Lille was our last European holiday before I got too pregnant to travel. I wanted somewhere not too far, and this was the first stop on the Eurostar! A beautiful little taste of France was just what the Doctor ordered.
Lille has a lovely old-town, designed for strolling, as well as beautiful large squares. Perhaps best known is the Grand Place, great for meeting, eating, and home of Furet du Nord, apparently the biggest bookshop in Europe. Continue reading
Ghent is the reluctant jewel of Europe. It surprised me by being both chock-full of beautiful architecture, but also being a working city with restaurants, shops etc. Unlike Bruges which is stunning but very touristy, Ghent feels like a “real” city as well as being gorgeous.
My favourite part of Ghent was the Graslei waterfront, full of restaurants and a magnet for people sitting on the steps enjoying a waffle or ice cream watching the river traffic. Continue reading
One day we did a day-trip from Bruges, taking a vintage paddle steamer out to the tiny quaint village of Damme. It was a little tricky to find – we took a bus to outer Bruges and walked through the suburbs to the canal and the waiting paddle-steamer. See directions below.
In sunny weather this would be a pleasant shady trip down the waterways, but otherwise it was a little chilly. It was nice to sit and watch the world go by, but there wasn’t much in the way of scenic views, apart from farmland, a few houses, and a windmill as we arrived in Damme. Continue reading
Bruges is famously one of the most beautiful towns in Europe – and as soon as we arrived, we could see why.
Bruges has canals and rivers a-plenty, criss-crossed by tiny bridges, church spires, and chocolate-box shops selling, appropriately, chocolate boxes. Continue reading
We wanted to have a short break in North Devon and opted for Westward Ho! I’ll be honest – I have avoided this in the past as who has an exclamation mark in their name?! It seemed faintly ridiculous, but to Westward Ho! we went. And Wow! We loved Westward Ho! A beach of endless sand, a simple seaside holiday with fish and chips and ice cream – it was just when we needed.
The beach itself was the piece de resistance – at low tide it stretched on, beautiful flat sand. I couldn’t believe we were in the UK – it seemed more like New Zealand! Continue reading
Portsmouth is a harbour city in Southern England. My Mum had been saying for a while that she wanted to go because of the historic dockyard. I quite fancied being in the sunny south coast with a nice waterfront and Dubai-like sail, while watching the ships pass by. And it was a breath of fresh air.
The Historic Dockyard is quite something. There are various old boats to see, including the Mary Rose, Henry the Eighth’s boat which sank in 1545, saw preserved in silt at the bottom of the harbour for 437 years (Yes, 437 years!!) before being dredged up in 1982. It is just like the Vasa in Stockholm, Sweden, which was on the sea-bed for around 300 years and is perfectly preserved. There are also ships like the HMS Victory which was Nelson’s ship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and the HMS Warrior from 1860 which was heavily armoured so no-one dared attack it and it never engaged in battle. Note: tickets are expensive and confusing – see the travel tips section at the bottom of this page. Continue reading
One day we had a jaunt out to Leith on the bus. The main attraction was to see the Royal Yacht Britannia – aka The Queen’s Boat, until it was decommissioned in 1997. There are now self-guided tours so you get to look round the whole thing, from living room to engine room!
It was fascinating to see how the Queen and the Royal Family lived on the boat – what decor they chose. It was also really interesting to see “below deck” – how the crew lived. It was an enormous operation to keep the Royal household running smoothly. Continue reading
We went to Edinburgh for a proper Scottish wedding with kilts and highland dances! We decided to spend a couple of days sightseeing afterwards. I must admit that my expectations were fairly low – I had expected rain, greyness and a less than exciting British town. however I was pleasantly surprised – it was a lovely place, really pretty, with loads of history, good food, and it felt really safe.
The Old Town revolves around the Royal Mile – the long cobbled street leading up to the famous Edinburgh castle. The castle is an imposing structure which can be seen all over the city. Continue reading
Geneva was a surprise trip, as I went for work. I spent most of the time in meetings but I made the most of the free time I had to sight-see.
I was delighted to see the famous Jet D’Eau (Jet of Water) as this wasn’t turned on the last time I went. We only had an hour spare, so me and a colleague hopped on a bus and went into the centre to see this famous fountain. After a lovely 10 minutes standing in the sun admiring it, we had to leave again – but it was totally worth it! Continue reading
As any traveller will know, some places surpass expectations and blow your mind. Others sadly disappoint and leave you feeling underwhelmed and fed up. For those places – at least you found out first-hand! Here are a run-down of the places which Underwhelmed me, and the places which Overwhelmed me. (and 10 points to anyone who got the
fairly obvious Wombles reference!)
Places which Underwhelmed me Compared to my Expectations
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia: I was led to believe this would be an underwater paradise, with brightly coloured fish and a kaleidoscope of corals. Continue reading