013

New Orleans, USA

New Orleans, USA was the next stop on my United States travel crusade. Completing my Industrial Placement called for a weekend away in the Deep South, I usually travel independently but my former Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse sister Fiorella joined me this time. I wasn't prepared for the torrential downpours that NOLA threw at us but we loved 'The Big Easy!' Yes N!

After working my final split shift at Newark Liberty International Airport for Virgin Atlantic as a Passenger Service Agent I had a 3am wake up call for my trip to New Orleans, USA! Travelling with my dear friend Fiorella, we took to the skies with Delta Air Lines from New York's LaGuardia Airport on the 8th of January 2013 with a whole lot of expectations for our Deep South trip! I'm always an independent traveller but I had finally found the perfect travel companion! Touching down into Louis Armstrong International Airport, New Orleans was at our feet ready for us to explore. As we made our way from the airport to the 'French Quarter' it was mad to pass through the city where the merciless 'Hurricane Katrina' tore her way through to cause an untold amount of destruction and turmoil. Fiorella had taken a nap on the flight but I was far too excited to sleep, I was in a state of delirium and it was still early! Get it!

Arriving in the 'French Quarter' we did not loose any time exploring the charms of this French Creole/Spanish looking neighbourhood. The weather wasn't strictly on our side but we didn't pay that any mind! Our hotel was located on Toulouse Street, just around the corner from the famous Bourbon Street. Of course, Bourbon Street amazed me and my dear travel companion! It appeared to be quite distasteful, boasting establishments that would cater for bachelor and stag parties, we all need a bit of 'Bad Girl, Gone Good' in our lives! Being frank I was not unimpressed by the fashion of Bourbon Street, along with the neighbouring streets I was living a dream during those first moments and for the rest of the trip. We looked closer at the fabric of this 'historic' corner of NOLA, those quirky parts gave us life because we didn't want ordinary! Voodoo? I didn't want that Hoodoo but we had a look at the gift shops that had me wanting to buy a Voodoo doll, I bought a NOLA shot glass.

If you haven't seen 'The Princess and The Frog' film then you probably won't share our delirium for this next part. I was serving my best 'Princess Tiana' persona as we made it to Jackson Square. The atmosphere within Jackson Square was simply amazing considering the gloomy weather that was looming! There was jazz music in the air and the sun was even shining a little bit, unfortunately the cold shadowed the warmness of the sun. One must have some imagination! Having experienced the mayhem of New York City it was so nice to be in a smaller place that had so much atmosphere, we could both agree on that point. Rolling on a river, the waters of the mighty Mississippi River flowed past us as we made our way towards a beignet cafe. Did we want our fortunes told? We passed on that offer, getting our lives once more it was time for a cocktail or three to toast our first day in New Orleans B!

Mother nature messed up our plans, after calling to reconfirm our upcoming Bayou river tour we had those plans shelved due to the heavy rain. Fiorella did some last minute research on her smartphone to find the 'Garden District' a leafy part of NOLA that served us a sense of regalness with the rows of the large white-washed colonial houses, we got the bus from Canal Street to the 'Garden District' and after living in Newark, NJ for almost one year I was not fazed by the urban flavour that was served during our ride! Taking our time we found some killer chocolate brownies, just spending time together away from the stresses of the airport was enough to complement of our day within New Orleans's 'Garden District'. Stopping by a darling coffee shop we people watched to the maximum, clocking my dopple-ganger who was every easy on the eye! Even though our planned Bayou trip had fallen through we made the best of a not-so-good situation! Those brownies were so damn good!

Bourbon Street served us some ice cold alcoholic smoothies! I'm sure my one was a Cajun Storm? Going hungry in New Orleans proved to be a very difficult task as there was so much choice! Beignets and coffee were on the menu! We loved our beignets and coffee even though the cafe was extremely bizarre! Moving through to our evening meal on the first night, we chose a place called 'Oceana Grill'. Our Cajun themed restaurant served a tasty platter of foods. I enjoyed the blackened Catfish, my demand was to eat Catfish whilst in New Orleans. Fiorella ordered a chicken Po'Boy sandwich that looked very nice. I adore the photo that we got taken for us on the first morning in New Orleans, we had literally just dropped and bags at our hotel, hot in-pursuit of adventure! After finishing work I was struck down by a horrid cold, we searched for some medicine but that CVS worker had too much attitude!

We discovered an absolute gem of a restaurant, located on the corner of Jackson Square was 'Stanley's'. This simple and contemporary looking restaurant served a grand breakfast that fueled our second of sightseeing. Myself and Fiorella absolutely loved 'Stanley's' that much that we ate there twice un the same day. I chose the Gumbo Shrimp Soup and Fiorella enjoyed another Po'Boy Sandwich, I had lost a lot of weight during my Industrial Placement year, so getting some wholesome food in my life was much needed! So, here's to a fantastic trip that took several twists and turns. We really tried to not let the weather get us down, looking back at our time in New Orleans we certainly did our best to enjoy ourselves! Choosing an earlier flight, me and Fiorella left for the airport to take our separate flights back to NY for I had to make my early morning connection onto Orlando on the 11th of January 2013! Our New Orleans weekend was unforgettable for all the right reasons! 

We Loved NOLA! 

Joseph Harrison

7 January 2013

Carry On Camping!

I love my foreign holidays abroad and don't really share other peoples enthusiasm for taking a 'staycation' within the United Kingdom. Changing my ways to embrace something different it was time for Wales! Me and my brother Lewis flew back early from holiday our to Turkey during the summer  of 2010 to spend a camping holiday in the Wales. So, let's 'Carry On Camping!'

Packing up the cars me and some of my crazy family we made the two hour car journey to a campsite in the heart of the Welsh countryside. Close to the village of Beddgelert we set up camp for our alternative holiday. What a weekend we had in-store! So here we go! From the golden sun of Turkey to the rolling hills and fields of Wales, something new for me to experience! I wanted something different, embracing a 'staycation' was good for me. I didn't need my passport, just a sense of adventure! The first night we had a barbecue, watched the stars and enjoyed some hot chocolate before bedding down in our tents. For the weekend ahead would be non-stop, please let me advise you that I have my diva demands, it wasn't bad a at all because the camp-site was fully equipped with running water, flushing toilets and the added luxury that are hot showers. I don't ask for much but I'm a drama queen! Oh, Wales!

Peddling through the Welsh countryside the views were breathtaking, I have never seen something so beautiful in the United Kingdom before! Surely these views had to be part of a National Park? The Snowdon National Park to be exact! Desperately Seeking Adventure knows it's facts! I made sure I stopped whenever I saw a vista worth a picture, saying that I made numerous picture stops to capture the terrific views. I will not lie I had not been on a bike ride this intense for a long time, well I guess hadn't. Looking back the mountain biking was a great experience, which allowed me to see the natural beauty and to truly appreciate the landscape. My usual holiday activity tends to be sunbathing, I love the sun! For this time anyway I did fine without a swimming pool, sun lounger and bottle of sun tan cream. To tell the truth I think I could have done with a practice run because I'm sure that would have helped but nevertheless the afternoon was well worth it! Let's go!

Taking a short walk from the camp-site me and some of my crazy family discovered the nearby village of Beddgelert. This chocolate box Welsh village was charming, with its homemade fudge shop and the winding river that flowed under the stone bridge. Whenever there is a pub close-by I have to sample the local brews, so I couldn't resist having a pint of lager from 'Tanronen Inn' as it looked too good to pass up. I never turn down the prospect of a beer! Beddgelert appeared to be a village that has made it's location a big hit with tourists as there was a feeling of that when I was walking through the main street from our camp site. Essentially, being located within the Snowdonia National Park draws the mountaineers that take the challenge of climbing the mighty Mount Snowdon. The presence of Welsh street signs was very high and with the addition of a Welsh speaking primary school on the corner by the local park this village was quintessentially Welsh. Wales was impressing me B!

Yas, I had been to Wales before that summer break within the UK. Taking it back to a previous half-term holiday back when I was at secondary school I spent a week in Borth on a caravan sight, another memorable week because Borth was positively bleak! Staying close to that previous Welsh week we took a drive to Machynlleth to find a pretty town in the middle of nowhere, finding a high street pub we experienced an awkward reception with a torrent of stares due to our 'foreign' accents. Taking it to the seaside it was the perfect end of a mad week, Aberdovey served a small but inviting beachfront and a warmer welcome compared to the ancient beliefs of Machnylleth. Looking back on those Welsh experiences I would have to say Beddgelert's small village feel was perfect, no prejudice or shade was through because we were from the other side of the borderline. Could I be convinced to leave my passport at home again? Yes UK, seeing something closer to home was ace!

I climbed that mountain, high! Mount Snowdon to be precise. I can now look back and say that I'm proud that I climbed Mount Snowdon but at the time It was a whole different story! My Auntie Michelle could vouch for me and say that one moment I was a complete nervous wreck and the other I was the complete opposite, motivated and ready get to the summit. My brother Lewis and uncle Pete powered ahead while I found the climb a lot more challenging. I would have done anything to be sitting in the mountain train that took my auntie and cousin, I was such a diva! Taking my hysteria away from the climb that day, I have to say the views were magnificent even though I was petrified by the height of the mountain.

I made it to the top! In state of euphoria I had forgot about the journey back down. Bizarrely at the top there was a coffee shop, at the top of a mountain! By the time we reached the top I was completely out of my mind, I didn't care about the other people around me I just wanted to be at the top and sit down forever! I can safely say that Mount Snowdon will be the first and last mountain that I will ever climb! It was an experience for sure!Looking back to that 2010 break in North Wales I was about to embark on a new chapter by going to university in Birmingham. Chopping our foreign holiday in half allowed me and my brother to get the best of both worlds. From biking through the Welsh hills, a physical challenge, those views were worth it in the end!

Ain't No Mountain High Enough!

Joseph Harrison