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    A Day Trip To The Birmingham Christmas Market.

    We tried to visit last year but ran out of available December weekends and the Birmingham Christmas markets eluded our grasp. This year was a different story. Rounding us up like Rudolph gathering his sleigh of reindeer, but with Whatsapp rather than elf-dust, our esteemed organiser not only managed to secure a whole day that we all could do but book train tickets in as well. She cracked that tinsel covered whip…

    Day Trip to Birmingham Adventures of a London Kiwi

    So, bright and early on a Saturday morning we gathered, scrubbing the sleep from the corners of our eyes and brightly hugging – glad that instead of cracking our usual escape rooms, we were just shuffling onto the train – we boarded our sleigh (also known as a Class 165/0 Network Turbo train) nice and early.


    It began as all good stories do, with coffee. Straight off the train,  Camp Mother fired up the GoogleMaps and we hunted out purveyors of quality grounds and beautiful milk froth hearts.

    Day Trip to Birmingham Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Over the years, I’ve heard so many (often disparaging) things about Birmingham, but despite the damp grey skies, the buildings are beautiful and the locals are friendly.

    Day Trip to Birmingham Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Oh, and we are pretty sure that the entire population of the West Midlands were milling around the Birmingham Christmas market, chafing their hands on mugs of mulled wine and wrapping their laughing gear around a proliferation of hearty winter fair fare.

    Day Trip to Birmingham Adventures of a London Kiwi

    And it was typical December weather. But, we still had a lovely away from the thoughts of our London lives.

    Day Trip to Birmingham Adventures of a London Kiwi

    There were Santas as far as the eye could see, twinkling lights threaded through boughs of evergreen foliage, the merry cheeks of families all gathered around tables, the ring of Christmas carols through tinny speakers, stalls full of every kind of small gift you can think of and the enchanting aroma of mulled wine and hot doughnuts drifting through the air.

    Day Trip to Birmingham Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I went hotdog, just in case you were interested, and then had a ridiculous amount of food envy when we walked past a stand of blackened ham served on bloomer rolls, slathered in mustard. Rookie error right there – always complete a full circuit of the food stands before acceding to hunger.

    Appetites satiated, we then answered the siren call of freshly made Poffertjes – a traditional Dutch batter treat. Resembling small, fluffy pancakes, they are made with yeast and buckwheat flour AND ARE AMAZING. We first tried them in Amsterdam, but these Brummy ones were scrumptious.

    Day Trip to Birmingham Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It was just one of those afternoons, the ones where you drift to whichever corner takes your fancy, occasionally dodging flocks of fair-attendees.

    Birmingham, you have me curious.

    Day Trip to Birmingham Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Our day also ended with coffee, because we are addicts…

    Day Trip to Birmingham Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A bit like our visit to Manchester which was entirely based around one thing (in that case visiting their cat-cafe), we haven’t really explored Birmingham very much, but I’m rather intrigued to visit again and explore a little more thoroughly, and a little more slowly.

    What is your favourite UK city? Edinburgh, Dublin, CambridgeBath, Salisbury, Chester, Belfast, Glasgow, York, Winchester…?

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    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    Not only do I love Scotland, but I also adore Claire’s (of the blog Country Mouse Claire) enormous smile and when she kindly said yes to a guest post on her home country of Scotland, I couldn’t wait to explore a little more of the glorious lands that include the beauty of Skye.

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    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit

    While London is my home, Scotland is my homeland, so when Emma asked me to write a short piece on travel for her blog (thanks, Emma!), a little piece on my favourite parts of this special part of the world is what sprang immediately to mind. I’ve been lucky enough to visit some special, beautiful places, but the sights and sounds of Scotland always call me home. Here are five places I think should definitely make your itinerary, should Scotland be calling you too.

    1. Aberdeen 

    The Silver City is one of the gems of the north, a granite delight perched on the northeastern edge of the Scottish mainland. With a wealth of beautiful architecture and plenty to see and do, it’s well worth a visit. Marischal College in the heart of the city is a beautiful piece of architecture and the second largest piece of granite architecture on earth, and the Maritime Museum charts the role of the sea in hundreds of years of Aberdonian history. A trip to Duthie Park will show you a beautiful public space, and the award winning Winter Gardens means there is always warmth and greenery to be found, even in the depths of a Scottish winter!

    A short walk to Old Aberdeen will take you to the buildings and main hub of the University of Aberdeen. Both King’s College Chapel and the university’s Zoology Museum are must-sees in this part of town. Just south of Aberdeen and a short drive or train ride away is the pretty town of Stonehaven, where you can visit Dunottar Castle, made famous by the film Hamlet and full of artefacts charting Scotland’s rich history.

    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    2. Inverness

    The capital of the Highlands is a thriving small city and a beautiful place to spend a few days in. You’ll be welcomed warmly – Inverness is a bit of a hike to get to, but has much to offer tourists! On the top of many visitor’s lists is a trip south to Loch Ness to see if they can spot Nessie, the Loch Ness monster. As well as the lovely exhibition centre there are also companies who offer cruises out on the loch. While in this part of the world, Urquhart Castle is a lovely excursion – this ruined fortress is the second most visited castle in Scotland (after Edinburgh Castle) and it is an image frequently used on Scottish calendars, postcards, and memorabilia.

    The city of Inverness is a pretty one, with a wide range of shops, restaurants and pubs. The Botanic Gardens are a lovely spot to wander in and the Victorian market is similarly inviting. To the west of the city you can visit Culloden, site of the 1746 battle which changed the path of Scottish and British history forever. A short drive north will take you to the Black Isle, with distilleries, a brewery, and plenty of opportunities for spotting the Moray Firth dolphins.

    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    3. Moray

    While it may be less well-known than other areas I’m writing on, I have to mention Moray as it’s my local area! A small district nestled between the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, it’s known as malt whisky country, and as such there are loads of fantastic distilleries to visit (Dallas Dhu, Glen Moray, Glenfiddich and tiny wee Benromach being some of my favourites).

    As well as these delights there are many cultural high points and beautiful places to visit. In Elgin you can visit the ruins of Elgin Cathedral or take a short drive to Pluscarden Abbey, the only medieval monastery in the UK still in use as a working monastery. In and around Forres Logie Steading, Brodie Castle and Sueno’s Stone are all historical attractions of note, and in the spring and summer this pretty town (and frequent Britain in Bloom finalist) is a riot of floral colour. The Moray Firth makes up the northern edge of the area, and this coastline is full of beautiful beaches and seaside towns – Findhorn, a pretty village with miles of sand beaches is a favourite holiday spot of mine. It’s also home to one of the biggest ecovillages in Europe: the Findhorn Foundation is a place worth exploring.

    Local tip – for some of the best views across the area, a short drive up to Califer viewpoint is well worth your time (see below). Gorgeous.

    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    4. Pitlochry

    A visit to the mountains is a high point (no pun intended!) of any visit to Scotland, and Pitlochry is the perfect base from which to enjoy Highland Perthshire. A beautiful, welcoming town, it offers a great base for expeditions and visits in the area, with beautiful scenery and wonderful wildlife in abundance – if you’re very lucky you may even spot a rare osprey or golden eagle, or catch a glimpse of the timid red squirrels.

    As well as getting to know some of the more colourful locals, there are plenty of places to visit and enjoy in and around Pitlochry. From March to October you can visit Blair Castle, nestled amongst the hills and mountains. You can also take a tour of the Blair Athol distillery while you are in this part of world – you’re never very far from a distillery in Scotland! Both Faskally Wood and Killiecrankie offer some excellent walking; for a more challenging walk try summiting pretty Ben Vrackie to enjoy its stunning views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Also not to be missed is the ‘Queen’s View’, where you can enjoy the same vistas which so delighted Queen Victoria when she visited Pitlochry. Such a great little town for an outdoorsy break.

    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    5. Edinburgh

    No Scotland guide would be complete without a nod to the nation’s capital. Edinburgh is an iconic city, and a major hub for commerce, culture and literature. How many other cities have a castle atop a chunk of rock as their centrepiece? Edinburgh Castle is a huge tourist attraction, as are the areas of the Old Town and the Royal Mile. On a fine day a walk to the top of Arthur’s Seat, 251 metres above sea level, is a pleasant expedition offering amazing views across the city and the Firth of Forth.

    Other wonderful places to visit are the National Museum of Scotland, the Camera Obscura, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. If you’ve tired of the national tipple, you may enjoy a tour of the Edinburgh Gin Distillery for a change of pace (or should that be flavour?). As well as all this there are more museums, art galleries, and a huge range of shops, restaurants and bars to enjoy. Each summer Edinburgh hosts the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – all are well worth attending, but as the city is far busier at this time of year it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re adding a quick jaunt to the city to a busy itinerary.

    Five Scottish gems everyone should visit (Guest post: Claire)

    As well as the five mentioned above, there are so many places to visit in Scotland, and the country is perfect for exploring, with a warm welcome awaiting. Oban, Stornoway, Wick, Nairn, Skye, Aviemore, Gairloch, Mull, Dundee, St Andrew’s, Perth, Huntly, Glasgow, Stirling. Trust me, I could go on and on….and these are just the places I’ve visited and liked! Whether you’re seeking history, distilleries, culture, or the great outdoors, there’s always something to see and do in Scotland.

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    Thank you lovely – there is so much more I want to see now! In the meantime, definitely pop over to Country Mouse Claire for more of her favorite adventures.

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    Every journey begins with a single step, or so the travel philosophers say…

    All the great Internet cheeseballs and philosophers say the journey is as important as the destination. Sitting on English tarmac recently, still belted in an hour and a half after we were meant to land at our destination, I actually decided that actually they were right.

    My journey began pretty routinely; I skipped onto the tube, my suitcase wheeling with delight, then settled into the short & cosy train ride out to the airport. Once through the fun of security (read: giggling at all the puzzled, annoyed people waiting until the head of the queue before emptying their pockets, removing their belts and looking confused at electronics being hauled our of their bags by bored looking officials. They clearly don’t read any of the billion signs despite a half a hour queue looking at a variety of them…)

    Glasgow sunsets Adventures of a London KiwiNot a Glasgow kiss, but a Glasgow sunset instead…

    Strolling though (my outfit chosen for the ease of getting through metal detectors and lack if pockets for stay coins to hide in) I
    decided a glass of champers, an hour of reading my book and a healthy session of people-watching was in order. Students in neon trainers sprawled poutily on the floor, pearl framed blue-rinsed Ladies complaining about the waste of salad leaves as garnish and elderly gentlemen corralled kids astride suitcases with a vengeance against ankles.

    Eventually we boarded, the scrum of people ecstatic to race onto the plane and then, er, wait as the rest of the scrum boarded (personally, I like to join the queue after the rush goes but before the stragglers run in). Once sat in our seats with a growing sense of anticipation we clicked our seat belts on, and waited. 

     

    And waited. 

     

    And waited.

     

    New Zealand shorelines Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The captain’s voice rang out after a pregnant delay, advising us that our flight was delayed due to civil action (the air
    controllers union striking) and we were hoping to get away in the next 40 minutes – the delays causing a change in staff.

    Half an hour or two later, and a chat with the lovely air stewardesses – both ladies who grew up in Northern England with
    childhood dreams of the glory of air hostessing but lacking in the height requirements that used to be levied, we ended up discussing Britan’s best fish & chips restaurants. Our shortlist ended up falling to Brighton (best with bubbly on the pier we decided) and upppp North (where the fish is so fresh it almost flips onto your plate).  

    It turned our we were among the lucky travellers – several other airlines were forced to cancel flights due to time restrictions or kick passengers off to ensure that hostess to passenger safety ratios were kept. By this point the kids on the flight deck were getting a little rowdy, and a few passengers donated pens and notebooks for scribbling (and perhaps a touch of dribbling on) much to the relief the frazzled parents.

    Airport waiting rooms Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A hour after we were meant to leave (and a hilarious chat with my seat mates about Turkish wine, New Zealand lamb and their plans to get hands-on aka feet-in harvesting and processing french grapes) our knight-in-shining armour Domingo, a cabin manager fresh from Basel, arrived to a cheer from the relieved passengers (not to mention a few cat calls…) all keen to land (and eat feta baguettes. Why so specific I’m not sure, but even her mates teased the girl about it.)

    It was at this point I realised my blog voice narrator had kicked in, so taking advantage of the forced downtime I rolled out the smartphone and begin dashing down the moments that kept me smiling. After a few more delays – we began to move then settled into a cruelly promising taxiing position, before eventually we began to move and then exalted at liftoff – definitely aided by my hilarious seat mates’ pretend flintstones foot pedal assistance. Finally we landed, all relieved to escape our lovely prison, and began queuing for the immigration.

    Who had to be flown in from another airport.  

    New Zealand sailing Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Christmas in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

    After another good 15 minutes of anxiously waiting tourists (needing to collect rental cars before the hire places closed), to another great cheer – and some excited hugging, the feta baguette girl striking again – we funnelled through the final barriers to freedom and our beds. My Kiwi passport got a surprise wink from the immigration officers and a victorious stamp, and there I was, again on foreign soil. A new adventure on the oft.

    Travel definitely has it’s downsides, it’s true…

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    Frid… Well, Saturday figments and photos and the week that was

    A long weekend in the Scottish highlands, chocolate brownies, the Loch Ness Monster, Castles, immersive Grimm Fairy tale theater, spring blossoms, ridiculously hipster burgers, mist, Easter Egg hunting, reflections, kilts, sunshine and toasting new friends.

    Scotland Isle of Skye Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Scotland Isle of Skye Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Scotland Isle of Skye Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    Riverside Museum Scotland Glasgow Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Scotland Glasgow Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Spring in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Hipster Burgers Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Brownies Borough Market London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Borough Market London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Grimm Fairy Tales London Adventures of a London Kiwi
    A stonking beginning to April.

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    Life on a knife edge: a most interesting character. Travel Linkup

    The serrated tip of the brandished knife quivered in my face with a flourish. Mr Kiwi and I looked at each other, just who was this madman?? What on earth were we going to do??

    Paris France: Adventures of a London Kiwi

    When the topic of ‘the most interesting character you’ve met while travelling’ popped into our conversations of the next linkup topic, I knew immediately who it had to be. I adore travelling with my most constant companion Mr Kiwi (believe me, any couple who can travel together, will be together for a long long time – we’ve come to a ratio that works beautifully; 1 pint to every two random cultural items) but it wasn’t him. I love weekends away with my girls; wine, castles, cakes and tunes but it wasn’t them either.

    Random travel companions sometimes for a day, a week or a few hours who have kept popping up over Europe and on facebook. Not them. The beautiful New Yorker, a stranger who exchanged parcels of goodies over the Atlantic, before inviting me whilst in New York for a quintessential Pastrami sandwich, then sent me photos of her brand new newborn. Nope. The stunning hotel clerk in Amsterdam who laughed over my confusion at all of the streets names around our hotel starting with Emma. No siree. The American girl who hadn’t ever left home before, and slept on top of a Czech bed complaining that they hadn’t supplied bedding – whereas in reality, she hadn’t ever turned down her own duvet. It wasn’t even her.

    Paris France: Adventures of a London Kiwi

    On a romantic birthday break and the first time in the French capital for both of us, having given up on the tourist-y haunts of the main streets, Mr Kiwi and I were searching the twisting back streets for a jewel. A genuine French bistro. I wanted a moodily lit restaurant where real Parisians treasure age old cooking methods, incredible fresh bread and umm, well snails. Hey, we were tourists after all.

    Spotting a wee treasure at the back of several offices, we made our way towards the small doors surrounded by wildly gesticulating smokers enjoying a post-work vino. A little scared, we steeled ourselves and entered the busy room. Espying the menus – all in handwritten French – we decided on escargot, bouef and dessert roulette (employing the point and be surprised method).

    Paris France: Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It was then he walked to our table. Well, skipped is more like it. A petite Frenchman, dressed entirely in black made his way to our table, eyebrow arched. He smiled, asked me something in French, and after hours of practising my Lonely Planet French, I panicked.

    Smiling toothily, I replied. “Erm, I’m so sorry but we don’t really speak French – and if we tried it would be terrebley.” (You know, terrible but with a riduculous French accent).

    Paris France: Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Grinning like the devil, he seized the steak knife innocently waiting on the table, waved it in our surprised faces and proclaimed “Ah, that is ok. You no speak French, I no speak English, you no eat! Oh hohoho!” Racing away, he returned with goblets of fragrant red wine, laughed, and said “I only joke, of course you can eat. What would you like??” Laughing, and sincerely relieved we began enjoying our meal. Half an hour later he also threatened a flower seller with someone else’s knife, so we figured it was his standard greeting. An unusual way to run a business, but hey, were in his country!

    Paris France: Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Now, your turn! Kelly, Rebecca, Molly and I would love to hear about the most interesting character you’ve ever met. You have a week – just add your link below, and share a little love if you can.


    An InLinkz Link-up


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