Amsterdam Calling

Some people wake up after a heavy night on the tiles unable to remember what they did the evening before. Not me though, no, no, no. In my kooky world I send letters to people and completely forget that I’d even written them, let alone what I’d written. That’s normal to me.

Take this recent letter for example sent to none other than the Amsterdam Tourist Board shortly after returning back to the UK post city break in the Dutch capital.

Dear Sir or Madam,

At any given time there are three things you need to know about me: 1) I do not have any fingerprints, 2) it is not a proper cup of coffee until I have spilt it everywhere 3) I used to share a house with a mermaid.

Curious? I would be.

It is a funny old situation when one chooses to travel alone. In this day and age you would have thought ‘fem power’ would have made it perfectly acceptable to exclaim to the world “I am a single female and happy to travel in my own company!” Instead of getting the weird looks I did at 08:00 at Kings Cross station. But then again I used to think it was normal to request a cake that just fallen to the floor if it meant I got a 50% discount (turns out there is this thing called ‘Food Standards’ that prevents that sort of thing happening, sigh).

I am probably setting myself out on the wrong foot, so let me backtrack a little. Less than a month ago I decided I was done with Brexit but also desperate to explore somewhere before the border gates went onto lockdown. Having also visited Bruges the November before I made the decision to hop onto the Eurostar once more and enjoy a four-day retreat in the Dutch capital. There was no strong reasoning behind the location, it was close to hand and I heard you guys had some awesome cultural shizz going on over there. I booked my tickets and excitedly looked forward to my arrival in the centre of Amsterdam.

I do not know how but five minutes after arriving I think I got high. In hindsight this does not surprise me much, given the only thing I have ever attempted to smoke was a cigarette in the beer garden of a nightclub in 2015 and that ended disastrously. At the time however I did not know what to make of all the smokers and the loud British people (by the way I am sorry all our men are loud, if I could stop them I would), so that by the time I found my hotel I was quite exhausted and wondering what on earth I had signed myself up for. Ever been to Bruges in Belgium? Amsterdam is probably the complete opposite as cities go (I would advise not pairing your tourist offices).

However, that being said over the course of my time in Amsterdam I had such a wonderful stay and the weather was glorious. I took great smugness as showing off my sun tan to my English friends on my return, especially when I heard they had experienced a lot of rain in my absence (in the UK it is common courtesy to discuss and compare the weather at length – true fact). I went to so many places and almost on every occasion the locals made me feel incredibly welcomed and wanted, despite being I suppose out of sorts with the groups of drunk men, loved up couples and stoned gap year students. I went to far too many places to list in this letter however I have created several light-hearted videos for my blog page, My Housemate’s a Mermaid, which I would encourage you to watch (I would attach them here, but unfortunately technology has not quite caught up yet to let me print off videos – still waiting for Apple and Google to pitch that idea to investors).

Yours Faithfully,

Alice E. Bennett

Now I’d completely forgotten I’d sent that on 23/04/19 until last week my inbox lit up with the following message.

Dear Alice,

Thank you for your letter. I read it with great pleasure, as it is a rare phenomenon these days. That is probably why it only reached me yesterday. It was, however, a bit of a disappointment that when I get the odd physical letter, it is not hand written 😉

What you ask or offer is not entirely clear to me, but I have watched your travel vlog. I enjoyed it, but it’s a too personal perspective for us to share. But I invite you to follow our social media channels and share what you feel like sharing with us. Who knows we’ll be a match in the future.

Thanks for your letter, keep up the writing and blogging and enjoy it. And of course we hope to see you in our beautiful city in the future. Just give me a heads up – preferably hand written with a fountain pen on parchment paper – and I’ll make sure we’ll have a little welcome gift ready for you in our store.

Regards/Vriendelijke groet,

Bas Timmermans, Editor in Chief Online

So there you go, one step closer to becoming a global brand and coincidentally one step closer to visiting Amsterdam again just for a mystery gift.

Day Two and Still Here: Parental Visit to London (Continued)

(View part one of my parent’s visit to London here.)


I met my parents in near the same spot as we’d parted the night before, outside a quaint little Starbucks housed in a building originally built to mark the Queen’s silver Jubilee in 1977. Not that we thought much of the buildings intended significance as we walked over the commemorative plaque in the entranceway. We took our large Americanos and admired the unusually peaceful view of the marina. Yards away Monday morning commute was in full flow, but here we were settled from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It reminded me of how days off should be spent, sunglasses in hair, enjoyable company and a mouthful of guilt-free cake for breakfast.

After coffee I led the way over Tower Bridge, stopping briefly to let Mum take photos on her camera phone. Given the frequency I utilise the tourist trap crossing the leisurely tourist stroll pace felt very much at odds with the route march, shopping on shoulder, approach I took every other day. Further along the South Bank I diverted Mum and Dad through Borough Market for an idea of how one of the main city markets looked and worked which in the same manner as St Katherine’s and Tower Bridge, was welcomed more positively for the lack of humans first thing in the morning.

West and West we went, ambling along the Southern promenade of the Thames until we reached the Tate Modern. I’d forewarned my parents about the type and medium of the exhibitions on display at this popular art gallery, but regardless they were keen to experience it for themselves. Who would I be as a local and tour guide if I ignored the requests of my guests?

Given my Father’s occupation in the Horological sphere, a trip to the worldly famous (or a least that’s what the advert said) film screening ‘The Clock’ was a must. A 24 hour film comprised of the artist painstakingly going through footage to get clips of every minute of every hour. The viewership spoke for themselves, at midday on a Monday the film screening room was about a third full, people sat in rows in front of a large cinema screen. I gestured for Mum and Dad to do the same as we walked in but they decided to remain standing on the back wall nearest to the door. We watched clips for 12:35, 12:36 and 12:37 before Dad decided he’d had enough and walked out, myself and Mum following.

“They’re all watching that film so seriously!” Dad said with amazement as we waited for the lift to arrive. “Did you see them in those chairs?”

“But don’t you see how that could be art?” I said in defence. “That someone has spent hours, months or years even trawling through footage to find a clip of that exact minute. There can’t be two 12:35s in place of zero 12:44s. The investment of time is worth something surely?”

Dad mumbled something under his breath which I took to meaning he respected but rejected my view. In a later room he made similar remarks about some lengthy pieces of brown leather that were hung from the ceiling. He defied how anyone could view this as art.

“Well what do you interpret art as being then?” Mum challenged as we moved across into a room covered floor to ceiling in printed mantras.

“Something of meaning, something of value and something I can’t do.” He gestured to the confined room we stood in, his finger ironically coming to point at one statement which read ‘stupid people shouldn’t breed’. “This is not art.”

“Well I quite like it in a weird way” Mum countered. Her acknowledgement in the face of Dad’s strong reservations surprised me, it was as if they were different people with different views. Unnerving.

After the Tate we retraced our steps and stopped off for lunch at a historic pub called The Anchor. Historic in that it’s rich history included visitations from Samuel Pepys and Edward Jenner and owned by The National Trust, modern in that it was being managed by the Greene King pub chain. Meters away from a shrine room dedicated to Jenner, city folk were chinking glasses on the rooftop terrace to celebrate successful business meetings.

“Does anyone do any work around here?” Dad commented as he reflected on the number of people he’d seen in coffee shops earlier in the day.

“It’s how they do things here,” Mum said flippantly. “It was in a copy of The Telegraph a few weeks ago, even interviews take place in coffee bars nowadays.”

For the second time in as many hours I held my tongue and sipped on my pint of cider. Was Mum becoming Londonised?

Before long all three of us were polishing up our plates and having to think of what we’d been trying to ignore all morning; that eventually my parents were going to have to get back to Paddington to catch the last pre-peak train back to the Cotswolds. Before that though there was just enough time to showcase of the City’s most iconic buildings.

“And there is Saint Paul’s Cathedral” said as we began walking across the pedestrian bridge.

“Isn’t this the bridge that wobbled when people walked across it?” Dad asked.

“Well yes, but that was when they opened it originally, it’s long past that time now and perfectly safe to cross.”

“I’m not stopping on this bridge. I don’t like bridges like this.” Mum announced as she started walking across the bridge. At first she clutched the handrail but realising that fellow tourists hogged the bar for selfies she opted instead for the London commuter approach, to storm down the middle without even pausing to look at the view. She waited patiently on the secure concrete bankside for myself and Dad to catch up and end our conversation about something so trivial I cannot remember what it was about.

“And there is Saint Paul’s” I repeated. Dad was, at first, disappointed there wasn’t the time to go in, replaced by disgust when I told him the ticket price.

“The outside is fine enough.”

Briefly stopping on a bench in the cathedral grounds we observed an Asian bride and groom having staged wedding photos done in one of the doorways, Mum and I hissed at Dad when he accidentally-purposely walked through one of their photo set ups, and then we moved on. By the time I’d shown them the restaurant location for the Channel Four reality series First Dates (which oddly got a better reception than the cathedral) we had to head back to Paddington station via the Central and Bakerloo Tube lines.

“You didn’t have to come with us back to the station,” Dad said, “we’d have been fine on our own.”

Mum looked at me from the seat almost directly opposite. She shook her head subtly so Dad wouldn’t notice and mouthed “no”. As well as seeing them off safe I had no issues with staying with them that bit longer. After all, on my day off I hardly had any other pressing engagements to attend.

I waited with my parents at the station until their platform was announced and then walked them up to the train doors where their seats were ready and reserved for them.

“Thank you so much for showing us round London these past couple of days,” Mum said. “I don’t think we’d have managed without you.”

“We’d have been fine with my map reading skills!” Dad quipped from behind.

“Thank you anyway. We’ll definitely have to visit you again.”

“Definitely do.”

“We are really proud of you, you know?” Dad said as he stepped forward. “What you’ve achieved and what you’re doing, you don’t know how much it means to your Mother and I to see you doing so well for yourself here. And Wapping is such a nice place to be living. We’re just very happy for you.”

“Thanks Dad” I said, trying to not dwell too long on the sentiment for fear of breaking a tear or two. Instead I gave each of them a big hug and told them I loved them both and that I’d text as soon as I got back to the flat and that I’d visit home very soon.

They hopped onto their carriage and I turned on my heel back down the lengthy marble platform. The old-fashioned door slammed and, in just as cold and brutal a manner, our physical connection was cut.

Half an hour later I arrived at my eastward flat as they were speeding in a westerly direction outside Slough. I was wondering what to do with myself when my phone lit up with a familiar notification. A half smile on my lips, I reignited the familiar bond once again.


Blenheim Palace: The Unofficial Guide

Happy September 1st!!

(What do you mean September 1st isn’t a national holiday? It needs to be, more than anything because papa Bennett hates this song and lil bub Bennett and I would get immense joy from being allowed to play it on repeat one day a year. We need to make it happen.)

Anyway, back to the point at hand, on Sunday myself and the family visited Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. A place reowned for its rich history and splendour.



The entrance fee for the day was a whopping £92 (for that price I was expecting to take home a memento piece of silver or maybe a priceless piece of artwork, but to my utter shock even that wasn’t included in the price). To make up for this we refused to buy the official guidebook opting instead to make our own way round without the use of a guide. While we were looking around I suddenly had one of my amazing brainwaves. Why don’t I create a simple, unofficial guide which people can use FOR FREE. After all, I’m renowned for my ability to convey serious, factual information in a captivating way which never goes off the point. Camera and budding assistant (India) in hand, I got to work on producing a new, improved guide. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Blenheim Palace: The Unofficial Guide.

The Exterior

Blenheim was built in the 17th century although over the years it has been extended. The exterior of the palace is very grand. By being grand the palace sent a powerful message: “Oi, monarchy, don’t be messing with us, we’ve got a fine pad too.”


The most recent part of the exterior probably dates from around 1948, when the Duke of Marlbrough took a fancy to the works of Orwell:


There is also ample space for adopting the middle aged man position:

Top Tip: There’s a lot of gravel outside the front, but us oiks aren’t allowed to walk across most of it. Stick to the central section which is disinfected every night.


For a comprehensive summary of the palace’s exterior, check out this useful video where India will tour you around the important features of the palace’s architecture.

In short, there are invisible birds, flies everywhere and there is a risk you might slip through a time hole and be transported back to the Victorian era (Blenheim accepts no responsibility should the latter occur).

Inside the Palace

Inside their are two different tours of the house. The first is titled ‘Blenheim Untold’. This is an exhibition which features holograms, information boards and scary mannequins. Be warned, you will be in a room with a naked Barbara Villiers where you won’t know where to look or how to feel:


The author can’t speak for the rest of the world, but as someone who had a morbid fear of museum mannequins for about 15 years and still doesn’t like them I would thoroughly avoid traumatising your child with such a sight.

There’s also a random cake model of Blenheim Palace here. Made in the 1970s, it was the first ever Bake Off show stopper.


(Still didn’t get star baker though)

The other part of the house open to the public is a self lead affair. There are several lovely tapestries, including this one titled “What the gentlemen did while a historic battle was being fought elsewhere alias what we did on our holidays



“My, my, what a wonderful day for watching a battle”

“Indeed sir it is. It looks so much fun down there what with the blood and fighting and all. I was briefly tempted to follow them, but then I realised that I was an aristocrat and the feeling passed. Is it lunch served yet?”


“Hey everyone, when you get a moment I’d really appreciate it if you could check out these battle plans I drew up. If you could check them out before some civilians get killed that would be great.”





There’s also some fancy silver dinner sets that only get used on Christmas day (i.e. marvel at our wealth peasants).


And there are a lot of art pieces in the rooms too. Below are a selection of personal favourites (apologises in advance for photo quality):

The first ever mother, baby selfie:


“This better get at least 10 likes”

The world record holder for sideburns:


The wife of Donkey from Shrek being crushed by a memorial:



Her death is mourned by many


There’s a massive sculpture to in the library, as you do.


You know that feeling when you’re just so fed up of having your portrait taken? There’s even a lovely art piece that summarises the feeling:


Author Recommends: The portrait of Churchill and a horse found towards the end of the Winston Churchill exhibition.

“Mum, mum! You’ll never guess what! I’m going to be in a painting with Winston Churchill! I’ve been posing for hours but it’ll be worth it. I told you I’d do our family proud.”



Top Tip: Check out this mini radiator in the library. Not for any reason in partiuclar, just check it out:


That’s not gonna dry anyone’s socks out or heat a room but I’ll let it slide because it’s so dam tiny. Cute!

Oh, and there are also hats:



The gardens outside are nice:


A nice garden.

Top Tip: Watch out for stating the obvious signs, e.g. one that tells you not to go beyond this point when beyond this point in a sheer drop.


The garden has some pretty flowers in it:


Pretty flowers.

It also has the first example of photo-shopping in England.


As my assistant demonstrates, posing for such sculptures was a very hard job to do:


Top Tip: There are a lot of good paths for amateur runners.

The grounds contain an attractive man-made cascade with nature-made swan…


…and a bridge nearby that leads to no where (much to the author’s bafflement).


The garden also provides many opportunities for the keen photobomber:



Author Recommends: dancing in front of one of the door ways for no reason:

Has to be done.

Pleasure Gardens

There are some funky butterflies in the pleasure garden:




Funky butterflies.

There is also a maze:


Which floods very easily:


Top Tip: Do not be put off by the puddles. Take a sip of tea, man up and enter:


(In case readers doubted my love of tea)

The maze contains many twisty sections, two bridges and a monster who jumps out at you (otherwise known as dad)

However that said, it was a fun experience (even if the author was beaten by her younger sibling).

Comments Book

Where would any tourist attraction be without its comments book? Lets take a moment to view some of the comments that will always be part of Blenheim’s rich tapestry.

When you’re so happy and excited about something that last word turns in a blur:


The very British comment:

WP_20150830_13_29_59_Pro“It was ok, not that good” Age 57

(what a unique name)

Comments from the intergalactic ambassadors:



And finally, the comment that speaks for everyone:


Great tunez they indeed were.

So, to sum up, Blenheim Palace has a lot of art, plants and a dying dragon. Shame about the lack of a free guidebook but then most normal people do actually buy them. That said, this unofficial guide should now fill that gap in the market (you’re welcome). Fun for all the family, a great day out and I’d thoroughly recommend it to all. Can think of absolutely no problems or faults with it at all, keep it the same for forever.

Overall rating: Two Stars.