Last Week’s Gallivanting

It is still summer, English way of course! More clouds than sun with occasional rain. It did not stop us from making good of warm months though.

We did some tripping into a countryside and made use of our renewed National Trust membership. We went to Stowe for a Sunday walk. I saw it last time in winter and I got thrilled with its rolling landscapes in the summer with sheep grazing around. The gardens were lush –  we actually found a few mushrooms (edible ones) – it always amazes me here in England, that  the art of mushroom picking is long gone.

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Last week we did a long planned trip to Wimpole Estate – once owned by daughter of Rudyard Kipling and then gifted to National Trust after her death. It consist of the main house, farmyard and parkland with walled gardens. It showcases how such an estate like this was set up and worked. Therefore, you are able to visit the lady and lord of the manor house and how the housekeepers and other staff were living and working. Moreover, you can see some of the animals that were kept on the estate: pigs, mighty Shire horses, cattle or sheep etc.

I was impressed the most by the walled gardens: the abundance of colours, textures and smells. Having a summer in the full swing, there is a plenty of fruits already and the volume of flowering plants was simply stunning. There was a whole array of purples, reds, blues, yellows and air filled with the buzz of bees. Again, I admired skills of gardeners who created espaliered fruits trees: that combination of sculpture and usefulness. With a backdrop of the old red bricked wall, it brings home why British gardens, especially those of Victorian and Edwardian era are so admired and inspiring.

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Wimpole Estate is surrounded by beautiful parkland with a lake and folly ruins thrown in for good measure. Children enjoyed a lot the visit to a farmyard, especially they were keen to learn how to milk a cow and watching piglets feeding with a fascination.

On the rainy day, we  drove to Tring to visit Natural History Museum – it is a branch of the famous London one. This museum was created by Walter Rotschild, whose family lived nearby. His primary interest were natural sciences and studying animals, so he kept on collecting new specimens from all over the world until he dedicated himself completely to this. Eventually the size of the collection required to hire a few dedicated scientist to help to catalogue it. It was the one of the largest collections of that kind in the world and it turned into a private museum by the end of 19th century. It was given to the public on his death in 1937 and became a part of London Natural History Museum.

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Because it was a miserable rainy and windy day, the museum was packed up to the rafters with families and a few artists sketching away animals. The butterflies collection was astonishing along with beetles and odd ensemble of pet dogs. Tring museum has a vast assembly of birds, so all birdwatchers should visit for a valuable lesson.

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Last, but not least on Sunday, we ended up in Kew Gardens. The place my visiting sister wanted to see, so we braved it on the weekend in the perfect weather. Despite the volume of people, the gardens were magical and enchanting: I know it is man arranged setting, but it looks like Nature’s work only. We discovered the Princess of Wales Conservatory with its carnivorous plants, orchid gardens and fruiting bananas trees. We did the Tree Top Walk and it turned out to be nerve wrecking experience for the Big Son. The walkway was bursting with the visitors and that caused the structure to tremble and sway like the ship on the open sea. Experience was funny and bizarre, youngsters enjoyed it, some adults did not.

There you go, we were gallivanting last week.

On H&S or When you’re Officially Grown Up

Our 14 year old teenager got himself a big 58” frame bike: he and the bike are very tall – runs in the paternal side of the family. Being tall I mean.

Becoming a new owner to a second hand Boardman bike was a bit of palaver. Since Saturday he managed to strangely lock in a chain into a wheel (professional repair required) and got super puncture in the (puncture proof) kevlar tyre. We start to think he should play a lottery with his peculiar luck!

Having learn to repair punctures for a good while now and doing that for the whole family already, he went off on foot (no bike) tagging along his younger brother, to the nearest Halford shop to purchase a repair kit. We already ran out of tube patches for this month – that luck again!

Halford sells tube repair patches, we all know it. Well, Big Son returned home empty handed: I thought they were out of tube repair kits as well, what a bummer!

“The kit contains a solvent, Mommy, and they didn’t sell it to me because I’m too young”. Apart from him being obviously vexed and still with no bike to ride, I was gobsmacked. “What??” I asked.  True: because the kit contains a solvent, he was not allowed to buy it. Too dangerous. Yup, repairing the tube puncture is dangerous business, you parents!

I am, really; when did we allow some ridiculous regulations to take over the commons sense instead?!

I was once quite baffled by a notice in a local gymnastics club’s kitchen: no under 16s are allowed to make themselves a cup of tea from a hot water machine. Most of teenagers are quite capable of doing it without suffering any burns. I found it silly: being overly protective and treating nearly adults like babies.

Shaking my head. Making our task of bringing up independent and responsible young men, who are learning life skills, like small DIY jobs, so much more difficult.

Am I alone in thinking that it is one absurd rule?!

 

Back Home to the Watery Skies of England…

It is been a few weeks since the last post because we were away in France and we experienced technical troubles. Anyway, holidays is the time to let things loose, to unwind and let stories unravel. We returned enriched by experiences, nicely bleached by sea, sun and wind, and brought along plenty of memos to rejoice when the weather turns skies grey.

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Although I am hankering to feel a sea breeze again, I am thrilled with the most exciting thing we brought back: we met with a couple of local French salt producers. Moreover, we secured our first batch of the fleur de sel de Guerande along with the sea salt called Sel Gris. The boxes of salts travelled back with us to the UK and are ready to get posted to the connoisseurs of salt. How wicked is that?!

At the moment we are gearing up towards an opening of our online shop, and in the free time I am flipping through the photos, sorting out the treasure trove of sea shells and glass shards, and recalling even more precious gems: stories and people we came across there. It was a privilege, pleasure and such an inspiration to meet welcoming French, Breton and German Paludiers for a good measure. There is not a bad memory I have came away with and that unique wild piece of coast of Brittany definitely get a hold of my heart. I shall be back soon!

I am anxious to see how things will unfold while I am planning and working on the new ideas. You could never guess where one chance visit and discovery could lead you. We spent a week in Sarzeau a couple years ago and definitely wanted to return. The house was a new house with all the mod cons but unfortunately that was taken off the rental market. That though turned out to be a turn of luck.

Michel Roux Jr presented the Craftman’s Dinner series and in it highlighted a smoked salmon that was done with Fleur de Sel de Guerande. When we researched the area it turned out to be just down the road from Sarzeau and houses were available for short term rentals. We took a beautiful place right on the cliff top and spent the first vacation there getting to know the rugged coast and enjoying the taste of the local natural salt in almost everything from pastries to watermelons.

When we tried it on scrambled eggs, we were hooked. Scrambled eggs never tasted so good. Since then we have been cooking with that initial stock we brought back and for a few lucky friends, the taste of food salted with Fleur de Sel is now a must-have.

This year we returned for more and plan to bring this extraordinary taste back to the UK for more friends and hopefully new customers.

Merci Beaucoup Cote Sauvage, Batz sur Mer et Guerande! Tres tres belle presquile!

Summer Solstice 2017

Over the years we grew our own family tradition to mark and celebrate the passing of the Summer Solstice. On this longest day of the year, our bunch will get out of our beds very early to catch the sunrise, wherever we happen to be.

It is the promise of Summer and its long warm days and evenings and adventures ahead, but for us it is also the start of the new family year. We do look back and total the 12 months that passed: all good happenings and misadventures; things we planned and accomplished; the plans that got changed – as they do; life’s lessons; shortcomings and ageing.

While time is relentless and the calendar makes a full circle, life keeps on going: just looking at the pace our children are growing brings home the truth that there is lots of noise around and so keeping the bunch tight together and straight and narrow is paramount.

The last few Summer Solstices, we spent on the Brittany south coast, which is one of our favourite places: tranquil and picturesque with a wild rocky coast. The Atlantic Ocean with its tides in and out, is a perfect illustration of Nature and Life’s rhythms. Even, when there is no sign of sun for the Solstice’s dawn, it may well bless you later. You just need to get up and turn up for the spectacle.

I ponder what changes and challenges lie ahead of us until the next longest day, but with summaries and new plans and hopes taking shape, there is no time to beat yourself about shortcomings. Be aware of all, be robust and vigilant, make your own luck and enjoy the life that sun brings.

Please enjoy some photos of our trip so far.

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Bayeux Tapestry

We are holidaying in France now, blessed with perfect weather. We had a short stopover in Normandy in Caen and went to visit the nearby town of Bayeux to view the famous Bayeux Tapestry.

The town itself is a beautiful place, dotted with picturesque buildings, cafes and an impressive cathedral. The dedicated museum displays the Tapestry, which shows the story of the Norman Conquest of Britain by William the Conqueror. From the winner’s point of view, of course, as it was commissioned by William’s half brother.

It very much is like a medieval movie, it is that good. Plenty of meticulous details, lots of action going on, good and bad guys, plenty of horses and knights, feasts and the build up to the battle. The quality and craftsmanship of embroidery is gobsmacking. With all that action, I almost missed the famous depiction of the King Harold with the arrow in his eye.

While  you browse the Tapestry, you can listen the audio, a very good one in this case. I would highly recommend visiting this place, we were all impressed and amused. I can only imagine what impression it must have given to people centuries ago!

To make the visit more memorable, we had the wonderful petit dejeuner in the Bistro De La Galette. The service and welcome we received was outstanding, definitely recommended and I shall return there if ever I’m in that neck of woods again!

Le nuit des musées / Noc Muzeów

Museums’ Night event or Le Blanc Nuit as it is known as well is organised each year and visitors are able to visit plenty of museums, galleries and places of interest for free in many cities and towns across Europe. Last weekend, on 20 May 2017, it took place in Warsaw, know as Noc Muzeów.

This is not an event in London, maybe because main museums here are mostly free of charge. I find it is a great and thoughtful way to encourage people to come round  and discover what is happening in their neck of woods. I was amazed by the effort put into making everybody welcomed and entertained.

It is a very well known event, so you might have to queue sometimes in more popular places. At times, you need to plan ahead and book an entry if a place is in demand . It is often an unique opportunity to visit establishments usually not open to public.

That weekend, we happened to be in Poland, Warsaw, so we took opportunity and went to Geological Museum of State Geology Institute, Central Fire Station and Archeology Museum. The weather was absolutely marvellous and a late night stroll through the vibrant city was a pure pleasure.

Photo journal below…

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