Follow:
Browsing Category:

England

    Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

    I always spend the last post of the year looking back over the previous 365 days. I think it’s important to remember where we’ve come from, as much as we look forward to where we are going.

    This is the year that I quit my job and launched a business, it’s the year that I did a cross-globe four-country trip on my own (but hung out with and stayed with good friends and wonderful family along the way) and it’s the year that I realised a few different dreams both on- and off-line.

    It was a pretty crazy year.

    It’s also the year that my supportive family and friends proved exactly how amazing they are, it’s the year that I learnt a lot about myself – the good and the bad – and the year that my little hobby corner of the internet reached it’s 5-year birthday. 2017 is also the year that politics seem to have imploded, volcanoes have gone mad and the year that I stopped watching the news because my heart struggled with the onslaught of sadness.

    My #bestnine for 2017 on Instagram nicely encapsulates the highlights of the year – a few London restaurants and landmarks, the patchwork of New Zealand from an internal flight, one of the delicious dishes enjoyed and the iconic Sydney Opera House.

    Traditionally each year I like to finish with a little roundup of the year that was. I think we’ll play with the top 17 this time (I did the best 16 last year, the top 15 in 201514 in 201413 in 2013, and 12 in 2012… see where I’m going with this?) the spirit and phrasing doesn’t change but the chaos definitely does.

    The first five are chosen by you, my lovely readers, and always include a few surprises…

    23 of the best places to go in New Orleans

    Gods Own Junkyard, Walthamstow

    10 of the best unique UK daytrips (when you’ve done all the usual ones)

    An Iconic Luxury Hotel Review: Raffles, Singapore

    How to drive in America (a Kiwi perspective from the wrong side of the road)

    …a bevy of posts that meant a lot to me…

    Why my heart has shattered in 2017

    Our stay at the luxurious Bovey Castle Hotel – Codename: OperationDon’tTellAftab

    Portugal: A Peaceful Long Weekend In Porto

    A Luxurious Staycation At The Elegant Langham Hotel

    … a few extra surprises that the year held…


    The Bulford Kiwi – a 130m tall piece of Graffiti near Salisbury, Wiltshire

    Bottomless brunching at Aqua Kyoto

    The Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall: A sumptuous seaside spa stay

    A Birthday Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

    A luxurious stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

    ...and a touch of expat thoughts & inspiration.


    5 of my most hilarious travel bloopers

    A letter to my 18-year-old self.

    5 lessons learnt as a travel addict

    When Friends Become Family: Expat Life


    Thank you. Thank you for sticking around and have a wonderful New Year! May it be full of joy and beautiful coffee.

    Share:

    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…?

    Share:

    A (Too) Quick City Break in York.

    Much like the Grand Old Duke of York, who had ten thousand men and marched them up to the top of the hill, and then marched them down again, I can’t get enough of York… (because he visited repeatedly, that was obvious, right?)

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Having visited nearly half a dozen times over the years, and somehow not managing to share it on my blog over the years, I would say that although you could visit from London for the day, I wouldn’t. Go for a minimum of an overnight stay, or a few days if you can. Witness a misty morning, and a candy coloured sunset, wander out into the Dales or slip in a seaside visit somewhere like Scarborough, and really get to know the ancient city.

    Alas, I haven’t really learned how to take my own advice, but hot on the end of a family visit in Lincolnshire we were lucky enough to spend sometime with one of my favourite expats on Yorkshire (ok, ok, I only know two, but they are definitely in the top two of that limited ranking system). It was of course Amanda, her fabulous husband Sam and we got to meet their gorgeous new addition to the family, a mischevious Dachshund pup who goes by the name of Harold.

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Instagram was alive with “OOOOOOOH MY GOD YOU GOT TO MEET HAROLLLLLD”

    Forget being a rockstar in this day and age, puppy dog eyes are all you need to make ladies weep and then squeal into their keyboards.

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We tumbled off the train, cheeks ruddy from the fresh the North Sea breezes (fresh from visiting the Seal colony with a litany of pups at Donna Nook, and nibbling fish and chips with the family in Cleethorpes) and went wandering.

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I’m going to make a big claim here – if you’re travelling through the UK and can only fit in one city visit outside of London, York or perhaps Bath would be excellent choices. Compact enough to really explore, full of ancient buildings and history, and good cake.

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What more do you even need?

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    How about buildings perfect enough to be dolls houses…

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …or warm stone towers bathed in the glow of sunset? #nofilter

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Confections of the soap variety…

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …or the renowned baked kind at Betty Cafe Tea Rooms. It’s so good, the last time I visited, we ran across a 10k race track (I’m not even kidding, I sorta wish I was.) We beelined straight for Betty’s Tearooms, a cake institution not to be missed. Sampling their array of delicacies (check out Danielle’s beautiful images – but be warned they’ll make you hungry) we marvelled at the line forming around the pretty tea house.

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Seriously, every corner is beautiful. Especially on a crisp pre-Christmas winter evening as the dusk is falling and you are enroute to a cozy bar where you’ll settle in for a few libations and celebrations of yore(k). ‘Tis the season and all that.

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But first, we were taken on a quick loop of the city, to really soak in the atmosphere, before a few bevies and then a delicious white wine risotto

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    This is proper #housegoals in the shadow of Yorkminster.

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Spot the cutest bobbly hat ever…

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Proper England.

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Unfortunately, upon departure of the Rhyme and Ribbons residence, our suitcase was inspected for cute puppy thievery.

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Top tip: remember to check you haven’t left your wallet behind – it happened to me the last time we visited York, and I managed to leave my handbag behind in a coffee shop this time. Luckily Mr Kiwi is a fast fetcher…

    Have you been to York?


    Pin for later…

    24 hours in York Yorkshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Share:

    Spying Seal Pups at Donna Nook, Lincolnshire

    It’s a direct result of not being from this country, but I really love it with all of my wanderlusting heart. Sometimes I also hate it – which is part and parcel of a long-term relationship – sometimes misunderstanding of the culture and other times frustrations that you would get living absolutely any where rear their head. That’s the joy and challenge of expat life in a nutshell – even for a long-termer like myself.

    Seal Colony Donna Nook Grimsby Lincolnshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It’s funny though, it means that I view the country with travel spectacles. A case in point? I was watching a documentary a couple of months ago that highlighted a seal colony that migrates to a certain cove once a year to have their babies in safety, away from predators of the ocean. To my husband, Donna Nook is a RAF base. To me, it’s a seal slumber party spot.

    And, it’s only half an hour from my in-laws house.

    Seal Colony Donna Nook Grimsby Lincolnshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    For over a decade we’ve been catching the train out of London to spend family time with them (occasionally sneaking for a wander to places like the working Waltham Windmill) and for a decade half an hour’s drive from their place in Cleethorpes – North East Lincolnshire – seals have snoozed with their pups around October/November. And I haven’t known about it.

    We set off on a Saturday afternoon meander simply following the GPS as it guided us through narrow roads that curved through fields, laughing at the slightly random place we were going to visit, and beginning to wonder if we were on a fool’s errand.

    And then we came upon the ‘Seal Traffic Only’ signs that directed us along a one-way road.

    Wild Grey seals return every year in late October, November and December in very large numbers to the Donna Nook National Nature Reserve on the east coast and give birth to their pups right next to the sand dunes.

    Those brown & white bumps above are just a few of the resting seal Mommas – oh, you betcha I squealed with delight. The pups are snow white until they reach a few weeks old (and 45-50kg!) and shed their baby fur in time to learn how to hunt for their own supper.

    Apparently 2016 was a bumper year, with record numbers reaching 1,956 baby seal pups born at Donna Nook – and this year looks to have an increase.

    There were a few snoozing right up by the viewing fence – one pup resting their head on the fence posts – and more as far as the eye could see. Just look at those flippers – doesn’t it melt your heart? (This is when my childhood hope of becoming a vet, mostly foiled by a lack of science skill rises to the fore.)

    It’s a popular spot for photographers, animal lovers, families and dorky bloggers alike.

    Practical tips for visiting the slumbering seals at Donna Nook:
    – Try and visit during the week, the weekends are super busy.
    – The seals are usually there from mid-October to around December.
    – Visiting is free, but if you get popped into the overflow parking, you’ll need to pay £2 in cash.
    – Driving is best (in fact I’d be amazed if there is public transport.)
    – Wear practical shoes and something warm – that breeze is straight off the North Sea.
    – You will get suckered in by cute seal donation boxes, and the proceeds go towards the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust so take some cash. C’mon, it’s free and run by volunteers…

    Seal Colony Donna Nook Grimsby Lincolnshire Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We then made our way back to Cleethorpes (stopping quickly for an ice cream at a local cafe)…

    …and then a wander along the promenade at twilight.

    We then stopped into the most glamorous fish and chips restaurant I’ve ever been to – which gave the infamous Steel’s Restaurant a run for it’s money…

    Oh, and did I mention we spotted a unicorn?

    Share:

    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?

    Share: