Link

A lovely article about one of the Queen’s Favourites… I love the arcane and little details, and this is something I’ve never seen detailed before…

The Flame Lily Brooch

Note to readers…

I’ll be adding stuff as I think of it, and filling in the gaps… I apologize for the lack of continuity, it’s so not me, but as it turned out it was more important to enjoy the trip while it was happening than to write about it, so it is such as it is… The hallmark of a good trip? I hope so…

Air New Zealand Flight 1

Return journey on AirNZ was pretty much the same as the first, with the notable change of having a window seat this time, so while I was still squished as a sardine, I had an added inch or so with the window seat… and in those tight quarters, every inch matters!

For seat mates, I had two ‘fit’ gentlemen, which was a pleasant surprise. New Zealand open water swimmers returning from their Portugal Olympic trials, which sadly apparently hadn’t turned out well for them. 😦 I felt doubly bad that they were stuffed into those small seats for a 22-hour+ journey home, but was particularly amused to see my neighbor literally dream-swimming in his sleep. Funny…

I’ll give Air New Zealand props for their food (decently edible) and wine (freely poured, good NZ wines). Also, the inflight entertainment was quite good, and I managed to push through FIVE movies on a 10-hour flight. Watched  “Bel Ami”, “The Help”, “Rampart”, “Safe House” and “Contraband”, which I hadn’t realized was set and shot in New Orleans, so that was fun.

Upshot: I would definitely recommend the airline in general, however, personally I would save my pennies and plump for a Premium Economy seat next time. I understand the airlines’ need to squeeze every inch out of the space, but it was pretty uncomfortable for a 10+hour flight twice. Oh well…C’est la vie.

Home and the grand news that the LA Kings were winning the Stanley Cup as I landed was a great welcome… GKG.

Last morning in England…

June 11th, and it’s my last day in England. Sorta sad, but actually more than ready to head home. Woke up pretty early, but was trying to sleep in, as I’m trying to make sure I don’t sleep on the plane and trick my body into skipping jet lag. Yeah, we’ll see how that goes… 😉

Had my last ‘full English’ in the pub dining room; Henry had my place set, my favorite paper just to the right of the tea cup, and tea delivered within a moment of my sitting down.  Then a bunch of re-organizing the packing situation, loaded up the car and headed out. Needed to make a last stop at a Marks and Sparks for Percy Pigs and other goodies, so I set the map for Marlow, about half-way between Watlington and Heathrow. Got a little turned around on the country roads, but finally figured it out.

Marlow’s actually a lovely town, on the river and was still all bunted up. Also was very bustling on a Monday at mid-day, but I lucked into a street spot, and finished up my little errand quickly and was on the road for final portion of my journey. Successfully manouevered getting gas and the car back to Enterprise, hopped the shuttle, checked in for the flight, returned the TEP and whisked through security, all with no issues.

And then, the shopping portion of our journey begins! Heathrow is a ridiculous shoppers mecca, with everything one can imagine available in the area between security and the gates, including a Harrods outpost. I had specifically left myself an extra hour for shopping, and did enjoy myself. Heathrow would be the one airport to definitely schedule yourself some extra time just for the window shopping alone, and I’m not exactly known as a shopper…

But per my mandate not to buy anything that wasn’t essential, I didn’t actually buy anything of note, but it was fun to do a little browsing while waiting for the gate to open.

Watlington: The Fat Fox

So I had picked this as my lodging option after seeing the updated website, and realizing that it was under new management. Its central location in Watlington was a big plus for me,

For my recollection of 2005’s visit, this place was, in English terms, “a bit dodgy” but as always those judgements are relative. Back on that trip, I had gone for a drink and a bite, while lodging in nearby Kingston Blount. I had a wonderful time and some good conversation with a knowledgable local, but one who also could be classified as a ‘bit dodgy’. Yes, this is a wonderful phrase, that covers a multitude of sins…

Today, the Fat Fox is anything but. It is frankly an exceptional little spot, and I was not only well taken care of, but exceptionally happy that Watlington has this little gem, with wonderful proprietors.

You’ll have to see my post of my unhappy afternoon to understand the true relief I felt to be finally delivered and be shown to my lovely little room in the expanded barn, but from the get-go, I got nothing but exceptional service from everyone involved.

Knowing a bit of the layout from years past, I was pleased to see the improvements that had been put in place since my last visit. I was shown to the front room in the barn, #2.

The bed itself was super-comfy, with plush down duvet and plumpy pillows. Good Digital TV was a nice modern touch, and the bathroom was modern but not too much, with sample versions of bath amenities from a brand I wasn’t familiar with, but seemed upscale but appropriate to the venue. Nice touches also included diffusion sticks in the bathroom, tea service setup with cocoa, Kit-Kat sticks, and small bottles of water on each bedside.

The room also had an unusual barn-door which also opened to the outside. I was slightly freaked out when I opened it from the inside, until I realized it was also keyed to my door, and wouldn’t open from the outside. And in the morning, a small child was trying to “see the horsies” and knocking on the split barn door! Cute, and yes, his parents were trying to restrain him, but really wouldn’t have been so cute were I still trying to sleep… 😉

It was, all in all, amenable, as Tina calls anything perfectly perfect to its situation, and this was thus. I couldn’t have been more happy unless there was a lovely not quite gastro-pub with a covered outdoor area for socializing/smoking steps away — oh, wait! There is!

So it was pretty much my sweet spot, and the exceptional service (absolutely lovely, but not over the top) was also spot on. Henry was on hand for absolutely anything I needed, from a well-poured drink to a well-served breakfast, to the password to the WiFi, and I felt absolutely taken care of from my untimely arrival to my more appropriately scheduled departure.

I would quite simply unreservedly recommend this spot to anyone thinking of staying in Watlington…

BBC concert at the Palace

Well, just simply amazing. The crowds, the organization, and well just the feeling there. It was amazing… As a trend, the food truck wars continue! I love that even Britain is embracing this — it was very well-organized and while some of the lines were long it was lovely they had provided this.

I kept thinking I needed to pinch myself, because was I really on the Mall, watching this historic occasion? Well, yes, yes I was.

My personal favorite moments would definitely be first, the rooftop bit with Madness. They were such a quintessential 80s band but the graphics they did on the Palace front during their performance, well that was just brilliant.

Easily a second favorite was The Prince of Wales’ speech to ‘Mummy’, which summed up so much of what everyone was feeling, including a major loud cheer for the Duke of Edinburgh, “So loud he can hear it!”; and third, the fireworks at the end, which could be seen throughout London…

All the acts were great, if a bit banal but that was to be expected at a multi-generational event. I personally love will.i.am, and loved his tweets too, but as he’s not British, it was a bit jarring, and I understand he was not a crowd-favorite.

Sir Elton, Sir Tom, Sir Cliff and Sir Paul were all expectedly good. The interstitials from the ‘comedians’? I understand why they were there (time fillers between acts) but they were sort of inappropriate and annoying. And as I’m not familiar with ANY of them, I thought they were all a bit, well not cool. Just my opinion, but that was my impression.

There is serious concern for the Duke of Edinburgh. He’s a tough old salt, so for him to miss anything is quite unsual and worrisome. None of the family has yet been to visit him, I’m sure in order to respect his wishes. However…. I’m worried. He is a very fit 91, but he is 91!

Well, The Queen is clearly kicking my butt on endurance — but she’s not staying up all night watching NHL hockey either.

I hope and pray that she’s getting some rest, even with all the ridiculousness inside and outside her house tonight; and that the DoE is safe and healthy within days… God Save The Queen!

London Walks: Hidden Village of Clerkenwell

London Walks is a very well respected group, so I was looking forward to my afternoon of tramping around Clerkenwell just north of St Paul’s Cathedral, plus getting a glimpse of the preparations for the service of thanksgiving tomorrow a.m. at the Cathedral. And as always, it was fun taking the cross-town 11 bus, on the upper deck of course, which passes all the major sights: Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and finally St Paul’s. Not surprisingly, the bus trip took much longer than advertised, as there were so many people out and about, especially in Trafalgar Square, leading into the Mall for the concert later that evening…

But I arrived in the general vicinity, and found the group relatively easily. It was a very interesting tour, though quite frankly a bit more obscure than I thought it was going to be. Went all through Charterhouse, Smithfield, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, and then into Clerkenwell. It was definitely interesting, and a great value at £9, however I don’t think I would have done it had I known what exactly it contained.

Some of the highlights were the Postman’s Park, with its unique memorial to ‘ordinary heroes’, Cloth Fair Street, Smithfields market, and St John’s, with it’s Order and Ambulance history.

Took hundreds of pictures, of course. Will upload later. Also, interestingly, because this was a Bank Holiday, rather than a regular Monday, almost everything in this part of the City was closed, so I imagine that the atmosphere is rather different on a regular Monday.

Afterwards, I was seriously hungry, having skipped lunch, so I stopped by a very cute Wurst shop, and had a yummy brat with some saurkraut. Perfect little snack, as I didn’t feel like sitting down to an entire meal… Looked like it was a bit of a chain? Will find link and add it later…

Anyway, overall, it was pretty and relatively interesting, but again, I think I expected more? (I was sort of imagining little hidden mystery towns, and it wasn’t really that… Pretty but… Oh, well. Not time wasted.

Pageant Favorite Moments

Favorite moments:

•The bells on the first wave of boats; they sounded simply amazing, and as one of my pub-fellows later commented, “Whoever thought of that was mad, but brilliant…” It was gorgeous, and quite amazing, technically.

•The War Horse, Joey, making his “salute” to Her Majesty on the roof of the National Theatre… to obvious approval.

•The amazing full-side-turn (is that the correct nautical term? No idea) of the Royal Barge, “The Spirit of Chartwell” to take it perpendicular across river to its dock. “I’d love to know what sort of thrusters they’re using” was the BBC commentary, and I actually agreed! A beautiful maneuver that I’m sure the Navy men in the family appreciated, especially on that wind, which might not have been appreciated on television, but was a bit insane…

•The drowned rat look of the singers of the finale… “Land of Hope and Glory” probably never sounded so good to her and the rest of them, as they knew it was close to over, and they could head back for a cuppa.

Fashion Report: Sunday Edition

Fashion-wise:

•The Queen and Kate (uh, that’s HRH The Duchess of Cambridge to you!) were spot-on, and even their “scarves for warmth” were perfect. We’ve come to expect this from both, so no big surprise, but sweet nonetheless. Everyone else? Not so much.

•The Royal men were typically clad in uniforms which are lovely but not surprising; and let’s just say the *other* royal ladies need to take some major lessons. I adore them all, but lordie!

•Let’s start with HRH The Duchess of Cornwall… If The Queen chose white, and Kate chose red, wouldn’t it have made sense for her to put herself in a lovely British/Scottish blue? Just saying, that would have made major headlines… (I’m no great thinker here, just saying that the media would have gone nuts over it! Did no one think of this? I know that they don’t necessarily coordinate on outfits, but do cross-check colors with each other…)

•And while I’m a HUGE fan of the Princess Royal, her penchant for manly Navy dress is simply not attractive; I respect her for doing it, but it’s just not, uh, pretty. She still has an amazing figure; she could actually take some chances like her savvy daughter and “hip it up” with a Navy theme or even the naval top half, but not with those horrible slacks and serviceable shoes. I totally respect her for the nod to serving women, however, I also imagine that service women still have a fashion gene, and would appreciate HRH sticking up for that too!

•I’m still waiting to see photos of the Countess of Wessex, and the Duchesses of Kent and Gloucestershire, but they can’t compare to the ‘accident waiting to happen’ that is the York girls…

•Now, let me just preface this by saying that I adore both of these girls; they’re pretty, young and seem very sincere in trying to do the right thing. Eugenie especially has always struck me as being particularly beautiful. She’s got gorgeous eyes, a perfectly symmetrical sweet round face (that reminds me a bit of her grandmother, HM The Queen Mother at her age) and a great curvy figure. However, both York girls have always seemed to be afflicted with a worse fashion sense than their seriously dubious mother. I had heard that they recently had employed a stylist, but I’m not sure they’re seeing any results, based on the last two days’ outings.

I’m really not trying to be horribly mean or bitchy here, but I feel like both these girls could use good girlfriends who will tell them, “yes, your ass looks huge in that, what are you thinking?” I’m not a small girl myself, so I certainly have no comments about either one’s weight, but there is such as a thing as dressing to flatter your assets, and from what I have seen, neither does that. It’s just… unfortunate. I feel bad for them, because I really do think they are good girls, but ah, uh, regrettable dressing. And let’s just say that I took some photographs today that I will not publish, because I would not do that to a friend. Eu, I adore you and you can thank me later…

Two days of up-close and I’m now a fashion expert! But really, I’m just saying…

A British Summer?

So it’s been pissing rain, and as much as the English are used to this, it did definitely put a damper on Her Majesty’s big day… In all seriousness, I have my doubts about the wisdom of asking an 86-year-old grandmother, and an 91-year-old consort with a known heart issue being asked to stand, continuously, for 3 1/2 hours in driving rain and wind. I was totally unable to handle, heading for tea and hearth-fire at the first sign that it was not just a drizzle. But frankly, that’s the beauty and insane life of the Queen… There was no freakin’ way she was going to disappoint the 1.2 million folks who turned out to the riverside, much less the many more millions who watched it on TV the world over. She has more than earned ‘rock-god’ status, as any simple celebrity would just not have had the fortitude…

I do feel so privileged to have experienced it ‘live and in person’ though I have to say my actual visual on the river was less than stellar. But it was more about being out there and seeing the crowds. I especially loved the children’s reactions to it all. They clearly didn’t realize it was historic, etc. but they didn’t care. It was just a great day out in major crowds in London, and it will be left to their parents to explain to them that they were there today, and why.

So the real highlights of my day were the street party, and total unexpected arrival of the Yorks, and the “after-party” at the Surprise, which is my “local” pub 1/2 a block away from my apartment. What a treat, and so much London and Britishness.. fun fun fun.