Our Escape to Colditz

Keith is a huge history enthusiast and has expressed a desire to visit Colditz Castle for as long as I’ve known him. In fact, we almost made it there in Bluebell the Motorhome in 2016, however decided to stay in Austria and revisit another time when we were a little more prepared. The opportunity finally arose this year as I decided to book tickets for Keith’s Christmas present – the man who has every gadget under the sun – and it went down brilliantly! Due to work commitments, I decided that rather than drive, we would grab a quick weekend return flight from Stansted to Berlin, however I’ve included motorhome/campervan stopovers too on this blog.

We stayed overnight prior to flying at the Holiday Inn Express Stansted, which was convenient as it offers onsite parking and evening meals – we wouldn’t arrive until gone 8pm following work so would need dinner. Free breakfast was also offered, and was actually very pleasant despite it being 5am! A shuttle bus took us to the departures terminal in just 7 minutes at a cost of £3pp.

10.30am local time on Friday saw us touchdown at Berlin Schönefeld airport and by 11am we had picked up our wheels for the weekend – a VW Golf hired from Sixt.com. They did manage to sneak some added extras on which meant we ended up spending over €100 extra to the hire charge which was a bit of an irritating beginning.

Although we had flown to Berlin, due to the regularity of flights available to ensure we got the most time possible from our limited time away, our destination was 2 hours south – Leipzig. It is possible to fly direct to Leipzig however they only fly twice a week from Stansted and it didn’t work timing wise for us.

Leipzig is a very exciting place to visit as a musician, and I can’t help but feel that it’s massively overlooked on the tourist trail. Leipzig was home to J.S.Bach, who worked at Thomaskirche as the Kapellmeister for many years.

His family, many of whom were also musicians, also were based in Leipzig, and although their family home no longer exists because of WW2 Damage, the cathedral does and their neighbours and friends house is now The Bach Museum and Archives.

Inside the church you can see Bach’s grave along with many very rare and historical musical instruments from the Baroque Period.

We were lucky enough to hear the organist perform some Bach’s Organ Pieces which was incredibly moving and really very exciting.

 

Our visit to the Bach Museum also didn’t disappoint, we got to see some very rare, handwritten by Bach manuscript, which was ridiculously neat and just completely awesome to see. (No pics allowed)

We did some of the Music Trail although time was not on our side – you could easily enjoy 2 days + here. Other famous musicians who are linked to Leipzig are Felix Mendelssohn’s who died here- his house is now a museum which we’d have liked to have visited but we ran out of time, and Richard Wagner.

During the walking tour we enjoyed looking at some of the beautiful buildings which have survived the war including the opera house.

We also stumbled across a traditional winter fayre, which was a great chance to warm up with some Gluwein.

We had three delicious meals in Leipzig – lunch at Ratskeller, a really atmospheric beerhouse which serves local Saxon Fayre, a bratwurst at the winter fayre, and finally our evening meal at the historic and atmospheric Auerbachs Keller and tried loads of absolutely delicious local beer and even a Leipzig gin!

Our home for the night was the Mercure Hotel which as just down the road from Mendelssohn’s house and had an underground carpark for us to leave the car whilst we explored on foot.

On Saturday we were up fairly early and checked out at 9am. Keith was very excited as today was our trip to Colditz Castle. His reaction as we caught our first sight of the beautiful looking castle was priceless.

I’d booked us the extended tour (€18 pp payable in cash on arrival) and we were surprised to learn that we were the only one booked on the tour – so it was to be a private tour – an unexpected perk of being out of season. Our guide Steffi, began leading us around the vast corridors, cellars, and grounds, giving us brilliant commentary throughout.

Colditz Castle is a striking Renaissance Castle, sat perched on a large rocky outcrop, high above the River Mulde and became best known during WW2 – it was used as a High Security Prisoner of War camp for allied officers who had repeatedly tried to escape from other POW camps. Despite being considered as a high security camp, it had the highest number of successful escape attempts and only one assassination, and that was, according to Steffi, an accident. Prisoners here were treated with respect and a little more dignity than elsewhere and had huge libraries to peruse, a fully functional theatre in which they used to put on full scale productions and also the dorms were less crammed in and some officers even had their own rooms which were bigger than you may expect.

During the tour we got to see the famous gap in which Pat Reid managed to escape from – he later went on to develop the famous boardgame “Escape from Colditz”;

The French tunnel which ran 44m in length right underneath the chapel

The end of the British tunnel

the attic room where the famous glider was built in secret and found when the Americans liberated the castle

and much more. We saw the theatre, complete with secret trap door under the stage,

the officers rooms, the British Dorms, and heard story after story of escape efforts – some successful and some not. Despite the nature of the history here it was hard not to feel inspired here, the sheer determination of those who were held here almost lives on in the walls, its just truly fascinating – even for someone who isn’t such a history buff as her husband!

Our tour was supposed to last 2 hours, but Steffi, encouraged by our enthusiasm and interest I think, showed us some extra places and we actually ended up being there for over 3 hours!

There is a Campsite within walking distance if you go in your campervan/motorhome and also a Stellplatz (overnight parking area) in the next town – although Colditz is very small and I’m not sure I’d fancy driving our old motorhome up to the castle.

Our final stop of the trip was 1.5 hours down the road on the border of Czech Republic, at Bastei. This addition to our itinerary was last minute after reading about it in the Lonely Planet Germany Book and my goodness are we pleased we discovered it.

Bastei is a large area of rock formations which tower 194m high above the River Elbe. There is a fabulous bridge nestled amongst the rocks and lots of viewing platforms dotted around – some of which aren’t for the faint hearted, especially when they are covered in ice and snow as they were for our visit!

I managed to put my big girl pants on and conquered them all, despite a few deep controlling breathes and jelly legs as you can just about see from this pic!

We managed an hour of exploring the paths before we lost the sunlight

and enjoyed a bratwurst sausage and beer (alcohol free for me being Des, but it was fab!!) at the kiosk just as they shut, before returning to our car and discovering a car parking ticket -whoops!

Our journey back to Berlin Schönefeld Airport took just under 2 hours, where we stayed in an airport hotel (which was grim but served its purpose) ready for our extremely early 06.30 flight back home. We had a lovely traditional meal of Schnitzel at the local Gasthaus – which we needed to drive to as there was nowhere within walking distance of the hotel and no restaurant at the hotel. Check out the size of those Schnitzel’s!

We had a brilliant time – and can’t believe we were actually only in Germany for a day and a half. We covered 582km/361m and found German roads brilliant. A note to myself, next time the car hire kiosk asks me if I would prefer automatic or manual – get automatic! I kept going for an invisible gear stick!

Until Next Time (which won’t be long as this time next week we will be in the Lake District for half term in Ruby- woo)

Lx

 

Winter adventures and Festive Fun; York

Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up on her lonesome at Granchester Caravan Park on the outskirts of York.

We’ve had a busy week of concerts and Christmas gigs, but come 3pm on Thursday it was instruments down and time to declare the Christmas holiday OPEN. Our final gig of the season was handily located on the A11 in Thetford, and so van packed with presents, camping accessories and gig stuff we set off in the direction of Kelham for a Christmas evening with Dad and Jenny. We had a lovely meal at the Fox and it was a great if not slightly boozy evening.

Friday arrived with thankfully no sore heads, that was a close one, and by 09.30 we had hit the A1 for an hour and a half’s drive to York. We’d been told by the owner that the campsite was quiet so to pitch wherever we liked. On arrival it was clear we were the only ones there! At just £17.50 per night, with lovely hot and clean showers and bus stop to York directly outside the gate, we couldn’t have picked a better base for the weekend.

We wasted no time and hailed the next bus, the 31x and was thankful for the contactless payment as we realised we had no cash! Be warned, the 29 bus which also stops here doesn’t take card and is cash only.

The bus stops at exhibition square which is really convenient for the minster and city centre.

We spent some time wandering the beautiful lanes, having a drink in the oldest pub in York, the Star Inn, and also the Christmas market on Parliament Street before grabbing a late lunch at Zizzis. We had a lovely drink in the really atmospheric Viking tipi bar in the centre of the market and even (possibly) made a tv appearance on BBC Look North!

There was a cracking beer and gin shop near the cathedral.

We met up with the Customer Service manager of Great Rail Journeys later on – Gary personally looks after us so well when we book our worldwide tours we wanted to meet him and buy him a beer to say thanks for his great service over the years. We had a lovely hour chatting in the really cool Pivni’s, a stones throw off The Shambles-which is just one of the most wonderful streets we’ve visited in England. It’s got tons of character, and you feel like you’ve walked straight in onto a panto set.

Before heading back to Ruby we tried one more drink in The Golden Fleece, rumoured to be York’s most haunted pub. As it was the last Friday before Christmas, it was beginning to get rowdy and we were starting to get tired, so we headed back to Ruby in an Uber (£10) as we’d missed the last bus home. A great day.

Saturday dawned a nice crisp winters day – my favourite, and a welcome relief as yesterday had been a bit wet. We had a fairly lazy morning, taking advantage of the fact that the first bus of the day didn’t arrive until 11.30. As the weather was lovely we decided to do the City Wall walk. We’ve been to York before but are fairly sure we didn’t get to do the whole circuit. York has the best preserved town walls in England, and there are over 2 miles of masonry with a walkway on top. There are several gatehouses to admire and some fabulous original portcullises to see too.

The walk was lovely, and just what we needed; we were feeling rather overindulged!

Towards the end of the walk there was a lovely looking beer garden with a great view of the minster so as it was almost 2pm we decided to have a swift one. I tried the Yuletide gin which was gorgeous.

We’d spotted a nice looking lunch option yesterday- a Yorkshire pud wrap, so we popped into The York Roast co and had an amazing roast turkey and all the trimmings Yorkshire pudding wrap. Honestly it was amaaaaazing!

We had another wander around the city taking in all the decorations and the Christmas market again before having a beer at the Shambles Tavern, which was literally like being in A Christmas Carol.

We’d had such a lovely couple of days, and had re fallen in love with York, especially at this time of year. We were however aware that the last bus back to Ruby was at 18:10, so we made the decision to head back for a relax before travelling back to Norfolk Sunday morning. Our journey home ended up taking place ridiculously early as we woke up at 3am! By 04.45 Keefy was packing as much of the van up as possible, whilst I was trying to sleep, so we gave in and left at 6am, aiming to beat the inevitable traffic. The journey home was in terrible weather so we ended up travelling at 40 most of the way, getting home just before 11am. What a lovely weekend though.

Have a fabulous Christmas everyone. Who’s away in their vans?

Until next time

Lx

Winter Adventures and festive fun; London Part 2

Saturday arrived after another really great sleep- the Crystal Palace campsite is so incredibly quiet, despite being in so close to the centre of London.

We enjoyed a quick egg bap for breakfast before doing some house keeping- Keefy emptied the loo & refilled the water whilst I did the washing up. By 10.30 we were on the bus- this time we took the 363 to Elephant and Castle and then a short walk to Borough Food Market. Despite living in Croydon for just under 40 years, I was supposed to learn that Keith had never been here! When I lived in Croydon I’d often nip on the train to London Bridge and spend a few hours expanding my overdraft here.

Borough market is one of London’s oldest and largest food markets- a market has been there since the 12th century. Our first visit of the day ticked all our boxes- food and history and we spent a very happy hour or so perusing the stalls, trying as many samples as possible, buying some British saucisson and English mature soft cheese, and then treating ourselves to a sausage roll and also a portion of haddock and chips – well the stall proclaimed they’d just won an award for ‘best fish and chips’ so it would be rude not to ‘check’. They were bloooomin lovely by the way.

Borough Market is a perfect place to visit from Crystal Palace- and is totally dog friendly. It does get busy though.

After our fish and chips it was time for a beer to wash it down, so we popped to nearby favourite of ours, The George- a National Trust owned galleried pub, nestled just off Borough High Street and only 5 minutes walk from London Bridge station.

Inside the smaller bar there is a very interesting clock – apparently it’s one of the only clocks still hung in its original place. It was hung in this bar in 1797!

Fish and chips washed down, we took the short walk to London Bridge and made our way on the underground to Notting Hill Gate. Our destination was The Churchill Arms – one of instagrams most pictured pubs in London. The reason..

It has over 100 Christmas trees on its exterior and over 12,o0o lights. It’s not just the Christmas time when it becomes popular to visit. In the springtime it’s completely covered in over £25,000 worth of flowers! Another pulling point for us was that is serves very highly recommended Thai food – in fact it was London’s very first Thai restaurant in a pub over 30 years ago.

It. Was. Packed.

Properly rammed inside, but as luck would have it, we managed to get a seat at the bar to watch the endless tourists and locals battle their way through. We booked a table for lunch and happily got seated only 30 minutes later.

We enjoyed a couple of pints of Fullers Snow Globe whilst we waited and are 90% sure that we spotted Ian Mckellan emerge from the restaurant.

The meal was absolutely beautiful, we shared a chicken pad Thai and Thai green chicken curry. It was incredible value, just £9 per meal!

As the weather had turned bad, and we managed to get a table in the bar, we enjoyed another pint whilst we waited for it get dark to enjoy the lights outside. As day turned to dusk the bar became even busier, I seriously don’t know how everyone fit in!

Around 4pm, we jumped back on the tube and headed further west- to Turnpike Green. Our destination was Chiswick House and gardens for their After Dark light display. Sadly by now it was lashing it down but we weren’t going to let that dampen our spirits. Scuse the pun.

Chiswick House is a beautifully elegant 18th century villa, with acres of land. Sadly given the weather we weren’t visiting the inside – the After Dark trail was an outside event. The first part of the trail was a 4 minute loop of specially commissioned music composed by Sergio Pizzorno from Kasabian, set to a light display by Nick Gray. It was brilliant. We really loved the music, and actually the wet weather gave the whole thing an added atmospheric effect. Aren’t we British!

The trail was a little sparser than others we have done, however enjoyable nonetheless. We especially loved the laser projections over the lake and the large moon.

At the end of the trail there was a handily located marquee with street food and a bar, serving hot mulled wine and mulled cider – or wassail. As we were drenched we took advantage of a spot by the heater and warmed up with a mug of wassail before making the journey back to Westminster on the district line and then picking up the no. 3 bus to Crystal Palace just outside the Houses of Parliament. We were back to Ruby just before 9pm.

Sunday dawned much dryer thank goodness- in fact it was a perfect winters day- dry, yet cold and crisp with a stunning blue sky. We took our time packing away, but decided to make a couple of stops en route home. We stopped off at Greenwich, parking just off Blackheath common in a free parking spot, and walked down through Greenwich park to Greenwich Market.

Another great place for food lovers- we forced a sausage roll and a scotch egg down whilst browsing and finishing some Christmas shopping off.

After an hour or so we went back to Ruby and crossed underneath the Blackwall tunnel towards Hackney, our second stop of the day. We found a free on street car parking space on the road near Sutton House, a National Trust Grade II Tudor Manor House. It’s amazing to think that this old building is right in the middle of Residential Hackney. At the moment it has a ‘Christmas through the ages’ exhibition on which was really interesting; some rooms were set out as they would have been at Christmas in the Tudor times

Some rooms were set out as a Victorian Christmas which is more like the Christmas that we know.

And finally an 80s Christmas, which is a nod to when squatters took over the house before the National Trust evicted them and took over the house.

The most fascinating fact I learnt was that in the Tudor times turkey was eaten- however the Norfolk turkeys were walked from Norfolk to London, setting off around August!

It was a lovely visit and one to stop at if you’re passing- it’s right by the start of the M11 but is a pig to get to on public transport from central London.

We had the most wonderful time, despite learning of our friends death the day we arrived. Christmas in London is just so special and this time we found pockets of areas off the mainstream list of tourist spots which we just loved exploring.

Until next time, which won’t be long, as we’re heading north for a few days next weekend.

Lx

Adventures Stateside; A Texas Roadtrip. Houston

Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up at a Heathrow hotel for half term. We decided to take advantage of the January flight sales, bagging some cheap seats to Houston, TX, enabling us to tick off a few more items off our ever expanding bucket list.

Wednesday

Despite travelling down late after work on Tuesday night, our alarms were still set to an ungodly hour on Wednesday, in preparation for our 10am flight. We really enjoy airport departure lounges so always make a point of giving ourselves plenty of time in there. It was my first time flying from Terminal 5, which I adored, especially travelling there by driverless pod, it felt like something from the future.

Sadly our flight was delayed for 3.5 hours as there was a problem with the window in the flight deck. At one point it looked like it may be cancelled altogether- so by the time we got on the actual plane our emotions were all over the place but we were relieved we were finally on our way.

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10.5 hours later, and a pretty uncomfortable flight due to the family behind us continuously kicking our chair backs, we had touchdown and were very excited to be back in the USA. We hadn’t slept but I did get chance to catch up on the recent series of Body guard- wow.

An hour later and we had requested our Uber and were enroute to our first Air b n b of the Roadtrip. Tired but very happy to be here.

Our Air b n b was in the Montrose area of Houston, an area close to both the interstate and downtown, and an area famous for having plenty of bars etc. The road itself was a lovely quiet residential street and the apartment was a really great space, equipped with the most comfy bed we’ve ever experienced and enough gadgets to keep my very own gadget man husband occupied in our downtime. On arrival at 7pm we wasted no time in showering, hitting trip advisor and taking a walk a couple of blocks away for a bite to eat and couple of beers.

We found The Pit Room, a really casual bbq joint, which served the most phenomenal beef brisket- a state dish, we’ve read. Keith had strips of brisket with coleslaw and I had brisket tacos with mac n cheese, washed down with a local IPA for Keith and a Texan Cider for me. It was divine and suddenly all our travel related stress had vanished. Next door was their sister bar, the patio, where we enjoyed a couple of drinks and soaked the atmosphere of the local baseball time team, the Astros, playing the Boston Red Socks. Before too long though, our weary bodies began to remind us that we’d been awake almost 24 hours,so we headed back for a long comfy nights sleep.

Thursday

Travelling East to West always means we wake up extra early on our first few days – we never mind as we are always keen to get out and about exploring. Today was no different, we were awake by 0430, so after an hour NASAmanagedor so of dozing and researching eateries etc, we actually were up and out by 0615 in search of coffee. We took a walk round the neighbourhood admiring all the beautiful homes in this historic district, eventually finding The Breakfast Klub, a place I’d read loads about. Apparently it’s the place to have breakfast. We were met by super friendly staff, and huge mugs of coffee. I ordered their signature dish of waffle and wings and Keith had waffle and eggs and bacon. It was as huge, but hands down the best breakfast I’ve ever had. Arrive early though, it filled up really quickly.

From there we walked down another mile or so to Avis to pick up our rental car. The handover was smooth and by 9am we were on our way to NASA, about 20 miles south of Houston.

Words can’t describe how much I adored our visit to NASA – it was everything I hoped it would be and more. As soon as we arrived we went to take the tram tour- this is advisable as we’d read that sometimes the wait becomes so long you miss out later in the day and it is unmissable.

The tram tour takes you right around the site with 3 stops -first being the historical and famous mission control room- which was the centre of activity when both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin famously became the first men to walk on the moon, then again with the Apollo XIII mission. The room is currently undergoing major renovation, however we got to see the original computers and equipment and also sat in the VIP viewing area. If you visit next year, you’ll see it completely set up including the flight data etc on the screens.

Next stop was the NASA training mock up centre. This was really exciting as we got to see where all the astronauts train in the mock up capsules. We saw all the capsules including Soyuz, The space shuttle, Orion- the brand new one capable of travel to Mars- along with robonauts and buggy’s that are still under development. It was so exciting, we were both in our element!

Last stop of the tram tour was the Rocket Park, where we saw Saturn V. It was huge and just mind boggling. Saturn V was the rocket that got men to the moon.

The grounds of NASA are like a uni campus- and what we didn’t realise was that it is still entirely working- so we were seeing government workers driving around doing their business, including astronauts having meetings etc. All the training facilities are still here and used daily. How exciting to be able to observe it all. Underneath the historical mission control room was the active mission control for the International Space Centre so we had to be silent when moving about in that building. How cool!

Back at the Johnson Space centre and we got started on the exhibitions, of which there were loads. The Americans really do these attractions well. Our favourite exhibits were the space shuttle and jet it piggybacked on- being able to see inside the space shuttle was so exciting. The flight-deck was beyond complicated to our untrained eyes!

We also saw the very first capsules that an American orbited in space in, the Gemini and Mercury. We got to go inside the training mock up of the Skylab, which preceded the international space centre.

We saw the last ever Apollo capsule to return from space and see actual moon rock.

And Keith had a proper nerd out when he discovered the original Star Trek Galileo shuttle prop in the cafe.

After a full day exploring NASA on the back of our jet lag, by the time we got back to our apartment we were exhausted, so we had a quick shower and took an Uber to a restaurant recommendation from our host.

La Tiempo was a lovely Mexican in Montrose and we enjoyed a fabulous meal washed down by some margaritas. The meal was fantastic but we were so tired so had an early night- went to bed dreaming of rockets and space!

A brilliant day.

Friday

Another early morning, so we made the most of it by having an early breakfast down the road and checking out early. We had a driving tour of some cool sites in Houston. It’s really sprawled out so you definitely need a car. We took a drive down Heights Boulevard, a traditional affluent neighbourhood with fabulous houses and wide streets.

From there we popped to see the water wall which was really cool and then onto the Beer Can House- yes, a house made of beer cans! It took the designer 20 years to collect enough beer cans!

Our final stop was to get some cupcakes from the only cupcake ATM- Sprinkles. The cupcakes were good and it was novel ordering them through the ATM at the back of the shop. Only in America.

High on sugar, it was time to hit the road, our next destination was calling. We are off to Dallas.

Until next time

Lx

Our Annual Scotland Pilgrimage – May 2018 Part 2: The Isle Of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Sunday Continued – on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides.

After disembarkation we pulled into the Isle of Harris distillery carpark to meet Rodney from Surf Lewis. We had hired some wetsuits and snorkelling equipment for the duration of our stay, and he very kindly agreed to meet us off the ferry to give us the equipment. Wetsuits, fins, snorkels etc in hand, we waved bye to Rodney – we are meeting him again on Wednesday as we have booked a Stand Up Paddleboarding session with him. Next stop was Huishnish Beach. I was worried about this as our ETA was 5pm – when we visited in 2012 it was very quiet and we stayed here fore two days and barely saw another soul. Now though, toruism has well and truly hit, and I knew Huishnish was a popular spot. To get there you drive for 40 mins over a mountain pass for 14 miles and Huishnish is the dead end. If we got there and there was no space, I’d have been very disappointed and we’d have to retrace our steps. 

Thankfully the luck of the Irish was on our side and there was a small space for Ruby to squeeze in to. As we turned the corner and saw Huishnish for the first time in 6 years, it literally took my breath away. It is absolutely BREATHTAKING. The beach is just stunning.  We wasted no time and got straight into the wetsuits – this is our first time in wetsuits and I’m sure we caused a lot of amusement to our fellow campers. It was honestly like trying to truss a chicken! 

Our first experience in a 5mm wetsuit in the Hebrides was just amazing! Rodney had sorted us with the whole kit- hood, gloves, shoes, fins etc. I adored being in the sea, it looked so inviting and now we were able to enjoy a swim. We got our snorkels on and had a little look around the rocks. 

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After our swim the prime spot had become available! We wasted no time, so still in wetsuits, we moved Ruby and vowed to stay there for at least 2 nights. We used the shower facilities (£1) and got on with dinner, overlooking the beach and sea – a salmon and prawn risotto washed down with a lovely white wine. 

We didn’t get the chairs out because our side door was facing the view and to embrace the view from our pitch meant we struggled to open the boot with the bikes on- so we used Ruby’s step for seating which worked really well! We felt like proper Veedubbers now! 

Monday dawned another beautiful sunny and hot day. We couldn’t believe our luck! We enjoyed sausage sandwiches before donning the wetsuits and snorkelling gear and trying some snorkelling out on the other side of the bay (the right hand side) As it was so uncharacteristically hot, we couldn’t leave Jazz in the van – it was mid 20s and just way too hot to leave a dog in a vehicle, so he came down to the beach with us and we took it in turns to snorkel.

I’m not sure what Jazz made of the wetsuits! Exploring the underwater world was really fun – we saw lots of colourful sea-weed and plants, sand eels, pollock, crabs etc. We used following underwater camera

【Upgraded】Action Camera,Campark ACT68 Sport Cam Wifi 4K/1080P Full HD Underwater Camera with 170° Wide-Angle 2 Inch LCD Display with 2 Rechargeable Batteries and Mounting Accessories Kit

It cost only £25 and was absolutely amazing!! Would highly recommend. It came with all the fittings needed to attached to helmets, bikes, surfboards, arms, legs – you name it. 

Snorkelling Highlights Video here

After ham and cheese paninis for lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach on our inflatable sofas, chilling. I don’t think I can remember such a relaxing campervan trip. It felt like we were on a beach holiday!

For dinner, Keith knocked up an amazing bbq, we’d picked up some venison steaks from the Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Stable shop that you pass on the road to Huishnish. This along with some sausages and chicken and a rice salad was yummy. 

We walked up the hill to the 5 campervan with electric spaces to watch the sun go down and I tried to use my drone but it didn’t have enough battery (we were off grid and with the heat and the coolbox, the battery was struggling a touch so we didn’t want to charge anything non essential) That was a shame cos I bet it would have been a good view. 

Our solar panel is doing well, Keith’s placed it on the roof and it’s soaking up the sun from 7am to 9pm!

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Tuesday

With a bit of a lump in our throats we bid Huishnish a fond farewell. Before leaving we used the motorhome service point to empty the loo and refill the water tank for just £3. Considering the parking was free, and showers available for just £1 this is excellent value. We actually shoved a fiver in a donation box to say thanks. Up the hill is a 5 space campervan site with electric for £5 a night but you have to time it well to get a space during peak sunshine I imagine!

On the way we stopped and watched a golden eagle through the binoculars- what a special moment that was, neither of us has seen one in the wild.

We popped into Tarbet to pick up some local gin. On the way we tried to stop off at two more snorkel trail locations but sadly we could not for the life of us find the correct place. In our opinion – North Harris Wildlife trust could probably do with signposts at the locations and visible parking as at one point we drove 2 miles down a farm track trying to find the place and could not find it!

During this period of time, my phone went nuts (without me realising) and decided to emergency call 112. I had no idea about this and because there is absolutely no phone signal I was blissfully unaware that my phone had not only rang 112, but had also text my dad, my mum and Keith (who also had no phone signal!) to tell them I was sending an emergency SOS message and where my location was. 

Once buying the gin, we carried on towards Luskentyre beach – which is regarded as one of the best beaches in the world. Again we’ve been before, but it still doesn’t fail to impress.

The size of the beach is just overwhelming! We managed to get a great spot overnight spot overlooking part of the beach – provided by the West Harris trust and only £5 a night.

We set our stall out and enjoyed steak and stilton wraps for lunch before taking a walk on the beach with our wetsuits and trying some more snorkelling.

This time we snorkelled in with the tide all the way back to Ruby, taking it in turns again to stay with Jazz and always keeping one step ahead of the tide. We saw lots of crabs and had a lovely time. It’s just so nice to be underwater where you wouldn’t normally be as the water despite being crystal clear is blooming cold!

 

We both had a solar shower to wash the salt water off when we returned to Ruby and enjoyed some gins, before cooking with meat another wonderful seaview, chicken fajitas.

Yellowstone Camping Shower – 20 Litre

 

What a cracking spot. 

Wednesday arrived and it was time to set an alarm as we had to leave at 9am to get to Scalpay for our 10am Stand up Paddleboarding Lesson (SUP) I have fancied giving this a whirl since we saw people giving lessons on the Norfolk Broads. Just as we arrived on Scalplay i received many worried messages from Dad and Jenny asking if we were ok. It was at this point we realised what had happened with my phone – they had received an emergency message from us and then couldn’t get hold of us for almost 24hurs due to no phone signal. Quite understandably they were going out of their minds with worry!! Sorry Dad and Jenny! Mum on the other hand, had replied – “glad your having a good time!” It turns out that Apple to Apple (which is what our emergency SOS message was to mums phone) just sends a map link to your location. Apple to Samsung which is what it was me to Dad sends an upscaled “THIS IS AN EMERGENCY SOS MESSAGE”! Whoops! A quick phone call to say we are fine cleared the air and put Dad and jenny’s mind at rest!

Back to the paddle boarding . The weather couldn’t have been any better. We met Rodney again at the designated place and along with 6 others donned our wetsuits, and took our boards to the water. Luckily the wife of someone also taking a lesson wasn’t taking part, and had her own dog, so offered to look after Jazz too, as the heat (which was totally not expected when we booked it) was too intense to leave him. God knows what we would have done had Ruth not been there to Jazz sit! 

The SUP lesson was FAB!!! We are complete beginners and have no balance, so our hopes were not high that we would achieve the end result of standing up. However, we both managed it and it was exhilarating, exciting and quite hard work. I can’t think of a more lovely way to experience the coast line of this stunning island.

 

Lessons are £40 and Rodney was just a brilliant and patient teacher. I can’t recommend the experience enough! See our video highlights here

Feeling completely exhilarated and little sad that our Hebridean adventure was nearly over we handed our wetsuits back to Rodney and waved goodbye.

We made use of the spotlessly clean and FREE showers at Scalpay Community Centre before booking a table for evening meal at the Anchorage Restaurant, Leverburgh, the opposite end of the island. If we had any criticism of the Isle of Harris it would be that despite fishing being a huge part of life here, we found it impossible to find some fresh seafood to buy and cook. We were both craving a seafood meal so decided to splash out on an evening meal. We visited the Anchorage when we last visited and had a fab meal, so table booked, we jumped in Ruby and made our way to the south of the Island. 

The restaurant were happy for us to stay overnight in their carpark, right next to the ferry to North Uist, so we made use of the time before our reservation by having a HUGE tidy – wetsuits and snorkelling equipment had put a serious strain on our storage – we managed, but we had half of Luskentyre beach gathered on the floor!  As the weather has been so good we haven’t packed Ruby’s bed away since Saturday so we’ve effectively had a fixed bed which has been nice.

 

Ruby with the Cal Mac ferry behind

Ruby soon was sparkling clean and organised again, so we went for a couple of drinks in the restaurant garden – I enjoyed the Barra Gin, before dinner. We even managed a celebrity spot – we only sat next to THE Billy Connelly! Amazing – such a gent (sorry no pic as I didn’t fully realise it was him – I said to Keefy he looks and sounds like Billy Connelly, then later on instagram I saw someone down the road at an art studio had posted a pic of him!) 

We had a brilliant meal, it really is a spot to visit if you like fresh fish and seafood. We both had identical meals – hand dived scallops to start, fresh cod with chive mash and pak choi, and chocolate fondue. It was FABULOUS.

 

Read our next instalment here

 

Until Next Time

Lx 

February Half Term 2018; Wiltshire and Dorset. Part 2

Tuesday dawned wet and wild as forecasted, so we didn’t rush off our site at Dezizes. I’d woken with a stinking cold but was determined not to be held back. After a hearty porridge for breakfast, we packed up and waved bye to the C&CC site. We made a brief stop for groceries at Morrison’s in Devizes before carrying on to Stonehenge.

We arrived at 1:00, bang on our ticket time. As members of the National Trust we were able to visit for free, despite being run by English Heritage, the land is owned by National Trust therefore members are allowed in for free- however this isn’t too well advertised and you are encouraged to pre book before arriving. Our National Trust membership saved us £21 each!

We were told conflicting things about dogs being allowed in/ or rather not as it turned out to be. It didn’t bother us, we appreciate how historically important Stonehenge is, but the misinformation resulted in us wasting half an hour in the rain.

There is a brand new visitors centre that has opened in the last 3 years. You have to get a bus from the visitor centre to the actual site (or walk over a mile each way on a road!). As it was pouring with rain we opted for the bus. The stones were fabulous and well worth the visit – I’d never seen them, Keith had.

However, I couldn’t help but feel slightly of the opinion that English Heritage are overcharging people though. I also was completely hacked off about the fact that our National Trust entry didn’t allow us an audio guide and we were expected to pay a further £3 for this. I didn’t feel the visitor centre added much to the experience. But as I say, the stones were fabulous to see.

Our pitch for the night was actually closer to the Stones than the EH visitor centre. I’m sure EH hate it, but there is a bylaw that allows wild camping on the old Stonehenge Drove road which overlooks the Stones! So therefore it is a rather popular spot for Campervan and motorhomes to overnight park. We decided this would be very cool so had a night next to the stones!

We managed to pick the coldest night of the year, -4 outside! And we have NO heating! 😂 We tackled this minor setback by having a really long drawn out dinner- spaghetti carbonara first followed by pancakes for pudding. By not rushing and washing up between courses, dinner time lasted over 2 hours and we were snug as a bug during this time. We also sank nearly a bottle of mead which definitely assisted with my cold and also warming us up!

The sky was phenomenal and we couldn’t resist some star gazing despite it being a bit chilly. We had nearly every item of clothing on us by this time! We decided to head to bed just after 9pm, and our fleecy duvet set and our 13.5 tog duvet meant we were very cosy and warm- I didn’t even need a hot water bottle!

Wednesday morning dawned cold – so cold that our inside condensation had frozen! As had our sliding door! By the time Keith had made me a cuppa and showered me with Valentines Day choccies and sweets, we’d defrosted enough to enjoy the reason we’d put ourselves brought this indulgence test- it was so awesome to have our sliding door open and lay in bed looking at Stonehenge!!

The heavens opened – and they stayed open ALL DAY! So we made no rush to leave, enjoying a fry up and some crumpets for breakfast and gallons of tea.

<<<<<<<
eisurely morning, we setoff in the direction of Shaftesbury, our next stop, but decided to have a stop at National Trust’s Stourhead en route as we were passing by. I was feeling ropey but didn’t want to ruin the day so we got our waterproofs and boots on and went for a little explore around Stourhead estate. I’m so glad we did.

Stourhead Estate is absolutely breathtaking- and that’s coming from us in the depths of winter on a wet and wild day! Seriously beautiful, it’s a huge landscapes garden estate, with a lovely walk of about 3 miles in length weaving up and round past countless different trees and bushes. Every now and again you get a glimpse of the lake, which is the head of the river Stour that has been dammed off into a landscaped lake. There are picture perfect bridges, a pantheon, a grotto, a waterwheel. It’s just fabulous and despite the cold wet and frankly miserable weather, it was a holiday highlight. We met a NT volunteer in the Pantheon who showed us an original statue of Augusta, and is over 2000 years old.

He said he thought Stourhead was the best garden in UK and we wholeheartedly agree.

There is also a fabulous farm shop, and regular readers will know we have a weakness for these. Armed with our credit card we took battle with the farm shop, stocking up on numerous cheeses, all of which are from less than 30 mins of Stourhead, ice cream, sausages, venison, pork pies, ale. We were in heaven.

After restocking the fridge, we got the road again, this time heading for our campsite, Blackmore Vale Campsite on the outskirts of Shaftesbury. Sadly right from arrival we had a vibe this wasn’t going to be quite as we’d expected. It took over 40 mins to “check in” – there was no reception, no answer to the mobile number that was pinned to the gate. After 30 mins traipsing through the holiday park looking for someone, in the rain, I was getting a little fed up. Eventually after being directed to the eighth place (via 2 incorrect places!) id found someone, who preceded to tell me that we weren’t expected – I had an email and had paid £20 deposit- but not to worry, there were a few places available so just drove down and find one. So we drove down and of course there was only one, and it had a reserved sign on. Keith went back to the man and he said don’t worry about it, take it and he’d send the other people elsewhere. Glad we weren’t the other people! 😳

In the meantime I gave Ruby a good clean- she was FILTHY inside from our wild camping excursion in the rain! Keith did the water and loo and went for a shower. When he came back he was less than impressed- the water kept cutting out throughout his shower and the shower block was gross. Off I went for mine and mine was stone cold- so I left my shower. I went to brush my feet and nearly fainted- look at the sink! 🤢😲

Not impressed but of course we couldn’t find anyone to inform. Keith went to the loo and came back pale- instead of urinals it was a tile wall to pee up! 🤢 it also was clear by now that it wasn’t a holiday site it was more of a “permanent site” – all the other caravans had workmen in trade vans on.

The rest of the afternoon went smoothly but we made the decision to cancel our second night and move on tomorrow.

We had a fabulous deli board from our farm shop goodies followed by steak and homemade chips for main and the local ice cream AND a Gu desert for pudding. Well it was Valentines Day!

Thursday arrived and thank goodness, there was no rain! Infact it was a picture perfect winters day, and the sun actually held a bit of warmth. We packed up, I went to inform the site that we would be leaving and highlighted our concerns. Not that the manager seemed at all bothered.

Next stop was our day visit to Shaftesbury. We were both exited- Shaftesbury is home to the famous Gold Hill, or rather Hovis Hill as it’s nicknamed as it’s the location of the Hovis advert that Ridley Scott directed.

Well, as they would say in Yorkshire, By Heck, what a view. Our first impression of the view from the top of Gold Hill absolutely knocked me for six. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Thankfully there was a perfectly located coffee shop with a table right at the peak of the view for us to grab a coffee and gather our thoughts. We decided what made the view quite so special was the combination of the view of the countryside behind the old fashioned houses, cobbled street and NO cars!

We were also lucky that the light was absolutely perfect- however when we visited later on it had clouded over and was still magical.

We popped into the dog friendly Gold Hill Museum and enjoyed our visit, before joining the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival trail. This wasn’t quite as impressive as I’d imagined but I think I was still bowled over by “that” view so perhaps it never stood a chance.

We had a packed lunch on the pretty park terrace which had similarly great views before a pint on the terrace at the Mitre Inn. One last look at our special view on Gold Hill before heading back to Ruby.

We’d managed to book onto a site on the outskirts of Salisbury, Coombe Caravan Park for the next two nights. Fingers crossed for a better time here!

Until next time

Lx

2 Days in Marblehead and Salem, MA

Day 7

Wednesday arrived and it was time to wave goodbye to North Conway. It was fun place to base ourselves and it gets very busy during the ski season here. One of it’s other attractions is the shopping village on the outskirts of town, and we decided that seeing as it was pouring with rain still, we would indulge in a hour or so of mooching round the Outlet stores.

An hour later and I was dragging us out before we had to remortgage the house! Keith and I brought a couple of pairs of Levi jeans – K got the bargain of the century – £9 for a pair of Levis I think he paid! Mum and Al got a couple of Levi T Shirts. We then popped across to Tommy Hilfiger and I saw a leather jacket that I fell in love with, and at £65 rather than £150 was a bargain so I had to have that despite worrying about my luggage allowance! Mum found herself a pair of Vans.

We hit the road and carried on towards Massachusetts. Our next location was another Air B n B – this time more of a BnB basis where we had the top floor two bedrooms and the owner lived downstairs and provided breakfast. Before we could check in we had lunch in The Sail Loft in Marblehead which was a great find. We grabbed lunch and by then the rain was beginning to stop, hallelujah, so we enjoyed a little wander around the extraordinarily pretty streets of old Marblehead. The houses were wooden and oozed character, and they all had charming Fall decorations lining their steps and porches. There were some cute little stores and a seafood restaurant on the seafront that caught our eye so we made a reservation for dinner and headed towards our accommodation.

After a quick freshen up we decided to get our glad rags on – I was feeling a bit better so we poshed up and went for a corker of a seafood dinner at The Landing. On our way (I was DES!) we stopped for a drink at a historical tavern where we had a nice chat with some friendly locals, before making our way to the restaurant. Despite it’s prime location right on the seafront the prices were very reasonably priced, and we therefore ended up with a lobster dinner each. It was my first time (and Mum’s) – I have a phobia of shellfish with their antennas on (there must be a better word for that??) so much so that my girlfriends call us The Prawnettes because of it! So for me to have a lobster was a huge event – and my god it was flipping gorgeous.

Day 8

Today was non driving day as Marblehead is just on the outskirts of Salem and therefore a short UBER ride away. We started our days exploration of historic Salem by a tour of the Witches Museum which was very interesting and well presented. We all really enjoyed our visit.

After this we went to the oldest Witch House in Salem, which was fascinating and we event got to see John Proctor’s fork.

The rain was beating down again (boo) so we headed for lunch at the historical Lyceum Hall, which is where Alexander Bell made his first long distance phone call! It is now a seafood place and so we enjoyed a lovely seafood dinner. The clam chowder was gorgeous. Mum and Alec decided to take the trolley tour that afternoon, so Keith and I visited the house of the Seven Gables on our own – wow, that was so interesting. We even got to go and stand up in the gable and see some floorboards that were over 300 years old.

WE also managed to see Alison’s house from Hocus Pocus which was really cool as it’s such a great movie!

I’d read abut a gin distillery in Salem so naturally we had to visit. The walk was a little way out but eventually we found it hidden away, it had a speakeasy bar that is open certain hours, so we got to try some of the spirits in rather delicious cocktails.

There were some locals in there who couldn’t believe we had found the place – I get the impression that its off the beaten track for tourists – so glad we found it though. The gin had a very heavy green cardamom taste, but I loved it so brought a bottle to bring home. Visit Deacon Giles Distillery

We had dinner at the Howling Wolf, which despite being absolutely packed, gave us a very tasty meal at a ridiculously cheap price, before heading back to our air b and b to pack our cases up good and proper as we were heading to the airport for an internal flight tomorrow.

Until Next Time

Lx

New England in the Fall; A 2 day road trip through New Hampshire

Day 5

Monday dawned a typical Autumnal day and we were up and dressed fairly early. The car was loaded up (no mean feat seeing as we had a steep flight of stairs to navigate and HUMUNGOUS bags) As the shopkeeper open the country store, we settled our bill and hit the highway, stopping for some lovely Autumnal pictures along the way.

Our destination for today’s activity was the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world’s first Mountain Climbing Railway. We were very lucky – the weather was PERFECT, not a cloud in the sky! We arrived early in case we got caught in traffic, so had a little shop in the gift shop and a picnic lunch whilst we waiting for our 1pm train to descend from the top.

Soon it was our turn to board, as we were lucky to be in the first of 3 carriages so we got a great view.

The Railway track was astoundingly steep in places, and the ascent took around 45 mins. You could get up and wander to the front to look out of the front window and the back window also had amazing views as we got higher.

We had just over an hour on the top of Mount Washington to explore the summit, which was about all we needed- it can reach up to 100mph winds up there, and even though the views were amazing it was flipping cold!

The return journey was in places terrifying, it was so steep! And just the brakesman at the front of each individual carriage operating the brakes. Absolutely marvellous engineering, we just loved our visit. Video highlights here.

It was about 45 mins drive to North Conway, a ski resort within the White Mountains, which would be our next base for 2 nights. We had hired another air b n b, this time we had an entire wooden house to ourselves, complete with hot tub! Happy days.

We were soon in there with a beer, before getting our glad rags on and heading for dinner. By the way, in New Hampshire they don’t measure out spirits – I ended up with a pint, yes a pint! of gin! Whooooah!

Day 6 – My Birthday!

Today was a non driving day as it was my birthday! Sadly the weather god’s hadn’t taken a note of this special day and it absolutely hammered down ALL Day. However, it wasn’t the end of the world as we had booked onto The North Conway Scenic Railwroad for a return journey through the very pretty Crawford Notch. After a pancake breakfast, we crossed the road to the train station ready for out 11am departure.

Our accommodation on the train was up in the dome – a raised area with glass roof which I’m sure in better weather would have been spectacular.

Sadly in the rain, it was a bit dismal and we were all a bit rough (ahem) We had waitress service throughout the journey and despite me thinking there would be no alcohol on board, there was, and so we enjoyed a relaxing train journey and a couple of cocktails. Not a bad way to spend my birthday.

The train turned around at Crawford station, and we headed back to North Conway.

Although we enjoyed the train ride, I don’t think it was anywhere near as spectacular as some of the others we’ve done in the past. If we had to choose one we would definitely recommend the Cog Railway over the Scenic Railway. Video highlights here

Unfortunately I was full of a head cold and therefore didn’t fancy venturing too far out for my birthday meal. However there was nice place a couple of doors down from our accommodation and so we enjoyed a meal and a couple of cocktails there before a relatively early night. Not before trying the most delicious bourbon I’ve tasted. Jim Bean MAPLE bourbon. 🥃 am-aaa-zing

< strong>Highlights of New Hampshire<<<<<<<<
hington Cog Railway

The road through Crawford Notch

Jim BeamMaple Bourbon

New England in the Fall; a 2 day Roadtrip through Vermont

Day 3

Keith and I got an Uber from our Boston city apartment to the airport, leaving Mum and Alec to finish their packing and have a quick clean up of our Air BnB. We weren’t abandoning them, we just felt the process of hiring our Rental car would be quicker and easier as a twosome rather than a four – and it also saved us having to lug all our luggage back to the airport.

We hired our Medium sized SUV from Dollarcar and for 6 days with unlimited mileage it came in at around £200. The pick up process was quick and easy and we were left to our own devices to go and pick the vehicle we wanted.

We chose a lovely white Kia Sorento and half an hour later I was making my American driving debut. Initially it was terrifying given that the airport is slap bang in the middle of the city. And the driving in Boston reminded me of the driving in Delhi! OMG. But I soon got used to it- basically no rules, expect the unexpected, and Keefy was a fab co pilot. Talking of Co Pilots – Colin the Co Pilot (my iPhone Map system) worked a treat – I had downloaded the whole of America offline for £19.99 and it was brilliant.

We picked up Mum and Alec from the apartment along with all the luggage – which JUST fit in the back – wow we sure don’t travel lightly! We drove past Harvard University before picking up the Highway, where it didn’t take too long at all before we started seeing some phenomenal Autumnal colours on the roadside trees.

Around 3 hours later we were rolling into Wilmington, which is where we were picking up the Scenic Highway 100. Just before Wilmington there was the most beautiful scenic lay-by, which turned out to be one of my favourite views in Vermont.

We stopped for lunch at the Village Roost in Wilmington, before heading North on the Scenic Highway 100, which offered fabulous views as the road wound up and around various ski resorts. The villages were fairly small and remote really, and the houses just so charming – all wooden with picture perfect porches. You could just imagine kicking off your shoes, jumping in one of the comfy chairs and watching the world go by.

Not too far into our journey on the Scenic Highway, we stopped off at the Vermont Country Store in Weston. This is one of the oldest Country Stores in America and dates from the 1940s. It is huge – and here is a tip – don’t go in hungry (or do if you fancy a free lunch- so many samples available!) Wow, what a place – thank goodness we were flying in and out of America and therefore had to consider weight limits, otherwise my credit card would have had a right battering! It was filled with local meats, cheeses, chutneys, jams, maple based products, local alcoholic beverages, clothes, games, old fashioned sweets, kitchenware – oh the list goes on. We brought some maple syrup and some hot Apple Cider (none alcoholic) and made our escape. Certainly worth a visit though – what a lovely shop!

We carried on to our next Air BnB, which was near to Woodstock, with plenty of picture stops on route.

The apartment was a charming loft conversion above a country store. Another chance to buy tons of local produce!

The owner met us and was very friendly – she said they operated an honesty system, basically leaving the shop open for us overnight and if we fancied midnight munchies we could just go down and help ourselves – make a note of what we had and settle up when we leave. She would also prepare us a breakfast basket each morning and leave it at the bottom of our stairs! How cute!

Once we had got over the fact that we all had to share a room (ahem) we got our glad rags on and went for a meal. Unfortunately the downside was that there was nowhere within walking distance, however I didn’t mind driving.

Day 4

Sunday dawned cooler than what we’d been used to on the previous days but it was still clear. We were up relatively early and on the roady 9am. Today’s destination was the Northern part of Vermont. We had fun driving over the historical covered bridge opposite our accommodation – these are a common sight in Vermont and are really pretty.

We carried on just down the road to Quechee Gorge, which is billed as New England’s answer to the Grand Canyon. It’s a steep gorge with a tree lined river running at the bottom and you get a good view from both the bridge at the top and on the river level at the bottom, after a mile or so hike.

Back to the car and our next location was somewhere which I was very excited about – The Ben and Jerry’s Factory!

It was definitely an indulgence for me this stop, I adore Ben and Jerry’s! As you got out of the car, the air carried the smell of ice cream. Yum. We signed up for the next tour, which was 30 mins long and although nothing too special, it was really cool to be there and you got to see briefly where the magic happens!

Next stop was Stowe, home to the Von Trapp Family Lodge – the place which they escaped to from Austria. It’s in a really pretty area and is a ski resort from end of November. The scenery was gorgeous, although the town was more spread out than we imagined which made it hard to explore on foot.

We had a fabulous meal at Piecasso, which specialise in pizza – of course Keith HAD to have the large (just for himself!) ! Oink! It made a good picture though lol and tasted gorgeous.

Alec was nominated to try the local beer “Heady Toppy” – I’d read about it, apparently its voted the best beer in the world. Well, at 8% it must be one of the strongest! Keith really enjoyed the Von Trapp beer. Mum had a Stowe Cider which she loved. I had wait for it……. a tap water as I was in charge of Kelly the Kia.

We started heading back towards our digs along the Scenic Route 100, but this time North to South. We managed a stop at a local distillery to pick up some Bourbon with Maple and some small batch gin. Both of which are gorgeous! We also stopped at the Cider Mill where we had some fresh apple juice, hot cider and I tried the cider donuts, which were good.

We opted for a chill that night as we had been non stop since arriving. It was nice to catch our breaths for an evening – the boys fell asleep by 9 and Mum and I caught up on Strictly.

Vermont Highlights

  • Wilmington
  • Quechee Gorge
  • Ben and Jerrys Factory
  • Vermont Country Store
  • Stowe- esp Piecassimo Pizza and Von Trapp Beer/Stowe Cider

48 hours in Boston, MA

Day 1

We had arrived late (well 8pm – but 1am English time) so after arriving at our Air B n’ B around 9pm we hit the sacks, and therefore woke up very early on Day 1.

Not wanting to waste a second, we showered and were out by 7am having breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, which was near enough next door to our 2 bed flat.

Our Air BnB was located on the outskirts of Charlestown, about 10 mins cab from the airport and about 10 mins taxi to the centre of Downtown Boston. We like the idea of AirBnB as because we are used to motor homing, we really just needed a base, with a shower, bed and coffee making facilities.

Day 1 started with us exploring the Freedom Trail – which is a 2.5 marked trail through the centre of Boston taking in the most famous and historical sites the city has to offer. Before we booked Boston, I had no idea about what a historical city it was.

boston-nps-map

Our plan was to take in half of the freedom trail on day one and half on day two. We began at the Visitor centre on Boston Common so took a Tube from our accommodation to Park Street Station.

We walked through the common admiring the golden leaves and soon found ourselves at the State House.

We followed it though the city centre stopping at the old Burial Ground and the Old State House which is where the Declaration of Independence was read (pictures above).

We popped into Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market – two of the oldest markets in Boston – Faneuil Hall was great to shop for souvenirs and Quincy was a food lovers heaver. Crammed full of food stalls from every cuisine you can imagine, but a recurring theme was seafood of course due to our seaside lication, and lobster and clam chowder featured heavily – as it’s a popular dish here in New England.

Mouth’s set to drooling we popped to the waterside grabbing a beer each at Boston Harbor Cruises ‘The Landing’ – harbor-side bar, before making our way to Quincy Market to pick up a picnic lunch.

I opted for the Lobster Ravioli and boy was it good – Keith went for a Lobster roll, Mum a mac n cheese pie and Alec, a Hot Dog.

After lunch we went back on ourselves back through Boston Common and up Beacon Hill – we stopped for a quick beer in the famous Cheers Bar – slightly disappointing inside, but a must anyway, before exploring the trendy and insanely pretty Beacon Hill district.

All the houses around here had gorgeous fall decorations on their doorsteps and Acorn Street was worth a stop for a picture with its charming cobbled hill.

We went for another wander around Boston Common before requesting an Uber to take us back to our apartment for a freshen up and change for dinner. That was a mistake – traffic in Boston is horrible most of the time. Avoid taxis during peak hours – we called ours at 4pm and it took us over an hour to get 3.5 miles. If we hadn’t have been so tired we could have walked – but the T rail is very good and cheap so if I were there again that’s what I’d do.

Day 1 was our lobster meal night. After many recommendations from Twitter etc, we had pre booked a table at Legal Seafoods in Seaport region. Alec had never had Lobster and it was his dream to eat it in Boston, one of the reasons behind our trip. We had a cocktail on the roof terrace before we made our way to our table by the window – Keith and Alec had the full lobster experience, whilst Mum and I had other lobster alternatives. The meal was fantastic, as was the service and I would wholly recommend this place to try Lobster, our server held Keith and Alec’s had throughout the “cracking the lobster” procedure and actually the meal was very good value -each lobster was under £30 each!

Day 2

Darned Jet lag – we were awake early again, so got up and dressed and went for breakfast at Dunkin Donuts once more. Today was part 2 of the Freedom trail, along with a look around the Naval yard, USS Constitution, the Italian North End and we even squeezed in a boat trip too!

We took our T line train to Haymarket station where we picked up the Freedom trail and followed it all the way around the very charming North End – the “Little Italy” section of town. It’s a lovely place to browse around, perusing menus for later on, taking pictures of the many buildings decorated in lead, and smelling the wonderful aromas of coffee and other Italian delights. The buildings are charming and it was lovely looking around.

Before too long though it was time to head back to Long Wharf for our 10.30am Historical Harbour Cruise. What we didn’t realise when we booked it, was that today was the day the USS Constitution was making it’s first sailing in over 2 years because of restoration works that have taken place. Also – when it’s not being restored, it only sails once a year – so we were beyond thrilled to learn that not only was it sailing but it had just left it’s shipyard and was about to sail RIGHT PAST US! Wow! It truly was the most wonderful sight.

The Harbour Cruise worked as a hop on, hop off, which was perfect as we got to hop off at the Navy Yard, where the USS Constitution usually is based – despite it not being there we could still look around the USS Cassin Young, and also pick up the ending of the Freedom Trail, which led us through the absolutely stunning area of Charlestown and up to Bunker Hill Monument.

We climbed the 492 steps up Bunker Hill Monument and we rewarded with views of the USS Constitution making it’s way back to the yard.

We opted to go for a sandwich lunch at one of the oldest taverns in Boston, which handily was right by the Bunker Hill monument, The Warren Tavern. It served delicious food – mum and I loved our clam chowder, whilst the boys had humungous burgers. The local Downeast Pumpkin cider was one of the best ciders I’ve tasted.

After lunch we walked back to the Navy Yard where we were in time to see the USS Constitution back in dock – what a majestic ship she is. Our Harbour Cruise picked us up at 2pm and we made our way back to Long Wharf.

From here we walked the mile down to the Boston Tea Party Museum and got booked onto the next tour. Whilst this wasn’t my cup of tea (scuse the pun!) – Keith loved it. It was a proper all out American presentation of the history of the Tea Party Massaceur and was very interactive – i.e. the actors all gave us a role to play. There were a couple of moments inside the museum which were pretty impressive (technology based and I won’t spoil it) and also you got to see one of the original tea crates which was  pretty cool.

We made our way back to the apartment for a quick change before heading back into downtown for a couple of local beers in two more historical taverns – The Green Dragon and The Bell in Hand, before wandering into the North End for a delicious Italian meal at  Quattro.

Itinerary Details

Day 1

AM: Freedom Trail  from Visitor Centre Boston Common to Visitor Centre Fencuil Hall.

Lunch: Beer at The Landing (Boston Harbor Cruises) and Lunch at Quincy Market

PM: Beacon Hill District especially taking in Cheers Bar, Acorn Street and Chestnut Street.

Evening: Pre dinner cocktail on the roof terrace then seafood dinner at Legal Harbourside (Floor 1) 

Day 2

AM: 9.00am  Pick up Freedom Trail at Haymarket Station then do the North End Section up to Copps Hill Burying Ground.

10:30 Pre booked Harbour Cruise   $22.99 pp (Hop on Hop Off)

11:00 Disembark Harbour Cruise at Navy Yard, look around then continue up to Bunker Hill on the rear end of the Freedom Trail.

Lunch: Warren Taven – one of the oldest tavern’s in Boston

2pm: Take the Harbor Cruise back to Long Wharf and walk to the Boston Tea Party museum 

Evening: Couple of beers at Green Dragon Tavern and The Bell In Hand – both historical taverns then an Italian meal in the North End – we went to Quattro and it was delicious.

ACCOMODATION

Air B n B – 2 Bed apartment by Sullivan Square transport hub. Total for 3 nights for 4 people – £ 411

Next Up: (Coming Soon)

2 Day Roadtrip in Vermont

2 Day Roadtrip in New Hampshire

24 Hours in Salem, MA

24 Hours at Niagra Falls