Thursday, July 29, 2010

Queen's Garden Party

I promised you in my last post some more about the annual Queen's Garden Party. I hope I did not give you false hope that I was one of the lucky invitees this year, but I do know someone who went, does that  count? Each summer, the Queen hosts three garden parties in London, and one in Edinburgh.

About 8,000 guests attend each one, thus the long lines that you see in these photos as they wrapped around the grounds of the palace. Various national organizations are given the opportunity to submit the names of people who have made contributions in their walks of life. It thus becomes a way to honor the achievements of a large cross section of the community.

The garden parties last from 4-6 in the afternoon, and begin when the queen arrives at 4 with the band marking her official arrival. She is accompanied at each party by other members of the royal family. Tea, coffee, juice, sandwiches and cakes are served, and I hear from an inside source that little ice creams were also served late in the afternoon.

What to wear, you wonder, should your invitation arrive on your doorstep? Ladies usually are in afternoon dress,

while gentleman wear "morning dress or lounge suits."

 Morning dress would require a tailcoat, a waist coat (vest), and often striped trousers, while lounge suits (not to be confused with leisure suits) would indicate a suit and tie. Top hats are often worn with morning dress.

Most ladies would choose to wear a hat or a fascinator, which is a delicate head ornament, such as the one above, that  might have feathers, flowers or beads on it.  I thought this one was quite interesting, because it was hard to tell where the feathers stopped and where the hair started. Imagine how distracting that would be to the queen when she looked you in the eye!

Not all gentleman wore pants however, some preferring a looser fit.

Security is tight, as you can imagine--no party crashers allowed here,

and I think they're pretty serious about you coming in only through the front door!

Here's a short video that the Royals have made so that we commoners will know what we can expect, when and if that illusive invitation arrives on our own doorstep. Sigh.... Maybe next year! 
A second click will enable you to watch in on YouTube. Enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summertime in London

For the past couple of years, I've heard over and over from Londoners, how we really didn't even have a summer. This rings true, because for the last two summers I've been here, the weather was more often than not, very cool and rainy. Not this summer though. London has enjoyed some of the driest and warmest weather in recent years. Some days have been pretty uncomfortable, since most homes do not have air conditioning, and the green spaces are not very green any more, but it has been nice to have a real summer for a change. During the weeks I spent in London this year, the umbrella was rarely opened. Instead the sunglasses got a lot of use.

It was fun to spot the signs of summer around town. A mobile ice cream truck serving free treats on Sloane Square one evening to celebrate the opening of the new Topshop on Knightbsbridge.

It was not uncommon to see children stripping down to enjoy the fountains at Duke of York Square,

Or the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park.

Workmen caught naps wherever they could

 trying to find a cool breeze in the heat of the day.

A perfect time to have dinner on our rooftop terrace with visitors from the States.

People coming and going, moving in and moving out.

Little girls in summer school uniforms 

say good bye as the end of the school year came to a close.

Lazy afternoons on Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park.

And the excitement of the Queen's Garden Party before she heads off on summer holiday. Stay tuned for more of this scene in a blog coming your way soon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pillars of the Earth

For those of you in the US who love medieval stories of England, set your TV's to record on Friday night, July 23rd, the opening of the 8 part mini-series Pillars of the Earth. Based on the epic novel of the same name written by Ken Follett, the story tells the tale of the building of a cathedral in 12th century England, amidst religious strife, political struggles, and best of all, love.

If you have not read the book, I highly recommend it, as did Oprah sometime back when it became one of her favorites. She tells more about the filming of the series and interviews on her website. The book is a page turner, and you'll be surprised how much you learn as you are caught up in the storyline. You would have to be super human to read the book before tomorrow, because it is quite the epic novel, but by all means if you have the channel Starz, record it to watch at some point. And if you do have Starz and you do record it, would you invite me over to see it, because, alas, I do not have it.

For those of you in Britain, hang on, because Channel 4 has acquired the broadcast rights and will air it sometime later in 2010. You can find out more about the storyline and the filming process here.

Here's the trailer, and as always, if you click once and then another time it will go to YouTube where you can see it full screen. Enjoy, and let me know if you watch it. I'm still here in London watching current history unfold!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

French Color Makes Me Smile

I bet it would be hard to find a market more colorful than the Cours Saleya in Old Town Nice, France. Held 6 days of the week, it draws locals and tourists alike for its local products.

Soaps of every color and fragrance, including lavender

which is sold by the scoop.

I can't imagine a spice you would want that's not there.

Fresh vegetables abound

in all vibrant colors,


zucchini blossoms,

all the sun dried tomatoes you could ever want,

fresh garlic,

and "cœur de bœuf" tomatoes--not to be confused with our beefsteak tomatoes in the US.

Are you salivating yet?  How about these cherries,


or the sweetest strawberries I've ever tasted from the region of Carpentras.

What's a market without your bread delivery?

And I leave you today with a beautiful sunflower from the market and wishes for a summer full of color.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hillside Villages

While we were staying in Nice, France, we decided to leave the beach behind one day to climb into the hills.

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
Our first stop was in the town of Eze, often referred to as the "eagle's nest," because of its location 1400 feet above the Mediterranean Sea.

First occupied by the Romans in 2000 BC, today it is a scenic town full of picturesque passageways, shops, home and a couple of very famous hotels, the Château de la Chèvre d'or and the Château d'Eze.

How would you like making deliveries all the way to the top? In the past donkeys were the "FedEx" means of delivery, but alas today, that would probably be animal abuse, so admirable men take up the challenge.

The oldest building in the village is the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix which dates back to 1306.

After a couple of delightful hours there, we moved on to what has always been one of my favorite spots in France--the village of St. Paul de Vence.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Escaping to the French Riviera

In honor of Bastille Day, the day that is recognized as the kick-off to the French Revolution, I give you a taste of France. The only allusion I found in London to this infamous day was this couple of can-can dancers at a local pastry shop.

However, a couple of weeks ago, we escaped south---to the Côte d'Azur, or the Azure Coast as the French call it. You will thank me for carefully editing out the topless bathers, because believe me, they were not a pretty sight!

The French weren't in a very happy mood as you can tell from the fine print on this sign. In their opinion, France had left the World Cup competition much too early.

The sun was inviting,

and the views from the hills were glorious.

I made sure we did the obligatory cultural visits in between beach time. We visited the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which is the largest Russian Orthodox church outside Russia.

 It was given to the country on behalf of the many Russians living in the French Riviera, by Tsar Nicholas II shortly before he was executed by his own people.

There is quite a disparity between the architecture of the Old City,

and buildings like these found in the northern part of Nice, in the area where Queen Victoria and other British citizens would often visit.

Plenty of opportunities to dine al fresco, near the water,

and at the foot of a church. The Restaurant du Gesù, Jesus's restaurant...

had some of the most heavenly Italian
food we've eaten in a very long time.

We spent one morning touring the Villa Rothschild, an incredible mansion owned by the European banking family, the Rothschilds...

along with its world renowned gardens.

A quick jaunt over to Monaco to gawk at the casino,

and the views over the harbour, as we each picked out our own yachts. Ah, the lifestyles of the rich and famous. More about that on my daughter-in-law's blog with her point of view.

Stay tuned for more scenes from the south of France. Too much beauty for just one post. Vive la France!