Tourism

York

5 Reasons to Visit York

I love living in London, for so many reasons. But one reason is that is makes travelling around the UK extremely easy. Although my family and I often drive to many of our British holiday destinations, we sometimes prefer the ease of the trains. I had been wanting to visit York for ages, and when I discovered that there was a direct train from London, I knew that we should head there for a mini-break.

In August, Husband and I packed the kids off to their grandparents’ house and we headed to York for a mid-week break to celebrate my 41st birthday. We had a glorious time. We ate lots of lovely meals, drank plenty of delightful cocktails and saw so many beautiful sights. I thought three days would be adequate for seeing this city. But I was mistaken. Husband and I have already discussed returning to York – next time with Moozles and Dubz. There’s still so much more to see. But I thought I would share my top five favourite reasons to visit York.

 

york view

 

1. Beautiful Architecture

 

Everywhere you look, it is just ancient gorgeousness. Besides cobbled streets, York has the longest medieval town wall in England. The walls aren’t complete but mainly go around the city centre. The walls are over two miles long, which takes about two hours to walk around. It is free to walk along, and makes for a fun activity. Any walk around York would have its share of beautiful buildings, and we really enjoyed just walking around. While walking around, you are likely to see Clifford’s Tower, the only remaining part left of York Castle (which was built by William the Conqueror). They are about to repair and renovate the tower, which will make it much easier for visitors to climb and explore the tower.

A visit to York would not be complete without seeing York Minster, Northern Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral. Husband and I are not religious people, but this cathedral is just stunning (imagine beautiful stained glass and the cavernous nave). And you can even go into the Undercroft, which was my history-loving Husband’s favourite part. You get to explore under the cathedral.

2. Great Food

 

Before a holiday or mini-break, I like to spend about four or five hours on the internet looking for potential restaurants. This may seem excessive, but I am able to admit that I have a problem in over-researching places/purchases. But my researching paid off as we had an abundance of great restaurants to choose from. My favourite was Khao San Road, a cute Thai restaurant less than five minutes’ walk from the hotel. For my birthday meal we went to Ambiente Tapas Fossgate, which is a Mediterranean tapas restaurant and sherry bar. It was quite cool and buzzy, and the food was delicious. Neither Husband nor I are great sherry lovers but it was fun to try them out. We did think that the upstairs part of the restaurant was too smoky and were happy to get out in the fresh air after dinner. But other than that we enjoyed the meal.

3. Afternoon Tea & Cafe Culture

 

Okay, okay, I know I already did a section on food. But afternoon tea is something else. There are so many tea houses in York. We went to Bettys as it is renowned for its afternoon tea. You could just show up and wait in the long queue, but you can also book (for a little bit more money) and book a table. The service is fantastic and the afternoon tea is superb. If tea is not your thing, there are loads of cafes – both chains and independents. Husband, who is serious when it comes to good coffee, really enjoyed The Fossgate Social.

4.Transport Links

 

York is in the county of Yorkshire, which means it is in the north of England. This sounds like it is very very far away from London. So imagine my surprise when I checked the Virgin Trains East Coast timetable and discovered that we could get a direct train to York in just under two hours. Two hours! We had never travelled first class on a train before so our other surprise was that food, drinks and wifi were included. We actually arrived into York wishing we had had a longer train journey.

5. Lovely Hotels

 

When I first looked into visiting York, I was surprised at the number of fab boutique hotels, modern apartments and posh hotels. It was a tough choice but we decided upon Hotel Indigo York. The hotel is utterly cool. I was so impressed with the interiors, not to mention the complimentary chocolate in our room. And the employees were always really cheerful and helpful (it was like being in the States). The breakfasts were delicious, and we enjoyed the night-time ambience when we had drinks in the bar. Another great aspect of the hotel was its location. Walmgate is the foodie district so there are tons of restaurants and cafes within a few minutes walk from the hotel.

 

And that’s it – five great reasons to visit York. It is such a beautiful city full of friendly people. You’ll never want to leave!

 …

york view

Nantes and Les Machines de L’ile

Les Machines is an art installation on a grand scale. You will see how sketches are brought to life with small models, which are then made on a large scale. The elephant is an amazing feature as it is 12m high (that’s 40 feet!!), and made up of more than 48 tonnes of wood and steel. You can go for a walk along three different routes, which take about 30 minutes each. When you are at the top, you feel so high and it is such a strange sensation to be moving along. One of our favourite aspects of the elephant is that its trunk splashes water at people. So funny to see, whether you’re near the elephant or riding on its back (have a look at my vlog below to see it in action).

Amongst other things, we saw a huge spider, operated by five people. It is astounding watching how the different limbs are controlled. And the latest creation is a heron tree, which is due to completed in 2021. There is currently one branch of the tree completed, which we walked along (it is about 20m long). The completed tree, which will be topped by two herons, will be 35m high.

Nantes is in the Western Loire region (central France on the west coast). We were staying at La Garangeoire in the Vendee, and it took about one hour and 15 minutes to drive to Nantes. There is a reasonably-priced parking garage across the road from Les Machines de L’ile. Entrance into Les Machines costs about 31,80 € for a family of four or five. To ride the elephant, it costs another 31,80 €. It is not a cheap day out. But it is well worth it for a fascinating outing.

After visiting Les Machines, we walked over a jetty to the O Deck restaurant. In hindsight, I should have packed snacks for the children so they would have been able to wait until we found a more suitable restaurant. O Deck was nearby, and although the food was good, the service was dreadful. We ordered the rapide menu thinking that would hurry things along, but we were at our table for almost two hours (it took half an hour just to get the bill). Not great when you have a limited amount of time to sight-see.

Finally we were able to go explore. The clever people at the Nantes tourism board have a green line around the main sights around the city. This means that you can follow the line and it will take you around to some interesting and beautiful venues. So no getting lost, just seeing the best bits. And the children thought it was so much fun to follow the line that they didn’t complain about all the walking. Woohoo.

We hadn’t realised what a big, and pretty, city Nantes would be. I wish we had had longer to explore. Another time, Nantes. Another time.

butterfly garden

RHS Garden Wisley And The Butterflies

Every year, my family and I visit RHS Wisley to see their annual butterfly exhibit. There is something so extraordinary about living in the UK but being able to see loads of exotic butterflies. It’s not an everyday occurrence, which is probably why it feels so special.

It’s one thing seeing a couple of butterflies out in the open. But at The Glasshouse at Wisley, you will find so many more. They have over 50 species of exotic butterflies. Some are flying around, some are resting leaves and trees, and some are munching on old fruit. You probably won’t spot more than 20 species, but it’s fun trying. You can get a butterfly spotting guide for £1, which is a big hit with the kids.

This was our fourth time visiting the butterflies, and it’s lovely seeing how my son has grown up at each visit. There’s even been a big difference since last year. After we saw the butterflies, we went for a wander around Wisley’s lovely grounds. We love the outdoors. And it’s always nice going out for a winter walk, especially when it’s not raining.

Wisley is one of those places where you could spend one hour or five. There is so much to see. I’ve been to Wisley more than 20 times and I can’t imagine getting bored of their wonderful grounds.

If you want to see the butterflies at Wisley, book your tickets online for a 10% discount. Tickets for a family of four (two adults and two children) costs £40.70 including Gift Aid. RHS Wisley members enter for free. Pre-book a time slot so you don’t have to wait in line. Happy  butterfly spotting!…

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