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Yes, yes, yes!!! Yesterday I took the plunge and booked my ticket to Florence, Italy. 🙂 Whoop whoop!!! Florence has been a long held dream of mine to visit. After Venice, it was my next dream destination but for one reason and another I just haven’t been.

So, since it is my goal/plan/intention to spend my birthday each year at a different destination, this year its…….FLORENCE!!! Yayyyy. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

Planning a trip to, and day trips in, a foreign country gives a thrilling frisson of fear…kicks the adrenaline into gear 😀😀😀😀

And so I took the plunge and booked my ticket….no going back now! I’ve decided to stay overnight in Pisa since my flight gets in quite late; I’ve found a super hotel…review to follow on TripAdvisor. And I’ve used AirBnB again since my other 4 experiences have been good, it makes perfect sense…and this venue has the use of a kitchen…VIP if travelling on a budget.

Today I’ve spent some time researching ‘things to do in’ Pisa, Florence,  Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano. During my research I found this brilliant site that was ever so useful in giving a step by step guide as to where to go, which bus to use, buying the ticket, length of the journey and how to get back, as well as suggestions, along with the history of ‘what to see while you are there’ Fantastic!!

During my research into these cities I’ve discovered that:

4 of them listed UNESCO Heritage Sites: Historic City Centre of Florence, Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Historic Centre of San Gimignano and the Historic Centre of Siena

4 are walled cities: San Gimignano, Siena, Lucca and Pisa (although not all the Pisa walls remain apparently.

and they all have cathedrals! Perfect as this means I’ll be able to add these to my goal of visiting 100 walled cities, 100 cathedrals and as many UNESCO Heritage Sites as possible (18 so far). 🙂 So as you can imagine I’m very very excited. My other lists of 100 places = Countries, Islands, Counties in the UK, Abbeys, Domesday Towns and Villages, Castles, Palaces, Walled Cities and famous Walks. So enough to keep me busy till I die. LOL Mind you, I’ve done quite a few already…so….

Anyway, for now it’s FLORENCE FLORENCE FLORENCE. I’m going to sleep, eat and dream Florence till 20th April…..35 days to go.

I’m now working on the travel details for the day trips to Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano. IF and it’s a very BIG ‘if’ I get a chance I hope to go to Cinque Terre…it’s a 3 hour train journey so I may not make it, but still, if I’ve seen all I want of Florence and done the day trips then I guess I shall just have to endure the ‘hardship’ of a train journey to the coast 🙂

Before booking this flight I had dithered and procrastinated for weeks. I had originally phoned Flight Centre to plan my journey but after the lass to whom I gave my details, sent me an itinerary that had my jaw hitting the floor with shock….£888 for the flight??? What???? I’m going to Florence in Italy!! She had planned me a trip to Florence in America ffs. When I queried why it is that I have to fly to Florence in Italy via America she said ” I know, I’m so sorry, that’s the best flight I could find.” Uhmmm, really. I could walk there quicker….even with swimming across the English Channel, I replied. She said: Yes, I know, it does seems weird, but that’s what the computer came up with. I then said but I did a flight search myself yesterday and it was approx £80!!  At which stage she said okay, I’ll do another search and see what I can come up with…..a few minutes later she phoned back and said “I’m awfully sorry, it seems the ‘computer’ took you to Florence in America, and not Italy!”  No shit!!! Thankfully I know my geography!

Anyway long story short and a few words from me, I told her to forget it and I’ve booked the trip myself.  So counting the days…..OMG wow, I’m going to Florence!!! In Italy 😉

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My sister recently celebrated her birthday in the UK and as a special treat because we had Fiona (my daughter’s car), I drove us down to Hastings for the day; 1066 country. I love Hastings, it’s one of my favourite places to go. I remember my very first trip there a few years ago…I nearly didn’t leave again LOL

We set off right after breakfast and on the way we stopped at a field that looks over Pewis Marsh, most of which covers the ancient medieval town of Winchelsea, largely abandoned in the 15th century. The field contains the remains of the west wall of St John’s Hospital; an almshouse for the poor.

1066 country, old winchelsea, hastings

a day trip to 1066 country on 21 October – celebrating my sister’s birthday

1066 marks a very special year in the history of England and the UK, and it was in fact on the 14 October 1066 that King Harald lost his life at the ‘Battle of 1066’ in an area that is now called Battle.

Reaching Hastings after a fab drive through the country, we started off at the fantastic Hastings Pier; we walked right to the end to admire the view and marvel at the history.

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Hastings Pier. with a remarkable history the pier played a part in the war

From there we walked along the promenade to see the amazing new sculpture installed on the beach in honour of the arrival of the Vikings.

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Norman Long boat sculpture on the beach at Hastings, by Leigh Dyer to mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings

After that we meandered along and discovered the little train that takes you from the beach-front to the fishing village/harbour….so it was all aboard and off we went to Rock-A-Nore Station – pay on the train. It was too much fun….we felt like kids again!!

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a train ride to Rock-A-Nore Station, Hastings

Then it was back down to earth and a meander through town…we were planning on looking for the ‘Piece of Cheese Cottage’ and stumbled upon it quite by accident.

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The Piece of Cheese Cottage, Hastings

The architecture in Hastings is too twee and quaint for words and we had such an amazing few hours just ambling about photographing every last detail.

hastings, 1066 country

Hastings architecture

By now we were in dire need of a sit down and refreshments so stopped off at the nearest pub where we made ourselves comfortable in two old armchairs.

hastings, 1066 country

time for a bit of R&R

After that we headed over to the fishing village where we visited the Fishermens Museum …a marvellous collection of nautical artefacts and a fabulous old ship lodge comfortably together.

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the delightful fishing village in the old harbour

We ambled about admiring the collection and then climbed the stairs to reach the deck of the Enterprise RX278.

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The RX278 Enterprise – lodges comfortably now in the Fishermens Museum

The fabulous Fishermens Museum

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the Fishermens Museum – located inside a church built on the Stade in 1852, which fell out of use after the Second World War.

The funicular to the top of the East Cliff enticed us and before too long we were on our way to the top. The United Kingdom’s steepest funicular railway is not only a structure of national importance but also a source of immense local pride.
The East Hill Lift provides access to Hastings Country Park which overlooks the Old Town and Rock-a-Nore.

1066 country, hastings east hill cliff railways

taking the cable car to the top of the east cliffs at Hastings

As we were about to step out the cable car the attendant said to my sister “there go the Russian ships” – my sister was like “yeah right!!” but ohmygosh….yes it was indeed the Russian Navy enroute to Syria using our waters to get there. Very provocative. I knew they were due to sail past the English coast round about that time, but didn’t expect to actually see them. We spent some time enthralled in conspiracy theories.

1066 country, hastings, seaside towns of britain, view from east cliff

the view from the East Cliff across Hastings Old Town – you can see the pier in the distance

Then it was off on a jaunt across Hastings Old Town to see the ruins of the marvellous Hastings Castle on the West Cliff.

1066 story, hastings, map of old town and the stade

a map of Hastings Old Town & The Stade

Part 2 of a day trip to Hastings – follows Sunday 27th at 19:10

 

 

 

 

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My sister thought it would be a great place to celebrate her birthday, her first in the UK and it was on my list of places to go in my quest to visit all the Cinque Ports; Dover, Hastings, Hythe, New Romney and Sandwich and their ‘7 surviving limbs’: Deal, Faversham, Folkstone, Lydd, Margate, Ramsgate and Tenterden.

Rye, now classified as an ‘ancient town’ was once a Cinque Port as was the ancient town of Winchelsea (of those listed, I have yet to visit those not highlighted)…. Places to go 😉

As mentioned in an earlier post my sister’s initial plan had been to visit the Isle of Wight but after reading an article about Mermaid Street in Rye, the decision was made to spend a few days in this ancient of towns. The first thing we discovered is that the cobbles in Mermaid Street were laid in the 1600’s!!

why go to rye

imagine all the history these cobbles have seen….

History that’s right up my street, so to speak 😉 How could I not want to go there. And so our plans were laid.

Initially there were meant to be four of us, but my sister’s two friends pulled out and so it was just the two of us…that reminds me of a song….LOL But let me not digress, Rye awaits.

We decided to arrive the night before so as to be in the town on her birthday…great idea! I had the hotel tie balloons to her chair for breakfast and persuaded them to put candles onto her breakfast plate!

Where will we put the candles they asked? Oh stick them in the sausage, I replied (as I crossed my fingers and hoped she ordered a full-English) – she did and to her surprise the breakfast arrived with 5 flaming candles!!! accompanied by a fantastic rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, if I may say so myself 😉

So those were our reasons; here are the reasons you should go!

Ancient history: Rye’s history dates back to before the Norman Conquest at which time it was a small fishing village almost surrounded by water. Since then, the sea has retreated and although there is still a small harbour and a river, the town now lies 2 miles from the sea. Fascinatingly the river is affected by the tides, so it’s fun to watch the ships and boats moored alongside rise and fall on the incoming and outgoing tides. I know – it’s the little things that please me!

why you should go to rye

old fishing boat in Rye Harbour on the Rother

Mermaid Street: listed as one of the prettiest streets in Britain, this quintessentially English street is lined with amazing architecture; the Mermaid Inn, a Grade II* listed building – one of the oldest inns in Britain; restored in 1420 (hello!! note it was ‘restored‘ in 1420!!),

why go to rye

The Mermaid Inn, Rye – restored in 1420

sits comfortably alongside extraordinary Tudor Houses, gorgeous Georgian Houses and a mix in between, bearing some of the most quintessential house names you could imagine, in fact the house names in the whole town were just wonderful.

why go to rye

House names in Rye

We found the street utterly enchanting and spent ages photographing just about every house. The cobbles lend a charming aspect to the atmosphere of stepping back in time and you feel as if at any time a pilgrim could come slowly by, followed perhaps by a knight on his horse or maybe a royal entourage on it’s way to the inn….talking of which, you simply must step into this gem of a building. Oh the history!! It’s extraordinary and I would love to spend a few nights there!!

why you should go to rye

Mermaid Street in Rye

Rye Castle Museum and Ypres Tower: there is something quite spine-tingling when you turn a corner and discover a castle!! My jaw dropped…just wow!!

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Rye Castle; Ypres Tower

Thought to have been built in the early 14th century, Ypres Tower (Rye Castle) was part of the town’s defences and the 2nd oldest building in Rye. Although not as big as some castles I have visited before, Ypres Castle is beautiful. Explore the building to discover the Tower’s role through 9 turbulent centuries. Climb to the battlements for a view of the salt marshes and the remains of what during the 16th century was one of the largest and 7th busiest port in England. The views are to die for!!

why go to rye

the view from the battlements of Rye Castle

Head below ground to the dungeons and try your hand at archery! It’s not as easy as it looks in the movies and the swords are rather heavy!! There are some helmets you can try on for fun 😉 We made ourselves look quite silly. while you are there be sure to visit The Women’s Tower; a 19th century prison (believed to be the only women’s prison to survive unaltered from the 1800’s to the present day), the Medieval Herb Garden and the gun garden.  At 3 East Street in Rye and just a short walk from the castle is the Museum where you will find an eclectic and fascinating collection of relics from Rye’s past; costumes, toys, pottery, shipbuilding, an ancient fire-engine and so very much more.

St Mary’s Church; the oldest building in Rye; the Parish Church of Rye has, for 900 years, dominated the hill on which this ancient town stands. Sometimes called the ‘the Cathedral of East Sussex’ the building of the present church was started in the 12th century.

why go to rye

The fantastic 16th century clock at St Mary’s Rye

In 1377 the town was looted and set on fire, the church suffered extensive damage causing the roof to fall in and the looters carried the bells off to France – not taking this lying down, the following year, the men of Rye and Winchelsea set sail for Normandy, set fire to and raided two towns and thus recovered the bells. Today you can climb the battlements and be amazed at the fantastic views of the surrounding town and countryside  and Romney Marshes from the tower.

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view of Rye Castle and the River Rother from the battlements of St Mary’s

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view across the roofs of Rye and the windmill in the distance

On your way up, beware the bells – they bong on the hour and could damage your ear drums (ask my sister who stuck her head above the parapet just as the bells gonged the hour for 2pm!! She nearly fell off the steps in shock. One of the oldest church turret towers in the country still functioning, the ‘new’ clock made by the Hugenot, Lewys Billiard, was installed in about 1561/2. You can see the pendulum swinging as you enter the church. Do note that the stairway leading to the tower’s viewing platform are VERY narrow!! LOL.

why go to rye

Sioux and The Bell!!

 

The Landgate Tower: What a startling discovery!! I had seen it listed on the town map the hotel gave us, but that didn’t prepare us for the reality. Again we stumbled upon this ancient treasure quite by accident whilst meandering the streets and couldn’t forsake a closer look. After the French attacked the town in 1339 burning 52 houses and a mill, the Mayor and town corporation decided to build town walls and gates. They received a grant from the King; Edward III and got busy building walls and 4 gates.

why go to rye

The Landgate

The Landgate dates from about 1340. Of the original 4 gates, this is the most complete remaining. Touching the stones that make up this amazing structure gives me goosebumps. Just think about the history and the people this gate has seen…as they say: if walls could talk. There’s a delightful antiques shop right next to the gate and just beyond the gate is ‘Crepes on the Corner’ – the best crepes in town..and they were. I had Nutella and banana…delicious!!  There are glimpses of one of the other gates; Strandgate, incorporated into the Old Borough Arms Hotel at the bottom of Mermaid Street.

The Windmill:  We had seen this marvellous structure the previous day and on our way to Mermaid Street we decided to ‘pop in’ and have a look. I adore windmills, they add such a sense of history and mystery to a place….you feel almost compelled to go have a look. The distinctive and famous Rye Mill is a Grade 2 listed building and has been the inspiration for artists and photographers throughout the centuries. It occupies an historic site in Gibbet’s Marsh where a windmill has stood, in one form or another, since at least the sixteenth century. The Symondons map of Rye created in 1594 shows an illustration of a windmill in the exact spot where today’s mill now stands.  Now a B&B, we had a quick peek at one of the rooms. Located over the railway line and right next to the river, it’s charming and I can assure you that I am so going to stay there some day in the future.

why go to rye

The Rye Windmill

Rye Harbour: classified as a village, this tiny cluster of houses, jetty’s and buildings relative to a harbour are a delight to see. One of the most recognised images is an abandoned fisherman’s hut; black walls, a red tin roof with white painted windows and door that look like a face, stands almost halfway between the harbour and the river mouth.

why go to Rye

the old fisherman’s hut in Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Rye reached the zenith of her power during the 16th century and at any one time there could be 200 ships anchored near the Strandgate – handling every kind of cargo from around the world. The largest and busiest port on the south coast during Tudor times due to it’s proximity to the continent, Rye’s harbour was more important than Portsmouth or Southampton. Although still a busy fishing harbour, today there are but just a few glimpses left of the original Rye Port, and to reach anything that resembles a harbour requires a short drive from the town to Rye Harbour – a drive well worth taking.

why go to rye

Rye Harbour

The harbour borders onto the nature reserve which is marvellous to walk through of an early morning.  The decline of Rye’s harbour was ultimately caused by the silting up of the river. Silt carried by the incoming tides stayed and settled in the bottom of the river leaving a film of silt which finally made the river un-navigable for ships. Today you can walk along the gravel road that runs between the salt-marshes and the river to the pebbled beaches. Perfect at sunrise.

why go to Rye

The River Rother flows down to the sea…

Rye Harbour Church: as you drive towards Rye Harbour and Nature Reserve, look to your right for a glimpse of this beautiful little church. Built in 1849 in the gothic style, the church of the Holy Spirit was designed by Samuel Sanders Teulon and constructed of local blue stone and Caen stone. Support for the construction of the church came from local estate owners; Mr & Mrs William Lucas Shadwell. In the churchyard is a memorial commemorating the 1928 Mary Stanford Lifeboat tragedy when 17 crew members lost their lives.

why go to Rye

Rye Harbour Church

Pubs: as with all towns like Rye there is always a church and those quintessential essential necessities of community life; the pub!  😉  We managed to eat at two and have drinks in one. On our first night in Rye, after exploring the lower reaches of Mermaid Street and surrounding area, we stopped at the Ship Inn for a yummy meal. A congenial location we enjoyed the atmosphere so much we tarried awhile and played a game of scrabble.

why go to rye

a game of scrabble at The Ship Inn

I love how you can do that. The pubs in the UK (and Ireland) are more like family gathering places than drinking houses.  For our 3rd night in Rye we booked to eat at the Ypres Castle Inn, a 17th century pub nestled at the foot of the castle! Accessed down a steep flight of steps the lamps cast an inviting pool of light for a weary, hungry traveller. As you walk down the steps you will find an ancient set of ‘stocks’ used for the naughty people of Rye LOL. We enjoyed a most delicious meal there; for my sister it was the Lamb Hot Pot and for me Battered Cod (the biggest piece of fish I have ever been served), delicious chips and mushy peas.  Although we didn’t tarry for long, it wasn’t due to the ambiance which was lovely. We had in fact both walked ourselves stupid that day exploring every corner and Lydd, and were exhausted by the time we had our meal. The staff were lovely.

why go to rye

the history of 4 inns in Rye

The streets of the medieval town: Rye is quite simply the picture perfect place to meander.  We set off just after breakfast on Saturday to explore and photograph Mermaid Street more fully…..5 hours later and we were still meandering.

why go to rye

Rye architecture

What an extraordinary array of cobbled streets, lanes and alleyways leading hither and thither, quaint houses line the cobbled streets up and down, each an enchanting delight. Every corner we turned opened up to more delights; with an “oh my gosh”, or “ooooo look there!” from me and a laugh of bemusement from my sister as my constant “okay, just one more corner” eventually turned out to envelope almost the whole town.

why go to rye

Rye, a gem of South East England

There are 15th century inns, Tudor houses, the Vicarage where John Fletcher, the Jacobean dramatist, was born in 1536, the Old Rye Grammar School erected in 1636, the old water tower next to the church and so very much more to see.

And last but not least: the three rivers – Rother, Brede and Tillingham.

why go to rye

Three rivers of Rye

The River Rother flows down to the sea….This is the river along which we meandered in the morning and the evening for photos. Used for navigation since Roman times, the river is navigable by small boats as far as Bodiam Castle. With it’s source near Rotherfield and it’s mouth in Rye Bay, the river flows for 35 miles through the English counties of East Sussex and Kent. Its mouth was further to the east at New Romney prior to 1287, but a great storm blocked its exit to the sea and changed its course to flow via Rye.

The River Tillingham rises from two springs near Staplecross, a small settlement in the Parish of Ewhurst in East Sussex and joins the Brede and Rother at Rye.

The River Brede takes its name from the Village of Brede which lies between Hastings and Tenterden. It flows into Rock Channel which is the tidal section of the River Tillingham and joins the River Rother at Rye.

With tales of sailors’, smugglers, storms, ships, seas and derring do, of pilgrims and kings, heroes, dramatists, writers, and a nursery rhyme, you simply must visit Rye!

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep! – According to legend, this well-known nursery rhyme derives from the deeds of smugglers in the town of St Leonard’s.  West of Burtons St. Leonards is the area known as Bo-Peep which was once a tiny village renowned for smuggling in bygone days:

why go to rye

One of 4 Smuggler gangs that operated in the area of Rye

           Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them;                                                      leave them alone, And they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them

Little Bo-peep fell fast asleep, and dreamt she heard them bleating;
but when she awoke, she found it a joke, for they were still a-fleeting.
Then up she took her little crook, determined for to find them; she found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed, for they’d left their tails behind them.
It happened one day, as Bo-peep did stray into a meadow hard by,
there she espied their tails side by side, all hung on a tree to dry.
She heaved a sigh and wiped her eye, and over the hillocks went rambling,
and tried what she could, as a shepherdess should, to tack each again to its lambkin.

Rye is a real gem of England; playing a very important role in the history of the country, remnants of which can still be seen today.   It’s pictureque, charming and an absolute delight to explore. We loved it!

why go to rye

Originally, the Cinque Ports (pronounced ‘Sink’ Ports) were a confederation of five harbours, Sandwich, Romney, Dover, Hythe, and Hastings plus the two Ancient Towns of Rye & Winchelsea. Grouped together, for defence purposes, by Edward the Confessor, they supplied the Crown with ships and men.

 

Interesting links:

What are Cinque Ports?

http://www.ryemuseum.co.uk/home/ypres-tower/

http://www.faversham.org/history/maritime.aspx

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My sister Sioux came to live and work in the UK last year in November. The time has flown and she has travelled far and wide in the last 11 months. This is her birthday month (I won’t give her age away 😉 ), but it is her 1st birthday in the UK. She decided some months ago that she wanted to visit somewhere special for her birthday; initially a trip to the Isle of Wight was planned….but after seeing an article on Rye – Mermaid Street in particular, she decided that this was where she wanted to go.

a trip to 1066 country

Mermaid Street in Rye

And so the plans were made.

I was to join her and so that we could make the most of the trip and explore the area, my daughter lent me her car; Fiona. With 4 days and a car, we made the most of every minute.

a trip to 1066 country

Sisters – happy birthday to you; Sioux. I’m delighted I could join you 🙂

a trip to 1066 country

a day trip to Hastings

a trip to 1066 country

a day in Rye

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making the most of our last day

We visited churches, explored castles, admired some amazing views, ate good food, played scrabble, photographed just about every house in Rye, watched the sunrise and the sunset,

a trip to 1066 country

sunset at Dungeness – the ends of the earth

laughed and exchanged stories, and watched the footie in a pub LOL (she’s a Liverpool supporter!).

This is the first time in 58 years that we have been on holiday together without parents, step-parents, siblings, family or children……just the two of us. We had a great time 🙂

Happy birthday Sioux!Happy birthday Sioux!

 

 

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One of the benefits of my job as I’ve mentioned before is that I get to travel around the country…not just in England but Scotland and occasionally Wales too. Since 2007 I’ve travelled east, south, north and west of the UK. In that time I’ve pretty much been to nearly every county in England, a few in Scotland and over the border into Wales, then out again. In the years between 2002 and 2007 I mostly worked in London, and that of course has become my passion. However, it is brilliant to be able to travel to new places and see the country.

uk-mapA while ago I was working in East Sussex, not the first time in this county, but in a new town. I was chatting to my client, sharing travel stories (she’s also quite well travelled), and just for fun I had a look at the map of Britain and listed all the counties I had either worked in, or travelled to during the course of my job…..i.e. some clients enjoys driving so we get to travel far and wide. Needless to say I do the driving 😉

I have been to villages so small that they don’t even have a Post Office never mind a traffic light or stop street, where the evening traffic jam is sheep going home! I’ve worked in numerous towns, and quite a few cities…namely London of course…I always jump at the chance to work in London although I’m not sure why since my breaks are so short I seldom get time to do much exploring…but still it’s a constant thrill to me to wake up in the city that never sleeps. I’ve also visited a few counties in Scotland and Wales, but those in the capacity of a tourist, rather than for work. For the purposes of this article, I’ll stick to those I’ve been to for work….

So heading round the country, these are the counties I have worked in and travelled to; 27 so far:

ENGLAND

Suffolk, Middlesex, Norfolk, Essex

work and travel as a carer

and my favourite county of all Suffolk….amazing!!!

Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire

work and travel as a carer

Beautiful Cambridge and surrounding areas

Shropshire, Herefordshire,

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quirky and fabulous Weobley

Gloucestershire, Wiltshire

work and travel as a carer

the views from St Briavels are hard to match

Somerset, Devon,

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another of my favourite counties, Somerset is splendid

work and travel as a carer

one of my favourite counties – Devon is on the Jurrasic coast…

Warwickshire, Hampshire

work and travel as a carer

as with Kent, there are many farms in Hampshire as well as fabulous villages

Oxfordshire

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the bells ring out in Oxford….stunning city

Surrey

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pretty as a picture, and snow…

West Sussex

work and travel as a carer

West Sussex has a most amazing array of historical towns…and quite a few castles

East Sussex

work and travel as a carer

Stunning houses and pebble beaches

Kent

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the garden of England – Kent is mostly farmlands and fields

Greater London

work and travel as a carer

wonderful, wonderful London I’ve worked in so many areas, I’ve lost track..

Worcestershire – which is the latest and where I am now 🙂

work and travel as a carer

Worcestershire…..what a delightful surprise, and those hills

view of the Malvern Piory and countryside of Great Malvern, Worcestershire

view of the Malvern Piory and countryside of Great Malvern, Worcestershire

I’ve visited Cornwall, Dorset and Warwickshire whilst working, but not yet actually worked in those counties. I’ve travelled through (by train), but not actually stepped on the soil of 4 others: Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland…I will have to address that pretty soon!! I have however noticed that there are still quite a few counties to go, particularly in the Midlands…see you there 😉

SCOTLAND

Inverness-shire and Ross and Cromarty – I’ve worked in both these counties and truly Scotland is amazing.

One of the most advantageous aspects of this job of mine is that I go to places I would probably never have considered, simply because they’re not on the ‘Visit England’ tourist trail so to speak. However, these places invariably have a fascinating history and if you visit the one thing you will find in every hamlet, village, town or city…..the church, you will learn the oftentimes extraordinary history of the area…sometimes stretching back as far as pre-Norman times.  Reading the epitaphs and headstones, you gain a fascinating insight to the history of the area. I’ve even been into a church where there are marks on the entrance where knights of yore used to sharpen their swords!!! Mind-blowing.

My most amazing experience was in Midhurst. As town names go it’s fairly simple, but did you know they have a castle!!!

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Midhurst….one of my most delightful discoveries

caravan

I’m desperately keen to travel the width and breadth of the UK and initially I had planned on buying a campervan…those cute little symbols of the 60’s, but since I will be spending a lot of time travelling and living in the thing, I’d prefer something I can actually stand up in…so the search is on. It is now my goal to buy a motor-home within the next few years…by my 65th birthday in fact, & then travel the width, breadth, and length of this country…visiting outlying islands, historic cathedrals, ancient villages, quirky pubs and the furtherest points of the island; north, south, east & west.

Once I find what I am looking for, I shall be off. I plan to travel and work, work and travel. Mostly in the spring, summer and autumn months and in winter I shall head to Europe. What a plan!!!  Why not come along, travel with me and see all the wonderful things I shall see.

If you have any suggestions of quirky traditions or places you think I should add to my list, then please leave a comment and I’ll add them to my itinerary.

Have a fab day.

and talking of quirky, here is a blog you should definitely follow. The Quirky Traveller 

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We explored Reykjavik from top to bottom, we ate huge breakfasts at the hotel (much like we did in New York in 2003), enough to carry us through to supper time (Iceland, as you can imagine is somewhat expensive),

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Icelandic money – I have no idea what the value of that was in £’s

we drank gallons of hot chocolate and saw some of the most amazing things ever. There was a lot more of the city to explore, but due to the very slippery sidewalks and the freezing cold, our explorations were somewhat curtailed.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

fireman’s waterpump in Reykjavik

We travelled all over the island…although it seemed like it was, it really was only a tiny little corner of the island!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

who watched who I wonder!!!?

We also went on a whale-watching expedition….frankly I think the brochures and tourist offices lie….the whales are much too sensible to be hanging about in the freezing waters off Iceland and had shucked off to the Bahamas for the winter…..we spent nearly the whole day on a boat,

clad in a bright orange michelin man outfit that was unbelieveably difficult to get into and virtually impossible to get out of….talk of a corset…OMG!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Michelin woman!!! 🙂 Looks like a bear on her head 😉

you could barely breathe, but on the plus side, if you fell into the ocean, you would be warm and visible. For a while anyway. It was fabulous. I love being out at sea, the boat heaving and smashing into the waves, the wake a boiling mass of white fury streaming behind.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

seagulls following in our wake….

Noisy squarking sea-gulls trailed the boat probably hoping for a tid-bit or two…we scanned the ocean in vain….every now an then a shout of excitement and everyone would rush to this end or that of the boat….alas 😦 “no whales today, they’ve up and gone away”.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

the only whale we saw….

But, as a succour, we were treated to awesome vistas of ocean and mountains and vast plains covered in snow; here there and everywhere you looked was snow, snow and more snow.

We were treated to a ‘show-off’ exhibition by the coast-guard that raced around in their little speedboat, spinning over the wake of our boat, flinging up into the air as it crashed over the waves. I was so like…..flip!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

the Coast-Guard showing off

Come on already!!! hahaha. So although we didn’t see any whales, we did see a most splendid ocean…blue, blue blue and then on the way back a most exquisite sunset. Extraordinary.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

sunset…amazing colours

What an amazing 3 days, I loved every minute, even the cold. I loved the landscape, the snow, the colour of the water, the geysers <especially>, the rift in the continental plates, the waterfalls, the icelandic ponies <we saw some in the distance>, our nightly excursions to see the auroura, the traipsing around in the dark in waist deep snow, falling down holes LOL <I had just said to Cémanthe to be careful when my next step took me into a hole beneath the snow…we laughed so much!!!>, snow so powdery soft it feels like it doesn’t exist, the vast open vistas, the biting cold that chews are your nose and ears and fingers and toes….despite the layers of clothing, the quirky corrugated houses, the race to get indoors, the underfloor heating, the steaming hot showers that sting like hell at first and then ease frozen muscle and bones back to life, the slippery ground that sends you slip-sliding away, the fabulous sculptures <like Sun Voyager (Icelandic: Sólfar) a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason (1931 – 1989). Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun>,

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun

the extraordinary poly-tunnels that shine like alien life-forms in the dark; an eerie green light that can be seen from miles away powered and heated by the geothermal energy beneath the surface of the ground, where they grow tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers, cut flowers and potted plants, even bananas and grapes are grown in this way—but not usually on a commercial scale,

visiting for 3 days in iceland

eerie green lights of the poly-tunnels

and the sheer exhilaration of being in such an amazing place and the excitement of wondering if and when a volcano was likely to erupt!!! And the people, so friendly, welcoming and just lovely.

Iceland rocks…..no pun intended!! I’ve created a video for your enjoyment….there are way too many photos to include them all on one blog. 😉 You can watch it here http://youtu.be/QNHVlRwbtOY

All I can say is ……I can highly recommend you plan a trip to this fantastic island in the ocean. It’s amazing!!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

whale-watching with Elding Tours at Hafnarfjörður

So a little about Iceland. It’s a Nordic island between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates.
The settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson

It is also home toÞingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.

And then it was time to say goodbye to Iceland, but I can assure you that I will definitely be planning a 2nd trip, this time in summer

visiting for 3 days in iceland

goodbye Iceland….I’ll be back 🙂

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Listen, if you want to be blown away by sheer, unadulterated extraordinary amazingness then this is a tour you HAVE to do!! Þingvellir Nature Reserve was fantastic. (pronounced Thingvellir) The unadulterated wild beauty, sheer vastness and wildness of the landscapes amaze and delight. Everything was covered with a new fall of snow, bright, blindingly white gorgeous snow. Everything was fantastic.

visiting ideland for 3 days

pure beautiful white snow

And so to the place where east meets west; the North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plate. Whoaaaa. If we had thought it was windy before, we were in for a real surprise at this place!! Fair blew us off our feet it did! People were being blow over, hats were sent flying through the air and if you took off your gloves to take photos, you made damn sure you held onto them tightly till they were safely in your pocket.

visiting iceland for 3 days

The North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plates…primeval beauty

It was fantastic. Exhilerating. Awesome. Visceral. Extraordinary. Primeval! Have you ever looked into the bowels of the earth, into an abyss that is millions of years old, at rocks that have been flung up from the middle of the earth by the powerful forces of nature, black and menacing and totally fascinating. I was enthralled. The North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plates stretch hundreds of miles across the planet, ever moving, ever shifting and shaping the land and the seas – slowly year on year, it inches further and further apart, the gap widening but not gaping; it’s filled with a constant upsurge of lava and rock that creates new landscapes just as amazing as the current. <insert : Iceland is the world’s 18th largest island, and Europe’s second largest island after Great Britain. It’s the site of a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge>

Walking through the gap was beyond incredible.  It looked so menacing and yet so majestic, aeons of history; we are but a nano-second of existence in comparison to these rocks.  After a fairly short time to explore we set off again and travelled along the road that took us from one continental plate to another. OMG!!!! Never in my wildest dreams. Beyond description.

visiting iceland for 3 days

these little houses are built on the rock and earth gap that separate the two plates!!! courtesy of StopandThinkPhotography – copyright @justcemanthe on instagram

And then what to my mind was the most amazing of all….I can’t even begin to explain how thrilling it is to stand and watch a geyser exploding in a rage of heated water from deep within the bowels of the earth!! Thrilling, exhilerating, amazing, mesmerising….I could go on and on.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Strokkur Geyser – wow!!!!

I stood for the whole 45 minutes we were stopped in this area just watching that geyser rising and falling, teasing you as it rises into a dome of awesome blueness, then dropping again into a steaming hole, bubbling up and disappearing, bubbling up a little closer to the edge and gone again and then suddenly with a whoosh that leaves you gasping it explodes dozens of feet up into the air; a raging mass of boiling water, so hot it would kill you within seconds. Awesome!!! I was entranced. Only coz Cémanthe phoned me did I not get left behind….LOL I could seriously have stayed all afternoon. At least I would have been warm 😉

insert : <Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often>

Then we visited the Gullfoss Waterfall located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland…..I don’t even know how to describe this majestic, magnificent sight.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

what a landscape….how do you describe something so amazing

It doesn’t flow over the cliff and into the bottomless gorge; it roars, thrashing and flinging it’s way over the edge and into the abyss. A tumultuous mass of turquoise blue water, channelled into one narrow race, the rest of the vast falls frozen over. And it was C.O.L.D!!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

me and CJ at Gullfoss Waterfall…wow!!!

Freezingly, mind-numbingly, bone-crackingly cold. As you can imagine we stayed for as long as we didn’t freeze to the spot and then ran as fast as possible over frozen ground back to the warmth of the bus.

Three days of the most amazing adventures.  We went out late at night to track the northern lights, rushing from one place to another, freezing our asses off for 15 minutes and then racing back to the warmth of the restaurant, a mug of hot chocolate, hands over the heater…defrost and back out again for another ‘freeze your extremities why don’t you’ escapade in an endeavour to see the northern lights.

visiting iceland for 3 days

me dressed for chasing the northern lights in the middle of the night…in Iceland 🙂

Cémanthe and I managed to find a hollowed out nook amongst the rocks where we huddled together shivering and laughing, our noses frozen, our eyes drained of fluids by the raging winds that managed to shuck down any opening it could find as our buttocks froze on the hard icy ground. I have NEVER, EVER, NEVER known such cold in my life!! Even on the coldest, snowy day in the UK, it doesn’t get as cold as that!!! Indescribable.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

you won’t find the aroura there!!! it was as cold as it looks

So did we get to see the northern lights…..well yes we did!! Only we didn’t know we had till we saw the photos Cémanthe very cleverly managed to take.

visiting iceland for 3 days

the northern lights, courtesy of StopAndThinkPhotography copyright @justcemanthe on instagram

They looked for all the world like a grey shifting cloud….and no-one; namely the bloody guides, thought to tell us that that was the auroura!! I mean hello!!!! I have yet to discover if everyone sees a white shifting cloud or if it was just us. No-one got all excited, so I’m guessing it wasn’t just us that were unknowingly looking at the northern lights without realising. As we were about to leave, suddenly everyone did get all excited and we all piled off the bus and raced over to a narrow gorge and there in the distance were…a cloud of grey shifting clouds….the aroura apparently!!!

visiting iceland for 3 days

finally, the real deal…only seen once on camera …photo courtesy of StopAndThinkPhotography copyright @justcemanthe on instagram

Sorry of I sound underwhelmed, but they were NOTHING at all like you see on the brochures, or the pamphlets, or in the zillions of photos we have seen, taken by ‘other’ people. It was only when Cémanthe looked at the images on the camera did we realise that yes, those were the lights. Where were the blues, and greens, and pinks we were expecting to see? I am going to have to go back or go elsewhere…..like Norway!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Leifur Eiríksson c. 970 – c. 1020 a Norse explorer.

 

Leifur Eiríksson c. 970 – c. 1020

a Norse explorer regarded as the first European to land in North America (excluding Greenland), nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

 

 

episode 3 to follow tomorrow 🙂 #3DaysinIceland

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