Posts filed under day trips

Tuscany Day Trip | Bonassola on the Italian Riviera

When I was 19, I was introduced to the Cinque Terre. After traveling to Italy several times before, something felt unique and untouched about this place. It was charming with tiny streets, dramatic beaches smashed on the Mediterranean, and the pesto… oh, baby. It was lush. Tyler and I would sit on the rocks in Vernazza with picnics at sunset and jump off the rocks of Manorola and feel like this was as good as cheap thrills can get.

Since that first time, I have to say (as many other would agree), it’s not really the same. It’s been blown up by tourism in a way that is both like winning the lottery for some locals and devastates a place of its natural charm. We visited Vernazza this summer and, literally, waddled along the main road trying to walk with so many other tourists alongside us. (To be fair, it was July and it was the day a cruise ship docked.) 

A few weeks later, we were at dinner with our friends, Grant, Georgette & Nico in Florence. I asked them where they went for a day out to the beach. Without skipping a beat, Georgette & Nico (who are married) said: "Bonassola!”

They explained that it was just beyond the top town of the Cinque Terre, just beyond Levanto. They said you could drive, you could rent chairs on the beach, that it was stuffed with Italians and, of course, pesto-covered focaccia. We were sold.

A few days later, we loaded up the kids for the 2+ hour drive there. We got takeaway cappuccinos (“a porta via”) and pastries from the best little spot, Laquale, near where we stay.

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We packed up the kids and a million other things (floaties, clean clothes,  water bottles, snacks, sun cream, laptop for Tyler, and, seemingly, every other random other thing we have ever owned.) As we started our mountainous decent from Levanto to Bonassola, we realised how special this place was. It’s a little bay where Italians come to spend August. You can tell that the people there are families that have come back to the same little apartments and beach clubs for years. There are friendships there that are so obvious and so charming. Yet, we still felt the perfect balance of being unnoticed outsiders and friendly experiences. 

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You can rent a beach chair for the day for about €15 per chair. I rented chairs for 6 of us, but it was honestly, a bit of a waste of money. I think for the 7 of us, I could have only rented 3, as for the most part, we were coming and going to the water. 

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We grabbed pizzas from a tiny local spot that had a giant line snaking out of, which obviously meant I wanted to try it, too. We had a sandy little lunch eating pizzas and peaches from the local market what spills right out from the beach front. I met men from Burkino Faso selling gorgeous blankets and grabbed one as a souvenir from the day.

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The water was clear and pretty- as you would expect the Italian Riviera to be. A dead jellyfish floated up and some kids pulled it ashore and played with it for hours. When Viola told me she had been playing with a jellyfish, I definitely didn’t believe her, but our au pair, Camino, laughed and said it was true. I wandered down to see it in person and found about ten kids squatting around it, playing with its tentacles. 

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As the sun started to set and the beach chairs started to gradually become empty, we packed up and wandered into town to find a place for dinner. The tables of the cafes were all filled with families and friends sipping aperitivos, eating pizzas and watching as their kids ran around the fountains by them.

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And as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans. So we sat down and ordered as our kids ran free. They climbed up on the steps, the climbed down, they made friends with the family playing by them and ended up eating the kids crackers, at their mom’s kind offering. It was nearly dream-like.

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I kinda love to keep places like this a secret, because it makes me nervous to think that one day, Bonassola will be just like the Cinque Terre. Overexposed and haggard, but I kinda think that maybe if we spread out a bit, took a chance on other places and tried something that wasn’t just listed in every single tour book//blog, maybe we’d just disperse the chaos a bit better than we currently are doing. Well, that’s my hope at least. Maybe there is actually enough of great spaces for all of us to enjoy, if we don’t feel the pressure to fight for a space in the well-known ones. Because let me tell you, this was not settling for a consolation prize. This day trip to Bonassola was the jewel in the crown of our time staying in Florence.

And if you go, look for me. I’ll be the one on a beach chair- buried under kid’s floaties and empty boxes of pizzas- with a very content look on my face.


Find more of my favourite easy day trips from Tuscany or browse my Italy travel guide to help plan your trip.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My Paris | A Private Tour of Versailles

 

You know that feeling you have when you're traveling and you stumble across some place new... there's a sense of excitement that pulses through you and, if you're like me, you feel like you need to start running, or finding the best restaurant or peeking into real estate offices to begin your new life here.

I love that feeling, and it wasn't until I found myself wandering through the city of Versailles last week that I felt it again for the first time in a long time. To my surprise, the feeling came back and I realised how long it had been since I felt this incredible feeling of the unknown. Most of the places we go to are familiar... like the feeling of seeing an old friend. It's a happy feeling, but a very comfortable feeling.

Anyway, I was in Versailles and we ended up walking 10 minutes past the Chateau and into the heart of town. There was a huge daily market and gorgeous cafes and streets. I couldn't believe I had been to this town so many times and, yet, actually had never seen the cute town here.

But I didn't realise the new view of Versailles had only just begun...

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VISITE PRESTIGE | VERSAILLE'S PRIVATE TOUR OF THE KING & QUEENS APARTMENTS

Okay, so there's a visit to Versailles and then there is THIS VISIT. I was traveling with a private group of clients and they jumped at the opportunity to splurge when I suggested this private tour of the king and queen's private apartments inside Versailles. I had never been on it before, but knew that a guided tour was a must- as the standard lines are just horrific; however, I had my socks officially knocked off by this incredible experience.

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The tour consisted of a private tour through the closed doors of Versailles. We had a docent walk through with us and a second person who carried the ancient keys to unlock the doors and open the shutters inside these dark, closed-off rooms.

You're walked into Marie Antoinette's bedroom where she would hang out with her friends during the day getting dressed and relaxing in between court appearances, you see the bathroom of Louis XIV and the spot where he took his baths and had his face shaved every morning. You see the fluffy bed inside Madame du Barry's apartments... whee the king would come down to visit his beloved mistress. 

You sit in the private opera house to discuss details with the guide, you wander around hidden stair cases and dawdle through empty corridors. 

You are lead and given access to places that you can only imagine. Away from the hustle and formality of the state rooms where events were held, you get to wander through the quiet spaces where they actually lived the meaningful moments of their lives.

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Meanwhile, we never saw another human during the entire two hour tour. We almost began to see the palace as our own... until it ended and found ourselves in the middle of the hoards of tourists. We quickly felt ruined by our incredibly posh beginning so rushed through to the gardens.

Oh man, what an experience. Definitely not the cheapest way to visit Versailles (the tour is €1000 and can include up to 20 guests); however, for a special occasion or a larger group it is an incredible opportunity to see Versailles in such a special way.

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And if you don't get that butterfly-travel-excitment from this day out in Versailles, well, I don't know what to tell you. 

 


Looking for help on a day-trip to Versailles from Paris? I've made it easy in my Daytrip to Versailles post here. Find more of my Paris favourites in my travel guide to Paris.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Little London | Thames Path in Richmond

 

I often get parents of small kids over for a visit, and they gush about how they wish they could have their kids grow up here. YES. It has some amazing advantages: culture, history, cool accents. I love the childhood my children have most every day of the week, but I also feel like I always need to be honest. (Because trust me, I glazed over city living with kids for a long time... before I actually lived with kids in a city.) The fact of the matter is that living in a major city with a young family comes with some huge downfalls: no space (seriously, like ever), long journeys of schlepping in bad weather or on crowded transport, somewhat difficult social boundaries to break through. 

We have been really lucky and are so grateful for our little life here. We have all our needs met... and beyond! 

But last summer, we were feeling a bit claustrophobic. Tyler finally broke down, jumped through the hoops to get his UK license and we added a (very used! very cheap!) car to our family after 7 years of living without it. We hardly use it still walk and scoot most places during the week. But on the weekend, we get a little crazy and get the itch to get out of town with the kids and give them room to explore.


THAMES PATH RICHMOND

For Edie's birthday, we wanted to do something simple. Since those first few birthdays are really for the parents, these parents decided that the best thing for us was to go easy on ourselves. So, when an extravagant party isn't an option, hanging out in a pretty place is the next best thing because it still feel really special.

We headed to Richmond, parked the car, unloaded the kids and went down towards the river. Along the Thames there is the cutest little river walk- which is just a small part of the the Thames Path National trail that stretches 180 miles from Greenwich to north of Oxford.

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The place we went to stretches between Richmond and Hampton Court and comes complete with boat & bike rentals, cafes with people dotted around the tables, grassy areas with people napping or lounging together, and cute little bunting to guide you along the way. We LOVED it!

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We found a little spot, tossed down our picnic blanket, lit a candle on a cupcake and sang happy birthday to sweet Edie.

After they gobbled down the icing and abandoned the cake part of the cupcakes, we watched Harrison scoot up and down a long ramp until we could no longer stand the heat.

 

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It was a perfect little escape from the crammed city routine we often do, and I can't wait to go back and do more picnics... and, when Tyler's feeling up for some arm work, going in one of the row boats. 

 

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You can easily reach Richmond by car or public transport (trains from Waterloo into Richmond or the district line to Richmond). There was some nice detailed instructions on this site. But basically, just get to the High Street in Richmond, and you're just a street or two away.

 

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This is a great day out and makes those tough stretches of being in London with kids feel less stressful and so, so lovely!

 

LOOKING FOR MORE ABOUT LONDON WITH LITTLE KIDS? CHECK HERE.

 



 

*images original to aspiring kennedy

 

Get Out of Town | Canterbury

The medieval town of Canterbury is filled with cultural history. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about this gorgeous little English town in The Canterbury Tales, although there is no record of him ever actually visiting. When I think of a quintessential town on the English countryside, this place comes to mind. Cobblestone streets, massive stone walls, green grass, and cosy little bookshops. Sometimes there is even a little market set up on the street for fresh fruit and vegetables! And it’s a great day-trip option as the train runs regularly from London Victoria Station and is just under 2 hours.

 I thought I would jot down just a few of my favorite spots in this quaint little country town. 

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CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL | This cathedral is a highlight of Canterbury and has been one of the most-visited places in the world for ages. It is the house of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I recommend taking a guided tour through the cathedral. In addition to the fee for entrance (£10.50), the cost for the guided tour is £5 more… but let’s be honest: the guided tour makes the visit way better. Otherwise, who is going to point out the Disney stained glass windows to you? (Seriously! There are some!)

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DANE JOHN GARDENS | If you’re looking for a space to spread out with little ones, this is a nice spot tucked by the main city walls. With playgrounds, plenty of green space to roam (without the fear of traffic), and even a little maze to play in- this is a great escape in the nice weather. Bonus points for it being free, too.

WILD GOOSE | Enjoy eating small local dishes (think: bubbles & squeak, roasted shallots with goats curd over toasted bread, and lamb cutlets with pea puree) in Canterbury West Train Station alongside the Michelin-recommended restaurant, The Goods Shed. The converted train station has a  fresh update from its Victorian roots that makes the setting bright and lively.

STATUE OF GEOFFREY CHAUCER | This statue of the famous author of The Canterbury Tales is on the corner of High Street and Best Lane.

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TINY TIM'S TEA ROOM | A quintessential English tea room on St. Margaret Street... this place is perfect for a break after walking around Canterbury. They serve good tea and the biggest scones!

CHARITY SHOPS | Canterbury is full of charity shops with good finds for really cheap. The British Heart Foundation and Emmaus are two of many, but from my personal experience- keep your eyes peeled for some old Burberry trench coats, mismatched tea sets & antique books all priced for next to nothing.

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THE WALL | Be sure to note the stone wall that trails around Canterbury leftover from it’s medieval days. It is not a bad walk at all and the views of the city below are magical. (Plus, as it sits alongside the train station- it makes for an easy route into town.)

BURGATE BOOKS | This cosy little book shop right next to The Elves and The Shoemaker is a gem. It is so fun to browse through the books by British authors. You’ll be able to find some of your favorite classics here for probably less than £2!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 13, 2018 and filed under england, day trips, get out of town, travel.

Get Out of Town | A Sunday Roast in the Cotswolds

There are some days when the routine of things just makes you feel a bit itchy. Or maybe it’s the appearance of a guest that gives you the motivation to do something a bit beyond ordinary.

Whatever the reason, we felt that urge on Sunday after church. We hopped in the car to head home and decided to hop on the motorway and head out an hour to a tiny pub we love in the Cotswolds.

If you arrive to Beckley (snuggled nearly to Oxford), you’ll find a few streets of dream-like cottages and homes lining its few streets.

Along the main road sits the Abingdon Arms, a pretty pub that was nearly forced to close in 2016. Luckily, the community residents saved it and have turned it into a treasure within the local area.

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With a sprawling garden with grassy areas for kids to explore and enjoy in the winter (complete with fairy doors hidden on the bottom of tree trunks), it’s a total win for a day of great weather lounging in the sun.

But on dark weekends in January, I’ll gladly say it’s still worth the trek for its cosy tables piled up with Sunday roasts because their beef roasts really are the best I’ve ever had.

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My cousin, Austin, is in London for the week so we did our best to set him up for the experience. He imagined it to be like an American pot roast kinda situation walking into the place. Though a roast dinner will vary from what mama made back home (most notably for me, with Yorkshire puddings in lieu of yeast rolls), he likened the afternoon and meal to a warm home-like feel. Though not like my home because I can’t make gravy that good. 

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I forgot to take a picture of the massive plate of “veg” that came alongside this one. Buttered peas, roasted parsnips and carrots.... mmm.

Also, look at Edie! She’s grown so much and is the best little girl. I think I must kiss and call her “the sweetest little lamb” approximately a hundred times each day. I’m smitten with her. 

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So is her dad.... which is nice because they basically share the same face.

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So here you go. One of my favourite little hideaways. I promise if you take a trip out there from London, you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you call ahead to book a table so you aren’t broken-hearted when you arrive.

The Abingdon Arms | High Street, Beckley OX3 9UU

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Find the rest of my favourite places outside of London on my guide to England here.

Or come along on our getaway to the charming New Forest.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 19, 2018 and filed under eat, england, get out of town, day trips.

Bath with Coffee | Mokoko Coffee

Last week, I took a group to Bath for the day. This little town is definitely one of my very favourite day-trips from London. It’s three hours away, so it’s definitely a bit further than I’d like- but if you aren’t up for driving, a train can be an easy way to get there mindlessly.

But I wasn’t going mindlessly, I was planning a class, chatting with students and taking care of a baby on our coach trip there. When we got there, the combination of a long bus trip and early AM start had me sliding into that blur of fatigue. Luckily, our first stop (the Roman baths) was within reach of some coffee. Some might fine coffee, at that. 

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MOKOKO, BATH

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This coffee shop sits just in the Abbey courtyard in Bath- giving it prime real-estate by the city’s two largest attractions: The Roman Baths & the Bath Abbey. Mokoko is, originally, a Bristol-bron shop, but has grown into Bath. 

Expect expertly-made coffee… with all the hipster trimmings. An oat-milk flat white, you say? No worries. They’ve got you covered. (I jest, but that was actually my order. Ha! Takes one to know one, I guess.)

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But what good is cool, delicious coffee if it goes unmatched with something delicious to eat? Good question. Luckily, Mokoko has window(s) full of homemade cakes arranged very alluringly. Try their Hummingbird Cake. It’s just so dang good. Or just go ahead and try them all. You probably won’t regret it.

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But you may regret not snagging one of the picnic tables outside on a sunny day. What a place to sip some coffee, eat some cake, and smooch your baby. Lucky me!

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MOKOKO | 7 Dorchester St, Bath BA1 1SS, UK

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | Dunnottar Castle

If you travel up towards Aberdeen, along Scotland’s eastern coast, you’ll have the chance to view one of the most postcard-perfect castles in Great Britain: Dunnottar Castle. While the castle now lies in ruins, it’s easy to see that it’s dramatic location along the rocky coast was once the home to a really special place.

The medieval castle, which was once captured by William Wallace, now lies in ruins. The history of this site runs deep- all the way back to the 3rd century- but today, the only things happening there are casual exploring of old stones and photos being taken along the way.

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Throughout the centuries, Dunnottar Castle has hosted many famous historical heroes- William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, and the future King Charles II… but it may be most famous for the 8-month stay of a small band of men that held out from Cromwell and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels.

Not only will you get the chance to peek in the partially standing castle rooms to give a glimpse at medieval castle life, but you’ll also be able to get some dramatic views of the coast below. 

The castle opens (in the summer season) at 9am and stays open until 18:00. (Last entry is a 17:30, so make sure you’ve given yourself enough time.) 

I’d give yourself at least 1.5 hours to visit Dunnottar, because the walk down and back up does take a bit longer than you may expect. As you can see, the walk to and from the castle isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires climbing 136 stairs each way… and while you may think that sounds miserable, I can tell you that if I could do it 8 months pregnant alongside a group of German senior citizens, you’ll be fine, too.

While this may be close to Aberdeen, it also makes for an easy day trip from St. Andrews, too. There aren’t many places to eat nearby, by there is a tiny food truck selling decent quality food items (fish & chips, Angus burgers, homemade fishcakes, etc). I’d recommend either packing a picnic, eating there… or heading on to the tiny town of Stonehaven for a picnic on the beach.


Looking for more places to see and stay in Scotland?

 

Find my previous posts here, or look in my Scotland travel guide.


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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Been {to} Dover?

Ah... 

nothing like a 7th grade style joke

to kick off another travel post.

In fact, I think it's the best way.

One of the day trips I never get tired of taking

is to the coast of England

to visit Dover.

You may know it for it's famous white cliffs...

but if you are looking for a good day out of London

you'll find that this little town has SO much more to offer

than just gorgeous white cliffs.

When you come,

you can come via train from London.

It's about an hour and some change out there

on the high speed train from St. Pancras

and about 2 if you leave from Victoria.

When you get to the station ("Dover Priory"),

I'd call for a taxi.

I mean, you can walk,

and I know some people do...

but the taxis are cheap.

{Editor's Note: I use Dover Taxi,  No. 898 222}

Last time it was around £6 for a car to take 4 of us

across town and up the cliff to the castle entrance. 

IMO, totally worth it.

So you get to

Dover Castle,

you buy your tickets at the gate

and then you cruise on in.

The castle itself is VERY cool.

It's got a bunch of facilities

and has been restored to feel like

a working castle of the medieval era.

But beyond just the castle,

there is one of my favorite sites:

the

war time tunnels.

As you may know, 

Dover is the closest part of England to France.

In fact, on a clear day you can see the coast...

which in England is super often.

{Editor's Note: I've probably been 5 times and seen it 1.5 times.}

So throughout France/England's history,

it's been a strategic point for the two countries.

During the Napoleonic war, 

they carved tunnels into the cliffs

to spy on France and observe the channel.

During WWI, they dug another layer and added more.

Than in WWII they added a third tunnel level

and it became a full working hospital & military office.

Today, they have restored the tunnels to replicate the hospital of WWII

and to show how the workings of Operation Dynamo

rescuing 300,000 stranded troops from the Germans.

It's super cool.

Then go into the adorable town below,

grab lunch somewhere cozy... and probably some tea & cakes, too.

You should also probably head

to the beach to stick your toes in the English Channel.

And then, hop the train back to London.

It's that easy!

Have you been to Dover?

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags: Bath, England

I get to head out to Bath a few times a year 

and every single time I go, 

I fall more in love with this little city.

The city is a great mix of Roman history and Georgian architecture.

It offers amazing historical treasures in the Roman Baths & Jane Austen Museum

and a good blend of high-street shopping and quirky market shops.

Ok, so you want to go to Bath?

Good decision.

Here's what you should know:

It's a direct train ride from London to Bath

that will take you an hour and a half.

Leave from London's Paddington station and arrive in Bath Spa.

Once you arrive in Bath, grab a map

or just follow the signs into the city centre, it's easy.

Head to the

Roman Baths.

The

admission price

is £12.25 and includes an audio guide

that will tell you everything you need to know.

{I opt for Bill Bryson's tour or the kid's tour... it's kinda awesome.}

The baths are amazing. 

Honestly, it's one of my favorite places to visit in Europe.

And no, you can't get in the water...

just in case you wondered, if you're anything like me. 

Afterwards, head to the

Raven Pub

for a pie.

When you've finished your pie & mash, you can head to the

Jane Austen Museum

or the

Fashion Museum

to see period clothing like corsets & hoop-skirts.

Before you leave,

you may want to head back to the baths 

and have tea in the famous

Pump Room.

It's gorgeous... 

complete with chandeliers and a string quartet.

Even if you aren't up for splurging on the price of a proper tea,

you should go to the small bar along the side of the room

in front of this little fountain.

There you can get

a glass of water

from the baths to drink.

It's..... interesting. :)

Even though I've only ever day-tripped to Bath, 

I have high hopes of staying there overnight

and partaking in the glorious

sunset-spa experience.

Someday!

Have you been to Bath?

What did you love?

*all images original to Aspiring Kenendy