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…

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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!

 

 

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.

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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

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SHOREDITCH, London

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

 

Road Trip: Hadrian’s Wall in February

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The historical value

Since studying Latin at school for GCSE, Hadrian’s Wall has been a place on my radar for so long. It was interesting to visit the nearby Vindolanda, partially due to it being the home of Minimus, the main character from the first Latin course I studied in primary school, but also for its historical significance – of course. We also visited the nearby Housesteads Roman Fort and a moderate walk to the picturesque Sycamore Gap nearby.

Where to stay?

Trying to find accommodation available and in budget was interesting – booking a trip during half-term and the weekend before Valentine’s Day was not easy! Luckily we stumbled upon a great deal online for two nights at a hotel in Hexham – a historic market town we had not heard of before. A quick check on Google Maps and it was a great location; in the heart of Northumberland and in close proximity to Hadrian’s Wall. Hexham itself also has a few places of interest worth visiting itself too.

My last and only trip to Northumberland was several years ago on a day trip to Alnwick Castle  and I have been wanting to explore more of this beautiful region ever since.

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Road Trip!

But February is too cold!

The only concern of mine for this weekend away was the weather. February is one of the coldest months in the UK and the weather forecast was pessimistic all week, talking of snow and ice. Somehow we managed to avoid the bad weather and we were blessed with bright sunshine both days (albeit still very cold!). Best advice is to prepare for the worst, wrap up warm with plenty of layers and make the most of this lovely slice of rural England. With it being the off-season, the empty car parks and low number of visitors was warmly welcomed, I couldn’t imagine how busy everywhere must be in peak season…

In my next post I will be sharing all about what we did on our weekend trip. Northumberland is such a vast county and I cannot wait to plan my next trip – hopefully to the Northumberland coast I am hearing so many good things about!

Have you visited Northumberland and/or Hadrian’s Wall? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Robyn

 

Winter Walks: Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire

I was amazed by the beauty of the changing landscapes and the variety of wildlife on my walk around Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. What truly perplexes me is how I have been living in the area for quite a while, yet I had not heard of the place until recently.

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A wave of my bright orange National Trust card at the park gate gave me free access to a huge expanse of woodland – 3,800 acres to be exact. The guy at the park entrance said ‘park wherever you want’ but there are designated car parks dotted around to use as well. The ‘free-for-all’ parking is great though as you can park in the perfect spot if you want to jump out for a photo. The park is so extensive, so there is no way you can see it all in one day.

There was once a country house on-site, which has since been demolished, but there remains many traces of its existence thanks to the Gothic-style chapel and walled kitchen gardens which you can visit.

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The chapel in the background

Despite receiving a map and some basic directions to the main Visitors’ Centre, I admit I did get a bit lost, but all roads loop around thankfully. After getting some help from a helpful walker, I managed to find where I wanted to go. I parked up near the walled kitchen garden as I wanted to take a peek in there first of all, before I made my way to the chapel and lake.

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Walled Kitchen Garden

I decided to do the Lakeside Circular Walk, which is roughly 4 miles (6km). Navigating the walk is easy as it is one large loop of the lake, but it did take me longer than expected (possibly due to all the photo opportunities!). It is a quite a big lake.

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The Lakeside Circular Walk © AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

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It is an accessible walk and all paths are signposted. I did it easily in trainers, but others were suited up in wellies or walking boots. There is the option to hire bikes near the Visitors’ Centre if that is something you like – I may do that next time. It was a cold, overcast day in January but many families were out walking their dogs and out with kids.

 

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The Low-Down:

Cost: See the National Trust website for opening times and prices for entry to the park

Don’t forget: your camera for some great snaps of the countryside and wildlife

 

Clumber Park: photo slideshow

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Adventures at Home: English Heritage

As a Grad with my own car (a luxury I didn’t have last year), it is so easy to get out and about now. There is nothing better than jumping in my car and heading off on an adventure – even for the day. Bonus points if the sun is shining and the windows are down!

What is English Heritage?

Last August, my boyfriend and I bought membership for English Heritage (they have student discount!), which has given us unlimited access to over 400 historic places for 12 months across England.

English Heritage is a charity that cares for and maintains these historic sites. I don’t know anyone else in their 20s with EH membership, and some have probably thought us as a little, old couple for buying it, but they are the ones missing out.

Hands down, it has been the best small investment I have made all year.

 The Perks

Knowing I now have a free pass to countless places of interest, I have been making the most of my weekends and days off; exploring England, getting some much needed fresh air and brushing up on my British history knowledge.

It’s great rocking up to one of the sites, showing our membership cards to gain free entry to the car park (win)  and even a free audio-guide when touring historic castles and homes (double-win).

The staff at all the sites I have been to have been lovely and helpful which adds to the experience.

Joining English Heritage has given me the incentive to get out more and do something when I would usually laze around watching TV.

I have been to many interesting and beautiful sites this year but there is even more on my English Heritage ‘bucket list’ – yes there is such a thing on their Member’s Area web page, and it’s addictive! I have English Heritage Wanderlust.

Stay tuned for the Top English Heritage Sites You Have to Visit

Robyn