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    A visit to the Roald Dahl Museum, Great Missenden

    Even though I’m always chafing at the bit to get overseas (recently being accused of going away “too much” which is impossible in my estimation) I’ve consciously tried to explore my adoptive home island as much as possible.

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A friend coined the term ‘permatourism’ which is bang on the money –
    being a permanent tourist, even when in our home countries. Seaside trips, highland vacations, day trips to quirky museums, even London staycations where we explore a different neighborhood of this sprawling
    city.

    Who says you have to board a flight or brandish a passport?

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    With that in mind, a lovely friend and I jotted down a few places we
    wanted to take day trips out of London to, and top of the pile was a half
    day in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. Meeting at at Marylebone train
    station, we gathered our coffees and breakfast bits together and settled
    in for the half hour ride out into the countryside.

    Wandering off the train, we made our way to the Roald Dahl Museum for a stroll down memory lane.

    Willy Wonka: A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.

    With everything from ranging his actual backyard office complete with original dust (baked to remove anything that could spoil the rest of the display) to complete collections of his books and original Sir Quentin Blake illustrations, we spent a lovely morning drifting through the fascinating collection.

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Admittedly for kids, we found the collections just as interesting and inspiring for these adults two bigger kids including a copy of his writing desk perfect for photos.

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We then took the advice of the museum pamphlets and spent a couple of hours wandering around the pretty village and surrounding fields.

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The instagramming kept us busy long enough to require sustenance in the museum cafe (and to warm up slightly.)

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The effect the Dahl family had on the village is obvious from Curious Mr Fox doorknockers to BFG shoe tiles outside the local church.

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    There was no real rhyme or reason to our path, just a very loose adherence to the maps clutched in our hands.

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    This time we managed not to get lost on a forest walk (unlike me and the boy previously)…

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …and as the rain storm passed we even managed to spot a double rainbow.

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Is this someone you’ve been or even heard of? Who is your favourite Roald Dahl character?

    Roald Dahl Museum Literature Authors England Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    The 10 best castles in the world (IMHO)

    My inner princess never thought this was possible. My own country has a history of around 150 settled human years, so the magic of walking through thousands of years of Euopean history never quite loses the unique frisson of delight. This selection is my top 10 of the best castles in the world (well, in my honest opinion anyway!)

    Suits of armour that tell tales of bravery and hardship, kitchen hearths that fed hundreds of (in)famous dignitaries and hard-working servants, windows that saw enemy arches living up their longbows and sighing maidens dreaming of their loves, moats that were filled with all sorts of exotic contents and drafty castles walls that witnessed history that changed the lives of nations.

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Yeah, I’ve got the castle wandering bug bad. If there is a castle or palace near where we are (and by near I mean within 2 hours train ride) you can guarantee that I’ll be making my way there, scheming how to get closer or researching ways to sleep there (Prince Harry, watch out).

    Buckingham Palace, London, England
    Known by locals as ‘Buck House’ the home of our Commonwealth Queen was everything thing I thought it would be – ostentatious, sumptuous and amazing. Just what a Palace should be. As important to the British psyche as Tea, wellies and apologising for other people bumping into you, the Royal family is an institution. Britain (/England/the United Kingdom/whatever) simply wouldn’t be the same without the bastion of the eccentric royal family: the Queen’s imperious waves, Prince Philips gaffes, Charles & Camilla’s love affair and Kate and Williams rock-star icon just adds such a soupcon to the mystique of Britain.

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Pena Palace, Sintra Portugal
    Quirkily gorgeous, the Palacio Nacional da Pena is one of the finest tourist attractions of Portugal and exemplifies the 19th century Romanticism style of architecture with a twist of sheer imagination. The curiously crenellated collection of beautiful rooms crest a collection of beautiful palaces in the town of Sintra.

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany.
    On our visit, leaving behind the crowds in the busy parking lot (there are a couple of family castles that can also be visited) we walked up the hill towards Neuschwanstein. Leaving Mr Kiwi to enjoy the fresh mountain air, I took in the guided tour through the unique rooms created solely for Ludwig’s use – even the servants had separate hallways running alongside. From an ornately carved bedroom to a man-made cave and private theatre room, the castle that inspire Walt Disney’s cartoon glory was curious to say the least…

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey), Highclere, England
    They say never meet your heroes as you’ll only be disappointed when their humanity is revealed, but I say ignore that entirely. Sometimes you have to. Sometimes you have to get on that train, walk through those gates and simply revel in the crazy amazingness that is England. Case in point – Downton Abbey. Wait, I mean Highclere Castle…

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Winchester Castle, Winchester, England
    Housing the Arthurian Round Table of myth and legend (though sadly actually slightly more modern in construction – only commissioned by King Henry in the 13th Century, rather than 6th as they originally thought) Winchester Cathedral is well worth a wander – especially in winter…

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Strawberry Hill House, Richmond, London
    Hidden in the opulent suburb of Twickenham, (aka Surrey) a gothic castle of dreamy spires quietly rests. Each new room seemed like walking into a fairytale princess’ room – in fact my friend struggled the whole way round to choose just the one she would have as her bedroom…

    Eilean Donan, Highlands, Scotland
    You can name almost any of the residences of royal kilt wearers (a personal favourite is Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh), but the most famous in the Highlands is the beautiful and mysterious Eilean Donan, which means ‘Island of Donnan’. Found on a a small tidal island located in the western Highlands of Scotland, the castle was first founded in the 13th century and after extensive 20th Century work now features in a litany of movies and TV shows (including a Monty Python cameo).

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Kidwelly Castle/Castell Cydwell, Carmanthenshire, Wales
    Known best for featuring in the establishing shot of Monty Python’s Search For The Holy Grail (aka one of the best comic films ever) this castle is a treasure of the Welsh countryside.

    Eltham Palace, Eltham, England
    First mentioned in the Doomsday book, Eltham Estate was presented to King Edward II in 1305 and developed into one of the most favoured royal palaces with 1,000 acres of deer park on its doorstep. #swoon

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland
    Quite simply, that’s how Mr Kiwi and I came to find ourselves being pushed (by some bloke) over a parapet, backwards, whilst holding on to a couple of sturdy steel supports. Kissing the Blarney Stone was one of those ‘pinch me’ moments that blew my tiny little mind, and it was well worth the journey. (Will I ever become vaguely eloquent? Probably not, and I’m ok with that.)

    The 10 best castles in the world Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What would make your top 10 castles in the world list? (Real or fiction…) 

     (PS. pin me!)

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    The day I broke Southwark Cathedral

    Many moons ago when I was much younger and freshly arrived on these ancient shores I did a Bad Thing which probably, really should have got me deported. I don’t have many regrets, but this is definitely one of them. It wasn’t anything illegal, violent or intentionally nasty and it brought tears to my eyes.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I was volunteering with a charity outfit called Cathedral Camps, a mentoring programme that works quite closely with the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and teens from all over Europe who want to improve their English. Spending a week living on or near a Cathedral and working odd jobs for them – ranging from vaccuming towers to repainting railings – whilst exploring the city at night (we were lucky enough to have a special tour of St Pauls, a night at Shakespeares Globe for the Merchant of Venice and of course the delight of Leicester Square of an evening) we slept in a hostel and cooked in nearby kitchens.

    Having lived on Borough High Street for the first 3 months of my London life, I was delighted to be accepted as a leader (read:
    “responsible” “adult” with full air quotes – I wasn’t that much older than they were) at a camp at Southwark Cathedral, somewhere which still always feels like a bastion of home to me.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

     I hadn’t ever though we would have such an up close and personal experience of the daily life in a cathedral – and I’m so glad we did. I made friends who I still see when they pop over to London and every I venture into the iconic flint building I can’t help but smile, mostly.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Most recently I visited to check out their stained glass exhibition and hoping to catch sight of Dawkins, the tabby cat who has recently adopted the ancient building as his home.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Alas he was otherwise occupied, but I took a walk down memory lane anyway.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Known in clergy circles as quite a progressive Anglican seat, Southwark Cathedral is a delight to visit. With soaring, delicate buttresses that disappear heaven-ward, historical figures dotting the alcoves and the friendliest volunteers and staff, it is impossible to pop in for only 10 minutes.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The cathedral (a cathedra is a seat of a Bishop, and for a town to become a city it must have a cathedral, denomination flexible) has been a place of Christian worship for more than 1,000 years, but a cathedral only since the creation of the diocese of Southwark in 1905. With a Gothic structure built between 1220 and 1420, although the nave is a late 19th-century reconstruction, it is an iconic inhabitant of the Southern Thames riverbank.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Isn’t it beautiful?

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But, historical geegaws aside, this is the item the broke my heart. A medieval wood door loving oiled by generations of clergy was attacked by a well-meaning Kiwi who didn’t realise that her paintbrush was loaded with METAL paint for the hinges.

    See those marks? That was us frantically sanding as lightly as we could in order to mitigate the horrific damage. I (and the clergy) had several large glasses of tonic laced with gin that evening.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Fortunately when I visit now, my misdemeanor has been forgotten and my mug taken off the ‘DO NOT ALLOW DESECRATORS’ list. (Actually I very much doubt they have one, but I didn’t go back for at least 4 years, just in case.)

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Now you can simply wander through the sacred space admiring the medieval garden, play giant chess in the courtyard and simply take in the peace of such a beautiful space nestled amidst the chaos of London Bridge.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Like this dude does, though possibly with a little less acute style.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Moral of the story is: don’t let a Kiwi teach Italian teens how to speak English and never, never trust them near medieval doors with a paintbrush.

    Southwark Cathedral Free things do to in London Adventures of a London Kiwi

     Have you been? Are you a fan of visiting churches?

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    Nuremberg daytripping from Munich

    Another popular day trip from Munich is to Nuremberg. Infamous for the dark history that the Nazis brought to an otherwise pretty (and unhappy to be selected apparently) city that was subsequently almost levelled in the World Wars that followed, we were curious to explore the history of this Bavarian city.

    Nuremburg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Nuremburg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I must confess Nuremburg wasn’t our jam (unlike our trip to Wendelstein Mountain and the clear alpine waters around Neuschwenstein Castle with a touch of tourist dodging, both definitely were!)

    We go everywhere with an open mind, but after a 2+ hour train ride when our tour guide opened with the line “think of Nuremburg as a Disney town” our spirits dropped like a stone. Logically, this makes sense with the timeline of war but we just didn’t seem to gel.

    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The Kaiserburg Castle was cute as was the fascinating story of how the monolithic stones at the base lent the name to the city – Nurnberg means ‘stony ground’, there were a plethora of quirky buildings built in the style that existed in Medieval Nuremberg, the view over the ramparts was lovely on our day of blue skies and we learned about Albrecht Durer, painter and engraver who was born and raised here.

    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi
    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Famous for Christmas markets (I think now is the moment to
    confess my dislike for shopping and crowds in general, and cheesy, cold
    Christmas markets in particular, especially London ones – does this
    make me a grinch? Probably) we made our way through the Altstadt (Old Town) to the Hauptmarkt (central square) which operates a few market stalls year round underneath the Frauenkirche, a 14th-century Gothic church.

    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Perhaps we were just having an off day. I felt like I was taking photos for the sake of it and even pottered over to capture the ‘most recognizable image of Nuremberg’ a building which is an old people’s home.

    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It just felt a little too cinematic. Perhaps it needs the hubbub of Christmas Markets and more time to really discover what the city has (though modern art really shines here in the galleries and museums.

    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But hey, it happens.

    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We lunched on the famous Nurnberg wurst #touristgoals

    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi
    Nuremberg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Perhaps this was a case of feeling like we should go, rather than a visit to enjoy meandering. That said, any place with crowned stone walls does get a smile indeed.

    Nuremburg day trip from Munich Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Have you been anywhere that you weren’t feeling the vibe? For us the last time couple of times Barcelona and Brussels (so mixed I didn’t really even blog it.)

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    Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland

    Every blogger secretly wants to discover hidden gems right? I mean it’s practically in the job description: Chatterbox required for hours sat in front of a screen editing words and photos about unusual things. Must bring own mug and discover ‘hidden gems’.

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mount Stewart isn’t a hidden gem, it is one of Northern Ireland’s diadem rocks, second to the actual rocks of the Giant’s Causeway. The opening hours were flexible (to say the least) on the rainy day that we visited, so we wandered through the gardens whilst the grey clouds threatened.

    Warning: I also somehow managed to get every photo slightly askew.

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Inbetween the rumbling clouds, we explored the sprawling gardens, restored to the splendour of their original planting in the 1920s (overseen) by Edith, Lady Londonderry. 

     Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The greenery was interspersed with a scattering of fascinating statuary, politically planted flower beds (featuring the harp and red hand of Ulster) and a beguiling smattering of paths.

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We were the only people foolish hardy enough to be wandering through, and took our sweet time (with a close eye on those clouds.)

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Out damned spot, or off damned raindrop, rather.

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Behind large leafy fronds, concrete faces smiled out at us in a variety of curious gazes.

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    With the threatened rain drops beginning to splodge, we made our way inside the hallowed halls where the current generation family still live, after a National Trust regeneration of £8 or so million pounds. Running into Lady Rose Lauritzen, a direct descendant of the Marquesses of Londonderry, we took our time to explore each of the rooms.

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The interior is all the glorious opulence I have come to expect of titled family estates usually established for longer than New Zealand has history (with some of that history caused by mischievous generations…)

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Just a casual set of armour on the walls…

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …titles on the dining room table…

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …priceless artwork hanging on the stairwells…

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …and galleons whimsically hung from the light fittings (an optical illusion that would sit on the nearby lake before the trees grew so high)

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    Though with animal snacks dotted around the living rooms, and silver-plated dog bowls, I feel like these would be my people.

    I did wonder what these two dudes were discussing “OMG, did you SEE that volunteer’s skirt clashing with her jumper?” < Why I can never work in a museum…

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …before we finished the house tour with a peek into the family chapel hung with lions rampant.

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Oh, and we couldn’t get a seat in the cafe for a spot of tea and scones
    because when we wandered in it was swarming with elderly people. Does
    the disappointment make me an elderly people?

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mount Stewart National Trust Belfast Northern Ireland Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Luckily our friend and local guide extraordinaire knew of nearby village that purveys the most ridiculous cinnamon scones so all was not lost on our last morning of Northern Ireland rambling…

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