by Janis on 4th January 2022 / 0 comments

Delightful locations to add to your travel list

Fingers crossed for 2022, and hopefully, we can dust off our passports more than once and venture overseas. Although, discovering new places in the UK has been incredibly enlightening and eye-opening. We dug further into British history and explored abandoned castles and breath-taking coastlines.

For most of us, 2021 was a little hit and miss for travelling, as keeping ourselves and others safe was paramount. Gary and I live in the southeast of England; therefore, our staycation suggestions are UK based.

Our recommendations for overseas travelling have a mixture of mini-breaks, road trips, all with a touch of adventure while visiting incredible locations.

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Our near locations

For us, it’s the UK

Whether you are yearning for a weekend away, longing to escape on a road trip, or you just want to top up your knowledge of history and culture, we’ve got some splendid ideas.

There’s seaside fun, knights in shining armour and curious tales from ‘the big smoke’ our beloved London town.

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Our first location is to the vibrant and colourful city of Bristol in the southwest of the UK. Bristol has some incredible history, bustling harboursides and, as you can imagine, striking street art.
Looking over Bristol Harbour to the colourful houses of Redcliffe Parade with the spire of St Mary Redcliffe Church in the distance.
Over the harbour

In my opinion, a visit to Bristol wouldn’t be complete without hopping aboard Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s magnificent transatlantic steamship, SS Great Britain.

The incredible ship has been lovingly restored in the same dry dock she departed from in 1845. Strolling through the refurbished decks takes you on an immersive experience that will stimulate all your senses.

We have created a YouTube video visit to SS Great Britain. Why not take a look? Also, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

Keeping with the Brunel theme, head around the bay to Clifton and wander across the iconic Bristol Suspension Bridge; it is breath-taking.

Along with the cheerful multi-coloured architecture in Bristol, you’ll spot many pieces of intriguing street art. Not only will you see artwork from Banksy, but world-renowned artists have left their mark on Bristol.

The view back from the western tower over the Clifton Suspension Bridge over the Avon gorge below
The Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, England
The beautiful county of Norfolk is perfect for a road trip and if you love cycling, as it’s reasonably flat and the coastline is glorious.
A view of Norwich Cathedral across a green field from the path that runs along the River Wensum
A view of Norwich Cathedral, Norwich, Norfolk, England, UK

This charming Norfolk road trip only takes five days; however, we fit so much in. We’ve visited the nostalgic seaside town of Great Yarmouth while basing ourselves for a couple of nights in the historic city of Norwich.

Gary and I then headed off via the Norfolk Broads to the quaint coastal town of Cromer, where we stayed for two evenings, and you can indulge in the local crab. We also explored the shores of North Norfolk on a mini road trip and visited Wells-next-the-Sea and Sheringham, where you can jump aboard the heritage train line to Holt.

Looking down from the clifftop promenade to the elegant Cromer Pier reaching out to sea on a bright summer's day.
The elegant Cromer Pier
For our final day, we discovered the historic squares and lanes around King’s Lynn and then made a Royal visit to one of Queen Elizabeth’s stunning retreats, Sandringham.

We have a new little book on our shelves that we delve into when we're heading to the coast.

Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different counties of England.  It tells tales of the history of the shoreline that surrounds our country.

Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves the English seaside.

Yes, when you visit Rochester in Kent, you’re in for a treat. You’ll discover Rochester’s imposing Norman Castle, built in the 12th-century. Then just a short hop away, you can step across the threshold of England’s second oldest diocese of Rochester Cathedral, erected in the 7th-century.
Looking up to the southern edge of Rochester castle where you can see one square tower and one round tower
Rochester Castle

Rochester once held city status in the UK; however, we’ll gloss over the local council admin error and now call it a town. Rochester is incredibly historic and has centuries of ancient tales weaving amongst its Dickensian cobbled lanes.

Charles Dickens lived in the Medway area for almost 20 years, and a few of his magnificent novels referenced homes and buildings in Rochester. Keep a lookout for Restoration House, which Charles Dickens referred to as Miss Havisham’s home in Great Expectations.

The red brick building of Restoration House in Rochester from the kerbside.
Restoration House
In Rochester, you’ll discover quirky architecture, charming timber-framed homes, a Huguenot Museum and quaint boutiques. And also, Baggins Book Bazaar, England’s largest second-hand bookshop.

We adore spending time in London especially staying for a few days and exploring different regions every time we visit. There is always more to discover with our love of history and art, and it’s a city I will never tire of peeling back the layers.

One of my favourite places to dig deeper into is ‘The City of London’, its financial district and where some of the quirkiest parts of London can be found. As I always say, if you want to dodge the city slickers and uncover the ancient city almost alone, head to the square mile at the weekend.

I worked in the City of London for 24 years, and it was not until I returned as a tourist that I truly appreciated the magnificent sites and how spectacular this region of London is.

St Paul’s Cathedral from the roof of One New Change, St Paul's station, London, England, UK
St Paul's from One New Change

We decided to choose a couple London tubes stations to scrutinise and set about scratching beneath the surface. The first was discovering the streets around St Paul’s underground station where you can visit Sir Christopher Wren’s breath-taking cathedral. Here you can also stroll through Little Britain, Postman’s Park, Paternoster Square and amble by the Old Bailey.

The modern 30 St Mary Axe, better known as the Gherkin, standing behind St Andrew Undershaft Church in the City of London
30 St Mary Axe - 'The Gherkin' - behind St Andrew Undershaft Church

The second tube station we chose was Bank Station in the beating heart of the financial city. In this small area, you’ll spot the Bank of England, Mansion House, The Royal Exchange with some very stylish retail therapy and elegant soaring skyscrapers.

We have a little book on our shelves that we sometimes delve into when we're about to hit an area of London.

Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different regions of London, it's a great resource to help you see what's hidden in plain sight.

Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves London.

One of my favourite regions in Kent is the beautiful and incredibly diverse landscape of Romney Marsh. Often referred to as ‘The Fifth Continent’, the natural beauty of the unkempt coastline and the sight of lone sheep grazing amongst flat marshes and wetlands is delightful.
The isolated St Thomas Becket Church at Fairfield in the heart of the Romney Marshes in Kent
The Thomas Becket church

Around Romney Marsh are ancient villages and towns, where centuries ago prior to the Great Storm in 1287, shipping ports and smuggling dens were the norm. Today they offer a nostalgic look into how rural England is still loved and cherished.

The entire circular road trip is only around 45 miles (72.5km). You’ll witness the magnificence of Dungeness, the heritage ‘Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway’, Martello Towers and a Royal Military Canal.

The old lighthouse of Dungeness behind a wooden picket fence.
Dungeness

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

In 2021 we decided to purchase an annual subscription to the National Trust, and oh my, we’ve certainly got our money’s worth already.

I’ve just selected two of the many locations we loved visiting in the southeast. If history, astounding architecture, and beautiful gardens are your thing, then I highly recommend investing in a subscription.

A small statue of an Elizabeth female figure in the gardens of Rudyard Kipling's country house, Bateman's in East Sussex.
The garden at Bateman’s

Bateman’s in East Sussex is a picturesque Jacobean house and once the family home of the celebrated poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling. Rudyard and his wife purchased the rundown farmhouse in 1902 and transformed it into the golden sandstone Wealden manor house it is today.

It’s such a pleasure strolling around the inside of Bateman’s, winding your way through the music room and parlour. However, the highlight was seeing Rudyard Kipling’s fascinating study and his collection of novels and globes.

A look through the entrance arch to the Sissinghurst Castle Tower, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent, England
Sissinghurst Castle Tower

Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent was one of my favourite National Trust sites that we visited in 2021. The central tower once formed part of the original Tudor manor, stands proud within its fairy-tale gardens.

The Delos inspired Greek garden, rose garden, and huge vegetable garden are a must-visit, along with a stroll around Sissinghurst Castle Garden moat.

Our far locations

The world’s your oyster

If you’re anything like us and you’re yearning to travel overseas again and experience the pleasures of mingling amongst foreign locals and just being a fly on the wall in a culture unfamiliar to your own. Then fingers crossed 2022, is going to be a good one.

I’ve chosen a selection of unique getaways, including a couple of road trips, through Iceland and Alsace. Mini-breaks in St Petersburg and Lisbon and a couple of other delights from Spain and Germany.

If you’re searching for a road trip with a difference, then an adventure around the Land of Fire and Ice is perfect for you. There are not too many places in the world where you’ll discover breath-taking glaciers, vast craters, cascading waterfalls, and gurgling geysers all on one road trip.
The stunning Gullfoss waterfall captured in mid-March with ice still remaining around the edges. A must-see on Iceland's Golden Circle.
Gullfoss with Ice and snow

Iceland is an astonishing country to explore within the Golden Circle and beyond. Gary and I can unequivocally recommend touring Iceland’s full ring road in a 4x4. Ensure you are aware of all the do’s and don’ts, and you’ll have a magnificent time.

We ventured off in the month of March, and with the snow slightly receding, we were able to experience some once-in-a-lifetime sights across Iceland’s stunning landscape. We even got to see the Northern Lights; I mean, what a privilege.

The swirling green colours of the Northern Lights over the mountains just outside Reykjahlíð in Eastern Iceland
The Northern Lights in Iceland
To catch up with our whole 12-day Iceland road trip adventure, which also allowed for a couple of days in Reykjavik, follow the link to our Fire and Ice posts here.

If you're tempted to tour the Land of Fire and Ice and would love to discover the whole country, then take a look at this  DK Eyewitness book. This Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide is invaluable, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more.

You can now grab the revised copy.

Portugal is such a beautiful country, and its capital Lisbon is stunning. Lisbon is overflowing with charm, ancient history, friendly people, and incredible food.

It’s one of those places that you fall in love with instantly, from the winding lanes around the Alfama district to the grand squares by the River Tagus. I just love the mixture of architecture.

The view from Miradouro da graça over the rooftops of Lisbon, Portugal. In the near distance you can see the castle on the hillside, and in the distance the April 4th Bridge over the River Tagus
The view from Miradouro da Graça over Lisbon

On the 1st November 1755, Lisbon suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami that engulfed huge amounts of the city. As a poignant reminder of this, the Carmo Convent that stands proud above the city is a shell of its former self and is magnificent to see.

When visiting Lisbon, a trip to Belém is essential. Just along the coastline, you’ll find the Monument to the Discoveries, and two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Torre de Belém and Jerónimos Monastery. And the other reason to head to Belém is for the Pastel de Nata, the delicious custard tarts created in Pasteis de Belém.

A desaturated black & white image of Tram 28 with just the yellow of the shot remaining
Tram 28, Lisbon
Also, keep an eye out for the local tipple of Ginjinha and visit one of Lisbon’s Fado bars; the melancholic ballads are so moving.

I love nothing more than planning a trip and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books. This Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide was invaluable to us.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our Lisbon mini-break, now you can grab the revised copy.

Now we’re off to Spain to uncover 8 towns and cities that will enrich your travel list. Some of these fascinating and intriguing places you may have heard of, and others may whet your appetite to dig a little deeper. Either way, let’s indulge in the pleasures of Spain from our two previous road trips.
Looking from a viewpoint in Úbeda, over the vast landscape of olive groves, under a whispy blue sky, with mist hanging in front of the mountains in the distance.
The view of the Olive groves of Úbeda

We love the Spanish culture, especially in locations where hearing an English accent is a little unusual, and you’d wished you pursued that Spanish language course a bit further.

Our post takes you on a journey from north, south, east to west, travelling to Jerez de la Frontera, Ronda and Úbeda in Andalusia. Then León in Castile and León, Logroño in La Rioja and Cáceres in Extremadura. To Toledo and Cuenca in Castile–La Mancha. Yep, that’s quite a few bases covered.

The view over Cáceres roof tops from a church tower.
The birds fly high around San Francisco Javier church, Cáceres
One of my favourite locations was Cáceres, a stunning walled city brimming with spectacular Moorish architecture and within touching distance of the Portuguese border. Cáceres is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with its past dating back to 25 BC when it was founded by the Romans, I’m not at all surprised.

Start planning

We embarked on our Spanish road trips from the UK, catching a Brittany Ferry to Santander.

However, there are regular flights to many of Spain’s cities; take a look at ebookers.com. Then pop in your location details, and Rental Cars will search well-known car hire brands and discover the deals that suit you the best.

Saint Petersburg in Russia had captivated me as a child, and it was somewhere I’d longed to visit for many years. Whether it was the vibrant Russian dolls, I used to play with growing up or seeing pictures of such bold and unmistakable architecture. Either way, by hook or by crook, we were going to visit.
The sweeping span of the Hermitage Lecture Centre, with the Triumphal arch in the centre, on one side of Palace Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia
The Hermitage Lecture Centre

And believe me, when I say St Petersburg didn’t disappoint, I’ve never walked around a city so much in my life. We weaved our way along meandering canals and came face-to-face with immense squares and breath-taking architecture that will stop you in your tracks.

I must admit that Cyrillic writing is a bit of a challenge at times, but like most countries, smiling and being friendly goes a long way.

The wonderfully ornate House of Books, (also known as Singer House), on Nevsky Prospect, Saint Petersburg, Russia
The House of Books - Singer House

Around nearly every turn is another eye-catching church or prestigious building. Palace Square is magnificent with the gold and white General Staff Building and Triumphal Arch and on the opposite side is the striking blue and white Winter Palace (home to the Hermitage Museum).

So, if you fancy a mini-break with a difference, then Saint Petersburg is for you.

If you've yet to discover the incredible history and architecture in St. Petersburg, you're in for a treat. I found this DK Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide invaluable, they're extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our St. Petersburg adventure, now you can grab the revised copy.

The Alsace region of France is a beautiful part of the world; weaving your way through the patchwork of vineyards is a wonderful experience.

The Alsace Wine Route takes you from Thann in the south and snakes its way to Wissembourg in the north. All along the route are picturesque timber-framed villages overflowing with vibrant window boxes through cobbled-stone lanes.

Restaurants at the base of brightly coloured, half-timbered buildings lining the canal in Colmar, France
The pretty town of Colmar

During our road trip along the Alsace wine route, we based ourselves in Colmar, which is a perfect size town to return to each evening and enjoy a glass of the local Alsace tipple and flammekueche.

It’s such a distinctive part of France, and the wine villages you discover along the route are picture-postcards. We’ve explored Alsace on several occasions visiting Niedermorschwihr, Kaysersberg, Riquewihr, Obernai, Molsheim and Wissembourg.

We also couldn’t resist heading back to the Alsace region at Christmas time to discover the gorgeous city of Strasbourg.

A traditional half-timbered bar & restaurant with tables & chairs spread out into the cobbled square outside in the French town of Riquewihr, on the Alsace Wine Route
Image Caption
The Alsace wine route is also a wonderful place to explore on a bike, as you appreciate the surrounding countryside and the rolling open vineyards.

If like us, you love visiting different regions of France then this Michelin guide will definitely assist in your planning.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our eastern France road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.

Visiting the Christmas markets in Germany is a yuletide lover’s dream; the locals take Christmas festive celebrations to another level; it is truly magical.

Our favourite location is undeniably Cologne as their charming markets around the Dom and Old Town transport you to a fairy-tale dream. No expense or imagination is spared amongst themed wooden cabins; there are elves hiding behind every chimney.

At dusk, stalls lit up in Aachen's Christmas Market in front of the Cathedral.
Aachen's Christmas Markets

In 2021 we managed to squeeze in our annual Christmas visit to Germany; not only did we head to Cologne for the 12th time, but we also explored Aachen and Münster.

Aachen’s Christmas market weaves its way around the ancient UNESCO Cathedral and the up all around the cobbled streets of the impressive Rathaus. The speciality in Aachen is Aachener Printen, a delicious spicy gingerbread; you must try it.

The Giebelhüüskesmarkt Christmas Markets in front of the Überwasserkirche church at dusk
The entrance to Giebelhüüskesmarkt in Münster

Münster has six delightful Christmas markets dotted around the historic city for you to discover. Each with its own charming theme and a different twist in flavour on the heart-warming glühwein. The traditional carousel can be found, and an abundance of festive huts selling hand-crafted gifts and artisan delicacies for you to enjoy.

It’s never too early to plan your Christmas market visit to Germany as they are very popular. We haven’t decided where we are heading for 2022, but I’m sure it will include another magical visit to Cologne.

Happy Travels!

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