London Diary – St Albans

Aug 10, 2019

A lovely day out in St Albans with friends Amanda and Ian. St Albans is an old town rich in history. We did the ‘A Roman City Revealed’ tour, very interesting. Its grand Cathedral features an interesting talk in the choir by a “Benedictine Monk”, telling story of days when they did 8 prayers a day including 2 hours in the middle of the night and drinking up to 8 pints of beer a day.

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London Diary – Polesden Lacey

Aug 3, 2019

Polesden Lacey in Surrey is beautiful inside and out, boasting an amazing collection of paintings and Chinese china from the Qing dynasty, a lovely garden and a great lawn in front of the house, looking out to the lovely woodland and valley. Visitors were enjoying themselves on the lawn, relaxing and having picnics. The story of Maggie Graville, last owner of the house, is one of the most interesting. Her father made his wealth from brewing beer, and married her mother, who was an illiterate servant girl, when Maggie was 21. She as the only child inherited huge wealth from her father and no expense was spared in fixing up Polesden Lacey to be fit for a king. Edward VII was her friend and often stayed at Polesden Lacey. George V was not a fan of her father and didn’t favor her at first until she hinted she might give Polesden Lacey to Prince Bertie. Bertie and his bride spent their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey. When Maggie died in 1942, she however did not give Bertie the house but gave it to National Trust instead. She did leave the royal family all her jewelries, a whole case of 40 some pieces of valuable jewelries. Among others, an all diamond tiara was seen on the queen mother Duchess of Cornwall, and Princess Eugenie.

London Diary – Opera at Waterperry House

Jul 27, 2019

Along with a group of friends, we enjoyed a brilliant operatic rendition of Mansfield Park at the ballroom of Waterperry House. A stroll in the beautiful garden and a picnic before performance only enhanced the pleasure.

London Diary –Independence Day Picnic

Jun 30, 2019 Some say Picnic is an English invention. I can believe that. Temperate summer climate makes outdoor activities an absolute delight. Sunday Jun 30 was just such a perfect day for DAUK’s annual Independence Day Picnic at Portman Square Garden.

London Diary – Jane Austen Regency Week in Hampshire

June, 2019

Jane Austen Regency Week in Hampshire this year runs from June 22nd to 30th. Opening weekend featured Festival Fair on Alton’s High Street, Regency Ball at Alton Assembly Room, a talk by Caroline Knight, and afternoon picnic at Chawton House which included a reading by Susannah Harker, aka Jane Bennett of BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice, and other entertainment. It is one of the best Jane Austen experience we’ve had. At Chawton, beauty of a quintessential English village was at full display and the presence of Jane Austen’s world was wonderfully palpable. P.S. A visit to the area is not complete without a stop at Steventon. First two photos are Steventon Church and the field where the former vicarage used to stand.

London Diary – English Riviera – Torquay

May, 2019

Torquay is a seaside town in Devon and the main attraction of the English Riviera. During its golden age in the late 1800s Torquay attracts the rich and the privileged; the Prince of Wales visited in 1864. Since then, Torquay has gone through many changes.

In the center of town and most popular tourist area is the delightful waterfront promenade, which is spread between the two iconic hotels, The Grand Hotel and The Imperial Hotel.  

It is also known as Agatha Christie Mile. Torquay is Agatha Christie’s childhood home and you’d find many reminders of her connection to Torquay. Among others, annual Agatha Christie Festival is held in Torquay, there is an Agatha Christie Gallery at Torquay Museum, you can stay at Agatha Christie Suite at The Grand Hotel, there is an Agatha Christie bust near the Princess Garden and there are many Agatha Christie plaques marking spots connected to her. Greenway, Agatha Christie’s last home, is located on the bank of Dart River only 30 minutes away.

The Grand Hotel and The Imperial Hotel are two iconic hotels from the Victorian age. Agatha Christie honeymooned at The Grand Hotel. The Imperial Hotel is featured in Agatha Christied’s Hercule Poirot, Peril at the End House. While The Grand Hotel has retained its former Victorian architecture, The Imperial Hotel has mysteriously changed into its current dull form from its formerly attractive Victorian style.

For those who enjoy coastal walks, there are plenty in the area. We took a short one between The Imperial and Meadfoot Beach. A famous landmark on this route is a natural arch known as the London Bridge. At Meadfoot Beach is The Osbourne Hotel where Charles Darwin stayed.

The mile long Kent’s prehistoric Cavern is interesting. Only guided tour are offered. Our guide was infromative and funny, he gave us an interesting experience. In one of the chambers, he turned off all lights and showed the group what darkest darkness is like. Certainly not something that I could have imagined.

Torry Abbey is beautiful with interesting history and you’d find in its garden, Agatha Christie Potent Plants, a poisonous plant garden. Cockington just a few minutes south of town center is a different world. The art studios at Cockington Court are very interesting. I found something at Our Glass to take home with. Visit the interesting old church and don’t miss the Sanctuary Bar at the church door. Next door is the tranquil Cockington Village with thatch roofed cottages. Totnes, a former market town, is not far so we stopped by and were just in time to visit Totnes Castle. Dinner at King Williams IV, a pub, before heading home was just great.

London Diary – Sound Unbound

May 18, 2019

Got to love London’s rich cultural opportunities. And thanks to a friend for organising, we had a feast of music today, Carmina Burana by London Symphony Chorus with conductor Simon Halsey at Barbican Hall, Jewish dance music by Lakeside Clarinet Quartet at Barbican Conservatory and then Viva Espana! with guitarist Andrey Lebedev at The Hospital Church of St Bathelomew the Less. All wonderful music and brilliant performers. All part of music festival, Sound Unbound, and entirely free!