My Day at the Zoo, by Alex Sheppard (aged 23 and a half)

Remember when we came back from half term, we’d get to write stories about what we’d got up to over the holidays? My belated birthday trip would contain enough material for at least FIVE of those. I’d fill out a sheet of A4 and then some.

The BEST sign

My birthday surprise started with a pre-train ride brunch at The Breakfast Club. Not knowing what the day ahead had in store, I ordered the carbiest thing on the menu (pancakes, hash browns, various fried meats slathered in syrup). I’ll spare you an Instagram of TBC, but it’s a nostalgia overload. Particularly liked the My Little Pony wallpaper in the Ladies and the fact that our waitress wore a backwards baseball cap. We’re still not sure if she was being ironic.

Aside from early onset diabetes, brekky bought with it a clue to how we’ll be spending the day:

What could it mean!?

Then it was time to take a train to somewhere called Broxbourne, a mere 25 minutes from Liverpool St. Station. Once we were in the ‘burbs, a mini bus with a very chatty driver (do people ignore boundaries the further you get from Zone 1 or something?) took us to our destination: Paradise Wildlife Park! “So much to see…So much to ZOO!” said the tagline, and they weren’t wrong.

The main draw was a tour of the big cats, followed by afternoon tea (hence the clue). But we had time to kill so took in the main attractions in an eerily empty (of people, I mean) zoo. Like this chinchilla:

These amazing otters:

And a cockroach display that lets you stick your actual head inside. I wasn’t brave enough, but Sian seemed more than happy to try-OH GOD WHAT ARE THEY DOING TO HER

All in all, it was a wonderful belated birthday gift from Sian and brilliant way to start the week. Every Monday should have tigers and handsome zookeepers instead of spreadsheets.

Pictures all taken by Sian. I was too busy cooing over goats.

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