London Diary – Henley Regatta

Jun 29, 2016

Henley Regatta is one of top events in the scheme of rowing competition, held annually at the picturesque village Henley on Thames. This year it runs from Wed to Sat this week when teams from the world, including many teams from US, Harvard, Yale, Columbia to name a few, row against each other. It is an exciting sport all right. But it is the social aspect of it that makes it a very English experience.

As it was demonstrated by the daylong program yesterday, which was the first day of event, the Brits surely knows how to live the high life. Watching from one of the river front boxes at Phillis Court, a private club right at the end of the race, guests were treated to noshes and continuous flow of spirits, coffee, tea and Danish pastries for breakfast, champagne and bar snack not long after, Pimm’s (one of those things with a firm British mark on it) heralding lunch, 3 course lunch served in a separate dining room with plenty of wine, then more tea, coffee or champagne continued in the river front box.

There was watching of the sport of course, but it seemed that for most guests, of our group anyway, there was more social going on, along with the people watching. The hats were fabulous and you might have guessed that there is a strict dress code for the club, skirts only for ladies and they have to be just sitting on the knees or below, not an inch higher or you’d be turned out. Gentlemen have to wear suits or blazers/sport jackets with chinos and ties/cravats. All was part of the fascinating experience.

Only thing I would have like to change was the weather, it was so cold few could stay out for long, not what you would hope for a summer day, is it. Anna from Rusia who has lived in England for more than 16 years said there is no summer in England, that one weekend in May was probably all the summer we’d get for the year. If she was correct then English summer had finished before it even started. In any case, it is not going to stop the fun is it.

P.S. I tried Pimm’s first time yesterday, it is a delightful sweet and fruity drink. It is made by mixing Pimm’s into lemonade and flavored and garnished with fruits. Although Pims’s is heavy at 25%, the mixed drink tasted however very light and I figured there can’t be too much Pimm’s in it right. But I was warned. The English likes their Pimm’s, one said, it is more likely there is more Pimm’s in there than it tastes.


London Diary – Magna Carta Memorial and More

May 28, 2016

Plan for Memorial Day weekend: day trips near London.

Day One: Egnham, 30 minutes south west of London

This day visiting Runnymede was nothing short of inspiration. These are the highlights.

Runnymede, an estate by the river Thames in Eghnam, has been home to multiple memorials. Most evocative among them is the Magna Carta Memorial. For it is the site where Magna Carta was sealed 800 years ago on June 15, 1215; seeds for ideals such as democracy and equal rights and fundamental principle for juror trials were planted, thus Britain’s immeasurable contribution to civilization and humanity. On site are also JFK Memorial and Air force Memorial, from the top of which you get a sweeping view of the area extending as far as Windsor Castle.

Royal Holloway was founded by Thomas Holloway as an all-women’s college and opened by Queen Victoria and is now part of University of London. Its crowning jewel is a grand, magnificent, stunningly beautiful building from its opening days.

Having lunch at Runnymede Hotel, which is situated at a lock on the river, watching pleasure and house boats queuing up to go through the lock and kids playing on the hotel lawn, walking along the river, checking out the houses and seeing people having picnic by the river was also great fun.

Dinner at Cafe Gondola, an Italian restaurant in Eghnam Town center, was superb.


May 29, 2016

Day 2: Cliveden House, 40 minutes west of London.

The house is grand and beautiful. It is now a hotel run by National Trust. It is open to public and offers a 30 minute guided tour, but only from spring to summer and two days a week. One of the few rooms included in the tour is The Great Hall. It is stunningly beautiful with intricate wood carving. Photos are not allowed in there, which is understandable. Today, it was filled with guests.  It is a short tour but very interesting. As former home to dukes, earls, viscounts, and one Prince of Wales, and then American millionaire, its history, 350 years long, is intriguing and scandalous. The ground and gardens are tremendous and wonderful.  Being a bank holiday weekend with beautiful weather, there were many visitors having picnic throughout the ground. Winter garden, parterre, long garden are all great. And you won’t miss the breathtaking Fountain of Love. The estate is right on the river Thames, it is a short walk to the river from the house where you can do boat tour, hire a boat to row yourself or just stroll along.



On the way home, we stopped at Windsor for dinner. Look what we found at the boat dock. Ever seen so many swans?


May 30, 2016

Memorial Day weekend day trip #3.

Henley on Thames, 40 minutes west of London, is a lovely little town famous for its annual Royal Regatta. Henley Bridge is a handsome feature. Close by is Church of St Mary, beautiful and steep in history. Town center is several blocks around with pretty cottages and nice buildings. The hub of activity that day seemed to be along the river front, between the bridge and River and Rowing museum, some boats cruising, a few kayaks, many ducks and swans bobbing, kids playing on a vast lawn and a large group of Indians doing barbeques at an adjoining  picnic area.  I had heard good things about restaurants in Henley, and The Angel on the Bridge did not disappoint, the slow roast pork belly with potatoes and red cabbage that I had was exceptionally good, the sauce for the potato was divine.