Books I've Read

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Nice, France

The weathermen in the UK described it better than I could. "Although the summer of 2012 was predicted to be the hottest on record, instead we have had the coldest, wettest, and least sun during a summer on record"! As a result Mark and I decided to make sure that we had a real summer even it was just a short one. So we returned to the internet (our favorite travel agent) and started searching. Mark was on flights and I was on accommodation: destination Nice,France. For me it would be a first visit, for Mark a return to familiar grounds. This time rounds we shunned expedia and hotel site. In fact in general we have decided to not stay in hotels again, unless there really is not other choice. So I went on to and after a bit of searching found a great little apartment in central Nice. It was within walking distance of the Gare du Nice (5 min) and only a 10 min walk to the beach. A modern lovely little flat with massive french windows with a Juliette balcony, a little kitchen kitted out with everything your heart could ever desire in a kitchen, lovely touches of home, books, simple, clean modern, fabulous! All this for the same price of a budget hotel. The only thing it didn't have was A/C but the host did provide with two large and powerful fans. All booked up we then began practicing our French phrases.

Arriving in Nice about 3 weeks later we were greeted with clear blue skies, azure blue sea, and hot sunshine! Landing was interesting as the runway is pretty much on the beach so up until just two seconds before touch down it looks like you are going to land in the Med! YIKES! Once again with my Canadian passport I collected a stamp while Mark only got a cursory glance and a wave through! hehe! We headed to the public bus, getting our tickets and taking out seat. Soon we were off. We drove down the promenade de anglais towards city centre. The sea sparkling on our left. So blue! It only took about 15-20min to get to the train station at which point we then began walking. We missed the street the first time, but soon righted our mistake. And found ourselves a bit early to the apartment and meeting point with the host. So we perched on the seats and had a bit of lunch; at 10:45. In our defense we had been up since 3am when we had breakfast. 

The host was lovely, and quickly and efficiently showed us the apartment, all of the extra that she provided. Then was on her way to recover from her night shift. We quickly unpacked and then headed out to explore. Mark was tour guide and I was photographer!   After a few false starts from my tour guide we made it to the flower market and out to the beach front. From there we climbed to the top of the old castle/fort ruins for the views of the beach and the town.

From there we spied one of the boats that Mark used to work on. What are the chances...which we later visited. We also discovered a man made waterfall impressive for it size given it it on the top of a cliff with very little natural water sources that we could see.

After visiting the yacht that Mark used to work on rather than going up all those steps again, we walked round the front taking in the war memorial and the view of the sea! So pretty! We then wound our way through a bit of the old town were we discovered a lovely ice cream shop. Yummy. This was to be come a regular daily treat regards of which bit of southern France we were in. A daily ice cream cone! So tasty. 

After our treat it was back to the apartment for a bit of a rest. As we had been up for ages and had walked quite a few miles already.  So we rested, found a food shop, made a bit of supper and then as the sun was setting headed out for a night time adventure. I had forgotten how much I love the night culture of these sorts of towns. The place was thriving the restaurants all tables spilling on to the cobbled streets that were pedestrianized. Each restaurant had different colored chairs so you could easily identify one from the other. so that other would find you and you were sure to remember where you had been. Families and couples strolled taking the lovely aroma's and the music that enticed you towards a chair of some colour....any colour. Shops remained open hoping for a bit more custom from those who wait until the cool of the evening to come out to look for a new pair of sandals or a post card to send home. The Flower Market had been transformed into a large out door seating area for the retuarant that during the day border the flowers. Artists, acrobats and buskers amuse those out for a walk as well as those enjoy a fresh french meal served under the stripped canvas of the flower market, a short walk from the sea. The grey pebbles of the beach had turned silver in the moonlight and people sat by the sea watching the waves crash in or trying to take a picture of the reflection of the moon on the sea. It was beautiful. I wanted to stay out all night. But even with a nap in the afternoon eventually we made our way back.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


This is the story of my first English windwurfing experiences my other times being on the water being on holiday. On Saturday I went to Pagham with my hubsband (a long time windsurfer) and stopped into L.A.R. to rent some beginner kit. Lee helped me get the kit setup. I was sporting a Viper 80 and a 4.5 sail that was a bit knackered. Off I went. The first few goes were very wobbly and shaky as it had been over a year since I had been on a board but with a bit of effort, encouragement, and coaching from my husband I was soon making my way out and back with a few dry tacks. I was happy and content practicing close to the shore and so my husband went off to play. He came back and also had a huge grin on his face saying how great the conditions were. The sun was shinning the sea was a beautiful blue and I was having a blast practicing on the beginner kit. It is amazing how fast time goes on the water. A lot of the other much more advanced sailors who were there stopped to say hi to me and encourage me on my efforts. By the end of the first hour I was regularly beach starting with success and managing to return to the shore without drifting WAY downshore ( I had the help of the daggerboard, but trust me for those of you that beginning is a distant memory this is a victory!). Two and a bit hours later I was exhausted. So out of the sea I came and called L.A.R. so that he could come and get the kit. I then sent the rest of the day happily watching my husband blasting away reveling in the pride that I too had had a good session. Even better, my personal coach took a few pictures AND commented on how happy and proud he was on how quickly I improved over the course of the two hours.  

Sunday morning I woke excited and raring to go!! The plan was head to Hayling Island check out the boot sale and then as I was chomping at the bit to get back on a board on the sea to drive back to Pagham for another go on rented kit. I was even more excited when I looked out the window to see the wind blowing the leaves of the trees around. The plan for me at the car boot sale was too look and see if there was any beginner type kit that was used, but good for me to practice on here in the UK as a beginner/improver. I knew from speaking to Lee on Sat that he had a possible board that was a bit too advanced for me but still a possible option. When we got there there was another female windsurfer who is a was also looking at the board (starboard carve 131), and I made the decision that I would be better off renting a for more goes before I try buying an board under 140l. So I told her that I wouldn't make an offer. Turns out to be a great decision as she is looking to sell a 145l board that I may end up buying from her...fingers crossed. So then looking around I found a very nice gentleman who was selling off some kit that he was just looking to shift and so I got a great bargin for me!! A 4.7 N/S that is a wave sail so it will be great for when I start learning to hook into a harness as it should be tough enough to withstand me crashing into it!! The sail was in good condition and I also managed to pick up a Neil Pryde mast from the same guy! From another windsurfer I grabbed a used boom that would fit my little hands and my new sail and I was then almost half way to owning my first rig! I was beyond excited with the gear I got and the deals as well.  

The hard work
Loading my new kit into the car we were off to Pagham. At 12:30 meet with Lee at his shop and I got a mast extension and a mast foot rented the Viper 80 and I was off to the beach. It was with great pride and excitement that I (with my personal coaches assistance) I rigged my own kit up for the first time!! Wetsuit on and the began to realize that it was quite a bit windier than Sat AND I was on a bigger sail! was only by .2 of a meter but to this beginner that seemed HUGE!
 My nerves increased and it took me a good 30 minutes of crashing and burning (totally due to nerves) before I calmed down and realized it was just the same as Sat but didn't hurt more when I crashed and using the right technique I could control the sail! Soon I was again beach starting and I even kind of did a sort of almost water start....I think....(following more lessons from my personal coach). Again (with the assistance of a daggerboard) I wasn't drifting downwind and I manged to get clean tacks a little bit quicker. Again all the guys at the beach were great! Giving me thumbs up, asking me how I was going, giving me tips, and telling me how great I was doing. After a little over two hours I was exhausted so again up on the beach for a rest. After the rest it was time to de-rig! Wow that is hard work with exhausted arms, back, legs and well everything! But what fun and I was so happy with my efforts progress and "new" kit!

I just wanted to share my first English windsurfing adventure and say thank you to the guys who sold me their used kit for a good deal, thanks to Lee from L.A.R. for the rentals and advice, thanks to the guys at Pagham who made me feel welcome and encouraged me, but most of all thanks to my personal coach.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Warsaw: We are off! (part 1)

So we decided in Feb to go on a short city break some where in Eastern Europe. We spent a few weeks researching and looking at the options before we settled on Warsaw. Using Expedia we booked in for the flights and the hotel for March 29- April 1. We got a good deal it was just over £500pp for a nice long weekend break.

Lessons I learned while booking this trip is that Expedia's top choices are not usally the best. I found that they sometimes were not that central or that nice compared to other options further down the list. So my advice DO not be swayed by a place being a "top pick" take your time and do a bit more research before settling on where you are going to stay. Google street view and Google maps proved to be very valuable tools.

Second really look at the flight details and look at all the options before settling on a flight. By being willing to be early birds at get a flight one hour earlier than expedia's top pick we gained 4 hours in Warsaw as the return flight left much later in the final day compared to the top pick. AND it was no more expensive.

Bags packed, parking arranged, E-tickets on my phone, passports ready we got up at 03:30 to head to the airport. The drive to London Heathrow was easy as there was no traffic on the M25. Our parking turned out to be business parking and we were literally 5 minutes from the terminal! (again the cheapest option...thanks to Money Saving Expert). We checked in to our flight on time and spent a bit of time wandering around the airport. It was our first experience flying with Polish airlines. Their check-in process was fairly simple, aside from their scrict cabin baggage weight allowances (our carry on's were weighed...first time for both of us that happened while flying). We had hoped to carry our bags on BUT due to the fact that our wheely bags weigh almost 6 kg when empty they did not come under the 6kg weight allowance. Oh well.

While waiting in the cue we noticed that we were going to be sharing a flight with somesort of boy band! hehe!! No one that we recognized...but then again we are not really up on boy bands. hehe. Finally when borading the plane we realized that alothough we had chosen seats together, without asking us they had seperated us. Worse though was the appoling leg room allowance, even I barely fit in the seat! Poor Marks knees where at his ears. Even though it was only a two hour flight it would have been a very uncomforatble two hours. So a quick word with the air hostess and she talked two passengers in the exit rows to change seats with us. We still were not sitting together, but at least we fit in the seats! The seat allowance on that plan was not designed for tall people...and I'm not that tall! Plus I got to sit by one of the boy band members! hehe. I was too chicken to ask who they were though.

Before leaving on this trip we had decided this trip to be more of a traveller than a tourist so instead of hiring a car in Warsaw to meet us at the airport we had looked up the Warsaw city bus maps on the internet. It looked fairly straight forward to travel from the airport to our hotel and I was pretty sure that even though we spoke no English we would be ok. However after collecting our bags at the Warsaw Aiport, Lotnisko Chopina w Warszawie looking around to signs that made no sense to me I began to get a bit nervous. We plucked up our courage and went into a small convince store in the airport as the internet had assuered us that these kind of stores sold bus tickets.

The lady behind the counter spoke no English! But thankfully understood "bus" so we got tickets and then found the bus stop. we got on the bus and again thanks to google street view we recongnized the last corner before our stop. It was super easy as it was a single bus ride with no transfers. After a short walk to our hotel we were checking in. Easy!!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

My Books

Just a note....

I was thinking the other day and I've decided that I should tell you about the "Books I've Read" tab on my blog as it is relatively new. This is something I started to do for my own interest. The books I review are purely books that I have read at sometime. I am trying to make it so that as I read a book I review and then this will become a record of the books that I have read. However I am not keeping up as I read too many books. hehe!

The books I have reviewed to date are either given to me, I purchased them, a publisher sends me a copy to read (with no compensation), or I obtain then through Read it Swap it.

Read it swap it is a network...for lack of a better term, where for the small obligation of setting up a user name and password you are connected in to a network of readers. To date this is only available in the UK. How it works is that you put up on the network any books that you have that you are not interested in keeping. The website then puts them in the Library and any other user then can find it. If another finds a book of your that they would like to read then they request a swap with you. You are sent an email, and then by logging in you can see all the books that they have to swap. You then decide if you want to swap or not. If the answer is no then you are done for that swap. If the answer is yes then you will post your book to them and they will post their book to you. The only cost involved it the postage and here in the UK that is usually under £2.50 (depending on the weight of the book).

I have saved OODLES of money doing this!! And have had not difficulties in swap not happening! Sometimes I even get little notes, bookmarks, of teabags in with my book! It is great! Not to mention gotten rid of books that I didn't want to keep, expanding my reading experience to authors I probably would not have ever found, and keeping me in books without spending a fortune (I read about a book a fortnight) I love this service!!! So if you are in the UK and you like reading check this out.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Wiltshire White Horse Trail

I'm not sure if you realize this or not but England has more than one white horse. I'm not talking the animal variety, I'm talking the white horses cut out of the turf on a chalk hillside. In Wiltshire there are 8 of these incredible hill carvings which are still visible. There are some that are new and others that are ancient.

Mark and I had arranged months earlier to go and stay with friends or ours who live in Somerset. Dale is interested in ancient things and so they decided for our walk we would do a portion of white horse trail by walking the Honeystreet and Pewsey Downs trail. It is an almost 7 mile walk that loops over the top of a hill giving great views (if the weather cooperates) down to a canal that has a pub for a bit of refreshment near the end of the walk.

The Boys
I was quite excited as according to Dale and Gail, we were going to walk literally over the ears of the horse, not just view it from a afar. So rather than whizzing by at high speeds driving on the motorway. I would get a nice long look at one of these great English landmarks. Saturday morning we woke in the guest bedroom of Dale and Gail's the night before we had sampled Dale famous pizza night and they featured a seasonal treat wild garlic leaf pesto!  Even better the pesto had been made by Dale from leaves he had foraged...YUMMY. Needless to say I at least had some calories that needed burning off.  So after a fab breakfast we all loaded in Dale van. We chatted the whole way and then there it was off the the left of our window as we drove into the village of Alton Barnes.

From where we parked you could see the horse off the in distance and as Dale told me that we were going to walk to the top of it I knew the calories would fall off me! As we started the walk Dale told us that the horse that we were going to walk to the top of was constructed in 1812 by a guy named John Thorne so a newer carving. Turns out when I did a bit of research this John Thrope guy was a bit of a con artist as he took the money (£20) and a horse and ran! He was later hanged. So instead the guy that Thorne commissioned to do the work, used the plans drawn up by Thorne, and did all the work, his name was John Harvey. So the guy who wanted the horse carved, a Mr. Robert Pile, had to pay for it twice.

It was a beautiful day, the sun was shinning and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. We still grabbed extra layers and loads of water as the hill is quite exposed and with English weather anything could happen. Within minutes though I was down to my shirt sleeves! It was unseasonably warm for March! As we climbed the view was a bit obstructed by the haze created by the heat. But the view was still stunning. And the greens!!! I know that the human eye can see more shades of green than any other colour BUT this was stunning.

Soon we were at the top of the horses ears! It was funny. I had been looking forward to seeing it up close but when you do you find yourself wishing you were a bit further away as up close it just looks like a bit of a exposed chalk. Oh well it was still neat to know that I was standing on the top of his ears! Supposedly according to Dale they placed the wooden frame around the horse to help prevent erosion from changing or destroying the horse itself. Further there were stakes in the ground above the horse which they use to tie into so that they can weed the horse periodically so that it will always remain lovely and white and viewable from a far. So even though it looks like nothing spectacular from up close from a distance it is beautiful!

The boys flying a kite and Baxter trying to ignore the kite
For a bit of a break we decided to try and fly our parafoil kite. Neither Gail or Dale and tried it before and we had a lot of laughs. Unfortunately there was not much wind which made flying the kite a hundred times harder! However Gail, I would say, did the best of the beginners. Poor Baxter (their dog) didn't know quite what to make of the kite but it was not his favourite thing! hehe

As we headed down the hill toward the canal we went by a ditch (aka "earth works"). I know big deal right! But it actually was as it was a man made ditch that had been made by some ancient landowner as a way of displaying his wealth and power! A ditch!! It was called Cross Dyke. It was quite impressive given it was dug out by hand and that there was no reward for it just the cheif/king proclaiming to all who happened upon it to say, "wow the guy who had this built must be rich and powerful!" I find it incredible and interesting to learn about how people lived and the things that showed the world that they had "made it."
Cross Dyke

The walk continued down to the canal as we got closers to the pub the noise of the locals out enjoying the beautiful summer day in March! We decided that we had worked had enough for a bit of a rest and a treat! We found and picnic table and the boys went in to sort out a treat for us. Within a matter of minutes both Gale and I had our hiking boots off and our bare feet in the grass it felt absolutely delicious!!! Like we were grabbing a bit of a cheat of and early summer.

Mark, Baxter, Dale, & Gail

Cheesy chips in our tummies we finished our walk and hopped back in the van. The walk and the sunshine got the best of Mark and he dozed a bit on the drive back. However he perked up when we went past a Tesco enough to make sure that we stopped and purchased an ice cream treat. YUMMY! thank you Chokabloc for making such a yummy treat.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Global Corporate Challenge

As of today I am now a member of the Global Corporate Challenge! It is a pretty cool thing actually. A corporation (for me Guys and St. Thomas')  agrees to take part in it and then so many teams of 7 get to sign up. What it means that as a get fit challenge the GCC encourage all participants to walk just a little bit more. Steps are logged and the teams go on a virtual journey around the world. So our research team (seven of us) registered as a team, we called ourselves....."The Eppendorfs"....don't ask why. The challenge starts on the 24th of May. Registration for the challenge closes May 4th so if your company has decided to participate sign-up quick!!! You get pretty cool freebies, PLUS if you stick to the challenge of 12,000 steps a day, unless you are already super fit you will have an improvement of health! Oh and by the way this is worldwide so if you are going to be in it let me know your team name so I can see if the Eppendorfs are ahead of your team!

Happy Walking!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012


The second weekend in March I took a Friday off, joined Mark and his Mum in a car headed for Wales. While we always have fun the purpose of this trip was not sightseeing or relaxing it was to be a part of a 14 person work crew for a bunkhouse in Wales, Tyle Mogrug.

Mark's Dad used to be the the chairman for committee that ran the charity that is responsible for this bunk house. We continue to go periodically to help out on the working weekends. The Cynon Valley Cottage and Bunkhouse is in the middle of nowhere, which is perfect for what it groups that are enjoying the outdoors. From scout groups to hiking individuals many stay here as it is on the edge of the Breacon Beacon which makes it perfect for hiking, biking and getting away from it all!

Now up until this trip I have been extremely fortunate and had not yet experienced stero-typical Welsh weather. When we came out of the local food shop armed with the bits and pieces needed for supper and breakfast the next morning...I got that experience. Grey and rainy. So the drive up and over the hills it to the Cynon Valley was not as spectacular as before as you couldn't really see much more than grey mist, fog and rain! 

Supper was made as Sue had done all the hard work before leaving England. Supper finished we all retired to the lounge area where a fire was burning bright. The guys all swapped stories of what the bunkhouse (affectionately referred to as the hovel) and the role that Mike had in turning it from the hovel it was with sheep dung piled up so high the front door couldn't be opened to the 3 star bunkhouse it is now.

Off to bed. Bunks for Mark and I. The next morning I awoke to clump, clump, clump....BANG. As each person...ok lets be honest...MAN, staying our side of the bunkhouse plodded down the stairs slamming the door to make sure the rest of the working party awoke! Soon all was well, as is tradition the chairman of the charity knocked on Mark and I's door with a mug of tea for me and a cheery good morning for Mark! It was again grey, misty and generally miserable. After breakfast two of the work crew sat with Sue and I and gave us very detailed instructions on how to get to the nearest Travis Perkins (a hardware store) in nearby Aberdare as well as a shopping list of things they wanted us to get for them. 
Caerphilly Castle and the Welsh hills beyond

Sue and I at Caerphilly
So we got in the car and I used my handy android smart phone to look up the address and then plugged the post code into Mrs. Garmin and we were off. No troubles no dramas we arrived at the Travis Perkins armed with a list of parts and tools that we were to get using the chairman's trade card. Unfortunately they did not have everything they men wanted. So we spent the next 15min with the VERY helpful staff member who located all the items we needed at nearby Caerphilly. I was very happy to hear this as on a previous trip Wales I had been to Caerphilly and it has the most beautiful castle! So off we went. The lower in the valley we got the more beautiful it became! Soon the sunroof was open and the windows were rolled down. Very easily we found the Travis Perkins and got all the required parts for the work team. Job done! Before doing the shopping necessary for the next few meals and heading back to the bunkhouse, we decided we needed a reward so we had a quick exploration of Caerphilly castle where I was the guide! That was weird...being in a the UK and acting as a guide for Sue! he..he...Tour and photographic evidence taken, as we knew the guys would never believe us. We stopped in a local cafe for a coffee and a cake YUMMY!

Caerphilly Castle, outer moat
Back at the bunkhouse the men were all VERY please to see us! And helped us bring in the food. They were happy to see we got the parts, but as predicted they did not believe we had been to Caerphilly! Not even the pictures proved it!! It took the dated receipt for the parts before the chairman would believe us. 

Caerphilly Castle, inner moat
They were all quite hungry and took turns "helping" us in the kitchen to speed the homemade soup we were making for lunch! In the afternoon the sun came up and Mark, Sue, John, and I took a moment and a bit of a walk to remember Mike. The rest of the afternoon was a cleaning extravaganza as we got the bunkhouse back into good condition. The work crew mainly all stopped at 16.00, but that is when Sue and I began. I have never made such a large tagine in my life! enough to feed 14 hungry people. It went down a treat! Even the couscous which was a new experience for some. It was good fun but hard work! Thank I now have a little better appreciate for what cooks and chef's do! 

Sunday we were all prepared to spend another day working as is the tradition. There is usually a promise of a walk which never happens due to the amount of work that needs to be done. But things and the bunkhouse have come SO far that the entire work team went for a walk. Well everyone except us. We had no idea that the promised walk now happens and had not brought the right gear. So instead after walking to the most beautiful sunrise and the bleating of the sheep we did a few final things and then hopped in the car. We decided that we would do a little exploration of Cardiff. 

Cardiff is just on the inside of the sea coast. It boast a brand new stadium, a newly developed docks are, and an old castle. We did a drive through Cardiff Bay (the docks area) and they did a fabulous job down there. Lots of new buildings with interesting architecture and loads of space and pathways for people to wander. Then we headed into town. Found a place to park and went for a walk. It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed being out and about. The castle looked impressive from the outside and a famous wall of animals! Which were fun to snap. We then returned to the park and found a sunny bench where we watched the world of Cardiff go by while enjoying our picnic lunch.

Castle clock tower

One of the many animals on the wall

 After lunch, we needed to get on the road if we were going to miss the traffic. I hopped behind the wheel giving Mark a break as he had done the majority of the driving so far. It had been a great weekend.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Cotswolds...Part Two


Back to the Cotswold story...sorry to leave you hanging for SO long. Day two dawned bright and beautiful. The day promised to be even nicer than the day before. We had our second lovely breakfast this time I had scrambled eggs and smoked salmon YUMMY! While Mark had his second full English. After a brief chat with our hosts and a second consultation with the oracle of all things we were off. The second day's journey was decided to use the map only despite the missed turns and the momentarily lost moments from the day before. We had had SO many adventures minus Mrs. Garmin so we left her locked in the glove box.

Goals for the day were to find Broadway Tower, Rollright stones, and Burton-on-the-Water using as few main roads as possible. So leaving Charlton Kings we headed first towards a place called Guilting Power after going through Guilting Power we got lost! We ended up in Winchcombe. Whoops!! Turned out to be a great mistake though  as there was a lovely castle, Sudeley Castle (which was closed) and a few beautiful vistas. We walked round the outside of the castle and took a few photos before getting in the car to then try and figure out how to get back on the right road to Broadway tower.

Historic Houses in Winchcombe

Our view of Sudeley Castle
Queen Katherine Parr's view...while minus Mark!

Well I know you will find this hard to believe at this point but rather than stay on the main road we left Winchcombe found a single track road and got on it. Now I had no idea how to get from where we were to Broadway tower, but neither of us wanted to go on the boring main roads. So winding our through beautiful English countryside through Temple Guilting (which is almost due north of Guilting Power...meaning we completely doubled back on our selves...hehe), up to Cutsdean Ford, and then Snowshill. Snowshill was a beautiful tiny little village boasting of a few houses, an iconic phone box and a pub. A booming metropolis compared to Taddinton, long may these villages remain less discovered!
Snowshill church yard
Snowshill Pub
 Sometime after Snowshill I directed Mark down the wrong road yet again, which took us into the town of Broadway. Now we were planing on going to Broadway but not until after Broadway tower. But it REALLY didn't matter. Broadway is a gorgeous village with the kind of shopping that Mark and I were expecting in Cheltenham. It was full of odd little shops in ancient buildings. More than once even I was ducking to avoid low ceilings! It was amazing to get to see the inside of some of these buildings. From the outside the look very straightforward and simple but the inside of them is a maze of adventure, massive wooden oak ceiling beams, and the oddest angles of ceiling meets wall meets floor! It was hard to focus on the beautiful things for sale as these shops gave you a free tour of the inside of the classic Cotswold stone houses!

Broadway tower was next. As we approached it there were also signs for a Nuclear bunker, but being out of season it wasn't open. Broadway Tower was, but we decided not to pay the extra money to climb the tower as the view from the ground were stunning. Besides with no wind cover it was VERY chilly and as we were now beginning to start to be conscious of the distance (calculating getting lost once or twice) that we needed to cover IF we were going to make it to all our other stops. So it was a whirlwind walk round the base of the folly before jumping into the warm car. 
Capability Brown's Tower (aka Broadway tower)

View from Broadway Tower 

Supposedly you can see as many as 16 different counties from here, but it was too chilly to stop and try and figure out how many I could see. Next was on to the Rollright stones. Due to the fact that our day was quickly coming to an end we decided it would be best if we stayed on the main road. I know boring, BUT there were too many things that I wanted to try and see in such a very short time. So down the A44 we went stopping for a quick shop in Merton on the Marsh were we found a lovely old book store with a resident dog so you know it was a good shop! and had a quick bite to eat. Then on to Little Compton where we had to leave the main road in order to get to the stones.

Most people have heard of Stonehenge and want to visit them. What less people are aware of is that there are lots and lots of stone circles all over England. Most of which are not the major tourist attraction that is Stonehenge. I have been lucky enough to actually get to see Stonehenge many times (hard to miss as it is on the side of a main road on the way to Salisbury). Even more lucky I have also been to see Avebury which is a stone circle that goes around an entire village! As well as the Woodhenge which is thought to be an earlier Stonehenge. Well according to the great oracle the Rollright stones are the third most famous stone circle in England. First thing to say is that the difference between most famous and third famous means that we

A Rollright stone
completely missed the signs and the stones the first time we drove past. Now this might be understandable if there was lots of other things around this area, but the ONLY thing on this small little road is the Rollright stones and we still missed them...I think  we must have been tired as there was in fairness to the national trust a BIG green sign. Now as for the stone circle; legend has it that it is not possible to count all the stones and if you manage to do it you get a wish full fulled. The sun was fading and the stones were pretty but to be honest I wasn't feeling the magic of these stones. Avebury definitely something special about those stones, and the same for Stonehenge but not for me for Rollright. Maybe I'm getting a bit to used to this sort of special thing and maybe for me they are just old stones now...hehe...Am I becoming a "local"?

The next town answered that question for me rather quickly! Burton-on-the-Water has to be one of the prettiest little village I have ever seen! If it was in America you would think it had been constructed just for the tourists. It was very easy to imagine it HEAVING in peak season. Thankfully we were there in off season so we had to share it with locals only. I tried to take some pictures of it but didn't really mange to fully capture the essence of the place.
Instead bear with me as I try to describe it. There is this village made from honey coloured stone. Its buildings are simple rectangles and yet there is a beauty in the clean lines that have stood for hundreds of years. There is a waterway which divides the town. It is clear and shallow and mainly serves as a place for the local ducks to pretend to hunt for plants and algae while secretly hoping for small children to feed them bread. Across this waterway at what seems like ridiculously close distances are picturesque arched bridges. Some for cars, some for pedestrians and some I think merely for the beauty of repetition. We happily strolled thought this impossibly perfect village and managed before the shops closed to get our  tourist magnet, a teapot (in the shape of a VW van), and a spice rack! Don't ask....

Where else but England is the "new" part of the in from 1938?
After Burton-on-the-Water it was time to head back to Detmore house. As we drove though more little roads I relished in the views. Here more than any other place that that I have visited so far in England, it is so easy to see and believe in the England of the Bronte sisters as well as Jane Austin. The land was still visibly divided up in manors and small pretty villages that sprung up to support the wealthy in those manor houses. Here being wealthy meant being a landowner and having others farm the land for you. I felt like I was gazing into the past.

Our final day in the Cotswolds started the same as the others sunny with a fabulous breakfast. This time I had the cooked full English and Mark had the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. We left Detmore house having had a restful wonderful time. We made our way towards home once again winding through tiny roads taking in the view. Stopping for lunch in Cirencester another beautiful Cotswold market town. We slowly wound our way back to Surrey. As the landscape changed and the buildings changed from honey stone into redbrick a part of me felt that I had been to another country not just a new county and was now returning home!

If you ever go to the Coltswolds, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. As scary as it might seem, turn of you chosen GPS device, pull out a map (even if it is old and out of date) and just have fun! You will get lost, but by doing so you may be as lucky as we were: and find a countryside full of nodding snopdrops in full bloom, hidden villages unknown to the multitudes of tourist that frequent the area, and meet a goose who thinks he is David!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A Nutty Cake for a Nutty Husband

Feb was a busy month for Mark and I. There are a lot of special days that we honor in this month! one of the important days that never goes without a bit of a celebration is Mark's birthday!! I decided that we would have a day of cakes for him. So the morning started with homemade American style blueberry pancakes: a recipe from "the Joy of Cooking" by Betty Crocker whatsapp'ed to me by my sister. I have adapted it to make it a bit more healthy (lower GI) by substituting a cup of plain flour with a 1/4 cup of soya flour and 3/4 cup of wholewheat flour. It requires a bit more milk but I add this by look and feel.

The second cake I made for him was a bit more labour intensive. Also from my memory I believe it is only the third cake that I have made from scratch! Most of my other cakes have all been made from a box as it is cheaper and easier. hehe! However, whether it is a new wife syndrome, or a factor of me getting older, OR the fact that in my time away from work I truly do enjoy taking life a little bit slower! I am getting old...OH dear!!!Anyways my first cake I remember making from scratch was when I was little. The second was only a few short months ago. One of our wedding gifts was, "Baking Made Easy" by Lorraine Pascale. I made the "I can't believe you made that" cake on page 58. It was a great success with Mark and his Uncle so I thought to myself....easy! I will just make that cake again BUT instead of following Lorriane's advice for decorating I decided to make something up on my own.

 After much thought and consideration I decided as the cake was going to be one of Mark's favorite things....chocolate. I would add in his second favorite thing....nuts! This was the finished result. It was in a weird way VERY easy but VERY fiddly at the same time. In case any of you have a nut lover in your life let me share what I did.

First between the two cake layers I put a layer of homemade chocolate butter cream (thank you Loarraine Pascale) with copped mixed nuts as well. The sides and top of the cake was covered in a simple vanilla buttercream icing (again homemade). With the exception of the top of the cake I didn't worry too much about the icing looking okay or being even as I was planning on covering my messy work with more chopped nuts. To place the chopped nuts I used the uber technical skill of... take a handful of nuts and squish them onto the sides. This was the fiddly bit and if any of you know a better way to do this I'm all ears, please leave comments. That process took the longest and judging from the speed of which the cake disappeared I will be making it again, so all suggestions are welcome! I then took half walnuts and using a knife cut them in half again and placed them as edging around the top of the cake and the same for the star in the middle. Volia! Cake finished.

It was very scrumptious. But probably not so much on the healthy side, but the pancakes were! So it evens out right? 

WARNING: This cake has been made with nuts. If you or anyone who might want a piece of this cake has an allergy to nuts PLEASE do not serve it to them!