Verulamium – Roman times in St Albans

A day trip out with my best friend and her 10-year-old son was perfect for visiting St Albans in Hertfordshire, a beautiful small city with lots of Roman history.

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It took us about 40 minutes from Romford  by car, easily reached just off the M25. We found somewhere to park then walked into the city centre. A beautiful little place with lots of unique shops mingled in with the high street favourites. We hadn’t had breakfast so we stopped off in a local bakery for a croissant before continuing on round the shops. Our plan was to finish looking round the shops then visit the cathedral, that should then bring us up to lunch time. After lunch we would explore Verulamium Park which was jammed pack with Roman history.

The main attraction in the city centre is the clock tower which you can go inside and climb the 93 steps to top but we didn’t do this. It was built in the early 1400’s and was used by the town to sound the hours of day. It was also used to sound alarm of fire or fray, sounded the beginning of the battle of St Albans in 1455.

We then took the short walk to the cathedral which stood peacefully in very green surroundings. We walked through the gardens and in through a side door as the front of the cathedral was drenched in scaffolding. It was quite busy inside and the choir were setting up for a performance. As it was the summer holidays, there were activities for children to get involved in around the cathedral. The walls were covered with ancient artworks and the ceilings were spectacular. A nice touch to this cathedral was that it had a museum within, which gave the history of the building, the city and of St Alban himself. The remains of a 14th century shrine to St Alban also lies within the Cathedral.

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It was now lunch time so we decided to make our way down to the park which signs told us would be a 15 minute walk from the cathedral. Turns out we took the longest route to the park but by doing that we found The Waffle House!!!!!

Tucked away behind the leafy surroundings was a fantastic place serving sweet and savoury waffles. Upon looking it up on social media, this place was difficult to get  table in as it is always busy, however it was a weekday so we were hoping we wouldn’t have to wait long. We queued for around 15 minutes but seeing the plates of waffles come out, we felt it would be worth it. The special that day was Jerk chicken which my friend went with and I had the humus and avocado. We had never had savoury waffles before …….and they didn’t disappoint. We even treated ourselves to the sweet waffles for dessert lol.

The final part of our day was to explore the Verulamium Park (Verulamium being the Roman name for the town where St Albans now stands) The park was absolutely huge and we weren’t able to cover all of it however we did see the Roman Mosaic and the remains of the North gate. It reminded me very much of Castle park in Colchester with its Roman wall and River Ver running alongside the park. St Albans is a truly beautiful part of England, well worth a visit.

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Doctor Foster went to Gloucester……

……Well actually it was just me and mum, however I’m not sure we would visit again either. For some reason I had it in my head that Gloucester would be really posh and modern but when we arrived it seemed quite run down.

I had driven us from Oxford to Gloucester as we had been previously visiting family. It took us about an hour but parts of the drive were beautiful, travelling along the edges of the Cotswolds. Pretty little cottages made from stone in the middle of picturesque countryside. Lush

We were staying in the Central Hotel which was right in the city not far from the Cathedral, shops and restaurants. When we got there it appeared that there was not a car park opposite (as mentioned on website) but rather a 5 minute walk round the corner, not a huge deal but when you are carrying heavy bags, it’s a bit of mission.

We checked into our room which was on the 3rd floor and felt like a sauna as the radiators were on (it was a nice summers day, there was no need for this behaviour) so we opened the windows and got ourselves acquainted. The decor was cool and the beds were comfy just a shame about the view

We didn’t actually arrive in Gloucester until around 5 pm so we decided that tomorrow would be our day of sight-seeing. Tonight we would just find somewhere nice to eat dinner and have a few glasses wine. As we were getting ready to go out we heard what can only be described as a bird being killed very slowly by some sort of predator, the sqwarking was so loud. Mum looked out of our window and began laughing hysterically, I obviously ran over to look at what was so funny……Two Seagulls going at it full pelt on the rooftop across from our window, absolutely shameless lol. If it’s not humans at a Travel lodge, its Seagulls on a rooftop.

Anyway after a bit of research courtesy of trip advisor on where to eat in Gloucester, we decided on the quite unassuming Cafe Rene. I thought this was just going to be a little Cafe that served standard food of an evening but boy was I wrong. We walked through the city centre which was like a ghost town by 7 pm, I did however notice a lot of people sleeping rough in doorways which was quite upsetting. Down a small alleyway, we found Cafe Rene, a pub that appeared to be in an old church building. A sandwich board advising ‘live music here tonight’ was in the doorway, it had a bit of a studenty vibe about it. The pub was sectioned into two halves, bar/pub on one side and cute traditional restaurant on the other. The restaurant was busy and couldn’t seat us for up to 45 minutes but the place looked so intriguing that we were happy to sit in the bar and wait.

We ordered some drinks and sat down with a menu to decide on what to eat. This place was steeped in history and had a real quirky feel to it. The walls were decorated with empty wine bottles, beer mates and pictures of France, plenty to keep me occupied whilst waiting. As I read through the menu, I found a very interesting page at the back

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So glad we got to experience this little hidden gem.

Our table was ready so we ordered our food and took in the scenery of the restaurant. The theme carried through from the bar area but instead of the walls being lined with empty wine bottles, it was the ceiling.

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We had starters, main and shared a dessert, my gosh the food was delicious and the cheesecake was possibly the best I have ever eaten!!!!

By the time we had finished it was getting on for 10 pm so we decided to head back to the hotel. I would recommend Cafe Rene to anyone visiting Gloucester. Staff were really friendly, there is a great atmosphere and the food is delicious .

We got up fairly early the next day as we had to check out at 10 am so we tested the shower (very good) had a bit of breakfast and said goodbye to our room. Whilst checking out, we asked the receptionist for advice on what we should check out whilst in Gloucester. She told us about the docks and that there is a shopping village there along with some nice places to get lunch. We knew that we wanted to visit the cathedral but other than that, according to her, there wasn’t much else to see. She went on to tell us that the city is due to be regenerated in the next two years and that maybe we should visit again then.

So we set off in search of the Cathedral, we followed the signs through the city centre, turned a corner and there it was…….

Inside was just as spectacular, however it was very busy with groups of tourist and exchange students. I didn’t get those spiritual tingles that I usually experience from Cathedrals which was a bit disappointing but I managed to get plenty of snaps.

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Just round the corner from the Cathedral, is The Tailor of Gloucester shop and museum, from the children’s book by Beatrix Potter. The shop is used in the illustrations of the book and is now run by volunteers to show off the work of Beatrix Potter. We had a little look inside and bought a few gifts to take back with us.

So last place to visit was the docks. We followed the signs down some back roads and sure enough came out at the docks (I didn’t even realise Gloucester had docks). It was very pretty with all the canal boats line up, a contrast to the run down city centre.

We found a little shop come tea room to have our elevensies in, cup of tea and a toasted tea cake was just what I needed. At the end of the docks was a newly build designer shopping outlet so we went and had a nose about. I managed to find some bargains in the Nike shop (2 pairs of trainers for the grand total of £22!!!). By 1 pm our tummies were grumbling so we had lunch in Ed’s diner, an american style diner, the milkshakes are to die for here.

Our visit to Gloucester had come to an end and i did enjoy myself but im not so sure i would visit again as i feel i saw all there was to see

Feel free to let me know if i’ve got this wrong……..

Ship-shape and Bristol fashion…..

So the first city to visit from my list has been Bristol. I was lucky enough to have my best friend surprise me with this trip for my birthday and what a great first trip it was.

We stepped off the coach having arrived in Bristol and  naturally found our way to Primark, which might I add, was massive. It was then decided that in order to have a proper nose around this city, we needed to unload. My friend had booked us into the Travel lodge (Bristol Central) where we were booked in by a friendly member of staff. The room was of Travel lodge standard, perfect for what we needed it for, so we left our luggage (and Primarni goods) and headed off out to explore the city.

First stop was Bristol Cathedral…..

.wpid-20150418_133716.jpgThe cathedral was stunning inside and out with beautifully stained glass windows and perfectly detailed ceilings. I love the spiritual sensations I get whilst walking around a Cathedral. The calm stillness, as if the world outside has stopped, the space to free your mind and remember loved ones that have passed on.

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Once outside in the sunshine we noticed a crowd gathering on the college green. As we got closer we saw a group of Morris dancers performing but it appeared there were more than just one group. As we walked around the city we saw many more groups of Morris dancers. I began to question if they did in fact originate in Bristol. Turns out it was in fact the JMO aka Joint Morris Organisations day of dance. Over 500 Morris dancers took part in this one day event that happens in a different city every year to celebrate the tradition of folk dancing.

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We then walked down towards the harbour where the sun was shining down onto the water making it sparkle, it looked so pretty. There was a really cool feature where water cascaded down steps towards the harbour. People were sitting alongside the steps eating ice creams and catching some rays. It felt like the height of summer apart from the cooler April breeze. We took a boat ride down the river to get a better look at Bristol’s harbourside. We passed the M Shed which i wish now we had visited. It’s a museum full of Bristol’s history through galleries showcasing the people, places and stories of Bristol. We also passed the S.S Great Britain, the first iron steam ship to cross the Atlantic built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It’s now also a museum and is docked on a glass platform with water underneath to give the impression that it is sailing. On the opposing side of the river were cute pastel painted houses along the backdrop of Bristol. They looked like something from a fairytale, so picturesque.

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After the boat trip, we were in need of some lunch. We stopped at a falafel van (like a burger van but with falafel) then sat by the harbour side amongst the ice cream eaters. There were lots of brave pigeons who clearly had a taste for falafel shuffling round our feet in hope for any leftovers but we demolished our wraps, they were delicious.

With our bellies full, my friend and i were recharged and ready to explore the Old City area of Bristol. We headed up towards St Nicholas Market where people had stalls selling wooden furniture, bespoke jewellery and crazy hats. It had a real bohemian feel to it and I loved snooping my way through. Further on we discovered a few big shopping malls with all the high street shops in (Broadmead and Cabot Circus) however we weren’t here to visit the shops that we could go into back home so we decided to head back to the hotel, after stopping off at a cool little bar for a cheeky rum of course.

For dinner, we headed out again and found a tapas place Pata Negra in the Old City (that we had spotted earlier). Staff were really nice and although there wasn’t a table available when we got there, they were happy, as were we, for us to sit at the bar until a table came up. We ordered some Sangria, got chatting about our day and were then seated at a table shortly after. The food was yummy and after polishing off a dessert between us, it was time to head back and get ready to experience Bristol’s night life.

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After some pre-drinks at the hotel and plenty of pre party selfies, we jollied ourselves off out to party into the early hours. First stop was the slug and lettuce off explore lane (fitting name for our trip). I love a good slug and lettuce cocktail combined with good music and fun atmosphere, felt like the best place to start our night…………..WRONG.  I was really disappointed to find the place quite flat….it was half 10, the music was playing but no one looked to be enjoying themselves. There were quite a few people queuing at the bar so we shimmied our way in and waited to be served……..and waited …….and waited. The girl behind the bar had obviously had a tough day and the signs were in full view of everyone waiting. I swear she yawned every 3 minutes and she was so slow on the bar. You may think I’m being slightly critical but I myself have worked a busy bar and that is definitely not the way to do it. I was getting quite frustrated when I thought surely we are next to be served. I made eye contact with the girl behind the bar and smiled politely then she just left……she just walked off. I turned to my friend and suggest that we go somewhere else, after all this was our precious party time she had been wasting. We left the bar and walked up a bit further where there seemed to be more of an atmosphere. We noticed a bar that looked pretty lively playing decent music with plenty of people enjoying themselves so  we thought ‘that’ll do’. After showing our I.D to the doorman (always a bonus when you’ve just turned 30) and paying, we went in, only to realise that the bar was actually part of the club PRYZM lol. Now we had paid for the club, we decided to stay the night and check out the different rooms of music. MYU (the bar downstairs) seemed to be the place for hen parties which was quite entertaining but there is only so much cheesey 80’s music I can handle. Upstairs was much more my scene. A huge room playing RnB, hip hop and even a bit of bashment, it definitely got me shaking my tail feather so we spent most the night in there. Felt a bit disappointed that we didn’t really get to experience more of the bars in Bristol but I’m sure I will visit again.

We left the club around 2 am and crashed out back at the hotel (not before taking a ‘we are fast asleep but not really’ selfie)

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We got up fairly early Sunday morning as Claire had booked us one last surprise in Bristol. We filled up on breakfast buffet, packed our bags and got ready to check out, not before unwantingly hearing a couple having very loud morning sex (gotta love a travel lodge). The weather wasn’t as nice but I didn’t mind I was having such a good weekend. To top it off, the surprise was a street art walking tour.

We met our guide on the college green along with the other people that were coming on the tour and set off to explore some of the most amazing street art Bristol has on offer (including some Banksy originals). The guide (a graffiti artist) was really informative, giving us an insight into the history of the scene in Bristol and indeed street art itself. The first piece he showed us was called The well hung lover (a Banksy piece) explaining that Banksy was commissioned to do the piece by the person that owned the building. In order to get it right in the middle of the wall, scaffolding was erected covered by sheeting. Banksy posed as a builder going up on to the scaffolding everyday to keep up his anonymity. When the scaffolding came down, this was on show……

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The blue spats you can see were actually from a rival group that wanted to deface the work but luckily it didn’t ruin it completely.

We then walked up through an area of Bristol called Stokes Croft. This area is a real hub of creativity and freedom of expression, filled with small independent shops and cafes. Nearly every wall of every building was alive with a story to be seen.

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Of course not all street art is created with a spray can. This building  was an old police station that was no longer in use. The build up of pollution on the walls make a perfect canvas for what is known as ‘clean art or green art’. These pieces were created using a stencil and a power washer…..I think they look so cool.

The sense of community is felt so strongly in Stokes Croft that it actually sparked off riots in 2011 due to a Tesco express opening in the area. The community felt that the chain supermarket store was out of place and they did not want it taking business from the independent shops that were pillars to this community. Police raided a squat where it was believed petrol bombs were being prepared for an attack on Tesco. Over 300 hundred people came out to loot and wreck the store casing thousands of pounds worth of damage. Although Tesco remains in the area, the people of stokes croft seldom use it . There is a prominent piece of street art featured as a constant reminder of the views of this community…..

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We finished the tour outside the canteen in Stokes Croft where we were treated to the now world famous breakdancing…………Jesus!

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An amazing piece of street art by Cosmo Sarson painted in 2013 that took a week to complete. It actually sparkles in the sunshine (although you cant see it in my photo) due to a kilo of gold glitter being use.

Claire and I were almost at the end of our weekend in Bristol but before dragging our heels to the coach station, we visited Turtle Bay for lunch. A must if you love Caribbean cuisine and super sexy cocktails.

I hated saying goodbye to Bristol but I WILL no doubt visit again. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone as it really does cater for all

My next city to visit is Gloucester, happening this coming week with my mum. Keep your eyes peeled for the write up coming soon.

Peace out for now x x

30 for 30

So this is my first ever post……feeling quite excited about it all really

Let me start off by explaining why I’ve decided to start a blog. It all began with turning 30 earlier this year. I decided to put together a list of 30 things i had never done before that i would need to complete by the time i turn 31, kind of like a bucket list but on a smaller scale. I’ve always loved an adventure and felt that this would be the perfect excuse to get out and experience the world in all its many glories.

The list is as follows:

  1. Visit 30 cities in the UK
  2. Learn how to cook a Caribbean dish
  3. Get my hair braided
  4. Read a classic novel
  5. Write a blog
  6. Visit Paris
  7. Visit the Greenwich Observatory
  8. Spend an evening at Ronnie Scott’s
  9. Visit the London Ice bar
  10. Knit a scarf
  11. Get a tribute tattoo
  12. Have dinner at the top of a skyscraper
  13. Learn to speak Spanish
  14. Visit Iceland – The country not the supermarket
  15. Run for charity
  16. Give blood
  17. Visit a haunted house
  18. Weekend in Amsterdam
  19. Give up something for 30 days
  20. See a fortune-teller
  21. Send a message in a bottle
  22. Take family (that i don’t see often) out to dinner
  23. See a West end show
  24. Have afternoon tea at the Ritz

As you will see, I have only written up to number 24. This is because i am leaving 6 spots to fill spontaneously over the year.

I hope to record all my experiences in pictures that I will share with you and once I have completed the list, I’m going to make a scrapbook to hand down to my children to inspire them to live life to the fullest.

I really hope you all enjoy my blog x x