Monday, April 28, 2014

Florals

That's a real catchy title now isn't it? NOT!

Here's the deal--I am finally mending, however, I'm definitely not up to speed just yet, so today will be a simple post of flowers. Except this one that cried out to be shown:
Adorable little Scottie dogs as seen in Scotland!! Their owner was nearby....

Every visit to the UK brings new flower sightings, and this one was no exception. Our previous visits have been in either the Summer or Fall, so being there in the Spring was a new treat. Floridians are particularly captivated by Spring bulbs, not just because they are gorgeous, but because we cannot grow them successfully because we have no winter to chill the bulbs. The daffodils growing everywhere were almost like wildflowers in their profusion. I was immediately smitten!
 Then too, the cherry trees were beginning to bloom in private and
public gardens:
I have not the foggiest notion of what these flowers are, but there's no question about their vibrance!
In Edinburgh, the gloominess would have been overwhelming without the shock of yellow,
and of course polka dots help! A girl after my own heart. :)

Princes Street Gardens were magnificent with big beds looking like this:
Talk about a riot of color! Primroses perhaps?

I made a short trip around the Royal Botanic Gardens as I told you before, but what I didn't mention is the massive rhododendron bushes, a cousin of our azalea bushes.
There were so many shades of pink, and such a profusion of blooms, it was incredible.
It was only a shame it was chilly and wet!

York, too, was filled with daffodils, growing all along the city walls,
as well as in the parks.
Every time I see a mass of purple flowers I can't help but think of our niece Laura, a die hard purple lover. In York I saw this lovely display:
Jane has a gorgeous garden behind their home with the tulips just showing their pretty faces.
Since our return I've heard that the tulips have gone mad with more than 100 blooms coming up! The property surrounding Langar Hall is quite peaceful with a stream running through the green fields. Up to then I'd seen primarily yellow daffodils, which are fantastic, but what do you think of these white ones?
Pretty special, right?

Walking the Flude's neighborhood streets, I saw some pretty darn beautiful displays, including this one just down from them:
How about this gorgeous garden?
Textures and colors that can't be beat!

By the time we returned to London, the tulips were out in full force! Walking through Hyde Park, the space in front of the restroom was fabulous!
Walking by this field, Bruce asked, "do you need to stop and take a picture of that?" Don't mind if I do, however, sadly it didn't turn out so well. By now it was beginning to rain harder!
The flower beds in front of Buckingham Palace quite literally took your breath away...
I know, it looks impossible for anything to be so beautiful, right? When last we saw these beds, during a summer visit they were chock full of red geraniums.
They do know a thing or two about gardening!

Massive plantings of red tulips were adjacent to this horse sculpture in Hyde Park, which is in honor of animals used in war time.
I could go on and on, and it seems as if I have! One final beauty--as we walked around the streets adjacent to our Mayfair hotel, we saw this lovely place with tulips planted all the way around.
My friend Bev wonders what she should see during a two day visit to London, and all I can say for sure is, don't miss the flowers because they are something to behold.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Today Might Just Be the Day...

...that my fever finally breaks for good.

The week began promising, with lovely weather, and an early morning bike ride for me on Monday. Every now and again I seem to get a feeling, and that days hunch was one of those--perhaps I'll see the eagle, even though it has been months. Sure enough, pulling up to the house on the lake where I've spotted him, (or her?), I was rewarded. It's just too bad the pine tree is probably 100 feet or so tall! In any case, I waited to see what would happen. Before long, he took off.
Before leaving the house I noticed I was having a dry cough, something I attributed to sinus drainage or allergies. Not that that is common for me, but what else could it be?

I also saw a pretty cardinal on a pile of branches:
As well this is the time of the year when the African Irises are at their finest.
I did my five miles, coughing all the way.

I was to meet the ladies for bridge at 12, so after doing a few things around the house, I drove over to Winter Park. While we played, I kept coughing, apologizing several times. Finally I told them I needed to leave as I could not hold the coughs in.

Finally getting home around 4:30 in the afternoon, I told Bruce I was just not feeling well. About an hour later I wondered if something was wrong, so I dug out the thermometer and sure enough I had a low grade fever, nothing major, 99.6, just enough to make me feel not myself. I felt so bad that I went to bed at 7, sleeping for the next twelve hours!

And the truth is, I've been in bed pretty much all week, getting up again today for the morning hoping for the best. When I haven't been either sleeping, coughing, or blowing my nose, I've been reading, as in three books. Yep, that's right. I haven't done that in a long time for sure!

There was a television show that I never watched, only heard about, " American Horror Story", or something like that. I kept thinking that would have been an apt title for "The Grapes of Wrath." Rarely do I re-read books, however, I've been on a John Steinbeck kick of late, and that, of course, is the penultimate JS book. I pity poor English teachers trying to teach the novel these days as it is dense with both plot, characterization, imagery, and philosophy. I cannot picture kids paying that close of attention--I hope I am wrong. I'd finished "Of Mice and Men" the previous week, and I'll say this much, John Steinbeck knew how to stick an ending! Oh my!

I also read "The Reluctant Restaurateur," a book Ray and Jane purchased for me following the delicious luncheon we enjoyed at Langar Hall. Eventually,  when I'm up to it, I'll tell you more about that delightful experience.

Finally I finished "Nine Inches," by Tom Perrotta, a wickedly good book of short stories. He, of "Election" fame.

Throughout the week my fever has gone as high as 101.6 to a low of 99.6, pretty much just enough to know things are not right with your body. So, it seems as if my stomach now wants to get into the sick action--back to bed I go.

Maybe, if I'm lucky, tomorrow might just be the day...


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Our Time in London

In total we spent eight days in London, moving around the city with locals as our guides. Jeremy, Matt and Tom's wedding photographer, took 2,000 images in one afternoon and evening!!!! That's about how many I took over the 14 days of our trip, thus, there are lots to share.

Warning--photo overload commencing!!

Our first hotel was in the Russell Square area of London, home to the British Library, and other notable places. That said, our first stop was Mabel's, a pub around the corner from the hotel. If you are interested we stayed in Studios2Let. On this trip Bruce was bound and determined to try as many British ales as he could!
The pub was cozy as can be, with comfortable chairs ,and a FIRE in the fireplace!

Before meeting up with Matt on Thursday, we roamed around the neighborhood, cutting through Tavistock Square on our way to the British Library. The daffodils were gorgeous!
Although most of the trees were still bare, there were a few cherry trees just beginning to show their colors. Walking up to the British Library we came upon a photo shoot in the midst of some remodeling.
While there we saw a terrific philatelic exhibit--one of the largest collections of stamps in the world. Having been a stamp collector in his youth, this was of particular interest to Bruce. We roamed the streets, sticking our head into one of the huge churches you see everywhere.
The bright red doors leading into this gorgeous space were at least 20 feet tall! Adjacent to the church I saw this fantastic sculpture:
Matt met us at the apartment taking us through Russell Square, and some side streets to our destination, The Phoenix Theater to see "Once". I'd booked the tickets way in advance, and because it was a matinee, or so we think, we got an upgrade to seats that were so close it was unbelievable! To say that I loved the play is putting it mildly. A definite highlight from the trip. I'd say more, but then you'd have to read more, and no doubt I would lose you!
If you've ever wondered what the Google London headquarters looks like, well I'm here to show you.
From there we headed to East London for a delicious meal cooked by Tom in their flat.
I am proud to say that we navigated the tube home without incident. :)

Friday we headed back in the same direction as the theater, and went to the British Museum, where we saw more than I can recount. The highlight for me was the clock rooms--there is a lot more to clocks than you can imagine.
The courtyard is flat out gorgeous!
Unlike our trip to London ten years ago, this time ice is plentiful wherever you go. The British Museum is kind enough to set this out for visitors.
This is a big deal to me as I love my ice!

Now it was time to move over to the wedding hotel, the Ibis in Whitechapel. I've told you all about how fantastic every detail was about the wedding, so I'll skip that today instead, I'll tell you what we did when we were not making merry with the group. We roamed around, walking to the Gherkin, one of Bruce's favorite buildings in London.
It really is fantastic--we learned later that Matt has been to a dinner in the top! Lucky guy! I roamed around the hotel looking for street art ,which is plentiful in East London.
Whitechapel is adjacent to Spitafields, the location of Matt's office. We roamed around the Spitafields market, which was wonderful, and if you're wondering, goes on most days.
There was everything imaginable for sale! Spitafields, the home in E. London of silk weavers for centuries, is also known for Christ Church, built between 1714-1729. The spire stands tall which for folks like us was a bonus--we used it to navigate our way back to the hotel after roaming along Brick Lane. Note the blue sky--wedding day, mind you, it would not return for many, many days!
It must have been Sunday evening that Tom took us down to the docks. I can't tell you much more than that because I've already forgotten, but it was yet another part of London we'd never seen before.
As I've mentioned before, London is a changing city with skyscrapers going up everywhere dotting the London skyline. The new Shard is seen amongst the old buildings. You may recall Tom was kind enough to take us up to the top during our October visit.  We came out on the other side of Tower Bridge,
which on this side of the Thames is adjacent to the Tower of London. Now that is a fantastic place to visit!
You can just see the skyscrapers above the Tower wall. The large one on the left is the one that caused a car to melt, or something like that, because the sun caused such a strong reflection. Currently there is black shade cloth attached, until I suppose, they think of something else to do! The meager sun sets over the Thames.
We walked along the back side of the Tower, giving me my first glimpse of the lions....
After our first meal at Wagamama, the group (Ray, Jane, Ollie and Nick) made our way back to the hotel for a good night's sleep before our morning train to Scotland.

Returning to London the following Sunday night, we were led by Tom to our last hotel in Mayfair.
While looking to use some Marriott hotel points, Matt figured why not stay on Park Lane for free. We learned from Tom that in British Monopoly, Park Lane is the most expensive real estate, and furthermore he added, what do you do when you purchase property in Monopoly? Why, you put hotels on it! Like the Dorchester just down the street:
According to their website, it is the "place to be" while in London. I did not check the rates! So, we've established Mayfair is a super wealthy area of London, and one need look no further than the cars parked along the streets. A Bentley or two on every block!
As we walked from the train station through Mayfair I began noticing a really smart trend, brick buildings painted dark charcoal. Oh yeah--a Lamborghini thrown in for good measure.
As well, it is home to a lot of the foreign embassies, including our own, just around the corner from the hotel.
Then too, the shop windows are show stoppers. This man is already spot on with the double breasted look.
You just knew I could not resist taking a photograph of this adorable shop:
The only problem about staying in a ritzy area is that the restaurant prices reflect that. We walked quite a few blocks before finding this place for dinner:
Our mission for Monday was a visit to the Churchill War Rooms. The walk was through Hyde Park, St. James Park, and through Green Park. I may have those last two reversed, but in any case they were all gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. And what should we come across after leaving the third park? Why, the Beefeaters of course.
I was fully expecting them to break into "God Save the Queen", or something like that. Instead they played pop music!

Finally we made it. I could go on and on about the exhibits--everything was done in such excellent fashion.
You really have to see it to appreciate the depth and breadth of the museum. I suppose that goes for most museums, so duh! Anyway, we could have stayed here all day long, but Matt was meeting us for the afternoon. It was rainy--no surprise there, but after lunch, we walked across the street to the National Portrait Gallery. Because this is the 100 year anniversary of WWI, a room was set aside for paintings depicting the people involved. Look how gigantic this John Singer Sargent is!!
From there we roamed through Leicester Square, Chinatown, Trafalgar Square, and other places I can't even remember!
Look at the adorable pastries in one of the windows!
Returning from our amazing trip to Windsor Tuesday, we left the train station walking until we arrived at Southbank, home to the London Eye. One of the great things about being with a local is going places you would never have access to including this club at Southbank Center where we met Tom after work.
A very nice, peaceful spot about five floors up from the Thames. Then it was dinner at Giraffe, and time to part, but not before we walked along the Thames when I took this:
and we took a brand new bus with Matt and Tom back to our hotel. :(

Wouldn't you know it? The following morning it was sunny, and I mean big time sunny. So much so they set the chairs out in Hyde Park which was directly across the street from our hotel.
So not fair!

I hope you've enjoyed this rather lengthy (!!!) travelogue, we sure enjoyed experiencing it!

Long Beach, CA