Continuing the UK Extravaganza

When last I blogged about my wanderings through the UK I was at The Chapel being hosted by Jeni Brown of Fyberspates and Andy of Laughing Hens, and I fell in love with the place.

The chapel is just that – a chapel – which has been beautifully modernized on the inside, still retaining the original feeling, but up to date in every sense of the word.

However – and I noticed this in France, too – what is it about Europe that makes window screens such a non-necessity? I guess they don’t have the same bugs we have over in the States, but without screens life in MN would be unlivable. (Well, for me at least, but I must be especially sweet and easy to bite.)

But I digress… The last day at Fyberspates I took a side trip down a lane to photograph some chickens I’d met earlier. I couldn’t tell if they were laughing, but they seemed a bit threatening to this city girl.

They’re lovely, but the massed together very quickly and created a formidable grouping. They did, however, inspire a hen-hat that I will unveil as soon as I get the pattern written up. It’s very nice.

After my classes at Fyberspates I drove down to Bristol through some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve seen. I went a bit out of my way to pass through Stratford upon Avon, but it was very busy so I didn’t even stop, just drove around a bit.

I saw SO many sheep dotted all over the landscape! Big sheep, little sheep, white with black faces, black with black faces, and some lovely reddish-brown ones in Cumbria on the way to Shropshire. I sound like I really know what I’m talking about, geographically, huh?

Perhaps it was because I did most of my driving in Bristol during the evening and morning rush hours, but it just felt like more of a working town than anyplace else I’d been in the UK.

The hotel I found didn’t have a parking lot, so I was directed to park in the lot at the Bristol train station, and that also put me in touch with the masses on their way to their daily grinds.

The classes at Get Knitted were so great, such a wonderful group of students (and plentiful coffee and treats!)

When I finished at the end of the day I headed right off with no firm destination in mind. I hadn’t really had a chance to do the online hotel search I usually do at the end of a teaching day, and I discovered that unless one “books”, one is not likely to find a hotel room.

I drove quite a bit, but finally found a Premier Inn (sort of like a Motel 6) and settled in for a nice rest.

The next day I made it to Canterbury, and was blown away by the beauty of the cathedral and the charm of the surrounding town. I think I was afraid it would be more touristy than it was, because although it was busy, it was lovely.

The architecture, the balance of light and textures, the history of the cathedral were breathtaking to me.

There were lots of little spaces to sit and rest, to think, to knit. I took a long time wandering around, I sat and knitted a lot, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly!

And – most meaningful to me at this time in my life – I got to spend a good amount of time with my old friend, The Black Prince. His funeral effigy is at Canterbury, it was the basis for my Black Prince Hood and Mini Dress, and it was wonderful to see him “in person!”

I took many photos, spent a lot of time with the Edward the BP (and practically had to arm-wrestle a German guy who was also communing with Mr. PB.) and

After Canterbury I drove on to Dover for a nice overnight and an excellent Fish & Chips dinner.

Up early the next day I hadn’t intended to visit Dover Castle, but I took a wrong turn and suddenly found myself in the parking lot. It was a lovely mistake – I would rank my visit up there with Falkland Palace, and found the WWII history incredibly moving.

My dad was a photographer in the 2nd Combat Camera Unit of the US Army Air Corp, stationed a good deal of the war in Southern England. I found myself wondering if he’d had a chance to visit Dover castle.

Then finally to London, my last teaching stop on my trip!

The iKnit weekender was absolutely wonderful! The folks at iKnit OUTDID themselves with the organization of such a busy and lively event, I’ve seldom seen so many happy, happy knitters all in one place! The venue was great – a bit warm in the sunny areas, but what would one expect from a horticultural hall?

I’m sure the orchids absolutely love it during their shows, but I spent most of my time in my beautiful (and air conditioned) classroom.

The view from my classroom was lovely – so beautiful – it was hard to tear myself away long enough to teach the workshops!

But I did, and they were WONDERFUL! Miriam Tegels, who was teaching speed knitting in the next classroom, came by to help (and show her amazing technique) and was a most welcome addition to the group!

I could not believe how exhausted I was, though, by the end of the days!

I meant to do some socializing, some drinking and dining with friends – but it was all I could do to drag my sorry butt back to my hotel and crash before falling asleep on my feet!

I did something I hardly do for myself – I took 2 full days after my last class to sightsee, to visit places in London, and just
to be on my own. I’d intended to visit yarn shops – but I didn’t even make it to iKnit.

How’s THAT for being self-centered! I spent so much time photographing architectural detail – I feel a new set of designs coming on!

My wifi wasn’t working on my computer (heaven knows why… it began working the minute I turned it on at home! And, oddly enough, no one ELSE’S computer here chez Landy is able to get wifi since I’ve returned home…) so a huge coup for me was visiting the Apple store to check my mail, talk to Gerry on skype very briefly, and commune with all things British mac.

I don’t know what the Apple store was originally designed to be, but the mosaics on the façade were smashing!

I got a good look at them when I visited the Cibo cafe in Mamas & Papas (a maternity/baby store) right across the street.

There I had a good rest, a nice sit-down and bathroom break, more free wifi and one of the best chocolate muffins and tea I’ve ever had in my life!

I also managed to sqeeze a full DAY at the Tower of London – what a thrill that was in light of all the history reading I’ve been doing in the past few years.

I took the full audio tour, took the warden’s tours, read every plaque and chatted up the costumed folks.

And I had one of the best meals I’ve had in England – beef & ale pie, barley soup, jam tart and tea – why, oh why did I not have a beer?

I spent another full day walking – and walking – and walking some more! I visited the National Gallery and visited many of the paintings I’m using as research in History on Two Needles and my large circle took me to many places I hadn’t visited in almost 30 years.

I visited the McDonalds in Trafalgar square where I worked in 1980 (seriously – I was the MacFry girl) and visited the 4th Plinth project (ping pong whilst I was there!)

…and more walking, and more walking, and more architectural photos!

As the day drew to an end I found myself in Green park walking toward Buckingham Palace.

I sat for a long time (my feet and legs demanded it!) and then headed to Green Park just in time to catch the final rays of the sun and the beautiful black swans.

It was the perfect time, with the perfect sky, a perfect ending to my 2 selfish days in London!

These are just a small bit of the photos I took on my trip. If you’d like to see more of them, please visit my flickr page

But I feel I’ve forgotten something… Ah, yes, the FOOD!

Driving in the car and listening to BBC Radio 4 was a delight – a less stuffy NPR – and one radio show mentioned that British food had improved quite dramatically in the past 10 years.

I can’t speak to that specific point, but I can say that I had many amazing meals in the past month. I will catalog several here…

Mussels in Eyemouth
Which my brain continues to insist on calling “Earmouth”
We bought them at a truck by the docks, and they were DELICIOUS!

And I found a teensy, tiny, little pearl in one of mine!

I told everyone about the pearl, they were duly impressed. Then it dawned on me that maybe the grizzled guy cooking up the fish had tossed a handful of tiny seed pearls into the pot?

I hope not – and I will always believe it was from one of the mussels in my styrofoam cup.

It was absolutely magical to dig that pearl out of my mouth and realize it was NOT a piece of tooth (not something you would want to happen in the first week of a 3 week foreign trip…)

Sandwiches at Pillars of Hercules
Somewhere at the end of a road in Fife, Scotland
Di Gilpin took Gerry and I to a wonderful health food shop / restaurant where we bought MANY wonderful foods.

This place is really a sanctuary, a delight, and a source of rather expensive but VERY nice Butternut Squash.

We ATE many wonderful foods, these sandwiches among them, and each bite was beloved by us all.

Tea at Lanercost
Near Hadrian’s Wall
I stopped here as a lark, and had one of the nicest scones I’ve ever had. The setting was so calm, the tea was delicious, but the star of the show was the fruit scone. Life never felt so good.

I was so impressed that I’m half thinking of perhaps renting this space for a bit when I return next year for Knit Camp in Stirling. I definitely want to bring the family over, and I’m looking for a place where we can stay and where I can also teach a few classes.

Brampton is located near many of the sites Gerry and the kids would like to visit, it’s not too far from Stirling (2+ hours) so it’s on my early list. Any thoughts?

Jeni’s Carmelized Onion Tart
I don’t really know if it was “hers”, but it came out of her oven and she set it in front of me, that’s good enough!
This was one of those meals that hit spots I didn’t even know needed hitting!

Let’s start with the roast potatoes. Amazing, lovely, warm and smokey and toasty. And they were the side dish, the Eve Arden of the meal.

The tart itself was pure heaven. Onions and goat cheese and pastry crust – three of the main food groups of the perpetually satisfied. I may have just been drunk on all the fine yarn (Jeni gave me enough to knit Gerry a sweater – pattern to follow…)

Carrot Cake in Canterbury
A guilt purchase that was so good I had no guilt
Have you ever been lured into a cafe or deli and felt so interested that you wanted to stay, but didn’t really want to eat anything? That was my introduction to the Canterbury Deli.

I walked in, looked at the cakes and smelled the amazing hams and succulents, but didn’t really want anything. But I felt like I should order something.

So I ordered tea and carrot cake (there’d been a piece on Radio 4 about Sunday Teas in Scotland and carrot cake figured prominently in it, I’d been jonesing for some good CC) and slipped into a moment of pure bliss. I wonder if Chaucer had this cake?

Fish & Chips
(with a nice half pint – I was driving later…)
A tweeter or blogger had posted about the F&C at the Old Butter Market, so I dropped in for lunch and had one of the nicest meals I’d had all month!

The fish was crispy but not greasy or soggy, the peas were mushed up and the chips were crispy outside and almost creamy inside.

And the half pint was lovely, too!

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