It is a cool misty afternoon in April. Tall pine trees swish in the breeze as we drive to The Wicked Lady passing by hundreds of bright yellow daffodils.

This contemporary pub and restaurant is located opposite No-man’s land, near Wheathampstead. The plan was to go for a walk across the historic common but we had to shelve that when we got out of the car and noticed that, instead of wellies, I was still wearing my heels! My husband is greatly amused that the city girl in me is still so out of her depth in the countryside.

I love the cream coloured sign with the black silhouette of a 3 cornered highwayman hat pretty dark eyes and long lashes of a seductive lady, and can imagine her in her breeches, mask and riding cloak leaping out in front of a carriage from the darkness and yelling “Stand and deliver!”

The pub is named after Katherine Ferrers, a 17th Century French gentlewoman and property heiress; an aristocratic lady by day and a highway woman by night. Sole heir to her father’s fortune, Katherine became as notorious as her male peers, many also bereft of their fortunes, and came into highway robbery in order to redress her fast-dwindling inheritance taken from her by her husband once her father had died.

On a dark night, this route to and from London presented a great opportunity for highway robbery. Various films and books have been made retelling Ferrers’ life story. Local legend says that she haunts the common and her ghost can still be seen on occasion galloping wildly on a black horse.

After a long country walk, The Wicked Lady is the ideal place to come and relax into the comfy velvet armchairs under the low Tudor ceiling. It is refurbished to the hilt, and is the perfect venue to impress guests with a stylish evening dinner or just some tasty pub food. With its luxury interior and sophisticated ambience, it almost feels as if I could be in the heart of Mayfair and I must admit, maybe feels a bit urban for a traditional pub in the middle of the Hertfordshire countryside.

There is a huge selection of wines and ales; my husband tries the Pravha while I go for a fresh pineapple juice. We order our food. I choose a melted cheese and red pepper baguette and my husband opts for a grilled steak-sandwich with all the trimmings served with a little pot of chips and served on a wooden board.

Next time, I imagine having a nice Sunday roast here, relaxing with a beer in my hand and my wellies covered in mud after a long woodland walk (that is if I remember to bring them)!

We enter a spacious brightly lit gym surrounded with wall-to-wall windows looking out onto the green. A mirrored far wall reflects back the chrome equipment so that we can see ourselves working out.

 I joined this gym recently, given that I’m in my forties, I’m feeling the need to stay lean and trim. Most of this equipment is new to me. My favourite weight machine tones my upper arms. The rowing machine leaves me underwhelmed and I find simple sit-ups give me a tougher work out as they isolate each muscle.

 It feels good to put my work down and come here. I enjoy working within my own limits, staying relatively toned and building up some cardiovascular stamina to burn some extra calories.

 I’ve decided to bring my daughter today to help her get rid of the mental stress brought on by her looming GCSE’s. As we arrive the music is playing loudly, just how I like it and we step onto the treadmill. I walk at an upbeat pace, pressing the uphill button to give my thigh muscles an extra workout as I’m used to walking along the sloping streets of St Albans.

 A middle-aged woman wearing a pink vest and black leggings steps onto the treadmill next to me and has a little glance over; I get the feeling that she wants to show me how she can race faster beside me. As I’m naturally not a competitive person, I keep to my own pace and smile to myself, wondering why I didn’t bring a Blue Peter badge with me to reward her as she works up a sweat!

 Then it’s off to the “Testosterone zone” where I show my daughter the dumb bells. Here you can see mainly men puffing and breaking out into a sweat; as they endure the weights with pained expressions on their faces testing their limits. I demonstrate three methods of using the dumb bells, and she repeats the action with ease.

 I go to the far corner and reach for the red boxing gloves and smile sweetly. I hand them to her and go and call the personal trainer. He shows my daughter some boxing combinations and the punch bag takes several hits. I step back as she works alongside him for about ten minutes, before she is left to her own devices. I watch with delight as she jabs and crosses, releasing her pent up stress induced by her teachers expecting no less than A’s from her in June.

 We end the session with a few Pilates postures and slowly feel our bodies cooling down. I look up at her as she lets out some deep breaths, at this moment in time her GCSE’s are far from her mind and I feel that I have achieved my goal.

The Hatfield Galleria opened in 1991 and sits above the A1 motorway tunnel. It was designed in the shape of an aircraft hangar to celebrate Hatfield’s aeronautical history.

As it’s a cold wet afternoon and only a ten-minute drive away, we decide to go and have a look around at it’s many designer outlets. It feels different from St Albans in some ways, more urban, with a younger crowd, nine-screen cinema and lots of restaurants to choose from.

Before we shop, we sip a cappuccino in Costa. I’m currently reading a book on Venice by Jan Morris, my favourite travel writer. We can hear the children’s train bell ringing out in the play area as it travels in a circle in the background while students from the nearby De Havilland campus of the University of Hertfordshire sit and chat in the warm.

My first shopping stop is TK Maxx, how on earth do I describe this place? It evokes prehistoric hunter-gatherer tendencies buried deep within my female psyche. Bombarded with a huge quantity of discounted stock in disarray, I naturally step closer to pick things up, have a good look at them and check their price. It is a marmite experience, love it or hate it!

The good value means that before I know it, I’m carrying a basket filled with some random items that I probably don’t need like a pair of Calvin Klein tights, a random Figue de Provence soap and a notebook decorated with gold spots; so many jumbled sections, colourful packaging and brand names. I seem to have forgotten who or where I am; that’s the effect it has on me. I leave the store and re-balance with a few deep breaths.

I discover that my husband has left the store and texted me. I find him in Waterstones seated in a comfy leather armchair already on chapter two of the latest Robert Harris book. I love this branch as it’s really spacious and well stocked with fiction. I leave him to it and go and have a look at some fun stationary displayed at the front of the store and travel guides for our summer holiday.

I never quite understood how Sports-direct works. I have a look at some sports vests only to discover that the ones I like are actually arranged on a top shelf close to the ceiling! The place is busy and the sales assistant has to go and fetch a ladder that reaches up to the sky just so that I can have a look at them!

By now my husband’s patience is wearing thin so I sit him on a bench and promise that if he waits for me to have a brows in Ghost downstairs, we can go to CEX before we head home.

It’s a warm sunlit afternoon; we sit on the brick wall under the ancient clock tower, relaxing and taking in the fresh air and scenery; after the long winter I feel as if I need to sit outside as much as possible and soak up the sun.

My daughter bites into a hot cross bun as I enjoy a cappuccino. I can hear a group of visitors chatting in Spanish and realize that St Albans is increasingly becoming more of a tourist destination. The market is in full swing and the steamy paella smoke drifts through the air.

People linger sitting under the tree, the curved wooden benches giving the intimate feel of a small market square as the busker entertains us with his guitar riff while playing “Here comes the sun.”

St Albans clock Tower, and a significant local landmark, built some time between 1403 and 1412, is still in use after six hundred years. It remains the only medieval town belfry in England. An expression of civic power, the ringing of the curfew bell every evening was a summons to the local merchants to close their shops for the day empowering them to sound their own hours rather than those decided by the peel of the Abbey bells.

Grade I listed, it is about 64ft high and has five floors. At weekends you can brave the very narrow staircase and climb up as many as 93 steps spiraling up to the top and leading to a fantastic 360 degree view of St Albans and the surrounding countryside.

The tower contains two bells, the larger Gabriel bell dating from the 14th century, dedicated to the Archangel with the Latin inscription “I have the name Gabriel sent from heaven”; and the Market bell from the 18th century intended as an alarm for fires.

It was built close to the site of the Eleanor cross as indicated in the plaque above us. Twelve Eleanor crosses were constructed throughout eastern England under the orders of King Edward I between 1290 and 1294 in memory of his wife Eleanor of Castile. The site of each cross marks the nightly resting place of Eleanor’s funeral procession.

When we first came to St Albans on a day trip all those years ago I was pretty unaware of the city’s history, but was immediately drawn to its charm; the cobble streets, Tudor buildings, clean air and sense of peace and within a matter of months we had moved here.

Despite it’s huge historical significance, this city is in forward motion, with Britain’s First Saint Project in the pipeline at the cathedral, and the new state of the art museum opening within the next few months; we locals might soon find ourselves welcoming even more guests from near and far. I think it’s time we all learned another language or two, perhaps Spanish, or maybe even some Mandarin!