Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Kimchi and Coconut Galaxy Whale Brooch

Back in July, I took a birthday trip to Whipsnade Zoo, and stumbled up on a display of Kimchi and Coconut jewellery in their gift shop.

They had a great selection of sea life-themed designs, and there was one brooch in particular that caught my eye. Their galaxy whale brooch. In the end, I just couldn't leave without it, so I made a cheeky birthday purchase, and left a happy little camper.

Three months on, the whale brooch is still one of my current favourite brooches to accessorize with, so I felt it deserved a quick review on the blog.

Kimchi and Coconut Galaxy Whale Brooch photo.

The brooch I have to show you is a beautiful humpback whale brooch, with all the charm of a real whale compacted in to a wearable little brooch. I love whales and have always wanted to see one of those gentle giants in real life, so getting to accessorize with a whale brooch is the next best thing until that day (hopefully) comes.

This beautiful creature has been handmade in England from two layers of the dreamiest galaxy-effect acrylic, and the result is mesmerising. The bottom layer is plain black, and the top is a stunning mix of purples and stormy sea blues and greens, topped with flecks of silver glitter, and finished off with some etching. I think it might just be the prettiest whale brooch I've ever seen. I'm a sucker for a galaxy effect. (NB. There was a second whale brooch on display at the zoo, and the colours were much lighter, so be aware that the acrylic will vary from piece to piece due to the unique cut in the acrylic. The lighter one was gorgeous, too, but I personally preferred the darker, stormier look of this one). 

Kimchi and Coconut Galaxy Whale Brooch photo.

As for size... it's about the length and width of my ring finger, so it's a good sized piece; not too large or too small, but still big enough to make a small statement. It's perfect for wearing at the seaside or on trips to the aquarium... or with just about any outfit, really. It's so lovely, you'll want to wear it with everything. I know I do. 

Kimchi and Coconut Galaxy Whale Brooch, rear view.

The whale brooch retails for just £20, which I think is really reasonable for such a beautiful handmade piece- especially brought from a zoo gift shop, where prices are often inflated. I'm so pleased I added it to my brooch zoo, and think it was worth every penny. Having this little guy in my collection makes me happy.

Kimchi and Coconut Galaxy Whale Brooch.

If brooches aren't your thing, there's also a whale necklace, and Kimchi and Coconut have plenty of other brooches, necklaces, and earrings to choose from, too. Aside from their sea animal designs, I particularly love their Australian animal pieces; I have a platypus and a tiger quoll in my brooch collection, and they're amazing. If you like the style of this brooch, I'm sure you'll love their other designs, too, so be sure to check them out!

Do you have any Kimchi and Coconut jewellery in your collection?

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Friday, 8 October 2021

Autumn Goals

I don't know what it is about autumn, but as soon as we reach September, I always feel motivated to start new projects, and get stuff done. 

I find myself wanting to do all the craft projects, visit new places, have a big declutter, bake, and read lots of books. I'm guessing it's because autumn always signified the start of a new school year, and my brain still sees the change in seasons as a time to learn and get to work. Whatever the reason, autumn still feels like a new chapter in the year, and I've once again found myself with a big list of things I want to do before winter sets in. I thought I'd share some of them with you today to make myself accountable, and hopefully motivate myself in to achieving them, so let's go buy new school supplies, and get started.

Go For an Autumn Walk

I want to try to go on at least one autumn walk this year- preferably in the woods- so I can crunch through the fallen leaves, take in the colours of the foliage, and feel the cold air on my face. I love a good autumn walk.

Visit a Pumpkin Patch

I've still never visited a pumpkin patch, so I'd really like to visit one this autumn, and pick out a pumpkin to carve.

Carve a Pumpkin

I like to carve a pumpkin every Halloween, but couldn't last year as I wasn't well enough on the day, so I'm looking forward to trying again this year. I don't do a lot for Halloween, but I always try to at least butcher a pumpkin.

Paint Some Pumpkins

I'd also really like to try painting some pumpkins, and see what fun designs I can come up with. It looks like fun.

Have a Halloween Movie Marathon

I'm looking forward to some good Halloween-themed movie marathons this October. My sister and I are already talking about having a movie night at her house, with a takeaway, and some good snacks to celebrate Halloween. I'm most looking forward to the classic that is Hocus Pocus.

Watch My Favourite Autumn Movies

I also want to watch lots of autumnal movies to get me in the mood for autumn. I'm particularly looking forward to rewatching You've Got Mail, Practical Magic, Little Women, Stepmom, War of the Worlds, The Village, and lots of other autumn favourites.

Read Lots

I want to read as much as possible this autumn, and try to fit in some reading time every day. I've only got four more books to finish before I hit my Goodreads reading goal of forty books, and I'm hoping to reach it before December, as I'm always too busy to read much over Christmas. Two months to read four books? Should be easy.

Go to the Bonfire and Watch the Fireworks

Our local RAF base has the best fireworks and a massive bonfire for Bonfire Night, and I used to love going every year. I haven't been in ten years because of chronic pain, Covid, or because my sister and brother-in-law (who I need to sign me on to camp) moved away for a while, and I miss it. I'd really like to go this year- and my sister isn't giving me a choice, anyway- so fingers crossed for a good chronic pain day that night so I can go.

Take an Autumn Drive Through the Cotswolds

I live on the edge of The Cotswolds, which is obviously famous for it's beautiful countryside, and picture perfect little villages. It's gorgeous all year round, but particularly during the autumn when everywhere is backdropped with a palette of fiery oranges, golden yellows, deep reds, and rich browns. I'm hoping to be able to take a drive about to take it all in once the leaves have changed, and maybe even stop to do a little exploring.

Visit the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums in Oxford

It's been years since I last visited Oxford's museums, but I always found the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers museums fascinating, and am itching to pay them both a visit again. There's something about chilly autumn days that makes me want to wander around cold echo-y buildings, and learn about old stuff.

Make Pumpkin Dog Treats

I don't know why, but I'd really like to try to make pumpkin dog biscuits / treats for my dog, Rosie, and her cousin, Mia from scratch. I know it would be easier to just buy some, but where's the fun in that?

Fix My Erstwilder Brooches

The brooch backs on two of my Erstwilder brooches, a sunflower, and a Halloween dog leaning on a pumpkin, broke a while back from separate falls to the floor, so I need to contact the brand and find out the best way to repair them. I want to be able to wear them both again this autumn / Halloween.

Make My Animal Crossing Island Look Autumnal

I still play Animal Crossing New Horizons every day, and I'm currently aiming to make it look as autumnal as possible. I made a start last week, and am currently working on a Halloween area, and a crop farm for my pumpkins. I'm feeling more inspired with the game than I have done in ages.

Visit the Wildlife Park

My sister and I are hoping to pay another visit to The Cotswold Wildlife Park once the leaves have changed. We'll get to enjoy an autumn walk in a pretty setting with lots of trees and foliage, and see lots of cute exotic animals along the way. What's not to like?

Paint

It's been ages since I last did some watercolour painting, so I'd like to dig out my paints, and spend some time getting creative this fall. I'm not very good at it, but I find it so therapeutic.

Finish My Christmas Cross Stitch

I began a Christmas cross stitch wall hanging two years ago, and I still haven't finished it because I've needed to go out and get some more threads to finish it off, and couldn't decide which colours to use. I've got so little left to sew, and I'm determined to get it done before Christmas so I can move on to something new.

Blog More

I've been really bad at blogging this year because I've rarely felt up to it, but I've got so many posts I want to write and post, including some posts about my recent holiday to Cornwall, and of course, reviews of my latest brooch purchases. I'm going to do my best to blog more this autumn, and I also want to start preparing Christmas content to take some of the pressure off in December.

Fill Some Gaps in My Wardrobe

There's a few gaps in my wardrobe I would like to fill this season. I particularly need a new pair of black ankle boots, and some new pyjamas, and I'd love to get some new dresses for the colder months. I rarely have the money for new clothes these days, and my wardrobe really is lacking, so it's time I picked up a few things.

Actively Start Christmas Shopping

It's just over two and a half months 'til Christmas Day (how scary is that?!), so it's time to actively start shopping for Christmas presents! (I like to start early to spread the cost, and stay organised). I've already bought a few presents this month, and bought some earlier in the year, too, so I'd say I'm off to a good start.

Organise My Bookshelves

My bookshelf is in desperate need of a sort-out. It's been overflowing with books- with a few stacks not far off the ceiling- for years, and the mess is stressing me out. I think the solution is to move my DVDs off the shelf (since they're rarely watched these days), put the discs in to folders, and store the cases in the shed. It should open up more space for books, so I can keep them tidy and organised. I just need to find some time (and spoons) so I can get started on it, and I want to get it done this autumn. Enough is enough.

Have a Clear Out

I also want to declutter some of my stuff, especially my wardrobe, so I'm going to try to have a clear out (if my health allows it), and maybe sell some stuff on eBay to make a little extra cash. The extra pennies would definitely come in handy with the festive season coming up.

And those are some of my autumn goals.

There are more goals on my to-do-list, but I've already rambled on enough, so I'll stop there. You can wake up again now.

I don't know how much I'll be able to achieve, and doubt I'll tick everything off the list, but I'm going to give it my best shot. That's all anybody can do, right?

Wish me luck!

What's on your to-do-list this autumn?

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Friday, 1 October 2021

What I Got For My Birthday

It's been three months since my birthday, so I thought it was about time I documented some of the lovely presents my family and friends gave me this year. 

I would've done it sooner, but hey, taking blog photos when you need them is an abled-bodied person's game. Three months late. That's my jam.

A photo of birthday cards

Some of the birthday cards I received this year.

A photo of the Vendula London Seaside Souvenirs backpack.

My parents got me the amazing Vendula London Seaside Souvenirs Backpack (and I chipped in a bit, as well), which had been high on my wish list ever since the range was launched a year or two ago. We got it during the flash sale in June and found a discount code, too, so got it for £60-something instead of £98, which was a real bargain, and worth every penny. The bag is so beautiful, fantastic quality, surprisingly roomy, and the attention to detail is incredible. I love all the little seaside-themed details! The cool thing about this bag is that's it's not just a backpack, but can be converted in to a cross body bag or shoulder bag as well! I sadly find it too short to comfortably use as a cross body, but as a backpack, it's perfect. The straps are long and adjustable, and it's comfortable on the shoulders. I used it on my recent holiday to Cornwall, and I couldn't have asked for a better day bag. Or a more perfect bag for by the sea. (I actually chose it with trips to Cornwall and the seaside in mind). I love it! I can't wait to use it again next summer.

It feels too late in the year to do a review of a seaside-themed bag, but if anyone wants me to do a full review of it, just let me know.

A photo of the Too Faced Born This Way: The Natural Nudes eyeshadow palette.

My younger sister, Sarah, gave me the Too Faced Born This Way: The Natural Nudes eyeshadow palette, after seeing it on my birthday wish list, so I was really excited to unwrap this on my birthday. I wanted some more nude eyeshadows to try as most of my eyeshadow collection is colourful, and this has to be one of the loveliest nude eyeshadow palettes I've ever seen. The shades are dreamy- especially the metallics. I've only used the palette a few times so far, but I'm already really impressed with these shadows. They have great colour pay-off, blend really well, feel super soft on the skin, and stay put all day- even on blazing hot days in the sun. 

A photo of an embroidered red fox brooch.

I was given a lovely assortment of presents from my older sister and brother-in-law, starting with this gorgeous embroidered red fox brooch by Vikki Lafford Garside. She brought it from a shop in Oxford's Covered Market that sells quirky jewellery from brands like Little Moose and Layla Amber. After choosing the fox brooch for me, and hearing it was made by a local artist, my sister realised it was made by someone she knew in passing, who used to take the same bus as her to school. How weird is that? I love that it was made locally by someone she can put a face to. It's such a cute brooch, and will be the perfect finishing touch for autumn outfits.

A photo of a wooden heart-shaped brooch made from the ends of colourful pencils.

Marie also got me another brooch from the same shop, this time a colourful wooden heart upcycled by Zinc White from recycled Derwent pencils. It's so cute! I really need a book or art-themed dress to wear it with.


Earlier this year, I mentioned wanting to reread The Tommyknockers by Stephen King, as it had been a while since I'd read it, so naturally, my sister got me a copy. (Which was lovely, as until then, I'd only had a copy on my Kindle). I read it in August, which took the whole month as the book is super long (about 1400 pages), and some of the chapters are really tedious and drawn-out. I'd forgotten how many seemingly pointless chapters there were in between the exciting ones of Bobbi and Gard digging up the space ship, and the townsfolk transforming in to aliens. I almost gave up a few times, but it was worth persevering to get to the good bits.


The sister also got me the Alice in Wonderland Caterpillar 70th anniversary Funko Pop, and it's one of the cutest Funko Pops ever! Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favourite Disney films, and I'm loving the new 70th anniversary Funkos that have recently been released. This grumpy chain-smoking caterpillar is definitely one of my favourites.


And she also treated me to some delicious Hotel Chocolat chocolates. The Dizzy Praline truffles are one of my favourites- they're so yummy!- but I had never tried the Peanut Butter & Jelly ones before. Turns out, they're amazing! I enjoyed sampling them over the summer.


One of my lovely friends sent me some amazing chocolate bars and lollies from Bloc-o-Choc. The chocolate is to die for! The milk chocolate is so creamy, and they're layered with different branded chocolates which makes them an incredible treat. I'm loving orange milk chocolate at the moment, so I particularly loved the Terry's Chocolate Orange bar. 10/10 would recommend.

I was also gifted a gorgeous pair of pink strawberry drop earrings from a friend, which are lovely for spring and summer. I haven't really worn this style of earring before, so it's been fun branching out and trying something new. I love them! They're from EarBlush on Etsy.

Another lovely friend sent me a letterbox parcel of pick 'n' mix sweets from All You Can Sweet, which was the best treat to get in the post. I naturally ate all the good ones before I was able to take a photo of them because I just couldn't wait to enjoy them, but it also had pink chocolate pigs and white chocolate stars in the mix, and a lot more sweets. They were so good!


And last but not least, my Nana sent me some money for my birthday, and I couldn't resist putting it towards the Erstwilder Halloween Care Bears 'Trick or Sweet Bear' brooch. And now it's autumn, I can finally start wearing it! Yay!

And those are some of the things I got for my 36th birthday.

A big 'thank you!' to everyone who bought me presents this year. I love them and I appreciate it! You're the best!

What did you get for your last birthday?
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Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Ten Years With Chronic Pain and Illness


Today is a weird milestone in my life; one I never thought I'd be marking, one I'm not sure how to feel about.

Today, I have officially been living with debilitating chronic pain and illness for ten whole years. (It isn't the beginning of my chronic pain journey- it actually began twenty-three years ago when I was just thirteen... but that's a story for another day).

I honestly can't believe that this milestone is a part of my life. I can't believe I'm sitting here reflecting on a decade of living with life-changing chronic pain and chronic illness. If you'd told me ten years ago that I would still be in severe pain ten years later or how much my health would change my life, I'm not sure I would've believed you. I wouldn't have been able to comprehend it, and if I had, I would probably have just given up the fight there and then. I couldn't imagine lasting another week in pain, let alone another decade, and didn't think I'd have to. Back then, I assumed I'd just injured myself somehow, and thought I'd be as right as rain in a few days if I ignored it, and just kept going. 

Boy, was I wrong!

The pain didn't just continue but grew worse as the days blurred in to weeks, months and years.

Now here I am, a decade later, still in pain and diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses- Ankylosing Spondylitis, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Bertolotti's Disease, Degenerative Disc Disease, and Tachycardia, plus a naturally fused spine, and a facet fused to my sacrum. Even though the warning signs were there, I never imagined for a moment how extensive my problems would turn out to be. It didn't even enter my head.

A decade ago, I was just a normal, able-bodied twenty-six-year-old, working as a visual merchandiser in retail, and spending my days off going shopping, to the cinema, and to concerts with friends. I got mild aching pains in my bones and joints (undiagnosed Arthritis), but they hadn't so much as slowed me down since my mid-teens. Then one September morning, I woke up with back pain, and in less than a fortnight, my whole life was turned upside down. Now I'm a disabled and chronically ill thirty-six-year-old with multiple conditions, living mostly housebound, and spending much of my time in bed alone riding out the pain and fatigue, or going to medical appointments. (Can you hear that chorus of tiny violins?!) What a difference a decade makes! It's crazy how quickly your entire life can change beyond recognition. If I had known what was coming, I would have tried to live a much fuller life. (Although, life's too short for the shoulda coulda wouldas).

Still, as it's the anniversary, I can't help thinking about everything I've been through these past ten years.

I'm not going to sugar-coat it; the last ten years have been some of the hardest years of my life- not just physically, mentally, and emotionally, but socially, and financially, too. 

I've spent every waking second in extreme pain, getting very little or no relief from any painkillers or treatments. Pain so bad it makes a broken bone feel like a broken nail, and would reduce burly grown men to tears. Pain in my joints and in my bones and in my muscles and in my skin. Shooting pain, stabbing pain, throbbing pain, radiating pain, aching pain, burning pain, I've experienced it all- and then some. Then there's been painful back spasms, stiff and swollen joints, twitching nerves, muscle aches, debilitating fatigue, persistent tachycardia (which has quite frankly been terrifying), challenging brain fog, and a whole host of delightful symptoms I've had to contend with on a daily or regular basis.

The pain has been so overwhelming that there have been times when I've wanted to not be here at all. Thankfully, those thoughts don't happen often now, but it hasn't always been that easy. The first year was definitely the hardest; I can't think how many times I silently cried myself to sleep during the first six months, just wanting the pain to stop, and to get my old life back. Fortunately, I never gave up, and the days got easier as I got diagnosed, and learnt to navigate life with chronic pain and illness, but it was hard-going for a while.

I had to fight to be believed, diagnosed, and be given the treatment I deserve. For years all I heard was that I was 'too young to be in pain', and I'd be 'fine in a week or two', as I was shooed away with another sick note and another prescription that never touched the pain. It wasn't until I ventured in to private health care three years later that I started to get answers and support. Those early years almost broke me.

I've been x-rayed, scanned, and jabbed with needles. I've tried treatment after treatment, and countless painkillers and anti-inflammatories.

I went through one horrific weekend of withdrawal after an incompetent doctor I went to for help yelled at me and took me off all of my meds cold turkey. I've never been so ill in my life. 

I've ended up in A&E twice with ridiculously fast tachycardia and palpitations, and have had several ECGs.

I had to give up my job in visual merchandising, and my dreams of getting back in to animal care. I was making plans to go back to college to study animal care again when I got ill, which sadly had to go out the window.

I've spent most of the last decade bed ridden or housebound, missing out on new experiences and meeting new people out in the real world because my pain has been so debilitating. Living housebound with chronic illness has been extremely isolating, and while I'm an introvert and enjoy time alone, it's been hard not having regular interactions with people outside my own family. I've lost friends since I've been sick, too, and that hurt a lot. 

I've also had to say goodbye to many of the things I knew and enjoyed in life. I had to mourn the life I knew, and the person that I was, as well as the future I'd hoped to make for myself. I'm not going to lie; this has been hard at times. I've missed out on so much during what could have been some of the best years of my life, and sometimes I can't help feeling left behind because I don't have or haven't experienced many of the things society says I should have by my age. Thankfully, I have learnt to make my peace with that, as well as knowing that my future could be very different to the one I'd imagined, but it's only natural to feel sad about that sometimes.

Fortunately, as a socially-awkward introvert, housebound life hasn't been that hard for me to cope with overall. I like my own company, and I've learnt plenty of ways to fill my time. This blog has been a particularly invaluable coping mechanism, giving me something to throw myself in to, and has always keep me busy. I've also found comfort in reading, crafting, watching movies, hanging out with my dog, and all kinds of little things. I've gotten used to a quieter way of living, and have learnt to appreciate the little things in life, and make the most of every day. When I do get to go out and do something fun, I appreciate it so much more.

The last ten years have also been hard financially. I've had to jump through hoops to prove I'm deserving of financial help, and went through a soul-crushing fifteen months without a penny to live on because the DWP decided being able to go the hospital for medical care meant I wasn't sick enough to need help. (Seriously). Luckily, I appealed, and won my case at court, but the whole experience was a nightmare.

I've been through a hell of a lot in such a short space of time, and sometimes I don't know how I made it through.

This is probably going to make me sound like a self-indulgent twat, so feel free to roll your eyes, but I'm proud of myself for getting through the last ten years. I'm proud of the way I've handled every hurdle, from my life being turned upside down to living in constant pain to dealing with each diagnosis. None of it has been easy, but I've got through every day and every challenge without having a break down or giving up. There have been times when the pain has been so overwhelming I've not wanted to be here, but I've somehow found the strength to keep going, to keep fighting through the pain and the fatigue, the stress and the isolation, and I'm proud of myself for that. 

I know I must be coming across as incredibly negative today, but I don't think about the last ten years in a negative light. I've always just accepted my life for what it is, and tried to make the best of every day. Sure, there have been plenty of awful days, but there have been plenty of positives, too. The journey has taught me so much. I've learnt so much about life, and about myself as I've navigated this unconventional life with chronic illness. I've learnt what I'm capable of, how strong I can be, and just how much I can endure when pushed beyond my limits. I've learnt to appreciate the little things in life, and make the best of every day, with what I have. I no longer take life for granted, like I used to. I know how quickly everything can change and be taken away from you. I'm grateful for everything this experience has taught me, as I wouldn't be the person I am now if I hadn't gone through it all.

I don't know where the future will take me- and I don't really like to think about it, as thinking about the future with chronic illness scares me- but wherever the next ten years lead me, I know I'll get through it. If the last ten years has taught me anything, it's that I'm stronger than I give myself credit for, and if I can get through all that I have, I can get through anything. 

Even though I'm being reflective and letting my feelings out here today, I don't want to focus on the negatives today, nor remember what I've lost or what I've been missing out on. (I wrote this post a few days early to process my feelings ahead of time). I'll of course be acknowledging what this day means and will be giving the last decade some head space, but I'm hoping to make today a positive one so this date isn't just 'The Day My Back Pain Began' or 'The Day My Life Changed Forever.' I'm currently in one of my favourite places enjoying a week's holiday, so I'm hoping to make some nice memories today to cancel out the bad ones. I want today to be a good one. I don't know where the day will take me, but I'm hoping I'll be well enough to take a short day trip or at least go for a walk on the beach. I'm going to eat some good food, breathe in the sea air, let the sea breeze carry away the stress, and relax to the sound of the seagulls. It's going to be a better day than this day was ten years ago, I'll make sure of it. I've not come this far and gone through what I have to let one bad day a decade ago spoil another day of my life.

Life is far too short for that.

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Monday, 9 August 2021

An Accessible Birthday Trip To Whipsnade Zoo

On the second of July, I turned another year older, and decided to seize the day with an impromptu trip to Whipsnade Zoo. 

A photo of African black-footed penguins at Whipsnade Zoo.

As a big animal lover, I love a good trip to the zoo, and used to visit Whipsnade almost every year before I developed chronic pain a decade ago. I even did work experience there for two weeks when I was seventeen and studying animal care at college. I hadn't been back since I got ill in 2011, as I couldn't see a way to manage the two hour journey (each way) with my chronic pain, let alone how to walk around an enormous zoo all day. I'd resigned myself to never being able to go again, and mentally added it  to the list of 'things I can't do anymore', which made me sad as I've always loved visiting the place, but it's just one of those things you learn to accept with chronic illness. 

However, one of the great things about Whipsnade Zoo is that you can pay to take your car in, which allows you to drive around the zoo, and park up at various sections. It saves a hell of a lot of walking, and makes it much more accessible. We'd talked about attempting a visit this way for a while, so when my sister suggested a trip to Whipsnade at 10pm the night before, I jumped at the chance. Sometimes you just have to push through the pain to do something fun, and deal with the consequences later.

We prebooked our tickets online the night before, which wasn't cheap at £30 each plus £25 to bring the car in, but I promise you, it was worth every penny. The zoo is huge (600 acres), filled with awesome animals, and you really get your money's worth.

We arrived at the zoo at around 1pm, and the first thing we did was drive a lap around it to get our bearings and remind ourselves what animals we particularly wanted to see. I'd forgotten just how big the place was, and wondered how the hell I used to walk around it all when I was able-bodied. We didn't have time or the spoons to see everything, so we prioritised our favourites, and tried to fit in as much as possible. We drove around, parked up near animals we wanted to see, and walked around small sections at a time, which made our visit so much easier. We even just watched some animals from the car, which felt like being on safari without the fear or being eaten alive or having your car stripped for parts by monkeys. 

A photo of a white rhino grazing at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a sleeping white rhino at Whipsnade Zoo.

Taking the car in gave us the ability to cover a huge area we would never have managed on foot, and made the place far more accessible to us. It made such a difference to my pain and fatigue levels, and my sister's leg injuries, and I coped so much better than I'd expected to. In fact, the car journey caused me more pain than the actual visit! I would recommend it to anyone with chronic pain or mobility issues, as well as for people visiting with young kids or elderly relatives who tire easily- especially if you can't use a wheelchair or rent a mobility scooter to help you cover more ground. Trust me; your body will thank you for it later.

A photo of wild boar piglets at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a cheetah at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a cheetah at Whipsnade Zoo.

My sister and I had such a lovely time wandering and driving around in the scorching sunshine, watching so many weird and wonderful animals, eating ice cream, and enjoying the views of the downs below the zoo. We got to see so many awesome animals, including elephants, hippos, white and one-horned rhinos, tigers, cheetahs, lynx, sloth bears, wild boar, penguins, chimps, oryx, flamingos, and so much more. We also saw plenty of wallabies and maras, which were free-roaming all around the zoo.

A photo of a wallaby at Whipsnade Zoo.

Whipsnade has an incredible collection of animals, with over 200 species and more than 9,600 animals to see, and no shortage of mega fauna and rare creatures to interest every animal lover. Whether you're in to big cats or primates, giant mammals or tiny insects, there's something for everyone.

A photo of wooden rockhopper penguin statues at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of African black-footed penguins at Whipsnade Zoo.

I think my favourite part of the day was getting to see the rare greater one-horned rhinos, which I love because they look like adorable armoured-dinosaurs! Just look how cute they are! I could've watched them grazing all day.

A photo of a greater one-horned rhino at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a grey greater one-horned rhino at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of an adult greater one-horned rhino at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of an adult greater one-horned rhino grazing at Whipsnade Zoo.

We also really enjoyed the Passage Through Asia section, which is a huge drive-through exhibit of green space filled with different types of deer, camels, and yaks. There's a big lake in the middle, and there are no barriers separating you from the animals so it feels really natural, and like being on safari. The animals kept their distance, but it was amazing to watch huge herds of deer grazing, resting, running, and drinking from the lake, and getting to see lots of stags and fawns. We enjoyed this section so much, we went through twice. If you don't take your car in, don't worry; you can also view the Passage Through Asia on The Great Whipsnade Railway, which I believe has just reopened now that Covid restrictions have lifted.

A photo of two Bactrian camels at Whipsnade Zoo.A photo of a Pere David deer stag at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of deer drinking from a lake at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a doe at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a doe and a stag at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of a herd deer at Whipsnade Zoo.

Sadly, we didn't have time to see everything, and missed out a lot of animals in the middle of the zoo, where there's everything from giraffes and lions to wolves and monkeys, but we were more than satisfied with our visit, and it just gives us a good excuse to go back again, and cover what we missed. I particularly wanted to see the bird gardens, seals and sealions, and the children's farmyard again, as they were three of the sections I did work experience on all those years ago (the others were the chimps and elephants), but just being there brought back so many memories. (And we did drive past the farmyard, so I got a good glimpse of the animals around the outskirts). I'll definitely check them out properly next time. 

A photo of an adult chimpanzee at Whipsnade Zoo.

If you want to see all the animals Whipsnade zoo has to offer, I'd recommend getting there when the gates open at 10am to give yourself  a fighting chance. There's a lot of ground to cover.

Of course, we couldn't leave without checking out the gift shop. It only took me a minute to discover that they sold Kimchi and Coconut jewellery, and I came away with a galaxy-effect whale brooch that I instantly fell in love with. Well, it would've been rude not to treat myself on my birthday, right? Right!

A photo of an amur tiger at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of an Amur tiger at Whipsnade Zoo.
A photo of an Amur tiger at Whipsnade Zoo.

As for visiting during the pandemic... we visited on a weekday during term time, so it wasn't too busy, and we rarely needed to wear a mask outdoors, which was a relief as the weather was so hot. I just popped mine on whenever I got close to a crowd, which wasn't often. Face coverings were required in indoor exhibits, and in the gift shop, as expected, and it's something they're still encouraging now that legal restrictions have officially lifted, so remember to pack a mask. You'll find more information about visiting during Covid times on their website.

A photo of Asian elephants at Whipsnade Zoo.

We had a great day out at Whipsnade Zoo, and couldn't have asked for a nicer day. Cool animals, nature, sunshine, fresh air, ice cream, a new brooch... what a perfect way to spend a birthday. I'm already looking forward to our next visit, and now I've found a way to make the trip more manageable, I know it won't be long until we're back.

Well, you know me; I love a good trip to the zoo!

When was the last time you visited the zoo?

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