city break, Eat and Drink, landscapes, nature, photography, Travel, UK

One-day trips from London – Hitchin and Lavender Fields

The series of “one-day trips from London” is coming to an end. This is not my last post of places to go for one day if you feel or want to get away from London, but it is the second last. You may wonder why I am not talking about big or most-known places like Cambridge, Oxford, Brighton, but if by one side I think these are places will fit better in a kind of “a weekend away from London” because there is a lot more to visit and to do, on the other side the idea behind these posts is to give ideas to avoid the crowds and lessen the possibility of getting infected with COVID-19.

For me, and I have said this before, United Kingdom is much more than just London. I know that London is the place that everyone wants to visit and who comes just loves the city, but the country is a lot more than that – it is beautiful landscapes, woodlands, wildlife and really cute villages as for example Hitchin.

You can get a direct train from London (St. Pancras station) to Hitchin and it will take you around half an hour. I have been in Hitchin many times because a couple of years ago I worked in a hospital close by and from the first moment I fell in love with this village. The pretty architecture of the buildings, the village full of flowers and the narrow streets with hidden treasuries makes impossible not to love wandering around.


What to do in Hitchin?

  • St. Mary’s church – This is the main church in the city center but I’ve actually never been inside. I was meant to visit it last weekend but there was a wedding happening so we couldn’t go inside. Behind the church there is a small garden where you can sit and have a picnic where there is also a small pound with a fountain.
  • Hitchin Market – On Saturdays, especially during the mornings, when the market is full on, you can walk around and maybe buy some treasures. There are counters with fresh fruit and vegetables, books, clothes, bags, hats and much more.
  • Windmill Hill – This a park on a hill, as the name itseff suggests and it is the perfect place to do a picnic and have a fabulous view of the village.
  • Main Square – Maybe I should mention the main square as a place for food and drinks, but as it is worth to walk through I decided to write about it in this section. From the main square of Hitchin you can see the church, it connects to the main roads around Hitchin and there are a lot of tables where you can sit and have a drink (usually there are small counters around selling food and drinks). If you are lucky enough you will be presented with some kind of performance (the last time we visited Hitchin there was a girl playing violin – video below)
  • Wandering around – I have said this above but I am going to repeat – it is so lovely to walk around and find these small stores, so conventional and with this vintage vibe. Really lovely.

I am leaving the best for the end: LAVENDER FIELDS

Me and my husband went last weekend and it was definitely the cherry on top of the cake – a finish to an amazing day. This year because of COVID-19 it is required to buy the tickets online in advance, I would say around one week in advance. We decided to book from 6-8 pm so we would be there at the sunset and get that lovely golden light which made our visit to the lavender fields so much more beautiful. It was breath taking! No words to express how beautiful it was!

Also it is a good place for those who have bee phobia (like me). There are so many bees around jumping from flower to flower and you just end up realising they will not hurt you. It is the nature at its best. The lavender is full bloom from middle of July until the end of August.

On the lavender fields in Hitchin they also offer outdoor cinema at night if you are interested- but I warn you – you need to buy the tickets well in advance.

Website: https://www.hitchinlavender.com/

Address: Cadwell farm, Arlesey Rd, Ickleford, Hitchin SG5 3UA


Hitchin – Food and Drinks

Warning: I haven’t tried many places in Hitchin, so I am just giving my personal experience of those place that I have eaten in!

For Breakfast

Hitchin Kitchen Cafe

This a good place to learn how a good full British breakfast is served. I have been here just with my husband and I have been here with my parents (for them to try a full British breakfast) and I have been here with my husband and my sister-in-law. Basically, everyone that comes to visit us in UK – we bring them here. This is not a “posh” cafe, not at all, but the food is good, and the portions are massive. Trust me! If you have breakfast in here you will not need lunch, actually you don’t need food until the very end of the day. They also have other options (smaller portions) and you can decide to have lunch instead of breakfast. The prices are incredibly cheap.

Address: 48 Walsworth Rd, Hitchin SG4 9SU


For Lunch

There are really good options for lunch in the town centre. We only tried two Italian restaurants for lunch in Hitchin – Zizzi and Pizza Express. Both of them were good. If you want something lighter you can always grab something from Starbucks, Subway or from ASDA (the supermarket) and do a picnic either behind the St. Mary’s church or on the Windmill Hill. It will be cheaper and you will have a view.

Website (Pizza Express): https://www.pizzaexpress.com/

Address (Pizza Express): 19 Market Pl, Hitchin SG5 1DT

Website (Zizzi): https://www.zizzi.com/

Address (Zizzi): 21 Sun St, Hitchin SG5 1AH


For Dessert

Ice cream – Fabio’s Gelato

If you want good ice cream either after lunch, for tea or even instead of lunch, you must try Fabio’s Gelato. We only came here once not only because we didn’t like it, it is more regarding the usual big queue outside. The artisan ice cream is delicious and you can choose from a lot of different flavours, hence the queue.

Website: https://www.fabgelato.com/

Address: 13 Hermitage Rd, Hitchin SG5 1BT


For Dinner

Bar Amigo

For dinner you can also add the restaurants that I have mentioned above for lunch. If you go to either Pizza Express or to this Mexican/Latin restaurant, the Bar Amigo, you can have a view of the main square. In the Bar Amigo I usually have nachos as a starter and the fajitas for main – the Halloumi and Mushrooms fajitas. I have to warn you that my husband ordered the ropa vieja and he didn’t enjoy the meal, so maybe if you don’t want fajitas maybe try a different restaurant (?). Or maybe you can have some nachos and some cocktails (which are also very good, I have had a really tasty mojito here) and then have a proper meal elsewhere – Entirely up to you!!

Website: https://www.bar-amigo.co.uk/

Address: 23 Market Pl, Hitchin SG5 1DT


For Drinks

The Snug Bar

I have tried to go to other places for cocktails, but the Snug always gets me! From 3-9pm they have this called “2 for 1” where you can ordered two cocktails for the price of 1 (the two cocktails are the same!). I believe on Sundays this promotion applies all day.

The decoration of the place is super cute and the cocktails are REALLY tasty. We had around 5 cocktails and a beer (my husband’s attempt to look like a man) last weekend and we only stopped because we had to go to the Lavender Fields. Even after dinner at the Amigo Bar my husband wanted to go to another cocktail, but as it was after 10 pm we let this go. If you want to go for drinks, yes the Snug Bar is the place to go!

Website: https://www.thesnugbar.co.uk/hitchin

Address: 24 Sun St, Hitchin SG5 1AH


The Highlander

We wanted to try this pub because it is a bit away from the city centre and for that reason quieter. The pub is located in a nice area and even though we didn’t try the food, the drinks we had were tasty and refreshing. I would imagine the food would be standard pub food which by the reviews you might not regret at all! A good place to stop by and relax in a more peaceful environment.

Website: https://www.highlanderhitchin.co.uk/

Address:  45 Upper Tilehouse St, Hitchin SG5 2EF


Some considerations

  • To avoid disappointments make reservations in advance – We were quite lucky we only had the tickets to the Lavender Fields and we could have a table at the Snug and at the Bar Amigo, but if we had gone during busier times maybe we had struggled.
  • Wear a mask and keep social distancing. The mask is really needed especially at the market and when walking in the naroow streets of Hitchin where you don’t have much space and it can be quite crowded.
  • Enjoy the village, it is really cute and you will love it!
landscapes, nature, photography, Tips and Ideas, Travel, UK

One-day trips from London – Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters was our first trip after lockdown so you can imagine how happy I was getting a really sunny and warm day in UK and heading to the beach and to these cliffs, called Seven Sisters. Even though we REALLY wanted (and needed) to get away from our house and our jobs we also wanted a place that would be outdoors and not crowded. From this point the decision of visiting Seven Sisters was made easily.


So what is “Seven Sisters”?

The Seven Sisters are a group of seven sucessive chalk cliffs by the English channel, hence the name. They are part of the South Downs National Park and it comprises of a total of 21.9 Km. No, we didn’t walk all the way through especially because we drove here so it would be more than 40 Km to walk both ways. And even though the walk is not extremely hard it is a lot of going up and down.


How to get here?

You have a couple of alternatives to get to Seven Sisters. We decided to drive to Seaford because there is a free car park “South Hill Barn Car park” which led us to a beautiful small stony beach where people were sunbathing when we arrive (but not crowded).

From London:

  • Train to Eastbourne or Brighton and then getting a bus to the Seven Sister County Park
  • Train to Seaford and walk straight to the Seven Sisters

If you think it is not going to be too tiring and you will walk the 21.9 Km – you can for example get the train to Seaford from London and then walk all the Seven Sisters trail and get the train at Eastbourne to London.

Both by train or car it will take you around 2 hours to get to the Seven Sisters from London.


What to do?

  • If you are coming from Seaford (as us) and the weather is warm enough, you can do a bit of sunbathing and maybe adventure yourself into the water. We did a bit of “trying” the water before starting our hike.
  • Walk, Walk and Walk. It is a lot of up and down but it is worth it. Believe, it is a beautiful scenary. I advise you to bring water and food with you. So you can stop at the middle or at any point of your journey and make a picnic with the amazing view of the cliffs and the sea. Even if you don’t fancy to a picnic bring water with you – it will be for a couple of hours without opportunity of buying some drinks/food.
  • Mainly enjoy! We travellers sometimes got trapped in the stress of having to visit everything and go everywhere and we forget what travelling is about – It is enjoying the journey, the experience and also it is knowing how and when to relax .
city break, Eat and Drink, itinerary, Tips and Ideas, Travel, UK

One day trips from London – Watford

Many of you would include Watford to your list even if COVID-19 hasn’t happened. This is because it is in Watford more especifically in Leavesden where the Harry Potter studios are. As a person living in Watford I can assure you that there’s much more than the studios, however as a person who grew up with Harry Potter books and movies I can also say the studios are a place that cannot be missed. I have been there only once but I as like a child in a sweet shop.

So in this post I will share the places you can visit and where you can eat and drink and have a good experience in Watford. To get here you can get the train at Euston Station in London, it is around a 20-minute journey (if you get the train that doesn’t stop a million times) and then to Leavesden you can get the bus or UBER. If you think it is better you can also get the Harry Potter bus that will get you directly to the studios.

What to visit?

Warner Bros studios

Anyone can deny that the studios are the main attraction. Obviously if you don’t like Harry Potter (as my husband) visiting the studios will not have any meaning to you. However for those who have joined the Harry Potter world at same point of their lives it is amazing to visit the studios.

You will recognise different scenarios, clothes and objects. The price of the tickets is not cheap, and that is the common opinion but everyone ends up going.

We visited the studios in September but if you come during special occasions of the year like Halloween and Christmas the studios will be decorated accordingly giving something extra special. With or without COVID-19 you have to buy the tickets months in advance (especially during Halloween and Christmas seasons). It is well worth it to come to Watford and visit the studios, as I said above I felt like a little kid enjoying a magical world.


Leavesden Country Park

If you have time either before or after the visit to the studios I will recommend you to go for a walk around the Leavesden Country Park. The area is really nice and you will have a park and a bit of woodland vibes and even if you like you can do a picnic (if the weather allows it!). Leasveden and Abbott Langley are very cute and pintoresque neighbourhoods with houses decorated with fresh and colourful flowers.


Whippendell Woods

If you are someone who loves to explore and be in contact with nature Whippendell Woods is a good place to go. The woods will connect to Cassiobury Park which leads you to the town center.

In the middle of the woods there is also a big golf club so be aware if you see someone playing. The last thing you need during your holidays/travellings is ending up in the hospital for getting hit with a golf ball. There is also a little boat-cafe in the canal where you can stop and have some beverage or food.


Where to Eat?

Breakfast

There are good options around, depending how you are getting here and which kind of food you want to try. I have mainly two options, which are my favourite.

Watford Town Center: Bill’s

This place is my favourite for a good breakfast.

Most of the times we decided by something that will fill us in until the end of the day. Be aware that sometimes it is really busy so maybe booking a table is not a bad idea (and especially with COVID_19). This franchise can also be found in other locations including London, so if you don’t have a chance to try it in Watford there are other alternatives.

Leavesden: Kingswood Cafe

For those who want to try the famoust “English Breakfast” you have to try this cafe.

It is a simple restaurant but the food is good (and we had some bad experiences with breakfasts in other places around). You can also have lunch but I think if you have the English breakfast you will be happy for the rest of the day.


Lunch/Dinner

In Watford there are loads of different and good options to eat. Watford in the last couple of years have extended the number of restaurants and it is now a very vibrant and “foodie” town center. I am going to list the restaurants that I have tried AND I have liked!

Watford town center

  • Bella Italia (Italian restaurant – pictures of the 1st row)
  • Ask Italian (Italian restaurant – pictures of the 2nd row)
  • L’Artista (Italian restaurant)
  • Bacarruda (Mediterranean restaurant)
  • Wagamama (japonese restaurant)
  • Spicy Lounge (Indian restaurant)
  • Kasturi (Indian restaurant)
  • Nando’s (grilled chicken but also vegetarian options)
  • Tortilla (mexican – fast food – picture on the left)
  • Five guys (Burguers – fast food – picture on the right)
  • Creams (ice cream and waffles – left and middle pictures)
  • Dessert Island (ice cream – picture on the right)

You will have also the “usual suspects” like Burguer King and Macdonald’s but you have a lot of good options around so why not try something different?

Leavesden

  • The Swan

Leavesden is a residential area and for that reason there are not many places to eat but I will recommend this pub. Before COVID we were going almost every weekend not only for food but also for drinks. The pub is really cute and close to the studios and to Leavesden Country Park.


Drinks

Watford town center

The places I am going to mention they also do food, but I will recommend coming only for drinks and then have food in any of the places I mentioned above. I am going to choose my favourite three places for drinks because they are cheap and/or the cocktails are super tasty. I will advice you to book a table in advance, for example I have tried multiple times go to the Florist but it is usually fully booked

  • O’neills
  • Slug and Lettuce
  • The Florist

Leavesden

  • The Swan (pub)
  • Hammer in Hand (pub)
  • The Artichoke! (really cute pub but you have to drive/get a Uber from Leavesden/Watford)

Other suggestion!

If you are coming to Watford during a lovely sunny day and you like to do picnics you can spread your towel or table cloth in the grass at the Leavesden Country Park and order through Uber Eats Pizza Gogo – the pizza we ordered almost every week! There is also a Tesco (supermarket) close by if you fancy buying some drinks or nibbles! And trust me you are not going to be the only one doing a picnic, this is something that British people love to do when the sun comes out for a bit.

photography, Tips and Ideas, Travel, UK

One day trips from London – Windsor and Thorpe Park

This is the second post of the series “One day trips from London”. Today I am going to get you one hour drive from London – to Windsor and Thorpe Park.

I’ll recommend that you go by car but you can also choose to go by public transport or maybe go in a exercusion if your interest is only in Windsor. This serie of suggestions to get away from London is mainly to the pandemic situation that has been happening recently and also for you to see that UK is much more than London. In my opinion, London is not by far the most beautiful and worthwhile place to visit in UK. However, London feels like a whole world closed in a city. But about London I will post another time.

Why Windsor?

Apart from being a really cute village with loads of pubs, cafes and a river crossing the town where you can do some canoeing during summer it is also the place where the Windsor Castle is, one of the Royal Castles and where Megan and Harry got married in 2018.

We visited the Windsor Castle right before Christmas when my and my husband’s families visited us. Because of the weather we didn’t explore the area that much, but I didn’t mind because the Christmas decorations were so impressive and everything looked so festive that visiting the Castle itself and the streets around were enough. It was not allowed to take pictures inside de castle and for that reason I am just posting the outside and the garden.

The Windsor Castle is still used by the Queen, mainly during weekends and it is the largest and the oldest castle occupied in the world. The castle has different rooms and expositions and prepare yourself to spend some hours exploring this place.

My advice if you are coming by car is to park in the car park near the train station and then walk to the castle. It is a short walk and you don’t need to be looking for a place to park especially when the traffic can be a bit hectic around this area.

Website: https://www.rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle


Thorpe Park

Now if you are looking for some silly fun and adrenaline you can visit the Thorpe Park. Thorpe Park is an amusement park and it is good, especially when you are up to some craziness. There are a lot of different attractions but the most famous is the Saw- The Ride, The Sealth and the Nemesis Inferno. I think we tried almost all of them or at least the ones that we wanted to go. Maybe the most impressive is “The Stealth” with an accelaration from 0-80 mph in 1.9 seconds – it is the fastest coaster in UK and second tallest.

The Stealth – the semicircular coaster on the left side

If you need some encouragement you just need to go with someone that is as crazy as you. When we arrived me and my husband looked at the Stealth and we were like “Oh that is the one I would never go” until the end of the day when we looked at each other and asked at the same time “Shall we try it before going home?” (crazy people!)

You can spend a full day on the Thorpe Park and it would go fast, but I thought for those who need to compromise you could also add Windsor to your day.

Website: https://www.thorpepark.com/


Extra suggestions:

  • If you are going to visit both Windsor and Thorpe Park perhaps it is better to start by the amusement park with an empty stomach and then move on to Windsor
  • You can easily spend one day at each place, we actually visited both sites in different occasions
  • Don’t forget to take a face mask with you
  • Book the tickets in advance either for the Castle or the Park
  • There is a hotel that belongs to Thorpe Park if don’t want to drive
  • See some videos on the Youtube of the Thorpe Park attractions, it will make you want it to go
  • Practice social distancing at all times and stay safe

Eat and Drink, landscapes, London, nature, photography, Travel, UK

One day trips from London – New Forest and Stonehenge

We are know starting to get into our normal lives, but we cannot forget the COVID-19 is still around and we need to keep protecting us and the others. However the travel “bug”, let’s call it that, is going totally bunkers. After all it has been though months and we are only humans. For that reason I thought to come and share some ideas for a one day trip from London to those who live in UK and those who want to come and visit London but also take advantage of this bad situation and visit others places around London that trust me are so WELL worth to visit. Today I am starting with New Forest and Stonehenge.

We have visited those two places in two different trips but there are half an hour drive distant from each other so they can easily be visited on the same day. We usually travel by car around UK because it is easier to get to the more remote places but I am also talk of options which only require an easy train trip. For this post though I would recommend to rent a car, which usually is cheap. Be careful, in UK we drive on the left side of the road! Don’t get confused.

Stonehenge

I will recommend to start this day quite early since from London city center to the Stonehenge is still around 2 hours driving and if you go early you can also escape the crazy tranffic in UK.

Most of you know or at least have heard about this mysterious prehystoric monument, a circle made of big stones! It is believed that the monument was built around 2500 BC and it surrounded of mystery. In fact it is not known who, how and why Stonehenge was built. Obviously a lot of studies and researches have been made to try to understand why this English icon is standing tall for us even nowadays be able to visit. It is known this area was the largest site of cremations cemeteries during the earliest stage of the monument, however many interpretations have been made and nowadays if for some it only represents the beauty and a UNESCO World Heritage site with historic meaning for others it is considered a sacred temple aligned with the Sun movements. This theory is the most generally accepted since the sun due to the alignment of the sun with Stonehenge during the summer solistice.

  • Our experience

We visited this place on the 31st of December and the weather was not amazing, but independently of what you believe and the meaning that you give to Stonehenge it is a place that you should visit if you come to UK or even if you live in UK due to its historic value and majestic architecture.

Although we drove to Stonehenge there are different excursions that come to this monument and if you think it would be easier for you than driving or even if you are only interested visiting this site and nothing else it is always a good choice (I am not sure if cheaper though). When you get to the area, there is a visitor center where you have a cafe and a replication of a pre historic village. To get to the Stonehenge you can either walk or get the shuttle bus (we chose the last because it was raining – “the great British weather” – prepare ourselves even if you visit UK in the middle of summer you have a big chance of getting rain or as has been lately REALLY hot!)

Due to the pandemic don’t forget to bring a mask with you.

For more information about tickets, history and more, you can visit the official website:

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/


New Forest

New Forest is a 30-40 minutes drive from Stonehenge. If there is something that British people like is a good walk in the woods, especially during those days when the sun comes out. New Forest is any different. The New Forest National Park is a good place to walk around and enjoy the wild life – I will tell you a secret – they have deers!!

But they have also other animals like ponnies, cattle and birds (for those who are bird watchers!). It is a good place to visit and if you have kids you can free the reins for a little bit!


Milford on Sea

If you are around during a lovely summer day as we were you may want to get to the sea side. The closest big city is Bournemouth but to escape the crowds we went instead to Milford on Sea. We walk around the beach to the Hurst Castle.

This castle has had different functions, first it was a prison and then becoming a defending site during the Napoleonic Wars and the Second World War. The castle is opened to public but unfortunately when we arrived it was already closed, but walking on the beach was such a pleasure that didn’t put us down. Before heading again to London we wanted to have a drink a some food and we ended up stopping at “The Beach House, Milford on Sea” where you had this amazing view of the sea with refreshing drinks and food.

With a big garden outside The Beach House is a good choice to practice social distancing!

Website: https://www.beachhousemilfordonsea.co.uk/

Address: Beach House
Park Lane, Milford-on-Sea
Lymington, Hampshire
SO41 0PT


Attention: Now travelling have new “rules”

  • Have a mask with you all the time
  • Choose outside activities
  • Practice social distancing all the time
  • If you have any symptoms don’t travel
  • Bookings and tickets must be reserved and bought in advance to avoid disappointments
  • However, travelling is still fun, brings you new experiences, stories and change lives!!

city break, Driving, landscapes, photography, Portugal, Tips and Ideas, Travel

One day to the westernmost point of Portugal

If you are in Lisbon and with some days to spare I recommend two trips outside but close to Lisbon. One of them is going to Sintra – you can go by public transportation and that is the best option. The second choice is driving to the westernmost point of Portugal, Cape Roca, while stopping in some strategic points. And this second option is where I am going to focus today.

I will recommend you to rent a car – it is usually cheap and the traffic is not bad so you will be able to enjoy your day. This day can be organised according to your taste. You decide how long you stay in each part of the day or even if you want to skip some steps so you can spend more time in one of them.

Cabo da Roca

So let’s start the trip – and we are starting by the westernmost point of Portugal, Cape Roca or as in Portuguese – Cabo da Roca.

If you are staying in Lisbon it will take you around 45 minutes driving until to get here. But don’t worry, this is longest drive you have to do all day. When you get here you will have the most AMAZING view of the sea and Sintra’s mountain. Take a deep breath and explore the area. I have been here a couple of times when I was living in Lisbon either during Summer and Winter and it doesn’t matter the weather (maybe unless it is raining) the panoramic view is worth the drive. Don’t worry about parking, there are a lot of space around and for free.


Praia do Guincho

When you decided you are done, it is time to go behind the steering wheel again and drive to Guincho beach (praia do Guincho). In here you can decided if you want to just lay down in the sand and enjoy swimming in the sea (be careful, sometimes the sea is a bit rough in this area) or you can walk around or even stop in a cafe or restaurant and have a snack or a drink. You decide what you want to do. This is one of the beaches of Portugal where many surfers visit all year around.


Boca do Inferno

From here you have the “Boca do Inferno” (direct translation in English “Hell’s Mouth”.

This cliff formation with an unique sea-arch is an amazing place to walk around. I recommend when driving from the Guincho beach to here to follow the coastline,you will get fantastic views of the sea and it is such a nice drive.


Cascais coastline

Depending on your plans for the evening, you can still stop in one of the beaches in the coastline such as “Carcavelos” or “Torre”. If you fancy something more up level you can spend some hours in the Oeiras Oceanic pool. Even though I think it is a bit expensive especially because you have the beach next to you, but it is always a good experience. I have been there twice and I haven’t regretted (however a bit pricey for my liking).


Dinner

For dinner you will give you three main options, have dinner in a restaurant around “Carcavelos” beach. I have tried an Italian restaurant “Capricciosa” but there are other alternatives.

Crepes from Capricciosa

Just be careful to not choose a restaurant that will rip you off. The second choice is “Alges Market” or Mokuzai (sushi) that I have already mentioned on the previous post about Lisbon, where you have different choices in a vibrant environment and for good prices.


Spend the day as you wish

As I said in the beginning is up to you how you want to spend this day. You might want to start in the beach and then drive all the way up to the Cape Roca or you can skips both beaches and maybe spending some time exploring Cascais city which is also a good choice. Completely up to you!