Country Diaries

A Bite of the Big Apple

From little acorns, big trees grow. That’s exactly how I feel about our recent move. It was a mere seed of an idea just a year ago, but in the past ten months, we’ve relocated from Sydney to the English countryside.

Yesterday, we took an evening walk through a neighbouring village as church bells rang out across the green, rolling valley. Quintessentially English thatched cottages adorned with climbing red roses glowed in the golden evening light. This is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of our former city lives!

Like everything in life, there are ups and downs to life in the country. The scenery here is undisputedly gorgeous, with rolling green valleys and a patchwork of fields punctuated by charming chocolate-box villages.

I’ve been charmed to discover the people here are friendlier, too, or at least less guarded. The cheery chorus of morning “hellos” assaulting me as I leave the house still takes me by surprise occasionally.

City vs. Country Living

Of course, nothing in life is perfect. There’s been the odd hitch or two as we’ve transitioned from city to country living.

I quickly learnt the perils of low ceilings. Seventeenth-century cottages may indeed be charming, yet every time I strap on a pair of high heels I misjudge the ceiling height, bruising my forehead.

Another particular country bugbear of mine is phone signal — or the complete lack of it.

There are loads of things about city living I miss, including sushi, small bars, delicious Vietnamese pho, and nipping to the shops for just about anything my little heart desires.

So I’ve diagnosed myself as needing a city trip to get my fix. And if a girl’s craving a city bursting with great shops, pulsing energy, and lots of bright lights, there’s only one place to go: New York.

Sadly, we’ve maxed out our travelling credits for 2017, as that’s what a trip around the world will do. So, I’m planning a trip to New York for next summer.

New York, New York

I’ve been trawling glittering NYC websites bursting with trendy eateries, hipster bars, historic brownstones, and shops until I feel quite faint with desire.

New York, the City That Never Sleeps, is jam-packed with towering skyscrapers, Fifth Avenue shops, no-frills Reuben sandwiches at Katz’s Deli, bagels, giant pizza slices, and the best darn cheesecake on earth.

On my hit list is morning coffee in Central Park, as I’ve missed proper, barista-made coffee. For the rest of the trip, I plan on eating and shopping on an alternating basis.

Call me shallow, but can you imagine the sheer, unadulterated pleasure? From sample sales to vintage clothing stores and bazaars to the glittering glory of Tiffany’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, I’m coming to get you all!

Cosmopolitans in the City

When I’ve bought myself at least one lovely outfit, a hang-the-expense, big blowout night out is in order. What could be more razzmatazz than frocking up in New York for a night on the tiles?

The plan is a lively cocktail bar for Sex in the City-style cosmopolitans, a show in neon-lit Times Square, and then perhaps a little dancing at a funky basement jazz club. And some more cocktails!

 

We haven’t decided on a hotel yet, as I’m having far too much fun perusing them all. With a seriously deluxe experience that’s synonymous with Fifth Avenue decadence and a hefty budget, there’s The Plaza. This hotel is divine, although I think our visit might be limited to high tea served in the hotel’s swanky Palm Court.

Brooklyn, Baby

A great option for a happening New York hotel is the slightly more affordable yet buzzing district of Brooklyn. This borough is often regarded as New York’s hippest, famed for its vintage flea market, stunning Botanic Garden, delicious dining options from Polish pierogies to delicious Jewish delis, and the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn is five times the size of Manhattan and often referred to as Manhattan’s boutique version. There are some amazing Brooklyn hotels, catering to all tastes and budgets. And of course, saving a few dollars on our accommodations means extra dollars to spend in the shops!

Anyone else planning a trip to the Big Apple? I’d love to hear what’s on your hit list! Let me know in the comments.

 

Welcome to Rutland – ‘Much in Little’

We’re driving along a country road minding our own business, when a vision of hooves and red coats appears.  Horses and howling hunting dogs clatter past, the final rider – sporting a natty, black top hat – gives us a jolly wave.

It’s our fourth week here in rural England and I continue to be charmed by the quaint – and often eccentric – local ways.

After six months travelling the world, our new English country chapter has begun and we’re exploring counties and cottages for the perfect place to live.

One village in particular has stolen our hearts. We stumbled upon it on our second day and have since returned a dozen times to check it’s still as magical. It never lets us down.

Lyddington is a teeny tiny village, a hamlet actually, nestled in the heart of England’s smallest historic county – Rutland.

The Latin motto ‘multum in parvo’ was adopted by the local council for the area meaning ‘much in little’.

Now, I really love how this echoes the huge lifestyle change we are making. We’ve left our Sydney home, corporate jobs and city living for the rustic beauty of the English countryside and a slower, simpler pace of life.  Much in little, no?

We are also wildly in love with our small, but huge-hearted pug, Winston. This little pup has brought boundless joy into our lives over the last five years. I can’t help but feel this lovely county motto also extends to him.

Country walks and lovely spring sunshine 🌿

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And lets have a quick moment for all the other simple pleasures in life that bring so much pleasure – newly baked bread, a glass of great wine or freshly cut flowers. Little things can totally be the best, right?

So, embracing the ‘much in little’ philosophy – I’m in love with Lyddington. This secluded village of ironstone cottages sits amidst green slopes of the Welland Valley.

The landscape is gently rolling – green patchwork hills, winding country roads and chocolate box cottages, a short hop to Rutland Water.

Counting 🐑🐑🐑. Brisk winter walks in the English countryside. 🌿

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Lyddington is linear by design –  a row of golden stone houses, each more gorgeous than the last, displaying themselves proudly over the course of a mile punctuated by Bede House, two lovely pubs and a fine-looking church.

Lovely Lyddington, light of my life. This village is The One, I just know it.

We’ve loitered in the local pub so many times over the past few weeks, the landlord asked if we recently moved to the village. I wished the answer could have been ‘yes’ as opposed to, ‘no, we’re just stalking’.

While we wait for our perfect ‘forever home’ to present, we’re moving to the lovely market town of Uppingham two miles down the road.

I’m looking forward to discovering, and blogging about, the many great things Rutland has to offer. In the meantime, spring is slowly but surely cranking into action. We’ve enjoyed pleasant evening walks to the pub for a glass of Pimms and the fleeting pleasure of english bluebells.

I didn’t think I’d be quoting Latin so early into our english adventure but here we are – multum in parvo, people as the Rutlanders say!

Campsite calamities in New Zealand

“Welcome to Noo Ziland,” the lovely Maori airport official welcomed us as we stepped off the plane into Kiwi Country. I was charmed.

Our time in New Zealand marked the nearing end of our world travels – three weeks in a camper van exploring the north and south islands. I am hopping with excitement to finally witness New Zealand’s beauty.

The idea of camping, however, has never fired me with much enthusiasm. On this trip, we discover I am a truly lousy camper.

Our first night on a campsite, I unplug the power of our neighbour’s camper van, plunging the family inside into darkness. Night two is, regrettably, even more shameful.

Returning to our van from the showers, I pull open the door and start to clamber into the wrong van. Of course, the owners are lying on the bed at eye level as I wrenched open the door. I mumble my apologies and hastily back away. Oops.

Hitting the open road 

I may be a crappy camper but I adore New Zealand and our time in the van. We can go where we want, when we want, for as long as we want – it’s heaven.

The nicest thing is spotting a beautiful lake or beach, pulling up and grabbing a spot of lunch al fresco, surrounded by the beauty of nature.

New Zealand’s north island is a delight of green, rolling countryside and wildflower-filled meadows. Tiny birds dart in and out of hedgerows like something from a Disney movie.

No two days are the same from the rugged beauty of Bay of Islands, mesmerising iridescent glowworm canopies in Waitomo and thermal springs in Rotorua.

“This is nothing. Just wait until you see the south island,” folks keep telling me. Turns out, they’re right. The north island is gorgeous, but wowzers, the south island is mind-blowing!

South island’s stunning scenery

Have you seen the show ‘West World’? The premise is an entire world, created solely as a playground for humans. This is how New Zealand’s south island makes me feel.

Each landscape is as impressive, and unbelievable, as a movie set. Every twist and turn of the road presents a new landscape – each more stunning and dramatic than the last.

From red rocky outcrops and volcanic terrain, to snow-capped mountains, glacier country and crystal clear turquoise lakes. Sometimes we turn a corner and I laugh out loud the view is so insane.

 Starry skies at Lake Tekapo

One of the trickiest things about sleeping in a van are bathroom visits in the middle of the night, necessitating a dark schlep across the campsite to the toilet block.

The first time I staggered out the van at 2am cursing my tiny bladder, I looked up to see thousands of stars twinkling brightly in the clear night’s sky. It took my breath away.

Between the lack of pollution and some scientific stuff I don’t understand, stargazing on south island is mind-blowing. I got a sore neck on those midnight bathroom-visits from peering upwards – just heavenly.

Stars over New Zealand’s Lake Tekapo

Our last night we stop at Tekapo Lake, dubbed New Zealand’s ‘bluest’. This is big talk as we have seen some pretty amazing water in a million shades of blue so far. And not just lakes – seas, waterfalls and rivers too.

Tekapo Lake lives up to the hype as a show-stopper. During the day, the glacier-fed lake is pure turquoise, slowly turning to rose gold at dusk as it reflects the changing colour of the surrounding mountains.

The next morning, it has morphed into a shimmery silver and for about the millionth time on this trip, I marvel at the beauty of nature.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

New Zealand is easily the most jaw-droppingly beautiful place I’ve ever visited. Real, unadulterated bucket-list beauty. If you can, please go.

Next blog post, we’re back to Blighty where it’s time for us to start cracking on with our ‘new’ reality. Hopefully the sun will be shining as our arrival coincides with British spring (…or perhaps this is wishful thinking!)

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