Category Archives: United Kingdom

An Abbey and a house with something in common

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Travel safe and wise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

House with history…Knebworth House

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

I hope you liked my new story.

 

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Travel save and wise!

 

 

 

En route … to a small but charming ancient English village

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Street in Bibury

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.

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Swan Hotel’s garden

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.

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Someone’s garden

 

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:

 Images can tell substitute words, therefore, I let you admire the beauty and decide if this village will make it to your travel list 🙂

4 days in Wales

Tenby, Wales
Tenby, Wales

Wales… only when I think about it makes me close my eyes and dream about a beautiful land with great people, delicious food and superb sunsets.

I wanted to visit this country for some time, but for various reasons could not find the right time to go there, so finally last August I have spent there 4 days there and it was far from being enough!

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St. Catherine’s Island with the derelict Napoleonic Fort on top

Where have I been?

I have started with Tenby, a small town with cute colourful houses facing the ocean. The streets are narrow and packed with shops and cafes of all tastes. It is a touristic attraction and it an be crowded if you go there on bank holidays or summer.

Tenby is known for its clean waters and amazing beaches. If you walk along Tenby’s South Beach toward Giltar Point, you’ll be awarded by a picture perfect view of Caldey Island.

While walking along the harbour, I have seen people feeding the Seagulls and many signs forbidding this activity.

For those who have more time or stop in Tenby, you can board one of the cruises in search of the wildlife of this South West coast of Wales.

You can find more information about upcoming events, places to stay or what to do in Tenby, here.

After Tenby my and my fiancé drove North towards St. David’s.

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Ramsey Island – one of the many caves

 

St. David’s is known as the smallest city in Britain, but doesn’t lack historic monuments and beaches with fine sands.

If you’re hungry and want to have something fast, there is a fish and chips shop (we did not really enjoy it, but maybe other customers did). Sandwiches and hamburgers are another option. If you want something healthier 🙂 then you will find several restaurants serving local foods. One of these restaurants is just at few meters distance from the Saint David’s Cathedral. However, do not expect a very wide range of restaurants or cafes. The option is ok just to make you feel comfortable to choose from.

Observing seals at Ramsey Island
Observing seals at Ramsey Island

We were surprised to see a lot of tourists here. And the questions is, what are they doing there?

Tourists, painters, photographers and curious minds are drawn here by the beautiful landscapes, beaches and by the wide range of outdoor activities provided by local companies. If you are an active person and you love the sea, then you probably will chose one of the following activities: coasteering, sea kayaking, climbing or surfing. If you prefer different types of activities, then you may want to take a boat/cruise trip and watch the wildlife. Whale and dolphin watching trips and gathering of gannets nesting site on Grassholm Island trips  are most popular in the summer. You could also take a boat trip to one of the largest islands – Ramsey Island. Here you’ll see the seals. Muffins are another attraction, and for that you must travel to St. David’s between May – July.

St. David's Cathedral
St. David’s Cathedral

Curious? Click here for more details or even book your expedition.

The rest of the time was dedicated to walking along the coastline. I have to say that it is amazing and it’s worth all the effort. We have been to Aabereiddy and Abercastle. We have seen a beautiful double rainbow and red-orange sunsets.

Next time in Wales, I want to sleep outdoors as well. Camping sites are all over the place. Make sure you book your place in advance, especially if you travel in summer or holidays.

Some of the sources of information, I have found (and rest assured there are many more) are:

We have staid at a very nice B&B. The owner was a very nice lady passionate about yoga. I have lost her contact details. I hope to find them in my collection of tickets and visit cards and post it later.

The beautiful coastline
The beautiful coastline

 

I hope that you are curious about nature, landscapes and country life 🙂

More posts will be written, more memories shared but until then

Travel safe and wise!

Visiting the city with the old English name – Escanceaster

 

Cathedral Close, Exeter

I am living in the UK for a bit of time. A bit means a real bit, since Christmas 2014 and I have been to several cities, one of which is called Excanceaster or Exeter.

I have to say that after Bracknell, Exeter looks very nice. Bright, with large streets and countless of shops. The most impressive part of the city lies in the old town. You have the cathedral and surrounding houses, witnesses of the old and glorious times intertwined with newer ones.

The history of Exeter began as settlements on a dry ridge ending in a spur overlooking a navigable river Exe. The discovery of coins from the Hellenistic Kingdom is an evidence of a settlement trading with the Mediterranean in the 250 bc.

Locals, as well as visitors, can see and touch a portion of Exeter’s city wall, formed of both Roman and medieval stones. The wall is one of the few constructions to be preserved by this date in Exeter and it was part of the fort built on 42 acres. The Roman fort had a surprising impact on the local communities, locals started to move around the fort where they have formed, with Roman soldiers, an unplanned civilian community.
The Exeter Cathedral had launched a bid to restore the baths and open an underground centre for visitors if you can and want to donate some money to this beautiful cause. More information about the Foundation Project, you will find here.
Some other ruins which, can be seen today in Exeter, are the ones of the Rougemont Castle and the medieval Exe Bridge, built around 1200. The Rougemont Castle was built by King William. A lot more information about its history and events to be held here. If you’re a foodie and love to explore new things and try new foods, then save 21st of April for a day trip to Exeter. On this day, a food festival will be held and you do not want to miss it. 🙂
More details about this festival, the castle and many more you can find here.
If you’re not into food but you’re definitely a fan of Elton John, then 19th of June should be high in your agenda. Check Viagogo website for tickets, venue and prices.
Another good source of information is Heart of Devon website. You’ll find the latest news about the city, events and other useful information.
That’s it for now 🙂
Travel safe and wise!

One of the coziest and coolest cities in the UK

I’m in the UK since Christmas and I find this country charming. The best thing of all is the fact that I understand everything and I can make myself understood without any particular effort. It is a while since I was longing for something like this 🙂

After living in the Netherlands for 2 years, I see this new country as a fresh an exciting beginning. So, what is this post about?

Some days ago I decided that on weekend I’ll go to visit one particular city, where (accodring to some belifs) only the offsprings of the most privileged members of our society have the luck to live and study – Cambridge.

Last weekend the weather was very nice, sunny and almost no wind, BUT the sun lost the fight with the cold air, I am afraid. Was freezing and on Saturday morning it was snowing for a very brief time. I was happy like a child and wanted to run out from the dinning room to catch some snow flakes, to let them fall in my hair and to taste the winter. I had only a thin sweater and this stopped me from going outside.

One of the libraries in Cambridge
One of the libraries in Cambridge

The host was a wery welcoming lady, called Sue. Me and my boyfriend were lucky to have her as our host. Sue is running a BB in Royston, a town at just ~22km away from Cambridge. You can book a room or simply read about this place here and here.

So, what so nice about Cambridge and why are there so many tourists?

First things first. From the train station to the city center it’s a walking distance (you can also take the bus if you don’t like to walk).

On the way to the downtown there are few interesting sites, such as: Mary’s chatholic church, various restauants and shops and universities.

From Monday to Sunday, in the old market square you’ll find an open market with lots and lots of great produce. There you will find Thai noodles, Caraibean bread and sweets, high quality fruits, local meats and cheese and artisan bread. I love bread. I can eat it all the time, with almost everything, that’s why we bought some. More information about this market, go here.

Outdoor market in Cambridge
Outdoor market in Cambridge

Besides various shops and restaurants, one stands out – Jamie Oliver Italian restautant. If you would expect it to be expensive, then you;ll be surprised that actually is not (based on UK prices) and instead of having a hot dog and a Cambridge crepe or Costa, Starbucks coffee and pastry, better have a very nice meal or tea time at JO.

Walking along the streets, you can admire the old buildings that are one more beautiful than other.These buildings are where those privileged students are spending their time and where many other dream of becoming a student. I think that it’s understandable the high fees that one must pay to study there. It is not only about the place, but it is also about the quality of studies, facilities and other services that one student here will get. Not to mention the prestige and the easiness with each a graduate here will build his/her career.

Corpus Christi College in Cambridge
Corpus Christi College in Cambridge

There are several Tourist Information Centres, but apparently they do no offer a free map. Therefore, you can buy one for 1,95 pounds or use your mobile to guide you to the most interesting places in the city. On the banks of the river Cam you will see some of the most beautiful college and universities buildings. To mention some: Great Saint Mary’s, Trinity College, King’s college and Queen’s college, King’s Parade, punting and the Round church. For more suggestions, visit Lonely Planet website and Virtual Tourist website as well.

Trinity College
Trinity College

I know that this was only my first trip there and many will follow….I am waiting for some warmer days to come 🙂 Until then, I will try to explore more of the surroundings I am staying now and will keep writing about it 😉

Round Church
Round Church

Travel safe and wise!

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Sedgwick Museum of Geology
Sedgwick Museum of Geology
Cambridge city Hall
Cambridge city Hall
King's Parade
King’s Parade
King's college
King’s college
Corpus Christi College in Cambridge
Corpus Christi College in Cambridge
Queen's College, Cambridge
Queen’s College, Cambridge
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College
Trinity College, Chapel
Trinity College, Chapel
Trinity College, Chapel
Trinity College, Chapel

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