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Andrew's Auspicious Antics and Adventures

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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!

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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 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

Quimper Cornouaille, ville capitale

Our closest city, one that we never tire of visiting, Quimper is the cultural and administrative capital of Finistère; it derives its name from kemper, the Breton word for confluent as the rivers Steir and Odet meet here and flow gently out to the ocean at nearby Bénodet.

These rivers wend their way through the town criss-crossed by a myriad of bridges each adorned with bold colourful displays of flowers.

Quimper floral bridges

The skyline of the old town is dominated by the flamboyant gothic Quimper Cathedral, properly known as La Cathédral Saint Corentin de Quimper; we’re talking ancient here – construction started in the 13th century.

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The cathedral is also hauntingly beautiful at night…

The city, once the ancient capital of Cornouaille, found wealth in the production of Faïence, the art of tin glazed hand-painted pottery, in the early 1700’s. Quimper faïence is still made and can be found in the boutiques of the old town, some of the older rarer items being valuable collectors pieces, although the inevitable tourist tat is widely available.

There’s performance to be found on the street corners from traditional Breton entertainment to jazz improv…

While the supermarkets, diy stores and the like encircle the town on outlying retail parks, in the centre there is a plethora of independent shops and some popular high street brands with just one small charming department store from the Eurodif chain.

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Each Saturday there is a market selling fresh produce from the local area and of course the inevitable rotisserie stall, the aroma from which drifts through the marketplace tantalising the tastebuds. Hard to resist.

Another must visit is the rather delightful emporium known as Maison Georges Larnicol, originally from Brittany and now with stores in Paris and beyond, Georges Larnicol is one of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France.  Here you’ll find exquisite chocolate delicacies along with macarons and his signature kouignettes, miniature, caramelised versions of the classic Kouign amann.

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Their mouthwatering desserts are served at the Restaurant Le Petit Gaveau located just up the street from the store.  Another one of our favourite restaurants is L’Anchoiade, Quimper which we discovered one very busy New Year’s eve, the house speciality being the exceptional Parilladas – for more details of both see the eat here section of my site.

We’ve stayed overnight on several occasions, the Escale Oceania is a popular option for us, it’s just a stones throw from the old town and is one of the more pet-friendly hotels in the area.

Of course no visit to Quimper can be complete without sampling a delicious sweet or savoury Crêpe, a true Breton staple and always a good reason for a return visit!

 

 

 

a trip to the Fens…

So the Easter weekend weather wasn’t predicted to be great but that didn’t put us off taking a last minute trip out to the Cambridgeshire Fens.

After the obligatory supermarket pit-stop to top up on goodies we hurtled up the A10 at a staggering 45mph (excluding hills); Bambi really was on top form after its recent very extensive service.

Our destination for the weekend was the enchanting little village of Horningsea, located just a few miles north of Cambridge city centre.

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Gayton Farm & Campsite, which according to their Facebook page is a mixed farm of Arable land and Lincoln Red Cattle, home of Bespoke Bridlework and of course the campsite that is run by the very charming Carolyn and Robin who couldn’t have done more to welcome us and make our stay thoroughly enjoyable.

It’s clear both are passionate about everything they do, during our stay Carolyn and Robin were painstakingly constructing a large decking area at the rear of their house as well as taking care of the farm, the Bridlework business and of course playing host to the field of campers! Industrious from dawn to dusk, theirs really does appear to be a true labour of love.

Gayton is a Camping and Caravanning Club Certified site which means it’s limited to just 5 motorhomes or caravans and up to 10 tents at any one time which engenders an air of exclusivity enhanced by the tranquil setting and stunning views over acres upon acres of flat open farmland.

On first impression you might think that this is so good they’ve done it before and indeed they have… at Lynchets Farm & Campsite just 30 odd miles down the road at Great Chishill before taking their successful blueprint and recreating it at Horningsea.

Facilities are outstanding, they’ve just finished putting the final touches to the new washroom/toilet block which is kept immaculately clean. Each pitch has electrical hook-up and a couple are full service.

The village is home to two country pubs; we only made it to the nearest one, the amazing Crown and Punchbowl which is expertly run by those good folk at CambsCusine. We’ve previously sampled their outstanding hospitality at the Tickell Arms in Whittlesford and St John Chop House, Cambridge. All highly recommended!

During the daytime we enjoyed bracing walks across the Fens and along the River Cam, although Herbie is never able resist the pull of a country pub and dragged us into several during the course of the weekend, so naturally we felt obliged to partake in the odd pub lunch or afternoon Prosecco…

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Next week we’re back off to Brittany for a rest!

a very balmy weekend…

The picturesque village of Ashwell situated in the rolling downs of rural East Hertfordshire was our destination for this weekend.

New thatching at Ashwell

Although less than 50 miles north of London, it’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

View from the Loves Lane Campsite - Hot Air Balloon descending

The village is well catered for with a convenience store, traditional butchers, a quaint coffee and gift shop and no less than three pubs; The Three Tuns, Rose and Crown and Bushel & Strike.

Three Tuns Ashwell interior pub

While we just missed lunch service at the Three Tuns we enjoyed a glass or two of Prosecco in the lovely beer garden.

Three Tuns at Ashwell, Beer Garden

A restored 14th century cottage, home to the local museum is now open a couple of times a week showcasing local artefacts and houses a Resource Centre due in part to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Ashwell Museum

Ashwell Museum 2

Ashwell Springs, a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest is also a source of the River Cam; coincidentally the village itself was once home to Erasmus Darwin, great grandson of Charles Darwin, the English naturalist, geologist and biologist.

Another celebrated resident, Kiki Dee was the first white British artist signed to Motown and erstwhile duetting partner of Elton John; both having achieved their first No 1 single in 1993 with ‘Don’t go Breaking my Heart’.

Loves lane Ashwell

We stayed at Loves Lane, a Camping and Caravanning Club certified site.  Sheltered, peaceful, and with immaculately clean facilities this really is a hidden gem and one that we look forward to staying at again.

Bedford Bambi parked up and pitched at Loves Lane Campsite Ashwell Hertfordshire

The annual village open day Ashwell at Home has for the last 30 odd years taken place on a Sunday afternoon in May; another good reason for a return visit.

Down beside the side of the silvery sea…

When we were kids our neighbours used to go on holiday to Whitley Bay; I had no idea of the whereabouts of what we then imagined to be an exotic far-flung destination.

Until yesterday.

Historically in Northumberland but now part of Tyne & Wear the little seaside resort of Whitley Bay flashed before my eyes as we passed through on our way from Newcastle on the ‘Metro’ allegedly the first rapid transit light rail system in the uk.

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We alighted two stops later in the small town of Tynemouth at the rather impressive Grade II listed Victorian station that formerly served as a mainline railway station used by the thousands of day-trippers and holiday makers from the late 1800’s onwards.

As we strolled along Tynemouth’s main street, populated with the ubiquitous gift shops, chic coffee shops, trendy bars and restaurants, the ancient castle and priory ruins loomed before us, dramatically perched on the rocky headland.

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By this time a very patient H was much in need of some exercise and so we headed down to the award-winning Longsands beach that even on this fresh February morning was awash with dog-walkers, children playing in the soft golden sands and even a couple of brave souls who waded into the chilly, silvery waters of the North Sea for a somewhat brief bathe.

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At the far end of the beach the lights of a distant bar restaurant beckoned, the firm damp sand underfoot helped speed our way across. Lunch for me consisted of the freshest Mussels in a garlic and parsley sauce while the other half opted for the most amazing looking burger.

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Another much shorter stroll took us to Cullercoats station and the Metro whisked us back to Hebburn in no time… we’ll be back to visit this rather enchanting stretch of coast because oh, we do like to be beside the seaside!

Heading North

This weekend found us on the 08:30 Virgin East Coast from London to Newcastle for a weekend of birthday celebrations with the other half’s family. It’s been a while since I’ve made a long distance train journey and was very pleasantly surprised!

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As we were travelling with precious pooch we opted for 1st class; roomy comfortable seats, free WiFi, entertainment and power sockets to charge up our phones and tablets make all the difference to a 3 hour journey.

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On  board catering has come a long way too… Virgin have teamed up with James Martin (him off the tele) to create a range of new menus…

After a selection from the Bakery Basket Ian opted for the Breakfast Roll, crammed with rarebreed Yorkshire back bacon while I opted for the Great British Breakfast, succulent sausage served with a rasher of that delicious bacon, grilled tomato and flat mushroom complimented by the creamiest black pudding and topped off with a perfectly cooked egg.

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The freshly brewed coffee was freeflowing and fairtrade tea was also available. The menu is very aptly named ‘A Tasty Journey’ and it was simply first class – hats off to Virgin!

Olympic Legacy for London

A beautiful January day in the capital; one for wrapping up warm, enjoying the city bathed in sunlight and the wintry chill hanging in the air…

Just east of the city lies our newest green space and legacy of 2012, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which covers over 500 acres of former industrial wasteland, liberally sprinkled with around 6km of waterways.

ArcelorMittal Orbit at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

The ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor stands proud against the Stratford skyline adjacent to the former Olympic (now London) Stadium and currently home to West Ham Football Club. There is half price general entry to the viewing galleries at the Orbit during January and for those brave enough a further £5.00 will get you a ticket to the world’s highest and longest tunnel slide; alternatively you can choose to walk the 455 steps back down to park level.

We’ve spent many hours enjoying the park, the art and architecture plus of course its delightful waterways; this photo by the Velodrome was last month on a Sunday morning stroll with H the mischievous Miniature Schnauzer…

Olympic walk

Wetlands, parklands, nature reserves and the iconic Olympic buildings including the Aquatics Centre, Velodrome and Copper Box Arena all sit comfortably nestled together with the thousands of new homes springing up all around.

There is free entry to the park which is open all year round and plenty of cafes and kiosks to grab a latte from!

 

A seaside stroll in Morbihan

Having decided it was definitely time to walk off the excesses of the seasonal celebrations we headed down to the Morbihan coast of southern Brittany on a chilly winter’s morning.

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Parked the car near Le Fort Bloqué at Guidel and took the scenic route across beautiful deserted sandy beaches, past the (busy) surfing school and over stunning nature reserves to the little resort of Le Courégant where luckily we managed to replenish our used calories with a rather lovely pizza meal (reviewed on trip advisor) before making the 5km return trip.

H is never happier than when skipping along the beach, whilst keeping well away from that nasty wet water!

Walking the dog at Ploemeur

There are a few more photos of our trip to the beach while it was sunny before the weather turned in my gallery

Ploemeur is a beautiful place to visit in winter as well as summer – for more info check out the Ville de Ploemeur website here.

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