Porthcothan Bay came as quite the surprise to me, because I’d never even heard of it until a couple of months ago. Situated on the North Cornwall coast, it falls under the Padstow area, and is around 4 miles away from the famous harbour town.Continue reading
If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you’ll have seen that, after a lockdown start to Summer 2020 and not being able to go anywhere, we threw ourselves into it wholeheartedly from mid-July to mid-September.Continue reading
Hey! It’s been an age. Life has changed. Last time I posted I was talking about my husband being gluten intolerant. Since then pasta has become more rare than gold, toilet paper was being traded on the black market and pubs are closed. Finding restaurants with a good GF menu has become pointless, but we are glad that toilet habits have changed to conserve that much needed loo roll!Continue reading
I don’t make resolutions. They’re daft. But I do like to have something to aim for at the start of the year (yes, I’m aware how contradictory that sounds!)
Here’s the 2020 edition!Continue reading
I hadn’t even heard of Sudeley Castle until we started researching places to go for our first day out in Bodhi Bongo. We wanted somewhere not too far. A place that my Mother in Law would also enjoy. Somewhere we could have a wander round before making tea and cooking bacon sandwiches in the campervan.
Remembering my Gardeners World 2-4-1 card which I hadn’t yet used this year (last year we visited Wollerton Hall gardens using the card) I came across Sudeley; just over an hour drive away in the Cotswold village of Winchcombe, with lots of associated Tudor history. It looked perfect for our inaugural voyage!
What a place!
Entry to the castle is down a long winding driveway to the main car park. From here the castle isn’t visible; enter through the gift shop then take the wild winding path down to the ruins of the old 15th century banqueting hall. You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve wandered off the beaten path; it’s very informal – almost like you’re trespassing!
A cross between a museum and a stately home
Sudeley charts some of it’s 1000 year history through exhibitions, short films and original artefacts, while also opening a handful of rooms lived in by the owners when they’re in residence.
Elizabeth I’s christening gown hangs in one of the exhibition rooms, as does a waistcoat belonging to Charles I (he took refuge in the castle during the civil war).
In another room is an ornately carved wooden bed, adorned with bed covers made for and slept in by Marie Antoinette.
The artefacts and storyline of the history of the castle, like everything, is wonderfully done but largely informal; making it a pleasure to just wander and soak in everything this gem has to offer.
Sudeley is also famed for being the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within the grounds. The tomb of Katherine Parr – final and surviving wife of Henry VIII – is situated in St Mary’s Church within the castle grounds. This was not her original burial place; her body was discovered some 200 years after her death and reinterred within the church in the late 1700s.
The whole of the castle is surrounded by beautifully tended gardens, including the Elizabethan Knot garden. The Secret Garden is accessed through an archway in a hedge to the side of St Mary’s Church. Being October the gardens obviously weren’t in full flower, but still very lovely to wander around.
Wander at will
One of the things we found very surprising, and refreshing, about Sudeley Castle and the grounds was the feeling of openness. There were no designated paths to follow. No arrows telling you in which direction to walk around the building or, signs telling you to keep off the grass. It felt like everywhere was accessible and welcoming; like the owners really want visitors to be there, to immerse themselves, and to enjoy Sudeley in their own way.
Sudeley Castle is a truly wonderful place; beautiful, well looked after, true to its history, educational, informative and a joy to visit. Do go there if you can!
Thanks, as always, for reading. x
I flew home from Greece last week with Thomas Cook. As I was queuing at Kalamata airport, I overheard a men behind me discussing the Euro, the cost of living, and increasing hotel taxes in Greece. “It will all get back to normal when Brexit happens” he declared.
He followed up with “we’re not sure we’ll come back here again.”
“You may not be able to,” responded a lady at the side of him, “if Thomas Cook go under.”
His response? “Oh Thomas Cook will be ok.”
It’s this kind of head in the sand attitude that pisses me off. How many times have I read that EU countries need us because they rely on our tourism, or that Brexit isn’t impacting the UK economy and UK businesses, and that we’ll all be better off once we’ve left?
Where is the proof? Is it not enough that failing businesses are citing Brexit as a very real issue in their falling profits? (I’m not saying that Brexit is solely to blame for the demise of TC, but it can’t fail to have had an effect). Is it not enough that a company with 178 years of trading history has gone down the drain?
Where do some people get the continuing idea that it’s all going to be ok?
UK politics continues into unchartered territory with the news that Boris has broken the law in proroguing parliament, the UK’s first ever travel agent and stalwart of the high street has gone bust and Brexit is looming ever closer with no hint of resolution.
That doesn’t sound like a country that’s in control to me.
On the plus side, at least we now have those incredibly informative <<heavy sarcasm alert>> adverts on TV and radio telling us that things might change on November 1st. Not how they’ll change – presumably because nobody knows.
Never mind. The British holidaymaker in the Greek airport said things will all get back to normal, so it must be true.
Thanks, as always, for reading. x
Being a grown up is a funny thing. Most people of a certain age, at least in my social circle, say they don’t feel like a grown up, and can’t believe where the years have gone. To me, being a grown up is being a responsible adult, which I don’t always class myself as! That said, there are occasions when it hits me that “woah, I am!”
Most recently was last weekend, when I spent £48 of my hard earned cash on a green recycling bin. Aside from the fact I have to pay when there are other local borough councils who issue them for free, I got really excited about it being delivered! Then got really excited about filling it! The ivy in our back garden has taken a bit of a battering as a result, but at least I feel like I’m properly getting my monies worth.
Here are 5 more things that make me feel like a grown up
Buying myself fresh flowers for the house
Younger me would NEVER have spent money on something so frivolous, but older me feels really together and mature at buying blooms for my dining table
Self explanatory really; pensions and life insurance and really complicated but VERY IMPORTANT stuff. I’m currently trying to change our life insurance policy and it gives me a headache.
Cooking a roast dinner
A roast dinner is a grown up meal cooked by a grown up, no? There are so many different elements, and timings. It feels like a grown up way to feed people. I love cooking a roast dinner, especially with a couple of cheeky vinos!
Ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant
There’s something so grown up about going out for dinner and ordering a bottle of wine to share with the husband. Perusing a wine menu seems very mature to someone who orders wine by the glass based on price and percentage! As does paying over the odds for something you could probably get at half the price in the supermarket.
Using a trolley at the supermarket
I use a trolley once a year – at Christmas when I’m buying ALL the food and drink. Most of the time I just get a basket and buy a few bits at a time. Trolleys are for parents with children or people with freezers who buy in bulk or batch cook. Not for people like me!
Are there things that sometimes remind you that you’re an actual real life grown up? Let me know!
Thanks, as always, for reading. x
The first time (to my knowledge) anyone assumed I was pregnant we were in Chicago. It was almost 9 years ago, for the husband’s 40th birthday. We were on a 3 night city break before going to LA. It was June and it was hot. We’d spent the evening at Dick’s Last Resort, a bar overlooking the Chicago River, eating and drinking with gay abandon. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup (a big deal in ice hockey terms, I believe). We were caught up in the excitement of the city, of our holiday, and…well…life!
I remember I was wearing a fairly figure hugging halter neck maxi dress from Jane Norman. It was white with an oversized black and taupe palm print all over. And, as we walked across the bridge back to our hotel, an old seemingly homeless dude shouted “hey Mama!”
Did he think I was pregnant? I don’t know for sure. It made us laugh at the time because I was full of American sized portion fried food and drink from Dick’s Last Resort. I was a walking food baby. “Hey Mama!” became part of our vocabulary when I overate and looked like I was having twins. It was funny.
8 years later
Fast forward 8 years to last summer. We went to see the Foo Fighters at Wembley Arena (side note, the obnoxious drunk wee throwing crowd spoilt it). As we approached security, after the LONGEST walk, the guy with the body scanner asked if I was pregnant. I feigned mock outrage. He said he has to ask everyone because of the scanning machinery (this was a lie, I asked my friends in other queues). In his defence I was wearing a really loose fitting smock dress. I was also clearly already “Saturday happy” (tipsy A.F) so I was either not preggers or a shit Mom-to-Be.
No human growing here
Although 8 years apart, these events both stuck in my mind. Partially because I think it’s kinda funny (I’m the least maternal person I know, so the very thought of me being with child is cause for mirth!) Obviously being pregnant is wonderful. But being mistaken for it isn’t the best. It’s not horrible, it means I have a full tummy and a day/evening of enjoyment behind me. But it kinda means it’s OK my tummy is protruding if there’s a human growing inside it, but not OK if not.
Here’s the deal. I have the Rose tum. That’s not a romanticised way of referring to my middle section. Rose is my Mom’s maiden name. My Nan, my Grandad, my Mom, they all carried or carry weight around their waist. I inherited my Dad’s dark hair and skin, and height. For a while it looked like I inherited his metabolism. I could eat and eat and EAT and not gain weight. But the Rose gene has caught up with me..
Most recently, in Athens, the husband and I had talked and laughed about the two pregnancy “occasions”. And, whilst we were sightseeing, he reticently (I hope!) told me he could see why it had been said. I’m so aware of my posture and being upright that, in standing up very straight, my tummy pushes out.
There’s also a photo that I love, taken in Santorini last year as I jumped off a catamaran into the sea, and the first thing I notice when I look at it is my rounded middle.
It’s such a shame that society has made us feel we have to explain being anything other than stick then with a flat stomach. It doesn’t make us more or less of a person. And I wish I could say “fuck it” and not care. There are, after all, WAY bigger things to care about in life. But I do. I do care. Mainly because I love clothes, and gaining weight means that some of my clothes no longer fit me as well as they used to, and I don’t feel comfortable in styles I would like to wear.
Funny how “Dad-bods” are celebrated, yet women’s bodies of all types are still insulted and commented upon!
Thanks, as always, for reading. x
When we first decided to go to Athens, we hadn’t booked to go to Rome. Bear with me here! The appeal of Athens was the ancient history and the architecture. It would be somewhere quite different to other destinations we’ve visited.
Then we went to Rome for my 40th birthday and soaked up all the ancient history when we visited the Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica.
We witnessed amazing architecture at the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.
And, all of a sudden, we were worried that Athens might be a little bit samey. Call me a heathen, if you like, but you can have too much of a good thing. Temple fatigue is a thing, as we found out on our trip to Penang in Malaysia. You stop appreciating the beauty and detail if you see too many too quickly. We didn’t want to not appreciate Athens.
We needn’t have worried. Athens is a great destination in its own right and there was plenty to fill our 2.5 days there.
After the initial not so good first impression, we woke up on the Sunday morning raring to explore.
Changing of the Guards at Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square is home to the Hellenic Parliament building, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb is s guarded by two Evzone soldiers, and a changing of the guard ceremony happens every hour. Each Sunday morning at 11am there is also a much larger changing of the guards ceremony and procession. The road is closed and crowds gather to watch the spectacle.
Every step made by the Evzone guards is monitored by a military official who walks alongside them (you can see him below, in the blue beret). At first we thought he was there to keep the crowds back, but then we noticed him looking at the height and angle of their steps.
It’s worth getting there slightly early to grab a good spot, or do as I did and wheedle your way opportunistically through throngs of people. Seriously though, if you want to see the actual Changing of the Guard on the square rather than just the procession, get your shit together and don’t arrive at 10.55am like we did.
Hop On Hop Off bus tour
I’ve said it before, many times, if I’m on a city break and there’s a bus tour then I’m all over it. Such a good way to see the highlights of a city and choose when and where you want to spend more time. Most cities will have different bus operators vying for business. Where possible we usually go for the red City Sightseeing buses because we’ve used them on multiple occasions and always been happy. They’re reasonably priced and the commentary (available through provided earphones in multiple languages) is always good too. Athens was no exception; we paid 25 euros for a ticket which included one day free (48 hours from time of purchase) and both the city and beach routes. The city route covers the obvious tourist attractions, while the beach route takes you out to the Athenian Riviera for sea views and sandy stops. We chose to stay on for a full loop of the bus tour, to get our bearings, then hopped on and off later for places we wanted to revisit.
Plaka district and Roman Agora
Athens is split up into multiple different districts, which have their own characteristics. We were staying steps away from the Plaka and Monistiraki districts. Plaka is renowned for being picturesque with lots of restaurants and shops to browse. After completing the City sightseeing bus tour, which we started and ended in Syntagma Square, we wandered through Plaka. Here we stopped for pictures of the Agora, not bothering to go inside, with a view to heading back to Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of the Zeus which we’d seen on the bus tour.
We didn’t realise at the time that the Agora was included in the Rome Pass we later bought. That said, the pictures were pretty good from outside.
Then we had a Plaka pit stop for wine and ice cream (me) and beer and cheese pie (husband), before heading off on the next part of our sightseeing adventure.
Arch of Hadrian
One of the things I find crazy about cities like Rome and Athens is the history that just pops up in the middle of the city. Hadrian’s Arch is right by a busy junction of a main road, and it’s just there. There is no cost to view the attraction.
200 metres walk away is the entrance to the Temple of Zeus. This costs 6 euros (well worth it) or is part of the 30 euro city pass which is valid for 5 days and 7 attractions. Bearing in mind that entrance to the Acropolis is 20 euros, you only need to do 3 sites (including Acropolis) to make this worthwhile.
Temple of Zeus
This place blew me away. Maybe because it was my first time up and personal with Greek columns and ruins. Maybe because it was there I realised that columns are built in sections because we saw one that had fallen and disintegrated into its original pieces (who knew?) Maybe because I’m an excitable sausage who wants to see everything in the world. But it was fab. You know something is good when you take so many photos of the same thing. Here are a few.
Because of the aforementioned excitable sausageness, and FOMO, I suggested we walk the “short distance” from the Temple of Zeus round to the Panathenaic Stadium. We’d passed it earlier in the day, on the open top bus tour, so I knew it wasn’t very far. Everything feels longer in 30 degree searing heat though! The Stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and is the only stadium in the world made of marble. Honestly though, it was a bit underwhelming. We didn’t bother to go in (it wasn’t included in our city pass and didn’t seem worthy of shelling out extra cash for). But at least I can say I’ve seen it!
We’d decided to do the Acropolis on the second day, getting there early to avoid the heat and the crowds. You can walk up to it, but it’s on a hill and again it was scorching hot, so we used our hop on hop off bus ticket to go as far as we could. There was still a steep incline to the entrance, and the marble tiles were quite slippy underfoot.
I always thought the Acropolis was the temple on the hill. It wasn’t until we started researching that I realised the Acropolis is the hill itself; the area. The main large temple is the Parthenon. There is also the Temple of Athena and Erechthion on the same site, once you’ve passed through the grand columned entrance.
Because of its elevated position you can see the Acropolis from many areas of the city. Here it is seen from the Temple of Zeus.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
This stone stepped theatre is built into the side of the Acropolis hill. It has been renovated in recent years and you can see modern lighting rigs and speakers as it’s used for concerts, but it’s still very impressive. You can’t walk into the attraction, it can only be seen from a viewing platform, but there is no cost and it’s well worth a stop. As with most of the ancient ruins we saw, the real amazement comes when you remember just how old they are, and how they were constructed without modern tools or machinery.
The Parthenon, Temple of Athena and Erechthion
The first thing I noticed as I walked towards the Parthenon was the proliferation of scaffolding. You don’t see that on tour operator pictures! There is an ongoing, lengthy and expensive restoration project going on to save the integrity of the building. Some of the columns are weak and damaged. Previous restoration work in the mid 20th century, actually made the situation worse. Parts of the area, therefore, are quite the building site, with loud and noisy drills and work people, plus temporary project office buildings dotted around. And the site was crawling with visitors – I can’t imagine how busy it must be in high season. It was this part of our trip that contributed in some way to my previous rant about tourists. Such an amazing piece of architecture and history, yet for some people just a backdrop for their own photoshoot. Infuriating.
Also on the site are the Temple of Athena and the Erecthieon, both dating back to around 400 B.C. and of course the views across the city are pretty great too!
Hop on hop off bus tour – beach route
As I mentioned earlier in the post, the red Citysightseeing bus operates two tours – the city one which we’d done on Sunday, and the beach one which cost just an extra 5 euros. For a change of pace we took the beach tour on Monday afternoon. There wasn’t lots to see, it’s more useful if you actually want to get off at one of the multiple beaches, but with the route only running every hour we decided to just do a loop for some sea air and sea views, before heading back to the city for a late lunch.
Ancient Agora and The Temple of Hephaestus
Not to be confused with the earlier mentioned Roman Agora, which was built later, the Ancient Agora is a vast area which would have been a central point within Ancient Greece. Municipal buildings, commercial and residential dwellings would have sat alongside each other. There are excavated drainage channels, statues and pots.
The most impressive structure inside the Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus; which remains largely as built. It’s incredibly well-preserved because it was in use from the 7th century until 1894, although building started in the mid 400 BC years. Again such craftsmanship and accuracy for the time is hard to fathom, and today it sits in the middle of a more modern Athens which has grown around it. Amazing.
Also in the Agora is the Church of the Holy Apostles, which can be dated back to the 10th century.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens
On our last morning, before heading off to the airport, I went into the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, which was right opposite our hotel. Although it looks quite new, construction started in 1842 and finished in 1862 (which is new, by Ancient Greek standards!) While the outside is fairly minimal in sleek white marble, inside is quite opulent, with beautiful painted domes.
So why isn’t Athens pretty?
I said this in the title of this post, and feel it deserves more explanation. There are parts of Athens that are picturesque, and certainly lots to see. But overall, as a city, it’s not beautiful. The effects of the financial problems can be seen in many areas of the city, with shops closed down and shutters vandalised. The contrast was clear looking out from our hotel – directly in front was the Acropolis, to the right was the Metropolitan Cathedral, but the left was a building which, at one point, would have been beautiful, but now looks burnt out, abandoned, and covered in parts in safety netting.
By saying Athens isn’t pretty I’m not detracting from it in anyway. It’s a wonderful place to visit and I would recommend it. Just don’t expect the pretty architecture of Prague, or the refined elegance of Nice, for example. But if you like ancient history, ancient ruins and good food, then it’s definitely up your street!
Have you ever been to Athens? Would you like to? Let me know in the comments!
I already knew last night that today was going to be a bad day.
“Why didn’t you do something pre-emptive to stop it then, you daft cow?” (those are my words, and maybe what you’re thinking too.)
Unfortunately it was too late. I was lying in bed, fretting, listening to the husband snore, reading a blog I’ve become ridiculously immersed in (I think I’m as far back as 2013 posts from this woman now; her family story is fascinating and her writing is really engaging and fun) and wondering why I couldn’t sleep despite my body feeling so so ready for slumber.