London Diary – Towns on Thames

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Going on 3rd year in London, it has been perfectly fine without owning a car. Now we have one we’ve been surveying commuting options along Thames. Maybe I’ll find a gorgeous place in a lovely little village that I can afford and it is not too far for my husband to commute to work. Those criteria have to be met for the move to be worthwhile. One can always dream. Over the past weekend, we covered more ground than we otherwise could have.

To the west, Taplow and Marlow. While Taplow has a pretty traditional village center, Marlow has a vibrant high street, both have pretty riverfronts. Maidenhead right across Taplow is very pretty on the river too.

To the west, Erith, Gravesend, Rochester and Chatham. Erith is quickly ruled out. Gravesend has an unsavory name and wasn’t on the list, but we stumbled across it and found it an impressive little town. Another interesting discovery in Gravesend, Pocahontas is buried at its St Gorge’s Church. Heading towards Chatham, we were stopped by Rochester’s imposing riverside castle and its grand cathedral. Chatham might be Rochester’s quieter neighbour, it too has some interesting points, Marina, Historic dock yard, riverside distillery and Chatham Naval Memorial where there is a sweeping view of the hilly towns.

Whatever happens, it certainly has been fun looking.

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London Diary – Mayfield Lavendar

Jul 28, 2018

Somehow I had thought lavender field is exclusively French. But I found my first lavender field right here in Banstead, Surrey, England.

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London Diary – Wimbledon is Fun

Jul 7, 2018

London is best in summer and Pimms never tastes better. Yesterday we visited the famous Wimbledon Championship for the first time. It is one of a kind experience, lively atmosphere and great fun even if you are not mad about tennis (or rather Lawn Tennis as it should be properly called). To better experience it, prepare to make it a full day event. In fact, you can be there literally sun up to sun down.

Here are the multiple ways to get into Wimbledon Championship: buy reasonably priced tickets through pubic ballots the year before, or pay loads for debenture, ie the right to buy best seats in Center Court or Court No. 1, or vie for limited number of seats during the tournament for upwards £1000 each, or join the majority of visitors and do the queue on the day. See the official website for details, http://www.wimbledon.com/index.html.

I might try the ballots for next year’s tournament but this time around, the queue is the opted option. The ground opens at 10:30am, the official queue guide recommends visitors to arrive a few hours before, but some start camping the night before. We arrived fashionably late around 12:30pm, not knowing we’d be able to get in or not, but just about an hour and half later, we entered the complex, having paid £25 each for ground admission.

The interesting thing is, although Center Court and Court No. 1 to 3 require tickets, other courts are first come first serve. The most popular watching area seems to be Aorangi Terrace on Henmen Hill. Crowd gathers to watch on large TV screen match live that plays out at Center Court close by, enjoying fabulous view of London’s skyline in the distance, picnic and bubblies.

We joined in the fun, soaking in the joviality and witnessing a few corks popped into the air. Shortly after, the match between Britain’s Kyle Edmund and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic started and we stayed for the entire game. Since the match coincided with soccer world cup game between England and Sweden, there in between the tennis match cheers and updates for the soccer game spread around. We didn’t leave until almost 9pm.

 

 

 

London Diary – Chinese New Year of Dog 2018!

Feb 18, 2018

It is truly inspiring to see London embraces Chinese New Year with gusto, what a fantastic celebration today, certainly living up to its reputation of being the largest outside China. The area between Chinatown, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square was turned into car free zone and was packed with activities. Trafalgar Square was once again the centre stage for the traditional Flying Lions, Dragon dance, and other stunning performances, singing, dancing, acrobats and magic shows that we missed the last time. China Town was as expected the busiest of the year. While having dinner at Joy King Lau, a couple of lions paid a visit, prancing and frolicking. Delicious and auspicious!

 

 

 

London Diary – Winter Wander with Walk London 2018!

Feb 3, 2018

Cold and rainy, far less than an ideal day for Winter Wander. Getting up late and missing the group nearly put a stop to it. But we braved it and completed the mission on our own, walking along Regent Canal from Islington to Hackney Wick. Not the prettiest section of the canal. Still quite interesting to see and surely stretched our legs well. Favorite was Victoria Park and a nice break at The Crown right by the park.

Another wander coming up tomorrow opposite side of town. Hoping for better weather.

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Feb 4, 2018

Weather was much improved today. Winter Wander #2, Grand Union Canal from Boston Manor to Greenford, which was a historically important canal linking London and Birmingham. The best part was the last stop, Osterley House, beautiful house and park. Alas we were too late to do a proper visit. We have to go back someday.

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London Diary – Christmas Markets and Beethoven!

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November 2017

Going to Germany for the first time and for its legendary Christmas Markets. Where to was the question. Berlin, Dresden, Munich or Cologne, the list goes on. It however didn’t take long for me to decide on Cologne for its proximity to Bonn, birthplace of Beethoven.

Cologne

The prettiest part of Cologne is the river front near Cologne Cathedral. The view from both side are pleasant.

Cologne Cathedral is probably the largest cathedral I’ve seen apart from St Peter’s In Vatican. It is quite magnificent if you can see past its shockingly blackened exterior. I did wish it had been cleaned.

Weather was grey the majority of the time, cold in low 30s, and grew even colder on the last day when light snow turned into continuous light rain.

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Luckily the Christmas Markets are truly phenomenal and there are many of them. We visited Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral, Old Market Christmas Market at Cologne City Hall, St Nicholas Village, Angel’s Christmas Market at Neumarkt, Harbor Christmas Market at Cologne Chocolate Museum overlooking Rhone River, and Stardtgarten Christmas Market in Belgian Quarter.

Each has its own theme in decorations and my favorite is St Nicholas. While there is some variation, you find similar treats and folksy crafts at them all. We did a little shopping and lots tasting of local delicacy, to name a few, Bratwurst, Currywurst, Reibekuchen – a delicious potato pancake, and Gluhwein everywhere, which is severed in a mug or glass uniquely designed for that specific market.

The river side Chocolate Museum is also a fun place to visit. Its café has nice view and lots chocolaty treats.

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Bonn

Beethoven is one of my two top favorite composers and it was a touching and inspiring experience visiting the house where he was born, which is now an interesting museum. Among others, you can see the clunky hearing aids he used, which did not work well at all. What a genius and truly my hero, despite the loss of his hearing, he continued to create great music.

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And of course, there is a Christmas Market in Bonn too, located at Münsterplatz Square, not far from the house and there is a grand bronze statue of Beethoven at opposite side of Bonn Cathedral.

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London Diary – Cornwall – where a Legend is born!

 

Oct, 2017

4th time to Cornwall, loooved it as usual, despite the weather. Included in this visit, Padstow, a charming, sophisticated waterfront town, Port Issac, a beautiful seaside town and yes Doc Martin’s Portwenn, and Tintagel, breathtaking sea view made magical with its link to Arthurian legend.

Padstow

First day at Padstow weather was stormy at sea, windy and rainy on land. We drove around and explored anyway. Looking for Bedruthan Steps, we ended up at Beach Head Bunk House, where we got a glimpse of the violently surging waves in the distance. Next we stumbled across Trevone Beach where there is a parking lot with view to the sea and beach. We sat inside the car and watched the waves slashing against the rocks, an awe inspiring scene.

I chose to stay at Padstow mainly b/c of Metrolepole, a sister hotel to Fowey Hotel that I liked very much. Having not giving much thought to the town itself, it was a nice surprise when Padstow turned out to be so much more than expected, a lively and lovely town with finishing port. Among a number of restaurants you might come across multiple places owned by Rick Stein, a fancy seafood restaurant, a cafe, and a casual seafood place, which was our favorite, superb seafood in casual setting.

Prideaux Place was a most unexpected and happy discovery, what a stunningly beautiful 500 year old house with its Gothic arches and castellation. It immediately reminded me of Thornfield of Jane Eyre.

Alas, the house was closed to visitors for the year. With a lucky twist of event that worked out in our favor, and thanks to Sue, the sprightly and kindly 80 year old house keeper, and Carmen, our guide, we got a tour of the house. Photos were not allowed inside, but I was given a few exceptions. The mediaeval great hall has a ceiling covered in exquisite carving. It was concealed by a faux ceiling for no one knows how long until the current owner Peter Prideaux-Brune discovered it as a boy climbing around inside the house. Making the visit more interesting, we met Elizabeth Prideaux Brune and learnt of the family’s connection to Jane Austen. Great grandmother of the current owner Peter Prideaux Brune was JA’s great niece.

An architectural gem, fascinating history and stories to go with it. Don’t miss it if you are in the area. Here is the link to its website: http://prideauxplace.co.uk/

 

 

Port Issac

Thanks to Doc Martin, Port Issac is better known to the world now. A lovely coastal town surrounded by stunning views, it certainly deserves the attention. The shop featured as Mrs Tishel’s Pharmacy is in real life a candy shop and sells yummy fudges. Chatting with the young woman at the till, I learnt that the shops is turned into Mrs. Tishel’s pharmacy for several weeks for filming and then resumes its nornal life afterwards. Also according to her, season 9 has been booked, filming will start in 2018 and air in 2019. Season 8 is being shown right now on ITV in UK.  The next season will be a little bit of a wait for Doc Martin fans. There are guided tours available. It is also easy to do a self-guided walk around town. Watching the show now is a little more interesting, since I now recognize some of the locations.

Tintagel

If you’ve seen Tintagel, you’d understand why it’s been linked to Arthurian legend. Dramatic coast was made even more atmospheric by the foggy weather that day.

The view on the coastal path between Glebe Cliff to Barras Nose is unrivaled. Other highlights are St Materiana’s Church on Glebe Cliff, Tintagel Castle on its namesake island, Merlin’s Cave, Barras Nose Headland and Camelot Hotel.

In the village, the Old Post Office, a National Trust property, is worth a visit, a time capsule of a post master’s household, cute as a button. King Arthur’s Great Hall was closed. With commanding views and colorful interior, Camelot Hotel is another interesting landmark of the village, where we had cream tea before leaving.

Arthurian Legend is probably just that, a legend. Tintagel is nonetheless symbolic of the search for the chivalry and ideals that Arthurian Legend embodies. That to me is part of its magic.