Tag Archives: England

The Botanist – where steampunk meets botanical magic

Delicious treats
Delicious treats

Do you ever read those advertising magazines that are spread across the desk in your hotel room? I have to confess – Sometimes, maybe, but usually I just brush them aside to make room for all of the travel books, casual books, magazines, and electronics that I brought with me. It is not like I just push it all onto the floor – I neatly clean off the paraphernalia that is “littering” the top of the desk so I can organize what I brought with me and see where all the outlets (or lack thereof) are located. At some point during the trip I may eventually take a quick flip through one of their magazines. I know, probably not the best habit for a travel writer, but I am working on changing that.

On a recent excursion to Chester, England I actually took a moment to stop and flip through that colorful magazine before I swept it off to the side – scanning headlines, reading the occasional recipe, reviews of the seasonal spirits, or the most noteworthy up-and-coming restaurants.

One brief headline caught my eye, The Botanist – an eclectic dining experience steeped in charm and style. There are so many ‘wine bars’ and ‘brewers’ that this caught my eye. The name was just enough to give a little intrigue and interest without giving away what it was all about. It was so steampunkish!

The lobby at The Botanist
The lobby at The Botanist

I was not disappointed! The atmosphere was so amazing and unique! It gave the feeling that you had stepped back in time to a garden sanctuary. The exterior of the restaurant was decorated in wrought iron panels with vines growing over them. The interior was decorated with wood accents that had a weathered-gray finish to them.

steampunk decor
steampunk decor

The bar area was quite impressive with an expansive front bar that had ample room for the botanical mix-masters to work their magic with herbal infused liquor and spirits. The back bar consisted of a massive shelving system that contained a sizeable assortment of liqueurs infused with berries, herbs, and fruits in addition to a fabulous selection of craft beers and ales.

Our mix-masters
Our mix-masters
The bar at The Botanist
The bar at The Botanist

Their menu is a beautiful and tasty selection of dishes inspired from delis and rotisseries of the UK and the comfort food from grandma’s English kitchen. Note worthy menu items that had a unique table presentation were the Hanging Kebabs (a very savory dish available in chicken, lamb kofta, prawn or beef and slathered with sweet chili, ginger, and garlic butter), Chicken Liver and Rum Pate that is brought to your table in a mini terracotta flower pot on a wooden plank with Turkish flat bread and a plumb and apple chutney that is served in a mini wheelbarrow.

Chicken liver and rum pate
Chicken liver and rum pate
Hanging lamb kabab
Hanging lamb kabab
carrot cocktail - it was actually good
carrot cocktail – it was actually good

Other favorites include the homemade Scotch Egg (fried to perfection so that the breading is crispy on the outside but the egg still has a soft center) and the Salt and Pepper Onion Petals served with a herbed sour cream sauce.

Scotch egg
Scotch egg

 

Craft ale and cocktail flight
Craft ale and cocktail flight
watermelon cocktail - great for hot summer days!
watermelon cocktail – great for hot summer days!

The food was delicious, flavorful, and wholesome! What a great find tucked in a narrow little side street off Eastgate St. and Northgate St. The Botanist is a great place for lunch, dinner, or a place to meet friends in the evening for cocktails and to listen to live music.

 

For more information on locations, hours and menu items check out their website at http://thebotanist.uk.com/

A hidden gem in the Yorkshire Dales

Forbidden Corner
Enter if you dare!

Tucked away in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in Tupgill Park is a fabulously fun hidden gem for young and young at heart called The Forbidden Corner. On a recent tour of the UK we discovered this very entertaining park. The Forbidden Corner is a 4 acre maze with tunnels, chambers, labyrinth and many hidden surprises designed to thrill its visitors at each twist and turn.

But beware of the many doors that may lead you astray, for no-one can safely say that there’s a way to escape every alley way

Forbidden Corner
Forbidden Corner Entrance
Forbidden Corner
Walk through the mouth!

First, you enter The Forbidden Corner through a tower that is designed to look like a face with a gaping mouth and when you walk through to the other side there is a loud and exaggerated belch. Yep, that is the start of the surprises that you will encounter when you visit. It was so much fun exploring rustic tunnels built at angles that opened up into underground labyrinths designed like an elegant ancient parlor room which in turn wound deeper into the earth passing large animated rats learning about cats and then opened into a large room lined with doors, most of which went nowhere, some only open one direction, the challenge is to find the door that opens in the direction that you want to go.

As we wound our way through the hedge maze we encountered the massive wood cutter with his gargantuan ax, a molten glass pyramid that turned out to be the roof of one of the caves below! We were surprised by a motion activated waterfall over one of the trails and a Pan fountain that sprayed water at out feet. This might be a good time to mention that if you go, bring a towel, and a change of clothes might be a good idea as well!

Forbidden Corner
Underground tunnel
Forbidden Corner
Axe man
Forbidden Corner
Top view of glass pyramid
Forbidden Corner
underground view of glass pyramid
Forbidden Corner
Cute little Pan sculpture
Forbidden Corner
Not so cute when he catches you by surprise and drenches you!

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A BIT OF HISTORY

Originally built as a private folly park for the exclusive enjoyment of friends and family of Mr. C. R. Armstrong CMG, OBE in 1989 through a series of events and evolving ideas The Forbidden Corner began to take shape and evolve into what it is today. First the firs were planted to shield the Tupgill stables, then a tower was built to view the beautiful Coverdale Valley. As the construction of the tower was under way a suggestion was made to build a grotto. During the building of the grotto heavy rains filled the 25′ deep hole, so then a tunnel had to be dug to empty the hole and then to make matters worse an underground spring was discovered. Well, I bet you can guess what all that water did to the dirt walls of the tunnel and grotto, yup, that was one huge mud puddle!

The following year saw the stabilizing of the grotto and the tunnel walls. The building activity and creativity started to take off then with ideas flooding in from all around the world as to what to add to make it what it is today.

In July of 1994 The Forbidden Corner was officially opened to the public with about 100 showing on opening day. Since then, several features have been added to the park, such as the Green Man and the Faucet Tower.

The Forbidden Corner was so much fun I would highly recommend it as a must see if you are in the Yorkshire Dales! Treat your family to a days adventure of exploring mazes, tunnels and labyrinth and when your little toes are tired and you need to rest your feet take a break in their cafe and have a slice of their very delicious carrot cake with a cup of tea and then meander their gift shop for unique finds and trinkets to take home to remember your day!

2015 Opening Times: Everyday 28th March – 31st October then Sundays until Christmas. Monday – Saturday 12 noon – 6 pm (or dusk if earlier). Sundays and bank Holidays 10 am – 6 pm (or dusk if earlier). – See more at: ADMISSION AND HOURS

The things you will see on the streets of London

The streets of London are very distinct in the curious and particular sights that you will encounter as you meander and roam from one alley or cobble-stoned street to the next. There is such a vibrancy of diversity in both people and architectural structures that there is no shortage of interesting things that will catch your eye!

On a recent jaunt down the A502 in London on our way to the Stables Market. It was quite obvious that the people we encountered were from a variety of life paths with a wide diversity of interests, characters and hobbies.

There was the man who was in his later golden years who was wearing pants (but no shirt) and listening to whatever musical beat via his earbuds that was making his feet do a jig in a small circle. As my son and I stood there entranced, watching him, we noticed that he was so very content in his own world, oblivious to those who were walking up and down the street around him hurrying to their destinations.

dancing man in London
man dancing in the street to his own beat

Then there were the punk rockers who were posing for a picture with a young boy as the mother took pictures. Their hair was quite a colorful display in dyed colors of green, yellow, and blue with a touch of sparkle in the shape of very tall mohawks. Very similar as to what you would find at a county fair. In order for them to get the lift and rigidity to their hair they had to alternate spraying it with hairspray and hair glue as they blow dried it into shape. They really were quite pleasant to talk to.

Just one of those crazy hair days!
Just one of those crazy hair days!

While we are on the topic of “you just never know what you will see”…  We encountered this gentleman dressed in a black latex suit complete with a dog mask withdrawing funds from an ATM machine. I just can’t help but wonder if he was thinking, “dang, I should have done this before I got dressed for the party” or what?

Guess he forgot to get cash before he got dressed!
Guess he forgot to get cash before he got dressed!

When in Rome do as the Romans, or, er, in this case the Londoners and everyone knows that when you are in England, you must have tea. So how about a tea party in the street, with the Mad Hatter and a few of his friends! Like I said, London is so diverse and unique, you just never know what you might see, so keep your camera handy!

Tea Party in the street
Tea Party in the street

What are some of the most memorable, unique and interesting people who you have met on your travels? I would love to hear from you!

There is something about old books

I love books, always have and always will.  Not being able to travel much, really at all, as a child it was a way for me to explore strange and exciting new lands, I met some of the most interesting, worldly, and knowledgeable people as I sat curled up in a cozy blanket by the wood stove.

It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered old books, and I don’t mean old as in the 1970’s, I mean old as in the 1870’s! Leather bound books with gold embossing that is all but gone, in a variety of sizes, some so small they easily fit in a pocket. You hold it with great care lest it is you that causes damage to it after all the decades of being passed from one hand to the next. You gently open the cover and are greeted with the damp musty smell that gives credit to its age and evokes an emotion of being stored and forgotten about for far to long. With the cover open you gently turn the page and see a faded signature in old world calligraphy and a date of 1839! Your heart skips a beat as you stare in wonder and awe that something so delicate and fragile could have survived for so long. How did it escape not being destroyed in a fire or flood? How did it manage to survive all these decades and not get consumed by mold? Whose and how many loving hands held it, protected it and read it time and time again?

I came across many such books on my recent trip to the UK and a few even found their way home with me. In today’s technological world and so many books being published as ebooks it makes me wonder, is this, the writing of ones thoughts, ideas and imaginations on paper going to fade into the past and become just a novelty like records and 8-tracks? I sit here wondering this as I am writting this blog…. online.

YORK, ENGLAND

Well, we made it to England! The plane ride was so very long! For the most part none of us were able to sleep, except of course, Ian. During the 10 or so hour plane ride I managed to get maybe 2 hours of sleep, partly at first I was not tired so I watched a couple of movies and also partly because I sat next to an elderly lady who did not have a sense of personal space with her elbows! When you fly or maybe just travel in general, every inch is at a premium and when one persons body or extremities spill over into your seat for 10 hours a person has a tendency to get a little grumpy, just saying…..

Anyways, enough of that, we landed and got through customs really fairly easy other than a rather long line that moved a bit slow mostly because there were not many booths open. Once through, we picked up the rental car and my husband refreshed his memory on having everything in the car, including him, in the wrong spot and on the right side of the car instead of the left and also driving on the left side of the road instead of the right. That is something that you have to think about and reason with the entire time that you are in the car, not only as a driver but also as a passenger. I found myself leaning into the center of the car as if I could help keep the car in the center of the lane! It is rather stressful when you are driving backwards from how you learned!

Ok, so, we are in the car driving down the motorway, on the wrong side of the road (for us), on the wrong sides of the car (for us), none of us has gotten very much rest and all a bit cranky and we have 3 1/2 hours to drive to get to our first B&B in York. Yeah, maybe not the best decision to have to drive so far in such unfamiliar circumstances, but oh well, deal with it we must O-Bei One. We stopped at a “services” area and got coffee, coffee, coffee!

Made it to York without much incidence and located our B&B. It was a cute, and very English, place in a  row house. Very clean and comfy and the hosts were pleasant. The B&B was located close to the city walls so it was very easy to walk every where, which we did! The first full day we were there we walked 121/2 miles! We criss-crossed the city center, walked almost the entire stretch of the walls, up one amazingly antiquated lane and down another, through the cobble stoned Shambles, around the market, through quaint neighborhoods with beautiful postage stamp sized gardens full of fuchsias, peonies and assortment of other colorful flowers. We saw monuments, cathedrals, ruins and some of the fattest pigeons I have ever seen in my life! Even fatter than their NY cousins!

The Shambles
The Shambles
Cliffords Tower built in 1216-1272 by King Henry III
Cliffords Tower built in 1216-1272 by King Henry III

Of course we had to check out the pubs in England! Ian had his first “legal, out in public” drink, legal drinking age in England is 18 and in the States it is 21. So of course we went into many pubs to try theirfoodie fare as well as Ian was trying to decide which ales, ciders or beers he liked. Several pubs and pints and miles later, he decided that his preference wasGuinness. He likes the thick, rich smooth flavor. I would not have pegged him for aguinesser, but then again he is just starting to show and allow his multi-faceted nature to come through.

English Pub
English Pub

After a couple night stay we were off to our next location, Scotland! Again with the driving…. but we had reservations at another B&B which is a working farm with sheep and the long-haired Highland cows located in a tiny town between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

More on that later! We are off and running again!

Our Ghostly Experience In Dover, England

Our ghostly experience in Dover, England

.dover ghost 2

Now, I am not a big believer in the supernatural. Even after this experience I still have reservations and think that sometimes, people make up a fair amount to make a good story. But I will say, after this trip, it has made me stop, pause, and wonder, if just maybe there is something else out there.

To set the stage, Dover has its roots steeped in medieval times dating back as far as the late 1100’s. The magnificent Dover Castle is built on the edge of great white chalk cliffs that seem to almost glow in the sunlight. Dover is most famous for the extensive tunnels that are built into the cliff, some dating back to the Napoleonic and Revolutionary wars but was most heavily used during WWII.

During WWII the tunnels were used as bunkers, officer quarters, strategic operations and hospital for the wounded. Many soldiers died in the surgery wards.

We were on a tour of the tunnels. We had passed through some of the offices, storerooms and communication room when we came to the hospital surgery room. This is where a ghost made its presence known by attempting to inhabit or communicate through our youngest son, Ian.

Ian is not someone who scares easy or is timid. Quite the contrary! He is a typical rough and tumble boy who loves to climb to the very tippy top of trees, explore dark damp caves, meandering tunnels, see what creepy crawly things are under rocks and the such. So when I describe what he was experiencing you can understand my alarm.

Ian started to lean on my and hold my hand. He told me that he was not feeling very good. When I asked him what was wrong, what was he feeling. He said that his stomach was yucky and he felt like he was going to throw up. I bent down to look at him, and he looked so pale it scared me! It was at that moment that he fainted! If I have not been looking down at him I would not have been able to catch him before he hit the floor. That was very alarming! We were in the depths of the tunnels and my son (was 9 years old at the time) was half my height. It was to far to carry him out the way we came, so I had to carry him to the service elevator and take him to the surface by that method.

On the surface, we sat on a bench waiting for my husband and other son to rejoin us while he rested and recouped. After waiting about 20 minutes, we were all together again and Ian was feeling much better and practically back to his old crazy active self.

We decided to walk the medieval castle walls, turrets, cannon alcoves. Before we knew it, our casual walking had turned into running as we were going up one staircase and down another as we made our way down to the dungeons, through the halls, stoping now and then to pretend that we were firing the cannons or shooting arrows through the window at an invading army.
As we were passing through one of the passageways I turned around and took a picture behind me. I had no real reason for doing so, it was just an empty stone passageway. I just wanted a picture of where we had been, I guess.

It was not until we got home and were going through all the pictures that we noticed something particular about that one picture. In the center of the picture there was a blue sphere that was just hanging there in mid air!

At first, we thought that maybe it was dust particles or maybe a reflection or one of the lights. Then we noticed that there were no other dust particles floating around. There was nothing to cause a reflection off the stone walls and you can see a light on the ceiling, it is not blue, but a soft yellow. Very curious indeed! Perhaps one of these days we will be able to go back to Dover and retrace our steps to see if we can capture another mysterious picture.

Driving in England for the first time

The first time that we went to England we were so excited to be going to a different country! It was so thrilling to think of all the new experiences and people that we would meet! The new culinary adventures that we would expose our taste buds to. The massive amounts of history that we would see. For history lovers who grew up in a state in America where 50 years is considered “old”, going to a place that has centuries of history made us almost giddy! We made our travel list, what to pack, what not to pack, found and booked our unique lodging accommodations, picked up some Euros before we left our home state. Thought we had dotted every “I” and crossed every “T”…. key word is “thought”.

The flight was great. There was so much to do on an international flight! There were movies to watch, video games to play, all for free! They even fed you a decent meal! The plane had larger seats with pillows and blankets so you were comfortable, as far as planes go, to sleep. when we landed we were well rested and ready to hit the ground running!

Yea!! We landed! We were all so excited! We collected our luggage and made it through customs with no problems and went to collect our rental car. We had rented a nice mid-sized car that the four of us could fit in comfortably in addition to our luggage.

We were pleased with ourselves for having planned so well and with the car we choose…. until we got inside of it. That is when we realized our first mistake. The steering wheel was on the other side of the car! On top of that, it was a standard! We had not driven a standard since we were in high school!

To say that we were out of our element was an understatement! Not only were we lurching forward in jerky stop and go movements, we were also stalling and trying to restart the car as it lurched forward again just to stall, again! And we had not even gotten out of the parking lot yet!! And the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car for us!  All the mirrors are in the wrong spot! Yup, a bit embarrassing.

Well, we made it out of the parking lot and onto the freeway. It felt like we had just jumped from the frying pan into the fire! Cars were flying past us on the right side instead of the left side of the car, we (really, my husband) had to shift with the left hand instead of the right! Oh the chaos! Our children were hiding their heads mumbling, “we’re gonna die, we’re gonna die!”. After a few miles we (again, my husband) quickly became adjusted and the kids came out from hiding.

Lesson learned! Not only do you need to verify that you do or do not need a visa to visit a country, but you also need to verify what side of the road they drive on! Another a tidbit of advise…. pay close attention to the type of car you are renting, standard or automatic, and that you are comfortable with that driving mode.