.

Beautiful England. Bath, Lacock, Salisbury and Stonehenge Day Trip

London is a great base for day trips and the English countryside surely is dotted with charming villages and lovely towns worth discovering even if only for a few hours. 

Having previously visited Bath and Stonehenge years ago, we decided that refreshing our memory wouldn't be a bad thing, as long as new experiences were added to the mixture. We joined Premium Tours for one of their newest day trips that included a visit of Bath, Lacock, Salisbury Cathedral and champagne reception at Stonehenge. Since this was the last day of our 6 weeks trip though the UK, there couldn't have been a better way to end our journey than with a glass of bubbly. 

Pulteney Bridge, Bath

They picked us up from our hotel early in the morning and drove us to the hectic Victoria Coach Station where we met our guide and switched to a smaller, more comfortable coach. This tour is organised only for small groups of maximum 15 people, which made the experience pretty intimate and pleasant. 

The first stop was at the beautiful city of Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had fallen in love with it years ago and we were happy to rediscover it by following our guide for a short introductory tour of the city that included a sneak peak at the magnificent Royal Crescent and other stately Georgian architectural marvels. However, when we were left to freely explore the city, we decided to visit the Abbey and have a look at Pulteney Bridge, one of only four bridges in the world with shops across its full span on both sides.


Having visited the Roman Baths before, we did not go inside this time around, but I can assure you they are a must. Bath was famous for its hot springs and spas ever since the Roman times. It was later on revived starting with the Elizabethan age and Princess Victoria inaugurated one of the first British public parks outside of London here. Nevertheless, the event did not end up very well, since during the ceremony a gust of wind blew up the princesse's dress and she did not take kindly the comments that she had chubby ankles. She vowed never to visit Bath again due to humiliation and later on, as a queen, she would always shut the curtain when her train passed through Bath.

King Bladud's Pig in Bath

Our next stop was in the village of Lacock. Most of the group decided to have lunch here at one of the local pubs dating back to the 14th century, however, we felt compelled to skip it and rather take pictures of the unspoiled village steeped in history.



Lacock served as a film set for Pride and PrejudiceHarry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. No wonder, since its stone and half-timbered houses are delightful to say the least.



For photography enthusiast, Lacock holds a very special meaning, since it was here where in 1835 Talbot made the earliest known surviving example of a photographic negative, a print of one of the windows of the Abbey. Later on he discovered the chemical way of recording photographic images.



We visited the church and spotted lots of cute details on the way, however, what impressed us most was this little unattended flower shop where buyers could simply help themselves and leave the money in the letterbox. It's amazing places like this still exist!


Salisbury Cathedral was next on the list. Home of the tallest spire and largest cloister in Britain, the oldest working clock in the world and the best preserved surviving copy of Magna Carta, Salisbury Cathedral is a must visit for any architecture lover.





It also has some amazing stained glass windows and an interesting nave with a cross-shaped fountain in the middle that catches some amazing reflections.





We ended out day trip at Stonehenge, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were received with champagne and homemade shortbread in the newly-opened visitor centre. After an introductory video and a short presentation of the ancient site that we found rather kids orientated, we had plenty of time to visit the new interactive museum and the henge.


Ancient history always fascinated us. Even though there were hundreds of people circling the henge, we found the site to be peaceful and reigned by the local crows that apparently have names that suit their unique personality. We are yet to visit Avebury and Marden Henge, however, Stonehenge being smaller than the other two henges, it is still by far the most beloved one.



The landscape surrounding Stonehenge was so serene, with noting but livestock in sight, we felt mesmerised. The fields of poppies, crops and puffy clouds in all directions were just the perfect ending to our trip. 



On the way back, our guide went into further details about the sights we visited during the day and once returned to London, she even made a short introduction about the new trends in the city. We found the tour extremely informative and pleasant. The four locations surely are some of the best England has to offer and shouldn't be missed.

A Charming Cotswolds Cottage Stay + #Giveaway


Bibury is a typical Cotswolds village, once referred to as the 'most beautiful in England'. So we arrived here with great expectations.

We found an incredibly quiet village, with charming rows of honey-coloured stone cottages with steeply pitched roofs. While the village has only two outstanding attractions - the 17th century weavers' cottages of Arlington Row and the Trout Farm - one could spend weeks on end here. 

The two cute wire sheep were a reference point to our home away from home in Bibury

We rented this gorgeous cottage with HomeAway. Since they have over 1 million listings, picking the right holiday rental was quite a challenge, even more so since we were pretty flexible and all we wanted was to stay somewhere in the Cotswolds. We found more than a dozen beautiful cottages that suited our needs, but in the end we decided for this one - because of its location as well as the quaint design that promised to let us immerse in the local way of life.

Days before our arrival, the owner emailed us a welcome package with a wealth of useful information, directions to the property as well as local pub and restaurant recommendations. Bibury is so small that it doesn't even have a supermarket, the closest one being in Cirencester, a 15 minutes drive away. 

Nevertheless, we discovered a charming tea room, a pub steeped in history, a tiny post office selling a few basics like milk and canned baked beans and our absolute favourite, the Trout Farm. It was here where at the owner's recommendation I tried the Bibury Croque, possibly the most delicious sandwich I've had in my life. Made with smoked trout, mayo, dill, topped with cheese and grilled for a few minutes, it was so delicious that we went back for more the next day. 


The beautifully restored cottage has three levels, two double bedrooms, one bathroom and a charming living space with an adjacent kitchen. The antique furniture and retro details created a comfy setting, while the free WiFi and modern cooking utensils helped us keep connected to the contemporary world.


We loved the wooden beams above all. They made for 50% of the cottage's charm. Also the exposed stone walls, fireplace and vintage details reminiscent of times long past were in perfect sink with the whole village.




The keys were left for us in a small safe deposit box by the main door and we were given two emergency contact numbers belonging to the people living next door. Since we arrived in the morning before the check-in time, and our cottage wasn't ready yet, the neighbours invited us inside while the cleaner prepared the cottage for us. 

We received a nice introduction to the village and the daily life in this part of the world, and all this while enjoying a cup of tea in the company of a local. It was the kind of warm welcome you can only get when you rent houses from people and not hotel rooms from companies. 




The low ceilings and uneven floors created a very intimate space. And since English spring is pretty chilly, we needed to turn the heating on every evening. The cottage has some impressive walls, almost one meter thick and the heating turned out to be extremely efficient, in spite of the single glazed windows. The only downside was the strong smell of oil at the ground floor where the can was located, but not in the bedrooms.



There were slight differences, but on a large scale we found the cottage to be as described and just as pretty as in the photos uploaded by the owner on the HomeAway's website. As expected, some decor changes had been made in order to keep the fabrics clean and new, but other than that it was the same charming cottage anyone can easily fall in love with. 



Our Bibury cottage was everything anyone can ever ask for from a Cotswolds holiday. It was romantic and spacious and the perfect opportunity to immerse ourselves in the English countryside. We took long walks in nature, explored the village and went on day trips. And for its ideal location in the heart of the Cotswolds, it looked like a great base to discover the many town and villages a short drive away, all of them with their unique character. 

Bibury is not precisely the best connected village in England, but a bus service links Bibury with the nearby market towns a few times a day. A car is not mandatory but definitely recommended if you plan on spending more than a couple of days here. 




***GIVEAWAY***


To celebrate summer, we've partnered with HomeAway and organised this giveaway to help you enjoy this season even more. The lucky winner will get a HomeAway picnic bag and blanket + portable stereo speaker + family pack of sunscreen + a Molton Brown unisex wash-pack.

All you need to do is enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter and follow through as many of the optional entries as you want. Don't forget that you can come back daily for more entries. The lucky winner will be announced via the email provided.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Poznan. A First Impression

Just days ago, we did not know much about Poznan, the fifth largest city in Poland. Basically, the main image we had of this city steeped in history was of the gorgeous houses in the Old Market Square.


We had no idea what a fantastic mixture of old and trendy Poznan really was…

The first hint we took was when we checked into the Blow Up Hall 5050 Hotel. The hotel is a neo-industrial marvel with a unique concept behind it.


The traditional room key was replaced with an iPhone5s.

The doors are not numbered, but the iPhone guides the guests right to their room, where a welcome screen shows their portrait as a cubistic painting. The hotel’s lobby is decorated with curious works of art, while the rooms are modern and comfy. They take great care of the presentation as well as of the quality of the products served for breakfast, and the lunch box they prepared for us on the last day was equal to none.

Breakfast spread at The Blow Up Hall Hotel (served just for the two of us at our table)

One of the evenings we went to a cooking workshop organised by the hotel’s chef and tasted some innovative recipes and the softest beef one can possibly imagine, a true culinary wonder that set a new standard for us. Judging by this alone, the hotel’s restaurant is a mandatory stop for any foodie visiting Poznan.


Another peculiarity of the Blow Up Hall is that it is actually situated inside Stary Browar, one of the best shopping centers in the world. This award winning shopping, arts and business center is a modern marvel in itself. It houses over 200 stores and restaurants, featuring international as well as many local brands.


I am not really a shopaholic, but I actually felt in love with it for its amazing design and concept. 5050 stands for 50% art, 50% business. Built on the site of an old brewery, it follows the vision of one woman (Gra┼╝yna Kulczyk) and it graciously combines red brick, glass paneling and ironwork.

Another thing we remarked was that the people of Poznan really know how to relax in style.

The colourful Weranda Take Away

The perfectly manicured park adjacent to the Stary Browar shopping center is dotted with colorful sun lounges that anyone can enjoy for free.


This was our favorite place in the evenings, when a DJ would play his compilations and we could enjoy the sun setting over the city with a cocktail from the nearby eco-friendly Weranda Take Away.

But we also found an unexpected cuteness and elegance, accompanied by an incredible attention paid to the smallest of details.


Like, for example, this glass of sparkling water we had at Weranda Lunch & Wine, a wonderful restaurant nested on the passage connecting the old and the new building of Stary Browar. Served accompanied by a myriad of fruits, this was the most exciting glass of water we’ve had in our life.


We instantly became huge fans of Weranda. The restaurant has a unique design that changes every season, and fresh cut flowers as well as potted plants decorate every inch of it. We really felt in our element.


Generous portions, an attentive service and a creative presentation complemented the delicious food. Their salads, lemonades and desserts are not to be missed, but our list is longer than this. We actually ate there twice, in an attempt to try as many plates from their menu.

Melon dessert @ Weranda (melon, vanilla ice-cream, pumpkin seed, almonds & melon syrup)

Poznan is considered to be the birthplace of the Polish nation. But this millennia old city has an elegance we rarely encountered. In many aspects, it is one step ahead of the world. In others, it’s just its old self. But we surely loved it for this beautiful mixture it grew up into and enjoyed our time there.