Snappy Lids Are Very Loud!


Snappy lids are very loud!

 

It’s that time of year when all the ‘vouchers’ my family gave me for Christmas are being used up, and I am having lots of nice treats (much nicer than another pair of socks!) Last week I used my ‘afternoon tea’ voucher.

To be honest, when I suggested a voucher for afternoon tea, I had been thinking about a trip to London, to one of the big posh hotels. I have already been fortunate enough to have been invited to a tea at The Ritz (which is sort of the ‘ultimate’ traditional English afternoon tea venue) but I have heard that Claridge’s does a very good tea too. (At £70 per person, it jolly well ought to be good! The Ritz is a bargain at only £60 per person—though don’t be tempted to pay another £50 for a birthday cake, as the cake which arrives is the size of a cupcake and looks rather dry, in my opinion. I have rather strong opinions when it comes to cake).

However, my gift was not for tea in London, it was for afternoon tea at the Watersmeet Hotel in Devon—where you might remember we had an exceptionally lovely tea last year. We were staying in Instow, Devon, for a few days (Husband tends to take me there every January so I can recover from Christmas—I tend to be not very nice and exceptionally explosive when I’m over-tired, so it’s probably a good idea). I packed some smart clothes (ie, clothes not covered in dog/cat hairs or mud) and we drove to the hotel on Sunday afternoon. The drive was a pretty one, through lanes bordered with high hedges, past tiny streams meandering through valleys, and through towns with old churches and stone cottages and lanes only just wide enough for a car.

 The Watersmeet Hotel has a dining room with big windows overlooking the cove. It looks very nice on their website, but last year when we arrived for our tea, we were seated in the lounge—still nice, but not quite as nice. Last year I had commented, and tried to show them my voucher, with photos of the dining room. Husband whispered that actually he had made the voucher himself, by stealing photos from their website, so perhaps my position wasn’t as strong as I thought it was! This year though, Husband had specifically asked if we could sit in the dining room when he booked the tea. We were shown to a seat, in the window, looking down on the cove. It was perfect.

The tea, when it arrived, was enough for at least four people. I had remembered this from the previous year, and had come prepared. Smuggled into my smart blue bag, were tiny plastic containers with snappy lids, all ready to store any leftover food.

We sat and drank tea (proper, strong, made with tea-leaves, tea). We admired the food, and ate the sandwiches and some of the cakes and one of the scones. I then, very stealthily, drew the first container from my bag. It was small—the perfect size for a fat scone. Husband laughed at me, and commented that his nan* would be proud of me. All was going well, no one else noticed, until I came to close the lid. Snappy lids are very loud. The sound echoed around the empty dining room, and the family sitting in the lounge looked up, surprised. Husband laughed. I looked at the remaining cakes, and glanced at the row of small containers sitting deceptively quietly in my bag. Dare I use them to store the leftover cakes and cause a whole series of loud pops?

 Yep, I dared. It was loud, and the waitress popped in to find out what was happening, but the cakes weren’t wasted.

Actually, we were offered boxes to take home the leftovers, but the cakes were delicate tarts and soft sponges and last year we arrived home to find a mangled mess of unidentifiable flavours, so snappy-lid containers are much better. If somewhat louder.

We enjoyed the view, which is so much more spectacular than any London hotel could offer.

When we arrived back at the cottage, the cakes were still perfect in their containers, and we enjoyed them over the next few days.

I hope you have some things to enjoy too. Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne

PS. Afternoon Tea at Watersmeet Hotel is £22 per person, and with an incomparable view—but remember to ask to be seated in the dining area when you book. And don’t forget to take some containers for the left-overs.

 

 

*When I first met Husband’s family, way back in the 80’s when we were teenagers, his family were still eating the sugar which his nan had stockpiled during the sugar shortage of the 70’s! I am never sure whether being compared to her is necessarily a compliment. . .

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First Day on Edisto Beach


First Day in Edisto:

Husband made coffee and I drank it watching deer and white egrets and squirrels out of the window. The Airbnb we’ve rented for a few days is built on stilts, with parking below and all the living space on the first floor, so it feels like we’re living in the tree tops. After so much travelling, it’s wonderful to simply stop for a few days, and to do nothing. No rushing off to see something before we check-out of the hotel, no long drive to the next place, a chance to catch our breath and relax.

We went for a run, detouring over the golf course and climbing over a gate so that we could reach the beach. Beautiful, but very warm. There were several ‘beware of gator’ signs, but we didn’t see any.

Breakfast of granola and yogurt in the condo. Listened to a sermon online (because it’s Sunday, but I couldn’t face going to church!) We stood at the window, watching turtles swimming in the pool below. I did a load of laundry, down in the little laundry room below the condo. It’s a tiny room, with a locked door and a light switch. There were no windows, and inside there’s just room for a washer and drier. It was the sort of place where snakes or poisonous spiders might lurk, so I was cautious, and only touched what I could see. It wasn’t a nice place to be—but very nice to be able to wash our clothes after weeks of travel.

We’re staying at Edisto Beach, and one of the recommended restaurants was Sea Cow Café, so we went there for lunch. It was small and crowded, with a lady sitting outside on the veranda, taking the money and directing people to seats. We were offered seats at the bar or a long wait, so we sat at the bar. I ate a BLT with coleslaw and fries. I didn’t want beer or a fizzy drink full of sugar, and they didn’t have sparkling water (very few places here seem to). I decided to try ‘iced tea’. Big mistake. It tasted like the dregs from Granny’s teapot served cold, with ice. Pretty disgusting. I’m not sure what I was expecting—I guess it was as described—but it seems to be popular so I thought it might be nice. Maybe it’s an acquired taste.

At 4pm, we walked back to the beach. There were dolphins, loads of them, leaping from the water. It was brilliant! They were impossible to photograph on my iPhone, and I have lots of pictures of blank sea with the occasional splash, but I don’t think I will forget the sight of them: a glimpse of a nose, then a black curved back with a fin, flowing down to a tail, all raised in one smooth curve above the waves before disappearing in a splash. Such a wonderful sight.

I am really enjoying Edisto. The only down-side is the number of bugs—though our condo has good screens at the doors and windows, so it’s only when we’re outside that I need to be smothered in repellent.

Thank you for sharing our adventures. Take care.

Love, Anne x

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A Trip to Monk’s Island (near Cannes) and Cube-Throwing in Biot


Saturday August 24th

We all met for breakfast at 8.15. Some people are more awake than others, but buffets tend to get a little ‘picked over’ after a while, so although the AC Hotel does a good breakfast, I don’t like being late. I collected my freshly brewed coffee, some pancakes, banana and maple syrup, and tuned in to the conversations going on around me. Husband was discussing inherited advantage. Girlfriend stuck her finger into her eye—but I think the two were unconnected.

We decided to go to Monk’s Island: Ile Saint-Honorat. We could catch a train from Juans-les-Pins to Cannes, which avoids having to try and park, and then a ferry to the island. Emm had suggested that we hire kayaks and row there, but we were all ignoring that bit.

Catching the train was easy. Return tickets to Cannes were 5 euro. The train was air conditioned, double-decked, and quite full. Most of the journey we could see nothing but ugly concrete walls, with the occasional snatched view of sun shining on deep blue sea and boats.

We arrived in a very hot Cannes at 1.30pm. We walked through pretty streets, past restaurants smelling of steaks and garlic, and shops where cold air seeped onto the pathway, and hotels with sleepy guests on balconies. We followed signposts to the quay, and to the ticket office. We then sat, blasted by the sun, waiting for the boat. I wished I had carried my umbrella, so I could have created some shade.

The boat loaded, and we sailed out to sea. Cannes was laid out on the hills to our left, huge ships and pleasure boats were to our right. The wind swept across the deck, drying our sweaty tee-shirts while two men argued in French behind me. Actually, they were French, they might not have been arguing at all—to me, all French men sound as if they are either furious or trying to make love—there seems to be no middle ground.

Ile Saint-Honorat is a little island off the coast of Cannes, which is owned by a monastery. The monks allow people to visit, but ask that they dress appropriately and respect the silence of the island. I imagined a secluded island, rarely visited, practically cut-off from the rest of France. Instead, as we arrived at the quay, I saw about a million pleasure boats bobbing in the harbour—not so secluded then.

The monastery was lovely, with a very pretty church. We walked to it through vineyards, and attached to the monastery is a shop, where you can buy all things bee-related (beeswax candles, honey, soaps, alcohol) as well as wine made on the island, religious books, and saintly pendants (which always seem like lucky-charms to me). We saw a few monks, dressed in black and white robes (must have been incredibly hot to wear them all day) but most were hidden away in places not open to the public.

We caught the ferry back to the mainland. Cannes was still hot. We walked back to the station, staring at people we passed, trying to guess if they owned one of the multimillion-dollar boats in the harbour, or if they aspired to, of if they had no interest in the glitzy lifestyle at all. As we walked along one street, we were overtaken by soldiers, all in khaki, carrying machine guns. They fanned out, lining the road, looking in all directions. It was very unnerving. We kept walking, but I wondered if we were being stupid, and hiding under a table would have been better a response. Probably they were getting in place, ready for the motor cavalcade of someone important, but we’d have felt daft afterwards if we’d been shot. We weren’t.

Dinner at La Taille de Guepe (24, rue de Fersen, in the old part of Antibes). The food was delicious, and decorated with edible flowers. It was lovely.

After dinner we walked back via the main square, which was full of musicians and artists and people enjoying themselves. The sleepy old town wakes up at night.

 

Sunday August 25th

The last day of our holiday, so some people went to the beach, others to the pool.

After lunch we drove to Biot, a little village in the hills behind Cannes. There is a large town car park, which was surprisingly full. Then we learned that we had happened to visit on the afternoon of the boules carrees championship, and teams were playing it in every street, and square, and lane. The game appeared to be the same as boule—when you throw little balls towards a target, and the closest wins—but it is played with small coloured cubes (the kind you built towers with as a toddler). Teams were all ages, but the games were pretty intense, and there was a lot of pressure to not, by mistake, walk across the area where they were playing (which as they were playing everywhere was sometimes quite hard!)

Biot is a pretty town, and when not full of people throwing cubes around, it is famous for its blue glass. There were galleries and shops and art installations of blue glass. But mainly, there were people throwing cubes…

We ate an ice-cream, wandered (carefully) through some pretty squares, and sat for a while on a bench, enjoying the view. A sleepy end to our holiday.

Thank you for sharing the holiday with me. If you have enjoyed the blogs, look out for my travel book—I think you will enjoy it.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Finding a Launderette in Antibes, and A Visit to a Bizarre Museum in Grasse


Wednesday August 21st

We plan to stay in the Antibes area of France for the rest of the week, so first on the agenda, after breakfast, was a trip to a launderette (wayhay!) Finding and using a launderette in another country is usually fairly easy due to the internet (except for in Beijing—I don’t think self-service launderettes exist in Beijing). However, it is always unpleasant, and in the south of France it is especially unpleasant due to the heat. We found one that was full of people doing their washing—mainly tourists. There were machines dispensing washing powder, but I had brought some capsules from home, so all we needed to do was decipher the rather confusing instructions (you had to put your laundry and soap into a numbered machine, then put the money into a computer on the wall, and when you entered your machine number, it automatically started to work. It was not unlike paying for parking when you enter your number plate at the ticket machine). All worked fine, and we didn’t die from heat-exhaustion (though it was close).

After a lunch of warm baguettes, and cheese from the supermarket, we drove to Grasse. Grasse is a very pretty town on a hill overlooking Cannes, where there are several perfumeries, and a museum all about making perfume, and lots of shops selling perfumes, and very few places to park…We went to a completely full carpark, and were lucky enough to find people who were about to leave, so we waited. The people began to vacate their parking space, and we became aware that several other, recently arrived cars, were positioning ready to zoom into the space we had been waiting for. Adrenaline levels rose. The boys got out of our car, and stood behind the departing car, filling the space so that we could reverse into it. There was much gesticulating from the other drivers, but I am assuming they were discussing the weather.

I had hoped we would wander through the pretty town, have a coffee, smell the perfumes and buy some gifts. We have toured a perfumery on a previous visit, so I knew I was safe from that little delight. Husband hoped we would visit the museum.

We visited the museum. Grasse has one of the most boring, yet bizarre, museums that I have ever visited. To be fair, it has washrooms (and I was desperate, which is how the plan was sneakily adopted) but really, that was the sole redeeming feature. The first room showed how ancient Egyptians had used perfumes to embalm bodies. One display case held a human hand, blackened with age, skin peeling, fingers hardened into claws. Bea was somewhat perturbed by the hand, but I was more concerned about the rest of the body—had several museums decided to share various body-parts? Who decided which museum received which part? So much to worry about…

The museum also had pots, lots and lots of pots, all used to store perfume. There is, in my view, a limit to how interesting pots can be.

And then, just when you were beginning to tire of yet another room of pots, there were the sensory boxes. These really have to be seen to be believed. They were little wooden boxes, fastened to the wall in several places around the museum at head-height. The unwary visitor was encouraged to peer through the small glass window, and to sniff the air above some holes drilled into the box. I think/hope the scents were of perfume, I never sniffed. The views were of body parts, and there was a lot of pubic hair involved. All I can imagine, is that they were depicting the places on the body that people wear perfume—but to be honest, I have no idea. It was most bizarre and meant the museum was full of hysterically giggling teenaged girls (as well as a lot of pots). There were also small dark rooms, where clips of films were being played. They were snippets from well-known films, and again, I think they were showing people (mostly nude) applying perfume.

To be fair, there was also a scented garden and greenhouse, full of herbs and flowers used to make perfume, which was lovely and very interesting, and there was a shop, which had lots of reasonably priced perfumed products. But mostly, the museum was not a highlight of my holiday. The boys liked it though.

We walked to the town, enticed by a street that had pink umbrellas strung above it, giving everything a rosy hue. The shops were wonderful to look at: a shop with great chunks of nougat that gleamed like granite, a chocolate shop decorated with cacao beans and photographs showing the production of chocolate, a cushion shop—as well as, of course, lots of perfume shops, where they gave you tiny slithers of white paper to test the perfumes. We drank coffee, and wandered through the town and up to the old church, where someone was playing the organ and candles flickered in front of the marble saints.

We found a sensory garden, near to a viewpoint, laid out with coloured deckchairs under pipes in the trees which squirted perfumed mist into the air. People rested there. Some people rested for a very long time, and although I had a book in my bag, the pipe above me leaked and the pages got regular dollops of water, so I left, and went back to wait in the cool of the church.

I hope you find some good places to rest today.
Thank you for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Wandering in New York City


We decided to walk from the bottom of Manhattan up to Central Park.

The weather was clear and bright, we were still on UK clocks, so after a 6am breakfast in Westway diner (614 Ninth Ave) we hailed a cab and set off.

There was some confusion when we tried to explain to the taxi driver where we wanted to go. I wanted to start at ‘The Charging Bull’, so we gave the street address, which he didn’t recognise. I remember being caught out by this before – in London, a black cab driver knows every street in London, but in NY, you sometimes need to give directions. Eventually he worked out we wanted the “Wall Street Bull” (even though it isn’t on Wall Street) and we were taken to the right place. He was then quite chatty, and suggested we walk across Brooklyn Bridge.

Although we have visited New York many times (we used to live here – though that was about 20 years ago now, which I find slightly scary) we have never walked on the Brooklyn Bridge. (We did most other things, and visited the World Trade Centre and Liberty Island about 1,000 times, because all our UK visitors always wanted to go there.) So, we set off. We walked past Seaport, and after a slight David-detour, we found the pedestrian access to the bridge. It was still early, and lots of keep-fit types were running across the bridge, looking very intense with their fitness apps and running gear. We tried to keep out their way, and wandered across. Brooklyn Bridge has some of the best views of the island, so was worth visiting just for the photo opportunity. Though some people do take an incredibly long time composing their photos, even when it’s just taken on a phone (just saying).

We then walked up the island, through the different districts. I love doing this, as you get a real flavour of the cosmopolitan place that is New York City. Past City Hall and Foley Square (very like city of London) through China Town, into Little Italy, up through NoHo, to the Flatiron building. Then we got hungry, and went back to a very crowded Westway diner for lunch (everyone else was eating breakfast). According to my phone, we walked 18km.

 

 Lafayette Patisserie is a nice place to stop. I hope you like the hat. It got a surprising number of comments, all from Husband, all derogatory. Have put ‘new hat’ on Christmas list. NY is cold though, you need a hat.

 

 

 

 

The next day we walked the length of Central Park. We could have spent hours in there, wandering around, it’s huge. In the past we have taken a boat out on the lake, or visited the zoo, and when the kids were young they used to climb over the Alice in Wonderland statue. It brought back lots of memories. (And was 15km.)

My last day, we decided to walk across the island, to see Roosevelt Island. On the way, we passed a large glass window, into a large room with about 20 dogs, and a girl throwing a ball for them. It was a doggy day-care centre. I’m not sure Kia would be impressed, but it looked okay actually if you have a sociable dog.

We walked past the United Nations Building, which I remember as a completely different building, so think I must’ve labelled some old photos wrongly. It all looked rather foreboding, with lots of security.

We also saw a giant inflatable rat, which the unions put outside buildings that they deem to have bad working conditions.

We saw Queensboro Bridge, which goes over Roosevelt Island, but doesn’t stop on it. There was a cable car, but I hate cable cars and refused, absolutely, to go in it. Husband was understanding. In return, I went into Home Depot with him (used to be his favourite shop when we lived there. It’s full of man-stuff). We walked passed Carnegie Hall, along E59th, along the bottom of Central Park. We bought coffee and bagels for lunch.

I flew home the next day. I love New York City, it’s a city you can visit many times, and usually find something new to discover, or an old memory to revisit. There’s always lots to do, shows to see, galleries, museums, restaurants….but best of all, I think, is simply to wander around.

***

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xxx