I’m always trying and see and do more things outside London, but the actual travel to and from often puts me off. I can’t always be bothered to take a bus and a tube to get to King’s Cross or Paddington and then start an even longer trip. But when I learned Rochester is only 50 minutes away from my nearest train station I figured it might be interesting for a day trip to explore the castle, walk through the historical city centre and check out locations that were featured in the books of Charles Dickens.
Rochester Castle is 800 years old and while it might not be as impressive as the previous castle I visited, it was interesting to see a fort completely stripped back to stone walls, arches and steps, letting your imagination run wild thinking about how things must have been. Head to the top for some wide-reaching views of Rochester and the surrounding area, and see if you can spot where you’ll be heading next.
Across the street you’ll find the second oldest cathedral in England – Rochester Cathedral, which you can visit for free and enjoy its grand mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture styles. And if you’re lucky you might find a brilliant local food market if you visit on a Saturday.
With the two main attractions crossed of my list it was time to walk the cobbled high street packed with independent, vintage and charity shops housed in beautiful old buildings. Most of them scream #prettyshopfronts or #ihavethisthingwithshops.
After the cold castle and cathedral I needed somewhere to warm up and ended up at Deaf Cat Coffee. I was feeling like a sandwich or toastie to go with my coffee and this seemed like the place to go. Sadly the sandwiches looked like pre-prepared and the cakes and cookies not inviting at all.
I must have walked the main street three or four times and kept seeing new places like Baggins Book Bazaar – England’s largest second-hand bookshop and the Guildhall.
The idea was to have a sandwich around 11 and then go to Tiny Tim’s Of Rochester for a cream tea. But as Tiny’s Tims was fulled booked up we ended up having that sandwich at The Quills.
Next on the agenda was spotting some buildings featured within the pages of Charles Dickens’ works. My favourite was Eastgate House, which was a boarding school in Dickens’ time, and was featured as school for young ladies in The Mystery of Edwin Drood and The Pickwick Papers. When I visited I really enjoyed looking at all the Christmas decorations through the ages. There are sections dedicated to Dickens, the girl’s boarding school and the people who lived there afterwards.
Restoration House, which was used in Dickens’ novel Great Expectations as the home of Estella and Miss Havisham was my next destination. Sadly it was closed when I was there, if you are going during winter season it might be good to check the opening times as I was interested in the Six Poor Traveller House and Upnor Castle, but they had weird opening hours for the winter season.
How to get there?
Rochester is a short train ride (40-45 minutes) from either St. Pancras International or Victoria train stations in London. From Rochester station it’s a few minutes walk to the historic town centre.
Following up on my greener travel fails I started reading more on the topic and quickly learned I need more money and time if I actually wanted to travel greener. One of the main reasons people choose to take the plane over the train is because it’s cheaper, and it’s something I have done in the past, but now it’s time for a change. I also don’t want to drastically mess around with my main saving budgets too much and like mentioned in this I don’t really want to limit myself too much with activities and eating out, yet that money to go greener has to come from somewhere.
So, I went through all of my expenses with a critical eye and cancelled or adjusted where needed to free up some budget. This took me a total of 45 minutes as it all can be done easily online. I was so happy this meant I could also change my insurances quickly online – something I’ve been putting off because I didn’t want to talk to someone on the phone and have them persuade me to stay on.
All in all, I freed up almost £1300+ that I’m going to put this towards a greener travel savings pot and use it for greener transportation options and potentially eco friendly accommodation.
ONLINE SUBSCRIPTIONS First thing were all the online streaming subscriptions. I’ve been on Spotify and Netflix since they first launched, but I’m just not getting everything out of it. I’ve cancelled Spotify and Netflix subscriptions for now and will be watch shows on Prime – which I have until April. After that I might get a Disney+ trial or find someone to share and split passwords with. I also cancelled my live television, you can find my reasoning for that here.
Total savings of £35 a month = £420 a year
I feel like it’s very Dutch of me to have insurance for everything. Insurance is and always will be important, but there are ways to save on it. I had a look at my phone, my contents and travel insurance and have cancelled where needed or amended to my current lifestyle.
Total savings of £45 a month = £539 a year
I have a love hate thing with good old Pinterest and started using Tailwind to schedule in posts, but I feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth out of it and decided to put the those funds to a better use.
Total savings of £11.25 a month = £135 a year
FOOD SHOPPING Next up was the foods and drinks. Cutting out that coffee I have once in a while is not going to change much in my case. But my bi-weekly Oddbox definitely will. No matter much I love the idea behind Oddbox (rescued vegetables that would have gone to waste), it’s cheaper to get veg at my local market or Lidl.
Total savings of £16 a month = £200 a year
With this I look ahead with a much more positive outlook into investing the money into greener travel and am eager to start looking into the possibilities. I’ll do a check-in in a few months to report back on how it worked out in real life.
Here are 11 awesome things I’ve seen & done in London that you should do too and two you can skip, ranging from eateries to exhibitions and gardens.
Pick & Cheese
A Conveyor Belt. With Cheeses. I can’t believe London had to go this long without one! The place offers 25 types of cheeses plus a few desserts paired with specific condiments. Plate after plate passes by and all you have to do is pick up what sounds or looks good. It has been my favourite dining experience for some time and I am going back to try the other 20.
Olafur Eliasson: In real life – Exhibition @ Tate Modern
On until 5 January 2020 I wasn’t expecting too much of this as I had a feeling I had seen all of it on Instagram! But to really experience the art installations of Olafur Eliasson you need to be in the middle of it. The exhibition lay-out and information was so-so, and though it was meant to be a retrospective, there was little to no information of his career progression and I had to read all the interesting bits online afterwards.
Chelsea Physic Garden
The Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden and has been an apothecary garden since 1673 … so you can image they know their plants and how to present them. I loved the Mental Wellness corner that encouraged you to smell and touch the plants and to sit down, close your eyes and listen to the sounds. Hope they keep that section.
Play Well @ Wellcome Gallery
On until 8 March 2020 The Play Well exhibition showcases the ideas and objects that have shaped the way from mid 1800 to today and how play is part of childhood and society. I have to say it’s not my favourite exhibition of theirs, but if you find yourself near Euston and are looking for some free entertainment it’s worth popping in for.
I’ve seen the most delicious pictures from people enjoying their French toast, Full English or avocado on a sourdough at Burnt Toast. As you can image, this all day breakfast place is almost always packed. It took me some time to figure out you the best time to have the place alone with just you and French Toast is as soon as they open.
The Crossrail Place Roof Garden The free garden in Crossrail Place in Canary Wharf is designed to display and conserve plants from the eastern and western hemispheres to reflect the indigenous to countries visited during the 19th century by trading ships. It’s surprisingly peaceful, well planned out and not too busy on weekends.
WA Cafe is a Japanese patisserie and has the best selection of cakes and teas I’ve had in a long long while. I can confirm their matcha roll cake, sesame cheesecake and strawberry shortcake all go perfectly with a hot pot of buckwheat tea.
I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be out of Mexican places to try in London! Though I prefer most of the market places I do like to go to an actual restaurant once in a while. Casa Pastor has a selection of delicious and well-sized tostadas, tacos and quesadillas, but the winners have to be their in-house tortillas and Chile de Arbol salsa.
Buddhism Exhibition @ British Library
On until 23 Feb 2020 In the British Library you can escape for a Buddhism 101 exhibition where you can learn more about the roots, philosophy and contemporary relevance of the religion. My favourite bit was the adding of music to bring you in the right mood while examining the Buddhist art and scriptures.
London Calling: 40 Years of the Clash @ Museum of London
On until 19 April 2020 An exhibition taking us a behind the scenes of the album as well as background info on all four of the band. I learned one of the members was born just around the corner from where I live and that their diet while recording consisted of beans, eggs and chips. While pretty small, it covers a lot, such as the broken Fender Precision Bass that’s being smashed on the cover of the album, their personal jackets and tour photographs. And of course London Calling is the soundtrack for your tour.
You might have noticed that I like to visit a good old house/manor. But if your visit to London is limited and you’re not sure which to pick, why not combine a walk through Hampstead Heath with some exploring of Kenwood House? You’ll find Dutch masters on the wall, French baroque furnishings in most of the rooms and Latin books in the dreamlike library. The best bit? Entry is free!
Wasn’t For Me
Designed in Cuba: Cold War Graphics @ House Of Illustrations
Until January 19 2020
Their exhibitions sound great on paper, but I haven’t managed to like any of them so far. The current exhibition Cuba: Cold War Graphics didn’t really give me any info on the materials used or how the day to day of a designer looked like back then or who kept the posters. It could have been tied in with the current affairs. Ah well.
Charbonnel et Walker afternoon tea @ The May Fair Hotel
When Team Confetti and I looked for a place for Afternoon Tea I picked The May Fair Hotel because we used to book it for talents a lot back when I worked in film PR. If it’s good enough for all the talents, it’s good enough for me I thought….but not for the Afternoon Tea it seems! I can honestly say the one at Pattiserie Valerie is better value. The sandwiches AND scones were dry, two Charbonnel et Walker Truffles were too rich and the mini donuts were nothing like the ones on the press images. Either go for Pattiserie Valerie or treat yourself to one at Park Lane or Corinthia.
20 things I want to see, try and do at home, in London and beyond in the coming year, split between the capital, travel and most importantly, myself.
Go To The Tower of London – The Tower of London is one of the last few big touristy attractions I haven’t visited and I feel the anticipation is building up.
Harry Potter Studios in Winter – I’ve been wanting to experience the Harry Potter Studios winter magic for ages, but when I finally found someone willing to splurge money it, it was sold out on the one date we both could do. 2020 should be the year though.
Living Medicine Workshop – Plants and healing is a big thing in my culture and my great grandmother was really clued up on it. Sadly she passed away before I was old enough to learn enough her secrets. I’ve seen this course at the Chelsea Physic Garden that might fit the bill and would love to attend one or two in.
Go To The Andy Warhold Retrospective @ Tate Modern – There is an Andy Warhold retrospective coming to the Tate Modern and I want to finally see it all in one place: from the Marilyn Monroe screen prints to Campbell’s Soup Cans and the Triple Elvis.
Visit The Alice In Wonderland Exhibition @ V&A – Then there is the Alice in Wonderland exhibition where I would love to learn more about the origins, adaptations and reinventions of the Lewis Carroll’s pinafore-wearing hero. I’m booking on time to avoid getting up too early and having to queue.
Follow A Sewing Workshop – I can mend a few things here and there, but would love to learn more. The Fashion and Textile Museum has some very cool courses and I really want to do the Copy Your Clothes one. The idea is to take an item and learn how you can re-create it. I have this St Michael skirt in different prints and would love to figure out how to make it myself.
Go To A Sports Event – I really enjoyed watching ice-hockey in New York and want to go to a sports events in London as the last one was a West Ham football match way back in 2013 … so definitely time go check out a live sports event. Whether that’s a traditional rugby game or lucha libre wrestling match, doesn’t matter to me, just need to make it happen.
Go To The Moth – I’m a huuuuge fan of the Dutch version of this series, and listen to their podcasts all the time. They have a section where people read from their old diaries and it’s the best 10 – 15 minutes I’ll listen to that day. Tickets are sold out until mid next year, but I might as well check out the London version in the meantime.
Make The Most Of My 2 For 1 Railcard – I have the 2 For 1 card for another 6 months and should really make more use of it. I’m thinking at least York, Margate and Liverpool for a day or short weekend trip. The places for day/weekend trips are sorted, now I need a time and date.
Go Glamping Or Stay In A Tiny House – I’ve been trying to find a tiny house or glamping site that’s reasonably easy to reach via public transport, but it has proven to be difficult. By the time spring or some nicer weather has come through I hope to have found somewhere to rest my head in the wild.
Take A Trip On A Sleeper Train – I’ve been thinking about taking the sleeper train from London to Cornwall (and back) to check out what the south-west corner of the UK has to offer and to visit the Eden Project. This one is for later in the year as I’d like it to be in bloom.
Watch Eurovision In Netherlands – Ideally I want to get tickets during round two of the tickets sale and watch it in the stadium. Eurovision is one of my favourite events of the year and the Netherlands winning it last year was one a dream come true and I need to be in that bubble when the event takes place there.
Go On A Solo City Trip – Last year I took the train to Basque Country, the year before I went to Paris, and 2020 is still a TBC, but should bring me somewhere new where I can test out eating myself and having no one to cry with when I get lost.
Digital Detox One Weekend A Month – I did a few sporadic digital detoxes throughout last year as I find I can be dependant on my phone too much. This year I want to do a digital detox weekend once a month, even if that means getting lost or missing a train.
Brush Up On My French 101 – Re-read the basics and learn some new words, so I can order more than just ice-cream or ask for directions to the closest bar. I found a French schoolbook in a charity shop so I might start with that.
Add New Recipes To My Go-To List – I tend to make the 6 same dishes throughout winter, but the Green Roasting Tin book I got from Santa should give me at least 6 more dishes I can add to my routine.
Re-watch Some Of My Favourite Movies – I’ve seen too many disappointing films in 2019 and in order to re-spark my love for film crafting I need to reacquaint myself with some of my favourites.
Wear All Of My Unworn Clothes – I’m always buying any vintage mini skirts I find in my size, despite the fact I only end up wearing the same 2 reguarly, which is a waste of my space and a bit sad for the items not getting enough love. Throughout the year I want to wear those forgotten ones to see if they are for me and if not I can put them online and find them a new home.
Re-read Some Of The Classics – I realised I haven’t read a lot of the classics or don’t remember the plots, characters or scenes much at all. So, in addition to my reading pile I want to add a few classics. Moonstone, The Sun Also Rises and To The Lighthouse are some of the titles that are on my list.
Keep A Plant Or Vegetable Alive – Ever since I killed a cactus I gave up on this, but seeing everyone’s green babies my hands have started to itch. I have a chive grow-it-yourself pot that looks do-able for me, so I might start with that.
It’s that time of the year when I share everything I’m leaving behind in 2019, so goodbye to:
1. Unnecessary food waste is something I’ve found myself guilty of and I want to change that. In October and November I found the right routine and shopping list for me, but in December it all got messed up. I now know that I need to take those two hours out of my Sunday and use it to prep for the week to avoid having to throw things out.
2. Travelling like it’s a sprint is something I’ve done a lot, even when it comes to a day trip I still try to cram in as much as possible. No matter how much I hate the word slow travel, I think it’s something I need to incorporate more for the coming years.
3. The hope of finding the right skincare routine is going down the drain for me. Over the years I’ve tried everything, but it ended up with messing up my skin even more. So I’m going to keep it water and light face cream and embrace wrinkles.
4. I got sooooo mad at the current biased news coverage and the weird Simpsons cuts one of the channels have been doing that I don’t want access to live TV anymore. I’m sticking to Netflix, Prime and The Simpsons season 1-7 on DVD.
5. I also can’t allow myself to put all my eggs in one basket. Every too good to be true thing coming my way should be second guessed and questioned to avoid disappointment. That should actually be my number one rule for the next decade.
6. At the start of the Superhero movies rise I was all for it and the road to Avengers: Endgame! The Boys was also great. But after a so so Spiderman and the worst X-Men to date I am kind of done with the genre.
7. Small annoyances I can’t do anything about. Think: people who don’t put their phones on silent in public transport, slow people walking in front of me, someone taking forever to pack food shopping…It’s never going to change, so I might as well change how it affects me.
8. Those only-wear-in-the-house T-shirt that has been slowly falling apart but is still kind of wearable. It’s been upgraded to cleaning rag. And all the barely worn bras I’ve now recycled via the Against Breast Cancer scheme. My drawers finally have some breathing space.
9. Letting people’s world views affect me. I’m someone who believes people should research things before sharing their world views and shouldn’t just copy their thoughts based on a Tweet or something they heard someone say. That’s another thing that will never stop and I need to accept that and not let it keep me awake at night.
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