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Gardens of New York

Well I guess there are many private gardens in New York but lacking in the Squares that London abounds in and the Royal Parks, New Yorkers have to make do with two public parks as their joint and shared garden – and they certainly like them! The two I am referring to of course are Central Park and the High Line.

Whilst in New York earlier this year we went to both these parks – I was particularly interested to see what the High Line was really like having seen many photos and descriptions. It did not disappoint except I had thought it would be wider somehow.

It seemed to us that when we were walking the High Line the whole of Chelsea Village, friends and visitors were there too. It was very crowded where we got on but did thin out by the time we left it. I guess the ice cream vendors and coffee shops were close to where we got on and the sun had come out so…

The landscaping cleverly used much of the old railway structure with some stunning planting varieties in a prairie fashion including species tulips. But then it was Piet Oudolph who designed it, so what could you expect. And he handily provided a complete list of plants available from the website of the Friends of the High Line.

In May they also had a great art exhibition with 16 plus exhibits from photos to words to sculptures cleverly positioned so that they surprised you as you came across them. Some were very large and some small but all had something interesting to say.

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Of course the other public garden in New York is Central Park. We couldn’t walk all through it but did see the following plants: Judas trees; azaleas and dwarf rhododendrons; tulips; pieris; painted ferns; hellebores; American plane trees; American elms, oaks and sugar maples as well as other maples.

Before going I had thought that Central Park was mainly grass and trees, with perhaps a skate park – my impression from the TV programmes watched, but in fact there was much more to it as the list of plants indicates.

The old stories I have heard make it out to be pretty much of a no-go area but certainly on a sunny day it was full of people enjoying themselves – locals, mums and strollers, bikes and runners, and of course, tourists.

There was a very fancy restaurant, and cafes; flowers, trees, paths, water, large boulders – glaciated granite probably – the Citadel (castle as mentioned in some books) and Shakespeare’s garden. Now this intrigues us Brits – why a Shakespeare garden?

According to the official website:

“Shakespeare Garden is a four-acre landscape named for the famed English poet and playwright. The garden features flowers and plants mentioned in his poems and plays. Small bronze plaques scattered throughout the garden bear quotes from the Bard.

The garden was first conceived in the 1880s when park commissioner George Clausen asked the Park’s entomologist to create a garden adjacent to the nature study center in the Swedish Cottage. In 1913, Commissioner Gaynor dedicated it officially to the works of Shakespeare. After years of neglect, Shakespeare Garden, just as most of Central Park, fell into disrepair. In 1987, Central Park Conservancy restored and expanded the garden, repaving paths and installing rustic wooden benches and bronze plaques with quotations from the Bard’s masterpieces.” [http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/shakespeare-garden.html]. It is not really a flower park in the way much of Regent’s Park is but still very attractive for a stroll on a nice day.

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Now the clematis fanatic in me was interested to see that on the official website if you look to see what is in bloom in the spring the first 3 items are clematis:

‘Huldine’ Clematis

Botanical Name: Clematis x ‘Huldine’
Bloom Season: Spring
Typical Bloom Time: May to June
Location: Conservatory Garden

‘Perle d’Azure’ Clematis

Botanical Name: Clematis x ‘Perle d’Azure’
Bloom Season: Spring
Typical Bloom Time: May to June
Location: Conservatory Garden

‘Ramona’ Clematis

Botanical Name: Clematis x ‘Ramona’
Bloom Season: Spring
Typical Bloom Time: May to August
Location: Conservatory Garden

Pity not more of them but then as my article for the Clematis journal says, clematis are not that wide spread in the US as the winters are mostly too cold for many of them. Still there are several that are suitable for the climate depending on which zone you are in. The High Line has a set of 9 clematis also ranging from clinging vines to herbaceous including viticella and tangutica varieties and from red to yellow in colour.

 

 

 

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Sailing the High Seas on a Queen

On our recent trip to New York and Boston, we travelled  back across the Atlantic on the Grand Circle route – with the Queen Mary II.p1030499 - Sailing the High Seas on a Queen

Amazing how you can lose 3500 thousand or so people on a ship such that, except for lunch in the buffet or sitting in the theatre listening to a lecture, it appears (relatively) quiet. With nearly always a place to sit..but limited outlets for your phone or computer. There was a lot of entertainment including lectures, a knitting club, cinema and daily fitness classes plus a mile walk after breakfast round the deck. Think a Warners for adults heritage hotel (see the Art Deco interiors) but bigger with very few children and fewer electric scooters. Though I do confess, I ended up borrowing one of their wheelchairs as the distances were very long when you traversed from end to end in  search of the library at one end and the pool at another and so on…

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OUr cabin was initially a challange for the three of us bearing in mind that our daughter slept on a put-u-up sofa –  but enough space – just – needed to be kept tidy, though surprisingly, there were more wardrobes and crucially, more hangers than we had been offered at either hotel which was why we had kept all the hangers that had come back with our washing.

We had a full balcony – not obscured in any way but we never managed to sit on it, despite the three chairs – as the weather was never good enough. We were later told that we should have opted for a window room as this was the same size as the ones with balcony included.. things you learn.

Look how long a corridor was – from end to end of the Queen.

Whilst on board we opted for the Asian Tasting menu on one night which was pretty good and they did manage – just – to rustle up some tofu fror me though clearly this was a challenge for them.

Would we do it again?

Well, it was our first real long distance boat trip – as going up and down the Nile didn’t really count and we were only 60 people that time – and the answer is ‘no’. Not across the Atlantic as it got boring by the end of the trip – only one act in the theatre interested us, and we walked out of the one film that we hadn’t seen as it was so bad. I only once managed to grab a desk in the library – only about 8 of them – so failed to  write anything – the internet was extortionate and so we were out of circulation completely – which is both good and bad; and there are just so many books you can read, which is saying something from me as the weather was such we couldn’t outside much at all and so were stuck in the coffee bar – shame you cry – almost all the time.

Also, the shops stocked stuff we didn’t want to buy! So the only thing we came away with was a fridge magnet and a key ring. They totally failed to sell to us!

However, some – older – women mostly – loved it and not only travelled it both ways without getting off(!!) but also did it every year. Total luxury of course. Silver service for eating, with waiters changing three times a day and always immaculate and sparkling white; lots of staff and dedicated room stewards; and generally speaking everyone was friendly and helpful.

I think we will cruise again, but stick to the rivers – smaller boats and more to see out of the portholes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Boston USA: eating and tourist traps

OK so we went to Boston and ate and toured some more. We ate at the:

  • Gourmet Dumpling House
  • La Galeria in Salem Street, which is a traditional Italian;
  • Xingh Xingh which is Vietnamese and we highly recommend the fresh vegetable spring rolls and the tofu caramelised in a pot. the rice ends up stuck to the bottom of the pot and is crispy and crunchy and caramelised!
  • Mare – an  upmarket Oyster and Fish bar.
  • Boston Tea Party cafe – beware – the traditional clam chowder is made with pork fat.

Now we decided to do the traditional tour of the coast and see some villages/small towns. So we hired a car and set off to Plymouth. we ate a hearty breakfast at the Roadhouse which seemed to be cowboy themed with a central bar for alcohol and very large portions of steak for breakfast…. After wandering around for a bit we drove down the road and eventually decided we needed lunch – at the Blue Plate diner. This was in a hamlet really but was full of very friendly people.p1030371 - Boston USA:  eating and tourist traps p1030377 - Boston USA:  eating and tourist traps p1030379 - Boston USA:  eating and tourist traps p1030380 - Boston USA:  eating and tourist traps p1030384 - Boston USA:  eating and tourist traps p1030385 - Boston USA:  eating and tourist traps

Off we went to Providence which is very cute town indeed, with lots of very cute doggies and owners… BUT, a warning here, in Season they can have upwards of 80,000 visitors a day.. yes I got the noughts right. However, we were there before they opened up some of the shops and the beach – which isn’t cleared until June 2nd – the Season then continuing until around 1st September. It is quite Disney-like and difficult to access the beach.

As the town wasn’t really open yet when we visited we had to go back to Plymouth for our evening meal which we ate at the Bangkok Thai.

We also visited Concorde where in the Market and Cafe (which didn’t have any type of market) we had the world’s largest iced coffees for $4 and a very delicious mocha raspberry muffin. There were some nice artisan shops there with the jewellery being locally made but often pricey.

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Bibury is trouts and tourists

Elsker Saga: the Prophesy of Ragnarok by ST Bende

Well ST Bende may well have lived in Norway but I’m not at all sure she actually visited England – especially Bibury and London.

Now I can speak from real life experience as I have visited and stayed in Bibury, the Cotswolds and surrounds many times, and live in London, so here goes with the errors in the book – which irritated.

Bibury is in the Cotswolds near Cirencester. It isn’t a town, not even a village. Just a few weavers’ cottages from the 17th century, some pubs and one being particularly nice we have stopped at a time or two, and a mill which is also a tea room and shop. It is basically a tourist stop.

There is no pond but the River Colne runs through it and alongside the road which has a nice pavement and sitting areas where you sit to watch the brown trout swimming in amazingly clear water. There is also a trout farm by the way. But the river is clear and you can see the gravel bottom. You then walk around the river across the bridges and through a water meadow path. You can also visit the weavers’ cottages if one is open. The cottages were built with a very large loft space for weaving in good light. Wool of course as this was the source of the wealth originally of this area – now it is tourists! These cottages are made of cobblestone, but cobblestone is not a common building material in England, look rather to brick and flint. There is no pond. 23 bibury uk - Bibury is trouts and tourists arlington row bibury - Bibury is trouts and tourists

Oh and a cobblestone patio would be very uneven to sit on and rather uncomfortable – tables would rock – we do still have cobbles in many places, even London alleys and small streets.

Yew – well I have never heard of a yew hedge being called a dale – a dale is a valley as in Swaledale, but a hundred years for a yew hedge is young. They can live for 4-600 hundred years on average but some are dated to the 10th Century and the Fortingall Yew – which again I have visited – in Perthshire, is thought to be approximately 2000(!) years old. They are frequently clipped into fantastical shapes – or used to delineate gardens within gardens. They don’t like to be waterlogged, so Bibury would not be a good place for one.yew loggia a - Bibury is trouts and tourists

And then there is London. She has clearly been watching old films. New York is grey and grimy, London is clean! It may not be white  – I doubt if Cardiff is white either – but it has been cleaned up since the Victorian era and no, we don’t have smog anymore – that was caused by coal fires and we don’t have them anymore either in London.city of london skyline - Bibury is trouts and tourists

Then we come to discussions about Cardiff University. Here I am not sure whether she used US terminology to help her readers or just was unfamiliar with the UK university system. So here goes with reality – from a university lecturer…

There are 3 years to a UK UG degree. Not 4. It would be only in the second semester of year one or during year two that an exchange student could attend from abroad. There is no such thing as a sophomore, underclass/upperclassman, senior. Just year 1, 2 or 3 students. Nor do they take term papers. They may well have to take an end of semester exam or to write an end of semester essay. 2 semesters per year unless you are in Oxford or Cambridge.

And does moss smell? Well some moss smells of cannabis! Yes that’s true, but mainly it just smells earthy and not much at that unless you have a whole lawn of it…

So having got my irritation out of the way, what about the book? Well I did look up Nehalem also as it was such a strange name and it is a real place. on the river Nehalem in Tillamook County, Oregan by Nehalem Bay. Established in 1889 it now has (2013) a population of 267 people…nehalem - Bibury is trouts and tourists

In this book we have a fairly traditional base story – see Barbara Cartland where the mousy heroine scoops the hottie who was never before seen to be interested in any girl. the naive 18/19 who is from the backwoods interests a person who is several hundreds of years old. hmmm.

But the heroine has a secret. And we find that despite her naivety and her age she will play a crucial part – that she has been born to do – in the future of our worlds.

Despite this it was not high drama or the best style of writing but fairly much the traditional Mills and Boon style. With so many mistakes in it about the UK it was also aiming at a US audience who wouldn’t know better. Hint to US authors – use the internet better if you are going to use real place names. There were just too many pre or mis-conceptions of how the world works in the UK.

It would also take around 2 hours plus to drive to Bibury from Cardiff – through terrible traffic on the M4 – a notorious traffic jam of a road especially in this part of the world. Everyone goes to the Cotswolds if the weather is good… And as for the Slaughters… yes there are really villages with these names and pretty they are too wit a stream running through the middle where kids paddle.

Oh – I forgot – 2.5 stars for this book.

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Eating in Boston USA: Part 1

On our recent trip to the US we stayed in Boston for five days. Now we had to eat – breakfast too, so where did we go and what did we eat?

We had breakfast several times in The Thinking Cup by the park. This was a great place – used regularly by locals for both eat-in and take-out. It served Stumptown Roasters’ coffee. This is a small (ish) coffee roasterie with ethical values – producing excellent coffee.p1030341 - Eating in Boston USA: Part 1

Whilst in Boston we visited Cambridge (yes there’s one of every town in the US it seems) where Harvard is situated. On a lovely day we wandered the streets and shops. The houses are beautifulp1030367 - Eating in Boston USA: Part 1 and so are many of the buildings in this area. And as for the jewellery shops with their hand-made silver – well. I did succumb and bought some earrings. We would especially recommend the Brattle Street and Church Street Cambridge Artists’ Co-operative for handicrafts.

So what about food in Cambridge? well we went to Burwicks Chocolatieres  where we were subjected to an Austrian style cake shop! Oh dear – the different types of hot chocolate that were available not to mention the creamy chocolate cakes! you could choose which type of chocolate you wanted from single origin eg Peruvian, to multi mixed.

p1030363 - Eating in Boston USA: Part 1We also ate at the Clover Food Lounge. This is a student run vegetarian cafe where you can have a light lunch. For our evening meal we went to the Russel House Tavern which is a bistro pub and very good.

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