England So Far

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Travelling to England from the States, I was under the strange illusion that arriving in the Motherland would have some kind of a loosely ‘home coming’ feel about it. I was after all doing the pilgrimage so many young Kiwis do when they decide to head off to explore the world. Yet strangely, initially Britain seemed a more foreign world to me than the good old U S of A. I’m not entirely sure why, but perhaps it was to do with the fact that while my stop in America was a visit, I was trading in NZ for this place as home for the next wee while at least. Whatever the case, after the awkward initial meeting one might liken to getting to know a new flat mate, I think Britain and I have finally found our groove, and I am loving getting to know my new buddy.
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According to Samuel Johnson, when you’re tired of London you’re tired of life.
I read that saying in my Europe on a Shoestring book before I even arrived, but I really didn’t truly understand the words until I experienced the city for myself.
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London really is such a feast for all the senses and thanks to a bit of local advice from the wonderfully amazing friends I have living here, I’ve been packing in as many of the sights as I possibly can: Colombia Road Flower Market, Brick lane, Chesham pubs, Village walks, Hyde park, Battersea park, Regent park (I LOVE how there are lush green parks EVERYWHERE), Borough Market, Tower of London, St Pauls, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Downing St, Oxford St, Shoreditch, Museums, and pints or two everywhere in between. To be honest I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this city before I arrived, but I have very quickly come to adore it and there is still SO much more to see and do.
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I have been completely struck by the depth of history in London, having read so many books set here throughout the centuries, it really is something to see it and experience it all first hand. If I was blown away at what I like to refer to as ‘living history’ in the states, London really has upped the ante considerably. Every now and then I find myself just having to stop, and take a deep breath, and remember this is all for real, as I see the beautifully intricate buildings/architecture/monuments/landmarks that are surviving relics of the past.
Once you peel yourself away from London’s rich history into the present, it’s a city just brimming with life day and night. With the warmer weather becoming more settled it’s amazing to see Summer, and everything that comes with it, really kick into gear.
And if there’s ever any need to escape the hustle and bustle of packed tubes and busy streets, again those green parks dotted right across the grid really offer an opportunity to forget you’re even in a city. For a Kiwi it’s amazing how much those green spaces are needed to help re-energise you sometimes, the beautiful secret gardens are for me an example of city planning at it’s best.
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I’ve split my time so far between London and Bristol where my brother and his family are currently living. And when the weather has allowed for it, it’s offered a good opportunity to explore a bit of the South West of England.
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All in the company of a very adorable tiny sidekick, my niece Emily-Jane who I’ve been taking care of for a couple of weeks.
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With Bristol quite a hilly city, pushing this wee tiny human up and down the streets has turned into quite the work out, and given all I seem to have been doing in London is eating and drinking it’s a pretty good thing!!!! Especially given the food theme has definitely continued here in Bristol. With my big brother being quite the chef and food critic, it’s forced me to explore and develop my own culinary skills a little! Inspired by some deliciously delightful Michelin Star Gastro Pubs he has kindly treated me to, I’ve definitely been upping my game in the kitchen department under his watchful eye. And this is what I’m trying to keep up with:
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His prawn and scallop ravioli was mouth wateringly good!
Completely obsessed with the latest television series of Great British Menu, which has seen phenomenal UK chefs create menus inspired by the D Day landings, we’ve decided to head to Normandy to visit such significant historical locations for ourselves. And no doubt indulge in plenty of the French cuisine that’ll be on offer – I can’t wait.




For a homesick kiwi arriving on the other side of the world Scotland couldn’t have been a more perfect start to my UK adventure. It felt like such familiar countryside, yet  at the same time it’s ruggedness and depth of history felt so foreign and exciting.
Flying into Edinburgh we picked up a car and hit the road immediately to make our way up to the Isle of Skye. Stopping off in Inverness to take in the beautiful surroundings and enjoy some Cullen Skink for lunch (yuuuum), it was then on to explore Loch Ness and say hi to Nessie.
Travelling up the country I was mesmerised by our surroundings, and stumbling across Eilean Donan Castle just as the afternoon sun was bathing her in a golden glow gave me a real sense of the magic that exists in this country. It was truly beautiful and transported you instantly to another place and time.
And that feeling continued as we approached the Skye bridge, it only opened in 1995 after the increase in tourist populations became too much for the ferry crossings, and as cheesy as it sounds when driving over it you actually feel like you’re taking to the sky and entering a whole other land.
We stayed in Portree, the most populated little village in the area, where the only option for accommodation really is B&B’s (pretty much every local has turned their house into one as tourism really has become the main source of income). We stayed at Gleann An Ronnaich and what a treat it was. Run by a fantastic couple Stu and Will and their little Westie dog Ben, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a warm and inviting home and would recommend the place in a heartbeat. Like every other aspect of Skye it oozed charm and delight in every single nook and cranny.
Given we were only in Skye for two nights we wanted to make the most of our stay and joined a day tour lead by an amazing local guide Don. In 7 hours we covered almost every inch of Skye, including the rugged East Coast of Staffin, the spectacular pinnacle rocks of Old Man Storr, Storr Lochs, the beautiful Sligachan bridge, the striking rock formations of Quiraing, the jaggy ridges of the Black Cullins, the incredible two thousand year old ruins of Dun Beag Broch (the most preserved in Skye), and of course topped it all off with whisky at Talisker Brewery.
And while the whisky was beyond delicious, my favourite parts of the tour had to be Faerie Glenn and Dun Vegan Castle. Not only was the landscape of the Glen to me so beautiful, but the legend and stories of it being the meeting place of the little people captivated the imagination of my inner 5 year old.
I’ve always loved a good fairy tale, so the stories and legends of how Dun Vegan Castle (with a history spanning nearly 8 centuries!!) came to house the fairy flag (the most treasured possession of the McLeod clan) were something I could’ve listened to for hours.
All in all it was a lot to take in in just 7 hours, and by the end the day we were exhausted (not too exhausted to dig into some haggis and cider mind you, yum) but I’m so glad we did it. There’s no way we would’ve been able to find our way around as easily to all the magic spots in the short amount of time we had.
After 2 magic days it was hard to say goodbye to Skye, but at least the drive down to Glasgow helped ease the pain. Again the scenery had me feeling like we were traversing some kind of magestical land, especially when the weather gods smiled down at us when we stopped at Loch Cluanie, the perfect mirrored lake took my breath away, even the photos can’t quite do it justice.
After exploring the countryside our afternoon in Glasgow was definitely a change in pace. Strangely given my apparent ease at falling in love with cities, Glasgow didn’t really evoke such strong feelings from me. It felt to me like a city that didn’t really know were it belonged, looking to the past or moving to the future. It’s mish mash of historic facades and modern buildings felt a little confused to me, and like no one had really given much thought to its layout. In saying that though, the former Art History student in me did enjoy seeing Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s School of Art, and although I saw no sign of the upcoming sporting event, I’m intrigued to see how the city comes alive during this year’s Commonwealth Games.
Our last stop was of course Edinburgh and I loved every single second we were there. The city was just so easily accessible and charming, and once again had me feeling as if I’d been launched back in history.
We happened to be at Edinburgh castle on the Queen’s actual birthday so were treated to all kinds of military displays and canon firing.
With such a short one night stop over it wasn’t hard to fill our time in Edinburgh, once we’d explored old and new town, strolled the golden mile, and survived climbing Scott Monument (which reminded me of my ongoing battle with heights!) our short visit came and went too fast. I’d love to go back in August, when I’m told the city positively heaves with visitors heading to  festivals like the fringe and the military tattoo – no doubt that would be pretty amazing to experience.
As a first stop in this part of the world Scotland really opened my eyes to how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be exploring this wonderous world of ours. I really got my first taste of what it’s like to be able to be in a place, close your eyes, and actually feel the depth of the rich history over the centuries that have gone by.
I’d go back to Scotland in a heartbeat, the Scots and their incredible landscape well and truly stole my heart.