TraveLyne Goes to Winchester

Before I stepped into this country, I had never heard of Winchester before.  Because of work however, I made it to Winchester one weekday and saw nothing much.  Yet, in those moments, I was enchanted by this city, and decided that it would get on my list of to-go places.

On a Saturday where most people would be out shopping for Christmas goodies, I decided to head out to Winchester – afterall, it’s a mere hour away from Waterloo by train.

But first things first.  If you thought that this city is called Win-ches-ter, I’m afraid you are wrong.  And you needn’t feel bad about it, because that was me too initially.  A good meaning co-worker told me it’s Winch-ster, said rapidly.  So now you know!

Didn’t have much of a map or a clue where to go, and how to get to it, save that I know that Winchester Cathedral’s quite something.  But fear not, Winchester is easy enough to navigate.  The city centre itself is small and easy to walk around, and there is good signage that ensures you’d never get lost.

Still, it’s nice to wander and I was duly rewarded.

Greeted by a random pretty house....

Strolling along the streets of Winchester.

Very prettily matched, I'd say!

Do you cut your hair in an upside down position as well?

Winchester used to be a capital city of England and one of the things it is known for King Arthur’s Round Table which bears the names of the Knights of the Round Table.  This is contained within the Winchester Castle and is worth a visit to appreciate how mammoth the table is.

The Round Table & Great Hall...huge!

One of the other things that you should do in Winchester is to walk along High Street and enjoy the sights, sounds, smells and crowd.

High Street crowd....always buzzing.

Kids making a merry noise!

Baubles and beads. Take your pick.

Humans everywhere!

As you walk along the streets, you find an assortment of shops and stalls, calling out to you. Don’t get confused. Take your time and enjoy the atmosphere, like I did, and you’d find little gems, like this one….

Something for the little ones!

After I had strolled the area for long enough, I walked onwards and was rewarded by the mammoth and grand Guildhall and a statue of King Alfred the Great, and I couldn’t help but stop for some snaps, despite the sun going down and it getting really freezing!

The Guildhall in its natural beauty.

King Alfred the Great.

After a little walk, I finally arrived at Winchester Cathedral. It’s one of the largest in Europe, which means it typically garners a lot of visitors, who are all competing with me for a space to get into the Cathedral during its shorter Winter hours.

Finally at Winchester Cathedral.

At the entrance of Winchester Cathedral....see the horrendous crowds?

In the end, I gave up and simply admired the exterior of the Cathedral. It was just too mad to join in the madness!

One of the other notable bits of Winchester is that it is also where Jane Austen spent her final years.  She passed away in a house in Winchester, so the people here are quite big on her.

The house Jane Austen passed away in.

In time for sunset!

Soon, the sun started to set and it was time to head back into the city of London. Winchester was great in that it has a city buzz but it doesn’t go as crazy as London! It was a great visit!

Always love,
Lyn

TraveLyne Goes to Hampton Court Palace

At the entrance of Hampton Court Palace.

So last Sunday, even though the sky was overcast and grey, I decided to take a train from Waterloo to Hampton Court Palace. An easy 40 minutes out of the city, and a short walk was all that was required. Easy enough.

Although this palace has not been inhabited by the British royal family since the 18th century, it is nevertheless still richly laden in history. If you know King Henry VIII, who was the King of England waaaaay long long ago, you would love this palace.

Originally built for a favourite of the King, Cardinal Wolsey, in Tudor style, it was passed back to the King when his favourite fell out of favour. I do not profess to know a very big lot about this branch of history, but what I read was that the palace was later inhabited by King William III, who then developed the palace further in Baroque style.

So what you have is a marriage of two distinct styles within one compound.

What is really neat about Hampton Court Palace is how informative the audio guide is. It gives very clear yet precise and succinct explanations on the sights within the palace. There are also real human guides dressed up in that era who take you around the palace, thus enhancing the experience.

Over and above all this, there is the Formal Gardens which is wonderful to stroll in, and the maze which is the United Kingdom’s oldest surviving maze. I was amazed (pun intended!) because even though I had taken an aerial picture of the maze before entering it, I still got horribly lost when I actually got into it.

Hampton Court Palace isn’t a place to describe in words, so I shall let the pictures do the talking.

Architecture galore.

Want some water?

The lion greets.

Hello, we've been waiting for you.

Base Court, where it all starts.

In the Clock Court.

Feeling like you were living back then.

It goes without saying that the star attractions here are the apartments, each of which is worth a visit. We are talking here about Henry VIII’s Apartments, William III’s Apartments, Georgian Private Apartments and Mary II’s Apartments (which unfortunately was closed at the time of visit). You get amazed at the sheer mammoth size of the apartments and how they were used, but here are some of the more memorable moments I had in these large spaces of history.

Always love stained glass.

The very grand staircase within Henry VIII's Apartments.

The fair maiden.

Working in Henry VIII's Kitchens!

Huge painting across the ceiling.

Well, like I said, you have to explore, to believe, appreciate and enjoy. But the palace isn’t just about buildings and history. You have got to stroll through the Formal Gardens to understand this one!

The Formal Gardens.

Loved admiring the green.

I love nature, and could live and walk within it forever!

Already bare.

Gotta love the mix.

Lost in the maze!

The Privy Garden.

Just outside the actual palace compound, there was an ice-skating rink and a carousel that was doing very good business!

Ice-skating in the sunset. How cool.

Becoming a kid again.

Soon, the sun started to set. I held my breath and watched her go.

Come back soon, Mister Sun!

There’s something magical about palaces to me, and Hampton Court Palace reminded me why. What a Sunday well spent.

Always love,
Lyn

TraveLyne Goes to Forest of Dean

Being the avid globe wanderer that I am, I rarely ever let people plan my vacations or trips for me.  I’d much prefer to assemble my getaway than to have to pay someone to do it for me….I guess that’s where the fun is.

Over the weekend, I headed to the Forest of Dean.  A couple of weeks back, a bunch of friends asked if I would like to join them for a weekend trip into a forest.  Yes – that’s about it.  I had no clue where we were going, save that it would be within the country.

A couple of hours before we were due to depart, I finally took the time to find out more about where I was going.  All I could manage before that, when asked where I was headed, would be one word – forest.  How informative.

The Forest of Dean is in the county of Gloucestershire, and is an area of natural beauty.  As a matter of trivia, Harry Potter (of which I’m no fan, I’m afraid!) was filmed here and I can so imagine why.  This isn’t about a random forest – it is about nature showcasing its best.

I hitched a ride from M and R from London to the Forest of Dean.  Yes, fancy that, I brought my bags along with me to work and rushed right off on the dot once the dreadfully busy work week was over.  Driving in the dark isn’t my idea of fun, but M did a great job in getting us from the busy city to the tranquil forest.  Hits and misses, but am glad it all worked out good!  We took a longer route though, and found ourselves unknowingly in Wales!  Only signs of that were us having to pay a huge amount of toll in what we thought was essentially the same country.  But it was still pleasant nonetheless, and all of us were gushing about how we had gone into Wales.  Now that is a place I have somewhere on that long list of mine.

Before I go on about the lovely cabin we spent the weekend in, let me first mention the Three Choirs Vineyard that we had lunch at.  England isn’t very much a place that is about vineyards – not to me at least, but this one was a nice surprise.  I typically like light fruity wines, so Three Choices Vineyard surprised me in its range of easy to drink Reds and Whites.  And the food was also a pleasurable delight, where you dine looking right into the scenic vineyard.

Three Choirs Vineyard - Settled in with Pinot Noir.

Mussels are my fave!

Seafood Platter for 2!

21-day aged Sirloin Steak, Watercress, Horse Radish Butter.

Soon, the sun was on its way down.  I love watching sunsets – they give me hope that a new day will commence soon and that all the mistakes or regrets of today will have a chance to be made good when it turns bright.  It is also a wonderful time to be silent and contemplate how the day went.

What a magical sunset!

But what was better was the walk we had early the next morning with glorious Mister Sun accompanying us.  We took a nice stroll through the forest, at times joking about seeing a vampire or spotting a werewolf.  I am certain the Harry Potter fans amongst us were busy trying to live out all their magical fantasies, casting a spell or two in between.  Well, none of that for me, as I was busy absorbing the crisp fresh morning air and the serenity of the forest, only broken occasionally by the rustling of the leaves and the swaying of the branches of the force also known as the strong wind,  that had come out to play with Mister Sun.  Along the way, we kept ourselves entertained chatting and snapping pictures, the routine pleasantly disturbed by encounters with dogs and horses.

The wonderful forest.

Mother nature in an awesome forest display.

The sun coming out to play.

Trudging through the leaves. Layers of them.

Fallen, but not forgotten.

It was not too long, I estimate about an hour or so, that we finally arrived at Symonds Yat Rock from where we were duly rewarded with breathtaking scenes of the River Wye, the fifth-longest river in the United Kingdom, and which nestles between the borders of England and Wales.  Check out these magnificent views!

River Wye - so pretty!

Another shot of God's creations.

I must share a little bit about where we stayed.  Skeptical initially at the conditions of the cabin, we arrived greatly surprised to a nice 4-bedroom cabin which, though situated really smack in the middle of the forest, was extremely comfortable and modern.  We stayed two nights in a Forest Holiday’s Forest of Dean Cabin which came with a hot tub, a fully integrated kitchen, a fireplace, comfy beds and just a lot of space to feel roomy in.

The wonderful cabin that was our home.

I will leave with what greeted me when I arrived in the darkness of night…..I was welcomed by Stinging Nettles.  You see nothing in the dark and these little buggers had a go at my legs.  (Don’t worry, you won’t die!)

The evil Stinging Nettle!

But with the right footwear once I ventured out of the cabin, the Stinging Nettles kept away.  An antidote – I’m told, are Dock Leaves, which were growing nearby.  I didn’t try it, and simply let the itch go away.  It did, after a while.

Boots in the forest - an essential!

Now, I’m itching for another trip into the forest.

And just so you know, sometimes, unplanned, unrehearsed and unknown are the best things you can do for yourself.  Having not known anything about this place before I stepped here, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  The wonderful company helped as well!

Because I am an avid lover of sunsets, here are two pictures of that sunset that I so adored.

Alone watching the sunset.

A pretty amazing set of colours.

Always love,
Lyn

TraveLyne Goes to Kew Gardens

What they say about it being cold and grey in London is unfortunately true.  So when good weather arrives at your door, grab it by the neck and head out!  This I did last Sunday when London experienced a really great bout of sun.  It was also my first trip to anywhere besides the city itself – also because I have been so uber busy!

Kew Gardens is a mere 40 minutes away from the city by tube, and an easy walk thereafter from the station to the Victoria Gate entrance.  A UNESCO Heritage Site, it is a vast open space littered with flora and fauna, and a Victorian glasshouse that used to be the biggest in the world.

I enjoyed the afternoon tremendously, simply wandering about, which in my humble opinion, is the best way to explore the gardens.

See that shy little one!

A flower for my heart.

Pretty autumn colours! In awe!

The birds that were so cute.

Let's go, they're not gonna feed us!

Poetry in munching.

Palm House.

Fall fun.

Having a rest.

Play of light.

Pretty glass structure.

Walk with me.

Fallen.

Once the world's largest Victorian glasshouse - the Temperate House.

Puppy love?

All the fallen leaves. How pretty.

Xstrata Treetop Walkway....climbed and climbed and climbed all the way up!

So I walked and walked and walked. Was I tired? Nah. The weather was too pleasant and a good pair of wellies helped!

Time to go home! Bye bye Kew Gardens!

Thoroughly enjoyed Kew Gardens. What a day! You should go too!

Always love,
Lyn

Where Have I Been?

Wow, so indeed where have I been?

Busy, of course!  And doing what?  Settling in.  Getting into the groove of work, setting up my flat, meeting up with old chums and long lost school mates, making new friends and exploring the city, needless to say!

Well, actually, not so much exploring.  Now that I live in London, seeing how people here work and live has become my prime obsession.

If you could see how I love to observe strangers.  Yea, I love it.

Now, let’s commence this journey of discovery.  Who knows what it’s gonna bring!  I am excited.  Are you?

Always love,
Lyn

Hello London!

I am on my flight just under an hour from London. I hardly slept a wink through the 13 hours, under an hour – I don’t think that’s even considered sleep!!

The adventure begins! Woots!

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The sky's the limit!!!

Always love,
Lyn

London Before?

I have been to London.

In fact, of all the many places I’ve stepped upon on this globe, London has the privilege of sitting on the top of the list, in a tie with Boston. I have been to London thrice – with my first visit exactly a decade ago.

The beauty about London is that you can’t quite get sick and tired of it, simply because there is too much to see and do that one never gets to fully enjoy all her beauty.

I am still trying very hard to get all the administrative side of things sorted out – not much success though. It’s dreadfully painfully slow! =(

But one of the things I promise to do this time round, which eluded me the last 3 times?

So I will go up this time round!

Always love,
Lyn