Ely, Cambridge

On our way back up North from the Essex coast we decided to break the journey up with a city we have never visited before but that has the most amazing cathedral. It is also the third smallest city in the UK with a population of just 15,102.

Ely is a cathedral city located approximately 15 miles from Cambridge, is built on a 23-square-mile (60 km2Kimmeridge Clay island, which at 85 feet (26 m) is the highest land in the fens.  An abbey was first built on the site of the current cathedral in 673 AD. We were keen to explore this beautiful little city.

We headed straight for the famous cathedral and approached it from the back via some beautiful gardens where we stopped for a pot of tea and cake. The Almonry restaurant has tearooms, that was the original almonry belonging to the cathedral and now hosts a stunning arched restaurant that would make a glorious venue for a wedding reception.

The Almonry’s café also impressed us with a wide range of cakes including some that were vegan and gluten free too. Soya milk was also an available option for a latte. We enjoyed our mid-morning cakes in their floral English garden accompanied by some local ducks that had swooped in to take advantage of the bowl of water left out for thirsty dogs.

After our pit stop we headed through a little gate in the stonewall and towards Ely cathedral. Inside we were blown away by its sheer size and elaborate stain glass windows within the many little chapels inside. For those with more time to explore, than we had, the cathedral is also home to the Museum of Stained Glass which is accessible within one of the turrets.

Interestingly we discovered after we left the cathedral that my husbands late-Grandfather as a vicar had been based at Ely Cathedral during the Second World War where apparently he had had a birds eye view of the Blitz unfolding in London from the top of Ely Cathedral’s tower. We were disappointed on hearing this that we hadn’t plumped for the tower tour at the cathedral so it is now on our list for a second visit!

More information on Ely can be found here http://www.visitely.org.uk

Details about Ely cathedral are here http://www.elycathedral.org

Florence – The City that celebrates the art of living well

After our binge on culture and trek around the amazing city of Florence we stopped for a glass of Chianti in the sun by the river Arno in a little bar called “Il Borro Tuscan Bistro” that served it’s family’s own produced wine.

A quick refresh and outfit change at the hotel then our “Happy Hour” glass of prosecco and we were off to our Valentine’s evening dinner. We discovered one of the restaurant highlights of our trip was the amazing Sesto on Arno, situated at the top of the Westin Excelsior hotel. The views were breathtakingly amazing as was the delicious food.

We were welcomed with cheeky prosecco cocktails that had adorable fruit birds perched on them. We enjoyed a fabulous bottle of Chianti wine. The 4 course menu with appetisers was delicious especially the desserts that were the highlight. The refresher course pre-dessert consisted of a champagne sorbet and mango coulis that had been sealed in a permeable pouch that made it resemble an egg yolk served with a meringue wafer. Hubby’s dessert was a white chocolate ball filled with strawberry and raspberry ice cream with fresh berries. My dairy-free dessert was an amazingly exotic fruit salad with raspberry sorbet and meringue pieces.

We ate a special set menu for Valentine’s but the restaurant regularly offers dinner tasting menus from 92 euros a head and lunchtime set menu for just 30 euros.

A walk along the Arno River followed by a nightcap cocktail in famous Harry’s bar finished off a wonderfully amazing Valentine’s evening.

Links to restaurants are –

http://www.ilborrotuscanbistro.it/?lang=en

http://www.sestoonarno.com/en

http://www.harrysbarfirenze.com

Part 4 – Nevis with kids

There are lots to do for families on Nevis and the island is such a family friendly place that children are welcome wherever you go.

Half of Nevis Island has the Caribbean sea and other half has an Atlantic coast so make sure you select your swimming beach carefully. Great beaches for swimming and water sports are Pinney beach less than 5 minutes drive from the capital Charles Town and Ouailie beach that has water sports with stunning views across to St Kitts.

img_5028

Ouailie beach, Nevis

Activities include horse riding, sailing, hiking, cycling, quad bike tours, jeep tours, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and other water-sports.

A must see for families is the authentic Nevisian home farm and inn – Lindbergh Landing named after Charles Lindbergh’s Trans-Atlantic flight of 1927. The land Lindbergh Landing is on was purchased by Ernest Hasting Hanley in 1929, who was the first Nevisian born laborer to earn Certificates of Title to land on the Hamilton Estate. The resort, now run by his son Spencer and wife Jacqueline, consists of Nevisian cottages are nestled in lush rainforest 1,200 feet above sea level with breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea. Children can watch Green Vervet monkeys at play in mango trees and meet a plethora of farm animals including a pair of colourful peacocks.

Restaurants that are kiddie friendly include –

  • The Yachtsman bar & grill is located right on Paradise beach so perfect for spending a leisurely lunch there as kids can play on the beach while you watch them with a cool drink in hand.
img_8053

Paradise beach, Nevis

  • Chrishi beach club is another good one for families as again it is situated with tables right onto the beach. This small beach also has volleyball nets and with a large grassy area off the beach too it’s perfect for ball games.

The best historic plantation inns for families include –

  • Montpelier for the pool and bar/restaurant area for lunch is lovely for children.  If it’s good enough for Princes William & Harry then it’s good enough for yours!
img_8178-2

Montpellier plantation resort pool

  • Hermitage has a pizza evening every Friday that’s family friendly even the owners bring their children along to join in with playing with the other children in the beautiful lawn and gardens.
img_8124-2

Hermitage plantation inn

  • Nisbet plantation has a bar/restaurant right on Nisbet beach which is a lovely sandy cove perfect for a game of beach cricket but as the sea is the Atlantic the currents are far too strong for swimming. Paddling would be perfect and the beach great for picnics especially when you can watch the brown pelicans diving in the shallows for fish.
img_8155-2

Nisbet beach

For more information about things to do on Nevis for families see the tourist board website here http://www.nevisisland.com

Nevis – Part 3 – Plantation inns

There are many old plantation inns on Nevis that have been renovated and turned into boutique hotels that can be visited if only for a spot of lunch.

Once the site of Horatio Nelson’s marriage to Fanny Nisbet (the tree they wedded under still stands there today), now it is a luxury Relais & Chateaux hotel. It has the remains of a mill tower now restored and turned into a private dining room; I’m told it is popular for weddings. The original plantation house and buildings have been turned into luxury accommodation and a bar/restaurant area with amazing panoramic sea views. This was the hotel Princess Diana chose for her first holiday with the little Princes following the announcement of her divorce over 20 years ago and you can see why as it’s tucked away in the hills. A haven of luxury and the food was amazing too. They understood the meaning of “dairy-free” perfectly.

This plantation has been family owned and run for generations. Also tucked away on the side of Nevis peak Volcano, surrounded by luscious gardens and rainforest it still retains the feel of it’s historic past. When you visit this place it feels as though you’ve stepped back into the best from Britain’s colonial past. All the accommodation is in small wooden Caribbean huts that are brightly decorated lovingly by the owners wife who also owns a gift shop on site called Fanny’s Closet full of arts, crafts and original gifts made by local people. Their Friday evening pizza night is a must if you have children as this is relatively informal and even the owners own children join the guests for games on the lawn.

Once owned by the famous Nisbet family and childhood home of Fanny the wife of Nelson; this plantation sits on Nevis’s Atlantic coast and is situated right by the beach. The resort has its pool facilities practically on the beach with a gorgeous raised decked area that offers panoramic coastal views from your sun lounger. There’s also a lovely bar/restaurant right on the beach that has shuttered open windows so you can feel the salty air breezing through whilst you eat local and international dishes. We sat and watched a local fisherman line fish stood in the waves competing with diving brown pelicans for his catch. This beach was much rougher than the ones on the Caribbean sea coast so I wouldn’t advise it for swimming but it certainly had breath taking views and a heavy dose of drama.

All the plantations on Nevis are unique in their own way and Golden Rock is no exception. This plantation was once completely reclaimed by the rainforest and the current owners renovated the old stone buildings and mill tower cutting away the forest and replacing it with amazingly tropical botanical gardens. The gardens and grounds extend for a great distance and there are a variety of different styles of accommodation to choose from including staying in the original mill tower or a small Caribbean wooden hut or even a quaint stone cottage. The main bar/restaurant area is set in a large stone courtyard area that’s multi-level, containing designer pools containing koi carp and other fish with waterfalls and gentle fountains. It’s an architectural delight but not advisable if you have any mobility issues or young children as steep drops abound! The staff here also seemed a little less friendly than elsewhere on the island and unable to understand allergies too which was a surprise as the guests we met that were staying there seemed to be mainly American.

There are also several old ruins of sugar mills that are clearly being renovated but can be visited

  • New River Estate is situated a five minute drive from Golden Rock just outside a town called Brick Kiln and has lots of stunning ruins that are very accessible to look around but you might want to do your research before hand is there is only one historic sign about the site.
  • Hamilton estate was and is the largest plantation area on Nevis. There was a plan to restore the buildings and turn them into a visitor centre but apparently this has now been shelved. The mill buildings from this estate can be found almost exactly inland from the capital city Charles Town as you head up the side of Nevis Peak. Follow signs for the popular bar/restaurant Banana’s and you will pass the ruins now overgrown by rainforest on your way up the hill.

 

If underwater ruins are more your thing then there are also lots of famous shipwrecks off the Nevisian coast so perfect for those who love scuba diving.

For more information go to the tourist board siteNevis tourist board

Journey Down Under – NZ not Aus

We decided for baby’s first long haul holiday that it had to be a journey of epic proportions so we booked flights to Auckland via Singapore outbound and then back via Bali and Singapore on the way home.

Everyone we had spoken to advised that the best time to fly with a baby was before they can crawl or walk so we set out to New Zealand with our 7 month old daughter who surprisingly turned out to be a natural born traveller!

20160125_123447

Enjoying the in-flight entertainment

 

An air-steward on Virgin Australia even asked could she adopt her and disappeared with her on board for over half an hour.  It seemed our daughter was having fun playing with the rest of the cabin crew and babbling to passengers so we got to actually enjoy the inflight programming for a while.

Stay posted for more…