Posts Tagged ‘travel’

What to eat at the airport

February 1, 2011

Also on the train or in the car. Fresh through security at the airport, we head for coffee, but there’s nothing appealing about the lineup of dry muffins in the case – or, for that matter, the container of cutup fruit (how do they get apples so dry?). (Of course, at the Florence airport, you can get hot brioche, but the trip home is another matter.) I bake this cake to take along – it’s somewhere between cake and shortbread really, not too moist, so it resists being squished in your bag.

What – six egg yolks? Yes, and just think: You can make an egg-white omelet for dinner the night before you leave on your trip. Enjoy!


1/3 (heaping) cup almonds, toasted and ground

1 1/2 cups flour

2 Tbl. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cut butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

6 large egg yolks, beaten to blend

2 tsp. grated lemon peel

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Butter and dust with flour one 8-inch-round cake pan. Mix together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and ground nuts; set aside. Beat together butter and sugar; gradually add egg yolks. Mix in peel and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Transfer to pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until the cake is firm to touch. Cool in pan, then cut and remove slices. Wrap individually for a quick snack or breakfast.


Packing for comfort

January 3, 2011

We must think of ways to make ourselves as comfortable as possible on flights these days, because the airlines won’t do it for us. And when I say airlines, I don’t mean the attendants. Attendants on our flights last year, including Delta/KLM to Amsterdam, Air France from Paris, and Southwest to or from anywhere (I love Southwest), were all competent, friendly and professional; it isn’t there fault that American didn’t offer even a pretzel on our flight to Chicago – not one, tiny pretzel.

So, on the flights for our garden tours this year (Northeast gardens, May 14-22; northern France and Paris, June 19-30), we must do what we can for ourselves. When I fly, I try to keep food, drink, and entertainment self-contained, because I don’t want to end up climbing on someone’s head just to get to my bag out of the overhead compartment (and I hope you won’t do that to me).

Because my entertainment options are limited and, probably to most, archaic, I’ll just say that I’ve got my (older generation) iPod loaded with an audio book, and an actual paperback book that will fit in my purse. (I confess to asking Leighton to take anything heavier in his carryon).

A bottle of water is essential (bought as soon as I get through security). Yes, they will offer water on the plane, but it’s a small thing to carry … just in case.

Overseas flights still offer food, which I believe is more to keep us occupied than anything else, but even on long flights I take along a chocolate bar or two for us, plus a bag of toasted almonds/dried cranberries. I wish I could pop a few protein bars in my purse, but I am allergic to all nuts except almonds, and I am also allergic to peanuts; so far I haven’t seen a protein bar that wasn’t full of peanut butter or walnuts. Feel free to recommend a brand that suits my needs.

Dear airlines: look out. When Southwest begins flying overseas (I’ve heard this is a possibility), I will be first in line – OK, maybe not the very first, but I will pay for Early Bird check-in and be in the A line for sure) even if I have to pack my own fried chicken and potato salad for nine-hour flight.


Notes on Italy: La Foce

November 9, 2010

Sure, October is the only time I’ve ever been to Italy, but it must be the best time. Hearing the olives drop into buckets as they are harvested while sitting in the garden with a glass of wine. Yes, be envious, be very envious.

We rented a villa in one of the Tuscan hill towns, and so we had a home for a week. Although we had several town tours, only one garden was included – I guess we’ll have to go back. You may not think October the best time for a garden visit, but you’d be wrong. These gardens need no frills to be admired. The formal lines of La Foce, for example, are a perfect foil to the Tuscan hills beyond.

La Foce was designed by Cecil Pinsent for Iris Origo, who died in 1988. It was a chilly, windy day when we visited, but the garden and hills beyond held our attention. It’s a place to which I will return, if only to admire the formality around me while gazing out at the muted colors of the Crete Senesi – the unusual clay soil. Winter wheat was being planted while we were there.

Coming soon: what we learned about the Florence airport, renting a car, grocery shopping and the olive oil festival in Montisi.


The baggallini brigade

February 16, 2010

I didn’t know that baggallini bags were such a cult item. While signing books at the University Bookstore author’s table at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, someone noticed my baggallini Around Town Bagg (color: espresso/tomato) and pointed to her own baggallini. We’re our own underground group.

I promised that this bag would be for travel, but I can’t stop using it for everyday, because it’s so darn handy. The pockets! One for business cards, one for sunglasses (safely stowed through most of the Seattle winter), one for thin stuff, one for big stuff, another one for big stuff, a little one inside that one. Whew. And a wide strap that doesn’t kill my shoulders. Coming up, the travel test as I head to Philadelphia to speak at the flower show, Chicago to check out their show, then later in March to Texas to check out the bluebonnets. This summer, Ireland, England. Fall, Italy. This is what comes of not going anywhere in the awful year 2009, I’m ready to burst at the seams. But my baggallini will be intact.

Gardeners Commiserate

January 27, 2010

There’s nothing like disaster in the garden to bring gardeners together, and this summer on our Ireland garden tour, we’ll find out just how much we have in

Crinodendron hookerianum (Chinese lantern tree)

common. Here in the maritime Pacific Northwest, we’ve had only one bout of freezing cold this season – a week in December that turned the ground crusty and made the leaves on all the rhododendrons droop. But it was enough to make us think of last year, when the cold, ice and snow lasted far too long.

Last year, gardeners reported loads of damage: Phormium looked wretched and many gardeners swore they would never plant another hebe. This year, the damage was minimal, mostly taking out plants such as Pelargonium, which usually die as annuals anyway, unless you take extra precautions.

In Ireland and England this winter, they’ve had what we had last year. Will the Chinese lantern be in bloom when we’re there? Jane Powers reports on the damage in her garden in the Irish Times.

Garden Book Picks

December 29, 2009

The Daily Telegraph’s list of garden books is out – intended as suggestions for Christmas gifts, but it’s a good list of what caught the eye of British garden writers. Most notably from our end of things, is Great Gardens of America by Tim Richardson , photos by Andrea Jones (Frances Lincoln, 2009). This distinguished list includes quite a few I haven’t visited, although I can see them fitting into a garden tour in the not-too-distant future. Others, I’ve visited and led tours through, such as our hometown favorite, Windcliff, as well as Middleton Place in Charleston. Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, Filoli in Woodside,


California, Monticello – this book may have been intended for the British audience, but it’s great find for gardeners in the U.S., too. A memory of what you’ve seen or a wish list of where to go, either way it should be on your table within easy reach when you need to dream.

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.

Topiary times

August 31, 2009

We don’t have enough topiary in the U.S.—not that I’m about to start clipping, but I always admire the work of others when we visit gardens in England. My favorite was the row of yew elephants that head gardener Ed Cross created at Hazelbury, near the village of Box in Wiltshire. The row of mature yew grown into arches

elephants in Wiltshire

elephants in Wiltshire

was already there, so Ed just couldn’t resist the temptation. The first time we saw them in 2004, he had just started and sent me a photo of his template. I took another picture during second visit two years ago, and you can see the beginning of the elephant form. Too bad the owners got wind of what he was doing and made him shear the elephants back into plain yew.

elephants appear

elephants appear

Of course, we all love the topiary at Hidcote and at Great Dixter.

Great Dixter

Great Dixter

You know, come to think of it, I could get just a small yew in a pot and start clipping. What would it be—a chicken? A teapot? A sofa? We saw an entire living room set clipped out of boxwood at Iford Manor; our guide Stuart decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

Iford furniture

Iford furniture

It may not be as easy as it sounds—Matthew Appleby at the Telegraph writes that gardeners are taking a new interest in the art, but his attempt at a simple shape met with mixed results.

The Garden Travel Packing List

July 25, 2009

There’s nothing like making a packing list to get you excited about a trip, and no doubt you’ve got several items that top your list each time you make it.  For garden travel, there are particular things we need, only remotely connected with the time of year we travel.

Because if it’s a garden tour, then you’ll probably be traveling mid- to late spring through mid-autumn (timing is seasonally adjusted according to your destination – you can leave Seattle on an autumn day and wind up in Auckland in the spring).

We aren’t hiking and this isn’t a camping trip – it’s a garden tour.  Maybe you are touring on your own – just you, your list of gardens, and maps or GPS device.  Perhaps you’ve planned the trip with a friend, and have spent ages going through your files of “Must see someday” to plan this once-in-a-lifetime event. It could be you are signing up for a well-chosen, small-group tour with like-minded folks (Ireland Gardens 2010 – details now online!)

First things first, especially when we’re off to Ireland, Scotland or England:  a raincoat.  Just to be on the safe side, of course.  This is something that I’m in the market for, so I’ve started a little research.  I like the ¾ raincoat from LL Bean ($139), because it’s meshed-lined;  like to do my own layering, and don’t want a heavy lining adding degrees when no degrees are needed.  “Two front pockets” the description says – but how big are they?  I need some room, so that my other essentials fit.

Travelsmith has a microfiber double-collar raincoat ($159) that the Wall Street Journal selected as “best overall raincoat” and is described as “totally waterproof.” I had a “totally waterproof” raincoat from Travelsmith, but it began to leak badly. I ended up just as wet inside as out, and that’s why I’m searching for a new raincoat, so you can see why I might be a little hesitant about this one.

Still, it has a detachable hood; I like that.  Umbrellas are totally useless on a garden tour – I use my hands to take notes and photos.  Online, Travelsmith doesn’t say anything about pockets with this raincoat.  How can that be?  It seems like most Travelsmith clothes have about 42 pockets, 38 of which you will forget about immediately, but usually several are large enough to stuff with important items.

This, of course, prompts the question: Just how many pockets do you need in a raincoat? Again, we’re not hiking the Pacific Trail here – not that there’s anything wrong with that.  What else is in those pockets, besides a few Kleenex, a camera, notepad and pencil, leftover package of biscuits from the tea tray in your hotel room?

Do you have a favorite raincoat for travel?

More garden travel essentials to come.