Posted on October 11, 2015
Sadly, time always passes by so quickly and our time together was almost done. We had a few hours to spare on the last day, so I thought we could have a quick trip just down the road to Aylesford.
I used to play in a band when I was about 17 and 18 and we used to practice in one of the band members houses in Aylesford, so I know the town well – and it has a very interesting history with an active Carmelite Friary that dates back to the Crusades. Read More
Posted on August 29, 2015
The next day was overcast and had rain forecast, but we’re made of tough water resistant English stock – no hiding inside for us!
We had wanted to hire a boat and cruise down the river at Tonbridge, but the exchange rate was terrible and my $AU are now worth about 30% less in £GBP than last year, so we had to downscale our ambitions a little bit. Read More
Posted on September 10, 2012
The weather was beautiful, so we made the most of the local parks and my parents garden (which has a teeny freshwater crayfish in the brook that runs through it), playing with the kids and generally having fun. We made good use of the village shop and bought all kinds of yummy treats – thats the one good thing about living in a village – the trusty shop, which sells all kinds of esoteric stuff, including some yummy Kentish beer 🙂 Read More
Posted on February 24, 2012
It was still freezing cold, but we refused to be couped up indoors – I only had a week and I wanted to get out and about with the kids as much as possible.
We went off to the duck ponds for a wander around – there was still a little bit of snow around and the lakes were still frozen several cm thick – probably more in the middle
Brrr! Read More
Posted on February 18, 2012
So, we’ve been having a great time here – it’s been a relatively quiet one this time as it’s been freezing cold, most cool places are actually closed for the winter and we’re all too busy kicking back.
We did go swimming which was cool. No, litterally, it was freezing. The poor boy (who has the physical appearance of the terminally malnourished) went blue and his teeth were chattering uncontrollably.
He did try to swim, but the belly ache he had when he got out indicated that he was actually trying to drink the pool level low enough so he could stand. Read More
Posted on March 10, 2011
We had some other nice days, went out for lunch – actually, there’s a story there all by itself
Never go to Pizza Express in Sevenoaks – they were terrible, forgot our order, lied to cover it up and told us it was ‘just in the oven’ but 1/2 hour later it still hadn’t arrived, stuffed up with the deserts and eventually, after nearly 2 hours (yeah, I know, I was ready to blow) we just walked out. So, Pizza Express – you were terrible, beyond awful and I have no hesitation in not recommending that anyone go there ever, under any circumstances.
And I’m going to tag this post and tweet it too. Customer service is sometimes about recovering from a stuff-up – and they just made it worse.
Anyways, before I get on my high horse too much, back to the week..
Lunch, days out, fun, etc.
Then we decided to go to Hastings Aquarium with my sister.
Having a 7 seater hire car has some benefits – we could fit them all in one car and go together. So, after much palaver getting car seats in, we trotted off in gloomy but clearing conditions.
We arrived in Hastings and it was shrouded in the thick sea fog – couldn’t see the tops of the townhouses it was that thick. There was no way to make out the horizon between ocean and sky. The aquarium was a bit of a disappointment if truth be told, it was small and didn’t have that much in there, but still, the kids had a good time. We had lunch (fish and chips, of course) and then went for a walk on the beach
Good times 🙂
Had a nice day the next day, but then I had to take them back home, which was sad as it had been such a lovely week. I hate to leave them, its horrible. But, time will fly and I’ll be back in the summer.
Posted on January 18, 2011
I was reading Baby Girl’s blog – www.purecomplex.com and she was talking about a new fabulous hotel in the grounds of the Palace de Versailles in Paris will be created from a disused mansion – the Hôtel du Grand Contrôle.
It looks amazing – and will probably cost an arm and a leg too I suspect.
Then I got to thinking, what hotels have I stayed in over the years – here’s some of my favourites.
1. Savoy – London. Yes, it was everything they say and then some. The room itself was not huge or excessively opulent (but it was pretty bloody good), but then it was only a standard room, but the facilities, bars and restaurant were amazing. Roof level swimming pool anyone?
2. CompleatAngler, Marlow – UK. My best friend got married there and it was something else. We bumped into Piers Morgan at the reception and also had a chat with Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton (who were very lovely). It did cost something disgusting like 360 pounds a night, but it was awesome and situated on the Thames, it was a lovely place to stay
3. L’Imperial Palace, Annecy, France. I stayed there for two nights on business and it was an amazing place with views across the lake to old Annecy town. If I remember rightly, the room was lovely and the restaurant was pretty special too.
4. Sofitel, La Defense, Paris. It’s not the most obvious choice, but it was a reaaaally good hotel, and the bed was the softest I’ve ever slept on.
5. Erm. I honstly don’t know where to go from here – the rest fall into the decidedly average category. I guess 2 weeks on an old school cruise ship (P&O Victoria) could be counted – that was a very cool experience – but the room was hardly palatial. The food was amazing though.
So there you go. These are the best places I’ve ever stayed.
Posted on April 21, 2010
Everyone has a favourite place in the whole world.
It might be your garden, somewhere you went on holiday, your bed (as in the case of Jay, who loves her bed more than anywhere else) or somewhere you grew up.
In my case, this place is Oldbury Woods, nr Ightham in Kent.
I grew up a few hundred metres from this place and spent my summers larking about playing army with my friends, building camps, learning how to make fires so we could cook baked potatoes in the ashes, my autumns scrumping strawberries, apples and pears from the orchards over the back, my winters sledging down its slopes and the spring walking about in the heady earthy green smell that just busrts out of every living thing.
Oldbury Hill is the site of an Iron Age hill fort – dated from around the 100 to 50BC – its pretty big, the ramparts being 2 miles long on the 2 longest sides. The woods that cover it are part of an ancient oak forest that used to almost totally cover England and a lot of Northern Europe too – called Andredslea or Andresweald in Saxon (pre-Normal conquest) times and its a magical place. The hill itself is pretty steep, a naturally defensible place with a flat top, made of greensand, so it drains well. There’s a natural spring in the middle of the fort, which must have been an added reason to build there. The ramparts, of which there are two, one after the other, are still just visible and were once separated by a deep ditch, now a shallow path but still visible on the top of the hill, as are the footings and trenches that used to be the bases of buildings. Amazing really – its more than 2000 years old and even though the fort was made of just wood and earthworks and its overgrown with trees, you can still see where it was and visualise how impressive it must have been.
Running through the middle of it is an ancient trackway – ‘wagon road’ – which dates back to 3000BC and older. It’s sunken 40 feet into the rock at either end from millennia of traffic, wagons, horses, pilgrims etc that used to use it as a main thoroughfare to Canterbury and the coast beyond.
The fort was overthrown by the Romans around 50BC, probably by Julias Caesar’s advancing armies – there is evidence of burning by where one of the gates would have been and lots of arrowheads and slingshot from the battle found by local archaeologists. There’s also Roman remains in the valley to the foot of the hillfort, so there must have been peaceful settlement after occupation. Its a very interesting place. More unusually, the greensand forms an ovecrop on one edge and also some pretty deep caves where evidence of middle palaeolithic (old stone age) occupation (50,000BC) with stone axes and flint (from the chalk downs not too far away) arrowheads uncovered.
So its a pretty cool place, steeped in history. And I grew up with it as the view from my bedroom window.
The most special part of it is a tree with a hole in it. Its a magical tree, my sisters and I used to clamber through the hole to our parents waiting arms when we were little and our kids have done the same. I need to get my mum and dad to send me a copy of that photo 🙂
So here, for your viewing pleasure, are some pics from when I took Ella and Henry there on such a gorgeous Spring day.
Oldbury Woods – my favourite place in the whole world.
So, where’s your favourite place and why?
Posted on April 20, 2010
So, the last castle we actually went to visit properly was Hever Castle, only 30 mins drive from my mum and dads house.
Hever Castle is another fairytale castle, complete with moat, drawbridge and portcullis, surrounded by sculpted parklands with a maze and a Tudor village too. Its a fabulously beautiful place. Similar to the others, it has its foundations in 13th Century, with the earliest parts dating from 1270, which is pretty freaking old. The Castle as you see it today dates from Tudor times (1500’s) when it was owned by the Bullen family, who had one famous member, Anne Boleyn, who grew up there as a child. The castle changed hands into Anne of Cleeve’s family after Henry VIII lopped off Anne’s head and eventually into the hands of famous American industrialist William Waldorf Astor in 1903, who completed expensive and probably vastly expensive restorations to leave it in trust in the condition you see today.
So, Ella, Henry and I had a wonderful day exploring – it was a gorgeous warm sunny spring day too, so we had lots of fun in the maze and gardens before wandering around the castle looking at Anne Boleyn’s bedroom, her bedhead from her childhood and even the book she had with her when she was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Ella had been studying Henry VIII last year so she was very impressed with seeing history face to face as it were.
The daffodils were out in force in their formal gardens, so you look across the river that feeds the moat and lake across a sea of yellow towards the castle and Tudor village that the Astor’s built.
All in all, an awesome day – the kids played in the adventure playground until it was starting to get late and were so tired by the end of it that they slept the whole way back in the car 🙂 Job done!
Posted on April 18, 2010
The thing about England (and the rest of the UK come to that) is that almost everybody lives in a castle.
There are simply millions of the things scattered about the country that if you don’t live in one, you live next door to one or a pile of stones that used to be one. I’m not even kidding – where I grew up in Kent, where my parents still live, there are probably 30 castles within 20 minutes drive of their house. There’s even a handful of Roman Villas, an old (now ruined) Palace (one of the biggest in the country in its day) and a bunch of pre-historic remains.
Kids love castles – they come with tales of knights, dragons, torture, kings, princesses, behead-ings, dungeons and, of course, garderobes (toilets that empty poos into the moat)
So we went to see some of the local ones.
First up – Leeds Castle. Not near Leeds, West Yorkshire, but Leeds in Kent. Its one of the prettiest best preserved castles anywhere, set in a large parkland with a fairytale moat and stories of King Henry VIII, plus it has a massive maze and lots of things for kids to do.
Sadly, it was frickin’ freezing and miserable on that day, but we kinda wrapped up (not enough though) and just went for it.
There were also (as is customary in these places) lots of peacocks.