Spending a Day in London as a Tourist: Hyde Park, The Tate Britain, and Covent Garden

“Oh, I love London Society! It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what Society should be” –Oscar Wilde

I was lucky enough to spend a gorgeous and sunny day exploring London on our last bank holiday. So if you are looking for some inspiration of things to do and see in London then here is a day’s travel guide to adventuring around England’s capital city. We started off in Hyde Park after getting off the train in Marylebone. We then headed to the Tate Britain and the Van Gough exhibition. Westminster was next on the list with Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. Finally, we headed around the beautiful area of Covent Garden. You simply can’t beat the atmosphere of London on a sunny day.

Hyde Park

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We started our walk in the north of the park, as we came out of the Lancaster Gate tube station which is just over the road from Hyde Park. This means you can start your walk in the Italian gardens, which has some beautiful flowers and fountains in it. We walked right down the length of the park, down to the Princess Diana Memorial Garden. This was a beautiful walk, it’s great to be in London but surrounded by green, open space. It’s a lovely walk past the Serpentine river too. For the route we walked, we exited the park very near to Hyde Park Corner tube station. This is a good place to come out if you then need to get a tube after your trip to the park.

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There are so many great spots for a picnic and also some great places for food and drink. There were lots of people renting bikes which I’d love to do in the future. There are a few places throughout the park where you can buy food and drink too. If you know the route you are walking then maybe just check on the map when you get there to see where you could pick something up. We had a coffee and pastry from the Italian Gardens Cafe, which was gorgeous. There are also tables to sit and eat here if you want a stop off and appreciate the Italian Gardens at the same time. The cafe was on the more expensive side for food so if you are on a budget you may want to bear this in mind. The Serpentine Bar and Kitchen also looked like a great food and drink option. It has a fabulous view and is set right on the edge of the river. There are also tables outside which look like a great spot for a sunny day. You can also rent boats on the Serpentine if you are wanting to do a bit of rowing!

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EY Van Gough Exhibition- Tate Britain

The Tate Britain is an art museum which was opened in the Millbank area in 1897. It houses art from 1500 up to the present day. We got to the gallery by getting off the tube at Pimlico station then walking from there. It was only a ten minute walk and the gallery is sign posted which makes it very easy to find.

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This exhibition was brilliant, with a good balance of Van Gough’s work and also information about his life and inspiration for his work. It was wonderful to see his iconic paintings in person. ‘The Starry Night’ is my favourite of his work, but the famous ‘Sunflowers IXXI’ is also a stunning piece.

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The exhibition was extremely busy when we went so bear this in mind when you go in. Some of the paintings were very crowded, but it seemed to get less busy as we progressed through the exhibit rooms.

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Here is a link to the exhibition information if you are wanting to look in to visiting. It is running until the 11th of August, but you have to book your tickets in advance as it’s been a very popular attraction. Also, if you are between the ages of 16-25 you can get in for just £5! I just had to sign up to the ‘Tate Collective Scheme’ on their website, which gives young people discounts on any exhibition. I would’ve paid £22 for a ticket without doing that, so definitely worth doing! You just need age ID when you go in so they can confirm you are between 16-25.

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The architecture of the building is beautiful. There is also a restaurant and cafe inside the museum, we had lunch in the cafe. The food was delicious, but again on the slightly more pricey side. There is also a water machine in the cafe which is handy if you are needing to fill up bottles, sometimes this can be tricky when you’re out and about all day.

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We also had a wander round the other rooms in the Tate Britain outside of the Van Gough exhibition. All of these are free to enter! There was a mix of older works, more modern ones, and also quite a few sculptures funky sculptures.

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This piece below has a very interesting finding to it. Sonia Boyce invited people to come to be photographed in an afro wig. But from sourcing the wigs, she realised they were only available in fancy dress and costume shops as opposed to any of the hair shops in London. She realised this was due to them being used as a trigger of mockery against African-Caribbeans.

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The gift shop had a large range of lovely gifts, all ranging in price. There was everything from books, postcards, clothes and art prints to purchase.

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The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben

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We walked up to Westminster from the Tate Britain as it was just a short walk up the Thames. We walked past the houses of parliament and Big Ben which is a good walk if you want to experience the busy nature of London! This is also a good spot to visit if you are wanting to visit the classic London tourist spots. Bear in mind if you are visiting at the moment, Big Ben is covered in scaffolding due to the construction and repair work going on.

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This statue of Emmeline Pankhurst is near the Houses of Parliament. Pankhurst was one of the leading figures in the suffragette movement in Britain who fought for women’s rights to vote.

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Covent Garden

Covent Garden has its own tube station so it makes to a very easy location to get to. We travelled from Westminster tube station and with a few changes, it was a pretty easy and quick journey.

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We had a good browse around the covered markets, which are also near to all the other shops. The markets had a lot of vintage jewellery and furniture if you are interested in retro stuff! We aslo saw some really great street performers, from painters to a man doing the limbo which was on fire! If you have time, I would highly recommend stopping to watch some of the acts as there were some brilliant ones. It also creates a lovely atmosphere when everyone gathers around to watch.

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“London is a roost for every bird”- Benjamin Disraeli

This concludes this London day guide! I hope you enjoy your trip if you are visiting soon.

Looking for another city break? Have you seen the wonders that Edinburgh has to offer in my blog post?!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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A Winter’s Week in St Andrews: The Scottish Town That Will Capture Your Heart

Happy Sunday everyone, today’s travel post is all about the incredible town of St Andrews, a perfect destination no matter the weather. My family and I spent a beautiful week staying here, a place we have all loved and have grown up adoring. If you appreciate beaches, harbours, and gorgeous sunsets, all set in a historic and scenic setting, then you will fall in love with St Andrews!

The Castle Sands and Harbour

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The town of St Andrews is on the East coast of Scotland, North of Edinburgh, and about a half hour drive away from the city of Dundee (which is also worth a visit if you are in the area). St Andrews is famous for its golf courses, St Andrews University, and its idyllic coastal setting. The town is perfect for a day trip if you enjoy walking and learning about Scotland’s history, but it also makes a great holiday if want to take a longer trip.

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The house we were staying in was right behind the sea front on North Castle Street, right by ‘The Scores’, the famous street that runs along the St Andrews sea front. Due to being a popular tourist destination, there is a huge variety of accommodation to pick from in St Andrews, from hotels, houses, and bed and breakfasts. We found that staying near the centre was great as we were near to Market Street, this is the high street where there are lots of shops and good places to eat and drink. But we were also very near the beaches and the coastal walks.

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We went for a brisk walk along to the harbour every morning of our trip, the house was also just a couple of minutes walking distance from the harbour, a great place to see the town awakening each morning after the sunrise. Almost every morning we saw herons down on the rocks by the harbour, incredibly majestic animals which were fascinating to watch. My Uncle managed to take this incredible photograph of one of them!

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The photo below shows the coastal path that you can follow right along from the Scores, along side the cliffs to the harbour, there are benches and tourist information boards along the way. It makes a great place to bring a picnic in the summer, but even in winter it was still very enjoyable.

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The West Sands Beach

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The West Sands is just a 15 minute walk from the town centre, and if you’ve seen the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ you will recognise this beach from the opening scene. The beach is about 2 miles long and is very close to the famous ‘Old Course’ which is a very popular tourist destination for golf fans, especially in the summer months. The beach makes a serene and peaceful walk, even if there are other people around it still feels this way. There is parking at the beach, and the golf museum and toilets are also close by.

 

St Andrews Cathedral

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Despite our many trips to St Andrews, we had never visited St Andrews Cathedral, and it was well worth the visit! The cathedral, now in remains, was once Scotland’s biggest cathedral and most important church. The museum has some extremely interesting artefacts and information boards, dating from early medieval times. St Rule’s church (on the cathedral site) is estimated to have been built in 1130, and the cathedral begun in 1160. It was finally complete in 1318, Robert the Bruce was present for this momentous occasion in Scotland’s history.

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Here is a link to the Visit Scotland website which has more information about the cathedral if you are planning a visit. The staff who worked in the museum and gift shop here were also very helpful.

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We climbed to the top of St Rules’ Tower, which can be seen the photo above, it is about 33m tall. It was an extremely narrow and steep climb but the view at the top was certainly worth the hike. You get a panoramic view of the town, and all the way out to sea. The weather was lovely on the day we went so the sun made the view even more glorious. There is a fee to pay in order to visit the cathedral, but it is not expensive, and you can also get a discount if you get a ticket to visit St Andrews Castle which is just down the road.

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The East Sands Beach

The East Sands is also just along from the harbour and is a very short walk from the town centre. You can also get a great view of St Andrews castle from here, and to the West Sands in the distance. This beach is usually quieter due to it being a bit rockier and further from the town centre, so if you want an even more peaceful beach to stop off at and watch the seabirds then this spot is ideal.

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This photo was taken just outside of the house we were staying in and shows St Andrews Castle, we did not visit the castle on this trip but it looks like another great place to go if you are visiting St Andrews. There is more information about the castle on the Visit Scotland website which can be found here.

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Hope you’re having a great day wherever you are in the world, and that you get to experience St Andrews and all it has to offer. Let me know if you have ever visited!

Mol x

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Exploring the Jurassic Coast

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul” – Wyland

Travelling to new countries is one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences you can have, however, exploring the country you are already in, is also an experience to make the most of. The Jurassic Coast is somewhere I had never been until this trip. Spending a few days by the coast was extremely refreshing.

The Jurassic Coast covers the stretch of coastline in Southern England from Exmouth in the county of Devon, to Studland Bay in the county of Dorset. On this trip we explored Lyme Regis, Chesil Beach, Durdle Door, and West Bay. Having mostly explored the Scottish coast due to many a holiday up North, it was lovely to be able to experience the brilliance of the sea and the skies down in the South of England.

West Bay

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West Bay, or Bridport Harbour, was a small and sleepy seaside town, we mainly visited to see the beach and the cliffs, which you may recognise if you were a fan of the BBC drama Broadchurch (would highly recommend it). The dramatic shape of the sandstone cliffs was one of the locations for the programme and was a lovely beach walk, it was great to be able to look up at the magnificent cliff face whilst being below on the shore. We also ran up the slope of the cliff to get the view from the very top, which was so peaceful being able to see the ocean for as far as the eye could see. As you can see from the photos, if you go early in the morning or later in the day, the sun and the shadows make for a great photography spot. The cloudy weather actually also made for some fab photos.

“To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude” – Jeanne Moreau

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Lyme Regis

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Lyme Regis is how I think of a classic British seaside location. Think fish and chips on the seafront, ice cream cones, and beach huts with doors the colours of pick ‘n mix. We went to Lyme’s Fish Bar for our lunch, and got a classic ’99 with a flake from one of the cute little tea rooms. There’s nothing better than eating outside and listening to the waves crash against the pebbles on the shore. This would be a lovely day out for anyone of any age.

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Chesil Beach

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Chesil beach is an 18 mile long beach and goes from Portland all the way to West Bay, this was very near to where we were staying in Portland.

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Durdle Door

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“Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone” – Anonymous

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Durdle Door is one of the most iconic coastal features in the Dorset area, it was designated England’s first natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001 and is also classed as a natural wonder. This archway was created by the limestone being eroded by the sea, the word ‘durdle’ originated from the word ‘thirl’ which means ‘to pierce’.

This was one of the highlights of the trip, again another lovely beach walk, there were hardly any other visitors there when we went even though it’s a very popular tourist attraction. Many of these coastal features we visited also had really interesting information boards so you could learn more about how they were created.

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Old Harry’s Rock

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The final coastal feature of the trip, and another UNESCO World Heritage Site located at the most Eastern point of the Jurassic Coast. As you can see, Old Harry is a stack out at sea, composed of chalk. The National Trust manage this site and there is a walking route of about 3.5 miles which you can do if you want a walk and a view!

Until 1896, there was also Old Harry’s Wife, a stump, but she was completely eroded in to the ocean so now Old Harry stands alone.

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“After a visit to the beach, it’s hard to believe that we live in a material world”– Pam Shaw

It was lovely to be able to spend so much time outside and on the coast, I find it very relaxing being by the water, this would be a great trip if you love walking and the outdoors!

Thanks for reading, hope you’re having a fab day where ever you are

Mol x

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The Best of Bergerac: The French Market Towns You Will Fall in Love With

Welcome back to my Best of Bergerac series, the final instalment is here gang! So far we’ve covered the fabulous food, and some of the more rural scenery, today I am sharing with you the two market towns which made our trip; Duras and Eymet. So if you love a bit of travel photography and an insight into somewhere new, grab a coffee and enjoy. 

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Duras was only about a 10 minute drive from the village of Taillecavat where our villa was located, so we went to this town frequently over the two weeks we were in Bergerac. Everything we needed was here…

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This display of flower bouquets just sums up how gorgeous the market stalls are!

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(This photo above is of the BEST restaurant we have ever eaten in, and yes that is a big claim, there are more details in part one of this series if you want to hear about the place with the best food and the shots of gin they give you between courses! Find it here!)

Duras is a truly beautiful and quaint little French town, think cobbled streets and brilliantly bright shutters. To me, this town is like the ones you think of when you imagine a classically authentic French town.

The town comes alive on market days, it was fascinating to see how it transforms from seeming like a small sleepy settlement, to a hub of  excitement. Suddenly, the colours brighten, the cafes liven up, and scents of spices, cheese, fresh fruit, and pastries fill the warm air.

The locals are out and catching up over a coffee, while the ex-pats are also out in force and making the most of the sunshine.

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The chateau placed grandly on the hill behind the market streets acts as a splendid backdrop for the event (the tallest building you can see in the background of this photograph).

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There is something more exciting about buying fresh food from a local who makes their livelihood from selling their delicious produce at markets like these, compared to buying it from a supermarket. As you can see from this garlic display above, the rustic displays make it all look even more appealing. Any fruit of vegetable you can imagine was on offer at the market. Huge selections of cheeses were also displayed, wheels of yellow and white, and the roast chicken cooked fresh on the rotisserie also smelt incredibly inviting!

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This was a small charity clothes shop just off of the main market streets, again everything seems so full of colour, everything about this town feels vibrant and full of life.

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Another great feature of the markets is that so many of the food stalls give out free samples, who doesn’t love a freebie, especially one you can eat?! A discovery we have made over a few trips to Southern France is that fresh olives are fab when you buy them from a market stall than a shop. Olive tapenade is one of the best things we’ve ever bought from the market, it’s a type of savoury dip made from olives, we’ve also tried one made from sun-dried tomatoes before which was perhaps even better! Pair it with a fresh baguette and this is something you must try if you see it abroad.

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One evening we went to the night market in Duras, it was around 38 degrees Celsius, I have never felt heat like it! The covered square that is in the centre of the market was lined with tables and chairs, we decided to go so we could try even more of the delicious food. We bought a selection of dishes from various stalls to share between all of us. We tried the calamari, olive and anchovy pizza, this was beautiful because it was fresh and made there and then. We also tried what we think was some sort of sausage curry, our lack of French meant we were not completely sure what exactly we were trying at times, this actually made it even more exciting!

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Eymet

Eymet was slightly further out from our villa so we only visited once, which was to go to the night market. We had stayed near this town on previous trips to France so we knew it was somewhere we wanted to re-visit.

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The street art on this building gives a very striking entrance to the market, it made me think of Paris with its romantic artwork and flower lined balconies. The town dates from 1270, as you can see, the old buildings with their slanted beams and slightly wonky roofs ensure that the town maintains its original character.

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There was also another huge selection of food at this market, mussels and chips seemed to be the most popular option! The pizza was also available from the same people from the Duras market, another firm favourite.

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The crepes from this cute little stall were the BOMB. If you want to hear more about them and the other incredible food we ate on this trip then this is also featured in part one of this series!

This display of greenery and flowers was outside one of the houses on one of the side streets…

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This is a view of the River Dropt, a tributary to the Garonne river, which runs on the outskirts of the town. This was taken from the little bridge above where lots of people were sat feeding the birds and enjoying their food from the market.

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And that marks the end of the Best of Bergerac series, France you have been fabulous! (Wow you’d think I’d at least be a little bit tanned but clearly not).

If you have not visited the South of France I would highly recommend putting Bergerac and the Aquitaine region on your travel bucket list!

Credits to my Uncle as he took a lot of the photos featured in this post! Check out his Instagram for some incredible photography @spresly

Thank you so much for reading, have you seen part one and part two of this series?!

Part One: The Ultimate French Holiday Food Guide

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Part Two: Sunsets, Sunflowers and the BEST Villa

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Hope you are having a fab day where ever you are,

Mol x

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The Best of Bergerac, Part Two: Sunsets, Sunflowers and the BEST villa

“The French air cleans up the brain and does good – a world of good.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Welcome to the second instalment of ‘The Best of Bergerac’ series! Please visit my previous post if you would like to see some of the incredible French food and restaurants we visited on this trip (including the best restaurant we have ever been to, yes it was that good!)

This time round we’re focusing on the dreamy scenery that Southern France has to offer and also the incredible villa that we called home for two weeks.

But let’s start with the wonder that was the sunflower fields because they were such a brilliant photo spot…

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“The road to freedom is bordered with sunflowers” – Martin Firrell

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Most of these beautiful sunflowers were almost as tall as me and I am quite a tall gal!

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“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do” – Helen keller

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It was lovely to be in a field filled with tones of sunshine and burnt orange, sunflowers are one of my favourite flowers and being in a place surrounded by fields and endless rows of them was perfect. This specific field was on the outskirts of a town called Eymet which was about a half hour drive away from where we were staying, but the the whole area around Bergerac was covered in sunflower fields too.

The BEST villa

Le Bonheur, Taillecavat, Aquitaine, Southern France

The name of the house which translates to ‘happiness’ just sums up how stunning this villa was, a beautiful 18th century restored farmhouse in the rural village of Taillecavat. There was very few houses in the village, most houses in the area looked like they were attached too the farms as the main business in the area is sunflowers and the vineyards used for wine. The villa was about a 40 minute drive from Bergerac airport, we hired a car from the airport with the company Avis, so the journey was so easy and enjoyable on the route through the sunflowers and vineyards.

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The striking contrast between the sapphire of the shutters and outside details against the scarlet flowers made the villa look so vibrant, it really was the perfect summer escape. There were various colours and sizes of salamanders that would climb up the stone exterior and explore on the veranda which is not something we ever see in the UK!

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This was the garden of the villa, which looked out on to the vineyards. Also the building which you can vaguely see in the distance was a boulangerie, we went here every morning at 8am to collect our fresh croissants, pain au chocolat (these were my faves) and a baguette of course. Monsieur and Madam Raymond who owned the boulangerie did not speak English which made each morning collection even more authentically French, we actually liked that they let us try out our speaking skills (which were sadly lacking on my part, luckily my Grandpa had us covered).

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Just look at the pool… what I would do to be back here! We got up every morning and did 50 lengths before breakfast, every day I did 150 or 200 lengths which for me is pretty impressive! The weather for most of our two weeks was as high as 37 degrees Celsius so we spent a lot of time in here cooling off and reading our books by the poolside.

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This picture is of the vineyards that were just outside of the villa, we did try some of the grapes but they were extremely sour and obviously are better off for wine than eating on their own!

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The mist across the fields in the morning at about 6am was mesmerising, the sunsets and sunrises were also stunning, the open space creates plains of shadows where colours would change so rapidly. We also witnessed a pretty cool thunder storm on our last night, watch the lightning forks strike across the fields was also a very exciting experience.

More sunset exploring just outside of the villa…

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This picture also shows one of the coolest experiences with nature I have ever had! These murmurations of starlings would pass over the villa and the fields each night at about 9pm, the noise was intensely loud, you could hear each of their wings beating, it was breath taking to watch.

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These gorgeous fellas were in a field made out of what used to be a moat surrounding a large house, just a couple of minutes drive from the villa. They were incredibly friendly and seemed to really enjoy the carrots that we brought them, I never realised donkeys were this cute!!

Some of the photos in this post were taken by my Uncle who is a fab photographer so credit to him! His Instagram is @spresly if you want to see any of his amazing photography!

Have you seen part one and part three of this series?!

Part One: The Ultimate French Holiday Food Guide

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Part Three: The French Market Towns You Will Fall in Love With

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Thank you so much for reading, hope you enjoyed this post and are having a fab day wherever you are,

Mol x

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