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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope that you are curious about nature, landscapes and country life 🙂
More posts will be written, more memories shared but until then
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 250bc.
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.
Hello everyone, it’s been a long long time since I last wrote something on my travel blog. I am a little busier than usual with travels and work. And if none of the above, then it’s my fiancé, cats or wedding planning that’s taking all my time.
What would you see coming in the next days and weeks?
A post about new countries I have been to, jut to name few of them: Singapore, the Philippines and Estonia. The UK and other European countries are charming and I cannot wait to write about these experiences as well. Tropical Christmas – done! It was nice, unusual and fun.
Do not collect clothes or overpriced branded stuff, collect memories and experiences! 🙂