Theres No Place Like HomeTheres No Place Like Home

There’s No Place Like Home

Theres No Place Like HomeTheres No Place Like HomeWith the countdown clock showing a meagre 13 days until the #gaplife begins, I’ve been spending my days organising, planning or refusing to believe that the weeks are slipping away so fast.

But this weekend it was time to take a break from all that. To step back from manically adding things to the packing list or begrudgingly shelling out for travel insurance.

It was time to get some fresh air.

Cookham Lock RiverSo off we stomped to the waterways, across frosty fields and rusty bridges until the River Thames twirled into life.

I always moan that there’s nothing to do around my suburban hometown. Once you’ve crossed out shopping, the usual circuit around the fields and (if you’re lucky) a trip to one of the Thameside towns then you’re left twiddling your thumbs.

But with the #gaplife looming closer, I thought it was time to say goodbye to my familiar stomping grounds.

River Scenery

Mother Nature saw us coming and provided a glorious sunny day allowing the river to twinkle and glow in all its watery glory.

River Walk

RIver Tree

Cookham Lock TreeOur patch of river, near the quaint upmarket town of Cookham, was deserted.

We frolicked to our hearts content and took moody pictures on the banks.

Cookham Lock InstagramFor more pictures visit my Instagram account

Until an angry swan decided to join the party.

Cookham LockI may look calm, but those fellas scare the life outta me – they can break a man’s arm ya know!

Moving on swifly, we found ourselves overlooking Cookham Bridge and the posing continued.

Cookham Bridge PoseThis look felt like a good idea at the time…

Cookham Bridge PhotoAs the sun began to dip, we trudged back off home.

Well, home for the next 13 days.

It’s nice to look at your home anew, to search for things you want to take with you and remember on the road. You begin to notice things you would usually ignore, the cry of stray parrots in the trees, the friendly nods from strangers you pass, the reflections of the trees on the water.

No matter where I end up, there’s no place like home.

Do you like where you live? How do you feel about leaving home to travel? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media links.

If you haven’t already, remember to follow me on Bloglovin’!

Danesfield House Title

Prim and Proper at Danesfield House

Danesfield House Title

If you’ve read any of this blog then you may be aware that I can be quite frugal at times… All with the purpose of affording to travel of course.

I’m one for roughing it in tents, probably being mistaken for an escort to get free drinks and stocking my fridge with own-brand everything.

But some occasions call for an experience fitting of their importance. Take my sister’s 21st birthday for instance.

What a better way to celebrate than a fancy afternoon tea at one of the most exclusive estates around. Danesfield Hotel & Spa.

Danesfield House TowerDanesfield has recently played host to Hollywood’s highest profile stars at George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin’s second wedding reception. So we were in good company.

Danesfield House MenuWhen we arrived we were whisked through the gorgeous hotel lobby and into the bright tea room. We had luckily picked the one nice day we’ve had in a while so light spilled through the windows and made the room look even more exquisite.

Danesfield House View

Danesfield House TeaRoom

Danesfield House TeaRoom Group

I’ve never done this whole Afternoon Tea business before (very un-English of me I know!) so I had no idea about the etiquette involved at such an occasion. Even the concept of a tea strainer was foreign to me.

PG Tips, this was not.

White Tea Chinese

Danesfield House TeaWe sat sipping our tea and watching helicopters ferry hotel guests to their next glamorous destination. I’m not even kidding.

Then came the main event. The food.

Danesfield House Afternoon Tea

Tiers of cakey, sandwich-y goodness, topped with warm scones, jam and clotted cream. My mouth’s watering again…

Scones and Tea

With an appetite as unyielding as mine, those three measly tiers and that small looking slab of treats didn’t look like too much of a challenge.

Oh, how wrong I was! There are only so many smoked salmon sandwiches, raspberry macaroons and jam topped scones a girl can handle!

Defeated by a dainty afternoon tea. I hang my head in shame.

When the tea had run dry, we headed for a walk around the hotel and its grounds.

Making time for a bathroom selfie. Obvs.

Danesfield House Bathroom SelfieWe reclined in the drawing-room.

10961689_933024546722124_1902793872_n

Bar Danesfield House

Before stretching our legs with an amble around the grounds.

Danesfield House Grounds

If you haven’t been before then I would definitely recommend taking the afternoon for tea, especially somewhere that is so stunning. It’s nice to get dressed up and put on your best posh accent once in a while.

Leave the Tesco Value at the door and enjoy the finer things in life for once.

You leave feeling pleasantly full, relaxed and that little bit more classy. Bliss!

Afternoon Tea at Danesfield Hotel & Spa is £25 p/p. Find out more on their website here.

Have you been to afternoon tea before? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media links. 

You can now follow me on Bloglovin’! Click the link in the sidebar or find me here: bloglovin.com/thestudenttravels.

 

Antique Globe

A Breath of Fresh Air

Walk Buckinghamshire

After a week of long commutes and rushed gym sessions, there’s nothing better than stretching your legs in the great outdoors.

Taking a breath of fresh air and getting some colour in your cheeks is the perfect remedy for a week in the city.

Especially when you have weather like this.

Tree and Sky

Hills Buckinghamshire

Walking Buckinghamshire

With the family in tow, we headed over the hills in search of the perfect pub lunch.

Sheep Buckinghamshire

Sheep Buckinghamshire Grazing

It was hard to believe that this was the middle of January. With the sun beating down, scarves and gloves were peeled off, replaced by sunglasses and light jackets.

Family Walk Buckinghamshire After the rolling expanse of hills, we headed deep into the woods.

Chiltern Walk

Woodland Path

With the ‘Into the Woods’ soundtrack ringing in my ears, my eyes scanned the forest for a flash of Red Riding Hood or a creepy Johnny Depp.

Instead, I settled for a fleeting glimpse of a deer’s bum…

Deers Buckinghamshire

Wildlife photography may not be my forte…

Emerging from the woods, we were greeted by swaying fields of wilted corn and fluffy bushes of Bedwine.

Corn Field Bucks

Corn Field Buckinghamshire

Old Man's BeardEventually we ended up at my favorite antique shop, Home Barn in Bourne End.

Antiques Bourne End

Eye-wateringly expensive but a treasure trove of home inspiration.

I was in heaven.

Antique Shop

Converted Barn

Antique Globe

paint antique shop

United Kingdom Flags

Just don’t look at the price-tags…

With the walk over, we scraped the mud off our boots and headed to the pub. With a gin & tonic in hand and a steaming plate of lamb and mash in front of me I was perfectly content.

Sometimes a breath of fresh air is all you need.

Have you been on any fresh country walks recently? Do you like being in the great outdoors? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages. 

 

Natural History Museum

There’s More to Oxford Than the University

When you think of Oxford you think of the University. And why wouldn’t you? It’s one of the most prestigious and ancient institutions in the world!

You think of Hogwarts’ style dining halls, bright young minds riding their bicycles or taking a punt on the river and rusty old professors struggling across the cobble stones.

Yet, take a trip to Oxford during the student’s winter break when even the hoards of tourists have dispersed and the Oxford behind the University really shines through.

I live only a half an hour drive from Oxford city centre but rarely make the journey. Oxford is still undiscovered territory for me, with many sites still to visit. However this time I wanted to leave the University colleges behind and see what else Oxford has to offer.

The Turf Tavern

Turf Tavern OxfordThe Turf Tavern is an Oxford institution. A watering hole frequented by many notable intellects and celebrities alike, a pint in this time-worn pub is a must.

Blackwell’s Book Shop

Blackwells BookshopDeceptively Tardis-like from the outside, the Blackwell’s Book Shop is spread over four floors with shelves stacked with books on everything and anything you can imagine. Well worth a browse.

Lunch at the Vault Cafe

The Vault Cafe OxfordA must-munch in Oxford. Serving up fresh organic fare canteen-style, The Vault is a great pit-stop for some hearty fare on a chilly winter’s day. Hot main meals start at £7.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History and The Pitt Rivers Museum

Natural History MuseumSo it might be a bit of a cheat seeing as the museum is University owned but it is worth a visit nonetheless! Housed in a beautiful building with masonry reminiscent of its London cousin, the Natural History Museum is packed full of interesting taxidermy and fossilised replicas of your favourite prehistoric pals.

But the best gem is the Pitt Rivers Museum out the back…

Pitt Rivers MuseumThe Pitt Rivers Museum is going to get a whole blog entry to itself – it’s that good. The museum is a treasure chest of global goods, rammed with artefacts from gruesome shrunken heads to ancient playing cards. A Cabinet of Curiosity gone wild. It’s worth coming to Oxford just for this.

The Covered Market

Oxford Covered MarketThe covered market is situated slap-bang in the middle of Oxford. Sack off the boring high street and check out the quirky shops and market stalls selling everything from incense to pork pies.

Modern Art Oxford

Oxford Modern Art MuseumI’m a big art lover and love a trip around a good gallery (check out my top 5 here). Oxford Modern Art isn’t my favourite but you can’t complain as it’s free and currently has a couple of decent Andy Warhol’s hanging on its walls. The cafe is lovely though!

A Walk up the Mound at Oxford Castle

Oxford CastleOxford Castle has been lovingly restored over the years and so you subsequently have to pay to get in. Walk up the ancient mound instead for a pleasant view of surrounding Oxford. Cheap as chips and great at sunset!

I had a great time in Oxford and would love to come back again. Have you visited the city? What did you think? Let me know in the comments or via social media if there’s any places you’d recommend!

Moon Close-Up Photography

8 Photos Everyone With a New Camera Takes

Perhaps, like me, you were the lucky recipient of a camera this Christmas.

After unwrapping mine on Christmas Day it has never left my side, photographing anything and everything I’ve stumbled upon.

Here are the 8 photos that anyone with a new camera is bound to have experimented with…

1- The Selfie

Selfie Photography

With faces bloated with Christmas turkey, these selfies may not be the best of the year… Nevertheless the selfie is the first picture we all take – don’t deny it! – and the true testament of a good camera!

2- The Art of Reflection

Reflections PhotographyThe way the water ripples, the dark smudges of oak between reeds, erratic scratches of branches on the surface… Reflection shots have it all.

3 – Landscape

Landscape PhotographyYour post-Christmas ramble would be nothing without coming home with an SD-card stuffed with landscape shots. Testing out your camera with pictures of the rolling hills of home are a must.

4 – Effects

Ram Effect Photography

Red Highlight PhotographyAfter an afternoon of experimenting you discover that  your camera offers a range of effects and edits for your festive snaps. Make that sheep look like it has been painted by Monet or your parents look like a still from Schindler’s List. Gimmicks, but fun none the less!

5 – The Couple Shot

Couple PhotographyIf you’re one of a pair then a new camera creates the opportunity for those super-cutesy couple snaps. Unfortunately some couples are more photogenic than others…

6 – Close-ups

Moon Close-Up PhotographyI was told that my new camera was praised for its zooming abilities. Keen to try it out, I could think of no better zoom-worthy target than the moon.

With crystal clear skies, I was able to take this shot and am pretty sure that if there was life on the moon I’d be able to see it. Step aside NASA.

7 – Sunset

Sunset PhotographyIn terms of travel, sunsets are the money shots. Unfortunately there haven’t been many good’uns in my neck of the woods recently but I did manage to snap this melting sun and a beautiful pylon to boot…

8- Panoramas

Panorama PhotographyAlthough panoramic settings are pretty standard on most camera models, I’ve never had a camera or phone which has supported it. Panoramic photos make everything look good and a bit quirky, cue countless pictures of your living room or garden!

Did any of you guys get a camera for Christmas? What have you been snapping away at? Let me know and share your best shots in the comments or via my social media pages!

All featured pictures were taken on the Sony DSC-HX50.

Review: Five Guys, Reading

Five GuysThere’s few places which really live up to their hype, and Five Guys is the most hyped burger joint around.

Critics, bloggers and every Tom, Dick ‘n’ Harry have championed this American import and praise covers every inch of the restaurant walls.

To be honest, I wasn’t in the best mood as I joined the queue at the Reading branch. I had managed to get lost on the way to the shopping centre and instead of taking 40 minutes, the journey took two and a half hours. I had lost the will to live and the Saturday crowds were not making me feel much better.

Five Guys Menu

Stepping up to the counter, grumbling about the inflated burger prices I placed my order of the Little Bacon Cheeseburger with all the trimmings, large fries (to share) and the famous refillable drink.

I grabbed a seat by the expansive window whilst the boyfriend patiently took his place in the queue.

Reading The OracleFive Guys is unapologetically U-S-A, with bold brash decor and blaring American anthems.

Five Guys ReadingThe food is a reflection of American indulgence at its best. And it couldn’t come soon enough.

Five Guys Meal Five Guys BurgerIt’s just like Christmas as you unwrap the greasy goodies.

Five Guys Fries Five Guys Little BurgerThe burger might not be the most photogenic but each and every bite was heaven. Crunchy onions, tasty mushrooms and a succulent fresh patty.

We had chosen the spicy fries to accompany our burger delight. The fries are unique in the fact that they are cooked in the healthier peanut oil. They’re still not the best for the waist line but they’re a whole lot more wholesome than McDo.

Now, on to the drinks.

Five Guys Drink

I see free refills as a bit of a challenge. It doesn’t help that I’m forever on a budget and so getting value for money is high on my list of priorities.

With over a hundred flavours of Coca-Cola branded drinks to choose from, I set myself a challenge to sample as many varieties as possible. Orange diet coke, cherry powerade, fruit punch lemonade… I was in my element.

I’m happy to say that Five Guys promised the world and delivered. They may be cocky and in-your-face but the proof is in the eating… and the empty tin foil.

Five Guys FullIt even made me crack a smile and after my morning, that is the highest praise I could give!

Five Guys Instagram

Find your closest branch here: www.fiveguys.co.uk. Have you tried them yet? Let me know what you think!

Meandering in Marlow

Marlow High Street

This week I had a meeting in the lovely Thames-side town of Marlow. With a couple of hours to kill and the sun lifting my spirits, I decided to go for a wander.

Marlow is one of the most sought-after towns in Buckinghamshire. With its positioning along the river with speedy links to London, great schools and a boutique filled high street, Marlow attracts many the wealthy commuter and house prices have subsequently rocketed.

Taking a short stroll down the high street it is obvious that Marlow caters itself perfectly to its inhabitants. Independent shops line the street and cafes offering fresh and organic fare are crammed with yummy mummies sipping their herbal teas. Oh and there was bunting, lots of bunting. Which is surely only ever a good thing?

Marlow

Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Bunting Marlow

Being priced out of most of the designer stores and antique shops I headed for the river which is nestled at the bottom of Marlow Park. I used to come here a lot as a child and it is still massively popular with families enjoying the sunshine. There is even an al fresco Costa Coffee here now, which was overrun with tired parents and boisterous kids.

Marlow Park

Ice Cream Van Marlow

Escaping the mayhem of the summer holiday crowd, I pressed on to the river. It is always peaceful there regardless of whether you happen to be surrounded by crowds. Neatly manicured gardens surround the waters edge and ducks paddle contently in the shallows.

Marlow Court Garden

Marlow River

Marlow The Thames

Unfortunately I had work to do so pulled myself away from the calm of the river back to the bustling town. I joined the throngs of Mums and OAPs in Cafe Copia, a colourful cafe serving fresh grub and organic tea.

Marlow Cafe Copia

Marlow Green Tea

Whilst I sat sending emails and nursing a pot of Organic Green Tea, I was touched to witness the amount of local spirit the owners and their customers had. The waitresses chatted with the elderly regulars, laughing away, and waved to people popping their head in to say hello.

Although I love the feel and vibrant youthfulness of the big cities, I forget how nice a little personal touch can be and it was heart-warming to witness the sense of community and local pride there is here. Although, it’s hard not to be proud when you live in a place as lovely, quaint and perfectly British as Marlow.

Where have you guys been this week? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Reminiscing with Royalty in Windsor

Windsor is one of my old stomping grounds. On weekends I would jump on the train and head here with a group of friends and mooch around the town, filling our time in the way only teenagers can.

I’ve been back here many times since and I still haven’t lost the tingle of childish excitement I used to feel when I stepped off the train and arrived in this tourist covered town. It always made me feel a little smug to see the hoards of tourists eagerly snapping away at Windsor’s famous castle or hovering outside of its posh boutiques, I revelled in the fact that I could come here whenever I pleased.

Visiting as an adult I can finally appreciate Windsor in the same way the thousands of tourists who pass through here every year do. Instead of lounging around in McDonalds or sneaking free tasters from The Fudge Kitchen, I finally appreciate the amazing castle and the lavish opulence of neighbouring Eton.

Parking in Eton (probably the cheapest of the local car parks) it is only a short walk over the Thames to Windsor. This offers great views of the river and the castle which is nestled behind more modern architecture, providing a vibrant contrast.

Windsor

Windsor Eton

Windsor River

After crossing the bridge we strolled along the river and made friends with a group (gaggle?) of the massive swan population which bask in Her Majesty’s hospitality. It’s an act of treason to kill a swan as they all belong to the Queen, so they thrive bobbing along in her backyard.

Windsor Swans

Swans Windsor

Windsor The Thames

Now, I get quite nervous confronted with so many swans (they can break a man’s arm you know!) and so we headed into town. On our way the heavens opened so we ducked into the covered Windsor Royal Shopping Arcade. This is one of my favourite places in Windsor, the covered indoor market is surrounded with eateries and coffee shops and is buzzing with a warm, almost Mediterranean atmosphere. A great place to escape the downpour.

Windsor Royal Shopping

Windsor Royal Shopping Arcade

With the rain showing no signs of stopping we grabbed a seat at The Cinnamon Cafe. Although both Costa and Cafe Nero are located in the arcade, I try and use local (and cheaper) alternatives when I can. This time I wish I hadn’t bothered. Although the prices were reasonable (£1.80 for a Green Tea, around £2 for coffee and £2.80 for a slice of coffee cake), the mugs were filthy and the cake dry. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be cheap…

Windsor Cinnamon Cafe

Despite the disappointing offerings, it was a great place to sit and watch the world go by. Throngs of tourists shuffled past, mingling with young families and ‘ladies who lunch’.

Windsor Cafe Rouge

Windsor Cafe Nero

We had a quick browse along the high street before braving the drizzle for some sightseeing. It was such a shame that it was such a gloomy day as Windsor is at its best in the summer months when you can sit outside one of its many tea houses or take a stroll down the Royal Mile. Today, I could understand why Queen Victoria looked so grumpy…

Windsor Castle

Despite the weather, Windsor is still a charming place.

Windsor Guidhall

Windsor Crooked House

Windsor Tourists

And you can’t really complain when you have a whopping great castle on your doorstep!

Windsor Castle Entrance

Windsor Castle Gates

Windsor Castle Grounds

We didn’t venture inside as the entrance fee is a costly £18.50 for an adult or £16.75 for a student. Instead we occupied ourselves meandering around the castle’s neighbouring streets, home to traditional pubs and al fresco restaurants.

Windsor Streets

Leaving the cobbled streets to the ghost of my teenage self, I headed home. On the way back we passed the grandeur of Eton college, deserted in the summer holidays and frequented only by groups of Chinese tourists. It was a shame as the boys dressed in their penguin-esque uniforms are one of the more amusing sights of this royal town (see what I mean!). It’s always fun to point out our next prime-minister or high-profile fraudulent banker. I suppose their teenage memories of this town will be slightly different to my own…

Where was your childhood stomping ground?

spring flowers

Chasing the Chocolate Box Dream

Turville Windmill

The UK is currently lapping up the rewards of a heat-wave. For once this summer hasn’t yet been blighted by the traditionally overcast and drizzling days which characterise British summertime, and so we have to make the most of our good fortune while we still can!

With this in mind I set off into the countryside in search of the perfect picnic patch. It turned out to be in the in the little chocolate box village of Turville that I found it.

Turville is obviously photogenic, it has been the setting for programmes such as Midsummer Murders, Goodnight Mr Tom and most famously (and my personal favorite) The Vicar of Dibley. But before we had a wander around the tiny village, it was lunchtime.

Windmill

Turville Fields

Turville Fields Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire Countryside

We wandered up the hill which overlooks the town and is topped by a cute windmill. The meadows were pocked with wild flowers and alive with an amazing array of butterflies who unfortunately were unwilling to pose for a quick snap.

Wildflowers

Nature Wildflowers

Thistles

Snail

We hiked half way up the hill (it was hot ok!) and laid out our picnic and sat back to enjoy the view.

Turville Picnic

Turville Village

Turville View

After we had eaten our fill, we lounged around in the sun, reading and topping up the tans. The Boyfriend decided to get creative and scampered around the meadow picking the wild flowers and putting them together in a cute bouquet. The variety of flowers was massive, the fields were better stocked than most florists!

Wildflower Bouquet

Meadow Flowers

Flowers Turville

When we could relax no longer we walked down to the village for a look around. It was so quintessentially English, one of those villages where you feel like you’ve stepped back into a simpler time. The houses were stunning, with beautifully kept front gardens filled with brightly coloured flowers.

Turville Cottage

Turville Telephone Box

Turville Idyllic Cottage

Cottage Turville

Vicar of Dibley Turville

The local church, used in The Vicar of Dibley, was open so we had a peek behind its creaky oak doors.
Vicar of Dibley Church
Turville Graveyard
Turville Graveyard Church
Turville Church
Church Turville
Old Church turville
Turville Font
Turville Organ
The church has been active since the 13th Century which is pretty impressive for such a small community. Yet we all know what the pillar of every village community is. The Pub.
Turville The Bull and Butcher
Turville Pub
We ended our afternoon out with a pint of the local ale in the beer garden. The most English way to end the most English of afternoons.
Brakspear Ale

 

Shiver Me Timbers! The Student Travels is Back in Hastings.

image (19)

Purchasing four cans of budget Carling isn’t the classiest way to start a Sunday morning. But this wasn’t a normal Sunday morning, oh no! This, me hearties, was Pirate Day!

I, along with thousands of others were descending upon Hastings Old Town to join the pirate themed festivities. Hastings isn’t shy about hosting raucous street parties, I’ve witnessed their May Day celebrations first hand (read about that here) and Carnival is just around the corner on 31st July.

Pirate Day was originally created in order to break the Guinness World Record for the most pirates gathered in one place. Since its inaugural year Hastings has sporadically won and lost the accolade to Penzance in Cornwall, however this year they are celebrating keeping the unbroken record for two years in a row. In 2012, 14,231 pirates gathered on Pelham beach, dwarfing Penzance’s 8,734 pirates.Therefore, this year all the pirates had to do was party, and we were going to join them.

It all started with shots on the beach.

image (20)

Followed by some very amusing people watching. Hastings is crammed with fascinating characters at the best of times, let alone when everyone is decked out in pirate gear. The whole family could get involved!

image (21)

 

image (22)

We wandered along the seafront, weaving our way through shipmates and skivvies. Some weary pirates were enjoying being on land, celebrating with a quick game of crazy golf. Cheeky land lovers!

image (26)

I’ve harped on before about how pretty the old town is and the same can be said of the seafront, the long stretch of pebbled beach is flanked by impressive Victorian architecture, relics of Hastings popularity among wealthy Victorian holidaymakers.

image (23)

image (25)

We followed the celebrations along the front, pausing to soak up the rum fuelled atmosphere.

image (28)

image (29)

image (30)

image (31)

image (32)

We stumbled across a couple of Jack Sparrows doing their bit for charity.

image (33)

image (34)

The festival hosts its own Jack Sparrow look-a-like competition, apparently judged by one of the best impersonators in the country, no less. I have never seen more Captain Jack wannabes scattered around a single town! I couldn’t be sure if their lilting stagger was part of the act, or down to one too many Captain Morgans…

image (35)

There was even a pirate themed van doing the rounds.

image (36)

When the rain hit we retreated into the back streets of the Old Town, streets once frequented by real life smugglers and pirates. We made ourselves at home in the Hastings Arms, a cute little pub decorated with an array of seaside relics. Like proper pirates, we even smuggled in our own beer (shh, don’t tell anyone!).

image (37)

image (38)

The festivities carried on long into the night when the streets were cleared and the pirates headed back to their vessels to batten down the hatches until next year. It had been a great, if not bizarrely eccentric, day and one I won’t forget in a hurry.

So, until next time Hastings, weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen! Or, see ya later…

Find out more about Pirate Day 2015 here: http://piratedayhastings.co.uk/