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.


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.


Berlin in one day

I’m in Berlin but on a tight time schedule, I still want to experience some of what this city has to offer.  So this is what we did.

I’m lazy when I arrive at Tegal airport and opt to taxi to the hostel.  I know…lazy.

After ditching the bags, we head to Checkpoint Charlie via the U ban and S ban.

Stop 1: Checkpoint Charlie is a must for your trip to Berlin.  Head into the black box and read about the history of the boundary and the people who lost their lives here.

Stop 2: We walk 10 minutes to the next point, the Topography of Terror.  This is a centre of history, we spent our time at the outdoor information point about the history of Berlin “Between Propaganda and Terror”.  This is very well worth a visit.  We don’t have time to go inside the building but I will definitely add it to the list for a longer visit.


Stop 3: 15 minutes on foot we arrive at our next stop, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  This is a stark and striking memorial, like nothing I have ever experienced before.  I walk amongst the stones… it makes you feel small and very human.


Stop 4: We head on to the next stop on our walking whistle stop tour, is the Brandenburg Gate.  The Gate has been restored and attracts a crowd.  The area around the gate is lovely, and the wide road leading away from the gate is boarded by a beautiful looking park.


Stop 5: The Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building.  The Reichstag is topped by a glass dome which has a full view of the city.  I would recommend booking tickets in advance if you visit in summer.




Stop 6: The longest walk of our foot tour, 30 minutes of strolling through the city and we arrive at our next and final stop.  Berlin Cathedral, its full name is: Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church in Berlin.   Its 7 euros to get inside and 4 euros for an audio guide.


And we are done.

Well not really done.  Obviously there is so much more to Berlin.  We have’t stepped inside a gallery or museum.  But with limited time, I feel like we managed to get a fair amount in and it was light on the budget as well.

Also, if you come across Woop Woop ice cream…try it.  It is worth it, very yum.


Tawny Elf

We’ve been away and with the new addition to the Elf clan, we have also been very disorganized and didn’t get anything lined up on the site for our away time.  So now we are back and back to business!

We’ve been in Porto and into the Port wine (especially the Tawny, my new favorite thing). 


We arrive on a Friday morning and catch the metro from the airport into town before walking to our Air B and B.  The metro is relatively easy to use and find within the airport.  Have change with you for this, it makes it so much easier.  You buy a card for 60 cents and then add trips to it.  Two important things to remember: 

1. Once you chose the type of trip (day travel or individual trips) that is the only type of trip you can use the card for.
         2. When you use the machine for the first time remember you need a card per person. When you select 2 trips you will get one card with 2 trips on it.  So best bet is to do them individually. 

Right, boring information bit over.  

We spend our first two day wandering in the streets of Porto.  We walk up the hill into the Cathedral, which is lovely but not as nice as some of the little churches that we discover as we walk around.  But the view from the Cathedral beside the Bishop’s IMAG2822Residence is lovely.  This is a lovely area and well worth a visit.  

We duck into 3-4 different churches which are beautiful all inlaid with gold our favorite is Igreja de Sao Francisco.  Porto is a wonderful place to wander in and the views that open out as you turn a bend in a little alleyway.  The tiled houses with their different colours and the terracotta roof tiles make this city lovely to look at. 

Head across the big iron bridge called Dom Luís I Bridge built by Théophile Seyrig, there are two levels and you can walk across both.  The view from the top level is spectacular. The bridge connects you to Vila Nova de Gaia, which is where the port cellars are.  The view back across the river to Porto is fab.


Once you are in Vila Nova de Gaia, you will see all the signs pointing you along the water front to the different Port wine cellars.  The different companies offer a variety of tours and tastings, tours only or tastings only.  The best tour and tasting combination (as recommended by a local) is Crofts, to get to Crofts head along the waterfront and past Sandemans and you will see the signs. 

For a good quality tasting head along to Quinta do Noval.  If you want to tour here you will need to book well in advance, at the moment of publishing this blog, the next available tour is in September!  But if you want a good tasting, this is a great place to start.  It is a little more expensive than other options but the quality and different types of wines and ports that you will get to try make it well worth it.  We split the 40 year old taster between four people at a price of 40 euros.  The tasting comes with explanations of each of the wines and ports, how they are made, what the difference in ageing process is, bottling and so on.  Also…wow, so tasty.

More information about Noval here


More from our Northern Portugal adventure soon!

Winchester Cathedral

We’ve been a little bit quiet of late, sorry! We are very busy, organising, planning and adventuring.

We visited Winchester recently, which is a very easy day or weekend trip from London.  There are frequent trains from Waterloo every day.  Winchester is a market city with a wealth of history and many things to see and to do for all the family.  However, I am focusing on the crowning jewel (my opinion only) the Cathedral.

Sitting proudly in the centre of the town not far from the high street and surrounded on three sides by beautiful lawns and old trees.  On the final side is the prestigious Winchester Boys school which provides the choir boys to the famous choirs of the cathedral. imag2161-1

The costs for entry are:

Adult – £7.95
Concession – £5.95
Student – £4.45
Children under 16 (with family) – Free

The ticket gets you in for 12 months so you can head back as often as you like.

Inside there are volunteers who provide beautiful tours, and are well worth it.

There has been a building on this site since 1093.  There are many notable figures interred in the current cathedral including Jane Austen and Henry Beaufort.

The crypt is often flooded and there is a beautiful art instillation that you can see by descending the stairs.  A wonderful meditative piece of art, it leaves me breathless.

It’s a lovely cathedral and all the volunteers are obviously enamoured with the building which is lovely, the whole experience is wonderful.

Click here for more information


Cadiz is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the loveliest seaside cities I have ever visited.  It is perched on a spit of land narrowly connected with mainland Spain.  It has a wonderfully wild feel to it.  The streets are winding and channel the cool sea breeze which is a wonderful relief from the heat of high summer.

We follow a walking route from the train station to the city hall and then head along some of the back streets to the city walls that look out on to the sea and follow the coast.  The view is lovely and made more beautiful as we come upon the well planned public gardens.  We turn into the old town and make our way to the Camera Obscura.

You can go up into the Camera Obscura, there are two small exhibitions and a short show with the camera its self, along with the beautiful roof top view of Cadiz.  It’s worth a look and the 6 euro price tag.

IMAG2009We head off to the cathedral, which is topped with a beautiful gold dome.  Its 5 euros to get in and this includes the audio guide.  This cathedral left a big impression on me, with its immense marble inside and the wonderful opportunity to head down into the crypt which was hauntingly beautiful and peaceful.

Definitely worth a day trip if you are in the area, but even better stay at least a night and enjoy this wonderful place.