Favourite Things: Harry Potter, audiobooks and the Hardy Tree

Favourite Things: Harry Potter, audiobooks and the Hardy Tree

This week’s favourite things include Harry Potter (obviously), audiobooks and The Hardy Tree.

1. Harry Potter BuzzFeed articles

Perhaps the best articles on Buzzfeed (or at least tied with any about Taylor Swift), make sure you catch up on Daniel Dalton‘s posts as he watched the Harry Potter film series for the first time.

They’ve made me laugh out loud on far too many occasions. If you have any interest in Potter – move them to the top of your ‘to read’ list.

2. Audiobooks

Not content with shelves of books and a kindle, I have recently added to my ‘to read’ list by getting into audiobooks. I have always struggled to read whilst on the move or at the gym which has always hindered my available reading time. In order to combat this I tried out audiobooks and I’m really enjoying listening to them at night or on the bus on the way home. The only problem I find is that sometimes I space out and when I realise, I have to go back 15 minutes to work out what’ I’ve missed!

So far I’ve listened to:

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane- Neil Gaiman (narrated by the author)
  • The House of Silk – a Sherlock Holmes novel by Anthony Horowitz  (narrated by Derek Jacobi)
  • Jeeves and the Wedding Bells – P.G. Wodehouse homage by Sebastian Faulks (narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt)
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells has been my absolute favourite audiobook experience so far. Not only was the story itself really entertaining but Julian Rhind-Tutt’s narration was absolutely perfect. It was an absolute joy to listen to.

I’ve been downloading some audiobooks from Audible. I find their memberships to be quite expensive but often they run additional offers which make some audiobooks quite reasonable. Also, if you’ve never been a member I think they offer trials to get your first audiobook free.

Make sure you check your local library though. Not only can you borrow audiobook CDs physically but some libraries (including my local library service of Nottinghamshire Libraries) also offer the chance to download audiobooks online for free.

3. The Hardy Tree

When we were in London in January for the Dickensian Photography Workshop and Walk, we went for a walk past St Pancras International train station to the Old St Pancras Church to see the Hardy Tree.

In the 1860’s, the young Thomas Hardy (not yet a famous author) was tasked by the architect Arthur Blomfield (who he was studying under) to oversee the move of gravestones in the churchyard to make way for the Midland railway line. Hardy placed many of the headstones around an ash tree and in the years since, the tree has grown around them.

This makes for quite a solemn yet fascinating sight.

The Hardy Tree
The Hardy Tree

To see the Hardy Tree (coming from St Pancras International/King’s Cross):

  1. Walk past St Pancras International station and the St Pancras Renaissance hotel and turn right down Midland Road, continuing on to Pancras Road
  2. Keep going down this road past the Crick Institute until you reach the Old St Pancras Church on your right.
  3. Enter the Churchyard and walk towards the train line to find the Hardy Tree

Whilst you’re also in the churchyard, make sure you visit the Grade I listed tomb of the famous architect, Sir John Soane. Designed by the man himself, the mausoleum was the eventual inspiration for the red telephone box.

Soane Mausoleum
Soane Mausoleum – David Edgar

I also highly recommend visiting Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The museum is fascinating, free and is his home preserved pretty much as it was at the time of his death with the art works and architectural artifacts he collected during his lifetime on display. The original paintings of Hogarth’s A Rakes Progress can be seen here too. Amazing.

4. Gif of the Week

I’ve recently rediscovered what I think might be the pinnacle of the gif. This scene from Hot Fuzz:

Hot Fuzz gif
Rafe Spall and Paddy Considine as ‘The Andy’s’ in Hot Fuzz
New England road trip: research!

New England road trip: research!

New England in fall
New England in fall

This post is the second in a series of blogs about our honeymoon trip to New England and New York City in October 2014. This time I go on about useful planning resources, sharing pics whilst you’re away and honeymoon gift lists. See all New England road trip posts.

Research

Beautiful house in Kennebunkport
Beautiful house in Kennebunkport

Having booked our trip we could then begin the real fun (for me anyway!) of researching the places we were visiting. I am a holiday research obsessive so a 17 night road trip around New England which I had always wanted to do (with bonus New York!) was an exciting research prospect for me. I ordered information brochures, read blogs, visited a lot of tourist information sites, borrowed guidebooks from the libraries, spoke to friends who had been (including our friends Kerry and Lee who were planning their honeymoon to New England at the same time as us!), read trip advisor forums and more.

I read a lot of individual blogs too but here are the main resources I used  for New England:

Online

Google Maps – search for the places you’re going and zoom in to see what restaurants and other places are showing as near your hotel. Also make a custom google map of where you’re going to keep track of your ideas/places/travel routes.

Roadtrippers – input your trip and this website/app will give you suggestions of cool things to do near to your route. It also estimates your mileage and fuel costs which is really useful.

Discover New England – great resource of suggested drives, things to do and useful hints and tips for visitors. The site covers all the New England states.

Yankee Magazine – Great articles about visiting New England including recommendations for drives and diners.

Tourist Board websites – Google the places you’re visiting for their official tourist information site. I found the Massachusetts one particularly useful.

New England Trip Advisor forum – read recommendations given to other people on a variety of topics. You can also post information about the trip you will be taking and forum experts can advise you on the best routes to take, places to visit and more. Visit individual forums for Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island

Guardian Twitter Baltimore – Bar Harbor road trip – the Guardian sent some journalists on a roadtrip around New England driven by real time suggestions by readers. Through this I discovered the Thirsty Pig in Portland. It also gave more insight into what a road trip would be like.

Roadside America – A guide to offbeat tourist attractions found along the road. The site covers all of America but has lots of entries for New England including Stephen King’s house.

Travel guide books

We mostly looked online for information for our trip but we did find the following travel guides really useful too:

New England’s Best Trips – the perfect guide for a New England road trip. This guide recommends a selection of themed drives as well as short walking tours around the region’s towns and cities. Amazon.

Top 10 guides – I love these Top 10 guides and always buy them when I go away. The ones for New England, Boston and New York were really useful and thin enough to take with us. Also the included maps were great for carrying around. Top 10 Guides on Amazon: New England, Boston and New York.

Sharing your trip whilst you’re away

Covered Bridge on the Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
Covered Bridge on the Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

We didn’t want to be constantly posting updates on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook whilst we were away so we used the Tripcast app which let us share photos with only those people who we had invited to it. We decided it would be perfect for our families to be able to see what we were up to but not to have to go and check Facebook all the time.

Honeymoon gift list

We were able to have such an amazing honeymoon because of our wonderfully kind and generous friends and family who contributed to our trip for wedding presents.

I’d been to a few weddings where they had done online honeymoon gift lists with specific experiences you could contribute to. We loved the idea of paying for them to do a specific experience whilst away that we decided to do it for our own wedding gift list as we’d been living together for four years so didn’t really need any things for the house and above all we were looking forward to getting married then having an amazing trip in New England.

We used Honeyfund and we asked for the money in person/post or online bank transfer rather than using Paypal (which would cost us and/or our guests)

Our guests seemed to like being able to contribute to experiences and we had lots of fun using all our research to come up with experiences that we wanted to do.

I would recommend Honeyfund for online gift lists. Here’s a screenshot of part of our list:

Our Honeyfund list
Our Honeyfund list

The next post will cover the first leg of our trip – our time in Boston.

See all New England road trip posts

My weekend in pictures: The Ruling Class

My weekend in pictures: The Ruling Class

This weekend, I spent a very tiring but awesome day in London to see James McAvoy in The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Studios with my friend Jess. It was a fantastically entertaining, thought-provoking and brilliantly odd play with incredible performances from all the cast but especially McAvoy. I was so enthralled by the play itself that I rushed down to the foyer in the interval to buy a copy of the script. This was our second foray into plays from Trafalgar Transformed (we saw Martin Freeman in Richard III last year) and now we can’t wait for season Three.

Either side of the play we ambled around London taking photos of interesting things we spotted and stopping for lunch at Bill’s next to the Adelphi Theatre (still far superior to the Nottingham one).

We also came across a small Don Giovanni costume exhibition in the foyer of the Royal Opera House. Look at those stunning dresses!

On Sunday, I met my friend Lucy’s lovely little girl, Polly and napped!