Author Archives: Rachel

UK: Afternoon Tea

There’s nothing quite so quintessentially English as the long standing tradition of Afternoon Tea. On the turning of a new decade I decided it was time to partake of this custom with some of my best lady friends and what better place to do something so traditional as one of the great Victorian railway hotels, the refurbished St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

The first question was, what time does one take afternoon tea? The hotel would let us book any time between 12 and 4. We decided on 3pm as the optimum time after an early light lunch to be able to eat more and not so late as to cut our evening short; and we duly arrived at the Gilbert Scott bar. You can enter the bar directly from Euston road but our approach took us through the lavish entrance of the hotel. I was rather glad it did as part of my motivation for booking our tea at this particular venue was to have a sneak peak at the hotel, one which, as a resident of London and a budget traveller, I will probably never stay at.

We ordered from the various selections  available, from a cream tea with scones and jam right up to a classic tea, with a tiered cake stand and champagne. The scones were enormous, and were very generous, in the two per portion. The classic tea came with some savoury sausage pastries, sandwiches, more scones and some deliciously rich little cakes. All was beautifully prepared, the scones still warm from the over and the cream dairy fresh.

The ambience was one of quiet dignity. The staff were polite and helpful but allowed us to get on with our afternoon, relatively undisturbed. Tasteful music played in the background and despite the bar being on the street, the traffic noise didn’t disturb the warmth and laughter of our afternoon.

The hotel itself is beautifully restored. One of England’s great railway hotels, it fronts St Pancras station but lay dormant for many years. With the redevelopment of the whole of St Pancras with the move of Eurostar to the terminal, the hotel has once again been restored to it’s former glory.

This is a tradition I would gladly partake of again if the circumstance arises and I think the ladies would happily join me!

 

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A Long Weekend in Florence

Florence is small enough to explore the centre on foot and well worth doing so. It’s pleasant renaissance buildings and streets are steeped in history and it’s difficult not to stumble over a museum, famous artwork or building attributed to the Medici family. Here are some things not to miss during your time there. Continue reading

Guatemala: The Jungle City of Tikal

It’s early and the taxi driver is looking for the place he needs to drop me off. It’s still dark and we appear to be amongst the hangers at the airport. I wonder if he has the wrong address and we are hopelessly lost. He asks me to wait in the car and goes in through a small door to speak to someone. On his return he declares we are in the right place. I thank him and tip and dubiously enter the same door. There is a small waiting room and a desk where I present my documents for inspection and I’m then told to wait. Over the course of the next half hour a few other tourists arrive and I feel more at ease. It also begins to get light and this reveals that we are indeed at the airport and there are a number of light aircraft on the tarmac outside. Continue reading

The Value Added Holiday

Voluntourism, it’s become a buzz word in the travel industry but what is it, how does it work and how do you choose a worthwhile project?

Voluntourism is a holiday where you go out as a volunteer, usually but not always to a developing country and volunteer. Sometimes it’s just volunteering your time, sometimes you have specific skills that you take to a project and sometimes the project will train you in some basic skills to undertake the tasks that are needed. Either way, is it a good use of your time and money or is it just a ‘feel-good’ holiday where you leave feeling like you’ve done some good, but where the efforts you have put in will crumble just as quickly once you leave. How do you ensure that isn’t the case? Continue reading

Travelling with a Black Dog

Travelling with depression or any mental illness can be challenging. As a long term sufferer of severe, chronic depression and a traveller at heart it’s important to me and to my well being to find ways of getting away when I can. This piece is written with my own experiences in mind and should be taken only with consideration of your own symptoms and experiences – I cannot judge that for you. Trust yourself – you know your own limitations and boundaries. Continue reading

Italy: A Walk through Ancient Rome

It’s first thing in the morning and a steady drizzle has settled in over Rome. This is the first on my list of things I want to see. Brought up on the ruins that the Romans left behind in the Scottish borders I think I might have an understanding of what I’m looking at. I would be wrong! Initially the Roman Forum which I have come to see looks like a jumble of columns and rocks which make no sense. Continue reading

UK: Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland

Dunstanburgh Castle was built in the 1300’s by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, initially, it’s thought as a resistance to the King. Later it was taken over and used as a strong hold against the Scots. It was also a focus of action during the Wars of the Roses. Continue reading