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January – March or Things I’ve Been Doing While Abandoning This Blog

9th April 2017

I must admit my weekly and even monthly round-ups weren’t doing it for me, so instead I’m presenting a quarterly update on things I’ve been up to while partly abandoning this blog.

Been There

Dullsville – an afternoon in Groningen – an afternoon in Breda – an evening in Amsterdam, Netherlands: mainly to catch up with family and friends, eat lots of food and to fly my next destination

Barcelona, Spain: to see what the whole fuss was about (yes, I hang my head in shame as a so-called travel blogger who hadn’t visited yet!)

Canterbury – Dover – Leigh-on-Sea, UK: as I may or may not have to leave the country at some point I better start seeing more of it.

Done That

I went into a blissful food coma after indulging in the amazing 7 course tasting menu at The Marquis, Arkham. Radish and gnocchi, who knew? So diverse! So flavorful! Thankfully it was good, as it was a bit remote, so no cheeky Nando’s was an option…

The Great Tower at Dover Castle English Heritage that was furnished as if Henry II and his court was residing at the castle. From the traditional kitchen to the dining hall and the bedrooms: the interiors give you an idea of how the castle looked and an insight of how lives were when it was used as a royal palace. It was nice to put my imagination hat on and imagine what they all got up to with swords, beards and lots of ale!

I was so lucky to have gotten tickets to see Neil Gaiman’s Q&A and read one of the stories from his new book, Norse Mythology in February. The man has such an amazing reading voice and is a brilliant writer and storyteller – his child is so lucky to have him storytelling before bed!

The White Cliffs of Dover is a literal highlight and one of my favorite things I saw during these three months. The views are just breathtaking and not only because I was out of breath from the walk from Dover Castle. AND free chalk! As much as I could carry! (N.B. Please buy chalk from your normal supplier and don’t head to Dover to stock up, it’s possibly illegal).

The scones at Tiny Tim’s Tearoom in Canterbury were absolutely another level. I actually had so little expectations that I didn’t even bother to take a photo as scones mostly disappoint, so you’re going to have to trust me on this one. The scone was bigger than your head – so you may be able to share one between two, three or four people.

I had seen The xx at a festival, in a tent, where it was hot, overcrowded and barely had any atmosphere so I could not image they could play an intimate show. But they proved me wrong and I felt they played for me at their Brixton gig until the lights went on that it, then it was back to the harsh reality.

Like every white basic girl I love a good map so I had to go wandering into the 20th-century maps exhibition at the British Library. My favourites included a Soviet plan of Brighton, Tolkien’s Middle-earth and the one map of Yugoslavia. Sadly you couldn’t buy the rare ones in the gift shop 🙁

Bucket list moment?
Finally setting foot on Spanish soil –  it is after all one of those countries that everyone and their Grandma visited, but a self-proclaimed adventurer like me hasn’t. This month I’m actually crossing off another classic holiday destination of my list.

Lowlight?
Well, just this little thing called Brexit, you probably haven’t read about. How I feel about it? To express myself in the words of USA’s 45th president: “sad!” I was born in a country that fell apart 25 years ago and I was assured it wasn’t me … but obviously it is me and I can’t help but wonder what next kingdom I’m going to break up in 25 years.

Online
Six posts went live over the three months, how pathetic! But now I’ve gotten out of winter cocoon, I predict great things coming up. In case you missed it: I wrote on Videy Island and another one on 6 places to eat and drink in Reykjavik, a post on my day exploring Dover Castle, one on monumental changes you’ll face when visiting London in 2017, highlighted some of my favourite things to see and do in Bloomsbury and New Year’s Resolutions For Travellers.

How have you been?

3 daytrips from London – that aren’t Oxford, Cambridge or Brighton

2nd April 2017

If you’ve been to London once, chances are she’ll charm you back over and over and over again.

But even Camden Town gets boring after your third visit right?

So to avoid death by boredom in yet another street market, I’m here to save you with some great day trips from London that will let you see a different side of UK that you won’t find in the capital.

To start off we’re be looking at three places which aren’t Oxford, Brighton or Cambridge (because you’ve probably already been there too) …

Canterbury

Wandering the cobblestone streets criss crossing the small alleys felt like I had been wizarded away to an open air Harry Potter museum and heading from Hogsmeade towards Hogwarts … but that’s not all.

The cathedral grounds reminded me of the Hogwarts’ school grounds, the boarding school where kids in uniforms rushed to their class added a little extra to the feel and one bit in the cathedral made me feel I WAS in the Great Hall. I’m not the only one who thought this by the way…When scouting for film locations Warner Bros wanted to use the cathedral and turn it into Harry’s wizarding school, but was turned down by authorities concerned about the story’s ‘pagan’ themes. Thankfully for us – that means it’s still pretty empty if you go early, I can’t imagine how packed the place would be if it had been the actual home of Harry and co !

How to get there from Central London? Take the train from London St Pancras Intl, which will get you in 1 hour 12 minutes to Canterbury West

Leigh On Sea Leigh On Sea Leigh On Sea Leigh On Sea Leigh On Sea

Leigh On Sea

Just a 45 minutes train ride away from London, Leigh-on-Sea is a world apart from the busy city life. It’s a place with quaint little streets, lots of eateries/pubs and tea-houses, and not forgetting benches to sit and enjoy the view.

This place is not a hidden or undiscovered gem by any means and if it hasn’t rained that morning it’ll be pretty busy by midday. But if you get there early morning, you’ll most likely have the entire promenade to yourself and a few lost dogs here and there. The tide going out is quite impressive to see, with dozens of boats strewn across the sand waiting for the water to come back in and rescue them from the crabs.

How to get there from Central London? Take the train from Fenchurch Street Station to Leigh on Sea

Eltham Palace

Way way back in the 14th century Elham Palace was the place to be but it fell into disrepair and ruins until it was saved by the new owners who put a definite Art Deco spin on their new digs. The couple were the ‘talk of the town’ at the time, the celebs you wanted to get to know, and if you were lucky enough be invited to one of their famed extravagant parties.

What I love about the place is that it allows you to pretty much explore every room in the palace and all the rooms have books, diaries and personal touches to feel like you’re looking at a living, breathing house, rather than a stuffy, cold exhibit behind glass.

How to get there from Central London? Take the train from Charing Cross or London Bridge to Mottingham and from there it’s about a 10 minute walk.

Not So Remote Islands I Have Visited: An Afternoon on Videy Island

6th March 2017

Following up on my Lokrum post I’m sharing some photos from another little island I happened upon on my travels. This time I want to focus on the lil rock called Viðey or Videy. This small island is a 5 – 10 minute boat ride from Reykjavik and makes a great tip for a day out and to escape the crazy Reykjavik life. Ok, that last bit is obviously a joke because the city centre was pretty chilled out (aside from Friday + Saturday nights).

On the island you can walk one of the many hiking trails, have a warm drink at the restaurant or attempt a picnic in summer, see a church from 1774 with the original interior inside, spot Puffins and other birds and visit the Imagine Peace Tower by Yoko Ono, which is an official landmark for Reykjavik. So if in the evening you see a beam light going all the way up in the sky, don’t worry this is not someone from outer space trying to say hello … it’s just the Peace lights.

Have you been to Videy, or any similar little island gems?

Exploring Dover Castle

26th February 2017

What do you think of when you hear about Dover?

Well, it’s not just a place to escape from England in your car over the sea to the wonders of France, Europe and beyond! On my recent trip I discovered there’s a lot more to the area than meets the eye. Plus, combined with the hourly high-speed train that whisks you from King’s Cross to Dover in under an hour, it makes it a great destination for a day (or a weekend) trip from London.

First thing that should be on your schedule: Dover Castle. Sitting atop the White Cliffs of Dover, it’s an amazing site where you can easily spend 3-4 hours walking around on the grounds and exploring the medieval tunnels, the Great Tower, taking a tour of the underground hospital and the World War II tunnel complex.

The medieval tunnels, which you can explore on your own, were great to transport you back to medieval times. As I ventured beneath the castle I imagined how hard it must have been to run around in the freezing winter with armour and weapons and walking up the tall stone staircases. Brrrr. You might have spotted them in Avengers: Age of Ultron where it was used as part of the interior for the Hydra Outpost in the Sovokia. Sadly I didn’t spot Iron Man, Captain America, or even a sighting of Thor’s mighty hammer…but there’s always next time (Avengers 3?)

My favourite bit had to be the Great Tower where English Heritage transformed the interior as if Henry II and his court was residing at the castle. I felt a bit like a presenter on MTV Cribs: Medieval King Edition. From the traditional kitchen to the dining hall and the bedrooms: the interiors give you an idea of how the castle looked and an insight of how lives were when it was used as a royal palace, but left enough room for fantasy and your imagination to weave your own tales.

For those who won’t be seen exploring anything that’s 200+ years old, there’s plenty for you too. There are two tunnel tours for you to embark on.

The Wartime Tunnel Tour takes you deep under the cliffs to the cavernous complex, which has been used for hundreds of years. Originally constructed to fend off Napoleon, they were later used as a base for WW2 – focusing on Dunkirk, and also secret operations hub during the Cold War until 1984. The network of dark cavernous corridors was gargantuan, and I couldn’t believe how much rock had been moved to create the place – I think there were 4 miles of tunnels in total – you get to explore a small section of this, and it takes around 45 minutes.

If you want a bit more of a personal story, the Underground Hospital tour is your best bet and is around 20 minutes. Here you get to hear the insights and experience the sights, sounds and smells of the underground hospital, told through the story of an injured pilot getting treated during WW2. They don’t allow taking photos on the tours, but you can take photos on the rest of the site.

A bit away from the main castle area lies The Saxon Church that’s still in use, and a still standing Roman lighthouse where you realise how far back in history the place goes. I’d recommend checking out a map of the place before you get started, as there’s a lot of routes you can take within the walls, but don’t worry there’s lots of signposts and useful information boards explaining the what/when/where of each building.

The opening hours vary, depending on the season, so do make sure to check out the website before heading to Dover. They also close during extreme weather! During the holidays there are also period displays with actors and other activities.

monumentally big changes you’ll face in London in 2017

9th February 2017

london polaroid impossible projectHey guys, how is everyone surviving in these times of change?

Well if you are heading to London to catch a breather anytime soon I have to give you a warning:

Things are changing quicker than before and I’m not even talking politics wise – here are three monumentally big changes you’ll face in the capital in 2017…

london piccadilly circus

The Piccadilly Circus billboard lights have been switched off until autumn. Yes, the UK’s answer to NYC’s Time Square and the selfie background of millions will be a no-go zone for months. Until then you’ll have to do with a temporary advertising banner that will replace the lights. When work has finished it will feature a 4K screen, so you can see every tiny pixel of that Coca-Cola logo – is that progress for humanity or what? While you are there you can tell your friends/company that it’s the first time since World War Two the lights have been turned off. Scary!

The Queen Elizabeth Tower and its even more famous bell, Big Ben, will be silenced and scaffolded for urgent repair work that’ll take up to three years. So bad news if you want to take that one shot to prove you’ve been in London. The powers that be seem to realise this is a marketing no no and have said they’ll ensure the clock dials are visible for as long as possible during the works and have promised us that at least one clock face is visible! Will it be the same? We’ll see…

Has it been your dream to stand in the hall of the Natural History Museum and get up close and personal with one of their most iconic attractions?  Too late, after more than 100 years of service Dippy the Diplodocus has been replaced by a Blue Whale. If you really want to get your bone-fix on with Dippy, you should check his tour schedule as he is on a UK goodbye tour (I kid you not). Let’s hope he’s not donated to Battersea Dog’s Home! Though to see the looks on the dog’s faces would be worth it..

To end the post on a more positive note … London now has the night tube AND Fabric has re-opened! Which means you can pull an all-nighter, party til the small hours and run to catch your 7 AM plane at Heathrow.