Four Countries in Four Days – Part One!

It was officially time for a Holiday. My stress meter was reaching high voltage levels. My usual (and very British) way of passively despising those around me was not doing the trick anymore. My ever growing habit of glaring with seething rage at fellow commuters as they noisily shovelled smelly snack products into their mouths INCHES FROM MY FACE had turned into a call for action. I realised that all of London was at risk if I did not get the hell out of Dodge ASAP.

It was time for a Holiday.

So we booked it in. And off we went. To the land of beer and Dragons! SLOVENIA! FTW!

Our good friend (and the best host we’ve ever had) Uros, drove an hour from Ljubljana and picked us up from the airport in Trieste, Italy because he is awesome and generous. We then drove into Piran for a little evening stroll through the tiny medieval town followed by one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.

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Dinner was unbelievable.

Aside from the beautiful bearded men…

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We dined by the sea…

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Cuttlefish salad…

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Squid ink Risotto of my dreams…

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Spaghetti with Clams…

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Jesus Christ. So delicious. It’s painful to look at these photo now.

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Prosciutto & Cheese Stuffed Squid.

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After a few Slovenian beers and finishing the delicious seafood feast, we decided to drive into Croatia to up the country count. We stopped at a very out of the way pub full of local fisherman in Umag and had a cheeky beer. We were sat outside despite the wintry evening temperatures and every 5 minutes the electricity went out and all you could see was a vast black sky full of stars. It was really neat.

This is the only proof of me being in Croatia!

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First day, so far sooooooooooo good! More from this trip to come soon! x

PUGS! London Monthly Pug Meetup @ Green Park!

AHHHHH!!!! The first Saturday of every month there is a gathering of pugs and pug owners in Green Park. I’m not entirely sure why it has taken so incredibly long for me to attend, but I have now corrected this cosmic mistake and will forever attend the monthly pug meets! I was so excited meeting these amazing creatures that I overzealously mishandled a puppy and sustained a minor eye injury. All in the game yo!

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Behold! Pugs galore! All shapes and sizes! All magical and super rad.

Princess Peppermint Sparklechops was ready for it.

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I certainly was. I picked up the first stranger pug I saw. MINE! HUGS! GIMME!

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Pepper is all “What the hell mom?” and I’m all “I CAN HUG ALL OF THE PUGS. DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. GO PLAY!”

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And off she went!!

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Puuuuuuuuggggggggzzzzzzzz…

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This is the slugger that did me eye in…

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Sir Noodles got some snuggles too…

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Pretty much the best day ever. Plum pugger’d out!

If you live in London and own a pug, why not join the rest of us crazies at one of London’s pug meetups? http://www.meetup.com/londonpugs/

See you there! x

Horniman Museum: An Afternoon of Delightful Curiosities

Frederick John Horniman was once the world’s biggest tea trader and an eccentric collector of vast curiosities with a passion for objects of great interest, culture and beauty.
His extensive and eclectic collection of priceless objects is now housed at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in the Forest Hill area of London.
We recently spent a quiet Saturday afternoon exploring the treasures within, and I (of course) brought along my camera so I could document these delightful and intriguing finds. Enjoy!

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Go see it for yourself!!! There was so much stuff but my camera is rubbish in low light! http://www.horniman.ac.uk/

Up Next: 4 countries in 4 days!

Kitchen Reveal!

We have finally finished remodelling the kitchen (for the most part). It still needs a lick of paint in a few spots where the wallpaper was peeled away for our new kitchen window to be installed. And we need a new and more modern breakfast table, but I’d say it is 99.9% finished and 100% perfect.

We had such a tough time deciding whether to pay tribute to our Edwardian home and go with a more rustic style or embrace a more clean and simple aesthetic. In the end, we went with modern! And Sparkly!

Before:

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And then updated to:

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And now I present to you our new beautiful massive London Kitchen of my dreams:

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It’s simply sparkletastic! I hope you like it as much as we do! x

(Staying) Home for the Holidays.

After the crazy/busy/wonderful/stressful
year we’ve had, all we wanted for Christmas was to kick our feet up and RELAX.

We didn’t go anywhere this year.
No Spain, no Cumbria, no Nashville.
Nope, not in 2013.
We’ve had a proper staycation.

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We bought a Christmas tree and hung up stockings and all that jazz.

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I’m not religious at all but I love Christmas decorations and the traditional bits associated with it.

Combine that with having this big old house that hasn’t been painted or decorated yet…I probably went a little crazy decking the halls.

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I only have 3 days left of my vacation and I’m pretty sad about it.
I’ve gotten used to eating meals with my husband (gasp!) and getting to accompany him on dog walks (what?!).

We’ve spent a lot of time watching films in and out of the cinema as well as working our way through The Wire (which is downright unbelievably good television).

My husband even made us a gorgeous Christmas dinner! Amazing!

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And because these are too fantastic not to share-here are a couple of astoundingly brilliant shots from the company Holiday party.
Can you guess the theme?

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We’ve been dog sitting a little muppet of a dog over the holidays as well so there are THREE pups in our pack currently. Lots of walks and lots of fun at Greenwich park.

Meet Cooper. The Fraggle.

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I took my camera along on one of our walks the other day to capture some more of the magic that is my new neighbourhood.
I seriously cannot believe I get to live in such a beautiful place.

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That view NEVER gets old.

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We made a few furry friends along the way.

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Simon and the pups at the top of One Tree Hill. Simply breathtaking.

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I know I’m very lucky. I love my life and especially the people and creatures that are part of it.

Wherever you are in the world I hope you are feeling the same way and enjoying all the beautiful things that make the world so magical. If it’s not going so well for you, take a deep breath and know that you are loved and that the New Year is just around the corner.
Draw a line under the bad stuff and get ready for a year of joy! xx

A little piece of home with The Cadillac Three…

Sometimes weeks go by where I barely think of my old life in Nashville. Sometimes it’s all-consuming and I get so swept up in the nostalgia that it’s all I can think about. That’s the tricky part about living in the same place for 28 years and then suddenly starting over in a new country. It doesn’t all just go away and get replaced by new things.
There are the new things and the old things, and sometimes they work against each other.

I don’t know when I’ll be home again and that upsets me a little.
I just try to focus on my life here and that works until I see photos of my niece and nephew or see another friend has announced a pregnancy or gotten engaged.

Another wedding I will surely miss. Another baby. Life goes on…

It’s sad, but it’s the choice I made and I’ve never regretted it for one second.

I think about it sometimes, if my husband just announced one day: “I’m ready for a quieter life! Let’s go live in Nashville!!!”

I’m not sure I’d want to go back and live there.
Part of me does because it’s so comfortable and familiar.
I know everyone and everyone knows me.
It would be so easy. Like your favourite flip-flops.
We’ve been through so much together Nashville and I.

I think perhaps I’ve outgrown it somehow and I’d actually feel a bit lost.
It’s impossible to say really. My opinion on the subject changes monthly.

I do miss my friends though. This never changes. And when friends come to London I get REALLY excited.

Recently, some friends I’ve known for half of my life came to play a few gigs in London and I went out to Camden to see them.

They’ve been playing music together since they were kids and although I’ve seen them in a lot of different bands over the years, this one (The Cadillac Three) is probably the most authentic and solid thing I’ve seen any of them do. https://www.facebook.com/TheCadillacThree?fref=ts

Or maybe this is just my favourite?

I will fess up and say that although I love Pecan Pie and Dolly Parton and I swear on Tara that I am a Southern girl through and through – I’m really not a huge Southern Rock fan.

I am however, very happy to report that their show was really really good and I had a blast.

Not just saying that! It was GREAT.

I actually almost flaked out on going because it was a school night and I knew it was going to take me an hour to get there and an hour back- but I seriously love these dudes so I made it happen and I’m glad for it.

Twas most excellent!

And yeah, of course I took some photos!

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Kelbs & I hanging after the show…

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See y’all later! xx

A Change of Scenery.

Howdy!

I am overjoyed to inform you that I am officially on Christmas Holiday as of today (yes I said holiday, not vacation).
I’ve finally assimilated! I have 11 days to do whatever I want and I’m going to try to spend as much of it as possible in yoga leggings eating clementines and watching films with my main squeeze and my cuddly pups.

A lot has transpired in the last few months since I’ve disappeared from my blog. We’ve sold our flat in Stockwell and bought an old Edwardian house in Greenwich/Blackheath.

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It’s basically the house I’ve dreamt about living in since I was 5 years old and started watching fluffy period films.

It’s also a reasonably big house so the dogs are pretty much in heaven and spend much of their day running up and down stairs and out the cat flap into the back garden so they can bark at EVERYTHING THAT MOVES. ;)

My work life has been hectic but spectacularly fun and rewarding. The business has been growing exponentially which has presented me with the opportunity to really hone my skills and stay challenged on a daily basis.
I also get to work with the raddest group of women and honestly love my fucking job.

I have also fallen madly in love with living in the UK and I feel much more at home here than I did last year around this time.
I know it’s hard to believe that I would have ever not been in love with London, but coming from Tennessee, London life got pretty exhausting pretty darn fast.

Living in a city the size of London can be intense regardless of where you are from. I am from Nashville, and I belly laugh at the thought of how I used to fume with rage sitting in traffic with my Starbucks latte listening to Fresh Air on NPR.

I had no idea. At least I didn’t have to share space with anyone!

In Nashville, you drive from point A to point B and you can sing loudly and badly in your car.
You can cry. Scream. No one is watching you.
This is your time. You and Terry Gross. You and your iced mocha.
Traffic or no traffic, you get to travel to work in privacy.

I remember those days fondly, but I think now I actually prefer not having to drive everywhere.
Not having to stop for gas or put air in my tires. I definitely don’t miss my monthly freak out because smoke is pouring out from under the hood of my poor car.

Nope. Now I just get on the train and am transported to my destination.

That being said, there are just so many people in London.
From the moment I leave my house in the morning and make my way to the train station I’m surrounded by them. People on public transport typically have complete disregard of anyone else around them.

There are also plenty of polite people that get out of their seats to let an elderly man sit but they are outweighed by the assholes, trust me.

It is also REALLY difficult to stay positive and think happy thoughts when it’s 8:00am and I’m standing with a 50 lb backpack squished against the wall of the train underneath the armpit of a guy reading a newspaper than keeps flapping into my face every time the train starts to sway a bit.

FLAP. FLAP. FLAP.

I actually slapped a paper out of a man’s hands once in protest and he seemed quite horrified, but I think I was secretly celebrated as a hero to everyone else that witnessed my tube rage.

Then there are the people towering over you with their disgusting bacon buttie morning breath, or even better those heart-warming individuals that want to share their breakfast experience with everyone on the tube. There they are-chomping away on their smelly baguettes from Upper Crust as I watch bits of sweet corn topple from their mouths and onto the puddles of their coffee already being sloshed all over my backpack.

LE SIGH.

All the while everyone exiting and entering the carriage is stepping on my toes as my face gets pushed deeper and deeper into the glass of the train door. At no point when I thought of my life at 30 did it include getting punched in the boob so often.

Sometimes I get lucky and I get a seat! Then you get to be wedged between two assholes blasting horrible top 40 shit on crappy headphones. But at least you are sitting!

You basically have to learn the public transportation game if you are going to be a successful commuter and not lose it on someone.

You’ve got to learn the ebb and flow of the trains/buses/tubes you take.

What carriages are usually less busy?

What part of the platform should I stand at so that the door opens to align with the exit tunnel at the station in order to saving me exactly 24 seconds of fighting through the herd of commuters to the escalators?

Don’t be lazy and be an escalator-stander. Save yourself another 45 seconds by walking up the left side.
Burn off some calories. Get out some aggression. Hold onto the hand rail.

Do be aware though that should you fall, they will step over your lifeless body. This will of course also be recorded on someone’s iPhone and posted to Youtube within the hour for you to revisit!

Commuting via public transport can be one of the single most stressful and infuriating experiences if you don’t do it right.
My journey every day consists of two trains, two buses, and two tube journeys to get me to work and back home.
Sometimes I just have to look at the floor in front of me when I’m walking because it is mentally taxing to look at any more faces. But I’ve gotten a good set of headphones and I never leave the house without at least 4 TV shows downloaded onto my iPhone ready to be watched. I check emails, troll facebook, read a good book. The key is to stay busy!

My commute to and from work has been made much more enjoyable now that I can just huddle in the corner of the train and watch Top Chef. I still get stepped on and bumped into, but at least I’m distracted by Tom Colicchio’s beautiful shiny head and it makes it all okay somehow.

Anyway, back to our recent move! We moved for a number of reasons. We were really annoyed with the neighbourhood we were living in. Aside from the fantastic people at the dog park, the rest of our neighbours were horrible and I dreaded my walk to the tube every day. There was a lot of litter everywhere, people were really anti-social, and it just wasn’t a pleasant experience.

We also needed a bigger space. We needed a place with a garden for the dogs. They have limitless energy and the 1st floor flat just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

We are now just a short walk to Greenwich Park which I have chronicled before when Becca visited…http://gimmeyummy.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/beccas-visit/

This is my happy place these days. This is where I go to unwind and decompress from the urban overload of my Monday-Friday routine. Here is a snapshot of how we spend our weekend in our new neighbourhood!

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View of London at dusk from One Tree Hill.

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Pups in flight…

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Queen Elizabeth’s Oak.

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Here is a little snippet from http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2007/12/queen-elizabeths-oak/ explaining why this tree is so special:

“Why Queen Elizabeth’s Oak? Because popular tradition reckons that Henry VIII sported with Anne Boleyn under its branches (well, ok, ‘danced’) and the fruit of his loins, the future QEI “oft partook of refreshments” in its shade. It’s not, by the way, the tree under which she was sitting eating an apple when she discovered she had been made Queen.”

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photo 1

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My husband has taught me this year that the key to living happily in London is about finding the right balance. 2014 will find me striving for this. I think by next year I’ll be an old pro at this city life thing, you wait and see. xx

You can never have too many ponies…

I remember the exact moment I realized that the magical sparkly world I lived in might be a big horrible lie. I was 6 years old and I had been seeing this commercial for weeks in between my much-cherished Saturday morning cartoons:

Omg. They fly. They are ponies that fly. Flutter Ponies. Holy shit. NEED.

I decided that I had to have a flutter pony more than anything in the world and eventually I wore my mother down and was soon standing in the “Barbie aisle” of Target (as I always called it).
AKA the “PINK aisle” (American girls you know what I’m talking about).

Anyway, there I am. A shiny naive six-year-old Jamie Susan. I’m rocking the SIDE PONYTAIL and I’ve got my SLIP-ON KEDS and I’m taking FOREVER carefully selecting my magical flutter pony.
Probably the most important decision of my life at this point.

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How do you choose a new best friend!?

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I picked the pale yellow one with pink hair. I don’t recall her name. But I couldn’t get out of Target fast enough to free her from her packaging and watch my new friend fly across the parking lot.

I literally threw her into the air. I watched with all of the hope in the universe. My pony was gonna flutter around my head like a butterfly and my life would be complete.

Instead, gravity ripped her from the air and she landed near my mom’s car with a loud plastic THUD.

I remember my mother gazing down at me with amazement on her face.

“Why did you do that??”

I looked at her incredulously. WHAT A STUPID QUESTION!

I can honestly still recall the sensation of my tiny angry face hurting from pinching it up in disdain and shock at my flutter pony’s poor performance.

“Moooooooooooom!!! She’s broken!!!” I bellowed.

“Oh Jamie.” She sighed. She picked up my poor flutter pony and handed it back to me.

The car ride home involved a long conversation about what you see on TV vs. reality.

This conversation was necessary I suppose, but it stabbed me in the heart as I clutched my stupid pony. I simply refused to believe that the Saturday Morning cartoon advertising THAT I TRUSTED AND APPRECIATED would lie to me this way. Don’t they know how awful it is to lie about whether or not a pony can fly?

LIFE LESSONS.

So, let’s speed up 24 years into the future of my life. I still love ponies. I love magic. I love fantasy. I am however, completely lacking of the beautiful naiveté I clutched onto as a child.

Aren’t we all…

Photography lets me tap into that little girl that believed all those glittery falacies and sometimes I get the opportunity to capture images that directly source those pure innocent feelings. It’s a gift I receive on a regular basis.

On a hike through New Forest, a few months back when the weather was still bitter and the Spring flowers were desperately trying to push through, I encountered ponies.
Velvety, soft and magnificent ponies. Gentle and wild all at the same time.
It was extraordinary and it made me feel very pleased to be alive and grateful for EVERYTHING good in the world.

I also found some super fluffy sheep and some delightful foresty bits.

Enjoy!

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Towards the middle of the day, after hiking for a couple of wintry hours, we stopped in Burley for lunch and I saw this in a shop window…

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This immediately reached in and dredged the whole bittersweet flutter pony childhood tale from my memory banks.

And then on the last leg of the hike, I climbed over mounds of prickly bushes and through deep pockets of mud just to say hello without trying to “capture the moment”…

My husband pulled out his iPhone just at the right time and snapped this sweet little blurry shot of me COMPLETELY in my element.

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Life is beautiful folks.
Even in a world where plastic ponies don’t actually fly. xx

RHS Wisley

I’ve always loved flowers and plants in general, but I never really SAW them for what they are until I got into photography. Suddenly all of these mesmerizing geometric patterns and abstract neon art designs suddenly became available to me. And then I couldn’t stop noticing everything everywhere. The deep cracks within the bark on trees. Discarded snail shells. Contrast. Colour. Light. Shadow.
It has become my therapy, my inspiration and my passion.
If you aren’t into flora and fauna, look away now. Because I’m about to lay it on heavy. If you are however, I hope you enjoy this feast of bontanical porn from my recent trip to RHS Wisley in Guildford.

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See?? Rainbows and magic and all of that…

Next up…More ponies and forest treats…

The worst zoo I’ve ever been to, the most spectacular landscape in England, and parking lot ponies…

I have a love/hate relationship with zoos.
As an animal lover (and I use this lightly as I’m probably more of a fanatic than a lover) I appreciate the opportunity to see animals. Anytime, anywhere…I’m game.
Hahaha. See what I did there???

Oy vey.

Anywayyyyy…I’ve only been to one animal park where I didn’t feel like the animals were sad and bored and miserable. See here: http://gimmeyummy.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/the-lake-district-and-lemurs/ And here: http://gimmeyummy.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/parental-invasion/

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Recently this Safari park made the news because this happened: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/24/tiger-mauls-zoo-worker-cumbria

This made me very sad because I love this place dearly. It doesn’t feel like a zoo and they are so incredibly dedicated to animal conservation. But they are wild animals…so I suppose these things happen.

All of that being said, when researching fun things we could hit up on the drive back to London, I saw that there was a “world famous” zoo in Dartmoor as featured in the film “We Bought a Zoo”

http://www.dartmoorzoo.org/

I remembered that Jonsi did the soundtrack for this film and I though I haven’t actually seen the film, the website for the real-life zoo made it sound like a wonderland of zoological proportions. It also bragged about how great it was for photographers because the animal enclosures were so close up. I was exceptionally excited!

Cue disappointment.

First, there were hardly any animals. Half of the exhibits were empty. No indication given as to why. It was like touring an abandoned zoo. When we did actually find animals, they were very very far away.

I used my super duper zoom lens to capture this. We were squinting to make out what animals these were from about a football field away.

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And granted, those are big fat adorable Capybaras. But after seeing them…from a mile away…there was about 15 minutes of walked past completely empty exhibits until we found a clearly distressed racoon pacing in circles in a very tiny little chain linked space. Screaming like he was on fire. It was fucking grim.
Needless to say I didn’t photograph the poor guy.

The petting zoo area was fenced off in such a way that you couldn’t actually pet anything. We watched as family after family pushed their prams through the muddy path only to find out that all the animals were 50 feet from the fence and you could not enter to actually pet them.

We watched as couple after couple tried to explain to their incredibly disappointed children on the way back through the mud that “they don’t know why the goats are so far away” and “they don’t know where all the animals are…”

BUMMER.

I did get a couple photos.

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The Cheetah exhibit was the only only exhibit where you could actually get uninterrupted photos.
The Lion & Tiger enclosures were small and surrounded by chainlink on all sides.

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The whole experience just made me feel horrible to be human.

I just looked at the zoo map online again and I’m simply puzzled. Where were all these animals?

We thought about asking for our money back, but then realized that Dartmoor Zoo definitely needed that money more than us. Sheesh.

We were at the Zoo for about 45 minutes. I’m not even joking. We walked back to the carpark in complete silence. Once inside the car we just sort of looked at one another in a state of shock and grumpily continued our journey home.

Thankfully, we decided to cut through Dartmoor National Park and the day was SAVED!!!

SAVED BY SHEEP!!!

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SAVED BY PONIES!!!

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My husband is brilliant at spotting things way before I see them (because of his super sharp astronaut vision) And he was able to see ponies congregating in a carpark off the side of the road in time for us to hang a sharp right and park the car amongst them.

These ponies were the most ultra chilled out group of ponies I have ever met.

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I’d say they were “stoner ponies” if such a thing existed because they were M-E-L-L-O-W.

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Check out the utter disbelief on my face.

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Followed by complete happiness…

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After more time petting ponies than we had probably spent in the Dartmoor Zoo, I reluctantly got back in the car, blowing air-kisses at my new fluffy gypsy friends as we pulled back out onto the main road.

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Thinking I had seen it all, that the day was not only saved but could not get much better, I made another friend by the side of the road!

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Also mega-laidback and happy to be hugged.

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GLASS HALF FULL!

Next up…RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey