Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Our Tomorrowland Journey Part 2 - The Gathering.

In the first part of our Tomorrowland Journey I talked about tickets, the Global Journey experience, and The Montagoe Area - our section of the Dreamville camping village. And you can check that post out HERE.

Today, though, in this second post, I'm going to talk about the pre-festival party that is The Gathering...

The Gathering

This is, as I just said before, a pre-festival party held on the Thursday night at the Marketplace in Dreamville. You can only attend The Gathering if you have Full Madness/Comfort Passes to the festival + Dreamville accomodation. If you're staying in a hostel/hotel or only coming on a day pass then you can't attend.

At The Gathering
And, I have to say, I was quite impressed with The Gathering. It really did feel like a mini-festival in itself, although, I have to admit, with that day's stupid heat it took us about an hour to walk there from The Montagoe because we had to keep stopping to sit down and find some shade and summon up the energy to walk a little further. The first thing we did once we got there was find somewhere to sit down, buy water, then food (the pizza in Dreamville was AMAZING!), and then the heaven's opened and it rained, which arrived to cheers in the queue I was standing in at the time for water. That rain made the conditions a little more bearable, and it was only a short shower, so once that was over, and we'd eaten and re-hydrated ourselves, we were ready to go!

Yves Deruyter was playing at this point, and he was good! This was where we had our first jump around, although we didn't go too crazy with the dancing. It was still quite hot! I think the secret with The Gathering is to try and pace yourself. It's quite easy to see how people get carried away, after all, it's the start of a weekend-long party, but being older we knew we had to take a step back, in reality, or we risked peaking too early! 😅😅

The Gathering
Anyway, after Yves Deruyter MANDY played a set - a female hardstyle DJ who really managed to whip up the crowd. She was followed by Robert Falcon, I think, some of that night is now a blur! And then it was time for the first of 3 surprise acts lined up for the evening - Netsky! Although not really my thing, he was much better live than he was when we were just watching his sets at home, and the lighting was amazing! Lasers and fireworks shooting up into the sky, there was no expense spared.

After Netsky, it was the act I'd been waiting for - Regi vs  Yves V. I was back up and dancing for a bit now we'd had a beer and a short rest. Next, it was surprise act number 2 - Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano. They aren't our favourites, but we hung around because we were curious as to who surprise act number 3 would be, and to be honest, it was nice to just sit down, soak up the atmosphere, and listen to some music while watching people go crazy! Mind you, a lot of them were sitting down, just like us, by this time. The heat, the travelling, it was all starting to catch up with a lot of us, I think. You kind of live on adrenaline and excitement for a long time, but once you sit down your body starts to tell you it's knackered! 😆 Others, however, weren't listening to their bodies and were really going for it! There were, as was to be expected, a lot of drunk (possibly drugged-up) people around, but we saw no trouble. The atmosphere was all good, from our perspective. People were friendly, on the whole, just excited to be there, I think. We did, however, witness one young lad being carried away by medics after someone alerted security to the fact he hadn't moved in a while. I have no idea if he was OK or not, but I hope he was. Maybe he'd just partied too hard too fast, a lot of people seemed to be doing that. We also witnessed a lot of people arriving really late, dragging their cases and camping equipment through The Marketplace as late as 1 am. I know that, because of the adverse weather, there'd been a lot of train/flight delays and cancellations, so this probably explained a good many of the late arrivals. But it made me glad we'd had an early, hassle-free flight and had been in our Relax Room by 3 pm. We'd had time for a (cold) shower and a little nap before we'd headed over to The Gathering. I can't imagine what it must've been like trying to pitch a tent in the dark, so I didn't envy that job at all. I was just looking forward to going back to The Montagoe and getting my head down!

The Gathering at night
So, anyway, the final surprise act of the night? It was W&W! And I actually really like W& W, although, to be honest, I prefer their alter ego NWYR, and because we were planning on seeing NWYR at the festival itself we decided to listen to the first half of W&W's set and then head back to The Montagoe. And we stayed seated, we really were starting to get tired by this point. I mean, I think it was around 1 in the morning by the time the last act came on, and we'd been up since 6 0'clock, had a long day of travelling, and the overwhelming heat hadn't helped anything, so we felt there was no shame in bailing early from the party.

Tomorrowland did a really good job of The Gathering, though. The stage was impressive, the sound incredible, and the lighting effects were amazing to watch! And The Marketplace itself was so much bigger than I thought it would be. Here there are lots of shops and stores from a bakery to a hair salon to a Carrefour supermarket. There are also loads of food and drink stands, and on that particular day, because of the heat, one of the drinks stands was doing buy one get one free on water. Of which we drank a LOT! There are lots of places to sit down and eat, and two huge fountains that were crammed with people from bottom to top once the bigger acts started playing. I wish I'd taken more photographs, to be honest, but I was too busy taking it all in. I also wished I'd spent a bit more time at the Marketplace, I was only there that night for The Gathering. But I think a lot of that has to do with the distance it is from The Montagoe. It's about a half hour walk (double that in the extreme heat!) so it's quite a way, especially with the weather we experienced over the course of the weekend, and we kind of had everything we needed back at The Montagoe Area so there never seemed a reason to head back there. However, if we go back next year (and we are planning on doing that, if we can get tickets) I think I'd like to visit The Marketplace on a normal day, when The Gathering isn't taking place. Let's hope we get to do that in 2020. 😊

Anyway, all in all, The Gathering really does set you up for the festival to come. And after a very hot, but very good nonetheless, night's sleep back in our Relax Room, we were raring to get to the festival itself on Friday.

Join me for Part 3 of our Tomorrowland Journey where I'll be talking about the festival itself, the stages, the food, and... the weather! 😮


Michelle x

Our Tomorrowland Journey Part 1 - How we got our tickets, the Global Journey experience, and arrival at Dreamville.

So, we've just got back from Tomorrowland 2019. Did we have a good time? Of course we did! This festival is one I don't think anyone who's been can ever forget, but how easy was it to acquire the tickets in the first place? And what happened when the time finally came to head off to Belgium?

In this first post chronicling our Tomorrowland journey I'm going to talk about how we got our tickets, our Global Journey experience, and what it was like arriving at Dreamville, and hopefully this might prove useful to anyone thinking about going to the festival in 2020.


Getting Tickets

Acquiring a ticket for Tomorrowland is notorioulsy hard. Fact. Getting a ticket through either the Pre-sale or the Worldwide ticket sale is a lottery - there are those who have managed to get tickets no problem this way for a number of years where others have been constantly unlucky. But there is an almost guaranteed way to acquire a ticket - and I say almost guaranteed because even this way is becoming a little more difficult as the years go on, apparently. Choosing the Global Journey option is your best bet, though, and this is the route we took. Tickets do take a little longer to sell-out but I'd still say it's best to be ready and online for when the shop opens if you want to stand the best chance of getting the package you really want. Oh, and I should mention that to buy tickets for Tomorrowland you need a Tomorrowland account, which is very easy to set up. Just go to the official Tomorrowland websiteHERE - click create account, and within minutes you're done. This is necessary, because you're also required to pre-register around December time in order for you to be able to try and buy tickets when the sales start in January/February.

Anyway, we went for the Relax Room (2 people) with Full Madness Passes and flights from Birmingham to Brussels. It took about an hour to finally get through to the shop, choose our option and pay, but that was because the site kept crashing. We got there in the end, and I have to say, choosing this option really does lessen the ticket-buying stress, especially as the Global Journey packages go on sale around a week or two before the Pre-sale and Worldwide ticket sales


However, you will pay more, but as far as I was concerned that extra cost was worth it to know that we had our tickets, and that our journey to Tomorrowland would be a lot easier than if we were making our own way there. Which brings me on to the next thing I want to talk about...

The Global Journey Experience

Honestly, it was stress-free from start to finish. We got to the airport, checked in our hold luggage (my husband and me had already checked in online the day before to make sure we got seats together), and once we were through security it was just a short wait before we headed down to the departure gate and straight onto the plane. Our flight wasn't one of the few designated Party Flights Tomorrowland organise, but the majority of the people on the plane were going to the festival, and even though we'd expected it to be a pretty noisy flight we were wrong. It was probably the most relaxed flight we've ever taken. Everyone was excited, yes, and maybe it was the stupidly hot weather but it was just such a calm, chilled journey.


We were given a Tomorrowland newspaper, and a small Global Journey themed drawstring bag that contained some snacks and a can of Iced Tea - which was very welcome - and then settled back for one of the shortest flights I've ever taken, just 50 minutes from Birmingham to Brussels.

Once at Brussels Airport we knew we had to look out for the Global Journey desks, and found them situated right next to baggage reclaim, which is handy. Each desk is labelled with a different country, so you find the desk of the country you've just flown in from, show your ID, and you're then handed an envelope containing some information and your shuttle bracelet. The shuttle bracelet must be worn at all times, so it's clear you're part of Global Journey and therefore entitled to use the shuttle buses provided.

So, once our bags were collected, we then followed the many signs that are around the airport directing us to the shuttle buses outside, honestly, it couldn't be any easier. There are Tomorrowland staff everywhere, it's impossible to get lost. And, thankfully, because of the weather, they were handing out free bottles of water left, right and centre, which was a godsend!

The first (non-air-conditioned) bus we boarded took us to a site just a 5 minute drive away where we were all then transferred onto an air conditioned coach for the half hour(ish) journey to Dreamville, but not before we were given Global Journey goodie bags containing a Tomorrowland dice game and a beautiful little travel journal and pen. We were also given more water and, if we wanted, we could also take an apple to eat on the journey to Dreamville. I think the heat had sapped some of my appetite, though, so I just chose to sit back, chill out and watch the world go by.

En-route we passed many houses - and businesses - with Tomorrowland flags hanging outside, there were even people sitting outside (it was one of the hottest days in Belgian history when we arrived!) having mini parties of their own, waving to us as we drove past, you could already feel the atmosphere building! It also proves how much the residents of the aptly-named little town of Boom, where the festival is held, take it to their hearts, getting involved in their own ways. It's just another thing that makes Tomorrowland so different.

Arriving at Dreamville
On arrival at Dreamville, we were dropped off just a short walk away from the entrance, but the heat made that walk feel longer, especially when you're dragging luggage behind you, but once there, we found the Global Journey info desk outside Dreamville, and they directed us toward The Montagoe Area, where we had to go to check in to our accomodation. All of this took about half an hour, but then we finally had the keys to our Relax Room in our hand, and were being directed to what would become our home for the next four nights.

Relax Rooms are, basically, like a shipping container converted into little rooms, with a couple of beds, pillows, duvets, two camping chairs, a table, 2 plug points, windows that open, blinds, a small mirror, and plenty of hanging space for clothes. Two big towels were also provided, which was a nice touch. We'd actually brought our own because we hadn't been sure if towels were provided or not, but the ones in the Relax Rooms were better than ours so we used those!

The showers and toilets were really close, and really clean! I never experienced a dirty toilet at all, and toilet paper, soap and paper towels were constantly being topped up over the course of the day. The only negative, I suppose, is that the regular Relax Rooms showers and toilets (as opposed to the Spectacular Relax Rooms) have no shelter, which was a slight pain when it started to rain, but nothing that would put me off chooing this option again. It's all part of the experience!

Our neighbours were extremely friendly, and there was barely any noise from anyone at night which meant we got sleep! Even on the last night, when we only had a window of opportunity for two and a half hours sleep before we had to get up for an early flight home, there was a party going on in our row with loud music and a good few people, but once the cut-off point of 2 am arrived, the music just stopped! And it was quiet again, so we got our two and a half hours sleep, which I was grateful for. 😊

And the beds, I have to say, were very comfortable. The pillows and duvet were clean and good quality, although the first night we couldn't sleep with the covers on, it was way too hot! The rest of the time, once it had cooled down, the temperature was fine, and you needed the covers back on. Never had a bad night's sleep, though. Way more comfortable than I thought it would be.

Now, for The Montagoe Area itself. This part of Dreamville has had a bit of an overhaul. And it's stunning! Inside it's like a huge, glass atrium, the decorations are so intricate and beautiful, and outside there's now a pool as well as the hot tubs, sunloungers, a bar, plenty of seating... oh, and a DJ booth which lets new talent play sets and keeps the party going all day and most of the night, until 2 am.




Food is also available at The Montagoe, with a good range of dishes and snacks, like big bowls of pasta, burgers and spring rolls (which were very nice!). And a big buffet breakfast is also available every morning, which we bought vouchers for, but you can pay daily if that's what you'd prefer. The selection of food on offer for breakfast is really good, too. There was scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, granola, muffins, yogurts, pastries, fruit juices, bread, cold meats and cheese. And you can eat as much as you like, I know I did!! There's also tea and coffee, which are both free all day and night. And the coffee was SO good! Wasn't so keen on the tea, but then I'm British, and very fussy about my tea! 😁

I also have to say that all the staff we met at The Montagoe were extrememly friendly, helpful and welcoming. Nothing was a bother, and anything you needed they'd try to find/sort out. We couldn't fault them.

And if you want to have your hair or your make-up done then the Angels of Beauty Salon is right next door to the bar/restaurant, but it's advisable to book as soon as you get there. I didn't use them myself, but every time I looked inside it was busy. I think it was about 6 pearls for hair and another 6 pearls for make-up, but the choice of what you can have done is limited, apparently. I saw a lot of up-dos and hair glitter, but everything looked really well done, and everyone who came out of the salon looked good!

It's difficult to believe you're at a festival when you're sitting in The Montagoe. They've done an amazing job of making it feel more like a holiday resort, and the atmosphere in there always felt chilled and relaxed, although it did get really busy in the early hours of the morning as people came back from the festival, stopping off for a drink or a snack and a bit of post-festival partying. Which brings me onto one more thing. The most expensive Montagoe accomodation - the brand new En-Suites and the Cabanas - are directly opposite the bar, restaurant and pool, making them fairly noisy, I would've thought. Although the cut-off point for the music coming from there is 2 am, quite a few people continue to hang around there for a while, apparently, which could keep the noise going a little longer. Some of that noise could also spill out to a few of the nearby Dreamlodges too, maybe, but as far as the Relax Rooms were concerned we were far enough away to hear none of that, which suited us just fine.

Oh, and probably THE most important thing about The Montagoe Area is that it's just a 5/10 minute walk away from the festival entrance, which is a HUGE advantage!

Anyway, I have nothing bad to say at all about The Montagoe. And it was also great peace of mind knowing that our accomodation was lockable (and it was a very strong lock, too, according to my husband), and that we could hand the key in at reception every time we went out. There are a lot of plus points for the Relax Rooms in my opinion. I'd originally wanted a Cabana, but I'm not sure we could've justifed the extra cost for what was, in reality, just a better decorated, more aesthetically pleasing version of a Relax Room - which is, by the way, the cheapest of all The Montagoe accomodation. I wouldn't hesitate to go with the Relax Rooms again. But, when the heat is as hot as it was those first couple of days we were there, they do get extremely hot inside, but from what I can gather all the accomodation does. Not sure you can escape that.

So, getting there by Global Journey was a breeze. But what about going home? Just as stress-free? Pretty much, yes.

If you check-in online for your return flight home - do this the day before you're due to leave - you can take your hold luggage to the Brussels Airlines/Global Journey desk at the main entrance to Dreamville, and they will check your luggage in for you there and then, take it off your hands, and the next time you'll see it will be when you get back to whatever airport you're flying home to. This makes things much easier, not having to haul your hold luggage around, especially if your flight isn't leaving until late. And this is another instance when we encountered friendly, helpful staff who went above and beyond to make sure a problem we had was sorted. When we got to the Global Journey/Brussels Airlines desk, we explained that we'd tried to check in online but it wouldn't let us do it. However, all we had to do was show a staff member the email we'd been sent stating this, and she then checked us in herself, which we were very grateful for. We hadn't been sure that would happen, but they were more than happy to help, and even though it was about half past four in the morning, everyone was still smiling.

Once that was done, and our luggage had been taken away, we were directed to the shuttle buses. These start running at 3 am. And for flights leaving before 9 am (or just after in our case) the shuttle buses running between 3 and 6 am go directly from Dreamville to the airport, which was less than an hour's drive. I was quite tired, so I can't remember exactly how long it took, but it didn't feel like long at all. And for flights leaving after 9 am, the shuttle buses drop you off a little way away from the airport, where you're transferred onto another bus that then takes you on to the airport. What I would advise is to leave in plenty of time. It was early when we left, and we didn't experience many queues or crowds at all, either at Dreamville or the airport, but I've been told that the later you leave the more chance there is that queues will build at the Brussels Airlines/Global Journey desk to check in your luggage, at the shuttle bus stops, and at the airport. Someone who left a lot later than us told us it took them over three hours to get from Dreamville to the airport, whereas we we there in well under two. Although, everyone has to be out of Dreamville by 12 pm on the Monday after the festival, no matter what time your flight/coach/train leaves.

And the flight home was just as chilled and relaxed as the flight there. We were given another Tomorrowland newspaper, and another Global Journey themed drawstring bag containing an energy drink and a tomato and mozarella wrap, which was extremely welcome because I was starving! Leaving so early meant we'd had no time to grab anything to eat so I was very happy to see food! And it was SO good, too! Very big, and very filling, and a really nice touch.

Global Journey/Tomorrowland Goodies

Tomorrowland Gym Bag - FREE with Global Journey!

 As far as the whole Global Journey experience goes, I couldn't fault it. It takes every bit of travel stress away from you, guides you every step of the way, and the flights were just the best flights I've ever experienced. For me, you might pay more but the Global Journey option was worth it, for me. And our luggage got home to Birmingham without any problem at all! 😊

OK. That's the Global Journey experience and accomodation covered. But, if anyone has any questions about Global Journey/The Montagoe/accomodation please just ask away and I'll try and help, if I can.

Anyway, next time, I'm going to talk about the pre-festival party that is The Gathering...


Michelle x

Monday, 22 July 2019

My first festival, at 50! Tomorrowland weekend 2, we're on our way...

So, after almost a year of watching sets, discovering new artists, and basically just getting ridiculously excited, it's almost time for us to head to Belgium to be a part of one of Europe's biggest EDM (electronic dance music) festivals - Tomorrowland! 😍



And because this is very much a bucket-list trip for me and my husband, it's something I want to remember, for a long time, so I'm going to be doing a few posts - over the coming weeks - documenting our experiences as first-time festival-goers. Starting today, with a little bit about Tomorrowland itself, our expectations of festival 'glamping', and the music we're looking forward to hearing...

What is Tomorrowland?

Every year, during the last two weeks of July, the appropriately-named little town of Boom plays host to over 400,000 EDM fans who descend on it for this always hugely-anticipated event. But this isn't just any festival, Tomorrowland prides itself on making the weekend not just about the music, but also about the experience.

To begin with, every year, Tomorrowland has a new theme. Past themes have included The Elixir of Life, The Kingdom of Melodia and last year's The Story of Planaxis. Basically, this festival is almost like a Disneyland for adults from its huge, imposing Mainstage to the quirky little details dotted all around the grounds.



Tomorrowland prides itself on taking those lucky enough to aquire tickets on a magical journey into a world so very different from the one they leave at the festival gates, so, what's the these this year? Well, it's a theme so perfect for me, as an author. A theme I couldn't have planned any better for my first bisit to the festival: The Book of Wisdom - The Return. Check out the simply stunning Mainstage below...


The Tomorrowland 2019 Mainstage 


We saw a lot of it on the weekend 1 live streams over the past weekend, watched those giant books open, watched the Book of Wisdom itself (in the centre) talk to the crowd; looked at all the intricate details that have gone into that stage, as much as I could on the TV. But I can't wait to get up close and see it for myself, so, look out for all the photos I'll be posting on my return. For now, that hopefully gives you an idea of the sheer scale of it...

But that's not all. Every year, along with your tickets, Tomorrowland also sends each festival goer a special gift, and because this year it's also the festival's 15th year anniversary, we all got a very special gift - something which was also the most perfect souvenir for someone like me. An actual Book of Wisdom!

My very own Book of Wisdom

This book tells the magical story of Tomorrowland, and I loved it! It's such a beautiful gift, something I'll treasure forever, and just another thing that makes this festival stand out from so many others. I'm so excited to be a part of it, my first festival at 50 years old! But, you know, despite worrying that we were going to be two of the oldest ravers there, we aren't going to be alone. The age of people attending Tomorrowland ranges from 18 to almost 80, so, I think we're going to be OK. 😉 

Although, we are about to have our first experience of 'glamping'. You can opt to stay in a hotel rather than stay at Dreamville - the on-site camping village within the festival grounds. But we heard so many good things about Dreamville, and that staying there gave you the ultimate festival experience so, we bit the bullet and chose to stay in a Relax Room...


These Relax Rooms are situated in a part of Dreamville called The Montagoe Area, which is, basically, where all the 'glamping' options are. It has, apparently, its own bar, restaurant, hot tub, barbecue area, and separate shower blocks and toilets for all the accommodation. I'll write more about all of this once I'm back from the festival next week, but for now I'm just looking forward to getting there, getting unpacked, and enjoying 4 days and 4 nights of great music. Which brings us to the final part of this post. The artists we're looking forward to seeing. 

For me, I'm excited to see the likes of Yves V, Laidback Luke, Timmy Trumpet, Andrew Rayel, David Guetta, Fisher and Lost Frequencies, to name but a few. That's covering everything from Big Room House to Happy Hard Core to Trance at its best there.


In all honesty, though, I just can't wait to party like I'm 25 again, forget everything for a few days, and just enjoy myself. A bit concerned about the weather - looks like it's going to be super-HOT the first 2 days and raining/thunderstorms for the next 2, but this is Belgium we're going to. That could all change. Here's hoping we get some sun, not a lot of rain, and some incredible vibes! I'll report more on my return, and let you know how this 50 year old festival virgin got on. Wish me luck!! 😍

Michelle x

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

NEW RELEASE! The Dead Wife by Sue Fortin

I'm really excited today to have the wonderful Sue Fortin here on my blog to talk about her latest release The Dead Wife, which is released on July 12th...


Book Blurb

SINCLAIR WIFE DEAD! HUSBAND CLEARED!

Police have ruled out suspicious circumstances in the investigation into the death of Elizabeth Sinclair, wife of charismatic entrepreneur Harry Sinclair, found drowned in the lake of the family's holiday park.

It's been two years since the Sinclair case closed but when reporter Steph Durham receives a tip off that could give her the scoop of the year, she's drawn deeper and deeper into the secretive Sinclair family.

Elizabeth's death wasn't a tragic accident. And the truth will come at a deadly price...





And now I'll let Sue tell you a little bit more about the book, and some of the ideas behind it...


Writing Families

Writers often get asked where they get their ideas from and I think the most common answer would be from the world around us, from snippets of overheard conversations, from news reports, from social media, from books, from films, from tv – it can just be the tiniest of comments that can spark the imagination of a writer.

I’ve found that with pretty much all of my books, although the plots and the ideas are different, there has been an overriding theme – family dynamics. It really fascinates me and being one of four children, who has four children and two grandchildren, it’s probably not that surprising. Although these relationships are all very different and have their own rhythm and history and sense of place in my life, they are all important to me and I think that’s what underlines my writing.

Families can evoke such strong emotions and can bring out the best and the worst in us. It’s amazing how we can sometimes really not like what a member of the family has said or done, but underneath it all, we still love them. Families can provide the safety net which allows us to say or do things we wouldn’t necessarily do ‘in public’ and, equally, they can provide the source for us to do things which might be considered out of character.

My latest book The Dead Wife looks at a number of issues within two family units – The Sinclair family made up of a mother and her three adult sons, Dominic, Harry and Owen and the Durham/Lynch family – a mother and daughter who have a rather strained relationship with each other. On the surface the Sinclair family look to have it all. They run a successful upmarket holiday centre in the Lake District and are all really supportive or each other, but scratch just a little below the surface and there are plenty of secrets and power struggles going on, together with a recent tragedy when Harry’s wife drowned in the lake on the resort. The Durham/Lynch relationship between a mother and daughter comes under even more strain as the journalist daughter sets out to investigate the death of the Sinclair wife, only to find people closer to home are more involved than she ever imagined.

I especially enjoyed writing about the relationship between the three brothers, how the dynamics there worked, the pecking order, the interaction between them and how events going way back into their childhood shaped the men they are today.

The Dead Wife is a mystery/thriller and has a strong romantic theme for those who enjoy reading romantic suspense.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog!

Sue 
x


The Dead Wife is released on July 12th, but it's available to pre-order right now!

Amazon UK
Amazon US


Thank you so much for stopping by, Sue, and wishing you lots of luck with The Dead Wife!