Friday was such a strange morning. There were unexpected (to me anyway) results, lots of huge changes to come for Europe and the World as we know it and yet some things stayed the same. I surprised myself by running on automatic and still boarding the train for London and BritMums Live (albeit with hot tears in my eyes).
The Montcalm at the Brewery
I stayed at The Montcalm at the Brewery where I fell into this luxury boutique hotel looking like I'd just run the London Marathon (maybe I should have caught a cab instead of taking the tube and legging it?). I also should have remembered that hotels like this take a deposit of your card on arrival. I think I need more "practice" at staying in luxury hotels!
Anyway as well as being a little bit posh, this hotel was very welcoming and friendly, so I did relax after checking in.
Each room has everything you could need- tea and coffee facilities, a mini bar, iron (and ironing board), hair dryer, safe, Elemis miniatures, white robe, slippers and extra touches like a box of chocolate and turn down service (with a chocolate left on each pillow). I had to gift these of course due to the dairy but they did look lovely.
I dropped my bags into the room and ran back downstairs to meet the others for afternoon tea.
We were invited to an afternoon tea by Coca Cola GB. There were tiers of fresh scones, sandwiches and delicious cakes and a vegan option for me.
My fruit salad was so pretty, almost too pretty to eat, but I managed it!
We were then told about the different types of Coca-Cola available:
Coca-Cola Classic: the original and iconic cola invented in 1886
Coca-Cola Life: a lower sugar cola with sweetness from natural sources
Diet Coke: which has a lighter taste and is also sugar free.
and their new Coca-Cola (to replace Coca-Cola Zero): Coca-Cola Zero Sugar which tastes like classic cola but with zero sugar .
We were given the chance to blind test the drinks. I was positive that I would immediately know the taste of Coca-Cola Classic and Diet Coke but in fact I only got Diet Coke right (not a surprise as it's the one I drink most of).
Everyone had different favourites which shows that there is a Coca-Cola for everyone. As well as cutting down on the sugar, they work hard to keep the good taste- otherwise nobody would drink it. It's not an easy task, but one that Coca-Cola were the first soft drinks company to commit to.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear that all the Coca-Cola in the UK is actually made here and the sugar is grown in East Anglia.
Community and Sustainability
We then heard about Coca-Cola's community and sustainability work, a lot of these I have come across in real life, such as Park Lives , where Coca-Cola are working with their community partner StreetGames to bring ParkLives to new locations and young people in disadvantaged communities across the UK, including Swansea.
They are also founding partners for the Special Olympics, which will next take place in Sheffield 2017. The Special Olympics transform lives through the joy of sport, every day, everywhere. They are the world’s largest sports organisation for people with intellectual disabilities. Many of Danny's friends from gym are currently training for Sheffield- it's an amazing opportunity for them!
The one aspect of Coca-Cola that has most concerned me in the past was hearing how much water it takes to make the equivalent amount of Coca-Cola. It was reassuring to hear that they have already taken steps to greatly reduce the amount of water used and are heading towards their goal of being water neutral by 2020.
The 5by20 scheme is also interesting, Coca-Cola have made a global commitment to enable the economic empowerment of five million female entrepreneurs by 2020.
Our tea was very enlightening and certainly gave me food for thought. It was lovely to meet Liska, Michelle, Mari and Al as well as the lovely Coca-Cola crew too.
At the end of our session we were invited to bring any leftover food with us. It was only then that I noticed that there was a plate of vegan sandwiches there for me- I thought I only had the lovely fruit salad! Oops!
The Holiday Inn Fringe Party
This year BritMums Live took place on one day as opposed to two but as there was still a get together on the Friday night this didn't make any difference to me. I was going to take the tube to Camden but found out that Steph and Clare were about to grab a cab so I ran up the road and travelled with them (thanks ladies!). We arrived to a drinks reception and lots of familiar friendly faces- it was a lovely night from the start, I just wish it had gone on longer.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Camden Lock a few weeks back so regular readers will recognise this view although this time the photo is taken from the lower floor.
The party took part in The Glasshouse which has tall glass panels and overlooks the lock. This gives the room an airy, spacious feel and makes you feel like you're right "aboard the water".
There was a lovely holiday vibe socialising on the balcony in Camden. It was a really nice night weather wise too.
We were in good company. This event was smaller than the main Brit Mums so easier to talk to more or less everyone there (sorry to anyone that I didn't). It felt a bit like being at a family party as more friends kept entering the room.
Time flies when you're having fun and all too soon the party was over- in fact we were the last ones to leave! I had to snap Steph as she was the final person to leave the room- she's such a party animal!
We took the tube back to All Bar One to meet up with other bloggers. Again there were lots of hugs as we spotted even more blogging friends.
I was so pleased to see Laura. I had a huge catch up with her and spoke to her for ages before realising that just behind her were lots of other Welsh bloggers that I'd been dying to meet up with. I felt embarrassed that I'd accidentally ignored them for a while but also so happy to see them all in one room in London- it was amazing!
We had a good catch up and learnt more about Snapchat from each other than we ever could in an organised session (it was really useful). I joined Snapchat ages ago but didn't ever get into it, but with the addition of "Stories" I love it. I'm usually a fair weather Snapchatter but inspired by my friends I'm going to try and share more here (I'm EvansCrittenMum if you'd like to follow me).
On Saturday morning I met up with Fritha and Jess for breakfast at the Jugged Hare, it was lovely to see Fritha and Mabli and to meet Jess for the first time. I felt too excited to eat properly so just had a bowl of fruit and tea. Fritha and Jess went to check out but I didn't need to go back to the hotel so went straight to The Brewery which was right next door. I love standing there and taking in the atmosphere as hundreds of bloggers start accumulating in the courtyard. It's a bit like all the new wizard students turning up to a new term at Hogwarts or the yearly gathering of "The Witches" in Bournemouth -not that I'm comparing any of us bloggers to witches of course (!), but instead comparing the occasional meeting of like minded people, while all the non blogging folk wonder what's going on.
We registered, had coffee and it began. "Brit Mums you are live" Kirsty Pelling, of Poet in Motion and also The Family Adventure Project, spoke out in her commissioned poem to celebrate their 5th Birthday. We cheered and smiled, and Brit Mums was indeed live...
And then we cried. I spotted Anne-Marie Cockburn sitting opposite me as she was being introduced I tried to send a smile her way to let her know that she wasn't alone in the heartbreaking speech she was about to make. I hope it reached her.
The photo of Martha spoke volumes to me. I kept staring at it and taking in her beautiful image.
Martha lived for just 5,742 days, 7 hours and 26 minutes.
On 20th July 2013 she swallowed 1/2 a gram of powder that was 91% ecstasy. She died two hours later from an accidental overdose.
Ann-Marie spoke beautiful and meaning words. She has since wrote a book about a mother's journey through loss and now campaigns tirelessly to take dangerous drugs out of the hands of criminals and to prevent other parents becoming as she says "me". It was an emotional, inspiring talk and we will never forget Martha and Anne -Marie's powerful words.
Julie Creffield from Too Fat To Run was also inspiring, not that I need inspiration to run but I always need a reminder!
The main thing that I took from this inspirational short were five ways to achieve your "Big Fat Stupid Goals" and this can be applied to any aspect of life:
1. Face your fears.
2. Create good habits.
3. Build a team.
4. Improve technique.
5. Celebrate your successes.
Next up was a game of pass the parcel with Merci Maman. This was really good fun and we have now decided that Pass the parcel is more suited for us grown ups than kids- there were no tantrums or tears and we all managed to pass the parcel around with no snatching! I enjoyed playing with Leanne and Sarah.
And also the lovely Kerry who was lucky enough to win (so exciting!).
The personalised motto necklaces with engraved inspirational quotes were stunning- such a lovely idea (take a closer look on another winner, Alison's instagram).
During the coffee break I popped over to see the Coca-Cola GB crew again.
The lovely people from Costa Brava tempted us with local food such as Coca de Saint Joan, a traditional cake, made and eaten on the Eve of St Joan, which takes place every 23rd June.
We continued with the holiday theme by visiting the Boots Soltan Photo Booth.
You've got to love a photo booth!
I shared my kindness pledge on the Clangers Kindness Tree as part of their #ClangersforKindness campaign.
There was a festival vibe going on in The Caravan Club's The Big Little Tent Festival (BLTF) lounge.
'll be starting the celebrations with their own festival on 16 July, but "we want you top it and host your own one-night Big Little Tent Festival any day you like between 16 July and the 19 September."
We will be joining in, especially as the kids love camping in the garden.
I also visited the Costa Barcelona and Diputació Barcelona stand but sadly I missed their session where they were making pa amb tomaquet.
Next it was pub time and we headed back to All Bar One. While there, the weather changed dramatically, there was thunder and then heavy showers of rain. Luckily it eased slightly for us to walk back to the Brewery.
Party Time and the BIBs
The planned outdoor courtyard party was brought indoors. It was sponsored by Kate and Mim-Mim hence the photo (my youngest was so excited to see this) and also Asda Extra Special.
After the party we sat down to listen to a chat with Cherry Healey (hilarious!), the varied Bloggers Keynote speakers (and singers!) (they made me laugh, cry, think and wonder) and then the BIBs Awards Ceremony presented by Carol Smilie. Well done to all the nominees and of course all of the winners!
We then returned to All Bar One (that was the theme of the weekend!) for food. I was pleased to see a vegan dish on the menu, the Miso Rice Bowl, which was delicious and nourishing after a busy day. I need to make Miso Soup again soon too (the vegans' "chicken soup for the soul").
Then it was time to say our goodbyes and go home or back to hotels. It was so lovely to have had time to catch up with Alison, Gillian, Helen and far too many amazing bloggers to mention.
Personally, I felt like this BritMums Live had the friendliest and most supportive vibe of all the previous ones I've been to. I noticed people looking out for individuals that they spotted on their own and immediately bringing them into a group. Jen and Susanna as always were so welcoming, caring and did a great job of organising #BML16, well done ladies!
I have come away from the weekend inspired for many reasons, see you all next year?
Thank you so much to my sponsor Coca-Cola GB for inviting me to BritMums Live.