Thursday, 31 March 2016

Braving the monkeys at Longleat

Last week over the Easter break, we were both keen to escape chores by getting out of the house for a day. Friday seemed to be the only day with a half decent weather forecast which just left us to decide what to do. Andrew said he wasn't sure whether he wanted to see animals or look around a house, that's where the idea of visiting Longleat came from, it offered both!
Longleat House
We arrived at about 10.30 and queued for about half an hour to get to the ticket booth. We'd bought our tickets in advance to save a little money and soon had our etickets exchanged for paper versions. It was our first visit and we didn't know the layout of the site, but we'd heard that the safari can get very busy so planned to head there first. The safari is a little drive away from the rest of the site, but when we got to the next ticket booths, we were handed a CD and waved through. The CD was quite useful, there is a section about each species of animal that you'll see, you just have to remember to start and stop it at the appropriate times.

Our first stop was in the African Village for a comfort stop after our drive, via the giraffes at the entrance. We then had a wander through the Lemur Walkthrough and the Wallaby Wood before stopping to pick up drinks for the car. With that we headed into the safari park.
Lemurs always look like they're evil geniuses plotting some terrible plan

Andrew still can't drive at the moment and it was only once we'd entered the safari park that I realised how difficult it is to drive and take photos whilst looking out for wildlife, all at the same time. There were plenty of animals to see, we passed zebras, flamingos, tapirs and vultures before arriving at the bit that I'd both been dreading and looking forward to in equal quantities.
We queued for about half an hour to get into the Monkey Drive Thru, as they let a certain number of cars out before letting more in. Within about fifty metres of entering the drive through, we had our first monkey on the car. We got off surprisingly lightly, we had a fairly chilled monkey who seemed to treat us as an open top bus tour, he sat on the roof with the wind ruffling his fur, watching the world go by. He stayed for a while before wandering off. We had one youngster join us and give my car aerial a bit of a nibble, but it just added to the enjoyment of the day. We saw other cars with monkeys peering inside, or others with a monkey on each wing mirror. It was definitely the highpoint of the safari and something I'd be keen to do again, perhaps as a passenger next time though.
Monkey Drive Thru
Once we left the monkeys, we passed ostriches, camels and rhinos then drove through the deer park. You can stop and buy food to hand feed the deer, but we passed on that and instead headed on to the big cats; the tigers, lions and cheetahs before finishing with the wolves. 
Camel stampede!
Overall we were in the safari park for about two and a half hours, I couldn't believe that we were there so long! We were hungry by this point and so headed to the Orangery Cafe for a sandwich and drink. Afterwards we went to see the other animals in the area. There were stingray and penguins as well as butterflies and even a chance to handle a tarantula or snake if you so wished. The queues for the Jungle Cruise were a bit off-putting so we didn't make it over to see the gorillas or sea lions, but I'm sure we can do that next time.
Finally, we ended our visit with a wander around Longleat House. Visitors are only allowed access to a small proportion of the rooms and, as they tend to be in stately homes, they were dimly lit to preserve the contents. They did however give an indication of the grand nature of the house. With that we stopped for a final cup of tea to prepare us for the drive home.

I'd thoroughly recommend it as a day out, but definitely allow a full day if you want to see everything. We'll be back to brave the monkeys again and visit the gorillas. Now, if I could just find out where the red pandas were hiding, we can see them next time too!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

February round up

I'm not quite sure where February went, but I know it wasn't spent writing blog posts. Oops! 

Work has been a bit of a challenge as we had a couple of resignations and so have been furiously recruiting. It's all been a bit frantic, but I think we're almost there. 

My parents did their first house viewing as part of their plans to move closer to my brother and me, it was the first house viewing I've done as part of a team of five! It wasn't quite right for them, but you've got to start somewhere. 

Luckily, Andrew's on the mend. Bizarrely he's been discharged from hospital despite not being fully recovered, but everything is going in the right direction. He's planning to write a post about his operation once he's reached the end of treatment, so not one for those who are squeamish about eyes! 

We also caught up with a couple of friends over the month which has really nice, and is definitely a sign that he's well on the road to recovery. 

Unfortunately in one of the storms we lost a section of roof from one of our outbuildings. Andrew's done sterling work battling wtih the insurance company, now we just need to find someone to do the work. Luckily it seems to be watertight, but the longer it takes, the less sure I am that it will stay like that! It was apparently very impressive when the damage assessor turned up with what was effectively a camera on a very long selfie stick, operated by his mobile phone in his hand. Who needs aerial photos if you can have a selfie stick that extends further than your roof!
Storm damaged roof
Thanks Storm Imogen
As for how I'm doing against my plans for the year:

Read sixteen books
No progress on this, in fact I'd even forgotten it was something I'd planned to do, so I'm still on 1/16. We're off on holiday at the end of April, so I'll hopefully make some progress then.

Find one hundred geocaches
Well, we've made a start! We're now on 1/100 :) The one we did was actually quite fun, there were a number of sections of photographs which had been taken out our local Outlet Centre which you had a locate and then use the solutions to get to the final cache location. We had a false start initially as we'd make a mistake with the calculations. Honestly, you couldn't tell that we're both accountants!

Maintain Vitality gold status
At least this is one that I don't have to do anything about until the policy renews in May!

Try three gym classes
No progress on this as I'm still struggling with my sprained ankle. I've finally got my GP to refer me to Vitality, so hopefully I can get passed to a physiotherapist who can fix me so I can get back to regular exercise.

Meet up with an old friend
One of Andrew's school friends came to see us in February. It was really nice as he spends a lot of time out of the country so opportunities to see him are few and far between. He was passing on his way home from a meeting, so it worked perfectly. We also had a nice lunch in Bristol with a friend I used to work with. It was so nice to go to Bristol for something fun, rather than just medical appointments. 

Blog once a month
I didn't do so well with blog posts in February as in January, but maybe it's settling down to a more sustainable level?!

Watch a new film once a month
We went to see the new Dad's Army film on the day it was released, probably the first time I've ever seen a new film so quickly! Andrew was keen to see it and as it had Bill Nighy in it, I thought I'd give it a go. I'd probably best describe it as harmless. It passed a couple of hours and I even managed to have a nap in the middle without losing track of the plot!
Films for the year to date
My film viewing for the year to date
Take two holidays
We've booked a trip for the end of April, which I'm really looking forward to. As we're currently looking at getting a puppy, I'm not sure what will happen with our second holiday, it may just turn into puppy maternity leave!

Take six day trips
We've not ventured far from home, but had a bracing walk around Stanton Country Park one weekend. The skies were beautiful, but it was a properly chilly day. I just keep hoping that we'll have one weekend without rain or icy winds!
Stanton Country Park
The blue skies disguise how cold it really was!
It's starting to feel like spring is just around the corner, and I'm feeling a little bit like a caged animal so it can't come soon enough. I really want to get out and about, but hate trudging through mud whilst walking into an icy wind. Hopefully March will bring some weather which will encourage me to get out of the house more!