After a busy and work-filled start to the year, we managed to escape for a well-deserved weekend away from London just before lockdown started. Given that we haven’t been able to leave London since, this was a lovely opportunity to explore the gorgeous town of Stow-on-the-Wold, which was new to us. The market cross was at the centre of the little town, and has a slightly gory history dating back to 1646 and the English Civil War. The Royalist Army marched through the Cotswolds on their way to Oxford, but were intercepted by the Parliamentarians, and the battle which ensued in the market square was so gory that it was said ducks could bathe in the pools of blood left behind [maybe it’s good that we didn’t know this beforehand?]. This apparently led to the street’s name, Digbeth, from ‘Duck’s Bath’. However, we can confirm that it is now much more peaceful and full of interesting antiques shops [well done if you can leave without buying anything!] and gorgeous cafés. This is a place to come prepared for scones, tea and cake!
You might recognise this famous little door! The 13th century north door of St Edward’s Church, the town’s church, which itself dates back to the 11th century, is said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to create the “Doors of Durin” in The Lord of the Rings.
You might not think of the City, London’s financial district, as being the best place for a touristy visit. It’s true that there are a lot of people in suits pushing past you at the tube exit gates, and a Pret on every street corner, but we’d really recommend a trip to discover some more hidden secrets. It’s near to well-known historical sights, like the Tower of London, the Monument and site of the Great Fire of 1666, but also a more modern attraction, the Sky Garden. [It’s also quite interesting to walk around at the weekend when it’s almost surreally quiet!]
Located at the top of a skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street (nicknamed the Walkie Talkie due to its shape), the Sky Garden is on the 35th floor. Once you’ve whizzed up in the lift, there are three storeys of indoor landscaped gardens featuring plants from all over the world, observation decks (although these are sometimes closed depending on the weather), two restaurants and a bar.
Today we are breaking the tradition of a blog lifetime and telling you about something that happened midweek. On a Wednesday, in fact. But fear not – it was very exciting and blog-worthy…
We were invited by the team from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the lovely people at Le Méridien to a bloggers’ afternoon tea at the beautiful hotel on Piccadilly. RIBA and Le Méridien are currently collaborating, and as part of this partnership, RIBA has curated a beautiful photography exhibition, ‘Unlock London: A City in Pictures’, showcasing a stunning selection of 17 black-and-white images of London’s most iconic landmarks taken by leading architectural photographers from the 1930s through to the 1960s.
We were given a tour of the balcony first, and the opportunity to snap a few pictures in the last of the summer sunshine…
From atmospheric architectural shots down to finer details:
After a pretty hectic Saturday, we headed to Brighton for a day of relaxation on the beach. With the cost of the train under £15 from central London [if you go on Thameslink – there are quicker Southern trains from Victoria but they cost more], we took a morning train with croissants, strawberries and apple juice, and were ready to go by the time we reached the coast.
We avoided the stag and hen parties and walked along the pebbly beach towards the famous Pier.
We passed a Punch and Judy show, but by the time they came out to play we had continued on to discover the next excitement!
Amongst other brilliant happenings, including a horse riding lesson in the countryside and the aforementioned barbecue, we returned to London on the Sunday evening for a lofty surprise. 20 Fenchurch Street, otherwise known as the Walkie Talkie (or the Scorchie, after it melted some cars when it was first built) is home to the Sky Garden, bookable for drinks, snacks or just a wander around.
You need to book a couple of months in advance, but it’s free, and you’re whizzed up in a lift to floor 35. Once there, you’re free to walk around the outer perimeter and get a panoramic view of London.
Our birthdays are six days apart, which in effect means about three weeks of continuous sociableness and fun. We thought we’d share with you a little snippet, though, of each birthday – the bits that you might like to do for yourselves (rather than have a barbecue/camping/mini-festival with my friends, which you might enjoy less than I did, for example [oi, stay on topic – this week is my birthday]).
First, it was his birthday [better]. Given our (his) [definitely our] slightly geeky propensity for transport, I booked a canal boat trip along the Regent’s Canal, from Little Venice to Camden Lock. Simply called Jason’s (both the boat and the enterprise), it trundled up the river while the owner gave us a fascinating historical commentary.
We passed lovely boats, old factories, beautiful houses, and ended up at the love-it-or-hate-it Camden Lock.
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.
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…
As a bit of a surprise after three nights’ camping, on the final day we drove to Mevagissey, a part of Cornwall I’d never previously been to (or heard of!). A gorgeous little fishing village nestled into the side of a hill, it struck me as being rather like Padstow without the tourists. [I fell in love with it instantly.] We stayed in the wonderful Tregorran Guest House with beautiful views over the harbour.
As the sun set, we were captivated by the light and the different colours of the houses…
We recently escaped London for our summer holiday – hurrah! However, we decided to keep it British and opted for a ‘staycation’, heading down to Cornwall for a few nights’ camping near Padstow. I’d been before, but he hadn’t – and it was so lovely to be able to introduce some of my favourite places in the UK.
We were staying at the lovely Old Macdonald’s Farm campsite, where we were made welcome. Although I’ve camped at places with more glamorous washing facilities, the best thing about this campsite is the open farm on site where both children and adults (as I proved!) can stroke the animals [someone was a little excited about the rabbits] and have breakfast. The highlight was an extremely cute bunny which I *may* have attempted to take home!
In the evenings, we had some delicious meals at some of Padstow’s many restaurants. We tried the new Burgers and Fish, where the food was pretty good – better than the service, at least! Then we wandered around the harbour and watched the boats…
A little bit geographically removed from our usual stomping ground, we headed up to Birmingham for a family Easter weekend. One of the activities on the agenda was a trip to the Black Country Living Museum. A fan of similar setups like Beamish, we were very excited to see what this museum had to offer. And we weren’t disappointed!
An old fashioned fairground to start – one of us [I think you can guess which one] *may* have been busted with a sneaky hand over the side to slow the helter-skelter pace a little bit…
Some gorgeous old trolleybuses to excite the Northerner (plus we’re both secret [and not so secret] transport geeks…)