Archives for category: Travel
A hot air balloon near Bournemouth beach

A hot air balloon near Bournemouth beach

The past 12 months have been fairly busy for me; I switched flats, got engaged, passed my driving test and started a new job. As well as these milestones, the highlights of the year for me were watching the Winter Olympics in February, visiting Norway in May, and continuing to be inspired by so many things, from window worshipping in Kent, to viewing incredible war art for the centenary, getting creative with my face, and nomadic felines on film.

I’m not sure what 2015 will bring, and I haven’t made any plans so far, but I hope to up my blog posts and go on a few more adventures.

Thank you to everyone who reads my blog. I appreciate the comments and follows so much. Have a great 2015 x

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This was the first leg of my trip to Norway, which began in Southampton, England. It was a very hot, sunny day and I took full advantage by lazing on a lounger on the deck as we set sail on our Scandinavian adventure.

After taking some photographs and admiring the Isle of Wight in the distance, I settled down to read The Big Sleep before making like an old lady with a game of shuffleboard and a gin and tonic. Bon voyage!

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On my recent trip to Norway, I travelled by boat from the UK, meaning I spent a period of time in the middle of the North Sea. It felt quite surreal but was incredibly freeing, and the sunsets were very nice indeed. The experience only heightened my love of the ocean, and being completely surrounded by the deep blue was quite emotional at times. I became almost hypnotised by the smooth ripples of water and the sight of this image above takes me straight back.

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I’m so happy to be writing a travel post again, especially one on a country I have wanted to visit for a long time: Norway, land of fjords, lakes and snow-capped mountains, and the most beautiful country I have seen so far, the town of Olden in particular. From above Olden literally looked like a model village, to the point that I thought it was some kind of mirage. Lush green trees crept up the hillsides dotted with colourful wooden houses, with great waterfalls speeding down the mountains.

On the way to the glacier trail I photographed a large turquoise-hued lake that I could have sat next to at all day. I really wanted to find a rowing boat and get out on the water.

I then hiked for 45 minutes uphill past waterfalls, goats and grass-roofed huts to Briksdal glacier. It was my first time seeing a glacier, and it was an impressive sight; they really do look blue close up. At the bottom of the glacier was a small turquoise lake, which looked beautiful next to the rugged landscape, although alarmingly a man who has lived in the town since 1998 informed us that when he arrived in Olden, there was no lake.

An equally pretty place was the small town of Eidfjord, with the opportunity for kayaking and of course more hiking.

The Norwegian landscape was everything I imagined it to be and more, like the Scottish Highlands but even more rugged, with higher mountains and clearer lakes.

I hope you enjoy the photographs.

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Grey light shone down on my Bay, fine mist lingering over the ocean, marrying sky and sea.

Golden sand edged with pastel-hued beach huts that decorate chalky white cliffs.

Buildings on two tiers protect the cove, their windows watching.

Tiny figures dot the sand as they walk and talk, and be.

My art and travel calendar picks for 2014.

All calendars are available from Amazon.

The Art Deco Imperial Hotel in Prague was built between 1913 and 1914 by architect Jaroslav Benedikt. The hotel became very popular until German soldiers also took a liking to it during WW2. After the War, however, it regained its popularity amongst nationals and tourists.

As well as Art Deco, The Imperial has Art Nouveau elements inside, which is synonymous with Prague, for example, mosaic work in the entry. Whilst the entrance is rather beautiful, the same cannot be said for the exterior of the building, which is very grey and dare I say it, a bit ugly. It is, however, a listed building, thanks to its age and history. The hotel was recently restored six years ago and remains true to its heritage.

The lobby and hallways are quite decadent, and have decorative touches, such as gold edging on wall corners, and harlequin mirrors. The hotel boasts high ceilings and heavy wooden doors, which look fantastic, but in reality were irritating when other guests let them go, causing a noisy bang.

I slept in the Deluxe Room (cheapest option) which was very relaxing and quite elegant. The bed was grand and comfortable, with giant pillows. I particularly liked the Deco furniture and the art work. There was perhaps a little too much gilt, but overall it worked well with the style.

The bathroom was lovely but had an issue: the bath, whilst huge and comfortable (it had a built-in bath pillow), was very high and climbing in and out of it to use the adjoined shower was quite perilous at times, especially as I slipped once on the way out.

Staff were friendly and polite, although I didn’t require a lot of help, other than to inquire about the bus back to the airport. I didn’t eat in the restaurant, although I wish I had; the food I ate in other establishments was less than satisfactory.

Overall I enjoyed my stay and would return were I to visit Prague in future. For a five-star hotel, however, I would have liked some more complementary items, such as free mineral water, in-room wi-fi (the hotel lists free wi-fi, but there is no free wi-fi access in your room), a larger selection of tea and coffee options, and a re-labelling of their television channels (some of the few English-speaking channels were missing).

Despite this, the hotel is good value for money and in a decent location. It was generally quiet (I stayed during the week) and I slept very well. The room was relaxing and comfortable, as well as stylish, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a base to explore Prague.

NB Be aware that hotels in Prague require you to pay a tax to the city (about £4) when checking out, on top of your bill.

http://www.hotel-imperial.cz/

Prague, city of crystal and marionettes, city of grandiose, intricate architecture and questionable food. How you tore me with your heavenly spires and your plentiful con merchants. How you wore me down with your perpetual cigarette fog and built me back up with your awe-inspiring statues.

The Czech capital is an architectural feast of Gothic, Renaissance, Cubist, Art Nouveau and Baroque delicacies. Despite the graffiti scars, you cannot fail to be impressed with the array of styles, colours and materials. The centre of Prague is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with good reason.

One of my favourite buildings was St Vitus Cathedral, which is situated in the Prague Castle complex. It is a stunning, gothic creation, complete with gargoyles and colourful stained glass windows. St Vitus was finished in 1929, nearly 600 years after building commenced. The front and back of the cathedral are therefore quite different in appearance; the back is equally impressive, resplendent with gold details and painted stone. It is a working cathedral, holding regular Catholic mass.

Possibly the most famous landmark in Prague is Charles Bridge, which straddles the Vltava River and was named for King Charles IV in the 15th century. It is flanked by three gothic bridge towers and is lined with saints. Disappointingly, the Baroque statues are replicas of the originals from the early 18th century, however, these are currently housed in museums.

Another of Prague’s most popular attractions is the Astronomical Clock, located in the Old Town Square, dating back to the late 13th century. It features two large faces, one of which is a calendar, incorporating signs of the zodiac. Every hour on the hour the clock strikes in to action, with several figures, including a representation of Death, moving mechanically. The clock itself is beautiful and complex but if you’re expecting a performance you’ll be clock-watching for a long time.

The Christmas markets, situated in the Old Town and Wenceslas Square, were nice enough but there was a lot of repetition. Although, the markets were missing one interesting sight due to the earliness of the month: live carp, which is traditional Czech Christmas Day fare, rather than the typical turkey.

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Winter is definitely the season to view Prague – the city was filled with festive cheer and plenty of Christmas trees and lights. It wasn’t too cold, despite advice to the contrary, and Prague doesn’t see a lot of rain. Visiting in winter means you also avoid the inevitable stag and hen parties.

Prague is a beautiful city with an interesting history. It is this beauty and history that draws tourists from all over the world – to marvel at its architecture, to trace ancestry, and to immerse themselves in the past. It is a city that knows only too well that this is more than enough to keep tourism alive. The drawbacks – an abundance of beggars, poor signage, graffiti and foul-smelling drains – do somewhat mar the experience.

Despite the prevalence of Art Nouveau in Prague, I chose to stay in an Art Deco hotel, more of which tomorrow.

Recently I visited Torquay and Sidmouth in Devon. I was missing the coast badly but I think I got my fix.

Torquay is part of the English Riviera, and is probably best known as the setting for the sitcom Fawlty Towers and as the birthplace of Agatha Christie. It has a mild climate compared to much of the UK – palm trees are able to flourish here.

The coastline in Sidmouth is known as the Jurassic Coast (145-200 million years old) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covering 95 miles. (It also covers Triassic (200-250 million years) and Cretaceous (65 – 145 million years)). It is like nowhere else I have visited and is a truly amazing sight.

Whilst in Sidmouth I visited a donkey sanctuary and had a really nice day there. It was lovely to see the donkeys being cared for, especially after many of them had endured suffering. It is a very worthwhile charity (I have linked below), which also partners with the Elisabeth Svendsen Trust (founder of the sanctuary), to provide donkey-assisted therapy for disabled children.

I also visited a museum in Devon, which I will detail later this week.

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http://jurassiccoast.org/

http://www.thedonkeysancuary.org.uk

Brooklands: The Birthplace of British Motorsport and Aviation

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Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey, encompasses various aviation and motoring exhibits, including a London Bus Museum.

It is probably best known for motor racing and features the first purpose-built motor racing circuit in the world, holding its first official race in July 1907. Unfortunately, the First World War put a stop to racing in 1914. After the war racing re-commenced but was halted yet again due to WW2. The last ever race was held in August 1939.

I have chosen to focus more on the aviation side of the Museum, in particular Concorde.

Brooklands designed, constructed and tested aircraft from the early 1900s and from 1910 was a training centre for pilots. The art deco ‘Aero Clubhouse’, designed by airport architect Graham Dawbarn, opened in 1932 (sadly I did not photograph this). In 1986 Brooklands closed its aviation factory.

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{Delta Golf, with the Sultan of Oman’s VC-10 from the 1970s in the background}

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Concorde G-BBDG (Delta Golf) 1974
-Only 20 Concorde planes were made, mainly flown by British Airways and Air France. Flights between London or Paris and New York (primary routes) took less than half the time of a regular jet.

-Delta Golf was the first aircraft in the world to fly 100 people at Mach 2 – twice the speed of sound at 1350 mph (2150 kph).

-The windows are very small – this was for safety reasons. Once in the air, the aluminium fuselage expanded by eight inches in length, so you may have found that your window had moved after take-off!

-The Flight Deck, fuselage sections and the tailfin of every Concorde were manufactured at Brooklands.

-Concorde ended flights in 2003 after nearly 27 years of commercial service. This was mainly due to costs.

Being on Concorde wasn’t nearly as glamorous as I had envisioned. It isn’t very spacious inside and compared to images of first class seating – or cabins even – for airlines nowadays such as Emirates, the interior was rather plain.

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{Bedroom inside the Sultan’s VC-10. I think the teddy was part of a treasure hunt at the Museum}

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{Seating area inside VC-10}

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{An aubergine-coloured Mercedes, which appealed to me. Not sure if it belongs to the Museum but it was parked up in the grounds}

Entry to Brooklands Museum costs £10 for an adult. Tickets for Concorde are an additional £4
The Museum is open daily from 10am

http://www.brooklandsmuseum.com/