An Afternoon With the Swans | Worcester, England

30 January 2015

Worcester (a city I literally can not pronounce to save the life of me) is famous for many things: Worcestershire Sauce, the location of two royal tombs, and to my surprise… swans. On my first visit to the city I was amazed to learn that Worcester's swan population is well over 100. Seeing that many swans on the River Severn was a pleasant surprise on my sunny day trip to this beautiful city.

While visiting Worcester I discovered the Swan Food Project. Any bird larger than a seagull scares me slightly, no matter how beautiful. Because of this I realized I knew very little about swan protection, let alone their diet. I was intrigued by the little sign inside Worcester's cathedral explaining swan malnutrition and starvation. Next to the sign was a row of "Swan Food". Seeing as it was such a beautiful day, I bought a bag for 1.50 and headed to the river.

With each bag you are given a pamphlet explaining the Swan Food Project. The project's goal is to increase public awareness on the dangers of feeding swans food that isn't part of their normal diet. For example, stale bread seems like a logically food to feed birds, however it can cause fatal diseases in swans. Fresh lettuce, watercress, or dandelion leaves are more natural foods that can be included in a swan's diet. Even grass is better than bread!

The Swan Food bags are put together by a local volunteer and dispersed throughout the city. Each bag contains nutritious pellets that supplement their natural diet. With my Swan Food bag in hand, I headed down to the river.

You don't have to be Worcester to help out your local swans. Just be aware of what food you are feeding them and you're already helping their growing community!

Happy Friday!

Eating My Way Through Manchester

26 January 2015

Let's face it, one of my favorite things about being on vacation is eating whatever I want and not feeling guilty about it. While in Manchester back in December, I was amazed by the food scene. Every place we stumbled into turned out to be an amazing choice! Whether you are looking for a good brunch spot or something fast, Manchester has a variety of choices to fill any appetite. Here are some of my favorites (plus one that just made the American in me super happy).

BREAKFAST | Teacup Kitchen
After the 30 minute tram ride into Manchester from where we were staying, J and I were desperate for a good breakfast. Being a Sunday, most places were closed. We spotted a cafe that had just opened their doors for the day and immediately popped in. I was instantly impressed by the wide variety of tea they offered, however opted for a latte which didn't disappoint. Our food was equally amazing, earning a very bold statement from J: "That was literally the best Eggs Benedict I have ever had". By the time we left, every single table was full of customers enjoying a Sunday brunch.

LUNCH | The Splendid Sausage Co.
For lunch on the second day we opted to stay close to Manchester's City Centre. Having spent the morning walking around the Christmas Market, our appetite was eager for something hardy. The Splendid Sausage Co. turned out to be an excellent pick. Reasonably priced for the amount of food, make sure to come hungry! The cheese fries are particularly amazing!

Okay, so this isn't exactly a "Manchester" original, but I had been talking up Taco Bell to J for almost a year. Being my favorite fast food place back home, I was thrilled to see one in Manchester! Was it as good as I remember? Not really, but Taco Bell is a perfect filling for the afternoon munchies.

If you plan on visiting Manchester anytime soon, make sure to bring your appetite!

Happy Monday!

Stonehenge | Round 2

22 January 2015

A little while back I visited Stonehenge for the first time. It was cold and rainy and rather windy. The Visitor Centre was still being built and the gift shop was too crowded to even attempt to go inside. On my second visit however, the sun was out and the Visitor Centre was complete. While still the dead of winter, my experience was already 10x better than my trip last year!

Stonehenge was our final stop on the Mad Max Tour which also took us to Castle Combe, Avebury, and Lacock. Having been to Avebury Stone Circle earlier in the day, I was interested to see the differences between the two sites. While both are vastly dissimilar in presentation, each offer a unique experience and are worth visiting on the same trip!

Getting to Stonehenge in the late afternoon meant less people and less of a wait for the buses. With the new Visitor Centre complete a mile down the road, you now have to catch a bus to the site rather than parking right next to the stones. The old parking lot and rather shabby looking gift shop have been torn down, returning Stonehenge to a natural setting. I'm all for this new system and think it works beautifully!

On the day we visited there had been 7,000 visitors! 7,000 in one day! If you are planning a trip, make sure to account for the large amount of crowds!

Happy Thursday!

Avebury Stone Circle | Wiltshire, England

17 January 2015

During the coldest week since moving to England, my best friend from Texas came to visit. Lauren and I stayed the night in London before coming back to Bristol for a few days. For one of those days, I booked us a trip with Mad Max Tours, a company recommended to me by Elle, that girl I mention in literally every other post. Love you, Elle!

Mad Max Tours, based in Bath, is a small tour company with exceptional service. After a hectic morning that resulted in 2 delayed trains and 1 canceled one, Lauren and I barely made it to the meeting point. Luckily, we made friends with an Australian couple on the train who had also booked the tour. The second we reached Bath the Aussie man sprinted to the meeting point to let our guide know the rest of us (the three slower girls) were coming. However, our tour guide Kevin was extremely friendly and welcoming despite the fact we were 15 minutes late. Once we were finally on the bus (and completely out of breath) the fun began. The tour consisted of four stops: Avebury, Castle Combe, Lacock, and Stonehenge.

Avebury Stone Circle is located in the county of Wiltshire, the same county as Stonehenge. Unlike Stonehenge, the stones at Avebury were left untouched and unshaped, making it's features unique. Because the circle is less known, there is no admission price and no fences blocking you from the stones. Hugging the stones is fully encouraged.

Avebury is actually considered to be a more impressive accomplishment than Stonehenge in the academic community. Much larger, Avebury was placed on a natural energy line, the stones representing male and female. With barely any tourist, Avebury is perfect if you're looking for those up close and personal pictures you can't get at Stonehenge!

When Kevin pointed out the Devil's Chair, aka the supposed gateway to hell, Lauren and I wasted no time to climb up onto it. Obviously we aren't phased by superstitions. 

Have you been to any other World Heritage Sites?

Happy Saturday!

Lacock Abbey

14 January 2015

Although Lacock is one of the most beautiful villages in all of England, it doesn't take long to visit almost every inch of it. If you plan an entire day out in Lacock you might be straining yourself for things to do. However, any trip to Lacock is not complete until you've visited the vast grounds of Lacock Abbey. 

Lacock is home to one of the most interesting abbeys I have visited in England. Looking more like an estate rather than a religious institution, Lacock Abbey has a very unique history. Founded in 1229 by the Countess of Salisbury as a tribute to her deceased husband, Lacock Abbey was built to be a nunnery. During Henry VIII's dissolution of religious institutions, he found Lacock to be too small to pose any sort of threat. He left the abbey alone, asking Sir William Sharington, the owner of the property at the time, to destroy only the chapel. Since then, the abbey has been used as an estate for many noble families, the Talbots being the most prominent in its recent history. In 1835, William Henry Fox Talbot used the abbey as the setting of the very first photographic negative. Today, the abbey is a National Trust property, the grounds stretching for as far as you can see. It has been used as the set for most Harry Potter movies as well as the Other Boleyn Girl (which I find to be terribly amusing and ironic). 

Happy Wednesday!

A Country Walk | Lacock, England

10 January 2015

Sometimes your feet just take you to new and exciting places. On our trip to Lacock, Elle and I found ourselves wandering out of the village and through the fields. Accompanied only by the sheep, we found ourselves completely immersed in the English country. 

The only regret of this little trip? Not wearing my Wellies.

Happy Saturday!