Piel Island

Not far from the coast of Barrow-In-Furness lies a curious little island with an rich and interesting history. Earliest records stretch back to the 12th century when King Stephen placed the island under the care of Savignac Monks and the Cistercian order. It was here that for centuries grain, wool, wine and other precious commodities were stored (and smuggled).

What remains of the castle and it’s surrounding fortifications today is mostly a mass of crumbling stone and a pub called ‘The Ship Inn’. This pub has taken care of those that pass through with lunch and a pint of local ale for centuries. Traditionally whomever runs the pub is crowned ‘King of Piel Island’ and the tradition continues to this day. Apparently there is a ceremony that involves you sitting in a 300 year old wooden throne and having beer poured all over you.

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My idea of heaven.

Last July when we visited Cumbria we took a tiny little boat across waters peppered with jellies to explore Piel island and a few pints.

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We made a friend on the ferry over. 😉

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And even more friends once we got there!

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I love a good sheepie cuddle. ❤

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Our tour guide Mr. Chicken was ace.

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Because I can’t seem to do more than one thing at I time, I nearly fell of the side off the island and tumbled into the sea when I was busy framing a shot and not watching my feet. Thankfully my darling father-in-law was there in time to pull me out of the brambles and into safety. You really can’t take me anywhere!

We celebrated my near death experience with a pint!

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A few little jellies…

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That’s it! Piel Island done! x

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Coniston Old Man

Oh crap….I’m almost a full year behind on posting. 😦

I have no idea how that happened.

I’m so bad.

I keep doing this to you! All 7 of you who come here. LOL.

Well anyway, sorry!!!

The good news is that I’ve got tons of travel photos in the vault – we’ve been galvanting this past year and I’ve been documenting it per usual- so I’ll catch everyone up. All 7 of you.

What do you say we go ahead and sweep the last year of neglecting my poor blog right under the rug and pick up where I left off last July? Yeah?! Great. 😀

Soooooo….right. Lake District. Summer Holiday.

After an initial taster walk around the Lakes, S and I decided to take a crack at the Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag walk. Coniston Old Man is a gorgeous mountain (12 largest in England) which stands 2,634 feet above Cumbria and boasts some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever been lucky enough to witness.

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Swirling layers of fluffy clouds slicing through the horizon. Bright rolling hills carpeted with greenery and napping sheep. SHEEEEEEEEP.

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Ancient boulders jutting from the Earth like sleeping giants in some fantasy novel.

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The surprise discovery of tiny sparkling lakes as blue as anything, shimmering in the sunlight like a bag of sapphires.

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Making lots of new friends.

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Pretty romantic stuff.

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But holy hell, you’ve got to work for it. It’s a proper 5 hour climb with some bouldering and nausea-inducing ‘do not look down for the love of god’ moments (granted that’s coming from a complete mountaineering novice whom spent much of last summer drinking craft ale and lazing about. Talking about myself. Cheers mate!)

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S was ahead of me most of the climb as I heaved and puffed and swore under my breath (and also swore quite loudly) until my body warmed up and I got into the rhythm of the ascent. Once my lungs caught up and my booty kicked in (S calls it the powerhouse which I think is quite sweet because dumptruck is probably more accurate).

I’m getting off-topic. This is about mountaining not the size of my ass.

Anyway, it was simply windy and warm and lovely and challenging. Totally surreal to be up with the clouds. To have climbed your way up to something that high. For me anyway. I’m new to heights!

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We did it in just over 5 hours and we were pretty knackered by the time we got back to the car, but it was really amazing.

Next up… Piel Island!

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels…Part Quatre!! Onward to Bruges!

One of these days I’ll get all of our photos up from our Belgium trip. There are just so many! 😛

Ghent was indeed quite beautiful, but Bruges really stole my heart and I didn’t want to leave. ❤

We lucked out yet again with an amazing Airbnb situation (I know there have been a lot of horror stories floating around lately but we've always had great experiences – do your research!)

I would strongly suggest staying here if you go to Bruges.
Mina stays quite booked up so you may have difficulty securing the reservation because of the amazing stack of reviews and awards she's gotten, but if you can, it's really the most perfect little place.

We were picked up at the train station gratis (amazing)!!

Fed and watered like royalty…

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And the ensuite room was stocked with everything you would need (including a Nespresso machine! DREAMLIFE!)
You can book here directly (if you aren’t into Airbnb) http://www.biminthus.be/index.php?lang=en

Bruges is where I really let my chocoholic flag fly proudly.

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Who doesn’t need a big pair of chocolate boobs?

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No shortage of beer!

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Mmmmmmmmm KWAK!

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Beer bible! The only bible for me!!

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Satan makes delicious beer. No surprises there.

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Food was wonderful as well!

Fondue…

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Vol-au-vent au poulet
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And Bruges, itself…simply stunning.

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Basilica of the Holy Blood

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DALI Museum

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Up next! Brussels & the Atomium…

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …Part Trois – Lightopia & the Design Museum Gent

There were lots of rainy days when we were in Belgium (which is perfectly fine if your top priority is drinking beer 24/7)!

In an effort to not be completely sloshed for the duration of our holiday, we visited the Design Museum Gent to see the temporary exhibition, Lightopia.

Lightopia is a playful and mesmerising exploration of light. From the humble but extraordinary beginnings of electricity, through the evolution to ultra modern and cutting edge lighting fixtures, we wandered around for hours absorbing the artistry and immersive experiences that the exhibition offered.

The design museum itself was really beautiful, but the contemporary light fixtures woven throughout the 18th century drawing rooms takes you on this amazing journey from the past into the future. Walking away and further contemplating my experience over a large pint of delicious Belgian beer, this part of the exhibition was what really stayed with me.

Photos presented below without comment – Enjoy!

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Next up… Onward to Bruges!

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …part DEUX – Waffles!

Who’s in the mood for some motherflippin waffles?!

The answer is: ALL Y’ALL.

Because you just can’t say no to waffles.

(Unless you are punishing yourself, coeliac or obnoxious)…then fine.
More waffs for moi!

I did some investigative “wafflesearch” (snort…high-fiving myself) before we left for Belgium!
Although I usually cringe at the thought of doing the same exact touristy things that everyone else does on holiday, there are certain rights of passage when you visit a place for the first time.

No one goes to Florence and says
“Keep me away from all this perfect gnocchi and gorgeous gelato”.

No one “mehs” at a sexy hunk of crusty baguette freshly slathered with salted butter in Paris.

The point I’m making is that no one was going to keep me from my waffle experience. It’s Belgium, we are doing the waffle thing. It’s sorted.

So there’s this place called “MAX” http://www.etablissementmax.be/en/ in Ghent.
It’s this incredible little art nouveau cafe that specialises in waffles and apple fritters – even claims to have invented them in 1839! Here’s a little video about it:

After an afternoon spent schlepping around looking at beautiful churches, swans swimming in canals, drinking beer and other magical things – we plopped ourselves down in the wicker chairs and planned our* waffle attack.

(*I should note that S only ordered a beer. I am a lone waffle warrior.)

Isn’t it a beautiful building?

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The inside is just as gorgeous. Who doesn’t love art nouveau??

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So what did I order? Well…obviously I ordered a waffle.

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A big, fluffy, light-as-air, splendid and amazing waffle. Crispy. Slightly Sweet. Yum.

And a fancy coffee… REAL fancy.

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And then I thought…well if they really invented the apple fritter, I should probably order one…you know…since i’m here…

So I did! Eeeeee!

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Then I made this face because GLUTONY.

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S just sat and sipped his Chimay in a state of loving, and non-judgemental supervision as I tucked into my mountain of treats.

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I did my best, but living a mostly carb free existence and eating (and drinking) carbs non-stop for 2 days was catching up to me by this point.
Since I was receiving no help from my (I don’t have a sweet-tooth) better half, I really only made a slight dent in my sugar feast. He always says I’m really talented at eating all the desserts and I appreciate the support.

I’m thrilled to report that everything was absolutely spot-on perfection!

When in Ghent, go to MAX!
Order the waffle.
Die of happy!

Next up – LIGHTOPIA!!!!

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …part one

Ahhhhhh Belgium! So many reasons to visit this beautiful country.

Picturesque cottages. Quirky Cobblestone streets. Beer. (REALLY AMAZING BEER) Art. Chocolate. (REALLY AMAZING CHOCOLATE) Swans. Misty canals. Moules Frites. Medieval churches. Waterzooi. More beer. More beer. More beer.

And rain. If you like and/or can tolerate rain, then yes. Visit.

I read a travel blog before my recent trip to Belgium where the author said the one thing she was able to determine by her visit to Belgium, was that it is always raining.
I would like to add to that statement by offering up my observation that if it is not raining, it has either just stopped raining or is about to start raining again.

BUT we went in February – which is really us begging to be rained upon. I promise I’m not complaining!

As you may know if you’ve followed my blog or are actually my real life friend, a year and half ago S and I bought a nice big house in a gorgeous leafy area of London. It is lovely and we are much happier and have loads more spaces than in the flat in Stockwell, TRUST.
But the “semi-constant” home improvements to said dwelling have definitely limited our ability to travel as often as we would like. We would travel every weekend if we could. But wouldn’t everyone?

Eventually the daily grinding commute and bustle of such a enormous and unforgiving city, creates a time bomb situation where you must get the hell out of Dodge. This happened last year around this time when we went to Slovenia. Like clockwork, by January of this year I was again up to my neck with boiling hatred for London.

So, it was time to GIT!

And this is where being in London has its advantages. One 25 minute train journey to St. Pancras Station, hop aboard The Eurostar, put in your heaphones, sip on your latte and in a few short hours you can be wining and dining in a myriad of amazing European cities. It’s the bees pyjamas.

So we chose Belgium for OPERATION: DECOMPRESS VIA ALL OF THE BEER.

We love Airbnb! It has always served us well. Both places we stayed in Belgium were probably the luckiest we’ve gotten with Airbnb accommodation thus far. The old Monastery conversion we stayed at in Ghent was absolutely stunning!

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Skip the fees and book directly through them here: http://bbmariereine.be/recensies.html

And the historic town centre itself is incredible.

Sint-Michielskerk glowing at night…

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Graffiti tunnel…

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We had a beautiful dinner at De Graslei http://www.restaurantdegraslei.be/en where I ordered the very traditional Flanders dish “Waterzooi”

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It was SO YUMMY.

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As was my dinner date. ❤

All the walking around in the freezing rain made us VERY thirsty. So we spent a lovely evening sampling (pouring beers directly into our faces) a few of the 250 beers on offer at Pub ‘de Dulle Griet’ http://www.dedullegriet.be/en/

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If you want to drink the gigantic “Max” beer, you must hand over one of your shoes. It goes in the basket, the bell is rung, your shoe is lifted high to the ceiling and here comes your beer!

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And then you drink the rest of the beers…

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ALL THE BEER! Up next…The Design Museum Exhibit Lightopia and WAFFLES!