Tag Archives: travel

Tea at Thistle Farms

Note: I did not take the featured photo above, but it inspires me to more seriously pursue tea photography!

As I mentioned in a previous post, last week I had a wonderful visit with my friend Michelle. (Even strep throat couldn’t keep us apart!) If you know us at all then you understand when we get together we do our best to find a good afternoon tea.

We found that and more at The Café at Thistle Farms in Nashville!


Isn’t the tea tray lovely? To drink we chose the Firepot Breakfast black tea (which they described as lively, dried cherry, fresh oak) and the Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong (mineral, stewed peach, walnut). Both teas were tasty, but I actually preferred the Oolong, which was Michelle’s choice.


Here’s a closer view of the tea tray. We started in the middle with the scone, cream and jam before making our way to the sandwiches and other savories on the bottom tier. It all looked like a manageable amount of food, but I have to admit that the deserts (top tier) nearly, but not quite, did me in.

Before and after we ate, Michelle and I perused the lovely shop and its offerings of essential oils, jewelry, clothing, and body/skin care products. I found some lovely items for myself and a family member. It became clear to me there was a charitable purpose to this shop, but I was so wrapped up in all the good smells and cool things that I didn’t take the time to read carefully about their mission.

Later I decided to purchase a few more items from their online shop. The box arrived in two days.


This note greeted me upon opening. At that point, I finally read their mission in detail. I’ll include it for you here:

Thistle Farms is a social enterprise of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. Thistle Farms houses the bath and body care company, The Cafe at Thistle Farms, and Thistle Farms Global. All proceeds support Thistle Farms and the residential program, Magdalene. The community provides housing, food, healthcare, therapy and education, without charging residents or receiving government funding.

WOW. We (or at least I) just stumbled into this cafe thinking to have an interesting tea experience with a dear friend. It turned out to be an amazing enterprise that I will continue supporting. If you live in or near Nashville, do consider visiting this lovely cafe. Or just visit their online shop–they have lots of gorgeous and nurturing products, and your items will be lovingly packed and shipped QUICKLY.

I’m so glad Michelle and I tried this place. (She did the work finding it, to her credit.) I hope to enjoy their tea many more times, and I’ll keep their online store in mind for my birthday and holiday shopping! I recommend the cafe and store enthusiastically and quite independently–no one at Thistle Farms suggested that I promote them on my blog.

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: Scotland, part 2


Loch Gairloch

[Go here if you missed part 1 of the Scotland postcards.]

Our luck with weather continued throughout our time in Gairloch. I couldn’t ask for anything nicer than the cool breezes and partly sunny skies we experienced.


We stayed at the Shieldaig Lodge, a former hunting lodge turned hotel. I felt a bit like a character in Nancy Mitford’s Highland Fling as I wandered through sitting rooms like this one with the bay window, this one with the coat of arms, or this little library where we enjoyed tea (more on that later).


Here Steve looks out over the Fairy Lochs. We were told at the lodge that this was a fairly easy walk, so we set out shortly after we arrived. It soon became clear that we’d need more time and energy, so we turned back. The next day we were determined to reach the lochs, but despite what all the travel guides said, it was fairly rough going–rocky terrain alternating with muddy bogs, and very steep in places. We had at least four moments of false hope when we thought we’d almost reached the plateau only to find there was SO MUCH MORE ground to cover. This view was well-earned, I tell you! (Going back down was even harder, but we won’t dwell on that…)


We enjoyed views like this (and easier paths) on our Flowerdale Glen walk.


Another view of Loch Gairloch.


I’ll wrap up by offering this post-dinner selfie taken on our last evening at Sheildaig Lodge. The pictures were so goofy, and we were laughing so hard, that the owner came out and asked if we would like him to take the photo. (We must have been making a spectacle of ourselves.) As you might imagine, his photo featured the lodge much more prominently.

Stay tuned for postcards from our walk to Chastleton House in the Cotswolds!

Summer Travel Postcards: Scotland, part 1


“Now this feels like the Highlands!”

On Sunday we flew to Inverness for five days in Scotland. We spent the first two nights on the Black Isle at Cromarty, a lovely little village. My photographs from the stay aren’t that impressive, however, because the weather was a bit dreary. I was terribly fond of Cromarty, but for now let’s move on to the more dramatic west coast sights near Gairloch. (We’ll revisit Cromarty when I post my blog on tea. Yay!)


First, I must praise my husband and, to a lesser extent, satellite navigation. I’ve never driven overseas, and Steve hadn’t for over a decade (not since we drove to Brontë country and he nearly abandoned the car in Bradford out of terror and frustration). What a difference a built-in sat nav makes! I wouldn’t say Steve was relaxed about driving this time around, but he was very good at it, particularly when the roads narrowed to a single lane, which happened A LOT.


One of our first driving adventures was out to the beaches at Red Point. The day started gloomy but turned quite fine as you can see. No filter on any of these photos–it was just that beautiful! And we nearly had it all to ourselves (but were happy to share).


Obligatory (and somewhat squinty) selfie. As we were leaving this beach, we ran into a group of pony trekkers. Later we walked to the Gairloch Trekking Center and watched two children grooming a pair of fat little ponies as part of the “Kids Stable Special” program. Do check out the gallery on their webpage–guaranteed to make you smile!


We were able to explore this rocky outcropping while the tide was out. You can see the Isle of Skye across the water — it was huge! Why did I think Skye was a wee island?


I didn’t have the nerve to walk to the edge, but that’s okay because it meant I could take this photo. 🙂

Stay tuned for more postcards from the Highlands!