Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holiday in Andalucia

A's birthday, so we didn't get to breakfast till nine. After, he opened cards and presents in our room - very jolly, before we finished the packing and made our way across the courtyard to check out. We tried to check the email, but the connection was down. At 11.15 the taxi came for us to go to the station, just a short distance, but it was a bit showery. The train was spot on time and we had coffee travelling at 250kph. Groves of olive trees rushed by and we could see quite a lot of flooding in the fields. The train arrived in Seville very promptly and a driver was there to collect us and take us to the hotel. It is another Hospes hotel, in a series of houses from the family Rey del Baeza. Several picturesque courtyards follow each other surrounded by three storey buildings with turquoise paintwork and balustrades all round - very pretty. The public rooms look very comfortable.

After settling in, we grabbed the cameras and brolleys and headed down to the famous Santa Cruz area where there is the Giralda, the Cathedral and the Real Alcazar. It all looks amazing from the outside, but we will have to wait until Saturday to see inside as everything was closed for NYEve and NYDay. We then took a walking route around Santa Cruz with its winding streets, houses with oriel windows and wrought iron balconies. Along one footpath we found a house where we think Washington Irvine lived. It was showery, and eventually we got caught in a heavy hailstorm - time to get inside, so we looked for a suitable tapas bar. Many were full as no-one wanted to be outside, but we did find one. Everyone smokes in the cafes, which is quite a surprise. We order some tapas - potatoes, aubergines, ratatouille and cheese with beer and coffee, then A spotted crepe with dulce de leche and we shared one, too.
It was much brighter if cooler now, so we walked up to the Plaza Nueva where the townhall is, and where everyone goes to eat the New Year grapes - one for each strike of midnight. We will eat ours at the hotel, so we went to see the square before the crowds arrive. There is a Christmas market there, so lots of stalls, but all closed until Saturday. They will make it even more crowded tonight. We took some pics of a sculpture installation - some rusty seated budda-like figures, then gradually made our way back to the hotel. Jodie of Kirkers has sent A a bottle of wine, which we will sip before dinner, and fruit as a birthday present.
Dinner was a tour de force: an amuse bouche of tempura to dip into soy sauce, boullabaisse with lobster medallions, seabream with marinaded vegetables, fillet of beef with vegetables and a creamy goat cheese sauce, green tea mousse with chocolate shavings and vanilla sauce. There should have been a 'Christmas selection' but this never materialised - just as well after all that!! They served us glasses of Cava, Giro Robot Penedes and Sierra Cantabrica Rioja. We brought our peppermint tea and champagne into the lounge and our waitress has given us a tin each with 12 peeled and stoned grapes for seeing in the New Year. Everyone has disappeared - to the crowded town square or elsewhere, so we watched the NY in on TV and ate some fresh grapes as a token to the Sevillian custom. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday in Andalucia

Violet jam for breakfast, only served at Hospes Hotel Palacio Del Bailio and made in France. After breakfast we set off to see if the market was open. The square was deserted, but the inside market was in full swing selling fish, meat, chicken and veg. We left the market making our way straight to the Mezquita.

We entered the orange grove gardens to buy our tickets and walked across to the entrance. It was amazing walking into the mosque area with its many columns and striped arches, row upon row; and then in the middle, everything changed to an ornate Christian cathedral, made up of Gothic renaissance and baroque styles ,which was instigated by Ferdinand III in 1236 when the Spanish took Cordoba from the Muslim Caliph. The main parts of the cathedral were begun in 1523. We spent quite some time inside, seeing the main areas including the Mihrab, taking many photos and wondering at the mix of architecture.
Eventually we left in search of coffee. A convenient place appeared just outside and we had our best value coffee and cake so far. As ws were on the street leading down to the river, we went along to see if the water was higher than yesterday following the rain of last night; we think it was. On the way down we stopped by the Andalusian council office with its courtyard and info boards explaining some of the features of Cordoba that contribute to its World Heritage status. There were even drawings of the Roman waterwheels in place against the buildings and we wondered if there was a plan to put one back in working order. How interesting.

Now we were ready to look round the old Jewish quarter, which we would enter along Dr. Fleming Avenue, but instead we found the entrance to the baths belonging to the Alcazar where the Caliphs bathed. We went in and had a lovely time visiting the archaeological site with an interpretive film in Spanish - but we could guess what they were saying having read the English captions on the boards. Now we did start walking through the Jewish quarter; lots of small streets with balconies and a few glimpses of hidden patios. We arrived at the Synagogue, but it was closed until 3.30, so we threaded our way back to the area near the Mezquita to find a cafe for a sandwich. We found a good place selling bocadillos and ordered ham and cheese bagettes with coffee sitting outside with a view of one of the gates into the Patio de las Naranjos. Alan then went for ice creams and it suddenly started to rain, so we rushed indoors to eat them. As we finished them, the Synagogue would be open again so we made our way back there to see one of only three synagogues in Spain and the only one in Andalucia. It has Hebrew lettering in a decorative pattern around the walls, which is apparently very unusual.

Our last visit of the day was to the Palacio de Viana, the home of the family Viana until bought by a bank in 1981. It has 14 patios arranged around the building, which is filled with all sorts of treasures such as porcelain, tapestries, paintings and furniture. They all are a little shabby, and we were hurtled through by a fast speaking Spanish guide who gave us a leaflet with a very brief English translation.
At last we got back to Palacio del Bailio and decided on a 'tapas' dinner in the hotel bar. Fried fish, pork skewer and tomato salad followed by 'moorish' pastries and herby teas. We had extra dry sherry with the tapas.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday in Andalucia

After breakfast we were just about to leave the room when reception rang to say our driver was waiting for us. We proceeded to reception; checked out after removing an extra €20 from the bill for none existant drinks; and joined the driver who whisked us off to the station. We were a bit early for our train, Altaria, but joined a queue to go through airport style security once the train arrived. We were in the first carriage behind the engine and the crew car, as were a large party of Americans travelling to Madrid. The weather looked threatening, but as we set off through miles of olive trees it cleared a bit leaving clouds nestling in the valleys. There were some spectacular outcrops rearing up from the plains as well as pretty white villages. It took about two and a half hours to Cordoba during which time we were served a second breakfast - again like being on a plane.
When we arrived, we decided to walk the short distance - less than a km -to our hotel. We hadn't reckoned on the rain, and got rather wet when it started halfway there. The hotel is in an old mansion, but contains an amazing surprise; in the dining room there is a glass floor through which we can view the remains of a beautiful 200bc Roman villa with a huge hexagonal design mosaic floor. Apparently this is lit during dinner and provides quite a diversion. Our room is across a courtyard on the first floor. Again it is exquisitely, minimalistically decorated; the perfect mix of old and new.

As soon as we were ready, we took maps, cameras and brolleys to walk via the market square down to the river. There are lots of little winding streets, but not up hill, leading in all directions, so easy to end up going in circles, but we didn't. The market was over but the square reminded us of the temple courtyards in Bhutan with its rows of arches and windows. We continued on to the river passing some interesting tile shop signs. At the river we crossed the road to the Milleflores Bridge. Here we could see that the river was very swollen and swirled by with lots of debris. Downstream is the 'Roman' bridge; built on Roman foundations with multiple archways, it has recently been restored and is a really ochre colour. The water whirled around its bases. Crossing the river via the new bridge, we climbed down steps to walk through a landscaped area along the opposite bank, then under the Roman bridge to see a restored waterwheel house, one of three, but the high water level had cut it off, so we couldn't get along to it. We climbed up the slope by the tower, Torre de la Calahorra at the end of the bridge and onto the Roman bridge which is now pedestrianised. Lots of people were walking along it and it gave wonderful views of the city. There is much renovation going on as the old part of the city is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The arch at the city end, Puerte del Puente, is surrounded by construction, so difficult to see. In the square next to it is the Triunfo de San Raphael which is a bit 'falling down'.
We walked away from the Mezquita - that's for tomorrow and followed the tile signs to Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos 1328. We visited this ancient area - a palace, arabic baths and extensive gardens, getting wet as it was getting more and more showery. It is a beautiful place.

At last it was time to walk back to our hotel, passed the city walls, through alleyways and squares. When we got to our room, Kirkers had arranged a chilled bottle of champers for us and we had a couple of glasses catching up on the photos during a thunderstorm.
Dinner at 8.30 was in the 'floating' restaurant,quite busy as mostly foreigners were eating there. We had slow cooked egg with vegetables and mushrooms, carpaccio, Iberican ham and beef fillet; and a delicious bottle of Aalto Ribero del duero 2006.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday in Andalucia

A bus came for us and a few other guests at 9.45 to whisk us up the hill to La Alhambra. On arrival we, about thirty English speakers, met our English speaking guide, Patricia. She started by showing us some metal relief plans of the development of the area over several hundred years, then we walked down the hill and back up again to the entrance. We stopped in a little square outside Carlos V's palace and the church. The palace was built up against the Nazrid Palace, taking away its impressive double door entrance.
We began at the Christian Palace, then moved along to the Nazrid Palaces. Everything is amazing - well worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage status. One thing we did miss was the fountain de los leones, which has almost completed a three year renovation. The bowl of the fountain is there in a glass box, but the lions have not yet returned - they are expected in the Spring.

After all this we had a short coffee/loo break, then Patricia took us up the hill to the Generalife with its summer palace. More beautiful courtyards and gardens with panoramic views across the city. The caliphs and their families would spend the day here among the water, flowers and trees, but would return to the safety of La Alhambra with its walls and garrison at night. At the end of this we left the group which was to make its way back to the bus, and gradually made our own way back to the little square via the Parador that was an Arabic nobleman's house within the Medina, then a convent and now a small exclusive hotel.We needed sustenance, so stopped for a kitkat and some water.
Now we made our way through the grounds and down the steep path to Plaza Nuevo in the town. We strolled back into Albaycin and across towards the other mirador at San Cristobal. Again we took steep stepped lanes over the hill to the view of the other side of the city. We came to a really good viewpoint and just behind us there was a plaza with a couple of open cafés. Here we managed a second coffee, a cheesecake and an apple pie. There were loads of cats in the square and it rained on us, but only a little. We found another alleyway leading off the square and followed it around and eventually down to the Puerto Elvira. This was as far as we went and turned for 'home' through the shopping areas. A grey day weatherwise has faded away into darkness, and dinner at 20.30.

Cold Crab served with mustard breadcrumbs, Barbary Duck served with sautéed pumpkin and mushroom; tartar of red tuna served with ginger salad, radish and sea lettuce, steamed Roosterfish served with noodles and truffle ravioli. As we still had some red wine left we ordered some cheese to nibble on as we finished it. The wine was ABSUM Varietales 2007 from Somontano. The 'varietales' are: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo and it is a very good wine.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday in Andalucia

Although we were all ready to board, the first officer was late, so after a quarter of an hour we made our way to the buses that took us to the plane. An uneventful flight passed quickly and as we approached Malaga we could see the snowy mountains, the Sierra Nevada. We arrived at Malaga in good time and soon met up with our driver. He swept us off out onto the motorway towards Granada. All around us we could see many groves of olive trees; Andalucia is the biggest producer of olive oil in the world. Tantalising glimpses of the Sierra Nevada teased us as we drove the 150km or so before we came into Granada. Our hotel is a beautiful mansion which has an ultra modern annex in the grounds, where we are staying. It is a lovely room - lots of white fabric, marble and glass with dark wood highlights and slate floors.
Despite A's cold, we decided to walk up to the 'mirador', through the streets of Granada. The Alhambra dominates over to the south, and we climbed up the 'cuestos' on the other hillside to the viewpoint at The Plaza de San Nicolas, at the highest point of the Albaycin, is famous for its magnificent view of the Moorish palace. The view across to the Alhambra was greatly enhanced by the snow capped Sierra Nevada - quite spectacular. Lots of people had taken their Sunday afternoon constitutional up here, and the two restaurants set back from the square, were thronged with diners.
We decided to wander through Albaycin - a labyrinth of steep alleyways leading back down in the direction of the Cathedral. We came to a busy little street with a 'teteria' at the top, Los Cuevos, where we drank Egyptian tea; a mix of black tea, mint, cinnamon and roses; with a slice of date tart. The street that fell away from us was lined of small shops full of North African goods and artisan goods. It smelled of the souk in places!

We were now just at the back of the Cathedral and walked around the side to the entrance - €3.50 entry fee. Inside is beautiful, with lots of white marble and gold leaf. One window above the main entrance was lit up spectacularly, which we discovered was the setting sun. When we walked around the outside to the front facade, it was bathed in evening sunlight. As we walked around we noticed that there were different Christmas decorations for each street.

The temperature was dropping quickly, as was A, so we headed back to the hotel to review the day's photos, book dinner and have our feet up for a while. Our dinner was beautifully presented and consisted of: prawn ravioli stuffed with mushrooms, apple and prawns olive oil; scallops over sesame oil noodles and crispy veg; veal chop with rustic garlic mashed potatoes; acorn pork served with scallions and romesco sauce. We shared a bottle of Isabel Negra Pedes 2005 cabernet sauvignon/merlot from near Barcelona - Manuel Raventos.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Lumiere is an event at RHS Garden Wisley and we visited it tonight on one of their late nights (6-9pm). A company called Creatmosphere has installed creative lighting throughout the main areas of the garden. They are lighting trees, The Glasshouse, The Canal etc. with coloured floodlights, strip lights and tubes of lights, not to mention flowery slide shows in the Laboratory building windows. It is a magical experience and such an unusual event for Wisley. There is plenty of time to catch it as it will run until 3rd January, from 4 - 6pm each evening. Go to the Wisley website for the latest info.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Weekend Dinner

 A delicious dinner at m at the Mandolay Hotel, Guildford. Surprisingly good, it has just reopened after total refurbishment. We really enjoyed our meal and the place was really busy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

O, what a lovely day!

It all started at breakfast with card and pressie opening, which brought some lovely surprises. Then we planned to get the train into London, so we walked down to the station. Our first stop was Patisserie Valerie on Piccadilly where we were lucky to get a couple of seats at the 'bar'. Delicious coffee, a croissant and a frangipane tart were consumed while people watching through the window.Then it was time to cross the road and turn into Burlington House. There in the courtyard was the first part of our visit to the current exhibition - Anish Kapoor's Tall tree and the eye. The silver balls reflect the surroundings again and again in a fascinating manner, but also reminded us of Chihuly's glass baubles in the Temperate House at Kew. Having walked all around, we entered the Royal Academy and ascended up the stairs to the rest of the exhibition. It was just stunning with early works such as the pigment sculptures; some mirror-polished stainless-steel sculptures that everyone was interacting with; and the worm-like cement sculptures that make up Greyman Cries, Shaman Dies, Billowing Smoke, Beauty Evoked, 2008-2009 on display for the first time. We also saw Shooting into the corner, an installation where a canister of red wax is fired through a doorway into the room beyond. It sometimes shoots through the door cleanly only to crash into the wall beyond; but it can catch the arch of the door and splat over the room. There is also the stunning yellow square called Yellow that is in fact a 3D sculpture that changes as you walk towards and across it.
But running the entire width of the building is a track carrying a massive lump of red wax that has been moulded as it travels through four doorways, back and forth, slowly and relentlessly. It now looks like an enormous loaf of red bread, and bits that have been shaved off form splatters of red wax by the doorways and up their frames. The 'loaf' must be 3m high and 5m long, at least! We waited for it to enter the first/last room and start reversing back again, which it did so smoothly it was hardly noticeable.

We now had a couple of bits of shopping to do, can't miss such a good opportunity before taking the tube down to Embankment from where we walked over the Hungerford foot bridge to the Festaival Hall. Here we dropped in to a favourite place for tea and cakes - Le Pain Quotidien.  But it was time to walk down to Waterloo and the train home as one last treat was in store. This was dinner at Jamie's Italian which has just opened and if you don't go early you have to queue, which is very boring. We beat the rush and had a great dinner in in this up to the minute venue. And, yes, everyone was queuing by the time we were leaving, though not as badly as during the first few weeks.

So we walked home viewing the Christmas lights that were switched on last week. We passed the brand new Steamer Trading store that opened today. They will have a rooftop coffee shop and restaurant, but not until the new year. The new shop is in the style of the Bodum Shop in Copenhagen - very spacious and minimilist.
Home at last and one more surprise - a lovely bouquet of birthday flowers.
O, what a lovely day.

Patisserie Valerie
Anish Kapoor at The Royal Academy
Le Pain Quotidien
Jamie's Italian

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Moose eating a tree!

During our recent holiday in the Canadian Maritimes we drove along the Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia. Some people warned us that there were probably no moose in the area any more, so we were delighted to encounter this female with her calf by the side of the road, quietly getting on with the business of eating.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Torchlight procession, Guildford

At first the band came playing jolly marching music.

Then, lead by a couple of bobbies, the people carrying lighted torches approached.

They streamed by like a huge snake.

Turning the upper High Street into a river of fire.

Headed for fireworks in Stoke Park.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


This is the October version of Hecticium's year long Foovolution tribute to Charles Darwin. I had plenty of scope for ingredients but as usual couldn’t decide which ones to choose, so this evolutionary process explores several avenues from just a single ingredient to several. These are in ‘bold’ below.

To start with is a delicious (if you like mushrooms) recipe for Rosemary Mushrooms with pasta and a scattering of parsley and lemon crumbs. You will need:

4 tbsp butter
700g medium Portobello mushrooms, quartered
A couple of sprigs of rosemary – chopped leaves only
450g pasta – pappardelle is a good choice
A couple of slices day old bread
A couple of cloves of garlic
Grated zest of half a lemon
Chopped leaves of a bunch of flat leaf parsley

Put a large pan of water on to boil. (If you add boiling water from the kettle, this can save time.)
Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large lidded frying pan, add the mushrooms, turning them to coat in butter and season with salt. Add the chopped rosemary leaves. Cover the pan and allow to cook over a medium to high heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Now remove the lid and continue cooking for another five minutes of so.
Salt the boiling water in the pan and add the pasta to cook according to instructions on packet until al dente. Drain, reserving about half a pint of the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, make breadcrumbs from the crustless bread. In a small frying pan, melt a tbsp of butter and add the breadcrumbs along with a couple of crushed garlic cloves. Cook until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and remove from heat. Add the grated lemon zest and chopped parsley.
Add the pasta to the mushrooms along with a couple of tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid to dissolve the caramelisation in the bottom of the pan before stirring in the last of the butter.
Serve four bowls of pasta sprinkled with the lemon and parsley crumbs.

Another single ingredient variation is a longtime family favourite, Prawn and Apple Quiche. You will need:
For cheesy pastry
50 g butter
110g plain flour
50g grated cheddar cheese
For filling
1 large egg, beaten
3 tbsp milk
142ml double cream
110g grated cheddar cheese
110g peeled and cooked prawns (plus a few extra for decoration)
1 small eating apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
Salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper for a bit of bite
A grating of nutmeg

Pre-heat the oven to 190C, GM 5 or 375F.
Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheese and enough cold water to make a stiff dough. This can rest in the fridge for half a hour before you roll it out thinly and use to line a greased, metal 20cm flan ring or sandwich tin.
Beat egg, milk and cream together, stir in ¾ of the cheese, the prawns and the apple. Season with a pinch of salt, cayenne pepper and nutmeg and then turn into the flan case. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake for about 40 mins until golden brown and cooked through – test with a skewer if necessary.
Serve with a few whole prawns arranged on the top to 4 – 6 people.

Limy Lentils make a great accompaniment to seared tuna with a wasabi soy sauce. Two ingredients from October make an appearance here. You will need:
A thick yellowfin tuna steak, about 450g
Olive oil
2 microwave sachets of cooked lentils or 2 x 400g tins
3 Limes
A small red onion, finely chopped
A whole cucumber, peeled, deseeded and fairly thinly sliced
100ml Japanese soy sauce
Wasabi paste

The tuna will cook in only a couple of minutes on a hot griddle or in a hot frying pan, so put whatever you are going to use on to get hot. Drain and rinse the tinned lentils if using. Gently heat the lentils in a pan. Meanwhile, grate the zest of two limes, mix with the onion, the juice of one lime and a couple of tbsps of olive oil. Stir into the lentils off the heat and taste, adding more lime juice as necessary. Season to taste.
Whisk a couple of small blobs of wasabi into the soy sauce, taking care as wasabi is VERY hot, and then pour into four tiny bowls.
At last, rub a little oil onto either side of the tuna and cook for only 1 - 2 minutes each side. Remove from heat and season with a little salt.
Arrange the warm lentils on four warm plates along with the cucumber and a couple of wedges of lime. Thinly slice the tuna, which will be red in the centre, and arrange alongside the lentils. Serve with the little bowls of soy sauce.

The last recipe evolved using several of October’s ingredients and copies the curry theme. It is a green Thai curry, quite mild and economical as the meat used is chicken thighs – easy on the purse but with lots of flavour. I serve it with plain boiled rice.
You will need:
6 chicken thighs, deboned and skinless and cut into mouth sized chunks
4 or 5 courgettes, depending on size – but lots are OK
About 10 salad onions, thinly sliced
A couple of green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
About 2cm ginger, peeled and grated
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Vegetable oil
2 tsp turmeric
100ml coconut cream
Stalks from a bunch of coriander, chopped
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce

Halve one courgette, putting aside one half. Thickly slice the remaining courgettes and then quarter the slices.
In a large pan, heat a couple of tbsp oil and then add the chicken, stirring over a high heat until golden brown, just a couple of minutes. Add the salad onions, cooking for another minute before adding the chunks of courgettes, the finely chopped chilli, grated ginger, crushed garlic and turmeric. Add an equal quantity of boiling water to the coconut cream, stirring to dissolve the cream. Put this, the coriander stalks and reserved courgette, chopped into chunks, into a blender and blitz to a smooth liquid. Add this to the chicken pan and allow to simmer for a minute or two. Make sure the chicken is cooked through, then stir in the fish sauce and check the seasoning. Serve with boiled rice.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 20

Our last day, so we checked out after breakfast and retrieved the car from the valet. With luggage safely stowed we went off to find the Botanical Gardens and then a parking place not too far away from the entrance. Just across the road is the Park Olympique with its impressive tower designed by architect I M Pei.
We finally got into the Gardens - we couldn't find the ticket office as we had actually come in at a side entrance. Anyway, with map in hand - there were no English guides left as this was the end of the season - we began our tour starting with the Chinese garden where there was a display of lanterns brought especially from China. There were some amazing floating installations of mythical creatures as well as all sorts of lanterns hanging along the paths. Then there was the Bonsai Garden and the tranquil Japanese Garden and so on. We reached the furthermost point where there is The Tree House; not built in a tree, but a futuristic building dedicated to the tree. A very good educational facility for the younger visitors. Then we walked back through the arboretum and found the cafe for a late lunch.
So to the airport and check in. Luckily we could sit in the lounge on A's card and then it was time to fly and say good bye to Canada.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 19

We wanted to see the underground walkways, so set off to one of the main entrances near the tourist office . On the way we found some lovely old buildings and churches as well as some very modern ones. In Dorchester Square that was being renovated we found Robert Burns statue surrounded by chain link fencing and then went into the tourist office for maps and visiting ideas, not to mention the loos (they are usually good and free in the TIOs).
Outside again we walked down to the old Windsor Station - a huge castle of a building. Here we could get into the subterranean walkways and we took the direction towards the old town. It was very quiet being a Saturday, and we eventually came out behind our hotel on the edge of the historic area, which we then explored. We passed the Notre Dame Basilica, Nelsons Column and decided to have lunch in the Gallery at the end of the Marche Bonsecours. After lunch we walked down the quay to the clock tower and looked down into the St. Lawrence River.
On the way back we booked into see the Son et Lumiere at the Notre Dame Basilica, 'And then there was light', about the founding of the cathedral and back at the hotel the concierge suggested a restaurant for dinner and booked us a table for after the show.

And thats what we did; a visit to the light show which was excellent and dinner at Les Pyrenees after. This was not as good as last night by a long chalk.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 18

We left North Sandwich after breakfast for our scenic drive to Montreal. It's been lovely staying in a real home after all these other lodgings. We stopped at the covered bridge over the Squam river at Ashland, then wound our way across to the 93 that would take us north. It is a scenic route indeed, and we drove passed the White Mountains that already have some snow on the tops. The foliage is looking wonderful and we had breathtaking views of vibrant colours all the way along the road.
We arrived in Montreal and spent a stressful half hour or so locating the hotel. Its always difficult finding the correct turnings off the freeway, especially when there are road works. What bliss to be able to leave the car for the valet to park and forget about it for a couple of days.
We took our first walk around the old part of town to stretch our legs. It is very French here - had to get the phrase book out. Luckily the concierge would speak in English and recommended a restaurant for dinner - Bonaparte. They shoe-horned us in to a table for two, and we had a wonderful meal with excellent wine. We could understand why it was so popular.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 17

D proposed R take us two up Rattlesnake mountain with the dog, so off we set with Captain in the back of the car for the walk. We spotted some wild turkeys crossing the road and rushed to take photos, but it was a bit dark. Anyway, you can see they are turkeys. Then R stopped to show us a beaver dam, but we didn't see a beaver, only lovely autumn colours in the trees. We parked in the car park, and began the climb up Rattlesnake along the path. It's not too steep, but we took it steadily, with Captain doing very well, although he has two bad hips. Tantalising glimpses of the lakes kept coming into view, and then we were out in the open on the rocky outcrop with Squam and then Winnipesaukee Lakes spread out below us, sparkling in the sun that kept getting covered with scudding dark clouds. It's fabulous.
Now we were getting ready for a coffee, so back to Centre Sandwich and Mocha Rizing. Here they sell all sorts of stuff and serve coffee at the back. It seems to be quite the meeting place for the village people. (No, not that lot!) We also looked in at the lovely craft shop that sells very special stuff from local craftspeople (Sandwich Home Industries League of NH Craftsmen Gallery). We ended up buying a solid glass pumpkin to go with some other glass fruit we have collected.
Everything around the Sandwich area is so cutesy - I love the autumn wreaths on the doors and the pumpkins, harvest dolls etc. Each house has its own display.
Back at Ballafayle we were taken on a walk around the woods and 'helped' R with some maintenance. There are lots of fungi of different types all over and photos were taken. Then it was time to pack before dinner as we leave again tomorrow. This evening we had dinner with a couple from up the road, but they didn't stay long as the husband has injured his leg and it was very painful.

Sandwich Home Industries League of NH Craftsmen Gallery

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 16

Today D & R took us to Canterbury Shaker Village. It is a lovely place, which D took me and H to when we visited some years ago. It was founded in 1792 and at one time supported 300 people. Our guide was very informative and pointed out all the innovations developed by the Shakers. Ideas from the women had to travel up to the highest level where certain women were allowed to talk to other senior men and then the idea was communicated down to the relevant men. This way washing machines were made, drying racks for clothes were installed and so on. Everything made with such skill and ingenuity. They also embraced 'modernity', having cars, electricity, telephones and so on, no living in the dark ages for them, just no sex!
Dinner was at The Corner House Inn where D&R are well known and the food was good and the hospitality second to none. The log fire was burning warmly to welcome us and we had a very pleasant evening.

Canterbury Shaker Village
The Corner House Inn

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 15

A driving day in the main as we had to get from Bar Harbour to North Sandwich, New Hampshire. Our friends recommended we take a detour to L L Bean to get A some shirts at outlet prices, so Newport was our first stop. We found the car park and boggled at the size of the outlet - three large buildings of stuff, where to start. Well, that's easy, where are the loos. We eventually found them, thank goodness. Shirts bought, we looked around the rest of the town dedicated to outlet shopping, and found one of the smallest Starbucks ever with only a couple of tables and a long queue of folk, nearly all getting stuff to go. We shared a table with some other people before going back to the car and driving to NH.
It was lovely to arrive at their beautiful house and settle in to the comforts of home. D really liked her Cape Breton Clay bowl.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 14

Mark's breakfast was amazing and with an infinite selection. We 'made do' with fruit yoghurt, cereal and rolls with coffee and tea. Then it was time to drive all the way around the whole of Mount Desert Island. The '3' took us across to the turning for Northeast Harbour where we turned in to take a look at the village and have a coffee break. It is a very pretty place and coffee was good, just down from a little garden with two white Adirondack chairs that looked very cute. We followed the road along the coast up Somes Sound and down the opposite side. We had to stop when a loon was spotted and although photos were taken, the loon is very small - much better in the binos. The coastline is very picturesque and we enjoyed seeing all the different types; rocky headlands, secluded sandy coves, marinas that must be very busy in the summer season' and fishing harbours. Lunch was at Pretty Marsh outside on a veranda overlooking the bay with jetties and piers. Some people were in for serious lunch of lobster platters, we just stuck to a sandwich and coffee.
We wanted to see the view from Cadillac Mt. so now drove back to the Cadillac Mt Park entrance. The weather was glorious, so when we got to the summit it was very busy. The coaches were there again and hundreds of other cars, too. Nevertheless, we could walk on the designated paths to see the 360 view over the island which is breathtaking.

Back at Bar Harbour, we parked the car at Maple Inn and walked in to the town. Its a very pretty place and we took the path along the waterfront. A four masted schooner was out on the water just putting up its sails, then it sailed across the side of the cruise ship moored off shore - great for the photos. The sun was slipping away, the cruise people were being ferried back to their ship and the lights were coming on in the hotels, bars and shops along the front. We walked along a pier where the schooner comes in. It is the Margaret Todd and people go out on cruises, apparently helping to hoist the sails. They have a Newfie called Maggie on board. By the time we got up the main street it was quite dark and also time for dinner, so we looked for Mark's other recommendation, Café This Way. This was fabulous, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner in a warm, happy atmosphere.

The Margaret Todd
Cafe This Way

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 13

We had a cup of tea in our room, then set off after clearing the frost off the car. Before we got to border at St Stephens we had breakfast in Carmen's diner. At Customs we had to fill in extra forms for $6 each with fingerprints and photos! They seemed to be having a training exercise as lots of burly young men watched intently as we and everyone else went through procedures.
We took the coastal drive down to Acadia National Park and checked in for the next couple of days. We have to hang a card in the windscreen to show we're legal. Now we could take the scenic drive around the park and eventually tried the Cadillac Mountain road. We had to turn round due to the low cloud, hardly any view at all and all the vehicles were coming down from the summit - coaches full of passengers from the cruise ship, too. Time to head off to Bar Harbour. We arrived at Maples Inn, were greeted by our lovely host Mark, and found our room very comfortable. He recommended dinner at McKay's Pub just down the main street in Bar Harbour. The food was good and we sat awhile planning tomorrow.

Maples Inn
Mckay's Pub

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 12

Fredericton have a Saturday Farmers' Market (W.W.Boyce) established in 1951, so we decided to start our day here. The concierge recommended Cora's for breakfast and we indulged in loads of fruit and yoghurt before walking down the road to the market. It was buzzing and there was lots of food; some crafts for sale; lots of autumn decorations; and pumpkins. After a good look round we walked through to the historic garrison area then drove to Kings Landing.

Kings Landing is an open air museum showing what life was like in New Brunswick in the 19th century. When a valley would be flooded by a dam project, it was decided to move the historic houses to save them for posterity and Kings Landing was created. It has been added to over the years. Very informative people dressed in period costume live the contemporary life during opening times, farming, cooking, sewing, serving in the cafés, etc. All aspects of 19th century life seem to be covered.

The history of the buildings is incorporated into the stories the people tell; for example, Grant's Store was occupied by a family that left Scotland from Strathspey. The miller was very interesting, with a whole story about his sawmill and his colleague across the other side of the river with the grain mill. We took lots of photos.

We had dinner at Beaverbrook Holiday Inn's Maverick Room - quite casually posh! Nice 'Gnarly Head' zin to drink.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 11

We had breakfast with friends and said goodbye until we see them in NH. Even though there was a bit of a storm, we went off to visit the St Andrews Block House and Celtic Cross, both of which we hadn't managed to walk to yesterday. Then we decided on a warming coffee, so parked in town and walked to The Sweet Harvest cafe. Surprise! Our friends crossed the road to find us there and we all enjoyed coffee and cinnamon buns together. They had visited the Ross Museum, about the family of the hotel. It was time for us to head off to Federicton, our plan to 'spot' several covered bridges on the way. One of these was Hartland, the longest in the world. We found a little cafe in Hartland where the owner chatted to us about the bridge. She had lots of old photos of bridge on the walls as well as a large tile mural forming a picture of the bridge. We are staying at the Riverside resort , about 10km from centre of Fredericton. It's OK, but its a greasyspoon cafe for dinner with coach parties and noisy kids. We're not spending much time in the place as there's plenty to see in the area.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 10

This morning we drove down into St Andrews for a stroll around Kingsbrae Gardens. This is a beautiful garden and listed as one of the 100 gardens to visit in your lifetime. I wonder where RHS Garden Wisley comes in that list. We ended our visit with coffee at their restaurant and a look around their shop where they are selling tiffins - stainless steel ones. These are the stacking containers that are used all over the Far East for people to either carry or have their lunch delivered in.
Then we had to visit to PO for stamps and A checked in with the whale watch company, Fundy Tide Runners.
We visited the small market, walked down to lighthouse - under repair, and looked at the lovely clapboard houses down the main street, one of which was called Salty Towers.
Whale watching was booked for 2pm and we had to struggle into orange suits and walk down to the pier to get into a zodiac boat. There were six passengers and a rough ride out to the ocean. That was fine. Soon we spotted whale 'plumes', and saw several humpbacks and finbacks. Humpbacks gave us the tail lots of times. Then E felt seasick, so A had to take the pics. It's that wallowing up and down the waves when the boat is not moving that does me in! There were also Jaegers and Sooty shearwaters all around us. At the end of a couple of hours we had to get back, so we left at high speed for the harbour. A cup of tea was in order so we stopped at Sweet Harvest Cafe which has the best cinnamon buns in the world (or so they say and they were pretty good!).
So back at Rossmount, we changed and waited for the friends from Charlottetown to arrive. They drove down from Charlottetown in one go today.

Fabulous dinner again, then a relatively early night.
Kingsbrae Gardens
Fundy Tide Runners

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 9

We made an early start to get down to the Hopewell Rocks when it opened at nine. On the way we looked for an unimpressive covered bridge, but saw lots of Canada geese in a field. There was a queue to get into rocks area before nine, so we headed straight to beach when it opened to walk around the rocks - amazing stuff.
Then we were off to Cape Enrage with the best view in Canada according to Frommers, but the low cloud came in and we were soon driving through thick mist and Cape Enrage was all but invisible. The best view in Canada, but we didn't see it!
So we moved on through Fundy National Park to St Martins and the caves. On the way we passed another covered bridge - a much better one. St Martins has the same rock as at Hopewell, but had formed caves in the sandstone. High tide cuts them off so no viewing, but we sat and had a sandwich looking out at them, the waves and the gulls. On the way back we stopped to see the two covered bridges and a lighthouse at St Martins.
Next stop St John to see the market. This was very interesting, but the rest was a bit disappointing. The preservation area seemed very run down and mostly unattractive - all needing a huge amount of renovation to be pleasing to the cruise ship passengers who stop here by the boat load. Two cruise ships left when we were walking about. They come to see the reversing falls, but we weren't there when they were 'reversing', so no photos of that!
Now we had a long drive down to St Andrews by the Sea along the '1'. We are staying at an historic hotel, Rossmount, with an award winning restaurant. We arrived at about 7pm, and we could have dinner at 8. That was good, as it looked pretty packed with diners. Our dinner was excellent and our bedroom beautiful, but a bit warm.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 8

We first went looking for Borden lighthouse, near to Confederation bridge that takes us off the Island. We found it in a mussel-packing yard, behind the warehouse, (passed the signs 'Beware of the leopard'!). There it was, stuck at the end of the pier (where else) and a mackerel fisherman was trying his luck over the side. There were little plovers running all along the edge of the path looking for tasty morsels.
We took the Confederation Bridge -Ca$42.50 across to Nova Scotia again, stopping at the Interpretation Centre to collect information about the next attractions.
The first of these was Joggins fossil cliffs where it was windy and we had to watch the tide as it rushes in and you could get cut off. We found fossil trees, peat, coal etc., so interesting and reminding us of our own Jurassic Coast.
Then we were due in Moncton, New Brunswick. We walked around their historic area, before going to Le Chateau a Pape, for an amazing dinner. We chose our meal - lobster gratin, garlic shrimps; then were invited down into the wine cellar to choose some wine. A found a Trivento Viognier, then 'ordered' it from the sommelier. We realised later that everyone else just helped themselves to whatever they had chosen and brought it up to their table. A couple of chaps sitting opposite us brought up several bottles and proposed working their way through them. We don't know how they got on as we left before even the second bottle was opened.

Le Chateau a Pape

Monday, September 21, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 7

The search for more lighthouses took us to West Point, the furthest we could go in the time we have, so we will have to come back for the ones on the north coast. It has been another lovely day with perfect skies and a fresh warmth. We stopped for coffee at Island Chocolates in Victoria, where the lady very kindly served us even tho' she was really closed as her mother was visiting her for the day. Lunch was at West Point Inn at bottom of the lighthouse, and our furthest point. We could have stayed here as they have rooms, some in the tower of the lighthouse - what fun. But we had to be back to meet friends at 'Off Broadway' for dinner. Its been four years since we have seen them. Luckily 'Off Broadway' was just as good the second time around and we had a lovely evening. They walked back to their gorgeous B&B and we drove up to our airport hotel!

West Point Inn
'Off Broadway'

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 6

We got up early and drove straight to ferry for breakfast and a good crossing to Prince Edward Island, with gannets but no dolphins around the boat. Wood Island lighthouse started us on a trail around east part of island to see many lighthouses as we could. More beautiful weather and the trees here are turning.
We are staying in Charlottetown for a couple of nights and eventually found our hotel - not exactly down town, but out near airport. So we had to drive into town to 'Off Broadway' for dinner of Lobster. Fabulous.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 5

What a stormy day. The sea is crashing into the rocks and the rain almost horizontal as we drive south out of Cheticamp. Our aim is to visit Joe's Scarecrow Village that featured in Billy Connolly's Journey to the Edge of the World series. Even in the rain, we enjoyed the humour in the jolly scarecrows. We dived back into the dry of the car and just drove on to Baddeck for coffee and cranberry scones. Alexander Graham Bell was an illustrious resident of the area and we went off to visit the museum that honours him. When we arrived and were buying our tickets they told us that for first visit in 100 years the general public were invited up to the Bell estate, just to visit the gardens around his house. You can imagine that you don't pass up an opportunity like that, and we joined the bus out to the estate. Here we were taken on a haywagon up through the estate to the gardens where they were celebrating Harvest Home 1900s style. Then, back at the museum we saw the Silver Dart, HD 4, lots of propeller designs etc. and lots about AGB's life, even buying his biography. We needed to get to Antigonish for the night, but were very disappointed in our accommodation in a downmarket motel on main road, with a 'Greasy spoon' over road for a fish supper and breakfast tomorrow.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 4

We took the Cabot Trail back across the top of Cape Breton, to take a proper look at the area. Our first stop was to make the Skyline walk along which we spotted Black capped Chicadees and hawks - rough legged, possibly. There is a board walk down to an outlook in order to save the fragile environment. The views are spectacular. Back up to the top again and round the second half of the loop, taking us a little in from the cliff edge. Here we almost stood on a garter snake on path.
The next stop was to make the Bog walk for pitcher plants, sundews, dragonflies and tadpoles. And we saw plenty, even pointing the sundews out to some visitors who hadn't managed to spot the sundews. The weather is very pleasant.
As it was getting round to lunchtime, we stopped at the Rusty Anchor. Before lunch we walked across to the sea wall to look at the East coast - an impressive series of cliffs ranging away into the distance. Then A looked the other way and just by us in a tree an immature bald eagle was watching us! We got some great photos, and by then, everyone wanted a look and people were climbing over themselves to see. We went into the café for wraps and sarnies.

Neil's Harbour and lighthouse beckoned down a side road with more wonderful views and a pretty harbour and lighthouse at the end.And now we had to turn for Cheticamp, back over Cabot Trail. Amazingly, we had been talking about moose and how people were sceptical about any even being on Cape Breton, when I spotted one in the bushes by the road. We stopped and walked back, and there she was - a mother and baby. More photos and almost a traffic jam of sightseers. Lovely! We were going to be late for dinner again, so bashing on back to Cheticamp we only stopped to see the stacks on the west side, then into dinner at La Gabriel again - scallops St. Jacques and sole fillets.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 3

A beautiful early autumn day. It was a long drive to Louisburg Fort, the historic French fort, but worth every mile. We loved walking round and talking with the 'guides', dressed in costume and very much in character. Lots of photos were taken as everything is very picturesque. Ham sarnies for lunch in the old inn, and eventually we had to tear ourselves away.
The second part of the day was to drive the Cabot Trail all the way to Chetticamp. This really was a long drive, but we had a fabulous sunset to spur us on. Our late arrival at Laurie's motor inn was no problem and they phoned ahead to make sure we would get some dinner in the 'lighthouse' that is Le Gabriel, an Acadian restaurant.

Louisburg Fort
Le Gabriel

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 2

Started by driving up to Willie Krauch's smokery and sent our friends some smoked salmon. Then on the friends' recommendation we visited Liscomb Lodge for lunch with the birds. Our next stop was to Sherbrooke Village, an open air museum, where we visited various houses and spoke with becostumed people about life in Sherbrooke last century. It was a delightful stop. Now another long drive to the Dundee Resort,West Bay on Lake Bras d'Or. This is popular with the coach tours, but we did get some tasty seafood pasta for dinner.

Willie Krauch's Smokery
Sherbrooke Village

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 1

Good flight, but very wet in Halifax. The hire car had to be changed as we couldn't move the driver's seat. Met up with Doug and Anne who took us on a whirlwind tour of Old Halifax, complete with a visit to Anne's family's chandlers from days gone by, now a museum. It was lovely to catch up and we enjoyed dinner at their place before the jet lag overtook us and they drove us back to the hotel. The concierge, in his kilt, informed us we had a new hire car in the car park and handed over the keys. So we are all set for our tour.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Today began with cooking. We made chicken paprika, courtesy Delia, for our guests' enjoyment. IH even found some real Hungarian paprika in the spice cupboard - a gift from a well travelled friend. When all was done, we decided to spend the afternoon in Scheveningen. It was a beautiful day - much too lovely to stay indoors.
This time we took the bus up and got off by the Kuurhaus. From here it is a short stroll down to the Boulevard and the beach cafes, hustle and bustle that epitomise this jolly seaside resort.
IH had a plan to show us the 'Sprookjes beelden' on the specially constructed terrace outside Museum Beelden aan Zee. These are just delightful, and we enjoyed finding the tiny curious people that seemed to pop up all over the exhibit. But it was very warm this afternoon and the temptation to buy ice-creams was too great and three two scoop cornets soon found their way into our hands! We ate these strolling back along the promenade and eventually caught the bus back to the flat.
We quickly had things on the go for the guests that would be soon arriving. And when they did, it was great to see so many old friends. We had plenty of catching up to do, and everyone enjoyed gossiping over our typically Dutch starter of smoked eel and salmon and Hollandse garnalen (little local shrimps), followed by our chicken paprika with noodles and salad. T had brought a pavlova for dessert and coffee followed, so it was a fine feast in fine company.

Tom Otterness
Sprookjes Beelden