Magical Rye, East Sussex

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It was a thundery end to the week, with the wind blowing our little car around on the M20, rain battering hard on the window screen and beautiful lightning illuminating all the way in the darkness to East Sussex. We were on our way to Rye, a small and magically beautiful town on the south coast of the country.

If you are planning to spend a weekend in Rye, make sure you book accommodation well in advance. It’s a popular place to visit and gets booked up pretty quickly. We nearly lost all hope of staying in the town over the weekend when Charlie found a B&B for a bargain price and in a good location. We didn’t want to stay anywhere outside the town, so that we could go out, have a drink and not worry that we have to drive back to our accommodation.

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We arrived to Aviemore Guest House at around 10pm and what a gem Charlie had found!  The hosts Tomas and Jeremy were very charming, friendly and welcoming. We chatted with them at every given opportunity and found out lots of things about them and the cottage. They have owned the guest house for only a few weeks, but you can see the improvements that they’ve made themselves already. They talk about the house with big respect and trying to preserve and bring out the original features of the place. Tomas even told us about the secret staircase. How convenient and fascinating! We walked through the lovely jungly gardens and appeared right in the centre of the town! I told you, Rye is magical.

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I am already looking forward to our next trip to Rye and hopefully we can stay in the renowned Aviemore Guest House and sip tea with biscuits in the garden at the back of the house.

If you like long walks, make your way to Camber Castle. It’s a little bit outside the town, but it’s a lovely walk in the fields with sheep munching grass and little lambs staring your way. It was a beautiful morning for our little trip and the castle ruins looked glorious in the sunshine. And you also get to take a look at magical Rye from a distance.

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To hide from the sun we popped into the bird hide on the edge of the Rye wetlands.

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Rye is a unique and distinctive town with ancient cobbled narrow streets taking you up and down, past little independent shops, bakeries and inviting tea rooms.

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Many years ago Rye,  surrounded by sea, played an important role in defence of the south coast of the country. Today the ancient timbered houses with beautiful terracotta roofs attract film makers and story writers.

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Mermaid Street is the most picturesque cobbled street in the town, where you can also find the historic Mermaid Inn, known as the Inn where smugglers use to gather, I am guessing, to discuss important smuggling business.

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The atmosphere inside is incredible and, of course, it’s haunted.

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Don’t forget to visit St Mary’s Church and make the climb to the top of the tower for some wonderful views across the town.

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The whole town of Rye is a conservation area, which means that redevelopments are not permitted. This ensures the place will  keep its beauty for many more years.

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants, but if you are a coffee lover like me, pop into Edith’s House on the High Street, a great little independent coffee shop. They make lovely food and the best Americano coffee I’ve tasted so far. Try their fresh smoothies. They are lovely! I had a berry one which had  a hint of cinnamon and Charlie enjoyed his tropical smoothie. Perfect lunch spot.

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Have a nose around in Rye Heritage Centre where you can see the Rye town model and  hear the story of this beautiful place enhanced by a dramatic light and sound show.

The coast is just a short drive away from Rye, about 2.8 miles.

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We drove to Winchelsea beach for a little evening stroll while contemplating where to go for dinner back in Rye.

Kentish strawberries and lavender at Stanhill and Castle Farms, Shoreham, Kent

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England has so many amazing places to visit. And sometimes those amazing places are just round the corner, you don’t have to travel far. Every time I visit something new, I feel so lucky to be able to enjoy it and remind myself of just how many things we take for granted. Last weekend, despite the rain, my girlfriends and I took off to Kent to pick some last seasonal strawberries at Stanhill Farm (we probably ate more berries than we picked).

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It was great to be out in the countryside and wander through the bushes off all those tasty red berries.

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It made me think how hard a job it would be to pick raspberries and strawberries all day…

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The field of strawberries was so inviting, but at the same time I felt sorry for those lush red berries that won’t be picked up. I wish I could have picked all of them and I hope they are all gone by now.

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We were planning to have a little picnic to reward us after all this hard work, but the rain came down harder so we had our lunch in the car. Which was quite cosy. We warmed up and dried out with  black tea with lemon and enjoyed camembert with crackers and slightly spicy shallot and pepper chutney from the local farm shop. It was delicious and such a typical picnic selection.

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Just a few minutes away from the Stanhill Farm we turned into a steep, narrow and very picturesque road, which took us down the hill to The Hop Shop at Castle Farm. As we were descending, we were greeted by the blue rolling lavender fields. Such a beautiful view.

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We then rushed to The Hop Shop to get some of their delicious ice cream and look around.

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To wander around the fields, you need to book a tour, but unfortunately we were too late. Instead, we drove to admire the fields from the other side of the farm. A stroll along the river was relaxing and eye pleasing. We trotted one way towards the Roman Villa and the other way – towards the lavender fields. Being all Lithuanian and living in London we really miss the space and vast fields.

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The rain stopped and the weather was warm and fresh. It felt like we were in Provence.

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Later that evening after an eventful day (including ripping my new trousers) we got back home to have some lovely candlelit dinner at my friends house where we also enjoyed Pimms with our freshly picked strawberries! Nothing more relaxing than a glass of Pimms on a summer’s day.

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On Sunday I made a few meringue baskets  so I could use up some of those strawberries and raspberries. It was a very labor intensive  job, whisking egg whites with sugar. How did those women make meringues before the mixers?

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I remember my grandmother whisking batter for cakes with a fork…  heads down to all the women who baked cakes without the modern technology!

Midsummer fayre

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It was the 38th annual Hilly Fields midsummer fayre. Yet another blissful local event, organised by Brockley Society.

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As the sun rose on the longest day of the year, I decided to make the most of it: trot to the Hilly Fields park and mingle amongst the locals selling all sorts of things. I had tons of fun taking  pictures while browsing the stalls and chatting to the local professional craftsmen, amateurs, publishers and bakers. I took so many, that I’ve put them into little collages so I could upload as many as I can.

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It seemed like all Brockley was there. The longest que all day was at one of the newer additions to the Brockley’s area – The Brockley Brewing Company. Everyone was thirsty for some local cold brew.

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Kids were over the moon with all the competitions, balloons, bouncing castles, candy floss and train rides.

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I loved watching the dog show. All those trotters prancing about, sniffing each other, showing off and making friends.

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But for me, these two were the winners!

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I had a nice chat with the founder of Sunshea Goddess  - skincare made from 100% organic shea butter. Lovely colourful stand, with smell of esential oils filling the air.

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Nature’s Gift Products was showing off its hand made, shea based natural skincare products.

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Didi’s Cookies charming little stall was unmissable. Little shortbreads made to perfection. Tasty and so beautiful. Charlie loved his English flag featuring cookie and enjoyed dunking it into his tea.

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Smooth, Cruncy and Yummysious – the Duchess of Macaron’s tagline. Another eye pleasing deliciousness in the market. The ‘duchess’ was complaining that the sun makes her gorgeous macarons melt, however they still looked fabulous.

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And here is lovely Rebecca, well known in the Brockley community for her involvment in organising many local events. Every year she has a stall with plants, but again, the sun was making them wilt a litle bit. ‘It was better last year, when it rained’ – she said. ‘The plants looked more attarctive’. To me, and I bet to other visitors, the sun and the heat was a bliss.

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The time passed by quickly and in the end, all we wanted was just to sit on the grass in the shade and eat ice cream. And so we did. Here comes the best ice cream in Brockley.

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And it’s organic too!

 

The Hill of Crosses, Lithuania

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While back home on a short holiday, we made our way to Šiauliai in northern Lithuania. It is a long way, around 2 hour drive, but Charlie’s mum wished to see the famous Hill of Crosses whatever it takes. And so we left the sunny Baltic seaside. As soon as we left the western Lithuania,  we got ourselves into the heart of storm and rain which provided a rather dramatic backdrop to the whole set, making the place even more atmospheric.

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The Hill of Crosses is considered to be one of the most sacred places not only in Lithuania, but also in the world -  it’s a world Heritage Site of Unesco. I remember visiting the place many years ago, when I was still a school girl. We brought a cross and left it there and I recall my brother mentioning that it’s still standing… People still keep the tradition alive by leaving crosses or anything sentimental in exchange for peace and freedom for the country and health and happiness for their families, friends and everyone else on this planet.

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It is a historical monument. Some may imagine it being a huge hill, but it’s not. It’s only a tiny hill with countless amount of rosaries, carvings and devotional crosses silently guarding the past, present and the future. During the time of Soviet Union empire, many times Soviets tried to bulldoze and even drown the site. However unsuccessfully. People resisted.

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The Hill is under nobody’s jurisdiction and anyone can leave a cross or a rosary whenever and wherever they feel like. If you happen to be nearby, I encourage you to pop in to breath in some of that incredible atmosphere.

The oldest street in Klaipėda, Lithuania

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A few weeks ago Charlie and I travelled to my homeland by the sunny Baltic seaside to mark our marriage with a celebration for our lovely friends and family. It was a blissful weekend in the  countryside which turned out into a full traditional Lithuanian wedding (minus the church).  Charlie and his parents extended their visit to have a chance to know Lithuania better and we visited a few lovely places in the western part of the country. One of the places I took them to was my favourite city Klaipėda and of course, the old town. Even though it’s not my home town, but to me, it holds a big sentimental value. And it’s beautiful!

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These are just a few pictures, but there are many more beautiful things to see in this town by the sea. You can see some more in my previous post.

Hawaii: Haleakalā, House of the Sun

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On our last day on Maui, we got up at around 4 am. Filled our thermos with vanilla Chai tea, put on a few layers of clothes, walking boots, borrowed a blanket from our temporary home and took off to the ‘House of the Sun’. Our flight back to Honolulu wasn’t till the evening so we had plenty of time to do one last exciting thing in Hawaii – watch the sunrise at 10.000 ft on the East Maui Volcano - Haleakalā.

Make sure you get there early, an hour before the sunrise, to get a parking spot. It gets really busy. It helped that we visited the volcano a day before, we knew exactly where we wanted to meet the new day.

We knew it will be cold, but it was really really cold and windy. My face and hands were absolutely freezing. The sun couldn’t rise sooner!

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It’s hard not to get emotional, watching the sunrise so high while thinking that something as breathtaking as this happens every morning, somewhere above the clouds. This was the best start of a new day!

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As the sun finally broke through, it got a bit warmer. We got back to the car and enjoyed the new day while drinking hot tea.

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Sadly it was time to say our goodbyes and hop back to Honolulu. But what a grand finale to our perfect honeymoon on the beautiful islands of Hawaii. Hope to be back some day! Mahalo!