Tag Archives: England

Summer travel postcards, final installment — the photo parade of TEA!


For our London stay, a friend recommended The Wolseley, and we were quite pleased with our experience. First of all, it’s not a stuffy sort of place in the least. It was very busy, with lots of chatter and laughter, plus great people-watching (& eavesdropping) opportunities. Steve and I both enjoyed the Wolseley Afternoon Blend tea. The scones were freshly baked and still warm, and the sandwiches were deliciously unfussy. As usually happens, we were a bit stuffed by the time we turned to the dessert tier of the tray, but rest assured we did our best. 😉


On our first full day in Cromarty, Scotland, we enjoyed tea and cake at The Pantry. This was a bright, cozy place, and quite peaceful in the late afternoon.


The next day we visited Coupers Creek, a cafe/gift shop also on Church Street. Doesn’t that freshly whipped cream look divine?


Once in Gairloch we enjoyed a tray of tea at the Shieldaig Lodge. We each had our own teapot, our own pot of hot water for refilling, and a couple of shortbread cookies. Quite reviving after our long (& winding) drive from the Black Isle!


Finally, a longstanding favorite — cream tea on the terrace at the Old Parsonage Hotel in Oxford. The silver teapot and strainers are fancy, yet the atmosphere is always relaxing. Over the years I’ve enjoyed many teas with friends at this spot. (Just for reference, here’s what a full tea looks like at Old Parsonage!)

That’s it for Summer postcards! I fully intend to return to my “Tea and a Book” posts this fall, so stay tuned!

Summer Travel Postcards: Chastleton House


A field overrun with wildflowers near Moreton-in-Marsh

After our Scotland adventures, it was time to move on to Oxford. We decided to spend our only free day visiting Chastleton House, which involved a train to Moreton-in-Marsh and lots of walking through the Cotswolds. Huzzah!


We were pretty hungry when we arrived. Fortunately the adjoining church, St. Mary’s, was offering tea and cake in return for donations to a charity supporting Medical Detection dogs. (This tickled me because I so enjoyed reading Nancy Cataldo’s marvelous Sniffer Dogs.) It actually was quite lovely to eat cake in the churchyard among the gravestones!


Chastleton House was built in the early 17th century by a wealthy wool merchant. Hardly any updates were made over the last 400 years, and although the exterior has held up quite nicely, the interior had fallen into terrible disrepair by the late 20th century. (We heard tales of a dotty old lady living there with 30 cats while the house was falling apart around her–you know how I aspire to love that sort of thing!) The National Trust bought the house in 1991 and has been in the process of restoring it ever since.


[As always, click images for a larger view]
In most historic houses, only a few rooms are available for public viewing because the resident family prefers to maintain some privacy. Well, since no one actually lives at Chastleton anymore, we were allowed access to a surprising number of rooms. I was excited to learn that Chastleton was featured in the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. In fact, a key scene between Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn was filmed in the Long Gallery, seen above at the right. Learn more about Chastleton House as a filming location here.


It was quite relaxing to wander in the topiary garden. I love this description from the National Trust website:

The garden has nods to changing garden fashions but still largely has its Jacobean layout, with divisions according to use. And it still preserves its secret garden feel of ‘romantic neglect’.

[*happy sigh*]


We wrapped up the day with an impromptu game of croquet. Did you know that the rules of croquet were codified at Chastleton House? They were written by Walter Jones Whitmore and published on April 7, 1866.

Stay tuned for one last travel post featuring . . . TEA!

Summer travel postcards: London


July evening sky — no filter!

We just returned from a two week trip to England and Scotland. Steve did not direct the law program in Oxford this summer, but he was asked to plan and be present for some special events for the students. Since the trip would take place over our 25th Anniversary, we decided to add on some personal travel, starting with three nights in London.


Couldn’t resist this photo upon our Thursday arrival at Paddington Station. I never was much of a Paddington fan as a child, but the 2015 film was utterly enchanting. (Apparently this statue was part of the promotion for the film. See more about the Paddington promotion statues at this blog post. And read my thoughts on the film here.)


On Friday we visited the Leighton House Museum, once home of Pre-Raphaelite painter Frederic Leighton. (His most famous painting might be Flaming June.) It’s a lovely house with Middle Eastern architectural and decorative touches, along with an impressive art collection, but I confess my favorite moment was meeting this smushy-faced ginger cat in the garden.


Friday night we enjoyed dinner in Soho with the incomparable Dominic Mattos!


On Saturday we visited the Foundling Museum, built near the site of The Foundling Hospital, established in 1739 by philanthropist Thomas Coram to care for abandoned babies. The two items above are tokens made by mid-18th century mothers who were asked to ‘affix on each child some particular writing, or other distinguishing mark or token, so that the children may be known thereafter if necessary’. Learn more about the tokens here.

[I’ve long been intrigued by orphans and foundlings in fiction, and my latest story features a foundling girl who is adopted to replace a much grieved child — a child who, as it turns out, may not have entirely departed from this plane of existence…]


Saturday night we saw The Taming of the Shrew at The Globe and upon leaving encountered this dramatic view of St. Paul’s Cathedral from across the Thames.

Stay tuned for more travel postcard posts!

England 2015 postcards — Lyme Regis


Yes, I’m very much behind. This trip was two weeks ago! Above you see a view of the beach at Lyme Regis, taken from the Langmoor and Lister gardens. I took this on our first night, when the weather was mild and lovely, and the town seemed to glow with magic. The next day it poured for hours and hours, so we did some shopping, museum visiting, and lots of resting. Saturday was a gorgeous day of hiking through the Undercliff and fossil hunting on Charmouth Beach. A great trip overall, with lots of good follow-up research for a story I’m writing (inspired by last year’s trip to Lyme). Yay!

Several days after our return, I dropped my phone and completely wrecked the display. Fortunately, most of my photos had automatically backed up to Flickr, and phone replacement should be covered by our maintenance plan. It’s been quite an adjustment. Aside from the disruption to communication, I just like having my phone with me at all times for taking photos. That said, I have enjoyed experiencing Oxfordshire without the phone–it certainly helps one to live in the moment.

This weekend we will pack up for our Monday morning flight home. I love it here, and it’s been a great summer, but it’s time to get back to my house, my kitty, and my work!

July Tea and a Book

Tea and a Book is back!

(I have to admit, however, that this installment is a bit of a cheat. You’ll see what I mean later.)

My favorite read of the summer (so far) is Kimberly Brusker Bradley’s The War that Saved My Life.


The story features many of my favorite things: WWII England, child evacuees, cozy villages, horses, and more. The very accessible first-person narration is quite gripping, and the horrors of abuse and war are offset by the protagonist’s horsey adventures (yay!) and blossoming friendships with people in her new community. I absolutely devoured this book! I’m sure I’ll read it many more times.

Here’s the official blurb:

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

Earlier this week Steve and I enjoyed a day trip to London to visit the Imperial War Museum. My favorite bit was the permanent exhibit entitled The Family in Wartime, partly because it brought back memories of The War that Saved My Life. (click photos to enlarge)


Evacuation propaganda posters.


I took this (terrible) shot while Steve and I were sitting in an Anderson bomb shelter — Ada, Jamie, and Susan spend some tense moments in one of these!

After our all too brief visit, we made our way to Piccadilly for tea at Fortnum & Mason. And now you see the “cheat” part of this post — I did not make my own tea, and I do not have any recipes to share. There’s no reference to F&M in The War that Saved My Life, but I’d like to believe it would have been one of Susan Smith’s favorite places to shop before the war, perhaps with her dear Becky.


The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon had a nice “relaxed posh” feel to it. The young man who brought our tea tray recommended that we put a drop of strawberry jam and lemon curd on our scones and mix it all together. This sounded blasphemous to me, but we figured it was only polite to try. Absolutely scrumptious. So there’s a tip for you, gentle reader!