22 December 2013

December - Grey #worldcolors #worldcolours

The final month of #worldcolors #worldcolours is here and this time the colour is grey.  I've thoroughly enjoyed looking through old photos this past year and rediscovering them in a different way as I hunted for examples of that month's colour.  I hope you've enjoyed them too.

Here is my selection for grey.

Elephants outside a temple in Geylang, Singapore
Bangkok, Thailand
Detail from the soles of the feet of the Reclining Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand
Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Chinese lion, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Dragonfly statues, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
A grey day in Hong Kong
Jurong Bird Park, Singapore
Live Turtle and Tortoise museum, Chinese and Japanese Gardens, Singapore
Grey stormy clouds, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Helix bridge and MBS, Singapore
Elephant Parade, Singapore

If you missed any of the previous month's colours check them out here.

17 December 2013

Penshurst Place

At the end of our trip to the UK, as I said previously, we stayed in Kent and visited my family. My Mum celebrated a special birthday in October which I knew I wasn't going to be able to be in the UK for.  Mainly because of the cost of flights and various planned trips we already had, including a trip back to the UK this Christmas and various events (four weddings in four different countries) next year as well.  So I suggested we go out for a special day somewhere whilst I was home which should be her choice and could be her early birthday celebration with me.  

Somewhere she'd often mentioned before and never been to was Penshurst Place in Penshurst near Tonbridge, Kent so it was decided this would be where we would go.  The day was another beautiful summer one and we set off together with a close family friend.  My Dad used to be a butcher and whilst serving his apprenticeship as a teenager took many meat deliveries to the house for the family by bike.  On one of these visits he'd been lucky enough to be shown around some of the house but that was the closest any of us had got to visiting and, of course, that was sometime ago now!  

The house though is still privately owned and lived in as it was then and was surprisingly cheap to get in to compared to many other similar properties, adult tickets were only £10, children £6.50 and family tickets only £28 and it was cheaper still if you only wanted to look around the gardens!  Once you are in there is a cafe (serving coffee, tea, cold drinks and snacks), a restaurant with an excellent range of food, a well stocked gift shop, a play area for children, a toy museum and a maze to make your day complete.

We got tickets for both the house and gardens and began our day by looking around the house. Penshurst Place is one of England's oldest family homes.  It was for a time owned by Henry VIII and then in 1552 was gifted to the Sidney family and was the birthplace of the Elizabethan poet, courtier and soldier, Sir Philip Sidney.  The original part of the house was built in 1341 by Sir John de Pulteney, a wealthy London merchant and Lord Mayor of London, who wanted a country home within a day's ride of London.  It is also regarded as one of the best preserved examples of a defended manor house in England, being built at a time when these properties were no longer automatically built as castles but rather dwellings that could be defended in an emergency.

Inside the house the rooms are full of beautiful paintings and furniture as well as a collection of arms and armour.  The tour of the house begins inside the Great Hall known as the Baron's Hall.  Beneath the hall there is a crypt which I imagine would be a great place to hold parties as well as the hall naturally. From there we toured through several more rooms before ending up at a display of personal family photos.

As I mentioned it was a beautiful summer's day so after our tour of the house we decided to walk a little around some of the gardens and soak up the sunshine.  The gardens at Penshurst are one of the oldest in private ownership with records dating from 1346.  The gardens are expansive (48 acres) and include a lovely formal walled garden originally laid out in 1580, some of which can be seen in my photos.  My personal favourite part was when we stumbled across the apple orchard below.  There was seating here and it was a pleasant little spot to enjoy the good weather.

Penshurst Place is not somewhere near my parents home that I would automatically suggest people visiting the area go to, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much there was to see and how reasonable it was.  Definitely a place to consider if you are ever in Kent.

Apple trees in the orchard

04 December 2013

Rabbit Carrot Gun and the Trenchard Arms

Somewhere we've been to but I've not got around to sharing anything about on here is Rabbit Carrot Gun and the Trenchard Arms, situated in traditional shophouses on the East Coast Road.  Actually we've only been to Rabbit Carrot Gun once (and enjoyed it) but we've visited the pub part of this establishment a few times over the past few months so I thought I'd combine the two.

Interior of Rabbit Carrot Gun

We visited Rabbit Carrot Gun on a Sunday to try it out as somewhere different for a local brunch spot and it didn't disappoint.  It was very busy, in fact it always seems to be when I walk past it, but this didn't prevent us getting good service and having a very pleasant meal.  I had the eggs benedict and whilst I may not be an aficionado on this dish I thought it was pretty good.  The Game Keepers Shooting breakfast actually looked good too when I saw other people's orders come out after I had made my own.  I'm always a bit hesitant though to order a full English in Singapore as the sausages are invariably either not pork sausages (even when the menu states they are) or are just generally a bit substandard.  I reserve my occasional full English fixes strictly for when I am back in the UK.  Can anyone confirm how this breakfast compares though?  I'd like to find a decent one somewhere in Singapore!

As I mentioned slap bang next to Rabbit Carrot Gun is the Trenchard Arms owned by the same people.  The pub is modelled on a British pub and has lots of quirky features including a large model of a bulldog and one wall covered in a 'Country Life' covers collage wallpaper.  There are also a couple of comfy chairs which would totally be at home in a country pub in the UK with a roaring fire burning as well as the usual bar stools and tables.  They serve Rose wine here too which I admit to taking advantage of whenever we go.

The Trenchard Arms also offers a range of typically British pub food and snacks, including Scotch eggs and ploughman's.  We've not eaten there so not sure how good the dishes are and to me it does not seem the cheapest.  Has anyone eaten there though, is the food good?  The majority of our visits here have been on a Sunday afternoon for one or two relaxed drinks close to home but we've also been in the evening.  It seems equally as good whether you go at night or in the day.  

From our experience it's a good place to go whether it be for dinner or just drinks.  Another great eatery and pub in the East!

View from inside the Trenchard Arms

01 December 2013

November - Turquoise #worldcolors #worldcolours

Well I'm late again for my #worldcolors #worldcolours post! November was turquoise, something when I was doing my blue post earlier this year I hadn't appreciated. I did use a couple of photos that month that possibly could have featured in this month's post but I managed to find some others too, so without further ado here is my contribution.

Shophouse in Geylang, Singapore
Detail from a gravestone at Bukit Brown cemetery
Elephant for Deepavali, Gardens by the Bay
View from the Burj Al Arab, Dubai 
S.E.A. Aquarium, Singapore
River Hongbao, Singapore
Sentosa Flower Festival, Singapore
Buddha Tooth Relic temple, Chinatown, Singapore 

If you missed any of the previous month's colours, check them out here.

20 November 2013

Dover Castle

After spending the first part of our summer break in the north of the UK we headed south for the final part to Kent to spend some time with my family.  There was lots of catching up with family and friends but also a little time for some days out too.  One such day was spent at Dover castle a great place to visit and one I haven't been to for a very long time.  We were lucky to have the most amazing weather for our visit, a truly beautiful British summer day with glorious sunshine and blue skies. The last time I visited it was raining and blowing a gale, Dover castle is pretty exposed so that really wasn't so much fun!

On arrival we headed straight for the medieval castle which is the largest in England.  It was built in the 12th century (prior to this an Iron Age hill fort stood on the site) and has had defensive significance throughout its history due to its position on the top of the famous white cliffs of Dover.  We firstly went into the Great Tower (featured in my photos) to look at the displays about the history of the castle and what medieval life would have been like.  There are lots of recreations and props showing what the kitchens and Great Hall would have looked like.

At the top of the Great Tower you are able to go out on to the roof and take in some great views.  Unfortunately on the day we visited it was very hazy despite the weather being beautiful. You can see in my photos below just how hazy the ferries coming into and leaving Dover look, definitely no chance of catching a glimpse of France across the English Channel that day! Nevertheless though we got to see some lovely views of the Kent countryside and the town of Dover stretching out below us and feel the warm sunshine on our faces.  Afterwards we then visited an exhibition about Henry II, the King who built Dover castle and learnt about the empire he built and another museum dedicated to the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. 

View towards Dover, although it was a gorgeous day it was very hazy.
View across Dover docks from the castle, again you can see how hazy it was.  There was no chance of catching a glimpse of France that day.

I'm not sure how old I was the last time I went to Dover castle I'm not sure I was even in my teens but I'm pretty sure at that point you could not visit the tunnels that have played such a crucial role in various points in the castle's history.  The tunnels actually date from Napoleonic times and were originally dug to be used as barracks and storerooms for the troops and their equipment. At the end of the Napoleonic wars the tunnels were partly converted to be used in the fight against smuggling but this was only for a short while and in 1827 the tunnels were abandoned.

The tunnels remained abandoned until the outbreak of the Second World War when, in 1939 they were converted firstly into an air raid shelter and then into a military command centre and underground hospital.  It was from these tunnels that the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo) was directed.  Later in their history it was also planned that they would be used as a shelter for Government in the event of a nuclear attack but this plan was eventually abandoned. 

Back though to their use during the Second World War.  A visit to Dover castle now has to include visiting the two tunnel exhibits and despite the queueing to go down into the tunnels (only so many are allowed down with each guide) it is well worth it.  We firstly queued to go into the underground hospital tunnel complex.  As we walked through we got to see the tunnels recreated to look as they would have done during the war and followed the story of a injured pilot brought to the hospital for life saving treatment.  The exhibition is excellently presented with both visual and recording effects.  I can never appreciate what it was really like down there in war time but this certainly gives me some idea.

Our guide was also very good, full of interesting facts and very engaging.  At one point of the tour the tunnel we had walked down continued further on before us but our tour took us through a door to the right.  As our guide finished speaking and we turned to follow him I noticed a man in uniform standing at the end of the tunnel who glanced at his watch as I looked at him.  He hadn't been there earlier and although I suspect it was a projection on to the wall designed to only be spotted by the observant few our guide was excellent at not giving anything away.  Only myself and my one stepson had noticed him or at least we were the only two to say we had after my stepson commented shortly afterwards that he'd seen a man standing at the end of the tunnel we'd just been in.  The guide's reaction was perfect leaving it to us to decide what we'd seen.  Later in the tour we actually passed through the end of the corridor where this man had been standing before but stupidly I forgot to look and see if there was anything obvious to confirm it was just a projection. Who knows .... what do you think?

After exploring the underground hospital tunnels we then went into the tunnels in the photo below to see the Operation Dynamo exhibit.  Again you have to queue as only so many are allowed in the tunnels at one time with the guide but it is worth it.  We weren't waiting too long either considering it was a lovely day and it was the school summer holidays (plus the Friday before a public holiday), so in theory a potentially very busy day to be visiting.

This exhibit was slightly different to the underground hospital this one took us through the story of the whole operation and how the rescue was engineered rather than following an individuals story.  Again though it was full of visual and sound effects and very informative.  As well as the Operation Dynamo exhibit we also got to see a number of rooms within the tunnels as they would have looked during their use in the war including a telephone exchange and several others.  I love this type of history and seeing old wartime posters on the wall, items arranged as they likely were in war time etc. was a thrill for me.

Entrance to the tunnels used during the Second World War

The whole day was not cheap but well worth the money considering all we got to see.  If it had just been the castle I would have felt a bit disappointed but the access to the tunnels and the exhibits in them really made it a worthwhile visit, it also easily filled a whole day.  It is well worth a visit if you find yourself in that part of Kent.

15 November 2013

Picnic and Deepavali Celebrations at Gardens by the Bay

The first Saturday in November was a holiday in Singapore for Deepavali.  Unfortunately as the holiday fell on a Saturday there was no official day off in lieu for it and it was up to companies to approve this individually.  I work Saturdays and originally thought I might get an unexpected day off as we are normally closed on public holidays but as Saturday tends to be one of our busier days we were open so I ended up having to work.  I don't work Fridays though and my husband's company also gave all of their staff the Friday off work in lieu of the holiday.  Happily this therefore meant that we were both free on the Friday and could make some plans for the day and enjoy the holiday a day early.

We decided it would be fun to have a picnic, something we haven't done a great deal since moving to Singapore, I guess mainly because of the climate.  It was decided we would go to Gardens by the Bay and keep our fingers crossed that it wouldn't rain or get too hot! As we also have a yearly Friends of the Garden pass, which allows us entry into the domes and on the Skyway walk through the Supertree Grove, we thought we could enjoy those again too afterwards.

Friday arrived and although it did rain a little in the morning, other than making it incredibly humid for a little while it wasn't a wash out and didn't affect our plans.  We enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch of bread, meats, cheese and wine, whilst watching lizards and other visitors to the gardens enjoying themselves - perfect!

As I mentioned it was Deepavali weekend and Gardens by the Bay had a themed display, as they do for many of the various holidays and for other events throughout the year.  They are always well worth checking out.  We went into the Flower Dome first and were greeted by a beautiful display of flowers and model elephants.  The elephants really looked at home nestled in amongst the carpets of flowers.  There were lots of interesting facts about the festival of Deepavali to read too as we walked in amongst the flowers that are always on show in the dome and those specially chosen for the themed display.

After a relaxing afternoon in the Flower Dome and walking on the Skyway enjoying the views we finished our day with some much needed liquid refreshment at a bar we seem to go to quite a lot.  It's called South Coast and is in the Shoppes mall at Marina Bay Sands overlooking the bay area.  It has an outside and inside seating area and is perfect for a little Sunday afternoon people watching.  It has unintentionally become a favourite haunt of ours, we've also eaten there and the food is good too with the usual choices of bar snacks, pizzas, a range of main meals, desserts and brunch items (which we sampled) all served daily.  We ended up spending a little longer there than anticipated that day as an afternoon storm took hold leaving us stranded in the bar!  However it's not a bad place to get stuck and was a lovely end to a lovely day.

Drinks with a view (from a different visit to South Coast)

05 November 2013


After a lovely week in the Lake District we then spent a few days with my husband's family in Southport, whilst there we decided to take a day trip to Chester.  I've been to Chester a couple of times before, the first time was when I was in my early teens and I think the last time was on a friend's hen weekend when I was in my mid-twenties.  We had a great weekend then visiting the zoo, eating, drinking, dancing and finally crashing all together in her friend's very convenient house close to the city centre!  Chester is, in my opinion, a lovely city full of history and great shops (though I didn't go in any of those this time) so well worth the trip and luckily not too far away from my in-laws.

Part of Chester's city walls

Our visit focused on a walk around the city walls which date from Roman times.  Whilst we were on our walk we were able to see the Roman amphitheatre, Chester castle, Chester cathedral, managed to divert off the wall to stop for lunch and refreshments and also saw Chester racecourse.  Chester has a rich history dating from Roman times onwards having originally been founded as a fortress by the Romans as they expanded their empire northwards.  The remains of Roman Chester and the Chester of other time periods are easily found throughout the city.

Roman remains in Chester

As I mentioned above the city walls date from Roman times and were built to protect Chester.  The walls were later extended during Medieval times to form a complete circuit of the city.  At the end of the Civil War the walls were no longer maintained for defensive purposes but became of leisure and recreational interest instead.  Walking the walls is a pleasant way to view the city and also a very easy walk.  There are plenty of points where you can come off the walls if you do need or want to and you can walk as fast or slow and as far as you wish.

Eastgate clock

Towards the end of our walk we came to the Eastgate clock.  It is said to be the most photographed clock in the UK after Big Ben.  I don't know if that's true or not but I've added to the number of photos taken of it I guess!  The clock stands on the site of the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix.  In case you had not realised the gate (the present one dating from 1768) is the Eastgate which joins these parts of the city wall.  It gives you great views over the busy city centre streets and allows you to pause and take your time people watching for a while.  What makes the walls even lovelier (in my opinion) is the number of little shops built into the walls or with an entrance from the wall.  It fascinated me to think about what shops and businesses may have been run in these spaces in years gone by.

Chester's city centre as viewed from Eastgate

It was lovely to be back in Chester again after quite a few (and perhaps too many) years.  Our walk around the walls was fun, interesting and let us see a lot of the main parts of the city too.  If you ever find yourself in this part of the UK I'd recommend visiting this city.

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