Monday, October 5, 2015

This Lovely Fall Evening

So thankful I chose to eat dinner on the back patio.  The backyard was alive with squirrels, a few stunning birds I don't know the name of, a blue jay, a chipmunk and my bunny (well, it's not "my" bunny rabbit, I just think of it as mine as this is the third time I've watched it hop around the backyard here at Across the Pond) all come out for my enjoyment this lovely fall evening.

At the community arboretum

     At the community arboretum at VWCC.  Jen recommended it.  It is a lovely spot on a gorgeous day.  I've decided on a child-sized bench next to running water.  Over the weekend it was rain and cold -- wonderful.  Today the sun has come out.  "Hello, Beautiful Day.  Didn't know how much I needed you until I had you."
     I dressed pretty for a date with this Beautiful Day, but I don't feel very pretty -- not the kind of pretty I want to be.  Superficial, I know, but I'm a girl that way.
     And lonesome.  Lonesome for him I've yet to meet since being back in Roanoke.  I "felt the need" or the "intuition" (still unsure how to describe that thing I have) to pray if our meeting will be soon, but I don't know how to listen and look for that answer.  The answer to "who?" -- much easier to spot.
    I know having someone won't be the answer to everything, but for this moment, it would be the answer to something.  May I serve him well and love him dearly.  If he picks me.  I very much hope, right now, not knowing the kind of person he is now, he picks me.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

London trip 2015: Day Four 24 June Part II

The next event on our itinerary was taking afternoon tea at Claridges.  Claridges is a fancy hotel with a dining room that serves afternoon tea.  One does not "go" to tea, one "takes" tea.  In England, London specifically, afternoon tea is served usually between the hours of 2pm - 5:45pm at several places; it's quite difficult to choose.  Several big department stores (Harrods, Fortnum & Mason) and hotels (Claridges, The Ritz, Browns) as well as other places serve teas for various prices.  Some are themed teas, some are champagne teas...the choices really were a bit overwhelming for me.  For most places, I believe, reservations are required; it's best to check on the website of your venue choice or get in contact with the venue.

Heather and I decided on Claridges.  Though one doesn't have to dress to the nines for tea at Claridges, nice dress is required -- no jeans please.  We went back to our hotel, Durrants, to change from our walking clothes to our "tea outfits."  It looked like Claridges was within a ten minute walk from Durrants, so we decided to hoof it.  The directions I had copied down were a little hard to follow as it turned out; it was good that we gave ourselves a time cushion.

Tea at Claridges: how does one describe heaven?  I've never had a massage -- I'm weird about strange people touching me -- but perhaps the way I felt taking tea at Claridges is how others feel having a full body massage.

The dining room was so gorgeous; I was reminded of the movie Last Holiday when the main character looks at the ceiling of the hotel/resort she's staying at and says it's so beautiful, it almost makes you want to cry.  There are a couple of dining rooms actually, and we were given a few choices of where to sit.  In the room we chose there was a pianist and violinist playing musak, which was amusing.

Heather and I were presented with menus describing what would be served with the afternoon tea and a list of teas; all we had to decide on was what type of tea we would like.  I chose, I think the Claridges blend?  Honestly I don't remember.

On the table was milk for the tea and a box containing various sweeteners -- sugar cubes and the little packets of sugar substitutes.  A side note to this: I always enjoy when sugar cubes are presented.  They remind me of my childhood days at Sue's house; there, as a rare treat, if we were exceptionally good or very brave, we would receive a sugar cube as a reward.

Heather and I were each served tea from our own pot, and Claridges insist on their servers pouring themselves.  During tea we were also provided a lesson on the art of properly brewing and serving tea; if you ever make it to Claridges for afternoon tea, just ask.

The first course was a tray of various finger sandwiches.  One eats as much as one desires.  After devouring the first tray of sandwiches, a second was brought out.  Next came scones ('skonz') with clotted cream and jam.  The tea jelly served with the scones was so gorgeous, I could have eaten it with a spoon right out of the jar.  (Click on the words "tea jelly" to go to a website for the jam.)

I've probably mentioned this before, but a cream tea is one of my favourite things in the entire world:  a pot of tea with scones and clotted cream, with or without jelly -- it brings much joy to my soul.

After the scones came the desserts, though both Heather and I found it difficult to stuff down the yummy desserts on top of the filling sandwiches and scones.

This day had been so long already, and it felt to me that Heather and I had been constantly on the go, that I had to force myself to sit back and take some breaths, breath the moment like precious breaths of fresh air after being pulled from a smoke filled room.

For me, I think the best thing about this whole tea at Claridges experience was the service.  I felt like we were the most important people in the world.  Not once did I get the feeling that everyone -- the servers and hostesses -- was "just doing their job," but that they truly enjoyed what they did and cared about my experience.

Following that heavenly tea, Heather and I took the tube back to Leicester to find St. Martins Theater where The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie has been playing for the past 60 years.  Deciding on which show to take was also an overwhelming decision as there are so, so many playing in London.  I had somehow narrowed down our choices and gave the list to Heather: some I chose because of the big name actors, some because I thought we'd enjoy the story.  Ultimately, we settled on The Mousetrap because we'd visited Agatha Christie's summer home already on this trip.  It is a fun play, and the theater was cute.  The use of cameras is not allowed in the theater, but Heather was able to get a shot of the close-curtained stage before she was caught.  Before seeing, I recommend reading up just a little on the architect Christopher Wren; it's not necessary to understand the events of the play or to figure out the mystery of "who done it", but a few of the jokes might be missed.

We took the tube (most lines are open until midnight, I believe) back to Baker Street and walked back to our hotel talking about tea and the play our morning tour and our excitement for the tour we'd take the next day and finally crawled into our beds for some much needed rest.

Afternoon Tea at Claridges

London trip 2015: Day Four 24 June Part I

This was a long day, but a wonderful day.

Heather and I decided first to go the Sherlock Holmes Museum (there is a link included there).  It's about thirty US dollars for admission; I don't know that it's worth the price, but it was fun.  I believe they were in the process of office renovations in the building next door, but admission tickets are purchased in the gift shop.  There's a bobbie (policeman) standing outside the door of 221B Baker Street ready for a photo op and to take admission tickets.  Because of the size of the "museum," only so many people are allowed in at one time.


The museum is actually something like a townhouse dressed up as an Edwardian flat (English-speak for apartment) as described in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories with mannequins dispersed throughout depicting different characters from the stories.

Kind of bizarre.

There were a few references to the popular BBC show that portrays a modern-day Sherlock starring, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch (now off the market unfortunately) and Martin Freeman.  It was a fantastic show until Steven Moffat also took over Doctor Who and got too full of himself or something.  Now it's too bogged down in its own cleverness.  (But that's just an opinion.)

The townhouse was narrow and womb-like, and at the top of one of the staircases was this sight:

This mannequin represented one of the street urchins Sherlock Holmes employs to gain information.  (I forget what he calls this network in the stories.)  Thankfully this was at the beginning of a long day, so this creepy horror didn't haunt my dreams.

After our tour through the museum, Heather and I had some time to kill before we met up with the tour group in Leicester ("lest-er") Square, so we decided on a jaunt through Regents Park.  In Regents Park, which is very large, is the Queen Mary's Gardens.  I don't know if they have different flowers throughout the year, but we discovered rose bed upon rose bed and as it was the end of June, they wer in full, glorious bloom.  (I got the impression people tired of the photos I have from the gardens, especially when one person suggested we didn't do anything, so you may view my Facebook page for all the pictures to view as you please, but it was like I'd walked into a room of Heaven.)  Regents Park won my heart; I now count it as one of my favourite places in the entire world.

We took the tube to Leicester and were bumming around the Square near the TKTS booth (me trying to find even a hint of shade, Heather seeking out the blazing sunshine, though she wouldn't have called it "blazing" -- she and I have very different views on the weather) looking out for the tour group.  We weren't sure if there would be a sign or what when suddenly this deep, rich Scottish voice that caused every hormone in my body to stand to attention said, "Harry Potter walking tour."  And there is this gorgeous, beautiful man in a tight-fitted navy blue t-shirt, with short, dark brown wavy hair, who'd walked right out of the pages of a sweeping romance novel.  Oh my word, he was "my lady-in-waiting better hold on tight to the key of my chastity belt" handsome.  Heather was even lucky enough to be rescued by him at one point -- he literally noticed her in distress, broke through a crowd and came to her rescue, his t-shirt straining to hold its form over his chiseled physique.

Ahem.  Where was I?  Right.  Harry what's his face.

So, the walking tour is put on by a company called Best Tours and for about two and a half hours, you get an on foot tour of London while learning about some of the London locations associated with Harry Potter, both the books and the movie.  It begins at a bookshop where one may purchase a first edition signed by the author, J K Rowling -- for only 2,000 GBP (which would be about 3600 US dollars), goes past several places that were used for on location shots (like a place just outside Old Scotland Yard used for several shots outside the Ministry of Magic), a few places used for inspiration (e.g. Clink Street, on which Rowling based Knockturn Alley), the school that Daniel Radcliffe attended for a year or two, and ends at Kings Cross Station a place significant for where Platform 9 3/4 is housed, and...where a significant scene takes place in The Deathly Hollows.  The tour was like a pep rally of sorts for Heather and I, a great run up to our tour for the next day at the Harry Potter sets tour!  The Harry Potter walking tour through London received great reviews on tripadvisor.com, and it earns every one of those stars.  They other London walking tours to choose from; I understand the Jack the Ripper walking tour is also very popular.  And if you're fortunate you get Scottish John as your guide.

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