Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Woodstock

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Happy New Year! I hope you rang in 2013 with friends and family wherever you are in the world. David and I spent the evening in Manhattan listening to the Fab Faux, the excellent band who play Beatles music word for word and note for note, sticking faithfully to the sound, and the same instruments, without bothering to try to look like them. David has been wanting to see them for a long time, so this was our chance and they happened to be playing Rubber Soul, my favorite album.

We’re enjoying our time in NYC so much!

I’ve always wanted to visit legendary Woodstock, and so we did. Driving just over two hours north of New York City, you enter a large hilly region (the Catskills) covered in trees.

We used airbnb to book a charming guest house which turned out to be an old barn on a property which was formerly the home of Lee Marvin. There’s a lovely big old white clapboard house where the host and hostess live, and then there’s this:

Don’t you love it when you arrive at a destination and the place you’ve booked is even better than you’d imagined? Such is the case with Woodstock Guest House.

Bev, our hostess, loves antiques and is part of an antique business across the Hudson river in Rhinebeck. The cottage is decorated one part French chic and one part Americana.

Now let me take you on a little tour:

inside the front door –

bulbs in the window to make you feel like spring is just around the corner –

more greenery to lift the winter spirits –

The light is pretty cold in these photos. That’s because the days were gray until the last, when the sun came out and the weather was shining blue, gold and glorious. I’m a spoiled Los Angelean/Aucklander, and “cold” is not usually below 50 degrees Fahrenheit in my world. It wasn’t always the case, though, and this visit to Woodstock reminded me of my childhood in Christchurch, of my bike rides to school on frosty mornings along Riccarton Road.

Stepping out of this little cottage brought back those much tougher days and with a little, “you can do this, don’t be such a wimp”, I stepped outside and enjoyed myself. Truth be told, cold is invigorating as long as you’re wearing warm clothes.

Here’s Moira the resident Irish wolf hound who bounded over to greet us every morning –

 

I digress. We haven’t finished our tour of the interior.

This is the upstairs where the walls and floor are painted white. I do love this look. It’s so romantic, and I wasn’t surprised to hear that a couple became engaged there before we arrived. Perhaps I should mention the king size bed which is not quite in the picture because I was being my naughty holiday self and hadn’t made it yet…. it’s the most comfortable one I’ve even slept in.

The little writing nook should you choose to add to your diary –

The view out the windows is stunning.  Can you imagine what it’s like in summer when the trees are given back their greenery? That’s a bird feeder hanging from the pole outside the window. Bev told us the local bear likes to bother it.

We loved our stay here. Restaurants we enjoyed were Cucina, a cozy but elegant place situated in an old house, and The Bear Cafe, a Woodstock tradition located beside the creek. Bread Alone was a treat, too. They make the most divine walnut and fruit bread rolls which, with a bowl of turkey chili, solved my hunger problem when we arrived from the city having skipped lunch.

fence behind the shops –

This was Moira’s countenance as we left. Goodbye Moira, we’ll be back!

As I write this, David and I are planning to visit Woodstock again. We love it there.

 

Bath

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

My love of Bath pre-dates Colin Firth. I’d read only one Jane Austen novel the first time I visited and it was not the one set in this beautiful city. Years later, when I saw this version of Persuasion, I was reminded of how much in love with it I’d been back when I was camping in a VW Kombi and making a flying (no, make that chugging) tour of England and Scotland. On this visit, I had a few days explore.

The rain continued. Our hosts at Bloomfield House seemed surprised that we made it through the puddles. There had been havoc in the train system, and many of the roads were blocked.

On our first day we went looking for a Jane Austen museum, but beware, there is not one. There is a Jane Austen Centre, privately run, not the same thing at all. Posters of Colin Firth abound, and the nice ladies at the ticket booth wear droopy velvet jackets and ill-fitting bonnets. We decided to take ourselves on a walk along Royal Crescent, the famous row of grand houses where Persuasion was set, and which was used as a location for  The Duchess.

When Jane lived in Bath from 1801 to 1805 it was relatively new, having been completed in 1774.

I was intrigued by this house on the Crescent. Who dresses their servants in olive green satin waistcoats, I thought, until I realized that it’s a small hotel.

The charm is in the simple details, isn’t it?

On the street, a restored Morris Minor complete with luggage rack. I have a soft spot for these cars. They’re solid and reliable and stylish in a nerdy way. A cream one was my first car.

It pays to encourage your children to love good food.

When mine were growing up I confess, I did resort to McDonalds if someone in the back seat was ravenous. They tease me about it now, but I also cooked for them most nights. These days I’m proud to say that they are both keen cooks, far more accomplished than me and I benefit because they take me to really good places to eat.

So, one stop on our culinary tour of Bath was Sam’s Kitchen, which serves locally grown delicious food, conversation, music and and really good coffee.

Here’s Sam himself (it was Movember).

On the counter a recipe book caught my eye. It was co-written by Sam’s partner Emma, who turned out to be the beautiful mystery woman sitting on a sofa tapping away at her computer. Of course I bought a copy and asked Emma to sign it. I’ve been cooking from it  constantly since I arrived in Brooklyn. Highly recommended:  Emma’s black pepper curry (page 270) and swiss chard with pinenuts, raisins and cinnamon (page 204).

The author.

Sam’s Kitchen is on Walcot Street, which is lined with artisan and independent businesses, and buildings like this old corn exchange.

Also on Walcot Street is Meticulous Ink where they make hand printed stationery. A small gold leather address book came away with me just because I still prefer to keep my contacts in a book.

Here’s Athena, who own the business with her partner Charlie.

And on to the  Roman baths, a fascinating place where you learn about details of Roman life in Britain. My favorite artifacts are the notes written by people who lost their possessions at the baths, including a cloak and in one instance, a slave!

In the meantime it rained and the Avon swelled to the point where the riverside walkways were underwater.

I had to walk across this bridge to look through the lovely shops located along it. What a magical location.

We  reluctantly left Bath (and with it, Pete & Polly), and India and I flew to New York, where I’m now staying in Brooklyn, knitting when I have time, and finding all manner of wonderful things which I will begin to write about next time.

Happy holidays!

xxMel

out and about in southern England

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

What can I say? It rained, mostly. England was a having week of storms and it was my luck to be there sight-seeing. It was wonderful, though, despite a chest cough and lots of huge puddles of unknown depth that caused us to take detours.

Leaving London, our first stop was the New Forest, where I’d heard about the free range ponies and was excited to see some. The rain meant that we couldn’t go walking, so we stayed cozy in our inn, The Pig in the Forest. What a beautiful, rambling place, exquisite in every way.

Here’s one of the sitting rooms where we sat and played scrabble before dinner. Each sitting room had two fireplaces  around which guests gathered in individual parties, making it quite a intimate experience. I loved the bookshelf wallpaper.

and the hand printed wallpaper at the front desk.

Here’s more of the sitting rooms. I love the English style when it’s not too chintzy. My favorite detail was the floorboards. Wide and rustic but not so much that you might stub your toe.

The outdoors beckoned but it was raining mostly. Note to self: next trip to England, bring a raincoat.

The hotel describes itself as “a restaurant with rooms”. It’s all about the walled kitchen garden, which you can visit, and they serve entirely local meats and produce. Here’s the dining room in the morning, ready for breakfast.

with hand painted floor tiles, locally made.

Regretfully, we spent just one night there.

Next time I’ll spend a whole weekend so I can ramble about in the forest and talk to the ponies.

In the morning, off we went to the south coast and Lulworth Cove, where I half expected to meet some pirates.

The road down to the cove was so tiny that once we’d driven down, there was no place to turn around and Pete had to back the car back up, no easy feat in the rain, with three women’s luggage blocking the rear window of the station wagon.

The stream next to the road, where the ducks were happy.

 

A few miles on from Lulworth is this spectacular place.

You can walk across the green hills, following the coast. I have to say, I respect the English so much for the care they take to protect their precious countryside. These hills were remarkably free of buildings.

Here we are, me and my family, at Durdle Door.

Next stop Bath, my favorite town.