London Diary – Jane Austen Day at Painshill

Jul 16, 2017

A lovely day out in Surrey! We went to Painshill for Jane Austen day and discovered what a gem that Painshill is. A classic English 18th century landscaped garden, it couldn’t have been a more perfect setting for a JA day.

London Diary – San Francisco and Bay Area for My Niece’s graduation!

May 11- 18. I absolutely loved the time in San Francisco and bay area with my sister and family.

Here are some highlights in random order.
California blue is stunning. But while the sun is shining, it can still be chilly in San Francisco. In the meantime, it is 10 degrees warmer in Napa and Sonoma. One day I was shivering in the chilly wind of San Francisco, the next day I was getting sunburn in Berkeley.
Attending my niece Tina’s graduation from UC Berkeley, both university and department commencement, couldn’t be more proud and happy for her and her parents.
Finding stunning views of SF from Marina Headland in Marion County and of Golden Gate Bridge from Land’s End.
Being treated to lots yummies, giant crabs at Crab House at Pier 39, French at Gaspar Brasserie and Morocan at Michelin starred Mourad in SF downtown, Chinese in Richmond and Spanish at La Marcha Tapas Bar in Berkerley.
Having a lovely day in Napa and Sonoma Valley, delightful lunch at Bouchon Bakery in Yontville, tour and wine tasting at beautifully dreamy Castello di Amorosa.
The holiday would have been lacking without that trip to the awesome SF premium outlet in Livermore .

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London Diary – Tulips, Van Gogh, Canals, Windmills and more!

A few back to back trips on top of what has been a busy period of time, I am finding it difficult to keep up and thereby this quick entry.

Apr 27th – May 1st, Holland Highlights

Unknownst to us, we arrived at Amsterdam on King’s day, a mandatory holiday, and found the city literally high, many were out selling and buying at jumbo sale stalls that filled multiple wide boulevards near our hotel Hilton on Apollolaan, parties everywhere on the streets and canals in the historic downtown, and apparently, orange was the color for king’s day.

Heineken Experience at Heineken Brewery. Contrary to most reviews online, we were lucky to find no line and walked straight in. In line with the spirit for King’s day, visitors were given orange colored plastic crowns to wear. The roof top area has nice view. Only food option is a small stand on top level selling burgers and hot dogs. Cool experience overall.

About tulips. Keukenhof Garden is a must see but nothing beats the tulip fields in the villages outside the garden. We rented a tandem bike not far from the main entrance to the garden, went through multiple routes according to the map given by the bike place. It was tremendous fun. On some of the fields, tractors started to cut down the tulips. It turned out, only small portion of the tulips are sold, most are grown for the bulbs. It takes a few years for the bulbs to mature so each year at end of Apr, the flowers are cut down, until the bulbs are ready. Booking on discoverholland.com for combo ticket to the garden is a good deal, garden, bus and train all included.

Van Gogh Museum. I was over the moon at the museum. I love Van Gogh’s works, especially those from the last years, vibrant colors and unique brush work, realism and surreal quality all in one. Poor Van Gogh, have to give it to him, struggled and suffered what he did, still able to draw inspiration from and finding beauty in ordinary people and nature. My favorite paintings from the museum,

Cypresses and two women
Sunflowers
The little yellow house
Seasacpe near Les Sanity Marie de la Mer
Almond Blossom
Irises
Wheat field and reaper
Wheat field under thundercloud
Landscape at twightligh
Farm house
Views of Auvers
Garden With courting couples Square Saint Pierre

The line at Van Gogh Museum was long with hours’ wait time. We booked tickets from the museum’s website and went straight in without second’s delay. Make sure you get the No Waiting tickets.

We stumbled across L’Entrecote et les Dames, a French restaurant not far from Van Gogh Museum and enjoyed a superb dinner. They offer a set 2 course dinner, salad, Dover or steak for entrée, no more. But obviously they don’t need a bigger menu. The sauce for the steak is the best I’ve had. And they offer a second serving for the fish and a smaller second serving for the steak.

Edam is a lovely village north of Amsterdam. It is pretty easy by bus. We had a nice lunch at canal side restaurant at Hotel Fortuna, also picked up some famous local cheese. Don’t forget to check out its 17th century windmill a few minutes off town center.

On way back to Amsterdam, we stopped at seaside town Volendam. Food Corner on the water front is an interesting seafood café kind of place. You buy seafood by weight. Servers picked up the items by hands and handled cash in between. Mortified, I could not resist the temptation, fried fish, prawns, muscles, etc, all looked so good. And they did tasted great too.

A few fun observations. Holland is pretty flat where we’ve been. There are many crook buildings in Amsterdam, also in Edam. Amsterdam is an interesting mix, stark contrast between the historic downtown and ultramodern area like its World Trade Center. You most likely will pick up whiffs of that special aroma of Marijuana quite often. Easy to come across shops that sell different drugs in historic center. We came across Marijuana brownies and muffins at a flea market as we walked by.

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London Diary – Easter Weekend in Dorset!

Apr 22, 2017

Easter weekend is one of two longer public holidays in UK, lasting from Good Friday to Easter Monday, it is an extra-long weekend. We were some of the many taking road trip this past Easter weekend, and Dorset was the destination.

Stunning coast that is part of Jurassic Coast, lovely interior of rolling hills and valleys, charming towns and villages, Dorset has plenty to wow visitors. Its literary link to Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy had been the reason for my choosing Dorcester and vicinity this time.

Fine weather was definitely icing on the cake. Spring floral abounds and you can’t miss the large patches of Rap seed and Gorse field here and there.

We stayed at Little Court in Charminster, a small village on northwest outskirt of Dorcester. It is a charming house with lovely garden and peaceful surrounding. Little Court served good breakfast. I belive I had the best scrambled eggs there, rich, creamy and moist to perfection. Nearest restaurant is Sun Inn, a nice pub several minutes away on foot. For more options, Dorcester is minutes away. We tried on the first night Duchess of Cornwall, hotel plus pub in a beautiful building located in Docester’s new neighborhood of Poundbury. Both the neighborhood and pub are pleasant.

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Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door

Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door never fail to impress. First time we were there was summer of 2014 but we did not walk the coastal path in between. Back this time, we again had beautiful weather, took up the walk and fully enjoyed the scenery and people watching along the way.

Being Easter weekend with fine weather it was busy, but not more so than summer of 2014. Quite a number of families there with young children. While it is relatively easier to get to the beach at Lulworth Cove, it takes effort to safely down the narrow steps to reach the beach at Durdle Door. Some children played at the beach, with sand bucket, shovel or other beach day paraphernalia, others flew kites on the fields. It was lovely to see children and adults alike having fun.

The two attractions are 1 mile apart from each other and there is parking lot at each end. You pay for parking per car but no other admission charge. There is however more service options at Lulworth Cove, where there is the pretty Lulworth village, a visitor center, cafes and shops. We parked at Lulworth Cove, picked up some Cornish beef pasty and sausage roll from the Coffee Shop next to the visitor center and had a nice picnic at Durdle Door before heading back.

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Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is a picturesque seaside town on the hill. Its water front area, featuring promenade, garden, and beach, was lively with visitors and holiday makers alike. Towards the western end is its harbor. Famously known as the Cobb, it owes its fame to being featured in novels like Persuasion and French Lieutenant’s Woman. From the Cobb, you enjoy lovely views of the town, sea, and Golden Cap, the highest point of south England.

Jane Austen holidayed in Lyme Regis herself. We did a Jane Austen tour with Literary Lyme. It was a 1 hour walk starting from the black metal anchor on the water by Rock Point Inn. The tour stayed mostly close to the seaside and ended at the Cobb. The material was interesting enough but the delivery and commentary by our guide was a bit of a lack luster.

The Spittles is a National Trust owned natural area located on the hill top northeast of town where you can look down to a nice picture of Lyme Regis. It is free to the public.

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Stonebarrow Hill and Golden Cap on Lagon Hill

East of Charmouth, a town east of Lyme Regis, there is Stonebarrow Hill, also National Trust owned natural area on the clifftop. There is ample parking at this site. Follow the path to the cliff, you’ll be rewarded by beautiful views, including that of Charmouth and Lyme Regis further west. Parking is free here and there is no charge to do the walk.

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Further eastward is Logan Hill. Another National Trust owned natural area on the clifftop, parking here is a minimal of 50p and there is no charge for taking the walk. A short walk will take you to Golden Cap where another set of stunning views await.

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Hardy Country

Dorset, where Thomas Hardy was born and lived most of his life, is Hardy’s inspiration and in turn most of his novels are set in towns and villages of Dorset. Hardy Trail is a circular route that features all of them. Thanks to my neighbor and friend Carole, I was armed with a detailed guide to the trail. Although we did not get to visit all featured destinations, I thoroughly enjoyed those I visited.

Higher Bockhampton/Stinsford/Lower Bockhampton

Thomas Hardy was born in Higher Bockhampton, a hamlet 10 minutes north east of Dorcester. The cottage built by his grandfather and father is now a National Trust property open to the public. In addition to the cottage itself, surrounding area has been preserved as natural area for a peaceful walk. Higher Bockhampton is featured in Hardy’s novel as Higher Mellstock.

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Stinsford is a cute little hamlet few minutes south.  While Thomas Hardy is interred at Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey, his heart was and some of his family were buried at St Michael’s Church in the village. Stinsford is Mellstock in Hardy’s novels.

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Lower Bockhampton is another small hamlet a few minutes southeast of Stinsford. Thomas Hardy was believed to be one of the first pupils at the Old School.

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Nestle between Stinsford and Lower Bockhampton is the grand house of Kingston Maurward House, featured in Hardy Novel as Knapwater House, and is now property of Kingston Maurward College.

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All 3 hamlets are atmospherically quiet, no sign of hustle and bustle at all.

Dorcester

Dorcester, Dorset’s county town and heart of Hardy country, is an interesting mix of new and old. Poundbury, west of the town, a recent urban extension to the town, is a pleasant neighborhood with handsome buildings and wide roads.

High East and West Street along with Trinity Street are where you’d find many historic buildings and sites featured in Hardy novels, The Dorset County Museum, St Peter’s Church, The King’s Arm’s Hotel, The Corn Exchange and the Antelope Hotel, etc. Trinity Street is a pedestrian only street lined with shops, restaurants and more historic buildings. Dorcester itself is featured as Casteridge in Hardy novels.

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Maxgate House east of town is Thomas Hardy’s former home from 1885 to 1928. It is now a National Trust property and house museum open to the public. It is a comfortable house that had seen many distinguished guest, including Edward VIII when he was Prince of Wale. As you learnt about the novelist and his great work, the man and his life, the not so great ending for his first wife Emma came into light. Humans are so full of contradiction!

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Thomas Hardy’s statue can be found on the corner of The Grove and High West Street.

Hardy’s Monument

This is however a different Thomas Hardy, a Royal Navy officer, Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, 1st Baronet GCB (5 April 1769 – 20 September 1839).

The monument is built on top of the hill in Portesham. The monument itself is average, the far reaching panoramic view atop of the monument is very fine indeed.

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Abbotsbury

Abbotsbury is one of the prettiest little villages I’ve ever seen. Arriving just before the last light of the day faded away, it was a charming picture of idyllic serenity. Although the only people around were a few last minute tourists like us, we were in good company of many sheep, a few pheasants, a swan and a flock of ducks.

Abbotsbury is also home to its well-known Swannery and Subtropical Garden. Alas we missed them this time.  St Catherine’s Chapel located on top of a hill is supposed to offer an advantage view of the village and surrounding area. We didn’t hike up to the hill this time. Luckily you can also get a great view of the village on B3157 approaching the village from the west.

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Weymouth

Weymouth is not far south of Dorcester. We made a brief stop at its water front and were pleasantly surprised by the flat, long stretch of beach, an unusual but impressive sight, the long row of buildings lining the beach front is equally impressive. After that we drove by the old harbor which was quite lively, with music wafting out of pubs and pub goers spilling out on to the street.

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Osmington White Horse

Intrigued, we drove to a look out on A353. If you want to get up and close, it is possible to do so by foot.

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Corfe Castle

Castles, ruins and treasure hunting are my husband’s fantasies and Corfe Castle fitted the bill perfectly.

With Corfe Castle towering over, the Village is picturesque and evocative in equal parts. The castle itself is impressive even in its ruined state. A National Trust property, we as members benefited a free entrance. You have to take a walk through the ruin and get close up to its various parts to appreciate its former glory and the political intrigue behind its destruction.

Being a tourist hot spots, there are nice restaurants and shops in the village center. Dinner at Grey Hound Inn was great. I had Crab Gratin with kale and mash potatoes and it was very good. I’d rate it a gourmet pub.

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How can you not love Tenerife, Canary!

Mar 20, 2017

If spring is slow in coming to London and you long for warmth and sunshine, Canary Islands, 4 hours away by flight, are perfect destination. I now totally get why the Brits flocks to Canaries. I chose this time Tenerife Island, largest of the archipelago. Warmth and sunshine I did find, plus so much more. Tenerife filled our four day island break with delight and adventures, leaving me regret that it had not been a longer stay.

An island of Atlantic Ocean northwest of Africa, steep, mountainous, Tenerife’s landscape is, to say the least, dramatic,  palm trees, cactuses and stunning scenery abound, scorched land here and there reminds one the volcanic island that it is.

It is also an island of interesting contrast. Terrain alternates between dry land and lush, green mountains. While sun drenches the south coast, opening above it a soaring azure welkin, clouds often shrouds the peaks. Communities are varied too, while Costa Adeje on southwest coast of the island is a sophisticated, beautiful resort town, there are traditional villages and banana plantations throughout.

Hard we may have tried, what we experienced is only a small set of what Tenerife has to offer.

Costa Adeje

Costa Adeje is a trendy resort town on the south coast of Tenerife. Beautiful resorts, shops and restaurants galore and stunning scenery on top of that, it is truly a delightful spot. Among others, you can eat, shop, walk on the beach, bathe in the sun, swim or just soak in the atmosphere.

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Like most others on the island, the town is spread across steep slopes. Melia Jardines Del Teide, a lovely resort hotel where we stayed, is situated on the higher end of the town. It is several minutes to the ocean but has fantastic view of the town and ocean. Instead of one single mammoth building, it is a complex of small buildings, restaurants and terraces surrounding the activity center, a set of swimming pools. It is also just minutes to Plaza del Duque, a modern shopping mall.

P.S. A practical tip on Melia Jardines Del Teide. While ocean side is gorgeous, mountain side can seem unattractive due to what seem defunct former farms next door. If possible, get ocean view rooms.

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Masca to Los Gigantes

A visit to the village of Masca and a trek through Masca Gorge came highly recommended and we took that up.

There are different options. We opted to drive to and park at Masca Village, hiked down the gorge to the beach where it ends, took a taxi boat to Los Gigantes from the beach, took a taxi back to Masca where we reunited with our car. It is best to book the taxi boat ahead of time, the boat waits a little past its last scheduled run for those who sign up. This is the web site for it: http://www.trekkingmasca.com/?lang=en.

The drive and the visit to the village was easy and highly rewarding. The tiny village is located in a stunning valley, and the scenery along the way from Santiago del Teide, a cute village itself, to Masca is breathtaking. Quite interesting too, while the road is paved, it is twisted, dizzyingly steep and narrow for a two lane road, especially when there is a bus going by, albeit a smaller sized bus.

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The hike through the gorge is a totally different ball game. It was like nothing I had done before.

You’d find the entrance to the gorge in the middle of the village, where there is a large sign that warns that the path is closed due to landslide. No idea how long that sign has been there, but we had read people mention it and said they ignored it. Somehow we followed suit. There must be a little bit of the dare devil in us.

The path, zigzagging its way through the gorge, is mostly bumpy, rocky, hard and tough on your feet. There is barely any part of the path that is level. You have to negotiate almost every step of the way.

The first 1/3 was the best, the view was fresh and exciting, presenting lots photo ops.

But it became daunting when it dawned on me that it was going to take much longer than expected and we might miss the last boat. What would be the alternative? Hiked back up to the village? What a cringe worthy thought! Doubt and vacillation, still I couldn’t give it up. So I soldiered on. There was no time for break, we had to eat our sandwich on the go.

Over the last 1/3 of the path, there are many spots where there didn’t seem to be a path at all, only big boulders for me to nervously slide down, climb over or squeeze through. At one point, we had to get through by walking the edge of a boulder, which hangs over a ravine, while holding on to cables attached to the boulder. Multiple times when it sprinkled, the rocks became slippery, extra care and effort were the order.

There are sign posts along the way, the last one I spotted was #36.

Four hours later, my knees were about to buckle and legs were about to fall off. But we finally made it to the beach. And we beat the last boat. It turned out we had got the wrong time, one hour too fast. Hallelujah! We were saved. Not likely I could have hiked back up to the village in my state.

Was it worth it? You bet! The rock formation is fascinating and every turn presents a stunning view. I’ve also got lots memory to take away with me; a tiny little boy, who was probably not more than 4, on his way up with his parents to the village from the beach and they had been hiking for 3 hours when we crossed path and he was still energetically pushing on, totally putting me to shame, or the two goats, or the colorful, calm birds, or the various, lovely floral, or other hikers we crossed path with, but most strange of all, the woman in red checker shirt who disappeared into thin air or maybe a secret path only after I had spotted her for a brief moment.

Will I do it again? Probably not knowingly. The aches and pain lingered for days after, each step was a torture, especially on the stair.

P.S. Parking at the village is limited and runs out fast. We circled around a few times before finding one that is out of the village center. It is good to get there early morning if you can make it. Taxi boat from Masca beach to Los Gigantes was €10 each person. Taxi ride from Los Giangantes to Masca was €25.

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Driving from Costa Adeje to Colonial City of San Cristobal de La Laguna

This was an interesting day full of surprises. Having done the trek through Masca Gorge the day before, we had earned our right to take things easy today.  The plan was to just drive around and making brief stops at Icode de Las Vino, Las Realejos and La Oratava before reaching and stopping at San Cristobal de La Laguna. All these points of interests are interesting indeed. But what made our day was what we chanced upon and was not in the original script.

Santiago Del Teide to Teno Mountain

We took the route through Santiago Del Teide. The surrounding became surprisingly lush and green as we drew near Teno Mountain, a contrast to the landscape we had seen prior to this.

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El Guincho

Thanks to an accidental wrong turn, we stumbled across El Guincho, a small banana plantation by the sea, cute as a button.

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Garachio

We took thing further on the wrong direction and ended up at Garachio, a pretty waterfront little town on steep hill.

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Icode de Las Vino, Las Realejos and La Oratava

At this point we were back on track according to plan. We drove through all three recommended villages, they are however more like towns than villages in sizes. All are built on steep hills. Of the three, Icode de Las Vino seemed more picturesque, maybe we did not take the ride route in Las Realejos or La Oratava.

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San Cristobal de La Laguna

San Cristobal de La Laguna is the former capital of Tenerife and currently an UNESCO Heritage site. It seemed relatively the most flat town we encountered on Tenerife. A stroll through the historic center is interesting, nothing grand or opulent, still its rich history and architectural heritage are fascinating. The town’s parish church, the Iglesia de Nuestra La Concepción was built late 15th century. Another church in the historic center is the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, the stain glasses there are stunning.

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Driving through Mount Teide National Park in dark

Clouds gathered and rain started to fall, it was time to leave San Cristobal. Instead of taking the faster route to return to the hotel, my hubby would drive through Mount Teide National Park. It was an interesting ride to say the least.

Not long after we entered the park, we found ourselves surrounded by dense forest. As the road ascended and wound through the forest, heavy fog descended on the road. There are signs along the way marking the altitude, 1500 meter, 2000 meters…

The same scene continued. Then we came to a point just before the bend of the road, framed by trees on both sides of the road, as if some sort of entrance, with a couple of signs on the right, giving a tantalizing glimpse to what lays beyond. Is that a snowy peak?

We drove pass the threshold, all the sudden the environ opens up to a drastically different scene, and indeed, snowcapped peaks loomed ahead.

While the stunning sight wowed the senses, driving condition took a turn, the road was covered by slushy ice. The last light of the day was fading fast as well. Needless to say, our travel slowed down significantly. By the time we were back on dry road, it was completely dark. When we reached the junction where you’d find the road leading to Mount Teide, we simply drove past it. We had traveled in the park for 1.5 hours by now, and it was another hour from then on to get back to the hotel. Part of the journey was nerve wrecking too, road was narrow and I felt at times hanging over head spinning abyss, but it was worth every bit of the experience.

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Adeje to Los Gigantes on TF47

It is a recommended costal drive. I think the best part is the look out at Puerto Santiago and the cliffs of Los Gigantes, which are both at the end of the route.

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Mount Teide

At 3700 meters high and tallest point in Spain and of Atlantic islands, volcanic Mount Teide is one of the top attractions on Tenerife.

Normally cable cars are available to take tourists closer to the summit. Tourists can drive up to and park at cable car’s base station. Once at the upper station, there are three hiking routes, one of them gets up close to the volcano crater and requires permit. You can apply for the permit at this website: www.reservasparquesnacionales.es.

The cables cars were however closed down, due to technical problems that happened the day before we arrived. We heard that the cables cars got stuck mid route in the air and tourists stuck in the cable cars had to be rescued via ropes.

With or without the cable cars, we were going to make the best of it. A second ride through the national park and this time up to the base station was richly rewarded. The scenery is stunning. The terrain and geology are truly fascinating. You’d see turned and churned lands that look as if some sort of natural phenomenon has recently occurred, but Mount Teide’s last explosive eruption was more than 200 years ago.

Often the peak is veiled by clouds. The surrounding can be clear in one moment but heavily fogged the next. Luckily, it was gloriously clear when were up at the base, revealing Mount Teide in its entirety.

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After Mount Teide, we drove by Vilaflor, highest village in Spain. And then it was straight to the airport. Descending the whole way, there was interesting sights on the way. Until the airport could be seen ahead, an interestingly large stretch of flat land by the ocean.

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Good bye Tenerife, I probably will be back soon!

London Diary – Queen of Cotswold!

Feb 28, 2017

Maybe it is vitamin D deficiency catching up on me. Maybe it is that the novelty has faded a bit. Maybe this second winter in London is just a bit drab. Maybe it is depression caused by the Trump mess. In any case, I needed an escape. And it was Painswick of Gloucestershire, also known as Queen of Cotswold!

So drastically different from London, it is sometimes hard to believe that it is less than 2.5 hours away. But there it is, nestled in the hills and valleys of Cotswold, Painswick is everything that a traditional English village should be. Its village center on the hill is a treasure trove of traditional houses, buildings and churches covered in the Cotswold stones of golden honey, simply stunning and magical. Walking through the village center, especially in the evening, there was a sense of Déjà vu, reminiscent of Sarlat of France, albeit at a smaller scale.

Staying at Court House Manor is one of my best travel experience. Deep in history, where Charles I stayed during the English Civil War, its rooms are named King Richard, King Arthur, Cleopatra, and etc. The library decorated in two distinct styles is gorgeous, and guests can use it when the family is not. The most impressive feature is the beautiful building itself, with a lovely garden and view to the country side, all within its gated wall. The gated environment and smaller crowd give it a private and intimate vibe and to some degree the experience of truly being the guest of a manor house.

Standing on the other side of the wall is the beautiful St Mary’s Church with a soaring spire, which can be seen from various points. A small door in the wall connects the two, providing easy access to the church from the manor house. Besides a long and rich history and the beautiful building, St Mary has a unique feature, 99 yew trees on its church yard.

Over the course of more than a thousand years, owners have come and gone, buildings have changed too, but there have always been a manor house and church on its respective lot standing side by side.

Painswick Hotel is another grand house in village center. Interestingly, as beautiful as the building, it is not quite as rich in character as Court House Manor, nor does it have a garden equal in charm and size, but a beautiful building still. Its restaurant is popular. We went for lunch without reservation on Sunday but it was fully booked. Patchwork Mouse on New Street is a nice little café for light lunch, cake and tea. I liked its Coronation Chicken sandwich a lot. Cardynham House Bistro is close by and we had a nice dinner there one night.

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Just a few minutes from the village center is idyllic countryside. The walk from the village to Painswick Beacon is an interesting one, going through mostly farms, paddocks and natural areas. Once atop Painswick Beacon, there is a sweeping panoramic view. The following link provides helpful guide for the walk, https://www.walkingenglishman.com/cotswolds07.html

The encounter with the sheep. On way to Painswick Beacon from the village, not long after passing Rococo Garden, I got into a paddock via the stile, a whole flock of sheep that had been peacefully grazing, suddenly came running towards me. Panicked, I climbed back to safety, and while still on the stile, I turned around, they were standing there staring at me still. Hahaha, I had to take a selfie with them, behind me, staring. They dispersed moments later. What brought that on?

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A couple other worthy mentions. For a wonderful view of the village, head south east towards Sheepscombe, a nice little village itself, turn left to Bulls X from Greenhouse Ln. Wolfpack Inn on Slad Road, Stroud is a popular pub 20 minutes south of Painswick.

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Last but not least, a visit to Painswick will not be complete without a wander in its Rococo Garden, and its carpet of snow drops.

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On way back to London, I decided we should take a little detour to Gloucester. Gloucester was unimpressive until we arrived at its Cathedral of the same name. A magnificent façade, cavernous interior, beautiful stain glasses and most stunning cloister I’ve ever set eyes on, it is breathtaking. Most felicitously, the organ was playing; it couldn’t be more atmospheric! A great end to a lovely weekend getaway.

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London Diary – A Charming, Classic English Village and a Roof Garden in the Heart of Kensignton.

Feb 5, 2017

We had a wonderful time on Saturday, visiting Amanda and Ian at their home in Essex, a quiet, lovely, English village, not far north east of London, but what a world apart.

We took a walk through the village to work up the appetite, going by houses and fields, having two sightings of deer, where mud and wellies were all part of the pleasant experience.

We enjoyed a brief stop at the village church, which interestingly was very much reminiscent of Jane Austen’s Steventon Church. It couldn’t be more befitting, Jane Austen was after all what had brought us together. Amanda contributes her time and skill to the making of church pew cushions, and showed us one with her name sewn on it.

Delicious food, wine, lovely company and interesting conversation was the order for the rest of the day, just the way Jane would have done it 🙂

Love Amanda and Ian for their hospitality and friendship!

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Saturday Feb 11, 2017

Doing Valentine today, lunch at Roof Garden in Kensington, to be followed by a stroll in its garden.

Just as we were getting ready to head out, snow flaked down persistently.

How did it turned out?

Pretty good. The food was excellent. Getting up close to some interesting flamingos, and a Spanish garden, where they were least expected, were all part of a lovely experience.

Already thinking of coming back in spring/summer.

We also checked out Whole Food on the next block, with numerous items spread out on three spacious floors, it was impressive.

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