There was but one gray day in Scotland ~ and it can be forgiven in lieu of such brooding lovliness. I was in St. Andrews, doing research at the university archives. After a quick lunch, I grabbed a cup of hot tea (to go!) and walked along the craggy bluffs overlooking the North Sea. There were no flowers in bloom yet, just last summer's withered reminders.
Gosh, it has been a while since I gave you some photo links:
Beautiful northern light in Edinburgh. Its the kind of city where I could just walk for hours. Exploring the winding streets, wondering over the layers of history, and popping into little pubs for a drink. I loved the visual drama of it all...geography, architecture, atmosphere.
From the formal gardens of England to the wild coast of Scotland. Beautiful northern light, and moss (you know how I love that moss!). Most of my time there was spent working in a windowless basement archive, my head bend over antique volumes, desperately trying to block out images of the brilliant blue sky above ground. But, there were long lunchtime walks, fish and chips in one hand, camera in the other. And if I fell in love in England, then I left my heart in Scotland.
I fell in love in England. With Ham House that is. Evocatively described as "a sleeping beauty" ~ a Jacobean sweetheart, awakened from her slumber by the National Trust in 1948. Little has changed since it was buit in 1610, as it was passed down through a single family who had neither the finances or the inclination to make dramatic modifications. In fact, the guides constantly lament the various late 17th-century redecorations (making this American chuckle just a little). A friend of mine told me emphatically that as a lover of textiles and needlework, I had to see it. Indeed, it has one of the finest textile collections of the period. In vain I have searched online for images or information about the textiles, but there seems to be none, nor is there anything much in the guide book. So, take my word for it ~ divine! Favorites include the tapestry bench covers for the Long Gallery, and an extraordinary uncut, embroidered chair cover (just as vibrant as the day it was stitched). I was also infatuated with the Green Closet, a tiny cabinet room full of the most marvelous collection of miniature paintings.
And then there are the gardens ~ the walled orangery (below), and the formal cherry garden. Oh, to see them in full bloom!
P.S. the England set on flickr (with more to come).
...to market, to market! I realized that between all my travels and the dreary winter produce, I hadn't made a home cooked meal in weeks. Terrible. Anyway, the market was a delicious riot of color ~ such a sweet surprise for winter-weary eyes. Inspired by yesterday's post, I decided to make this frittata for dinner and was able to pick up all of the ingredients (but the cheese). Good to be cooking again.
...I took a long walk along the Thames. The reward? Lunch at Petersham Nurseries, which is just as charming as one would imagine. Vintage tea tables and garden chairs randomly interspersed throughout the greenhouses, surrounded by green vines and potted plants. I wasn't able to have lunch at the restaurant (which generally requires reservations weeks in advance). But, oh my, the potato and onion frittata and thick slice of carrot cake from the cafe were divine! For a bit more, see here.
Just home from London (and beyond), where spring fever is in the air! I enjoyed an insanely gorgeous string of days. Truly extraordinary. Lots to tell and lots to share...and lots to catch up on (including sleep).
Much more to come, but for now, just a few things (falling into the category of "random things I particularly love about the UK"):
This weekend was gloriously spring-like here in the middle Atlantic. I escaped from Washington with a few friends and drove to Baltimore to meet up with the fabulous Meg for a house tour of Homewood (more on that in the coming weeks), a delicious lunch at Donna's, and a quick trip to the Book Thing (my haul: a 1952 edition of Daphne du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel, a 1968 compilation of three Mary Stewart novels ~ Inkslinger, I thought of you! ~ and a 1950 guide to the Vatican museums). Leaving Baltimore, we managed to get ourselves lost (despite Meg's excellent directions) and ended up on Federal Hill, in front of Rub BBQ. Clearly, some pork ribs and margaritas were in order ~ our first al fresco meal of the year!
The day I left Japan was cold and grey and snowy. But, it was still hard to leave it behind. An amazing trip that left me endlessly inspired (and exhausted!). There is still so much more to share with you (art, photography, textiles, ceramics...my notebook is full), but for now it is time to say goodbye to it for a bit.
(top image: on the train to Narita; bottom: clouds over Japan)
Those of you who know me well, know how much of a passion I have for tea. So, as you can imagine, I was in heaven for 10 days. Kyoto in particular is famous for its many tea houses ~ beautiful and elegant, and so in tune with nature. A world apart from the bustling coffee houses of the western world, each is a mini sanctuary. Many of the teas, I was told, are grown within miles of Kyoto. My favorites: matcha (so fresh and grassy), roasted tea (toasty and complex), and brown rice tea, known as genmaicha (earthy and comforting). I brought home tins of the latter, along with a mild sencha...and a hand made tea bowl of course. Anyone for green tea?
While many of my 10 days in Japan were spent navigating the highly efficient, though endlessly confusing (!), railway system in the pursuit of academics, I was able to squeeze in one glorious weekend in Kyoto. A city full of hidden treasures. Around each corner ~ a temple, a shrine, a garden, or a tea house. And I walked all over, probably covering no less than 20 miles on foot! Along the way, I would poke my nose into the many ceramics shops for which Kyoto is famous, or indulge in a cup of green tea and a sweet, some black sesame ice cream, or a warm bean paste cookie. There were just so many wonderful things...and so much more to share. I promise!