Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer travel postcards, final installment -- the photo parade of TEA!


For our London stay, a friend recommended The Wolseley, and we were quite pleased with our experience. First of all, it's not a stuffy sort of place in the least. It was very busy, with lots of chatter and laughter, plus great people-watching (& eavesdropping) opportunities. Steve and I both enjoyed the Wolseley Afternoon Blend tea. The scones were freshly baked and still warm, and the sandwiches were deliciously unfussy. As usually happens, we were a bit stuffed by the time we turned to the dessert tier of the tray, but rest assured we did our best. ;)


On our first full day in Cromarty, Scotland, we enjoyed tea and cake at The Pantry. This was a bright, cozy place, and quite peaceful in the late afternoon.


The next day we visited Coupers Creek, a cafe/gift shop also on Church Street. Doesn't that freshly whipped cream look divine?


Once in Gairloch we enjoyed a tray of tea at the Shieldaig Lodge. We each had our own teapot, our own pot of hot water for refilling, and a couple of shortbread cookies. Quite reviving after our long (& winding) drive from the Black Isle!


Finally, a longstanding favorite -- cream tea on the terrace at the Old Parsonage Hotel in Oxford. The silver teapot and strainers are fancy, yet the atmosphere is always relaxing. Over the years I've enjoyed many teas with friends at this spot. (Just for reference, here's what a full tea looks like at Old Parsonage!)

That's it for Summer postcards! I fully intend to return to my "Tea and a Book" posts this fall, so stay tuned!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]

Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer Travel Postcards: Chastleton House


A field overrun with wildflowers near Moreton-in-Marsh

After our Scotland adventures, it was time to move on to Oxford. We decided to spend our only free day visiting Chastleton House, which involved a train to Moreton-in-Marsh and lots of walking through the Cotswolds. Huzzah!


We were pretty hungry when we arrived. Fortunately the adjoining church, St. Mary's, was offering tea and cake in return for donations to a charity supporting Medical Detection dogs. (This tickled me because I so enjoyed reading Nancy Cataldo's marvelous Sniffer Dogs.) It actually was quite lovely to eat cake in the churchyard among the gravestones!


Chastleton House was built in the early 17th century by a wealthy wool merchant. Hardly any updates were made over the last 400 years, and although the exterior has held up quite nicely, the interior had fallen into terrible disrepair by the late 20th century. (We heard tales of a dotty old lady living there with 30 cats while the house was falling apart around her--you know how I aspire to love that sort of thing!) The National Trust bought the house in 1991 and has been in the process of restoring it ever since.


[As always, click images for a larger view]
In most historic houses, only a few rooms are available for public viewing because the resident family prefers to maintain some privacy. Well, since no one actually lives at Chastleton anymore, we were allowed access to a surprising number of rooms. I was excited to learn that Chastleton was featured in the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. In fact, a key scene between Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn was filmed in the Long Gallery, seen above at the right. Learn more about Chastleton House as a filming location here.


It was quite relaxing to wander in the topiary garden. I love this description from the National Trust website:
The garden has nods to changing garden fashions but still largely has its Jacobean layout, with divisions according to use. And it still preserves its secret garden feel of 'romantic neglect'.
[*happy sigh*]


We wrapped up the day with an impromptu game of croquet. Did you know that the rules of croquet were codified at Chastleton House? They were written by Walter Jones Whitmore and published on April 7, 1866.

Stay tuned for one last travel post featuring . . . TEA!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Summer Travel Postcards: Scotland, part 2


Loch Gairloch

[Go here if you missed part 1 of the Scotland postcards.]

Our luck with weather continued throughout our time in Gairloch. I couldn't ask for anything nicer than the cool breezes and partly sunny skies we experienced.


We stayed at the Shieldaig Lodge, a former hunting lodge turned hotel. I felt a bit like a character in Nancy Mitford's Highland Fling as I wandered through sitting rooms like this one with the bay window, this one with the coat of arms, or this little library where we enjoyed tea (more on that later).


Here Steve looks out over the Fairy Lochs. We were told at the lodge that this was a fairly easy walk, so we set out shortly after we arrived. It soon became clear that we'd need more time and energy, so we turned back. The next day we were determined to reach the lochs, but despite what all the travel guides said, it was fairly rough going--rocky terrain alternating with muddy bogs, and very steep in places. We had at least four moments of false hope when we thought we'd almost reached the plateau only to find there was SO MUCH MORE ground to cover. This view was well-earned, I tell you! (Going back down was even harder, but we won't dwell on that...)


We enjoyed views like this (and easier paths) on our Flowerdale Glen walk.


Another view of Loch Gairloch.


I'll wrap up by offering this post-dinner selfie taken on our last evening at Sheildaig Lodge. The pictures were so goofy, and we were laughing so hard, that the owner came out and asked if we would like him to take the photo. (We must have been making a spectacle of ourselves.) As you might imagine, his photo featured the lodge much more prominently.

Stay tuned for postcards from our walk to Chastleton House in the Cotswolds!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summer Travel Postcards: Scotland, part 1


"Now this feels like the Highlands!"

On Sunday we flew to Inverness for five days in Scotland. We spent the first two nights on the Black Isle at Cromarty, a lovely little village. My photographs from the stay aren't that impressive, however, because the weather was a bit dreary. I was terribly fond of Cromarty, but for now let's move on to the more dramatic west coast sights near Gairloch. (We'll revisit Cromarty when I post my blog on tea. Yay!)


First, I must praise my husband and, to a lesser extent, satellite navigation. I've never driven overseas, and Steve hadn't for over a decade (not since we drove to Brontë country and he nearly abandoned the car in Bradford out of terror and frustration). What a difference a built-in sat nav makes! I wouldn't say Steve was relaxed about driving this time around, but he was very good at it, particularly when the roads narrowed to a single lane, which happened A LOT.


One of our first driving adventures was out to the beaches at Red Point. The day started gloomy but turned quite fine as you can see. No filter on any of these photos--it was just that beautiful! And we nearly had it all to ourselves (but were happy to share).


Obligatory (and somewhat squinty) selfie. As we were leaving this beach, we ran into a group of pony trekkers. Later we walked to the Gairloch Trekking Center and watched two children grooming a pair of fat little ponies as part of the "Kids Stable Special" program. Do check out the gallery on their webpage--guaranteed to make you smile!


We were able to explore this rocky outcropping while the tide was out. You can see the Isle of Skye across the water -- it was huge! Why did I think Skye was a wee island?


I didn't have the nerve to walk to the edge, but that's okay because it meant I could take this photo. :)

Stay tuned for more postcards from the Highlands!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer travel postcards: London


July evening sky -- no filter!

We just returned from a two week trip to England and Scotland. Steve did not direct the law program in Oxford this summer, but he was asked to plan and be present for some special events for the students. Since the trip would take place over our 25th Anniversary, we decided to add on some personal travel, starting with three nights in London.


Couldn't resist this photo upon our Thursday arrival at Paddington Station. I never was much of a Paddington fan as a child, but the 2015 film was utterly enchanting. (Apparently this statue was part of the promotion for the film. See more about the Paddington promotion statues at this blog post. And read my thoughts on the film here.)


On Friday we visited the Leighton House Museum, once home of Pre-Raphaelite painter Frederic Leighton. (His most famous painting might be Flaming June.) It's a lovely house with Middle Eastern architectural and decorative touches, along with an impressive art collection, but I confess my favorite moment was meeting this smushy-faced ginger cat in the garden.


Friday night we enjoyed dinner in Soho with the incomparable Dominic Mattos!


On Saturday we visited the Foundling Museum, built near the site of The Foundling Hospital, established in 1739 by philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for abandoned babies. The two items above are tokens made by mid-18th century mothers who were asked to ‘affix on each child some particular writing, or other distinguishing mark or token, so that the children may be known thereafter if necessary'. Learn more about the tokens here.

[I've long been intrigued by orphans and foundlings in fiction, and my latest story features a foundling girl who is adopted to replace a much grieved child -- a child who, as it turns out, may not have entirely departed from this plane of existence...]


Saturday night we saw The Taming of the Shrew at The Globe and upon leaving encountered this dramatic view of St. Paul's Cathedral from across the Thames.

Stay tuned for more travel postcard posts!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]