Category: Little Trips/Travels

The End of the Norfolk Mini-Series: Back To Hunstanton

This is the seventh and last post of our Norfolk mini-series.  We spent less than a week there but it feels more than that.  I’m feeling a bit nostalgic now.  Perhaps, it’s because the weather is bad and I’m looking at these lovely sunny photos and I’m wishing summer isn’t over yet.  At the moment, it certainly feels that way.

We certainly enjoyed our few days spent in Norfolk.  There were places we wanted to visit like the Nature Reserve and the another seaside town, Wells, which wasn’t that far from Hunstanton. Would definitely want to go back.  But for now, these photographs will have to appease my longing to be back there.

For our last night in Sunny Hunny, we a walked along the promenade and back to the seaside fair. Then we decided to walk all the way to the lighthouse.  It was a lovely walk as we were accompanied by the beautiful setting sun.  Will let these photos speak for itself.

And then just like that, it was over.

Special thanks to B and L.

Much love,

from the three of us.

Norfolk Mini-Series: Castle Acre Priory

This is the 6th instalment of our Norfolk series.  If you’ve missed the last one, click here to read.   FYI.  This post will be heavy with pictures.   

I don’t know about you, but standing in front of a building thousands of years old is mind-boggling to me.  The fact that it still exists.  I keep thinking if I stand just in front of it and by sheer mind-power, could it take me back to the past? Well, that’s exactly what it felt like as we stood in front of Castle Acre Priory, which dates back all the way to 1090.

What happened in the year 1090 across the globe? According to Wikepedia:

In Africa, Béjaïa became the capital of the Hammadid dynasty in Algeria.  Apparently they ruled an area roughly corresponding to north-eastern modern Algeria around that time.

And in Europe, a third expedition of the Almoravid army is launched in al-Andalus designed to subdue the Taifa’s Kingdoms, Códoba, Seville, Grenada, Málaga, Almería and Ronda fall to the troops of Yusuf ibn Tashfin (leader of a Moroccan empire).

It was the Song dynasty then in Asia, where Chinese author writes the Can Shu (book of Sericulture), which describes a silk reeling machine that has the world’s oldest known mechanical belt-drive.

Closer to home, it was King William II who was then the ruler of England (1087-1100) and in 1089, a certain William de Warenne, son of the 1st Earl of Surrey who had founded England’s first Cluniac priory in Lewes in 1077, also founded another priory in the village of Castle Acre, Norfolk.  Apparently the order originated from Burgundy.  The priory was said to have started out as part of the Acre castle but the monks found it too small and that’s when they were moved to its current site.

Fast forward to 2017, a little Cornish Pixie roams the ruins of this majestic priory.

I’m not sure the monks approved, because as we explored further, the clouds became more ominous, as if warning us if we desecrated holy ground, they’d  unleash their fury on us.

She means no harm really.  She’s just a little country mouse who likes to climb and explore old ruins.

We later found out that little T actually just emerged and ran through a medieval toilet block.  This didn’t seem to bother her at all and found it “cool”.

T and I went up these ancient steps which led to the monk’s quarters.  The priory was home to 20-30 monks.

I told her to imagine that the floor was still there but she was more interested in exploring a part of the building that miraculously stood the test of time and was still standing as if the monks has just vacated the building.

T was impressed with the carved human faces found protruding in corners of the room.

The next room was obviously a chapel, and when I sat to have a little rest, I noticed the ceiling and marvelled at how intact they still were.

And as I zoomed in my lense, I discovered this:

There were faded painted red roses on the ceiling.  I called my husband and he was pleasantly surprised too.  Obviously, this was painted on the ceiling later on, during the War of the Roses around 1455-1487.  The House of Lancasters were the red rose and the House of York used the white rose as a symbol.  Does that mean then that the English Cluniacs were supporters of the Lancasters?  I don’t really know, but this little discovery of mine really pleased me.  I was amazed on how clear, although fading, how clear the painted roses were.

We decided to explore the grounds more before the rain fell.

As we walked around, I was pleased to see a small patch of poppies growing by the side of the fence.  I loved the sudden burst of colour amidst all the greyness and concrete.  It was just beautiful, even though it wasn’t a poppy field.

On our way back, I noticed something protruding in front of the building.  Again, I zoomed in and saw this small monk’s head.

This monk’s head I found a bit spooky though.  It just shows that when visiting these historical places, if you don’t look closer, you might just miss all these interesting details.  If you blink, you might just miss them!

Castle Priory is English Heritage.  If you’re in the area, this is definitely a must-see.  I find it really amazing how much of it is still standing.  We went to Tintern Abbey in Wales years ago, which was also magnificent, but I think this is more well-preserved than the Abbey, although I think Tintern is bigger, I could be wrong of course.

What’s the most preserved and oldest priory you’ve visited?

Norfolk Mini-Series: Visiting Oxburgh Hall

This is the 5th post of our mini series during our visit to Norfolk in early August.  Today is little T’s first day back in school.  I can’t believe the holidays are over, it’s certainly the shortest she’s ever had.  Let me take you back a few weeks earlier, when the sun was bright and the days were warm and long … 

The next day, we had two destinations in mind.  The first was a visit to Oxburgh Hall (you’ll hear about the second one in the next post), a late medieval country home in Oxborough.  It was built during the War of the Roses, not as a castle really, but more as a family home for Sir Edmund Bedingfield.  This magnificent house is a must-visit for all, you don’t even have to be a lover of history to appreciate this grand country home. You’ll be amazed to see how well-preserved, not just the house, but as well as what you can see inside the house.

Can you imagine this as your family home?

And yes, it has a beautiful moat surrounding this grand country home.

This moat is home to a family of pike and dragonflies.  Little T and my husband crouched down to try to see as many pikes and dragonflies as they can before entering the house, although I’ve only managed to take a couple of photos, there were actually loads of them!

Front of the house is certainly one grand entrance. I can’t believe that this was actually a family home and not a castle.  It has the opulence of one!  Don’t you agree?

Little T trying to take a photo of the sundial (photo above).  As you can see, at the time we visited, the place was going through some minor renovations.

Inside one of the many grand rooms in the house.

Everything about the house was grand, even this old chess-set.  If these pieces could speak, what would they say?  Do you think they’ll tell us stories about who played with them, what the conversations were said during the game?  Any secrets?

One of the most interesting facts about Oxburgh hall is that the Bedingfields were Catholics during the time Elizabeth I first became Queen in 1558.  She was a staunch Protestant who was determined to continue with her father’s reformation of the Church of England and because of their faith, the Bedingfield family was ostracised and also suffered sanctions.  It was also around this time when they decided to have a priest hole built beneath a  bricked-top door in the garderobe (a storeroom for valuables).

As you can see, it is a tiny space,my husband could barely fit in it as he tried to slide into the priest’s hole.

And this is how small it was inside that little hole.  Can you imagine being stuck in here for days with no window and fresh air?

We were only in that hole for a few minutes since there was a long queue to get in. I was certainly glad to be out in the open once again, definitely not one for the claustrophobic!

Visiting places like these, teeming with history and magnificence, makes me and my husband happy to be members of both the National Trust and English Heritage.  It’s nice to know that our membership fees helps in restoring and taking care of all these important historical places.  If not for them, I honestly doubt these places would be well taken care of, or may not even be standing here today.  I’ve mentioned this in past posts, being members is so worth it, especially when you have kids – you’ll always find something to do especially when the weather cooperates.

What’s your favourite historical place to visit?

Click here if you’re interested in visiting and want to know exactly how to get there.

Norfolk Mini-Series: A Yurt and an Orchard

Tolkien once said:

Not all those who wander are lost.

That is so true.  It was way past lunchtime after our visit to Castle Rising.  We headed for the cafe there near the church.  It looked promising at the beginning, but just as we sat down, they announced that they weren’t serving food anymore, which we found a bit mind-boggling since obviously there were still loads of customers coming in, it’s like they didn’t even care!

By this time the three of us were getting a little bit grumpy – tired and hungry.  My husband though, ever the optimist, decided that we should just drive by the coast and see where it would take us.

To be fair, we did enjoy the scenery, but I guess he noticed that we were getting more and more quiet, luckily for us, we were headed for a lovely surprise just around the bend.

The husband noticed a sign to what looked like a farm-shop and we all know that they always serve good food, don’t they?  He turned to us and asked if we wanted to stop.  T and I both said yes, we were that hungry.  And as we parked, I noticed a Yurt that looked like they were serving food.  I quickly went inside and was welcomed by a very friendly-smiley-waiter.  I asked “Are you still serving food?”  He smiled and said “Yes!”.  I swear I could’ve kissed him when he said that.

T ordered a fish-finger sandwich from the kiddie menu.  We were expecting a few fish fingers stuck in a bun, but was pleasantly surprised when this arrived:

Does this look like a kiddie meal to you?  Admittedly, she needed help, which her dad gladly did.

I ordered a mixed-seafood noodle dish, not really knowing to expect.  Wasn’t too sure about it when it arrived and I saw an egg on it.  But absolutely enjoyed it.  I don’t know whether it’s because I was starving, but it was really good and filling.

I give this restaurant  five stars for food and service.  Their waiters were all lovely, friendly and accommodating.  Apparently, at night they also have live music so if you’re in the area, do visit Shuck’s Restaurant at Thornham.  Click here if you need directions on how to find them.

After a delicious meal, the three of us were definitely energised and decided to have a little poke around Drove Orchards.  There weren’t just apples, but there were also pears and other fruits as well.

After walking around the fruit orchard, the three of us headed for the farm shop and decided to buy more than a couple of bottles of fruit juice from this lovely orchard to take back home with us.  They were all delicious!

Thank goodness for Shuck’s Restaurant and Drove Orchard for saving the day!  If you’re looking for good food or like orchards, do give them a visit.

Norfolk Mini-Series: A Visit to Castle Rising

This is the 3rd post of our mini Norfolk series.  If you’ve missed the last two, please click here and here.  Thank you!

Right after we visited Norfolk lavender farm, we headed off to Castle Rising which wasn’t too far from the farm.  A bonus since we wanted to visit as much places as we can in a day.

Castle Rising is a medieval castle which was first built in 1138 by Norman lord William d’ Albini for his new wife, the widow of Henry I.  Later in the 14th century, it also became the home of Queen Isabella, another widow and who also supposedly murdered her husband King Edward II.  Ah these royals and their secrets and scandals.

I love old ruins, the older, the better.  I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that a building has been standing all these years.  I touch the walls and wonder what it was like in the medieval times.  What were their lives like?  What were their thoughts, dreams and fears?  Do you wonder the same too?

You approach the castle from the side and it is located on a hill.  I believe many years ago, this was probably the site of a medieval village surrounding the castle.  Like many, it is surrounded by a moat, but it’s currently a dry one.

And there it is, Castle Rising in all it’s glory and there’s  little T on the ground, contemplating how it was like centuries ago.

Can you imagine Queen Isabella entering the castle, dressed in her finest gowns and jewellery.  Upon entering that door, you step into a concrete stairs leading into the castle.

Can you see how much it has been restored?  All these years and these steps and walls are still standing.

This is the first room you step-into from the concrete stairs.  Of course, what is left are only walls and no more ceiling.

Apparently, when the ceiling collapsed (don’t know which century), they had to dig into the walls to create a hallway.  See how thick the walls are:

Little T had fun exploring every nook and cranny of this medieval castle.

Surprisingly the rooms on the top floor were more restored than the ones below.

Do you think Queen Isabella whispered to these walls and admitted her guilt?  I don’t think it’s ever been established whether she killed the king or not.  It’s one of those royal mysteries that’s never been solved.

And outside, T also had the chance to explore the site of a Norman chapel that actually even predates Castle Rising.

Too much exploring can tire out even an energetic little girl like T.

Do you enjoy exploring medieval castles too?

Norfolk-Mini Series: Norfolk Lavender

Where has the summer gone?  Already it feels like the beginning of autumn, temperature has definitely dropped, though I’m hoping it’s only temporary.  I’m thinking of the lovely days we spent in Norfolk, allow me to reminisce…

I always used to envy photos of lavender farms on Instagram.  We don’t have one nearby you see, so when we first thought of visiting Norfolk, the first thing I did was go online and see if I could find one near our base in Hunstanton.  Imagine my surprise and delight when there was actually one called just beside sunny Hunny.

We arrived in Norfolk Lavender around midday.  There were already lots of tourists and visitors milling around the rows of beautiful lavender taking photos of course and I don’t blame them.  They are beautiful and deserve a thousand photos …

Little T had fun walking through the rows upon rows of the beautiful and fragrant flowers.

Her dad taught her how to touch the flowers gently and to smell the fragrance they left in her little fingertips.

If I had a garden big enough, I’d plant rows and rows of lavender too.  They are my favourite!

The place though isn’t all about lavender.  They also have a garden where you can enjoy walking around and looking at different kinds of flowers as well.  They have lovely benches and manicured lawns perfect for a picnic, or a fun day out.

This lovely bloom, really caught my attention.  T said the colours were like a candy-cane and I so agree with her.  I forget though what it’s called.

This orange flower also stood out among all the greenery in the garden.

I have a close friend who knows a lot about flowers, especially wild ones. Every time she visits us, we go for long walks and she likes to point them out to me and ask “Do you remember what it’s called?”  I smile at her sheepishly and she laughs as if to say “Oh Dean, you never remember things!”  And she’s right, I never do!

I look at these photos now and I am filled with nostalgia and longing to go back!  It’s a lovely place really. They of course have a shop, a garden centre, a cafe and even a little play area for children (although you have to pay to get in), but the rest you can roam around freely.

If you’re in the area, do drop by.  You won’t regret it.  Click here to know the exact location.

Where to next?

Wait to find out 😉

Norfolk Mini-Series: By the Seaside in Sunny Hunny

It all began in Sunny Hunny.  Apparently, it isn’t always sunny in Hunstanton but we were lucky enough to be blessed with glorious weather the few days we were there.  We used the lovely seaside town Hunstanton as base for our trip.  For those who don’t know, “Hunny” as some fondly call the place, is a lovely seaside town in West Norfolk.  It’s one of the few places in the West Coast where the sun can be seen setting over the sea.

We arrived on a Sunday afternoon.  After some tea and cake, we decided to take a walk by the pier.  Was really impressed with the lovely flowers by the promenade.

We knew there was a seaside carnival, not surprisingly T wanted to head for there as soon as she could see it from afar but first my husband tried to convince me to try out the jellied eel.

I took one look and politely declined (did have a taste though) and instead enjoyed a small pot of mixed-seafood.

Not to be left-out, T all ready for the seaside fair asked for some cotton candy.

And then she was all set for some serious fun in the fair.

Sadly, T wasn’t tall enough for some of the rides.  To cheer her up, we said yes to a temporary tattoo.

Her first choice was a sugar skull (she loves them), but then decided on the grim reaper.  Yes, my daughter is a bit “dark” that way.

The woman doing the temporary tattoos tried to convince her to add some colour and perhaps even some glitter.  But T knew what she wanted and politely said no.  I don’t blame her.  I don’t think the the grim reaper will be pleased to be dusted with glitter and colour.

And here’s my little goth girl, proudly showing off her tattoo.  The woman said it will last a week and she was right!

We enjoyed the lovely picturesque scenes on our way to the flat.

It was a beautiful end to our first day in Sunny Hunny.

Where are we off to tomorrow, mum?  T asked.

Off to the Norfolk Lavender Farm.

Wait for it!

Eddie, The Premier Inn Teddy

* This IS NOT a sponsored post.

As mentioned in my previous post, we had a quick city break when my husband did a lecture in Bristol a few weekends ago.  We stayed over at the Premier Inn on King St which has the perfect location for us since it’s very central and most importantly close to The Old Duke, even though I didn’t really get a chance to drop by (we walked by it though), the husband did manage to join some of his colleagues after reading to T, for a pint or so.

The hotel wasn’t anything fantastic.  The room we had actually very basic.  The bed I thought was too small for the three of us, but luckily it actually was bigger than it really was.  We all had a lovely good sleep.  I jokingly looked for slippers and bathrobes and those little bottles of toiletries we all love to nick, but didn’t find any.

Like I mentioned, the room was just a place to sleep-in and when you’re there for just a night, what else would one need right?

The next morning, the man behind the desk kindly took our luggage for safe-keeping before we headed out and spent the whole day walking and mooching around Bristol.  T was absolutely knackered by the end of the day and tearful.  Truth to be told, the tears were not just because she was exhausted but we promised her a side-trip to Toys R Us, since she brought the contents of her piggy bank with her, hoping to buy a toy with it.  But we realised it was just out-of-the-way and we didn’t want to get stuck in the weekend traffic before driving all the way back to Cornwall.

Being little T (emotional and all), her tears silently fell all the way from Mackenzie cafe, over the bridge, and back to the hotel.  She sat on the armchair crestfallen with a tear-stained face.  The lovely woman behind the counter asked after her.  My husband explained the situation and when she came back from collecting our bags in the storage, she had something behind her back.

The kind Premier Inn staff asked T for her name.  She whispered it back, not even looking at the woman.  The next thing we knew, she was handling this big white teddy bear to T.  My husband and I were really surprised.

It’s lovely when staff go out of their way to make their customers feel really special, isn’t it?  While my husband and I weren’t impressed with the room, we said “Oh we’re definitely coming back to stay at this hotel!”  I’m just really annoyed with myself for not asking her name.

To the lady behind the counter at the Premier Inn in King Street, Bristol, thank you so much!  T named him Eddie.  We tried to convince her to name him Lennny, but she prefers Eddie.  He sleeps with her every night and is a very much-loved Teddy.  Thank you for being a lovely person.

To Premier Inn, I hope you cherish this employee of yours and treat her well, the way she treated us.

Have you planned your Summer Holiday?

I’m sure by now a lot of families out there have planned if not booked their summer holiday already.   If you’re one of those lucky/organised ones, well done, you guys.  When going abroad, we like to book ours well ahead of time too.  As you know, it’s cheaper that way.  Sadly, we haven’t done any bookings as I type this all because little T and I have to renew our passports, which we hope to get sorted out next week.

As for plans, oh we have loads of those!  After all, planning is free right?  At the moment, we have a few choices up our sleeves.  It’s nice to have alternatives, in case, the first one doesn’t pan out right? Here’s ours.

PLAN A: Spain-Portugal

Go on a road trip again.  The first time we ever went on a road-trip as a family, was when we drove all the way to a remote cabin in Scotland and absolutely loved it.  The second one was a road trip to France (with a day-trip to Belgium).  We stayed in a Eurocamp and did day-trips to Disneyland and Paris, as well as  trips around the beautiful French countryside.  Ah, that was bliss.

This time though, the plan is to drive to Plymouth to catch a ferry to Santander and drive all the way down the Spanish coast to Portugal – doesn’t that sound dreamy?

We love doing road-trips.  I guess one of the reasons is that you can stop anytime, especially if you see something that catches your attention.  It’s easy to just stop and roam around and experience the local culture without having to worry about your schedule too much.  And if that doesn’t work, there’s ….

PLAN B: Train-trip to Eastern Europe

Ever since reading “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kustova, I’ve longed to travel by train to Hungary and Romania and yes, visit Count Dracula’s castle in Bran.  I would love to watch the beautiful countryside/mountains of Eastern Europe.  When I mentioned this to my husband, I was pleased  to know that he’s always wanted to do it too.  But I’m wondering though whether T is too young to appreciate a trip like this one, though I’m sure she’ll enjoy travelling by train.  And then there’s …

PLAN C: Homegrown

This is the easiest and if I’m honest, the most feasible plan.  I have family from the States who might come over this summer and of course, it’s only right that we show them around the UK.

I’ve always wanted to explore Wales, since we’ve never really had the chance apart from staying in Hay-on-Wye and doing day-trips from Bristol.  A close friend who regularly camps in Wales has been inviting us to go with her, so this might just be our chance.

And of course, there’s still so much of the UK that I haven’t explored.  What better way to do it when you have guests right?

As you can see, our plans are still up in the air and I know that time is indeed running out, hopefully we’ll be able to finalize our plans soon.

What about you?

Have you booked your summer holiday?

*This is a sponsored post.

A Country Mouse in London

The last time we were in London was two years ago, when we watched The Snowman in December.  We used to go regularly, especially before T started school, but now that she’s in school, it can get a bit tricky to find the time to visit the capital.  This year though, we made it a point to go, it’s been far too long.

The Historian keeping T preoccupied while waiting for our train to London from Exeter.

It’s a two-hour journey from Exeter to London and when travelling with a young child, all parents know that you should come prepared with snacks and other paraphernalia to keep the young ones occupied and hopefully a whinge-less journey.

When T got tired of watching the world go by, she occupied herself with her Doodle a day Chris Riddell book.  When that bored her, she turned to the iPad.  To be fair though, she’s used to travelling and knows how to entertain herself without any complains.

We arrived early and so had time to have a little rest at the AirBnb where we were staying (sorry no photos).  It was a small studio flat that had everything you needed for a few days stay.  There was nothing fantastic about the place apart from the very central location.  This was precisely the reason why we chose it.  While I knew that it was a stone’s throw away from the British Museum, I wasn’t expecting it to be also a short distance to the theatre.  Was pleasantly surprised when it took less than ten minutes to get there.

And since we were doing good-time, we managed to have a long leisurely dinner at Belgos, one of our favourite restaurants in London.  If only they had a branch nearer to us.

Little T waiting for us to get seated.

After our meal, we still had loads of time to mooch around the Seven Dials.

And here’s little T doing a Matilda pose.

Matilda was fabulous.  T really enjoyed it.  We were lucky to be able to get tickets since we booked it really late, although we didn’t really have the luxury to choose our seats.

Woke up leisurely the next day and took our time to walk to the British Museum where T wanted to see the Egyptian mummies and where we were also meeting some close family friends for a catch-up.

I don’t even remember the last time we visited.  All I know is that, there wasn’t any security measures at all.  Now you’ll have to queue to go to a tent where they separate people who have bags so they can check before going in.  To be fair though, it was a fast-moving line, thank goodness for that.

I don’t know exactly when T became interested in Egyptian mummies.  All I know is that at a very young age, she used to like looking at her dad’s old National Geographic issues especially the ones with Egyptian mummies.  We promised her that the next time we’re in London, we’d take her to see them.

The Historian and I, took turns on taking her around while the others had a chance to talk and catch-up.  She was one happy bunny.

After reluctantly saying goodbye to our friends, it was time to catch the train back to the sticks where we live. The country mice were home sweet home.  While I do miss city life, it’s nice to come back home to our quiet little bubble in small hill cottage.