Even the coat of arms says it, Birmingham is forward thinking. It’s a city world renowned for it’s contribution to industry and the arts and the second largest city in the United Kingdom. It’s hard to believe that Birmingham started out life as a medium-sized market town in the medieval period. Later in the 18th century, the Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution, helped Birmingham grab the attention of the world. Birmingham became a city at the forefront of advances in science, technology and economic development, including the invention of the world’s first steam engine (which we saw and the Black Country Living Museum).
Our Global Adventure to Stratford upon Avon
Thanks to the fabulously entertaining and education BBC children’s program Horrible Histories, our children have long had an interest in William Shakespeare. A highlight of our year housesitting in England was always going to be a visit to the bard’s home town of Stratford upon Avon. However, despite an enthusiasm for visiting Stratford, and a keen interest in Shakespeare, I must admit that none of us were particularly interested in spending a lot of money to slowly shuffle through crowded houses to look at rooms done up to look as they might of in Shakespeare’s time. Call us spoiled, but after over 18 months of travel and numerous historical houses, it does become a little tiresome to be herded like sheep through rooms packed to the gills with other tourists. We needed a solution, and once again, our trusty Lonely Planet guide provided us with a great plan… Stratford Town Walk.
When we set out on Our Global Adventure, it was with a plan. We would spend 6-9 months in Ireland (to take care of the requirements for a visa into the UK) and then head on to England. When Gina said to me this time last year… “Do you want to go to France”, I was quite flabbergasted that she would even suggest such a spanner in the works of our carefully planned schedule. After all, she wasn’t even looking for housesitting opportunities at that stage.
But as I read the advertisement on trusted housesitters, I must admit that I felt something special was being placed in front of us.
Château Chenonceau radiates feminine beauty. It’s not a foreboding stronghold built to keep out invaders. Nor is high over a town, like a warning, to keep everyone below in their place. Chenonceau is graceful, even soft on the eye, it’s built over a river at the end of tree lined path. It is all these things because throughout its 503 year history it has been a series of women who have influenced the design and fate of this Château the most.
We recently took the children for their first visit to Paris, one of our favourite cities in the world. After living in rural France for month, we decided to spend a weekend in one of the most beautiful capital cities that we have ever travelled to. Of course, we wondered before setting off, if the Paris would appeal to children as much as it does to adults, since it’s the architecture, wide boulevards, and bridges that the city is most famed for, as well as museums, churches and galleries. We wanted the kids to get a ‘feel’ for the city, to take it all in unhurried, and at their own pace. Our children’s first visit to Paris was a great success, and do you know what? We didn’t ‘do’ much at all.
Recently we had a day out exploring some of the towns nearby to Chatellerault where we are currently based in France. We were excited to discover beautiful towns and villages all within easy reach. Highlight of the day was the medieval town of Chinon which is located in the heart of the Loire Valley, strategically built by the banks of the Vienne River. It is a town steeped in history and rich with culture. The imposing castle that sits high above the town was the preferred residence of Henry II, one of the English Plantagenet kings, and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry II died in 1189 and their son, Richard the Lionheart was born here. Continue reading
Before making our way to our newest housesitting assignment in France we spent a few days exploring Amsterdam with our children. With its’ reputation for all things naughty, Amsterdam may seem an unlikely place to visit with the children, but we learnt that it’s also a very family friendly destination for a whirlwind trip with the kids.