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down river to Greenwich, the home of time

Although world-famous for the Meridian Line, Greenwich is also home to the National Maritime Museum, the Old Royal Naval College and the amazing Painted Hall, the Cutty Sark and of course the Royal Observatory.

Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Greenwich Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks that extends to a staggering 183 acres with stunning views over the skyline of Canary Wharf on one side and is the gateway to Blackheath on the other.

View across the River Thames from Greenwich

After a bracing walk through the park with H, the mischievous Miniature Schnauzer we’d worked up a healthy appetite.  After a quick ‘Google’ for dog friendly pubs in the area (and there were plenty), we settled on the closest Ye Olde Rose & Crown which was almost next to the park gates and adjacent to the Greenwich Theatre.

Pub in Greenwich - Ye Olde Rose and Crown

We were lucky enough to bag the last table and settled down for a leisurely lunch.  Part of the Greene King chain it offers a traditional pub style menu with pies, burgers, sandwiches together with more substantial “Great British Classics’ and a reasonably priced wine list.

There was just one member of staff on duty at the time who gave us a lovely welcome followed by excellent service. Food was served promptly, piping hot and delicious, couldn’t ask for more.

I remember frequenting this pub when I lived in nearby Rotherhithe many years ago and happily not too much has changed.  Rainbow flags adorn the bar proudly welcoming the local gay community, visitors and tourists alike.  When we visited recently the atmosphere was calm and relaxed, just perfect for a Saturday late lunch session.

Getting there

Greenwich is easily accessible by Tube, the DLR and more recently by London’s only cable car (see my previous post) which crosses the River Thames to the Greenwich Peninsular and the O2 or Millennium Dome as it was formerly known.

Highly recommended for escaping the city for a few hours… check out the tourist information website for all things Greenwich

 

Saturday lunchtime treat at the Marquess

Almost hidden away in the depths of Canonbury near the New River Walk, the Marquess is one of those pubs that looks fairly unremarkable from the outside. Walk through the doors though and it’s obvious this is no ordinary boozer. Decor is eclectic, there are plumped up comfy leather chairs, scrubbed tables with mis-matched chairs, masses of cushions and a rather lovely dining room festooned with stunning glass lamps.

Marquess Tavern bar Islington
It was the New River Walk that drew us here; H the mischievous Miniature Schnauzer loves a weekend stroll along this little oasis in the heart of Islington. Like many of the pubs here they welcome dogs so we decided to stop off for a bite to eat.  (of course H got down from the table when our food arrived)

Herbie goes to the pub in Islington
There is a rather impressive menu with some mouth-watering dishes and an excellent grill menu, however being lunchtime we were looking for something lighter. Sadly no lunch menu so we opted for the Marquess Prime Burger with Barber’s Cheddar, old spot bacon, baked onion, tomato relish and served with a generous portion of fries. All washed down with a glass of of bold red for me and a cider for the other half. Delicious.

Burgers at the Islington Marquess Tavern
Although we thoroughly enjoyed the food, we both thought the menu would suit us better for an evening meal. Service was great, efficient and attentive.

The prices are a little on the high-side so this wouldn’t be a regular haunt for us, however I’m sure we’ll be back to try a little more of the menu one evening when we’ve saved up our pennies!

Check-out the latest menu and make a booking online

http://www.themarquessn1.co.uk

 

Time for an Autumn tidy

As Autumn is upon us it’s time for a quick trip over to the cottage to pack away the summer furniture, tidy the garden, plant a new batch of spring bulbs and stock-up the log store.

Kernolou cottage

On Thursday we’ll be heading down to Plymouth to catch the overnight sailing onboard the Pont Aven, Brittany Ferries flagship.  Although it’s a bit of a long haul down to Plymouth, once we land at Roscoff the following morning we’re just an hour’s drive away from Kernolou.

It won’t be all work though, I”m sure we’ll find time for some culinary experiments in the Kernolou Kitchen and some long leisurely walks along the Nantes-Brest Canal.

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perfectly pint-sized patio

We spend endless hours lovingly tending the gardens at Kernolou, quite certainly disproportionate to the time we find to sit and relax there.  Conversely our pint-sized patio in London that we use on a daily basis has customarily received scant attention apart from the occasional watering, wash and brush-up.

All change this year though. We’ve repaired and repainted the walls; the old garden furniture that we bought from that stalwart of the high street Woolworth’s for next to nothing some 12 years ago finally gave up the ghost and has been replaced. New pots, tubs and containers are all brimming with flowers, fruits and herbs and we’ve installed some solar lights so we can enjoy the space well into the evening.

Although the pint-sized patio is less than 12sqm we’ve nurtured and harvested the freshest of tomatoes, a lovely crop of succulent strawberries and now have a constant supply of fresh herbs.

Right now the geraniums are a riot of red clambering ever higher out of the window box and the new succulents in their pristine terracotta tubs are producing a wealth of trailing delicate daisy-like flowers.

As it gets a little cooler moving into Autumn we’re already thinking about planting snowdrops and daffodils, in fact ‘All Kinds of Everything’

Check-out my garden gallery for more pics!

Flying over the Thames with the Emirates Air Line

The Emirates Air Line, London’s only cable car has been open for just over five years and last week was the first time I’d got round to experiencing it first-hand.

It was a lovely sunny afternoon with just a hint of a breeze, in fact near-perfect flying conditions. So after lunch I took the DLR to Royal Victoria – the Emirates terminal is just a few minutes walk away.

There’s a huge array of fare options including visits to the Emirates Aviation Experience but.on this occasion I opted for a single trip which cost about £4.50. Fortunately there was no queue and before I knew it the next car was to be my exclusive air craft for the following 10 minutes

Each car takes up to 10 passengers, you can take dogs but they must be carried onboard. No problem for Herbie the mischievous Miniature Schnauzer there then.

I didn’t take any great photos as I was so entranced with the incredible views as we soared high over the River towards the Greenwich peninsular. Even in the calmest weather you can feel a slight sway during the flight, but maybe I felt it more being the only passenger..

Once on terra firma I took a few more photos and this short video.  It’s a bit noisy as the Peninsular is a huge construction site!

The Emirates Air Line is a great addition to the London skyline and as well as being an extra commuter link across the river makes for a fab tourist attraction.  I’d definitely return for another trip and maybe take in the Emirates Aviation Experience at the same time.

A jolly relaxing weekend…

The recent late summer warm weather provided the perfect excuse if any were needed for further adventures in the Bedford Bambi Campervan; it had been a very busy few days at work so we were looking forward to a jolly relaxing weekend!

We’d left it rather late to book, but success came just a few phone calls later and we were on our way to Comberton, a pretty little village just about six miles from Cambridge city centre.

Comberton Village Green and duck pond

 

Our destination and base for the weekend was Highfield Farm Touring Park run with amazing attention to detail by the lovely Beverley and crew.  We usually avoid the larger organised sites, preferring the more relaxed approach, however we were very pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Highfield to find a beautifully manicured site which offered an element of privacy through clever planting of the hedgerows.

Entrance to the campsite at Comberton

 

Our allocated pitch was at the farthest end of the camp, conveniently placed for access to the extensive dog walking routes through the local farmland.

Bambi parked at Comberton, Cambs

 

It doesn’t take long to set-up camp, especially with the help of Herbie, the mischievous Miniature Schnauzer! We’ve spent many weekends away in the Bambi so it’s quite a practised routine now we’ve got the hang of it.

Herbie the mischievous miniature schnauzer goes camping

 

Although we spent many happy hours wandering through the stunning countryside, of course no weekend away is complete without a visit to the local hostelry!

The pub in question is the rather charming Three Horseshoes where we found the staff to be friendly, super-efficient and the standard of food was just right. There’s plenty of parking; a lovely beer garden and patio area and especially important, it’s dog-friendly!

There is a designated dog-exercise area and a walk around the farm is about 1.5 miles offering stunning views of the village and surrounding Cambridgeshire countryside.

So we certainly succeeded in our mission of having a jolly relaxing weekend, Highfield Farm is definitely on the list for a return visit, highly recommended!

 

 

a day out in the London countryside…

The popular Lee Valley Ice Rink, one time rehearsal venue for Dancing on Ice, is less than 5 miles from the Monument in the city of London; in the far corner of the car park so obscured by the arched rink building you could easily miss it, is the gateway to the Walthamstow Marshes.

This 100 acre oasis located in the London Borough of Waltham Forest was designated by Natural England as a Site of Specific Scientific Interest in 1985 as it is one of the few remaining areas of semi-natural marshland left in London.

The River Lee bobbing with a myriad of brightly painted narrow boats creates a natural border between town and country and boardwalks criss-cross some of the more protected areas offering close-up views of the flora and fauna without impacting on their habitat.

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Elsewhere well trodden grass paths cut through the meadow and marshland, clusters of trees providing secluded spots, perfect for relaxing – we really must remember to pack a picnic next time!

 

All that and Herbie loves it here too… the perfect place to while away a few hours, take in the peace and quiet and enjoy the tranquility of this very special and unspoilt part of the city.

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Trains run frequently from London Liverpool Street, the journey takes less than 20 minutes, the Bus takes a little longer but at £1.50 one way is a great way to see the vibrant community of North London on your way. There is also plenty of parking with rates from as little as £1 for a few hours.

A weekend in West Norfolk

This time of year we’re usually headed off to Kernolou but after failing to find a suitable channel crossing we decided to make the most of the lovely weather with a long weekend trip to Norfolk in the Bedford Bambi Campervan.

A quick glance at the map showed the M11 as being the quickest route, however cruising speed in the Bambi varies between 45-50 mph so we opted for a more leisurely path following the A10 up through the leafy Hertfordshire countryside, onto Cambridge and the Isle of Ely and made our first stop at the pretty market town of King’s Lynn.

More than just a sleepy market town awash with historic buildings, beautiful old Merchant’s Houses and cobbled streets, King’s Lynn has been an important port since the 12th century and was the first Hanseatic town in Great Britain.  We were both quite enchanted with the town and fascinated by its architecture and maritime past so we’ll definitely be back to explore further.

On this occasion though we wanted to get settled in the for weekend so after a brief stop for a bite to eat we continued the journey onto our base for the next few nights at Hilgay, which is situated just a few miles from the picturesque town of Downham Market.

Lodge Farm Meadow is a Camping and Caravanning Club certified site which allows for just 5 caravans or motorhomes and up to 10 tents at any one time so on a site of over five acres this meant plenty of peace and privacy.

It takes less than half an hour to set-up camp including erecting the small awning that hooks over the back of the campervan.  By this time Herbie was starting to get a little restless so after a long and lazy walk to give him some much needed exercise we settled down with a glass or two of red and relaxed in the glow of the sunset over camp.

The next morning after a hearty breakfast we headed off to Hunstanton, a Victorian seaside town described on the website as an elegant resort. First doubts started to creep in with the appearance of the ‘Land Train’ quickly followed by the sight of hordes of under-dressed crowds thronging the beach and boardwalk, itself lined with souvenir shops and penny arcades. Not quite the genteel resort we’d conjured images of and so after devouring a punnet of chips each we headed off into the calm of the countryside.

Next stop Sandringham, the Norfolk retreat of HM the Queen.  There are over 200 acres of parkland to explore and enjoy which we made the most of.  Dogs are not permitted in the gardens or the house so instead we visited the pretty little church of St Mary Magdalene with its stunning decor and amazing stained glass. The church is used regularly by the Royal Family for worship and is also open to visitors during the summer months.

St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham

Another fine day followed and we headed over to Brancaster Beach, four miles of golden sands which forms part of the National Trust’s Brancaster Estate.

Herbie loves the beach and we had a lovely couple of hours walking along, splashing around before returning to the campervan via the sand-dunes.

We’d certainly worked up an appetite and on leaving the car-park spotted the Ship Hotel where we enjoyed a delicious lunch before heading back to base camp for our last night in Norfolk.

How lucky we were with the weather, we’d enjoyed lots of sunshine and unusually high temperatures for the time of the year with just one thunderstorm overnight to douse the parched earth.

A return visit to East Anglia and in particular Norfolk, a stunning part of the country is most definitely on the cards for later in the summer.

 

Our Farm & Fens weekend…

The weather looked set fair for the weekend, so early Saturday morning we loaded up the Bedford Bambi and headed up to the Fens and a return visit to the lovely Gayton Farm (more of this in my previous blog)

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By lucky happenstance when we arrived these lambs were playing in the field; they were born at 04:00 that morning, amazing how strong and lively they are for just a few hours old.

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Although not particularly sunny, it was a warm humid afternoon and perfect for a hike across to Quy Fen, (a Site of Special Scientific Interest), a few miles from base camp at Horningsea.

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Herbie loves the open countryside

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After a quick glass of wine at the local we went back to camp and following a rather splendid steak dinner (cooked al fresco), we settled down for a little Eurovision entertainment.

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It rained through the night, hard enough at times to be woken by the tinkling on the roof of the Bambi….

A lazy Sunday morning for us (Robin and Carolyn were up early and away to South Suffolk where they were showing their prized Belstead Lincoln Reds).

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After the obligatory fry-up we burned the calories with another yomp across Field and Fen before returning to break camp ‘helped’ by one very reluctant to leave puppy!

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I’m sure we’ll be back soon to this stunning area of the country, but I think we’ll give Kent a try next time; the harbour town of Whitstable is about 60 miles south-east so well within the range of the Bambi!

return to Cherbourg…

St Malo is by far the most convenient port for us in northern France, however on rare occasions when we can’t get a crossing we use either Caen or Cherbourg.

In the summer months Brittany Ferries operate the Normandie Express, a daily service between Portsmouth and Cherbourg with high speeds of up to 42 knots giving a nippy journey time of just 3 hours.

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This month we were on one of the first crossings of the season and very fresh it was all too.  There is a new Club Lounge with extra-comfy seating which is spacious enough to recline without impacting on your nearest neighbour.  In-seat USB connections are a real bonus and complimentary hot and cold drinks are provided at the beginning and end of each journey. Well worth the extra few pounds…

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Also new for this season is a small range of hot meals from Le Cafe, a very welcome addition.  Cooked breakfast was keenly priced and very tasty it was too; the perfectly scrambled eggs, tomatoes and sausages were accompanied by a rather strange (and unnecessary) mashed potato affair. For later in the day there is a limited but good choice of hot food again well priced at around £5.00 or a choice of delicious soups for £3.50.

Of course there’s a shop, just the one but it sells all the usual papers, magazines and things you never knew you needed plus wines, beers, spirits and tobacco; oh and giant Chupa Chups.

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We disembarked just a few minutes earlier than scheduled and after a very brief queue at Cherbourg French border control we were whisking our way down the peninsular. It is a bit of a gruelling drive home at around 7 hours with a few short stops, but much nicer for pampered pooch who only had to endure being left for 3 hours instead of the usual overnight in the kennels on the ferry.

Time then for feet up and a relaxing glass of something sparkling…

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I’ll be adding more pics and info to the Normandie Express page shortly, but in the meantime check out our oh so favourite Brittany Ferries ship, the MV Bretagne

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