We have been very lucky with the weather this year, less rain and more sunny spells and this only motivated me and my husband to take some day trips (in weekend only) to somewhere not too far from our home but to places which we will both enjoy.
In one of my latest posts, I spoke about the Audley End’s house. Now, I will talk about a couple more places, which are equally interesting and worth a visit, especially if you’re after some quality time with your family and do not want to fight over a table at a restaurant or wait long in queues.
Doing some research and asking friends about places they like to go, we have been given a whole list. While I do have some time for exploration and travels, Roy, is busy and available only during weekends. After some thought and discussions, we agreed to start with Huntingdon.
One of the surprises for us was to discover that the town was chartered by King John in 1205. While a bit out of the main route, the River Great Ouse – the forth longest river in England – plaid an important role in Huntingdon’s development and success. First it grew into a market town and, in the 18th and 19th centuries was a coaching town. Huntington’s old town is relatively small and it will not be too difficult to find the river and the medieval bridge. This bridge is in good condition, is in use today and was once the main route of Ermine Street.
In 1599, Oliver Cromwell – a military and political leader, later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland – was born. Details about his life, portraits and artifacts are displayed at the Cromwell Museum. This museum is the only one dedicated to Oliver Cromwell and was opened in 1962. The building hosting this museum was once an old grammar school where Cromwell was a pupil. More information about opening times, events, tickets, etc can be found on museum’s website.
Another famous resident of Huntington was John Major who became the youngest Prime Minister of the 20th Century.
If visiting churches are in your “To do” list, then probably you should include the All Saints church which is one of the two surviving medieval churches.
Huntingdon can be busy at times due to its proximity to Cambridge. If you are willing to travel on a double-decker bus and save money on accommodation, then probably Huntington may be an option. This town offers a choice of places to stay including The Old Bridge Hotel and The George Hotel, where each year the historic courtyard plays host to ‘Shakespearean theater’ and plays by the Bard are enacted. Hotels, BBs and Inns are ready to welcome you. I have looked on Trivago website for price comparison and the cheapest accommodation found was £47 per night for a double room!
Huntingdon is one hour – depending on the day and traffic – by bus Cambridge.
If you want to do some shopping or bargain hunt, then consider visiting on the following days: on Wednesday and Saturday traditional markets are held. You will find them in the Market Square. Popular Farmers’ Markets are held on every other Friday and on the last Saturday of a five-week month. There is also a popular Crafts & Collectibles Market every Friday in the town’s Commemoration Hall.
Another place which we have visited that weekend and very very close to Huntindgon is St. Ives.
The old part of St Ives forms a beautiful historic town on the river Great Ouse. The colorful buildings, numerous cafes and restaurants offer a wealth of choice.
On the streets connecting the main roads with the riverside you will find plenty of fine and full of character buildings. One of the main points of attraction is the 15th Century Bridge and chapel over the river. This bridge is only one of three surviving in England. Regular cultural and family friendly events including the illuminated boat parade, a stomping Jazz & Blues Festival and a unique Snowman Festival can easy entertain a family with various needs and expectations.
As in any country town, in Is. Ives, regular markets held every Monday and Friday, large Bank Holiday markets and an award winning Farmers’ Market held on the first and third Saturday of each month. You will find lots to do.
Around for more than a day? One possibility is to take a trip to The Old Riverport and discover the fabulous Cambridgeshire countryside. The Ouse Washes Landscape is a short distance away. You can either hire a boat from St. Ives to explore the river network or admire the wildlife at nearby RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes and RSPB Ouse Fen.
It’s late June and a large number of high school students or university students are taking graduation exams. Most of those students will be aware of some sort of tradition or superstition to follow and respect if they want to graduate.
It was only after my graduation when I have found out about a no no thing 🙂 I took my masters degree in Italy, at Bologna University, and one of the superstitions says that students should not go to the top of one of the leaning towers, otherwise they will never graduate. Another superstition said that you cannot cross on diagonal the Piazza Maggiore or Maggiore Square if you want to graduate and have good marks.
I did know about the second one and I found it funny, but some people were really following the “rule” and not forcing their luck.
One tradition that I find really cute is to have your family and close friends buy a laurel wreath on your graduation day (for university graduates) which the newly graduate will carry it for the whole day. While back in the ancient times the wreath was more of a horseshoe shape, nowadays, it is a complete circle. In Italy each faculty will have a representing colour, therefore, if you have friends or family members studying in Italy, make sure that you also have small accessories such as a handkerchief, the paper around the bouquet of flowers or the crucial ribbon woven into the wreath are of a right colour.
A laurel wreath is a circular wreath made of interlocking branches and leaves of the bay laurel. The tradition is believed to have started at University of Padua or Padova, but the roots of crowning a person with a similar wreath go well back to the ancient Greece when wreaths were awarded to victors in athletic competitions and in poetic meets; and ancient Rome where they were symbols of martial victory.
Remember the often used expression: “resting on one’s laurels” ? 🙂
Going a little back to the Italian tradition and to the main colours representing university faculties, I am listing some of them below:
Agriculture – Dark green
Architecture – Black
Economy – Yellow
Education Sciences – Pink
Engineering – Black
Law – Blue
Mathematical, physical, and natural sciences – Green
Medicine and Surgery – Red
Philosophy and Letters – White
Pharmacy – Red grenade
Political Science – Lilac
Psychology – Grey
Sociology – Orange
Veterinary – Violet
It is also common that family and friends will prepare in advance a surprise attire which the newly graduate will have to wear. Something similar to stag nights when the groom to be is wearing funny clothes. If you got to Bologna or other major cities with large universities, you will probably have the chance to encounter such parties. They are fun!
Oh, and the last one. It is mandatory to walk behind the newly graduate a song, confirming the status of the subject. Just to understand what I am talking about, I am sharing 2 short films found on Youtube here and here 🙂
When I was student in Romania, there was a whole list of superstitions related to exams and graduation which was circulated among students. These “must do” or “must avoid” activities are shared among students in Russian and Moldovan as well.
One of the most popular superstitious refers to personal hygiene. The student should not take shower or wash their hair on the eve of an exam. The reason for that was that by washing your hair, you could remove the accumulated knowledge. Another one says that you should not have a haircut before the exams, because you risk of loosing everything you learned before.
It was believed and even feared to accidentally drop a book or a course. It was thought to be a sign of bad luck.
On the positive side, if you wanted to have good results on your exam or test, make sure to step out of your house and enter the school/university with the right foot. If possible, sit down on the same place or the same table as the last time you successfully have taken a test. An Use the same pen. And the last one which will probably make you smile is to place the materials, courses and the book (opened) under the pillow before going to sleep. By magic and during sleep, the knowledge will move slowly in the mind of the sleeping student, giving the opportunity to get a high mark on the subject which is not really liked.
If a student went to an oral exam or viva voce, will have to extract an examination ticket only with the right hand or only the left hand, depending on the preference and past experience.
When coming back from an examination, the student should not place his/her backpack or bag facing the wall or on the floor, otherwise there is a risk of failing the test.
The tradition in Romania, is to wear graduation robes and hats, the same as in the USA and many other countries. You must wear them from the moment you attend the graduation ceremony and keep it on for the most of the day, even when going out to celebrate. It is common that people will stop you on the street to congratulate you 🙂
I must recognize that the “right foot” is something I kind of follow not only for meetings, but whenever I leave my house or enter a new place.
What are the superstitions discussed by students in your country? Do you believe in such things?
April and May have been hectic months. Preparation and travels for Easter holidays, then more travels in May and I want to talk only about one of these experiences I have had.
England is rich in mansions, estate houses and abbeys open to the public and because we had to decide on the last minute what we will do with all the free time we had – 3 full free days – we stopped at a property known to us only from a friend’s recommendation – Audley End House.
I believe that many of you will think that this house is in Audley End, which is by the way a train stop away from both Cambridge and Stansted Airport, but the reality is that this house is in Saffron Walden.
Now that I have mentioned it, you can travel by car or if you have time and are in Cambridge you can take the bus 132 – from the train station stop no.3. The journey will take about 65-70 minutes, but it can take less than that.
Going back to the house we have visited. Originally on the same spot as the house was a Benedictine monastery. On King Henry VIII time, monasteries were closed and their possessions were given to noble families. The lands of this abbey were given to Lord Audley who was King’s chancellor. He, Lord Audley, is buried in a early classical, black touchstone tomb in St. Mary the Virgin Church, in Saffron Walden. We have been to the church but could not find his tomb.
After Lord Audley’s death, the property was inherited by his grandson Thomas Howard, the 1st Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer to James I and he built the house on the exact place where the abbey was and it was 3 times bigger than it is today.
One of the royal families came to visit Audley End and seeing how large and grand the property was, the king said that a such a house is not appropriate for the king, but perhaps for his treasurer is. Not long after this visit, the king asked the owner of the house to demonstrate the origins of all his founds to build and maintain such a house. As this request could not be fulfilled, the family was arrested but then let free on a condition to pay a fine.
I do not remember the names of all the owners of this house, but listening to it, it gave me the impression that the house is cursed. Families will have no children or only daughters in which case the house passed to some of the male cousins, or had sons but they all died at a young age.
During the WWII, the house was the headquarters of the Polish Section of the Special Operations Executive. Polish volunteers willing to join the Polish underground movement were trained here before being dropped into their occupied home country. After the war, the house returned to its legitimate owners, but because they could not cover the debts and pay the tax, the house was sold to the English Heritage Trust.
The late owners of the Audley End’s house, Lord’s Braybrooke family now owns the Miniature Audley End Railway theme park just across Audley End’s house. More information about it here.
Today, you can visit the house, the gardens and the stables where you will see some of the horses and see the firefighters old machines.
People bring their own food and just sit on the beautifully maintained grass, in the shadow for a relaxed day. If you want to eat, there is a cafeteria in the main house and a coffee show just outside where the farm shop is – on the corner. The price for the food is reasonable and the quality is good too.
In the old kitchen, you will see some of the staff dressed like in the 19th century and in the nursery children have the chance to dress up and take pictures in some of the clothes provided – free of charge 🙂
If you fancy to read something or just relax on one of the sofas, then you can do so in the sitting room or the library. You are even allowed to read something from the collection – just ask.
Besides its beautifully decorations, you will be pleasantly surprised of the rich collection of oil paintings (of which about 90% belong to the latest owners of the house) and the birds collection.
Take a day to fully enjoy the property and relax. It is worth your time and money.
There are more things to say about this beautiful house, but I believe that it is better to see than many times to hear about it. For more information about the house, click here.
Some time ago I was talking with my husband to go on our honeymoon to a place where not so many people will actually go. It was later, much later when we discovered that there are a lot of couples spending their honeymoon in Iceland.
For the past few months we were planning a trip in 3. I wanted to spend this Christmas with my father. Unfortunately, the weather was too bad and his flight was cancelled.
So we went on our trip.
At the landing, we were told to look through the window on our right – the sky was on fire! We saw the aurora borealis or the Northern lights. I had a window sit – so lucky! The cabin crew won’t turn off the lights and will not dim the lights either. I tried to take a picture of it, but it’s not clear and with a lot of reflections…too bad, I thought, but there are many other opportunities to actually see the aurora borealis, perhaps soon after landing.
At Kefavlik airport was a great weather – snow storm – but who cares? The ground was all white and I haven’t seen so much snow in ages! I was so happy, excited and all smiles.
We knew that Iceland is notoriously expensive and we did some research. First, we gave up on self drive and opted for tours – I know, it sounds very laid back, but in WINTER time is better this way. It is the safest option!
Then we decided to take a bus, instead of a taxi. Much cheaper – if booked in advance – and it takes you to your accommodation. There are 2 companies, one is Reykjavik Excursions and the other one is Airport Express or the Gray Line. Have your tickets printed out, to avoid delays.
Due to our party – 3 people – we have searched and booked a room for 3. We have got a spacious room with 2 singles and a sofa. It was clean and warm. Our breakfast was simple, but delicious. Withing walking distance from the old town, Reykjavik Lights, was a good choice for us. If you do not like walking (about 25-30 minutes), then consider a hotel much closer to the downtown. Attached to this hotel you will find a restaurant serving pizza and at 2 minutes a Vietnamese restaurant which is much better than the one on the main street. A lot more restaurants are lined up on the way to the city center, so plenty of choice.
Keep in mind that in winter some of the guesthouses and hotels are closed. At Christmas and New Year, the country almost shuts down – you will have to book in advance your restaurant otherwise you may find yourself in a very interesting situation. Supermarkets are closed, shops as well, tours are very few, if any, and a limited number of restaurants are open for business.
We have had various foods, but we could not not try the Icelandic cuisine. On Christmas day, we went to Lækjarbrekka. Lækjarbrekka is a classic Icelandic restaurant, operated since 1981. You cannot miss it, it is not too far from Harpa and from the city hall. It is located in one of the main streets. The building is one of the oldest and most iconic in the city.
We have tried the Icelandic lamb and the salty cod.Both dishes were delicious. Be aware of the price. Food in Iceland is more probably more expensive than you’d expect. A glass of Bordeaux at this restaurant is about £16. Do not skip the desserts. They are very nice too!
On another occasion, we have had dinner at a different restaurant – Matwerk. It seemed new because the staff was not too familiar with the arrangement (which table has which number). It seemed a bit hectic, but the food was delicious. It is about on the same price range as Lækjarbrekka, but it has a cosy and modern twist.
If you do not have a reservation, try to have your dinner around 5:30pm. It seemed that locals and tourists are going out for dinner at 7pm. In this way you avoid crowds and you may be lucky to have a table at your desired restaurant.
Coffee shops are plenty. We could not try one of them – Kaffibrennslan. Their cappuccino and hot chocolate are good, but do not take the carrot cake, unless you like very sweet cakes. It is worth to mention that the portion of the cake is quite generous too.
If you want to do some shopping and depending on what exactly you are looking for, go to the Red Cross shops first. You may find something you want, at a discounted price. Icelandic sweaters are very nice and most of the shops sell the same models, but prices may vary from shop to shop. Do not wait to buy at the airport. At the airport these sweaters are a bit more expensive and you have few models to choose from.
Because we went on Christmas Eve, we had plenty of time to enjoy Reykjavik. We had enough snow to build a snowman and it seemed that people in the city were doing exactly the same thing. We saw a kangaroo, a fat Buddha and many smaller or taller snowmen.
Harpa, I have mentioned about it earlier, is the concert hall. We were planning to go to Björk Digital – an experimental VR project, a total merging of Björk’s music and cutting-edge technology that expands the musical experiment realm – but we could not make it due to late return to Reykjavik. Besides Björk Digital, there are many other events to choose from.
Due to poor visibility and low clouds, we did not see the aurora borealis, but our guides were brave or I should say VERY brave to go ahead with the tours on snow and rain storms. You probably read in many places and blogs about how expensive Iceland is and how unpredictable the weather is. Well, this post will not make an exception. The weather is changing every 30-45 minutes. You do not know if it will be raining, snowing or you’ll have clear sky above your head – and if you do, for how long it will last.
Winter in Iceland does not mean snow, it means snow, rain, strong wind and if you’re lucky clear sky. We saw a rainbow on our last day, so everything is possible! Bring warm, waterproof, windproof clothes, shoes, gloves and bags. A protection for your face will come handy as well. Fat, moisturizing cream is what you will need. Don’t forget to buy one, if you do not have it already.
We selected 3 tours: the Golden Circle, the South Coast and horse riding. Our favorite was the South Coast part, and this mainly because the guides were funny and we had a great time. The landscape everywhere you go is just amazingly beautiful.
On these 3 tours (3 more were cancelled due to weather conditions) we have learnt some interesting facts about Iceland and its people. Here are some (that I remember):
Icelanders do believe in Elves. The nation believes that these creatures/spirits live in stones. When the country was building the ring road, the constructors stumbled upon a large stone in the middle of the road. As they could not simply blow it up, they have stopped the works and invited an elf specialist to give them an advice. The decision was to remove the entire stone and transport it to an island where the elf will be happy and safe.
Besides Elves, Icelanders believe in Trolls. These guys/girls live in caves and go out only in the night. At the sunrise they hide. If they do not manage to do it, they become stones.
Iceland is located on 2 tectonic plates – North American and Eurasian. Where these 2 plates move apart one from another (with an impressive speed of 2 cm per year) earthquakes and volcanoes erupt. In one of the villages a deep crack in the ground appeared. Initially, builders were thinking to fill it with concrete, but it was decided to cover it with a thick glass instead. If you go to the Golden Circle tour, you will probably stop over there.
Warm thermal water is used for heating not only houses, but also greenhouses. The same water is in the Blue Lagoon and in any pool of the country – even in your shower 🙂
Icelandic horses are unique. Icelanders take a national pride in these horses, do not call them ponies! The first impression of the horses is that they are very fluffy, shorter than their cousins on the continent (Europe) and have strong legs. Regardless of your experience in riding horses, you will be given the chance to ride one – it’s the mindset of learning by doing.
Talking about horses, there are no wild horses in Iceland. All the horses are owned by someone, but they are left to roam free. Their owners, however, will make sure that their horses have enough food when it’s snowing or the weather conditions are difficult.
There are no large carnivores in Iceland. The largest of all is the arctic fox. It is a very beautiful animal with red fur in summer and white in winter. Because their favorite food are the mountain lambs, these animals were close to extinction. The government intervened and now these animals are safe, but their number is controlled to make sure that no harm is done.
All the salmon produced in Iceland is wild salmon. Some of the rivers are so clean that one can drink water directly from the river. (You can drink tap water. That’s what Icelanders do.)
The country is self sufficient. It produces vegetables, berries, meat and fish it needs. In fact, the largest banana plantation in Europe is also in Iceland. Who would have thought about it? 🙂
Dairy products are very very good and not expensive. Skyr is one of my favorite products. It reminded me of one of the products we have at home in Moldova – brinzica.
More and more tourists are including Iceland in their “to do” list. Icelanders understood that having not so many natural resources, they need to do something about it and ran a promotion campaign worldwide after the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. The news channels and their promotional campaign helped the country to gain more visibility and interest from people around the wold. If in 2015 about 700,000 people visited Iceland, in 2016 the estimated number is around 1,700,000 tourists!
Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon and cannot be predicted or told with 100% certainty when and where it will appear. There are several websites which can help you understand what will be the chances for you to see it, but in clear winter nights, you can see it also in Reykjavik – just find a less bright place. One such website is Vedur.
Do not drive in winter. Some people do, but to stay on the safe side, better trust professionals. The wind is very strong and roads can be slippery. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry.
All the tall trees are not native to Iceland…at least this is what we have been told. The native ones are not very tall and look more like a bush.
Do not walk or drive on the moss. If you do that then you will seriously damage the moss. Let’s respect the nature and keep it beautiful for many other people 😉
We have stayed 5 nights and at the end of our stay, we knew that we will probably be back before the winter ends. We still want to see the aurora borealis and few more places we have missed.
Travel safe and wise!
Danish Embassy in Reykjavik
Old house, Shop
Just a shop
Accessories…many of them in Reykjavik
Lots of snow…we have had a very beautiful Christmas
Another interesting sculpture
A cute family
Yes, it’s a snow storm
Christmas decorations in Reykjavik
someone took its dog out 🙂
Probably someone from Australia – Kangaroo
And someone from Asia – Buddha
My favorite snack
Around the Geysir
Exploring the Geysir park
And another one
The 2 tectonic plates
Skógafoss Waterfall – one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a width of 25 meters. Expect to see rainbows on sunny days…we were not very lucky 😦
Those who prefer to be wet than sexy
Black sand beach
Seljalandsfoss – narrow but very powerful waterfall dropping from about 60m. You can walk behind it – in winter if you have very good gear and if you dare.
When I travel to London, one of the stops is Knebworth. Not a place where you would want to get out of the train and start exploring….well, not until you see the big banner inviting visitors to a historic house.
I did not know much about it before, but the picture of it stuck in my mind for a long time. Maybe because I was in search of some beautiful locations for my pre-wedding pictures 🙂 On our last bank holiday, we decided to visit this house and change our weekend routine.
This house is famous among those groups which love rock concerts or have a special passion for film making. It happens that here some famous movies have been filmed – or at least some scenes were. Just to name few: The Kings Speech, Nanny McPhee, Batman the Movie, Miss Marple, Jonathan Creek or Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Fans of British TV series may recognize the house in some productions, such as: Flog it, East Enders, Antiques Roadshow or Saturday Morning Kitchen. For a full list of TV shows, go here.
I believe that you can check out this list for more information about movies or TV series filmed on this property.
The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Oasis, Robbie Williams and a lot more singers and bands have had their concerts at Knebworth. In 2014, the house celebrated 40 years of live rock concerts. For more details, go here.
It is true that this destination is perfect for families with children, however, adults have plenty of things to do as well. The house is open for visit and there is the family private exhibition also open for visitors. It shows the life of the family at the time when they were staying in India.
The gardens and the dinosaurs little park is perfect for walks, picnics and just a nice day out.
If you want to visit the house, make sure you check the opening times and if there are any events happening in any of those days. We have been to the motor show, which was very well attended.
Another thing to keep in mind is to carry cash with you. If there are events, there will be mini-shops and mobile-restaurants which will accept only cash. The house has a restaurant and there you can pay with your debit/credit card.
As many of my readers already know, last month I have made a quite an important step – yes, I have got married 🙂 A post about it will follow because it was too fun and awesome not to talk about hehe
A decision was taken to travel to Vienna and I had to follow…
I believe that this city does not need an introduction and it’s better to let my pictures talk from themselves 🙂
Before you admire my gallery, do not forget to try the ice creams from the various shops and have a night ride in a carriage drawn by horses.
If you do not have 3 or 4 days to explore Vienna, the Hop on Hop off bus is a very good way to see most of the attractions. Tr to bargain and ask for a cheaper ticket price. We have got a deal of 20 euro/ person instead of 25 euro.
In case you are wondering where we have stayed, at a rooftop apartment, very close to the Rathaus – more privacy and more flexibility.
Finally, I have decided to share few useful links:
In the UK there are 2 bank holidays in May. I have used one of these days to visit a village which was mentioned by a friend of mine.
This is a village in Gloucestershire, England, it is on both banks of the River Coln and it’s called Bibury.
It is a small village with a fish farm. You will think that there is nothing special to see, but if you happen to hold a British passport, then the inside cover picture depicts Arlington Row from Bibury. The cottages were built around 1380 as a monastic wool store to be converted into cottages for weavers in the seventeenth century. The area is a nationally notable architectural conservation and is one of six places in the country featured in Mini-Europe, in Brussels. On the Arlington (west) side of the village is Arlington Baptist Church, where a congregation has been meeting since the 1740’s.
If you want to stay overnight, then there are 3 hotels which are ready to great their guests. I have seen the Swan Hotel and it looks very very nice. I am sure that the Old Farm Cottage and the Old Byre are equally nice and comfortable.
The predominant honey color of the seventeenth century stone cottages with steeply pitched roofs are another reason why people come here.
While tourists are coming here from all over the world, Japanese tourists have a particular interest because of Emperor Hirohito, who had stayed in the village on his European tour.
If you have watched Stardust or Bridget John’s Diary, then you will most probably remember the scenes from those movies.
You probably will find a lot of websites which will recommend you what to see and what to do, I have decided to recommend you just 3 of them: