Tate Britain, London

Last weekend, while J. took the train to East London for a football match, I decided to meet up with my friend Kam for a girly-day out in London. We have hardly seen each other since graduating from university, except for my trip to Berlin to see her, and last month when she came up for the weekend. She suggested we go to an exhibit – good – as that was exactly what I wanted to do! It’s great being on the same wavelength. I made a list, there is so much on in London, it’s so amazing, but we managed to narrow it down to one at the Tate Britain, which was not far from Victoria Station where we met up, and then have a wander round Shoreditch afterwards – blog to follow.

We went to the Tate for the temporary exhibit on Impressionists in London; this is showcasing the impressionist art of the French refugees from the Franco-Prussian War –  in particular, those of Monet, Tissot and Pissarro.

Being the Francophiles that we are, this was a good pick for us. Not only that, but I am very fond of Monet’s paintings. There was a Monet exhibit at the Tate Modern in Liverpool a few years ago which was great and the Waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris are beautiful. Until this exhibit though, I had not seen his London series, so it was a new insight.

The exhibit as a whole is actually quite fascinating as it gives the viewer a glimpse into how the French artists perceived contemporary London society and culture. I particularly loved the room which focused on the outsiders’ struggle and competition to capture the London fogs – here the paintings by Whistler, an American painter, for me were the most breathtaking.

As we left the Tate Britain, it was quite fitting that a fog had settled over the city, albeit not as striking a view as in the paintings, but a fog nonetheless…

27042892_10159703169615447_780573808_n

The low-down

Where: Tate Britain, London (a short walk from Pimlico station on the Victoria Line)

Cost: £17.70 or £15.70 concessions (permanent exhibitions are FREE)

Remember: The Impressionists in London exhibition finish 7th May 2018 – don’t miss it!

 

 

A Sneak-Peek at my 9-day Egypt Itinerary 

Cairo – 3 nights

We start in Cairo, staying at the iconic Mena House Hotel; I cannot wait to see the Pyramids from my bedroom window when we arrive. I don’t think there is a better way to start our trip.

We were originally going to do a half-day tour to visit the Pyramids, but me being me, a girl with a fascination for all things Ancient Egypt since the age of seven, this was swiftly altered to a full-day tour, to include Saqqara and Dahshur.

Our final day will see us spend the morning at the Egyptian Museum and explore the city sites.


Luxor – 1 night

A short flight will take us to Luxor for a brief 1-night stay at the Hilton before boarding our Nile Cruise to Aswan. J. had wanted to take the overnight train from Cairo which he had done before, but we were advised against this form of travel by the agency over safety concerns. I am happy with the short flight that is roughly the same price as the train ticket.


Nile Cruise – 3 nights

The itinerary looks action-packed with an early start each day. We will visit Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, Valley of the Kinds and Queens, Edfu Temple, Kom Ombo Temple and Temple of Philae – lots of temples! I can already see J. getting worn out by temple-overload after a day or two but this is the kind of travel I love.


Aswan – 2 nights

We will be staying at the Old Cataract Hotel – the hotel that J. was extremely keen to stay at. There were no rooms available for the night we had originally planned, so the agency changed the itinerary of the trip especially, to work around staying at this hotel. The original plan was to stay 1 night, but due to the changes, we were given a complimentary extra night and in an upgraded Nile-view luxury room – wow. This will be a lovely way to end our trip, before flying back to London via Cairo.


 

Although it will be a cultural trip, the fact that all transport, tours and accommodation are all sorted means it will, fingers-crossed, be less stressful than say doing a DIY version.

This is the most luxurious trip we have taken. I’m more used to backpacking my way around, but I am sure I will adapt!

Have you been to Egypt before? Let me know any tips and ‘must-do’s’ in the comments!

Robyn

Escape to Andalucía: One day in Córdoba

One Day in_Córdoba

Back in October-November 2017 I spent my half term wandering around the streets of Madrid, which I blogged about here and here. I seized at the opportunity to get out of the capital and spend a day in a very different city I had yet to visit.

The greatest part about Madrid is how it sits smack bang in the centre of Spain and has excellent rail connections to most parts of the county. In only an hour and a half after boarding the train at Atocha station, I was walking the streets of Córdoba in the balmy heat of your average Andalucian Autumnal morning.

Córdoba is a small city, so a gentle 25-minute walk from the station will find you at its historic centre, where you will find plenty to fill your 1-day itinerary.

Most visitors come to marvel at its iconic Mezquita. You can book tickets in advance online and you should! I had read many reports that the Mezquita is never too crowded and it is easy to get a ticket on the day. How misinformed I was. Usually I book these things in advance just in case things go wrong; but I had been in Spain a few days and already I was super relaxed about everything.

The Mezquita had a massive queue when I arrived, but it closed for several hours in the afternoon when I came back for another try, and only reopened a little before I had to catch my train back to Madrid. Before heading back to the station, there was the most ridiculous queue of people waiting at the entrance to get inside. It was disappointing, so I will know next time not to leave these things to chance.

23130651_10159364277970447_7769544518699184863_n.jpg

Outside the Mezquita

Despite not being able to visit the main site in the city, Córdoba had a few other places of interest which I may not have had the chance to see otherwise!

Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

22886159_10159364277215447_2163534165028255817_n.jpg

Not far from the Mezquita is the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, or Palace of the Christian Kings. The gardens were enjoyable to look around and you can see inside some of the original buildings. It is very different to the Alcazares of Sevilla and Granada as this one seems less grand and much smaller, but for a couple of euros it is a must-do when in Córdoba.

Roman Bridge

22886016_10159364277775447_164113895760235416_n.jpg

Opposite the Mezquita you can walk along the Roman Bridge. This is a famous film set too for Game of Thrones as the ‘Long Bridge of Volantis.’ As a fan, I appreciated this.

Jewish Quarter

Córdoba has a small but rich Jewish heritage in its historic centre. Visit the small but informative Casa de Sefarad to get an idea of what life was like for Jews in the city prior to C15th. Around the corner is a Synagogue, built in the 14th century which still has some beautiful and intricate carvings on the walls.

Celleja de las Flores

Be prepared to be patient if you are heading to this next spot and wanting a picture-perfect shot of the tiny street adorned with flowers, as everyone else is trying to do the same thing! Look past the crowds and enjoy the beauty in this small place.

The best part about Córdoba is wandering its narrow streets, stumbling upon beautiful buildings, and being lost in another time. It was particularly good to stock up on some Vitamin D as this was the last time for a while that I felt the suns rays before I returned to the cold of winter in England!

22885825_10159364276080447_915295667649852990_n22886160_10159364278725447_4581759143469519456_n23130656_10159364276360447_8593106081891969223_n23130848_10159364278410447_8661326910277714672_n23131681_10159364278545447_4709054409590920092_n23130597_10159364276250447_3738126263946711889_n

The Next Adventure: A New Continent!

2017 was truly an incredible year with regards to travel; it saw me visit Europe three times, Easter in Japan AND three weeks backpacking South America. However since my last trip in November, that’s been it – I am braving the cold, dark nights in the north of England …until the next destination in Spring!

I don’t have a bucket list per-say, however the amount of places I want to visit are close to endless, and ever-growing. Mostly the fault of my fellow adventurous bloggers on WordPress! With limited time due to work, and a budget, it is becoming harder and harder for J. and I to decide which destination we should put first for Easter 2018, as we want to see them all! It took us two months of researching and late-night conversations to finally pick SOMEWHERE, anywhere. Flitting between Jordan, Morocco, Costa Rica, India, Sri Lanka, Cuba…. we couldn’t decide.

We finally agreed on a continent that is still untouched on my scratch-map, and a country whose history has fascinated me since I was a child – Egypt! James already visited when he was a kid, but it is somewhere he wants to return to, luckily!

I remember all the video tapes as a child in my house were recordings of documentaries of Ancient Egypt, I owned a million books on the subject and the first job I wanted to have when I was 7 was to be an Archaeologist or Egyptologist. Difficult words to spell at that age…

Up until this point, we have solely focused on budget-travel. Backpacking and organising our own itineraries and flights. We were students and that was fine for us. This trip is a big shift as it is our first luxury holiday. Not only are we staying in 5* hotels, but we have left our travel agent to sort out everything for us; from our flights, transport, guides and drivers. It does feel bizarre to be so detached in the planning for our upcoming holiday, but it is equally less stressful, which is what you are looking for when you are exhausted from work! All I need to worry about is choosing my outfits.

It is very exciting to do a different kind of travel. Especially as after coming back from holiday the last few times not feeling so relaxed due to all the moving around and having to sort everything out ourselves, and roughing it in budget accommodation. It will be so lovely to do a totally different kind of trip.

We will be visiting Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and doing a Nile Cruise between Luxor and Aswan.

Have you been to Egypt? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments.

Robyn

Snow in Spring

The snow storm ‘Beast from the East’ made its way here on Tuesday night. We had dinner at Pizza Express and the snow starting falling…and well, it didn’t stop!

Result? 1.5 days off work so far (fingers crossed Friday too)! It was nice to turn off my alarm this morning when I heard the news and get some extra ZZZs.

28378588_10159874501590447_7005345643515308772_n

 

I do feel bad that I am off work when for most people it is ‘business as usual,’ but it was quite (read: very) chaotic with the kids yesterday!

I spent all day yesterday marking and planning on the sofa, so I am finally feeling on top of things. However, this was gladly interrupted when my housemates came home and the snowball fight with everyone on the road commenced!

Today has been a chilled day; lie-in, watching day-time TV, finally hoovering my room and doing some exercise videos (no way am I driving to the gym in this!).

Hope my UK-based readers stay warm and safe while we ride out the storm!

Robyn

28377919_10159879531645447_2273729311108235264_n

SHOREDITCH, London

SHOREDITCHL D N

I’m definitely warming up to London the more I visit, and an afternoon in Shoreditch did win me over.

I took the train in for the day to meet up with a friend to see an art exhibit and then see where to go after. J. suggested Shoreditch as a good place to explore for the afternoon. I had never been but it was easy to get to on the Tube/Overground from Victoria.

26996727_10159702508965447_1053949352_n

We headed to Brick Lane to indulge in the famous beigels at Beigel Bake. So many of my friends have raved about Brick Lane beigels for years and finally I can understand what they are on about.

27153167_10159713260235447_154659534_n

a generous portion of salt beef beigel – yum!

The area is a vintage shop-lovers/street-art enthusiast’s paradise, and I could get lost in the rails upon rails of clothes for days or wander the streets looking for cool art. The area is so edgy but that’s the charm.

27157155_10159713274120447_712417236_n

By reading this you probably guessed that I actually absolutely loved Shoreditch. It’s a shame that this corner of LDN hasn’t been on my radar until now. There is a lot to see and do – I have only just scratched the surface; so when I’m next down to London (hopefully soon – wait did I just say that?!) I will be wanting/demanding to spend some time here.

27295010_10159713274195447_1491170101_n

Rainbow Beigels


What do you make of Shoreditch? Anywhere in particular I need to check out on my next visit? Let me know in the comments 🙂

 

Day Trip: Hadrian’s Wall

Day Trip_Hadrian's Wall(1)

There are many ways to visit Hadrian’s Wall. There are one-week walking holidays across the entire length of the wall, cycling holidays, day trips, tours – the best thing to do is research before you go what you want to see and how you want to do it. We had a weekend in nearby Hexham, and spent the Saturday visiting some of the main sites.

We were ready to set an early alarm to seize the day, but our first port of call, Vindolanda, did not open until 10am;  so instead we enjoyed a more relaxed start to the day with a tasty breakfast at the hotel.

Vindolanda

Vindolanda is an easy 20 minute drive from Hexham. All the sites are well signposted en-route, which made navigating really simple. We arrived at Vindolanda – the first ones #keen. We bought a combined ticket to also visit the nearby Roman Army museum which is worth going to.

Vindolanda is an impressive site and what is even more staggering is that only part of the site has been excavated and there is still plenty more history to be uncovered. After making your way through the archeological site, you come down into the gardens and towards the Vindolanda museum which holds a large collection of objects discovered at the site: shoes, coins, weaponry, beauty products all the way to a calendar device and the pride and joy of the museum – the famous writing tablets.

Length of visit: 1 hour

IMG_3965.JPG

After a short detour to the Roman Army Museum, make your way back past Vindolanda to Housesteads, the best preserved Roman Fort along the wall.

Housesteads Fort

We were delighted to find out that this is a joint English Heritage and National Trust site, so our NT membership cards came in handy here with free entry! What was a shame was that parking is not free, even for members and was £3 for 2 hours (quite expensive!). Housesteads has its own little museum which is worth having a wander around and this is the first place where I got up close with the Wall! The car park and Visitor’s Centre is a 5-10 minute walk from the Fort which is uphill, so it is not the most accessible site.

Length of visit: 45 minutes

Sycamore Gap

27994542_10159801178725447_873208499_n

We were keen to visit the nearby Sycamore Gap, a 1 hour 30 mins walk from Housesteads or a 30 minute walk driving to Steel Rig – we chose the latter! Jumping back in the car, we parked at Steel Rig, only a few minutes down the road. £2 for 1 hour parking (again, not cheap) but this is ideally located along the path to Sycamore Gap and only a moderate 30 minute walk to the tree. The car park is small, so parking would be difficult in busier months.

The walk is only an hour in total. We did it in layers, jeans and walking boots. I forgot to leave my handbag in the car, so that came with me. The terrain was very muddy so I was more worried about falling and ruining my nice handbag more than anything – I looked quite ridiculous while all the other walkers had proper gear on! Luckily I didn’t fall…

The route is not easy, and there were a lot of undulating hills to go up and down. I am so glad I have been going on the stepper regularly at the gym! The views were breathtaking though and it wasn’t long before the Sycamore branches were reaching out to welcome us. This is when we realised…there was a much easier route – a flatter route which cuts out most of the climbing! On the way back to the car park, I was grateful for the gentlier walk but glad I had managed the trickier one on the way there.

After a busy day of sight-seeing and walking, a pub lunch down the road at the Twice Brewed Pub was a great reward, before heading back to Hexham.

Have you been to Hadrian’s Wall? Have you seen any of these sites or different ones? Let me know in the comments.

Robyn