Category: places we go

The Outer Banks, North Carolina

It all started with the film ‘Nights in Rodanthe’. I fell in love with the landscape. The wide open beaches, the wild seas and the isolation. I was so taken with the feelings the film so brilliantly conjured that I looked it up.

I discovered that Rodanthe was situated on a stretch of land 200 miles long off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia known as the Outer Banks.

Like most everywhere in the world when you look at a place you find a myriad of reasons to visit and these islands were no different. What caught my eye was the fact that this was where the Wright brothers made that historic flight and that the part of the islands are home to a pack of wild-roaming horses allegedly descendant from Spanish Mustangs.

I told Gav all about this place and he was up for a trip there as soon as I said Wright brothers!

We didn’t have long in the beautiful place but it was worth the long drive to get a taste. And we drove past cotton fields (above) as we made our way out the bridge from mainland North Carolina across to Nags Head where we were staying. I had never seen cotton growing before.

As you can see our hotel was right on the beach!

It was amazing to be so close to the sea. After a walk on the beach and a trip out to get dinner we planned out the following day as we had lots to pack in!

We began at the Wright Brothers National Monument and Museum.

Where we saw markers showing the length of the first flights.

And the impressive monument commemorating their achievement.

And after a quick look round we headed north for a 50 minute drive to take a tour in a Humvee and to look for the wild horses!

Before I go on to wax lyrical about this experience I want to say that usually I would steer clear of any commercial venture that looks to exploit wildlife. In an attempt to try and mitigate our presence I picked what I hoped was a decent tour company that are investing in the land the horses live on and take seriously their survival. The horses that live on the land we visited are ‘managed’ by the National Park Service to ensure they are healthy and to ‘control’ over breading….. Hmm! It is a complex subject. Pop over to Wikipedia if you want any more info.

For all that I worried if we were doing the right thing taking this tour I have to admit that it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. And we didn’t even see many horses because it was the end of the summer and they were headed back toward the swamp land to hunker down for the winter. I think it was the windy weather, the fast driving and that we were in the middle of nowhere that added to this adventure not just seeing the beautiful animals.

To get from the tour company office in Corolla to the land they live on, the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, on took about a 40 minute drive north. Most of the drive was on the beach. It was a wild and windy adventure before we even spotted a horse.

And yes there are houses out there too. A small community of people live out in this isolated land.

And yes the only access in the beach ‘road’.

But the horses don’t care about the people……. Or their lawns!

And all too soon our adventure was over and we headed back.

Had to include this photo.

That is some sea view they have….

And here we are in the back of the Humvee. I am so glad I had a hoodie on. I was on the outside of the vehicle and got blown to bits. I didn’t care a jot that I looked ridiculous.

Back to our hire car on off we drove fill with joy at our adventure. It was going to be difficult to top that experience but we almost did it when we found Duck Donuts!

And how amazing is this chair.

Gav got up early the next day and went out running and I managed to catch the sunrise.

I also spotted a couple out for a sunrise walk and what I think were Pelicans flying at the edge of the waves. You can just make them out above the foaming water.

A last look out to sea and then we were off again.

I managed to snap a few more photos of the pretty houses.

When we reached the bridge to the mainland we had to wait for some boats to pass.

Overall this two day whistle stop trip was amazing. I would go back in a heartbeat. The caveat to that is that I would only go back at the start or end of the summer. For all its beauty and wildness these islands are set up for tourists and I would not like to see those beaches filled with folk. Even though yes I am a tourist!

I would love to go back and explore the south and to see Rodanthe which we didn’t have time to see! I would also like time simple take it in. How incredible that this stretch of land survives. Throughout all the hurricanes and stormy weather exposed and vulnerable it hangs on. Not a testament to humanity and our need to control but to this precious earth we live on and its tenacity to endure.

The Click Tick List – Visit 30 of the 50 States – Update

Our trip to Disney World last October also included a drive up the east coast which meant that I got to cross two more states off! I’ve included a photo of Georgia here but I have already crossed that one off. Didn’t get a photo though so I thought I’d pop it here!

It’s trickier than you’d think snapping that photo….. For example I managed to get South Carolina but missed North Carolina!

Anyway those two are added to my total which now stands at 21. Only 9 left to achieve my target of 30! Woo.

Disney World Thoughts – The Food We Ate

Oh hello strawberry shortcake! Yum. The photo above is from one of our very favourite places to eat in Disney World. The Garden Grill, Epcot.

I thought I’d pop in with a few food thoughts from our recent trip. I wrote a huge post back in 2017 about this and all of this still stands true although I am no expert on this subject. While I was planning this years trip I discovered a couple of great You Tube channels (All Ears and The Disney Food Blog) and they both have an amazing amount of information about all things Disney including lots of food related details. I picked up several tips from them.

This time around we again had upgraded our ‘free’ dining plan to the one where you get one quick serve, one table serve and two snacks each day. I also made our table service reservations 180 days in advance. Yep 180 days before you go, if you are staying on Disney property, you can book your table service meals. I said it back in 2017 and it’s worth repeating, having a framework of meals to work your days around is a great way to plan these trips. Knowing you have food all sorted helps smooth any other wrinkles that are bound to pop up with this type of holiday.

Not the best photo but I don’t care about that. All I’m thinking about is how delicious that ‘bread pudding’ was. And of course Mickey waffles have to be on chosen too.

We ate at four character breakfast buffets. Breakfast buffets are the star in the dining plan crown. You meet characters and have a huge array of great food to choose from. And the value for money is good. I just happened to notice the cost of Chef Mickeys.for breakfast…. $50! For breakfast! They are not all as expensive as this one and you meet the big five guys/gal here so I get why it’s expensive but $50….. It isn’t the best food but a great way to eat and meet but only if you are on the dining plan or rich!

As well as Chef Mickeys we also did Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club Resort (Minnie, Pluto Donald and Daisy), 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian (Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Mary Poppins, Alice and the Mad Hatter) and The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom (Winnie, Tigger, Piglet and Eyeore).

At Cape May it was upscale food. Very well presented food in a lovely setting. They had a cooked to order omelette station and build your own breakfast burrito as well as all the other delicious breakfast goodness.

1900 Park Fare had the signature strawberry soup which was like a strawberry smoothie but more liquid. It was delish but oh so sweet. They also had a made to order omelette station. Definitely Gav’s favourite thing.

The Crystal Palace had a good range too and an ice cream self serve station. Oh yes I ate chocolate soft serve for breakfast.

Gav was interested to find as many non alcoholic speciality beverages as possible and had done his own research online before we arrived. The first we found was Le Frou’s Brew at Gastons Tavern in Magic Kingdom.

It’s frozen apple juice with a foam ‘head’ of passion fruit and mango. Oh my gosh. It was sooooo sweet. Way too sweet for us. And that’s saying something.

We also found the strawberry dole whip float (there was a photo of that a week or two back in a photo a day post) and our very, very favourite was the frozen mint julep lemonade from Casey’s corner. No photos of that one but truly it was very good and we are trying to recreate it here at home.

Above is the Cheshire cat tail from the Cheshire Cafe in Magic Kingdom. Basically a chocolate french pastry like a croissant but with that colourful icing to resemble the Cheshire Cat! It was very good and a great use of a snack credit.

Something we did not plan to do at all was eat at the International Food and Wine Festival. This goes on in Epcot from September to late November. After wandering around Epcot one afternoon and seeing all the amazing food choices we decided to alter our plans and make eating ‘around the world’ one of our evening meals. We used a combination of snack and quick serve credits (you need to check that they are willing to do this) to sample around ten different cuisines. Such an unexpected treat.

Here is a warm Irish stout dip with brown bread from Ireland.

A trio of dips with naan bread and a mango lassi from India.

A black pepper boursin souffle from the Cheese Studio. This was really delish!

A trio of artisan cheese and butternut squash ravioli from the Wine and Dine Studio.

And perhaps out favourite was from Earth Eats.

The Impossible Burger and Impossible Cottage pie. Really tasty and all plant based!

I would definitely include this festival in any plans. It was such good food, beautifully laid out with large planters full of vegetables, herbs and flowers. My only grumble would be all the disposable single use plates etc. Many were recyclable and they had separate places to dispose of them but most folks were dumping all their used plates in the same bins.

On to another delicious burger at De Luxe Burger in Disney Springs. This was a fav last time we came and is still one of our top choices. We even used the mobile ordering on the Disney App! I impressed myself with that one.

I went all gourmet and had cornflake encrusted French toast at the Wolfgang Pucks quick serve venue, also in Disney Springs.

And of course we had to try the Mickey shaped Biegnets from our neighbour hotel Port Orleans, French Quarter. These were A-MAZ-ING!

And finally because this post is going on and on! We shared a classic dole whip on our last morning. So. so good.

All in all the food in Disney is good. There is a vast range of choices to suit all tastes and you can find healthier food too. We just didn’t. Ha, ha, ha!

Been Adventuring

The weeks slipped away and all of a sudden we’re back from our holidays and I didn’t write a single blog post! It was a full on fun packed couple of weeks in Disney World and a quick road trip to South and North Carolina. I’ll be back soon with stories of crossing things off the click tick list and our adventures!

A Camping Trip

My brother in law was running in Snowdonia National Park the other weekend so a few family members got together there for some camping. It’s been about three years since Gav and I pitched the tent! Time flies…..

We stayed near Bala and visited the freshwater lake, supposedly the oldest in the world! And saw a steam train.

And went for a slow walk down a country lane my the niece and her niece. (Aka my great niece. Blows my mind saying that every time!)

She’s a cheeky one.

Some rain and some sun. And some lovely light.

Found the most amazing ice cream parlour. It’s worth the 3 hour drive to have another one.

And after all that we were mighty tired….

The Click Tick List – Photograph Duddo Five Stones

I love it when something on my list gets done so easily! When I updated my list last year I added a visit to this stone circle into the mix because I adore an ancient monument and it’s in Northumberland where we visit often, so I figured it would be easy to do. And it was!

We spent my birthday in a lovely country hotel near Alnwick and took a drive to find this 4,000 year old ring of stones.

And although it was very windy the sky was a bright and a beautiful blue with lots of sunshine making the taking of photos a dream.

The position of this circle is up on a high ground so it gives you a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape. To the south are the Cheviot Hills.

The stones are sandstone which has become eroded by the weather over the years leaving the deep cut channels.

There were originally seven stones and you can see the gap to the west of the circle where the two missing stones would have stood.

Oh yes a little dog in the photo too. Gav was hiding behind that large stone because I asked him to get out of my shot but the pooch crept back in….

And of course it wouldn’t be right to leave this place without a self timed photo.

It was only a quick visit but this reminded me of how much I love to do this kind of thing. As long as the walk from the car isn’t too long. We used to trek about all over looking at monuments. Really glad I added this to my list and now crossed it off!

Click Tick List – Photograph 100 Gardens – Orto botanico di Pisa

When we went to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower we also wandered through town and popped into this University Garden. Said to be the first botanical garden attached to a ‘University’ and formed in 1544 although not on this current site.

It was worth visiting but did seem a little run down. The specimen beds seen in the photo below didn’t have many specimens in them and there were overgrown neglected paths and areas.

But like I say worth the visit anyway.

And we came across this very interesting screen…..

Looked like it was protecting this pine tree from the sun!

And there was a small area with annuals and a sweet wildlife ‘hotel’.

Loved that brick gateway.

Not the best we have seen but another added to my total!

Click Tick List – Photograph 100 Gardens – Villa Reale di Marlia

Sharing another wonderful visit to a Tuscan garden today. Full of character, follies, pools and even a disused swimming pool, the gardens of Villa Reale were a treat. And the amazing thing was we only saw four other visitors while we were there.

Even the walk from car to garden was even lined with cyclamen.

Perfect vista looking towards the main villa.

The garden itself was sprawling and beautiful with different areas such as the potted citrus garden below.

The light of course was amazing with that blue sky contrasting the greens and architecture so well.

A pretty knot garden tucked away at the side of one of the many buildings on the estate.

Sculpture and urns, topiary and fountains it was all packed in.

Along with the largest Hibiscus I’ve ever seen!

Truly lovely afternoon spent meandering and of course another added towards my 100!

Click Tick List – Photograph 100 Gardens – Boboli Gardens

Florence. A truly beautiful city packed with culture (and people!) and a garden from the book. So we had to pop along and visit it right?

The gardens stand behind the Palazzo Pitti and have a long history. They are also vast so we took a photo of the map to help us with our orientation.

Home to amazing sculptures, some were part of a modern exhibition, beautiful buildings and incredible architecture.

And the views out onto the landscape were just as pretty as everything inside.

Oh and we became statues ourselves for a moment……. We are the two on the left!

This last area of the garden was our favourite as it was more in keeping with a herbaceous border. Filled with Dahlias and other perennials.  Gav caught me taking this photo with my phone. I let him wield the big camera that day.

A lovely few hours spent in a very lovely Italian garden.

The Click Tick List – Sail on the Grand Canal

This is one of those things that I added to my list because it felt easy-ish to accomplish, after all Italy isn’t too far from me yet it also felt like something that I’d never do. Perhaps this was because I couldn’t see us parting with the money to hire a gondola!

Enter then the Vaporetto. A water bus.

When we were planning our summer trip to Tuscany I added a day trip to Venice into the mix. It is not close but it was closer than Leeds so I thought we could make the train journey and I could cross something off my list.

The ride on the Vaporetto was the main event. And Gav did an amazing job of planning where we should get on and off the bus and then how to spend the rest of the afternoon. It worked out great.

We visited Venice on another day trip about 20 years ago and I admit that I didn’t like it all that much. Yes, it was beautiful and quirky but oh so crowded. Still I wanted to go back and take that boat trip and I am so glad I did because I fell in love with the quieter streets and the bridges, oh the bridges!

But this story is not about the bridges. This story is about the canal and all its beautiful buildings lining the waters edge. We hopped on board at the train station.

Loved that traffic light in the picture below!

Seeing the city from the water was perfect and I guess this is how it should be viewed.

Managed to snap a reflection of us while we were docked.

After thirty minutes or so we came to the San Marco basin where the canal opens up into a bigger area of water and where we disembarked.

The building in the below photo is the Doge’s Palace with the domes of San Marco’s Basilica in the background.

And to finish us off one of the perfect little bridges. Oh yes, the large white bridge at the top of this post is the Rialto Bridge a spectacular and grand example which has shops actually on it!

So there we go a memorable trip on a water bus that can be crossed of the list!