A wintry visit to Dartmoor

For my Christmas present, Mark arranged for us to take a long weekend trip down to Dartmoor, to stay in a manor house hotel near the moors and luxuriate in good food, lovely surroundings, and quiet winter walks.  The trip was absolutely wonderful and coincided with snow, which made everything a bit more magical.  We woke up on Friday to a dusting of snow, which was more pronounced on the top of the moors.  A snowy walk around a reservoir worked up our appetites for afternoon tea and cake.  The following day we went to visit Tintagel, the mythical birthplace of King Arthur.  As it was winter, the shops selling tacky plastic swords were mercifully shut, and some wild and windy weather made the castle ruins very atmospheric.  In fact, I don’t think they often get weather other than ‘wild and windy’, given the castle’s position right on the edge of the west coast, jutting out into the sea.

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Adventures in the Loire Valley

We spent a lovely week in the Loire Valley at the beginning of July.  It was sunny and warm, the countryside was beautiful, and the food was scrumptious!  We stayed in a lovely gite which meant we could cook our own food (or rather, eat bread and cheese and pate and red wine for dinner).

Here it is:  Annie’s House near Saumur, run by a lovely English lady and her equally lovely French husband.





All the gardens seemed to be just soaking up the sun and bursting with the most gorgeous colours.

We visited a few chateaux, including Chenonceau which I saw in a book of chateaux of the Loire Valley once and have always been transfixed by.  It was magical to see it in person.



There was a glimpse inside of how the floor must have looked before it was worn away over the years…



and some really incredible copper pots!



We also visited Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci lived and was buried.  It was covered in scaffolding so not the most picturesque in places, but this gargoyle was quite charming.




And of course, we stopped for refreshments a fair few times.


Our final day we spent in Honfleur, which is a lovely seaside town on the coast.  I cannot imagine the kind of weather they must get sometimes, as the houses are commonly tiled with slate all down the sides.  Not a good sign!


It is a very beautiful place though, and these days is quite bijoux and expensive.  We had some very expensive drinks on the waterfront and watched the world go by, but they were worth it.  Vive la France!

A walk on a clear, windy day

Up until last weekend, it hadn’t rained in over a month.  This meant lots of sunny picnics and pleasant walks but the air was dusty and full of pollen, and I’m sure all gardeners and farmers were despairing.  Then last Saturday it poured- the heavens opened.  The Sunday afterwards was consequently the most glorious day- fresh, breezy, clear and sunny.  I made the most of it by walking over the Clifton Suspension Bridge and into the woods beyond, enjoying the tweeting of birdsong and the sunlight filtering through the leaves above.

The suspension bridge- no matter how many times I see it, it is still so dramatic.  The gorge plunges down to the river below almost vertically.

The view from the bridge down the river Avon to south Bristol- Bedminster and Southville, and the hills beyond.  Also the entrance to the ‘floating harbour’ down the river on the left which I was puzzled about for ages- apparently it is constructed so that the water always stays at the same level and isn’t affected by tides, as there is a tidal bypass (to the right).

A big fat fly sitting on a leaf in the forest.  It’s certainly a change to be back in England where the bugs are all innocuous, rather than in Australia where most of them would happily kill you if they got the chance!  Or scare you to death… but maybe that was just me.

A visit to Wells and Glastonbury

My sister came to visit for the ‘Royal Wedding’ bank holiday weekend, and we took a day trip to Wells and Glastonbury to see some impressive bits of stone.  Unfortunately I forgot my camera so had to make do with the iPhone.

The exterior of Wells cathedral, in all its glory.

The ceiling inside, beautifully painted.  I love seeing this, as I understand cathedrals and churches would have been painted in the past but the detail is often lost and hasn’t been restored.

The ceiling of the chapter house.

We stopped to pick up a picnic and headed to the ruined abbey in Glastonbury.  It didn’t survive the Dissolution so is in bits now, and is very picturesque.

The scale of the buildings does give you a sense of how powerful these orders of monks must have been in their time.  The money, manpower and time involved in creating these structures is almost beyond modern comprehension.  The craftsmanship is incredible too, and conserving it for future generations to see what people can do with their hands if they try is important, I think.