A Travel & Lifestyle Blog

An accidentally Victorian Anniversary in Somerset

Clevedon: The most romantic Pier in the land...
 
It was not planned. To have a Victorian-inspired anniversary. 
And yet, on the way back from sun-drenched Somerset, my mind was hovering over all of the details of our fun day out, singing along to my favourite country tune "Play it again", catching the last glimpses of warm, red skies, on the side-view mirror;  it occurred to me: this post, just like our day, must have a Victorian theme!

"Try to keep up Alice"...little doorway leading to the Ethicurian's Victorian Kitchen Garden. 
 
...The Ethicurian
What a place! Think "Victorian kitchen garden" meets "Alice in Wonderland" and you will get an idea of what awaits for you, down the country lanes on the outskirts of Bristol. Behind red brick walls, the Ethicurian sits amidst rolling hills and apple orchards.
 
The whole site is built around a revived Victorian kitchen garden, in perfect symmetry and with meticulously maintained vegetable patches that are in full use... during your meal. Not just a pretty face, my friend! In fact, kitchen staff were spotted collecting various edible flowers, lettuce and other lovely vegetables that made an appearance shortly afterwards on people's plates, including our own.  
 
Pork chops with a view!

The front lawn, just outside the conservatory, was the perfect spot to set up our lunch camp on this bright day. The views over the rolling Somerset hills were spectacular. The sun even felt warmer here, or is it just me feeling all gooey because it's our anniversary?

Babies were left to crawl and roll around on the lawn and even adults joined in, cyclists were turning up for a coffee break and local groups of friends were forever chatting away, lazily in the glasshouse. A very relaxed vibe, truly!

There is no rush, be prepared for a long, slow meal; no this is not my way of saying the service is slow. but then again, what if it is? Isn't  that why we drove two hours to get in the middle of the Somerset countryside, in the first place? Just so that we could have a relaxing day out?
We had a platter of Cheddar from the neighbouring Cheddar valley, with home-made piccalilli to start with. I normally hate the jarred piccalilli, but this one was flavoursome, fresh and crunchy. A nice little surprise. The cocktails are very tasty too, remember that they make their own potions here at the Ethicurian, with herbs and flowers from this very garden! But, we should have stopped there and gone straight to the gorgeous home-made desserts. Off course we didn't!
 
The Conservatory must be wonderful during rainy months, when you can still have this uninterrupted view over the neighbouring hills but you can hear the rain on the glass and get cosy with the Ethicurian's own "Collector" Vermouth. Good effort guys, we bought a bottle and it's delicious!
 
We wondered around to explore what looked like very neat vines...they were berries! All kinds of lovely berries, showing off their colours in the sunshine! Yes you guessed it right, I turned to my husband and declared that "we have to have this in our garden". He smiled.  





...Clevedon Pier
After our lovely, long meal at the Ethicurian, we headed to the coast. We've been trying to find some time to drive to the seaside ever since summer started, with no joy, till now. So, we couldn't have possibly gone all the way to Somerset and not pop over to one of its' coastal towns to breath in some sea-air.
 
Technically, Clevedon is not located on the sea, but on the shores of the Severn Estuary; however,  the river Severn opens up and flirts with the sea in this area, so there is always plenty of wind and waves to convince you that you are close to the Atlantic.
 
Clevedon is also home to the cutest, most romantic surviving Victorian Pier. 
The truth is that beyond the famous Brighton Pier, I've never actually wondered if there are any more surviving piers around the UK. This cutsey little one at Clevedon, looks so fragile and lonely, battling the waves of the Bristol Channel that you wonder how it's made it through the years.

Once you stand right in the gut of this iron structure, in the Porthole Room, with a clear view of the whole underbelly of this beast, you can't help but feel like Lemony Snicket in aunt Josephine's lakeside house with the big window. This is no wimpy structure!


A Lemony Snickets moment: Unusual view of the Pier, from the Porthole Room.
Left: The top floor of the Pier structure is actually a cafĂ© with amazing views over the Bristol Channel.  

When we arrived, there was hardly anyone on the Pier. We walked slowly all the way down stopping to read some of the countless inscriptions on the decking. Lover's messages, sweet messages to loved ones who are gone, group messages to remember fun days out...they all make you realise how full of life this Pier is.
 
We made our own little memories, I had a little surprise for my husband.
Waiting for the Balmoral to come in from it's daily cruise to Bristol, we sat right at the end of the Pier, peaking through the iron lacework that the Victorians created all around this place. The wind was fearsome but the sun was decisively strong. I took out my diary and read to my husband what I wrote in it, when I first met him. We kept giggling, at the thought that all this happened twelve years ago. But here we are. Happy Anniversary sweetie! x 
 

Leeds Castle and Coastal Kent

The "most beautiful" castle in England!
Usually, I'm not one for free use of superlatives, but this castle is quite a stunner.
 

Leeds Castle is in the heart of Kent and I have to admit that once you leave the M25 with direction "Dover" your mind does hover over the coast across the Channel..."shall we just go to France, instead?" did cross our minds. I'm glad we didn't. Leeds Castle is worth your time.
 

Pick a good day to visit because part of its' charm evolves around walking in the glorious green gardens. There are lakes and waterfalls and boat rides and black swans involved! Not to mention their Knight's Glamping camp, that popped up a couple of years ago on the grounds of the castle and we still haven't managed to get availability for, it's that popular!


The castle is surrounded by a wide moat, which adds on to the romanticism of the whole scenery but bearing in mind that this castle has been a home from its' beginning up until 1974, can you imagine bringing groceries in every day?  
 
The interior is a maze that connects different eras.
From the Norman cellars with direct access to the moat for easy deliveries, to Catherine's of Aragon sombre bathroom and then on to the Art Deco rooms that lady Baillie used for entertaining in the 20's and 30's, as well as the meeting rooms that hosted great political talks for Camp David Accords and Northern Ireland Peace talks. If these walls could speak!



Since we were venturing down to Kent, I was set on having oysters!
I have been researching the best places to have oysters in UK and Whitstable came up in the top list. It's a lovely coastal town, with great variety of restaurants considering its' size. Like most English coastal towns, it does look a bit tired.
The coastline is gorgeous though and very dramatic, whatever the weather! If you stand at the tip of the port you can even spot the wind farms in the middle of the Channel, standing there like Don Quixote's windmills, defending themselves from all elements. 


We opted for Birdie's partially because that's where we could get a table, although it comes quite highly recommended in the TripAdvisor reviews as well. Birdie's has this French bistro feel to it, with checked tablecloths covering the small tables and walls covered in photos and retro ads from past decades. Everything is simple and delicious.


My dad, who was with us, has never had oysters before, although he loves his muscles and clams - especially in an ouzo and feta infused red sauce, called saganaki (recipe here). 
The truth is that you don't quite get oysters in Greece, for some reason. When I ordered mine, he had this dubious look, but I could see the little curious child in him bubbling up. After he had tried one of my oysters with lemon and shallots he mumbled...."why don't we get one more portion"...seemingly uninterested under his white beard. I love seeing my dad getting excited like a little kid and food always does it! 
Then more comments came when I ordered my skate..."we throw this to the cats" he said! Well, "we pay good money for it here", said I! 

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