We’re back!

Hello! We know we’ve been quiet for a while…

It’s not been the greatest few months and blogging wasn’t something we were in the mindset to do. But all is now well – with a brand new job, new flat and new National Trust membership in time for summer, we’re full of fabulous weekend trips and summer excursions to tell you about! In fact, this month includes both our birthdays, which may or may not include some superb days out – we couldn’t possibly comment… (Even to each other! [The suspense is killing me…])

Theo the dog

Two fabulous summer happenings already (above and below) – a dachshund and a rose (both from my parents’)!

Rose

We’ll also be belatedly posting back through the last few months [I’ve got quite a few photos to dig through], so there should be plenty to read very soon! Thank you for sticking with us :)

A trip to the Avebury stones

To road-test my fancy new pay-monthly National Trust membership [previously you had to pay for the full year in one go, but now you can pay by monthly direct debit: currently £5/month], we paid a long-overdue visit to Avebury in Wiltshire. You may know Avebury for the prehistoric stones, in the manner of Stonehenge – some would say Avebury is far superior! Although less impressive as a photo-op because they are more widely spread, the stones at Avebury cover a [much] bigger area and are many more in number. It’s also a wonderfully cute village [partly encircled by the stones] and contains a manor house which is also worth a visit.

Dinner at Avebury Manor

Avebury Manor was chosen in 2009 by the BBC for a restoration project (The Manor Reborn) with the NT. They restored each room from a different era of its life and ownership, making it the first ‘hands on’ house – everything is touchable, which makes it a great place for children (and adults! [it’s amazing, you can even try out the beds…]) to visit. The dining room (above) is a Georgian recreation, where it’s entirely possible to sit at the table as though you were taking part in that excellent cheese course… Featuring real port too, judging by the smell! [Real, yes, but I wouldn’t advise drinking it…]

Below is a detail from Alexander Keiller‘s sitting room, in rather garish 40’s style – he was the archaeologist who excavated and restored the stones, and made Avebury the site it is today. We may have played with this camera for a fair while…

Vintage Kodak camera

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The land of Shakespeare

So I was taken away on a special weekend trip… A lucky girl indeed. Although English Lit courses at uni are a distant memory, I was excited to be taken to Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of Mr William Shakespeare himself.

We bought the Five House Pass [2-for-1 if you’re a Direct Line customer! or 10% if you book online], a combined ticket that gets you access to all the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust sites, which we think is good value if you visit two or more. We started with the cottage he was born in. It is a lot bigger now, though…

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Below is one of the two downstairs rooms original to the time of Shakespeare’s birth. There is a real sense of history as you experience the house, although it is pretty packed with tourists like us!

Inside Shakespeare's Birthplace

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A quiet day in

Today was just a quiet day in; it was Holocaust Memorial Day so we watched a fascinating documentary called “Holocaust: Night Will Fall”, which is about a film detailing the Holocaust that was made during the War but never broadcast.

Jewish cross at American War Cemetary in Cambridge

We then ventured to the cinema; the one of our choice is generally one of the Everyman cinemas. It’s a fantastic chain with comfy seats, a great bar and the option of having food brought to your seats. Word of warning, though – not all Everymans (Everymen?) were created equal [the best ones have sofas, but it depends on which venue and screen you go to!], so check before you book.

We went to see The Theory of Everything, which we’re sure you’ve seen by now, but if you haven’t… Go. I, for one, cried throughout – it was emotional as predicted, and beautifully acted by Eddie Redmayne [it was an incredible performance]. It reminded us of this photo we took of the chapel at St John’s College in Cambridge, where the movie was filmed (although not actually set [he studied at Trinity Hall during his time in Cambridge]).

Inside St. John's Chapel, Cambridge

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Modern day royalty at Kensington Palace

As the second part of our Historic Royal Palaces half-price January, we headed to Kensington Palace, both of us for the first time. In the beautiful setting of Kensington Gardens, the Palace is an interesting mix of historical state apartments and high-security home of William, Catherine and baby George, amongst other royal family members.

Kensington Palace

The first highlight was not a sighting of Harry popping out to get milk, but an extremely chubby squirrel in a nearby tree.

Squirrel

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A very Tudor day at Hampton Court

Yes, we know it’s out of season to visit Hampton Court Palace and make the most of the beautiful gardens, but we had two crucial things… A beautifully crisp, sunny day, and [perhaps more pertinently…] half price entry (valid until 13th February 2015). So, we headed out to one of the prettiest parts of suburban London to visit the huge Tudor palace.

Hampton Court Palace

Henry VIII, responsible for large parts of Hampton Court, was a proud man – nowhere more evident than in the Tudor rose emblem found throughout. Except maybe his relationship history. That could take some beating.

Tudor Rose ceiling at Hampton Court Palace

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A walk around Newmillerdam

One of the main things I miss about the North are the many beautiful places to walk, and whenever I’m back there I always make an effort to get outside as much as possible. Today, before the winter frost had had chance to melt, I headed for a morning walk with some friends at Newmillerdam Country Park, an area of woodland surrounding a large lake near Wakefield.

Sun shining in the woods

Just as we set off, my friend somehow spotted a spider frozen on the ground. We wondered whether it would just carry on as normal once it had defrosted!

Frozen spider at Newmillerdam Country Park

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