My Kind of Christmas – A Look Back

I’ve been writing this blog for 8.5 years and so as you can imagine, I’ve covered Christmas quite a lot, and a fair few times. Back in 2013 (and before I knew that Blogmas existed) I wrote a Christmas related post for every day of advent.

It was fairly hard to do since I had to think of 24 different subjects to write on, all on the theme of Christmas. And this was before I was interested in beauty, before gift guides were commonplace on a blog, and long before advent calendars offered anything more than a chocolate behind the door.

I called it Shutterbug’s Advent Calendar – my friend even made a pretty graphic for me!

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Isn’t it lovely?

Instead of re-hashing what I’ve already written, I thought I might share some of my older posts with you, interspersed with some of the photographs I’ve taken over the years, celebrating the festive season!

So, here we go!:

What’s A Traditional Christmas? (click to read)

In this post from 2012 I talk about what Christmas entailed traditionally for me growing up.

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The Christmas Queen’s Guide To Gift Buying(click to read)

In this post from 2010, I offer my hints and tips for finding the perfect Christmas gift – and 7 years on it’s still relevant! If you’re struggling to find the perfect gift, then head over for some festive inspiration.

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Christmas In A Day (click to read)

As part of my 2013 advent calendar posts, I discussed that year’s Sainsburys advert, which pulled clips from a short film called Christmas In A Day. I say short, it’s just under 50 minutes long, but it’s worth every single minute. The video is still up on YouTube so I’d urge you to click on the video link in the post, grab a cup of something warm and settle in for a film that will give you all the feels. I’ll be honest, I totally forgot about this film, so I’m really pleased I unearthed it in this post. I’ll be giving it another watch this year, for sure.

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Favourite Christmas Movies (click to read)

It wouldn’t be a Shutterbug Christmas without me sharing my all time favourite Christmas movies. You’ll find them in this 2013 post, and they’re still the ones I’d pick!

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Christmas Eve Eve (click to read)

Here’s a post about what could possibly be my favourite day of the Christmas run-up, Christmas Eve Eve!

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Fun Times at Winter Wonderland (click to read)

Last year we made our annual trip to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, and I blogged about it (in fact I also vlogged it, and that video is at the end of the post!) So if you’re interested to see what I got up to, then take a look at this post.

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead (click to read)

This post was actually published at the very end of last year, but it mentions Christmas and New Year traditions we have in our home, and was highly requested by followers on twitter. Each year we write a letter to ourselves and look back and forward on the year past and year ahead. If you’d like to read about this new tradition, then click the link above!

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I hope you enjoy a little look back on my thoughts on Christmas from over the last聽8 years. Christmas really is my favourite time of year.

I’m lucky to have a medium to enable me to look back and see what was happening in Christmases past. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too!

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Hosting a Share A Meal for World Vision UK

Back in September I shared World Vision UK’s latest campaign, Share A Meal. If you missed that post, head back if you want to read all about it.

This past weekend was my turn to host my Share A Meal meal, and I decided to make it Italian themed! Since my guests were vegetarian and I make a darn good tomato linguine (if I do say so myself!), it made sense to build a menu based on that!

Our new kitchen is a very social space, so I started the cooking once we’d settled in, whacked on a playlist on our Echo and we took the time to catch up whilst I cooked.

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Using my trusty Le Creuset pan (I love that thing!) I was able to make dinner easily, all in one pot which saved on the washing up and meant everything was a lot simpler.

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I chose to serve non alcoholic white wine, since I knew if I started drinking whilst I was cooking, we’d be eating burnt mush by the end!

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Dinner was served (albeit sloppily!) and we all had the opportunity to think about the simplicity of the food we were eating, in the comfort of a cosy house and how by eating this meal and coming together we could be helping people who were less fortunate than us.

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Next course was Sicilian lemon tarts, which I’ll admit were not made by me, but by Mr Iceland…..

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They were rather tasty nevertheless!

We finished the meal off with espresso martinis, though the creation of these was a little eventful when my makeshift cocktail shaker (a cheap Starbucks sippy cup) developed a large crack in the bottom and thus my kitchen sink got a good drink of our martinis….

Alls well that ends well, though, as my Costa sippy cup acted as a back-up and we ended up with some so-so martinis that still tasted good even if they didn’t look exactly how I wanted them (I think I need to invest in an actual cocktail shaker!)

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As the evening wound down, conversation turned to how my guests could use this meal to help World Vision UK. By visiting the Share A Meal site and clicking the Donate Now button, my guests can donate the value of their meal to World Vision UK. These donations will go towards helping vulnerable children in Uganda, who can’t feed themselves. No child should go without food and safety, so this money will help to provide a little more to those who need it.

At this time of year, when people are gathering together and sharing good food, it’s so easy to make your gathering a charitable one. For less than you’d pay for a meal out, by donating the cost of the meal you’ve eaten (or hosted) to World Vision UK, you’ll be making a difference.

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And don’t forget, by hosting, you could end up winning a meal cooked for you by star baker Selasi!

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See the World Vision UK Share A Meal site for more details on how you could win!

If you decide to host a Share A Meal event, I’d love to hear all about it. Please let me know in the comments!

 

EVENT PHOTO PROVIDED BY WORLD VISION UK. ALL OTHER PHOTOS ARE MY OWN.

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

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I’m back! And this week I have been mostly recovering from much delayed jet lag!

We had an AMAZING time in Florida, so good that we’re already trying to work out how we can go back next year. (I accidentally wrote ‘next week’… wouldn’t that be grand?!)

I was back to work last week, and it’s Christmas in full swing for my job-role, so it was nice to get stuck back into it.

As you know, I don’t go for full blow-by-blow posts when I return from a trip, but I will be posting some Florida related posts in the coming weeks. A few hints and tips for things to do when you’re not visiting the parks every day, and also a post on some of the beauty products I picked up whilst I was away.

If you want to catch up on photos from the trip, head over to my instagram. I also did quite a bit of insta-live whilst I was away. If you missed those, make sure you’re following me, because I enjoyed it so much I might just do it again.

I’ve gotta say I didn’t do any filming for YouTube whilst I was away, because I’d much rather enjoy my holiday than feel like I’m ‘working’ it. In fact I didn’t touch my camera the whole trip – my iPhone was my camera and did the trick 100% of the time.

So, a little bit about the trip. We stayed with some friends whilst we were there, and had a list of things we wanted to do – and we did EVERYTHING on the list.

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I was very pleased that we managed to do everything we wanted to do, and still felt like we had down-time during the trip.

We ate some amazing food

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We got to go to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

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We went SHOPPING!

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Florida is a wonderful state, and I really do feel like Orlando is like a second home. It’s got a little bit of everything you’d want.

Anyhow, now I’m back, and Halloween is over. It’s Guy Fawkes night tonight, and that means tomorrow begins full-blown Christmas. It’s one of my favourite times of year, so bring on the glitter, lights, food and music. Bring on the festive films and festivities!

What Striving to be More Tolerant has Taught Me

One of my new year’s resolutions last year was to fix something that had started bothering me about myself.

I’ve never been a particularly tolerant person, and I used to justify it as me just standing up for myself. But over the last few years I had started to feel petty, bitter and nasty. It was making me feel unhappy about myself, and I realised I was becoming a not very nice person.

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I would see friends, calm and collected, non-judgemental and supportive and wonder how I could be like that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a beast. I’m supportive but I could see a side of me I didn’t like. I would jump to assumptions about people, gossip and scoff at things I didn’t understand or were different from me. I wouldn’t listen and I wouldn’t learn.

So I made a conscious effort to change my behaviour. Instead of immediately jumping to an assumption about someone, I thought about things from their side. Before I scoffed at a trait or behaviour, I found out a little bit more about it.

It’s made me feel calmer and happier about myself. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a way to go, and I could never claim to be a saint. I have times where I snap back to old behaviours, when I’m tired or stressed or caught up in the moment. But those will change with time, I hope.

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I hate it when someone belittles me for something I’m passionate about, or tries to make a scene about something they don’t understand (even if they think they do) so why would I do the same? And when someone does behave like that towards me, I can now sit and reason it with myself, deal with the bad feelings it’s given me and move on. I don’t retaliate, or have that burning feeling that I have to defend myself for too long. And afterwards I can remind myself I’m a good person, and getting better every day.

It all boils down to the golden rule, do as you would be done by.

I’m pleased I took a step back and thought about what I didn’t like about myself and made a change. I hope I stay on this journey as long as it takes to become a better me!

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This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

I didn’t really want to follow my last post with another post about moving house, but let’s be real – when you move house it pretty much takes over your life. It IS your life.

We’re in, we’re feeling settled and we’re almost unpacked. Which is amazing, and more than I could have hoped.

The actual moving weekend was mega stressful and I’m not going to lie – I never want to move again. Which is what I said the last time, but something tells me this house is more of a keeper.

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Over on instagram I’ve been sharing elements of the house. Once it’s more finished I’ll share some more but until now, head over there to see tidbits going forward.

But the house is amazing, I’m very much revelling in the fact that I have a dishwasher once more. And even though by square foot this house is smaller than the last, it feels so much bigger. The space is useable and well-planned out. The kitchen is the star of the house and since it’s such a social space, I’m really looking forward to having people over once we’ve got our dining table in. I’m in love!

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Other than moving I’ve been doing a lot of catching up on tv I missed when we were packed up, which is great because I’m having to force myself to STOP UNPACKING every waking second. So we’ve watched all of Twin Peaks (omg) and have started re-watching The Wire again. I think I might dedicate a whole post to Twin Peaks – not that there’s really a huge amount of coherent writing to be had on that subject, but we’ll see. Great British Bake Off is back, as is Dr Foster and American Horror Story (though I’m not too keen on the first episode I saw of this…. I’m not a fan of clowns.)

So my posts will start to feel a little more normal going forward. I’ve got some exciting stuff coming up and some exciting projects I’m working on, so keep your eyes peeled for those. If you’re a fan of Halloween and scary movies I have some posts, I’m really looking forward to writing, in the pipeline and of course there’s my trip to Orlando to look forward to!

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If you don’t already follow me on other social platforms, you can find me on twitter as @Shutterbug_Blog on instagram as groggits and on YouTube at the Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug channel. So follow me over there too, for stuff as and when it happens!

Until next time 馃檪

I’m Moving House!

At the time of writing this, I’m in a house surrounded by boxes. I have no idea where anything is. Half of my belongings are in storage, and I can only hope I have kept back enough underwear for the next few weeks. (Yes, I own a washing machine, so we should be cool)

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(I definitely won’t miss that avocado bathroom suite…..)

By the time you read this, with any luck we should be moved into our new home. And fingers crossed we’re mostly unpacked!

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This move has been a whole year in the making. From deciding to put the house on the market when we returned home from Orlando last year, to now being moved in. It’s been a hard 12 months with ups and downs, stresses and uncertainties. But now we’re here.

We did it!

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The last handful of posts you’ve read on Musings had been pre-written and scheduled so I didn’t need to worry about writing, or whether there’d be internet to post. But now we’re in I’m hoping that this new chapter in my home life will begin a new chapter for this blog and my social media channels.

I’m excited, and I hope you are too! Stay tuned!

 

When Fear of Missing Out, Turns to Burn Out

It’s safe to say I’m on the older end of the age spectrum compared with most of the bloggers I come across. I’m still shocked when I hear bloggers I follow talk about taking their GCSEs.

I guess it’s only a shock because way back when I was doing my exams, it was really really geeky to own a computer, let alone admit that you used the internet.

These days everyone appears to have a background in marketing. Kids know how to brand themselves from 16, so as soon as they’re allowed an instagram account, they’ve got their ‘thang’ going and they’re hitting all the likes, follows and they just *know* how to maximise hashtags.

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But one of the things I’m noticing on twitter more and more, is young bloggers asking how people manage to blog, maintain their social accounts AND work either full-time or complete a degree, without burning out or one of these aspects suffering.

I work full-time, I run a blog full-time, instagram and YouTube, as well as managing two twitter accounts. And it’s not easy. But I realise where things need to give in order for me to maintain a balance.

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And I put that insight into knowing how to manage these things, down the different kind of world I grew up. When I was growing up FOMO (or Fear of Missing Out) didn’t really exist for me. The world wasn’t so accessible. You couldn’t find out anything and everything just by picking up a device. As a result you missed out on things. Most of the time I didn’t find out about the thing I’d missed out on until after the fact – I just didn’t know they were happening.

And so now, with knowledge at our finger tips, it’s easy to be tempted into things. Notifications on Facebook telling us that people we know are off to events nearby. Twitter telling us about fun Blogging meet-ups and events. Twitter chats every night – sometimes so many, I’ve been known to participate in multiple chats at once.

But it’s knowing where and when to step back.

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My full-time job is more important that my hobby. It’s how I pay for a lifestyle that allows me to blog, buy fun things and attend awesome events. For a while I was trying to do it all; twitter chats 4 times a week after a full day looking at screens at my job, blogging every weekend (including photos), posting a YouTube video weekly. It all got too much and too tiring, and the schedule that I’d set for myself became a chore. I could feel the first inklings of resentment creeping in.

So I took a step back. I decided to schedule multiple blog posts ahead of time, so I would be able to have weekends off. I decided it was time to reduce time spent on my older twitter account and just focus on one. I stopped YouTube altogether, and decided to take a break until things at home settled a bit. I stopped taking part in ALL the Twitter chats, and only did the ones with subjects that really interested me, or when I was at a loose end.

The result was a more relaxed, less tired Erin. I was also able to spend more time with my husband, who is TOTALLY supportive of my blogging hobby btw. But I realised on nights I was taking part in twitter chats, I was totally ignoring him. I missed him, and we’d been sat right next to each other.

Taking this step back meant that when I was writing articles, I was enjoying it more. I was able to take more time in what I was writing, and I wasn’t just doing it for the sake of hitting a schedule.

It’s so important to remember you don’t have to do it all, in order to feel part of something. If you’re at University and you’re not able to post according to a schedule you’ve set, then change your schedule. If your IRL social life interferes with taking part in a twitter chat, so what? We’ll still be there next week – go live your life. No one worth following you is going to mind if you miss a normal posting day. Plus you’ll have fun stuff to write about next time!

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So, if you’re one of those people who sits down at their laptop and wonders how you’re going to stay awake or motivated enough to write AND live your life – go live it. You’re not going to be missing out if you’re taking YOU-time. Sit and smell the roses, and then come back when you’re ready.

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You’ll feel amazing for it, and you’ll realise that life carries on without you – in the best possible way!

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

It’s been both a busy and quiet few weeks. As you can see from my blog posts, I’ve been busy writing content, and I have been working alongside a few brands to bring more to you over the next few months.

I’m trying hard to save money at the moment, so I haven’t really been out and about. I did, however, make a little splurge, and pick up an Amazon Echo during their Prime Day, for around half off.

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We use one at work, so I knew I wanted one for my home, and we’ve been using it every day since we received it (it arrived on Same-Day delivery – I love Amazon sometimes!)

We’ve also watched a few movies and TV shows. We’ve just started watching Breaking Bad – only a few episodes in but I’m enjoying it so far. We re-watched The Night Of, which is a fantastic HBO series. There aren’t too many episodes, but they’re riveting.

I also watched a film called Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. It was good whilst we were watching it, but it ended a little abruptly and I couldn’t get on board with the female character. And we finally watched Drive, which again features Ryan Gosling. I can’t get over how much I loved this film. The direction, the music, the acting. So so good. I really must buy it so I can watch it over and over. It was reminiscent of so many things for me – comic book shot framing, Grand Theft Auto, Scarface. I swear I didn’t breathe through the whole of one scene and my hard was thumping in my chest. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d definitely recommend it if you’re a fan of any of those influences.

I’ve also been working on a few creative projects, which may or may not come to fruition. We’ll see, but if they do, I’ll be sure to let you know on here!

I’m also edging ever closer to 1k followers on twitter, and once I do, I’ve planned to hold a giveaway so if that interests you, don’t forget to go and follow me. I’m found at @Shutterbug_Blog.

And I think that’s it for now. Hoping to have a proper life update and news for you soon, so keep ’em peeled!

Adulting & Growing Old: What Adults Never Told You When You Were Young

I’m coming up to 34 years old next month, and I have to be honest, I still feel 19 in my head. I think I always will.

I’ve been blessed with a young-looking face, and people always think I’m about 6 years younger than I actually am. I used to hate this but now I like it, and I hope it doesn’t change.

Me and my husband used to look at photos of when we had first met and compare them with current ones, then comment on how we hadn’t changed. But now we look at those same pictures and notice a massive difference. I’m getting old! Not really, but I’m definitely looking older.

Last week I found my first white hair – not grey, white – and I was so happy. I love the idea of getting older, and I feel like I’ve hit another milestone. I’ve been looking for greys for a while now, but since I dye my hair (and have done since I was 16) I rarely see my natural colour. For some reason this time around, my mousey-roots making an appearance hasn’t bothered me so I’m holding out dying my hair until I snap back into hating it again. My plan is that if my hair goes white I won’t have to dye or highlight it any more. I’m aware that won’t work, but let me dream for a while.

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When I was a kid, I knew that as soon as I hit 18 I’d be an adult and have it all sussed out. But along with no one telling you how much aftercare having a tattoo takes and what REALLY goes on when you give birth, it’s one of those things that people don’t tell you when you’re a kid and leave you to work out yourself;

You’ll never really feel like an adult. (Shh don’t tell the kids).

I often see a term banded around on twitter – ‘Adulting’, and I think it’s perfect. For example “I had pizza for breakfast #adulting” or “Spent the afternoon doing my accounts, and now I’m off to a wine bar #adulting” It’s used perfectly to illustrate the psyche of an ‘adult’ who has the brain of a teenager doing things they feel that can or should do but not quite feeling like an adult.

I’ve always said that I never want to feel like an adult. If I start feeling that way, things will be dull and boring and I will have lost the fun. I also say you’re never truly old until you hit about 80, so I’ve got some time to go.

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You spend your young life learning how to be when you’re thrust out into the big wild world, but you never really stop learning. You can continue to educate yourself both academically and by learning from experience and the experience of others. Everyone you meet teaches you something about people and about yourself. You never stop making mistakes, learning from them and choosing which path to take.

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I find growing older to be the biggest adventure. It’s exciting. I want to be a sponge taking it all in, adapting myself to it and moving on to the next thing. I know a lot of people who went through a funk when they hit 30, but I was the most excited. This year I turn 34 and whilst I’m not so keen with my skin changing, my ability to go out in the evening on a ‘school night’ diminishing and my life responsibilities going up, I still know there’s so much ahead of me. There’s time to learn, change, experience and move forward. There are people I haven’t met, places I haven’t seen and so many things I need to learn about myself.

Who wouldn’t want to move forward and experience all of that?

Playing Tourist with London Duck Tours

If you’re a regular reader of mine you’ll know I’m a big fan of London, and visit whenever I can – especially in Summer. So when I was asked whether I wanted to play tourist and go on a London Duck Tour, the answer was a resounding YES!

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I’d heard of Duck Tours before but wasn’t really sure what they were, having just seen the big yellow boat-like vehicles cruising through the streets of London. I was definitely intrigued. Me and hubby arrived at the Southbank on the day of our tour, and basked in the gorgeous sunshine until our transport arrived.

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The DUKW vehicles (affectionately referred to as Ducks and painted an appropriate yellow) are so-called thus: D = First year of production code 鈥淒鈥 is for 1942, U = Body style 鈥淯鈥 utility truck (amphibious), K = Front wheel drive, W = Two rear driving wheels (tandem axle). These vehicles were used to carry supplies and were most suited for this due to being able to go on both land and water. Fitted with a lovely roof, they are very accommodating on both grey and gloriously sunny days.

We hopped onto our Duck, Titania (all the Ducks are names after female characters from Shakespeare plays) and got comfy in our seats. Our tour guide Mark quickly gave us a brief of the journey ahead and then we were off!

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The tour started in Waterloo, then Westminster;

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Parliament Street, Whitehall, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, Piccadilly;

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Grosvenor Place and Buckingham Palace, MI5 and Lambeth Bridge before splashing down into the Thames next to MI6.

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We then travelled by water past the Tate Gallery, underneath Lambert Bridge and then turned around beside the Houses Of Parliament before heading back to dry land. Back on solid ground, we passed through the Vauxhall area and then back towards Waterloo.

Considering I’m a regular visitor to London, it was great learning so much about places I’ve seen many times, as well as noticing things I’ve never seen before and travelling through parts of the city I’ve never seen. I even learned that the Thames isn’t as dirty as I’d once thought, and its only the colour it is due to the constant churning of clay and soil on its bed. Who knew?! (Well, obviously Mark, our guide knew….)

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I loved the tour. Our guide was informative, funny and really knew his stuff. I honestly felt like I was on holiday, and the time we spent on the water was so relaxing!

I’m so pleased I got the opportunity to take this tour. I’ve seen that London Duck Tours also do themed tours including James Bond and D-Day. I might have to look those up! I visit London so frequently it’s so easy to forget about the landscape and history surrounding you in such a fast-paced environment. I LOVED playing tourist!

I was given the opportunity to take this tour for free by London Duck Tours, but at under 拢30 per adult ticket I’d say it’s worth every penny, for such a unique way to see and learn about London. You can find out more about their tours, and buy tickets and vouchers here, at their website London Duck Tours

Have you ever been on one of these tours, or even one of their themed tours? I’d love to know what you thought. Leave me a comment below, and tell me about it!

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I was given two tickets to the London Duck Tours for free, in return for my honest review of the experience. All views are my own and totally unbiased. If you like the look of the tours, go try one and see for yourself!