Archive for the ‘ale’ Category

In search of Inspector Lewis

April 25, 2011

Looking for Inspector Lewis? Or perhaps Morse – I confess I never watched much of Morse, he was just so depressing. At least Lewis has that cute Hathaway as contrast. Whichever detective is on your list of favorites, you can find him around almost any corner in Oxford.

It’s easy to spend a day in Oxford on your way to the Cotswolds, but it’s just as easy to take the train out from London for a day. The journey from Paddington station is not quite an hour – be sure to get a train that doesn’t stop, otherwise you’ll have to change at Reading. Trains are frequent – every 15 minutes or so – which always astounds those of us from the West coast, where people are just discovering that public transportation might be a good thing. You can search times and fares on the National Rail site.

Take a bus from the station into the city center, and head for a morning stroll through the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, designed and planted by 1633 – a yew tree, more than 360 years old, is still there. We visited on a hot midsummer day, so appreciated the cooling effect of a garden, but really, a garden is good to visit any time.

Additional hot spots in the city: any Tolkien fan will want to stop by the Eagle and Child pub – a local review gives it good marks. And you can always look up film locations for Inspector Lewis and Morse, plus Harry Potter and loads more movies television.

Scads of walking tours satisfy almost anyone’s interest, but you don’t have to join someone’s group to tour, you can do it yourself. We picked up a brochure at the information office on Broad Street, and, as we walked around the streets I read off the interesting bits.

We’d stopped on Merton Street – still covered in streamers and not a few beer bottles from graduation parties the night before – and as I read the entry about Corpus Christi College, a man stopped and listened. Then he said, “That’s my college – would you like to see it?” So, Sir Tim Lankester, President of Corpus Christi College (recently retired) took us through the college, including the 16th-century library (we almost lost Leighton there) and into the college’s gardens where no tourist goes.

And, as an example of never really being far from home, when he found out we were from Seattle, he mentioned he’d been there in the 1960s. He wanted to know if we still had that “awful great raised freeway” above the waterfront. Fifty years later, we still haven’t escaped from the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Gifts for the Garden Traveler

December 14, 2009

Gardeners’ stockings are soon to be filled with Atlas gloves, trowels, sisal twine and bird netting, but those of us who also enjoy traveling to garden may have a few other items on our minds.

The garden traveler’s holiday wish list is a hybrid of sorts – somewhere between a normal tourist and a gardener.

A tour – Cough up the bucks and send your garden traveler (or yourself) on a specialty tour with like-minded people, who want to discuss the merits ofCrinodendron hookerianum and where it will grow. Our Ireland tour for 2010 may be just the ticket.

A digital camera – And not just any cheap or any expensive model. We take pictures outside and so we need more than a 2.5- or 3-inch LCD screen on the back of the camera: We need a viewfinder. Call it old-fashioned, but in bright daylight those screens are useless. Canon has some reasonably priced models that all include viewfinders; check out the SD780IS. Yes, we do need that image stabilizer – this isn’t a professional photographers tour, and we won’t wait around while you set up your fancy equipment. Anyway, many gardens have a “no tripod” rule, and so we must be our own tripods.

Something to write on – Garden travelers take notes. We may need to jot down the name of a plant or something funny that our local guide says (“The crowd will be heaving.”) And occasionally, we may need to write that down in middle of a light mist. So, a Rite-in-the-Rain notebook comes in handy. They come in all

Leighton's beer notebook

sizes and have yellow covers. Leighton has a small one that he uses as his beer notebook; you never know when a splash of a best bitter might land on an important comment. Rite-in-the-Rain also carries pencils for wet-weather use.

A raincoat, not an umbrella – See previous entry on my biases.

A travel purse – I’ve found mine, it’s a Baggalini. Wide strap to go over my shoulder, enough but not too many zipper pockets and loads of room even though it looks small. Waterproof for those less-than-perfect weather days.

Really good walking shoes – We are not hikers; or at least, this is not a hiking trip. Shoes are too personal to recommend, but I’ll tell you I love my new Clarks Unstructured. Take two pairs so that they can get a rest every other day.

Books about the gardens you want to see – Patrick Taylor’s book The Gardens of Britain and Ireland will give you a good overview. The Good Gardens Guide by Peter King usually comes out every year. Is there a particular place you want to read about? Ask me for a recommendation.

And, for those lovers of English ale, Leighton recommends The Good Beer Guide – which brews are the best and where to find them. To get the 2010 edition, you must go to the amazon UK site.

See you in the garden. Or the pub.

Dreaming of Damsons

November 25, 2009

It’s dark and rainy, but I’m dreaming of Damson jam from a little tea shop in Hawkshead in the Lake District. Maybe it’s on my mind even more, because some parts of England have had terrible flooding in the week. The Telegraph describes the destruction, much of which was centered near Cockermouth, just northwest of Hawkshead. Part of what was damaged was William Wordsworth’s childhood home, now part of the National Trust (the school he attended is in Hawkshead), as reported here.

The devestation looks terrible. Bridges are closed all over the area, including near Hawkshead. It’s difficult to think of such a beautiful area – one of our favorite places to visit – so damaged. All this is near Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home.

At the University Bookstore last week, I saw an endcap display of Beatrix Potter, which of course brought the Lake District to mind, too. The book, Beatrix Potter: At Home in the Lake District (Susan Denyer, Frances Lincoln, 2004), has wonderful photos of Hill Top and shows lots of Beatrix’s artwork. Hill Top is just up the road from us when we stay at Sawrey House Hotel, and so I can’t help but feel it’s in “our” neighborhood.” In one photo in the book, you can see the Tower Bank Arms, now a fine pub and B&B. We had a couple of pints there (Leighton says he drank Barnsgate Tag Lag and York Final Whistle, among other fine ales).

Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for all there. I look forward to a return trip.