Monday, 8 February 2016
At the start of 2015 I resolved to get back into the regular habit of taking a Proper Day Off once a week and going on a small adventure - taking a break from my endless work To Do list and stretching my legs, exploring new places and seeing new things.
This was an excellent resolution to make. I had lots of Nice Days Out in 2015 (52 in total) some big, some small, some near, some far... and they were all awesome.
Writing a post about my year's mini adventures is a little tricky though as the trips I blogged about in 2015 are not exactly the same as where I went in 2015. I blogged about some 2014 trips and there are lots of trips from 2015 that I've not yet got round to blogging about (so many photos to edit and so little time!). I also spent several days catching up with friends in various parts of the country, and took my mum to visit historic buildings and exhibitions and to see my book for sale in Liberty and didn't take my camera with me (gasp!).
So, instead of a month-by-month diary of my travels, here are (in roughly chronological order) fifteen of my highlights from 2015.
1. Climbing all 528 steps to the top of St Paul's Cathedral.
My camera died before I got to the very top (remember to charge your cameras, folks!) so this is actually the view from just part of the way up. You get an amazing view of London and the Cathedral itself is, of course, a pretty special place to visit.
2. Admiring the blooms at the Chiswick Camellia Festival.
As well as many delightful follies, the gardens at Chiswick House contain a lovely long greenhouse which is filled with a vast collection of camellias. Beautiful - and free to visit! (Psst - the 2016 show starts this week!).
3. Exploring a battleship.
The HMS Belfast is one of those places that it would never have occurred to me to visit if it hadn't been for my Art Pass but it turned out to be completely fascinating. I spent hours working my way round the ship, climbing up and down ladders and generally having a whale of a time. Such an unusual space to explore and so much history to learn along the way, I loved it.
4. Enjoying the magnolias at Kew Gardens.
Last January I treated myself to a year's membership of Kew and visited the gardens several times over the changing seasons. It's a gorgeous place at any time of the year but spring was especially wonderful and the magnolias in April were particularly magnificent. Imagine a whole grove of trees filled with these huge, beautiful blossoms! Simply swoonworthy.
5. Following the Shaun in the City art trails through London and Bristol.
The sculptures were cute, finding as many as possible was a fun challenge, and I spotted lots of other great stuff (and did sooo much walking) along the way! You can read about my London sheep-spotting here, here, here and here and about my Bristol trip here.
6. Celebrating makers and making at London Craft Week.
The inaugural London Craft Week was almost overwhelmingly special. So many amazing things to see, so many interesting places to visit and so many incredibly talented makers to meet! I can't wait to what they've got planned for this year's programme.
7. Having tea with a tiger at the Jewish Museum.
I visited dozens of interesting exhibitions in 2015 but my favourite had to be the Judith Kerr retrospective at the Jewish Museum. I adored Judith Kerr's books when I was a kid and still have a huge affection for her characters (the Christmas ad featuring Mog made me blub so much!). This was such an enjoyable exhibition to explore, not least because I got to "meet" the famous tiger :)
8. Witnessing the historic ceremony of Swan Upping.
The annual census of the swan population on the Thames is a delightfully quirky tradition and was a perfect excuse to go for a walk along the river on my day off. History, royalty and swans, what more could you ask for in a Nice Day Out?
9. Climbing Cabot Tower for a spectacular view of Bristol.
I was pretty lazy about exploring Bristol when I actually lived there, so it's been a joy to take some trips back to the city and do lots of the tourist-y things I missed out on. I especially loved climbing the city's famous Cabot Tower, which is situated in a lovely park and gives you great views over the city.
10. Visiting Osterley House & Gardens.
This is another place I'd never have visited were it not for my Art Pass. It turned out to be rather wonderful and a perfect place to visit on a hot summer's day. Osterley has huge, peaceful gardens and a fascinating house with intricate, pattern-filled decor. Even the veg for sale at their farm shop was patterned!
11. Soaking up some history with Oxford Open Doors.
Oxford's annual heritage festival is something very special: dozens of interesting buildings across the city open their doors to the public in a celebration of the city's architecture and history, and it's all free to visit! I still haven't blogged about my 2015 visit but it was a wonderful, busy day spent exploring some really amazing spaces. You can see some of my photos from 2014's equally awesome festival here (Oxford is such a beautiful place).
12. Visiting a tiny island in the Thames.
Guards Club Park is a petite, riverside park with a bridge that leads to the equally petite Guards Club Island. This is quite an enchanting space to visit - and how often do you get to explore a tiny island that features in one of your favourite movies? Magical (and just as delightful in the autumn).
13. Going behind the scenes at Windsor Castle with a tour of the Round Tower.
I love Windsor and visited it several times in 2015, exploring the town itself (and neighbouring Eton), following the Castle's audio tour, watching the Changing the Guard ceremony (the band played the Star Wars theme, to general delight!) and seeing the magnificent spaces decorated for Christmas.
I also took a couple of special tours at the Castle, one of the Great Kitchen and one of the Round Tower. Both the tours were really interesting (so many fun facts!) but it was particularly wonderful to get to climb the Tower and look out over the Castle and the surrounding area - especially as I grew up being able to see the outline of the tower in the distance from our house!
14. Taking a magical autumnal walk along the Thames.
The riverside is so beautiful! Autumn is so amazing! Even on a grey day this was an excellent combination.
15. Last but by no means least, celebrating Christmas at Kew.
Okay so I know I already picked Kew in the spring as one of my 2015 highlights, but their winter light trail was something really, really special. The mile long trail of sculptures and installations was beautiful and fun and filled my heart with joy. The perfect end to a year of Nice Days Out!
It was ridiculously difficult to select just 15 things to include in this post, which I guess is a pretty good sign that 2015 was filled with good things!
Here's hoping that I have just as much trouble picking my 2016 Nice Day Out highlights :)
P.S. You might also enjoy my look back at my crafty 2015: part one & part two.