Remember back in the day when we could travel – visit places, meet friends? Ah, good times. It was during these good times when I still lived in England, I had some great weekends away, and opportunities to attend events …. I bring you Roam Ramblings Part 2 (if you recall, there was a Ramblings Part 1, back in August 2019.
Cambridge outings – June 2019
Flambouyant Flotilla – As I continued to make the most of my weekends when in Cambridge I braved the torrential rain to witness Cambridge’s first Pride event. Instead of a Pride parade like other cities, they had a Flambouyant Flotilla lol. I was surprised it actually happened given the rain and despite planning to stay long to listen to some of the live music I decided not to! I had driven because of the rain so could not even enjoy a quick drink in the rain!
Sir Michael speaks – Another great event that month was seeing Sir Michael Palin speaking. He had recently published a book on the HMS Erebus – was an incredible story of Antarctic exploration which I am always interested in. The first half of the event he spoke about the book, in the second half he spoke about his life and career including his time in Monty Python and his travel programmes which was really interesting. I really enjoyed the cheap accessible theatres and shows in the city and went as often as I could.
Yay for friends with planes – I was lucky enough to get an unexpected flight after work with a colleague who has his pilot’s license and a ‘timeshare’ in a small aircraft. It was just a 2 seater and more like a closed in microlight, but it was great fun, flying up over Norfolk, Sandringham, over the beautiful coast. We saw seals on the beach and the sun starting to set which was so beautiful. We even heard a B52 do an emergency landing at a nearby airforce base! I am really so very lucky.
Chepstow – June 2019
It was lovely to have my parents to visit the UK whilst I was there, though oddly they did not plan to visit me in Cambridge (lol) so I decided I would drive to Chepstow, on the border of England and Wales to visit them at the my uncle’s place. It was 4 hour🤦🏻♀️, all weather drive and I was glad to finally arrive.
I haven’t spent much time in that part of the country so it was nice to get an opportunity to explore a little. We headed across the Severn River into Bristol and visited the Concorde Museum (definitely worth it if you are in the area) and had a lovely walk in the hills, overlooking the surrounding countryside and Tintern Abbey, which dates back to the 1100’s. We finished off the day with a drink in the sun by the River Wye.
The next day, we had a walk around the lovely town of Chepstow. It is an odd little town, which straddles the border (actually the river Wye) of England and Wales. One side of the river and you are in Wales, cross the bridge and you are in England! Unfortunately, this quirk does cause some issues. All the emergency services are on the Welsh side and don’t cross into England, so they have to rely on services from Gloucester, almost 30 miles away. The fire department on the other hand is a volunteer one, made up of many who live on the English side of town so they don’t mind crossing the river to help out!
Today Chepstow has a population of just over 10,000 and it was an important port in the Middle Ages for the import of wine and the export of timber and bark. It is thought that the Castle in the middle of town is considering the oldest surviving stone castle in Britain with construction beginning in 1067.
It was a great little get away and a lovely chance to catch up with family.
Continued Cambridge outings – July 2020
Bumps & Open Studios – After a couple of weeks home in New Zealand, I was back and ready to make the most of the UK summer and I started with an evening out at the Open Studios. A Cambridge wide event that show cases artists and artisans in gardens around the city. There were some lovely things on show and for sale in the gardens of a beautiful house near the river and coincidentally it was the evening of the “Bumps”.
The Bumps is a type of rowing racing where the boats chase each other and try and bump the boat in front. I must admit I did not really understand what was going on but there was certainly lots of frivolity despite the weather (did I mention it was pouring with rain again) with the crews singing and drinking beer along the river 😂👍🏻. I sat on the river bank under a tree to avoid the worst of the rain, but still got wet. At least it wasn’t cold!
Bat Safari – My next outing was one I was rather excited about – a Bat safari! Run by one of the Punting companies, you take a punt from the city to Grantchester staring at dusk, with a ‘Bat Man’ from the local Bat Conservation Trust on board to tell us all about the bats that we saw. We all had ‘bat detectors’ and the ‘Bat Man’ could tell what kind of bats they were based on the frequency and sound.
It was so peaceful floating down the beautiful tree lined river as it got dark and there were lots of tiny Soprano bats (about thumb size). Did you know that all bats and their roosts in the UK are protected? I certainly didn’t!
When returning to the punting yard we were surprised but an amazing fireworks demonstration – turns out they were from nearby Kings College, celebrating their graduation.
Saffron Walden – July 2019
How did we ever go anywhere before the internet? These days I just have an inkling of where I want to go, look it up on the internet and find a walking tour of a suitable length with directions and info on the history – so good! This weekend was a 4 mile around Saffron Walden – a historic market town from 1144.
It was a lovely walking trail that first took me through beautiful fields of wild flowers and through the grounds of Audley End House. Starting life as Walden Abbey, built in 1066, was, in the 17th century, one of the largest and finest in the country but today is much reduced due to crippling debt.
I passed through the picture perfect village of Littlebury with a beautiful old church and house and beyond to stunning golden fields of wheat before returning back to Saffron Walden. A beautiful walk on a beautiful day.
London –July 2020
It was about time for another visit to London (I definitely did not get there often enough during the year), and this time to enjoy some culture. On Friday night, it had a Kiwi vibe and I attended a show put on by the Modern Maori Quartet – not surprisingly (given the name) they are a group of 4 Maori men who perform a combination of music and comedy. A night of great kiwi entertainment.
I had planned a walk along the canal the following morning but the torrential rain was against me – so instead I walked the shorter distance from my accommodation to the British Museum. Thankfully I got there early, just before it opened and walked straight in. By the time I left, the queues at the entrance were massive!!! Finally the rain stopped and I continued my walk through the city, passed Neal’s Yard, down The Mall and passed Buckingham Palace on my way to my next event for the weekend – the wonderful musical Hamilton (for which I had had to book tickets months in advance). Definitely worth the visit to the big smoke
Stratford upon Avon – August 2020
Stratford Upon Avon is a pretty market town in Warwickshire, inhabited since the early 1100’s but most famous for being the birthplace and finally resting place of William Shakespeare. Being a couple of hours drive from Cambridge, it was a great spot for a weekend getaway and a chance to catch up with an old travel buddy.
After an evening of lots of chat and almost as much wine, we were up early to follow a walking tour route around the town, taking in the main sites of the town, many of which date back to the 1500s. Sadly, the great British summer was in full force and it was cold, windy and wet, but we preserved lol.
We rounded off day one with a Shakespeare play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre – where better to see a one. We saw Measure for Measure and it was excellent. When you see Shakespeare plays performed well, it is incredible how relevant some of them are today, despite the olde world language.
Day 2 and the weather was a little better and we drove a short way out of the town to visit another couple of historic houses. The first was Anne Hathaway’s childhood home. Anne was Shakespeare’s wife – they married in 1582 when she was already pregnant and some historians speculate that it was a ‘shotgun’ wedding.
The house was built in various parts between the 14th and 17th centuries and is situated in beautiful cottage gardens with so many flowers and busy bees. I must admit I was a little obsessed with taking photos of the bees and flowers lol.
Our next stop was Mary Arden’s farm – the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother. Not so much of the original 16th century farmhouse is left as most of it is Victorian or Edwardian and was actually lived in until 1968! Today they have many displays of historic animal breeds and farming activities which we were enjoying until the rain started again (about 20 minutes after the photo with blue sky was taken)– hard and fast!! Just right for the drive home including a detour through Melton Mowbray sample one of their famous pork pies.
Probably worth noting that one ticket gets you in to most of the historic Shakespeare sites, including Shakespeare’s birthplace in town (beware there can be long queues to get in to this one), Mary’s farm and Anne’s house.
After an incredible trip to Central Asia (many other blogs written about this lol), an extended trip back home to New Zealand and a couple of other European getaways (blogs already on the way about these too), I was lucky enough to have work trips to Paris and Vienna in December. Now there is not too much to say about either of the trips as I was working during the day, but I did manage to get out a explore a little of both cities in the evenings and I also took advantage of the approaching festive season to enjoy the Christmas markets.
In Paris I enjoyed an evening walk along the beautiful Seine. Most of the markets in Paris don’t start until much closer to Christmas but I managed to find one near Place de la Concorde. It wasn’t too busy and I enjoyed some mulled wine and delicious food before the beautiful (but long) walk back along the river to my hotel … oh and don’t forget the beautiful sparkly Eiffel tower (the lights go on once an hour) – just wonderful.
A couple of weeks later and I was in Vienna and the Christmas markets there were in full swing. My first evening and I visited one at Schönbrunn Palace, once the main summer residence of the ruling Habsburg family. Once again I enjoyed plenty of delicious mulled wine or Glühwein as they call it.
The following day I went with colleagues to a market in the centre of the city … and it was snowing – it was truly a magical Christmassy moment that we certainly do not get in New Zealand. It was extra special as the next day I was leaving at 4am to head back to London and straight on to New Zealand for a summer Christmas.
Get Outlook for iOS