Events

A Weekend in Chester and the Festive Insta Mingle – Highlights of 2019

As 2019 is now over I thought I’d reflect on a couple of really good things that happened last year. I am also going to talk about an epic trip to Cheshire and I attended an event there. Before we go any further, a disclaimer – this post is in no way affiliated by that event, its organisers or its venue, and I wasn’t asked to write this. I’ll also show a goodie bag I got gifted when I was there.

Not a lot really happened with my house in 2019 except for the master bedroom being redone, mainly because of a garage conversion for my grandad to move into taking priority, and also a long period of personal difficulties now thankfully coming to an end. I’m not going to be too negative here, but basically a lot of it was severe anxiety and generally just poor mental health, causing me to go back into CBT again and losing interest in everything I typically do for enjoyment. It took a long time for me to get my life back on track again, but fighting and winning this battle was definitely a highlight of this year.

When I started to re-establish my presence on Instagram, I thought, why not attend an event somewhere where I can spend time physically with people on the same wavelength as me? I attended something like this last year in Leeds, called the Housewise Brunch, but that was over a year ago at that point and hadn’t gone to anything similar since. At around my birthday this year, one of my favourite accounts on insta, Helen (Homely Rose), posted about an upcoming event called the Festive Insta Mingle, a spin-off of her main Insta Mingle events but with more of a Christmas theme. I didn’t hesitate to buy a ticket, and as soon as one was in my possession, I set about planning a weekend away in Chester, which involved driving solo across seven counties, something I’d never done before.

The 16th of November seemed like a long time away, but I knew it would be here soon enough. It occurred to me that I hadn’t been away this year at all, and that I’d never been away on my own in my entire life, so I definitely stepped well and truly out of my comfort zone. I’d also heard many great things about Chester and some of the strongest friendships I’ve forged on Instagram have come from Cheshire, or not far from it, so the area already had significance and I knew it would be a good trip over. I’m also proud to say that I drove all the way there from my home in Norfolk, an eastern county, without needing a satnav, simply because I’d looked at the map so much prior to going and the sequence of road numbers became embedded in my memory.

Including time spent stopping for breaks at Leicester and Newcastle-under-Lyme, my journey to the hotel in the Boughton part of Chester took eight hours. It was dark by the time I arrived due to traffic near Chester, but in the final stage of my journey there was just enough daylight left to allow me to see much of this beautiful county, travelling through it on the A51 so my route took me past Nantwich and Crewe. The next day I was able to explore Chester itself and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was in awe.

Normally when I do something like this I just take a few photos and then just focus on enjoying the moment, but by the end of the weekend I’d taken 70. This 2,000-year-old city is by far the most beautiful place I have ever visited and I definitely agree with my Cestrian friends that it has a totally relaxed vibe to it while having everything you could want and more. I’d say anyone who lives here is truly blessed and quite honestly I didn’t want to leave. It might be 180 miles away from home, but Chester is now my favourite place.

Søstrene Grene, a shop insta pal Laura (Life on Jack Lane) recommended I visited. I took her advice and wanted to buy the whole shop! I bought some bits while I was there.

After spending hours exploring the city and its many shops (some of which are even double-decker), I made my way to Restaurant 1539, so called because it’s part of the racecourse and 1539 was the year horse racing started in Chester. This was also the venue for the Festive Insta Mingle.

John Lewis were among the companies giving presentations on how to style our homes for Christmas
My outfit for the occasion, taken in the hotel room that morning. I’ve got no idea how my trousers got creased on the way here…

I absolutely loved the Mingle and it was great to be able to get to chat with like-minded people in person. Helen was a fantastic host and she is so lovely to get to know, and I always enjoy watching her insta stories, seeing her beautiful interior decor photos and reading about what she does on her blog (one of which inspired something I’ve been doing recently, to be revealed soon!). I really enjoyed meeting her in person and she’s quickly become one of my top accounts. The presentations were great and there was plenty of time for chatting too, which I also enjoyed as while it’s great chatting to people on insta, real life is and always will be a different thing entirely, and it’s a great way to make friends too.

Oh and of course, the lovely goodie bags we all got!

The goodie bag and its contents from the event. Brands included in it were Wild Bramble Blooms, House of Lloyd Designs, Salt and Steel, Pam Peters Designs, Inside Out Wellness, Clarins, Jeffrey’s Tonic, Turtle Mat, Beauty and the Brow, Waitrose, John Lewis, Little Moniker, Industville, Cloud2Print, Words on the Wire and Tie a Wish.

When the night ended, I felt like I’d been there for a decent amount of time. It didn’t fly by like these things often do. A taxi whisked me back to the hotel and after uploading stories of the day to my insta, I turned in for the night as it was a tiring day, for all the right reasons.

The following morning was checking out time, but I wasn’t done. As a bonus, a friend of mine got in touch to say that she was having brunch with her friends in a garden centre called Bents, in Leigh, near Manchester, and I was invited. I’ve honestly never seen such a place in my life. It was beautiful, and went on for days!

Bents Garden Centre, with its seemingly endless displays of beautiful Christmas decorations

Finally, it was time to head home. I was genuinely sad to be coming home, but that’s how I know I’ve had a great time. I re-entered Cheshire on the M6 and on reaching the A500 I picked up the same route I took coming to Chester. The drive home was HARD, as I was really starting to tire out when I was approaching Leicester, it was raining hard, it was dark, and lots of cameras everywhere (I never break speed limits or run red lights, but these things can still happen accidentally!). I made it through though, even if I did annoy everyone doing 20mph the whole way through Leicester, and after my stop I got the second wind I needed to make it back home.

Some might think that all this was a long way to go for an event that was only a few hours long. That’s fair enough. But was it worth it? Absolutely. The Insta Mingle was a wonderful experience and for me, getting to physically meet other people on the same wavelength is a rare treat. Sadly, there isn’t really the same level of community here in the east and I wish I could get involved with this sort of thing more often. I guess that makes it all the more special when I do go, though.

Also, I’d never been away like this on my own before. I’d never driven this distance on my own, either. I got to explore a glorious city for the first time and also meet a friend that used to work near me but recently moved to Manchester. I felt like I’d achieved a lot, I enjoyed the whole experience and Cheshire left me with a very good impression.

I’d like to thank the whole of the team that made the Mingle happen as well, as I really did feel so supported when I was there and I would honestly go again. I got a real boost from it and I’ve come back into the interiors world stronger than ever as a result. Helen is a fantastic friend to have – she is so supportive and I am very grateful for what she does.

I am hoping to make another trip to the north west, in February, but this time it will probably be Manchester. There are places there I want to see, including a big home store called Housing Units that a lot of my friends have said many good things about. And let’s not forget the Trafford Centre. I explored this magical place with dad back in 2018 and it took us three hours just to explore the ground floor.

And lastly, one of my Christmas presents from my mum was a picture frame from Next. Though I brought back souvenirs, I wanted to honour this super weekend with my own creativity. On Boxing Day morning I designed my own print to go in the frame. The result? Here it is…

I’ll finish this by saying that this year I would like to start blogging more often if I can, and really get stuck into it all with getting involved with the wonderful home interiors community that exists on Instagram both online and in real life. I absolutely love expressing my creativity and making friends of similar interests. 2019 was all about picking myself up from a very difficult time and reconnecting with what I love doing. 2020 will be about capitalising on that momentum and enjoying life again as a result. Because, after all, tomorrow is never promised to anyone.

Here’s to a great year!

Laura

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