Elf in St Albans

If you, like us, want to escape the city summer heat for the day, head to St Albans.  St Albans is only a short drive or train ride away from London and has a beautiful village feel to it.

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With a lovely Cathedral to admire and Roman ruins to discover there is actually quite a bit to see.  St Albans also has a lovely shopping area and great food on offer, one of the most famous eateries is the Waffle House.  Be prepared to que at the Waffle House on the weekend, but once you are in there are savoury and sweet options to choose from.  I go for the salted caramel with peacan nuts….ooooo it is yumo!

We walk off our waffles wandering though the Verulamium Park, named for the Roman city outside who’s walls St Albans is built.

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Hong Kong

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The first decision when heading to Hong Kong is whether you are staying on the island or main land.  We opt for main land, because the hotel rooms are generally slightly bigger and slightly cheaper.  We decided on Butterfly on Pratt due to its easy location, it is on the main land.

First thing to know when  you arrive, is transport.  At the airport head to the information booth and get an Octopus card.  There are ordinary ones which you top up as normal and there are tourist Octopus cards, which include one or two airport line trips and two or three days of travel.  The card its self can be exchanged for 100 dollar deposit on leaving.  We opt for the three day tourist card and it is well worth the money.  The transport system is great, easy to use and very well organised.

We arrive late on our first day and head into Kowloon on the airport train, then make the terrible mistake of thinking that we would be able to walk the short distance from the station rather than try to navigate further trains. Don’t do this.  It is not a good idea!  Eventually we admit defeat and follow the signs to the transfer bus.  This is a free service that runs frequently all days of the week to the big hotels…much better idea.

imag3856-1.jpgWe spend our first morning an a free walking tour (our fav!) of Hong Kong Island.  This is a great tour with lots of interesting information about politics and the current situation in Hong Kong.  I definitely recommend this as a great starting point for your trip.

This same group offer a “jump the cue tour” for the Victoria Peak Tram.  We take advantage of this, and again I would recommend this, simply because it cut about an hour standing in the sun in a line.  The Tram is great, really is something to experience.  We then spend almost two hours walking around Victoria Peak enjoying the views, the countryside and the wildlife.  There are amazing birds of prey and wild pigs rootling around.  This is not what you would expect from Hong Kong…its cool and calm and blissful.

So ends our first foray into Hong Kong.  Bring on the rest of the trip!

More information on the Free Walking Tours

Third Stop: Townsville

Our third and final stop in Australia for this trip is Townsville.  It is actually the only Australian stop that we haven’t been to before.

Townsville is in north east Queensland and is humid and tropical.  We have the privilege of arriving after the rain so it is looking lovely and green and postcard worthy.  The old second of town and strand area is particularly pretty and worth a drive or walk around.

We visit the Palmetum is one of the three botanical gardens in Townsville and is lovely, we spend over an hour wandering around.

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Castle Hill is another great spot, head to the top for a great view.  If you are fit, try running or walking the trail path.

However, our most favourite spot (aside from the hammock) is Little Crystal Creek Waterfalls.  It is a located along Mount Spec Road between Mutarnee and Paluma and it is stunning.  Crystal clear water and wonderful landscape.  There are BBQ facilities and picnic tables, bathrooms and so on and next time we are definitely taking a picnic.  It is a great spot and our highlight.

 

Elf’s Tip: If you like curry stop at Aalishan’s Indian Restaurant, the food is really fresh and yummy.

Goals

We are looking at the blank slate that is 2018 and making some plans and brainstorming some ideas for the year to come.

We’ve booked in a trip to Australia and to Hong Kong and are raring for that one.  We are making plans for a trip to Wales and possibly back to Edinburgh.

Also on the cards is a British Sign language course or many a French Class.  We are definitely signing up for a cooking course and have an adventure in Covent Garden planned.

But….we are on the look out for inspiration, what should we do?  Where should we go?  What are your favorites?

Making plans is full of excitement!

Secrets

So, we wanted to share some of our favourite secret things we have learn on our travels.  In no particular order:

 

Amsterdam – Vondel Park

If you want something low key and easy on the wallet whilst you are in Amsterdam, we thoroughly recommend a Picnic in Vondel park.  Lots of the supermarkets sell little BBQs that are disposable, grab one and join the locals.  Really is wonderful.

 

Porto – BBs Bar 

For the best view and money saving beer.  Head under the bridge on the Porto side of the river and grab a cheep beer from BBs, then grab a bit of wall.  Perfect.  Simple as that.

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Ouse Valley Viaduct

A short train trip from London and a walk will bring you to this wonderful location.  This Viaduct was built in 1841 and it something to behold.

 

Esposende (Northern Portugal) – De Lili & Ca

For the best pastry you can imagine…only you can’t imagine a pastry with pumpkin that would taste like this.  Really Pasteis de Lili are something else!  Covered in icing sugar and crisp pastry, perfect with coffee.

 

Mowgli’s Favorite Parks

We love our walks, its a great way to get some exercise together, bond and enjoy London in a different way.  So, in honor of International Dogs Day, here are three of Mowgli’s favorite parks for walkies in London.

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Regents Park

Regent’s Park is one of the loveliest parks in central London.  We love to wander around and enjoy the beautiful gardens.  Though of course no dogs are allowed in the rose gardens.  But aside from that it is a dog friendly park with lots to explore together.

Clapham Common

Our local favorite and a very, very doggy park.  The common has both long wild grass areas and short grass for little legs.  There are lots of dogs to play with and lots of ponds as well.  We love the common.

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Finsbury Park

If you want something different, head to Finsbury Park and enjoy the old railway track walk.  there are lots of paths and places to explore. Great on a summer’s day and there is a lovely cafe in the middle of the Park which is dog friendly and does some yummy cakes and sandwiches.

 

Happy Walking!

Finals Elf

We’ve been there before, we’ve blogged about it before, but this time its different…this time its the finals.

Yes, the finals.  Men’s Wimbledon Finals.

We have tickets, mother and I. Tickets!!!

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So we’re off to Wimbledon.  We’ve packed the picnic, got our tickets and we arrive early to Wimbledon station.  There is a shuttle bus that will take you to the front gate and back for £5 return.  Or, you can do the half an hour walk to the gates.  It is nice whether so we head off.

It is electric inside.  The atmosphere is wonderful and we stumble across Federer warming up.  Next we head over to the men’s invitation doubles which is great fun.  Brilliant tennis is being played but no one is taking it seriously, the players laugh and banter with the crowd and it is more of a show than a match.  But so worth watching.

We find a bench for our picnics and enjoy the sun before heading to the Pimms tent.  Pimms in hand we make for the main event.

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The Center Court at Wimbledon is massive.  We seem to spend an age walking around the edges to our entrance. Eventually we make it to our seats and it begins.  The tennis is brutal, the clapping loud, tension intense, what an experience.  And yes, on this occasion it would have been nice for the match to have lasted longer, been closer…but still.  What an experience.

I’ve already got my ballot ready for next year!