Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cotswolds Trip

A couple of weeks ago, Mike and I had the privilege of touring the area known as the Cotswolds. Located about 2 hours west of London, it's a magical place known through history for its sheep and stone. During the Middle Ages, this area was renowned for the excellent wool that was produced by the sheep grazing in the valleys and ravines. Prosperous merchants used the honey-colored stone native to the area to build distinctive manor houses, almshouses, and "wool churches" with their profits. Today the area includes a dozen or so villages that are full of charm and some of the best preserved examples of rural architecture in England. To just introduce you to this area, I'm posting some of the photos that I took in the form of a movie. It was a bit of an experiment this first time. I learned you lose a lot of quality and vibrancy in the process, but at least you'll have a taste of the beauty we experienced in this little movie. I'll post more details in days to come. Hope you enjoy this introduction.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Birthday shopping

Jordan has a birthday coming up next month. While she was visiting with me today, I took her to Toys R Us to see if I could get an idea of something she might really enjoy having as a present. We looked at dolls, tea sets, doll houses, Barbie guitars, Elmo, and she seemed to like all those ideas, but did not mind one bit when I suggested that we had to put them back on the shelf.

BUT, when we got to the motorized vehicles, there was no more sitting in the buggy, because she fell in love with a Barbie Hybrid Escalade. Oh what fun she had, opening the doors, turning it on, playing with all the radio buttons, and driving with her hair flying in the wind!

Then Gigi looked at the price tag! Wow! Too bad it is out of stock, because I just know we would have bought one for her, or two--one for each house, at that price. She did have a back-up second choice however.

A Polaris Ranger! Wouldn't that be fun running up and down the sidewalks, impressing all the neighbor kids as she left them in her dust. So, a quick price check....

Well, on second thought, maybe that's what her other grandparents will want to buy her!!!

I'm also sending you the link to one of my London friend's blog. She captured the photo that I've been wanting to catch, but couldn't ever find a time when I could do it discreetly. It shows one of the schools near our house and the precious little school girls in their uniforms. Each school has its own look, and I think this is one of the cutest. You'll find my friend, Holly's blog here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I interrupt this story of England to bring you an update on Jordan. Bear with me, but of course, we think she just hung the moon. As you might recall, she is my "soon-to-be-two" granddaughter who is picking up new vocabulary left and right, and putting little sentences together that just amaze us. A few weeks ago, she got chatty on the phone, and when she turns it on, she is just like a little water faucet that won't turn off. Forget the English language we all know and love, because she has her own method of communication when she has a lot to say. About halfway through this video she really cranks it up. I tried to do some editing, but there were so few places to cut in, that I had to just post it in its entirety. Hope you get a few chuckles out of it. Poppy, by the way, is my husband.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Highgate Cemetery

Rumor had it that Highgate Cemetery would be a fascinating visit, and it lived up to its reputation. I took the guided tour on a grey Sunday afternoon and marveled at the eerie and breathtaking illusions hidden past the front gates. Highgate Cemetery was one of the first private cemeteries set up in London. In previous times, interment had taken place in church courtyards, but as space began to run out, other arrangements were made. Highgate opened in 1839. The Victorians of this period had a fascination with death and arranged elaborate funeral processions and Gothic memorials.

Highgate became the fashionable place to be buried. The Victorians of the time channeled their grief into elaborate and artistic statuary and memorials. For over 100 years, the cemetery was filled. Through time and well into the twentieth century, as more and more people chose to be cremated, the cemetery declined in popularity and in available space. It was closed in the 1970's and left unattended for years. During that time, it was a place lost in time.

Portions of the cemetery have now been cleared for visitors to view, but you can still sense the presence of time gone by.

Broken statuary lie askew.

Verdant greenery has spread rampant and choked many of the burial areas.

It's a step back in time. Angels faithfully watch over the remains.

Statues are often set upon 3 pedestals, representing the Victorian ideals of Faith, Hope, and Charity.

The Egyptian Avenue is filled with family vaults from long ago.

Symbols abound throughout. A broken column represents a life cut short--too soon. The wreath encircling this column represented resurrection.

An urn was a symbol of death, and partially draped so that the spirit could escape.

An inverted and extinguished torch symbolized the lack of light, or death.

Clasped hands represented a couple buried in death, who would meet again in a heavenly place.

Rest in peace.

And finally, an hourglass reminding us that time flies. Treasure each day.

If you are interested in seeing more, you can find a hauntingly beautiful video about Highgate by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Market color

On a recent Saturday, we headed out to a couple of markets that we enjoy in London. Shown in this photo is the market that is very close to our house. Held only on Saturdays at the Duke of York Square, it primarily features many types of prepared food. It was such a pretty September day, that I grabbed my new camera and away we went. Before this last trip, I finally purchased the new Nikon D3000 that had just come out, got a quick lesson at the store and left town the next day. So far, I'm pretty adept at taking pictures on the "automatic" setting--otherwise known as the default setting for those who know nothing more.

I love the colors of the market, and this Saturday was no exception. Grabbing an almond croissant, we headed out for the day.

Can't go to the market without getting a little bag of nuts. The vendors love to give you samples, and are quite willing to mix a bag of your favorites.

I was surprised to see such beautiful strawberries this late in the season. A bowl of strawberries with cream poured over the top is the English way to indulge.

Fresh vegetables from the farmers nearby.

The color story continues at the Borough Market that I wrote about earlier in this post.

Shades of purple and white--I'm just getting the hang of this new gadget.

And this plant with pink, white and red berries. I'm dying to know what it is. Does anyone know?

And to welcome autumn which knocks at our door, a wagon full of pumpkins.
Happy fall!
Now if I could just find that instruction book for the camera, that I never even opened, I might could try something more advanced. At the present time, it is AWOL, and I have a sinking feeling it might be on a Continental airplane flying all around the country deep in one of those seat pouches, never to be seen again. Oh well.....

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Penshurst Place

These last two weeks in England have been busy ones, first with my sister's stay the first week, and then a visit from my husband's company's board of directors and their wives, and then finally a mini-trip the last few days to the Cotswolds. I have so many things to share with you, and if you'll allow me a little time over these next couple of weeks while I'm back in the States, I hope to share many interesting and beautiful things I've seen. A week ago now, I went to visit Penshurst Place, an historic home in Kent which is the ancestral home of the Sidney family.

This visit was another one of the fun activities that was offered through the American Women's Club here in the city. We sat out by coach (bus) for our day trip. Upon arrival we were amazed at the size and beauty of this incredible stately home. It has passed through the hands of royalty and nobility for over 600 years.

First built in 1341, it was later enlarged in 1552 when King Edward gave the house to Sir William Sidney, who had been a courtier to King Henry VIII. It has passed through this family through time, and is now one of the best preserved examples of a defended manor house in England. We were not allowed to take photos of the furnishings inside, but I can tell you that the interiors were fascinating. An interesting tidbit, the huge Baron's Hall, completed in 1341, has recently been used in the filming of The Other Boleyn Girl, as well as The Princess Bride. Of course, now I'm eager to see these two movies again, to spy the hall we visited.

Visiting the gardens was delightful. Eleven acres of Elizabethan garden design charm you at every turn.

Still blooming in September were the roses-white and pink.

Surprises awaited us as we strolled: apple trees,

fountains with rainbows,

garden rooms cut from hedges,

and at the end of our visit, a group picture of the London gals. Another page to add to our memory books.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thames River Festival

Saturday was such a beautiful day here in London that no one wanted to stay indoors. We headed out to the Thames River that divides London in half for the annual celebration of the Thames Festival. Up and down the river, there were all sorts of festivities, including entertainment, food, boat rides, a night parade, and a fabulous fireworks show that we saw from the terrace on top of our home later that night. We headed to the Southwark Bridge which spans the river at one of its more narrow points. The bridge was closed to motorists so that the Feast on the Bridge could be set up. Spanning the length of the bridge were two long tables, draped with cloths and decorated with flowers.

Food from local area restaurants was featured. You could choose from paella,

meatball sandwiches, grilled burgers,

sausage and onions on baps (buns) or a whole host of a variety of ethnic foods.

Those with a sweet tooth might have been tempted by the bowls of strawberries and cream,

the many flavors of brownies,

or little cakes with a London flair.

There was quite a party atmosphere, with the opportunity to tread grapes for wine,

bob for apples,

or watch apples being pressed into fresh juice.

One of the big hits was the Beast on the Bridge, an iced cake which was 6 meters long.

The children were encouraged to decorate the cupcakes to finish him out.

And if you were lucky enough to stay until 5 PM, you could participate in the slaying of the beast and then help yourself to a taste.

One of my favorite exhibits was the Flower Pot People who had created hats from flower pots.

Caught this photo of my husband trying one on. This doesn't make him a "pot-head" does it?
What a fun way to celebrate the final days of summer, as autumn has been teasing us since then with rain, wind and chillier weather. We're headed away for a couple of days to the beautiful villages in the Cotswolds. Hope we can find a little bit of good weather along the way. I'll post some photos soon.