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July 30, 2013
KILVER COURT GARDENS - A HIDDEN GEM
The Kilver Court gardens in Shepton Mallet are not widely known, most likely because they are hidden.
Designer factory shops just outside the gardens make the area more popular, but usually the shops are almost empty. However, on the day of an event, there can be very little room in the shops.
One of the best features of the gardens is that because they are not visible from the roads or car parks, you do not expect there to be such a big, beautiful space, and usually when you get arrive, there are only a few other people, when compared to other gardens, such as Stourhead. The giant viaduct provides a particularly unexpected backdrop to the landscaping.
Ernest Jardine created the gardens in the 1800s, when they were built for those who worked in the factories, and were later used by the employees of Babycham (founded by Francis Edwin Showering). At this time the grounds were called "Jardine's Park and Vegetable Gardens". Now, they are open to the public, and include a gold medal winning rockery from the Chelsea Flower Show in the 1960s.
I strongly recommend you go to the Kilver Court gardens if you like public gardens, as they are very quiet, with a lot of history. And just down the road is a garden centre, which provides a further distraction.
Posted by Rhys at 10:22:00 on 30/7/2013
July 28, 2013
FREE ATTRactionS IN LONDON 3 - THE NATIONAL GALLERY
The National Gallery is another free attraction in London, situated north of Trafalgar Square. It holds paintings dating from the 13th century to the start of the 20th century, painted by artists including Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Van Gogh
Inside the gallery, there are doors leading to different sections. It is best to stay in one section for a while, as otherwise you may find yourself going into rooms that you have already been in. In most of the rooms, there are benches that you can sit down on and observe the paintings from a distance. Many people sit on these and try and draw the painting that is in front of them.
Some of the paintings have a religious meaning behind them, or tell a story, and others are just a painting. Most of the time, I did not look to see what the paintings were of, but if there was one that I really liked, then I would look at the card and find out what they were showing.
I do not particularly like to look at paintings, but I was surprised when I enjoyed going to the National Gallery because I saw many paintings from different years.
Posted by Rhys at 10:09:57 on 28/7/2013
July 28, 2013
FREE ATTRactionS IN LONDON 2 - THE SCIENCE MUSEUM
The Science Museum is another free attraction in London, with many grand exhibits.
Most areas were not too busy, but overall it was crowded, and some parts were busier than others. The places in the museum that had a lot of people were not so crowded you couldn't move, so it was not much of a problem. Also, some parts of the museum did not interest me as much as others. I moved on from these areas after a quick look - you can't see everything in one visit, so it is a non productive use of time looking at things that you find dull, when you can easily find things that you are more interested in.
I really liked the Science Museum, and I did not see everything I wanted to see, so I would like to go again. It was great for a free attraction, but it is best if you spend a few minutes looking at things to understand it properly.
N.B. Entrance to the museum is free but some special displays and the cinema and flight simulator have a fee.
Posted by Rhys at 10:09:38 on 28/7/2013
July 24, 2013
FREE ATTRactionS IN LONDON 1 - THE BRITISH MUSEUM
The British Museum has free admission, so it won't matter how long you stay there, because no money will be wasted.
The museum is large, and has artifacts from many different eras. These eras include ancient Rome and Egypt; and Europe from 1400 to 1900. I really enjoyed looking at the ancient Egyptian section, because it had the largest variety of artifacts, with rings, sarcophagi and a preserved dead man, who was not mummified. I also looked at the ancient Rome and Greece sections, which mainly consisted of small statues and other forms of art.
I did not spend a lot of time in the museum, but I really liked the areas that I saw, which I would want to see in more detail, even though I like to have a quick look, then move on. I found some things less interesting than others, such as the Roman mosaics, but overall, I liked the hour or so I spent in the museum.
It was very hot and busy when I was in the museum. The crowds were not much of a problem, as most people don't spend too long in each room, so you could see what you want to, when you want to. It was hot both inside and outside the museum, and I would definitely want to go on a much cooler day, as it was not nice.
If you want a day in London without spending a great amount of money, I strongly recommend you go to the British Museum, if you have an interest in history or not.
Posted by Rhys at 11:44:56 on 24/7/2013
July 23, 2013
A DAY OUT AT THORPE PARK
I went to Thorpe Park recently, and I enjoyed my time there. However, you need to be extremely patient, for even the smaller rides have queues that last around half an hour, so I advise you bring some extra money to buy fast passes. However, this could become very expensive if you are paying for more than one person, because some fast passes are over £5. They do save lots of time, though since queues can last longer than two hours.
I do not recommend going if you do not like fast rides with lots of turns and loops, as they are the main attractions at Thorpe Park, and even the slower ones still have many corners.
Like all theme parks, there will always be ways they will try and take your money, such as restaurants, games and fast passes. Games are all over the park, and are usually overpriced, as are the restaurants, so it is best to avoid them. I have mentioned fast passes before, but they can be very costly if you are not just buying them for yourself.
Although I only went on a few rides, I would go again, because I enjoyed them even though they scared me a little. It was certainly a relief, though, when I got off Stealth!
Posted by Rhys at 10:03:03 on 23/7/2013
July 21, 2013
WESTON SUPER MARE PIER - PHOENIX FROM THE ASHES
The pier at Weston Super Mare
has been transformed since the fire in 2008. There have been many major changes including the size of the pier, which has been increased greatly. Also, on the inside, there are many rides, including a £1,000,000 + go-kart track, and a robot hand which cost almost half a million pounds. You pay to go on these separately, but most of them are rather dear, currently costing £3 or more. The queues are short normally, and if they are longer than usual, the most you will have to wait is 15 minutes.
The food there is not sold at a reasonable price, so I advise you to bring your own sarnies, or buy some food from a nearby shop, of which there are many, including restaurants, takeaways and bakeries. Just outside the pier, you can find a fish and chip shop that always has a long queue outside.
About five minutes away, is the area for the set of the gentle Sky sitcom, The Cafe, starring Ralf Little. People have been known to walk into the set thinking it is an actual cafe, asking for food or drink, interrupting the filming.
Posted by Rhys at 14:35:50 on 21/7/2013
July 21, 2013
The return of Condor ferries to Weymouth
earlier this week put a smile on my face. A memorable ferry trip from this quintessentially English seaside town to Guernsey
several years lingers long in my memory. We left the car in the port's car park and travelled as foot passengers. To get around, we used foot and bus power. It was a liberating experience; the kids still remember it, too.
Whilst for some people, ferries can seem like a slow and rather inconvenient way to get from A to B, I have to admit that I have a penchant for travelling by ferry. There is something about watching the coastline fade into the distance, the sound of waves lapping the side of the boat, the squawk of seagulls overhead. They all add to that 'we're on holiday' feeling.
Most of my ferry trips have been across the English Channel, from the South of England to France
. Others have puttered across relatively short stretches of water to nearby islands. The Isle of Wight
ferry from Lymington springs to mind. So, too, does the Caledonian Macbrayne ferry that heads to the Isle of Arran in Scotland
. In fact, Scotland boasts a plethora of picturesque ferry rides, including those that reach out to the most remote of Hebridean islands.
Other ferry journeys still beckon as possible holiday ideas for the future. They are mostly, it has to be said, in more exotic locations. There is the Staten Island Ferry that plies its way to and from Whitehall Terminal in New York
. Immortalised in many a Hollywood film, it offers an iconic view of the Statue of Liberty. In Australia
, the Manly Ferry sets out from the cosmopolitan city of Sydney
to Manly, a nearby seaside suburb. Views along the way include the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The Illala Ferry doesn't even involve a stretch of open sea. It travels at a sedate pace across Lake Malawi
, stopping at the odd tropical beach or inland for good measure. Who needs to book a cruise...
Posted by Sue at 14:21:58 on 21/7/2013
July 13, 2013
WHETHER THE WEATHER BE HOT
Here, in Britain, we brace ourselves for a long-awaited heatwave. It comes after the second-wettest summer since records began and an exceptionally chilly spring. Naturally, the weather has become a popular topic of conversation. As a nation, we are, after all, perennially obsessed by maps that show a complex web of isobars and moving weather fronts. We hang onto the every word of television weather forecasters as they tell us what is heading our way.
Remembering the long hot summers of my childhood, it is tempting to come to the conclusion that the weather just isn't what it used to be. Well, apparently it isn't. A bunch of top British meteorologists met recently to discuss this very subject. Possible theories for the country's rather 'unusual' weather patterns are wide and varied. They range from the loss of ice in the Arctic, bringing about changes in the jetstream, to long-term changes in deep ocean current cycles. Something called 'solar variability' has also been brought into question in the great climate debate, as have the effects of El Nino.
Whatever the reason for all this unseasonable weather, one thing is for sure. Records already show that the 21st century is turning out to be the hottest in the planet's history. What's more, there are more weather extremes than usual. In Europe, the past decade has been the wettest on record.
In the meantime, soaring temperatures are giving homegrown holidays a welcome boost. Britain's beaches are proving to be quite an attraction at the moment.
Posted by at 11:39:24 on 13/7/2013
July 5, 2013
CHINA'S COOL CAVE HOTEL
I'm always attracted by the prospect of staying in unusual holiday accommodation. Childhood memories of a fortnight in an old railway carriage still linger. Nowadays, it is possible to book rooms in lighthouses, windmills, ice hotels and jungle treehouses. You can even float the night away in an oil rig survival pod on a canal in Amsterdam
. So when I read about a new hotel in China that is essentially a high-tech cave, I was naturally intrigued.
Songjigan Hotel (the Shimao Wonderland InterContinental) near Shanghai
has been an architects' dream for quite a few years now. In June, however, it started to become reality when construction work began. By all accounts, the hotel will feature a giant waterfall. The lower part of the hotel - which includes a restaurant - will be submerged underwater. There are rumours that guests will be allowed to bungee jump from the hotel's quite considerable and very lofty roof.
Amidst all the hype, though, there is a serious side to the hotel. Its green credentials look pretty impressive. They include geothermal energy and a green roof. Its location in a former quarry will revive an otherwise abandoned flooded site.
The hotel is also a sure sign that China
has finally become one of the world's big time tourist destinations. In fact, earlier this year, figures were released which seem to point towards China becoming the second largest tourism economy by 2015, overtaking those traditional holiday favourites USA
. Historic sites such as the Great Wall of China
are expected to help to lure tourists from all over the world. By then, this coolest of cave hotels should be open to the paying public.
Posted by Sue at 14:38:02 on 5/7/2013