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    Romania – A Place I Can’t Get Out Of My Head | Travel Linkup

    The draw of Dracula’s Castle and the historic coup over communist tyrant Nicolae Ceaușescu was enough to fire up our curiosity about visiting Romania, but I didn’t quite expect how hard it would be to get out of my head.

    Bucharest Romania Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Sometimes we travel to escape, and sometimes we travel to explore – our 4.5 day trip to Romania, staying in Bucharest and Brasov – was a combination of the two.

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    Gambolling Through Ghent; A Wanderers Guide.

    As a day trip from Brussels (only a half hour train),  I’ve found that either many people haven’t heard of Ghent, preferring to explore the chocolate box streets of Bruges, or they adore Ghent so much that when a blogger (me) visits, they spam them via instastories with recollections of days spent there and memories made. True story.

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    Disclaimer: I was a press guest of VisitFlanders in Ghent

    but all planning, mischief and thoughts are all mine.

    We fell into the former camp on our trip to Brussels and explored Bruges, but genuinely regretted only being able to fit one city in, vowing to return one day.

    Luckily an invite to explore Ghent appeared in my email inbox, so I gleefully accepted, hopping on the Eurostar one sleepy morning, and spending a long weeked gambolling through the streets (under blues skies and then grey clouds.)

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    As guests of the tourism board, we were given city passes which allowed us to hop on the local transport (trams & busses), pop in and out of the museums and climb aboard a canal cruise, exploring the city by water.

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    Galavant through the Gravensteen
    We didn’t galavant so much as gallop up through the castle, so intent we were on completing a challenge to the top, but strolled back down through exhibitions. The exhibits share the history of The quintessential 12th-century stone castle, which comes complete with moat, turrets and arrow slits.

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    And the view from atop the towers? Well, it’s ok I guess.

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    Hop onto a canal cruise
    Sit back, relax, and let the world glide by. The 40-minute tour included in the city card takes in the city by canal, led by a knowedgable driver/guide and is a lovely way to get to know the city a little bit better. There are also other operators, a couple of whom offer picnics as you float through the medieval city.

    I was so tempted to jump into the drivers seat. So tempted.

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    Explore the Street Art 
    With a thriving weekly student population, there is a fun vibe to the city (and loads of entertainment) but notably, the streets are strategcally decorated with street art of every kind.

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    From local graffitti artists to commissioned works featuring medieval art…

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    …all the way through to intriguing statues lining the canals. It’s a feast for the eyes.

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    Nurture your sense of wonder and wander through a couple of museums
    There are so many museums in Ghent that it was hard to choose which ones to visit. In the end I let my feet decide, and visited the Design Museum (which was also close to our hotel.)

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

     It was intriguing, slightly mischevious and full of interesting exhibits.

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    We also nipped into the STAM museum to learn about local history, the medieval Sint-Pietersabdij Gent which has its own vineyard and classical art, and scooted up the Belfry for 360° views of Ghent city. There are also several beautiful churches that need to be visited to be believed, their spires soaring above the city majestically.

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    Tour the local breweries.
    This is definitely a must-do, along with enjoying frites, eating local chocolate and nibbling fresh waffles under a mountain of freshly whipped cream. It’s the law.* (Fuller gastronomic guide to Ghent here.)

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    As a European city break, Ghent was a lovely combination of being able to relax and explore. For the most part we didn’t even need to hop onto transport, being able to rely on our feet to discover much of  what the city had to offer visitors. For more inspiration, see the tourist site here.

    Do you pre-plan your visits or see what happens when you get there?

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    * Not really, but if you don’t, you’re missing out.

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    Things to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    A Salisbury City Break: Exploring the UK in a Meandering Manner

    A medieval cathedral city in the southern English county of Wiltshire, 9 miles south of the iconic prehistoric stone circle at Stonehenge. The city’s ornate 13th-century cathedral has a 123m spire, a working 14th-century clock and an original copy of the Magna Carta (the Great Charter), a key document from 1215 A.D. And Fudgehenge (keep reading, it’ll become clear.).

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Salisbury.

    It’s also the city where the kindest thing ever happened to me as an expat.

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Our hotel for the weekend.

    My first Christmas in the UK was alone, but not lonely, as I had decided to decamp from London and for 10 days stayed in a Bath expat hostel full of travellers in a similar boat. I had only been in the country for 6 weeks and still didn’t really know anyone. I’d started working (meeting my husband although neither of us knew it) and had decided to explore the Wiltshire countryside as a Christmas present to myself.

    Spending 10 days over Christmas/New Years in Bath was lovely – we were locked in the hostel pub on Christmas day and set up a potluck lunch, and watched fireworks from the upper lounge of the dorm rooms and opened a few too many bottles of wine. One of the day trips I arranged for myself was hopping onto the train on Christmas Eve and exploring Salisbury for the day.

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    As I wandered through the nave of the Cathedral, one of the elderly volunteers struck up a conversation with me. His name escapes me now, but when he found out that I was travelling on my own and from New Zealand, he called his wife over and insisted that I have dinner with them in lieu of a festive family meal, before returning to Bath that evening. Having heard way too many ‘stranger danger’ warnings as a child, I politely declined and bought them a small posy of flowers for their sweet offer, but Salisbury has forever stayed in my heart.

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    This utterly made our day.

    Fast forward a decade, and weeks of my Mr Kiwi mysteriously muttering that our destination for a birthday weekend is one that he thought I’d visited before, but he hadn’t. Puzzled I named practically every city in the country bar the Cathedral city, but when he revealed our destination I grinned in relief.

    We had two leisurely days to wander around and explore – which included a trip out to the actual destination of our weekend; the 130m high Kiwi carved into the Salisbury Plains over Bulford Army Barracks.

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But for the most part, we just followed our noses from cafe to pub, from ancient building to modern shop and pottered. And yes, sometimes I feel like I’m already retired – and I’m ok with that.

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Salisbury is an amalgamation of old and new – the Cathedral spire dominates the skyline, but the city has adapted around these pops of historic fabric. The rooflines are quirky, the windows are often bowed and yet you can still access all of the mod cons that you can imagine.

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    This is a section of wattle and daub from the 13th-century pub, an old technique for building walls.

    We stopped for a cream tea in the Cathedral grounds (because we were in England – literally all of the excuse we ever need.)

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    To say that Salisbury Cathedral is beautiful is an understatement.

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    And, it has hundreds of year old graffiti.

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    And surprisingly large weathervanes (husband for scale)…

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …intriguing stories…

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …and several links with King Henry VIII, not to mention an original copy of the Magna Carta which still affects UK law to this day.

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Loveliest of all though, we managed to pop in for Evensong before we caught our Sunday evening train back to London. Sat in the Choir, listening to the ethereal harmonies of the Cathedral choir as twilight softly fell outside was such a special hour out of our normal lives (even if we did have to mouth the hymns.)

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

     Salisbury was a lovely walk down memory lane, and an interesting city to wander.

    Things to do in Salisbury on a city break weekend Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What is your planning style; loose like our city break or frenetic and nailed down?

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    English Traditions: Bell Ringing in Churches

    One of the moments in my life that I’ll never forget is hearing the Church bells pealing as Mr Kiwi and I took our first steps as a married couple.

    Bell Ringing in English Churches Quirky Traditions in England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Our favourite song was playing, many of our favourite people around the world were smiling all around us and that bloke who had just vowed to stand beside me through thick, thin and endless photographs of doorways (that wasn’t in the vows, it was implied) took my hand.

    The vicar hadn’t known whether the local bell-ringing team would make it to our wedding, so had warned us it might not happen, but somehow they dashed from their previous engagement to the top of our Church tower.

    Bell Ringing in English Churches Quirky Traditions in England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    As English as cream teas, losing Football matches and enjoying a pint at the end of the working weeks, an icon of the countryside is the musical toll of bells pealing out through frosty countrysides on a weekend morning.

    Bell Ringing in English Churches Quirky Traditions in England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Many of the steeples around the British countryside aren’t mechanised, but have a dedicated group of people who pop in and hand ring the enormous bells. They climb up the Church tower for services and weddings, practising the ancient art of calling the congregation to chapel.

    Bell Ringing in English Churches Quirky Traditions in England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    And sometimes a group of Campanologists let a London Kiwi and her husband into the inner sanctum to see that bell-ringing in action.

    Campanology (from Late Latin campana, “bell”; and Greek -λογία, -logia) is the study of bells. It encompasses the technology of bells – how they are cast, tuned, rung, and sounded – as well as the history, methods, and traditions of bell-ringing as an art.

    Bell Ringing in English Churches Quirky Traditions in England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    After enjoying a late Sunday afternoon roast dinner with a lovely friend, we made our way through the green Buckinghamshire lanes to St Giles on the outskirts of Stoke Poges. Climbing up the external staircase to the Norman tower, we were settled comfortably as the ringers picked their favourite bells.

    We didn’t take any photos or video of the St Giles ringers in action – firstly because I don’t like people taking my own photo (and assumed neither would they) and, secondly because we were rather hypnotised by the simple and yet complicated rhythm of the ‘method’ – the pattern of bells.




    It was so interesting. We watched, transfixed as the leader called out pattern changes and the ringers closely watched each other to make sure they kept in time around the group.

    Above our heads this is what happens:




    Over the years we have seen all kinds of bells – from them being cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (sadly now closed) all the way up to one of the most famous in the world – Big Ben and this seemed like something we couldn’t say no to watching.

    It’s such an interesting skill to have – and looks like quite a good upper body workout. These are the pulls all tidied away for the evening, ready to be pulled out again for a mid-week practise session.

    Bell Ringing in English Churches Quirky Traditions in England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Bell Ringing in English Churches Quirky Traditions in England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We left just as the sun began to set and Church goers broke into evening song. Job done.

    Have you ever rung Church bells?

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    72 hours in Chester

    Chester is the first holiday I’ve ever booked through the power of Instagram alone. We had been looking for somewhere as a long weekend break (well, I say we, but I had actually been put on a travel ban which Mr Kiwi now mostly denies, his baby blues all innocent) when I spotted that a friend of mine had day tripped up to Chester. It was beautiful.

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    So firing up the laptop, I booked us a cheeky little Cheshire staycation.

    Simply hopping on a train and scooting through the rolling countryside is a pleasure that I can’t get enough of – the excuse to lose myself in the pages of a book to the soothing background clickety-clack of train wheels and whistling winds – it’s a special kind of bliss.

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We didn’t have many plans further than booking a hotel within the ancient city walls for the first two nights. Our mission was simple relaxation. Upon arrival mid-afternoon we checked in and promptly snoozed – because hopping on a train is clearly hard work…

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Waking up from our nap (cause adults) we googled a few things to do the next day, and set off wandering through the city centre.

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    After a quick meal, and tipped off by our hotel concierge, we found ourselves nestled in a Tudor beamed locals pub tucked into The Rows. It feels like a dream city – full of ancient buildings, crooked lanes and history on every corner. It is also such a foodie city – with quirky pubs and great restaurants galore (we visited almost everyone) – not to mention having a barbershop/hairdressers on nearly every corner.

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Chester is one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain. It has a number of medieval buildings, but some of the black-and-white buildings within the city centre are Victorian restorations. It was so pretty – and the shopping is pretty good as well.

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The next day dawn bright and with blue skies. We gambolled through Grosvenor Park, hopped onto a bus tour (in the cutest historic bus) and stopped for a pretty good flat white…

    …before boarding for a rather unique afternoon tea.

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Oh, and we made sure to photograph the second most photographed clock in England. When in Rome and all that…

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    For our last night we snuck a little further into the countryside. Watch this space.

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Chester Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Is Chester on your ‘to visit’ list yet? It was a cracking staycation – compact with enough options to keep you amused but not enough to overwelm.

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