Tag - England

Horrid Norwich for halloween?

Elm Hill, Norwich, Credit-Tripadvisor

Elm Hill, Norwich, Credit-Tripadvisor

For a sense of medieval England, Norwich on a suitably misty Halloween night is your best bet in recreating the mystique of a dark and superstitious past.

The city has a Gothic steeple at every turn, along the gently sloping cobble-stoned lanes that crisscross the heart of the city. In fact, Norwich is famous for having a church for every Sunday in the year and a pub for every day of the year. Leaning half-timbered houses from Tudor times survive along Georgian brick in a cityscape that beckons the visitor to a world of ancient stories and folktale.

The potentially dark atmosphere of a town so convincingly medieval has not been lost on the local tour-guides. Thus, the creation of a themed walk under the heading Horrid Norwich, revealing, as they put it, the gruesome underbelly of life in ‘olde Norwych’, has come to life.

Beginning and ending at the conveniently located hotel, The Maid’s Head, a place brimming with its own history and stories, the tour wanders through the Cathedral Close, before turning along the Wensum River to later explore the area of Tombland. The name of the latter is, of course, most appropriate given the theme of the tour.

The Maid’s Head is one of Norwich’s most famous hotels and is housed, rather appropriately, within a jumble of medieval, Tudor and Georgian-style houses, whimsically cobbled together into one. It lays claim to a history stretching back the most part of the last 1000 years, originating as a hospice for travelling pilgrims. It also may have played the part as host to Elizabeth I on one occasion.

It is the final destination after the Halloween tour and offers an elaborate feast for the occasion. After an offering of tales of murdered monks, drowned witches and burned heretics and the ghosts that walked in their wake, the mood in the hotel restaurant is comparably cheerful.

However, there is still the occasion to drink blood. Nelson’s blood has become a local drink of brandy, on the basis of a legend about the death of the famous admiral. His body was reputedly preserved in brandy on the voyage back from Trafalgar, from which fellow sailors would have a sip to gain the strength of their hero. As Norfolk’s greatest son, this legend gave birth to a rather atrocious drink, Nelson’s blood.

Thus, the old city of Norwich, with its unexpected nooks and crannies and leaning Tudor houses, offer both glimpses of the wondrous and the ghastly. It is a must visit for anyone attracted to the mystique of Norman England and with a fascination for the horrid side of the coin of history, legend and myth.

London: Britain at its Best

London, Cr-europecharm.com

London, Cr-europecharm.com

The capital of England, London, is an exciting, culturally vibrant location, full of tourist attractions, vast entertainment events and varied food. This European destination will leave you wanting more.

As any picture will show, one of the most stunning images of London is its skyline.  Start your itinerary by grabbing a glass pod on the London Eye, a 443-foot Ferris wheel, and witness it for yourself.

From here you can see Elizabeth Tower or ‘Big Ben’, as it’s affectionately known.  Iconic in the capital, it’s situated next to the Houses of Parliament, making it one of the most important places in the city.

To the right you’ll see Buckingham Palace with its magnificent gardens and parks.  Known largely as the home of the Queen of England, this attraction is visited by millions.

Even further along the Thames, catch a glimpse of St Paul’s Cathedral, which has been the site of many historically important events, such as the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Once your hour on the London Eye is up, take a trip towards Westminster Abbey and appreciate it from up close.  Built by Henry III in 1245, history fanatics will be in their element experiencing one of the most important Gothic buildings of England.

After being in awe of the history of the city, visit Oxford Street, one of the best shopping destinations in Europe, full of the world’s biggest retail outlets, including large department store such as John Lewis and Debenhams.

If you’re looking for something special, though, take a journey towards Harrods, situated near the highly affluent Knightsbridge area.  The most exciting department store in London, Harrods has everything you could ever need to buy, including high-cost, designer items to die for.

Once you’ve shopped till you’ve dropped, give yourself a rest and take a seat in Hyde Park, nearby, which once served Henry VIII as a hunting ground.  For the brave and articulate, there is the opportunity to join the Speaker’s Corner where attendants are encouraged to speak their mind.

After taking in the many exciting sights of London, you may start to build an appetite and, like any major European destination, London’s cuisine goes a long way to form its character.  But what is it that sums up the capital’s taste buds?  Well, while many cities across the world are associated with a specific dish, London is famed for a wide assortment of food from cultures around the world.

You can wake up in the capital and have breakfast at Café Broheme, a Parisian café in the centre of Soho, offering croissants and coffee.  Then, for lunch, enjoy an authentic English afternoon tea at the famous hotel, The Ritz, with scones and cream.  Finally, for dinner, find Belgo’s, an authentic Belgian restaurant located in Covent Garden that serves up a host of delicacies, including mussels, as well as a large selection of Belgian beers.

As you discover the thousands of restaurants in London you’ll come to realise that what makes its cuisine so individual, is that it is every world’s food culture at once.

Now you’ve had a long day of sightseeing and have your hunger satisfied, you’re looking to fill your evening with entertainment.  Fortunately for you, London has everything to suit anyone’s needs.  When in the capital of England, you will never find yourself without something to do.

The Royal Albert Hall, the centre of entertainment in London, holds events such as the BBC Summer Proms as well as critically acclaimed plays like Billy Elliot and The Lion King.

If you’re looking for something a bit more lighthearted, though, experience the much-famed British wit at one of the many comedy clubs available.

Check out The Boat located on the Thames opposite the London Eye.  Without having to spend too much you’ll get a host of great comedy acts and, if you’re so inclined, club nights run on till the early morning without extra charge.

So, if you’re looking for somewhere full of history, great shopping locations and highly enjoyable entertainment, travel to London.  One of the most exhilarating European destinations, no tourist’s cap truly has credibility until it holds the feather of this city.

Article provided by EuropeCharm, operated by Felix Travel, LLC, is a premier travel company that offers customized itineraries for leisure and business trips in Europe. All travel services are designed to cater explicitly to the needs of each client. Custom itineraries and packages are personalized, independent and designed precisely for clients so that they can travel at their own convenience.

 

The English Cities Everyone Ought to Visit

by Gavin Harvy,

English Cities by Dan Brickley

English Cities by Dan Brickley

When you think of English cities, London undoubtedly springs to mind first with its iconic red buses, black cabs and royal buildings. Yet this is only a tiny fraction of what English cities have to offer. Have you ever visited John Lennon’s house? Walked across Clifton Suspension Bridge? Or been down the Cam? Much less likely. With so many cities to visit and such a vast array of sights to see, here is just a mere collection of English cities everyone ought to visit.

London

If it is your first trip to England, the capital city is certainly the first port of call. From museums, to shows, to food markets and parks, there really is an unlimited amount of times you can visit London.

London has an exceptional range of things to do, cultures to experience and famous landmarks to spot. Buckingham Palace is arguably one of the most influential buildings in the city, having been home to so many of the country’s past leaders. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply feeling a little patriotic, the palace is a great place to spend an afternoon regardless of the weather. London is also inundated with thought-provoking museums and galleries, such as the Natural History Museum, the V&A, London Transport Museum and the National Gallery, just to name a few. No other English city has so much to offer in the evening, with West End shows, Michelin Star restaurants and stylish bars heading up the city’s nightlife.

The best area to stay if you’re planning on visiting the main attractions is undoubtedly central London; however the efficiency of the underground means that you can stretch out to alternate locations like Shoreditch or Richmond.

Cambridge

Cambridge is one of England’s most visited cities, due to the prestigious university and spectacular architecture. The majority of the university’s colleges offer guided tours, so you can view the stunning buildings whilst learning about their history and uses for the university today.

Perhaps one of the most iconic things to do whilst in Cambridge is to go punting down the River Cam with a glass of champagne in hand. For the more rainy days try the Fitzwilliam Museum or the Arts Theater, or wander through the historic Market Square for a real taste of Cambridge city life. The closer you can stay to the city center and its architecture the better.

Liverpool

Having been named Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2008, Liverpool is fast becoming one of England’s unmissable cities. Liverpool’s strong cultural presence comes largely from its music scene during the 1960s, and there are numerous museums and exhibitions to visit centered on the Beatles. You can even take a look inside John Lennon’s house if you’re happy to stray from the city center.

However, Liverpool Waterfront is where the majority of the attractions lie with the Tate, Merseyside Maritime Museum and recently developed shopping areas, and this is certainly the place to stay if you want to be near all the action.

Bristol

Home to much of the notorious Banksy’s artwork, Bristol is another great cultural English city. Bristol has a diverse architectural backdrop of buildings, churches and bridges, alongside fashionable restaurants, shops and bars, intertwining old and new with every step.

The Victoria Rooms and the Wills Memorial Building are just two examples of the noteworthy architecture, whilst climbing to the top of Cabot Tower will give you a spectacular overview of Bristol’s eclectic mix of buildings. Bristol’s zoo and harbor are further attractions not to be missed, and if you can visit Clifton Suspension Bridge during the International Balloon Fiesta then you will experience something truly special. There are loads of great locations to stay in Bristol, from Clifton to the city center and Broadmead.

Brighton and Hove

Brighton and Hove is arguably England’s most exciting seaside city, although it attracts mainly seasonal tourists. If you were to picture Brighton, you would see the infamous pebbled beach littered with striped deck chairs, the ironically tacky pier with its fairground rides and most probably a colony of seagulls soaring above the ruins of the abandoned pier. This stereotypical image is largely accurate and adds to Brighton’s charm. It’s a classic British seaside town.

If you are to explore further than along the seafront, be sure to visit the Royal Pavilion and the Brighton Lanes. Unless you wish to be disturbed by noisy seagulls and the vibrant nightlife of the seafront, it is best to stay a bit further inland.

Of course, this is only a small number of England’s beautiful and cultural cities, and there are countless more attractions worth visiting, such as the Roman Baths, Newcastle’s quayside, York’s iconic street the Shambles and Manchester’s large collection of museums. Sites such as Hotelopia offer a wide range of hotels.

Which English cities would you recommend? Let us know in the comments.

Unusual wedding venue Ideas from Budget to Luxurious in Essex

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Wedding Venue

Everyone wants their wedding to stand out from the crowd. They want it to be the occasion that is talked about for months and months to come. The venue you select can have a massive influence on whether this is the case or not. After all, the wedding venue is going to be the main thing people notice. It is also the first thing they see when they come to your big day. It influences the vibe of the event and consequently plays a role in determining the mood of all of your guests too.

One way you can undoubtedly make your day one to remember is to choose a venue nobody would expect. If you choose an unusual venue then you build excitement, you get all of your guests talking and you instantly make the atmosphere a positive one. Read on to discover some great budget and luxurious ideas for an unusual wedding venue in Essex

A fairground

A fairground is undoubtedly a unique choice of wedding venue yet it is something that seems to work well every time. Why? Quite simply because it brings fun to the occasion. This is a day of celebration and everyone should undoubtedly be in jovial spirits. A fairground is a venue which only enhances this feeling. Furthermore, it is a fantastic choice for anyone who is going to have a lot of children in attendance. It gets the little kids excited and ensures they do not spend the entire day saying ‘mummy, I’m bored’ as they would be at a standard and traditional choice of venue.

A marquee

A marquee in itself may not be wholly unusual. However, it provides the perfect platform for you to be as innovative and creative as you like. This is one of the lesser venues in terms of cost and thus this frees up an opportunity for you to go wild in terms of decoration. You can take eastern influence and opt for an Indian inspired marquee for example. The grand image of the venue presents massive potential to go for something luxurious and lavish. Take inspiration from the royals and the palaces of a particularly country. You could even have a Great British theme with fine china and alike.

The great outdoors

If you are someone who loves nature then why not get married in one of the beautiful Essex green lands? There are lots of great forest areas for you to choose between. You can really embrace the forest feel with the likes of yurts and tipis. For your reception you can have a campfire type setting rather than a formal sit down dinner. This is definitely an unusual route to go down. And just because you are taking influence from camping and the great outdoors does not mean that you can’t add some glamour either.

A theatre

And finally, if you have a taste for the theatrical then why not embrace this and use it as influence for your big day. A theatre definitely plays towards the grandeur of a wedding day. If you are going to go down this route then you should definitely play towards the strength of the venue. Everything should be dramatic and theatrical; from the decorations to what you are wearing. This is ideal for those who like to be bold and make a big impression.

 

Winter Wonderland vs. Summer Fun: What’s the Right Holiday for You?

Winter VS Summer

Winter VS Summer

The idea of flitting to the other side of the world is a tempting one, but if you’re planning on travelling to Australia this summer, you must remember you are heading into winter … which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! You could also make the most of the summer weather and head across the ditch to the likes of a city like Paris. Here’s the deal on both kinds of holidays so you can decide what works best for you!

The Lowdown on Paris in Summer

Paris city breaks are always a good idea. Whatever the season, Paris is an undeniably magical city. It comes alive even more so during the summer, as tourists from all over the world make the most of a European summer. The temperature in Paris over the summer period sits around a pleasant 25 degrees — quite different from the likes of stifling Rome. During this period, it rarely dips below the mid-teens, with over eight hours of sunshine per day. Occasionally, these pleasantries are interrupted by a shower or two as Paris receives over 60mm of rain each summer.

The atmosphere of a Parisian summer is electric; an assortment of tourists and locals, all embracing the beautiful weather and the city’s wonderful food, fashion, art, fun and festivities. The one downfall is that prices are hiked up for attractions and accommodation during this period — although this is the same for most of Europe as well.

The events Paris has from June through September are awesome. Besides the usual attractions, including the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Palace of Versailles, Champs-Élysées, and Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris is host to a number of great events and attractions over the summer months. Three of the most noteworthy include the Rock en Seine, Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) and Cinéma en Plein Air (outdoor film).

Taking place at the end of August, the three-day annual Rock en Seine festival attracts music lovers from all over. This year, the line-up features huge international acts such as System of a Down, Franz Ferdinand and The Bloody Beetroots. Tickets start at €49 and camping facilities are available. The Paris Plages is a wonderfully unique and free event that started in 2002. Throughout August, three areas of the Seine are transformed into beaches complete with sand, water sports and outdoor concerts. It’s suitable for the whole family. One of the other top attractions is the Cinéma en Plein Air, the outdoor cinema that runs over the summer months at Parc de la Villette in northern Paris. Kick back with a glass of champers on a fold-out chair and enjoy some recent Hollywood movies as well as classic French favourites.

The Lowdown on Sydney in Winter

Booking city breaks to Sydney over the U.K. summer means you’re heading into a New South Wales winter. This coincides with the off-peak tourist season, which can lead to some great savings on accommodation, flights and attractions. It also adds to a more chilled-out atmosphere with fewer tourists and backpackers. The weather in Sydney over the summer is quite different from that of the U.K. in winter. It’s mild and dry, with average air temperatures sitting around the mid-teens and a sea temperature of approximately 19 degrees – so don’t rule out swimming!

Sydney during winter offers a wonderland of festivals and attractions including the Bondi Winter Magic Festival, whale watching, day trips to the snow, and if you’re lucky, some swimming and surfing. The Bondi Winter Magic Festival is one of the highlights of a Sydney winter. The beach suburb of Bondi comes alive with art, music, food and winter-themed entertainment. Two of the best events are Art on the Streets and Music on the Streets. These are both designed to showcase local talent. Other highlights include the kite-flying festival, The Festival of the Winds, which takes place on the 8 Sept. and the world-famous Sculpture by the Sea. During Sculpture by the Sea, the beautiful coastal walk between Bondi and Tamarama is transformed into an art gallery.

Winter in Sydney also coincides with two important other seasons: ski season and whale-watching season. Some of the best skiing in Australia is located a few hours from Sydney at the Thredbo and Perisher resorts. The coast of NSW is also one of the best places in the world to see whales. They make their annual migration over the winter from Antarctica up past Sydney’s east coast searching for the North Tropical Queensland’s warmer waters.


Manchester Tourism A City With Plenty To Offer Visitors

beautiful-manchester

beautiful-manchester

Manchester may not be the top of everyone’s lists as a major tourist destination but this bustling and fascinating city actually has plenty to offer visitors from across the country and around the world. It is lively, diverse, interesting and has something which is bound to entertain any tourist.

Manchester is one of the largest cities in England and is integral to the culture of Lancashire and the north-west. As with any major lively city it attracts a considerable number of tourists and visitors every year, keen to see everything that has made Manchester so famous across the world. The city has a very interesting history, experiencing a huge boom during the Industrial Revolution and has become a dominant part of British national identity. It is the third most-visited city in the UK, after London and Edinburgh.

What To Do And See

Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of Manchester is its history, which documents a meteoric rise during the 19th and 20th centuries to such a position of prominence. It is home to Britain’s oldest surviving railway station, at Liverpool Road and also has strong links to science and technology, having been the city where the atom was first split and where the first stored-programme computer was developed. This proud past is continued by the city’s education institutions, including the University of Manchester, the largest single-location university in the UK. Manchester is also renowned for its sporting culture and is home to two of England’s and the world’s, biggest football teams, Manchester United and Manchester City. It is also home to the important Old Trafford cricket ground. The architecture of the city is also another reason why people choose to visit, as it reflects Manchester’s proud history and its impressive growth mirroring that of the textile industry. Culturally too, Manchester has had a significant impact, with music, art and film all supported by the city. The bands The Smiths, Oasis and New Order are all from Manchester and there are numerous galleries, museums and performance spaces to visit there too.

Travel And Accommodation

The sheer size of Manchester makes it incredibly easy to travel to and stay in. Manchester Airport is easily accessible and is the busiest in the UK, outside of the London area. There are also two main train stations, Victoria and Piccadilly, which offer connections across the country to many other major cities, including Liverpool and London, as well as to countless smaller destinations. Finding a Manchester hotel and parking is similarly simple due to the vast number that are on offer, just make sure you are close to the right attractions and transport links.

Overall, any trip to Manchester is sure to be an interesting and entertaining one as there is so much to fill your time with. Choosing accommodation such as the Chancellors Hotel means that you will have a base in the centre of this wonderful and engaging city.

 Useful info:

http://www.chancellorshotel.co.uk

Visiting Mary King’s Close

Mary King’s Close

Mary King’s Close

What lies beneath Edinburgh’s Old Town?

First of all, what is a ‘close?’ In Scottish vernacular, a close is a vennel or narrow alleyway, dividing up houses and shops in ancient Royal Burghs. Also known as burgher plots, they separated each merchant’s business and premises in towns designed for trade and taxation as decreed by David I of Scotland. Their origins are 12th century and many have survived until the present day, albeit dramatically shortened due to modern development. In Edinburgh, conditions in these closes were dire. Overcrowding, lack of sanitation and hygiene ensured that the plague pathogen swept through Edinburgh’s Old Town like wildfire. Mary King’s Close was no exception with its dark forboding hovels and narrow street. The buildings were up to 8 storeys high ensuring little sunshine and fresh air, allowing disease to flourish. In the area of what is now known as the Royal Mile in the city, 30000 souls lived and died in poverty and dirt. In the 17th century, this was what constituted Edinburgh, a mile long burgh whose inhabitants lived short lives, bearing many children because only a few lived to adulthood.

Mary King – Businesswoman

In the 17th century, the Old Town of Edinburgh was home to rich and poor alike, neither having sanitation, therefore the plague was a great equaliser. Rich merchants succumbed just like the poorest of Edinburgh’s poor. Mary King was not poor, but comfortably off, documented evidence showing that she was a prominent businesswoman in the 1630s. She sewed for a living and traded in fabrics, which ensured a decent enough income. Mary’s standing in the town was high, which was unusual for a woman and the close in which she lived was named after her. As well as her business acumen, Mary was a widow and had four children to bring up by herself.

The Fate of the Close

The close now lies deep beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, frozen in time for three centuries, until it was opened as a visitor attraction in 1996. It was evacuated and closed in 1644 – 46 due to the plague. The Royal Exchange was built over it in the 19th century and it has subsequently housed the City Chambers. The close was discovered in the 20th century when work done in the basement of the City Chambers revealed a hidden town beneath the present city of Edinburgh. Today, it is a learning experience for everyone interested in medieval history. The close is dark, dimly lit and gloomy, with guides in period costume leading the tours. There are several houses under the Royal Mile, each of which used the close as a common entrance. Ghostly presences have been reported and a well known ghost busting team have investigated the close and its houses.

It’s well worth a visit.

Visiting Chiswick House: Italian Villas & Muddy Riverbanks

Chriswick House, Cr-wikipedia

Chriswick House, Cr-wikipedia

just up the road from the riverfront at Chiswick in London lies Chiswick House and park, a defining moment in English palladian architecture.

The villa has long been enveloped by the encroaching suburbia, which has glued together the disparate parts of the urban metropolis over the last two centuries. The riverfront itself is ringed with modern brick houses and paved walkways. The mild winter weather produces a grey mist, shrouding the river and the few specks of islands that seem to drift and dissolve into the water with the mud. The scene is melancholy, drizzly and hopelessly English.

Just up the road, however, lies the park that the Earl of Burlington built in the 18th century. Its purpose is that of a retreat and there is certainly a certain bijou quality about it. In one sense, the villa appears as something of an expensive plaything, a garden replete with whimsical curiosities. On the other hand, the feeling that the project was very seriously conceived indeed is no less apparent.

The Earl’s thoughts on architecture had profound consequences for an entire century of building in Britain. The style, since known as English Palladianism, seems to have been the product of a combination: A re-appreciation of the work of 17-century architect Inigo Jones and impulses drawn from the grand tour.

The Earl travelled, in particular to Italy and was clearly impressed by the works of Italian architect Andrea Palladio and in particular the villa known as Villa Capra or la Rotonda. Chiswick House has often been taken, in fact, to be something of a copy of Palladio’s original work.

However, the comparison does not necessarily do Chiswick House any favours as far as the elevations are concerned. The architect William Kent who assisted the Earl was unable to avoid features that are both obvious and awkward.

While the Italian version is surmounted by a discreet and softly inclined dome, reminiscent of the Roman Pantheon, the dome of Chiswick house is raised on a drum, which fits poorly with the sloping roof. Odd peg-like chimneys disguised as obelisks dot the roof in a manner designed to recall ancient design but are not very effective in doing so. In borrowing so heavily from Palladio, Kent and Burlington also inherited the questionable assumption that Romans would adorn a private house with a temple front.

Though the architecture of the villa itself has its flaws, the English talent for gardening shines through in the arrangement of the elements found within the park. Curiously, the bulbous dome of the small ionic temple is much more successful than that of the villa by eliminating the cover of the structure to dome alone. The amount of classical details: bridges, obelisks, gateways are cautiously peppered across the park in a manner that succeeds in being subtle. Despite the Italianate nature of decoration, the overall impression comes off as idiosyncratically English.

The Earl of Burlington would go on to create several other architectural creations on the basis of Palladian and ancient models. In doing so was born the Burlington school, a movement that would dominate British architecture for decades.

Copyright-Joachim Moxon- © Smarttravelinfo.com

Spend a relaxing vacation in Cotswold

    Spend a relaxing vacation in Cotswold

Spend a relaxing vacation in Cotswold

by Grace Bailey,

Are you looking for a chance to get away from the big city and experience another, different life? Are you longing for quiet and relaxing walks? Are you dreaming for a place where you can just be around nature and absorb its beauty? If the answer to these questions is yes, then I have the ideal place for you, which can give you everything you want and need for your vacation.

Situated in beautiful England, Cotswold is the one of the most amazing places in UK, which displays so much beauty and surrounds you with peacefulness and quiet. This is a gorgeous region of rolling hills and delightful villages, which often called ‘’The Heart of England’’. Here you will be surrounded by the most astounding views and fascinating landscapes, which no place in the world can show you.

Ideal for experiencing a relaxing and delightful vacation these old ‘’wool towns’’ displaying stone houses will refresh you and fill you with more energy. So astonishing and magnificent these villages are the perfect romantic vacation destinations and honeymoon trips. It is an area which has gathered the most beautiful creations of nature, peace and charm. The first time you set your feet on these magical lands you will instantly feel the gentle touch of nature and will understand how different and astonishing life here is.

If you have decided that you need to spend your vacation in more relaxing way, then don’t miss visiting the giant and gorgeous village Stow on the Wold. This is the place which will fill your days with so much beauty and splendor that you will never forget the time spend in this magical town. Being so fascinating, Stow is perhaps the busiest of all the Cotswold towns. The history shows that when years ago the Cotswold wool industry was at its height, the town was famous for its huge annual fairs. Today, Stow is one of the most visited towns in the area and one of the biggest attractions in Cotswold.

Displaying gorgeous streets, buildings and fascinating shops, the town is the perfect place where you can spend a nice and relaxing holiday, exploring one of the most gorgeous places in the area.

So small and comfortable, the town has a number of places which you will fascinate and astound you. One gorgeous and magical place that you simply must spend a relaxing time in is Batsford Park Arboretum. This is the place which we can name a dazzling garden and a true gift from nature, because it has gathered all the magical views and natural landscapes. Take a nice walk throughout the place and feel the mild touch of nature. You can spend a whole day in this astounding garden breathing the fresh air and exploring that magical landscape, which no place in the world can show you.

Named ‘’The Venice of the Cotswold’’ Bolton on the Water is another fascinating village, which deserves your attention. Its many bridges span the shallow, crystal River Windrush flowing through the center of the village. The village is so magnificent and magical and has such a unique appeal to visitor. Residents are truly happy to be living there and having the chance to experience this gorgeous landscape everyday. What a bliss it must be to be surrounded by so much astonishing views and breathtaking environment! When we add the peacefulness the pictures gets irresistible.

If you liked the pictures I painted with words in this article, if you felt the desire to be there, then your next step is to book a flight to England. Spend your vacation in this magical and gorgeous place!

Visiting Canterbury Brings Chaucer’s Tales to Life

    Canterbury Cathedral - Diane E. Tatum

Canterbury Cathedral – Diane E. Tatum

Visiting Canterbury allows the visitor to see Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales come to life along its cobbled streets as well as in the Cathedral itself.

Canterbury, at its heart, is a medieval walled city with modern conveniences. The pretty little town gives way to one of literature’s most famous pilgrimage sites, Canterbury Cathedral. It too is protected by its own gate and wall. Entering the Cathedral compound is like taking a time machine trip back to the 1500s.

Pilgrims to Canterbury

Geoffrey Chaucer tells the tales of the many pilgrims who come from all walks of life with but one goal: to visit the grave of Thomas Becket. Becket was murdered by King Henry II’s men as he observed evening prayers in 1170. Becket was the king’s childhood friend; one’s path carried him into the political arena, the other’s path to the religious order. These positions of power, king and archbishop, placed the friends at odds over the power of the king over the church. Pope Alexander III canonized Becket in 1173.

A visitor today can see the spot where Thomas Becket’s blood and brains were spilled. The stone steps to the altar have been worn by the knees of pilgrims. The altar that once covered his grave, and the pilgrimage site, has since been desecrated and destroyed by the campaign to remove Catholicism from Britain in 1538 at the will of Henry the VIII. It is easy to picture Chaucer’s pilgrims on their way to a miracle in the church today.

The Black Prince, Edward

The graves of royalty still grace the Cathedral. Edward the III was succeeded by Richard the II in 1377. Richard was the son of the Black Prince Edward (died 1376) who is buried south of the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. The Black Prince Edward is a central character in Heath Ledger’s film A Knight’s Tale, which harkens back to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Geoffrey Chaucer is a prominent character in this film as well.

Chaucer, English Literature’s Best Poet

Chaucer was a friend of kings Edward III and Richard II and a contemporary of the Black Prince. He held government appointments from them and served as a member of Parliament from Kent. At his death, he was buried in Westminster Abbey. His remains were later interred in what became known as the Poet’s Corner. Chaucer was the first writer given this honor.

Setting for the Tales

Every high school senior in the USA studies part of The Canterbury Tales. Visiting Canterbury helps put The Canterbury Tales into perspective by visiting Chaucer’s setting for them. Canterbury is in the county of Kent. In addition to the Canterbury Cathedral, a visitor’s attraction, The Canterbury Tales, is just minutes from the Cathedral and helps visitors experience what it would be like to walk take the pilgrimage from London to Canterbury in the 14th century. Day tours from London are available.

See The Canterbury Tales

Modern version of The Canterbury Tales

Study Guide and Cliffs Notes for The Canterbury Tales

Visiting Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey Dates Back To 1132 - Nigel Trow

Tintern Abbey Dates Back To 1132 – Nigel Trow

Jewel of South East Wales

Lovers of ancient ruins will relish a visit to Tintern Abbey in the beautiful Wye valley. Should you find yourself driving across the Severn Bridge from England into Wales, and medieval buildings are you thing, then be sure to visit the impressive ruin of Tintern Abbey on the banks of the River Wye in Monmouthshire.

Wordsworth’s Poem

The name Tintern Abbey will be familiar to fans of William Wordsworth’s poetry – he wrote “Tintern Abbey” in 1798. The poet loved the countryside around the ruins, as the last lines of the verse demonstrate: “… Nor wilt thou then forget, That after many wanderings, many years, Of Absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs, And this green pastoral landscape, were to me, More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!”

The Abbey Dates Back to 12th Century

This Cistercian abbey is one of the greatest monastic ruins in Wales. Founded in 1131, and dissolved in the dissolution of the monasteries ordered by Henry VIII in 1536, its structure remains in a truly remarkably good condition. It has a cruciform plan with an aisled nave, two chapels in each transept ad a square ended aisled chancel. The main church building is 72 metres long. Although its foundations were laid in the 12th century, it was rebuilt in the 13th and early 14th centuries. The buildings are constructed in old red sandstones, in colours that vary from grey to purple. It is an impressive sight as you drive into the village.

A King’s Visit

In 1326 King Edward II visited Tintern and spent two nights there, however, after the Black Death swept the country in 1349, the abbey’s fortunes began to decline as it became harder to recruit new monks and to find people to work the land.

Visitor Facilities

Tintern Abbey has ample parking, with public lavatories with baby-changing facilities. There is an on site gift shop, and several cafes and tea-rooms close by. To walk around the grounds of the abbey is free, but a charge is made to go inside the ruins. Ticks cost £3.70 per adult, or a family ticket costs £10.70.

Religious Services

At times, church services are held in the abbey and visitors should check in the gift shop for times. Services are dependent on the weather, since the abbey has neither roof nor windows…. Even the most devout Christians are reluctant to stand under pouring rain for long.

The Wye Valley and The Forest of Dean

The Wye Valley is one of the most beautiful in Britain, straddling as it does the Welsh and English border. After visiting Tintern, it’s well worth walking up the river, or driving up the valley to admire the gently undulating countryside. The Forest of Dean is nearby, which is a fabulous area for walking and cycling. Head for The Speech House, where you can find maps of the forest and cycle-hire shops.

Totty Teas, for a perfect cuppa and more!

    Totty Teas © Realitas 2012

Totty Teas © Realitas 2012

How do you make a top-class tea shop? Offering an excellent cup of tea – or coffee – is essential of course, and you must also tempt customers with a scrumptious selection of homemade cakes. Next, you’ll need to add a welcoming atmosphere, stylish décor and comfortable seating.

Lastly, but most importantly, mix in some thoughtful, quirky and smile-inducing little extras that will lift an ordinary tea shop into something very special indeed.

This is exactly what the creators of Totty Teas have done with great success. Located in the pretty village of Peakirk, near Peterborough, Totty Teas began modestly with just a couple of tables in a corner of an old granary that was being developed into a community arts and crafts centre. With a limited budget but plenty of creativity and help from willing volunteers, Totty Teas soon grew and blossomed.

Today, it has all the features a tea shop connoisseur would hope to find: friendly service, pretty china and cake stands, co-ordinating tablecloths and posies of fresh flowers, along with a few surprises such as big, squashy sofas, a piano and a library of art books.

In fine weather, you have the option to enjoy your tea outdoors while admiring the colourful ‘garden’ of container-grown flowers. If you stay inside, you can either sit at a table that will give you a good view of the main craft showroom, or choose one in the quieter alcove if you want to read, have a chat with friends, or just spend time looking at the paintings on the walls. The artworks are a small sample of those exhibited by local artists in the main art gallery on the floor above Totty Teas. There is something to appeal to all artistic tastes, and the display is constantly changing as new pictures replace those that have been sold.

Most of Totty Teas’ customers will tell you they discovered the tea shop by chance, but one visit is enough to turn them into enthusiastic regulars. ‘I must tell my friends about this place,’ is a common reaction from first-timers, and word of mouth recommendations are an important factor in the steadily increasing number of Totty Teas fans.

If you are visiting Peterborough, or just passing through the area, be sure to make a short detour to sample the delights – and especially the delicious cakes – of this charming little tea shop.

Totty Teas can be found in the Realitas Community Arts Centre at Peakirk, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

For up to date information on opening times:

Website: http://www.realitascommunity.org/

Phone:    01733 252 538

Email:  Neil@RealitasCommunity.org

Much in Little – a Tour of Rutland

    camping, credit-hurleydust.com

camping, credit-hurleydust.com

It’s possible to walk across Rutland in a single day, but if you have limited time to spend in England’s smallest county I wouldn’t recommend a march from border to border! You’ll discover far more about this lovely patch of rolling countryside by meandering from place to place, exploring a few tantalising byways, and allowing yourself plenty of time to stand and stare. Although it covers less than 150 square miles, Rutland is packed with far more than its fair share of attractions.

The first surprise – and difficult to miss – is Rutland Water. It’s England’s largest reservoir and dominates the centre of the county. Although it was man-made in the 1970’s to provide water for homes and businesses in the East Midlands, careful landscaping has given it the appearance of a natural lake. Today it is an important haven for wildlife, designated as both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Special Protection Area.

Over 260 species of birds have been recorded here, including the magnificent ospreys that have bred here since 2001. It is also home to a wide variety of animals, insects and plants, some of which are rare and the subject of conservation projects. On the nature reserves at the western end of the reservoir there are hides, nature trails and expert information and advice on hand to help you make the most of your visit.

Well away from the reserves there is still plenty of room over the reservoir’s 3,100 acres for other activities. Whether you are an expert or complete beginner you’ll find excellent facilities for sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and fishing. There is also a pleasure cruiser, the Rutland Belle, providing a more leisurely way to enjoy the water.

For those who prefer to stay on dry land, there are grassy slopes perfect for children’s games and picnics, and well-maintained footpaths to take you around the perimeter of the reservoir. There are also bikes for hire, which is probably the best option if you want to explore the full 25-mile circuit!

However you travel, one place to head for is the striking Normanton Church museum that juts out into the water on a pier of stones.  St. Matthews Church, as it was called when it was built in the 1820’s, seemed doomed when the reservoir was planned as it was below the water line. Fortunately, a group of volunteers saved it and it now contains an exhibition about the history of the area.

If you can drag yourself a little way from Rutland Water, you’ll find another ‘must see’ destination – Barnsdale Gardens. They were created by the late Geoff Hamilton, the famous TV gardener, and featured in his popular Gardener’s World programmes. After his death, his family opened them to the public, maintaining and developing them according to Geoff’s ideas and principles.

The fascinating thing about Barnsdale is the variety of gardening styles on show. There are 38 different gardens to suit every taste and lifestyle. They range from a tiny courtyard, to modern town gardens and traditional country gardens. Some are low- maintenance, others have been designed for families with young children or to encourage wildlife. They are all beautiful and full of clever but practical ideas that you can easily adapt to your own garden.

And where next? You must see at least some of Rutland’s picturesque villages. Linked by winding country lanes – and complete with village greens, ancient churches and quaint pubs – these villages appear very similar at first glance.  Most of the houses and cottages are built of local limestone or ironstone and many are thatched. But look a little closer and you’ll soon find that each village has its own unique history and character. They include Edith Weston, named after the wife of Edward the Confessor, Wing which has an ancient turf maze, and Exton where the small church houses a wonderful collection of carved memorials.

The only two towns in Rutland are also both full of old and attractive buildings. You won’t want to miss wandering through the narrow streets of Uppingham if you enjoy browsing around antique shops, bookshops and art galleries. And, if shopping gives you an appetite, this town also provides plenty of places where you can have a quick snack or a more substantial meal.

Not far from Uppingham’s little market place, and seemingly built on a different scale from the rest of the town, you’ll find the impressively large façade of Uppingham School. Its buildings are usually out of bounds to the public but if you time your visit to coincide with the school’s holidays you might be able to join one of the occasional guided tours and see more of the school’s splendid architecture.

Just six miles from Uppingham is Oakham, the county town of Rutland. It’s a little larger than Uppingham but still compact enough to explore comfortably on foot. Market days are Wednesdays and Saturdays, but on any day of the week the ‘L’ shaped Market Place is the bustling heart of the town. Many visitors can’t resist trying out the stocks at the 400 year old Butter Cross. But can you work out why they were made with five leg-holes?

Just behind the Market Place lies Oakham Castle. The ‘castle’ is actually the Great Hall of what was once a Norman fortified Manor House. It’s a fine example of late 12th century architecture, and contains stonework carved by masons who worked on Canterbury cathedral. Inside the castle is a fascinating display of over 200 horseshoes, many of them large and purely decorative. They have been collected here as the result of an ancient custom which demands that a horseshoe must be given to the Lord of the Manor by members of royalty and peers of the Realm passing through Oakham. The oldest one was given by Edward IV and our present Royal Family is still upholding the tradition.

Among the many other interesting buildings in the town, look out for the modest thatched cottage that was reputedly the birthplace, in 1619, of Jeffery Hudson. He became famous for his size, being only 18 inches tall until he was 30 years old and then only growing to about three foot six inches. He may have been ‘the smallest man from the smallest county’ but lack of stature didn’t prevent him from having an action-packed life. After being served up in a pie to amuse Charles I, he was taken into royal service, knighted, and one of his many adventures involved being captured by pirates.

If you only have time for one more visit it has to be to the Rutland County Museum, housed in what was originally the indoor riding school of the Rutland Fencibles cavalry regiment. Amongst the many exhibits there is a collection of memorabilia from the vigorous protest campaign launched in 1974 when Rutland lost its county status and officially became part of neighbouring Leicestershire.  Fortunately, Rutlanders refused to ‘disappear’ so easily and won back the independence of their unique county in 1997.

The museum also displays the county’s motto – Multum in Parvo. It means ‘much in little’. I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Three stunning Lake District towns

Lake towns- transientlight.co.uk

Lake towns- transientlight.co.uk

The Lake District in the north west of England is a truly stunning part of the world. With beautiful vistas, lakeside walks and countless mountain trails, as well as charming chocolate box towns and villages making it an incredible holiday destination. Here are some of the very best places that are not to be missed!

Keswick

The market town of Keswick situated in the heart of the Lake District. The popular tourist town attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year, all flocking to Keswick to make the most of its traditional charm and the beautiful Lake District National Park that it stands in. Located just a stone’s throw from Derwent Water and not far from Bassenthwaite Lake, Keswick is ideally situated for a walking, especially for the four highest mountains in England – Scafell Pike, Scafell, Helvellyn and Skiddaw, that are all easily accessible from the town.

But it’s not just walking, scenery and lakes that Keswick has to boast about. Keswick is a fantastic destination for a more relaxed break making the most of the abundance of shops, cafes and restaurants that make Keswick an absolutely stunning holiday destination. Keswick also hosts an annual beer festival which is now in its 16th year and attracts nearly 6000 beer fanatics to enjoy locally produced real ales and unusual brews as well as ciders and lagers. What could be better than sitting back, enjoying a pint and listening to one of the many live bands that play throughout the festival?

Ambleside

Nestled at the head of Lake Windermere, Ambleside is an excellent base for many outdoor activities inclucing walking, hiking and mountain biking. Nearby, it is fantastic place to take a steamer on the lake to take in the beautiful scenery on the lake and the dramatic surrounding mountains. Ambleside is extremely popular with tourists and with lots and lots of accommodation to choose from as well as pubs, restaurants and tourist shops. When you fancy a leisurely afternoon, picturesque Ambleside is a great place to head, to make the most of its beautiful buildings and charming shops.

Cockermouth

The traditional market town of Cockermouth is situated just outside of the Lake District National Park. The town still has plenty of its historic charm and character especially due to its delightful slate and stone buildings and it’s recently renovated Market Place. The Jenning’s Brewery has had a long association with Cockermouth since the brewery moved to Cockermouth well over a hundred years ago. Nowadays, the brewery tour is a chance to learn about the history of the brand and of course to sample a pint of the produce at the end!

Visiting Historic York, England

York, England, is a blend of the ancient, historic, cultural, and working city. Spectacular sights and history await your visit. York is a fabulous blend of the ancient (Romans in AD 71, Vikings in AD 866), cultural, historic, and bustling working city. Guy Fawkes was born here; Constantine was crowned here; and Dick Turpin was executed here. The wall still encircles most of the city. Visitors can walk the top of the wall and look out through the arrow slits, avoiding the traffic and immersing themselves in historic details.

minster-999596_640York Minster Cathedral, the largest, most spectacular cathedral in the United Kingdom, was built in the 13th century. The stained glass rivals Notre Dame. The minster was the site of Constantine’s succession to the throne of the Roman Empire.

St. Cuthbert’s is the most ancient church in York. Surviving from AD 685, it is currently an office and storage area. Like most churches in England, ancient burials are in this church’s walls and floors.

Clifford's Tower - Diane E. Tatum

Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s Tower is all that remains of the castle that once stood in York. It was also the site of a Jewish Holocaust due to financial management of money and loans in York by Jewish bankers. The Jews were rounded up and locked in the Tower by the citizens seeking relief from their debts. The Jewish citizens were then incinerated by the town folk. The York Castle Museum nearby includes historical info about York.

Jorvik Viking Center is the archeological dig come to life concerning some of the oldest settlers of York –the Vikings. A ride takes visitors back in time to the streets of York at the time of the Vikings in AD 866, both fun and informational.

york-970229_640The Shambles is a quaint shopping area today; one can almost see Harry Potter and friends shopping for school things as in Diagon Alley. Its name has become synonymous with a big mess, i.e. “Your room is a shambles.” No wonder since the Shambles in the 15th century was once an open-air butchery. The gutters ran with the blood of animals butchered and sold along the street of the Shambles. Now it’s a great historic place to frequent English shops full of English and Scottish goods and to buy a wool sweater or scarf.

More modern sights in York include the National Railway Museum near the rail station (where you can check luggage for the day instead of hauling it all over York).

The Rooftops of York - Diane E. Tatum

York Minister

Outside the city, visitors can go north to the Yorkshire moors and dales and find the theme park based on writer/veterinarian James Herriot‘s work. To the south, visitors can find Robin Hood’s Nottingham and Sherwood Forest. The Way of the Roses road leads from York to Lancaster in the west.

york-909203_640It’s easy to use the railway in the United Kingdom to get to many other amazing areas of history and culture. It’s inexpensive, fast, reliable, and clean. There are so many other places to go to from the York Rail Station.

Additional information about Yorkshire as well as some fabulous pictures can be found in Realm magazine, June 2011 (pp.35-54).

Boom Times for UK Rail but what About the Future?

Railroad tracks, credit:publicdomainepictures.net

Railroad tracks, credit:publicdomainepictures.net

UK Railways have made some good improvements over recent years and passengers are now starting to feel the benefits, but at what cost?

According to figures released 31st January 2011 by ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) in the UK, train travel has now reached levels that have not been seen since the 1920s. Figures now show that 1.32 billion passenger journeys were made in 2010 and a record 33.3 billion rail miles. This is good news for the train companies and good news for the future, but why is this happening?

Why are the railways so busy

The railways are finally starting to see some of the improvements that have been worked on for so long. In another set of figures released on 26th January 2011 by ATOC, passenger satisfaction is increasing on many lines. This can include anything from general running of trains, station cleanliness and how friendly the staff are. The majority of lines throughout the UK have seen new rolling stock which has been improving reliability and timekeeping, and improved security with many trains now having internal CCTV.

The availability of cheaper advance purchase tickets has improved leading to a 12% increase in sales. Many of the online ticketing sites have been revamped over the last couple of years making them much easier to use for the general public.

Ever increasing motoring costs caused my higher insurance, extra tax duties and congestion charging is driving more passengers onto the nations railways. With their improved reliability this is having a snowball effect by making the trains even busier.

What about the future of UK railways

The future of the railways is looking a little more uncertain. Without a doubt the railways will continue to be busy, but the higher levels of unemployment forecast for this year together with above inflation season tickets rises may have an impact on railway revenues.The UK government has stated that the traveling public will need to pay more for their train services as it tries to lessen the dependency on government tax payers leading to costlier peak time travel.

The future of the railways is going to be dependent on increased levels of investment to reduce overcrowding and by using new forms of ticketing by, for example, reducing the cost of season tickets for traveling outside peak hours. Further investment needs to go into more rolling stock to lessen the overcrowding and my lengthening station platforms to accommodate the extra length trains.

The UK rail industry has come a long way over recent years and is generally a good example of mass public transport. Only by improving the service to the highest paying passengers who travel during peak times can people start to feel more satisfied.