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.

 

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Fire Elf

On one of our evenings in Porto we decided to head out in the evening for pudding and a drink only to notice some fire.  We headed towards the fire and stumbled on this amazing art instillation spread across the city.   Here is a little clip just a small part of the experience.

 

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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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.

 

Street Feast Elf

Fancy doing something a bit different for dinner, keep on reading.

Moon boot and I head off to Hawker House for a feast of street food.

Hawker House is a street foodie’s heaven.  Pop up restaurants and bars all together in one very cool place.  Hawker House is one of the Street Feast locations which started life as Dinnerama.  Hawker House is located in Canada Water a two minute walk from the tube station which makes it ideal for after work or easy catch ups on the weekend.  There are 8 different food vendors and 8 different bars.  Its a big space inside which doesn’t feel like you are inside an old warehouse, but more like a market on holiday.  There are also pool tables and beer pong tables if that’s your thing.

I very much recommend a big group and everyone head off and return with treats!  This way you get to try lots of what is on offer.  My favorite were the pork buns from Yum Bun, Mr Elf aka Moon boot, enjoyed the stake plate from Up In My Grill.  The gin bar was a big hit with our group as well.

If you want to check out street food for your self, you can head to Hawker House or Dinnerama, fingers crossed that there are more locations on the way back as the weather warms up.

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For the Hawker House website click here

Enjoy!  Let us know what your favorite eats were if you’ve been and if there are any other cool food experiences you think we need to visit please do let us know.

As usual I ate and then remembered I was supposed to take photos…oops!

 

Quiet Elves

Its not like us to have been quiet!  We’ve been puppy siting and it has been glorious.

His name is Billy and he is the much loved dog of our friends.  Our lovely friends have been busy with wedding preparations and the big day its self so Billy has been staying casa de Elf!

Billy’s gentle companionship and company has been great fun and we enjoyed being able to help out good people in a difficult time.  Yes…it’s one of those posts.

Lets help each other.  Really do it, its great!  I know it seems a silly thing to point out and we shouldn’t do things just to make ourselves feel good,  but it does feel good to do favors and to offer support and help.  Little kindnesses (or big ones) make big differences to people and their lives.

love x

We have also had a small hiatus to the adventuring due to Mr Elf braking his ankle.  Poor boy is hopping around on crutches and has all the annoyances that go with a moon boot.  Fingers crossed that he will be mended up soon and we can get back to the adventures.

 

Ask questions

 

Something profound from one of the most inspirational women ever.  I love this passage, I try to embrace this ethos in everyday.  Let us become a community across the world, let us not judge or pass judgment. Instead, let’s ask questions and listen.

 

“If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It’s easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah