Thursday, July 31, 2014

Better Than Its Reputation - British Food (August Break 2014)

I have decided to join in Susannah Conway's August Break again, but a little differently. She has offered an entire list of prompts that we can use or not. I will try to work along those prompts although this might not work for every day. And other than she supposed, I will not take a photo each day but use most of these prompts as an inspiration for telling you more about my trip to Europe.

Today's prompt is "lunch" - so let's talk about British food! We're not starting with lunch but with breakfast.
This is a Scottish breakfast that we had in Edinburgh - with haggis, black pudding, sausage, bacon and fried egg. It was pretty good, I liked both the haggis and the black pudding (blood sausage).


The breakfast in our farmhouse bed and breakfast in the Cotswolds looked like this - fried egg, sausage and bacon like in Scotland, but also baked beans and mushrooms, plus grilled tomatoes (the tomatoes in Scotland weren't grilled).


Both to go with tea, of course, served in a beautiful pot. Oh, that is tea with milk - the only way I can stomach tea (I am not a tea drinker - except on the British Isles).



While in England we often skipped lunch and had a real cream tea instead - sinfully rich! Scones with clotted cream and jam - heavenly!


If you don't like tea there's always the option to have a latte instead.


Which leaves us with dinner. Most of the time we had our dinner in a pub since we really like pub food. You can have traditional fish and chips,


served with beer of course (this is a pint of bitter).


In Scotland the Geek tried Haggis which is so much better than you would think. Haggis is a savory pudding containing sheep's pluck; minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased  in the animal's stomach and simmered for approx. three hours. As you can easily see, we had a different version, but it was still Haggis, and most people cringe when they hear of it - probably because they've never tried it. This was the first time that I tried Haggis as well, and I thought it was pretty tasty.


Kaefer had bangers and mash


while I ordered the Shepherd's Pie.


In England we enjoyed food like steak pie


and seafood platter,


all accompanied by a pint of bitter.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rinda's Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt

Just like last year, Rinda organized another photography scavenger hunt this summer. It usually lasts from June 1st to September 23, and she has come up with 21 items we can hunt for during that time (2 items can be substituted). It was a lot of fun, and except for one item I found all of them during my trip to Europe.

So let's start, shall we?

1. A sign welcoming people to your home town
Well, this was the first item I had to substitute, because our town doesn't seem to be very welcoming. What a pity. I have a kite instead - we flew this kite a couple weeks ago on one of our local beaches when friends from Colorado came to visit.


2. A garden gnome
These garden gnomes live in a shop window at the Marché aux Fleurs on the Île de la Cité in Paris.


3. Birds on a wire
When I woke up in our farmhouse bed and breakfast in the Cotswolds I saw these birds sitting on the wire. I have no idea what kind of birds these are, but perhaps some reader from England can help me out?


4. A group of tourists
That was easy! I just had to choose. I decided to feature these tourists in front of Buckingham Palace. Perhaps they hoped to see the Queen - the flag on top of the palace told us she was home. (Perhaps they were hoping for Kate, William and George who do not live here.)


5. A rack of post cards
Again, I could choose. I loved this rack in rainy Edinburgh.


6. An urban street scene
I loved the buses in Edinburgh. Let's rephrase that - I love public transportation.


7. A rural landscape
Is there anything better than the Cotswolds? 


8. A tattoo on a person
I took a picture of this guy and his girlfriend/wife while fastening a lovelock on Pont de l'Archevêché in Paris. Only when I looked at the photos at home did I realize that he has this big tattoo on his arm.


9. A bakery
Cornish pasties are very popular, and I was happy to find a Cornish bakery up in York - quite a way from Cornwall!


10. A photo bomb
Oh my! That is something you can hardly plan for. However, I have a teenage daughter who loves to play photo bomb! And usually when I least expect it (which, I guess, is the point). Kaefer thought it very funny that she jumped right in front of my camera when I wanted to take a picture of Stanway House in the Cotswolds in the beautiful evening light.


11. A horn
York is the place to go for finding horns! When I first read the list I thought that this certainly would be an item I had to substitute, but I found it on our third day in Britain!


12. A mascot
No problem during World Cup in Europe - this one is the mascot of the Dutch national team. Of course it's an orange lion.


13. A sunrise
Didn't happen!!! So I have to substitute it with a bird house - just like the garden gnomes I found these ones at the Marché aux Fleurs in Paris.


14. A parade
Now, this was tricky. I actually didn't see any parade. I witnessed a demonstration in Paris, but does that count? So I had to get creative. Here's the poster for the upcoming Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Edinburgh Castle, an annual summer event. I had seen it back in 1988, and it was certainly a lot of fun and a great atmosphere!


15. A juggler
Again, this wasn't easy at all. Instead of a real juggler I took a picture of this guy "juggling" a ball under three pots, changing it all the time. Someone then has to say where the ball is - you have no chance to pick the right one. These guys want to get your money - and they do if someone is stupid enough to "play". You always find them in touristy areas like the Eiffel Tower.


16. A sign in a language other than English
This sign was in front of a café in Hameln, Germany, telling the customers about the rooms in their very old building. The sign is made from wood and the text is burned into the wood.


17. A lamp post
Aren't these ones just wonderful? They are in front of the Louvre in Paris.


18. A water fall
We didn't see any waterfalls during our trip, so I opted for this fountain in Trafalgar Square in London. The water is falling quite nicely.


19. A public garden
This is the Ernest Wilson Memorial Garden in Chipping Campden in the Cotswold. Wilson was a plant collector - a very fitting memorial for him.


20. A bus with a picture painted on its sides
Voilà - sightseeing bus in Edinburgh. Later I saw similar ones in York and London, and even in Paris.


21. A photograph of you with something representing the season
Those are always the most difficult-to-get photos. But here is one, taken by the Geek. Representing the season: I'm wearing a dress, sandals and I'm sitting in front of a fountain in Paris. Yeah, summer!


So here we are - 21 items in almost as many days! It was a lot of fun working on my list - yes, I always carried it with me. Thank you, Rinda, for another great photography scavenger hunt. I hope there will be one next summer!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This Just Feels Wrong!!!


I know that many of you won't agree - after all, this is your daily reality in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and who knows where else - and, of course, in Great Britain. But for us "right drivers" driving on the left side of the road just feels plain wrong.

Well, don't get me wrong. While still living in Germany - when I was young! - I often went to England. Sure, I often took the plane since I frequently went just for a long weekend to see friends, but I also spent several weeks there every year, driving around. At that time I had no problem at all with driving on the left side - after all, I drove in my own little car (a red Peugeot 205) with the steering wheel on the left and the stick shift on the right side. That made things so much easier.

This time, however, we had rented a car to drive from the North (Edinburgh) via York and the Cotswold to the South (London). Of course it was a British car with the steering wheel on the right and the stick shift on the left. Oh my, this was calling for trouble. Someone actually asked us why we hadn't rented an automatic car, but honestly, we are stick drivers through and through.

The motorway was easy to navigate, even while we were driving through one road construction after the other.


Please notice the fancy purple color

Roundabouts are extremely common in Britain, and once you know how to approach them, they aren't a big problem either.


But the country lanes!!! Yes, they are lanes, you hardly can call them roads. They are narrow, often "framed" by hedges and walls... yeah, and they're often one lane "roads".

This is actually a broader road - two lanes.

Who knows what's behind that "hill"

So, I drove along those country lanes - which you have to when traveling in the Cotswolds - with a beating heart and always, constantly on alert. There could be a tractor coming towards me right after that corner. Or a bus behind that hill. Who knows?

However, the Cotswold villages were the worst. How does this look to you:


This is Chipping Campden, one of my favorite places in the Cotswolds. I was driving and I navigated along this road, the "High Street" - huh, a narrow road, with cars parked on both sides and somehow you have to get through there, and then there's a bus... where to go? You can't just disappear. And all of this on the wrong side...!!! Holy cow!


It was a small narrow street like this one where I finally had enough. Honestly, my back was wet from sweating, and this wasn't caused by a hot flash! I just stopped in the middle of the road, got out and said to the Geek that it is his turn now! I didn't feel able to do this anymore, even less finding a parking spot and do parallel parking with the steering wheel on the right side! Jeez!!

Funny though, I didn't even feel embarrassed. I should have! I am a good driver, and I managed to drive in England in my own car without any problem! I think I'm getting really old!!! Ugh!!

Burford High Street


Sunday, July 27, 2014

To The Last Drop


I've always enjoyed the pubs in England. They're some special places, often in very old buildings. You order your drink at the bar that is usually crowded, and you either stay there, standing with your beer in your hand and talking to the other folks. Or you walk over to a table and sit there, talking with your friends. 

Perhaps you even enjoy some pub food. The food in the pubs is way better than its reputation and you can get a really decent meal there. Some pubs pride themselves with their excellent food. They're cheaper than a fancy restaurant and have definitely more atmosphere. They are noisier as well, but that belongs to the special charm an evening at the pub offers.

Some pubs are open all day. Nowadays there are pubs that serve breakfast. I am not sure whether the "last order" is still called shortly before 11:00 pm, I haven't stayed that long in one this time. When I visited England often in the eighties and nineties it sure was so, except for a few days in the year like Christmas Eve, when the pubs were FULL and the mood was merry. They usually were open longer on those days.

The pub is a great place to meet up with your friends, go there for a drink before or after going to the theater, movies etc. You can go to the pub to have your pre-dinner drink and then walk on to the restaurant you chose for the evening. Pubs are loud and noisy, there are no TVs (thank the Lord) and it's easy to get in touch with perfect strangers. I've met many people there and spent some jolly hours in good company.

Most pubs have their own sign - from traditional to modern and everything in between. I just love to walk along the streets in the villages, towns and cities and look for those signs. There is almost always one Red Lion pub to find - I think it's the most common name for a pub. Here, I loved "The Last Drop Inn" and "The Yorkshire Terrier". Or what about that "Roman Bath" where they serve you John Smith's brews?



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Writing in your journal is a great pastime while sitting in a pub.
You can get mini journals in my Etsy shop that fit into any purse.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sing Me a Song Early in the Morning

processed with Kim's "artjoytexture" 

In German we call this bird "Amsel"; in English they're just "Blackbirds". No matter their name, they're lively birds - and while we were in Europe we saw them often. Very often. They are one of the most common birds there. Interestingly enough you can also find them in Australia and New Zealand, but not in the Americas.

The male blackbird is also a lively singer - and when I heard him again for the first time during our trip, I suddenly knew what I have always missed here in California - this kind of bird song. It is beautiful! The blackbird is such a talented singer - and I will never tire of his beautiful song.

If you happen to live in an area where there are no blackbirds like this, you can hear their beautiful call here.

Our little friend here was busy catching worms - can you see the earthworm in his beak in the top picture? During my childhood when I was still living with my parents every evening there was a blackbird sitting on the roof of the house across from ours singing his little heart out - especially in spring and summer. They also start singing very early in the morning, often before dawn.


I do miss this beautiful and sassy bird. Our blackbird here is the red-winged blackbird, whose call is completely different.


I am linking to Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday for the free and easy edition.

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Not a songbird at all, but a beautiful red-shouldered hawk.
You can get this card in my Etsy shop.