Ever feel like you want to go somewhere or do something fun, but you have no definitely plan or place in mind? Maybe just hop into your car and choose a little road that you haven't explored before.
That is exactly what we did one afternoon, and ended up seeing a collection of fascinating things and places, beautiful views and a had some nice ice creams too!
First we spotted a steam engine - and believe me that made our little boy very excited (the road followed the tracks for a while and we also found the station for this train)
Then we spotted this - a search later confirmed that the 56ft obelisk is a memorial for a local landowner in the village of Bilsington in Kent (and right close to it there is also a 13th century church St Peter and St Paul
Pretty, old churches are everywhere, such as this St Michael & All Angels in Kingsnorth and the most charming little cottage next to it (photo below)
Tagged with: England, Kent, countryside, Sightseeing, fun with kids
When we lived in California we loved the Safari West visit we did in the wine country, and thought that we should check out the local offerings for wild animals parks. I found out that the Aspinall Foundation has two parks nearby - Port Lympne and Howletts, and the first destination for us was Port Lympne by the seaside. There is no single ticket, but an annual one, so we chose tickets that cover both parks as the price difference wasn't much - therefore a Howletts visit will be going into the calendar also.
The setting of the park is beautiful - forests full of bluebells this time of the year, fields - or rather they have been made to reminiscence savanna. You see Rhinos grazing under blooming English trees. Very pretty, but a bit surreal at the same time! And it was so heartwarming to see my twins for once not fighting, but enjoiyng the place together, walking hand in hand.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the manor inside the park as I am huge fan of pretty houses and gardens. One cannot visit the house (but it can be hired for functions) but parts of the garden - including a fun maze were open to the public.
The park has a couple of routes to enjoy - walking loops and a safari ride (but be prepared to queue about an half and hour for the latter).Some of the pros of the park are the large enclosures for the animals, but it als becomes a con as it's hard to find many of them. The facilities are also good, and there are a few strategically positions playgrounds also, where kids can play and parents can recharge their batteries with a cup of coffee or food.
I asked our kids what they thought of the place and the feedback was good. The favourite animals were all different kind of monkeys, the playgrounds and the ice cream! There were no complaints despite us walking around some two good hours (but they all fell asleep in the car so it was good exercise clearly for them) and mom got to enjoy some gardens and pretty scenery too. So a great day (weather-wise also) and we'll be back later on this summer as we now have annual passes.
Tagged with: England, Days Out, Kent, fun with kids, Safari Park, Port Lympne, Hythe
Oh the feeling of a beach - the sound of waves crashing, often chorus of seagulls on the background, wind, sun... And the water of course: I love the sea in shades of turquoise and green, light blue - not so much when it's grey and angry.
Today we had the first sight of the year of a British beach. It wasn't very warm and the water was low (but the colour was lovely), although the tide starting turning and we got to admire the waves crashing and creeping up the shore. But it was still a great experience and made the mind so serene. That was our first beach walk of the spring in New Romney, Kent and we loved it!
Quintessentially English - colourful beach huts
Ok so where's the water..?
Beach so clean and pretty
We love beachcombing, but there were just too many sea shells everywhere!
And it wasn't train spotting but house spotting that made me pick this beach. I just had to see this beautiful tower, which actually is a private home (with a lot of stairs if I may add)
National Trust is relaunching today, May 2nd, their "50 Things to do Before you are 11 3/4 -booklet" for children. Our kids (and especially Miss A. who already has turned eight) have been working hard on their old booklets and loved doing so - and I can reveal that the new book will be even more fun as we've had a sneak peak on it.
This new booklet, titled, "My Adventure Scrapbook" has had 15 new fun activities added to it, it contains better instructions on how to complete tasks, and there is more space to record the tasks. Also the rewards stickers are nicer, and more importantly I hope that they will distribute them with instructions to all properties as we had sometimes hard time collecting those completion stickers when we were out and about in different NT properties.
I also like the new regional summary sheets they have done: this sheets tells you all the National Trust properties in your area and what tasks you can complete there: either independently or by joining their organised events. And since this is the digital age, the National Trust also has a website where one can log all adventures as well as unlock additional secret challenges.
That said, I certainly hope that more parents will find out about this fun programme and encourage their kids to join in with the fun: discover these fabulous properties, learn about the history of the places, complete some fun tasks and while doing and as an additional benefit they'll spend more time outdoors too. I think it's obvious from previous posts that I am a huge fan of National Trust and other historic houses and gardens, and very happy that my children seem to share the same joy of exploring them! Now are you ready to introduce this fun programme to your children or someone you know?
A sneak peek into the look and feel of the relaunched 50 Things to Do -programme. We got the "recipe" for mud pies so that's going to be on our agenda this weekend. First one for this mom also, maybe I'll earn a sticker too!
Our little Miss C. got cracking with task no 41 - Plant it, grow it, eat it. Let's hope we'll have something to eat in a couple of months time!
First batch of seeds planted and time to water them. Guess who was enjoying this task tremendously. And tomorrow is the turn for Mr H. to plant some peas in his garden area...
Tagged with: planting, Fun Stuff, grow your own, national trust, kids in the garden, 50 things to do campaign
A road less travelled, aka the back road lead us to a little National Trust property called Old Soar Manor in Plaxtol, Kent (UK). There isn't that much to see in terms of size - just a few rooms and no gardens at all, but there is more historic value than anything else. This fortified manor house is over 700 years old and was established as a knight's dwelling around 1290 - so much history hidden away there!
Oddly enough (to me at least) this house is attached to another house which is in normal use. Sometimes its hard to comprehend how these places have been constructed over time together even thought there at least hasn't been a lack of space out in the open. Old Soar Manor ia free to enter and a perfetc pit-stop: it won't take long to discover, but dark interiors and uneven surfaces and low ceilings makes it a lot of fun for the children also. And there is always the 50 things to do -booklet activities to try to such as jumping in leaves and throwing them around...
Tagged with: England, Kent, historic house, national trust, Old Soar Manor, knight's home
Some of us are lucky in terms of having a lovely estate to go to for walks almost in the back garden. Today I had a walk in the grounds of the lovely Knole Park with a friend, enjoying the scenery, deers grazing peacefully, birds singing - it was so beautiful, especially when the sun came up too. To make it even better we had a lovely cream tea in the tea room garden afterwards, and a quick walk around the Knole House, which is a National Trust property in Sevenoaks, Kent (I've written before about Sevenoaks too, and here's the link to that post).
The house wasn't open yet, so I took a look at the exteriors and enjoyed the pretty little details - and there are so many starting from something so very mundane as the gutters (that just were so elaborate). Sometimes it's so easy to forget to enjoy the little things in life and just look at the big picture but this morning it was all about "them pretty little details". My favourite parts of the Knole House include the lights, gutters (yes!), doors, windows, courtyards, statues, those cute towers... just pretty much every detail one can spot!
Tagged with: castle, walks, Kent, Knole Park, national trust, Sevenoaks
Fun house hunting - does that exist? Yes, it does, but sadly it applies normally to situations when you aren't really house hunting, but rather browsing and looking for cool houses in nice locations. I've been looking lately inspiration and possible new home site and come across this lovely and inspiration collection from an old historic abbey to towers straight out of Persian fairy tales. Which one would you prefer to live in?
A fabulous old abbey with ruins of another abbey also
This one looks like from 1001 nights
A real beauty with lovely grounds
A great mansion with plenty of outbuildings
Oh so romantic style!
Pretty in white
A more rustic style with rose gardens around it
This one looks like from a fairytale
Sometimes little places can provide big surprises - like the village of Lingfield in Surrey, England. We had set to meet some friends at the local pub, The Star, for a Sunday lunch - and since we were early decided to go for a walk first. And were we surprised to find this beautiful old village centre full of enchanting buildings and a church? You bet!
The old conservation area starts conveniently opposite to the pub and is well marked. Typical to old town plans it is built around the church and its grounds (where we found lots of local youth hanging around too). You can see old, beautifully restored buildings at their best: beams, cute little doors, so much character everywhere! And then it was nice to try out the local pub food, although we were a bit disappointed at the roast quality and the service was slow - then again it gave us good three hours to catch up with our friends.
The interior of The Star was cute though, and they have a nice fenced patio and play area for the kids with the additional bonus of a horse next door that likes kids to feed him. So all in all the experience was great, especially as the desserts were very tasty (and sizable)! Note that the Star also has a few rooms in a separate rustic old coach house type of building, which just looks adorable!
Tagged with: church, surrey, England, walking tours, fun with kids, Lingfield village, The Star, pub lunch, historic villages
I have always wondered if these old and wonky-looking houses were like that from the inside too, and at least this was really was: floors going up and down, lots of low beams and charm. We picked a little different kind of destination today: Smallhythe Place (also a National Trust property) - a 16th-century cottage that actress Ellen Terry purchased in 1899, and which now is filled with her memorabilia.
This little cottage next to an old, and as impressive church also has cute lite grounds where spring flowers were coming up from hyacinths to daffodils. Beautiful countryside stretching out, sheep, sunshine - it was a lovely afternoon. And the delight of the day for the kids was the Easter Egg Hunt, which made them run around the grounds looking for clues.
I also like the fact that they had worksheets for kids in the house (and they got cute little bookmarks as rewards): questions for older and picture sheets of each room for the little ones - a great way to engage the kids and have them to learn something on the side too. Thank you Smallhythe Place for this lovely afternoon! Maybe we will be back one day for one of the theatre shows in the revived theatre barn on the grounds...
Tagged with: uk, History, Easter Egg Hunt, gardens, Kent, Smallhythe Place, National Trust Property, Ellen Terry actress
Yes, it's April, although at times it's hard to believe it as we've had snow, sleet and hail every day. But Spring will rise and tomorrow we'll go on a little road trip to search for our Spring and inspiration from some lovely castle or garden...
But before that I wanted to share this beautiful sunset. At least the cold weather won't take all the pretty little sunsets away (and yes, this is from our garden - suitably we live in Kent, "the Garden of England")...
Tagged with: garden, sunset, Kent, April views, beautiful moments
What is more quintessentially British than Mini? A Mini with Union Jack pattern of course. I spotted today this fabulous Mini - and oh, it so goes on my wish list!
Oh well, it was a rainy day today. But we were so excited about a spring walk that we went to visit the lovely National Trust property Nymans Garden in Haywards Heath in Sussex despite a little drizzle and mist. And it was a breath of fresh air - both literally and metaphorically.
It just never stops amazing me how pretty the English countryside is with its rolling hills, many shades of green, variety of trees and flowers. At Nymans there is so much to do and see as the area totals 275 acres - forest walks, more formal gardens, the ruined Gothic and Tudor style house, the restored part of the house - you name it!
Kids also have a lot of do here starting with seasonal work sheets (identifying flowers, moss and other spring things), trail maps, spotting the fox and other items in the house, and geo-caching. So my conclusion is - rain or no rain, being out in a beautiful spot of nature will always be fun. And while you are in the area why not visit another property, such as the Wakehurst Place (see our story here) or Sheffield Park (NT Link here). Both are absolutely lovely places to visit, and our kids loved these destinations too.
[See also here our YouTube photo video journey of Nymans Garden]
Enter the oh-so romantic gardens and ruins of Nymans
Sweeping views to the Downs
Loved these clipped groupings - maybe one day my gardens will be like this too...
One of the pros of rainy days is that there are no huge crowds!
A misty pond in the meadows
Enjoying the raindrops
Nymans is the romantic destination with ruins, rose gardens, meadows and more!
The history of the place
Small part of the ruins are still usable and one can your that furnished area. This must have been such a beautiful house (and it still is)
Looks like a little fortress in itself!
Romantic tower and pretty little details in the birdhouse
Miss A. and C. enjoying their activity sheets
Love the way snowdrops have been planted here
The summer must be glorious - air filled with the soft smell of flowers and colour is everywhere
Where are the birds...?
Romantic stroll around...
Someone loves all flowers pink!
Miss A. loves her close shots of flowers
Kids were thinking of Alice in Wonderland here!
One of the prettiest benches I've seen - and so perfectly romantic and suitable for Nymans
Looking forward to seeing and smelling the full summer bloom...
Tagged with: rainy days, fun with kids, country house, national trust, Sussex, Nymans Garden, Haywards Heath
A sunny spring morning. Fog rising. First spring flowers. A bit of mud too. Yes, I've been to Emmetts Garden - a lovely little oasis in Ide Hill, Kent (the South East part of England) and I did the Ram Pump loop, which got a bit muddy at times. But it was so pretty and relaxing - just the perfect start for a morning!
Ide Hill has formal gardens as well as a pinetum and nice little forest trails, which actually connect with a larger network of trails. It is still early spring and only some flowers are in bloom, but in summertime there will be plenty to look at from the rose gardens to the rock garden. The gardens only opened this week from the winter hibernation, but the trip was definitely worthwhile (note though that the house pictured is actually in private use, so Emmetts Garden really is just about gardens). This is also a great place for the kids as there is a little cottage for them filled with activities, games and tools such as magnifying glasses to use while exploring the gardens.
I loved slowing down at the pond and just listening the birds and admiring the beauty of the forest. But the most impressive moment was on top of the hill where I could look down to the valley and watch the fog slowly lifting off the valley, revealing a church and flogs of sheep in the horizon.
Oh Emmetts Garden, I'll be back to see your colourful displays this summer - and of course to visit the lovely tea room too!
Tagged with: uk, springtime, Kent, fun with kids, national trust, Emmetts Garden, Ide Hill, country walks
Today was the first warmer day and it felt like spring as the sun was out in full force too. Meanwhile, I've been learning how to use my camera and the latest practise targers were the first spring flowers. Happy start of the spring!
One of the great things about England is the existence of country pubs - no matter how small the village, you are guaranteed to find at least one pub, and often a curry place too. Nothing beats a lovely Sunday roast, but many places have great food on offer on a daily basis, and not only on Sundays.
Today we got to enjoy the offerings of the lovely The Chaser Inn in the little picturesque village of Shipbourne, in Kent. This village is set within an area of outstanding beauty and it's already such a joy to just drive there on these little winding roads. But this puc is worth the visit not only because of the beautiful location or its charming interiors, but also because the food is very fresh and tasty.
On a a cool, nippy day like today it's so great to enter this old place and be greeted by fires crackling in fireplaces and candles burning everywhere. The pub feels cozy and authentic and it's such a pleasure to visit a place like that - something difference from the daily city chain and their fusion menus. So next time you are in the neighborhood, stop by the Chaser Inn, or rather if you plan a trip there you might want to book a table as it gets rather busy. This family definitely recomments stopping by!
The inside of the pub is a cozy labyrinth with little nooks and rooms
Love this room - so full of country charm!
Enjoy the atmosphere created by the open fires and candles
From the light bites selection: Bar grilled steak wrap - absolutely delicious (and look at the fab massive oak table, they don't make them like that anymore!)
From the mains selection: braised half shoulder of lamb
And today for the little ones: steak fries and lots of veggies as pictures: honey-glaces carrots, steam broccoli with toasted walnuts and cauliflower cheese
We'll come back in summer to enjoy a bite outside. The pub is located next to the pretty St. Giles Church
I love the look of the traditional phone boxes - this one stands close to the front of the pub
The Chaser Inn and St. Giles Church are in the heart of Shipbourne
My review of The Chaser Inn - Excellent
Address: Stumble Hill, Shipbourne, Tonbridge, Kent, TN11 9PE
Open: daily 12-9.30pm (Sunday 9pm), also for breakfast on Thu, Sat and Sun
"The Chaser Inn is located in a picturesque Kent village, where you are combine a little walk with a lovely meal. The place is well taken care of and cozy, the food is fresh and locally sources and the service is fast and friendly. There are no special child menus, but there are plenty of suitable things on the menu for the littles ones too. You can check the menu and daily specials online at www.thechaser.co.uk. They also tweet frequently about the menus, specials and upcoming events."
Tagged with: uk, pubs, Kent, fun with kids, country dining, The Chaser Inn, Shipbourne
Some places are beautiful and worth a visit all year round, and Scotney Castle in Lamberhurst, Kent in the South Eastern part of England is one of those places. The estate is 770 acres with lovely walking paths, a beautiful Victorian manor, gardens and of course the old, ruined 14th century castle with its moat - not to forget a lovely little tea room and a cute shop, or activities and education center for the kids - so much to see and do here!
There are also walled gardens, which they are still restoring, but worth a visit with the little ones as there are also chickens there. Book a good 3-4 hours for the place, then enjoy a cream tea and maybe even visit the Bayham Old Abbey nearby, which is part of the English Heritage buildings (note: although Scotney Castle is open all year round, the Bayham Old Abbey is closed between October and March).
As we liked this place a lot, we also made a little photo video on Youtube, where we have even more pictures of the Lovely Scotney castle and estate: see the link to the video here.
Cute entrance to the Victorian manor, the gardens and a 14th-century ruined moated castles through the little shop and cafe building
Outbuildings with an adorable clock tower
Entrance to the Victorian manor
The entrance is very ornate
A walk thought the house transforms you back in time with its beautiful interior
Dining in style in the formal dining room
We wondered if these guns were ever used in battle...
The house has impressive views over the valley as it in elevated position
We spy the old castle and moat!
Down we walk towards the quarry garden and the little lake
Early bloom in quarry garden - the gardens are known for azaleas and rhododendrons in late spring
Old castle - the part with the turret is still accessible
I wonder how this corner looked like before...
Romantic old ruins
Walk through the ruins...
...and around them to reach...
...to a pretty corner by the moat
Historic kitchen in the old castle
Boat house over the water
A romantic view of the old castle from a tree-covered pathway
Scotney Castle is one of the most picturesque gardens in England
These paths just call for exploring and walking around!
Stroll around the lake - the castle is always visible
Rolling down a steep hill - girls competing a task from the National Trust's kdis booklet "50 things to do before 11 3/4"
A beautiful place to take a break and enjoy the sweeping views
Tagged with: uk, hiking, Kent, Sightseeing, fun with kids, national trust, Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst, English countryside
Oh, I've been admiring sunsets every night for a week now. My daughter's been trying to catch a sunrise, but every morning it just seems to be even foggier than the day before (she wants to get it completed on her "50 things to do before you are 11 3/4 years old" -booklet). But I on the other hand have been so lucky with the sunsets: all I need to do is open the balcony window and keep snapping when the colours keep getting more and more gorgeous.
Now I wish I was a better photographer, but maybe after a couple of weeks with playing with the settings I can come up with a really good one - but here's my first snap set from day one of those fabulous colours! When my little son saw the sunset he came to me and said: mama, look at that pretty rainbow. And we've looking at it every evening - and by now he's learned that it's called a sunset...I tell you, I think English countryside is a good contester for the famous Hawaiian sunsets on many evenings!
Spring is in the air - the sun is out and little flowers are coming out everywhere. It is starting look prettier and greener by the day! Today we spent the first half of the day buying new wellies, and then testing them in one of the most popular National Trust properties - the Wakehurst Place. There is a mansion here too, but people come here more to enjoy the magnificent gardens and the views of surrounding landscape - as well as exploring the largest seed bank in the world.
We love exploring country houses, castles and gardens and normally there is plenty to see for everyone - kids get fresh air, exercise and fun riddles and activities to solve while parents get to relax, enjoy the beauty of the nature and a cup of coffee or tea with some lovely home-made pastries. This was our second visit to Wakehurst Place and we still haven't seen everything this place has to offer: lakes, streams, formal gardens, themed Himalayan and other gardens, koi carps, kids activities, family trail - oh you name it!
As it is still winter, the gates close rather early (4.30 pm), so make sure you get there early enough as the tour around the estate is around 4km (2.5 miles). I'd recommend that you join the National Trust too if you like exploring these sort of places - as the low annual membership fee pays itself back after just a few visits and you get a handy map, property handbook, magazines and all those activities for kids - Miss A. is just loving completing her "50 things to do before you are 11/34 years" - workbook. This is the good life: happy family enjoying the countryside together!
Miss A. reading family trail clues
Wakehurst Place mansion
Learning about hummingbirds
Black pond with large koi karps
Art on the grounds - giant fly
Kids just wanna have fun
Exploring the compost corner and water gardens
Spiky art - seedlings?
Exploring little paths and bridges
On trail towards Himalayan Glade
Trails are well marked
View from Pinetum towards Horsebridge Wood
Past the Southern Hemisphere Garden and Walled Gardens back to the Mansion
Colour is everywhere - whites, yellows, pinks, purples keep coming up in different parts of the gardens
A peek into the walled garden
The Mansion is very rustic with pretty details
A lovely cafe on the grounds - as the place is also part of the Kew Gardens, the shop is large and has a very impressive selection of goods (lovely wellies too, which you should have in spring time if you wander out to pinetum and other wet parts)
Tagged with: Scenery, England, gardens, fun with kids, national trust, West Sussex, Wakehurst Place, East Grinstead
One day it's a green - the next everything is covered in beautiful white blanket of snow. The kids were all excited asking to go skiing and it was contagious, although driving in windy country lanes (at parts also foggy) was no joyride.
But it felt magical to drive in these tree-covered tunnels. And since the snow was a bit on the wet side, I got to wear my wellies fir the first time in a year or so (with pink and red butterflies - although I am dreaming of the some fab Burberry ones inspired by the horse racing we saw...).
Oh the beautiful, magical, ever-changing nature - I thee adore!
Winter pretty - these little covered windy roads become so romantic when covered in snow
So pretty, but a driving nightmare as branches keep snapping and bending down to the country lanes - it's an obstacle course for the driver
This school field is waiting for the kids to make some giant snowmen and just run around
And just a day or so before we were enjoying some traditional horse racing in winter green racecourse
Inspired by the country life I am hearting these Burberry Belted Equestrian wellies - so fab!
Tagged with: Burberry, wellies, britain, surrey, Kent, horse racing, countryside joys
Time flies by: today we are bidding goodbye for China. No, we didn't stay two years in the end, just nine months. This time is full of memories, some great other not so, but still unforgettable (talk about flooding, extreme pollution, running out of electricity, 3c home in the middle of the night at Christmas time when coming from the airport..those are certainly stories for the grandchildren to be told in due course!).
We are heading back home - UK here we come - and yes, it feels so good! I love the weather, scenery, food...oh, can't wait for a proper Sunday roast, cream tea and dry apple cider! We are going back to Kent - less than a 30minute train ride from London Bridge and the big city's huff and puff. A new home, new school for kids, new car, new job - but good old friends will be waiting for us there. Hello London - we'll see you in 12 hours!
But first stop of course before all those above-mentioned new goodies is of course a hotel - that's how the transition always goes: pack, go to temporary accommodation (read hotel), fly, go to temporary accommodation, receive your goods, move to new house, deal with a lot of paper work, adjust to new life...So I might be off a few days starting the new life - once again!
If you have been following my blog lately you are probably on the know that we are moving again - this time back to good ol' London, the land of Union Jack - and of course my favourite luxury toiletries and goods brand: Molton Brown. I had pretty much ran out of the lovely Molton Brown supplies from my previous large-scale supply trip in UK a year and a half ago and was left holding fort with the little airline and hotel bottles!
As the whole moving process was getting pretty stressing, it was a great pleasure to realise that the lovely Kempinski Beijing hotel (yes, a review will follow!) that I chosen as the command center for our last days in the city was offering a lovely selection of Molton Brown - one of my favourites scents: the lili-pili ones - plus the delectable toko-yuzu body lotion. Little things like that sometimes make a huge difference at the end of a tiring and frustrating day - at least it did for me during these few days!
Tagged with: Molton Brown, Kempinski Beijing, little indulgence, luxury toiletries, lili-pili, toko-yuzu
Happy Friday! Today I'm looking back at my old home city London and its' iconic underground signs - and that fabulous bunting that was put up last summer for the Jubilee. All so London and lovely!
...that's what my little ones were singing and that made me dig these pictures of London Bridge in my photo library. All the years I lived in London I never managed to visit the bridge - so that is on my must do-list when next time in London!
There is just something special about this bridge and when talking about London I always think about London Bridge first rather than Big Ben or other other famous site. I heart London Bridge!
The big Games are about to start - the London Olympics. In the end I got no tickets in the lottery and will be just watching them on TV, which is sort of sad, since I worked on the olympic bid in 2005.
Anyway, I am sure it's going to be a lot of fun and we'll do our own mini-olympics at home inspired by what we see in the games... Anyone else planning to watch and celebrate this great event, or even attend it?
Tagged with: Sports, inspiration, Fun Stuff, Olympic Games, London 2012