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Chatsworth House – Derbyshire, UK

19 Jan

You have got to go here…Chatsworth House – Derbyshire, UK.

Who would fly 5,000 miles to take a picture?  This girl!  Boy am I glad that I followed my heart, because what I got was so much more than a photo.

Mr. & Mrs. Darcy

Mr. & Mrs. Darcy

Ever since I saw the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice I knew that I had to make it to Pemberley (all you Mr. Darcy fans out there know what I am talking about!) and in 2013 I finally got my chance.

So, I’m not going to lie…my trip to the United Kingdom was planned (mad props to Anne Marie at Across the Pond Vacations for all your help) around Chatsworth House.  Yes, I was excited to see London and Edinburgh, but really it was this place that I had been dreaming about that gave me butterflies.  All I knew about it was from a movie and through planning I was blown away by how amazing it really was.

First, lodging…where to stay?  On the grounds of course, above a pub – yes please!  The Devonshire Arms at Beeley is a car ride, walk or bike ride away from Chatsworth House. You choose your own adventure.

Hands down, this was one of the best places I have ever stayed.  It was in a picturesque village, the food, rooms and staff were all phenomenal. When I get stressed, I often picture myself having a pint on their patio while watching sheep graze nearby.

Are there other things to do around Chatsworth House you ask?  Absolutely!  It is located in the Peak District, which is a nature lovers dream.  Cycling, camping, hiking…the list goes on.  We couldn’t help but strap on our walking shoes and go exploring.  I recommend you stop by the Farm Shop first stock up on some fresh local provisions first!

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With goodies in hand, we set out on the first trail we found, to enjoy the local wildlife and take a breath to enjoy life.  I know it may seem cheesy, but for as long as I live, the moment I spent sitting by the river having a picnic with my husband and my best friend will forever be one of the best.

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As if life couldn’t get any better…it was finally time to go and explore Chatsworth House.  I have two big tips for you.  Plan to stay all day (one day may not be enough for you) and buy the Discovery ticket, which includes the house, garden and farmyard as you must see it all.

OK, in a nutshell, there is art, magnificent gardens, trails to explore, cute animals, a human sundial, fountains, shopping, yummy restaurants, and happiness!  OH and a hedge maze…a legit one.  It took us 45 minutes (rookies!) and it was a blast.  The research I did before hand did not do this place justice and I had 1000% more than anticipated.

Another thing I loved was the fact that there was so much open space to just lounge and take a moment to soak all the beauty in.

The moral of this story is…everyone has their Chatsworth House, so whether it is near or far.  GO!!! You never know what other awesome things you will discover and I promise once you set eyes on your dream place for the first time your life will change forever – I know mine did.

Happy Chatsworthing,

Crystal

P.S. Any P&P fans out there recognize this?

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Fife Coastal Path – Scotland

19 Oct

You have got to go here…Fife Coastal Path – Scotland

Enjoying the North Sea!

I love love love when I set out on one adventure and discover a totally different one along the way. On a picturesque misty Scottish morning I set out to St. Andrews on the Fife Coastal Path to see some sites that were significant to my family’s history (my relative was burned at the stake you know!)

Family History

OK, lets start with my first (and planned) adventure.  I know you have all probably heard of the Old Course, but St. Andrews is so much more. What a beautiful city it is  – full of historic ruins at both St. Andrews Cathedral and St. Andrews Castle, home to St. Andrews University (where I hear a famous royal couple met), has a plethora of fantastic shopping and streets lined with welcoming B&B’s as far as the eye can see.

In addition to all of the awesome things I just mentioned, I discovered the best gelato ever!!! OK I actually stalked it.  While planning my trip I came across a post (always keep lists about places you want to visit as you never know when you may get to experience them in person) about Jannettas and I knew that when I made it to St. Andrews it would be my first stop – and it was!  I was in heaven…so creamy and tasty.  I could have stayed there all day tasting every flavor.

YUMMO!

After spending several hours exploring this quaint town, I switched gears and went in search of a little fishing village named Anstruther.  We had taken a tour of the highlands in Scotland a day earlier with rabbies and our guide gave us a tip to where the best fish and chips in all of Scotland were.  How can you pass up trying them?

The drive to get there was an unexpected surprise.  I passed fields of lush green grass, set eyes on amazing views of the North Sea and came upon towns that looked like they were straight out of the fairytale.  I wish that I could have visited more places along this coastal path, but I only had time for fish and chips!

Alas, the Anstruther turnoff was upon me and I was excited.  Things to know: there was plenty of parking and it is seriously a block long – but this town has way more quality than quantity!  OK, side tracked, back to Scotland’s best fish and chips…you can’t miss Anstruther Fish Bar.

Here fishy fishy!Award Winning!

What a cute fun place!  First you have two options – take out or dine in…you chose.  We ate inside, but would have also enjoyed eating on a bench facing the sea.

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Now another decision…what to eat!  While there is much to choose from – you have to at least try the world famous fish and chips. AND let me just tell you how great they were…my husband who hates fish loved them.  They were super crispy, but moist inside and so tasty!  OH and another tip – try the mushy peas!

FISH!

Marky likes it!MenuMushy Peas Please!

Don’t just eat and run either! Anstruther is also full of shops and lots of places to explore.  I forgot to mention one more important thing…the people are so so friendly!

The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to stray from your plans as you never know what treats are to be had.  I had my mind set on on St. Andrews – tunnel vision almost, but I am glad I took the advice to go get fish and chips or I would have never discovered Anstruther (which turned out to be one of my favorite places in Scotland.)

If you are looking to scape the crowds and tourists in Edinburgh, do yourself a favor and escape to the coast for some peace and serenity.

So peaceful!

I can’t wait to return to the Fife Coastal Path and find more hidden gems.

Happy Fish and Chipping,

Crystal

Portobello Rd. Market – Notting Hill, London

12 Oct

You have got to go here…Portobello Rd. Market – Notting Hill, London Do you ever plan on visiting something just to check it out and then are completly blown away by what you discover?  Well, that is exactly what happened to me when I took my first steps into the Portobello Rd. Market.  I will foerver be thankful to the Londoner who told us about this spot! (Which brings up a good point.  If you want to truly find the great spots in the city – talk to the locals!) Follow the signs... The market is located within walking distance from the Notting Hill Gate underground station.  Just follow the signs…you can’t miss them! Notting Hill Gate One of the coolest things aobut this market is the energy.  The flow of people heading towards this gem was amazing…it just felt like everyone was happy to be outside together enjoying the sunshine (we were lucky enough to get some.)  As I turned the final corner on my way to the market all I could see were beautiful brightly-colored buildings and vendors for miles. OMG look at everything!Artsy Train...Thank goodness for the signs! We went on a Saturday (the market is open every day but Sunday and different goods are sold on certain days) so the streets were full of antiques, new goods, produce and my favorite FOOD!  The smells were intoxicating and my taste buds were so happy that they got to sample some of the freshest food I have ever eaten. No matter what you are craving they have it here! Fresh ProduceTreats for all. Donuts!!! Best Bruschetta EVER! As I kept wandering I discovered more markets down little alley ways that were full of more food, more goods and music.  Do yourself a favor and take it all in, see it all – you never know what you might find! And…since you’re already here, why not explore Notting Hill a little more?  It is full of history, there are tons of cool things to do and I am not sure if you know but a pretty famous movie was filmed here so feel free to scope out the locations it was shot at (lol)! George Orwell Whatever you decide to do, I highly recommend hitting the streets at the Portobello Rd. Market.  It is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and really get the feeling of what it would be like if you were lucky enough for this to be your local market. Happy Portobello Roading, Crystal P.S. – Bring cash!

The City of York – York, United Kingdom

21 Sep

You have got to go here…The City of York – York, United Kingdom.

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I knew nothing of the city of York when my tour operator (who thankfully for me specialized is a UK Destination Specialist) Across the Pond Vacations suggested it as somewhere to visit on our first trip to the United Kingdom.  Being the type of person who likes to find hidden gems and get advice from locals, I didn’t do too much research in regards to what to see.  This was both good and bad.  Had I known how much awesomeness there was I would have stayed longer.  BUT our favorite things about York turned out to be places that were suggested to us by our innkeeper.

So, I am going to fill you in on my favorite spots, but of course I won’t tell you about everything…you need to go and discover new things too!

Let’s start with where we stayed.  I am sure that there are many lovely places to stay, but I am not sure that you could get better hospitality than what I received at the Alcuin Lodge. Darren was such a great host.  He met us personally when we arrived and spent time giving us tips on what to do in the short amount of time we had to explore.  Just an fyi – every amazing place in this blog was as a result of a Darren giving us the inside tip.  (I know what you are thinking…he is probably just referring you to the touristy places.  This was not the case, most of the spots he sent us to where off-the-beaten path and places he frequents as a local.)  Not only did we love Darren, but we loved the lodge too!  Super clean, very modern for being such an old home and we had an amazing breakfast cooked for us the next morning.

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While the lodge ins’t inside the city walls, it is just a short and beautiful walk through an historic neighborhood, ancient ruins and a magnificent park to get you to the city center.

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OK, so we literally had 24hrs in York and if I had to do it all over I would visit these four places again:

1. York Cocoa House

Really Chocolate??? Yes, really!  York has a history rich in Chocolate so I had to try some of the goods.  The trip here was well worth it.  I had the best hot cocoa and chocolate milk that I have ever had in my entire life.  Don’t judge me, yes…I went twice in 24hrs!  No pre-packaged mix here, only fresh real chocolate went into these drinks.

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2. National Railway Museum

I have been to several train museums in the United States, but nothing like this.  It is huge and full of so many amazing train cars and history.  OH and it is FREE!!! Donations however are accepted if you feel so inclined!  I highly suggest you pay the small fee and ride on a steam train like we did. In no way is this museum just for kids either, there is plenty of things for the whole family!

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3. The York City Walls

I don’t know about you, but this was the first time I walked on something built by the Romans and I was so excited.  These walls line the outside of the city center (only some portions still exist so get a map when you arrive) and are FREE to roam and offer a lovely view of the city.  You know by now that I am big kid, and there was truly something magical about taking the same steps that ancient soldiers took as well.

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4. Trembling Madness

What is Trembling Madness you ask?  Only the best pub I visited while on my trip to the U.K.  Located above a unique and very expansive liquor store sits a small and intimate pub that serves delicious food and drinks.  The ambiance is fantastic; I really felt like I stepped back in time.  This is the perfect place to meet locals and relax.  I also have to thank Trembling Madness for introducing me to the most yummy cider my lips have ever touched.

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Believe me when I say that these few places I visited are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to see and do in York.  I didn’t even touch on the Abbey destroyed by Henry VIII, the boat trip and the amazing shopping.  Do yourself a favor and make York part of your trip if you are ever in the U.K.

Happy Yorking,

Crystal