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Chatsworth House

Chats 17Chatsworth house was another spectacular sight in a whole list of them in our first week in the UK. It was a short drive from our base in Dore, Sheffield and we went with our son, Tom and his partner, Monique. The weather was magnificent and so was this stately home. We were permitted to take any photos we wished and took full advantage of the invitation.
While Michael and I toured the palace, Monique and Tom saved a few pounds and checked out the gardens. I was totally overwhelmed by the opulence of Chatsworth House. Sculptures, huge paintings and other treasures abounded. Even the ceilings were works of art.

I was fascinated by the paintings which took up all the walls of one of the main staircases, the ceiling of which was a magnificent dome.


My imagination was captured by several displays which I have included here.

Some of the rooms were a little dark to photograph well but there was still plenty to add to my iphone.

Chats 13The formal dining room was perfection as you can see below. Not a detail was missed, even in the ceiling.


There was a whole room of statues on the way out to the gardens.

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We found Tom and Monique lounging in the sun with plenty of other sight seers. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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The maze was my favourite part of the gardens after the stunning flowers.

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I’ll leave you with two stunning images- the first looking from the mansion up to the head of the water feature and the second looking in reverse. Enjoy!

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Please join me next week when we hit the road again, this time it’s North Yorkshire!

Bernadette x

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Aston Hall and Bakewell

 

Blair 9We were sad to be leaving Scotland but looking forward to our first weekend of cricket. It so happened that our first Saturday of English cricket coincided with the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The small hamlet of Aston Hall was the site of the match and the clubhouse was buzzing with eager ladies, keen to catch the first glimpse of Meghan and her wedding gown.

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Of course, with our eldest son playing in the match, I was conflicted about whether to watch the wedding or the cricket- the cricket won. I did see the start of Meghan’s walk down the isle and thought she looked fabulous.

Tom scored 70 or so runs and our team won. With the weather scorching hot at 23 degrees Celsius, extra drinks were ordered during the match. And the drinks were cordial, not water. On top of that, all the ladies had shed their jumpers and wore strappy tops and sundresses. Meanwhile, I was rugged up in jacket and scarf, as a chilly breeze made it comfortable to sit in the sun! Such a different experience from our late spring weather!

 

Michael and I enjoyed a walk into the village centre. I jumped at any chance to see the quaint English homes.

Sunday saw us spend some lovely time with Tom, exploring the local countryside. Bakewell was our destination, after a sleep in and brunch. This lovely tourist town was teeming with visitors walking the street, partaking of an ice-cream and watching the trout in the river. We drove past Chatsworth House and determined to come back the next day to explore the stately home.

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And that’s where I leave you. Stay tuned for the best of Chatsworth House next week!

Bernadette x

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Scotland Bound – Part 3

Loch 5The mystery of Loch Ness and castle Urquhart certainly deserved a whole day of exploration, but we were headed for our last Scottish B and B, in Inverness. With our hearts full of snow-capped mountains and castle ruins, we partook of a pub dinner and a good night’s rest.

 

We headed off before breakfast and stopped at The House of Bruar, by way of more stunning mountains. This place is hard to describe but here goes. The main purpose of the House of Bruar is to showcase Scottish produce, especially that in the immediate locality. I could have spent hours there, exploring all they had to offer, including bread, cheeses, meat, sweets and fruit and veg. The most impressive sight was rooms and rooms of upmarket Scottish clothes, including kilts and jackets. We had breakfast at the restaurant and sampled our first black pudding- delicious.

Just up the road from The House of Bruar was Blair Castle, Queen Victoria’s favourite Scottish retreat. The castle dates from the 1200s, perfect for my research of medieval life. As with all castles, this one had been renovated numerous times. Sad to say, we were not allowed to take photos inside until we reached the grand hall, which people will recognise from the mini-series, Victoria with Jenna Coleman.

The grand hall was the last venue before leaving the castle and contained dozens of antlers and spears as well as swords and plenty of lords. It is now the venue for weddings and can comfortably seat 220 guests. Imagine having your reception in the same hall in which Queen Victoria hosted her parties!

The woods near castle Blair are the home of gigantic trees and a picturesque river, not to mention the family burial crypt and a chapel. My greatest regret will be not being able to take photos of all the rooms we visited.

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On the way back to England, we skirted Edinburgh via this bridge, The Queensferry Crossing, and slipped back over the border. We will return to explore more of this magnificent country!

Felton pub
Our last night of this Scottish jaunt was spent in Felton, Northumberland. We could see the pub from our B and B. This charming tiny country hamlet was the perfect spot, just off the A1. The next morning, it was back to Yorkshire and a day of cricket!
I didn’t imagine our UK experience could get any better than Scotland, but more amazing adventures were just days away!
See you next week…
Bernadette x

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Scotland Bound – Part 2

Edin 1I left you last week, having taken so long to explore Lowther castle that we arrived in Edinburgh late afternoon. This city is one we must come back to, especially to discover Edinburgh castle which is perched on a hill in the centre of the city. I’d also love to stop and see The Kelpies – they are 30-metre-high horse head sculptures, completed in 2013.

 

The next stop heading north was midmorning at a beautiful little town called Callander. There was a picturesque river winding its way past the shops and a council worker stopped to tell us a little about the area. After a quick coffee, it was up and up to the Scottish Highlands.

There was still snow on the Bens- beautiful- and walkers everywhere! In fact, walking in summer in the UK seems to be the favourite past time. Around every corner, there was a cluster of cars from those who were off trekking the hills.

Back to Scotland- I lost track of the magnificent mountains as panorama after panorama opened before us. I was so blown away by the beauty, I almost forgot to take photos with the Budgy Smuggler hat. We stopped at a Scottish Commando memorial tucked away in a huge valley- what a moving tribute to the service of those men!

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And where there are mountains, there are lochs. I was incredibly excited to see Loch Ness which has its own castle ruins- Urquhart. I walked the length of the ruins and climbed to the ramparts, snapping photo after photo and imagining what it was like before it was blown to smithereens. I didn’t see Nessie.

There were many battles fought over that piece of real estate and in the end, Castle Urquart’s owners fled, blowing it up so it could never become a refuge for their enemies – so very difficult to imagine today. I didn’t want to leave but we were due in Inverness to spend the night.

Castle BlairAnd that’s where I end this week. Loch Ness and Castle Urquhart deserve a feature of their own!
See you next week when we discover Blair Castle!
Bernadette x

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Scotland Bound- Part 1

back Yard 2Our flights from Brisbane to the United Kingdom, landing in Columbo, Abu Dhabi and Manchester, could not be said to have been without event but finally we were at our ultimate destination- Dore, Sheffield. And while this part of the world has oodles of old-world charm, we had a mission to achieve. Scotland.

Aided by Tom and Monique, we planned a 4 night get-away, based on their road trip the year before. Airbnb was the site we used to book each night’s accommodation and the venues were affordable and suitable. The next morning, we hired a Mini Cooper and began our northern quest.

Windermere was our first night’s stop- a short 200 kilometre drive NNW from Dore. The countryside was magical- narrow lanes, stone fences and lots of sheep. The houses we passed were often stone with slate roofs. Our B and B room with its private ensuite, sat perched a short walk up the hill from Lake Windermere. Breakfast was taken underground in a charming breakfast room in the basement. And so began the first of many walks we would undertake on our three week holiday- broken only by our lazy days watching the cricket.

Lake Windermere was very pretty with small islands dotted across the lake and plenty of water birds and local perch and brown trout. We had a walk through the cemetery and partook of a massive cheese platter. I discovered Chile produces a very decent Sauvignon Blanc and continued to enjoy it throughout the UK!

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Off early the next day, our destination was Edinburgh. On the way, we stopped at Lake Keswell, enjoying more water fowl and a beautiful view of the lake, not to mention a lovely walk.

Then it was on to Lowther castle which was completed in 1812. The castle has a varied history, playing host to royalty and nobility for a century or more before being abandoned.

At one stage in WWII, it was occupied by the army and in 1957 it was partly demolished. Today, the castle ruins stand beside a grand façade and the only occupants are the castle gardens. The gardens and fields are extensive, however, and well worth a walk.

Having taken so long to explore Lowther castle, we arrived in Edinburgh late afternoon and decided that this city would need to be explored another time. However, we did discover Edinburgh castle- perched on a hill in the centre of the city – as we drove out next morning. And the Kelpies fascinated me- they are 30 metre high horse head sculptures, completed in 2013.

And that is where I leave you this week- on the way to the Scottish highlands. Stay tuned for beautiful snow capped mountains when I continue my Scottish adventure next week.

Bernadette x

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Our UK Adventure

IguanasYou will remember I left you last week as we arrived back in Brisbane after a wonderfully relaxing Island Hopper cruise with P & O. We had a week back in Brisbane to prepare for our three weeks in the United Kingdom. My husband and I had never been on a long-haul flight before and were anxious about how we would cope.

columboIt was not good news when we were told our 10.30 pm departure would be delayed a couple of hours and then we would have to stop off in Columbo and collect a new flight crew. Still, I settled back to enjoy catching up on movies such as The Greatest Showman and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. As an author, it’s vital to fill the creative well and inflight entertainment is the perfect vehicle. I loved both movies. I also re-watched the first Twilight movie somewhere along the line and only wish I could have watched all three.

Our arrival in Abu Dhabi was met with the news that we had missed our flight and would be hosted free of charge in Etihad’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. A nuisance sandstorm stopped us from appreciating the beauty of the city. We enjoyed two meals and a lovely four-hour sleep then returned to the airport to resume our journey.

Finally, eighteen hours late, we landed in Manchester and were met by Tom, our oldest son. We were to base ourselves in Dore, Sheffield. The countryside we travelled through was immediately so different to home. I loved the stone walls and sheep and the lovely flowers and stone houses. There is something about natural stone that really speaks to me.

The home we were to stay in was cosy with a cute little private English garden and pear and apple trees in front. How great would it be to be able to pluck a fresh apple from a tree on your way to work? We explored the immediate surrounds and then Tom’s partner, Monique, helped us plan our Lake District and Scotland adventure.

And that’s where I leave you this week. Stay tuned for the first of our trips north from Sheffield.
Bernadette x

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Island Hopper Cruise- Part 2

PV approach 1By Day 4, we were getting a taste for cruising- no social media, all food included, drinks at mainland prices and plenty of on board entertainment- not to mention great company. We’d survived the rough departure from Brisbane up the coast, arrived in warmer and calmer climes and dipped our toes into the social scene on board.

Pv approach 2.JPGDay 4 saw our early arrival in Port Vila. The entry into the harbour was spectacular. We joined another tour and were driven around the area taking in a tribal cultural experience. We were greeted by a tribe of warriors and then met the chief, after which we were offered a fruity snack. To top it all off, I got to hang out with two local iguanas- don’t miss the little guy on my hat!

Port Vila was a city of contrasts- great beauty and serious poverty. There were five- star resorts as well as residents who had very little. I would love the chance to return some day and really get to explore the bays and beaches. The city area had few road rules or speed limits, so you had to have your wits about you as a driver or pedestrian. Josie and Sam enjoyed an outrigger canoe experience, along with snorkelling in the water between the two islands above.

After a fantastic Port Vila experience, we returned to the ship, determined to come back one day.  It’s only a two hour flight from Brisbane – very conveniently located- you can live as upmarket or casually as you wish.

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Facing us were two sea days before our arrival back in Brisbane. Determined to get the most from our cruise, we threw ourselves into the activities, watching movies, shopping the specials, having a small win at bingo, attending the music quiz each night and managing to snare an illusive spot for the four of us at the Luke Mangan High Tea.

As a last fabulous hoorah, Michael and I sang Karaoke late into the night, then went to our rest, satisfied we had had wrung every last experience out of the cruise.

Highlights of the cruise were:

  • delicious and varied food options included in your price
  • a fabulous entertainment staff and cabin stewards
  • fantastic island experiences
  • absolute relaxation
  • great time spent with our family

Recommendations:

  • don’t buy the drinks package
  • do take friends or family with you
  • go ready to have fun and unwind, far from social media

And that’s my Island Hopper Cruise report. Highly recommended!

Stay tuned for part one of our UK experiences next week…

Bernadette x

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Island Hopper Cruise- Part 1

IMG_0221And so began the best four weeks of my life! Not knowing what to expect from our first cruise, we set sail from Brisbane for New Caledonia. Our travelling companions were Sam, our middle son, and his partner Josie. Embarkment day was my birthday, certainly a day I will never forget.

IMG_0230After a short delay boarding the ship Pacific Dawn, we sailed up the coast, able to catch a glimpse of the Glasshouse Mountains as the sun set. It was rough going, really testing those who had yet to get their sea legs. Thankfully I was fine.

IMG_0231Day 1 was a sea day- the ocean was an incredible blue and we had fun spotting flying fish- boy can those little guys soar! That night was the first night of the Pop Star heats. I sang Shania Twain but had no luck getting through.

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Day 2 dawned fine and smooth with New Caledonia on the horizon. We had time to take part in a delicious wine tasting before setting off for our tour of Noumea.

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Soon it was time to return to the ship for the Back to School blast!

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Day 3 was Lifou day and my personal favourite. We took tender boats to the beach then enjoyed an Islander tour, topped off when I went swimming off the beach and patted a turtle! We sat within the parliament hut where all the island decisions are made and were given a woven headband. There was even a feast prepared for us!

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By now, we were getting a taste for cruising- no social media, all food included, drinks at mainland prices and plenty of on board entertainment- not to mention great company.

Stay tuned for my next instalment where we arrive at Vanuatu and then head for home!

Bernadette x

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UK Getaway

Stone Wall South YorkshireMy husband and I just returned from the best holiday of our lives. We spent three weeks based in Dore, Sheffield in southern Yorkshire and wracked up some miles. We tackled a new currency or two, dealt with a foreign language and soaked up all the strangeness that goes along with travelling outside your country.

Tom 50! YorkshireI think we chose wisely for our first long-haul overseas trip. The people of the United Kingdom speak the same language we do, albeit in dozens of different accents, it’s a place of great antiquity and also of rare beauty. Added to that, our son was playing cricket in Sheffield and it was a no-brainer.

 

Castle ruinsAs a fantasy author whose stories are mired in medieval images, the cobbled lanes, stone houses and both intact and ruined castles, were a goldmine of inspiration for my stories.

Castle photo and meAs a side-story, I took along with me a bucket hat from Budgy Smuggler-an Australian company better known for manufacturing swimming attire. You can see the white embroidered budgerigar on the front. It’s a great little hat, light enough to tuck in your handbag and quite stylish, I think.

Over the coming months, I’ll post a series of blogs on my travels, including images from our week-long cruise to New Caledonia and Vanuatu, which we enjoyed before we headed to the United Kingdom.

Eiffel TowerBut before I go, here’s the iconic Eiffel Tower. It’s such a dominant structure and much larger than I ever imagined.

Until next time, happy reading!