Enchanted forests exist in fairytales and folklore. Magical wonders, Nymphs, Fairies, and little people abound in these forests. We find them in The Fire bird, Snow white, and many other imaginary stories but a real magical forest appears every year at a wonderful and magnificent park in a place called Syon House (Isleworth). Recently we visited this enchanted woodland not far from central London and were amazed at this colourful exhibition of pure enchantment, with bright colours and music in the trees, a laser light show and wonderful Christmas fare. Syon house hosts an enchanted woodland of pure magical splendour both for children and adults every year in October and November. It’s well worth a visit for an unforgettable evening.
If you have a free day why not book a day trip to La belle France ! For a few pounds you can get a return ticket to Calais and catch a ferry for a duration of 24 hours. Get to Dover by 5.30 am and catch the 6 o’clock ferry, the waiting in a queue to board gives you a chance to get a coffee and change some money into Euros.
Suddenly, you are going up the gang plank into this great big boat and parking behind loads of other tourists heading for France and beyond. Once the car is locked, make your way up the stairs to explore the wonderful things on offer, such as a big duty free shop selling cigarettes, drinks and perfumes as well as a variety of chocolates, sweets, toys and jewellery.
Should you feel a little peckish not having had a good breakfast the on board restaurant offers good quality food at reasonable prices. English breakfast being the favourite, with eggs, bacon and fried bread and not forgetting the cup of tea. As the trip takes about 90 minutes or more it is advisable to secure a good sofa or comfortable seats in order to get some shuteye before arriving in Calais.
Having been checked in Dover by the French Customs and excise, when you land in Calais there are no more barriers and you can drive straight out into the great big European continent. My advice is to head south for the port of Boulogne which clearly sign posted, there you will find a very nice city and the old town situated inside it’s original walls, with churches, cobbled streets, ancient monuments and houses as well as antique shops and restaurants.
You can actually climb up to the ramparts of the wall and walk all the way round the old town experiencing various views of the modern city it is today as well as some curious and strange monuments. Some parts are very old and extremely interesting as well very beautiful, ideal for taking some memorable photographs about this ancient town.
Of course you can if you so wish stop at one of the cosy little cafés and enjoy a café au lait with a croissant or savours one of the many different wines available in this region in one of the quaint little wine bars in the area.
By late afternoon, when you head back towards Calais you may wish to stop at City Europe, a great big shopping centre, housing a few hundred designer shops, multiple restaurants and a massive supermarket, where one can taste and buy almost anything one desires from the many fruit and vegetable stalls to the big cheese counters and delicatessens. Plus, you can choose anything from a music CD to a fancy set of plates or a big choice of breads and French sticks from the bakery.
Of course by now having wondered around the three floors of this wonderful place you may start to feel like having dinner, well you will not be disappointed, you can choose from a number of restaurants, all designed to look like the countries they are serving food from. Naturally most of them are of the fast food variety but in one particular establishment having paid a set fee of a few Euros you can actually choose your steak or chicken and watch the chef cook it for you while you wait next to the grill of oven, after which you can go on to a self service counter and help yourself to vegetables, chips, spaghetti, or salads and you can have as much as you feel like eating.
Depending on what time you booked your return trip back to Dover, you can now make your way to the ferry terminal in Calais where you will be checked by the British Customs and immigration before allowing you to board the ferry home. Not forgetting to put back your watches as you are one hour ahead and will land in Dover half an hour after sailing. On the way you can do all your duty free shopping on board the ferry of find a comfortable spot and snooze away the time as you may have a long drive home.
The real home of the chimney sweep is Denmark because this is where for the first time in history chimneys were swept in 1639 at the castle of the Danish King. This started a trend to clean chimneys all over Europe. In the United Kingdom, sweeps are highly respected in the town of Rochester, an annual celebration is held there in honor of the people from this old profession. Rochester is a great historical town, which grew from a small Saxon village. At various times, it was inhabited by Celts, Romans, Saxons and Jutes. In the year 43 AD Rochester was conquered by the Romans and later in 1666 AD the Normans invaded.
Rochester is a place where one can feel the atmosphere of antiquity as nowhere else. Buildings from different eras abound every where, Tudor cottages bulging with age and crisscrossed with wooden beams are crowding the narrow streets, whilst Elizabethan brick houses can be seen round every corner. But most important is the lively atmosphere of the city. On the streets of Rochester you might meet a town crier in a red robe, white breeches, black boots and a tricorne hat, with a bell in his hand. In the old days, when not many could read and there was no radio, people heard the news from the town crier, but today this profession has become mostly ceremonial.
Rochester Cathedral is a most beautiful building which constructed by a talented architect called Gundulf who was not only Bishop of Rochester but he also constructed the Tower of London and Colchester Castle. In 1080 Gundulf began the complete restoration of the Church of St. Andrew, built in the year 604AD and turned it into today’s Rochester Cathedral. In 1090 AD Gundulf also built Rochester Castle on the remains of some old Roman stone fortifications. Because of its location on the ancient Roman road, the castle was of great strategic importance. In 1127 AD the castle was fortified and added to over the centuries and is considered one of the best preserved castles in England and France.
In 604 AD, when England brought in monastic education, the King’s School was founded at the Church of St. Andrew. After the reformation of Henry VIII, who dissolved the monasteries in 1541 AD, all schools in England have undergone many transformations. Today a school is part of the foundation of Rochester Cathedral and is one of the oldest schools in England and in the world second only to another school in Canterbury.
If you come to Rochester in early May, you can enjoy a beautiful English tradition called the Spring Festival, with lots of sweeps performing dances. Charles Dickens, who lived in this town for a long time, described the town in many of his novels, he also laments the lost tradition of the sweeps in his book called “Sketches by Boz”.
Thirty years ago, the sweeps festival was revived in Rochester, which had not been performed since it was stopped in 1900.
According to an ancient legend, to meet a chimney sweep in the street is good luck. If you happen to touch the dirty chimney sweep or get smeared with soot it is even better. So, come and find your luck by visiting the town during the May festival.
Since the first hot air balloons were invented more than 200 years ago. They have remained the most romantic form of flying to this day. The town of Theodosia in Crimea is the only place in the Ukraine, where they produce hot air balloons. By tradition, every year in September, championships of aeronautics are held there. 2013 was a very colourful and unforgettable event as you can see from my extensive photo gallery.