The Kelpies at night

I just got back from Scotland, if you follow me on Instagram you might have seen the pictures. My husband and I liked Scotland a lot and we’ve managed to see quite a few places in a few days. We’ve been to Glasgow and, of course, Gretna Green. Because we didn’t have a lot of time, we’ve decided to go to see the Kelpies at night. It was a light rain when we got there, it was late, windy and it’s October, we were both thinking we’ll be the only ones. Of course we were wrong, there were quite a few people there. I think it’s wonderful.

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Scottish Canals chose the name Kelpies for the sculpture displayed in Falkirk and it can’t be more appropriate. Kelpies are shape-shifting water spirits and they can be seen as horses. These mythological creatures have the strength of 100 horses. As heavy horses were used for pulling wagons, barges and coalships, an equine monument was the obvious choice.
The Kelpies sculpture was designed by Andy Scott, a very talented artist. The sculpture is now the best-known public artwork in Scotland and it was admired by almost two million visitors since their inauguration, only a couple of years ago. It’s the biggest equine sculpture in the world.

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They look different, the artist managed to capture their personality.

The construction of The Kelpies was fast, it took only 90 days, in 2013. The Kelpies weigh 300 tonnes each, they are 30m in height and they were made from 928 unique stainless steel skin-plates. A time-lapse film with the construction was made and it can be seen on their website. At the inauguration ceremony the two heavy horses that were the life models made an appearance too. In April 2014 the Kelpies were open to the public. The Canal was extended and a turning pool was added near the Kelpies Hub. The following year a visitor centre was constructed. Guided tours can be booked during the day and it’s only £7. I would love to visit the Kelpies again during day time and go on a tour.

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My husband took this picture to show how tall they are.

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The sculptures are displayed in The Helix, a 350 hectares ecopark part of the Falkirk Greenscape Initiative. In 2005 the Big Lottery launched the Living Landmarks fund to help communities with their local environment. Falkirk Council, Central Scotland Forest Trust and Scottish Canals made a plan for a greenspace that would connect 16 local communities. The Helix idea was submitted in 2006 and the Big Lottery fund awarded an impressive £25 million grant an year later.

The next two years the design and the business plan were made, a requirement for the project. In 2011 the work began and in a few months part of the park was opened. Construction continued and in 2013 Helix Park was opened. I think the park must be popular with locals and tourists.

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Beside the Kelpies, the Helix has a lagoon, a play area, a Café, extensive pathways and 14km of them are lit with LED lights. Nordic walk and community projects are a big part of the Helix too. There are plenty of volunteering opportunities and a 16 miles cycle route.

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Have you seen the Kelpies?

Richmondshire museum

I mentioned we visited Richmondshire museum when we’ve been to Richmond castle in North Yorkshire. The museum is close to the castle and it has pretty interesting exhibits on display.

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The museum starts with the Cruck House, a house that was moved from 5 miles away, stone-by-stone. The house has its name after the method in which the house was made. A cruck beam is obtained by splitting a curved tree trunk in half and the symmetrical crucks are joined to form a framework of both the walls and roof of a building. An Elizabethan coin was found in the fireplace and it is believed it was placed there for good luck.

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This is a Roman dice, approximately 1,700 years old. It looks so well made, it still has the pattern on top. There are a few local Roman artefacts on display.

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What we did on Halloween

Before moving to UK, my husband and I didn’t celebrate Halloween. I had no intentions of celebrating until I saw so many things in the shop, decorations and costumes and so on. It was exciting, so I said we should do something. I’m getting more and more excited about Halloween, as I love having kids over for treats, they look so cute in their outfits and they are so well behaved. I also love cooking strange things like jelly-brains and graveyard cakes. Also, who doesn’t love having skeletons laying around in the house?

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In the first year we went to the Halloween Lantern Carnival in Sefton Park, it was fun. I’ve made a graveyard cake with toffee, loads of toffee. It was a version of a sticky toffee pudding. I didn’t buy treats because I had no idea children will come trick&treating. It was embarrassing, but I learned and in 2013 I had lots of treats for them.

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Jewellery Quarter Museum

Last week my husband and I went to Jewellery Quarter Museum in Birmingham. We’ve been to the Jewellery Quarter before, but didn’t visit the museum until now. For anybody with a love for jewellery and history, this is the perfect place. The workshop looks exactly like it was in 1981, when everybody left and locked the door behind them.

The museum has an exhibition on two floors that can be seen in less than 30 minutes. The most interesting thing is the guided tour, that lasts 1 hour and is included in the entrance fee. It’s worth waiting for the tour, as it took us in the workshop and that is not open to the public as there are lots of things that can be dangerous. The guide told us many funny stories and a detailed presentation of the family that worked there, their employees and the life in the Jewellery Quarter.

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There are a few jewellery pieces on display and they look so pretty.

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This is a Vinaigrette box from 1837, designed by Nathaniel Mills. The Vinaigrette boxes had a sponge in them, underneath a grill. The sponge would have been soaked in nice smelling oils and were used by men and women whilst travelling because the streets smell bad.

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Richmond castle

This weekend my husband and I went to Richmond, North Yorkshire, and we’ve visited Richmond castle and another small museum that I’m going to blog about in the following days.

The castle was built shortly by Alan Rufus, Count of Brittany, after the Battle of Hastings, in 1070, as a reward of fighting along William the Conqueror. The castle remained in the family for 100 years, when a daughter inherits the title and the castle. The castle was controlled by the Crown even after she married. Her son will inherit the castle. During the war with France in the 13th century, the castle was seized by the Crown a few times. The castle will pass back to the Dukes of Brittany at the end of the 13th century. In 1381 the Earl will forfeit his earldom by declaring his allegiance to the King of France. After a few years, Richmond is granted to the Earl of Westmorland.
After 100 years, in 1485, the Earl of Richmond will become King Henry VII. Henry VIII’s illegitimate son is made first Duke of Richmond, only to recover it after a few years. From that point, the castle was held by the Crown. At that time the castle is a ruin. In 1641, Charles I will grant the castle to James Stuart. It’s possible that in this castle Charles I was held prisoner on his way to London in 1646. In the 18th century, the castle becomes a tourist attraction. In the 19th century the castle is the headquarter of the North Yorkshire Militia and a barrack, cell block and reserve armory are built. During the WWI the Non-Combatant Corps are based here and there is a prison for absolutist conscientious objectors. During the WWII military prisoners are kept at the castle.

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The Keep was built in the 12th century. In the first-floor room it was a high chamber. Its purpose was to be a great hall, for entertaining.

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The key of the castle.

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Kew Gardens in Autumn

The post about Kew Gardens is the last one from our trip to London this month. We have another trip to London planned for next month, so plenty of London related posts will follow. Maybe even faster if I’ll have a couple of hours more to spear on Monday, when I’m going to London with work.

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Kew Palace looks lovely, although it’s a little smaller than I though. The palace is not open to the public in Winter.

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One of the loveliest attraction in Kew Gardens is Palm House. It’s very hot and humid in the greenhouse and there are so many wonderful plants to see, like mango, papaya, starfruit, different types of banana palms. There is a high walkway and seeing the plants from above is beautiful, it offers a different perspective.

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Things I learned about caravanning

We bought an old caravan 6 months ago and it is fab. We’ve been caravanning monthly and we’ve been from big cities like London to small and remote villages near Hadrian’s Wall and in Cumbria. So, I want to share with my readers 10 Things I learned about caravanning.

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1. Peace and quiet. While caravanning it’s possible to have this view and be only 30 minutes away from central London, with parking included, and a couple of minutes away from a huge park. I think this is amazing.

2. My husband and I feel we must change the water pipes on each new addition. One of the first things we did after we bought the house was to change the good water pipes with new ones. We did that again, in the caravan. We changed the whole system (including tap and pump). We would probably do the same if we’re getting another caravan.

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3. You can cook what you want. Both these cakes were baked from scratch, in the caravan, by estimating the measurements. Now I will weigh the ingredients from home and put them into Tupperware, just the right amount for a cake this size. Or I can buy plastic measuring cups.
I read a couple of articles where the author mentioned is not possible to cook what you want and I can’t disagree more. The worktop is not huge, there are only 2 plates on the hob and the oven is small, but it can be done. The fridge is also small, but that is not an issue for me as I usually cook only 2 servings anyway. See the recipes I shared after our 1st holiday with the caravan.
There are plenty of ready chopped veggies, fresh, frozen or canned. I use quite a lot of canned food while we are away, the pulses are ready baked and I just have to add a little bit of herbs and spices. I cooked saag aloo last time we’ve been caravanning and it took 10 minutes.
There are small plastic jars that can be used for storing&transporting spices and sauces, mustard, pickles and so on. I’m considering getting a small hand mixer and that will open an array of possibilities. I love cooking and I don’t see any reason not to cook when I want to.

4. Everything that is designed for the caravan and camping is expensive. A couple of plastic wine glasses will be £10. We need Champagne glasses too, because we can’t drink any kind of bubbly from a wine glass, obviously. As real glass can get shattered into million pieces, so they have to be plastic and as authentic as possible because I don’t like disposable ones. They are visible in the picture below, I’m really happy with them and they will last forever.
The same with the foldable buckets, sieves etc. The price for them in a camping shop is double what you’d pay in a standard shop. Also, some can be found in discount shops and there the items are really cheap, I take advantage of those to save some pennies. I’ve read that “Caravanning is not a cheap holiday, but an expensive hobby” and I agree.

5. Tupperware is your friend. The more, the better. I have everything in Tupperware and it’s so convenient to bring the leftovers home or to stock the cupboards a couple of days before going on holiday. I have coffee, tea, loose tea, flour, rice, pasta, peanuts, oats and the list can go on and on. It’s very easy to store it.

6. People will ask silly questions. When I mentioned we are camping for 10 days I was asked if there is a toilet block. I found this funny, as the toilet blocks are well equipped, the big campsites have 2-3 toilet blocks, hair dryers, washing machine and so on. In smaller sites the facilities are basic, without hair dryers and washer-driers, but still good and clean.

7. You can dress up and put on make-up. Living in a caravan for a few days doesn’t mean make-up is out of the question. We have decided to transform the caravan bathroom into a wardrobe. We took out the fittings and installed a canvas wardrobe. It was easy to set up and the cost was very low, less than £30 for a relatively big storage space. We still use the built-in wardrobe, but I needed more space. The 2nd wardrobe is longer than 1m and it has also an additional shelf. I can fit in my caravan more than in a standard hotel room, that is for sure.
With the help of the mirror my husband installed on one of the doors, I can do my make up easily in the caravan. Again, I’ve read that is not possible to do that. I think that if it’s something you want to do, it can be done.
I have samples that I can take with me and also small travel bottles for the products I use usually. I have shower gel and scrub, shampoo, conditioner, heat-protective hair spray, hand cream, face cream, lip balm, makeup remover, cotton buds, nail polish, nail polish remover, all the makeup I need for that time. All fits in one of the cupboards, it’s not even a hassle, I just put them there a couple of days before we’re leaving and that is it.
Caravaning doesn’t mean messy buns and jeans if you don’t want to. For me, it’s a mixture, depending on where I’m going or what I’m doing.

8. Don’t try to remember if you took the toothbrush. I tried for the first time and it didn’t work. I have a set of pans (1 frying pan and 2 pans), a couple of tins of soup, a 2nd set of toothbrushes and toothpaste, pens, pillow cases, bedspread, a few socks, a couple of towels, tea, coffee and other things we need. It’s pointless to make a huge list every time we go somewhere. I know what I need to change/replenish and I will do that a few days after we are back from a trip.

9. Caravan storage is very important. At the moment the caravan is in a storage facility only 10-15 minutes away from home. We were lucky to find this place, the security is great, access is with a key, by night there are guard dogs patrolling the site. I am happy with the way the dogs are kept when they aren’t working and they look happy and well cared for. We wouldn’t have taken the space if the dogs weren’t happy.
The downside is the cost. Depending on where you live, the prices can be anything from £300 to £800, maybe more for London. Around Liverpool the annual fee is £400-£500. Our storage facility is fully booked and we found a spot because the guy that wanted that spot before us had a caravan that was too big. Of course, this means that if we want to change our caravan for a bigger one we might need to look elsewhere for storage and to travel more to the storage facility. Another option, if we change the caravan is to just wait until a bigger place is available at this site.
We could have kept the caravan in front of the house, but it takes a lot of space, it’s big and some neighbours can complain. In some areas is not permitted to keep it in front of the house, I’m not sure if that was an option for us, we didn’t check. Besides, keeping the caravan in the driveway and going on holiday it’s like saying to any unsuspecting burglar: “Look, we are going away for at least 3-4 days. Enjoy!”.

10. Size does matter. We wanted a caravan that was big enough to go on longer trips, but at the same time, we don’t want a big caravan that is not easy to maneuver. Our caravan is just the right size. We have the space we need inside, but it’s not big and hard to maneuver on narrow roads in the countryside like the ones we’ve been to on our trip to Cumbria, Essex and Hadrian’s wall. It also helped having an old caravan and not crying over a new scratch (from trees&bushes). It happens, unless you are driving it only on the motorway.

11. Bonus: It doesn’t take a lot of time. Making the bed takes 5 minutes (on the clock), transforming it from 2 sofas into a double bed, tuck away the table under the bed and put everything on: mattress protector (to make it more comfortable in the middle), bed spread, pillows, duvet or in the morning, to do everything in reverse. Setting up the caravan (lowering its legs to make it steady & flat), connecting it to electricity and turning on the gas takes 5 minutes too.