Mr. & Mrs. H’s English Adventure: Grays Court

June 28, 2013 § 4 Comments

I hope you aren’t getting too sick of these posts, but there was so much to see and each place was so different, that it is hard to control myself. These next posts are firmly mid-trip and contained some of our busiest and most beautiful places. And what I loved the most was how different they all are — not once did I get that “oh, another one of these” while on this trip. Quite a nice surprise, I must say.

First up: Grays Court, which had a little guest appearance on Downton Abbey last season as their Scottish Residence. Yes, it is in England…and only the exteriors were used, as the interiors were in use as a rather low-key family home until just a few years ago. (And for the full DA Experience, just replace the tourist and late-model cars with Lady Mary and Matthew and you’ll see it.)

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Of all the places we visited, this one was the most relaxed and my absolute favorite part was the walk in the bluebells…

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It all started rather innocently enough, with a modest gate between us and what we thought we be a typical walk with the usual bluebells. Only, we simply could not have imagined the magnitude of the bluebells…the path was a dense carpet of them, and as your kept walking, it got to be downright trippy!

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The path though the bluebells — which photos cannot really do justice to — left us at a most lovely clearing, and in the distance, you could see the beginnings of the house. But really, that landscape was the star of the show…

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As you may have noticed, things had become cloudy and I am here to tell you that it was also somewhat cold. I had a choice to make: Be a baby and try to get the the house as quickly as possible OR Get My English On and just keep walking and enjoying. I chose the latter. As did Mr. H — being half English, he is always game for a good walk.

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And soon enough, the house was in view, which I greeted with extreme pleasure, as that meant we were close to a Tea Room…

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But not that close. Another garden with an odd little bridge was to be crossed, and it had rather entertaining entry gate…

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Is it me, or is this discovery crying out for new nicknames for my besties?

Onward we walked, me thinking of little else but tea and not being rained on (I am not half English, so I still feel I did well given the circumstances). Sadly, by the time we arrived, there was very little in the way of nourishment beyond some tea in a paper cup, which we drank outside, in the rain. Still, I happily waited for our tour to begin and even had a chance to visit an outbuilding that has a really charming vegetable garden, where it was too early to grow food. But is was pretty to look at from indoors…

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And then it was finally time to get into the house. As I mentioned, there wasn’t much to see, as it was a family home until around 2003. But heavens, upon leaving the house, we were treated to a psychotically lovely situation…

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And that was a perfect ending to our visit. And what made it extra perfect was that Mr. H and I did it together. As we were on this trip, running around from place to place, being fascinated by so many things and having such hilarious (to us) conversations in the car that music was not needed, I’d like to always think of this gate as ours…

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And really, that is what makes a trip around the world and in life. May you always have a good companion by your side.

xx

For more information on Grey’s Court, including a snap of Matthew and Mary: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greys-court/

(Photos: Some Cozy Night and Mr. H)

A Little More England! Kingston Lacy

June 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

For the  record, I took around 3,000 photos on this trip, which is insane. But I am told by almost all good photographers I know that the key to getting a few great shots is to take A LOT of them. So, I did. And I am not saying that these are all great photos, but I am trying to up my game a tad.

And now back to England. The first leg of the trip was focused on the areas surrounding Bath and one of our first stops was farther south in Dorset, at Kingston Lacy (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy/), which was built to resemble an Italian palace. For all I know that was “tacky” in the day, but I find it to be pretty today. And from the 17th century until 1981 it was the Bankes family home.  (In case you are at all interested:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bankes)

We arrived on a rather dreamy day…cloudy enough to get the “English” feel, but with just enough sun and blue skys here and there to make you want to walk your legs off to enjoy the house and grounds.

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The walk leading up to the house kind of surprised me. Why? Because as an American who spends a lot of time seeing really big developer’s houses all over the place, this house actually seemed reasonable in size. I know this is nuts, but I have always felt that many houses are just too big these days — especially for their lot sizes — and this is estate pretty confirmed my beliefs. Is it large? Yes. But it contained a family and a staff and is sited on 8,500 hectares. (Which is a lot of acres. Please don’t ask me to do the math. I’ve been doing it all day.) And the combination of the scale of the house with the size of the property felt Just Right.

Some of my favorite moments…

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Amazing ceiling in the center hall. One interesting fact I learned on this trip: Many times, more “violent” paintings  — animals killing each other, for example — were placed in staircases, as they were not considered “polite” for sitting rooms. (And this center hall definitely delivered on that trend.) I tend to agree, but generally I am not one for violent art anywhere in the home. That said, when you are talking Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and Brueghel, I suppose one can relax the rules a touch.

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I do love the amount of carving and plaster that can be found in this building — and many others that we saw. This one, though, just cracked me up, as I am pretty sure that I make this face at meetings sometimes. And when on the phone with my Dry Cleaner.

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As imposing as the more public spaces can be, this place still felt like someone’s home. And this bedroom really drove that home. When I walked in, all I could think of is how my Grandmother would have loved this room. And the reading contents were pretty excellent as well…

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And, to make good on that Manor House Thing, some other shots…

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OK, this one is blurry…but that lady was just constantly in my way!

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And then there is the back of the house, which leads to the wonderful grounds…

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Yeah…this is the payoff. But there is more…

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gorgeous

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(I want to paint my closet this color…or at least find a lipstick in this shade.)

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Yes. This is a headstone for a pony. Next to it was one for “a dear friend”, which I am hoping was also not human…or Silvertail must have been some pony.

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You have no idea how long it took us to figure out that these sheep “looked different” because they were shorn. (I thought they were goats at first. You can see it, right??)

Sure…we pretend to be in The Country at the beach, but no matter how many herbs we grow, we are helpless city folk. I am hoping that we are slowly educating ourselves on these matters. Which, in addition to just being outside, having fun and seeing new things, is kind of the point of the whole affair.

Until next time: know your shorn sheep from your goats!

xx

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

Mr. & Mrs. H’s UK Adventure: Part I

May 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

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The beginning seems like a very good place to start sharing some of the highlights of our recent trip to England. We basically covered the countryside in the west and south. Our goal was to see as many manor houses and gardens as we could in twelve days. And with the help of the the U.K.’s National Trust (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk), the Lonely Planet Guide to England and my own research about some of the more famous houses between the wars, we came up with a rather excellent mix of grand, eccentric and simply lovely places to visit.

After arriving at the airport, we drove out to Bath, where we stayed while touring that part of the country. While the narrow, twisty streets of this beautiful old Roman city made the Car Thing a little treacherous, one cannot help but appreciate how beautiful it is…

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Unfortunately, we didn’t get a ton of time in the city itself. However, we did find this excellent lunch spot for our first non-airborne meal of the trip:

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If memory serves, this is one of the places we found through the Slow Food U.K. site (http://www.slowfood.org.uk) and it does have an emphasis on local and sustainable food — which didn’t rule out proper English fare, including fish & chips, ploughman’s lunch, shepherd’s pie and pints. I kind of loved the spare entry and table up front, and the bar has just what every woman wants in a good one: bag hooks…

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I opted for wine and a delicious sandwich…with chips (fries, really…I had the difference explained to me…chips are bigger). Mr. H went for a shepherd’s pie with his wine. It was exactly what we needed after two hours of driving and time zone adjustment…

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Also much needed was a post-lunch nap in the sun-filled room (yes, we were in England) at our hotel. To get to it, we had the good fortune to cross this garden every day…

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After the bustle of the city streets and the slight chaos of getting around those first few days, this was the perfect hideaway to begin and end each day. Especially when breakfast was served here…

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And Tea here…

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Which included one of the most delicious New Things I’ve Eaten: The Bath Bun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_bun). They are those sugar covered buns in front of the scones and I could have eaten a mountain of them. Yum!

And I think that is all I have today, especially since I totally want one of those buns now, which means I should see about getting dinner together before I run out and eat a pile of donuts. (Which I think I’ll call Beach Buns from now on.)

Next up: Kingston Lacy, Dryham Park and maybe Cliveden.

xx

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

My Reward

May 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

So, today the weather had taken a turn for the English, and rain and wind were on the agenda. Alas, Blenheim Palace (the birthplace of Winston Churchill) was also on the docket. So, off we went in the wind and rain. Regardless, it was lovely…

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This was the most sun we had while there, so you can imagine my deep need for tea when we got back. I’ve become quite addicted to tea here, as I have always been a scone head and the little sandwiches are delicious. So I am taking today’s tea as a reward for getting my English on and walking through the weather rather than giving up the goat. (Or is it “ghost”…whatever.)

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I DID NOT eat it all, or even half, but it was delicious and now I am ready for my bath (showers appear to be a No Go here) and a nice evening out, including treacherous driving and some dinner.

xx

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

Lovely in England

May 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Greetings from the English Countryside, where Mr. H and I have been powering our way through various manor houses, gardens and other grounds. A small driving incident in Bath aside, we have been having the most wonderful time. And while I plan to elaborate, I thought a little taste would be cheering.

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Above, some of the gardens at our hotel in Bath. Sitting out here for tea is heaven.

Below, a bit of a pink Japanese Maple on the grounds of Kingston Lacy. A most beautiful property. And trust me when I tell you it is impossible to capture the actual shade of pink…for me, anyway…

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A view on the grounds of Whatley Manor, where I had one of the best meals of my life (from a list that includes The Bristol, Chez Panisse, Per Se and Franny’s). And yes, it is in England.

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The view from one of our windows in Cliveden, where I am still pinching myself that I am actually here…

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And some of the grounds of Grays Manor, where even the cows were beautiful.

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Tomorrow we have a longish drive to Highgrove, where Prince Charles has created one of the most interesting Gardens I Must See. Naturally this requires proper footwear, which Mr. H and I were able to conjure up without having to take up too much room in our suitcases with full blown wellies…

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More to come!

xx

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

Almost…

March 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Today was one of those days when the weather is just too good to stay indoors, even if you need to borrow your husband’s scarf to be completely warm. So, Mr. H and I walked the Highline and spied some very good signs that Real Spring is almost here…

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Small blossoms and other signs of life were everywhere. Alas, it wasn’t quite enough to make it feel as if winter were completely banished. So, we stopped a nearby florist to pick up some blooms to tide is over.

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I am fairly certain that I’ve made no bones about how horrid the weather has been of late. But today felt like a sign that we’ll be snipping our own buds in no time. In the meantime, we’ll take these teaser days whenever we can. I hope you can do the same.

xx

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

Re-Entry: A Week’s Worth of Coping

February 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Happy Thursday! I’ve been back home for almost a week now and I must say, things have been not too shabby.* As always, a combination of planning and being open to whatever has been key.

On the planning front, I made sure that the house was in Ready Mode when we arrived with a stocked fridge c/o Fresh Direct and some lovely flowers from Emily Thompson (http://www.emilythompsonflowers.com/):

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There is also the matter of making sure that my agenda for the return week was set to a certain degree. Before I left, I divided my “Work”, “Home” and “Personal” To Do lists into “Before You Leave” and “Upon Return” segments. I’ll spare you the contents, as many things were as mundane as “order diverter for shower” and “complete the E&O Insurance Application”, but every list feels better when you have it in something pretty. I count my blue diary with refillable inserts among one of those things, even if the checkbook sticks out:

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And in the diary, I reminded myself to schedule some fun and some maintenance. So, brows and facial this afternoon with the lovely Robin Evans who keeps me from looking like a teenage George Whipple (http://robinevansskincare.com/) and dinner at The Modern (http://themodernnyc.com/) last night, with a wonderful view of one of my very favorite gardens in the city…


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Nothing like this kind of view to make you feel less glum about leaving the sparkle of the sea and unlimited amounts of guacamole. Also, the wine and painstakingly prepared and served food helped.

And this evening, dinner with a Bestie — just us girls — as the most excellent 606 R&D (https://somecozynight.com/2012/06/12/cool-places-606-rd/). Donuts may be consumed, so I was good and had some steamed broccoli for lunch.

As for the unexpected, I managed to unpack on Saturday (this almost never happens to me), leaving me with a free Sunday. So, I decided to head uptown to buy some hankies for the upcoming and dreaded allergy season. In addition to discovering that the watch repair place was open (ON A SUNDAY!!), I also happened upon the last few boxes of my absolute favorite plain note cards by G. Lalo. I am a great fan of the handwritten note and these could not be more stylish…


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They are still on my dressing table because the boxes make me happy. I will put them away, but not until a trip to Ladurée occurs, I think. Macarons are immensely cheering, no?

The weekend will be at the beach, where large amounts of working out will hopefully occur, as will the consumption of a fabulous Saturday lunch c/o Topping Rose House (http://www.toppingrosehouse.com/), one of the best additions to our little town out there.

And that is about all I have for now, except to say that I have more to say about the Fall Collections, but for now, I will leave it at this: Is it me, or was there WAY too much fur?? (For me, “none”, is best.)

xx

*Except for my inability to rise at a decent hour to work out or meditate. Hoping to re-set on that one this weekend.

(Photos: Some Cozy Night)

 

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