Glastonbury Weekend: Accommodation Shortlist

Liz and I down in Somerset this weekend, renting a house with the group friends we would have been going to Glastonbury with, had the ticket gods not thwarted our plans this year (boo!)

Lack of tickets wasn’t going to stop us enjoying the festivities though (even if not there in person), so I set about trawling Air BnB and similar sites for a place for the eight of us to stay for the weekend. We were looking for somewhere in the countryside-ish, with a bit of outdoor space where we could watch the coverage and sit around and eat / drink (and where Liz and others can feed me bourbon and fried goods to console me when Dolly Parton plays).

The place we found is incredible (it’s even been featured in Homes & Gardens magazine) – we’ll be reporting back on it next week. However it was a tough decision, as there were some amazing properties in the running.  Here are the others on our short list that would be ideal for a summer break with a group of friends/ family:

dining area in church property

1. Converted medieval church in Rishangles, Suffolk

You won’t be short of things do do at this stunning property – it comes complete with an Aga, grand piano, log burner inside and chimnea outside, table football table and outdoor games.


Living area of the hovering house

2. The ‘Hovering House’ – Brecon Beacons National Park

The most architecturally impressive of the properties we looked at – it actually floats above the forest floor.  And in a beautiful part of the world to boot.


picture inside the summerhouse

3. Idyllic rural cottage in Saxmundum, Suffolk

A chocolate box cottage with summer house, hammocks and sun loungers in the settings of a gorgeous garden.  It’s a ideal property for a summer getaway.


Living room of property

4. Mid-century Modern Retreat, Ashford-in-the Water, Derbyshire

A treat for design enthusiasts (if we’d have booked this one I’m not they’d have been able to get rid of Liz….).  Also note the fact that it has a games room with pool and table football.


The outside of the boathouse

5. Horton Lodge Boathouse, Staffordshire

I found this on a site called Skye’s cottages, and it caught my eye as this lovely house has balcony overlooking a lake, a games room, and small private beach with rowing boat and Canadian canoe(!)  More than enough to keep everyone occupied (though not advisable to try out the canoe / rowing boat after a few drinks….)


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Venice: 10 Foodie / Artsy Highlights

Venice rooftops4

Do you remember the post where I sang the praises of Air BnB?  Well they came out on top again on our visit to Venice last month.

Above was the view from the little studio apartment we stayed in, in Venice. It’s so bizarre to be in a city and have an uninterrupted vista over the rooftops of old buildings. In most cities you at least see a peek of some unfortunate 1960’s concrete monstrosity, but Venice is like a city suspended in time (and logic).

I was fascinated by the practicalities of everyday life there, and staying in a building with other local (and very friendly) residents really brought it home. There are no dustbin lorries (refuse trucks) for example, so all rubbish has to be collected daily, hand carted though the streets and then transferred onto barges to be whisked away to the mainland. Deliveries to shops and restaurants all have to be offloaded off the boats and carried up the narrow windy streets and alleyways, and we even wandered past the hospital which had a fleet of water ambulances outside (not sure I’d fancy one of those collecting me if I were ill though!)

The pay off to all that effort from the locals is obviously the famous picture-perfect bridges, canals and car free streets, which didn’t disappoint.  We spent hours exploring and did a standard amount of the ‘big name’ tourist sights, but the best bits were the random back street wanderings and smaller exhibitions / concerts.

10 of the best under the cut… Read More

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Discovering Airbnb

I first discovered air BnB through A Cup of Jo in her post about renting houses on vacation, and have been evangelising about it ever since.  It’s an online marketplace for people who have rooms, houses, apartments, castles, eco-pods, treehouses, caravans, etc. to rent out to travellers looking for a place to stay.

It was borne out of San Francico, but  has grown to have worldwide coverage, and it allows travellers to search by the usual dates /location / facilities etc. but also seek inspiration by browsing the curated lists  put together by the folks at AirbnB on themes like ‘Boats on Land‘, ‘Fairytale cottages‘, ‘Homes of Famous Authors

Air BnB is particularly good for finding fantastic value accommodation in cities like New York, Venice and Paris where money doesn’t tend to go very far.  It also allows you to ‘virtually’ nosy around the pads of very stylish people.  And unlike Rightmove or Elle Decor magazine – these aren’t just unattainable bastions of design – they’re real homes you can actually stay in.

picture of geodesic dome

[above and right: the geodesic dome we stayed in, in the woods of Connecticut]

I’ve used it for holidays in Nice, Boston, New England and for upcoming holidays to Venice and Somerset (the Somerset house is particularly special – I’ll be featuring that in a future post).  All my experiences have so far been positive, and it runs on a system of reviews similar to eBay so you can judge whether others have had a good experience before booking.  As well as developing shortlists for each of the places I’ve booked so far, I’ve also been building up fictional wish lists of places I’d love to visit in future and so I’ll be sharing these in upcoming posts.

20131011_090323[the Vermont treehouse apartment we stayed in last October]


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My kind of festival: Beards, beer and Bradford

Bradford Beer Festival

Don’t let the post title put you off – you don’t have to have a beard to get in, beer drinking is no longer an old mans game. Companies such as Magic Rock and Camden Town have done a great job of modernising the market and making real ale fashionable again. But whether old or new, there is one thing that seems to unite the brewing community — a sense of humour. And Bradford Beer Festival captures that sentiment perfectly.

Now i’m not going to offer tasting notes, as my choices were purely driven by name,  ‘Costa del Salford: 4.1% brewed by Irwell Works, Ramsbottom’ and ‘Keep Calm and Sup Up: 5.5% courtesy of Junction, Baildon’ being two I can (just about) remember. But don’t worry if beer really isn’t your thing there are plenty of ciders and wines to try out, or just grab yourself a pie and sit back and watch the brass band entertainment – bliss.

However there is one thing you have to try and that’s the tombola. Be warned it’s no ordinary school fair experience though, the prizes are that bad the aim of the game is not to win. I believe ‘winnings’ in previous years have included a nicotine stained smoke alarm and a very well thumbed, wipe clean, book of toilet humour(!)

The festival takes place at the end of February at Victoria Hall, in the beautiful model village of Saltaire (which is well worth a more sober visit too) and I would thoroughly recommend it. Myself and Kath keep going back for more anyway, in fact we have been so many times now that my kitchen cupboard is bursting with the souvenir glasses and beginning to look more like a trophy cabinet (all hard earned trophies of course).

So, see you next year. Make mine a pint of Saltaire blond.

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