Review- Fear At Avon Valley- Bristol’s Scariest Attraction this October

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Want to get super scared this Halloween? Then get yourself down to Fear at Avon Valley as this is the scare park for you.

I am one of the biggest scaedy cats there ever was.. Or so I thought!

We had the opportunity to visit Fear at Avon Valley last week for their opening night and I can tell you that I’ve not jumped out of my skin so much in a long time. There were frights galore!

Fear at Avon Valley just outside of Bristol is a Scare Park. Scare Park’s have been gaining momentum across the UK and based on the screams and sqeuals we heard all night it seems as scary as they are people love them!

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Celebrating their 5th birthday Fear at Avon Valley have got bigger, better and scarier than before. They have grown over the last 5 years and developed their mazes to further shock, scare and spook the living daylights out of its patrons. They have even travelled over to the U.S to get inspiration and ideas on how they can continue to up the anti and finds new ways to scare people.  With 4 mazes, a live-action shooting range, 2-minute escape room challenge, a very scary clown name Frank overseeing the area, fairground rides, fire show, yummy food trucks, bars with some spooky cocktails and creepy characters wandering around (note chasing you!) it’s a great night out this October.

The 4 mazes (Phobia, Anarchy:Live, X4 and House of Clowns) all feature their own storylines as you make your way through them. Phobia is what it says on the tin. It covers most people’s phobias from claustrophobia to bugs. Anarchy: Live is the oldest maze and is reinvented every year. This year it’s a zombie film set gone wrong. House of Clowns is exactly what you think with some hella creepy clowns hiding in a cute little of ladies house, ready to do the creepiest laughing you ever did hear! X4 is military based and there has been an outbreak and you’ve got to escape.

They are an assault on all your senses with strong smells, strobe and disorientating lighting, twists and turns, people jumping out on you, clever use of darkness and making the silence even creepier than a clown evil laughing in your ears.

They are cleverly planned out and designed even the start of Phobia has you (and your partner) standing in a coffin in the dark for a good 10/15 seconds before someone screams at you and drags you into the maze. This was the first maze we did and it 100% set us up for a night with us on edge.

Out of the four mazes, my favourite was  Anarchy: Live mainly as there were parts of this that I felt so lost in and literally like I wouldn’t find our way out. The fact that you also get chased out by an axe-wielding zombie was a nice touch.

We had a VIP ticket which meant we could jump the queues, had an unlimited entry into all attractions and a special bar area complete with popcorn and sweets. If anything the VIP is most worth it for being able to jump the queues and I would recommend on busier nights. This is worth its weight in gold. I can imagine queuing up hearing people squealing and screaming probably adds to the anticipation but it could also grow quite tiresome. It was £45 which is a jump up from the standard ticket at £17 but if you wanted to go into the mazes more than once and don’t like queuing then I would recommend it.

Would we do it again? Yes of course! It was a really fun night and whilst I’ll probably regret saying it – it was nice to been spooked leading up to Halloween. We were way braver than I thought.

There are only limited dates remaining with the final night of the event falling on Halloween so you want to get your tickets quick. To book and find out more click here.

 

Featured Image courtesy of Fear at Avon Valley. All other images our own.

Disclaimer:

Fear at Avon Valley kindly invited us to enjoy the VIP experience in exchange for an honest review and mentions on social media. We would of course only recommend places/attractions/products that we personally enjoyed. We had the best night and thoroughly recommend you go experience it for yourself. If you do then let us know what you think!

10 Photos in London

Welcome to our new series, 10 Photos in…

To kick off our first destination we are heading to London. There are probably over a million photos taken of London every week (or even day!) but we have 10 photos from bloggers and Instagrammers who want to share the best places, different views, a new side to popular landmarks and their favourite photos of this wonderful city.

As a lover of photography and travel one of the first things I do when I’m going somewhere new is google images, peruse Pinterest and stalk every possible hashtag or location tag I can on Instagram. I want to know where to go and what looks great.

With this series hopefully, you’ll get photographic inspiration, learn about some new places and meet some new bloggers.

This is London

Ezra Street,  By Meandering WildLondon takes on a magical feel at night and even more so when you explore the back streets and alleyways that are still lit by gaslights.  Columbia Road in Bethnal Green is well known for it Flower Market. On most Sundays, a longstanding market, which attracts flower buyers from across London fills the street with colour and fragrance.  Halfway along Columbia Road is The Royal Oak, a public-house rebuilt in 1923 sitting on the corner of Ezra Street.

This little street is still cobbled and holds a magical charm all of its own. Sometimes forgotten by its larger and bolder Columbia Road neighbour this street can compete with many of London’s more famous locations.   Walking onto Ezra Street is like being transported back in time. The cobbles remain and the shops keep their 1930’s feel with a solitary lamp lighting the street. During the day this is a busy café with chairs and bustle but at night when no one is around you can easily imagine London from the Victorian era and beyond. It may seem familiar and that is because it has been used extensively for wartime and 1950’s movies.  Most notably ‘The Kray’s’ and Guy Ritchie’s ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ as well as being the pub in the TV series ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’.

It may be a small corner of London but it gives an insight into the old and ‘normal’ London that millions of people once knew.

You can find Meandering Wild  on Facebook here 

The British Museum, By Two Traveling Texans

I chose this picture of the new British Museum roof to share because it is a perfect example of one of the things that I love about London – the mix of the old and the new.  The British Museum was built in 1852 (it has been expanded several times since) and the new roof was added in 2000.

There are so many new buildings going up in London now and I love that they all have fun nicknames.  Some of my favourites are the Walkie-Talkie, the Shard, and the Gerkin. The new buildings are in stark contrast to the older buildings like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s, yet to me, they compliment each other.

The British Museum should be on your list to see in London.  They have a vast collection of historical pieces there are impressive.  You won’t want to miss seeing the Rosetta Stone, artefacts from Ancient Greece and Egypt, the treasures from Sutton Hoo, and much more.  If possible I would recommend allowing at least 3 hours for your visit. You won’t be able to see everything but you should be able to cover the highlights. Just like many other museums in London, admission to the British Museum is free.

The Elizabeth Tower & Westminster Bridge, By Travel Stories and ImagesThis is one of my favourite photos of my brief visit to London a few years ago. I chose it because it’s so iconic. The Elizabeth Tower (commonly, but incorrectly, referred to as Big Ben) is arguably the most recognizable symbol of London and represents the heart of the country’s tradition and its government.

The photo also captures Westminster Bridge, which is the primary thoroughfare between the Westminster and Lambeth districts of London. While it’s an important route through the city, it also holds more sombre significance for Londoners: it was the site of a terrorist attack in early 2017 that killed four and injured 50. Memories of this attack will not soon be forgotten.

The photo is a long exposure, meaning that my shutter was open for several seconds. This is why both the water of the Thames and the clouds above the Tower and Parliament buildings appear so smooth. I also chose to render the final version in black and white. This gives the photo more of an antique, timeless look that, to me, echoes the fact that London is a timeless city – always growing and changing, but ever rooted in thousands of years of rich history and culture.

You can find Travel Stories and Images on Pinterest here

London Cobbled Streets and Pretty Houses, by The Glittering Unknown

Though my address may say Paris, my first city love was London. At fourteen upon my first visit, I decided I would one day live there, and consequently, I love the looks of all the different residences around the city. London is beautiful because it’s so different and diverse- the people, the mix of cultures, the architecture.

I love wandering through each quiet little nook I find, relishing the fact that it’s possible to find a calm spot in such a huge city. These mews streets always have the cutest details, from the bikes out front to the picnic tables to the vines snaking over the multi coloured facades. It’s so easy to become wrapped up in a picturesque moment and forget that there are real people who dwell behind those doors until the red-jacket-clad postman comes rolling down the cobblestones and into your photo. To tell the truth, I’m not sure if I’d love or hate to live in one of these houses given how popular they are with photographers! But they are a good reminder that behind every picture-perfect facade lies something raw and real, which I think is a notion that encapsulates London as a whole- beautiful, gritty, and always something new to discover.

You can find The Glittering Unknown on Instagram here

Skygarden, By Travel Hacker Girl

Skygarden is my favourite place in London. Whenever I have friends or family in the city I make sure to take them there. I have visited Skygarden 5 times and each of my visits has been different. You can get a great view of London and the best part is it is all free. However, you need to book tickets ahead on their website. Tickets are released every Monday and you need to book about 2-3 weeks ahead. One of the most special visits was when I witnessed a rainbow above London. It is also a good idea to plan your visit to watch the sunset. This was really great because we got to see the city with the lights on after darkness as well. Skygarden is not just famous for its stunning 360-degree views over London, but also of its lovely garden that is located on the top floor. You can see many different plants. You can also find a restaurant as well.

You will need to book ahead if you want to dine there. I am sure it is a great experience to enjoy your meal with such amazing view. Another option is to have a little nibble or a hot drink in the cafe that is also located on the top floor.

Find Travel Hacker Girl on Instagram here

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St Pauls Cathedral, By The Wandering Darlings

St Paul’s Cathedral is one of my favourite places in London. It’s just such a commanding building and just being in its presence you can feel its greatness. The delicate detailing of the interior, the huge dome, the history that lies in every brick it really is a must visit on any trip to London. On a recent trip, we climbed to the very top to see the views of the city. If you are visiting I would recommend you do this, London should be viewed from above as much as possible.

You can find The Wandering Darlings on Instagram here

Queen’s Guard By My Suitcase Journeys

Find My Suitcase Journeys on Instagram here

Greenwich, By Where Jo Goes

Greenwich, London, is famous for being the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the prime meridian. This unique claim to fame is explored in detail at the Greenwich Observatory where you can find out how timekeeping here changed the world.  Stand with one foot each in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres!

But Greenwich is so much more than the birthplace of GMT.  A world heritage centre, it is home to three more royal museums. The National Maritime Museum houses such historic treasures as the coat Nelson wore when he was fatally wounded, cannon balls from the Battle of Trafalgar and artefacts from hundreds of years of Britain’s maritime history.  Head to the Cutty Sark to find out why this tea clipper was the fastest ship of its kind, see the collection of figureheads and watch actors bring to life this iconic vessel. The Queen’s House, regarded as the first classical building in Britain, presents art and architecture and the royal history of Greenwich. Christopher Wren’s Royal Naval College is famed for its celebrated painted ceiling, book a tour if you want to climb 60 feet for a close-up look or visit the chapel and visitor centre.

Greenwich has a flourishing market – a great place to grab lunch from the many food stalls or a locally made souvenir. The park that spreads out beneath the Observatory is a wonderful spot for a stroll. From Greenwich, you can catch a boat down the River Thames and see London’s iconic sights by the river. Directly across the Thames from is the O2 and the Emirates Airline cable car.

Greenwich has more to offer than you could pack into a single weekend from the modern to the historic, from the royal to the relaxed, it truly is one of London’s gems.

London Scenes by Emily Fedorowycz

The London Eye, By The Wandering Darlings

Yes, it’s totally touristy but you can’t go to London and not see the London Eye. Even if you don’t go up it makes for a picturesque view of the South Bank of the Thames.  If you can stomach the line and the ride up (it’s not scary I’m just not good with heights) then I would 100% recommend you go up especially at dusk. You get the best views of London and as it is goes very slowly you get the time to take it all in and honestly you can see for miles!

You can find The Wandering Darlings on Facebook here

And that is our 10 Photos in London. Did you discover somewhere new or is there somewhere you would have liked to have seen? Let us know in the comments below.

Coming up we have Barcelona, Paris, New York and Marrakech if you would like to be involved then get in touch! We’d love to have you involved

The beauty of Glastonbury Abbey in pictures

Glastonbury Abbey by The Wandering Darlings

Glastonbury Abbey has long been one of my favourite places in the UK. As soon as you walk into the abbey grounds you just get the feeling you are in very serene and special place. Maybe its the connections to King Arthur and the legend that he’s buried here, maybe it’s the many stories the ruins hold or maybe it’s just that its a place of worship.

Located in the town of Glastonbury, Somerset (more popularly known for its ties with Glastonbury Festival) the Abbey is a popular visitor attraction. The Abbey buildings date back to 688 and whilst they are now ruins, they are still just as beautiful as what you would imagine they were back in their heyday.

The buildings are Grade 1 Listed and set in within 36 acres of parkland which is all immaculately preserved so that history lives on and that visitors can learn about the history and myths of this tranquil area. Whilst visiting you can see what is believed to be King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s final resting place, Lady Chapel, St Patrick’s Chapel, the Holy Thorn, Cider Orchard and Abbot’s Kitchen. The museum helps answer any questions that you may have about the area and in the summer months, there are even costumed guides walking around sharing information about the ruins.

There are so many stories both historic, legendary and mythical within these ruins and parklands. Including that it is considered the earliest Christian Foundation in England and linked to Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Thorn, ties to the Saxons, Romans and Normans, it’s been raged by fire and rebuilt and has considerable connections to the legend of King Arthur.

To visit the Abbey the admission price is £7.34 per adult if bought online (slightly higher if paying at the gate) and there are student, over 60 and family tickets also available. For less than a tenner it is well worth the entry price and with so much to see and do its a great (and educational) day out for all the family.

You can also visit the Abbey for plays, gigs, workshops and other events so do check out the events page of their website here for what is coming up.

It’s a mystical and mythical place that I have visited several times and is one place that I could visit a thousand times more. Take in the beauty for yourself with these serene pictures of the majestic Glastonbury Abbey.

Glastonbury Abbey in pictures from The Wandering Darlings

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Glastonbury Abbey in pictures pin for blog post from The Wandering Darlings

Where in the world Wednesday- St Nicks Market, Bristol UK

  Where in the world is this little alleyway?

Those familiar with Bristol in the South West of England will be well aware of St Nicholas Markets and also would only refer to it as St Nicks. It’s one of Bristol’s historic hot spots for food and shopping with over 60 independent traders.

One of the oldest and most adored markets in Bristol it has been a huge part of Bristol’s past and is still located in the heart of the old city. Established in 1743 it now brings the old Georgian style architecture together with the new fashions, handicrafts and world food cuisines. It’s the perfect mix with just the right ambience that makes it the perfect place to meander around whilst visiting the city.

St Nicks is home to the Indoor Market and on certain days is also home to the  Bristol Farmers and Producers Market, Street Food Market (Tuesday and Friday) and The Nails Market out on the adjoining pedestrian streets- Corn Street and Wine Street.

You will notice outside the Exchange Hall several big brass pillars. These are referred to as ‘Nails’ and are where traders would settle their deals in the past and is where the phrase ‘Paying on the Nail’ came from. There are inscriptions on the nails that date right back to the sixteen hundreds and are a great reminder of the historic past of St Nicks and market trading in Bristol.

I can 100% recommended the Street Food Market which is every Tuesday and Friday. Most workers within the city centre have had their lunch from this diverse market. They honestly have the best range of cuisines from the Old Smokey Belgium Donut Chimneys, to Indonesian Nasi Goreng, to Italian sausage you can get whatever you desire and it all tastes amazing.

Within the Indoor Market areas, there are three areas- Exchange Hall, Glass Arcade and Covered Market.  The Exchange Hall is an open planned trading area and it’s MASSIVE. The mix of items to buy is so eclectic you’ll find something you never even realised you needed. The Glass Arcade is home to the eateries and you will be in awe of how many unique options are available.  Some stands even have seating so you can sit and take in the buzzing atmosphere. The Covered Market consists of small alleyways and independent retailers to further fill your bags and empty your purses at. It’s a great place for finding a really original gift.

The markets are open Monday- Saturday 9.30-5pm. Do check for bank holiday opening times and also for the speciality outdoor markets. You can find St Nicks here Corn Street, Bristol BS1 1JQ. It’s very centrally located and easily accessible from central hotels, the bus and train station.

For more information please do check out this link

Bristol is a great place to explore and whilst visiting you should also visit The Lido and visit during the Bristol Balloon Fiesta

To see Where in the World we were last week check it out here.

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Being Brunel- A new must visit museum in Bristol

Visiting Bristol and need something to do? Then you must visit the new Being Brunel Museum at the SS Great Britiain

Do you know this man?

A few hints

–  He is the reckless engineer

– He was quite partial to a top hat and cigar

– He built bridges, railways, ship and tunnels

– He is a big name in British history

– He was a change maker

– He’s got a pretty awesome name

Guessed it yet?

It’s Isambard Kingdom Brunel and this is a 3D statue of him at the new museum Being Brunel In Bristol. It has only just opened at the site of one his spectacular ships the SS Great Britain. It’s a must-see attraction if you find yourself in Bristol or the South West.

The museum opened in March 2018 and houses a fantastic range of artefacts from Brunel’s life. It’s taken a few years to build and once you get there you’ll understand why. There are 6 galleries which include a moving replica of a train carriage, a huge display of letters, sketched and photos, a massive mural of his life, a video show with smells and sounds to put you firmly in the past. You can see his office in London and Bristol as well as his Shakespeare dining room and the dockyard. Everything is so detailed and you can tell that it’s been built with passion and respect for the forwarding thinking legend.

The crowning glory is the gigantic statue of Brunel’s Head in the middle of the main gallery. You can see he commanded attention when he was alive and this statue is no different. It’s also very clever as you can literally walk inside his mind and experience a 6 min film of his personal thoughts (from letters and diary entries) of key points within his life and career. Most of the scenes were filmed on site and once you have seen the video you can then walk around and put yourself in the picture.

History has to be engaging these days to capture people and to teach them that we are where we are now due in the past. Both from the failures and the successes. We have access to all the news and all the information, so I really enjoy it when I see a museum or historic attraction use such interactive ways to draw in both children and adults. All of the galleries at Being Brunel allowed you to open draws, test out an old-fashioned train carriage, look at drawings, interactive video games, see how they used to make 3d pictures and even put a top hat on. In this day and age, you wouldn’t have an engineer celebrated like Burnel was and is. It’s great that children can have access to people in our past like this and not just the celebrity culture dominating the news headlines.

To see the drawings, letters and even newspaper articles of the past was amazing to get an insight into how some of the bridges and railways that are in my day to day life were first conjured up and then went from an idea to a reality.

As a photography lover, I enjoyed discovering a new contraction. They also had these great viewfinders which when a picture has been inserted it would show as a 3D image. They were really cool and I just loved the vintage photos.

My other half has long held Brunel in the highest regard so it was a must for us to visit but I can guarantee even if you have no idea about who Brunel was before you entered you would be sure glad you learnt who he was. This new museum is a wonderful celebration of Brunel and his life’s work and also a great insight into the man behind the top hat and cigar.

As Being Brunel is housed within the SS Great Britain you can also explore the majestic ship and the dry dock it’s housed in. I’ve not yet posted this yet (I promise it will be live soon!) so you can learn more about it here  

Where – Great Western Dockyard, Gas Ferry Road, Bristol, BS1 6TY

Prices (as per their website in April 2018) – All tickets are for a year and you can go back and explore as many times as you like within that period.

  • Adult £16.50
  • Students and Seniors £14.50
  • Under 4 Free
  • 5-16-year-olds £9.50
  • Companion or assistant (alongside a disabled paying visitor) FREE
  • Family £45

Check out their website here for more details and to book tickets http://www.ssgreatbritain.org/

Have you seen the London from the Thames? Well you really should

So many great cities are always said to be seen best from the water. I’ve seen Venice, New York, Paris, Sydney all from the water so I have no idea why it took me so long to see the majestic London from the long and winding River Thames.

This week I righted my wrong.

The opportunity came along with some of my work colleagues as a change from the standard after work drinks. So instead of heading to a pub, we hot-footed it down to Westminster Bridge to go on the City Cruises Sundowner boat.

Now I didn’t really know what to expect. Obviously, a boat, that it would be touristy AF but also hopefully some insta worthy shots and a nice way to see the city. I certainly wasn’t expecting fizz on arrival, one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen or that we would be up dancing to the onboard performer on the boat. Just wait for more on that later.

We were booked with City Cruises and they do cruises throughout the day. The one we went on, however, was the Sundowner Cruise. Tickets cost £32 per person (adults and children are the same prices). You can generally get a deal on Groupon so do check there first. The cruise departs from Westminster Pier which is easily accessible from Westminster tube station. You depart at 6.15/6.30ish and are then on the water for 2 hours so getting back to Westminster in time for dinner and drinks. There is fizz/soft drink on arrival and canapes severed throughout. There is also a bar if you want to have further drinks throughout the cruise. If that wasn’t enough they also provide an entertainer who performs throughout the journey. Mainly pop songs but also covers all eras to cater for the mix of ages. The lady we had was brilliant and she had our group and some others up dancing around during the cruise. The processco may have also helped with the dancing. I swear some of the other guests probably thought they had boarded with a group of crazy ladies but most of them got involved with our shenanigans. We did get to make friends with one of the guests they were over from the US and celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I’m sure when they booked their cruise they were expecting to be dancing around with us to Bruno Mars’s Up Town Funk.

The rain from earlier the day decided to disappear just as we boarded however it did mean that it was wet up top so for dry seating we did need to sit downstairs. The inside of the boat has lots of tables and its group seating. Had we not been such a large group we could have been sat and been able to chat with other guests. What we could do however was stand up top and take some photos (and drink some fizz) and watch the sunset then head back down below deck for some nibbles and a dance.

From the boat, we got to see so much of London and it truly is such a remarkable city. At the start of the cruise the London Eye was contrasted against the grey sky and by the end, it was a luminous red orb. Tower bridge looked postcard perfect before and after the sunset. You could see the Oxo Building, The Shard, St Pauls, Big Ben, red buses going over the bridges along the river, Londoners out on their evening runs, Canary Wharf and the super expensive homes along the banks of the river. I don’t think I’ve ever seen London look as beautiful as I did that evening.

The sunset decided to set just as we went under Tower Bridge making it the perfect silhouette against the sky. So quintessentially London. Seriously what is more London than watching the sunset behind the landmarks of the city, while on the Thames with wet puddles from the day’s rain around you and a Pimms in hand? If you are visiting London or even if you live in London I would 100% recommend doing a cruise like this and if your not sold yet then have a look at some of my snaps for further encouragement.

For more information on the crusie we did then check out this link below
http://www.citycruises.com/london-thames-experiences/evening-cruise

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Ballooning In Bristol- Why you need to visit Bristol

The Wandering Darlings- Bristol Balloon FiestaI’ve long loved a hot air balloon. Floating through the sky, slowly gliding and following the wind as it blows.  Pretty damn magical.

When I saw the film UP it showed that sense of adventure teamed with a few thousand balloons. I didn’t exactly run out and buy a few hundred canisters of helium and loosened the footings on my house but I did always have a romantic notion that you could get to travel to far off lands in a wicker basket and some hot air.

The Wandering Darlings- Bristol Balloon Fiesta
So with that in mind, one of the best thing about moving to the West Country was that in Bristol every year in August they hold the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. 4 days of ballooning fun and the city becomes like a picture perfect postcard.  Bristol is synonymous with balloons just like it is with Banksy, Ribena, Aardman Animations and Isambard Brunel. Creativity and Engineering greats!

Bristol is located in the South West of England and is a beautiful and colourful city. It has its own culture which I’ve not like I’ve ever seen anywhere it else. Bristol loves everything and everyone and has a small town feel but in big city scope. It’s only an hour and a half away from London by train and once you get off at Temple Meads everything you could need is literally a walk away. The harbour, the history, the street art, the parks, the bars and the shopping it makes it an ideal destination for all.

I’ve heard recently that Bristol produces more hot air balloons than anywhere else in the world so it seems only fitting that it is also home to one of the largest hot air balloon events in Europe. I mean Cameron Balloons has been based in Bristol since 1971 and the main man behind Cameron’s Balloon, Don Cameroon developed the first hot air balloon and aptly called it the Bristol Belle.  Cameron Balloons are said to be the largest maker of hot balloons within the world and have been pushing boundaries ever since by focusing on creating new and creative ways to travel through the sky be it with funny shapes to more technical features of aerodynamics.

The Wandering Darlings- Bristol Balloon Fiesta
Cameron Balloons

The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta was first started in 1979 and is always located at the Ashton Court Estate. The timings have changed over the years and it is now always in August and runs over 4 days. As with anything in England you can never rely on the weather, however, August is generally a more favourable month with less rain and wind. The best part of the fiesta is that is a free event. Yes, you heard right FREE. Sure you have to pay for parking and for any food and drinks but you can attend completely for free. Trust me Bristol does love a free festival (you should come in July for the Harbour Festival- yep you guessed it also FREE)

The Wandering Darlings- Bristol Balloon Fiesta
Every day during the fiesta there is a mass ascent in the morning and again in the evening.  These mass ascents can include over 130 balloons all taking flight at the same time. Depending on the wind sometimes this can take the balloons right over the city centre. Night glows are on the Thursday and Saturday nights when the balloons are tethered and lit up dancing to the music also. There is also usually a firework display after the night glow on saturday.  There is also festival feel at Long Ashton with fairground rides, food stalls and a whole lotta balloons.

Over the years there has been all sorted of balloons. All the colours of the rainbow and also lots of creative shapes from a Sky Whale, a minion, a kiwi bird, the house from Up to a Bertie Bassett.

The Wandering Darlings- Bristol Balloon Fiesta
Balloons and the Clifton Suspension Bridge

This year was the first time,  in the 11 years that I got my butt out of bed at the crack of dawn (5 am!) to go and watch to the morning ascent. My gosh was it a good decision.

We opted to watch from the Observatory in Clifton. This way we had balloons, Bristol and the Clifton Suspension Bridge all in our eye line. A few 100 people had the same idea. Some in their PJs, some hadn’t made it home from their Saturday night yet, breakfast picnics, balloon inspired sweaters and mugs of tea. All there to just watch some balloons. And when I say a ‘some’ balloons I mean like at least 100 balloons.

The Wandering Darlings- Bristol Balloon Fiesta
Calming, simple fight but with such beauty

It was a beautiful way to spend a Sunday morning. We’ve previously watched the night ascent from another vantage point in the city. On Bedminster Downs, you have the perfect view of the festival and can see the balloons being inflated and ready to launch. There are lots of grassy areas where you can sit and have a picnic and in recent years food trucks have also been showing up there so you don’t even need to bring your own.

The Wandering Darlings- Bristol Balloon Fiesta
Obvs our favourite one was the Thatchers Balloon

No matter whether you watch the fiesta from the higher vantage points of the city to low on the ground at the fiesta it is well worth treating yourself to a trip to Bristol in August just to witness this truly spectacular display.

Bristol is a great city to visit and even outside of this festival. Surprisingly I’ve not blogged too much about my home away from home (which I will rectify) however in the meantime if you want to read some more reasons to visit Bristol check out the blogs and websites below.

https://apostcardhomeblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/9-bristol-festivals-you-need-to-attend/

https://wandereroftheworld.co.uk/25-ways-to-have-the-best-summer-in-bristol/

http://visitbristol.co.uk/

http://www.bristolballoonfiesta.co.uk/

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Weekend Adventures – Stourhead

I’ve fallen into a Jane Austen novel and I don’t want to come back to the real world.

This picturesque place is Stourhead, located in Wiltshire, England. It is part owned by the National Trust and has firmly risen to the top of my favourite places to visit in South West. The whole estate is like walking through a glorious painting.

With our newly acquired National Trust passes we were looking forward to a day out exploring and obviously taking copious amounts of photos. The Estate is made up of the house, gardens, lake and King Alfred’s Tower so there were lots to explore.

We started with the house. Henry Hoare was given the house in 1721 and it was in his family for over 200 years. The last heir gave the property to the National Trust just before he passed away. There are several rooms on the ground floor that you can look through and they include lots of family heirlooms, stories and artworks. My favourite room in the house was the library. It was so large, light and, full of old books. Which I guess is what you would expect from a library.It also has an awesome carpet!!


Whilst the house was beautiful and very interesting the real winner here is the lake and gardens. I mean look at the place it’s like being transported to a secret haven or enchanted forest.


I always get so surprised how green England is in the summer. In Australia it’s always dry, brown and so very un-green! Here it’s like 50 shades of green across these stunning gardens. I can only imagine how breathtaking it must be in Autumn.

The lake here is man made and the gardens have been crafted to take people on a journey and to resemble Aeneas’s journey into the underworld. It’s constructed like a living piece of art and there are lots of vantage points that carefully capture the buildings and monuments against the landscape.

Reading up on the gardens they are said to follow Alexander Pope’s concept called ‘genius of the place’ which means the spirit of the place needs to consulted when designing the garden. Its principles are used in garden and landscape design to this day. Whatever it is it works with these gardens so well. You feel like the garden has a spirit of its own!

The buildings and monuments around the lake are gorgeous both against the landscape and up close. You can find the Pantheon, Temple of Apollo, Bristol High Cross, the bridge and the 200-year-old grotto. As soon as you get to one of these you see something on the other side of the lake so want to go back over to explore again.


One thing that you won’t get from my words or photographs is the smells. I wonder when the scientist will finally work out smellogram. There is so many flowers, huge touch the cloud style trees (oak, birch, Laurel)and a vast collection of Rhododendrons.  We even saw a ghost or handkerchief tree which had flowers (or leaves!) that looked like white handkerchiefs. My better half also made friends with some confident ducks and ducklings.

               King Alfred’s tower is just down the road from Stourhead (still on the same estate) and it’s a commanding structure. On the weekends/bank holidays, you can climb to the top. I thought I was fit but those stairs were a killer!! Getting to the top was a huge reward as you could see for MILES! We could see Glastonbury Tor and all over the Wiltshire/Somerset fields. It was one of those moments when you realise just how big the world around you is.

I can’t recommend Stourhead enough and I really can’t wait to return later in the year to see it in the autumn. It’s a truly lovely place and my only regret would be that we didn’t take a picnic (so make sure you do!)  to sit and have lunch in style. Obviously, I would have also liked a Mr Darcy style man to come out of the water,  wet white shirt and looking all brooding but that might have been asking a bit much.

Stourhead is located in Wiltshire. For a day pass it is £17.60 for an adult and £44 for a family. Both of these prices include gift aid. There is also a charge at the car park however if you are members it is free. The house is open from 9-6 and King Alfred’s tower has limited opening houses (and a small charge). More details can be found here https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead

Like this property then you should also check out these places in and around the South West.

Montacute House

North Devon

Jurassic Coast

Somerset

Newark Park
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Why you should explore North Devon

My sister and brother in law were visiting the UK for a family wedding and whilst there were over they came down south to spend a few days with us.  As they have seen quite a lot of Somerset (where we live) we decided to take them even further south and headed to North Devon for a sisters and hubbies long weekend break.

Devon is in my top 3 favourite countries in the UK. It’s green rolling hills, wind turbines, breathtaking coastlines, big open spaces and quaint seaside villages all just make it dream destination within the UK.

I’ve always loved when  the journey to a place is just as fun as the destination and the drive to Woody Bay was no different. Our route was almost all on A roads which meant we got to drive through the villages, we could see the coastline changing with every mile we got closer and we also had to go through the Exmoor National Park.  We stopped off in one of the look out places to admire the Exmoor heather and ponies and of course take lots of pictures. Growing up whenever we drove to the coast (which was a casual 6-hour drive!) we always had a competition on whoever saw the ocean first meant they got the first ice cream. And whilst it was a rather chilly day we weren’t going to skimp out on the tradition and stood there in the spitty rain, with coats on eating our ice creams.


We were staying in Woody Bay which is just outside of Lynton and Lynmouth which are two twinned villages. Lynton is at the top of a cliff and joined with Lynmouth by a funicular railway. Basically a vertical train. It’s still got all of the charms of the 19th century when it was built to help connect the two towns. I loved the harbour in Lynmouth with all the boats sitting on the mud whilst the tide was out.   Both villages had lovely little pubs and a lot of chippies because fish and chips are obviously a must by the sea.

We had a theme for railways on this trip as we also went to the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway and travelled on a steam train on a short track through the rolling hills. This has been a restoration project for volunteers within in the area and whilst there is only a short section of the railway operational it amazing to see how it’s been lovingly restored. The stations, the train and the museum all take you back to yesteryear. We really enjoyed this and it felt great experiencing something people have put so many hours into bringing back to life.


There is a lot of great accommodation options and we stayed in the best Airbnb I have ever stayed in. I mean look at the view from the toilet!!

We were off the beat and track and the coast roads to get to our accommodation did cause a few white knuckles at times but the end result was worth it. We were so secluded that it was a little piece of paradise. There is low light pollution in this area so at night the stars were unbelievably bright. I don’t think I have seen the night sky so bright since being at my house  in Australia. Our host was super attentive and their flat was so well designed and styled. They had thought of everything right down to backpacks for hikes and even more importantly  wine on arrival.  The winner though for this place was the view. Especially at sunrise and sunset.

Down the road from the flat was a walk that took you right to the beach. Obviously pebbled we are in England remember. I don’t even know if I can find the adjectives to say how gorgeous it was. From waterfalls to huge boulders and sheer cliffs I could have spent all my days there.  My sister and her husband being the crazy ones that they are even got in the freezing, ‘September in England’ water and had a swim.

Other gems within this area that are worth exploring are Ilfracombe and Woolacombe. There was a  festival going on in Ilfracombe when we were there so it was a buzz with activity, people and bunting. The harbour area was really pretty and certainly worth exploring with lots of boutique shops and boats to look at. There is also rumoured to be the oldest operational lighthouse in the UK here on Lantern Hill. We could have spent even longer here and will be certainly going back to explore. I really want to do a boat trip to Lundy island which you can do from the harbour here.


We got  to Woolacombe late in the afternoon and did my favourite thing- we walked barefoot along the beach and even better this one was sand!. Way too chilly for a swim (even for my sister!) so we wandered up and down the beach watching the sunset.  This beach is one of the most beautiful beaches I have come across over here and can’t wait to get down there this summer. We finished off the perfect walk with wine and beers in a pub overlooking the beach. If it was a bit warmer it would have been just like we were in Australia.


North Devon is full of great places and I’ve only covered a small portion of what it has to offer in this post. I’ve put some links below where you can find more information and things to do whilst visiting.  It was the perfect long weekend break with my family and I can’t wait to go back and explore further.

More Information

Accommodation

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/3913039

 

Local sites

http://www.visitlyntonandlynmouth.com/

http://www.northdevon.com

http://www.lynton-rail.co.uk/

Trust Me England isn’t always grey and miserable.

So England gets a bit of a bad rep at times. Grey, dreary, wet, cold and just a bit gloomy. These are mostly things I hear or even say myself when speaking to friends and family back in the motherland.  I mean it is true there is no denying that. Winter albeit cosy indoors is long and grey and god forbid if we have a wet summer- everyone’s  off to the continent for some much-needed vitamin D. Luckily I didn’t move to England for the weather.

But and that’s a very big but – spring in the U.K. is gorgeous.

Wells, Somerset

Where I live in the South West the first signs of spring are the daffodils that seem to pop up everywhere. Little rays of sunshine right there on the side of the road.

Tulips at Montacute House, Somerset

Tulips dominate the garden flower beds in houses, parks and stately home.  Reds, yellows, mixtures of two. Sure it doesn’t compare to the Netherlands but it’s still so beautiful.

Then come the bluebells. We have some in the garden but they are nothing compared to the forests of them that spring up in parts of the UK. I saw my first bluebell forest this weekend and it was magical. Mother Nature is one sassy lady for creating a carpet of bluebells. The bluey /purple colour is so vibrant and against the green tree leaves it’s just like you are in a fairy den.

My friends beautiful little girl playing in the bluebells
Wrington Blue Bells , Somerset

As the bluebells start to fade the fields here start to turn bright yellow. Like the sun rays dropped out over the crops. Rapeseed fields dominate the landscape. I can’t stop smiling when I see these patches of golden yellow. I drive past many on my daily commute and they always, without fail put me in a good mood.

Rapeseed Field Somerton, Somerset

The spring colours are one of many surprising things I’ve discovered living in the UK. To be honest it may be the same back in Aus but I’ve just never really stopped to appreciate it. Which I guess most people do when they are caught up in day to day life and the familiar surroundings.

So if you find yourself in the south-west of the UK this time of year look out for the colours, marvel in the beautiful landscapes, stop the car and walk amongst the flowers and above all else remember England’s not always grey and dreary.

Appreciating the spring glory was inspired by reading Suzanne’s post here take a look at her beautiful photographs and wonderful words.