28 August 2015

best of sketches in travel august

August Highlights
August is suppose to be the height of summer in the UK. Holidays, days by the beach, eating alfresco, drinking rose wine and eating strawberries. Well if you've been in the UK this August you'll know that sunshine and alfresco dining have not been particularly prominent. Unpredictable would be the best way to describe August. Still there has been plenty to see and do which our monthly round up will demonstrate. From beaches in Swanage to blogging challenges, plane spotting and more. Sketches continues to search the length and breadth of the UK and abroad for inspiring ideas to share. Here's the best of August.

Swanage Beach

August kicked off with a visit to the wonderful seaside town of Swanage Why you should visit Swanage. Sandy beaches, terrific views and an overwhelming sense of the past, Swanage is a great traditional English seaside town and should be on anyone's must visit places on the South coast. Corfe Castle 1040 to corfe castle was also featured. Stepping onto the Swanage railway to get there really was like stepping back in time. 
Corfe castle
Trying to entertain the kids is a parents nightmare throughout the school holidays, especially when the weather doesn't help! So thankfully we are close enough to visit some of the country's most famous museums, which have the added bonus of being free. This month Sketches featured two museums that have a strong link between them, Day with the Dinosaurs and Tring Museum

Natural History Museum
Plane Spotting 
Also featured this month were a couple of pieces on plane spotting. A much maligned hobby but for many an escape from the everyday trudge of working life. The first was a guide to the avid spotter The Avid Spotter and the second was a review of a recent flight I took Easyjet

Blogging Challenge
August was the month that I completed a 30 day blogging challenge. What a fun challenge it was too. Whether you are an experienced blogger or new, this challenge will do wonders to your blogging skills. The following review gives details on how to join 30 day blog challenge and why you should join.

Blogging is a bit like a chess game
Join the crew?
I hope you've found something to wet your appetite from this months offerings. If so I would be delighted if you joined me on my travel journey. Coming up to tempt you in September we have reviews of travel equipment and a new leisure app, art and travel with a detailed look at the artist Sasha Harding and my own sketches from Cliveden and in our series Old Journeys through New Windows we head to Shanghai. Oh and it's also Sketches first birthday! Links to following the blog can be found at the top. Would be delighted if you would join me.  

25 August 2015


Travel Games
If Winnie the Pooh can do it, then so can you! Last month Sketches introduced a new monthly feature called travel games. We started with countries featured in movies and we're moving onto a travel game that is for all the family. Competitive and fun in equal measure. The origins of this game go back to Winnie the Pooh of course from "The House at Pooh Corner" by A.A. Milne and was to become an iconic and popular family pastime. Do people still do it though? Whenever I walk across a small bridge it's something I always think about. Although it's popularity may have diminished, it's an activity featured in the National Trust's 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4 and there's even a world championships. So Sketches is doing it's bit to keep poohsticks alive. 

travel games
A poohstick

The Equipment 
To play this most iconic of games you don't require that much really. Of course you need to find a stream or river with a bridge going across it. And then some sticks, making sure to have a supply if you're going to play for awhile. In the official rules (there are some) you're supposed to bring food with you. I'll leave that one to you. If you are then I suppose it should be honey?

The Rules
So you've found your river or stream. You have your sticks and a bridge so lets play! 

* Face upstream, standing side by side
* Hold stick at arms length over the river or stream
* Decide someone to shout "go" and drop your stick into the river or stream.
* Race across to the other side of the bridge and see whose stick emerges first. 

The perfect poohsticks location

Pooh Sticks
If you are interested in the official poohsticks rules, the book "The Official Pooh Corner Rules for playing Poohsticks" by Mike Riley will give you all the answers you need. So with Autumn fast approaching and the days getting shorter now is the time to give this game a go. Who doesn't love a game of poohsticks? 

I'd love to hear about your travel game adventures, so why not leave a comment or use any of the social media tabs. Happy poohsticking


23 August 2015

natural history museum tring

Stuffed Animals - Travel Diaries August 2015
It's raining, lots! M (our daughter) is sitting drawing pictures whilst I'm scratching and pulling what strands of hair I have, wondering what we can do. The joys of entertaining the kids during Summer holidays when it's raining. Summer!! If only. Luckily we live close to some major tourist attractions, many that have and will be featured in this blog. One such place close by is the Natural History Museum tring. The sister museum of Natural History Museum in London. It's free (you can and should donate) and only a few miles up the road. Surely a winner. So with raincoats on, off we sped to Tring and the museum of stuffed animals.
Tring Museum

Tring Museum
Stuffed animals is perhaps a bit harsh, taxidermy is the official term. The museum was the brainchild of Lionel Walter Rothschild who wanted to study and preserve the vast array of animals and species he had seen from his many adventures around the globe.  When we arrived, under a deluge of summer rain it was noticeable that many others had the same idea. Parking can be an issue (be warned) but that aside it's a great little museum to explore. 

What's that?
Walking around the displays what strikes you most is just the sheer array of different animal species. Actually its mind-boggling. Large and small it really is a Noah's ark. It's the facial expressions that really got me. There you are peering into the eyes of a tiger or bear and wondering "What are you thinking?" It's all beautifully done, and retains its Victorian appearance. As you explore each level you walk around in wonder at it all. Clearly Mr Rothschild was a busy man. M had plenty to keep her occupied and although small, the special exhibition space gave an interesting insight into myths and monsters. 

Someones been busy!

Links with its brother 

As a component to the Natural History Museum its the perfect folly. Smaller in size but with as much educational elements as a museum can allow. I suppose the only downside is that it's not the most accessible place to visit. Tring station is some distance away (because of the Rothschilds) so driving there is the only option really. That said, it was full up with holiday makers. Stuffed animals it may be, let's call it a stationary zoo, the Natural History Museum Tring is a place well worth visiting on your travels around the UK. Children or no.

Have you been to the museum? Did you enjoy your time there? Would be great to hear from you. 

20 August 2015

jaffa cakes

How do you eat your Jaffa cake?
The Jaffa cake is a curious feast. Neither a cake or a biscuit but somewhere in between. They mainly sit in the supermarket on the biscuit shelf but also have a cake hybrid. All very confusing. You may be wondering why we're talking jaffa cakes in Sketches? Well it all stems from a recent conversation regarding biscuits. Jaffa cakes came into the conversation and a challenge of sorts was formed. So with somewhat of a departure from the norm we're asking, how do you eat your Jaffa Cake?

The Jaffa Cake
Four Ways 
I would suggest there are four ways to eat a jaffa cake, please tell me of others if you can think of them. The following video, (yes we're giving that a go!) will explain more.

In conclusion
So there we are, four ways to eat a jaffa cake, although I'm not so sure about the dunking option? So how about you? Infact do you get jaffa cakes in your country? If not, then we need to start a campaign to get them there. You'll love them. Anyone for a jaffa cake?

*No jaffa cakes were harmed in the making of this video, just eaten! 

18 August 2015

5 reasons why you should go to cropredy

Fairports Cropredy Convention 

"Now where did I put those baby wipes?", "Will you please stop raining", "It's only 1030 but what the heck first beer of the day." Sound familiar? You can't beat a good festival, can you? Music, beer and sleeping in fields full of cowpats! Festivals are two a penny in the UK it seems. You'll find one almost every week from May till September but they have become an important part of our modern culture. They meet every musical taste you care to mention. Allowing everyone the chance to enjoy, endure and take them to their hearts. We all have our favourites and Cropredy just happens to be mine. So here at Sketches we're giving you reasons to consider this festival if you're planning ahead for next year or looking to experience some English culture. Cropredy had a motto this year..
"Crop till you drop"

We certainly did that and I hope that this will inspire you too. 
Fairports Cropredy Convention

1) Diversity - one of the Cropredy strengths is the diversity in lineup. Although predominantly a folk festival for Fairport Convention it covers many genres  This years lineup included dub and reggae (Dreadzone), funk and jazz (Level 42), country (Emmylou Harris), blues (Band of Friends), punk folk (Skinny Lister), singer / songwriters (Paul Carrick), traditional folk and folk rock (Tradarrr and Talisk) and rounded off each year with Fairport Convention. It only has one stage so it allows you to embrace these different styles, even if you go for a wander around the field. The organisers also think very carefully about when each act appears. Chilled music for when the sun goes down. Pick-me up music for the afternoon and late evening. It just seems to work.

2) Kid friendly - the festival boasts that it's Britain's Friendliest Festival (also see number 3) and it's hard not to argue with that. When you come to Cropredy there is such a friendly spirit. It's safe and homely (incredible considering you're in a field exposed to the elements. There is plenty for the kids to enjoy (mainly at the top of the arena) with free facepainting, children's entertainers and other activities like building things out of paper, hula hooping etc 

3) Community spirit - Not only is it kid and family friendly but it also has a real community spirit about it. Whether it's your first time or your twentieth you will feel welcomed and will soon become part of the Cropredy family. The more you go the more faces become familiar. You don't know them, but they are there. It just feels right. 

4) The village and its history - Cropredy is steeped in history. You can feel it as you walk around the village. In 1644 during the Civil War  the 'Battle of Cropredy Bridge' was fought. It's also on the Oxford - Birmingham canal built back in the 1790. The church St Mary the Virgin (it's centre piece really) dates back to 1050.  It's also an incredibly pretty village with ornate cottages and wonderful pubs, so taking time out of the main festival and heading to the village is as central a part to the experience. It also has a fringe festival, if a certain act doesn't interest you. 

5) The bar and beer - Ah the bar. They only have one on the site, they don't need anyone it's that big! With the main arena in one field the bar is perfectly situated. Get your beer and you don't miss a thing, the beauty of having just one stage. Talking of beer, there aren't many festivals that can boast of having their own. In this case Fairport Five brewed exclusively by Wadworths. It's great tasting as well, trust me on that. 

Level 42 performing at Cropredy
Meet on the Ledge
So they are just some of the reasons for choosing this most eclectic of festivals. Cropredy, although not as publicly known as others has a lot going for it. It's in an historic setting that other venues would be hard pushed to rival. It's unique blend of folk and other music allows you to open your musical tastes to new and exciting musicians. It's friendly and welcoming and don't forget the beer! I'll be there next year, will you? If so lets have a beer and enjoy the music. 

Have you been to Cropredy? What's your favourite festival and why? Would be great to hear your opinions through any of the links on the top of the page. 


13 August 2015

ashridge estate

Ashridge Estate - Travel Diaries: August 2015
I feel extremely lucky. I live in an area of natural beauty (The Chiltern Hills). I'm close to London and some of the UK's most prized heritage and rural assets. One such place that is Ashridge Estate near Berkhamsted. All open spaces and deep woodland, footpaths, a cafe and shop and a monument. It has some amazing wildlife (a deer rut takes place there) and is perched on top of the Chilterns with beautiful rural villages close by, Aldbury being one. Love your Midsomer Murders? Well they film it there quite often. It's also extremely popular to visit. On any given weekend when the sun is shining the avenue towards the monument is a sea of cars and picnickers making it a perfect place to visit.

Ashridge Estate

Walk the dog
There are so many routes to choose from, this way and that. Head towards the manor house or the monument? Or take a longer walk and arrive at Ivinghoe Beacon and a look across the Vale of Aylesbury. Choices, choices. We chose a circular route around the large green space near the cafe and shop that I imagine where the deer rut takes centre stage during Autumn. I could be wrong? Whatever walk you choose it's lovely and there are plenty of dens for kids to play in and trees to climb on. Seems to be some trend as you walk around, dens everywhere. All well constructed, would be a great shelter if you added leaves to it. Must be one of the National Trust's activities they run? Great fun. We should all get out there and build dens. 

Atop the monument

Don't look down!
Pull yourself together! I've been up the two tallest structures in the world this year but can't handle 100 ft of concrete. It's the railings, I kept telling myself. The monument is the centrepiece of the estate. For a small fee (unless a National Trust member) you can climb it. Just don't look down! Look to the horizon. That's what I told myself anyway. Apparently you can see The Shard in London. I didn't hang around long enough to look for it! If you're one for climbing monuments then Ashridge ticks that box. In all honesty you do get a great view, its just the railings! Are they really safe? 

Stairway to heaven? Well top of the monument

Tea and scone
That's better! After all that walking and climbing (and getting down quickly!) time to rest with a nice cake and a cuppa. They do good cakes in the cafe, promise. The scones are huge. After that you can educate yourself with a potted history of the estate, what to see and do (oh, perhaps visit there before you walk!). It's all beautifully done, and it's always busy. This is where the National Trust get it spot on. A nice cafe, a little shop, activities for the kids in stunning surroundings. Perfect. 

In Passing
So if you're passing through Herts and Bucks (the estate runs through both counties!) why not stop off for a stroll, a cuppa and a scone. You could do worst things? And it's free! Ashridge Estate is a place full of adventure and discovery and will delight young and old, as it always does on our frequent visits. I am really lucky and thankful for being so close to such a beautiful place. 

Have you been or is there a similar place near yourself? I'd love to know and lets share in our adventures. 

11 August 2015

30 day blogging challenge

A Blogging Challenge
Blogging can be a bit like playing chess! So many different niches to choose to write about (moves), so many choices and combinations to take as you go along. Some of those moves will prove successful, others not so. When a blogging challenge comes along that promises to make you a better player in the blogging world, well it's something you just have to do, whatever your circumstances, right? 

Blogging is a bit like Chess?

I've been blogging for about a year in the crowded travel niche and although the blog was progressing well it needed a boost. I had no idea if I was doing things correctly, how to write better content, gain more page views, increase your SEO. Also I was still not confident in my own abilities as a writer. So when I saw this blogging challenge set up by Sarah and Kevin Arrow I took the plunge. And you should too. If you are in tune with the very first words Sarah writes in the first e-mail sent, then this challenge is for you.

"I love blogging. By the end of this challenge you will too" 
- Sarah Arrow

The 30 day challenge
So each day you're sent an email from Sarah who will give a specific task for that days blog post. You just need to relate it to your niche. Examples could be..

* Updating your About me page
* Using infographics
* Target words
* Boosting your SEO

I don't want to spoil the surprise, hopefully you get the idea? So once your post is written and published you need to add it to the Facebook page Blogging Challenge Facebook Page as there are many other bloggers doing the challenge and Sarah and Kevin need to keep tabs on what day you're on etc. There is a real community spirit with bloggers supporting each other, whatever the genre. And as long as you contribute to others you will make many blogging friends.

What it's done for me?

So what has it done for Sketches in Travel? Well I've seen a huge increase in traffic, with a number of my posts having more individual views than I could ever imagine. My Coffee and Travel and 1040 to Corfe Castle being examples. I get more comments from readers, my blog posts are appearing on the first pages of google searches and I've started to get some interest from companies and individuals to review products / books. What more could I ask for? So who knows what's around the corner? I'm not a grandmaster (keeping with the chess theme) but I'm certainly improving and enjoying it more. Enjoyment is the key element here. It's fun and this challenge has just emphasized that. 
What move shall I make next?

Why you should join
Why spend the next 30 days blogging? Well its a no brainer really. I'm a blogger that's just come out of his nappies and this challenge has helped to push me onto the next level. My confidence in my own writing abilities has grown, my content is better and hopefully more interesting. You are the judge of that mind, so please let me know. So whether you are a seasoned blogger or new to the blogging landscape please give it a go. You really won't regret it. Anyone for a game of chess?

To join the challenge click on the link below and sign up for Sarah's e-mails 30 day blog challenge. And once you do please let me know because I'll support you all the way. 


10 August 2015


Air travel the low cost way 
It's easy (sorry for the pun) to mock and stick our noses up at flying low-cost but when you don't have the funds to turn left on a scheduled airline the alternatives are far and few between. So sketches is going to praise a particular flight we went on recently with easyJet and put it out there that flying low cost isn't as bad as many feel it is. 

Our plane home from Menorca
easyjet are a UK based low cost airline flying over 700 routes to 32 countries. They are the UK's largest airline and Europe's second largest behind Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair. When we flew with easyJet we were just four of the 60 odd million that fly with them each year. All impressive figures and a familiar sight in our European skies. But why am I waxing lyrical about them?

Our story
On our recent trip abroad we had a very pleasurable experience with easyJet. Although it started in chaos. Spanish ground staff really do have no concept of time! Leisurely strolling to their desk as if nothing matters and that 200 odd people didn't really want to catch a flight! That aside all was fine. It was on the flight that the staff excelled. 


Because Europe was being battered by winds and heavy rain our flight was delayed, originally for an hour. Not great as everyone was aboard and the doors closed ready for the off. And this is where I was so impressed. The crew were incredibly friendly and helpful (not the norm with low-cost on previous flights). They were very child friendly which as the flight was packed with kids was a huge bonus, talkative, reassuring and full of fun. Not to be outdone was the pilot, who also joined in on the act. 

The happy pilot

Our pilot was a bit of a joker (wish I had remembered his name). Before takeoff and during the flight he spoke with humour when relaying to us the weather back home (had forgotten his umbrella!) and other humourous details. Including upon arrival after a bumpy descent into Southend Airport.  Passengers chuckled as did I at his comments. What I'm trying to get at here is that it was all very reassuring and you could see that every one of the crew were enjoying their roles from pilot to attendant. Flying is a serious business but with a little added humour and a smile it made the flight one of the most pleasurable I've had for many a year. 

Low-cost doesn't mean low expectations

I know that there can be issues with flying low-cost but there are also problems flying with scheduled services. Our recent flight with easyJet was superb and they need to be commended for that. So the next time you look at booking a flight then don't diss the low-cost carriers, they might just surprise you.

If you have a low-cost flight story then I'd love to hear about it and why not share it with other members in the CAES (Civil Aviation Enthusiast Society) community on google CAES. Just click the link to join.  


9 August 2015

a little guide to being an avid plane spotter

The Avid Spotter
If you want to take planespotting a little more seriously today's little guide will give you the tools to help you on your way. We've looked at the amateur plane spotter in the post The Plane Spotter so we take a candid look at the avid spotter. These are the people that stand with notepads and pens, eagle eyed on the latest arrivals or departures. They know when key planes are due. 

The Tale of AeroMexico 
Trust me I once went to Heathrow and watched and listened to this small group of spotters waiting for an AeroMexico 787 Dreamliner to arrive. It's that vivid I'll never forget it. They weren't particularly bothered about the other planes arriving, just this one. It was great entertainment listening to their build up to the arrival. Chatting away, checking their trackers to note where it was...When it did arrive it was on the wrong runway! Far on the other side of the airfield. They got their number but it did feel a bit of a let down. And I felt a little disappointed for them. Most of them packed up and went after the plane had arrived. That's the avid spotter. So what equipment do you need

Its not that hard, is it?
So there you are, it doesn't take that much really. If you have the time and the few bits of equipment then you too will become the avid spotter. So what are you waiting for? Now is the time to give it a try. Head to your local airport, maybe they're have a viewing area and do some spotting. Be sure however not to break any rules, best to go where the others go, would be my advice. So you're one step closer to being an avid spotter. Enjoy!

Have I missed anything? It would be great to know so please don't hesitate to tell me. Next time we take a look at airports.


8 August 2015

5 reasons to get out and about this august

August into September is a great time to get out and breath in some fresh air. So with that as our inspiration Sketches is giving you five ideas and reasons to take the family, your friends, partner or even yourself out and about before the onset of Autumn and the shorter days that are ever creeping upon us. It's not in a particular order but try to see if you can do them all this month. 

1. B is for Blackberry picking
This is a great activity for the family, it's simple, requires only a bowl and the end results are incredibly satisfying. Here in the UK the blackberries are ripening so with the weather set warm the next few weeks now is the perfect time to get picking. Many of the roadsides and footpaths are lined with blackberry bushes, which shouldn't make it to difficult to hunt down. Once picked we're making ice-lollies, cordials and maybe a pie with them. Yum. 
Sketch of blackberries by the author

2. H is for Harvest
As August turns to September the harvest is gathered. Now our fields are a sea of yellow. In fact many farmers have already rolled up their hay. With warm sunshine it's well worth getting out into the countryside for a stroll to witness the gathering of the harvest. Stop off at a country pub for a pint of hoppy beer and some freshly baked bread.  

The Hay Bales  - sketched by the author
3. K is for kiting 
I know I've mentioned this activity before but it really is a great way to grab some fresh air, have fun as a family and take part in a sport that will have you hooked. All you need is a bit of space, some light winds and a kite! The beach is a great place to give it a go.

4. S is for Sandcastles 
When the sun shines we all seem to head for the beach. The UK has many fine sandy beaches, including one featured earlier this week (Swanage). So what better activity can you have with the kids than to build an impressive looking sandcastle. It should also be noted that some of our cities have urban beaches. London on the Southbank has one as does Watford! Buckets and spades at the ready.
Sandcastle - sketched by the author

5. W is for a walk in the woods
This is the perfect time of year to take a walk in your local wood or forest. It can be educational, what with the wild flowers, butterflies and our summer visitors from the skies, the birds. The UK has an abundance of wonderful woods including Sherwood Forest, Epping Forest, Forest of Dean and closer to home for me Ashridge Estate. Whilst having a walk build a den from old pieces of wood. It seems to be the flavour of the month in our parts. Check out your nearest wood and see what summer delights it can bring. 

So there we are, some ideas to hopefully inspire? If visiting the UK why not venture out of the towns? There is so much to discover beyond the concrete jungles of our cities.  


7 August 2015

The 1040 to Corfe Castle

Swanage Railway and Corfe Castle

Travel Diaries - August 1st -4th

It's like stepping back in time to a long forgotten age. The 1930's perhaps? Like something out of an Agatha Christie novel. 

"I'm putting the collars up on my long trench coat, pulling my hat firmly down on my head to protect me from the billowing wind that howls around the platform. Everyone waiting for the train is eyeing each other up, suspicion like smoke in the air." 

We're taking the train to Corfe by steam. Just need the outfit now to fit in! Our journey is to take us to visit to the famous Corfe Castle. I can categorically say here and now that if you visit this part of the world then this is the trip to go on.   


The Journey
With authentic ticket in hand we steamed our way on the 1040 train through the valley towards Corfe. Campsites and rolling hills and farmland dominate as you gently meander your way towards the castle. As do a couple of little stations on-route. It's a pleasant trip and there's something about going on a steam train that just seems to make the journey more fun. Sound of the puff puffing, the clickety clack of the carriage wheels on the rail? After around 20 minutes you're coming into the station at Corfe, the castle clearly visible as you step off the train. 

The Castle
Once in the quaint town, which has sweet shops, tea rooms galore, as well as a model village, you can't miss the castle. It's on top of a hill! It's a fantastic place to visit but a word of warning, it's a National Trust place (no bad thing mind) so you'll either have to pay (£9 for an adult, £4.50 for a child) or just don't forget your card if a member. Thankfully I didn't. Once inside you're free to explore at your own pace, well the kids pace anyway. There are plenty of information boards and activities for the kids. There was a kids trail and on the flatter ground re-enactments from times long past. As you climb the hill you get spectacular views across to the Purbeck Hills and down on the village. Boy it's steep in places. This is certainly the perfect spot to have a castle, that's for sure and you can happily while away a couple of hours.
national trust corfe castle
Corfe Castle
Nostalgic Pleasures
Add in all this is a terrific excursion. Corfe Castle is a fantastic attraction and the journey on the Swanage Railway is pure nostalgia. A visit to a cafe or the sweet shop in town and it's a great day out from Swanage, Poole or anywhere in that part of England. We even managed to get back to Swanage and then go for a swim in the sea! Have you been? What memories do you have of Corfe Castle? I'll look forward to your thoughts.  

6 August 2015

three reasons to visit swanage

By the Sea 

Travel Diaries August 1st-4th

It's a 7am start, blimey that's early for the drive to sunny Swanage, but if you're going to beat the traffic then you've just got to go with with it. Off we went, weaving our way south, joining the many others doing the same. We got there for lunch time so not too bad all told. For those who are unaware Swanage is a seaside town that is at the end of the Isle of Purbeck,  close to Poole and Bournemouth on the South Coast of England. Popular with families with an old-world feel. So it was to be four days of sun, fun, swimming, crab fishing and sandcastle building, plus a bit of tourisming (coining a new phrase here) but more on that tomorrow.

the beach at swanage
The beach at Swanage

Take me to the beach  
It's a sandy beach, hooray! and one with a fantastic view. So there's the first reason to visit and probably for many the only reason. Yes there are stones but also shells so if hunting for them is your game then you've chosen a good beach to visit. It also has swallow waters so great for a paddle. I did manage to swim, cold but somehow refreshing. The beach curls its way from the pier to as far as the eye can see, (the picture above hopefully shows that?) so there's really plenty of room, even on a busy Saturday. Sand in toes and suitably refreshed a walk along the promenade watching the bobbing boats is a splendid way to pass the time. 

Art and tea 
I quite fancied a cuppa and with Swanage being a quaint seaside town, there are a few of the usual boring or shall we call them mainstream shops but there is also plenty of small independently run tea rooms. So you are spoilt for choice, reason two. You'll also find plenty of small art galleries promoting region artists of varying quality. I love some art by an artist called Sasha Harding, her style has warmth. I wish I could draw like her (not jealous in the least!) Please take a look at her work Sasha Harding. So have a cuppa and then go and buy some local artwork. And perhaps have a another cuppa, Swanage isn't that big.

A strange one perhaps for reason three but when you think tacky then Swanage isn't really the place. Lots of our seaside resorts are, unfortunately. Yes there are some arcades and fairground rides, yes it has chip shops and tacky gifts but to be honest it's all rather low key and blends into the surroundings reasonably well. Hooray for that. I hope that is how it will remain. It has a friendly atmosphere and everyone was just going about their business enjoying the sun (yes it was sunny) or crabbing on the pier.

towards swanage pier
Looking towards the pier

If you happen to be visiting the south coast then Swanage should be on your list. It's small, doesn't have the vibrancy of its larger neighbours of Poole or Bournemouth but that doesn't stop it from being a great little seaside retreat and a eye opener into a UK seaside resort. Have you been? Did you enjoy your time there? Would be great to know. Now where did I leave that bucket and spade?


5 August 2015

natural history museum

A Day with the Dinosaurs

Travel Diaries - 29th July 2015

"The queue seems short," I told the kids as we walked towards the entrance of the Natural History Museum in London. I always call it National for some reason? It's definitely Natural. Entertaining the kids for the next three odd weeks is always a challenge, so on one of our adventures we decided to head for a date with a T-Rex. Although when we arrived we talked more about Paddington than T-Rex. Well key scenes from the film were shot here and we tried to look at where those shots were taken. Didn't find them. Its a great film if you haven't seen it. I digress, back to the queues. I said there wasn't a queue but those fiendish organisers had made us walk snake like into a queueing system. It didn't take too long but be warned it can get very busy.

london museums
Main entrance to the Natural History Museum
Which way to go?
Once past the security and the vendors selling programmes you'll come face to face with a few options. Join another queue for the dinosaurs; we do love a queue, head up the flight of impressive stairs (a little nod to...as you go) and the galleries on the upper floors or go through the lower chambers, pop into the cafe and then be dragged around the shop. We chose the extra queue for the dinosaurs first and then it was being dragged around the shop.

Inside the Hintze Hall

So we joined another snaking queue, firstly taking us around the diplodocus (soon to be replaced by a Blue Whale) on a merry dance and then through a raised walkway guarded by Raptors! "Go away!" said K, "Rarrrr" said I along with the Raptors. This route takes you past the mechanical T-Rex, roaring at the smart phone snapping public as they are ushered through. You really don't get long, so be warned. After that you're taken through the history of the dinosaurs, all very interesting but not for a three year old who kept telling the animatronic Raptors to "go away" and not a patch on the T-Rex. Thereafter it's a case of exploring the great halls further or head off to other museums. 

Why Go?
The Natural History museum is free, it's fun and informative (although to be honest I'm not that bothered about gems section), its entertaining and most importantly its a great place to take the kids during the holidays , especially if you are visiting London. So get your dinosaur gear on, and go and visit our ancient friends. 

Have you been to the Natural History Museum? Did you enjoy your time there? Would love to know. 



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