New York in August

This month has been a bit of a whirlwind.  My friend,  whom I’ve been friends with since I was about 15 months old, came to visit with her family for a couple of weeks from the UK.  With the distance between us, we obviously don’t see each other often so I was really looking forward to this.  I am very fortunate to have her friendship, she is one of those people that are true friends.  Never any judging, just complete acceptance and support.  She is just a lovely person.  I also count her wonderful husband as a very old friend.  The funny thing is our children share the same names so you can bet it got a little confusing having everyone together!

We packed in loads of adventures into the two weeks they were here.  The kids were introduced to the massive sized ice creams, root beer floats, and New York style pizza.  I fear there was a withdrawal from the newfound root beer habit.  

The highlight of the visit was the trek to NYC.  Given the time of year I do wish that we had portable air conditioning units to carry with us.  The concrete jungle definitely gives off the heat waves!  This visit was a whirlwind tour of the more popular sites. Good thing we had excellent trainers!  


Grand Central is a great place to start the adventure.  It’s such an amazing building and thankfully it was restored rather than suffering the fate that Penn Station had.  Their son is a massive train fan so this was such a treat for him.  



We started in Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty.  Apparently you have to book tickets 3 months in advance to go up it.  To be honest I remember doing that as a child and the time it takes to get up to the top doesn’t make it worth it.  We wandered to the World Trade Center and the memorial there.  The memorial was incredibly moving, they really did it well.  Despite the crowds it’s a peaceful spot.  What got me the most was that they put a white rose on the names when it is the person’s birthday.  

My son, who had visited there with school, said we had to go straight up to the new World Trade Center building.  Then look straight up.  A very cool view.  The way they designed it, looks like it goes on forever.

As this was proving a very hot afternoon I suggested the next stop be Little Italy for refreshments.  


Cannoli and cocktails are very restorative don’t you know.  There is nothing like a well prepared cannoli.  This gave us enough energy to get through the queues to the top of the Empire State Building.  We timed it so by the time we got to the top the sun was going down.  It was insanely crowded at the top but we were able to get some great views.


Not bad for a first day.  The next day was museum day in a bid to keep cool.  For some reason I had yet to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I’m really glad we went, what an amazing museum.  There is something for everyone and their collections are extensive.  Because we didn’t have an endless amount of time we had to pick and choose what we wanted to see.  I would love to go back again.


We ended up spending most of the day there so we had to briskly walk across Central Park as we had promised a visit to the Natural History Museum.  


I hadn’t been in this part of the park before and the flowers and pond were really pretty.  As luck would have it, we emerged from the park right at the museum.  Unfortunately we discovered we only had two hours before it closed.  We were impressed by the greeters, though I wouldn’t mess with them, given the size of their teeth!


Because of the movie “Night at the Museum” we had to go see Dum Dum.  For those that haven’t seen the movie, it is a large Easter Island head.  I asked a guide where the Easter Island head was and he looked confused until I said Dum Dum.  So you can imagine how many parents are dragged there by their children!  Though given the cool stuff there it’s not much of a hardship.

After including Times Square, cheesecake and Gulliver’s Gate, we were very tired on the trip back.  All in all it was a very successful trip and loads of fabulous memories were made. 

The Cowards Will Never Win

It’s been another trying few weeks for Britain.  The startling and crazy politics aside, I mean really, the DUP?  But two cities close to my heart were once again cruelly attacked by  cowards.  What else can you call them?  It’s bad enough if you target fellow man but to target children?  No, you are a coward.

We were in London when the attacks happened in Manchester.  Once again I was taken and impressed with the spirit of the people coming together, despite what an orange useless so called leader likes to spout on stuff he doesn’t understand.  He doesn’t get what the people of Britain are made of.  We’re very good at getting back up again, pulling up the boot straps, and coming together with humour, strength, and acts of kindness.

So while this terrible problem needs to be solved, preferably sooner rather than later, these cowards need to know they aren’t ever going to win.

When we were in London we walked miles and miles visiting places I used to go when I lived there and discovering new sights.  I took my husband to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.  I used to go years ago.  I love how people can just have a soap box to talk about whatever they want as long as it doesn’t incite hate or violence.

It was only just starting when we arrived, just one guy talking about his Christian beliefs.    He did have a sense of humour about it.  There was a lively debate between him and a gentleman who was Muslim.  I couldn’t hear too much what he was saying but all of a sudden the man holding court said “but you don’t want 4 wives, you’d have 4 mother in laws!”  Given that most obviously don’t have 4 wives, I do wonder what point was being brought up.

While this was going on a man came up to us asking if he could talk to us.  Nice enough but it wasn’t too long before we realised he was a bit out there.  He had some wild ideas about saving the earth and that we shouldn’t pollute, as he was rolling cigarettes.  He also talked about how the policeman was rude trying to arrest him for riding his bicycle on the M5.  He moved on to how we should all love each other which is when I got a bit naughty and suggested he talk to the guy above as he was talking about love as well.

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And so he did!  Much to the delight of the crowd.  Which begs the question why some choose to just chant and sing to get their message across.

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I don’t think their message is getting out, or maybe it is.  Who knows?

It was a gorgeous day and as we were walking through the park, for a laugh, I called to a squirrel.  Wouldn’t you know, it came running!  I think people need to stop feeding the animals!

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We also had a bit of fun with celebrity sightings on this trip.  When we arrived in the UK, James Blunt walked by me with his guitar, not a bad start.  As we were walking through Leicester Sq we came upon the theatre for “Don Juan in Soho” starring David Tennant.  We quickly got tickets.  It was hilarious and not for children!

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Because we queued politely, we missed out on getting an autograph.  I might have to rethink that!  But while we were sitting in the theatre I suddenly realised Tom Hollander was 10 feet away.  I stayed perfectly calm.  Well most of me, my left arm was hitting my husband frantically so he could look over.  It wasn’t long before I was tapping him again because 4 feet away Steven Moffat was sitting there!  Needless to say it was a fun night.

Luck would have it, two of my cousins arrived in London just before we left and my younger cousin had never been to London before.  It was a great treat giving her a bit of a walking tour at night, introducing her to some of the famous sites.  How wonderful to see London through fresh eyes.

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We did swing by the Lego store, where I am envious of those who have the job of building this:

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We walked through the War Rooms of Churchill and through the area filled with monuments and symbols of strength and perseverance.

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As I said, the cowards will never overcome the spirit and the strength of the people.

Life is Bloomin’ Good….

We are in the midst of enjoying a lovely holiday back in the U.K.  A much needed holiday but I haven’t done much cooking.  Instead we’ve been enjoying the diesel gala and walking our pins off.  The weather has been absolutely wonderful and I’ve taken the opportunity to indulge in a bit of photography with my SLR.  

With the gala there were some pretty sweet setups with cameras, my husband teased me saying I had lens envy.  😊.  True enough!  Though this post is a quick one to share some photos I took of flowers, I will be doing a post on the gala.  


The cat is a neighbourhood cat that is just desperate for belly rubs.  Soft thing.  Tomorrow we’re popping over to France by ferry. We’re in need of wine.

Warship D832 Onslaught

I am a very lucky woman.  I have a husband that supports me 100% and takes amazing care of me.  This past year has been very hard with issues with my family and my health.  He never wavered and really had to do more than his fair share while I worked to get healthy again.  Plus he works crazy hours.  I wanted to give him a treat that would make him smile.  Since I am horrible at winning any lottery ticket I thought something train related would do the trick.

My husband is a fan of the Warship class of diesels and luckily one was going to be at the Swanage Railway Diesel Gala.  I asked my MIL if there was a possibility of setting up a driver’s experience but as she rightly pointed out, that wasn’t an option for safety reasons.  I’m sure the passengers would prefer experienced drivers!

But the option of a cab ride was a go as long as everyone was ok with it.  As the drivers were staying with us, that part was easy and as my FIL works with the railway and we know a few people that was taken care of as well.  I can’t lie, I was excited to get this set up.  Then when I found out I could have a cab ride as well, that was just a bonus!  My husband went first then I got to have my ride.

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I had some videos but they are too large.  Wordpress recommends I upgrade to Premium.  Those of you who have upgraded, do you recommend?  And have they improved importing your followers to the new upgraded site?

Both of us enjoyed the cab ride very much.  Everyone was such a great help and so generous with their time.  It was a fabulous gala.

 

Quite the Diesel Show in Swanage

The main reason for the timing of our trip to England was the springtime Diesel Gala at Swanage Railway.  Obviously we were there for friends and family but if we can get our train fix than all the better!

We had the perfect weather for this trip and it really made the gala shine.  A few locos trickled at the beginning of the week but several came in as a convoy on the Wednesday before the gala.  My husband and I have fun “racing” the convoy from Corfe Castle to Swanage.

Diesel gala 1 2016

Because they need to come down when the rails aren’t busy we don’t get a lot of light for the display but it was still loads of fun.  It is so impressive the amount of work the volunteers put into this.  There is quite a lot of logistics to wrangle.  We stayed in Swanage well after dark watching them shunting the locos round to get them staged for the first day.

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We bought a three day pass for this so we just rode the rails so to speak enjoying all the different locos and watching the locos changing out at Norden.

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I had been noticing people perched up on the hill at the castle in Corfe taking pictures.  When I say perched, I mean just that.  It’s almost like a cliff!  I can’t imagine having to storm the castle with armor, shields, and weapons.  It seems like an impossible task to me!  But it does give you the perfect spot to watch the locos go over the viaduct.

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Still need to get over there for a Steam Gala but this was a lot of fun.  The vibe was great and it was just what we needed to have a blast.  A huge success all round.  🙂

 

The Dorset Coast

We have been having a wonderful visit back in the UK.  It is going by very quickly though, wish there was a way to slow it down.  Right now we are on the train to London on our way to Manchester.  Since our last visit they have put wifi on the trains so I can blog while we travel.  Which is great because with the diesel gala and day trips I haven’t had time!  

Mixed emotions today as it is hard to leave family but I am very excited to head up north as it’s been 13 years, which is far too long.  We’re staying with my friend that I’ve known for 42 years!  Since I was in nappies.  

While we were in Swanage we did a few day trips on the coast.  It was just breathtaking.  And a challenge!  With the steep climbs I really pushed my back.  I’m paying for it now but it felt really good to actually get up the hills.  Getting to the top makes it all worth it with the views.

The first coast trip was to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.  I have to say we’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather, sun for the whole trip with the exception of the last two days.  We both have a bit of a farmer’s tan.  

Here are some pics of that day.  I tried several times to load small video but the wifi can’t handle it.  It was becoming the definition of insanity!


The next day we drove to Portland Bill, a lighthouse on an island sticking out about six miles into the channel.  There is a guided tour to the top of the lighthouse and the guide showed us a map showing all the known shipwrecks in the immediate area.

A famous one, the Royal Adelaide, happened in 1872.  Because it happened close enough to the beach everyone was rescued.  Great success!  The next day they found 20 people dead on the beach.  Turns out some locals thought it would be a good idea to rescue the gin on the boat by drinking it.  They died of exposure.  Darwinism at work, unfortunately.



I have a few blog posts to do when we get back home including a Victorian Sponge.  Ooh la la.  😊.  But first we’re going to enjoy the last few days of our trip which include a visit to the East Lancashire Railway.  Should be fun!

Footplate Ride on the 31806

Whenever we travel back to the UK I always have a list of things to do and eat.  Once we land and make our way to Swanage we pop down to the water and I get my fish n chips.  Clears the cobwebs.  Nothing like the sea air to give you a second wind, or third or fourth, depending on how hard it is to stay awake.

Of course I always ask my FIL if it’s possible to have a footplate ride.  I make sure I pack clothes that can get dirty and trainers that are on their last legs.  Today I was able to have a ride on the 31806 and it was fabulous!  The weather was amazing, which is good as this one is an open cab.  Must be miserable in the rain but I didn’t have to worry about that!

Loco Yard had done a post about this particular loco a few years ago.  Originally it was a K class and rebuilt into a U class in 1928.  It’s home is now at the Swanage Railway.  I have to say I really enjoyed this loco.  I love how the little kids get so excited when they see it coming.  Well, and the big kids to.  I felt I should have worked on my royal wave with all the waving going on!

Here are some pictures and videos to share with you.


Next weekend the diesel gala is happening which makes my husband happy.  Fingers crossed the weather holds!

Villandry and Gardens to be Jealous of…

Hard to believe but the Chateau of Villandry was once up for demolition.  Fortunately Joachim Carvallo and his wife Ann Coleman, a Spaniard and an American, bought it in 1906.  Pretty remarkable that they took this on but take it on they did.  They refurbished the buildings and uncovered and brought back to life the gardens.  And what an amazing place it is.

Villandry 3 2015

So of course it was a must on our list.  It was well worth the trip.  They have acres of formal gardens, both vegetable and flowers.  I can’t lie, I’m envious of how well their veg patch is doing given theirs seems to be surviving without rabbit damage.  Unlike ours!

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The formal part of the garden “spells” out tender love, passionate love, fickle love, and tragic love.

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I do wonder how the family, who still lives there, find ways to enjoy the gardens.  I would find it difficult to have to stay out of sight until the masses have left.  But it would be a wonderful place to stroll with a glass of wine.  There are lovely spots to find whether it be the stone watchdog or the graceful swan swimming by.

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But my favourite spot was the sun garden.  I much prefer the gardens that follow the English cottage garden, rather than formal, straight, and narrow gardens.  Letting the flowers and plants do what they are meant to do naturally.

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One thing I really enjoyed while in France was the wonderful food you can get at the tourist stops.  At Villandry they had a restaurant that used the veg from the kitchen gardens.  I had a smoked duck fillet salad with roasted pine nuts and a violet vinaigrette for a dressing.

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It was delicious.  It was such a great day with the kids.  We created so many good memories on this trip that will last a lifetime.

Chinon and Being Flung Back to Reality

They need to come up with a way of easing you back into reality after a fabulous holiday.  Air France does not know how to do this.  In fact their goal seems to be the opposite of my wish.  I thought my husband might have been over cautious about the time we headed out in the morning to begin the long journey back stateside.  I didn’t mind as I thought it would give us plenty of time to have dinner before boarding.  You would think I was a rookie at traveling or something.

Now flying over on Air France was pretty decent.  Newer plane, it even had foot rests back in the cattle section, and the crew was pleasant.  And, get this, the food was edible!  Well, for airplane food.  See why I thought everything would be civilised for the trip back?

Whole other story on the return trip.  If you aren’t first class or priority for Air France in Paris they become very lazy in providing help.  They expect us to do it all with kiosks and self checking the baggage.  Which means weighing it, scanning it, reshuffling stuff, stand around and hope you can get help.  Then finally watch your bags leave.  This took forever.  And we needed to change the seats.  The kiosk wouldn’t do it so we had to find someone to help.  Now we are feeling bedraggled as we work our way out of that area only to go past the priority where they have several people helping out the passengers as they sit comfortably at desks.  Grrr.

Nothing decent to eat really at the airport and we were running out of time even with the delay.  Now this was a 747 fully booked.  When we flew over they called boarding by rows.  Which prevents people from having to climb over each other.  Not this time.  Everyone queue up and hope for the best.  No surprise it took longer to board.  The delay was because the plane was late coming in and they had to clean it.  What they were cleaning I don’t know but I was lucky to have wipes with me so I could wipe the food and dirt off the tray table, arm rests, etc.  Just gross.  It was an old plane so things were broken and the entertainment system for my husband didn’t work so we switched back and forth during the flight.

Reality was a swift kick up the backside!

So forgive me if I want to wander back to France and enjoy the memories. 🙂  One of the places we visited was Chinon.  Everyone we spoke to said we should visit.  I’m glad we did as it was a neat place.  The imposing fortress overlooking the town dated from the 10th century though evidence suggests people have been there for a few thousand years.

Chinon 1 2015

What was fascinating to me was that they were saying this was the seat of the Legend of Arthur.  I’ve seen a documentary that said there was some evidence that Arthur could have been a French legend but nothing for certain.  But by and large I’ve always thought of it as an English legend.  Of course some of our kings ruled from this area.  But this was what they were going with.  The kids had fun with it.

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For me the real history was fascinating enough.  Joan of Arc was here.  Charles VII was staying at the fortress when she was having her visions and she went to him and convinced him to let her lead an army.

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They even have a transcript of her trial for heresy.

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Quite a bit of the fortress is still standing though extensive renovations have occurred here and there given the age.  The Royal quarters is where most of the exhibits were held.

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The views all around the site were breathtaking.  And it was such a gorgeous day where you could just see for miles and miles.

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Of course all this trekking can make you peckish so we headed into town to find a place to eat.  I wanted a place where you can try new things and we were able to find that.  I ordered for a starter some stuffed mushrooms with escargot.

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It was very earthy but good.  They did a decent job with the escargot.  That is an ingredient which is very hard to cook.  At least that is my impression given how often it is screwed up.  My husband and daughter were brave enough to try it but I don’t think they were impressed!  For the next course I ordered a brouillard of eggs.  No clue what it was but I saw that my father-in-law had it for his starter.  I didn’t think I’d like it given how his looked.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  I would say it was like burratta for eggs.  With bacon.  Can’t go wrong with that.

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We finished off the day going down the famous Medieval street.  They are private homes, many of which have been refurbished, but they survived the world wars.

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It was well worth the trip to Chinon.  It’s not a huge town but there is lots to see and it was great to wander round it.  Just a beautiful place.

Nearly Lost the Battle with the Charcoal….

So apparently chickens are flammable.  I found out the hard way last night while cooking chicken for the non fish lovers in the family.  I’m still getting used to cooking with charcoal and I made the mistake of walking away after I put the chicken thighs on the grill.  I had other parts of the dinner to prepare.  The grill didn’t think that was a good enough excuse.  When I checked the chickens were balls of flame.  I removed the grill part with the chicken from the heat and started blowing the chicken out like candles.  Oops.  Fortunately they weren’t flaming chickens for long and they turned out ok if you ignore the blackened outside.  Forgive me but I was too busy to take a pic. 

Luckily everything else went smoothly.  The other day a few of us popped down to Saumur to check out the market.  It was a lot of fun and quite large.  It wanders through a lot of streets but we found the food side and found some wonderful ingredients.  One was selling fresh mushrooms including pink ones.  I have no idea what they are called but he also had shiitake mushrooms so I got a bit of both.  I also found a lovely piece of salmon.  There was a bit of language juggling as we sorted out I wanted the skin on but the scales off.  But we got there in the end.  

  
 Following the suggestion from the mushroom man, I minced up some fresh garlic, sliced the mushrooms, and prepped the basil to sauté.  

  
In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Once it is hot add the mushrooms and garlic.  Stir as it begins to cook so the mushrooms are evenly coated with the olive oil.  The mushrooms will shrink a bit.  As they begin to brown add a bit of lemon juice to taste along with salt and pepper.  Near the end add a healthy handful of the basil.

  
Once they have browned nicely they are ready to serve.

  
In addition to setting the chicken on fire I also grilled salmon.  I was much more successful with that.  I added a bit of lemon juice and thyme along with salt and pepper to the salmon and cooked it medium rare.  

 
Yesterday we went to Fontevraud Abby which was very interesting.  The scale of it is immense.  It has been sanitised quite a lot and almost looks brand new in some areas.  Still I was glad we went.  

   

  

  

I’m not sure what rose this was but it was stunning.  It was like it was lit from within.  The gardens were lovely though in the cisterns I thought ducks were stuck given the sounds.  Turns out to be two frogs.  Not sure if there was a massive argument or one of them was hoping Barry White music would break out.  But one was running and one was chasing!

Roger from Food, Photography, and France was kind enough to email me about Les Halles in the towns.  So I went back today as I didn’t know what market was on and this one came recommended.  It had some amazing cheeses to chose from.  And there was a fresh produce stall.  So thank you Roger!  

We found a bistro to have lunch.  They seriously know how to do cheese plates here.

  
I also spotted pork belly on the menu.  The flavour was really good.  I think they should have slow cooked it more as it was pretty firm though.

 
As you can see, I’m still having loads of fun.  It’s going to be hard going home.  Tomorrow I’m taking an art lesson so I’m excited for that.  Life is good!