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October 24, 2009

Bringing England Home…

102_1379Ever since I can remember, my parents served hot tea–not always a full afternoon tea, but definitely the steaming cupful with milk and sugar. Mom and Dad brought this tradition home with them from England on an early visit when I was little, and it stuck fast. Having grown up with “teatime,” I just naturally kept to it when I was married, and now I love to share it with my own children. Some days it’s just a hot cup during afternoon quiet time without ceremony. But, every now and again, we pull out all the stops and put on full afternoon tea. Today was such a day!

After our recent tour, sweet Amanda and Cari gave me a gift from Fortnum & Mason of loose-leaf tea, strawberry preserves, and tea biscuits. We broke these out today, enjoying the unmistakable fragrance that came when we opened the lid of the tea canister. Oh, this was going to be good! I pulled out our favorite “pink” china (a gift from my folks for my hope chest when I was 15), polished up the “Silver Beethoven” cultery, and laid out the tea tray with all we’d need.

Next, I tied on my favorite apron (a new find from the scrumptious Cath Kidston store in Bath!) and pulled out the ingredients for Suzi’s utterly delicious scones: self-rising flour, butter, sugar, salt, and buttermilk.

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Let me tell you, I’ve tasted scones from all over, and Suzi’s are the best I’ve ever eaten. They have a moist texture and a slightly sweet, almost creamy taste. I’ve never had better. But don’t take my word for it! Here is Suzi’s recipe:

My mother worked in a cafe in Stratford on Avon, and was given this recipe by a French lady who ran the place. It was called “The Cobweb Tea Rooms.”

  • 10 oz self-raising flour or 1 1/4 cups (You can use all-purpose flour with a raising agent – the best thing is to read the instructions on the packet for this, if you can’t get self raising flour.)
  • 1.5 oz sugar (3 tablespoons)
  • 1.5 oz. butter or margarine (I think about 3 tablespoons – equal weight to sugar.)
  • pinch salt (don’t leave this out – it really helps.)
  • about 1/2 cup sour milk or buttermilk, or milk curdled with lemon juice. Plain milk will also do.

Rub the flour, sugar, salt, and butter together until they look like breadcrumbs. Stir in the milk, very gradually, to make a firm, pliable dough. Don’t let it get too sticky. Roll out on a floured board to about 1/2″ thick. Cut in circles – I use a cutter about 2″ – 2.5″ across. Place on an ungreased baking sheet – you should get about 12 from this quantity.

Put in a hot oven, 200 degrees C (that’s about 400 degrees F), less for a fan oven, for about 10 minutes. I know this has to be different at altitude, but I don’t know by how much.

Serve with strawberry jam and thick heavy cream, or clotted cream if you can get it.

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Now, I completely forgot to bring home clotted cream from England, so we had to make do today with whipped cream. If you’d like to try clotted cream (which is like a thick, rich, sweet butter), you can get it Stateside from the English Tea Store, which offers lots of exclusively British teas and treats.

Here’s our spread with the scones hot from the oven!

Care to join us?

Care to join us?

Suzi's famous scones...

Suzi's famous scones...

We sliced our scones in half and dolloped whipped cream on top, followed by a generous teaspoon of Fortnum & Mason’s strawberry preserves:

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102_1383Absolutely delicious! We savored every bite and enjoyed the amazing tea fresh from the pot. My girls adore the ritual of a proper afternoon tea, complete with cloth napkins and beautiful silverware. I am thankful to my parents for always bringing home the best of foreign lands and for taking my siblings and me all over the world when we were growing up. It’s one thing to travel and just be a tourist; it’s another thing to study each culture you move through and come to appreciate and enjoy its own unique traditions and pastimes. Going through England and Germany as a teenager and staying for a goodish stretch in South Africa was a great gift. So was driving all over the United States and Canada and visiting in different homes. Each family has a culture, too, and it is so good to learn what is important to others and what they treasure. I feel my life is infinitely richer for the gift of “studious travel” given to me by my parents. They whetted my appetite for more. My husband and I desire to give our children this same gift as the years go by. On my next trip across the pond, I’ll be taking my daughters. I can hardly wait to share my love of England with them first-hand!

But you don’t have to hop in a plane or board a ship to dip into foreign places and learn from them. There are books galore that will take you on journeys, show you exotic ports, and even let you step into another household and see how life is lived there. Over the years, I’ve picked up books at used book stores, flea markets, and all kinds of yard sales, including lots of “coffee table” eye candy. These books have influenced my decorating style, my color choices, and even my taste in literature and food. Here’s a stack of some of my favorite (well-worn!) books on English living:

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102_1385I never tire of dipping into these and enjoying a glimpse into someone else’s well-loved home. If there’s anything that describes the English house, it’s certainly “cozy.” Little nooks for reading, warm kitchens, wide hearths, groaning bookshelves–these are England to me. Pots spilling over with flowers in abundance, gardens crammed with color, roses climbing old stone walls–these, too, are England. And how much richer our lives have been from bringing these things home, whether from a trip or from the pages of a book! This last journey over with our lovely tour group was an opportunity to share the things we love with others, and we are so glad we had the opportunity to do it. It’s a pleasure we hope to repeat with our children and with friends many times in the coming years. Perhaps you’ll come along next time and drink it all in? I’d love to have you! Thank you for sharing “my” England with me through this blog and indulging my lifelong delight in all things English. Until next time….

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October 12, 2009

Sunday in Bath

chapelSeveral of us headed to Bradford-on-Avon to attend the Old Baptist Chapel there, where we know the pastor’s family and have visited before. It was a beautiful morning. Unfortunately, the train line was down, so we had to hop the bus, which took a while wending its way through the tiny streets of this adorable village. However, we made it on time and enjoyed a lovely service. At the end, a man from the congregation offered to find out when the return bus headed back to Bath, as our driver hadn’t been able to tell us. He came rushing back to say the bus was leaving in five minutes! We said hurried farewells, then dashed back across the street, only to see the bus pulling out. There wouldn’t be another for several hours. A family from the church was kind enough to immediately offer us transportation back to Bath–much faster by car than by bus! We arrived in time to make a couple of stops before our group was scheduled to meet at the Pump Room and Roman Baths.

img_2386Several street performers were in the Abbey yard next to the Pump Room, including a one-man band, two “living statues,” and a gent doing stunts with a unicycle and juggling flaming torches! We watched for a while as we waited for our group to gather. At the last minute, my husband realized he’d left his hat in a vintage clothing shop several blocks away, so I offered to go back for it while everyone else went through the Roman Baths (I got to see them in March). Here you see our group gathered in the upper hall next to the Pump Room, which affords a bird’s-eye view of the Baths. Several opted to take the audio tour, which is fascinating to listen to. Below are Lindsay’s shots from the tour:

Looking down into the main Bath (the water is bubbling and warm).

Looking down into the main Bath (the water is bubbling and warm).

Ana is enjoying herself!

Ana is enjoying herself!

Looking up at the Abbey from inside the Roman Baths

Looking up at the Abbey from inside the Roman Baths

Two of the historical interpreters wanted my mother-in-law, who is a Latin tutor, to teach them some useful Roman phrases to use on the job!

Two of the historical interpreters wanted my mother-in-law, who is a Latin tutor, to teach them some useful Roman phrases to use on the job!

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What a glorious day!

What a glorious day!

Someone managed to snap our photographer in front of the main bath.

Someone managed to snap our photographer in front of the main bath.

Beautiful Miss Cassie...

Beautiful Miss Cassie...

After retrieving the hat, I treated myself to tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves in the elegant Pump Room. Ah, bliss!

After retrieving the hat, I treated myself to tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves in the elegant Pump Room. Ah, bliss!

Lovely Miss Molly joins me at my table to drink in the trio's music.

Lovely Miss Molly joins me at my table to drink in the trio's music.

Master Chancey decides to "take the waters" in the Pump Room. (Hint: the water tastes like sulfur and iron and comes out of the fountain warm. Not my cup of tea, thanks!)

Master Chancey decides to "take the waters" in the Pump Room. (Hint: the water tastes like sulfur and iron and comes out of the fountain warm. Not my cup of tea, thanks!)

We had time after the Baths to stroll around some more and get some last shots of beautiful places:

Looking into the River Avon from above. That's Pultney Bridge on the far left.

Looking into the River Avon from above. That's Pultney Bridge on the far left.

A flower stall on Pultney Bridge. Heavenly!

A flower stall on Pultney Bridge. Heavenly!

Several ladies decided to attend the Baroque Dance demonstration at the Pavilion later that night, and I’ll share photos from that next time!

October 10, 2009

Saturday in Bath: Jane Austen Everywhere!

img_2166After the overcast, chilly Friday, I didn’t have high hopes for good weather on Saturday, but I sure prayed for it! Lo and behold, we awoke Saturday morning to streaming sunshine and warming temperatures! As the day went on, we were treated to bright blue skies, gorgeous white clouds, and balmy temps in the 70s. It was amazing–a perfect day for the opening of the Jane Austen Festival and Grand Costumed Promenade. We ate a delicious breakfast at our B&B and dressed in all our Regency finery. What a beautiful group our ladies made as they walked to the starting point of the promenade! I may be a little biased, but I believe we had the most authentic and elegantly dressed group of ladies. It was such a delight to see them all. Above you see several of our ladies walking to the Pump Room, where the promenade would assemble. I did not walk in the parade but sat at a booth in Queen’s Square, where the promenade would end around 12:30pm. I had the pleasure of meeting over two dozen of my customers from all over the world, which was a great treat.

Without further ado, here are pictures from the promenade for your enjoyment!

Abby has the most incredible natural grace and beauty. Isn't she photogenic?

Abbe has the most incredible natural grace and beauty. Isn't she photogenic? Love the bonnet!

A bunch of our ladies (and my eldest son) gather for the promenade...

A bunch of our ladies (and my eldest son) gather for the official world record count at the Assembly Rooms. From left: Lindsay, Abbe, Catherine, Courtney, Molly, Katrina, and Cassie (with Master Chancey in front).

Courtney and Molly stop for a snap...

Courtney and Molly stop for a snap...

Another shot of our ladies--so many gorgeous outfits!

Another shot of our ladies--so many gorgeous outfits!

And another, this time adding Aylwen and Wendy on the right.

And another, this time adding my mother-in-law on the left and Aylwen and Wendy on the right.

Aha! We managed to capture Suzi with Aylwen and Wendy. Isn't her turban smashing? She got stopped for photos all day.

Aha! We managed to capture Suzi with Aylwen and Wendy. Isn't her turban smashing? She got stopped for photos all day.

The well-dressed Regency gent on his cell phone...

The well-dressed Regency gent on his cell phone...

Looks like they're ready to get moving!

Looks like they're ready to get moving!

The gent on the left made the outfits for everyone in his family!

The gent on the left made the outfits for everyone in his family!

All costumed participants gather at the Royal Crescent--409 in all, breaking the world's record for most people in Regency dress in one place at one time!

All costumed participants gather at the Royal Crescent--409 in all, breaking the world's record for most people in Regency dress in one place at one time!

My wonderful husband and sweet mother-in-law pose for a shot at the Royal Crescent.

My wonderful husband and sweet mother-in-law pose for a shot at the Royal Crescent.

Back in Queen's Square, several ladies relax to enjoy the lovely weather. From left: Becca, Ana, Bethany, and Sarah.

Back in Queen's Square, several ladies relax to enjoy the lovely weather. From left: Becca, Ana, Bethany, and Sarah.

My son thoroughly enjoyed his day as a Regency boy, including climbing trees in Queen's Square!

My son thoroughly enjoyed his day as a Regency boy, including climbing trees in Queen's Square!

And leaping down!

And leaping down!

Cassie, Wendy, Katrina, and Catherine enjoy "Tea with Mr. Darcy" in the Jane Austen Centre's Tea Rooms. Yum!

Cassie, Wendy, Katrina, and Catherine enjoy "Tea with Mr. Darcy" in the Jane Austen Centre's Tea Rooms. Yum!

Karen and Lily have a sunny spot next to the window.

Karen and Lily have a sunny spot next to the window.

I wish you could see Lily's amazing outfits in person. She and Karen had the most stunning hand-blocked fabrics and created beautiful garments.

I wish you could see Lily's amazing outfits in person. She and Karen had the most stunning hand-blocked fabrics and created beautiful garments.

All in all, we had a fantastic morning. It was just a perfect day for walking around Bath (which is such a walkable city). Next time I’ll share the photos Lindsay took Saturday afternoon in the Fashion Museum at the Assembly Rooms. :)

WHOOPS! Here are pictures I took that I forgot to post the first time around!

The S&S Patterns booth in Queen's Square, complete with my demi-mannequin and her outfits!

The S&S Patterns booth in Queen's Square, complete with my demi-mannequin and her outfits!

The bonnet/hat booth next to me. They had some fabulous bonnet forms that we have a hard time finding in the States.

The bonnet/hat booth next to me. They had some fabulous bonnet forms that we have a hard time finding in the States.

My son, mother-in-law, and husband. Nope, doesn't seem we managed to remember to get a picture with all of us in it! Fiddle-dee-dee!

My son, mother-in-law, and husband. Nope, doesn't seem we managed to remember to get a picture with all of us in it! Fiddle-dee-dee!

I had to grab a few shots of Constance's (Suzi's friend, who came with us) fantastic Spencer jacket. It was my favorite out of all I saw.

I had to grab a few shots of Constance's (Suzi's friend, who came with us) fantastic Spencer jacket. It was my favorite out of all I saw.

Full-length view...

Full-length view...

Sleeve detail. Yummy!

Sleeve detail. Yummy!

September 25, 2009

Wednesday in Greenwich

Our entire group got up early to head to beautiful Greenwich for our day there. Most of us wore full Regency ensembles and took pictures against various period backdrops, including the famous Colonnade at the Royal Naval College (used in numerous costume dramas, including the recent “Little Dorrit,” where it served as the “Cirumlocution Office”).

Fan Museum entrance

Fan Museum entrance

Our chief goal this day was to visit the Fan Museum, splitting up into two smaller groups to fit into the two connected Georgian houses that contain the collection.The museum is privately owned and includes fans of all kinds, including ones of carved ivory that defy belief (the detailing is so fine, they look like lace). The history of fan making is clearly illustrated throughout the exhibits, and there is even a fan on display that contains a painted image of a fan “factory” with various workstations showing the steps that went into making a hand-painted silk fan. There were artists’ guilds (begun in Paris) that were dedicated solely to fans. In fact, artists who painted fans were forbidden to paint other works of art for sale or display! To get around this, many would paint a fan-shaped work of art, then fill in the details in the corners so that the painting was technically fan artwork but never cut or folded into an actual fan. There are a few of these framed and on display in the museum. Themes included not only the usual cherubs and classical Greco-Roman scenes but also historical events like royal weddings. One fan in the collection has over 1,500 tiny diamonds set into the ivory guard (the outermost layer of the fan that you see when the fan is folded)! All in all, the amount of work that went into these creations was astonishing. What’s even more amazing is how beautifully they have survived the years of handling (though many were never used but kept as mementos).

Flowers in the front courtyard of the Fan Museum

Flowers in the front courtyard of the Fan Museum.

COMING SOON: Shots of some of the amazing fans in the museum’s display cases (just waiting on Lindsay to get me the pix in proper format!)

While the morning group was touring the museum, the rest of us visited the Painted Hall at the Royal Naval College (where Lord Nelson was laid out in state after his death in the Battle of Trafalgar). Lindsay took this shot of me in the upper part of the hall:

img_1503Here’s a shot of a bunch of us gathered in the Colonnade near the chapel (you see the matching Colonnade of the Painted Hall in the background):

Left to right: Amy, Katrina, Me, Wendy, Cassie, Courtney, Catherine, Abigail, and Ana.

Left to right: Amy, Katrina, Me, Wendy, Cassie, Courtney, Catherine, Abigail, and Ana.

It was a little blustery, so we needed our shawls and Spencers, even though the sun was bright and beautiful. You wouldn’t believe how many times we were stopped by people wanting to know if a film was being shot that day! One large group of Italian tourists exclaimed over our group and asked their guide if we were movie stars. The guide (who alone spoke English out of the group) passed their inquiry along, and when one of our ladies told her we were just shooting pictures in period dress, she responded, “Well, I am going to tell them you are movie stars anyway; it will make them very happy!” We all got a chuckle out of that!

I am sitting in the Colonnade with the Painted Hall visible in the background.

I am sitting in the Colonnade with the Painted Hall visible in the background.

The Queen's House is in the background at the end of the Colonnade.

The Queen's House is in the background at the end of the Colonnade.

After touring around the Naval College, we made our way over to the Maritime Museum and Queen’s House, which are basically across the street and through a large park. The layout of the Naval College was designed by Sir Christopher Wren to perfectly frame the Queen’s House and create a  symmetrical view with the river unobstructed from the Queen’s House. You can best appreciate this when you stand in the middle of the grounds between the Painted Hall and the Royal Naval College Chapel and look toward the Queen’s House. A colonnade runs between the Queen’s House and the Maritime Museum, and exactly centered between the two is the Royal Naval Observatory, up on the hill beyond. It’s really striking. In this picture, you see some of our ladies preparing for portraits against the idyllic backdrop of the Royal Naval Observatory and park under the Queen’s House Colonnade. We had gusts of wind to deal with, but the portraits Lindsay took really turned out beautifully. Below is yet another gratuitous pregnancy shot of yours truly taken in the colonnade!

img_1743And here are ladies waiting patiently for their turn to be photographed:

Left to right: Courtney, Molly, Cassie

Left to right: Courtney, Molly, Cassie

And here’s Catherine in her stunning ensemble (I had a real case of Spencer envy when I saw the deep midnight blue velvet!):

102_1246At the very end of our little photo session, one of the guards from the Queen’s House came to shoo us off, insisting that it was illegal to photograph at this location without prior written permission from the royal household! He said that all locations belonging to the queen are copyrighted and cannot be used in photographs. We explained that we weren’t taking pictures for publication–only for personal use–and he replied that it didn’t matter in the least. We were not allowed to stand in the colonnade and shoot pictures. If we wanted to step out into the grass, we could use it as a backdrop, but we couldn’t physically stand upon it and take pictures! This sounded highly illogical to me, and when I later repeated this story to a native, I was told it was a bunch of poppycock and that no locations “belong to the queen” or are forbidden to photographers. Tourists shoot the Queen’s House every day, just as they do Buckingham Palace and Windsor Palace. She said that perhaps the guard thought we were shooting a commercial or something for publication, in which case we would need permission — but we were definitely within our rights as tourists! We’d already finished at any rate, so we took ourselves off while the guard clucked and tsked. ;)

102_1251After a quick lunch, we swapped places with the morning group and toured the Fan Museum. Afterwards, the entire group reconvened in the museum’s beautiful Orangerie, which opens onto a fan-shaped garden to the rear. It was heavenly! At right you see a photo of the room all laid out for us, including beautiful dried rose centerpieces, pink and white linens, and fabulously painted walls and ceilings. It really is an outstanding location. We were joined by Suzi once again, and then our surprise guest, Jema Hewitt of Bridal Originals, shared her amazing portfolio of original creations with us. Jema specializes in bespoke wedding garments for men and women with no two designs alike. Her clients have had everything from medieval to Regency weddings and just about anything in between. Jema designed and made the outfit she wore to our tea as well, including a stunning gold dupioni silk Spencer jacket with Swarovski crystal buttons! The gown beneath was made of a royal blue Indian sari with gold trim.

Enjoying a scrumptious tea...

Enjoying a scrumptious tea...

Sarah looks like she's enjoying her tea!

Sarah looks like she's having a lovely time!

Cari clowns with the table centerpiece... She kept us in stitches the entire tour!

Cari clowns with the table centerpiece... She kept us in stitches the entire tour!

Admiring Jema's work as her portfolio pages go 'round the room...

Admiring Jema's work as her portfolio pages go 'round the room...

Catherine studies a photo...

Elegant Catherine studies a photo...

Becca demonstrates her expertise with a fan...

Becca demonstrates her expertise with a fan...

I'm looking at one of Jema's creations; Karen listens intently...

I'm looking at one of Jema's creations; Karen listens intently...

After an absolutely delicious tea (in which the treats just kept coming until we could hold no more), we all gathered in the garden courtyard for a group photo:

Front row: Lily, Catherine, Jema, Becca, Aylwen, Bethany, Ana, Sarah, Me, Suzette, Ashley, Katrina. Back row: Wendy, Amanda, Cari, Celeste, Kristin, Courtney, Molly, Elizabeth, Cassie, Abbe, Amy, Karen.

Front row: Lily, Catherine, Jema, Becca, Aylwen, Bethany, Ana, Sarah, Me, Suzette, Ashley, Katrina. Back row: Wendy, Amanda, Cari, Celeste, Kristin, Courtney, Molly, Elizabeth, Cassie, Abbe, Amy, Karen.

And here’s a shot of our lovely photographer, Lindsay:

img_1926At last we persuaded Lindsay to get into a group shot with the rest of us, and my wonderful husband took pictures with multiple cameras:

Jack of all trades!

Jack of all trades!

This was an absolutely delightful end to our London tour, and we headed back to our hotel brimful of stories and pictures from the day and the week preceding. It was sad to bid farewell to seven of our group members that night, as they prepared for their early morning flight. Those of us staying on for Bath really missed them during our extension! Next time I’ll share about our trip to bath via Jane Austen’s house in Chawton!

September 14, 2009

Sunday's Refreshment

mettabWe had a very leisurely Sunday, enjoying a late-ish breakfast before 18 of us attended the 11 o’clock service at the Metropolitan Tabernacle (home to the famous 19th-century “prince of preachers,” Charles Spurgeon). We were able to meet our dear friends who live in Dulwich and meet others we’d hoped to say “hello” to while in London, which was lovely. We had a light lunch, then I took a nap before we met up with several other ladies to go to the Royal Academy of Arts, which had a special exhibit of Pre-Raphaelite artist William Waterhouse’s paintings on display only through Sunday. Unfortunately, we arrived to find a two-hour line to wait for tickets!  We debated the merits of having one person stand in line to wait for tickets but finally decided we just wouldn’t have time enough to tour the exhibit.

The windows are painted F&M's signature robin's egg blue, which is also used for their boxes and bags and exclusive items.

The windows are painted F&M's signature robin's egg blue, which is also used for their boxes and bags and exclusive items.

We thought about heading back uphill towards the National Portrait Gallery, but the call of Fortnum & Mason just across the street lured us in for tea time and delighted browsing. If you’ve never heard of the famous F&M, then you are really missing one of London’s high points. This is the most elegant, refined department store around, complete with richly detailed wood paneling, crystal chandeliers, mirrored elevators, and seven theme restaurants. Not to be missed!

This is the confectionary hall, which is wall-to-wall sweets, teas, and coffees!

This is the confectionary hall, which is wall-to-wall sweets, teas, and coffees!

We made our way upstairs to The Parlor, which serves ice cream, coffee, and afternoon tea. Here is a selection of tempting photographs to show you what various members of our group enjoyed!

Two scones, clotted cream, strawberry preserves, and Darjeeling - yummy!

Two scones, clotted cream, strawberry preserves, and Darjeeling - yummy!

Three scoops of sorbet in a cut-glass bowl with a biscuit on top!

Three scoops of sorbet in a cut-glass bowl with a biscuit on top!

Mochacinno with whipped cream and toffee sauce with a miniature ice cream cone on the side. Decadence!

Mochacinno with whipped cream and toffee sauce with a miniature ice cream cone on the side. Decadence!

Enjoying good conversation at our table...

Enjoying good conversation at our table...

And someone captures our photographer for the memory book...

And someone captures our photographer for the memory book...

toepartyAfter a wonderfully refreshing time of conversation and good teatime food, we all browsed through the bookstore on the third floor (picking up more than a few wonderful books and stationery items!). Then we headed up to Piccadilly Circus to catch our tube back to the hotel. After a light supper, a bunch of us gals capped off the evening with a pedicure party–too much fun! Here you see Courtney giving me glamorous, glittery toenails (I call them my “Ruby Slipper” toenails!). We talked about what costumes we plan to wear Wednesday for our day in Greenwich, and several ladies shows theirs off. It was a great ending to a super day. Next time I’ll tell you about our Monday with Suzi at the V&A!

September 18, 2006

Beautiful Sunday…

I’m typing as we drive northward to Derbyshire. It has been a wonderful day thus far, but I want to recap Sunday before I cover today’s delights!

We breakfasted at Leighton House Sunday morning, then drove to Bradford on Avon for church. The scenery there was beautiful, as you can see. Everything in this part of the country is particularly green and lush from the regular rainfall. The drive to church was so nice, and Matt’s GPS was working again (it started working once we got out of the area immediately surrounding London, oddly enough!). The only difficulty was that the GPS didn’t have a street number for the church, so we ended up driving right past it (and none of us saw it). We turned around and found the railway station, which has a car park. After parking, we walked up the hill into Bradford proper, and the church was directly in front of us! Here’s a picture I took afterwards when we left Bradford:

The Old Baptist Chapel started in the 1600s with a group of dissenters who broke from the Anglican church. They had to meet in the woods near the river Avon at first, since their activities were considered illegal. For a time, they did not even sing hymns fo fear of being caught and persecuted. The little church building itself was put up in the 1700s and remodeled in the 18th century. It is very simple–much like an American colonial church with elevated pulpit. The minister was out this week, as was his son (who is co-minister), so a guest preacher was in from another county. We thoroughly enjoyed his sermon, which exhorted us to remember the charge given to the Israelites in Joshua 22:5 (“But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul”). The minister encouraged us to keep five steps of the Christian walk in mind: love, walk, obey, hold fast, and serve. It was a wonderful sermon, and we felt at home in the congregation.

Immediately after the service, the minister’s daughter introduced herself to us and invited us to lunch. We were delighted to accept and walked up the hill from the church to a tiny alleyway next to St. Margaret’s Place. I wish I had photographed the beautiful enclosed garden opposite the house. It was a small paradise full of flowers, butterflies, and birds. The house itself was, as our hostess told us, “older than your Constitution!” Built in the 17th century, it featured foot-thick walls and exposed beams. The low ceilings gave everything such a cozy feel. Back in the 1600s, only the Royal Navy was allowed to use fresh-cut oak. All new timber was needed to outfit ships, so houses were built of lumber from dismantled ships! The beams in the house came from ships that had sailed all over (possibly even to America and back). It was fun to speculate about where the house had “traveled” before it was built!

Our lunch consisted of a savory cottage pie (what we Americans mistakenly call “shepherd’s pie”–but that is made from mutton rather than beef in England), vegetables, and a marvelous fruit and rice pudding made from raspberries, black currants, and apples all from the garden next to the house. Naomi apologized for serving us what they call “poor food,” but we thought it rich, indeed! I’ve requested the recipes and hope to reproduce these dishes at home. I know the children will love them! But better than the food was the warm fellowship we enjoyed with our lovely hostess. It never ceases to amaze me how you can find a kindred spirit all the way across the globe within the Body of Christ! We shared so many things in common, and our conversation flowed as naturally as if we’d known each other for years. What a precious gift! Two hours flew by as we relaxed and talked and laughed at the babies’ antics.

Matt thoroughly enjoyed Naomi’s father’s study, which contained many rare books and even several volumes we have in our library. Best of all were two rare Bibles–one a Geneva Bible from 1608 and one a Tyndale Bible from 1569. The first book is rare enough, but the second is like finding gold. The minister actually found it in a cow shed, bound between two boards! Matt was thrilled to be able to hold these in his hands–testaments to the faithfulness of Christians to keep God’s Word in spite of persecution and even death. We truly take so much for granted. It was sobering to hear that many ministers in Great Britain are now in jail for preaching the gospel. We saw two articles at the church that showed how far Britain has strayed from its Christian civilization. “Tolerance” is lauded all over the place, yet they jail men for preaching God’s word! Sobering. But we didn’t dwell entirely on such things. There is much going on that is exciting and encouraging in Britain, and being with Naomi was a great breath of fresh air.

As the clock chimed out 2:30, we gathered our things and walked back down the hill to our car and headed back to Bath. It looked like it would rain, but the weather really does shift moment by moment, so we weren’t concerned about it. Late in the afternoon, we headed to the Pump Room for a Pride and Prejudice Tea, put on in honor of the Jane Austen Festival. We walked up the street to the Pump Room in full Regency Dress–even Matt in his tailcoat! Crowds of people filled the street, and we got a lot of laughs and funny comments from passersby. One pointed to our modern stroller and said, “Mixing up the eras a bit, aren’t we?” Matt replied, “It’s the latest thing in Bath!” The Pump Room is every bit as thrilling as you’d imagine (well, if you’re a Janeite like some of us!). It looks much as it did in Jane’s day with the exception of the tables and chairs, which are cleared away on some occasions. There is a gent who mans the fountain and hands out the “healthful waters” of Bath to those brave enough to try them. He lives in period dress five days a week and really acts his part. You can tell he loves his job! He gave me a glass of the warm water, which tastes like sulphur mixed with metal and a dash of salt! Not at all pleasant, but certainly worth a try if you want the full experience! Here he is in his glory, manning his station:

And here is the pump itself:

You can look down from the Pump Room windows directly into the Roman baths. The water level has been changed in recent years when the floor o
f the baths began to give way. You can see the original water line, which is a rusty red all the way around the baths.

We thoroughly enjoyed the tea and found another table of ladies in Regency dress in attendance as well. They were in Bath for the festival and planned to dress up every day for various events. One lady told me they sew all year for this festival and create new gowns for every occasion! I also had the privilege of meeting one of my long-time customers from Germany, who was in Bath with her mother. She hadn’t dressed up for the tea but said she planned to make more outfits next year and dress for everything. It’s so much more fun to go when you are dressed for the era! Speaking of which, here we are at our tea table, enjoying delicious scones with clotted cream and jam:

When we first arrived, Patrick promptly fell asleep, but Tucker was a bit fussy–so Matt gave him his first taste of sugar!

As you can see, Tucker really enjoyed his sweet treat!

Here I am with Tucker just after finishing tea:

And here is Patrick, finally awake and happy, with Miss Melissa:

At the end of our tea, we strolled out into the side street, which is home to the great Bath Abbey. The carvings on the exterior are amazing and include Jacob’s Ladder with angels ascending and descending–each one unique. We didn’t get to go inside the Abbey, which was closed to visitors in the afternoon. This cathedral is fairly new–only 500 years old. ;-) The square in front of the Abbey is beautiful and includes the side entrance to the pump room and lots of hanging flowers:

And here I am with Melissa in front of the main Pump Room entrance:

We strolled around the sunlit streets of Bath for a time, enjoying all the lovely sights of a tranquil Sunday afternoon. I have to say, when you first arrive in Bath, you feel quite a bit like Catherine Moreland from Northanger Abbey. Everything is big and bright and wondrous. The whole town sets you agog with its golden glow. Each new street or alleyway holds an adventure, with quaint shops like this one in abundance:

What is even more amazing is that I discovered our inn is on the very hill mentioned by Jane Austen in the book as the one Henry Tilney walks upon with Catherine to show her the view of Bath! So our view is the exact one Jane meant when she described Bath in the book. Now the hill is filled with houses built in the late 1800s, but back then, it was all wide open. Here are some pictures of Leighton House and its wonderful garden:

We enjoyed our stay at the inn very much with its close proximity to the city center and its marvelous view. If you’re ever in Bath, I’d highly recommend a stay there! Breakfast is top-notch, too! Tomorrow (if I have time!), I’ll fill you in on the rest of our time in Bath. We left around 2pm after visiting the Jane Austen Centre (fantastic!), the Assembly Rooms (exquisite!), and the Museum of Costume (WOW!). We took so many pictures we filled the camera’s memory card and had to download to continue! I think the only way to share all the costume photos will be to upload them to PhotoBucket and share the link. Lots and lots of yummy gowns! Same with the JA Centre, which has its own collection of original and reproduction outfits. First rate!

But for now, I must turn in. We are in Bakewell, Derbyshire, right in the heart of the Peak National Park. Tomorrow we see the peaks and Chatsworth!