A postcard from Cornwall

Over Easter, we were lucky enough to have some time off together as a family and hopped on a flight to the UK headed for Cornwall. We stayed in the beautiful seaside town of Padstow, where Mr Postcard and I last stayed the summer before we were married. I wonder what our much younger, unmarried selves would make of us, a family of five turning up all these years later…. Mr P reckons he would probably have broken off the engagement – the cheek!

Here’s a little postcard from Cornwall!

Our first full day was a rather damp and grey affair, but that didn’t put us off exploring Padstow’s quaint alleyways and streets.

Our second day, however, was beautiful. The sun came out, and so did hoards of visitors…

So we headed up and out of town…

…past the beautiful war memorial…

… and along the coastal path along the Camel Estuary where the open space and fresh air was so welcome.

There were people there, but it wasn’t quite so densely populated. Some were having sailing lessons, and these three little sail boats being towed behind a rhib made me chuckle. I thought they looked like three little ducklings following their mum!

We clambered down onto the beach and skimmed stones. It was lovely.

We headed back towards town and realised we were running out of beach we had to get a wriggle on and clamber over some rocks before the tide came back in forcing us to walk the long way round. We made it!

Our walk had made us hungry, so we stopped off at Rick Stein’s chippy for a portion of chips and sat on the quayside to eat them under the watchful eyes of these two….

Padstow is home to a lobster hatchery and we popped in to see it.

This chap is known as ‘Captain Barnacles’ and is thought to be between 40 and 50 years old. These lobsters though, are a tad younger and were swimming around in the lobster nursery.

We took a drive out of Padstow and to the bay of Trevone. What a beautiful spot.

We weren’t the only people to have that idea, but it was gorgeous!

The next day, we took a trip north to Tintagel, the home of Merlin’s cave and Arthurian legend. We were blessed with another beautiful day…

There was a lot of maintenance work being carried out on the ruins of Tintagel Castle so it wasn’t open to the public unfortunately, but we could still view it from afar.

It’s a very pretty place on a sunny day, but it must have been a bit bleak to live there on stormy days… very Game of Thrones.

Our walk back up into town was rewarded with a lovely lunch and then an espresso ice cream – it was amazing!

Littlest Postcard was incredulous when he saw this…

“I didn’t think King Arthur had a car!” No son, neither did I.

The drive back to Padstow took us through beautiful countryside and quaint villages and hamlets. This church looked so lovely.

We headed to Padstow’s stately home, Prideaux Place..

Used as a filming location for a number of films, including Twelfth Night starring Helena Bonham Carter and Richard E Grant. It’s a family home still and sits in beautiful grounds.

We were very lucky to see it on such a beautifully sunny day and with many of the spring flowers at their best.

Living where we do and not having easy access to cycle trails etc, we aren’t much of a cycling family. But I have always wanted to go cycling as a family and we did it here in Cornwall. There are several bike hire places in Padstow and a fantastic cycle trail (The Camel Trail) along the Camel Estuary to Wadebridge (and on to Bodmin). So we hired bikes…

…and set off. It was hard work but lots of fun once we got into the swing of it. The views were fab too, when I was brave enough to look up from the road!!

We managed to cycle 11 miles in total – so that means we earned a reward don’t you think? 😉

Our last day in Padstow saw us hop onto the little ferry which takes passengers across the River Camel from Padstow to Rock.

We waited on the jetty by the harbour wall for it to arrive and for the passengers to disembark.

Once aboard, we headed across the River to the sand flats left by the low tide.

The Little Postcards loved the quick-sand and pools left by the low tide. They got a bit wet… so our trip to Rock itself was a little curtailed. It was fun though, nonetheless.

After a walk and a coffee, we headed back down the beach to wait for the ferry back home and some dry clothes for the Little Postcards!

Within moments we were approaching Padstow again, but to the beach this time as the tide was too low to reach the harbour.

We had such a lovely time in Padstow and the surrounding area. It’s s truly beautiful part of the world.

Full of quaint little streets and alleyways…

Thank you for having us to stay Padstow!

Sunday Sevens #147 28.7.18

Oh it’s been difficult to choose what to put into Sunday Sevens this week! We’ve had a rather busy time of it on our holiday, although it’s been busy in a very good way. Here’s a photo from each of the last seven days, there will be more posts to come though in the coming weeks with more pictures….

Hollyhocks galore

The flower of the moment in this part of the world (Suffolk/Norfolk) seems to be the hollyhock. They are everywhere and are truly beautiful – the epitome of an English country garden.

A woodland walk

Monday was a special day for one member of the Postcard family, celebrating a milestone birthday of 70 years. We went out as a big family group to visit Fairhaven water gardens on the Norfolk Broads before a big family dinner. It was such a beautiful, green, heavenly place and as the sun was rather hot, the dappled shade offered by all the trees was very welcome.

Aldeburgh

We took a drive along the Suffolk Coast on Tuesday, visiting Orford and Aldeburgh (above). The coastline is so beautiful here.

Messing about in canoes

Wednesday saw us repeating something we did on a visit six years ago. Back then, Littlest was too small to join in, so I stayed on dry land with him. This time, we all went canoeing on the Broads. My only previous experience was on a canal in Cheshire when I was a Venture Scout, that didn’t go too well (think hitting the canal bank with such force the sharp front end got embedded in the mud).

This time, though, it was wonderful – so peaceful and slow. There were literally hundred of beautiful dragonflies buzzing about, and I even got pecked by a swan!

A lovely day for a train ride

Thursday saw us heading north to the north Norfolk coastal town of Sheringham. Central to the town is the beautifully restored train station and the start of the North Norfolk Railway (also known as the Poppy Line). We had hoped for a trip on a steam train, but the sustained dry and hot weather made the steam engines a fire risk, and we had to make do with a Diesel engine. It was still a nice trip though…

Summer Storm

Whilst visiting Aldeburgh earlier this week, we were told that this part of the world hasn’t had any rain at all since May 4th. On Thursday night, that changed. A thunderstorm came in off the sea, and before the rain came, I went for a walk onto Southwold Common to watch the lightning. Seconds before this photo was taken, the sky was pretty dark. The sheet lightning lit up all the clouds with a pinky glow.

Wrestling at a summer fete!

Yesterday, we visited not one, but two summer fairs. The first one, in Worstead, will get a bigger mention in a future post, the second one, was at Gorleston in Norfolk. The Gorleston Clifftop Gala is an annual event, with fair rides, stalls by community groups (backwoodsmanship & a local rugby team’s stalls were enjoyed by the Little Postcards) and live music. We attended specifically to see a member of the family perform on stage with his band. Our attention was drawn to something I’ve never seen before in real life…. wrestling! It was quite a sight!

So that’s this week’s Sunday Sevens, I hope you have had a great week.

I’m linking with Natalie from Threads and Bobbins for this weekly blog series.

Easter in England

Last Thursday we packed up the car and headed off bright and early to Malaga airport to catch a flight to the UK. This time we were heading for new territory, the Jurassic Coast on the South West Coast of England.

We were staying in a lovely house in Sidmouth in Devon.

We even had a ford in front of our front door…

How English is that??

Sidmouth was decked out and ready for Easter…

The shop windows in the town were lovely.

On a walk down to the seafront, the coastal erosion was very apparent.

Just 12 hours before our arrival, there was a major rockfall. Just check out this garden shed on the brink…

On our first full day we took a trip to Lyme Regis on the hunt for fossils…

It’s a rather pretty seaside town…

A place where even the street lights feature fossils!

The inclement weather wasn’t exactly suited to foraging for fossils on the beach, so we made do with a wander around the town. We could appreciate the beauty of the place in spite of the poor weather…

… that coastline must look stunning on a clear day!

The shops in Lyme Regis are dominated by the area’s rich prehistoric history. Fossils are all over, none made me smile though like these ‘ammoknits’! How cool are they?

We left Lyme Regis and headed next to Seaton, and Seaton Jurassic in particular. It’s an interactive museum perfect for children and even features a time machine…

We travelled back in time millions of years and learned lots of interesting facts about dinosaurs to earn this treasure…

We may not have made any major fossil finds, but it was a special day for Littlest Postcard who saw real snow for the first time on our drive home.

Exeter

Saturday saw us heading into Exeter to meet up with some old friends from University. We hadn’t seen them for a few years so it was wonderful to be able to catch up with them again.

Gotta love a good gargoyle…

Exeter is a very pretty city. I would’ve liked a look around inside the Cathedral, but unfortunately time didn’t allow on this occasion, perhaps next time…

I spent a good bit of time wandering around looking up at the old buildings with their wonky windows and charm.

Our friend who lives locally took us on a mini Harry Potter tour. Apparently JK Rowling studied at Exeter and while she was there found inspiration for her books. This road, Gandy Street, was the inspiration for…

…Diagon Alley.

And this pub entrance…

… Gringott’s Bank.

There was even a Cauldron Inn…

Or at least there was a sign for one above a doorway.

How about this for an Easter chick?

On Easter Sunday we went to Greendale Farm Shop outside Exeter. I’m not sure that this counts as breakfast, but it was Easter Day…

The Little Postcards loved the farm animals…

… I did too 😉

Then back to Sidmouth for a stroll along the prom and a visit to the town’s independent lifeboat.

The Methodist Church had a beautiful display for Easter Sunday.

In spite of the weather, I was rather enamoured by Sidmouth.

The rather circumspect weather meant that we opted for a trip to the cinema to dodge the rain.

The independent Radway Cinema is really lovely. It was spotlessly clean, the staff were great and it was so reminiscent of our local cinema when I was growing up. We enjoyed Peter Rabbit very much!

However you spent your Easter weekend, I hope it was a good one for you.

A Postcard from the Vatican

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During the summer of 2017 we did a bit of travelling as a family and at long last I have got round to writing some blog posts about it and downloading a few of the many photos on my camera. Last week I published my Postcard from Rome, today here’s my Postcard from the Vatican.

Before setting off on our holiday to Rome last summer, Mr Postcard rather sensibly booked a couple of guided tours, one was to the Vatican City. Included in the price was entry to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica as well as the tour. We met our guide, Maria, on the steps outside the museum where we were fast-tracked through the crowds.

First stop after the ticket hall was a lovely viewing area which gave us a great position to look out across the Vatican gardens to the dome of St Peter’s Basilica. It was here that our lovely guide took us through many of the things which we were about to see and experience. Our tour was specifically tailored towards a family with young children and Maria showed photographs of various art works and sights we were soon to encounter.

It was here that the first stand out moment of the day happened…. one of the Little Postcards amazed us with his knowledge of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. It turned out that he’d done work on it a couple of years before in school and he’d remembered it. Well I never.

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After passing through the first part of the Vatican Museum, past ancient Egyption relics and other items from the ancient world, we found ourselves out in a large courtyard garden. The centre of it was dominated by this sculpture. The Sphere within a Sphere was created by Arnaldo Pomodoro and is one of several similar orbs dotted around the world. This one is exactly the same size as the one on the very top of St Peter’s Basilica (see photo above) so it really puts into perspective the scale of the church.

One of the benefits of being on the tour meant that Maria was able to invite the Little Postcards across the chain which roped off the sculpture and got them to help her push the sculpture round so that we could get a 360 degree view of it without moving ourselves. It was fun for the children to get ‘hands-on’ with this piece of art.

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At this stage I must point out that I am not attempting to write a guide book about the Vatican – that would be impossible in a blog post plus I’m sure that many people far more qualified that I am, have already done just that. I just wanted to share a flavour of some of the things we enjoyed on our trip.

In the following photo you can see, not only the sphere at the top St Peter’s Basilica again (top right), but also evidence of the extensive restoration work which was being carried out on the historic buildings.

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Some sections had already been cleaned up, while other parts were still in progress.

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The most impressive aspect of the Vatican City was the beautiful art work which was everywhere. Every wall, every ceiling was covered in the most exquisite work.

And the colours of the paints used are stunning considering the ages of some of these pieces of work.

Now that is what I call a ceiling!

Along the walls of this amazing corridor (the likes of which I have never seen before in my life) was a series of maps. The unusual thing about these maps is that many of them were drawn upside down so that they were from the perspective of the Pope in Rome looking down towards the south. They were also created in the days long, long before satellite images so they were guestimated. Our guide, Maria told us that amazingly in many cases they are pretty accurate despite the lack of geographical knowledge of the time.

Of course, no old map is complete without a sea monster.

As a born and bred Mancunian, I have an affinity for bees (they were used in the coat of arms of the city to signify the industriousness of the workers during the Industrial Revolution and came to prominence again last year as a sign of solidarity following the terrorist attack in Manchester). As I walked along this elaborately decorated corridor, I found myself spotting more and more bees on all of these maps, both in the maps and on the ‘frames’.

I have done a bit of research (by no means comprehensive)  and it turns out that Pope Urban VIII came from the Barberini family and their coat of arms featured three bees, you can read about it here. You can also find other explanations for the existence of so many bees in the Vatican here. When you look at the maps on the walls of this corridor there seems to be a significance to the bees and where they are placed as if they are marking out churches or cathedrals.

If you can shed any light onto why there are so many bees buzzing about the Vatican, I’d love to hear from you! (I wish I’d asked more questions at the time!)

After this beautiful bee-filled corridor, lay the Sistine Chapel. Photographs are not allowed to be taken in there (although many people did) nor are you allowed to speak in there (although many people did). Therefore I have nothing to show you from in there. All I can say is that it was beautiful, indescribably detailed and mind boggling at how Michelangelo could have completed such an amazing peace of work. (You can see it for yourself on the Vatican website). It was also easy to see that on occasions when it is quiet and calm, that it could be an incredibly spiritual place. Sadly for us, it was more like a cattle market, I was shocked at so many peoples’ lack of respect for such an important religious site (despite the best efforts of the Vatican staff). What a shame.

Next up was the final part of our tour.  At this point, our tour guide left us briefly and came back bearing gifts for our boys. Rather aptly it was a postcard for each of them to remind them of their time a the Vatican. We thought it was a lovely gesture. Thank you Maria, if you see this!

The final stop was St Peter’s Basilica itself. How’s this for an impressive porch?

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What a place…

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The Basilica was just mind blowing in it’s grandeur. Every surface was decorated.

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The secret as to why these works of art have stood the test of time is that unlike in the Sistene Chapel, they aren’t paintings. They are made up of millions of tiny mosaic tiles. You may be able to make the tiles out in the photo below:

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Everything here was on such a grand scale, the like of which I have never seen before. It was a beautiful building, if rather busy.

It was on the steps outside the Basilica that we said our goodbyes to our guide for the morning. Enlisting the help of a guide was a price definitely worth paying, especially with young children. They have a relatively short attention span (as do I to be fair) and were able to ask Maria questions that we wouldn’t have been able to answer. It also gave us the chance to learn so much more about our surroundings as, with the best will in the world, you cannot stand and read signs and notices next to exhibits when you are being pulled off in all directions to look at something else by smaller people. I would highly recommend the use of a guide if you are planning a visit yourself.

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From the front steps of the Basilica, we were able to gaze up to the Pope’s balcony. I’m not a Catholic, but it was quite surreal to find myself in a place which is so well known around the world. There was a definite sense of reverence and peace in spite of the hoards of tourists.

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It was upon leaving St Peter’s Basilica that we got our first full glimpse of the famous Swiss Guards. We did spy them at a distance while we were inside the complex but this time we got to see them in all their multicoloured glory.

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At the end of our visit it seemed only right that we should visit the Post Office of the smallest nation in the world and send a postcard home…

I was blown away with the beauty of the Vatican City. I didn’t really know what to expect, of course I had seen bits on telly and in books but to actually experience it for real was another thing altogether. One thing’s for sure, I will never forget the day we went to look around the Vatican.

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A Postcard from Rome

Last summer, we were lucky enough to do a bit of traveling. It was one of my New Years resolutions to finally get round to doing something with a few of the hundreds of photographs I took, so here goes… One of our destinations was Rome and are some of the highlights…

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Until this summer, I had never been to Italy before. I have wanted to visit for so long, but the opportunity didn’t arise until last year. As there was a direct flight from Malaga to Rome we decided to bite the bullet and do a city break with three kids in tow. Before setting off we had the feeling it might be better in hindsight and I think perhaps we were right. It was mid summer, it was very hot, we did loads and loads of walking but we saw lots of the city and it was definitely worth it.

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It is a truly beautiful city. Walking the streets of Rome felt like being on a film set. From grand palazos to higgledy piggledy alleyways, no two streets are the same.

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It was very expensive though. We had been warned before our trip that everything would cost a lot more than we are used to. Breakfast on our first morning, which was nothing more than croissants, coffee and juice for a family of five came to more than €100.

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Whatever corner you walked around there was something to catch your eye.

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I did a double take as we walked down one street and all of a sudden I found myself in front of the Trevi Fountain. We weren’t alone though….. several hundred other folk had turned up too!

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We rented a lovely apartment close to the Spanish Steps. It was amazing to be able to walk out of the front door and within 5 to 10 minutes be at such a famous landmark.

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The view from the top was great, if incredibly over populated!

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In order to escape the crowds in town we took a walk away from the city at the top of the Spanish Steps and soon found ourselves a much quieter vantage point.

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The road we had taken led us to one of Rome’s parks, the beautifully cool and shady Villa Borghese park.

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It was the perfect place to take stock, sit on a bench and rest our weary feet for a little while.

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The Romans certainly know how to do a park on a grand scale!

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We meandered through the park and found ourselves back amongst the throngs so thought we’d give the Rome Metro a whirl.

Naturally, being in Rome, it had to be decorated with mosaics…

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It’s not just the people who are stylish in Rome, their homes are elegant too. As is often the case in Gibraltar, people feel the need to cultivate some greenery in whatever small outdoor space they have. I spotted quite a few balcony gardens.

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Next to the Roman Forum there were lots of green balconies….

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One of the new things I learned about Rome on our visit was that it has a castle…

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Castel Sant’Angelo was built as a mausoleum from the Roman Emperor Hadrian but later was converted into a papal fortress as it’s located a short distance from the Vatican. Nowadays it is the site of a museum.

On one of our long circuitous walks we found ourselves outside Quirinal Palace,  the Italian President’s residence. It was only when we spotted the rather grand garden in the distance and the guard of honour that we realised we were somewhere important.

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One thing you cannot escape in Rome is the profusion of fountains, both large like the Trevi fountain and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) in Piazza Navona (below)….

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…to the smaller drinking fountains dotted around the city providing fresh, clean drinking water for anyone who should need it. The water gets into the centre of the city thanks to a network of underground aqueducts built by the ancient Romans.

At this point I must address the elephant in the room. You may be aware that there are a lot of marble statues in Rome, a good proportion of them had their marble nether regions on display. Travelling with young ones, meant that these were frequently pointed out and giggled about…

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Roman food was a great hit with the whole family. Pizza and pasta rate highly in the favourite foods list for all three Little Postcards, as does ice cream, or should I say gelato?

We managed to visit one gelateria which boasted 150 different flavours…. what a dilemma. (I opted for cappuccino in the end in case you were wondering).

You can’t visit Rome without seeing some of the magnificent ancient Roman architecture which has stood the test of time. The Pantheon was utterly mind blowing. I will share more pictures of this in a couple of weeks when I focus on the ancient side of Rome.

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We also enjoyed a fabulous tour of Vatican City. I will share a Postcard from there next week.

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I hope you have enjoyed this little snippet of our lovely few days spent in Rome. Thanks for reading 🙂

Sunday Sevens #98 27.8.17

Bonjour and welcome to this French edition of Sunday Sevens. We have been enjoying a week in the south of France, beginning in Toulouse…

Green Toulouse

I’m really impressed with Toulouse, it’s a beautiful city which is full of fantastic architecture, the public transport is clean, reliable and just great. Even the bridges are beautiful and floral in Toulouse… have you ever seen anything as lovely as this?? This was one of the bridges which link several parks together. What a great idea.

Don’t look down…


I’m not a fan of heights (staying in a holiday apartment on the 17th floor of a tower block meant issues for me) but I overcame my fears and went for a ride with the whole Postcard family on this lovely Ferris wheel. Situated on the bank of the River Garonne, it was a perfect vantage point to watch the sunset over Toulouse on Monday evening.

Astronaut toilets


On Tuesday we took a trip out to the Cité de l’Espace, a museum for the European Space Programme on the outskirts of Toulouse. There was a fascinating IMAX film about the international space station and another about the Aurora Borealis. We even got to see Venus through a huge telescope in the observatory. The highlight for the Little Postcards was most probably finding out about how astronauts go to the loo… 

Planes, planes, planes…


On Wednesday we paid a visit to the Airbus factory in Toulouse. They do guided tours and take you inside to see where the giant, double decker A380 planes are assembled. We have a huge transport fan in the factory, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get up close to these amazing planes. 

For security and to prevent their trade secrets being leaked you aren’t allowed to take any photos on the tour. It was really interesting (even for someone like me who doesn’t really even like flying ). The photo here is of an A350 just after take off on a test flight.

Carcassonne 


Straight after our Airbus tour, we set off for Carcassonne, the highlight of the whole trip for me. After reading the Kate Mosse book, Labyrinth a few years ago, I have wanted to visit this medieval city which is one of the main venues in the story. It was a beautiful as I imagined. 

We loved it so much that we changed our plans and decided to stay for 4 nights. That way we had the chance to really explore properly.

A riverside walk


The Cité of Carcassonne sits on a hill beside the River Aude. We took a lovely wander down by the river and sat on the bank watching the ducks and a little terrier diving in to retrieve his ball!  It is such a lovely spot. 

Window shopping in Carcassonne 


Away from the medieval Cité, Carcassone has a lot to offer. We stayed on the same side of the River Aude as the Cité but across the river is a bustling modern city. Some of the shops were amazing. I love window shopping when I’m abroad, you see so many interesting things. This cheese shop really caught my eye, you’ve got to love a heart-shaped cheese!

Thanks for joining me again this week. I’m linking with Natalie at Threads & Bobbins who first created the Sunday Sevens weekly blog series. 


Sunday Sevens #97 20.08.17

This is probably going to be my most cosmopolitan Sunday Sevens ever… featuring photos taken in Italy, Spain, Gibraltar and France! Are you ready to join me for a Sunday Sevens European tour?

The Pantheon

Last Sunday, after two days of tours around some of the amazing sights of Rome, we had a quiet day to potter about the city. There were a few more places we really wanted to visit before leaving and the Pantheon was top of the list.

It is such a beautiful building, and just mind blowing to think that the ceiling, the largest unsupported dome in the world, was made using cement by the Ancient Romans!! It’s now used as a church, so we waited until noon before being allowed in so that Sunday morning Mass could be celebrated before the crowds of tourists invaded.

Back home

Monday meant waving goodbye to Rome and catching a flight back to Malaga, then driving home to Gibraltar. It was so warm and sunny as we left Italy, but Gibraltar had  Levante winds and the heavy cloud that brings. 

You may be fooled for thinking it was cool when we got home but it wasn’t- it was sweltering and incredibly humid.

Sea mist

Another common weather phenomenon at this time of the year is sea mist. We had a couple of days this week when we could hear the boats in the Bay singing to each other with their fog horns.

Autumn already?


A walk into town and through the lovely Commonwealth Park took me by surprise when I spied leaves on the ground. It is one of the few places in Gibraltar with trees which actually lose their leaves. It looked like autumn is on it’s way even if the weather didn’t feel like it!!

Beach life


I am slightly ashamed to admit that we managed to get to mid August without a proper trip to the beach in Gibraltar this year. We have had walks along the sand but this was our first trip with deck chairs, buckets and spades and swims in the sea. Sandy Bay is such a lovely beach to spend time with children, calm and not too deep, and of course it’s great for sandcastles. 

We only stayed a couple of hours though as I needed to head home to pack…. again!

Bonjour Toulouse! 

We have been so lucky this summer to be able to do a lot of traveling, normally we have a couple of weeks in England visiting family, but this year we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a mini European tour (while we are still allowed in before Brexit). Yesterday we headed back to Malaga airport and caught a flight up north to southern France.

Toulouse is such a beautiful city and our first visit to this part of France. We had a walk around some of the city centre and the architecture is so beautiful. I can’t wait to go back out again later on today with my camera to get snapping! This shot is the view from where we are staying. Isn’t it amazing?!

In the meantime, here’s a quick picture of a pretty fountain close to where we ate last night. It is dedicated to the victims of a flood many years ago.

Thanks so much for joining me this week for Sunday Sevens! I’m linking with Natalie from Threads & Bobbins who created the Sunday Sevens series of blog posts.