I called these days off my Nice Days Out and honestly, starting them has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. I've loved blogging about them, too. I was a bit worried when I first started sharing photos from my trips because they didn't exactly fit with this being a "craft" blog. But I wanted to keep a record of my adventures, and I've been delighted that you guys have enjoyed them as well.
I took 40 Nice Days Out in 2016, as well as a couple of short holidays and several flat-hunting trips. I visited art galleries and museums, parks and beaches, ships and churches, cities and towns. And I took lots of photos along the way!
Doing a round-up of my 2016 Nice Days Out gets a little tricky though, as my 2016 blog posts really don't match up with my 2016 trips. I had days out where I didn't take photos, I blogged about trips taken in previous years, and I've got lots of photos sitting unedited and waiting to be blogged.
So, instead of of a month-by-month diary of my travels, here are (in roughly chronological order) fifteen of my highlights from 2016.
1. Going door-spotting in Bloomsbury.
I spent lots of happy days walking in London last year, revisiting favourite places and exploring new ones. I didn't plan on spending this particular day photographing doors... it just sort of happened. But exploring London on a sunny day, guidebook in hand* looking at interesting things and taking lots of photos? Heaven.
(*that's an affiliate link, by the way, but I love those books so much - I highly recommend them)
2. Taking my mum on a tour of Bath.
My mum and I took lots of little trips together last year. We saw several exhibitions, celebrated Chinese New Year at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (so joyful!) and visited Kew Gardens (and their magical Christmas light trail). One of our most special days together was the day we spent in Bath. I love Bath and my mum had always wanted to visit but had never been, so when a cheap train ticket offer popped up we booked tickets straight away.
We had a Sally Lunn bun, admired all the Georgian architecture, visited the Abbey, had a delicious lunch at the Boston Tea Party, and were wowed by the Roman Baths. A busy and brilliant day.
3. Exploring a wonderful library in Leeds.
I visited loads of interesting buildings during my short trip to Leeds but my favourite was definitely the Central Library: so many fabulous tiles!
4. Climbing the Central Tower at York Minster.
This might seem like a weird choice for a "highlights" list as climbing the Minster tower was actually one of the most deeply unpleasant things I've done in a long while. I didn't think I was claustrophobic, but apparently I am! I felt like I was about to have a panic attack halfway up those narrow spiral stairs, it was pretty horrible.
But I breathed deeply and gritted my teeth and got on with it and it was totally worth it. Great views and a huge sense of achievement at having conquered both the climb and my rising panic. I won't be climbing any more Cathedral towers any time soon though.
5. Following in the footsteps of my family with a visit to Bamburgh beach.
I could write a whole list of highlights from the trip my mum and I took to Northumberland in the spring. We visited amazing castles, soaked up loads of history, sat in front of huge roaring fires, explored a wonderful bookshop, and saw a hare running through the snow.
The best bit though was definitely visiting Bamburgh beach. After days of cold and grey and snow, the sunshine and blue sky felt like a gift - it was such a beautiful day!
We have an old family album with photos of my grandmother as a girl, her mother and her mother all on Bamburgh beach, and more recent photos of my mum playing there as a child... and now I'm the fifth generation of women in our family to have enjoyed this view.
6. Spending a joyful afternoon at Carter's Steam Fair.
When this vintage funfair rolled into town, I couldn't resist! Charming rides + gorgeous decoration + interesting old steam-powered vehicles = a great combo.
7. Stepping into another world at the Barbican Conservatory.
When Polly and I met up in London, we spent a busy morning in Kensington then decided to visit one of the city's hidden gems: the conservatory at the Barbican. I had no clue this existed until I read about it on someone's blog a couple of years ago, and I'd been meaning to visit ever since (it's free to visit but has very limited opening hours).
I recommend this place to everyone now - it's amazing! A green and gorgeous oasis in the middle of the city, this is a peaceful and magical and slightly surreal space to visit. It reminded me of post-apocalyptic movies where nature is taking over again (once-bustling cities overgrown with plants pushing up through the cracking concrete), and also of futuristic films where gigantic spaceships or colonies on distant planets have gardens for the crews or colonists to relax in and stop themselves getting space madness, etc.
8. Walking down the Long Walk in Windsor (and all the way back again!).
I visited Windsor a few times last year, trying to make the most of my "locals get into the Castle for free" privileges before I moved away. I went to see the changing of the guard, followed all the audio guide tours, stared at every tiny detail of the dolls' house, ate royal ice cream, saw an exhibition of the Queen's dresses, enjoyed the Castle decorated for Christmas... and walked along the (almost 3 mile) Long Walk from the Castle gates to Windsor Great Park.
Not gonna lie, I slightly regretted choosing to do this walk on such a hot summer's day. That view though! Truly wonderful and worth every step.
9. Standing in an infinite sea of pumpkins.
I saw a lot of exhibitions last year but the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Victoria Miro gallery was by far my favourite. The mirror rooms were particularly amazing, especially this piece ("All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins"). You just got 30 seconds in each room, but what a magical 30 seconds!
10. Stumbling upon a wildflower meadow in Hyde Park.
London's parks are full of gorgeous flowers in the summer, but I wasn't expecting to find a mini meadow of wildflowers among the formal borders! Pure joy.
11. Experiencing an art exhibition like no other, in Reading Prison.
It's not every day you get to go look at art inside a former prison. Not least one as famous as Oscar Wilde's Reading Gaol. My dad and I visited Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison just for the chance to look round this famous building (one which we've passed many, many times). We found it completely fascinating and very much enjoyed the (quite emotional) combination of the building's architecture and history and the art.
12. Discovering more of Oxford with Oxford Open Doors.
Oxford never disappoints and the annual Open Doors weekend is particularly wonderful. So many interesting buildings open to the public, and all for free! I come home each year with a happy heart, slightly sore feet and a camera full of photos. This is one of my faves from this year's trip: beautiful Balliol.
13. Travelling back in time at Eltham Palace.
I've visited so many places with my Art Pass over the past few years. It's helped me stick to a tight budget for my Nice Days Out and led me to visit (and fall in love with) a huge range of different places, many of which I'd never heard of before seeing them in the Art Fund's guide.
I particularly enjoyed my visit to Eltham Palace. The house itself is is beautiful and has a fascinating history (which is brought to life really well by the audio guide), then there are gorgeous gardens to explore as well. A very special place, and one I'm delighted the Art Pass helped me discover!
14. Capturing the delights of the Tube on the Made by Mrs M photowalks.
Kate of Made by Mrs M organised two photowalks last year - they were so much fun! We explored Art Deco stations on the Piccadilly Line and the southern end of the Northern Line, taking photos and chatting and getting funny looks from passers by who were clearly wondering what this strange group of women were up to.
They were both lovely days out and great lessons in the details you can discover if you take the time to stop and look. I'm really looking forward to the next one!
15. Soaking up some winter sunshine by the Jubilee River.
Last but by no means least, I really enjoyed this quiet walk my dad and I took in November. The sky was blue, the setting beautiful and the light amazing. Just perfect.
So much good stuff squeezed into just 12 months!
I expect I'll have fewer Nice Days Out in the coming year as I'm going to be busy with DIY on lots of my days off... but that should give me the chance to finally get caught up with editing all my photos and blogging about my previous trips.
I hope you'll continue to enjoy reading about my small adventures and that they'll inspire you to make plans for some of your own.