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Wales

    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 Gower Coast, Wales #travelthursdays

    Sometimes the best way to see a country is as a tourist. This sounds like a proverb from a book of the bleeding obvious, but it’s absolutely true. Over the last few years I have dragged my husband around more of Britain than he has travelled almost in his life. And I think it’s becuse I’m a tourist, a permatourist with a constant case of wanderlust. It might also be because I have a serious problem with sitting still. That’s another story all together.

     

    This is definitely an amazing cure for Donkey-on-the-edge-syndrome.

    Living in another country gives you a different viewpoint. It spurs you on to explore parts of the world that might not normally be of interest, and sadly Wales sadly seems to be one of those places. Viewed as a wild and woolly corner of the British Isles, it’s underrated in my foreign opinion.

     

    We decided to nip over to wales on the train, as it’s only 2.5 hours on the train from central London. We spent a day wandering around Cardiff, a cute little compact city (fyi: IT’S EVEN GOT A CASTLE). We found a Kiwi pub (much to our amazement), skirted the Millenium Stadium, and settled in for bite to eat.

    I even made a teeny tiny welsh friend – to give you an idea of scale; that’s the knuckle of my index finger.

    The next morning we made for was the gem in Wales’ southern diadem – we were bound for the Gower coast.



    Salt Marshes – the sheep eat plant species that include puccinellia, sea lavender and marsh samphire, and are considered quite a delicacy.

    Beaches with beautiful yellow sand, a ready supply of fresh Welsh cakes, fascinating salt marshes, delicious handraised sheep, ancient stone burial mounds, nerve inducing walks along cliffs and enough prehistoric ferns to make you homesick.



    How about a side of neolithic history with your welsh cake?

    There seems to be a magic for me in Wales – may be it’s the rolling hills reminding me of home, the lovely beaches, the small towns or the rolling lilts of the Welsh Accent. (That and the rich rugby heritage; since the above trip we’ve also made a day trip to see the All Blacks play the mighty Welsh dragons.)


    It’s not the plethora of Sheep either, I swear…


    Granted, it’s most spectacular on a sunny day, but where isnt?

     

    Da wales is lush. Fact.


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    Wales: The All Blacks, a road trip, and some daffs – sorry, Taffs.

    Kiwis are synonymous with our love of rugby, the All Blacks, and Sheep. Lets forget about the Sheep thing for now, and concentrate on the two we are the most proud of.

    

     

    Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium was simple magnificent. Twickenham is fun, but shows it’s age.

     

     

    Some Kiwi fans like to wear buckets on their heads… whilst the Taffs like to wear Daffodils, Leeks, Goals and Dragons. It’s definately a manly game though. 

     

     

     

    We lucked in with great seats and the atmosphere was incredible.

    beginning with an electric Haka;

    Oh, hai Ma’a

    It was fairly cold…

     

     But brilliant nonetheless.

     

     


    The mighty All Blacks. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen them 3 times, each time in Twickenham playing a variety of teams. They are a force to be reckoned with, but at times can be a little nerve-wracking (read: the world cup we’ve just won.)

    The Welsh held their own with some pretty good defending, and it’s more than was expected of the them. The fans were fantastic; excited, vocal, great singers, fun and had a great sense of humour. In fact, one of their daffodils was a friend of our, dressed head to toe in All Blacks gear, with a bright yellow Daffodil hat!

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