Recent Posts

Sock Shop: Bamboo Socks Review

Sock Shop: Bamboo Socks Review

Autumn is not far, which means that we will be getting our long-sleeved tops out of the cupboard and start wearing socks again. I love choosing socks, whether it is a colourful range or a novelty design. Last week I had an opportunity to order […]

Glamping Near London: Home Farm Glamping review

Glamping Near London: Home Farm Glamping review

What are summers good for in Britain? I say camping! Let’s take it up a notch:  a proper bed in a tent, dinner cooked by a chef and served at a table and good old camping becomes a glamorous camping, aka glamping. One night in […]

Kent with Kids: the Historic Dockyard Chatham

Kent with Kids: the Historic Dockyard Chatham

Seaside and  fantastic countryside in one trip in the UK? You need to go to Kent! Only 1.5 hours from London, the county is full to the brim with seaside towns and beaches, quirky villages, beautiful landscapes and child-friendly activities. We have already been to Kent once and, having liked it so much, we went again one weekend in July.

Our first stop was the Historic Dockyard Chatham, which used to be a working dockyard in the past. Due to the river bed becoming smaller, it is now no longer possible to build and repair  ships of a considerable size. As a result of this, the dockyard was closed as a working facility, however a museum is now open for all of us to learn about ships and submarines and see how the dockyard looked back in the day. 

The amount of things on display is incredible and if you want to see everything properly, one visit would not be enough. Luckily, once you buy your admission ticket, it is valid for a year, so you can come back as many times as you like. I have to say, I am not a big fan of ships, but the way information is presented and the fact, that you can go onboard and touch things – that made me interested and I had a ball! If I required some convincing, Claudio and Luca were impressed from the start!

Let me tell you about my favourite parts of the Historic Dockyard Chatham.

As soon as you arrive, try and get the timed tickets for the Ropery and the submarine. The Ropery is where they still make the ropes and as part of the tour, you will visit the longest building in Europe. We were guided by charming ropery workers, dressed in a period costume and speaking as if we were still in 18th century. We saw how a rope becomes the Chatham rope and then walked half way through the longest building.

The submarine Ocelot was another highlight for me, as I have never been inside the submarine before. Have you? We were able to see how submariners lived the Ocelot and how cramped the conditions were, we looked outside using the periscope and quizzed  our guide what the modern submarines looked like nowadays compared to Ocelot. 

There are also two ships , that you can visit: HMS Gannet is from 1878 and HMS Cavalier is from 1944. I loved the Cavalier! By walking the whole length of the ship, you can see how life was organised on board: they had a shop, a library, space for relaxation with hammocks, captains quarters – I can go on. You can see the menus of what they were eating, the working hours of the library, the shopping list with prices and a fantastic note on the rum rationing !

Two of the dry docks are now being used as an exhibition area, where you can learn about the history of lifeboats. I also suggest to go up and see the exquisite roof design in Dock 3. 

Immediately after the entrance, there is No1 Smithery, which partly is used to showcase the ship models and what importance they had in the shipbuilding. The other part of the building is given to changing exhibitions and this time it was a all about pirates. Luca loved going on the pirate ship and looking at pirate paraphernalia. 

We visited in July and to celebrate summer Historic Dockyard have put on  a sandy beach with deck chairs, seagulls and a beach shop. This is where you will find me with my cup of coffee, relaxing! 

I was also very impressed with facilities : the smarter restaurant Mess Deck at the reception area and a more casual cafe Wagon Stop with a soft play thrown in and stationary trains for your train enthusiasts. There was also a fantastic playground outside with a  scattering of picnic tables, if you want to bring your own supplies.

I also have to commend the staff as at every place we went, we were greeted by a friendly member of staff, who was genuinely happy to see us. We happily chatted about why dockyard has now closed with Malcolm at the Cavalier and were impressed by Debbie acting skills at the Ropery. 

If you are a fan of “Call the Midwife” series, then you are in luck, as this where the series were filmed and they do guided tours to show the locations. I could not resist taking a picture!

There is a lot to see at the Historic Dockyard Chatham, but even if you looked at everything, throughout the year they also do themed events like  Railway Weekends or Britain’s Vintage Festival “Salute to the 40s”! You just have to keep discovering.

Our visit was hosted by Historic Dockyard Chatham, but all opinions are my own.

Sofia with kids: Sofia Zoo

Sofia with kids: Sofia Zoo

I do not know who loves going to a zoo more: my kids or I. When I was preparing for our Bulgaria trip, I discovered that there was a zoo in Sofia,  so we decided to pay it a visit.  Getting there was quite easy, […]

Walking tour in Plovdiv with Audio Guide

Walking tour in Plovdiv with Audio Guide

Plovdiv has been selected European Capital of Culture in 2019 and once you visit it, it is easy to see why. I absolutely loved the place: there were not many tourists around and it is full of historical sites and ancient monuments, which are within […]

Amiens: Hortillonnages and Art Festival

Amiens: Hortillonnages and Art Festival

During our recent weekend in France, we used the opportunity to explore fishing villages of the Opal Coast and  culture in Amiens.

Have you ever been to Amiens? It is a delightful city right in the middle of Somme region in France, and it is an accessible 2 hours drive from the popular ports of Calais and Dunkirk.

When I started researching sights in Amiens, I discovered Hortillonnages, floating gardens, still used by small number of farmers to grow vegetables. While hortillonnages were more used in the past for their primary purpose, now they have been transformed as a peaceful location for boat rides, garden parties and Annual Festival “Art, Villes & Paysage”. This year it is running from 7 June to 20 October 2019.

We took a boat ride in May, while majority of the installations were still being constructed and our lovely guide Marine told us about the history of the Festival and its organisation. 

Now in its 9th year, the competition is open every year for artists to submit their ideas for a garden design and then a panel of judges will select winning designs. The artists then will be given a fantastic opportunity to have their garden built, so the future visitors can enjoy the space they created. 

There will be a totally White Garden with white furniture and white flowers, I imagine this would look very dreamy at the height of summer.

The next garden was the favourite of our guide Marine as it showed the different stages of farming and garden reflection on food. One part of the garden is showing impoverished soil, exhaused by the intensive farming. This stands in contrast to the wild blooms and lots of vegetation, allowing you appreciate both sides of the garden story.

Another very interesting find was  logs laid out in neat lines, where the artist was trying to bring order to the ladscape.

As all contemporary art, many gardens that we saw leave a lot to a viewer’s imagination, as art installations are weaved into the landscape and you can try and find your own meanings in different settings. 

 

You can also see a traditional garden where vegetables would be grown for sale, and we saw healthy crops of strawberries, rhubarb and cabbage. 

There are two ways to explore the festival: you can either walk to couple of islands, but if you want to see more you will need to hire a boat at Port à fumier, rue Roger Allou (opposite n°50) in Camon . Majority of islands are accessible and you can get off and on as many times as you like. 

What I liked most about this place is that although it is quite close to the city centre , once you are on the boat it feels like a whole world away from the buzz of the city. It is peaceful, you can hear the birds and appreciate nature and culture in a slow way. Sometimes in our busy city lives we forget to get the speed down and breathe in fresh air. 

Our visit was hosted by Art and Jardins, Hauts-de-France, but all opinions are my own. 

Sofia with Kids: Muzeiko

Sofia with Kids: Muzeiko

For Easter holiday break we choose Bulgaria and it did not dissapoint. I have done an itinerary which included a bit of nature, city life and relaxation. Sofia is a great starting point as it is very well connected and availability of public transport is […]

Saint Petersburg with kids: Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines

Saint Petersburg with kids: Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines

USSR is now left in memories, old maps and nostalgia style cafes one can find in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. If you want to experience what it was like to be a kid in USSR, then you should visit “15 Kopeek”, museum of Soviet arcade […]

Culinary Backstreets Istanbul Food Tour

Culinary Backstreets Istanbul Food Tour

Istanbul is many things: mosques, Islamic art, sprawling bazaars, East and West in the same city- you name it. For me, Istanbul was definitely about food. This was largely due to the food tour I went on with Culinary Backstreets, which showed me a different side to the city and Turkish people appreciation of good food and a good banter. I have gone on a few tours in different corners of the world, but so far Culinary Backstreets have exceeded my expectations in terms of the length of the tour, variety of food that I was able to try and the cultural insights into the life of Istanbul. 

My tour was called Born on the Bosphorus and this walk will show you a very different city, compared to often touristy Sultanahmet and Istiklal. As part of the tour, you will visit three distinct areas: Besiktas, Uskudar and Kuzgunchuk- I would describe them as contemporary, traditional and hipster- all within a space of a day. Believe me, the tour will equip you with so much knowledge, that you would feel confident to venture in these areas by yourself later, after the tour,  which is what I did on my remaining days in Istanbul.

I would not be able to describe  every single place we visited on the tour, as it was just so full on, but I will share my personal highlights: both in food bites and the places we visited.

If you want to go on the same tour, it is likely that the places you visit will be slightly different, as the tours are run by a number of guides and they have their own gems and places they take their groups to. Two tours are never the same when it comes to Culinary Backstreets. 

Last but not least is our guide Benoit, who was a fascinating character. Fluent in several languages, having lived in Istanbul for more than 20 years and still learning about it on a daily basis. He was tirelessly taking us from place to place, offering food and stories from his own travels and Istanbul encounters. 

So let’s start on my personal favourites from this tour.

Turkish breakfast

We went to a simple cafe, where we were served sausage, menemen (scrambled eggs), bread, cheese and kaymak with honey, followed by an obligatory tea in a tulip shaped glasses. There is a whole street in Besiktas, called Ihlamurdere Avenue, Çelebi Oglu Street,  full of cafes where they only serve breakfast, so I think no matter which one you go to, you are likely to get a great spread. The area is full of locals, so don’t be afraid that you will be given touristy fair.

The best items for me were kaymak with honey and eggs. I tried to recreate kaymak at home with honey and clotted Cornish cream, which worked pretty close to the original. 

Traditional bakery in Besiktas  “7-8 Hasanpasha Firini”

I loved the interior which have not been touched probably since it was first build and the ability to see bread and pastries being done exactly the same way as they were done 20 or 30 years ago. These places are being taken over more and more by hipster look a likes shopfronts, so it was even more precious to see it still going strong and rumming up business from locals.

Baklava and Borek

This is the best baklava shop in Istanbul, in my humble opinion.

I sampled a lot of baklava while in Istanbul, as you can get the real stuff there. But believe me, baklava from this shop is something else. It melts in your mouth and it is so light, I honestly had hard time believing that the dough is absolutely drenched in honey syrup and nuts. I came back here on my last day and bought a box to take home, it was irresistible.

They do borek pastry  stuffed with cheese, which was also very nice, but the baklava was heavenly.

Alawite Church

The church is located in Uskudar and its Dada (head priest) was very welcoming. He took us on a little tour  and found the time to talk about their religion and way of life.  I never heard of Alawaite before this tour, so it was definitely a learning experience for me. Interesting fact: the church has an in-house butcher, who will prepare donations from church patrons, and donations are usually in the form of the whole sheep.

Uskudar area and Freshest Fish

This area is traditional and different to the majority of Istanbul you will see as a tourist. My highlight was local market, full of fresh fish, dried fruits and nuts, pickles, household items and other useful goodies. We stopped at a fishmonger, which had a restaurant attached to it at the back.  You can select which fish you want and it will be simply grilled for you. The preparation is very simple and Beinot selected the fish which was good to eat in winter months. He also shared that summer was not really a season for fish in Istanbul.

Fish is normally served without a side dish, just with salad and some sliced onions. 

I shared my highlights with you, but there were also: traditional sweets, pickles, kebab, mussels stuffed with rice, honey, aubergine, halva, grilled intestines, mantu – there is no way you will be getting hungry on this tour.

When I am going to travel to another country where Culinary Backstreets run their tours, I will definitely be booking a food tour again, as sheer variety of all the fabulous food on this tour will stay with you.

Thank you Benoit and Culinary Backstreets – I will be back!

I paid a media rate for Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Istanbul, but all opinions are my own. 

Istanbul with Kids: Basilica Cistern

Istanbul with Kids: Basilica Cistern

Istanbul is full of sights and quite a few of them are located around Aya Sofia: Topkapi Palace, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern. You can comfortably just stay in the area for a couple of days exploring these treasures. […]