An ongoing series of musings and inspiration
Touring the Cotswolds
November 5, 2021
Picking up from my previous post, we explored the medieval town of Stratford upon Avon. Late August was a beautiful time to visit the area, the gardens were blooming and the weather was very pleasant. After a delicious Sunday lunch in a local pub and an afternoon cream tea we spent a restful night at our centrally located hotel. The next morning we were ready to explore the Cotswolds!
Day 3 we met our tour guide, Colin, who picked us up from our hotel and we set off. Passing through beautiful scenery, we arrived at Chipping Campden. Central in this chocolate box village is the 400 year old Market Hall that sheltered traders who sold their goods. Now managed by the National Trust, you can walk among the open hall and stone floor that saw the locals selling butter, bread, produce and poultry 400 years ago.
Heading along High Street, you'll find several shops, cafe's and tea spots to explore, but our guide had tipped us to the fact that just a short walk down Sheep Street there were several thatched cottages in gorgeous condition.
Next scenic village is where time stands still. Take away the cars and paved roads and you might imagine you're in another time. As we drive in along a narrow winding lane past honey colored stone cottages we arrive in the heart of a tiny village, Snowshill. As the name suggests, this secluded Cotswold village is set in the hills and when it snows you will find it here first.
You'll also find a pretty Victorian parish church, St Barnabas, built in 1864. Like many villages throughout the Cotswolds, you needn't travel far to worship as it seems that each village has their own parish. The church sits just up a gentle slope above the village green where you can drop in at the only pub in the village for a pint and traditional English pub fare. The day of our visit there was a used book sale going on in the green.
It was difficult to leave such a peaceful and pretty spot, but next stop was Stow on the Wold. I've always loved the sound of that....Stow-on-the-Wold. The word wold, as in Cotswold means hill. Cots incidentally means sheep enclosure. Stow means holy place. Stow on the Wold = Holy place on the hill.
By this time, we were desperate for a cuppa and found a cute little table at Lucy's Tearoom right in the village square. The cream tea was scrumptious and the cake selections were plentiful.
When the Cotswold wool industry was at its height, Stow was famous for its huge annual fairs where as many as 20,000 sheep were sold at a time. The narrow alleyways, or "tures", as they were known, wind through the center of the town. We just had time for a brief stroll around the square to sightsee, but if time had allowed I would have liked to have seen the Yew Tree Door at St. Edwards Church. Dating from the 13th century, this ancient and mysterious site is thought to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Doors of Durin. As you can imagine, I'm eager to return to Stow on the Wold for more in-depth exploration, if not the least a chance to sample the cakes!
CASTLES, GARDENS & TEA TOUR - EXPLORING LONDON & THE COTSWOLDS
September 9, 2021
I've just returned from a wonderful visit to England and it was one of those trips where I thanked the Almighty for getting me there as it has been rescheduled several times due to the global pandemic. We were originally set to travel in 2020, but we all know what happened there. We reset the date to spring 2021 and still it was not the right timing. However, as they say, "three time's a charm" and it was indeed true for our tea tour that went in late August 2021 shortly after England announced they would welcome visitors from the USA who met guidelines for entry.
Day 1: Our first stop was London for a brief night stay before heading into the countryside. We enjoyed a bountiful afternoon tea at our London hotel to celebrate arrival and relaxed the rest of the evening.
Day 2 started early as we had our private transfer to take us to the train station to begin the journey to Stratford upon Avon. The train ride was very nice and stopped along many stations on the journey with names such as Princes Risborough, Leamington Spa, Warwick and Wilmcote to name a few.
We arrived into Stratford mid morning and made our way to our central hotel. As most hotels in the UK and Europe begin check-in around 2 - 3pm, we knew we were early and allowed the friendly desk clerk to stow our luggage and brief us on the "must-see's" of Stratford upon Avon.
We started out exploring the Guildhall where Shakespeare attended school, which was directly across from our own historic hotel, once a 16th century residence, the original Tudor decorative black and white half-timbering and slanted windows are now blended with a modern and stylish design that provide guests with a unique boutique hotel. As you can see, Tudor architecture is evident and these historic buildings are Grade 1 and 2 listed, dating from the early 1400's. It was extraordinary to not only learn the history but to be able to experience stepping inside where history was made.
Guildhall & Shakespeare's Schoolroom
"For hundreds of years, generations of local people have used the Guildhall, cared for it and adapted it. This means it has never fallen into neglect. Continuous use has kept the fabric of the Guildhall in good condition and kept its unique atmosphere alive. After 600 years it's still going strong, and it has a unique legacy of stories to tell". https://www.shakespearesschoolroom.org/stratford-upon-avons-guildhall
Stratford upon Avon is a walkable little town and many of the main sites of interest are within a mile or so of the center of town. Next stop was Shakespeare's birthplace on Henley Street where many exhibits can be explored.
If you are looking for places to eat, there are many well recommended eateries throughout the town ranging from pubs to tea rooms and even a little cafe where you can have tea and visit well behaved rescue cats. Our spur of the moment visit was requested by our cat loving client who was curious and though the little tearoom was full, they had one table available and got us in without a reservation. As this was on a bank holiday weekend, the town was very crowded and many places were booked for the entire day. Lucky for us, the scones were delicious - fluffy and light and were accompanied by a large pot of tea of choice in lovely unique teapots, with Rhodda's clotted cream and strawberry jam to slather on the warm scone.
The hardworking staff go out of their way to serve a nice cream tea or afternoon tea in a unique venue while helping homeless pets as well. Of course the kitties have names like Hamlet, Horatio, Romeo and Juliet.
Heart to Heart with Mom
May 8, 2021
The month of May is upon us and it's time to plan a heart to heart with mom and all the special ladies in our lives to celebrate their special day. Gather together over tea and cakes and talk about pleasant things! Uppermost in mind is the upcoming tea tour to London & the Cotswolds at the end of August. As this tour was postponed twice, I'm very much looking forward to this now. I also think what a lovely time would be had with a mother-daughter duet on tour or a romantic couple's tour!
So I thought what a grand gesture to celebrate by inviting a special person to tea on Mother's Day and surprising them with tea & cake and a tour to England! I can't imagine any lady who wouldn't be completely excited and overjoyed at the thought! So first thing's first - Let's bake some cake!
I always have a boxed cake mix in my pantry for a quick last minute rescue and I frequently use a boxed mix when I need something delicious and fast. Here is my recipe for a quick and delicious cake/cupcakes to enjoy with tea:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Empty the cake mix into a large mixing bowl and using a wire whisk, stir to loosen clumps. Add water, applesauce, egg white and extract and mix using an electric mixer on medium speed, mixing 2-3 minutes until ingredients are fully combined and smooth. Add batter into 2 cake pans that have been sprayed generously with non-stick spray or into cupcake liners in a cupcake pan. Bake according to package directions on box of cake mix. Let cool about 15 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool thoroughly . Frost with your favorite buttercream frosting or canned frosting.
Tip: if using canned frosting, stir in 1/2 tsp raspberry extract (or almond or vanilla) and lightly tint to desired color or simply decorate with non-pareils or edible flowers. These freeze well before frosting so you can always have a quick tea cake on hand. I also keep a seasonal supply of decorating items in my pantry like sprinkles and non-pareils for decorating along with edible pearls, edible dried roses, candied violets and chocolate chips for quick decorating ideas.
Springtime in Savannah
March 19, 2021
The azaleas are blooming in the South and I'm so ready to shake off winter and go on tour! I'll be in Savannah, Georgia in 2 weeks sipping tea, riding the trolley and soaking up the beauty of the city! I hope the azalea show will still be on, it seems to be a bit late this year according to the locals. We will be exploring the Historic District and enjoying afternoon tea on Easter Sunday. I'm very much looking forward to this along with the beautiful homes nearby. I'm told Bonaventure Cemetery is a must see for spectacular azalea sightings if not for the beauty of the sculptures throughout the cemetery itself.
Planning a grand Tea Tour
February 4, 2021
Hold onto your tea hat! The Savannah & Charleston tea tour has new dates! This tour was originally set for autumn 2021, however in this time of having to be flexible with travel plans and looking at some restrictions internationally, I have moved this marvelous tour to the spring where this southern belle belonged the whole time.
As many U.S. states have moved into lessened restrictions, the Spring is the best time to visit these gems of the South. I'm happy to report the planning has gone well. I've always loved the South and while I've travelled to Florida several times, I have yet to explore the south Atlantic states of North and South Carolina and Georgia (except for a plane change in Atlanta).
First stop is Savannah, Georgia with a stay in a beautiful B & B for Easter weekend. I have visions of taking tea in the garden and circa 19th century Queen Anne Victorian homes, old-time trolley's and gracious southern hospitality.
After a 4 night stay in Savannah, we have a brief journey up to Charleston, South Carolina via train arriving mid morning to the "holy city" for a 3 night stay. I'm so excited to be visiting this lovely destination and touring a few historic homes and gardens with a private guide, then enjoying a resplendent afternoon tea luncheon as the finale.
Of course just the name of Magnolia Plantation brings to mind the only garden in South Carolina honored as one of "America's Most Beautiful Gardens" by Travel & Leisure magazine. As the last of the large scale "romantic gardens" in the U.S, we will be exploring in-depth one of the oldest plantation estates in the south and learning more about our country's history.
They say that planning a vacation can make you as happy as actually taking the vacation and while I agree it is a giddy anticipation, I do believe this will be one of those times that the arrow hits both marks!
Welcoming a New Year!
December 31, 2021
Looking ahead to new opportunities for travel and afternoon tea, I've enjoyed reminiscing about past travels and tea times during this past year. One of the highlights for myself personally was the Castles, Gardens & Tea Tour in 2018 to Scotland and Ireland. We were able to focus on amazing historical and cultural sights along with new and delicious discoveries for afternoon tea.
This recipe was inspired by the delicious selection of scones enjoyed during a visit to the Palace of Holyrood House Afternoon Tea Cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Sharing the love of afternoon tea around the world
December 12, 2020
Up early today for a holiday zoom meetup with the afternoon tea expert from Belfast, Ireland and other tea enthusiasts around the world. Of course I had many cups of tea and then enjoyed "elevenses" with finger sandwiches, a scone, fresh fruit and a sweet mini cake with raspberry sauce & cream!
Arranging my tea tree and working on cards & gift wrapping this afternoon. Who is ready for the Holidays?
October 13, 2020
On this day in 2018.....A rainy day found us calling a cab and heading to Killarney National Park to visit Cahernane House for tea! Gracious service and delicious afternoon tea in a beautiful and relaxing setting.
Our cabbie was friendly and informative and eventually drove us over to Muckross Estate to further explore. The entire day was so memorable and special, as spontaneous ideas often are. Ireland, land of dreams!☘️