Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Times They are a' Changin'

I've known this day was coming for months, but it still isn't easy saying good bye to our London "home away from home" here in Chelsea. Our landlord has sold our house, and we're spending our last night here. We've lived the last 4 and a half years on Flood Street as we've made our way back and forth between our home in Houston and here.

Our home on the corner was previously a wine shop with flats above it that some developers had bought and redone into our townhouse. When they couldn't sell it as quickly as they liked, they decided just as we were house looking, that they would lease it, and so a perfect match was made.

It's been a peaceful neighborhood away from the bustle of the busy streets on each end,

and we were happy when my son Jason and his wife, Cristen, joined us 2 years ago to share our home while he also worked here in London. That meant we had family in both places, Houston and London.

We loved having a front door opening up to the plaza of Christ Church and their school--they made great neighbors!

Nothing was sweeter than hearing the children's voices who gathered outside our door each day for the start of their school day.

We enjoyed sitting up on our terrace when weather permitted (maybe a few days each year-ha!)

and the view below and around was always interesting. People always coming and going.

I'll miss so many things about our Flood Street house and the neighborhood--but maybe not the 4 flights of stairs, although I must say it was helpful in staying toned!

I'll miss our local flower vendor,

the Anthropologie store on the corner where Cristen walks to work,

the Saturday market at the Duke of York square,

the Royal Chelsea Hospital just around the corner,

the home of those infamous Chelsea Pensioners,

who are always so charming when you meet them on the streets.

Our local pub,

and Zianni's Italian restaurant just minutes from our front door will be sorely missed,

as well as passing through the beautiful gardens of the St. Luke's church on my way to the South Kensington tube stop. It's always beautiful no matter what season of the year.

I've learned to expect the unexpected on our street,

and we'll have a difficult time not being close to the Thames River and Battersea Park

which offered us a quick waterside view just a couple of minutes from our doorstep.

And so as we prepare to spend our final night here, I leave you with the photo of the twinkling Albert Bridge that we've enjoyed over the last 4 years. We'll cherish our Flood Street memories and carry them with us always.

So what's the next chapter of our lives going to be like?

Stick around to the next blog post and I'll be sure and share!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Althorp Family Estate

I had the exciting opportunity to attend a literary festival for the very first time, where almost 30 authors had gathered to share their insights and perspectives on the books they had written. What made this festival extra special was the locale--the Althorp Family Estate, home of Earl Spencer, known around the world as the brother of Princess Diana.

Located in Northamptonshire, England, the ancestral estate to the Spencer family since 1508

 is now the home of Earl and Countess Spencer and six children.

The stable block is strikingly different in sandstone, Italian in flavor,

and looks over some of the 14,000 acres that make up the country estate.

Within the estate are farms, woodlands, cottages, and villages.

Once inside, our group was invited to have tea in the Picture Gallery

where Lord Spencer greeted us graciously. Educated in Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford, he was working as a correspondent for NBC news in America when his father died, and he was called back to England

to become the ninth earl and head of the family. He was very outgoing, kind and well-spoken, and when he discussed his latest book, we were charmed by his stories.

Although we were not allowed to tour the entire house with its impressive collection of art, paintings, furniture and china, we did get to see the grand Saloon,

as well as the State Dining Room, modeled after the dining room in Buckingham Palace,

and the beautiful staircase graced by Diana's and Charles's portraits.

Diana's presence is felt throughout the home where she grew up,

and she is buried on the grounds of the Althorp Park.

Her body rests today on an island in the middle of a lake called Round Oval where stands a single urn. No visitors are allowed on the island,

but we could pay our respects to her at the shrine just beside the lake,

where her silhouette is a poignant reminder of what a unique and beautiful woman she was.

Her very words remain as a testimony to her generous spirit, which is being carried out today by her two sons, Princes William and Harry.

Just as touching are the words of her brother, Earl Spencer, which were spoken at her funeral in September of 1997.

 Her beauty will never be extinguished from our minds.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Beating Retreat

The pomp and circumstance continues, my friends, with the annual Beating Retreat held at the Horse Guards Paradent this past week. It has its origins in early chivalry when beating the retreat sounded the halt to the day's fighting.

Today it's an amazing pageant of over 300 musicians, drummers and pipers showing great precision

and flair as they carry out the Ceremony.

The pipers from the Irish guards and the London Regiment

were some of my favorites.

The War Horse from the musical of the same name

trotted into the arena, amazing us as before with its semblance of reality.

Special guests this year were the Royal Cavalry of Oman.

It was founded in 1974 by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bi Said

to revive the country's equestrian tradition. The pipers played

and the Omani horsemen

and women riders

added a new element of color

to the spectacle. 

The finale of Tchailowsky's 1812 Overture was highlighted by the shooting of cannons

and the gun salute by the Moscow Militia,

all ending with a crescendo of fireworks to cap off another night of pageantry.