A lovely week in the north round 2

So after our few days in Alnwick we headed to North Yorkshire, via Hadrian’s Wall.

Oh my word it was totally freezing! The wind was whipping off the moors and was just biting. After walking up to the wall, looking around for a bit, we found a National Trust place on the way to our hotel so decided to stop there.

I cannot remember where this was, but there were lambs wandering around in the car park. I love seeing the lambs.

The grounds had a walk to an old water mill, through some woods, so we walked first (saw some pretty flowers too) and then went to the tearoom, sharing a piece of chocolate and beetroot cake- I’ve never had it before and it was lovely. As someone with a bit of a thing about beetroot (I love it in salads but don’t like the idea of it in a smoothie because of the blood colour- I don’t know why) I was surprised that I liked it so much- you could taste a hint of beetroot- it made the chocolate cake taste a little earthy, but in a good way.

We had two full days in Askrigg- here we drove out to places in the surrounding area. Our B&B was lovely- for those days I went for their American-style pancakes, plus a bit of the freshly made fruit salad. I was very tempted by a hot cross bun one day (there was always toast, yoghurt and cereals out too, but I didn’t feel like I needed any of those extras alongside pancakes), but I managed to resist.

On one day we followed a walk in one of the books we had borrowed from the library, basically finding areas that they filmed at on the first series of The Trip. We spent a lot of time on our walk doing impressions of them doing impressions.

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This was me doing the “Ah-haaa” in the same place that Steve Coogan does.

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And back down in the bottom of the valley again.

We were fairly near the Wenslydale Cheese factory, so we headed there one afternoon to look around the shop (I’ve seen cheesemaking once before and it’s not something I am keen to repeat!) and we ended up having grilled cheese sandwiches and some tiffin. The sandwich was good (roasted veggies and rocket pesto or something) but the tiffin was so good as it had caramel in there too. One thing I really didn’t like was the samples room- I went in there as it had a bigger selection of jams and things- I got some raspberry and elderflower jam, and some blackcurrant and lavender, plus some for my mum- but there were piles of cubes of different types of cheese and people could help themselves- I am sure some people ate their own weight in free cheese samples, and even though they asked you to use hand santiser as you entered the room (for some reason, for health and safety, you couldn’t use cocktail sticks), I saw a lot of people who didn’t. Bleurgh.

Anyway, our sandwiches were good which is the most important thing.

One day we went to Ingleton Waterfalls- you pay to park in the car park and then have entry to the 4 or 5 mile walk up past waterfalls, along the tops of hillsides and back down past yet more waterfalls.

Some of it was fairly steep, and the weather went from being very warm if you were out of the wind, to being quite cold- layers were very much needed.

It was so impressive seeing so many waterfalls.

We had driven past this huge viaduct as it was fairly close to where we were staying, so one afternoon we parked up and walked up to it.

We ended up being so lucky with the weather too- we had a few spells of rain in the car but no rain when we were out walking. It didn’t last- on Easter Sunday we drove to Buxton and it rained a lot of the way so we didn’t stop off anywhere.

I was very pleased to see I was wearing rabbit socks (Easter Bunny?)- I hadn’t planned it- they were just the next ones in the suitcase! We walked into Buxton, then it rained some more so we had a drink while we waited for our restaurant reservation. As we were walking back it poured with rain again, and I had only done something like 8,000 steps. I had managed to go well above my 11,000 target for every day of the holiday so I ended up walking around our hotel room for a bit to get up to the right number.

On the Monday we walked into Buxton for breakfast in Caffe Nero (no cooked breakfasts any more!) and then decided to head straight home, so we had the afternoon to get ready for going back to work.

It was a lovely trip- so relaxing, with lots of walking, lots of fresh air, lots of tea room visits, and not a bit of work in sight. A very refreshing break.

A lovely week in the north- part 1

It always makes me laugh when I drive anywhere north from here as the road sign just says


The North”

as if “The North” was one place. We did a fair bit of travelling about and managed to see lots of sights.

After our trip to Harrogate and Fountains Abbey, we drove to Durham.

We had a lovely day there, wandering around the town centre and walking by the river. We went into the cathedral too which was so impressive.

The river is in a sort of a u-bend shape so you could enter from one side of the town, walk along it for a while and end up not far from where you started- or cross over and walk back along the other side.

After a quick breakfast on the Monday morning we drove further north to our next destination, stopping off at a National Trust place on the way.

Cragside was the first house to be lit by electric lights, and was powered by hydroelectric power. I usually much prefer the gardens to the house, but this one was very interesting (some of the inventions were a bit Wallace and Gromit).

As well as walking around the gardens there was a big estate drive where you could stop off and walk around lakes or along trails.

This put the Blur song “Trimm Trabb” in my head after seeing it. I think it was actually a walk with different types of fitness equipment to test balance, agility and so on.

We stayed in Alnwick for three nights- we had a lovely B&B right in the centre of the town. They did a lovely breakfast (I had their “eggy bread” each day as it was so delicious, but there were loads of other options too)- they even bought in almond/soya milk and yoghurt for another guest who could not have dairy.

Also, they had locally blended loose leaf teas in the rooms as well as being served at breakfast- this was a big thumbs up from me!

Some of the time we stayed close to Alnwick- we’d bought a book about walks in Northumberland and they had some close by including a 3 mile one in the countryside around the town.

Sometimes we drove out towards the coast- we saw a few different castles and drove on the causeway to Lindisfarne (this was not so good for someone who is a bit panicky about forgetting things- we double checked the times that we could get back by-1.50pm- and then I spent a while wondering if it was 12.50 instead..). This was not helped by the signs posted everywhere with a photo of a car surrounded by water- I did not want us to end up like that!

Once we’d driven back to the mainland (and with plenty of time) we drove up to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and it was so strange seeing signs for Edinburgh- it made me realise how far we had driven. It was also totally freezing cold- I had regretted not wearing a thermal top that day!

We went to the Bari tea room one day and it was so relaxed with delicious home-made cakes. We’d had a long walk in the morning so shared some lemon cake.

We had glorious weather although on this walk out to a castle it was super windy- I am sure at points my hair was going full troll (vertical).

On our last afternoon there we were back in the B&B fairly early (4pm ish I think) so I headed out on a run- previously we had walked in a loop around the town- it turned out to be about 2 miles so I repeated it twice (with a photo stop half way to take pictures of the old railway building that is now a large book shop)  before popping to the Costa for a drink (it was sunny but with a really cold and strong wind)- although I regretted it right away because the service in Costa is always never faster than a snail’s pace and usually worse than a sloth. (We have one at a local cinema and sometimes I get a drink, and then spend ages wondering if I am missing the film or just the adverts while they painstakingly make the drink in slow motion…).

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We went to this bookshop for dinner as it had a lovely cafe inside- it’s an old railway station and a very large second hand book shop so great for a wander too.

After our few days in Northumberland we drove to Yorkshire for our next B&B, but I’ll save that for another post.

What would your breakfast of choice be? Andy usually goes for scrambled eggs and bacon on toast, but he did have the eggy bread one day as mine was tempting him each morning.

Do you prefer visiting houses or gardens?

Are the Costa’s near you slow at serving people or is it just all the ones I have visited? 

Colmar Christmas markets

For the last few years we have headed to Europe for a weekend to visit a new Christmas market- we’ve been to Copenhagen, Bruges, Cologne, Vienna and Strasbourg. Last year our train to Strasbourg also went to a place called Colmar, and when looking into where it was, it turned out to be one of the top ten Christmas markets in Europe. We have flown to a few of the places, but getting the Eurostar is so much easier and less stressful (this was confirmed by our September trip to Paris where we flew out and got the train back)- the train from St Albans is 25 minutes and goes right to Kings Cross, and you only need to get to the Eurostar 30 minutes before, no worries about baggage limits or liquid restrictions. So a few Fridays ago we headed off, picked up a sandwich to eat in the train station and got the Eurostar- I had downloaded some things to watch on the Channel 4 app (Secret Life of the Zoo/ 4 and 5 year olds) but it hadn’t worked so I listened to some podcasts which meant basically I slept most of the way. We stayed overnight in Paris, right by the station, and then in the morning got the train to Colmar. There is a Starbucks in the station so we got a hot drink to have on the train.


They can never get his name right – at least they got mine right though, often I am Marielle. The awful exchange rate means it’s a very expensive treat now though. There were great views on the train of the pretty French countryside, all enjoyed whilst listening to Wittertainment. It was so cold though- all the lakes we passed were frozen solid.


We arrived around lunch time and luckily our hotel room was ready, so we dropped off our bags and had a wander around. It was such a pretty town, very similar to Strasbourg with all the buildings. It was beautifully decorated, and easily walkable.


It’s a bit like Brugges, with canals running through the old town, and lots of buildings facing straight out onto the water. All of the bridges had lovely decorations on them.


There were lots of different markets, all well signposted. We were given a map when we checked in to the hotel, with the markets marked on them, but we didn’t use it as there were signs everywhere.


I loved this little village set by one of the canals.


There were some more unusual decorations too- I loved this tree made of skis!

Of course while we were there we sampled some of the drinks on offer- I had a lovely warm apple drink with spices and local honey, and of course Andy had some mulled wine.


We headed back to the hotel for a bit to warm up and have a picnic dinner of nice bread and cheese, before heading back out to see the decorations at night.


It was even prettier at night (but very cold). The markets were still busy- I think the European ones are so good as they get the local people out too, it’s not all tourists. I had a proper hot chocolate while we wandered to keep my hands warm.


Argh! I washed my hair on Saturday night as we had to be up fairly early in the morning for the train- it was only after that I realised that this was the in-room hairdryer. I’ve only ever seen them in Italy before- it’s the equivalent of someone blowing gently on your hair. Plus the tube gets so hot as you hold it, so you can’t use it for very long. About as useful as a chocolate teapot. Not quite as bad as when we were in Yellowstone and the room didn’t have a hairdryer (it was a lodge with no TV, but I thought it would still have a hairdryer as it had a shower)- it was freezing in the mornings and I remember sitting in the sun by Old Faithful hoping the sun would start to dry it a bit!


This was the park between our hotel and the train station. On Sunday morning we had to get a short train ride (15 mins) to a place called Mullhouse, as there were no direct trains back to Paris that day. We had a good hour there, so we wandered into the town and found a lovely bakery for our breakfast- chocolate almond croissant= winning at breakfast, oh yes.


There was a Christmas market there too, although it wasn’t open at that time on a Sunday morning. I liked the display in the town centre.

After the main train journey, we had time to wander around Paris- we had a walk along the river, before heading to the underground to go to the Eurostar station.


The only thing we bought was this gingerbread man, which was very tasty indeed. It was another great place to visit and put us in a very festive mood.

Do you prefer trains or flights? Where is the best Christmas market you have visited? Any travel hair issues?

A long weekend in Edinburgh

Last Thursday we headed up to Edinburgh for a long weekend. We had both been there a few times, but I think the last time I went I was still at uni, so a re-visit was long overdue. A few weeks ago Andy found a deal for first class train travel (which means bigger seats, a meal and drinks) for £30 each, which seemed like a bargain. We got the train from Kings Cross at 6pm, so spent the evening on the train, listening to the film podcast first, and then some others, before arriving after 11pm (the train got stuck behind a slower train after another train broke down and it had to take a different route, so it was a bit later than planned). We were planning on walking to our hotel as it was around a mile from the station but after walking a bit we ended up getting an uber.

On Friday morning we went out for breakfast at this amazing bakery around the corner from our hotel (Loudon’s)- I was spoilt for choice but in the end went for French toast with bananas and salted caramel sauce. So delicious.


Loose leaf tea in little tea pots too, which is always a winner in my book. Andy had gone for scrambled eggs (his usual) but even he was envious of my choice- it was such good bread (home-baked) and really thick slices- not soaked and not too eggy. It was massive though (not sure the photo really shows it) and so he ended up finishing it for me!


Good fuel for walking around the town. We walked along Princes Street (the main shopping street) and into a park at the end, up some steep steps for lovely views.


We then walked along the Royal Mile, past all of the very touristy shops, up to the castle. Andy wanted to go into the Whisky experience, so we booked tickets for later that afternoon. We were both so full from breakfast so we shared a salad, before heading inside to warm up.


The tour was actually quite interesting, and we got to see the thousands of varieties made in Scotland. Each ticket also got you two samples- we did ask if they did a cheaper one without, as I wouldn’t drink them, and they told us I could have Irn Bru instead- sorry Scotland but I’ll pass on that. Andy had mine! The seating area had great views too, and a map to show what you were actually looking at too. We then walked back along the main streets, before heading for an early dinner close to our hotel.

On Saturday morning I was off for my parkrun tourism.


I was very glad of uber as I am not sure I would have managed to navigate the buses. However there were not that many around so I had to wait about 10 minutes at the end before one came- if I had realised that I would have booked one and then stretched and taken photos, whereas I waited until I had done all of that before booking it. Ah well.


We headed to Loudon’s again, and I was going to have the blueberry pancakes, but then they said they were doing a Halloween special- French toast with nutella, banana creme fraiche, caramel sauce and m&m’s- I could not resist that! It also came with various jelly sweets which I asked to be left off because of the gelatin. I was so full after that! We needed a big breakfast as we were walking up Arthur’s Seat (and walking to the bottom from our hotel). There are some museums in Edinburgh but we were saving those for if it rained- not this time luckily.


It was hard work!


I even took my coat off as we were walking up as I got so hot. I soon put it back on again as the wind was very cold.


We had lovely views across to the park we went to on the Friday- it also showed us how  far we had yet to walk as we were going back to the centre after.


We didn’t need lunch of course, but we stopped for a cup of tea to warm up for a bit, and sat in the park with lovely views.


On our way past Hotel Chocolat we saw a sign that advertised a seasonal special (the shop had a cafe in the back)- spiced hot chocolate with salted caramel (or something, I can’t quite remember). I could not resist that so we shared one of those- it was so good.


Then it was time for dinner- we were both pretty shattered after all of that walking.


On Sunday we were up early as we had to get the train back at 12.00- this time I had the blueberry pancakes (they were actually purple!) which I think came with banana and cherries. Of course it was delicious. We then walked into the centre and wandered around the town a bit. Annoyingly my back was really sore when I woke up, and so I was walking fairly slowly and not looking forward to sitting down all afternoon on the train.


Going back down in the light was great, particularly further north as the train tracks were right by the coast. We saw lovely views, and mostly listened to more podcasts- really relaxing.

It was a great place to visit, and we are already looking at where else we can get to by train- Durham always looks great and the line goes through there so that might be next.

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? What type of city break activities do you like to do?

Round 2- to Vancouver Island

So after a kayak on Moraine Lake, and a walk up to the top to take a few last pictures, we loaded up the car and headed off as we had a long drive (over 400km) to Kelowna. Annoyingly, as I have mentioned before, this was Saturday, and on that very Saturday, the inurural Canadian parkrun was starting, IN KELOWNA!!! But there was no way we were starting our drive at 3am to make it there on time. We stopped early on in our journey to pick up some bits for lunch (we got a nice picnic of hummus, ready sliced peppers, crackers and apples) but we didn’t pass any proper looking rest stops, so we ended up powering through, arriving in the afternoon.

Kelowna is on a large lake and seemed the place that a lot of people had headed to on holiday- loads of trucks towing boats, and there were large parks where you could hire bikes and do some walking. In the end we spent a bit of time walking around near our hotel, going to a shopping mall, walking along by the lake (a lovely path from close to the town centre all along past beaches and marinas), in the old town, and we even came across a lovely Japanese garden.


Now I know about the parkrun, we can plan our next trip to make it work!


The Japanese garden


A cool bear sculpture by the water. It was fairly overcast here, but it was very hot indeed.


Some of my favourite Canadian shops were visited (plus Roots- not sure where the bag was for that)

We only stayed there for two nights, so on our final morning I was awake early so headed to the gym in the hotel for a run- I was conscious that we had an even longer car journey so I wanted to get moving for a bit that day. I had it all to myself at the start, and listened to a Marathon Talk podcast while I was running (I save them for running so I had a bit of a backlog).


I even managed a mid-run photo, although I realised afterwards that I could have just pretended by holding a running pose…


Anyway, the 500+km journey to Whistler loomed, so we didn’t hang about after breakfast.

Again, we didn’t really find anywhere to stop properly. We have been on a few US road trips and their roads seem to have frequent rest areas with benches and toilet blocks, but I think over this side of Canada it’s more sparsely populated. In the end we stopped on a pullout for a bit of a stretch, before the final few hours.


We had the evening and next morning in Whistler- we have been there before (last time we got the cable car into the mountains and did some lovely walks up there), and this time just enjoyed wandering around the village.


I was still loving the Olympic spirit! Because of the time difference we had seen a lot of it (although if a Canadian athlete was doing something in another sport, they would cut away).

Then we drove to the ferry port north of Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) and got the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.


When we arrived we knew we had (another) drive to our hotel, so we wandered around the town for a bit, and found a place that made smoothies and vegan food- we both went for the hummus wrap (some sort of dehydrated wrap- they gave us water to have with it too as apparently we needed to) which was filled with lovely fresh veggies, although very hard to eat!


Of course we also had to have a nanaimo bar- when in Rome eh?


On the drive to our hotel, we both saw something dark run across the grass in the middle of the freeway- initially we both thought it was a dog but when we got closer we realised it was a bear! Crazy!

One of the things we both really wanted to do was go whale watching, so we had booked a trip from Telegraph Cove.


It was the tiniest place- winter population =4!


As I am sure you can imagine I took many photos- I wanted to look at them properly, and not on my phone screen, so I tried to point my phone in the general direction and then press the button whenever I saw anything.


They put up a special “whale watching” flag whenever we saw whales, to warn other boats.


Killer whale/ orca

We were so lucky- we ended up seeing several pods of killer whales (some ate mammals, others ate fish), two humpback whales, porpoises, seals, sealions and dolphins!


Humpback whale

The next day we were heading to the other side of the island, so that will wait for another post.

Have you ever seen whales?  The shop had t-shirts that said “I’ve seen Blackfish in the wild”- I have been to Seaworld a few times and then after seeing that film I have had a lot of guilt. Although to be fair the wildlife expert on our boat told us that they were seen as the enemy as they ate fish, so there used to be a machine gun (yes- you read that correctly) mounted at one inlet and people would just shoot the whales. When they were first captured and put in aquariums, they realised how intelligent and also how endangered they were, so the conservation work started there. Although those parks played their part, they should be in the wild now.