london1967: (knocker)
It was time to say goodbye to beautiful Rovinj
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and drive inland.
That day we visited 4 walled towns/villages perched on top of hills. All of them were ruled by Venice for about 4 centuries so they look a bit Italian architecturally.

The first stop was Grožnjan / Grisignana, a small town that was almost abandoned (2/3 of its population fled to Italy when it became part of Yugoslavia in the early 1950s) but was reborn in the 1970s as a village of artists.

It is rather picturesque and in a lovely position

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(the homemade plum cake was yummy!)

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Next stop was Oprtalj / Portole, smaller than Grožnjan and, sadly, not in very good condition. A number of houses seemed to be abandoned/almost in ruins.

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There's a lovely Venetian loggia opposite the town's gate
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Next stop was probably the most popular of the inland Istrian town, Motovun / Montona. The town is high up on a hill and it is quite a steep walk up to the city gate. It is famous for a film festival.

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Here we had a toasted sandwich as a late lunch and then had a look around and a short walk on the walls

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We then drove to Buzet/Pinguente a small town that is renowned for truffles. Here we stayed for 2 nights at Vela Vrata hotel, where we also dined.

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I had a look around town while Adrian was unpacking

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then we had an aperitivo on a little terrace opposite the hotel and overlooking the city walls, from where we admired the sun disappearing behind the hills

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This was followed by another short walk
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and then dinner.
london1967: (knocker)
The morning after Adrian's birthday celebrations, we got in our hired car and drove up north

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to Poreč/Parenzo.

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It is an old town of Roman origin, famous mainly because of its Euphrasian Basilica, a monument on the World Heritage Unesco list because it was the first church in Western Europe with the 3-apse layout.

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We visited the basilica, admired a Roman mosaic and some others dating from the 5th century, had a look at the baptistery and visited the bishop's palace.
I also climbed the tower for the views.

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(This was an interesting painting in the bishop's palace: a canvas which had been painted over not once, but twice!)

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Then we had a walk around town, looked at the remains of a Roman temple and had a toasted sandwich for lunch.

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(a Romanesque house from the 13th century)

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(this is the centre of town, where the decumanus maximus meets the cardo maximus)

Next stop was the small walled town of Novigrad/Cittanova

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The town is very picturesque. It also has a 16th century loggia, apparently the only one in Istria that is located by the sea.

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After our walk around town, it was time for a sit down and a small ice-cream!

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On the way back to Rovinj, we stopped at Sveti Lovreč Labinski/San Lorenzo di Albona a fortified hamlet.
The main gate (Vela Vrata) sports the omnipresent Venetian lion and a strange head, said to be Attila the Hun.

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I really liked the tiny place.

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Back in Rovinj, we decided to go to the bar by the harbour to watch the sunset again, as we had done 2 days before. I thought that I wasn't going to take any more photos, but then I couldn't resist!

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(this time I had an alcoholic cocktail: a cherry blossom)

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After the drink at the bar, we climbed up to Da Sergio, a renowned pizzeria: the pizza was excellent.
And then it was time to go back to the hotel.

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london1967: (knocker)

We spent Adrian's birthday in Rovinj.

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First we walked up to the church of St. Euphemia, which dominates the town

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Here I climbed the tower to admire the views.

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I found walking down the stairs rather difficult as because I have big feet I had to walk backwards and they kept getting stuck in the gaps between the wooden steps!

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We then walked down to the harbour. Rovinj is very beautiful but very hard to walk around not only because it is steep, but also because it is paved with very slippery stones. We both had a couple of near misses!

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At the harbour we went on two sightseeing trips by boat.
The first lasted for 90 minutes and was around the islands

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A popular spot for newlyweds!
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Then we had a fish 'picnic' on board
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before setting off on a cruise to the Limski kanal, a 10 km estuary that, because is very narrow, resembles a fjord (in fact it was used as such in the 1958 film "The Vikings" starring Kirk Douglas).
The trip lasted 4 hours with an hour stop at the end of the fjord (where we had ice-cream!) and another stop to visit the pirates' cave (I had a look at the amount of people up those narrow steps and decided to stay on board!)

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Back in Rovinj,

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we had time for a short rest before climbing up to the restaurant I booked for Adrian's birthday dinner

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Monte appears to be the 'top' restaurant both in terms of location and fame in Rovinj, and it was simply fantastic.
A piece of theatre and the food was amazing. (It cost an arm and a leg, but it was worth it).
We first had a Martini rosso under a canopy opposite the restaurant. The maître d' and co-owner look a bit like Robin Wright: elegant, poised and very welcoming.
We chose the 5 course tasting menu accompanied by 5 matching Istrian/Croatian wines and it was all superlative! (We also had 3 amouse bouches, a pre-dessert and some chocolates at the end).
I only have a few pictures as I was too busy enjoying the food, the atmosphere and the company.

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("tartar of filet of beef - panko egg - wild mushroom cream")

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("tortelloni with nettle - summer mushroom sauce - pine cone seeds - parmesan cheese")

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("suckling pig 24h - lentils with pancetta - apple and horse radish")

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("pear metamorphosis" - or as we called it, pear 5 ways, and it was out of this world!)
london1967: (knocker)
On the Monday we picked up our rental car at the airport and drove up eastern Istria to Rovinj.
We stopped at 3 places on the way.

The first town was Vodnjan (or Dignano in Italian).
The town looks in parts very Venetian and it's no surprise as most of Istria was ruled by Venice for a few centuries.

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We visited the church of St. Blaise, famous for the "holy" mummies which were moved here from Venice after the Napoleonic occupation. Apart from these, there are 370 relics belonging to 250 saints!
The mummies of Saint Nicolosa Bursa and Leon Bembo are allegedly the best preserved mummies in Europe: their skin is still elastic!
(And according to one of the guidebooks, the body of St. Nicolosa emanates a sphere of healing energy.)
The book warned the reader that the eccentric parish priest would turn away underdressed people, and we witnessed just that with a couple.
He had no problem with us and we had a private tour of the mummies and the museum. It was all a bit weird, I must say. I'm not sure that he was actually the parish priest (he was dressed all in black and had a big cross around his neck) but whoever he was, he was friendly and... very camp. We learned that his favourite singers are Elton John and Adele (I don't think that I'll ever be able to listen to "Hello. It's me" without thinking of him from now on!).

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Next stop was the hamlet of Svetvinčenat, with the Grimani castle

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and more Venetian-looking buildings (especially this church):

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Here we had a spot of lunch and set off for Rovinj.
On the way we stopped to have a look at the ruins of Dvigrad (Due Castelli, in Italian), a medieval town that was deserted about 300 years ago (it survived numerous sacks and the plague, but apparently the location was very prone to malaria).

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In Rovinj, we stayed at the Angelo d'Oro hotel, a historic palazzo in the old town. As it was for Adrian's birthday, I had booked a suite with sea view on the top floor

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After settling in, we had a walk around
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and then went for cocktails (Negroni for Adrian, Shirley Temple for me) at a bar near the harbour to watch the sunset

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We then had a rather uninspiring dinner at the restaurant next to the bar, and we walked back to the hotel, up the steep and slippy streets/alleyways getting lost a couple of times.
But we made it eventually, and we deserved a night cap for making it back in one piece!

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Pula

Oct. 15th, 2016 09:18 pm
london1967: (knocker)
Well shall I pretend that I've never stopped posting or shall I say something? I'll go for the former! :-)

I'm in Italy at my parents' but only 3 weeks ago we were both in Istria.
It was a surprise trip for Adrian's birthday and he only found out that the destination was Pula at the boarding gate at Gatwick.
It turned out to be a good choice because the weather was glorious for most of the week, and we both loved it.
Adrian had been before when we was a child, although he doesn't think he had visited Pula then.

The hotel I booked was near the Roman Arena and so we had a look around after having a pizza (it was a late afternoon flight from London).

Sunday was spent walking around town.
The Arena is the 6th largest surviving Roman amphitheatre and arguably the city star attraction:

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After the visit, we walked along the harbour

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to the cathedral

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and the main square, which stands on the site of the Roman forum.
Here we saw the temple of Augustus (blown to smithereens in WWII but painstakingly reconstructed), the town hall (which incorporates part of another Roman) temple... and a few vintage cars.

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(I learned to drive in one of these! A Fiat 850)

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We had a restorative drink at a cafe' in the square and then carried on 'exploring'.

We looked at a Roman mosaic,
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admired the Roman arch of the Sergii
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and then climbed up to the castle/fortress

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which owns much of its present appearance to the Venetians.

From here there are great views of the city.

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We visited the museum
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then I climbed the tower
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Next stop was the Franciscan monastery
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before taking in another couple of Roman gates
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On the way back to the hotel we stopped for an aperitivo
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After a rest, we were out to watch the Lighting Giants, Pula's newest attraction: the giant cranes in the shipyard are lit up in a variety of colours.

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followed by dinner at a restaurant at the back of the townhall
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It was lovely to be able to eat outside at the end of September!

On the way back, we stopped by this fountain
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near the Arena

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The following morning we left Pula and picked up a car at the airport and drove to Rovinj, stopped at a few place on the way.
london1967: (knocker)
The first outing of the month was on the first Friday; in the evening after dinner at Vico's we went to the Royal Academy to see "Painting the Modern Garden:Monet to Matisse".

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It was our first visit to the Royal Academy! We really loved the exhibition: there were some great paintings.

On the Sunday I made some bugie - traditional Italian fried-pastries for the Carnival. I took some into work the following day, and on the Tuesday I used the other half of the dough to make more for Adrian's Italian class.

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The following Friday it was the long awaited trip to the Menier Chocolate Factory to see Sheridan Smith in "Funny Girl". The show sold out in a matter of hours when I booked it back in August.
We had the meal deal: dinner followed by the show.

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I must say that the show was absolutely brilliant!
And being in such a small and intimate space is always a bonus.

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Then of course there was Valentine's Day, celebrated at home.

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3 days later it was my birthday.
Adrian surprised me the night before with a yummy cake, decorated for a disco diva! LOL

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I had booked the afternoon off work on my birthday, and I met Adrian at Hammersmith tube station to go to the the River Cafe

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where we had the most beautiful meal! It was great to see that the 'hype' that has surrounded this restaurant in the almost 30 years of activity was well deserved.

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The food was delicious and the service very attentive.
Adrian mentioned to a waitress that it was my birthday and my dessert arrived suitably adorned!

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After lunch we travelled to Victoria, to catch the end of the RHS "London Early Spring Show". We got there at 4:35 pm but most of it had already been dismantled! (it closed at 5 pm).
Luckily the tickets were free (thanks to Richard, who had gifted us an RHS membership for Christmas) but we were a bit disappointed.

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Nevertheless, we bought a little something: 2 bulbs of Sparkling Striped Gloriosa Lilies.

We hung around near Victoria after the show, since we had booked tickets to see "A Bigger Splash", at the Curzon.
The film, by Italian director Luca Guadagnino, features Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson and is set on the Italian island of Pantelleria.
It's beautifully shot and, erm, there is lot of nudity, full-frontal! LOL
The cinema opened almost 2 years ago and is very comfortable (and expensive!), and we had never been before.

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(Sadly I don't have any of the pictures I took on my birthday as my PC decided to fry the camera's memory card.)

As it was my birthday, I thought it would be fun to cook a Piemontese meal at the week-end. We invited Chris and Michael to join us.

I suppose I was a bit over-ambitious at cooking 9 courses (and making bread, and filled pasta) but I managed to do it. I cooked all day on Saturday (and a bit on Friday evening) and I have to confess that I was utterly exhausted.
It took me the whole day on Sunday to recover! I guess I am no spring chicken any longer. LOL

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Bread making:

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A bit more baking the following week: Adrian went up to Leeds for a couple of night mid-week, and I thought I'd bake him a coffee and walnut cake (his favourite!) as a welcome home surprise.
I'd never baked it before because I don't like coffee.

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(The pretty plate is a birthday present from Michael and Chris)

Surprisingly, I didn't mind the taste of coffee at all in the cake and had a couple of slices.

And the month ended with another meal at Vico's on Friday (probably the last one for a while now that my 25% discount card has run out!)

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followed by theatre

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(the play was great fun! we enjoyed having a box to ourselves although it meant leaning over to be able to see the stage)

and some more baking on the Saturday.

We had invited a new acquaintance/friend for tea. Adrian baked scones and made sandwiches, and I tried a new cake which required quite a lot of work.

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A choko-berry fraisier (cocoa Genoise sponge, filled with berries and a very sinful crème de cassis crème mousseline, topped by a thin disc of marzipan stuck with blackcurrant jam, and a chocolate mirror glaze).
I dread to think about the calories!

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london1967: (knocker)
I can't believe that we got back from Rome 5 weeks ago and that I haven't really looked at the pictures I took yet!
I confess that I'm not as interested in photography as I used to be, but still...

On December 29th, after a week spent at my parents', I took the fast Frecciarossa train to Rome. I arrived a couple of hours before Adrian (who travelled from London City to Fiumicino) and so I went to sort out the accommodation, and then had a look (I think my 3rd visit) at the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, built by Michelangelo in part of the ancient Baths of Diocletian. It is very close to Roma Termini, the main railway station.

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I was thrilled to see Adrian in the crowd of people getting off the train from the airport! I always miss him terribly and I can honestly say that there hasn't been a day since I met him for the first time, that I haven't looked forward to seeing him/been happy to be with him.

Once reunited, we went back to the apartment

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which I had found on AirB&B. It in on Via Giulia, in a 16th century building and it is made up of a large-ish bedroom with a corner with a table and chairs, a bathroom and a kitchenette.
Great central location and very quiet.

It was soon time for dinner and we went for a pizza, well calzone, at a restaurant recommended by the owner. It was excellent.

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After that, we enjoyed a stroll in Piazza Navona

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(where we also admired one of many nativity scenes dotted around the city)

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and then Campo dei Fiori

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before going back home for an early night.

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london1967: (knocker)
January, arguably the longest month of the year, is behind us.
We did quite a bit, in fact we've been out every single Friday night (and also had a busy couple of Saturdays).

The first Friday was Adrian's sister's birthday. She came down to London for the week-end, so that she could also see the Panto.

We - and our dearest friend David, in London for the panto - went out for dinner at a local pizzeria, Sicilian Art Pizza. The food, as always, was excellent and a good time was had by all.
I managed to sneak in a cake I had bought from Patisserie Valerie but we didn't embarass her (or ourselves) with a rendition of Happy Birthday!

That was reserved for the following day, when the whole Panto audience sang! No picture of her blowing out the candles as I was carrying the cake.
We recreated the scene at home later that evening, although it was only the 3 of us and David.

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"Cyril the Squirrel and the Magic Nut" went really well.
Yes, there were a few complaints that they couldn't quite hear at the back but apart from that it was a success.
It was thrilling to see my 'work' performed and people enjoying it.

Here are a few photos from the performance plus a portrait of my very own Panto Dame. Doesn't she look familiar? LOL

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Well despite having the scripts in their hands, some of the actors managed to forget their lines, etc. Although in a way it added to the merriment.
One of the characters was called Verbena Vixen but at some point Kitty Furball called her Vergina. Corpsing ensued, and I can still laugh out loud now just thinking about it!

The following Friday Adrian met me straight after work and we first went for a steak and lobster dinner at a restaurant at the Hippodrome Casino. A touch of Vegas in the heart of London!

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Then we wandered around Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, St. James' Square and Piccadilly, and later King's Cross for  for "Lumiere London", a free light festival.
We expected it to be busy (some streets were closed to traffic) but not so ridiculously crowded!
We only saw about half of the sights and after King's Cross we had both had enough of the crowds and decided to call it a night.

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The following Friday it was dinner and opera.
We had an early dinner at Vico, a "bustling trattoria in the heart of the West End, where Soho and Covent Garden meet. We serve Italian food, The Appian Way – from along the Via Appia, which connects Rome through Lazio, Campania, Basilicata and Puglia to Brindisi in the South. We serve simple food cooked with heart, and are located in a perfect spot for dining before or after a show, or a meal in town“.
It's round the corner from work and I have a 25% discount card for 'locals' until the end of February.
We had been once before in September when it had just opened and it was noisy, had a sort of industrial look with plenty of empty space and stools to perch on, and you bought your food at the counter and ate it with plastic plates and plastuc cutlery!! I thought it could have been a place where teenage skateboarders from the rich Italian bourgeoisie would hang out.
Obviously the concept didn't work and now it has been refurbished like a proper restaurant. And we enjoyed it much more.

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(the courgette chips were to die for!)

Then we went to see La Traviata at Covent Garden, the 3rd time we've seen this particular production over the years, but always very enjoyable even from our £14 seats up in the gods.

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Last Friday it was culture again.
We went to see the "Celts: art and identity" exhibition at the British Museum. It wasn't too busy and we really enjoyed it.

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After a quick Mc Donald's, we went to the cinema to see 'Youth', the new film by Paolo Sorrentino. We absolutely loved it!

On the Saturday, we had invited Roberta (Adrian's Italian teacher) and her brother Carlo (visiting from Italy) for afternoon tea, so we had a busy morning and early afternoon of baking, but it was fun and we enjoyed a few very pleasant and chatty hours, drinking tea and prosecco, and eating.

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london1967: (knocker)






5 countries (5: I'm counting England and Wales as 2) and 2 continents.
It was 4 countries and 1 continents in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. 6 and 1 in 2010, 7 and 1 in 2009, 7 and 3 in 2008 but fewer nights away from home.
london1967: (knocker)
So Christmas and New Year have come and gone, the decorations have been dismantled by Adrian at the beginning of the week and I haven't posted about them yet.
There were - in my modest opinion - a work of art (and patience) and it would be a shame not to record them on here!

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london1967: (knocker)
It is a tradition that every year we invite neighbours and friends to a Christmas gathering.
This year we decided for a lunch party: we provided (a choice of) 4 starters, 3 main courses and 6 desserts.
And we waited till the last Sunday before Christmas, so that it was also our own Christmas lunch (of sorts) as we always spend the holiday apart.

It was hard work to prepare all the food: we made 2 tarts on Friday night, and the rest on Saturday and Sunday morning, and finished about 5 minutes late.
But it was worth the effort as everybody really seemed to enjoy themselves. Many of our guests are also performers in the upcoming panto so that came up often in conversation.

Adrian had decorated the house beautifully but that will be the object of another post.

For now let's only concentrate on food... (main courses did not get photographed)

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Our 27 guests arrived just after 2 pm and the last 3 left at 11 pm!
london1967: (knocker)
I think it's the third year that the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew organise an after-dark trail through the gardens to celebrate the festive season, but it was our first visit last night.

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The trail is one mile long and it's all very well organised.

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Apart from stalls selling food and beverages, there were some performers too:

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These are the 'singing hollies'. Speakers are hidden (inside? behind them?) and play haunting music.
The lights change in colour and intensity. I would have stayed there much longer to enjoy the experience.

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This was one of the highlights, the 'fields of fire' where 3 abstract Christmas trees topped by the effigies of the sun, the moon and the phoenix are surrounded by circles of flames.
There were two guys working non-stop to fill up the 'lamps'.
It was rather bewitching and weirdly it smelled of church.

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Even these canvas Christmas trees were quite fun, perhaps more from a distance:

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Another installation that we both loved (sign that our inner children are well and truly alive) was the 'Squid Soup'

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a 'box' filled with strings of lights, which changed colour. Walking through it was great fun!

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Noooooo... there is darkness at the end of the tunnel (of lights!)

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There were of course attractions for children... of all ages:

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I loved the flowers and the peacocks

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Kiss me quick (under the mistletoe)

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Probably the star attraction was the son et lumière at the end of the walk, which made great use of the lake and the Palm House. Just brilliant!

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Adrian loved it so much that he's going back with his sister and nephews on Boxing Day!
london1967: (knocker)
Back in September, as part of the London Open House week-end, we managed to get tickets to visit the Grade II listed Crystal Palace subway which is the only part left of the station at the top of the hill (the other station on the side of the park is still in use today).
(The station itself was demolished, the subway is the passage that used to take the first class passengers to the palace itself).

The subway is only open occasionally

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and you have to wear hard hats

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The brickwork is fantastic and we were both thrilled to be able to visit it!

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The station opened in 1865 (3 years before our home was built) and the subway was used as an air-raid shelter during WWII.
london1967: (knocker)
On our last full day in Mallorca, we headed back to the north-east of the island on the same road we travelled on two days earlier

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This time the road wasn't blocked and we managed to get to our destination, the Cap de Formentor.

On the way we stopped at Pollença, a town founded by the Romans and now famous for its Via Crucis.

Here we had a look a the Convent de Sant Domingo

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and at the church of Nostra Senyora Del Angels on Placa Major

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then admired the Via Crucis from a distance (oh all those steps!! our knees begged us not to, and we didn't!)

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before having a drink in the square and setting off for the Cap de Formentor.

The drive to the lighthouse on the Cap de Formentor is quite spectacular, but it felt that every car on the island was on that stretch of road! At the end of it, we had to queue for quite a while until we managed to find a space to park... a bit of a nightmare.

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There was a thunderstorm in the distance

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but it was sunny if you looked the other way!

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Luckily the drive back was much easier and we even managed to park at a viewpoint

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The views were spectacular!

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We drove back to Sóller through the middle of the island, after stopping at Alcudia to look at the city walls:

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Back in Sóller, we went out for our last dinner at our favourite restaurant.
The food was lovely again, and it turned out to be quite a fun evening as well.
We were sitting next to an English couple: the lady was from Leeds and knew many of Adrian's old haunts.

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The following morning we had time to breakfast and we got ready to leave.
Unfortunately when back in the room, I had an attack of my Ménière's disease. I was very unsteady on my feet but tried to put on a brave face as we had to fly back to London.
I was sick at the airport and didn't feel well at all when boarding the plane (I certaily made sure I there was a sick bag in the seat pocket in front of me - plus I always have a couple of plastic freezer bags in my pocket these days).
Anyway by the time we landed I was starting to feel a bit better. The tinnitus and ear problems I had for at least a couple of weeks suddenly disappeared and the following day I was almost back to normal.

Adrian was rather worried that morning but hopefully it didn't spoil his birthday holiday!
london1967: (knocker)
Day 4 was Adrian's birthday. I had planned a little boat trip for it.
The weather didn't look too promising while we were having breakfast at the hotel but we decided to press on with the trip.

We drove to Port de Sóller, parked the car and caught the boat to Sa Calobra and the Torrents de Pareis.

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We enjoyed some nice views of the coast on the way to the small harbour of Sa Calobra

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You can see from the boat the small opening where the small 'twin' rivers (Torrents de Pareis) that have cut the 'canyon' in the mountains flow into the sea (when there's been substantial rain).

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From the small harbour a path takes you to the canyon floor

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(The sun came out for birthday boy!)

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The path includes a section in a rather small and claustrophic tunnel, cut in the rock
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(Here I was chastised by an English father because I had put fingers in my ears as his small daughter whom he carried in his arms - they were just behind me - screamed all the way through the tunnel. As I was on my second day of constant tinnitus and on the second week of having problems with my right ear, I feel that my reaction was justified. In the old days, the parents would have apologised for their children's behaviour; now it seems that anything they do has to be gratefully accepted as gift from the gods to us mortals).

Anyway, the canyon is rather lovely, although it was quite crowded.
Apart from a couple of boats, there are lots of coaches coming down one of the most dangerous roads in Europe, which includes a 270 degree bend!

Have a look here!
http://www.dangerousroads.org/europe/spain/1554-sa-calobra-road-spain.html

I'm glad we went by boat! Just imagine finding coaches on that road...

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Back in Port de Sóller we had a late lunch (toasted sarnies and chips - how very Spanish! LOL) and then decided to drive down to Palma to visit the Gothic Castell de Bellver on the outskirts of the city.

On the way we encountered a thunderstorm but it hadn't rained there.

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The castle is positioned on a hill from where there are beautiful views of Palma:

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Once back in Sóller, we decided to open the bottle of Cava in the mini-bar to toast Adrian's 63rd birthday:

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and later we went for dinner at a restaurant in the square.
london1967: (knocker)
On our third day in Mallorca, we set out to explore the norh-east part of the island.

Our first stop was the sweet village of Fornalutx, considered among the most beautiful on the island.

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Back on the twisting and climbing main road, we stopped at a few view points

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Port de Sóller from high above:

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The Puig Major, the highest mountain on Mallorca (1,445 m - 4,741 ft):
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After a short tunnel,
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we drove down the valley towards Lluc, passing a couple of artificial lakes

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(Gorg Blau)

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and stopped at another viewpoint from which you can see where the Torrent de Pareis canyon begins:

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Not long after, at the junction with the road going south we found a roadblock.
Due to the Ironman race, the only road in the north-east of the island was closed until 3:30 pm. Sheer madness, in my opinion. And made worse by the fact that there were so signs anywhere en route to inform drivers of the closure.

So we didn't have a choice but to turn back as we couldn't go east or south.
Before doing that, we managed to visit the nearby Santuari de Lluc, the main place of pilgrimage on the island since the middle ages.
It was very quiet - I guess because of the road closure - and I was quite underwhelmed buy it.

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Next to the church complex, there is a botanic garden. I'm sorry to say that it is the worst one I've ever visited to date! (Hence, no photo).

After having a very nice slice of almond and apple cake in a cafe' (and feeding a multitude of hungry little birds with the crumbs), we got back in the car and drove back to Sóller.

Then we decided to go west and visited a lovely place along the coast, called Son Marroig.
It was the residence of Archduke Ludwig Salvator Maria Joseph Johann Baptist Dominicus Rainerius Ferdinand Carl Zenobius Antonin of Austria, who confusingly was born in Florence in 1845 because he was a son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

The story says that he fell in love with Mallorca, bought this property and part of the coast, promoted and preserved Mallorcan culture and wrote a number of books. Apparently he fathered many children on the island, although there are also speculations about some 'alternative' love interests! LOL!

Anyway, the location is breath-taking.
This is where he kept his yacht:

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The house is also lovely (and full of memorabilia) and so are the gardens.
There were getting ready for a wedding later that evening, on the terrace and near the round 'temple' made of Carrara marble.

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(La Gioconda!)

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Next stop was Valldemossa

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famous for its (former) Carthusian Monastery where Chopin and his lover George Sand spent one winter in 1839/40. Apparently Sand wasn't very complimentary about Mallorca and its inhabitants, and probably the feeling was mutual !

We didn't visit the monastery:

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We made one last stop on the way back: Deià, another lovely village by the coast.
We climbed it all the way up to the church and churchyard!

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That night we had pizza in a pizzeria/take-away. The restaurant was nothing to write home about but the pizza certainly were!
london1967: (knocker)
Sóller not only has an old tram going to the port, but it is also served by old trains, linking the town to Palma, the island's capital.

We had an early breakfast in the hotel's garden, and then used the garden door to get to the station (one could not think about the naughty stationmaster returning to work after his 'illicit' liaison!), where we caught the 9 am train.

The trains are not very frequent, and the ride not particularly fast, but, well, it's all quite atmospheric.

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There are a few short tunnels and a long one under the mountains before emerging on the flatter south of the island.
And we enjoyed some nice views.

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In Palma we did quite a bit of walking and visited a number of churches, the town hall, the cathedral and the royal palace.

These rose windows were in the first church we visited (San Miguel?)
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There were some really interesting Modernista buildings such as these ones:

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(I thought it very appropriate with being now a 'clinica dental'!)

The town hall is made up of 2 buildings, one from the Renaissance and one neo-Gothic (not visible in these pictures).

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Inside the hall, there are some 'giants and big heads' which are taken out to dance in the square during some public holidays:

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Some look much modern than the others:

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After a comfort stop, we visited two Gothic churches (Santa Eulalia and the Basilica de Sant Francesc) and attempted a 3rd one (the church of the Knights Templar) but it was shut.

Santa Eulalia:

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A narrow lane which had just been washed
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along which there were some large palaces with beautiful courtyards:

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We spent quite a bit of time visiting Sant Francesc and its cloisters.
In front of the basilica, there's a statue of Fray Junipero Serra with an 'Indian': Junipero Serra founded the mission in San Diego (and many others in California) and was a native of Mallorca.
(I recall that when we were visiting the Mission of San Diego de Alcalá back in February I spotted a map of Mallorca in the museum and thought that we were going to be there for Adrian's birthday).

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The next stop were the old Arab Baths which also had a small but very agreable garden:

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Next on our itinerary were La Seu (the Cathedral) and the Royal Palace of La Almudaina. The former was built on top of a mosque and the latter started its life as an Arab fortress.

It was interesting to see some old pictures later during our stay that showed La Seu being right by the sea. Now there is a wide road (part of the motorway, I believe) between them, but in other to soften the impact they built the Parc de la Mar, so that the cathedral can still be reflected in a pool of water.

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Before tackling these two large buildings we had a spot of lunch in a cafe' opposite them and across the 'lake'. We had burgers with a shared portion of chips which gave us some energy to walk up the city walls to the cathedral.

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La Seu is a superb building, and it has one of the highest naves of all Gothic cathedrals, and an enormous rose window made up of 1,236 pieces of glass (no, I didn't count them!)
Antoni Gaudí was involved in some restoration works in the early 20th century and created a large canopy over the main altar.

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(It must be spectacular when the sun shines through it in the morning).

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A modern chapel:
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(The canopy)
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The Royal Palace was a bit of a disappointment.
You couldn't take pictures inside (apart from the courtyard and on the terraces) and you felt that you were being watched all the time.
If I wrote a guidebook, I'd say "save it for a rainy day, and if you don't have anything better to do".

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Our train back to Sóller was at 7:30 pm, so we decided to have tapas at an old bakery-cum-cafe' before

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All very nice apart from the annoying flies!

As we were a bit tired, we took a taxi to the station: 5 euros well spent!

The train was about 15 minutes late but it was quiet (it was certainly a good idea to do the train journeys in the opposite direction compared to most tourists).
We even managed to sit in the comfy 1st class carriage:

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Back in Sóller we had time for an ice-cream

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It was a full day but very enjoyable.
london1967: (knocker)
As it has become tradition now, every year I try to organise a surprise for Adrian's birthday. It is normally a short holiday away and usually I manage to keep the destination secret until the very last moment.

I had told Adrian that we were going camping in Skegness (although I said it was more 'glamping' than camping), but the weather forecast I provided a few days before gave me away (not that Adrian really believed we would go camping/glamping: I know he would hate it). He realised that we were probably going abroad because the temperatures were higher than in the UK, but he only discovered the destination once we were at the boarding gate at Gatwick!

He was thrilled as he had always wanted to go to Mallorca but never been. It was my first time too.
He really loved the trip (we have now been back a week) and I enjoyed it too, although I had some health issues with my Ménière's disease.

It was an early flight (8:30 am) which means that when we got to Palma and picked up the car, we still had time for a stop on the way to our destination.

We visited the

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Apparently the name mean 'Jar of olives' in Arabic. The gardens were created by a local Muslim governor who, when the Christian army retook Mallorca in 1229, supported the soon-to-be King Jaume I and was given that estate to compensate for the loss of power.

The gardens are really lovely and we enjoyed them very much.

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A button activates hidden jets of water along the arcade

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The house is beautiful too. I think Adrian would have loved to move in straight-away!

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(A mudéjar ceiling)

I had chosen Sóller in the north of the island, in the Sierra de Tramuntana region, as our base and booked one of the 2 terrace rooms at a small hotel, Can Isabel (it has only 6 rooms).
According to one website, the hotel used to be the house of the mistress of the stationmaster, and there is a secret stairway that he used to get to his lover.

Adrian loved the hotel (and I did too).

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(View from the terrace)

He described it as a boutique hotel and, I guess, it was.

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It was all very relaxed and we had breakfast in the garden every morning, which was lovely.

After we checked in, we decided to catch the old tram that links the town to its port, 3 km away.

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Adrian loves old trams and trains, and he was very happy indeed as you can see!

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Port de Sóller:

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Sóller has some interesting buildings in the Modernista style.

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That night we had a fantastic meal at a restaurant called Luna 36, which I had spotted online.

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(Tagliatelle with fresh truffle)

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london1967: (knocker)
Well it's autumn already, and it's natural to look back to summer and wonder where it's gone!
Like most years we started summer with some very good intentions of going on day trips out of London, but then often the weather and even more often laziness conspired... and we stayed at home.

We did manage a little outing, exactly 2 months ago on August 1st.

We crossed to the other side of London on the train and went to Hatfield in Herfordshire.

The first place we visited was the church of St. Etheldreda where I loved this stained glass

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commissioned by one of the marquesses in 1920 in memory of 3 nephews killed in WWI,

and this Elizabethan tomb

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The main house dates from 1611 but there is a surviving wing of an earlier palace.
This was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I and in the park there's an oak tree where legend says she received news of the accession to the throne (we couldn't go to see it as a vast part of the grounds were off-limits, thanks to a music festival).

In the Old Palace you can sit in a gallery and watch a game of "real tennis"

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There were even some sheets explaining the rules. Interested? No, me neither! LOL!

We chose to visit the beautiful gardens instead:

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Then we visited the house and we were very pleasantly surprised to be allowed to take pictures.

The Marble Hall with the famous 'rainbow' portrait of the Queen:

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The Grand Staircase:

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King James's Drawing Room:

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The Long Gallery:

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The... library? LOL

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David and Goliath in the chapel:

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The huge kitchen:

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The facade:

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london1967: (knocker)
Shock and horror it's been over a month without a post on LJ! (and I haven't kept up-to-date with my friends either - sorry!)

Since my last post, I finished writing the panto and we had the first 2 read-throughs, which were quite fun.

We had some visitors (Adrian's sister, and then Sue), and I went to a mosaic-making workshop, which I really enjoyed.

I made a coaster

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and a panel with a mirror:

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And of course there's been some baking too:

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(White chocolate, mascarpone and raspberry tart)

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(A zesty cake with grapes)

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(Apricot frangipane tart)

I have quite a few pictures to post!

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