Monday, April 28, 2014

A Walk in the Chilterns

We're going to flashback a bit for this post.

The hubby and I got out of the city for a day this winter, but I never uploaded the photos. I'm finally getting to it tonight.

We wanted to get out of the city and see some English countryside. When my Aunt Jenn was here, she took me to the Cotswolds, which were SO charming! But the hubs hadn't really left London. So we decided to remedy that. Last minute train tickets were a bit pricey, but with a little looking, we found that the tube (Metropolitan Line) could get you out of London pretty well. (Ok, just outside the encircling freeway, but Londoners never get out that far!) :-)

Keep in mind it was mid-December. The air was crisp and cool, but plenty warm for a hike. It was lovely.

We stepped off the train at Chalfont and Latimer. I quickly discovered that like cities in the States, the 'burbs are where its at! The gated homes were beautiful!

Through a field path (which is an awesome English concept, that walking footpaths are required through private land between villages)... around the corner, we saw the open fields of the English Countryside!

We stumbled on (and across) Harewood Downs Golf Club-- the footpaths go right through the fairways! (Don't worry, Dad. I kept proper golfing etiquette and stayed out of sight in the woods till the foursome had teed off and started their way down to their shots!)

From there, we meandered to Chalfont St. Giles... a charming tiny village (and cool, as our church is St. Giles!)

Through the lych-gate (corpse gate) at the local church. Read the wiki entry about these gates to find the superstition behind them!

The woodwork on the chapel entrance was lovely.

Then we found what we meandered here for-- Milton's Cottage! This is the home where John Milton penned Paradise Lost. We weren't able to tour inside, but it was so neat to be peek inside and consider the history that had been here, and the great minds that once dwelled in this home!

** Random shot of the day ** In the public loo, they had this hand washing station, with buttons for water, soap, and then air drying. Weirdest thing I've ever seen, but apparently, they're not uncommon!

Then we quickly realised we were running out of daylight (in December, the sun sets sets before 4pm!), so we hoofed it up to Amersham, where we did a quick tour of Old Amersham (historical district) and  stepped in a quick charity shop (thrift shop) before catching our train back to London.

They trim certain trees here in England like this. I don't really understand why they lop them off so starkly. They do it in the country and here in London. It makes the the parks look like a Dr. Seuss book!

Dear Mama- I thought of you!

Apparently, we were in the county of Buckinghamshire, in a region of hills called The Chilterns. (I love that!) And we'll have to go back... apparently, there are a few places near there that they used in filming (both) versions of Pride & Prejudice! And the Austen geek in me wants to see them!

P.S.   Dad- You can bring your clubs when you visit. Harewood Downs is only £30 for green fees. I'll go with you if I can borrow your clubs!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

St George's Day

April 23rd was St George's Day! Huzzah!

Well, not quite. Apparently, each country in the UK has a patron saint to whom they look to for help in times of distress... or something like that. But poor St. George has been all but forgotten. Though the holiday is the 23rd (supposedly the day he died), there's no day off work. So this week, the few people who did celebrate did so on Monday, since they had the day off for Easter anyway. :-P Kind of tragic.

Anyhoo, the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is trying to get the holiday back up off the ground, and hosted a Feast of St. George in Trafalgar Square. It guaranteed to have entertainment, lots of food stalls, and a tent with cooking workshops- right up our alley! Well, the result was underwhelming. Amidst the rain and around the fountain stood about 10 food stalls and one paper mache dragon breathing fake smoke. But it was a nice walk, and a good afternoon out. I do love going into the city! 

At least we got some good food from Heck Sausages!

Oh, and the food workshops expected were one per hour, no latecomers- line up for the next one. We didn't feel like standing in line to learn how to make Kentish Pudding with pickled walnuts and a side of cumin carrots. (Even after a pretty thorough Google search, I can't find a decision on what Kentish Pudding actually consists of!)

*Oh! And since I'm on the subject of kinda snobby food..... I love food. A lot. But I'm kind of over restaurant menus describing in agonising detail every ingredient of the dish. We no longer get a hamburger and fries. We get a patty of grass-fed, mature, Angus, 95% lean steak mince patty topped with pan-fried golden onions and wild mushrooms, optional heirloom tomatoes and lettuce, with a stone ground english mustard, served with parmesan-crusted maris piper potato wedges. Don't get me wrong, dear chefs- I love eating your food-- I just get grumpy with hunger as I try to read through your menu!

Speaking of.... can you tell our dinner is a little later than usual tonight? In someone on Pinterest's words:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Postcards from Paris (Part 3)

I'm not sure if anyone is still looking at these Paris posts. It seems like I've written more about Paris than about London! But can you blame me, really? It's what I do under pressure. Three days-- I must capture it all on film (proverbial film, of course)!

I'll combine a few last details of Paris in this post. For the OCD ones out there, I'll give you an outline.
  1. Covered Passages of Paris
  2. Montmartre Cemetery
  3. The Red Umbrella (or Waving Hello to my Little Sister)

Covered Passages of Paris- When we were planning our trip, we repeatedly read that the only way to really take in Paris is to walk. I also read one piece of advice that said to 'try' every door handle, because you never know what hidden passage, courtyard, or garden is behind a door in Paris. While we didn't actually try every doorknob, we peeked into any that were open. And he's right! So many doors lead to courtyards with gardens and fountains. It was like searching for Wonderland behind each door. The covered passages were similar. Though expensive (what isn't expensive in Paris?), the passages held cafes, antiques shops, booksellers, and children's boutiques. It was a sweet reprieve to the city around you.
I wish I could tell you which passage was which... but I didn't always know where we were, and sadly, have forgotten most of the ones I did know. I hope you still enjoy them.

Montmartre Cemetery- During our first (rainy) day, we came upon the Montmartre Cemetery. Though not as large (or celebrity-ridden) as Pere Lachaise, we found several well-known names. We were struck by the grandeur and beauty memorialising faces and names long forgotten.

The tomb of Hector Berlioz (for my Meghan... who, as a 2 year old, chose Berlioz as her favourite composer).

This stained glass was in a crypt-- amazing to see such beauty in a place of such decay.

The hubby asked to take this shot for his mum. Jacques Offenbach.

The Red Umbrella (or Waving Hello to my Little Sister)- My sister has begun collecting paintings and pictures featuring red umbrellas. Ally- these are for you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Postcards from Paris (Part 2)

I was so excited to see Montmartre! Though I'd heard it was mostly just a tourist spot, I was curious to see if any of that bobo (what they call boho) era was still felt. We went on our first day... but it was raining. Quite frankly, we didn't feel much of anything. So we stopped again on our last day, taking advantage of the sunshine and warmer weather! It was lovely. We sat just to the side of the Sacré-Cœur, in view of the Eiffel Tower, reading books and watching the sun travel over the rooftops of Paris.

Another carousel for my collection....

Place du Tertre... classic spot for aspiring artist. (In truth... current tourist trap.)

There was still a charm about the corner bands and street performers, like the living statue below. Whenever anyone came up to take a photo with him, be played a tune on his pipe and danced a jig, before returning to a still pose.

Just below Montmartre is Pigalle.... ok, not really the 'nicest' district in Paris. Though I can't vouch for its entertainment, I couldn't pass le Moulin Rouge without at least one picture!

Can anyone help place this view? I'm sure I've seen this hill somewhere.. movie, tv? I can't remember, but it was charming.

I just loved this spot. Off in the glowing distance is the 18th arrondisement, a residential district. Down hundreds of steps, between luxury flats... it looked like another world off in the distance, a world outside Paris. 

I think I could come back here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Postcards from Paris (Part 1)

***WARNING: there are a few too many pictures of the Eiffel Tower in this post! (If you only knew how many I edited out!***

I posted a few teaser pics on Facebook last week, but then life became quite crazy, and I wasn't able to follow up with the rest of the pictures. So, a week later, I'm finally getting around to it!

I decided to start with the more famous landmarks!

This is looking down to Place de la Concorde from Le Madeleine (which I'll mention later). It was cool to see that though modern cars and modern clothes lined the streets, the buildings were relatively unchanged from so many historical pictures. Every building was etched, designed, trimmed..... it was simply lovely.

Hubby and I spent some time at The Galeries Lafayette- a super huge department store! The top level had a cafe, with free wifi (pronounced wee-fee by the French!). That dome is just incredible!

Outside, we spent a day wandering the Seine... as most of the famous landmarks are along the river, it was a lovely path to take. We passed this awesome car as we walked by the Louvre! I loved it!

Speaking of Le Louvre.... (by the way... that crowd in front is the queue to get in). :-P

There are several bridges in Paris that have become famous for their 'love-locks'. We happened to be on the Pont des Arts, which glistened in the sun with thousands and thousands of locks and hidden wishes. I surprised the hubby by sneaking along our own to put on the bridge! Can you see it there with our initials? Yes- it's the silver combination lock, which kind of defeats the purpose of making a wish as you throw the key in the river, but its the only lock we had, and, since I've owned that lock since high school, it seemed a fitting one to leave.

Can you find ours in this picture?

At Notre Dame Cathedral! It was actually a little smaller than expected, but amazingly intricate! The front plaza was swamped with tourists...

But the sides were a bit more walkable, and in the back was a lovely garden! (Which was actually closed one day for filming of the new version of Rosemary's Baby... creepy, aye?)

Some details on the Cathedral. Did you know there was a clock on Notre Dame?

I loved this apartment building across the river from the cathedral. The geraniums in the windows were too picturesque!

Did you know that Notre Dame is actually on an island in the river? You have to use a bridge to get to it from either direction! A few minutes walk on Ile de la Cite, and you'll see Sainte Chapelle peeking over the buildings. We weren't able to get in, but do a quick lookup online, and you'll see it is utterly amazing! The spires alone were 'in-spiring'! :-D *Sorry! I had to!

Then.... we took a trip to the famed Shakespeare and Company! I'll be honest... I was expecting to walk through the doors and feel history (and literary genius) come out of the woodwork and hit me in the face. Though that didn't happen, it was cool to be able to say we've been there and looked at books handled by authors of the 'golden age'.

Shh! Don't tell! You're not supposed to take any pictures inside! In fact, the lady on the left rebuked me immediately after I took this shot. Oh well, at least I got one!

All right... you've officially hit the Eiffel Tower part of the post. Deep breath! Hang in with me here!
The tower was amazing during the day: to consider its engineering and construction (especially intended as a temporary structure for the World Fair). It seems to define the steampunk genre, and is flat out cool. But at night.... ah, at night, it's magical!

And, because I'm not sure if you've really seen enough of the Eiffel Tower yet, here's a video we took of it twinkling! It was breathtaking!

A fairly short walk away, and you arrive at the Arc de Triomphe! Its massive. And in the middle of the most insane roundabout you'll ever see. No seriously. Traffic just stops. Motorcycles weave between the cars that no longer form lanes, horns honk, profanities swirl. It's magical. :-)

A few last miscellaneous beauties: first, a garden market on Ile de la Cite that was charming!

And, as mentioned at the beginning of the post, Le Madeleine, a Catholic church that rose and fell multiple times through multiple rulers. This structure was actually commissioned by Napoleon as a tribute to his grand army! The outside (of which I have no photo) is in a greek style with pillars all around. The inside is dark, but grand beyond belief. You look all scale in this picture, but in the second photo, which is a huge organ, (Mom-can you show Papa?!), can you see the bluish box in the bottom right. The top of that is normal door height. It's massive!

While in Paris, I became fascinated with the carousels that one finds throughout the city! They were lovely!

Thanks for bearing with me. I promise the other other posts won't be so long! Hope you enjoyed your mini-trip to Paris! Hope you can go one day yourself!

Au revoir!