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.
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:
Today I decided to write about my last year experience at Keukenhof. Some of you might know about this amazing park but there may be some people out there who never heard about this place before. Regardless of what your knowledge about this place is, I want to write about my experience and maybe one tip or two: when to go, how to reach that place on your own and not through an agency and things like that. Remember: every time you call an agency to help you with something, you’ll pay a % as agency fee!!! Sum all those amounts and you’ll get a quite a decent amount spent for something you could spend on something else or just save it 😉
Now, what is Keukenhof and WHERE it is?
Keukenhof or the “Garden of Europe” and is the world’s largest flower garden. According to the official website, in this park are approximately 7 million flower bulbs planted annually. The whole garden covers an area of 32 hectares (therefore be prepared to walk and discover some amazingly beautiful places there!)
Keukenhof is situated on 15th century hunting grounds. Some of the owners were Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut‘s castle, governor Adriaen Maertensz Block and the Baron and Baroness Van Pallandt and only in 1949, the garden was established by the then-mayor of Lisse.
The whole park was thought and designed by father and son J.D. and L.P. Zocher. Nowadays, even though the basis of an English landscape garden are kept, you will find many other gardens and styles at Keukenhof. In the Historical Garden you can see many old types of bulbs. You can visit a nature garden, which consists of a water garden, where shrubs and perennials are combined with bulbous plants. And the Japanese country garden, a playful non-traditional garden in a natural environment.
Another exciting and unique experience is to go for a boat trip around Keukenhof.
I think that many of you, when are thinking about Netherlands are seeing the long and wide fields of tulips. Well, this is the case in late-April , mid-May, but do not expect to see this at Keukenhof. You’ll see this through your bus windows on the way to the park, tough! 🙂
If you stop in Haarlem (distance 15km from Keukenhof) or if you find an accommodation in Lisse (it’s the name of the small village where the park is) then you can rent a bike and explore the surroundings as you like. You can do it from Amsterdam too, but it’s kind of far (36km) and I’m not sure if there are lines designed for bicycles.
If you don’t want to bother about your bike (parking, safety, etc) then you can take a bus either from Schiphol (bus 858) or from Leiden (bus 854) to Keukenhof. You can buy a special Combi ticket for these routes and also for those traveling from Haarlem and Amsterdam. A Combi ticket is a convenient two-in-one ticket that includes your return bus fare and entrance to Keukenhof. This means that when you arrive at Keukenhof you don’t have to queue for a ticket, but you can go straight into the park. You can buy your ticket (s) here.
When is the RIGHT moment to visit Keukenhof?
Well, it depends on the winter! We wnet there in the first week of May (2013) and there were some parts of the garden where the tulips were still on the growing phase and a week or so from blooming. If the winter is long and cold then most likely you’ll have to postpone your visit to sometime in mid-May, if the weather is mild then end of April should be a good time to go. Also, you should avoid weekends, because it’s crowded and if possible go there in the morning!
You can see this info on the official website , but I’ m going to mention it anyway. The park is open to public from 20th of March to 18th of May! Do not miss one or more of the events planned for this year and for that check and take notes of the events!
Ah, yes! Talking about 2014…this year the theme of the park will be dedicated to Holland. This year you’ll be delighted by exhibitions on the history of the tulip, 17th-century tulip mania and modern tulip cultivation. Spectacular features will include the flower mosaic depicting Amsterdam’s canal buildings, planted using 60,000 tulip bulbs.
I hope that this post will make you eager and impatient to visit Netherlands in April – May and especially Keukenhof!
I was born, grew up and went to high school, made good friends, fell in love and got my first disappointments in this, for most people, unknown country – Republic of Moldova.
Due to historical circumstances, Moldova, has lost most of its cultural and historical sites and heritage. Even so, this country in the South-East of Europe is a place where one can blend with the nature, rich traditions and the welcoming people that are always happy to show, give and make anyone that steps into their home feel as they are part of that family.
If you think or consider traveling to this hidden place, be aware that in the villages, sometimes in the cities and towns people speak only Romanian and Russian. If you don’t posses any of these languages, please do learn some of the basic phrases, because this will make your travel experience easier and more pleasant 🙂
There’s no best time to go in Moldova, whenever you choose to go, you’ll be welcomed, but some of the things you should keep in mind: July-August, winter holidays and Easter are high seasons, therefore, expect high prices for accommodation, tours and flight tickets.
December, January and February there’s a very high chance that you’ll freeze, but walk on the snow 🙂 There are winters that are harsh, and when I say harsh I mean temperatures below 0 (-10C to -35C), so be well prepared.
If you want to taste from our reaaaally delicious fruits and veggies, then your travel time should be somewhere between June and October 🙂 In June there are plenty of cherries of different sorts and colors. Have you heard about sweet sour cherry, white cherry, pink cherry, bitter black cherry or yellow-red cherry? Well if you’re curious about these, you have one option: go there during June month. For the first wine tasting and moooore veggies and fruits, late September – early October is the way to go.
Autumn in Moldova is very rich in events and Festivals. One that started to gain more attention from the media and people is Gustar Festival. It is held on the one of the most scenic places in Moldova – Orheiul Vechi. The very nice part of it is that foreigners will have the chance to meet locals, try traditional food and even buy some handcrafted souvenirs from the people who are making them! Also, if you have a tent, you can sleep in it and save money for accommodation.
The Festival will be held between 24th and 25th of August 2013. For more information please, click here Gustar Festival. The National Day and Language Day – 27th and 31st of August. During these two days in the Chisinau main square will be held concerts, a fair with local products and at the end of the day fireworks! The events are open to the public free of charge and start from 9am until 12am!
In October there are two events: every year on the second Sunday of October is the Celebration of Wine or Wine Festival. During this day many of the local wine producers will have their exhibition places with free wine tasting and with the chance to buy some of the wine they have there. For the wine lovers and collectors that is a real chance to find old wines or high quality wines at reasonable prices. There will be stalls with local food, non alcoholic drinks and even local honey. My boyfriend really loves the honey, he said it’s nicer than the one you can buy in the Netherlands 🙂 14th of October is Chisinau Day! Another day of concerts and free events all over Chisinau. A fireworks show will begin, somewhere between 11pm and 12am, make sure you are in the right spot to see them! The best place to be is the main square 🙂
For events that have the main theme art, food, music, sports, rural and national holidays, please click on the theme you’re interested the most.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve is celebrated TWICE! Why? In Moldova the main confession is Christian Orthodox, but the church is split: one is following the Gregorian callendar the other one is following the Julian calendar. 🙂
Other holidays are: Easter, 8th of March, 1st and 9th of May.
Some more tips here:
Try to book in advance all your flight tickets and hotels/hostels/ apartments. If you travel in 2 to 4 people then the cheaper accommodation for you will be to rent an apartment for all of you, because the price is per apartment and not per person! Therefore, when you split the cost it comes cheaper! Also, there are some agencies that offer tickets for breakfast, this means by renting a flat with them you have free breakfast included. I would recommend Suisse, 4rent, CVS, Rental. If you rent a flat from 4rent then most of the time you’ll have breakfast included and the restaurant offers 3 choices for breakfast (Continental, Russian and American! ) 🙂
Be careful with your belongings. Some people might take the opportunity and try to get your stuff, therefore leave all your expensive things in the locker at your hotel/apartment/hostel, etc.
Keep small money in your exterior pockets and the credit cards and the rest of your money inside your jacket or inside your bag. Never show that you’re in possession of a large amount of money!
Try not to split (if you are in a group) and always stay together. Don’t get distracted by people who are asking you directions, different kind of information, etc!
Travel ONLY with authorized means of transportation. If you need a taxi, call one from your hotel or hire a taxi that has clear logo and phone numbers on it. Just in case, ask driver’s name, take the car’s plate number and the taxi company name. These information will be useful for the unlucky case of leaving something behind/ forgetting something in the car. For a better result and in order to get your things back, you’ll have to call the taxi company within the shortest possible time! This will increase your chance to get your things back. Sometimes drivers get other passengers that can take your stuff without declaring about their finding!
For those who want to buy some souvenirs, Moldova is offering a wide variety of handcrafted items : from paintings to wood and stone carvings and sculptures. Please go here to read more about this and maybe find your unique souvenir.
Wine tours – there are more than one tour agencies that offer such a service. My advise to you is to go on such tour during working days – it’s way cheaper! If you want to know more about these tours, please go here. You can go there by car, by taxi or pay extra to your tour agency.
What is Moldovan cuisine like?
Cuisine of Moldova is based on a variety of fruits, vegetables, grain varieties, cattle breeding and fresh water fish. If you ask me what is your country food like, I will say that the cuisine is very diverse and it took elements, cooking techniques and dishes from Greek, Slavic, Byzantine, Mediterranean and Turkish cuisines.
If you travel to Moldova during late July early August, and stop somewhere in the country side, then you have a high chance to try fresh sweet corn cooked on coals or boiled. It depends on the place you are or the restaurant you go, you can taste fried, baked, filled and served as stand-alone treat or as a side-dish mamaliga/ polenta. We have different types of desserts and pastry made of corn flour. Give them a try! By the way, you’ll be very surprised when you’ll discover the wide range of pastry products that you can find in a big supermarket. The bread has a unique taste here, try the “Borodinski” bread with a cup of warm milk , you’ll be in heaven. 😉
Some of the restaurants and bistros I will recommend you to try, now that I speak about food, are :
Galbenus – str.A.Puskin, 22 – the CHEAPEST food!
Eli-Pili – St. Bucureşti, 68 (btw St. Puskin & St. Banulescu Bodoni)
Robin Pub – St. Alexandru cel Bun, 83 (at St. Alexandru Diordiţă)
Str. 513 – Blvd. Ştefan cel Mare, 79 (Entrance from St. Mihai Eminescu)
Delice d’Ange – 31 August 1989 str. 117/2
Creme de la creme – Strada Alexandru cel Bun 98
Caramel – Strada Mitropolit Gavriil Bănulescu-Bodoni 4