Mottisfont Abbey started life as an Augustinian priory dating back to 1201. From this, it was transformed by Lord Sandys into a large house; this family also owned The Vyne, also in Hampshire, and divided their time between the two properties.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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!
Welcome back to Part 2 of our Algarve adventure (catch up with part 1 first if you haven’t already)! As well as exploring the city, we made sure to make some time for the beach – which, as we mentioned, was on its own island, the Ilha de Tavira. The ferry took us through the harbour and moored up on the edge of the beach:
We passed some fascinating natural wildlife, so to see it a bit more closely we took a tour in a small speedboat along the coast. We passed storks, white flamingos, egrets and other animals!
We’re very British [and proud of it]. One of us is from Yorkshire, and the other one is so pale she’s blue in certain light. So 37°C in Portugal was both stunning and a shock to the system! We chose Tavira, a little town [technically a city but it certainly didn’t feel big enough to be] in the Algarve, because it looked attractive, historical and quirky. It’s also a pretty convenient 30-minute train ride from Faro, where the airport is located.
The town is built on a river, with extensive beaches on an island a short ferry ride away. This didn’t put us off, and we’re glad, because the ferry was reasonably priced, cooled us down and made a trip to the island that bit more of an occasion.
There was a festival on, and we saw some great evening performances in the town square. The town was also decorated with a nautical theme:
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.
As a very welcome and exciting surprise, I was taken to the Cotswolds on 24 hours’ notice. Excitement! Our first stop was Bourton-on-the-Water, a town chosen mainly for its tandem-hiring ability but one which turned out to be picturesque and gorgeous.
You may remember us hiring a tandem bike in Cornwall. We now consider ourselves practically pros [that might be pushing it], although it turns out that Gloucestershire isn’t quite as flat as the Camel Trail near Padstow… Our tandem trail took us to Upper and Lower Slaughter (much nicer than they sound!) complete with beautiful little church to explore.
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…
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!
A recent quiet Friday evening we’d both been at our desks all day so decided to take a walk around Hampstead, with the last of the Autumn light. As we set off, the nearby train tracks looked dramatic and shadowed in the evening light:
We just caught the end of the evening, wandering across the Heath and stopping to look back at the houses.
Not much worth photographing, since it then got too dark, but we thought we’d share these moody Friday evening shots. As we’ve mentioned before, we’d really recommend Hampstead as a beautiful part of London for shopping, eating, drinking or just wandering. Happy weekend!