Friday 15 January 2021

Book Review - On Traigh Lar Beach Stories by Dianne Ebertt Beeaff

This book consists of two parts, the first section being short stories followed by a novella, I have always liked this book format. The first part of short stories are based around items found on a beach in the Scottish Hebrides. The stories about the items tells of the people who owned them and how they ended up in the water and then were swept across the Atlantic on the Gulf Stream to the wild Hebrides. 

Each story in this book is titled with the name of the person who owns the item which is  found on the beach. Beeaff also uses her artistic skills to draw the flora related to that name at the beginning of each story. 

All the stories are based in the Eastern USA and Canada and each is very distinct from each other and the characters and landscapes are wonderfully defined and draw you into the story. My particular favourite is Belle, set in Eastern Canada. It is very atmospheric and scary story that really has you on the edge of your seat! I really loved the whole idea of finding a story behind random items found on an isolated Scottish beach.

The novella is about four women who share a love for a Scottish band called Datha. There are chapters about each person, documenting their very different lives and paths in life. Once more the individuals are brought to life wonderfully by Beeaff with depth and sensitivity. 

I thought I knew what was going to happen at various points in the story only to be wrong! Loved that, I like a book that takes me down unexpected avenues. I felt that Annie's story was especially strong in this way. Gradually you realise the reality of what is going on with her, I won't spoil the book by saying more!

Again the ending was not what I thought it was going to be, which was a wonderful twist. 

I would highly recommend this book, you can buy it here On Triagh Lar Beach Stories

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Book Review - A Grand Madness Twenty Years After, Dianne Ebertt Beeaff

This book is a follow up to the successful book, A Grand Madness Ten Years on the Road with U2 which documented the story of a U2 fan. Time has gone by and this book tells us what the next twenty years held for this fan.

As Beeaff follows various U2 tours (the last being in 2018) across Europe and North America, there are stories of places, new people met along the way and meeting up with old friends once more.  It also has unique, previously unpublished photos of the band taken by Beeaff and other fans. The adventures and the highs and lows of being on the road keep you turning the pages.

But most of all it is about a band that has inspired people for 44 years with music that is more than just sound, it is art, it says something and can touch the soul. This is a fascinating account of what being a fan is all about and well worth reading.

Friday 13 March 2020

Iceland 3 - The Wonders of Snaefellsness

18th January 2020

Our last full day in Iceland and we had an all day tour of the Snaefellsnes peninsula to look forward to.  It was a very early start but we were soon on our way in a small coach. We had a comfort stop at Borganes around 10am and it was just getting light. We then crossed over the landside of the peninsula, stopped for a while on a beautiful high plain surrounded by mountains.

We then crossed to the northern side of the peninsula with amazing scenery everywhere. A lot of the mountain sides had frozen waterfalls/streams creating beautiful ice sculptures. We passed through the small village of Grundarfjordur and close by was the striking mountain, Kirkjufell  (Church Mountain) which was situated on a piece of land that juts out into the sea.  I've seen lots of pictures of this stunning mountain and have even painted it from a photo. In real life, covered in snow, it is even more wonderful! We were blessed with good weather and seeing it backed by the unique blue, milky yellow skies of Iceland it was just perfect! The snow was quite deep in places so we didn't get to the nearby waterfall but I was quite happy just gazing at this beautiful mountain. The fact that there were not many tourists there and lovely and peaceful added to the mood of the place.

We then followed the northern coast to a small village called Olafsvik where we stopped at a restaurant called Sker for our lunch. It was a small modern place that had water decanters in the shape of fish! We had a table beside the window that looked out to a small harbour. For lunch we had the best cod I've had (very recently caught) done with vegetables and berries, delicious, I love how Nordic countries use berries in their food! As we left after the meal I saw the very modern and unusual church nearby.

We drove on and entered the Snæfellsjökull National Park which is at the western tip of the peninsula. We stopped at Saxhólar a conical crater just off the road. To the left was the Snæfellsjökull gleaming white in the sunshine. There were steps to the top of the crater but they were covered in snow and ice so we didn't go up. It was very windy and cold there but also very beautiful, I was glad I had bought the hat the day before as I felt cosy with it on.

We then drove on to Djúpalónssandur which was an area of amazing lava formations, columns and cliffs with a black beach. There was time to wander around and soak in the scenery. 

We then went on to to Arnarstapi a very small community by the sea. Some people walked along the beach  but I went and looked at the harbour which our guide said was part natural and part man-built. to the north of it lava cliffs stretched along the coast. All these places were blissfully quiet with few tourists.

Our last stop was the famous black church at Budir. It is on a lava field close to the sea flanked by snowy mountains. It was starting to get dark when we arrived and there was that rich blue light you get at twilight in the north which made it very atmospheric. The church is tiny, black with a white door and window frames. It, and the small graveyard beside it, is surrounded by a low stone wall.  I loved it there, it was almost magical.  

That was the last stop of the tour, we then headed back towards Reykjavik. On the way our guide told us about the only Icelandic serial killer. A man many, many years ago who used to ambush travellers passing through a narrow valley. 

The tour was fantastic, it confirmed to me once more what an amazing country Iceland is. Reykjavik is a modern, busy city with a delightful quirkiness. Once you get out of the city you are soon in real wilderness where nature is still in charge and I love that.  We were going home the next day but I know I will be back one day.

Black Church, Budir

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Iceland 2 - Reykjavik and Elf School

January 17th 2020

Today we explored Reykjavik. We first went to Hallgrimskirkja the beautiful church that soars into the sky and is visible from most places within the city centre. Inside it is simple in design but I find it very beautiful.

I went up the tower, the first part is a lift to the floor where the clock faces are. From there you walk a few flights of steps to a higher floor where there are three windows on each face of the tower. The views were stunning from every vantage point, but my favourite was the one towards the mountain Esja that watches over the city. She looked especially beautiful in her cloak of snow.

After this we walked down to the main shopping street Laugavegur and browsed. We then went to the concert hall, Harpa which is an amazing piece of modern architecture that looks different on the outside depending on the light. We again looked round the shops inside, I bought a warm hat and a tub of Lakrids, delicious  Danish delight of liquorice covered in chocolate. Both expensive but worth it - the hat especially useful the following day!

We decided to have lunch there and shared a large sandwich and had a cake each.

View of Esja from Tower of Hallgrimskirkja

We went back to the hotel before setting of for the Elf School (yes you read right). As it was a bit away from the city centre we got a taxi there. As we got out of the taxi the driver said, "Are you going to learn to be elves or learn about them?" This gave us a good laugh!

The school was on the first floor of a modern building, with large plastic gnomes guarding the door. We went into a rather chaotic room, we later learned some renovations were in progress. We paid our money , were given a studybook  (which was interesting to read afterwards) and then went into another room which had chairs in it. The room was small, filled with bookcases full of books and mementos, photos, elves, gnomes, lamps and pot plants that were a bit worse for wear. It was all very eccentric and I liked that!

Magnús Skarphéðinsson who runs the school is a portly man  with grey hair and beard who, quite fittingly, resembles a gnome. He studied history, anthropology and folklore at university in Iceland. He aims to put together a book of stories of elves and the hidden people of Iceland as told by people he's spoken to as no one has so far done this.

There were nine people there, Americans, Irish, Germans and us Brits.  Magnús spoke for a long time, telling stories that people had told him about elves (many types exist from tiny to about two feet high) who live alongside us but are secretive.  The hidden people are just like us but live in another dimension that humans can only occasionally enter

He quite often drifted of on tangents including asking what Marian and I thought of Brexit and that he thought it would mean the break up of the UK and the Queen would only be "Queen of England" in the end which I think is quite possible. He told us about his brother Ossur who had been Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Icelandic government and had an amusing story about Obama. He had some pretty off the wall theories about schizophrenia which some people agreed with, but not me, but I kept quiet. He is also part of the paranormal community in Reykjavik.

We learned a lot about Icelandic history, how hard life was until relatively recently and folklore. The stories he told were captivating. Sometimes roads are re-routed in Iceland so as not to upset the elves and hidden people.

We had a break when we had pancakes filled with cream and jam plus lovely homemade bread, really tasty. This was followed by chocolate wafer bars and a hot drink. As we were eating I noticed snow was starting to fall outside.

My Diploma
Magnus talked for three and a half hours, I think he could have gone on until midnight! It was a bit too long for me but I did enjoy it, certainly a unique experience! At the end we were given our course completion diplomas in  "Elfs and Hidden People research study." Luckily we didn't have to sit an exam lol!

I asked Magnús if he could call a taxi to take us back into the city centre but we were lucky, his husband (who had supplied the food and drinks and generally looked after everyone) was going into the city and was happy to give us a lift. He was a lovely, quietly spoken guy (unfortunately I didn't catch his name.)  He told us that he was originally from north west Iceland but had lived in Reykjavik for a long time and worked as an accountant.  He dropped us off right outside our hotel which was wonderful.

We nipped to the small supermarket beside our hotel and bought sandwiches and crisps to eat in our room. They were lovely and quite cheap. So ended another day in which we saw many sides of this wonderful city!

Monday 10 February 2020

Iceland 1 - Chilling in the Lagoon

15th January

We landed at Keflavik airport around 10am and it was still dark, but dawn was starting to break. We got the Flybus to Reykjavik passing through the lava fields that white instead of black as they were still covered in snow from a storm the previous week.

We were staying at Hotel Plaza Center  which was lived up to its name being very central and also very good. Nordic in style with little night lights flickering all around in reception and bar areas.

House in City Centre
After unpacking we went to look around the city. First we stopped at the Cafe Paris for a late lunch we both had omelettes which were delicious and pricey but that's the score when you come to these northern countries.

We wandered into some side streets where there were lovely traditional houses. Many with lights in the windows and outside. I love that Nordic way of using light. When it is dark few people close their blinds/curtains so the light can spill out. It was so good to see homes right within the city centre.

We then sauntered on to Tjornin, the Pond, most of which was iced up.  There were ducks, pigeons and very noisy swans all vying for food people were putting down - the victor often running of with its prize chased by other birds! As I , as well as many other birds, have a counter-current heat exchange system between the arteries and veins in their legs. Warm arterial blood flowing to the feet passes close to cold venous blood returning from the feet. The arterial blood warms up the venous blood, dropping in temperature as it does so. Isn't nature amazing?  The sun was setting and it was beautiful.

We went back to the hotel for a rest before heading out on our northern lights trip. Our guide had a lot of knowledge but she talked too much! We were taken to  Þingvellir National Park where it was pitch black except for a few lights in the distance. We got out  and waited. It was very cold so I ended getting back into the coach to wait there. Unfortunately the lights didn't appear and we were back in Reykjavik by midnight. We were really tired as we'd been up since 5am.

January 16th

Breakfast at our hotel was very good, lots of choice. Later in
Blue Lagoon
morning we got the bus to the Blue Lagoon which is about 50 minutes from Reykjavik in the middle of lava fields. Once there it was all very organised, we were given our wristbands, robe and sandals. Then it was off to the changing rooms ro change into our swimwear. A shower prior to entering the water was mandatory. Afterwards we were given a towel and after drying off hung it up, stepped out of the sandals then down the ramp into the water     

The icy cold outside is a shock to the system until you are well into the water which is delectably warm. then it is bliss! Lava formations were all around, some with snow on them, distant snow

Blue Lagoon
covered mountains, the blue milky water and steam rising from it made for a surreal, but very relaxing experience. 

A woman with a ladle gave us a handful of white silica mud to put on our faces, you keep it on for ten minutes and then wash it off with the water. The lagoon wasn't too full, and we found ourselves a lovely quiet area where we could sit on seats with the water coming up to our necks. 

We stayed in the lagoon for one and a half hours and felt totally chilled. Another shower after we went back in the building, making sure our hair was well washed as the minerals in the can make it go hard if you don't!

We had a snack in the cafe and browsed round the shop but didn't buy anything. Then we got the bus back to the city. I have to add a postscript that within two days of bathing in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon my eczema disappeared, and as I write this, three weeks later, it still hasn't come back. 

Later we went to the Italia Restaurant on Laugavegur, the main shopping street in Reykjavik.  I've been to this restaurant on each of
Me in the Italia Restaurant
my four visits to the city and it is always very good. It is small and made up of cubicles each named after a place in Italy, ours was Sorrento. I had tortellini in a cream sauce with ham and mushrooms and it was delicious, Marian really enjoyed her meal too. We shared an amazing dessert of chocolate cake with cream and chocolate sauce with blueberries and redcurrants, I love how Nordic countries use berries a lot.

It had been a wonderful relaxing day, it was so good to be back in Iceland.

Friday 4 October 2019

Nice 21-28 September 2019

September 20th 2019

My birthday! I can't believe the age I now am, I certainly don't feel it inside. It's also tinged with a little sadness as inevitably I think of my mother on this day too. But this birthday was different from the usual as I spent it in a b & b near Newcastle airport as I was heading off to Nice early the next day. It was called Stone Cottage and was basic but clean, handy and really excellent value for money and I got a very warm welcome too.

September 21st

Up early and drove the short distance to the airport, parked the car and got the shuttle to the terminal. The plane left on time and for most of the journey we had clear skies, I saw London below with the Thames and the O2 gleaming in the sunlight. Such a big city looked small from that height.

Our gorgeous terrace
We landed on time in Nice, it was cloudy and there was a little rain. Debbi also arrived on time and we got an Uber taxi (much cheaper than the normal fare) to our small apartment building, Les Nereides, east of Nice on the slopes of Mont Boron overlooking the Mediterranean. We were met by Madame Anselmo who showed us round the accommodation. It was as gorgeous as it looked online.
We went shopping for groceries and had a steep but short walk uphill to the supermarket. We had so much stuff my foldaway trolley gave up the ghost so we decided to get an Uber back to the apartment!!

That evening we ate in and had a little birthday celebration for me Debbi gave me a card and nice pressies and we had wine and prosecco.

September 22nd

We decided to have a lazy day today, the weather wasn't too good and we were tired from yesterday. It was good to relax and chill. We did go out with the purpose of getting a pizza for our evening meal but when we got to the shop it was closed! But we had food in that we had bought so I made a nice meal for us and we had a lovely evening.

September 23rd

View on the walk into Nice
Today we walked downhill into the city with beautiful views of Nice, the mountain backdrop and the huge blue Baie des Anges glimmering in the sunlight.
We walked round the port and went to our favourite patisserie Serain Cappa but it was closed on Mondays! So we went on into the nearby old town and wandered it's myriad of streets and alleys full of shops and eating places. We   had delicious pizza for lunch at a restaurant calledLa Mama.

Nice Old Town
Afterwards we wandered on and I went into the cathedral which was very beautiful and ornate inside.
We then stopped off for a yummy raspberry meringue and coffee in one of the squares of the old town and relaxed and people watched.

After that we made our way back to the bus stop so we could catch the bus home - it was all uphill and our old legs just can't cope with that anymore! We had bought ten bus trips online which was really cheap (all local fares cost 1.50 Euro which is cheap but this ticket made it one Euro per trip.)  It took us a while to fathom out how we had to validate them when we got on the bus but we managed fine and in no time we were off on our way home. There is a bus stop right outside of our apartment so that was perfect!

Tuesday 24th September

Villefranche-sur Mer
 Today Debbi was having a writing day so I decided to go to Villefranche just along the coast from where we are staying. I got the bus and once there and it looked very beautiful on the hillside on the sweeping bay with Cap Ferrat in the background. I walked down to the old town which was smaller than that of Nice but similar in many ways. It was also much quieter which made it very atmospheric. One part was 14th century covered alleys that reminded me a little of Edinburgh. There were many cafes and restaurants in the harbour area, the whole place had a relaxing feel about it.

Nice Cathedral Opposite


Afterwards I got the bus back home and then later we decided to go into the city for our evening meal. We waited ages at the bus stop until a kind English tourist told us there was a bus strike that day! So we ended up getting an Uber into the city. We had no firm plans on where to eat but eventually found a place called La Claire Fontaine in Place Rossetti  in the old town that had a very reasonable set menu. Our table was right beside the fountain and overlooking the cathedral, all so picturesque! We enjoyed our meal, it wasn't five star but good value for the price we paid and it was a lovely evening.

Wednesday 25th September

Today was our lazy day which we have on every trip we make together, a day of just mooching about, taking it easy
Fountains in Nice
and eating and drinking where we fancy. We got the bus into town and where we got off was a fantastic art shop which felt very old and very French. The easels were cheap compared with home, paint and brushes about the same price. Our first stop was the Brewdog pub which is one of Debbi's favourite watering holes. We walked past a park and fountains on the way there, very lovely, Nice has a lot of fountains. 

After a drink in Brewdog we then walked up  to Gaglio restaurant on the edge of the old town which we had seen the previous night and thought it would be good for lunch. It was rather windy and we had to re-position plates, glasses etc to stop the tablecloth whipping off!

Me in Gaglio
Unfortunately the cheap lunch was finished but the lamb and mash we had was not too pricey and delicious.
After this we walked to our favourite patisserie and had some of their lovely, creamy ice cream for afters! We looked at the cakes and said we'd come back to take some home.

We crossed Garibaldi Square and had a pichet of rose wine at L'Augume and just chilled and watched life pass by.

We then bought 4 cakes and got the bus home. For our tea we just had cheese, baguette, crackers, pate and other nibbles along with wine. The evening was spent relaxing and enjoying the most beautiful view our terrace had.

Thursday 26th September

Creative Day
Yesterday was our lazy day and today was going to be our creative day.  I'm an artist and Debbi is a writer and we decided to try each others art. Unfortunately you need a lot of kit for oil painting which wasn't practical so I brought items to create cyanotype instead.  Cyanotype is created by mixing two chemicals and brushing the solution onto paper, letting it dry. Once dry, under false light, you either place objects on the paper or create a picture on an acetate to put over the paper. Then you weigh it down with glass and place in sunshine for around 15 minutes. Then the picture is set by soaking and washing the paper in cold water and then left to dry. You end up with a picture that is white where you have placed articles or lines and the parts open to the sun turn a beautiful cyan colour. 
It was 1pm so we opened some wine (for artistic inspiration) and I prepared the paper and put it in a cupboard to dry. Then Debbi did a writing exercise with me that consisted of her giving me an opening sentence followed by random prompt words every minute for 15 minutes which I had to incorporate into what I was writing and I had to write non-stop. I enjoyed it a lot and it's amazing where such an exercise can take your writing.
I Love Baguettes!
We then went out to forage for plants to use for our cyanotype and then made our pictures inside before taking them onto the terrace to magically change in the sunshine. Then we washed them and let them dry, they turned out ok! I did another writing exercise which ended up totally different from the first. After that we just kind of chilled and had more wine whilst drinking in the stunning view.
The rest of the day we just relaxed, talked, listened to music and scratched our mossie bites! The one downside of being by the water was the mossies, the other two times we'd been to Nice we didn't get bitten at all.

Friday 27th September

Our last day already and we were going to spend it in Nice shopping. We got the bus into town and first stopped at the
Salt/Herb Shop
wonderful patisserie Serain Cappa, where the cakes are a work of art. We'd hoped to have our favourite cake, meringue chantilly, each but there was only one left! We decided to share it and also bought a millefeuille that looked delicious to share and we had espresso to accompany them. All wonderful, the meringue especially was light as a feather and the cream so tasty.
Soap shop
We then went into the old town to look around the shops. I bought some soap, savon de Marseille, that has real plant oil in it and smell delectable. The choice was amazing, hard to choose which to have. We then had along look around a fantastic shop that sold flavoured sea salts and herbs and spices of all kinds. We both bought some of the salts, it's just something you don't get here.  I also bought a grinder for the salts. 

Le Barbecue, First in Again!
We sat in a bar in Place Garibaldi just enjoying the ambiance afterwards. Then we went to to our favourite restaurant Le Barbecue, which actually is a Portuguese establishment, not French. It is quite small and set in a stepped alley off the main lanes of the old town. The setting is very atmospheric, surrounded by the tall buildings that are home to locals.

We had a very reasonably priced set meal. Cod and shrimp fritters to start, followed by a huge, tender steak with roasted veg and potatoes. Dessert was the famous Portuguese custard tart, Pastéis de Nata, which was warm, the puff pastry melted in my mouth and the custard was delicious. Another great meal in Le Barbecue, it never disappoints. 

Place Garibaldi
We walked up to Place Garibaldi which looked beautiful all lit up and we soon got an Uber home. We stayed up later than we should have as we didn't want our holiday to end. But we knew we were lucky to be able to have a week in this paradise. This apartment was the nicest accommodation we've ever had on our many trips together. We both needed a nice relaxing holiday and as we'd been to Nice twice before we had done all the touristy things and so could just chill and this time enjoy all the things we love so much about Nice and France. And on our last night we got a great farewell too as we watched an amazing firework display at the tip of Cap Ferrat which we watched from our terrace.

Sunset Over the Baie des Anges

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Restaurant Review - Hidden River Cafe, Brackenhill, Longtown, Cumbria

I'd heard a lot of good  reports about the Hidden River Cafe so was looking forward to going for the first time with my cousin Glen. It's name is appropriate, it is well hidden in the countryside east of Longtown, but we eventually found it ok with the aid of sat nav.

The setting is beautiful, the cafe is on a hill overlooking the wooded valley of the River Lyne. You can also see one of the gorgeous luxury log cabins that you can rent nestling within the trees. There is a seated area outside which would be a lovely place just to relax with a glass of wine.

 The cafe itself is quite small, modern-rustic in style. The menu was European fare, varied and different, it was hard to choose what I wanted as there was so much that tempted me.

In the end I chose the smoked salmon, burnt orange and walnut salad which was delicious. Glen had hummus, heritage tomato, feta and olive salad which was loved. For the main course I chose chargrilled herby chicken with summer vegetables and Jersey royals, it was very good. Glen had smoked salmon pasta and she also enjoyed her meal. For dessert we both went for tiramisu with pistachio ice cream, a treat for me on my diet, which was excellent!

The service was friendly and professional, the atmosphere was relaxed and it cost us £34 for three courses and an alcoholic drink each.  The Hidden River Cafe may be a bit out in the wilds but it is well worth the drive. 

Monday 1 July 2019

Stratford upon Avon - 4th - 7th June 2019

4th June 2019

After a smooth rail journey I met my friend old school friend Marian at Stratford station. We walked the short distance to our apartment, which turned out to be really lovely with good quality furnishings and everything we needed as well as being very central.  There was also milk, tea and biscuits there for us, most welcome after a long journey!

The Dirty Duck
After settling in we had a walk around the town. It was late afternoon so the tourists were dissipating and it was pleasant just wandering around.  We ended up at our favourite pub The Dirty Duck which has many fond memories for us from our first visit with school in the early 1970's (we were given a lot of freedom and being under 18 wasn't a problem!) It hasn't really changed very much. We had a meal, I chose chicken and asparagus salad followed by a yummy gin, blackcurrant and prosecco cheesecake, All washed down with a perfectly made Pimms, this pub by far makes the best Pimms I've had!

Afterwards we crossed the road to where the swans were coming out of the river to what appeared to be a preening place which was covered in their white feathers. One swan was very cheeky and came up to me and then started following me! I was careful as I know swans can be aggressive and are strong! Luckily he was very docile, just curious I think. We walked along the path by the river and it was so peaceful and tranquil, something I remember from every visit I've made to Stratford, there is just something really relaxing about the stillness of it on a pleasant summers evening, good to see it is something that hasn't changed over the years.

Evening by the River Avon
June 5th

We had lunch and then crossed the river an walked past the new big wheel there, somehow it just didn't look right in Stratford, and we only saw people on it once during our stay.

We went to the Butterfly Farm, a place that has been there for a long time but I had never visited it. Inside it was very hot and humid, full of tropical plants, ponds, butterflies, Chinese quail and loose iguanas that stayed well out of the way. There was a little archway covered in vegetation and there was a sign beside it saying to beware as the iguanas like to sit on top of it and defaecate! And yes, when we looked up there was an iguana there so we went through the archway quickly! There were butterflies everywhere many very colourful and often landed on you. We never saw the Chinese quail but we could often hear their mournful call. There was a case containing pupae and you could watch the butterflies slowly emerging their wings at first crumpled then slowly spreading out in all their beauty. All in all it was really fascinating to see and learn  about the lives of butterflies.
There's an Iguana Watching!

Afterwards we sat and relaxed in the lovely small garden around the farm. It was warm and sunny, we could smell the herbs from a little herb garden nearby and I watched a big, fat bumble bee squeezing into snapdragons to get the pollen prize hidden inside. Sometimes the simple things in life are the best.

In the late afternoon we went to The Opposition restaurant in Sheep Street and we chose something from the very reasonable pre-theatre menu. We both had the same, rarebit to start, Mediterranean lamb for mains and delectable Eton mess for dessert. washed down with red wine, all delicious, we agreed it was definitely the best meal we had whilst in Stratford on this visit.

Stained glass in
the Swan Theatre
After our meal we walked the short distance to The Swan Theatre to see The Provoked Wife by John Vanbrugh. The Swan is a small theatre holding 426 in a Globe-like galleried design that means all the audience is close to the actors. This theatre was not open when we first came to Stratford all those years ago.  It has the most beautiful stained glass windows,

The play was a typical Restoration romp, funny, witty while also looking at the trap of a loveless marriage plus other sub-plots. It was performed in period costume which I generally prefer. We both enjoyed it very much.

June 6th

As it was another warm, sunny day Marian and I decided to cross the bridge to the other side of the river and do a walk we found in a book in our apartment.

We crossed over the Avon and passed by the new big wheel which seemed a bit incongruous in a place like Stratford, we only saw someone on it once. We took the path that followed the  bank of the river, and it was lovely, warm with the wind rustling gently through the willow trees, a few people messing about on the calm river, others walking their dogs. We saw a heron on the other side of the river that stood perfectly still for five minutes. We crossed a footbridge to the other side of the river and walked through a residential area where we fantasised about buying one of the apartments that had large balconies overlooking the river, what a sight to wake up to each day!

At Trinity church we again walked along the riverside path back into the centre of Stratford. We popped in the The Dirty Duck for a late lunch.

Later we set out from our apartment to look for a place for another pre-theatre meal and were tempted in to another  place in Sheep Street called Wildwood by the offer of free garlic bread! We had bruschetta and pizza and the food was good.

Afterwards we went to The Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see As You Like It. We hadn't seen that play for a long time were really looking forward to it. The play was joyous, colourful and there was a lot of audience inclusion, also some signing. The set was sparse but the space was well used. At the end a huge puppet of Hymen, the Greek god of marriage literally unfolded on stage, very effective.  We enjoyed last night's play but Shakespeare always has the edge on other playwrights!

On the way home we were accompanied part of the way by two mallard ducks! They were picking up food from the pavements outside cafes. It was late and they were a bit from the river but they seemed to know where they were going.

Once more we had a wonderful time in Stratford upon Avon, and once more we were blessed with great weather too. We have decided to go back in two years time to celebrate 50 years (yikes!) since our first visit as schoolgirls.

As You Like It
Swan Fountain

Sunday 21 April 2019

Copenhagen December 2018

Copenhagen has always been on my bucket list and so I was really pleased to be able to visit at the end of last year, here's a write up of that trip.

4th December

We arrived at the airport at 8pm and  found our way to the station to get the train into the city. It was a short journey and we were amazed by the station itself which was wooden, very beautiful. Our Hotel the Copenhagen Star, was literally 200 yards from the station couldn't be handier! Our room was basic but clean and had all we needed.

We went out and had a meal at a restaurant called Cafe du Nord which was opposite our hotel. The meal was good but pricey, but only to be expected in Scandinavia. Whilst there we noticed that, although the area was not particularly seedy, it was a red light area as there were girls hanging around on street corners.

5th December

Little Mermaid
After breakfast at the hotel and went to the tourist information and bought a combi for the hop on hop off bus, boat tour and entry to the Tivoli Gardens. The bus tour was good, we saw the Little Mermaid (which was really little,) the colourful houses of Nyhavn, palaces, interesting modern buildings and much more.

The boat trip went to some of the same places but you saw them from a different viewpoint. The weather was cold, but bright and sunny.

After getting off the boat we visited a Christmas market which was lovely. Older areas of the city were interesting but I preferred Stockholm for that. Copenhagen is very flat and bikes are everywhere and you have to look out for them.

Tivoli Gardens
That evening we went to the famous Tivoli Gardens. It is said that the inspiration for Walt Disney's theme parks was inspired by a visit to he took to Tivoli and you can see how it could have influenced him. The Gardens were on the other side of the station
Tivoli Gardens
from our hotel so they were very handy for us. They first opened in 1843 and have been going strong ever since. We were stunned when we went in as it was magical, due to the time of year the Christmas theme was evident (the gardens have different themes depending on the time of year.) Lights everywhere, huge Christmas trees, decorations, fairground rides, shops, cafes, restaurants, concert hall, theatre. Lots of fun and laughter, I've never been anywhere like it. Some of the rides were very old, for example the roller coaster is the original 1914 one, that added to the charm of the place.

After a couple of hours we were beginning to feel a bit cold so we had a meal in a restaurant in the gardens called Paaflugen. It was cosy and warm inside and the food was good.

We both loved the Tivoli Gardens, it was such a unique experience especially special at Christmas time. The photos here don't do the place justice.

6th December

We visited the National Museum of Denmark today. Outside it had an old facade but it was very modern inside. The ground floor was dedicated to Viking culture and had some fabulous exhibits. Lots of beautiful, intricately worked gold artifacts. There was also a floor dedicated to classical culture and I was especially interested in the Ancient Egyptian section. There were some amazing exhibits and the good thing was that you could actually touch some of them and throughout the museum you could also take photos which is really good.

Later, in the evening Marian and I went on the Food Trail tour. Our guide was Bryony from Wales who was studying in Copenhagen.
Best Hot Dog Ever!
and loved the city. Our first stop was a hot dog van in the main square. I don't like the hot dogs we have in the UK they taste like nothing, but I had heard how good Scandinavian hot dogs were. And boy it was good! The sausage was tasty and it had ketchup, remoulade, mustard, onions, sweet pickle on it with some crispy onions on top. Absolutely delicious and really warming on this cold night.
Then we went to a pub called the Taphouse and sampled two small glasses of beer, in all they have 61 types to choose from! Very good they were too.

We then walked to a food market and there tried Fiskedellen which was fish and potato mixed together, fried and served with bread and remoulade. Again it was really tasty.

The final destination was was another pub called Skaal. Here we sampled traditional smorgasbord, open sandwiches. There were two types, pickled fish and potato. I didn't like the fish, I've never been keen on raw fish. The potato one was nice and the rye bread they were on was really good.  To finish off we had a Danish pastry and that was the end of the tour. It was great to sample real Danish food like this and we were certainly full at the end of the tour!

We had no idea where we were but with the aid of my mobile we found our way back to the hotel.

And that was the end of our trip to Copenhagen, a lovely city well worth visiting - and if you do, get a hot dog!