Trim Castle

Its raining…its been raining…but it is Ireland so we get up and head off into the countryside.  We are heading to Trim Castle via some pretty places on the way.

We stop at Bective Abbey and watch birds dip in and out of its ruins.  It’s stark beauty is strange and desolate.

When we make it to Trim, we park up head for cover in the entrance of the castle.  It is 2 euros if you just want to wander in the grounds, or 5 euros if you want a guided tour of the keep as well.  Pay the 5 euros…it is so worth it.

The rain is really coming down, so I walk the perimeter of the grounds rather swiftly even so it is clear that the castle is very big and intact.  Our guide arrives and we head into the keep.  Our guide is wonderful, she invites us to use our imaginations to see how the castle would have been in the different periods of its existence.

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We work our way up spiral staircases and visit the chapel and walk among the history of the Castle.  Eventually we make our way to the very top and look our on the misty countryside and town of Trim.  I very very much recommend this stop on your tour of Ireland.

You might recognize the Castle from Braveheart! There are lots of photos at the entrance of the transformation for the movie.

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Also another fact…this is the largest Ango-Norman Castle in Ireland.

When we are done at the Castle we head into Drogheda.  Drogheda is one of the oldest towns in Ireland.  St. Peter’s Church is one of the famous sites of Drogheda,  the church is not very ornate inside, however it does have one unusual thing…a severed head.  Yes, a severed and preserved head.  St Oliver’s head to be exact.  The shrine is quite beautiful and the hand written confirmation of the authenticity of the head is very intriguing.

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If you are hungry in Drogheda I definitely recommend The Bare Food Company.  We had scones and coffee and they were so good!

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And that is about it for the Elf in Ireland.

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Elf at the Tate

The Tate Britain is an overlooked art gallery that really does deserve more attention. The Tate Britain is home to a whole range of art through time. My favourite section is the School of London, which houses beautiful portraits.

The Tate Britain is a short walk from Pimlico station, although also a lovely walk across the river from Vauxhall. It’s a beautiful building and impressive to behold.

The galleries are laid out in time periods. Follow them around its worth it.

We stopped to spend time enjoying Ophelia by John Everett Millais and Carnation Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent. Two of my absolute favourite paintings.

The Tate Britain is free to get into and also has seasonal exhibitions that cost to get into. It is much quieter that some of the art galleries in London and has a much calmer feel to it. It is a great afternoon out and the cake from the cafeteria looked amazing.

 

Elf on the bus

We love an afternoon tea at house Elf, and this one is a little special…its on a bus.  That’s right afternoon tea on a Routemaster bus.

IMAG3143.jpgThe bus takes you around the big sites of London starting at Victoria Coach Station.  Heading past Big Ben, Harrods, The Royal Albert Hall, around the park and back through Piccadilly to Victoria station.

Elf tip: Make sure you book in advance, you can select the seats and table that you would prefer.  We recommend paying the slightly higher price to sit on the upper deck, it is worth it.

We opt for the 5pm slot and climb on at Victoria Coach Station.  We’re on the upper deck and settle in with the amazing spread in front of us.  The team introduce themselves and take drink orders.  Cold and hot options are available and are served in lid-ed cups which fit into sunken cup holders on the table to prevent spillages.

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And we are off.

It is, slow.  Delicious but slow.

We munch our way though sandwiches of all different kinds.  Yum!

We make it to the Royal Albert Hall and the traffic gets the best of us so the bus makes a u-turn.  Meanwhile we are on to the cake section.  There are mini lemon tarts, mini chocolate muffins and little raspberry topped tarts.  Everything is superb.

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The whole thing is a great experience but:

Elf tip number 2:  Don’t book during peak time, go for the 12:30 slot instead.

The whole afternoon tea is wonderful in any case.  Cake, beautiful London, tea and the sights!

If you fancy booking in click here and always this is not a sponsored article.

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.

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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