Slow Sunday at The Barbican Conservatory

Did you know that hidden on the third floor of The Barbican there is the most magical conservatory?

I've seen photos from this magical place over the years but I never really knew where it was in the maze-like structure that is The Barbican. At some point I actually just thought it was a myth. When I finally figured it out, I also found out it was only open to the public on Sundays and Bank Holidays. 

My usual Sunday routine includes doing housework and spending most of the day at church so I've never really taken the time to go to the conservatory, so very foolish of me. But, one of my besties is soon leaving the country to go study in Australia and we had been talking about visiting for months. So, two weeks back, we finally took a Sunday off and spent a bittersweet afternoon at the conservatory catching up and taking the time to be together for one of the last times before she leaps into her new adventure on the other side of the world.

Turns out the Barbican conservatory is the perfect setting for an afternoon of strolling around, chatting and making memories with your dearest.

With more that 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, the conservatory is a visual delight. There is an inspirational collection of cacti and succulents, beautiful bamboo 20 feet tall and, plants and trees I've never seen before.

We spent time sitting amongst the trees marvelling at the strange contrast between the wonderful plants and the harsh brutalist architecture they are set in. It's a contrast that shouldn't work in theory but in practice is perfect.

I have a soft spot for brutalist architecture and The Barbican is one of my favourite iconic London buildings. I also spent a fair bit of my childhood there at music concerts with my parents, it holds a special place in my heart. Little did I know it housed this beautiful conservatory, the second largest in London.

Do you know where the largest one is? (Note to self: google that when I'm done here)

This has quickly become my new favourite spot in London and I will not stop talking abut it with everyone I meet.

Which has made it clear to me that I wasn't the only one who didn't know about it. So many people I've spoken to had no idea it existed. 

If you've never been I suggest you make plans to check it out one Sunday soon. 

(Before you do, check the website because sometimes they have funny closing times)

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Let me know if you make a trip and tag your Instagram posts #gowildlyandslow so I can see all your photos! 

Happy adventuring!

N x

An Affordable AirBnB holiday with Mountain Views

First off, I'm sorry!! It's been more that 2 months since my last post. The reasons for that are many which I won't go into now but the plan is to be around posting more frequently from now on (best laid plans and all that!).

So, here's a LONG awaited post about our holiday in the Pyrenees way back at the beginning of March. If you've been following me on Instagram you would have seen that I went on holiday to the most beautiful little mountainside cabin nestled in the French Pyrenees. Many of you asked for more details and info about where we went and I promised to deliver. I didn't think it would take me so long to get down to editing the photos and getting a post together but finally, here it is!

The whole thing was a perfect short break from London. We went with two friends and we had a great time. We hiked together, cooked and ate lovely food and did a good amount of relaxing and lazing about in our jogging bottoms! 

There's probably too much (and too many photos) to fit it all in one post, so for now here's some info about the house we stayed in, the surrounding area, and roughly how much the whole thing cost us.

 The cabin from the garden

The cabin from the garden

The AirBnB

We booked really cheap Ryanair flights to Toulouse and then kind of forgot to book accommodation. A few days before we were set to depart we were still looking on Airbnb for a place to stay and found this little place that seemed pretty nice. The photos on their profile do it very little justice and at £47 a night for four I was nervous it might not be all that great.

However, when we arrived we were pleasantly surprised. The decor is simple and rustic, definitely a genuine mountain house but with all the necessary amenities for self-catering (including a coffee maker!) and plenty of bedding to stay warm on the chilly nights.

But, what really made it for us was how remote it was and how incredible the view was. The snowcapped mountains were just outside our bedroom windows, I'm convinced it's the most wonderful view to wake up to each morning.

 Sunrise from the upstairs Terrace

Sunrise from the upstairs Terrace

We never met the hosts but spoke with them on the phone one evening when the gas went out and they were really nice and helpful.

The house was very clean and had some lovely features. Each level had a terrace looking out onto the mountain range, perfect for watching the sunset or catching the sunrise lighting up the mountain peaks in the morning. 

It also had a wonderful stove that once the fire got going quickly heated up the whole house. And made for a great spot to sit and read, or play board games. We brought along Settlers of Catan and Rummikub from home to play in the evenings.

The house has two cats that come and go as they please who were very relaxed with the presence of strange people in their house. They were actually really sweet, even for me, and I'm no animal lover!

For the really (almost unbelievably) reasonable price we paid we had no complaints about the house. It had a bit of a funny sleeping arrangement with one bed in the main living space and sadly the bigger bathroom didn't work as the water pressure was too low to get hot water to it. So the bathroom was a little small and tight but nothing to really worry about. 

Normally when we travel we do pretty basic accommodation so this was actually a bit of a step up for us!

 Walking in Castillon-en-Couserans

Walking in Castillon-en-Couserans

The Surrounding Area

Like I said we flew to Toulouse but actually didn't want to stay in the city we knew we wanted to be in the mountains good and proper.

We'd never been to the Pyrenees before so we just google mapped locations and tried to find an AriBnB because we found such a great deal on AirBnB we picked Arrien-en-Bethmale. It's about a two and half hour drive from the airport and pretty straight forward getting there.

Here's a nifty trick, if you don't have data roaming you can download maps from google to your phone when connected to the wifi at the airport and still be able to map your route whilst you're driving.

On the way to the house, we stopped in Saint-Girons to pick up some food and supplies at the supermarket as we knew we'd be pretty tired once we got to the house and it was going to be getting dark.

For the four days we were there we spent a lot of our time cooking and eating great food together and drinking plenty of lovely (and cheap) French wine. The local town has a small Carrefour supermarket with everything you could need to cook and eat great food. The town is either a 15-minute drive away or an hour's slow stroll down the hill through some picturesque, sleepy french villages.

 Church along the walk to castillon-en-couserans

Church along the walk to castillon-en-couserans

Had we been there for longer we would have loved to visit a local weekend market. The French really know how to do a good farmers market. We would also have done a few more day trips and taken a drive along the Col de la Core up to Lac de Bethmale which was sadly closed due to snowfall.

The one trip we did do was to Cascade d'Ars but I'll write about that next week because it's a pretty big story!

Affordable Aribnb france
Arrien en bethmale

The cost 

If you're thinking you can't have a beautiful holiday on a tight budget you are wrong! I didn't take note of the exact amount that we spent but roughly speaking for each of us we spent -

Flights - £36 each

Airbnb for 4 people for 5 nights - £273 (£68 each)

Car hire - roughly £200 (including petrol)

Food and wine and everything else- £60

All in all, it cost us roughly £220 each for a 5 day holiday. 

France Airbnb

I'll write more about the trip we took to Cascade d'Ars later in the week. And I'll also post a bit of a life update because ALOT has happened.

Did you find this post interesting and helpful? 

I'm happy to be back here on the blog and you'll be seeing a lot more from me here very soon!

Let me know if you liked this post in the comments. I'll leave you with a few more photos.

N x

Photo Journal - Misty Morning Walk on Blackheath

Last week the stars aligned to deliver me a Monday morning off from work, a marvellously foggy misty London and beautiful Blackheath and Greenwich Park right at my doorstep (well not my door but the door Nik's house).

Basically, a dream combination for a walk with my camera. 

Having a super nice camera which isn't attached to my phone has been such a blessing for me these past few weeks. It means I have a reason to go outside even if I'm by myself and that has such a positive impact on my mental health. And of course, I don't get distracted by Instagram or the internet like I do if I'm using my phone.

I hate the cold, and normally you couldn't convince me to go for a walk on a frosty morning by myself. But with my camera? Yep, always, I'll be jumping at the possibility of capturing something beautiful!

I had so much fun walking around the heath and into Greenwich park snapping the eery beauty of the thick fog that morning and I'm pretty proud of the shots I got. I've been using 35mm film cameras for that last 10 years and I was so scared of using digital but I'm loving that I can take the photos and start editing and sharing them pretty much immediately. 

I'm going to do a full review of the Fujifilm x100t soon but for now, have a look at this photo journal from my morning walk.

Blackheath foggy walk
Blackheath Lamp Post
Foggy Blackheath Walk

What helps you get outside when its a bit cold and miserable? If you're on Instagram I'd love to see what inspires you to get outside when it's all bitter and cold outside. Share your moments with #gowildlyandslow 

In other news, I'm going to start sending out newsletters soon and alongside that, I'm thinking of running a little giveaway on Instagram. So watch this space (and sign up for the newsletter)

N x