Elf Down the Douro

Next stop on our Northern Portugal adventure.  We pick up a hire car and head off into the countryside in search of quiet, views and more wine!

We head out of Porto and choose to avoid tolls for cost saving and nicer driving.  The countryside is beautiful and lush.  We drive through the morning, it takes about 3 hours but we do not notice the time as we are blessed with the wonderful views.

Slowly we IMAG2868start to climb into the vine country before we dip down again along the riverside.  Then we start to ascend properly passing the vineyards that below to the Port Houses and Cellars that we saw and visited in Porto.  We turn of the main roads and head high into the mountains.  Its not a great drive for those who suffer carsickness or vertigo, but on we go.  We reach a small town close to Armamar.  IMAG2869

 

The view is simply incredible.

 

Stretching out in front of us, a church nestles between the vines and chimes as we clamber out and head into the most wonderful villa.  We have splashed out a little (60 euros a night) so that we can have the privilege of a swimming pool, views and a BBQ.

The next few days pass in relaxation heaven. We spend our days driving the countryside and stopping in little towns.  We visit Armamar and shop in the local bakery, butcher and shops before heading home to cook outside and enjoy the evening slowly passing.

It is perfect.

 

Advertisements

Bonie Elf

We talked about our trip to Scotland in the last blog and visiting Aberfeldy, here is a poem by Robert Burns about the wonderful little town.

“The Birks of Aberfeldy”

Bonie lassie, will ye go,
Will ye go, will ye go,
Bonie lassie, will ye go
To the birks of Aberfeldy!
Now Simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o’er the crystal streamlets plays;
Come let us spend the lightsome days,
In the birks of Aberfeldy!

 

 

Ps.  photo is of the Hogwarts Express…because I felt like it.

 

Flashback to Scotland

A couple of years ago we headed off for a weekend in the highlands.  This is a hazy half remembered reminiscence of that wonderful trip.

We started in Edinburgh which is a wonderful old city.  The buildings are stately and imposing and keep the city looking elegant.  The walk up to the castle is like stepping back in time,  the castle an imposing sight.  Well worth the cue and the cost to get in and explore.

From Edinburgh we head up through Glenroth and on to Aberfeldy.  Aberfeldy is a small and cute market town with  a distillery, the main attraction is the Wade Bridge.  Its a town from a chocolate tin lid.

Back on the road and we head into the highlands proper.  The whole landscape is different to anything else that I have ever experienced.  Apart from the heather which turns the ground purple, it feels almost barren but still manages to be devastatingly beautiful.

After wandering in fields of heather we’re back on the move and make it up to Inverness for dinner (haggis of course).  We walk beside the river as the sunsets and watch the lights of the bridge change colour.  IMAG0569

The next morning we make it to Loch Ness wherefor some mad reason we take a swim.  Locals are in full 5mm wet suits as we wonder in, in our swimmers.  Its freezing, we turn blue and get out pretty quickly.

The more I reminisce about this trip and remember the amazing-ness of the place and the craziness of seeing the Hogwarts Express…well we might just have to go back and do it all again.

Country Elf

We’re off on a countryside adventure this weekend. The Broadlands Country Show. This is a proper country show, there are dog breed competitions, gun dog trials, demonstrations in the main arena. Food and local produce, rides and stalls.

The show is set in the attractive grounds of an Estate called Broadlands, which is well worth a visit another time. Lovely old house, beautiful gardens and lovely walks. Back to the show, if you buy your tickets online in advance you will get a cheaper ticket, it’s a little expensive at £15 but everyone under 16 is free which is nice. We toddle on through and stop at the gun dog trials. I have never seen this before it’s very cool. We stop toIMAG2677 watch the “long retrieve” there a red ball like thing is short into the air and down the end of the enclosure accompanied by a loud simulated gun shot. Now, all being well the dog sprints off down the field and returns with the red ball like thing…this is not always the case and lots of the dogs had a good romp around and sniff before returning (or not) with the ball.IMAG2685_BURST012_COVER

Next we head to the main arena, where we are blown away by the craziness that is “The Devils Horsemen”. Not for the faint of heart, that is sure. These guys are mad, they hang off the sides of the horses and do handstands on the back of galloping horses. Then to top it off they stand astride two horses for a race. It’s thrilling, and I will not lie…it leaves me desperate to go horse riding. Perhaps a new career path?

We munch our way round and enjoy pasties, hot coffee (to ward of the cold as it starts to rain), popcorn and candy floss. We pick up some apple strudel and cakes to take home and on the way out I can’t help it… I get some fudge as well. (Licorice flavour…oh my, so, so good)

I’m already busy looking up the next Country show I can get to.  If you fancy heading along to a show, I found this website with lots of information about upcoming shows.

Touring with tourists

We have guests, which is wonderful for so many reasons.  We get to hang out with our
fun friends, we get to eat awesome food and most of all we get to do touristy things!  Hurrah!

IMAG2641We catch the bus into Kensington, there is no traffic because everyone has headed out of London for the bank holiday so we wiz through town.

Its Easter so first of all its time for a treat. We head down to the Hummingbird bakery to tick of a “must do” for Phill.  We each choose something different and wonder over to Kensington Gardens with our treats.  Sitting in the sunshine near the Prince Albert memorial with views of the Royal Albert Hall we dig into our cakes…yum!  Definitely worth it.  Next we walk though the gardens and head over to the ponds and up towards the Palace before heading into Hyde Park and make our way to the Serpentine Gallery.IMAG2642

The Serpentine Gallery houses modern art exhibitions.  These change on a regular basis and on this occasion we went in to see “A World View: John Latham”.  I’m not going to say that I 100% understood what was happening, but this was interesting and worth having a look at, its free to get in.

Next we walk to a very beautiful pub called the Victoria, its old and stunning.  The food looks good, but the real gem is its old world feel.

A bit of something for everyone.

 

 

Mersea Island

Mersea Island is a large estuary island in Essex, close to Colchester.  You can grab a train to Colchester or the easiest option is to head out in a car.  It’s about an hour and half in the car and the scenery is lovely especially with the sun shining away.

I love London but sometimes you have to get out of the city and into the green or onto the sand.

Driving through the countryside laughing the time passes easily and we arrive via Colchester, which is quiet a pretty old Roman town.  Colchester is one of the UKs oldest towns and is steeped in history, and was once the capital of Roman Britain before being destroyed during Boadicea’s time.  There is a castle, museum and Roman walls, but we’re on a mission to the seaside!

IMAG2608

A little bit longer in the car and we head into Mersea and follow the signs to the seaside.

There are lots of families and everyone has their dog!  It’s great, we walk along the beach and follow the coast around and then along the coastal path.  There are swans in the water and one side and sail boats the other, we wonder and enjoy the sun and the fresh air.  You will need to keep your shoes on and don’t expect sand between the toes or palm trees.  Its brisk and the sand is full of oyster shells and muscle shells.  Its rugged and stark but wonderful.

IMAG2617

We’re hungry and we’ve a hankering for fish and chips.  My favourite.  We jump back into the car and head back towards West Mersea’s famous oyster bar.  It looks little more than a harbour shed with a pungent fish smell, but inside its full to bursting we are lucky and manage to get a seat.  The girls order oysters…the devil’s snot, not for me.  But, we also have haddock and chips with mushy peas and homemade tartare sauce…and it is amazing, seriously the best fish and chips I think I have ever had (and I eat a lot of fish and chips…it’s my favourite, my go to in pubs across the world).

Such a good day out.  Really everyone should go. Get out in the sun and enjoy.

IMAG2620

Elf at the Boat Race

After what seems like a very long winter it finally looks like spring is here and just in time for the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.

The Boat Race can only mean one race, the rowing race between Oxford and Cambridge universities.  The story goes that two old friends called Charles Wordsworth and Charles Merrivale went rowing on the Cam, Charles Wordsworth had attended Christ Church College Oxford and Charles Merrivale was an alumni of St. John’s Cambridge.  Not long after this lovely winter holiday row on the Cam the two friends decided to set up a race!  On February 10th 1829 a letter was sent from St John’s College to Christ Church College:IMAG2597.jpg

‘the University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London, each in an eight-oared boat during the ensuing Easter vacation.’

….I’ve read up on the history and there are…various dates and slightly different versions of the story, but that is the gist.

Back to present day, we pack a picnic and head over to Putney which is the current day starting line for the race.  There are many different spots where you can gather to watch along the river.  There are also big screens set up on both sides of the river at different points, its worth checking these out, the exact spots change a little each year to have a look in advance.  We get off at Putney Bridge and head down to Bishops Park.  Having the beautiful weather makes such a difference, we sit in the sun and friends join us in the park.  Ten minutes before the women’s race we head to the riverbank to reserve a spot, some ingenious people have climbed trees to get a better view.  The boats are past in moments and we head back into the sunshine.  We repeat for the mens’ race.

IMAG2590.jpgFor a more intense experience head across the bridge and join in the bigger crowds, where there are more drink and food stands.  Bishops Park has a family friendly and lovely friendly atmosphere, it feels like a mass family day out. Definitely enhanced by the wafting smells of the near by BBQ stand.