by Janis / 0 comments - Orginally published:2nd January 2024

From the ancient walls in Chester to the Plains of La Mancha

Now that 2023 has drawn to a close, we can take a sneaky peek back at our travel adventures for the year.

We always love the excitement of exploring new places and their cultures, which we certainly did by spending three weeks touring Spain from north to south.

However, sometimes revisiting an old haunt is equally as thrilling. In early 2023, after a few years’ break, we returned to discover further sights and sounds of our home capital city of London.

Living in Kent, we are spoilt for choice regarding picturesque villages and towns, so 2023 gave us further opportunities to dig a little deeper into the ‘Garden of England’.

Why not Pin it for later?

Our National Trust membership cards have been very well used again in 2023. We visited some beautiful manor houses and stately homes, and I can only imagine that 2023 will offer more of the same.

In 2023, we continued to revamp the website, updated and reviewed older posts and regularly shared content on our YouTube channel.

So, here’s a little peek at our 2023.

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Exploring our corner of the UK

A taster of the southeast

I may be a little biased, but as I was born in London and worked there for around 28 years commuting from Kent, London will always hold a special place in my heart.

Nowadays, when we head to London, we always visit with our tourist hat on rather than a place of work, and it truly opens your eyes to the splendours of this historic city.

The Portland stone West Towers of Westminster Abbey in London, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor
Westminster Abbey

When we explored London in early 2023, I decided that we would finally visit Westminster Abbey; for years, I had been promising myself, and I wasn’t going to delay it any longer. So, we purchased our Westminster Abbey entrance ticket, and the magnificent abbey was ours to discover.

During our visits to London, we love to pick a couple of districts in the city to focus on and discover the intriguing history that lies beneath the surface. This year, we choose to dig a little deeper into the historic streets around Covent Garden, the shady lanes of Bankside and beyond and the delights around Holborn Station.

The collonaded balcony of the punch and judy pub at one entrance to london's covent garden
Exploring Covent Garden Market
I loved wending our way around Bankside; it undoubtedly has had a dark past and is far removed from the hustle and bustle you’ll find around Borough today. I recently discovered that my great-grandfather was born in Bear Court in 1879, an area renowned for bear baiting in the 16th & 17th centuries.
One entrance to london's borough market next the the market porter pub and the shard in the background
Entrance to Borough Market

As we live in Kent, it wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t discover more of our local charming villages and towns; we truly are spoilt for choice. So much so that I’ve broken each of our posts into bitesize segments.

A taster of part one of our picturesque villages and towns in Kent, we tour Eynsford with its quaint Ford, dip our toes into the relaxed seaside town of Hythe, explore the medieval market town of Faversham and visit Headcorn in the Low Weald.

A mothers & children wading in the ford, next to the old stone bridge, at Eynsford in Kent
Enjoying Eynsford ford

As we tour further through Kent, in part two of our charming villages and towns, we head to the historic town of Westerham, once the home of Sir Winston Churchill, who lived in nearby Chartwell House.

We unearthed the small villages of Charing and Wrotham and had a rummage around the streets of Cranbrook and the colourful coastal town of Deal.

The Morning Haze small wooden fishing boat, flying the Union Jack, in the single beach of Deal
Morning Haze on the beach
In the third post in our series of delightful villages and towns in Kent, we visited Sandwich, one of my favourite places in the county. Sandwich really is a slice of old England and a location that falls a little below the tourist radar.
The historic Barbican tollgate over the road into Sandwich, a beautiful part of kent to visit
The Barbican - the old tollgate
Also, while touring the Kent countryside, we stopped off at West Peckham, Otford, and Aylesford and once again headed to the seaside arty town of Folkestone. In Folkestone, you discover the UK’s largest urban exhibition of contemporary art.

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.

Our journeys overseas

From Tapas to Bratwurst

In 2023, we planned an adventurous road trip touring through Spain. We hopped on a Brittany Ferry from Portsmouth and arrived in the delightful Basque city of Bilbao. The inspiration for our Spanish escapades took us on a venture from north to south of Spain and back again.

During our roundtrip tour through the magnificent Spanish landscape, we covered around 1,700 miles and visited so many beautiful and historic locations.

Looking down at the windmills of consuegra, la mancha, to the castle in the distance
The windmills and castle of Consuegra

Heading south, we visited Pamplona, Zaragoza, Teruel, Murcia and Mojácar. Then, on our journey north, we explored Granada, Toledo, Valladolid, Astorga and Burgos.

Spain is a beautiful country in which embark on a road trip. Travelling under your own steam allows you the flexibility to stop at little towns and villages along the way. We usually try to avoid motorways as this enables us to see more of the countryside.

And we certainly weren’t disappointed, ahh, the Plains of La Mancha.

The el partal refelected in the pond in front of it in the alhambra palace in granada, spain
The El Partal in the Alhambra Palace, Granada

We love the culture in Spain; grazing on tapas while sitting and watching the world pass by in a charming town square is heaven, especially when all you can hear is the chitter chatter of the locals.

We visited a couple of Spain’s popular towns and cities; we couldn’t pass by Granada and not visit the magnificent Alhambra Palace. However, we adored exploring our chosen locations in the north as there were fewer tourists, and you were less likely to hear English being spoken, particularly in Valladolid, Zaragoza and Astorga.

There are so many incredible places to discover in Spain and I love planning road trips. I often use the DK Eyewitness books, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more.

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

In 2022, we held off from visiting the Christmas Markets in Germany, and we really missed it, so for 2023, there was no way we were skipping it again. We hopped on Le Shuttle early one morning, and within 4 hours we were in Germany.

It’s a fantastic way to get you into the Christmas spirit for when you return home and also to indulge in the local sights and sounds of Germany.

twinkling christmas market stalls around the base of trier's cathedral at dusk
Trier Cathedral and Christmas Market

We chose three locations for our 2023 Christmas market road trip, the first was to the ancient city of Trier. Trier is considered to be one of Germany’s oldest cities and has many Roman monuments and ruins to discover, including Porta Nigra an enormous city gate, an amphitheatre and Roman baths.

Trier was perfect for the first stop on our road trip, as its Christmas markets were relatively small, and it was just a short hop between the two. The festive markets were in the Old City of Trier, the first in the Medieval Main Square and the other at the feet of the ancient Cathedral.

The entrance to am plan christmas market in koblenz at dusk, lined with stalls and the four-tier christmas pyramid taking centre stage.
Giant pyramid in Am Plan Christmas market

The next hop on our German Christmas market adventure was to the historic wine city of Koblenz. Koblenz is located in the Moselle wine region of Germany, so we chose to tour the Moselle wine route and follow the river through the hillside vineyards.

There was plenty to discover in Koblenz as they had seven Christmas markets to explore and even had a courtyard market dedicated to their local tipple.

The festive markets ranged from the cosy wooden cabins around the feet of the Liebfrauenkirche to the bustling market squares of AM Plan and Münzplatz, where you could indulge in all German delicacies.

One entrance to Heinzels Wintermarchen german christmas market in cologne on a snowy winters evening
Snowy Cologne in 2023

If you’ve been following our German Christmas market tales over the years, you’ll know our favourite city to visit in Germany for an all-encompassing Crimbo experience in Cologne. We’ve visited fourteen other German markets, and, in our experience, Cologne is yet to be beaten.

The Christmas markets in Cologne are spread throughout the city centre, and to make life a little easier, you can even jump on a ‘dotto’ train to escort you between the magical markets.

Where to stay in Germany

Our accommodation for the two nights in Trier was in the Mercure Porta Nigra; this hotel was in a perfect location, overlooking the ancient Porta Nigra. The Old Town and Trier’s Christmas market was just a short hop away.

Sander Hotel was in an ideal location, just on the edge of the Altstadt. Koblenz’s Christmas markets were only a few minutes’ walk away. The hotel had an on-site car park, and a daily charge was applied.

Eden Hotel Früh am Dom - If you're visiting Cologne, we highly recommend staying at this hotel. Located in the heart of the city with an incredible view of Cologne Cathedral. We've stayed at Eden Hotel many times, and this central hotel never disappoints.

National Trust Days Out

The Arts & Crafts to Henry James

2023 was the third year that Gary and I invested in the National Trust annual membership. We visited so many incredible places over the last couple of years, and we knew there were many more we wanted to see.

Our first visit of the year was to the captivating gardens and historic ruins at Nymans in West Sussex. Nymans is nestled between the lush Surrey Hills and the verdant High Weald; as soon as you arrive at Nymans, you feel you have escaped the hustle and bustle of daily life and ambled into a serene oasis.

The remains of an elegant country house within the numans estate now managed by the national trust
Nymans enchanting ruins

Nymans was originally built in the 1830s as a Regency-style manor house; fast forward several decades, and it was purchased by the Messel family in 1890. The Messel family converted the house into a German-style family home, and it continued to be passed down through the generations.

In 1947, a disastrous fire destroyed a vast part of the Nymans’ house. Due to the tragedy happening so close to the end of WWII, it was only partially rebuilt, leaving a large section of the house as ruins. Today, the ruins at Nymans have become an integral part of the captivating gardens.

Standen House, built in the Arts and Crafts style in the late 19th century, sitting on top of a lush green field.
Standen House

The second National Trust site we visited in West Sussex was the beautiful Standen House and Gardens, a rural retreat just south of East Grinstead.

Standen House is a magnificent Arts and Crafts styled family home awash with stylish modern designs and exquisite interiors crafted by Morris & Co. Standen House was owned by the prosperous Beale family from Birmingham. James Beale played an integral part in its design.

The interior design of Standen House embraced the flair and creativity of William Morris and is a stunning example of the originality of the Arts and Crafts movement. The eye-catching fabrics, furnishings, and William Morris carpets and decorative tiles can be seen throughout the house.

The hillside garden at Standen is around 12-acres and was created almost entirely by the passionate gardener and James’s wife, Margaret Beale. Margaret was inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and wanted to reflect the garden in a similar fashion, creating outdoor rooms.

Emmett's house as seen from the rose garden with a central circular fountain
Emmetts Garden

We continue to explore the magnificent National Trust sites around the southeast of the UK. On this occasion, we’re heading to Emmetts Garden, the hillside retreat in Ide Hill, Kent.

Emmetts Garden is an Edwardian estate located on one of the highest points in Kent. From these wonderful gardens, you can enjoy far-reaching views across the beautiful Wealden countryside and the North Downs (AONB), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The delightful gardens you can explore at Emmetts today have been lovingly managed and manicured by the National Trust since 1964, when they were bequeathed to the trust by Charles Boise. The rock garden at Emmetts is incredible; the Acers planted are beautiful.

The exterior of National Trust managed Lamb House, home of the author Henry James, in rye, east sussex
Lamb House

The final National Trust site we visited in 2023 was Lamb House in Rye, East Sussex. Lamb House was built in 1723 by James Lamb, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t imagine the quaint cobbled streets of Rye looked any different then than they do today; it’s a picture postcard. Especially the Mermaid Inn.

The charming red brick Georgian house was home to the Lamb family for many years; they often welcomed distinguished guests, including George I, in 1726.

In the mid-1890s, the renowned author Henry James relocated to Rye to seek solace from his critics in London. He fell in love with Lamb House and, when it became available in 1897, took out a lease and then purchased Lamb House two years later.

Henry James wrote many great novels during this period in his life, including The Turn of the Screw, which he wrote while Lamb House was being renovated. Mr Langdon’s home in the novel The Awkward Age is Lamb House.

Where to stay in Rye

Mermaid Inn
If you fancy spending the night in a 12th-century historic inn with ghosts whispering along the corridors, then the Mermaid Inn is a must. Spooky goings-on and smugglers.

The Hope Anchor
This 18th-century former inn has beautiful individually styled rooms full of character. Relax by the fire and enjoy stunning views across Rye and beyond.

Our YouTube Videos

A taster of near and far

In 2023, we continued to create regular YouTube content from our travels throughout the year, including the start of our three-week Spanish road trip.

In the UK, we produced videos from our visits to historical National Trust sites, our tour around Romney Marsh, the beautiful city of Chester and our many adventures in between.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee and follow along with us.

Map, guides and more

Whether you’re planning a road trip, plotting a hiking route or cycling one of UK’s scenic trails, there’s nothing quite like using a tactile paper map.

The Ordnance Survey folk are here to help, with maps, guides, gadgets and more. Take a browse through their vast array of maps and grab your ideal companion for your adventure.

Alternatively, why not purchase and download the OS Maps App, which covers all of Great Britain.

A mini-break in Chester

And a visit to Jodrell Bank

In spring, we visited the ancient city of Chester in the delightful county of Cheshire. It was perfect for a relaxing, cultural mini-break.

Chester is exceptionally picturesque and historic and often floats beneath the radar of many visitors who often head to Liverpool or Manchester. However, the cathedral city of Chester is easily navigated on foot, with many of its heritage sights and landmarks just a short stroll from the unique Rows and ancient city walls.

The view along chester's eastgate street from underneath the victorian eastgate clock on the historic city walls.
Foregate Street, Chester

I recommend heading to the ancient walls first, circumnavigating the entire medieval city, to truly appreciate the full beauty of Chester. Start wherever you wish, ensuring you discover every nook and cranny.

The magnificent Rows in Chester are an incredible sight to see and so unique; they are a treasured asset to Chester, and understandably so. The Rows can be found along Eastgate Street, Northgate Street, Watergate Street and Bridge Street and converge where the ancient Chester Cross resides.

A view along the upper level of the rows on bridge street in chester
The Rows along Bridge Street

The two-tiered medieval shopping galleries date from the late 13th-century. Some buildings are believed to be the earliest examples of shopfronts in England.

The Tudor revival black and white timbered façades were added during the Victorian era, adding a further unique element to the Rows.

Oh yes, and don’t miss out on a leisurely stroll along The Groves beside the River Dee.

During our 2 nights in Chester, we stayed at The Hotel Indigo, which is located just a short stroll from the city walls and provided perfect accommodation.

A view of the magnificent lovell telescope, pointing skyward, at the jodrell bank observatory in the heart of the beautiful cheshire countryside
The Lovell Telescope and Whispering Dishes

Prior to heading home from Chester, we made a little detour to visit the magnificent observatory at Jodrell Bank in the heart of Cheshire. It is a sight to behold, and the towering Lovell Telescope is just mind-blowing.

Aren’t we all a little curious about the Universe beyond ours?

As you approach Jodrell Bank, the colossal pivoting dish looms larger and more prominent across the sky. Sitting so brazen in the Cheshire countryside looks astounding.

As you enter the mystical world of Jodrell Bank, meander along the pathway to the captivating and contemporary First Light Pavilion.

The First Light Pavilion is an incredible new edition to Jodrell Bank Observatory. The 76-metre grass-topped dome mirrors the shape and size of the Lovell Telescope and was opened on the Summer Solstice on 21st June 2022.

Where to stay in Chester

Hotel Indigo Chester
Hotel Indigo Chester is a modern, contemporary boutique hotel that has welcomed guests since 2019. The Hotel is situated just a short hop outside Chester’s city walls; within only an 8-minute stroll, you’ll be admiring the iconic Eastgate Clock.

So that's it for 2023

And we welcome in 2024
2023 has been a delightful year; our travel has mainly been within the UK, with a couple of adventures overseas. We’ve discovered some memorable locations and sampled some incredible food, and who knows what 2024 will bring, but let’s all stay safe and have fun?

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