I’m sure if you’d have asked me my wish list for a ‘staycation’ that these ideas wouldn’t have been at the top, however amongst lots of fantastic experiences, these helped us make the most amazing memories 😊
So, the first challenge of a UK staycation must be, how much you can fit in the car (along with a dog and 3 adults) The answer is (and I’m sure my lovely friend Kirsty will agree) a lot – especially if food, wine and games are part of the luggage. The one rule we have is that Nick doesn’t pack the car (sorry darling) but he just doesn’t have the patience – no one wants to arrive with squashed crisps, dripping dips and exploded shampoo bottles!
This year we were heading to Bury St Edmunds, we’d booked a lodge with our friends (default from what should have been Paxos) and we were so excited! The drive for us is never too far, we love music so it’s a great excuse to have a great singalong – yes we look a bit crazy, a good catch up and some yummy old fashioned ‘in the car’ sweets!
The lodge was all about the location, oh and a Hot Tub. Aspen Country Park, made for a great base and gave us loads of space for our party of 6. We had done loads of research and there was so much to do, a week wasn’t going to be long enough…
After a few drinkies on Friday night to celebrate us ‘actually getting’ to somewhere on holiday after 2 years of trying, we headed to ‘Go Ape’ on Saturday. Now I’m a bit of a scaredy cat, as is Kirsty, so it was left to the dads to navigate the girls round the Tree Top Challenge! They had a blast and conquered all 5 levels #nailedit. If like Kirsty and I that’s not for you, the course is set in a part of Thetford Forest.
Apart from the forest being stunningly beautiful, it’s a brilliant set up…
…there is Forest Segway, Bicycle Hire and a brilliant adventure playground plus some amazing walks. I managed my 10,000 steps by walking around trying to find our gang on ‘Go Ape’ so I’m not sure who had the biggest challenge!
I’m beginning to think I’m not used to too much fresh air, happily tired and with a good glow (the weather was great) it was homemade Hongkong Style Sweet and Sour Chicken for tea, and a game of “Great Night In”
If I had one word of great advice – prepare yourself. Wow! is the only word I can say about this game. Skateboard drawings that looked like UFO’s, a whole new miming language in Charades and a humming game, of which the memories will be with me for the rest of my life – Possibly in my nightmares!
Bury St Edmonds is a jewel in the Suffolk crown and also known as Suffolk’s ‘foodie’ town, so we definitely hit the jackpot there! It’s simply lovely with elegant Georgian squares filled with bustling cafes and live music, and medieval streets lined with fabulous independent shops. For bigger brands there is also the Arc Shopping Centre. We managed to hit market day, so the town felt extra energetic, there was lots of different stalls from fresh fruit and veg, clothing to furniture and flowers plus some brilliant street food to choose from! I loved the history of Bury St Edmunds, and it really is everywhere. Home to one of the first examples of a road sign and in Abbey Gardens possibly one of the earliest examples in the UK of a sundial. Abbey Gardens was my favourite spot (apart from the restaurants – but more about those later 😉) These gardens are on the site of the former Benedictine Abbey, once one of the richest and most powerful Benedictine Monasteries in England and home to the shrine of King Edmund, the original patron Saint of England of whom the town is named after. The Abbey was destroyed in 1539 but as you wonder around the gardens you can still see parts of the original Abbey and the gardens are framed by its walls. Enter the gardens through Abbey Gate and entrance is free. The gardens have won many awards and as you walk amongst the beautiful flower beds (approximately 20,000 bulbs are planted for the summer displays), through the rose garden and the wildflower labyrinth it is easy to see why. There’s lots of grassy space so be sure to take a picnic and watch the world go by with views of the stunning St Edmundsbury Cathedral.
St Edmundsbury Cathedral is beautiful, originally starting as St James Church in the Abbey grounds, it received its Cathedral status in 1914. The building itself has been developed over the years and most recently the 150ft Millennium Tower added in 2005 and then the intricate guided vault in 2010 makes the Cathedral even more impressive. We were welcomed to come in and explore, they had a local art gallery on display, and we also had the chance the view their very ambitious Lego project, it was amazing and I wish we could have taken a photograph. The aim is to recreate the Cathedral out of 200,000 Lego pieces and for each £1 that is donated, a brick is placed onto the structure. The project that started in 2016 is still going strong and is run purely by volunteers and I think it’s fabulous. We missed the tour of the Cathedral (Cost of £10), which takes you to what looks to be some brilliant viewing points so we will do that next time.
Food and drink – as always, I can’t do a blog without mentioning the two 😊 There are so many eateries and pubs/bars to choose from in Bury St Edmunds, so I wanted the share with you our favourites
Sunday Lunch in a ‘proper pub’ – we booked a table for 3pm at the Mason Arms. The gentleman on the phone recommended we sit outside in their courtyard. What a fab recommendation, undercover, warm and a great atmosphere. Our own fault for booking a later table is that we only got to view what looked like an amazing Sunday lunch but the comments from the tables around us were great. Our food was brilliant, I think most of us, for our mains went for pie and the odd chicken dish – obviously starters and puddings , they were all beautiful. The staff were attentive which was great as they were still doing table service and for beer drinkers, they had a fantastic selection of ales to choose from. The pub also has the ‘Five Paw’ award so taking dogs with you isn’t a problem.
We popped into the One Bull for some after dinner drinks, again highly recommended. Big comfy sofas, high tables, trendy lighting but most of all, a fabulously unique wine list! It looked as though ALL the wines could be bought by the glass too which is pretty unusual. We didn’t eat here but I took a peek at the menu, and it looked good – grazing boards, grilled sandwiched, crispy rabbit leg and feather blade steak were my standouts and mostly locally sourced.
Holly and Abbie, headed to the Abbey Gate cinema one evening. The cinema is privately run and a lovingly restored original 1920’s cinema. They had the latest movies including the chosen Jungle Cruise and the girls loved it…
… time for a cocktail and some more fabulous food. Chris had clocked this amazing looking hotel called the “Angel”. It is an historic landmark in the centre of Bury St Edmonds overlooking Abbey Gardens, the exterior of the building is impressive and then you walk inside and ‘wow’ The newly refurbished bar and eatery are well worth a visit. Extravagantly furnished with a food and cocktail menu to go with it including a new inspired Dickens Cocktail. As many of you know I am a book worm so finding out that this hotel is where Charles Dickens stayed when giving his reading of the Pickwick Papers (hence the cocktail) made me like it even more. Quite a few subtle hints were given to Nick about a lovely weekend break staying at this hotel- I hope they were heard!!
After cocktails, we had pre booked a window seat at Francela – Mediterranean Grill and Restaurant. I’m not sure how to write about how fantastic the food was. We ordered far too much, so it’s a good job our friends like food as much as we do. A hot and cold meze starter – the ‘Sucuk’ (homemade Turkish sausage), whitebait and fresh green beans were my top picks, then Lamb Alfungi for my main (delicious) and first time for trying Turkish wine – ‘Yakut’ too. The evening here made me so excited to visit Turkey next year. The team here were great, friendly, funny and very welcoming. The girls arrived just on time for pudding, and we said a rather loud and giggley farewell to the staff over a couple of ouzos, promising to return (when Nick brings me back 😉)
As you may remember from previous blogs, our holidays are never without a good drama and this year was the same…
We hired a boat for the day on the Norfolk Broads from Barnes Brinkcraft (stop smiling to yourselves- I didn’t drive) However, how hard could it be – push the stick up to go forward, pull down to go back and steer! Oh my gosh, we hadn’t got 200m before Nick has steam coming out of his ears, and his life saver (which he never took off, even on land) looked as though it was going explode and poor old Elsa wanted to jump overboard. Kirsty quickly took over and within another 400m saw the ice cream barge and came to an alarming dock, so we could have one for breakfast! Boating along the river is just lovely. The wild/birdlife is abundant, I think we must have seen 8 Herons up close, and the scenery is out of this world. One thing I didn’t expect to see is a giant Gorilla on banks of the broads!
So, add together a very low bridge, a traffic jam and 5 ‘back seat’ fellow boaters, what do you get?
- Nicks life saver popped!
He navigated us safely under the bridge, nearly hit a multimillion-pound yacht and missed the pub stop – we all absolutely needed a cider!
In all fairness, he did a great job and after lunch politely refused to drive and sat lapping up the sights for the afternoon. Holly was fabulous (I was so proud of her) and really enjoyed her experience of being the captain of the boat for the afternoon, alongside Abbie and Kirsty. Kirst’ if you are reading this – you were amazing, you got us out of many a sticky situation and your James Bondesque 180 degrees turn at the end was truly magnificent!
I swear they gave me the job or jumping off and on the boat to moor it, was for their own entertainment and for some raucous laughter if I fell in – sorry I left them disappointed, but let me assure you, it was not a sight to behold!
Steamboats, riverside pubs and the boating etiquette (I’ve never waved so much in my life) made for a day full of laugher and fun. An experience we will always remember and definitely repeat.
We had been recommended a day out to Southwold, a charming seaside town on the heritage coast.
Note to self, check the weather forecast for where you are going and not where you are. Armed with sunglasses and wearing my favourite sundress and sandals of we headed to Southwold Pier…
… and the rain. First stop, breakfast on the promenade, dressed in my sundress, sandals, two jumpers and anorak but after a good coffee and sausage sandwich, thing were looking up. Within the hour a chink of sun came through the clouds, we all started to smile and even the dogs were happy as we hit the dog friendly beach. Abbie and Hols had a paddle and to our great surprise spotted a seal, swimming along the edge of the beach. The colourful beach huts along are delightful and the town is full of individual shops and a lovely market. Homemade cakes from @naughty but nice and lovely handmade jewellery were purchases of the day (alongside Holly’s very expensive candle but I’ll let her tell you about that!) Don’t forget to go on the pier for some good old-fashioned fun, magic mirrors and a collection of handmade slot machines. There is also a fascinating water clock – be there at the right time for a bit of giggle 😊
Our week went so quickly, and I was desperate to have one final walk in the beautiful forests that surrounded us. On our final afternoon we headed to the Kings Forest for a leisurely walk. “Follow the arrows and you can’t go far wrong” said one of the locals. Famous last words! 3 hours later we are still trooping along the tracks. Our love of ‘eye spy’ had diminished and the wonder of the age-old trees, and hundreds of butterflies had worn out. We couldn’t find the car park for love nor money (if we had seen another soul) all I can say is thank God for Chris’s ‘Find My Car’ App. I have never felt so relived to hear a car alarm in my life!
We headed home that evening and I have to say, we’d had a wonderful time. It wasn’t our usual summer holiday overseas but the memories we made with our friends are just as precious and we wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again…
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog as much as I have writing it and remembering our UK adventure.