A weekend away – Odney, Cookham.

The Odney Club, a holiday centre owned by the John Lewis Partnership and available for their staff, is centred on Lullebrook Manor. This fine mid-18th century country house was once rented by Colonel Francis Ricardo, the first car owner in Cookham, who was High Sheriff of Berkshire in the early 1900s and supposedly the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s Toad, in the Wind in the Willows. A property on the site is known to have existed from as early as the 13th Century, when the house was owned by the De Lullebrook family.
(http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odney)

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The Most Wonderful Time of the year.

I love Christmas. For me, its all about the colours and lights on the Christmas tree, the hustle and bustle of people rushing about shopping (apart from when I’m the shop assistant!), children counting down the days until they can open their presents. And of course, the food and drink!

Putting the Christmas tree up is always fun. Although deciding what “theme” you’re going to have this year can cause a headache (well it does for me anyway). In previous years I have done multicoloured, purple and silver and disney. Although my favourite is the traditional red and gold. I don’t know why but there is something about those colours that looks beautiful against the green tree! Really inspires the festive spirit!

Markets and specially built Christmas attractions are always magical places to visit during December. I went to Winter Wonderkand in Hyde Park last week and it was amazing! So many food stalls, bars, fair ground rides and attractions. I had my first ever bratwurst there, plus delicious waffles smothered in chocolate and some very strong mulled wine with cherries. So yummy!

I’m very much looking forward to the new year! Not long until I go to Australia!

A Night of Fireworks

Remember, Remember,

The 5th of November,

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.

I do love a good fireworks display.

Well, apart from the first ever display I went to when I was little. My mum said I cried all the way through!

Since then, however, I have made sure I go to at least one display every year. More if I can.

I don’t know what it is about fireworks but I find them so…. magical… for lack of a better work. I love the loud bangs and the explosions of colour against the black nights sky. I know a lot of people who don’t like them and some who couldn’t really care less about them. Each to their own I suppose.

Here are some of my (very amateur) firework photographs.

Now, I have to point out, I only go to organised displays at parks etc. I’m not a fan of fireworks being let off in people’s garden. It’s just not my thing.

I am very lucky to live next door to Hatfield House which has a display every year, opened by Lord Salisbury and sponsored by Jack FM, the local radio station.

Each year they have a themed display where fireworks are let off to music. Previous themes have been James Bond songs, classical music and this years was 80’s hits. There is also a bonfire, carnival and lots of food stalls included in the grounds which makes it a good evening out.

I would love to attend a large display, like the ones they have in London on New Years Eve. But as yet I have not been able to. It’s on my to do list. Until then I will make do with the fantastic local shows!

Hatfield House itself is also amazing, although not much to see when it’s dark. I would definitely recommend a visit if you’re in the area. For a history of Hatfield House (and some pictures) click here.

A day at the zoo…

Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne

More photos on my Flickr account

History of Paradise Wildlife Park taken from Wikipedia

The park was previously known as Broxbourne Zoo, which opened in the early 1960s. The animal enclosures were very small and uncomfortable, which led to Broxbourne Zoo being described as the worst zoo in Britain.

However in 1984, the Sampson Family purchased the site after seeing how poorly the animals were kept with the intention of re-housing the animals into larger enclosures which mimicked their natural habitat, making them as comfortable as possible. The zoo was closed down for two years to undergo this transformation, and re-opened as ‘Paradise Park and Woodland Zoo’, which was then shortened to Paradise Wildlife Park (PWP).

Since the Sampson family took over the Zoo, the team at PWP have continually researched, expanded and improved upon the animals’ living conditions. Paradise Wildlife Park has developed a reputation through its conservation efforts, including The Wildlife Heritage Foundation (the sister site in Kent) which specialises in research and breeding ofendangered species.

Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival is on the August Bank Holiday every year. A few years ago I went with some friends and it was a really fun and slightly tipsy day!

After walking through the streets of Notting Hill we found ourselves a nice spot outside The Earl of Lonsdale pub just in time to see the first performers in the parade. And there we stayed, drinking, eating, laughing and talking to complete strangers like we had known them for years.

The carnival really is a vibrant mixture of cultures, music, dance and colourful costumes. My photo’s were taken in 2008/2009 (on a vey old style camera) so they don’t do the event justice at all but I recommend getting a group of friends together next August and experiencing it for yourself.

Just make sure you keep your wits about you as London is packed with people and every year there are reports of incidents happening around the carnival.

More photo’s on my Flickr account.

History of Notting Hill Carnival

http://www.nottinghillcarnival.eu/history

Notting Hill Carnival has taken place on the Sunday and Monday of the August bank holiday since 1965. It was originally led by members of the West Indian migrant community in London, in particular those from Trinidad and Tobago (Trinis). Its origins are split between two separate but linked routes.

The first Notting Hill Carnival took place in 1959 in St. Pancras Town Hall as a response to the situation of race relations in the country at the time. The Notting Hill Race Riots were an example of the tension, lasting for a week during August and September 1959. This first Carnival was organised by Claudia Jones (who is widely recognised as being the ‘Mother of Carnival’), a Trinidadian journalist and political activist, as a response to this. This first Carnival was considered a huge success, despite being held indoors. A few years later in 1966 the first outdoors event was organised, inspired by the London Free School and the hippie movement. The aim of this event was to promote cultural unity, and was spearheaded by Rhaune Laslett, a community activist. What started as a street party for local children turned into a carnival procession when Russell Henderson’s steel pan band went on a walkabout around local streets.

This was the first time that steelband music was played on any streets in England and it united the minority population, who felt alienated from community celebration. It laid the foundations for the Notting Hill Carnival procession that we see today, which starts at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance and winds its way through the streets of Notting Hill on floats decked out with steel pan bands, followed by costumed dancers.

By 1976 the Notting Hill Carnival had developed its distinctive Caribbean feel, and was attracting upwards of 150,000 people. There were, however, still tensions between the police and the predominantly young Caribbean Carnival-goers, which resulted in riots. This was portrayed in a very one-sided way in the press, leading to fears that the Carnival could be cancelled. Thankfully however this didn’t happen, and since then it has gone from strength to strength, blossoming into the celebration of cultural diversity that it is today.  In recent years it has attracted up to 50,000 performers, 38 sound systems and 2.5 million people over the weekend, making it the second largest street carnival in the world after Rio. In the years since its inception, Notting Hill Carnival has not forgotten its roots and has maintained its distinctive West Indian feel, helped in part by the establishment of over 40 static sound systems, playing everything from soca to dub, reggae, jazz, and calypso.  From humble beginnings, Carnival has grown and grown: it is truly a spectacle not to  be missed.

Thailand

My first trip abroad without any of my family was to Thailand. It was during 6th Form at school and we went with a company called World Challenge Expeditions.

It was amazing. A month travelling round Thailand, starting at Bangkok and then moving north to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Ayuthaya and Kanchanaburi before a few days of relaxing on the island of Ko Samet. Trekking through national parks, exploring caves, sliding down mud hills and living with the Akha tribe while we helped them clear their village of litter. I even got to see the waterfall where The Beach was filmed!

Travelling round the country by train, on the back of a truck or a tuktuk (an experience I will NEVER forget!!) was such an adventure. Made even better by the fact I was with a group of friends I had known for years. This experience really made me want to travel and see other countries and cultures.

Unfortunately I don’t have many photos I can upload as they were all taken on an old fashioned film camera and then developed. I will just have to go back there again and take more to share with you all 🙂

History of Thailand
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Thailand

Thai peoples who originally lived in southwestern China migrated into mainland Southeast Asia over a period of many centuries. The oldest known mention of their existence in the region by the exonym Siamese is in a 12th-century A.D. inscription at the Khmer temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which refers to syam, or “dark brown” people.[1] It was believed that Siam derived from the Sanskrit word syam, or brown race, with a contemptuous signification. Sien in Chinese writings is the name for the northern kingdom that centered around Sukhothai and Sawankalok; but to the Siamese themselves, the name of the country has always been Mueang Thai.[2]

The country’s designation as Siam by Westerners likely came from Portuguese, the first Europeans to give a coherent account of the country. Portuguese chronicles noted that the king of Sukhothai had sent an expedition to Malacca at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in 1455. Following their conquest of Malacca in 1511, the Portuguese sent a diplomatic mission to Ayutthaya. A century later, on 15 August 1612, The Globe, an East India Company merchantman bearing a letter from King James I, arrived in “the Road of Syam” .[3] “By the end of the 19th century, Siam had become so enshrined in geographical nomenclature that it was believed that by this name and no other would it continue to be known and styled.”[4]

Indianized kingdoms such as the Mon, Khmer and Malay kingdoms had ruled the region.Thai people established their own states starting with Sukhothai, Chiang Saen and Chiang Mai and Lanna Kingdom and then Ayutthaya kingdom. These states fought each other and were under constant threat from the Khmers, Burma and Vietnam. Much later, the European colonial powers threatened in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but Thailand survived as the only Southeast Asian state to avoid European colonial rule because the French and the English decided it would be a neutral territory to avoid conflicts between their colonies. After the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand endured sixty years of almost permanent military rule before the establishment of a democratic elected-government system.

St Malo

The company I work for is great at organising short trips both in England and abroad. One that I went on a couple of years ago was a 2 day trip to St Malo by ferry.

We arrived in Portsmouth by coach at around lunch time and boarded the ferry. We spent the rest of the day and evening looking round the boat’s shops abdhaving a drink in the bar with entertainment.

In the morning we had breakfast early and disembarked before any of the shop were actually open. Not that this bothered us much as it meant we could enjoy another cup of coffee and a croissant in a lovely french cafe.

We waited a bit longer for the rest of the town to wake up and then set about visiting the island’s cathedral, walking along the fort walls and browsing in the tourist aimed shops. (And a bit more eating of course. Freshly baked baguette with cheese and ham. Mmmm!)

It wasn’t until late in to the afternoon that we left the walled city and headed for home. Arriving back in Portsmouth the next day to a coach waiting for us.

It was only a short trip but well worth the slight nausea andsea sickness. St Malo has lots to offer from its interesting history to the stunning architecture and fort walls.

History of St Malo
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Malo

Saint-Malo (French pronunciation: ​[sɛ̃.ma.lo]; Gallo : Saent-Malô; Breton: Sant-Maloù) is a walled port city in Brittany in northwestern France on the English Channel. It is a sub-prefecture of the Ille-et-Vilaine.

Traditionally with an independent streak, Saint-Malo was in the past notorious for piracy. Today it is a major tourist destination, with many ancient, attractive buildings.

Saint-Malo during the Middle Ages was a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance River, controlling not only the estuary but the open sea beyond. The promontory fort of Aleth, south of the modern centre in what is now the Saint-Servan district, commanded approaches to the Rance even before the Romans, but modern Saint-Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded by Saint Aaron and Saint Brendan early in the 6th century. Its name is derived from a man said to have been a follower of Brendan, Saint Malo or Maclou.

St. Malo is the setting of Marie de France’s poem “Laustic”, an 11th-century love story. Saint-Malo had a tradition of asserting its autonomy in dealings with the French authorities and even with the local Breton authorities. From 1490–1493, Saint-Malo declared itself to be an independent republic, taking the motto “not French, not Breton, but Malouins”.[1]

Saint-Malo became notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and sometimes pirates. In the 19th century this “piratical” notoriety was portrayed in Jean Richepin’s play Le flibustier and in César Cui’s eponymous opera. The corsairs of Saint-Malo not only forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute, but also brought wealth from further afield. Jacques Cartier, who sailed the Saint Lawrence River and visited the sites of Quebec City and Montreal – and is thus credited as the discoverer of Canada, lived in and sailed from Saint-Malo, as did the first colonists to settle the Falklands – hence the islands’ French name Îles Malouines, which gave rise to the Spanish name Islas Malvinas.

In 1758 the Raid on St Malo saw a British expedition land intending to capture the town. However the British made no attempt on St Malo, and instead occupied the nearby town ofSt Servan where they destroyed 30 privateers before departing.

The commune of Saint-Servan was merged, together with Paramé, and became the commune of Saint-Malo in 1967.Saint Malo was the site of an Anglo-French summit in 1998 which led to a significant agreement regarding European defence policy.