Lovely London

The first day of any holiday is exciting. Things to discover, sights to see.

We had a good nights sleep on the 8th floor of the Victory Service Club off Edgeware Rd near Hyde Park.

It’s a big old club, quite grand from the exterior with good sized rooms and a very good breakfast for about 150 pound – quite a bargain in expensive London.

Steve headed off early to find a laundry to wash our travel clothes and I went walking. We are staying near Connaught Place and the little village nearby had some beautiful shops and fortunately the summer flowers still remain.

After breakfast we crossed Edgeware Rd and explored Marylebone and Fitzrovia before heading toward Regent St and popping into Liberty.

This is always a must when visiting London. We found the coffee shop on lv 2 and thoroughly enjoyed our $15Aus cup of coffee each!

London is looking good. It’s clean and despite the woes of Brexit and the cricket not going well, it seems happy. Lots of tourists.

At midday we made our way to Rovi.

https://ottolenghi.co.uk/rovi

Check it out.

It’s an Ottolenghi restaurant- one I’ve been keen to try.

Back in 2012 we were in London staying with friends in Islington. We went to dinner at their ‘local’ restaurant I hadn’t heard too much about Yotam Ottolenghi then. But I loved the restaurant, the food, the atmosphere and have been a fan every since. He’s from Israel and does fresh Mediterranean style of cooking.

He now has several restaurants in London and ROVI is in Fitzrovia. It’s very stylish. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and the food is designed to be shared.

Today we were sharing with Nick and Yumi Young. We’ve known Nick since he was a little boy – he’s the son of good friends. He and his lovely wife are living in London after a few years working in banking in Oman.

We started with a cocktail- for me a Rovi with Pink Gin and a few lovely ingredients. Then it was onto the shared plates. Mussels with chilli , beef carpaccio and burrata – all done well and so tasty.

Next it was a lovely Pinot to accompany a shared beef and a salmon dish. All delicious.

The afternoon slipped by until it was time to walk! And we did ……down to Covent Garden, which was hopping. I checked out The Petersham a superb garden shop and cafe. Beautiful things everywhere.

https://petershamnurseries.com

We wandered across the Enbankment Bridge to the Archduke and met up with swim trek friends Bill Murie, Lexie and Betty, my swim buddy from LA who is coming to Turkey with us for a week of swimming.

Here we shared some wine and lots of stories and felt pleased that our swimming adventure in Galapagos, a few years ago, has given us such wonderful friendships.

By now quite late we felt we’d had a great first day of our holiday. No time for jet lag. My advice……Just hit the ground running. Preferably taking in a little sun!

First Stop Doha

We landed 🛬 in Doha at around 6am after a 15 hr flight. We were pretty comfortable in business class and Qatar Airlines was very good. I’ve decided it’s probably better to get the long haul over with first and then do the shorter haul second. But it will still be a long day.

We made our way to the lounge and it is huge. After a shower and a cup of tea we went searching for the Qatar City Tour desk. It had been recommended as a good way to fill in the hours of waiting.

It meant leaving the airport and joining a group to explore this big, new looking city.

Like Dubai it’s full of big shiny buildings, lots of palm trees, oversized public buildings, sand coloured public buildings and a distinct lack of people. They are all inside out of the cruel heat.

We arrived on a Friday which is like a Sunday over here. Everything in the city seemed to be closed. We didn’t get to go inside the Islamic Art Museum or the big mosque. We did get to the bazaar but it was mostly closed and had no atmosphere. And the heat!

Us in the heat with the Islamic Art Museum behind.

It was 40 degrees plus! Way too hot to do anything much. Our air conditioned coach took us to various landmarks and we wandered in the heat trying to be interested. I failed I think. I walked around with a scarf over my head to provide shade.

Doha was renowned for its pearls.

A small mosque in the cultural part.

The massive amphitheatre in the cultural village. Seats thousands. In the sun!

I don’t know how the city will cope with the Soccer World Cup here next year. It’s going to be at this time of the year. Our guide said they were going to roof and air condition six stadiums! There is plenty of money around, thanks to oil and natural gas. So it will happen, but the poor tourists getting out and about in the heat will be a challenge.

We continued onto the the souk. Very interesting but as it’s their holiday very little atmosphere and people and nothing much open.

We arrived back at the airport by lunch time and only have another two hours up wait until our London flight.

We’re looking forward to meeting up with friends and enjoying our few days there before the Turkey swim trek.

First stop Sydney

Welcome back to my travel tales.

We’re off again!

This time London , Turkey and back to London.

But first a mini stay in Sydney as Steve has a board meeting before our flight tonight.

Last night we met up with my sister Catherine and David, nephew George and niece Helen.

Today a gorgeous ferry ride to Double Bay to visit my sister at her school, Double Bay Primary, where she works as a teacher librarian. So no lunch with her!

Then lunch with nieces Pip and Clare and little Max. We were so busy talking I forgot to take a photo.

But the ferry ride was wonderful so lots of photos. It’s a world beater ride. The views in the sunshine are breathtaking.

I haven’t been to Double Bay in years. It’s still has it’s Village feel but there are as many Beauty bars as espresso bars.

The little beach next to the ferry wharf is a beautiful place to chill.

The public Library is another place to spend time. It’s so inviting. Libraries are not dead!

I’m waiting on the ferry back to Circular Quay , meet up with Steve then out the airport. A Qatar flight to London.

So follow along for the next few weeks as we rediscover London and swim along the coastline of Turkey. Another swim trek based in Kas.

A little Shopping and Sights to Behold!

As were were close to some shopping (how can you not be in NY?) we thought it was a good chance to do some whilst checking out of one hotel and into the next.

So off we went. Headed for Macy’s as they have a huge selection and always discounted. Steve has a thing for shopping. He does it maybe once a year and just goes crazy! I don’t. I tend to take too long and feel I’m wasting time.

So we separated and decided to meet up back at the hotel.

I walked to the New York Public Library. I’ve been to NY several times but never to the Library.

It’s magnificent.

The inside is massive and marble and so welcoming. Take a peek.

The reading room has gold lights where Boston had green.

Spring is finally coming to NYC! And the plantings are everywhere.

We met up and moved to our new hotel in the Meatpacking area. The Gansevoort Meatpacking Hotel. It’s great. Just near Chelsea Markets and the High Line walk.

We have a great room overlooking 14th Street. It’s a pretty trendy place! And they upgraded our room as I said how disappointed Steve was to hear the pool was closed for maintenance.

We got settled and waited for our friends to arrive. Elizabeth and Peter McGregor from waterpolo days are here with two other couples staying in an apartment a block away.

We met for a drink on our rooftop and then we made our way down Bleeker St for dinner with Rob & Jordan. We were joining in their traditional “West Village Wednesday” dinner. They eat somewhere new every Wednesday!

Tonight it was Loring Place.

https://www.loringplacenyc.com

The food was great , particularly in the small plates section. Gorgeous asparagus, charred spiced cauliflower, ricotta with greens. So many lovely veggie dishes.

It was so good for Rob to meet up with his waterpolo mate Sam’s parents again. He shared a flat with Sam back in Sydney Uni playing days and played together for about ten years all over the world.

Back in the Big Apple 🍎

Travelling by train can be quite relaxing and it was great leaving the car in Stamford for the 45 minute fast train to NYC.

We arrived at Penn Station and walked 2 blocks to our hotel the Holiday Inn. It’s not the best area – pretty unexceptional street but handy and good for a night.

We came back a day early and our hotel near the Chelsea Markets didn’t have a spare room!

We got ready for our dinner with Rob & Jordan and took off in the Red Line 1 for Wall Street and Manhatta restaurant.

https://www.manhattarestaurant.com

Check it out because it was amazing.

The view, the food, the atmosphere and the restaurant itself. It has a $80 a head, 3 course set menu. If you pair with wines add $58, or choose from a well-selected, well-priced wine menu. There are about 5 choices in each course. They give generous breads with pate to start and 2 lovely chocolates at the end.

So you know what you are going to be paying. And it’s all delicious. And NO tipping! In NY that’s amazing. They practically chase you down for tips here. But this restaurant has a no-tipping policy and the staff couldn’t be nicer.

It was lovely spending time with the kids.

We started with drinks and admired the view. You can see Rob’s office from here. Right on Wall Street. See the arrow in the photo pointing at it.

It was a great night and even the subway trip home was entertaining!

The Mansions of Newport. And the Craft Beers

Yay. The sun is shining.

Somehow everything looks gorgeous when the sun is out.

Our hotel right on Thames Street is perfect. We slept in, then decided to make it a walking day. The mansions, the cliff walk and the museums. Too much? Keep reading.

When planning a walking day you start with coffee. We had bananas and blueberries at our hotel. Enough we thought. We just needed coffee. So along Thames Street we walked and found a great Italian place open for breakfast. Suddenly Steve needed a French toast.

Oh my, was it delicious. I had a few mouthfuls. Must return tomorrow!

Then we headed up to Bellevue Avenue. Apparently it’s one of THE most beautiful streets in the US. First stop. The Elms.

Now if you haven’t been to this area you won’t quite understand the wealth on show. These people were wealthy and building big opulent houses was how they displayed their wealth.

We walked along Bellevue Ave and checked out the houses. They are amazing.

The Elms

The home for the Preservation Society.

As well as the houses, the fences and gates are so decorative.

We walked and looked.

Loved this clock on the corner of a park

A modest sized house!

Next stop was Marble house. Not so modest!

“Marble House is a Gilded Age mansion in Newport. Designed as a summer cottage for Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt by the society architect Richard Morris Hunt, it was unparalleled in opulence for an American house when it was completed in 1892

Alva was quite the woman. She divorced William and married another multi-millionaire and moved down the street. Money attracts money!

Her daughter, Consuelo Vanderbilt was a encouraged to marry royalty! Her marriage to The English 9th Duke of Marlborough has become an emblem of the socially advantageous, but loveless, marriages common during the Gilded Age. She became a friend of Winston Churchill. ”

So off we went further down Bellevue Ave. Finally to the start of the cliff walk. It’s a beautiful walk along the cliffs in front of many of the grand houses.

Read more about it here.

https://www.newport-discovery-guide.com/newport-cliff-walk.html

They warn on a sign that it involves some rocky walking – and they were right. In lots of places there was no path. Just rocks.

We got talking to a lovely local couple. They gave us lots of information about the area and even suggested a drinks party tomorrow evening. It’s a pity we’re leaving !

Next stop was Breakers. It’s the big one! They are all big but this one is really big!

Another Vanderbilt mansion.

“The Breakers is the grandest of Newport’s summer “cottages” and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial pre-eminence in turn of the century America. 
Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad, which was a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation during the late 19th century.
 

It is an amazing house. The Vanderbilts had 7 children and one daughter became a prominent sculptor.

The baths were wonderful and oh how I would love to have had a soak.

We continued walking after leaving the Breakers. We passed the Catholic University which looks so prestigious.

Finally arrived at the car museum – Steve loved it! And the tennis Hall of Fame Museum which we both loved.

The buildings are lovely and the museum has so much memorabilia. I felt so proud of the number of Australians in the Tennis Hall of Fame. Mind you we haven’t had any in recent years. I don’t think Tomic or Kyri – whoever, will be there any time soon!

The ticket officer was lovely and chatted to us for ages while we took photos in the photo booth!

He even suggested a good place for Steve to enjoy a craft beer. It’s called Pour Judgement.

We went there and it was indeed a very good place for locals. Great beers, food and friendly staff.

Huge meals. We ate about half each!

So I’m writing this with my feet up. The 22,000 steps today have taken their toll!

Heading for Boston

Our night in Newburyport was very comfortable. They know how to do hospitality here. The place was Essex St Inn and was lovely.

We headed off for a drive to nearby Plum Island. Not as grand as yesterday’s Castle Island – it’s more a beach place. Houses – both big and small – are built right onto the sand.

With the faded timber fences it feels quite dreamy. The houses go along the coast for a km or two but there were no places to even stop for a coffee. Maybe in summer there are pop-up food trucks? Nothing this time of year.

We drove back to town past the airport with a few light private planes sitting waiting. Presumably for their wealthy owners to take them for a spin.

Once again I googled at the houses and churches.

And the pretty Main Street. All shops and businesses have Help Wanted signs out. Getting ready for the summer I think.

We headed off for Concord an important town in the history of the US. The Battle of North Bridge involving the 700 local militia and the 400 hundred strong British. The ‘Minute Men’ – as the locals were called as they were ready to serve at a minutes notice – fired the “shot that was heard around the world”. They pushed the British back to Boston where they retreated.

There is a fine sculpture in the park of a Minute Man. Hand on gun. Hand on plough. Showing he was a farmer ready to fight for freedom – at a minutes notice. We saw where some of the action took place. It’s a beautiful spot now.

But for the absolute highlight for me of this area was visiting Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard house! Yes, Jo, from Little Women.

I’ve always loved that story and had recently watched yet another version – the one with Emma Stone.

Well here is the house!

And the Chapel her father built.

We did a tour of the house. It’s in original condition inside. So no photos. But we saw where Louisa – Jo wrote the novel Little Women! We saw where May (Amy in the book) did her art. There are original drawings on the walls, paintings and sculptures. Books, games artefacts. I was fascinated. There were pictures of the girls and Marmee and Papee on the walls.

And the weather has warmed. Such a beautiful experience. Our guide was like someone out of the tv show. She was just so sweet!

She also told us the real facts of the family. Some things in the book were true. Others changed. Louisa, unlike Jo in the book, never married.

Check out the website

http://www.louisamayalcott.org

We stopped for lunch in gorgeous little Concord before heading to Boston.

Unfortunately for us the traffic was peak hour ! And it took us awhile to get into North End where we are staying in Boston. Near the water.

We explored a little after finding our 6th floor apartment. It’s great. And has city views.

It’s an Italian area with lots of little restaurants and the best pastry shops.

Queues out the door. Even at night!

The spring flowers are trying hard to appear.

We are off on the Freedom Walking Trail tomorrow. Our apartment is next to Paul Revere’s house which is on the walk!

So more news tomorrow.

I hope your enjoying travelling along with me. Where do you wish you could visit?

From Canada to Vermont USA.

Leaving Montreal by bus is easier than flying. No airport queues. No hassles.

We decided to travel over the border to Burlington then hire a car to drive.

It worked well including the part where we had to exit the bus and all crowd into one room and file one by one to the two custom officers. I was just sorry we were about 10th in line. I was quite enjoying hearing the questions and answers. ‘Where have you been? ‘ where are you going?’ ‘What will you be doing there ?’ ‘What did you buy?’ What’s in your bag?’

Most were allowed back on the bus except the man of colour on crutches who could barely walk. He was taken behind the doors. Along with a family with 3 children! We had to get back in the bus and just wait. We were told we couldn’t even get off to use restrooms! Of course that made me need to!

Finally on our way into the US of A and into Burlington Airport to pick up our car. The enclosed verandah linking the airport to the car park was nicely fitted out with rocking chairs facing the tarmac. I wondered if the elderly were left there for a few hours entertainment!

We headed down the 95 in Vermont heading to Woodstock. I stayed there back in 1990 with my sister for our girls trip. We had a wonderful 3 weeks ‘long service leave ‘ from our families. We went from NY to Boston, got a car and explored Maine and Vermont.

Now 28 years later I’m re visiting some of the places!

Woodstock didn’t disappoint. It’s still a charming little town. Lots of sweet shops a lovely town Main Street and Library and a gorgeous covered bridge.

I think this is the shop I took a photo of and painted when I returned.

This is the land of the covered bridge. We intend to explore a few.

We walked the Main Street , found somewhere for dinner, bought a second hand book at the Library, went into fascinating general store ( which truly had everything) and finally checked into our BnB at the end of the Main Street in an appropriately named Pleasant St. Because it was. The house was charming and the owners Canadian Willa and Austrian Dixi, a couple about our age were lovely.

Our room at the back of the 9 room BnB was large and inviting with a grand 4 poster bed. A comfortable night coming up.

We decided on an early dinner having no eaten much today. We choose The Prince & the Pauper. Mostly because there wasn’t much else open. But it was surprisingly good in a gentle old fashioned way.

Cocktails seem very popular here so we had to try one for me it was a Vermont Cosmo and for Steve a a Maple Martini!

After smoked salmon and a lovely pork dish we walked home satisfied.

We planned our next day then fell up onto the High poster bed!

The Battle for Quebec

The afternoon was spent visiting the Museum of the Plains of Abraham – about the French English Seven Years War.

The battle was fought on some land (owned by Abraham Mary) outside the walls of the old city. Quebec is the only city in Canada with a fortress wall.

We walked up Rue St Louis and out the old city gates to get to the museum. It was well set out with interactive displays and a film showing both sides of the fighting. The war went on for seven years and must have been so hard in the weather they experience here.

After our visit we went to the Inox brewery nearby for a local beer. We walked by some houses needing snow removal from their steps.

My beer had a secret ingredient. Maple syrup! It wasn’t bad at all.

We got talking to the young barmaid and found out she likes to surf! In Canada she needs a very thick wet suit. No surprise there. The brewery had a dart board that works electronically. They don’t allow regular darts boards as they are too dangerous and people were being injured by darts 😱and I though Australia was a bit of a Nanny Nation.

It’s always a good idea to leave time for a little R & R before dinner so back to the beautiful bed before leaving for the restaurant La Buche. We had visited it today as part of our food tour but coincidentally that morning had already booked it for dinner. It’s a Québécois style restaurant. We got talking to the waiter who remembered us and pointed out a few favourite dishes. We decided on something light!

Steve had the local ‘second favourite dish after Poutine’ – the Mac n’ cheese with bacon and sausage. It looked small but was so filling. I had a small serve of fresh salmon with hazelnuts, apple and dill with a high pile of fresh salad green. Yum!

The restaurant is decorated in local Québécois style but it the downstairs bathroom that provides the biggest surprise. Our guide Sam from the food tour told us not to miss it!

With good reason. It’s unlike any other bathroom I have seen ( except perhaps one from Beijing years ago!)

Take a peek.

Now there’s a new decorating style!

Walking the snowy streets of Quebec

Sleeping in the Chateau bed was like sleep on a cloud. So soft!

We woke to soft skies and a little bit of sun. After last night’s snow it was good news.

We didn’t organise breakfast at hotel. We just can’t keep up eating three meals a day. So it was off for a walk and a quest to find coffee. It was cool and breezy so we walked up and down the streets admiring the beautiful buildings. The French Canadians know how to do special ironwork.

We found cafe Paillard. It seems the owner has had restaurants in Quebec for many years. This included three MaDonalds (are they really restaurants?) He sold them, retired to travel, got bored, so started a cafe bakery after seeing great cafes in Paris. Well this one is huge and does have wonderful croissants and coffee and hot chocolate in bowls you could swim in.

We walked some more feeling the cool breeze picking up!

Then it was time to meet for the ‘Old Quebec Food Tour’. The Chic Shack was the meeting place and Sam our guide. We did the usual introductions and we are the only Australians along with Canadians and Americans and one lone Englishman who was married to an American.

We started the food tour with Poutine. What is Poutine? It originated in Quebec and rumour has it it occurred after someone dropped a more formal meal of potatoes on the floor – grabbed it up and poured gravy over it. Anyway it was a delicious mix of chunky potatoes in a rich gravy with cheese curds and topped with pink pickled onion. It’s a real comfort food and was delicious!

We set off the the promenade outside our hotel and Sam gave us a history lesson on Champlain, the founder. And lots about the battle between the French and English. And pointed out a long toboggan ride !

We followed Sam along Rue St Louis and the group personalities started to show. The chatters, loners, the one who answers all the questions and those who are happy to bond. We rather liked the English man and his wife. He played rugby and now coaches in the US.

Next stop was La Buche. Quebec is still more French than the French. So this Québécois style restaurant is a very French treat.

Sam organised us onto a long table and we were served a cube of Salmon with a maple sauce. Unusual combination but strangely it worked!

Then we had a local version of Shepherds pie called Chinese Pie. Beef braised in red wine with corn mash and fruit ketchup. It screamed Comfort Food!

Then a small cup of pea soup. Yellow peas with bacon, fried peas & glazed carrots. Warming. Remember it’s cold outside.

To truly finish us off we each were given a quick lesson on making our own maple taffy.

Back on the streets and it was getting colder. We heard more history of this beautiful Unesco city and viewed a clock presented to the locals by the Swiss. Modern and precise it cost the Govt a lot to house it in a weather proof container.

We talked about the houses, the snow and what a long cold winter they have had.

We went past the Morrin House and ended up down the hill and back to bakery we had visited this morning.

I spotted some wonderful carvings on the stairs we walked down and marvelled at the snow almost covering them.

Back in Paillard everyone ate a croissant and I was given a gluten free macaroon. Not a bad substitute.

We did a little detour to a lovely small deli style place Chez Boulay – Comptoir Boreal for a cream fudge. Just a bite sized piece!

Then our final stop. A lovely bistro. Belobe Bistro. This very smart little restaurant has it own smoking room for its ham , bacon etc. They served us mac ‘n cheese. Always a crowd pleaser. It looked creamy and yum with larger smoked bacon on the top.

I couldn’t eat it. Too much gluten. I had a smoked beef and pickle sandwich. We warmed up especially with the glass of red wine.

Walking back to the hotel we called into the Anglican Cathedral as they were preparing for a small concert. They are trying to become Quebec’s version of London’s music church St Martin’s in the Field.

We sloshed through some snow at the back of the church taking a short cut to the hotel. Not a good idea! Wet boots.

Taking a break before a later afternoon trip to the Military museum.

Sightseeing is pretty exhausting!