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Travel in England

The House of the Tailor of Gloucester

I recently visited the city of Gloucester, a city with a rich Roman history, residing in the South West of England.  I was travelling to see friends, to experience a new city, but secretly, secretly, I was most excited about seeing the House of the Tailor of Gloucester.

The story goes that one Saturday night a tailor left his shop, a waistcoat unfinished within.  Come Monday morning, the waistcoat was mysteriously complete, all but one button, with a note saying “no more twist” attached.  Though I believe it was later found to be two workers who had done some overtime in secret to avoid being seen on Sunday in town, Beatrix Potter was inspired by the story nonetheless, and chose it as the setting for her book, The Tailor of Gloucester.

The shop is down a quaint little lane between the high street and the Cathedral.  Admittedly, the first time I walked down there, I walked straight past it, distracted at the time by the arts and crafts shop on the other side of the street.  The building is part shop, part museum, with information dotted around the walls, items in cabinets, and literally every surface covered with memorabilia.  It was almost overwhelming how much could be fit into such a small space!

It’s only a small thing, fifteen minutes of your day, but if you are in Gloucester, I recommend popping in and having a look around.  There’s some sweet Beatrix Potter souvenirs and entry to the museum part of the building is (miraculously) absolutely free!

Check out the shop’s website for more information.

Happy travels!

Emma

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March 14, 2017
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Back to Bath: Art, Architecture and Atmosphere

In July I returned to the beautiful city of Bath – I told you I wouldn’t be able to keep away!  I very much felt at the end of my last trip that I wasn’t finished with the city; there was still so much I wanted to see, and many things I wanted to revisit.

Bath

Umbrellas lined the high street

First on the agenda was the Victoria Art Gallery.  I absolutely love galleries; I can spend hours and hours looking at paintings and making up stories for the characters in them (what better writing prompt?).  My favourite feature of the building was this incredible domed ceiling, painted with the signs of the Zodiac.  SAM_2094We sat under it reading for a while with a D.I.Y. hot chocolate from the machine, and the sense of beauty and magic of being in that space created the perfect atmosphere for reading some science fiction, namely Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler.  Feeling rested, we moved on to explore the main gallery.  It isn’t a very big exhibition space (though we only viewed the free, permanent exhibitions) but it is evident just how much thought they have put into utilising the space, and it was easy to spend a couple of hours there!

As it had made such an impression on me the first time, I made the decision to revisit Bath Abbey again while I was in the city.  This time, I decided to sit for a long while just soaking up the atmosphere, listening to the quiet chatter of the other wandering tourists.  For a recommended donation of just £2.50, there is so much to look at inside (I think we spent as long in there as I had done the first time I had visited the Roman Baths).  SAM_2124

With a little more time at my disposal, I also got a chance to admire the exterior – some of the details were fascinating.  Particularly startling were the angels climbing up and down the ladders – the ones heading downwards looked in pain, their wings back and their heads jutting out unnaturally.  We wondered if they had been sent down to Hell, but after questioning the volunteer on duty, it was confirmed they weren’t, merely moving down the ladder (though I still think they look frightening – you can click on the image below for a closer look).

After visiting the Abbey, we sat in the square watching a violinist perform – he was incredible!  Everywhere had such a great vibe, and the sun was shining…

On one of the days we walked uphill towards the Circus and the Royal Crescent.  There are some really nice shops in the streets between the two places – perfect for quirky souvenirs.

Easy walking distance from the Circus (literally a minute or so) is the Fashion Museum – my favourite part of the trip!  Generally I care little for fashion (think Andy pre-makeover in The Devil Wears Prada) but the exhibition was ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’, and it really was like walking through time.  There was something uncanny about the costumes, particularly the dresses, propped up in the displays.  It was easy to imagine the people who had once worn them, and many actually named the previous owners.

Fashion Museum

Fashion Museum

There was also a really interesting ‘behind the scenes’ section of the Fashion Museum, which showed where all the costumes were kept.  I thought it was a really good way of making something that would usually be tucked away behind closed doors part of the experience, and it was just as exciting as the main exhibition.

Sadly, I couldn’t stay in Bath forever… but I am determined to return; I’m still in love with the city, and I can understand why it captivated the hearts of so many great novelists, including Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.  There is still so much that I want to see!  If you want to read my post about my first visit to the city (where I stayed in an amazing Georgian Mansion), click here.

Until next time, happy adventuring!

Emma

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Wanderlust Week runs annually on the first week of August, celebrating wanderlust and adventure through travel posts on the blog.  Click here to view all posts.
August 7, 2016
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Dunster Castle

Back in May I visited some friends who took me to Dunster Castle, a striking property run by the National Trust that overlooks the medieval village of Dunster.  The village itself is worth exploring; it is positively quintessential with a number of shops and historical titbits including the Yarn Market on the high street and a doll museum (which regretfully there wasn’t time to visit, but I can only imagine how many terrifying china dolls fill its rooms).

There’s just something about castles that I find impossible not to love.  I don’t know if it is to do with their architecture, or with all that history, but all I know is I find them so haunting and so beautiful; I can spend all day looking round them.

The castle is set in a vast stretch of greenery, with a dozen or so walks which are highlighted in the free village guide.  The views from the castle are something else – acres of fields, and even the coastline can be seen.  What remains of the original castle is actually very little, as so much of it was destroyed centuries ago to prevent any further use as a fortress.

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Although the site has been home to a castle for over 1000 years, much of what remains is part of the country home of the Luttrells, and the interior is modeled on what the place would have looked like while the family still lived there.

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Castles are best visited with friends.

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While I was visiting, I also had the opportunity to do a kitchen tour.  We had an exceptionally knowledgeable guide who explained how the hierarchy of staff worked, and how and why the different technologies were installed through the years.  It really was fascinating to see ‘behind the scenes’, as the kitchen had been mostly untouched since staff had left it years before.13282355_10153630444518008_684312507_o

For the ghost hunters out there, the castle also has numerous reports of supernatural activity, though we didn’t experience anything strange.  There is a space beneath the castle dedicated to these stories, but most eerily is the oubliette, which although is sealed over, still feels unnerving to stand above.

North Devon really is beautiful, and I implore you to visit Dunster if you’re ever in the area.  More information on Dunster Castle, run by the National Trust, can be found on their website.

Do you know of any other great castles worth visiting?  I’d love to see more!

Happy adventuring,

Emma

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Wanderlust Week runs annually on the first week of August, celebrating wanderlust and adventure through travel posts on the blog.  Click here to view all posts.
August 2, 2016
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Dorms and Darcy: Visiting the City of Bath

Inspired by The Teacup Library’s trip last year, I’ve finally been able to visit the city of Bath for myself.  This trip was a first for me, like so many other adventures I’ve written about on here (first package holiday, first time to Asia), as we decided to sleep in dorms instead of opting for a private room as we tend to by default.  More on that later!

The City of Bath

Bath was such a photogenic city.

After dinner on arrival, we climbed the half a mile hill to Bath Youth Hostel, run by the YHA.  I’m a bit of a diehard YHA fan, and have stayed in some incredible locations over the years.  So, I knew when we wound our way up the driveway that it was going to be a unique property, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Bath Youth Hostel

Arriving up the long drive to the Georgian mansion for the first time.

Cursed with rain on our main day of exploration, we kept indoors as much as we could, dodging between shops and tourist attractions. Bath has a surprising long stretch of shops – lots of boutiques too – and the city seemed really clean and well looked after.  It had such a great vibe to it.

The Roman Baths were our first stop.

Roman Baths Ceiling

The incredible ceiling of the entrance to the Roman Baths.

I think it is optional but I felt that the free audio guide is needed to make it a full morning’s excursion.  The design of the exhibitions makes it easy to imagine what it was like to be a visitor all those hundreds of years ago.  Disappointingly, at times I felt that some of the items being displayed were not particularly engaging, but artifacts like the written curses were just incredible to see.

Our next stop was the Jane Austen Centre.  It is based in the house that Jane stayed in for a few months after her father’s death.  The centre wasn’t what I had expected – it was smaller than I’d imagined, and the seated introduction at the beginning had me worried that it would be a tightly controlled guided tour.  However, the exhibition area itself was very interesting, and included information about Jane’s family too.  Our guide – Lizzie Bennet – was really down to earth and clearly passionate about Jane Austen’s history; all the staff were dressed up, which made things feel more authentic.

Jane Austen Centre - Desk

I didn’t sleep fantastically during my first night in dorms. Having stayed up late playing card games, I crept into a completely dark room with just the glow of my phone screen to guide me.  Fortunately I had claimed a bed earlier in the evening (as they weren’t numbered or allocated) and I was able to navigate my way to it easily enough.

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Anyway, by the second night I was surprisingly well adjusted to the dorm life and slept perfectly.  Considering the massive saving (quarter the price a Premier Inn would have cost at the time), I would certainly stay in dorms again – it may even be the start of a new kind of travelling for me.  Though I did have the benefit of well behaved roommates; I imagine sharing a room with a hen party wouldn’t have been as fun.

The highlight of Bath for me was Bath Abbey, which we visited before leaving (the sun had even attempted to come out for us).

I may not be religious but the sense of peace I get in such grand and sacred places really moves me, and the architecture even more so; I have a bit of a weakness for stained glass and intricate ceilings (couldn’t you tell?).

We didn’t stay in Bath for long, but it still made a real impression on me – I’m already planning my return there!  As well as the history, it is also a great place for shopping – I imagine it is a lovely place to visit at Christmas time.

If you’re planning on visiting Bath, check out the YHA website: http://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/bath (it may be a small trek away from the city centre, but the views are amazing and it is much more inviting than a typical hotel).

Have you ever stayed in dorms before?  Was it a good or bad experience?

Until next time, happy adventuring!

Emma

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June 8, 2016
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A Day at Coleton Fishacre

Coleton Fishacre

I visited Coleton Fishacre over the summer, and completely forgot I had a whole camera full of photos from my trip!  I was particularly excited about my visit, because unbeknownst to me, the beautiful country home was built in the Jazz Age, and I had watched The Great Gatsby just the night before.  It was amazing being able to put Gatsby’s world in context.

Coleton Fishacre

View out the front of the house from the upstairs window.

The home belonged to Rupert and Lady Dorothy D’Oyly Carte, who lived in the house until 1949.  The design of the house was heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, with the vast gardens built to appear as an extension of the house.

Coleton

Compared to some National Trust properties I’ve seen, the saloon felt really bare!

Apparently when the National Trust took on the house, it was mostly empty, apart from a few pieces of furniture – it must be a pain having to source pieces for so many rooms!  The interior of the house is very Art Deco, with a minimalist feel to it, which comes across most of all in the saloon.  I think though I prefer the older style of interiors, like the Georgian house at Killerton, but it made a nice contrast to previous properties I had visited.

Coleton Fishacre

As is tradition for my visits to National Trust properties, I had to take a desk photo.

One of my favourite rooms (of course) was the library:

Fascinatingly, a large portion of the house belonged to the staff hired by the family, and visitors are allowed to view around these areas – I love being about to look “behind the scenes”.  I was surprised by how nice some of the staff rooms actually were, though as you got deeper into these quarters, the rooms did get colder and darker.

It was a beautiful day, and in the hour or so we spent in the gardens, we only covered about half of what was accessible.  If you leave the site, you can walk down right to the cliff edge and look out across the sea.  With a picnic, it would be easy to spend a day in just the garden alone, among the many exotic plants kept there.

Coleton

For anyone wanting more information, check out Coleton Fishacre’s page on the National Trust website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/coleton-fishacre/

Emma

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October 17, 2015
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An Afternoon At Arlington Court

Sometimes I am so busy daydreaming about overseas adventure that I forget just how much history there is to see in England.  This week I took a trip with some friends to Arlington Court, a National Trust property on the edge of Barnstaple.

Postcards

Unfortunately, the entire front of the building was obscured by scaffolding, but I picked up some postcards of what the house usually looks like behind the building work – it looks beautiful.

Entrance to Arlington

Visitors are encouraged to ring the doorbell before they enter.

The house belonged to the Chichester family for over five hundred years, and unlike some properties I’ve visited, there is a real homely feel about the place.

Arlington Desk

I was envious of this gorgeous desk!

Arlington Stairs

The stairs were one of my favourite features of the house.

Arlington

I thought these dolls were really creepy…

For a few pounds on top of the regular ticket price, I was able to visit the National Trust Carriage Museum too.  As carriage driving has some relevance to my family, it was quite exciting to see the development of carriages through time.  I never realised that a type of carriage existed that allowed passengers to lie down. We all agreed that they had an uncanny resemblance to pushchairs (and were a little bit creepy).

The grounds were beautiful, and many people were visiting with their dogs.  We didn’t have enough time to see all the grounds, as we were only visiting for the afternoon, but I would love to return with my walking boots and go exploring.

Arlington

Arlington Court

More information can be found on the National Trust website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/arlington-court/

Information on the various walks through the grounds can be found here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1356400480540/

Have you visited Arlington Court or any of the other beautiful National Trust properties?  Share your experiences!

Emma

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June 12, 2015
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