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Big-Ben-in-the-rain

An Eye on London

Visiting London in England is the equivalent, in many ways, of visiting New York City in the USA. Both are exciting cities, fast paced, full of must see iconic sights and lots and lots to do, maybe not that representative of the rest of the country, but you just have to go. I had not been to London in many years, though to England  fairly frequently, it was time for a revisit and the perfect time was at the co-mingling of my sister’s visit coming to an end and my step-daughter’s arrival!

Steve and Austin

 

And I can’t forget about flat Audrey, who arrived with Austin!

Flat Audrey on the Big Bus

So here’s a whirlwind tour of just a few things we saw.

Tower Bridge

This is the Tower Bridge. People often confuse it with the London Bridge, however, London Bridge fell down and was picked up and moved to Lake Havasu, AZ many years ago.

Tower of London

This is the Tower of London.  A bloody history lies within these walls where Anne Bolyn was beheaded and the two young princes murdered. The crown jewels reside here and apparently quite a few people.

a residence in the Tower of London

Bet you didn’t know this about the Tower of London, kings and queens kept many different wild animals within the walls including a lion that tore off a young woman’s arm back in the 1600’s. Can you imagine? She was just petting his paw and whack, arm gone. This is why you don’t play with wild animals people. The animals stayed around though until a monkey attacked someone in the 1800’s and the animals were sent to live at the zoo by 1835.

In memory of the live animals who lived within the walls of the Tower of London

There is Piccadily Circus, which is not a “circus” as we Americans think of circus, but hearkens back to the latin word meaning circle, a large open space that is now quite occupied with people, cars and busses, as well as being known for the first electronic signs.

Piccadily Circus from the Big Red Bus

Trafalgar Square is home to the four lions.

Trafalgar Square

You can see their enormity by looking at the visitor having his pic made with the lion.

And if the lion’s aren’t your cup of tea, then how about this:

Blue Rooster

This is a rotating sculpture display and the people get to vote on what they want to see there. Obviously, the Brit’s have a great sense of humor! I loved the stark blueness against the mizzle color of the square. Imagine on a rainy day how it must be a welcome splash of color!

Want to see the city from a whole new angle?

The London Eye

This huge “ferris wheel,” constructed in 2000 with the intent of it being on display only for a year, is still going strong and giving tourists like me a total new outlook on London.

Thames River from the London Eye
Big Ben and Parliament from London Eye

Well worth the wait in line for this thirty minute bird’s eye view of London and what luck having such great skies!

Monument to the Women of WWII

This stark sculpture was on a quite high pedestal in the middle of a street, viewed perfectly from the upper deck on the bus. I would bet a lot of people have never even seen this.

Westminster Abbey

An evening view of the Westminster Abbey. We were sort of lost, stumbling around looking for a pub when we came around a corner to this!

Big Ben tower

Big Ben is the bell and this is just the tower that houses it. An iconic symbol of London.

Big Ben and Parliament skyline

I think my favorite shot of London.

So there’s a snapshot tour of London in jolly old England. This barely even scratches the surface of all there is to see and do. We had little time in the city so I didn’t even make it to my favorite place, the Tate Gallery, to have a look at the Lady of Shalott, one of my favorite paintings. Maybe next time.

Cheers!

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the-walking-life

Walking to everywhere

Walking. Nothing much to it. You need two feet, some sort of covering to protect your tootsies and appropriate clothing. 30 minutes of your time, and according to some doctors, health experts, opinion makers, you have completed your workout for the day. Enough said. Take off those tennies and relax.

But WAIT! What if you made walking a regular part of your life? What if walking became your mode of transportation for most of your day? What if walking were the key to living your healthiest life and walking just five miles a day was all it took?

People who live to be 100 seem to have several things in common, but the most often shared trait is walking at least 5 miles a day. Not as a means of exercise, “oh I have to work out,” but just as means of living, of getting around. (Check out the Blue Zones for more info and read the book!) Even if you have never considered living to be 100, wouldn’t it be nice if you lived healthy until you died? Walking could be just the key to doing exactly that!

Consider taking a walk to work or parking some distance and walking the rest of the way. Walking clears your head. Allows you to think and just makes the day better. I’ve been doing it for some time, but being here in England, I am walking everywhere. I’ll share more about my walking soon, but for now, here’s some lovely shots from the day I walked from Truro, Cornwall, to Threemilestone, Cornwall.

Sounds like a nice walk
Look down, Beauty in unexpected places
Great name for a part of the path
A side lane
It’s not easy being green, but it sure is beautiful!
A peek into the grass
over flowing stream made crossing this part of the road tricky
How green was your valley?
I’m walking, yes indeed I’m walking

Though walking is a treat in a beautiful setting, it can be just as much fun on the streets. Walk on my friends, walk on!!

Hey, and one more thing…

Never take for granted what you have right this moment!

If you enjoyed this post, please share. I love your comments. Tell me about your favorite walk of all times!

toast-and-jam

Breakfast in Britain

Breakfast in Britain is a bit of a brain twist for Americans. They serve beans (pretty much like the pork n’ beans in a can we know from home) and mushrooms, cooked tomatoes, along with bacon, ham or sausage, or sometimes all three if you get the big breakfast, eggs of your choice and toast, brown or white.

Poached eggs on toast with a mushroom

Granted, eggs and meat are quite familiar in the USA, it’s the beans, mushrooms and tomatoes that throw us. There is also tea or coffee, of course.

Tea cup made in Worcester with Wittard’s English Rose Tea

And sometimes, even a great view!

View from County Arms, Truro, Cornwall

Since I have grown used to my green super smoothies at home, I have readjusted my breakfast thinking when I am traveling. Mushrooms are a super food, so I love that I can have them for breakfast and I quite like eggs, so I have them either poached or boiled, but occasionally fried. I was really impressed one evening at Three Tuns pub, Hay-on-Wye, Wales, when I also had a mushroom risotto with a breaded poached egg on top. Now that was delicious.

Three Tuns Pub Mixed Olive & Fennel Risotto, Creme Fraiche, Deep Fried Poached Egg, Pecorino Crackling

I have had more toast here than a year of breakfasts at home, but the jams are so delicious, it’s hard to pass up, even when making breakfast in my flat. I passed an honor jar jam sale on the street one day and paid 2 pounds, a steal compared to other jams I’ve seen, (or bought) for Ed’s Forest Fruits, which my friend Rachel tells me would be blackberries and currants.

Ed’s Forest Fruits bought at an honor jar table on street
Scrumptious Strawberry and Rose Jam from the Old Stables Tea House, Hay on Wye, Wales

Whatever it is, the fruit is big and chunky and super delicious and so I’ve had toast on more than several occasions. However, for breakfast, most days in my flat, even though there is a blender and I could make a smoothie, I have taken to having salad,

Salad for breakfast? Yes!

sweet potato and fruit.

Delicious for breakfast with a small pat of organic butter

Now that is a breakfast to write home about! Fills me up and tastes great. I am definitely adding mushrooms to the mix when I get home and I may never go back to the smoothie. What?? That’s right, as great as they are, why not have all that yumminess in it’s natural state? We will see, but for now…please pass the jam!

If you like this post, please share, and don’t forget to say what YOU are having for breakfast these days!

 

A-day-in-Hay

Books, Pubs, Flats and Heaven

 

I traveled with my husband on his business last week, a journey which took us to Truro, Cornwall and the County Arms, to Braunton, Devon and The George to Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales and Malsters, all pubs with accommodations,quite nice and the kind of places we generally stay. Once he finished work, we were off to celebrate our anniversary in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, a town of books, where we stayed at Kilverts, the only pub not quite up to snuff on our journey, but nice enough. (They do not have rooms marked by author’s names, as they show on their website, something that sucks a reader in and thinks, cool!) We were here two nights, and my side of the mattress sloped to the floor, so I felt I was rolling off the bed all night. Blimey, they really need to replace that mattress. All the pub rooms had bathtubs, which to me is one of the great things in UK and Europe, as they are deep and long and so wonderful for soaking the bones! Our last night on the road was spent in Hereford. But I’m saving that for the last. Here’s a few bathtub shots…

 

First let me tell you about Hay-on-Wye. This is the National Town of Books for Wales.

There are at least 2 dozen books shops with both new and used books, (including honor shops, where you leave your payment in the box. The stalls at the bottom of the stairs in this picture is an honor shop)

 There are lots of antique and vintage  shops where true porcelain teacups can be found and quite a few good restaurants.

Hay on Wye tea cup

I think someone made a mistake though when they let this bull in a china shop. That might be why they are now closed.

I found books by my dear friend and mentor, Jack Williamson

 

 

 

I even found a book on the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico! (far left in photo)

I also heard someone say, “What the ‘Hay’? Where did all these books come from? How did they get all these books?” The answers bookshop owners gave were so vague, we began to suspect foul play, oh wait, I was in the crime section when I had that foul play thought. So no, not foul play, but really? How do all these books come to be in the little town of Hay in the mid-reaches of Wales? Hmmm….

A proper tea can be found in Hay at The Old Stables Tea Room where they serve their award winning Scrumptious Strawberry and Rose Jam with scones and clotted cream, a cake and tea bread.

And I wonder why my jeans are getting snug??

There was a curious shop with all sorts of old taxidermy creations. Jenny at The Bloggess, one of my favorite bloggers, author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, would love this place! (BTW, her book is hilarious. Seriously, I had to stop reading in a public place I was laughing so hard.)


 

And did I mention Crabbies Ginger beer?

This stuff is fantastic! It’s Scottish, so what else can you expect?

Alcoholic ginger beer, that’s right, baby!

And they have a castle, like all good places in the UK.

Oh, and a bear or two…

And all this leads back to those pub rooms and how they measure up along side our flat and well, how they all measure up to what’s coming…

We are renting a small flat in Bristol while we are here in the UK. This is what it looks like…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a lovely little flat, however, the twin beds are rather hard, and well, it’s twin beds, and a toilet that shares it’s space with the shower (in the picture, see the shower head? the toilet is on the opposite wall, just out of camera range) so when we arrived at Castle House in Hereford, a place we booked at the last minute because they had a Sunday night special and wifi, so we could work there Monday morning before heading home, we had no idea it looked like this…

We were in heaven! We almost missed out on all of Hereford, because we just wanted to luxuriate in that beautiful room. Luckily, there is not much to see in Hereford, but we did see the cathedral…

I stood around admiring the cathedral with this guy…

And then we saw the oldest building in Hereford…

not sure, but that might be the oldest man too, and well the name of the town is Hereford…

And behind our hotel, are the remains of the castle moat and a beautiful home. By the way, the castle is long gone, but they preserved the grounds and it is a beautiful green space in the city.

So we had a spot of tea, but nothing like in Hay, 

and then stayed in our room the next morning until the last possible moment to check out. It was heaven.

Okay, so I’ve broken all the rules of blogging and put different sized pictures and wrote a super long blog, but I filled it with photos, so hope I’ll be forgiven.

I hope you enjoyed the pubs, flats and heaven. If you did, please share! Cheers!

 

baker-and-barista-bag

Bread and Coffee and Millionaire’s Shortbread, oh my!

Bread and Coffee and Millionaire’s Shortbread, oh my!

Arriving in Ipswich, UK, late one afternoon, I took a stroll around the town to take some pics and see what was going on down by the water. Ipswich is located on the estuary of the River Orwell, which feeds right into the sea. I then wandered over towards city center and while looking for a restaurant for dinner that evening, I stumbled on The Baker & Barista. Though already closed for the afternoon, I knew there was no way I would be having breakfast in a hotel the next morning, I would be cozying up in this cute little shop because there is nothing better than a warm coffee shop on a chilly morning and this one looked quite special and it turned out to be just that.

The Baker & Barista is a charming little place at 19 St. Peter’s Place. The two young women who run/own this shop were just delightful. They make all the goodies themselves and so it just smells fabulous when you walk through the door. I had a cappuccino, done to perfection, and a slice of their banana/cherry/nut bread, which was just delicious. I bought a Millionaire’s shortbread for later and it was incredible. (Let me just add, Millionaire’s shortbread is over the top deliciousness. Don’t know what it is? I found a recipe for you to try. Click here.) Just as we were leaving, they brought out some hot from the oven cheese scones. I drooled over them as we left the shop, but didn’t purchase. After walking through town, I could not get them out of my head and so went back to nab one before they were all gone. I was not disappointed. They were heavenly delicious.

 

Lots of sweet features in this shop!

If you’re ever in Ipswich, give the Baker and Barista a try. You won’t be disappointed! You can find them here on FB! And if you like this post, please share it with your friends!

travels-with-jane

A Meal to Remember

Sometimes you have to hit the road to find a meal to remember!

Seems like yesterday I was here…

and then here…

and finally…

Monday we hit the road again, but this time, I only had my little blue suitcase, the backpack and a tote. Yay!

Though many meals are just standard fare, we had a meal to remember before we took off Monday afternoon. Sunday night was by far the best meal of our trip and might actually be the best for the entire time we are in England. We ate at Hotel du Vin in Bristol, “A magnificently restored, 18th Century Sugar House,” and it was magnificent. We started with cocktails in the bar, which for me was a cosmopolitan, a drink I have not had in years, but was spot on! Then we were seated in the gorgeous dining room, where the sommelier suggested a light red wine for starters, but for dinner, because some were having beef and others fish, he suggested a different red for the beef eaters, which was a wine from Crasto Winery, so smooth, so velvety, so big, I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Yes, call me a wino, because I LOVE a good red wine and will remember this red for a long time.

Starter for me was a brioche with mushrooms, which was delicious…

and one of my dinner mates had the Onion soup

and another the scallops

Then for dinner, I could not resist…one of my all time favorite dishes…one I make very well myself, but have not had in many years…and not a food I have often, so yes, my friends, I had beef, and not just any beef, but big rich beautiful Beef Bourguignon…

and though this picture does not do it justice, this was heavenly! Far better than I have ever made. Braised beef short ribs, Portobello mushrooms, shallots and smoked pancetta with a thick, sticky sauce. It literally melted in my mouth and the roasted carrots were fab as well. 

One of the other dishes at our table was the Lemon Sole and I did sample a little bite of it. Delicious!

Even the steak and frites was incredible. I nibbled a couple of the frites to be sure!

No meal like this would be complete without…drum roll please…

upside down chocolate pot! Oh, just kidding, at least about the upside down part…

(if you are viewing this on a phone or pad, the picture righted itself. Hmmm. Not so on my computer. Had to go in and turn it to get it right)

This little gem was perfect. Baked Valrhona Au Chocolat Pot with creme chantilly! Delicious does not even describe how good it was!

And the other dessert at our table…

lemon tart and raspberry sorbet. Both with just the right amount of tartness and sweetness.

The wine sommelier came back around as I was enjoying my pot of chocolat, possibly when I was licking the pot clean (not really, but I wanted to) and so I asked if he had a tawny Port. I am not a fan of a ruby port, but do love a tawny. He brought me a sample of a port that I must, let me restate that, MUST find. A tawny by Krohn, Port shippers since 1865, that was incredible. I have never tasted a Port like this, so smooth, so perfect a blend of flavors, not plummy tasting at all, as some Ports can be, just absolutely lovely. Sigh.

This was a special meal, the kind we rarely indulge in, but it was so worth it for one night! 

Me and our friend, Martin, full and content after a very great meal.

So sorry the pictures are rather poor in quality. I did not have my camera and resorted to an iPhone and in this light, they did not do well.

There are more meals to come. And more of me coming home in three months. I think I’ve gained ten pounds already. Not good, but one must sacrifice for the greater good. Yes?

Cheers!

 

travels-with-jane

An American in England

An American in England! Our adventure began on February 11, 2014, when our flight, which was to be on the 12th, was canceled. Rescheduled for the 14th, with three layovers instead of two, all went without a hitch and we landed in Bristol, England at 9:40 on the 15th. With five bags between us, 2 backpacks and a tote, we found a cart to haul it around and made our way to the taxi stand where our cabbie managed to cram it all in the back of his wee cab. Since we usually travel Europe, each with a carry-on size suitcase and a backpack, I was rather embarrassed to have so much luggage. We looked so…well…American. I found myself explaining to people how we are staying for three months. We don’t normally have this much luggage, yada, yada, yada…Anyway, here we are and after a day and half settling in to our flat in Bristol, we made our way to Birmingham for a trade show.

The Crown Plaza at the NEC in Birmingham, sits on Pendigo Lake. There are little platforms jutting into the lake on which fishermen sit every day. The lake is lovely, but were it not surrounded by large industrial pavilions and a major construction site for a CASINO, it would be better! Someone, someday, must explain to me the draw of a casino. I just don’t get it.

I walked around the lake this afternoon to capture the sun for the brief period it made itself known, and watched the honkers (what I know as Canadian Geese) feeding along the shore. Then as I rounded the far side, a pair were in hot pursuit of a fisherman finishing up for the day. He had dumped the rest of his bait into the water, and one of the pair was quite keen on scooping it up, while his mate honked along 20 yards behind him. Loved watching them. 

So I am, I believe, almost adjusted to the time difference. I am planning to sleep well tonight. I just wanted to get this page set up on my site and check in with you all. So stay tuned for better posts and pictures. I am without my cord to hook up camera to computer, so will be next week before I can get pictures posted.

Looking forward to much adventure in buying, cooking and eating here in England. I’ll be back to fill you in on how that goes soon! XO