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January 9, 2018

Top 20 heart-warming Winter Quotes to brighten up your day

Top 20 Winter Quotes - The Quirky Traveller

It’s the heart of winter here and January has its got its gnarled fingers well and truly into our souls. Some days its cold and wet, others it’s mild and windy, others icy and sunny, and a few snowy and beautiful. At this time of year, many of us want to hibernate and hardly venture out, or fly off for a dash of winter sun. Here are my favourite seasonal quotes, many by well-known writers, to lift your spirits and brighten your day.

Top 20 Winter Quotes

Arctic Fox - 20 winter quotes - The Quirky Traveller

1.  Of all the seasons, winter is the most conducive to the great art of dormancy. This art requires an appreciation of semi-consciousness: the beautiful and necessary prelude to sleep – a special pleasure in itself that is all too often neglected, under-valued or looked down upon. Michael Leung

2.  Winter is a season of recovery and preparation. Paul Theroux

3.  I love the scents of winter! For me, it’s all about the feeling you get when you smell pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread and spruce. Taylor Swift

Winter spices and apple mug

4.  In winter, the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity. John Burrows

5.  The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? J.B. Priestley

6.  Few sights are more charming than that of a town covered in new-fallen, clean white snow; and how pretty it is to watch the tiny flakes drift downwards through the air as it there were a wedding in the sky and the fairies were throwing confetti. The Mysterious Toyshop – Cyril W Beaumont

7. It is winter in Narnia and has been for ever so long and we shall both catch cold if we stand here talking in the snow. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

Winter trees, snow and hare

8.  I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” Lewis Carroll

9. Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o’clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.  Thomas de Quincey – Confessions of an English Opium Eater

10. When the snow is still blowing against the window-pane in January and February and the wild winds are howling without, what pleasure it is to plan for summer that is to be. Celia Thaxter

11. Where the sun shone, everything glittered and sparkled as if diamond dust had been strewn about; and the snowy carpet of the earth seemed covered with diamonds from which gleamed countless lights, whiter even than the snow itself.  The Snowman – Hans Christian Andersen

Snowy landscape - winter quotes

12. What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness. John Steinbeck

13. It’s called skiing. It makes you rush ahead fast, like lightning, in a cloud of whirling snow, and you’ve got to look sharp, or else. Mominland Midwinter – Tove Jansen

14.  The snow had a fine crust upon it and the old trees sparkles like tinsel … The sky cleared and broad streams of stars ran down over the valley and away to Wales. Everything was quiet; everywhere there was the faint crackling silence of the winter night. Cider with Rosie – Laurie Lee

20 Winter Quotes - The Quirky Traveller

15. The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached on soft feet over the first thin fall of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed the casements into the dark world without.  The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Graham

16. Silently, like thoughts that come and go, the snowflakes fall, each one a gem. William Hamilton Gibson

Snow globe world - winter quotes - The Quirky Traveller

17. Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people’s legs like house cats. It was magical, this snow globe world.  The Sugar Queen – Sarah Addison Allen

18. And though in your winter you deny your spring, yet spring reposing within you, smiles in her drowsiness and is not offended. The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran 

19. In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.  Albert Camus

20. No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.  Hal Borland

Crocus in snow - top 20 winter quotes - The Quirky Traveller

All photos from Pixabay.com – free for commercial use. No attribution required

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20 Winter Quotes to warm your heart - The Quirky Traveller

December 31, 2017

The Quirky Traveller Top Travel Tips of the Year

The Quirky Traveller - Quirky Travel Tips of the Year

At the end of the year, it’s become a tradition with travel bloggers to look back over the past 12 months and review our top trips of the year. Here are a few of my Quirky Travel highlights from a year when I made a conscious decision to do less overseas travel and explore more of the magical British Isles. Hopefully they will give you some inspiration and ideas for your own holiday plans.

Quirky Travel Holiday Tips

Take a ride on North Wales Vintage Railways

Ffestiniog steam train in Snowdonia in North Wales - photo Zoe Dawes

Ffestiniog steam train in Snowdonia

Taking a trip on one of many wonderful North Wales steam trains is to journey back to a time when rail travel was less frenetic and life moved at a more leisurely pace. I spent a few days trying out various options, including the quaint Ffestiniog Railway, Welsh Highland Railway and the Llangollen Railway, enjoying genteel luxury in elegant carriages pulled by a variety of impressive steam engines. I also fulfilled a life-long ambition to get to the top of the highest peak in Wales on the Snowdon Mountain Railway. You can usually get refreshments including meals and afternoon tea. I’d recommend you book in advance to ensure you get the best deal or choose one of the many package deals on offer from specialist railway travel companies. Read about my railway tour of Steam Railways of North Wales here.

Discover Nuremberg, an elegant Bavarian city of historic significance

Nuremberg city centre Germany

Nuremberg city centre

World-renowned artist Albrecht Dürer was born in Nuremberg in Bavaria, one of the most interesting regions of Germany. It’s the largest walled city in Europe and has been lovingly restored after heavy bombing during World War II. Nuremberg Castle, dating back to 1140, overlooks the oldest part of Nuremberg and there are plenty of splendid museums and art galleries, the Opera House and historic buildings to get a feel for its distinguished past. Make sure you try some of the hearty Bavarian food and excellent beer. I can also highly recommend a tour of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds to see how well the Germans are dealing with a challenging aspect of their history. During a press trip to the Germany Travel Mart we were given a glimpse of the famous Nuremberg Christmas Market – read about it here.

Mooch about Ottawa, Canada’s fascinating capital city

River view of Ottawa Canada - photo Zoe Dawes

River view of Ottawa

Often overlooked by visitors to Canada, Ottawa is a compact, friendly capital city with plenty of things to see and do to keep quirky travel visitors very busy for a few days. The excellent Museum of Canada encapsulates the essence of Canada whilst the Rideau Canal demonstrates the engineering capabilities of the early pioneers. I stayed in Byward Market, one of the liveliest areas, with loads of great bars, cafes, shops and restaurants. You can get really excellent food and drink in Ottawa; read about my Funky Food Tour of hipster Ottawa here.

Visit the newest World Heritage site in the UK

Sunset over Windermere in English Lake District - photo Zoe Dawes

Sunset over Windermere

In June 2017 the English Lake District finally won UNESCO World Heritage status. After many years of trying, this beautiful part of the world was awarded this prestigious accolade, the first UK National Park to do so. The inscription says:

‘Located in northwest England, the English Lake District is a mountainous area, whose valleys have been modelled by glaciers in the Ice Age and subsequently shaped by an agro-pastoral land-use system characterized by fields enclosed by walls. The combined work of nature and human activity has produced a harmonious landscape in which the mountains are mirrored in the lakes. Grand houses, gardens and parks have been purposely created to enhance the beauty of this landscape. This landscape was greatly appreciated from the 18th century onwards by the Picturesque and later Romantic movements, which celebrated it in paintings, drawings and words.’

If you can, stay for a few days and really explore the area. It’s got so much to offer including stunning scenery, adventure activities, quaint villages, charming towns, loads of great pubs, restaurants and hotels plus a lively arts scene, historic houses and also many ways to get off the beaten track in Cumbria. Read about my weekend break with Good Life Lake District Cottages in the heart of the Lake District World Heritage site here.

See the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

The Quirky Traveller at the Taj Mahal India

I’ve left the best to last … Just about everyone has heard of the Taj Mahal but many have not seen it. I finally got to achieve a life-long dream to see this iconic building on my very first trip to India this year. It did not disappoint. Built by Shah Jehan between 1632 and 1643 in honour of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, it is breathtakingly lovely, much bigger than I expected and quite probably the most beautiful building in the world. India is one of the few places in the world where I’d strongly recommend visiting on a tour; read my article on Top 10 Reasons to Choose an Escorted Tour in India.

PS – Pye Motors Brand Ambassador

The new Ford Fiesta beside Morecambe Bay - The Quirky Travelller

My new Ford Fiesta beside Morecambe Bay

At the end of memorable year of quirky travel I was delighted to be chosen as Brand Ambassador for Pye Motors, a family-run Ford Dealership in North West England. I’m going to be out and about in my new Ford Fiesta, exploring lesser known areas around the Morecambe Bay area as well as across the UK. Watch out for #followpye updates in the coming blog posts.

I hope this article has given you some inspiration for a few new places to visit in the coming year. Do share your own suggestions in the Comment Box below. May all your quirky travel dreams come true …

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The Quirky Traveller Travel Tips of the Year

 

December 13, 2017

The Quirky Traveller becomes Brand Ambassador for Pye Motors

A short while ago I got a brand new Ford Fiesta from Pye Motors in Morecambe. You may not think this is a big deal, but I have never had a new car until now and most of the cars I’ve had were at least a few years old when I bought them. So this was very good news for me; but even more exciting is that I have now become Brand Ambassador for family-run Ford Dealership Pye Motors.

Getting a new car

The Quirky Traveller new Ford Fiesta from Pye Motors

My new Ford Fiesta at Staveley Mill Yard

The first car I owned was an old black Mini Cooper in the 1970s. It had red leather seats and looked cool, but the windows didn’t open, the engine overheated at the drop of a hat and I was nearly killed when the brakes failed as I was going downhill in Shropshire. The next car was a bright orange Ford Escort that had belonged to my boyfriend. It got me from A to B via most of the UK and I sold it for £300 when I moved to live in Greece. Since then I have had many cars, including Peugeot, Nissan, Rover, Citroen, Toyota and Honda but NEVER a new one. (Travel bloggers may get to see the world but it’s not the most lucrative of jobs.) So you can imagine my pleasure when I was asked to test-drive the new Ford Fiesta this summer – click link to read my review. As you can see from the video, I was VERY excited!

Bedecked with impressive features including Cruise Control, Parking Sensors, Auto High Beam dipping headlights and Blind Spot Information System using RADAR sensors, I was like a kid in a sweet shop trying them all out. I was sorry to return the car and go back to driving my reliable but ageing Honda Jazz, which now seemed very ordinary, sluggish and lacking in any funky techy stuff. Over the coming weeks, I had a number of discussions with Pye Motors and I was DELIGHTED to be appointed their very first digital Brand Ambassador. 

Pye Motors Brand Ambassador

Nick Payne MD Pye Motors

Founder William Pye and MD Nick Payne

Managing Director Nick Payne told me the Pye Motors story. His wife’s grandfather William Pye started a vehicle repair business in Lancaster back in 1925. It’s grown greatly since then and there are now three Ford Dealerships in Morecambe, Kendal and Barrow with a team of over 140 staff. Nick says, “We don’t just pay lip-service to customer service; it’s the single most important element of Pye Motors. We have returning customers who’ve been coming to us for many years. This is a family-run business with a proud tradition of going above and beyond whenever we can.” I’ve visited all their branches and each one has a personal, friendly atmosphere that makes Pye Motors quite different from the image I had of a corporate Ford Dealership.

Words that came up in our conversations about the Brand Ambassador role included integrity, community, help, passion and fun. For me to align myself with such a big name, it was vital that we share the same values and that integrity should feature large in our relationship. The company has an excellent reputation locally and Ford is one of the world’s most famous brands, so it was important that they found the right blogger to represent them. My audience fits some of their key demographics and we share a passion for this lovely area.

Awards and trophies Pye Motors Morecambe

Pye Motors Awards and Trophies

Pye Motors plays a significant role in the local community and wants to shout more about their Lancashire and Cumbria roots. They sponsor a wide range of competitions and support various charities and local events as well as national campaigns. (A number of staff recently took part in Movember, growing splendid moustaches – some slightly less splendid 😉 – and raising lots of dosh and awareness of men’s health issues.) Both Nick and I feel there is a great deal of synergy in our shared values and interests and that the partnership will work for everyone. As their Brand Ambassador, I will be discovering more about the company and the team and exploring beautiful North West England in an #allnewFiesta.

My new Ford Fiesta

Ryan demonstrating features of new Ford Fiesta Pye Motors

Ryan demonstrating features of my new Ford Fiesta

On a sunny day at Pye Motors in Morecambe, Ryan showed me the innovative design and technology features of my Moondust Silver Fiesta Zetec. Some of these come as standard, others are extras. We took it out for a drive so he could demonstrate how the Adaptive Cruise Control works; very clever adjusting speed depending on traffic. I was somewhat mind-blown by the Active Park Assist. ‘It uses a combination of different technologies to do more than steer you into parking spots. With Park Out Assist it helps you pull out of them, too. The Parallel and Perpendicular Parking system can sense if there’s space for your car to fit, then reverse you in. The Side Parking Aid also warns you if there are any lateral obstructions.’ I’ve yet to try it for myself, sounds quite mind-boggling – think I need another lesson … Its award-winning 1.1L Eco Boost engine and Stop/Start 6 gears gives very high performance combined with money-saving fuel economy.  Ryan also highlighted the sleek new styling, alloy wheels, large boot and spacious interior. The only thing that my old Honda had better was electric rear windows; possibly worth paying extra for but not vital. You can see more of the car – and Ryan – in this video.

Nick Payne loves the North West and has an extensive knowledge of his home turf. One of the main things I’ll be doing for our collaboration is exploring north Lancashire and south Cumbria, searching out lesser-known places and sharing stories for you to enjoy. Keep up with our travels via my Social Media channels and on this blog. I’ll be using the hashtag #followpye.

New Ford Fiesta - The Quirky Traveller North West England

Morecambe Bay, Elterwater and Broughton-in-Furness

Click on the link to find out more about Pye Motors Ford Dealership and treat yourself to a test drive in the new Ford Fiesta or one of their other large fleet of vehicles. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook. Rest assured that, however much I might love my new vehicle and collaborating with Pye Motors, I’ll be retaining my openness and honesty and my views will always be, most definitely, my own. I’m very much looking forward to our quirky travels together and if you see me out and about, give a wave and say hi …

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The Quirky Traveller Pye Motors Brand Ambassador

December 3, 2017

Peek into the magical world of Nuremberg Christmas Market in Bavaria

Nuremberg Christmas Market (Christkindlesmarkt) is one of the most famous in the world. Every year thousands of visitors throng its crowded streets, craning over each other to get a glimpse of the Christkind, admiring the Christmas decorations, shopping for presents, quaffing mulled wine and enjoying this festive atmosphere.

Nuremberg Christmas Market baubles - photo Zoe Dawes

Christmas Baubles

Nuremberg Christmas Market – Chriskindlesmarkt

Christkindlesmarkt could be translated word for word as “Christ Child Market”. The Nuremberg Christkind or Christ Child, a young woman dressed in white and gold, with curly blond hair, a tall golden crown and angel-wing-like long golden sleeves, is an important part of the market. Initially impersonated by an actress, since 1969 the Christkind has been elected every second year among local girls between 16 and 19 years of age. A large number of competitors enter via the Internet, finally a jury chooses the next Christkind out of several finalists who have to be at least 1,60m tall and free from giddiness as the Christkind has to make her speech from the church balcony, secured with a rope, possibly in inclement winter weather.’    Wikipedia

Christkind and angels at Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - photo Zoe Dawes

Christkind and angels

Earlier this year I was invited to attend the Germany Travel Mart in Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Bavaria, along with a number of other journalists and bloggers from around the world. Not only did we have a chance to explore this historic city, but Germany Travel arranged for us to get a flavour of the Christmas Market; in the atrium of the magnificent Town Hall they recreated a ‘mini-me’ version with many of the original stalls. It was magical.

Nuremberg Christmas Market in Town Hall - photo Zoe Dawes

Mini-me Nuremberg Christmas Market

The first thing we did was get some mulled wine, warming, spicy and we got to keep the mug too. I was particularly intrigued by the lady making Christkinds and angels out of stiffened, coloured card. She explained that the tradition of the Christkind, or Christchild, is found throughout Europe, dating back hundreds of years. Seen as the gift-giver in many Protestant and Catholic countries, the Christkind has also been associated with Saint Nicholas, delivering his presents to children at this festive season.

Making Christkind and angel decorations Nuremberg Christmas Market - Bavaria Germany - photo Zoe Dawes

Making Christkind and angel decorations

We watched the Schmidt bakers making Lebkuchen, the traditional soft gingerbread that is eaten at Christmas, and now available all year round. The Nuremberg type of “Lebkuchen” is also known as “Elisenlebkuchen” and must contain no less than 25 percent nuts and less than 10 percent wheat flour. The finest artisian lebkuchen bakeries in Nuremberg boast close to 40% nut content. [Wikipedia] On other stalls were bigger, iced hearts, made from a harder type of Lebkuchen, which last longer. I bought a couple to hang on our Christmas Tree, carefully wrapped to survive the flight. (They did!)

Nuremberg Christmas Market stall - Lebkuchen- photo Zoe Dawes

Lebkuchen Baker’s Oven

In one corner of the square a brightly-lit carousel twirled round. Perched very elegantly on a white horse, clearly enjoying herself, was the Christkind. She smiled happily to us, whilst behind her giggled two angels, all of them thoroughly obviously very happy to have the opportunity to be seen at this time of year. Needless to say, Christmas is their busiest time but during the year, the Christkind visits schools, hospitals etc around the city.

Christkind on carousel at Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - image Zoe Dawes

The Christkind and angels on carousel

I love the wooden decorations you find at German Christmas Markets. They’re usually intricately made, with exquisite details, ranging from tiny stars to complete Nativity Scenes. Another specialty is the walnut carvings, featuring minute figures and scenes within the shell of the nut. One of the stalls had beautifully painted ceramic buildings, many of them well-known in Nuremberg. Needless to say, the home of the city’s most famous artist, Albrecht Durer House was on display.

Albrecht Durer House Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - photo Zoe Dawes

Albrecht Durer House

The smell of grilled meat hovered over the market stalls and I was drawn to the stand selling the renowned Nürnberger bratwurst . What these little sausages lack in size, they more than make up for in taste. Weighing no more than 25 grams and to be no longer than 9cm, they are made from the best quality minced pork (NOT sausage meat) and spiced up with pepper, marjoram and mace. A trio were popped into a crusty bun and I wandered off to savour a tasty end my brief visit to Nuremberg Christmas Market.

Nuremberg Rostbratwurst Sausages Christmas market - photo Zoe Dawes

Nuremberg Rostbratwurst

Quirky Travel Fact: when not in use, the market stalls are stored at the Nazi Party Rally Ground on the outskirts of the city. During my trip I did the Video Tour of this infamous site, which gives an invaluable historical insight to this traumatic period of Nuremberg’s past. Watch out for my Top Tips for visiting Nuremberg in a future article.

Mulled wine at Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - Zoe Dawes

Cheers from Nuremberg

.Many thanks to Germany Travel for inviting me. I travelled to Germany with Lufthansa and stayed at the Nuremberg Holiday Inn Express. For more information about Nuremberg Christmas Market and Germany, visit Germany.travel.

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Nuremberg Christmas Market Germany - Pinterest image Zoe Dawes

November 29, 2017

The joy of a charming cottage with a cosy fire in beautiful Cumbria

Logs on fire at Rose Cottage Elterwater lake District - photo Zoe Dawes

Fire at Rose Cottage Elterwater

There’s something very special about sitting by an open fire on a chilly night, logs crackling, coal sizzling, flames dancing brightly as the heat radiates out around the room. Maybe there’s a pre-historic memory of sitting in cave round a fire, protected from the sabre-toothed tiger prowling around outside. Maybe it’s just the warmth and cosiness, being full of life that makes us feel much more content than a radiator or electric heater. It’s even better if you’re on holiday and can really relax and enjoy it, knowing you’ve nothing more urgent to do than, keep it fed with fuel, top up your drink and maybe curl up with your loved one. It’s one of the simple joys of life and for those of us who don’t have an open fire at home, staying in a holiday cottage with a fire is real treat.

Rose Cottage in Elterwater Lake District- Good Life Lake District Cottages

Rose Cottage

On a recent visit to the Lake District with Good Life Lake District Cottages, I stayed for a few days in Rose Cottage, Elterwater with a friend from college days. This delightful 2 bedroom self-catering accommodation is in the heart of the village, a hop, skip and a jump over the road from the Britannia Inn. With a comfortable lounge, well-equipped kitchen-dining room, a twin-bedded room and en-suite double bedroom, it had everything we needed. We very quickly made ourselves at home, having a cuppa and biscuit whilst working out what to do over the coming days.

The advantage of staying in Elterwater in the Langdale Valley, is that you’ve got everything you need on the doorstep; charming accommodation, a traditional pub serving excellent food, a shop, a bowling green (OK a bit random but if you’re a bowls fan …), a bus service, stunning scenery and Herdwick Sheep roaming freely around the village.

The Britannia Inn opposite Rose Cottage - photo Zoe Dawes

The Britannia Inn

We decided to have dinner that evening at the Britannia Inn. I’ve eaten there lots of times and it’s always good food. If you want to eat in the dining room then make sure you book. Otherwise you can take potluck at getting a table in the bar or hall. We shared a table with a couple from Derbyshire who come up to the Lakes every year and absolutely love the Langdale Valley. There’s always an excellent array of local beers here, and the weekend we stayed the pub was hosting a beer festival so it was packed with beer lovers from around the UK and abroad.

Britannia Inn Beer Festival Elterwater Cumbria - photo Zoe Dawes

Britannia Inn Beer Festival

I’d chosen the Three Sausages with mashed potatoes and onion gravy; an enormous plate of venison, boar and chef’s recipe traditional Cumberland sausages, creamy mash and seasonal veg. Pat had the Five Bean and Vegetable Chilli, which she pronounced delicious and we both had local beers. There were lots of dogs around room, sitting, lying down or gazing beseechingly at their owners’ meals in the hope that some tasty morsel might come their way. A roaring fire kept us all warm; in fact, after our meal we had to move away as we got very hot …

Log fire at Rose Cottage

Having got heartily fed and warmed up, we returned to Rose Cottage to light our own fire. We’d arranged to have kindling and logs delivered and there were firelighters and matches above the fire-place. I used to live in a cottage with a wood burning stove, and grew up with coal fires, so I very much enjoyed trying out my latent pyromaniac skills. Very quickly we had a grand blaze burning away merrily. Pat produced a couple of glasses of wine and we settled down to enjoy the rest of the evening.

By the fire Rose Cottage Elterwater, Lake District Cumbria - Zoe Dawes

Sitting by the Fire in Rose Cottage

In front of the fire, there was a rocking chair complete with woollen rug, so we took it turns to play ‘grandma on the rocker.’ It was so peaceful rocking backwards and forwards, wrapped in the rug, reading a magazine, listening to the gentle crackle and hiss of the wood. The smell of wood smoke and pine wafted around us and for a while the cares of everyday living faded away …

Over the next couple of days, Pat and I explored the area, enjoying being in such glorious scenery. We went for a leisurely walk beside the river to Elter Water (Norse for Swan Lake), the nearby lake after which the village is named. It only takes about half an hour to I’d recently taken ownership of a brand new Ford Fiesta from local dealership Pye Motors, so took great pleasure in driving Pat around and showing off the car’s many features.

New Ford Fiesta on Elterwater Common, Lake District Cumbria UK - zoe dawes

Fiesta on Elterwater Common

We went up the Langdale Valley and had a drink in the Old Dungeon Ghyll, where another welcoming fire warmed up the many walkers making the most of a late autumn weather to get out on the fells.  One wet afternoon we visited the quaint little Armitt Museum & Library in Ambleside. It has a permanent display of illustrations, writing and objects belonging to famous botanist, author and farmer Beatrix Potter. There’s also an excellent library and we saw an exhibition of paintings by German artist Kurt Schwitters, who lived in Ambleside for many years, and also Chapel Stile, down the road from Elterwater.

Armitt Museum Library Ambleside Cumbria - photo Zoe Dawes

The Armitt Museum & Library

We had a wonderful stay here and, without doubt, the best part was getting that fire lit each evening and rocking back and forth in front of its glowing warmth.

Quirky Travel: Guided Tour of Rose Cottage

Good Life Lake District Cottages

We stayed at Rose Cottage as guests of Good Life Lake District Cottages. Many thanks to Natalie and the team for another very enjoyable break. They have plenty of very special Lake District places to stay throughout the year. Ask them about their properties with fires – but book early as they are very popular!

Good Life Lake District Cottage Company Office Elterwater Lake District - photo Zoe Dawes

Good Life Lake District Cottage Company

More lovely places I can recommend to stay with Good Life Lake District Cottages in this part of Cumbria.

Church Gate Cottage, Chapel Stile

Daw Bank Cottage, Chapel Stile

Jonty’s Cottage, Elterwater

Braegarth Cottage, Elterwater

Knipefold Barn, Outgate 

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Enjoy a cosy fire in the Lake District cottage - image Zoe Dawes

 

 

 

November 18, 2017

Quirky Travel Review: Slow Travel – North Devon and Exmoor guide book

Porlock sign Exmoor

“Our Slow guides to British regions are the foremost of their kind, opening up Britain’s special places in a way that no other guides do. Discover the spots that aren’t normally publicised, meet the locals, find out where the best food can be enjoyed indulge in a little cultural foraging and discover the Britain you never knew existed with our expert local authors.”

This introduces the Slow Travel series of excellent guide books published by Bradt Guides. I am a huge fan of the the Slow Movement, the ideals of which are  incorporated into Quirky Travel.  On a weekend of stargazing and sightseeing in Exmoor last winter, Ian Mabbutt, owner of West Withy Farm, gave me a copy of  Slow Travel: North Devon and Exmoor by Hilary Bradt. What a delight this book is.

Slow Travel North Devon and Exmoor - Bradt guide bookIt’s divided into easily accessible sections covering the Cornish border, seaside coast of North Devon and Exmoor, Lundy Island, Barnstaple and inland, Exmoor National Park, Minehead, Dunster and eastern fringes of Exmoor. There’s plenty with lots of useful information, with the emphasis on encouraging us to slow down, take in the sights, sounds and inspiration that this area encourages, whilst getting around with the environment and local inhabitants playing a key part.

I’ve stayed on the north Devon coast many times at a friend’s chalet overlooking Woolacombe Bay. We based ourselves there to explore the various beaches, villages, tourist attractions and gentle countryside around.  Woolacombe has had a revival recently, having gone from top seaside resort in the mid 20th century, to fuddy-duddysville towards the end, and now quite a ‘cool’ surfing centre.

Woolacombe Beach Devon

I was pleased to see that the book focused on the wonderful bays and beaches nearby, rather than very crowded Woolacombe. Tiny Grunta next to Morte Bay gets a mention, as does little Lee You could spend hours here investigating the pools, collecting pink quartz or walking up the fuchsia-lined footpath to the village and its delightful pub, the Grampus Inn.” 

In the chapter on Lundy Island, off the north Devon coast, I learnt that Lunde øy is Norse for Puffin Island and that it was well known to Scandinavian pirates. Hilary Bradt’s obviously a keen ornithologist and she writes eloquently about the bustling bird life on the island, including the puffins, gulls, razorbills and guillemots, fulmars and Manx shearwaters. It’s also the only place in the UK where you can find all five species of shallow cup coral. I didn’t know there was one species of cup coral; now I want to go to Lundy just to see all five …

The_Jetty Lundy Island North Devon

Lundy Island – image Michael Maggs

I love the insets sharing quirky tales, little known facts and folk tales, often written by local residents or from Hilary’s vast store of Devonian knowledge.  The book is a joy to read from start to finish – whether you are travelling in mind, spirit or body.  “This region has so much to offer the Slow Traveller; cliff paths for walking, sea for rolling breakers for surfing and sandy beaches for lounging, hidden coves, and wonderful Exmoor with its heathery hills and deep valleys, combes, where rivers tumble over mossy stones on their way to the Bristol Channel.”

Exmoor ponies overlooking Bristol Channel

Exmoor ponies overlooking Bristol Channel

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Quirky Travel Review Slow Travel Devon and Exmoor

November 6, 2017

A funky Food Tour of hipsterish Hintonburg in Ottawa

Art is In Cafe menu - Hintonburg Food Tour - Ottawa

Art is In Cafe menu

The smell of freshly baked bread mingled seductively with caramelized onions, thai curry, toasted cheese and clam chowder. A buzz of chatter hummed round the industrial-chic cafe as customers tucked into wholesome, tasty food in one of the most popular and off-the-beaten trail cafes in Ottawa. I was at Art is In Bakery with guide Stefanie Siska of C’est Bon Cooking at the start of a unique food tour in Hintonburg, known as the ‘Burg’. It’s a hip neighbourhood of the city that’s up and come, reinvented itself from a hard-core working class district to THE place to go for eating out, independent shops, creative businesses and quirky coffee houses.

Art is in lunch - food tour Hintonburg Ottawa - collage Zoe Dawes

Art is In lunch

I was given a behind-the-scenes peek round Art is In cafe. From a whirl of very busy chefs, plate after plate of delicious food emerged; light-as-air croissants, door-stop sandwiches and scrumptious pancakes. In the bakery next door, crisp baguettes, hearty wholemeal loaves and many more tasty bakes were being loaded up for delivery around the city. It was a wrench to leave this foodie heaven and emerge into the unprepossessing surroundings of City Centre Avenue industrial estate.

Hintonburg Ottawa

City Centre Avenue – Hintonburg

However, our next stop on the food tour, punnishly named ‘Beyond the Pale Brewery, was only a couple of units away. This brewery is most definitely on the funky scale with beers called Pink Fuzz (grapefruit), The Darkness (oatmeal stout), Saison Tropicale (pineapple) and their classic Pale Ale Project. Brewer Shane Clarke told the story of two mates setting up one of Ottawa’s most popular and distinctly quirky breweries. “We want people to have fun with our beer. Whether it’s tasting with us at the brewery, drinking at home with friends and family, enjoying a pint at one of our great licensees, or joining us at a festival to spin the Wheel of Cask.”

Beyond the Pale beer

Beyond the Pale beer

We then headed off to the Happy Goat Coffee Company, hidden away down a side road you’d never come across by accident. But the cafe was heaving, with chatty people trading gossip whilst a guy played the piano. “At Happy Goat Coffee we promote the niche coffee market by encouraging neighbourhood-based small batch coffee roasting.” My cappuccino was definitely a cut above the Costa brigade – and who wouldn’t love a place that provides bone-shaped dog treats for its canine customers?

Happy Goat coffee - Food tour Ottawa Canada

Happy Goat coffee

With coffee you’ve got to have cake, haven’t you? At Suzy Q Doughnut Store, you get the best BEST doughnuts in Ottawa, judging by the queue out of the door onto the street. Flavours include Raspberry Cassis, Salty Caramel, London Fog, Sugar Munnki, Bloop and the Canadian star, Maple Bacon. Lording it over the store is a large moose head garlanded with flowers.

Suzy Q Maple Bacon Doughnuts - Ottawa Food Tour

Walking the streets of Hintonburg is a bit like walking on a film set. You can imagine a Canadian version of ‘Friends’ being set here. Stefanie said it was one of her favourite suburbs of Ottawa as it has its own distinctive brand of ‘cool’, being both friendly and interesting. She pointed out the decorated water hydrants, part of city art that is prevalent throughout the country. We called into Maker House, a furniture and craft store on Wellington Street. They also have a branch in downtown Byward Market. Here you can find a huge variety of top quality artisan wares. I fell in love with a silky-smooth wooden platter featuring the Maple Leaf commemorating Canada 150 birthday celebrations but it was heavy (and expensive) so I had to content myself with a couple of delicate Birch Bark bookmarks.

Birch Bark bookmarks Ottawa

Birch Bark bookmarks

After all the rich food and drink it was a relief to stop by Simply Raw Express, a ‘vegan, gluten-free, plant-based, organic restaurant, specializing in cold-pressed juices and clean eating.’ Stefanie explained it was set up in 2006 by Natasha, best-selling author and raw vegan of 23 years. Regular readers will know I’m more of a steak and chips woman, but I must admit the Collard Wrap filled with hummus, cabbage and a side of spiralized carrots with a Peaceful Warrior smoothie – bananas, kale, hemp & flax seeds and Sun Warrior protein (phew!) – was very enjoyable.

Simply Raw organic vegan food - Ottawa - photo Zoe Dawes

Simply Raw wrap

By now I was starting to feel extremely full, which was a shame as the next place on our C’est Bon Food Tour was a funky little Mexican restaurant, La Cocina. Stefanie suggested we had a drink first and a refreshing margerita quickly materialised. I’m ashamed to say I could barely do justice to the spicy tacos (made with ‘in-house hand pressed corn tortilla) but I can most definitely recommend them.

La Cocina Margarita Mexican restaurant Ottawa

La Cocina Margarita

Finishing off our drinks, it was time for the last stop – Stella Luna Gelato Cafe. Oh yes, superb Italian gelato in the suburbs of Ottawa. The last time I had such smoothly divine ice-cream was on a weekend in Rome; this was just as good. The multi-award winning gelateria is the genuine article. Master Gelato Chef Tammy Giuliani ‘combines old-world techniques and recipes with a passion for finely prepared food.

Stella Luna gelateria - Hintonburg Ottawa Food Tour

Stella Luna gelato

I met both Italian Tammy and his Canadian wife, whose love story is behind the success of their ice-cream, cakes, tarts, pies, crepes and coffee. It was only polite to have a tub of their Chocolate Sundae (rich chocolate, maple, bourbon, candied pecans with a fudge ripple) with a dash of Strawberry … A truly scrumptious end to a really excellent food tour.

Many thanks to Stefanie Siska of  C’est Bon Cooking for a fascinating and very tasty glimpse into the food and drink on offer in Hintonburg. Grateful thanks also to Air Transat, Destination Canada and Ottawa Tourism for sponsoring my visit. It was a pleasure to explore more of Canada, a country of unforgettable experiences.

Hintonburger - Food Tour Ottawa Canada

Hintonburger

Check out Canada Keep Exploring to discover more about where to go and what to do in Ottawa. Return flights from Gatwick to Toronto from £346 (October 2017) and £349 (May 2018) per person with Air Transat. Canadian Affair offers an 8-day package tour Ontario Taster Holiday which includes 2 nights in Ottawa.

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Ottawa Food Tour Canada - image Zoe Dawes