30 June 2015

A Little Guide to Enhancing Any Travel Experience

Day 1: 

This little guide offers you a way to enhance any travel experience. It doesn't cost a penny, requires very little effort and I promise it will enhance your adventures. May even brighten up your lunchtime and inspire you? Those that have read Sketches before know I love looking up! Whether that's to the sky or ceilings. So as part of my blog challenge where better place to start that from the top!
Of the Cirrus family during sunset
 Stuck in a traffic jam? Relaxing on a beach? On a walk? Waiting for a bus? On a long train journey?  Flying at 36,000ft? On a boat? Sitting sipping a glass of cold beer at a bar or outside a pub? Wherever you are, whatever you are doing then there is always room for some cloudspotting. Nature's artwork presented to you for free.

This little guide is really advice on how to start. So where can I find out about my Cumulus, Cirrus and Altostratus cloud types? Books and the web of course but the place to visit is The Cloud Appreciation website, Cloud Appreciation Society. The home for cloudspotters the world over. Here you will find tips and plenty of pictures from members to help you identify the sky above. Once you start to recognise the clouds you will be drawn into its spell. Unable to not look up and see what's going on above. 
A Cirrus Formation?

This little guide is asking you to look to the skies. That cloud formation is just for you, for that brief moment in time, yours and yours alone. So lets share in this passion, and together we can enjoy nature's artwork.  


27 June 2015


Hope you like Green? If so the UK is a green blanket at present. Come and take a look, I promise you. Summer has arrived and as crops ripen, our fields and woodlands have turned their many shades of green, punctuated by colourful flowers. 

The Green fields of England
It seems the older I get the more I appreciate the colours around me, green being the most prominent. So as an ode to the colour I've tried my hand at a bit of poetry! Here on Sketches we're willing to try anything. Let us know what you think. 

Green leaves on our trees
Fluttering gently in the breeze.
Hedgerows, lights and other delights
A welcome site, a painters highlight  

Dunstable Downs - The Chilterns

I hope you like green? Take a look out of your window, try it now. What colours do you see? Hopefully a bit of green. If you think about it green is everywhere. From traffic lights to trees, fields and hedges. Soon though the greens will turn to orange and brown, so lets appreciate this most vibrant of colours whilst we can. 

A study of the Fern. 


24 June 2015

Travel Diaries - When the Tour came to Town

June 21st

I don't wear lycra! Doesn't really suit me. Well that's what I believe anyway. If you were to head out into the countryside of Britain on a sunny Sunday then no doubt you would come across many a lycra wearing cyclist. There has been a bit of a renaissance in recent years regarding cycling. It's popularity growing tenfold, and the viewing public have also taken it to heart, watching races in their hundreds of thousands.

The Ladies Tour of Britain
Le Tour De Yorkshire
Last year the UK (Yorkshire in-particular) hosted Le Tour de France to critical acclaim. Hundreds of thousands lined the roadside as the tour wound its way through the Yorkshire countryside and beyond. Not only showing its popularity but also how much we here in the UK embrace big sporting events (London 2012 anyone?)

When the tour came to town
Also in 2014 the men's Tour of Britain had a stage finish in Hemel Hempstead, passing through Chesham onroute. That's in The Chiltern Hills, if you were wondering. Again appreciated and watched by many. The women have this year followed suit, with the final stage of their Tour of Britain, passing through Chesham and once more finishing in Hemel. I missed last years tour due to work! (pesky work, always getting in the way). This time however it was on a Sunday and I could engage fully, if briefly.

Where's the Yellow Jersey? - Ladies Tour of Britain
Gone in a flash!
There we were, anticipation building, policemen on powerful motorbikes zooming pass every 30 seconds. The organisation was amazing and they must love doing this job? And then, there they were, heading towards us at full speed. And then they were gone, heading away from us. Gone in a flash! 

Following a major tour on each stage must be fun, if you can see a number of stages and I'm sure people do it for the Tour De France. This got me thinking, "what a great way to travel around a country and see the sites as you go". A tour within a tour. It's why many cities have the bikes to hire. So seeing the tour (however briefly) it also got me thinking about how much fun can be had by exploring on a bike. Stop when you want, decide how far you want to go. So go on get on your bike and explore. Remember you can also explore the great cities of the world by bike, no better way I promise you. And you don't have to wear lycra! 

Have you spectated at a tour? Or know of a good cycle ride I could do? Then please share your adventures and perhaps I'll share some of mine too. 

19 June 2015

When in Rome; Roam

To follow up the Travel Diaries (Old Journeys Through New Windows) here's a snapshot of some of the delights Rome offers visitors. 

The Colosseum
Its one of the world's most iconic places and it's the must visit place on any trip to the Italian Capital. Combine it with The Forum and (pictures below) and you have a fun filled / educational day taking you back in time. 

Into the Forum

When walking around The Forum be sure to look up, down and around every corner you can. Even the smallest details should not be missed.  

The Forum 
Wander the streets of Rome to find the delights from cobbled streets to cafes and bars and typically authentic European city apartments. 

The cobbled streets of Rome

Always looking up!

Towards the Vatican

 I hope these pictures give you a sense of the scale and beauty this wonderful city has to offer? I could have put many more but wanted to be selective. 

Old Journeys Through New Windows will return with Berlin


17 June 2015

Travel Diaries: Rome

Rome: Old Journeys Through New Windows

Colosseum - courtesy of Julia Melson
"Get your chops into that" I'm thinking as the giant gelato is handed to me. As an occasional post, Sketches is opening the old travel cupboard door and reliving past adventures. Hopefully to inspire if you're about to visit or plan to visit places featured. Up first is Rome

When in Rome: eat ice cream! 
Alright so its one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the world, boasting some of the great ancient architecture. Trust me The Colosseum and The Forum really are that good. But the food, the gelato, oh the gelato. The one featured came from a shop close to the Trevi Fountain and for the 5 odd Euros it cost, it was worth it.   

The author tucking into gelato

Away from the joys of licking your way through gelato, you'll find fountains are another key feature of Rome. You can't beat a ornate fountain can you? And if fountains are your thing then Rome delivers in....waterfalls! What better way to pass the time than sit in a cafe, sipping a coffee and watching the fountains and the world go about its business. Essential Rome experiences. 

Not the Trevi Fountain!
Have I mentioned food? Aside from ice cream, Rome has an abundance of food delights. Alright eating pizza is high on many a people's lists when thinking of food in Italy. A bit like you have to have sushi when you go to Japan (you do need too by the way, nowhere better to eat it). But throw in the pasta, bread and the ham and cheeses which are also rather yummy and you have a potpourri of delights. Even on a budget (like we were) you can still enjoy the culinary pleasures this city brings. 

Bit of an appetiser 
Roaming in Rome: 
The best way to explore central Rome (or any city for that matter) is to see it on foot. Explore the alleyways, find little restaurants and cafes, pop your head around a corner and find a magnificent church or Roman building. It's that kind of place. Rome is a treasure trove of delights and needs to be explored without a map (if you can). Walk through the narrow streets from the Trevi fountain and you'll stumble upon The Pantheon and Navona Square. The perfect way to spend an hour or three.  

Inside The Pantheon
Zooming around Rome's roads can be something of a hazardous activity. Although I wouldn't recommend it, in the hands of a local it was thrilling. We had to change hotels and was transported across the city in tiny cars, baggage and all. We survived to tell the tale and although fun, its not something I'd wish on others. If Rome's roads aren't your cup of tea then it has a good tram system and a smaller subway network that takes you close to the main attractions, parks and the Zoo. Although be prepared for a hike up the hill if you intend to walk to the zoo.  

Getting lost:
With Rome it's all about wandering. That's where the joy of visiting this city comes from. Up and down the Spanish Steps; fighting your way past the throng of people that are sitting eating their lunch to a stroll around the ancient ruins of The Forum. Wherever you go there is a real sense of history as you walk around and observe. The modern and ancient happily live alongside each other. Although a tourist trap at its heart its still a city where you can feel apart from the crowds. 

Rome is a joy, a wonderful city, up there with the best that Europe can offer. A must visit on anybodies wanderlust list. Oh and there's Vatican City of course! 

On the streets of Rome

Follow up - On Friday there will be a visual interpretation of Rome in the Old Journey Through New Windows series. 


14 June 2015

The Plane Spotter

Rough sketch of The Plane Spotter by Gavin Darvell

There they are, at the end of runways taking registration numbers and pictures. Some are just watching them for pleasure. Others are less obvious, not wanting to be tagged as a plane spotter.  Whatever way you do it there is a bit of plane spotter in all of us, even hardened travel bloggers and travellers. Sketches in Travel has decided to delve into this much ridiculed of hobbies. So let's start with The secret spotter.

The Secret Spotter:
These are people who don't show a vested interest in planes or aviation, perhaps travel often or just don't want to be teased by their mates. However if an opportunity arises they enjoy a sneaky peek. They sit in swanky airport lounges or at the departure gate and are secretly taking a look when a plane passes their gate, or lands in the distance.They might even enjoy the buzz of an airport. People busying themselves, full of excitement before flying off to far flung places.

Ask them if it's an Airbus A320 or a Boeing Dreamliner, then they may rebuke.  Secretly though they are fully aware as they will have the planes name ingrained in their heads from their tickets or safety videos. 
On the other hand they might be people who get dragged along to the airport or airfield by someone who is keener or younger. Having to endure hours of listening to said spotter talk about the latest A380 Airbus or an airlines new livery. 

"Did you see that? Hell that's a good looking plane."
"Yes, it's a plane, wonderful." Silently in awe at the sight of these marvels of technology, secretly thinking how the hell do they get off the ground. 

On final approach into Heathrow

The Test 
They are out there, hiding. The test is to take them to an airport, stand them under a flight path (if you can) and wait until a plane zooms over their heads at 50ft. How can they not be moved by its power and dramatic design? 

Moving Forward
All spotters will have caught the bug from being taken to the airport by a family member or going on their first holiday abroad. Living under flight paths or close to smaller airfields. They get some binoculars and thus their love of spotting begins. 

Next time
We look at the more serious spotter. Are you into aviation? I would love to hear your story.


9 June 2015

Butterflies, Birds and Bumblebees

Travel Diaries - 06th June 

If travel is all about enlightenment, experiences and discovery then this current journey certainly fits the bill. It was a simple walk to get to the Dentists! The car was otherwise being used, bikes in repair so the only option was to walk the 4 odd miles to the Dentists chair. Was I glad I did. 

Towards the Dentist
The Chilterns are made up of rolling hills, farmland and market towns stretching the home counties on the edge of London. This walk between our village and the Market Town of Chesham takes you through ancient paths and open farmland. The older I get the more I appreciate these surroundings. This was our old stomping ground and it is truly beautiful. 

Towards the hamlet of Tylers Hill near Leyhill - The Chilterns

Unlike the other walk I featured "A Walk in the Woods" the open fields on this one make way for spectacular views. There was also a real sense of summer, what with the corn or wheat growing, the trees their deeper green and the footpaths full of brambles and stinging nettles. Wearing shorts was perhaps not advisable! 

A lone poppy
Butterflies and Bumblebees
Ok so no meeting of deers on this one but there was still plenty of wildlife to accompany our journey. Birds aplenty but most notably butterflies and bumblebees. Seeing the bumblebee was a reassuring site. They are becoming increasingly less noticeable but are incredibly important to our countryside. We must protect them and help them thrive, its that important. Plant some flowers in your garden is a good start. If we all do our part then it can only help?

Towards Chesham
Going to the dentist is never a fun experience but this walk was perfect preparation. The colours were spectacular, seeing the rolling hills of my childhood were a real joy and stopping to watch a bee or butterfly go about their work was one of those little pleasures in life. So go on get out there and enjoy the fresh air. Oh and the dentist appointment went well.....thankfully. 

Towards Chesham 

5 June 2015

Travel Diaries: Pubs

June 3rd

As May turns to June and the sun beats its warm heart on our fair islands, visiting a pub for a pint seems like an attractive idea. Now I've not actually been to a pub in the last few weeks, although hopefully that's soon to change. So this post may seem a bit contradictory but bare with me. Today Sketches in Travel discusses Country Pubs and why they are an important part of UK tourism, our culture and need to remain so.

The Bricklayers Arms in Flaunden
Country Pubs
For centuries the country pub has been the heartbeat of village life. A place to meet and discuss the issues of the day, to unwind and catch up. Today however there is a worrying trend. Many are closing down (around 31 pubs a week, which includes urban and rural pubs!) Unable to survive due to a number of reasons including, surprisingly just not being very good. 

Looking Back
I'm being nostalgic here but I remember my teenage days when we would head out to a country pub for a pint or two on a summers evening. Visiting a beautiful old building, sitting in a well tended garden, having a chat without the distraction of a phone. Do people still do that? Or are they put off by high prices and shabby interiors? Or just have other things to do? Or buy their drink from supermarket chains? Whatever the reasons pubs are closing down and we're losing a valuable part of our culture and heritage.

You can't beat a good pub sign, can you?

Pubs and Tourism
Visiting a nice country pub is a must do when visiting the UK alongside eating Fish n'chips, seeing a show, visiting Buckingham Palace etc. So for that reason we need to continue supporting them. So if you are visiting the UK soon or heading out on a trip around the isles, make sure to visit a pub. Have a beer and perhaps a peek into Britain's' past, knowing you are helping to keep these institutions alive. 

The pubs featured in the pictures above are fine examples of how to do it right. The Bricklayers Arms is a pub / restaurant, which uses local produce and has gained a good reputation for it, including a visit by Brad Pitt! Tourism needs pubs and pubs need tourism. So go on, head out and have a pint, but please make sure to drink responsibly. 

Do you agree? Let me know what you think. 



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