A Travellerspoint blog

One last stint in Mother England

Adventures in the Cotswolds, Cambridge and Wells-next-the-sea

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Our final stint in Mother England was spent traipsing over the countryside to both Wells-next-the-sea and the Cotswolds, using chez Witheford in Cambridge as a handy base yet again.

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The gorgeous niece in fine form

First up was a weekend of family fun with both of my UK-based sisters Chloe and Chazz, their blokes; Aidan and Simon and the sprog; Izzie. Wells-next-the-sea, so I’m told is a summer retreat for the well-heeled locals, but visiting in late November sun was in short supply. Undeterred, we focused our energies on sampling the local fish n chips and learning the difference between a roast pork and gammon.

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Is it Roast Pork or Surprise Roast Gammon?
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Family fun time - who is the random?
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Pheasants!
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Izzie plots her escape
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Beach shacks in Wells

Next was another reunion with pommy pals, Jared and Marie whom we met on a big boat in the depths of Chile’s fjords back in March ‘13. Eager to pretend that they too, were still on their excessively long holiday, they chucked us in the car and took us on a tour of England’s famed Cotswolds.

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The Cotswolds are characterised by rolling green hills, ‘quaint’ on steroids, a smattering of dodgy masonry and an excess supply of scones (if that were possible). It’s also the go-to for filmmakers to get that legit ‘old-England’ backdrop – think Bridget Jones, Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey.

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The famous Arlington Row in Bibury
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Bourton on the water
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How about those undulating green hills?
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Shakespeare grew up here, Stratford-upon-avon
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Moo

Jared and Marie did a top job in playing tour guides in the Cotswolds, giving us an intrinsically English experience. This namely involved utilising their innate abilities to hunt down a stellar scone or top-notch pub. Bravo guys, bravo.

Here is a little time-lapse of one zealous Brit dressing his Xmas tree (I think records will show Jared's was the first erected in Britain for 2013).

Before we knew it, we were back in London doing some strategic packing (for almost the last time) and about to head back home to Aoeteroa for a heavy-hitting schedule of five weddings in one month – a true test of endurance partying. Were we up to the task? Hopefully you won’t have to wait 3 months for the tardy blog post to appear so you can find out!

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Dinner with London-based pals
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The Jackson girls reunite with surrogate sis, Philippa

Turrah Mother England, Kia Ora Aoeteroa!

But before we go - a vid of the UK travels:

Posted by ladiesofleisure 00:16 Archived in England Tagged england autumn cambridge uk cotswolds wells-next-the-sea Comments (1)

Scotland. It really is lovely in Summer

Touring the Scottish Highlands with a token Scotsman

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Way back at the start of our travels, we embarked on a four-day boat trip through Southern Chile’s fjords. Amongst our fellow passengers was a gent named Ed from Edinburgh. We would later learn that upon first laying eyes on us waiting to board the ship, Ed thought we looked incredibly dull, namely because Hayley was knitting at the time. Little does Ed know that knitting is well and truly back in vogue.

Despite first impressions, Ed looked past his initial trepidation and a friendship was formed. So much so, that eight months down the track Hayley and I were en route to Edinburgh to see Ed in his natural, rainy habitat.

Itching to show us an authentic Scottish experience Ed greeted us in a kilt, although the inclement conditions proved a little severe to stay entirely true to the authentic dress.

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The next day we embarked on a four-day exploration of the Scottish highlands in search of ginger-haired locals, highland cows and some elusive sunshine.

We made our way west to William Wallace’s stomping ground where Hayley couldn’t stop banging on about people never taking her freedom.
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The very impressive monument for William Wallace in Sterling

We passed by Loch Lomond en route to our destination for the first night, Oban. Oban is a lovely seaside town, which saw us sample some fabulous fish n chips that could rival NZ’s finest, followed by some traditional Céilidh (pronounced Kay-lee) dancing. Ed was forced to dance overtime as he whisked us ladies around with his smooth Scottish moves. Hilarious.
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Oban
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Ed is dancing so fast here - you can only see a blur

The next day saw us venture north to Isle of Skye. “Its really quite lovely in Summer”, became a popular refrain as we traversed through Scotland’s Lochs and Glens in the near-constant precipitation. But despite the unfavourable conditions, we were quite simply wowed by the stunning landscapes, quaint towns and gorgeous autumnal colours.
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Lochs and Glens
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Great day for a stroll
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A highland cow (pronounced 'coo') in all its hairy slendour
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Glen Coe
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Harry Potter fans might recognise this bridge
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Trying in vain to stay out of the rain

Ed is a bit of 007 fan and took an educated guess on where some "Skyfall" scenes were shot. We tried to recreate one here (Ed is James Bond and I'm M). Realise this could do with some work.

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Oh dear.

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We didn't take this one

Late that arvo we traversed the seas to sail to Skye where strangely enough we stayed at a hostel run by a Venezuelan causing Ed to subconsciously switch to Español like he had never left the continent.
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Sailing to Skye

Next stop was Aviemore via Loch Ness. Despite promises made, Nessie the Loch Ness monster failed to show her face that day so we had to settle for a glass-blown version instead that will hang on next year's christmas tree.
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Loch Ness
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Token jump shot high on the hills behind Loch Ness
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A hungry sheep

For the final stretch of the journey we were joined by Ed's pal, Mhairie for the final leg home back to Edinburgh.

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A night out at one of Aviemore's finest establishments proved too much for Mhairie
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This place was lovely but I've forgotten what it was called
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It is pretty damn nice when the sun comes out, I must admit
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Team shot
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Skiing, Scotland styles

Thanks our chauffer and wonderful guide Ed, whose Scottish ‘facts’ were somewhat questionable, but more than made up for by the entertainment value. Bravo, Ed, bravo!

Thankfully, we did manage to squeeze in a few of Edinburgh's highlights too:
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Atop Arthur's seat
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Edinburgh Castle
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Irn Bru - Scotland's national fizz

With that our whirlwind tour of Scotland was over and we vowed to return again, maybe next time in summer.

Posted by ladiesofleisure 18:53 Archived in Scotland Tagged oban scotland loch loch_lomond highlands loch_ness aviemore highland_cows loch_ness_monster Comments (2)

Death by Fromage

Southern France at the family Bach

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We had decided to go and meet up with the Withefords down in the family bach in Lege-Cap-Feret (Southern France). This meant traipsing across Europe in a very circuitous manner in order to save the ever dwindling supply of moolah. Fortunately for us, this meant we flew from Croatia to Belgium where we could stock up on Chocolate and Speculoos along with a very overdue catch up with an old Belgian friend whom we had met 7 years ago whilst travelling Asia. Even with the newest member of their family barely out of the womb, both Mien and Michel were amazingly hospitable for our flying visit to the nations capital.

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The gorgeous León whom we were keeping up far past his bedtime

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Reliving old travel memories and marvelling at how much our lives have changed

The following day saw us hurtling the length of France at an amazing rate of knots on the fast train. It really is amazing how quickly those things travel while feeling like they are hardly moving at all.

We arrived to the family bach ready for a week of relaxation. Little did we know that Chazzy had organised a week of punishing pilates classes. Also due to the copious amounts of fromage and baguette being consumed on a daily basis, we both decided it was about time we started to burn of a small portion of the excess calories we were consuming. Thus, we decided to stretch the legs and go on a few runs. Crazy indeed. But there was a lot of time for relaxation and playtime with our newest niece. Although heading into winter, the weather was quite pleasant for the most part during our week here so beach strolls and bush walks were just the ticket.

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First of many cheese feasts

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Anyone would think we were not feeding the child enough

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really shovelling it in there

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Mmmm sandy face

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Checking for nits and plaque
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Quality Aunty time
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A wonderful week was had by all which was only marred by the little crash we had en route to the airport. It was a minor annoyance and we were not in the wrong, but it led to quite the rush at the airport as we spent an extra hour going through the formalities of post-accident admin…in the universal language of sharades. Despite none of the 9 members of the fire, ambulance or police departments speaking any English, we were assisted by a very friendly bi-lingual local who stopped and helped translate for us. Thankfully we all came out unharmed.

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Our unscheduled stop en route to the airport - despite what it looks like, Izzie didn't suffer from whip lash

We are playing catchup now from the warmth of a good kiwi summer, but before we get to that some more tales of England and the Scottish highlands are just around the corner.

Posted by ladiesofleisure 03:02 Archived in France Tagged beach france belgium bordeaux lege_cap_feret Comments (0)

Hrvatska (Croatian for Croatia. Yep)

Croatia - Zagreb and Zadar

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Over the years we had heard of all our friends sailing around Croatia. Of course we wanted to jump on the bandwagon as by all accounts it is stunning. Unfortunately Autumn is not the best time to do this. It was cold and not really an option for us on this visit. We decided however that we were still interested in having a look around.

First stop was the capital Zagreb. We had a few days here and managed to tick off a few of the highlights.

We strolled around the old city and stopped off for a look at the Zagreb Cathedral. It was a very impressive structure but unfortunately there was scaffolding up one of the spires which really does take away from the view. We would love to come back to see the building without this around the outside.

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There were also a few other old buildings and churches scattered around the place.

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St Marks church - built in the 13th century

Even though there are many museums situated around the city, the only museum visited was the museum of broken relationships. It is here you can find a collection of knicks and knacks contributed by various people around the world who have had their hearts broken. The range of momentos was vast including fluffy handcuffs, wedding dresses and a frisbee providing plenty of entertainment at the expense of others woe.

For our second day in Zagreb, it turned out to be dia de los muertos - day of the dead. In Croatia, this means that everything closes down for the day in order for the living to go to the cemetery to visit their loved ones who have moved onto greener pastures. We had already contemplated visiting the cemetery as we had heard that it was quite scenic. With everything else closed, it seemed that this was the only option available to us. So off we went to the cemetery along with the other 780,000 members of Zagreb population to visit the graveyard and eat bbq chestnuts. It was quite moving and very picturesque (the cemetery, not the chestnuts - blegh) .

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Grand entrance to a grand cemetery

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People still remembering the victims of WW1

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Government commissioned graffiti wall

Next on the itinerary was the seaside town of Zadar - apparently lovely in the summer!

Upon arrival we were greeted by rain which was not a great sign but never the less, we made the most of our time and enjoyed more of the sights on offer without the fun of swimming.

We did go down to the old town to have a look at the sea organ. This engineering marvel plays delightful organ music as the water rushes in and out. really quite soothing but would be a nightmare if you lived next door. Was a nice way to watch the sun set though.

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Also in the vicinity was a sun disk which lights up as the sun sets.

A few more ruins to see along the way and some fabulous fresh seafood lead to a very happy Spam.

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Croatia was a lovely country and it is great to see where it has come from since the end of the very recent Yugoslav wars, but to be honest, this country which is steeped in history and recent turmoil, but perhaps it is not as exotic if not sailing around the cerulean waters of the Adriatic. It was a very enjoyable time however and we will come back one day, just in the summer next time.

We leave you with this video which is an amalgamation of our time in Eastern Europe - including Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia.

Next stop was a week in Southern France with the Withefords. Bring on the cheese and baguette.

Posted by ladiesofleisure 15:09 Archived in Croatia Tagged zadar croatia zagreb st_marks museum_of_broken_relationships did_de_los_muertos Comments (1)

Ljubly Jubly

Ljubljana and Lake Bled for some intense marathon viewing

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A few months back Hayley and I were sitting in our hostel in Cusco, Peru and we struck up a conversation with a friendly Slovenian gal over breakfast. She told of a beautiful country off the beaten track and that few people visit. By the time we had finished our brekkie – we had decided a visit to Slovenia was in order.

Back in the Northern Hemisphere and being treated to our second autumn this year, we took a train from Budapest through the Hungarian countryside to Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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We shared a cabin with some old Hungarian ladies who spoke as much English as we spoke Hungarian so we talked at each other for a few hours, they pointed out all the hotspots and we happily ate their grapes.

10 short hours later we were at our final destination. We were meeting up with our pals Nic and George who were in town for Ljubljana’s half marathon. We happily assumed the cheerleader roles and congratulated ourselves on having dodged a bullet by not signing up for the run.

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Nic and George pre-21km jog
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George cantering to the finish line

We planned to head up the road to the picturesque Lake Bled for a couple of slow days taking in the sights.

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Lake Bled
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Strolling around the lake
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We visited Vintgar Gorge. True to form it was gorgeous
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Your typical autumnal processes underway here
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Don't fall in - its glacial
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Boats on Bohinj Lake
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Hows that serenity
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G - not easily impressed

Having bade farewell to our athletic amigos, Hayley and I headed back to Ljubljana to have a better look around. It is a small city with a your stereotypical cosy old town at the foot of a castle on a hill. How quaint!

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Ljubljana's famed Dragon Bridge
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There's plenty of these frightening statues around
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Pretty Saint Nick's
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Becoming fast friends with the borek and miscellaneous meats

Having had some great experiences on walking tours on our travels we signed up again to get the local’s take on Ljubljana which was well worth braving the cold for. Perhaps the most interesting part was hearing the Slovenians’ account of warring with its neighbours in the backdrop of the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 90’s. Slovenia fared somewhat better than most of the nations involved but is certainly struggling on the economic front – and may well need a bailout from the EU in the not too distant future.

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Despite what it looks like we did really enjoy the walking tour
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Delicious food - was it horse? Maybe
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It's soup in a bowl made out of bread!
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Yes, we did eat particularly well

Political and economical woes aside, Slovenia has a lot to offer the humble tourist – beautiful landscapes, great food, a good dollop of history and some of the friendliest folk we had come across in Europe. Thanks Slovenia, you've been all we wished for and more.

Posted by ladiesofleisure 12:21 Archived in Slovenia Tagged autumn castle ljubljana lake_bled dragon_bridge vintgar_gorge Comments (1)

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