Our Fair Friends in England

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables-unknown

Hiking along Baggy Point, Devon

Hiking along Baggy Point, Devon

After the glorious Scotland we headed into England to catch up with some much loved family and friends. First stop was London to stay in Greenwich with my darling sister-in-law Nina and her partner David. We arrived at the train station and Nina very kindly picked us up with all our bags and drove us to their lovely terrace-house.  That night after a delicious home cooked dinner Nina surprised me with a delightful red current and raspberry parfait birthday cake.

This was the start of a scrumptious few days of eating our way around around London!

Next stop was on my actual Birthday. Liam and I headed out to Portobella Road in search of the well known  Hummingbird Bakery. Portobella Road Market is a wonderful market in Notting Hill full of antique dealers, vintage fashion stalls and retro memorabilia so a perfect place to visit for a Birthday Cupcake. After searching through all the shops and vendors we made our way to the bakery and carefully selected our cupcake flavours, Red Velvet, Salted Caramel and Vanilla (Liam picked the last one of course).

AMAZING! They are the best cupcakes I have ever eaten; hands down.

To top off my culinary experiences in London, my dear friend Jen organised a birthday dinner at a french restaurant called L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.  Jen has been in London for the past few years with her husband Andrew (who are totally foodies) so I knew she would know where to go for a fabulous night out. Chef Joël Robuchon has won 28 Michelin stars, nine of them in a single year, and has restaurants all over the world, so I was beyond excited. Nina and David also joined us and we had such a fun night. The food was amazing and so was the company! It truly was a very special birthday, that will go down as one of my favourites. I sadly forgot to take a picture of us all together as we were having such a good time, but managed to snap a few of the incredible desserts!

After London we jumped on a bus and headed down to Croyde Bay (Devon County) to visit our good friend Val and her daughter Fiona. Val has only recently moved over to the UK from Brisbane, so it lovely to catch up and check out the area where she would be living. Fiona, who is like a little sister, was over from the States where she has almost completed her PHD (so thats Doctor Fiona to you). The first day it was pouring rain so we used that time to cozy up on the couch with cups of sweet tea and catch up. Then it was off to Bishops Tawton to have lunch at what would be Val’s new local pub, the Chichester Arms. It was a delightful traditional country pub with low ceilings, dark corners and full of antique memorabilia from the local area.  The food was what you would expect from such a pub, delicious and hearty.

The next day the sun came out and it was a beautiful day! We put on our sneakers and headed out to Baggy Point to hike along the coast line. I had never seen this part of England before and the coast line on a clear day is glorious. We walked most of the day, only stopping to watch rock climbers and have a picnic lunch overlooking the Celtic Sea.

After Devon we jumped on another bus then a train and headed to a familiar place (for me at least) called Bracklesham. It is here that the beautiful Grabowski family welcomed us with open arms again (though two have had name changes since I was here last time!). Back in 2007 when I had my first European holiday I somehow managed to have my passport cut up by customs on my arrival into Heathrow (I know, only me right!).  I actually thought I would be stranded forever in the UK. It was my first time travelling solo and I was in quite a state of shock but this family, who barely knew me (but are old friends of Mum & Dad)  took me in, quite literally. Jo and Marek let me stay with them at their  lovely beach house and Jo made me a full english breakfast every morning. Their daughter Zoffie took me to London twice, to the Australian embassy, to organise a new passport. Their other daughter Marysia (who I am actually named after) let me stay with her in Chichester while her and Zoffie made sure that they entertained me my entire stay. Even their son Stanislaw let me stay in his flat in London while I explored the city for the first time. I loved my stay with them back in 2007 when they rescued me, so I was dying to see them again and introduce them to Liam. We had a lovely two days with them and even got to meet all the new additions to the family including the beautiful Sarah and her cutie-pie daughter Olivia, Zoffie’s lovely husband Daniel and Marysia’s newest addition Leah.

Now on to a big list of thank you’s!!! Firstly to Nina and David for letting us stay in their ‘Garden Room’. It was so nice to spend some quality time with you both. You made us feel so welcome and I am very thankful to have family like you.  The second thank you is to the beautiful Jen for organising such an amazing evening for my Birthday. It was incredibly thoughtful and we all had such a fun time. Also a special mention to Andrew who turned up on crutches! What a trooper for coming along to catch up, even though I’m sure you would have much preferred to have been resting in bed. Thirdly is to Val and Fiona who hosted us in Devon and let us intrude on their family time. We miss you both, so it was very special to be able to catch up. We feel pretty privileged to be the first of your Australian friends to check out your new digs Val! The last thank you is to the Grabowski/Bacon/Howe families for their gracious hospitality once again. We truly felt like family in your home. Thank you to Jo for all the lovely meals, to Marysia, Zoffie, Sarah, Katie, Olivia and Leah for making the time to hang out with me so I could have some much needed girl time, to Tom for letting me meet his tortoise, to Daniel for taking Liam to play Golf and to Marek for drinking Liam under the table.

IMG_6387

 Liam & Rishy

xoxo

Advertisements

Finding a Unicorn – Scotland

 “Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” 

– Psalms 22:21

Seeking Unicorns

Seeking Unicorns in the Wild of Scotland

It seems I have found the home of one of my favourite mystical creatures, the unicorn. You can imagine my delight when everywhere i went in Scotland I came across them. The unicorn image is craved in stone, encrusted with gold in statues and embroidered into magnificent tapestries all over the country. Even though the appearance of unicorns is in the history and writings of so many countries, even the bible mentions them numerous times, it seems Scotland has claimed this creature as their own. Originally before England and Scotland came under joint rule, Scotland’s Coat of Arms featured two Unicorns supporting a shield. Now Great Britian’s Coat of Arms features the Unicorn of Scotland and the English Lion. I never knew this would be the country where I would find my unicorn.

Scotland's Unicorns

Scotland’s Unicorns

I can remember the first time I learnt about Scotland. As a child I would flick through my Mum’s leather bound photo albums from her traveling days when she was a young teacher in London. My favourite picture was a faded, square photo of a peculiar looking Scottish Highland Cow. I would drag the album out at bedtime and make her tell me about her travels across Europe when she was in her 20s.  So there where two things that I knew I wanted to do in Scotland from looking at that photo album – see Loch Ness and a Highland cow.  Apart from that it turned out that I didn’t really know much else about this beautiful country! Liam and I planned to have a few days in Edinburgh and then hire a car and drive north into the countryside to see what we could find.

Edinburgh is the beautiful Capital of Scotland and is one of those places that takes you on an unforgettable journey into the past. It has such an old world feel with the Edinburgh Castle perched on top Castle Hill watching over the whole city.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

 the South Bridge Vaults

City of the Dead Tour – the South Bridge Vaults

 Greyfriars Graveyard searching for the Mackenzie Poltergeist

Greyfriars Graveyard searching for the Mackenzie Poltergeist

The best way to explore this place is on foot so we walked around Calton’s Hill and then wandered down the Royal Mile to visit the Castle. We took a City of the Dead  Ghost Tour to visit the South Bridge Vaults and the Covenanter’s Prison in Greyfriars Graveyard for a bit of a laugh but it turned out to be a intriging history lesson. If anyone visits Edinburgh please book one of these tours as it was so much fun and the tour guides are just fabulous.

Liam also wanted to visit The Royal Yacht Britannia which was the former royal yacht for Her Majesty of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Britannia was decommissioned on 11 December 1997 and is now permanently berthed at the Ocean Terminal in Leigh, Edinbugh. I wasn’t as keen as I thought it was something your parents would drag you too but I went along to score some brownie points with Liam.

On Board -The Royal Yacht Britannia

On Board -The Royal Yacht Britannia

In the end it turned out I really enjoyed it as  appealed to both the nerd and the snoop in me. With our audio guide we where able to move around the yacht at our own pace and learnt about the Royal families lives on board.

After our time in Edinburgh we jumped in our little rental car and headed to Stirling but first stopping at The Kelpies sculptures in the Helix Park, Falkirk. The Kelpies are built with structural steel with a stainless steel cladding, are 30 metre high and weigh 300 tonnes each. Designed by Andy Scott, the Kelpies are a monument to horse powered heritage across Scotland. My inner horse crazy child was in awe of these enormous sculptures that can be seen for miles away as you drive up to them. I even felt a little emotional as we walked around them and I guess that is what art is supposed to do, make you feel something.

"stretch up your long neck to face the sun'

“stretch up your long neck to face the sun”

That night we stayed in a darling little Hotel that was called the Golden Lion. The hotel was originally opened in 1786, two years before Australia was even colonised. The next day we headed up the hill in the rain to visit Stirling Castle. This beautiful old castle is a great example of Scotland’s fascinating history as Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in the chapel royal here on 9 September 1543 when she was just 6 days old. Wondering around the grounds of this impressive fortress you could imagine the past Kings and Queens of Scotland looking out over the battlements to the magnificent views of the southern Highlands and the Ochil Hills.

"Hold Stirling and you control Scotland"

“Hold Stirling and you control Scotland”

The next day we headed out to see Loch Ness. Before we reached it we stopped in to a little place called Dog Falls near Cannich to try and find a waterfall. Scotland is just such a beautiful place that we wanted to take advantage of the good weather and see some countryside. Though the waterfall we found wasn’t anything to rave about the scenery was.

Dog Falls - Scotland

Dog Falls – Scotland

Loch Ness - hunting for Nessie

Loch Ness – hunting for Nessie

After our little hike it was on to see the huge Loch Ness. This Scottish Icon has a  surface area at 56 km2  and its deepest point is 230 metres. Though we keep a close lookout for the mysterious Loch Ness Monster she never appeared for us.  Now that we had ticked off that experience off our wish list I was on the hunt for my Highland cow. We had driven miles and I was still yet to see one of these beauties. I was beginning to worry that we might not come across one. Then on our drive to Fort William to stay at the bottom of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, we saw something in a field on the side of the road.

Highland Cows

Highland Cows

Ain’t they just the sweetest cow you have ever seen? I wanted to pack one up and put it in my suitcase to take home. I went to bed very happy that night.

The next day Liam and I woke up early and headed to the base of Ben Nevis as I wanted to see how far up we could climb up. I thought we could make it to the top but after doing some research I discovered that the summit has arguably the fiercest mountain weather conditions in Scotland, even in Summer.  The summit, which is a collapse dome of an ancient volcano, is 1,344 metres above sea level. Since we didn’t have the right equipment (maps, compasses or the right clothing!) we decided, much to Liam’s relief, that we would just do about a 3rd of the mountain walk. The view was well worth the climb even though I did have to lure Liam up the last few hundred metres with the promise of beer at the end!

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

Encouraging Liam to make it up the mountain

Encouraging Liam to make it up the mountain

Ben Nevis - the mountain track

Ben Nevis – the mountain track

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers

Scotland is such a beautiful country. For anyone who wants to go there in the future make sure you leave the cities and head out into the wilderness. It truly is a wild and spectacular place that just wants to be explored.

Lots of love

Liam and Rishy

XOXO

see below for for more pictures of Scotland:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gin and Gumboots

“It’s a thing to see when a boy comes home.”
― John Steinbeck

With such a close connection to the Australian outback, we could never wish away the rain especially when so many of our family and friends are in the middle of one of the longest droughts in the country’s history. Liam and I had decided that whatever the weather was like in Europe we would embrace it wholeheartedly! Even with such good intentions if anyone told me I would be standing in the freezing rain at a music festival wearing a pair of borrowed gumboots, I would not have believed them. For anyone who knows me, being cold, wet and attending music festivals are not really my thing. Spoilt with amazing weather back in Brisbane I would scoff at the idea of exposing myself to the outdoors in anything other than ‘perfect’ weather but sometimes you just surprise yourself.

I loved every minute of it.

Gumboots

surprising yourself

Our lovely hosts Linda and John had asked us to join them and their friend Rose for a day at the Valentia Isle Festival on the picturesque Valentia Island. Valentia Island is one of the most westerly points in Europe and the Festival itself overlooked the beautiful King of Kerry and its surrounding mountains. Not being sure what to expect, especially after Linda insisting I borrow a pair of gumboots, we walked up to the entrance. It was a far cry from the intense security of Australia’s music events –  barely a police presence, no bag searches and barrel to drop any glass alcohol bottles into as we entered the main section of the Festival. There were kids playing on hay bales, young spirited hipsters, suburban couples and old time hippies all mingling together in a colourful cross section of the community. All with one thing in common, a love of music.

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Casual entry

Our Crew - Liam, Myself, Linda, John & Rose

Our Crew – Liam, Myself, Linda, John & Rose

 I clutched my Gin and Tonic as we danced our hearts out as cold rain spattered down. We sang along to tunes like ‘Is this love’ performed by Natty Wailer, formerly of Bob Marley and the Wailers. Natty took the crowd on a music journey of classic reggae music and spoke of hope and freedom and of love and liberation. Very fitting with the vibe of the festival as it really was a love-fest between the different mix of people who attended. We also discovered some amazing home grown music from Irish bands like Corner Boys (please look them up, you won’t be disappointed) and King Kong Company.

Not only did this festival have music but fantastic food as well. My favourite being the Eco Cafe Bus which is mobile cafe made from a vintage 1968 Bristol Lodekka Double Decker Bus which is run on recycled waste vegetable oil.  They had seating upstairs and a kitchen downstairs full of delectable delights as well as selling hot water bottles for the odd cold festival goer.

Eco Bus Cafe

Eco Bus Cafe

Hot Water Bottle Special

Hot Water Bottle Special

Processed with VSCOcam with 7 preset

On the Eco Bus Cafe – you could even have a snooze 😉

The Girls

The Girls

Corner Boys

Corner Boys

There was another reason that made this day so special. Without even knowing it, Liam stood on Valentia Island singing along to Irish bands on the day his Grandmother was born there 103 years ago (Liam’s mum told us with great delight the following day on the phone when we told her where we had been). Elsie left Ireland in her early twenties to then never return to her native homeland. I wonder if she ever though her only Grandson would visit her birthplace over 100 years later on her birthday. Talk about a full circle moment.

Our Crew

Our Crew

Processed with VSCOcam with 7 preset

One of the Festival Attendees

Processed with VSCOcam with 7 preset

Festival Attendees

Processed with VSCOcam with 6 preset

DJs 

Processed with VSCOcam with 6 preset

One love, one heart

We wanted to say a big thank you to Linda and John for being such fabulous hosts in Tralee. You made us try something new and we had an amazing day. We also wanted to thank Patrick and Eileen O’Shea for our wonderful stay at the O’Shea’s B&B in Cahersiveen Kerry. We are so lucky to have such a generous and welcoming family in Ireland.

xoxoxo 

Country Ireland

“I have seen landscapes…which, under a particular light, made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge. Nature has that in her which compels us to invent giants: and only giants will do.”

– C.S. Lewis

Oh Ireland, you may have only given us a day and half of sunshine while we were there but it doesn’t stop you from being spectacular. You can see why there are so many Irish folk songs that sing of their homeland. Even in the cold, drizzling rain the countryside is truly beautiful. Their rolling green hills are full of wildflowers, their impossibly clean Friesian dairy cows speckle the countryside and the red doors of country cottages are framed with hanging flower baskets. As stated in the C.S. Lewis quote above it really is a place that you can image a magical fantasy world full of mystical beasts and talking animals.

Oh Ireland

Oh Ireland

Liam and I said farewell to Dublin and jumped on the train to visit a little town called Tralee to catch up with Liam’s cousin Linda and her husband John.We then picked up a rental car and headed out to explore the area since we had sometime to kill before Linda finished work. My first thoughts were to see an Irish beach so we drove to one called Banna Beach for an ice cream.I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but let’s just say they are a little different to Australia’s! It was windy, wet and a bit dismal! Not to be discouraged I bought my soft serve with sprinkles and joined the three others on the shore; a guy in a wetsuit and a dad with his daughter building sandcastles in full tracksuits.With cold hands and chattering teeth we walked down to the shoreline and felt the temperature of the water (freezing) and then raced back to the car!

Banna Beach

Banna Beach

After that we headed back to Linda and John’s townhouse where they graciously hosted us for the next couple of nights. We had lots of lovely chats with many cups of tea and biscuits while they told us what sights to visit.

Over the next few days saw lots of the countryside in the Counties of Kerry and Clare. In the misty rain we drove around the Dingle Peninsular along their narrow, winding, cliff side roads. There we stopped to see the ancient Beehive huts that were inhabited by the local people of that area in Ancient times.

Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula

We caught a ferry at Tarbert and then drove to the natural wonders that are the Cliffs of Moher. The wind swept cliffs rise 214 meters tall at their highest point and are 8 kilometers long. There is no real barrier along much of these cliffs so many visitors stood dangerously close trying to capture the perfect photo, myself included. Liam stood far back yelling at me to ‘get away from the edge, you know you’re clumsy’ while I scrambled down the embankment to try and find a spot for my selfie. I think I managed it ok without falling off which was a small miracle!

dangerously close to the edge selfie

dangerously close to the edge selfie

We had a tour through Ross Castle, a 15th Century tower house on the edge of Lough Leane Lake. We danced around in our sexy Ponchos in the rain through the magnificent gardens of Muckross Estate. To warm up we stopped for Irish Coffees and a piece of Apple Pie while we drove the famous King of Kerry coastline. We even stayed in a little B&B with rooms that looked like a delightful bedroom of a sweet Irish granny.

Braving the weather - Muckross Estate

Liam braving the weather – Muckross Estate

Irish Coffee & Apple Pie

Irish Coffee & Apple Pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was then on our second last day that the sky cleared and the sunlight poured across the coastline. We finished the Ring of Kerry drive seeing Ireland in all it glory. Then with the sunshine on our backs we climbed the ruin of the 16th Century Ballycarbery Castle, just outside of Cahersiveen. This would have had to be one of my favourite moments in Ireland. There is no queue, tour guide or visitor’s centre at this site, just a ruin in someone paddock that anyone can stop and climb. Just you, the crumbling towers and your imagination as it brings back that childlike wonder that as an adult, you thought was lost.

Ballycarberry Castle

Ballycarberry Castle

Thank you Ireland for bringing out that sunshine. Considering it rains on average of 225 days of the year we were truly thankful.

Also I wanted to note that John’s back garden has the most luscious, thickest and greenest grass I have ever seen. A true marvel to the eye!!

John's Impressive Grass

John’s Impressive Grass

xoxo

Click the photos below to see more of our journey in a slideshow

In Dublin’s Fair City…

For Liam:

“I had that stubborn streak, the Irish in me I guess.” – Gregory Peck

Walking through Dublin’s Customs brought back a flood of fond memories from when I was here in 2007. A bubbly Irish beauty, who was the current reigning ‘Rose of Tralee’ at the time, collected myself and a friend from the airport for a whirlwind week around Ireland. We danced at local pubs in the Temple Bar District, drank pints of Guinness at the Guinness Factory, braved the rain at the Giant’s Causeway and took a Black Cab tour around Belfast. She was the perfect host for an adventure in the Emerald Isle and I just loved every minute of it. Ireland sure had a lot to live up too this time around.

IMG_5275d

Ireland back in 2007

Unfortunately that feeling faded pretty quickly. When you arrive at 9.30am on a Sunday morning severely jet lagged, you can be a little grumpy (correction – I can be a little grumpy). It seems that just like a hang-over, I don’t recover as quickly from jet lag as i once used too. With only a few hours sleep after flying for 23hrs straight, Liam and I decided we would try and adapt to the local time, so we faced the long day ahead of us. We checked into our hotel and hit the streets of Dublin to take in some of the sights…at the local cinema. It was the only place I could think of that was almost like sleeping! The rest of the day turned into a blur and ended with me asleep on a bench seat in a pub while having dinner.

Thankfully each day we were there we awoke feeling more and more human. With every new part of Dublin we discovered I felt that tingle of excitement that hits you hard at the bottom of stomach. Our adventure had truly begun.

Processed with VSCOcam with q5 preset

Dublin’s Streets

Dublin you did not disappoint.

xoxo

Click on the photos below to see where we went.

The Curious Two

“Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures”

-Lovelle Drachman

On Saturday the 5th July, Liam and I boarded a plane at the Brisbane International Airport bound for Dublin, Ireland. Our dream honeymoon had finally begun.

Processed with VSCOcam with x6 preset

Waiting to board in Brisbane

This trip was originally planned for the European summer in 2014 but after a few ups and downs that year it was pushed out till July 2015. So after two year of wishing, hoping, thinking and planning we have embarked on a two month holiday around Europe.  This blog is just a little space to record our thoughts, feelings and photos from our trip so our loved ones can follow us on this journey.  I originally had planned to post our first entry long before we left but as usual I am behind my deadline! We are already four days into travelling around Ireland so I should have an update very soon to let you all know how it is going.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Good-Bye Brisbane

Sending all our love

Rishy & Liam

xoxo