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!

 

 

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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 🙂

 

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: Pembrokeshire, Wales

It was the first weekend after school broke up in July and I was geared up for a nice, weekend break in sunny South Wales. Of course, things didn’t go to plan! First, J. and I were planning a weekend camping together, but this soon became a group thing with a few of his old coursemates and housemates. Luckily we are all good friends…

I spent a lot of my childhood exploring North Wales, living only a short drive away in Merseyside. Many memories were made getting lost in Snowdonia on expeditions for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, so it was good to go south for a change.

We stayed at a campsite only a short drive away from nearby Pembroke which has an impressive castle and a high street with some shops, pubs and restaurants. A little further along was Tenby; with its pastel-coloured houses along the harbour, it is a picturesque little seaside town, which we enjoyed going to on both Saturday and Sunday morning for a stroll along the narrow streets and get a spot of breakfast.

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J. and I arrived early on Friday afternoon to the campsite, well before the rest of the group. We were welcomed by nothing less than torrential rain. Looking forward to a ‘summer holiday’, and definitely too optimistic in our choice of clothing (jeans – what was I thinking?!), we were very unprepared to put up our tent and regretting everything.

Sitting in the parked car for a few minutes we agreed we were not going outside. A lady knocked on my car window and asked me to meet her in the reception to check-in. Poor thing had got soaked for that! J. said he was staying put, so it was up to me to brave the weather. It’s not like we don’t have the equipment – I have waterproofs and everything but didn’t bother to pack them. Definitely the wrong decision.

The rain was not subsiding even after quite a while, so we agreed we would just have to put the tent up and get soaked. Get soaked we did. Two hours passed and still the rain was hammering down on the tent. We were getting hungry so it was time to once again get wet, just when our clothes were starting to dry! I called my mum and said suggested we just put the tent down and go find a B&B. It was so tempting but we were too stubborn for that!

There was not much parking in Pembroke. But by the time we got there, we found some free parking only available after 6pm (hooray!). Unfortunately, the main pubs and restaurants were about a ten minute walk away – of course! Walking down the street, we were turned away by a few places as they stopped serving at 7pm and were closing up. So odd as it was a Friday night! Eventually, we found a pub/restaurant/hotel which did food, so we sat down at last. We looked out the window from our table, jaws dropped – it had stopped raining the second we found shelter – typical!

After being well fed, our clothes were drying quickly and one of our friends finally arrived to join us. We were waiting for three more, but after horrific traffic all the way from Sheffield and 2 hours of stagnancy on the roads, they arrived in the thick of night at 11pm. Car lights were useful in helping to put the tent up!

After the nightmare of the rain on Friday afternoon, we were grateful that there was no more for the rest of the weekend! We spent Saturday afternoon relaxing on Stackpole Beach which is known as the best beach in Wales! The walk along the clifftops makes for a dramatic arrival to the beach, but because of this, it is not very accessible for those with restricted mobility. There were a lot of sand-flies as well which wasn’t great, but the views were spectacular.

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On the way back to the campsite, we stopped in Pembroke to pick up food for a BBQ which was a great way to spend our only real proper night together there.

Pembroke is a beautiful, little corner of Wales which has some lovely villages and beaches to visit. Luckily, after a terrible start weather-wise, we were treated more kindly for the days that followed, with some sunshine. Although, this is Wales, we should have known better! Next time though, I think we will rent a cottage together, or at least go glamping/book a B&B. I think my DofE days are past me!

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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

Adventures at Home: Winchester, England

I have really been exploring the South recently! This time, it was to the quaint, historic center of Winchester for a lovely day out.

The city reminded me of York, but what puts Winchester on top is that it is the city less-traveled. There is plenty to see and do but you do not have to push through the hoards of crowds to get around – my kind of place!

From the train station is a short walk to anywhere in the city. Our first stop was the famous cathedral. Your ticket includes a free tour and remains valid for the rest of the year should you wish to return; we didn’t do the the tour but the guides who we spoke to were very knowledgeable and happy to answer our questions. The cathedral is perhaps most famous as Jane Austen’s final resting place – of course we paid her a visit, but it is also home to a 10th Century Bible. A very impressive book, huge and detailed. Written on velum, it has been impeccably preserved.

Only a few days earlier, I was watching a TV documentary about Jane Austin’s life in Winchester and Bath and then it just so happened that that weekend, I was walking on the same streets I saw in the documentary. History in action.

Our next stop after a pub lunch was Wolvesey Castle. A free English Heritage site, and well worth the visit to get to know the Bishops of Winchester who made this their home during the Medieval period. The bishop was the most influential and powerful man in the city and our visit here gave much more context to how important Winchester was at the time, second to London! Nowadays, the site is a ruin, next door though, the new residence of the Bishop of Winchester can be found.

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After a bit of window shopping on the busy High Street, we had a tea and cake stop at the nearby Winchester Café. On offer was a superb selection of cakes and teas. Spoiled for choice with regards to the tea selection, the waitress recommended the apple and mint tea – wow, it was so good. On the menu I read that it had won awards, so it was no surprise really.

From there, it was a short but uphill leisurely walk back to the station to catch the train.

Adventures at Home: Stonehenge

Many travelers coming to England have Stonehenge firmly in their itineraries, and it bewildered me that I had still not been there – it is one of the most iconic, mysterious and historical sites in my home country. Located in the south of England, in Wiltshire, Stonehenge is actually quite far for me to get to, and it has only been in the last few years that I am really beginning to scratch the surface in discovering the south of England.

With J. based down south now, it is only just over an hour’s drive to Stonehenge which makes it an excellent day trip. It is worth researching your visit before you go; Stonehenge may seem to be in the middle of nowhere, but there are plenty of interesting places nearby to see if you have time, including other English Heritage sites such as Woodhenge or Old Sarum.

The drive should have taken just over an hour, but this stretched to nearly two hours due to traffic congestion only 2 miles short of Stonehenge – a dual carriageway turns into single lane. This is extremely frustrating as it is a major road network and the main access road to Stonehenge. You feel so close and yet so far at the same time.

After about 45 minutes of stopping and starting the engine, we got through the bottleneck to find Stonehenge on the right of the road.

J chuckled: “right we have seen it now, let’s go!”

It’s true, we had seen it from our car, but we would have to go round three sides of a square to get to the Visitor Center.

Waving our English Heritage membership cards at the stewards, we were able to get free parking, just another perk of being an English Heritage member.

We booked our tickets in advance online through the English Heritage website which they recommend. Despite being members and getting free entry, the online booking not only saved us having to queue for the tickets but it also secured a time for us to get in. The heightened security upon entry seemed excessive, but I guess this is one of the most important historical sites in this country. Every bag was meticulously searched, we were all scanned in and I was even questioned where I came from. It is a necessity to keep us and Stonehenge safe, but it’s a sign of the times.

There is a shuttle bus from the Visitor Center which takes 5 minutes to get to Stonehenge. It is a very accessible attraction for all to see which is brilliant. Alternatively, you can take a relaxing 2 mile stroll through fields. We were not in a rush so we walked there and got the shuttle back.

We timed this all brilliantly as by the time we got back in the car to go for lunch, the rain came pouring down!

We took an audio guide which gives plenty of information about the history and significance of Stonehenge. I was very intrigued by how they changed the original road layout, as there used to be a main road which was right next to it! You could have touched it from your car seat.

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We drove through the beautiful Wiltshire countryside (in the rain) to find some nice pub food. It’s a lovely little slice of rural England round here. After recharging my batteries with a refreshing lime and soda and a gourmet steak sandwich, I felt quite tired but still had to drive back the hour and a bit home. As Old Sarum was only two minutes down the road, we jumped back in the car to have a look at this ancient hill fort/royal residence for the ultimate stop of the day.

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A much quieter attraction to Stonehenge, but still a significant place, Old Sarum is the oldest settlement in this area; a royal palace for Henry I and where the Doomsday book may have been presented to William the Conqueror. After a dispute in the 13th century, the decision was made to move the cathedral in the grounds to an area nearby. The settlement which grew around it became Salisbury and ultimately, Old Sarum dwindled in power.

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This was a fascinating insight into history, and I am sure this is only a taster for what this region has to offer.