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Showing posts from June, 2014

Newcastle: Bridges, Buses and Beaches

After Fountains Abbey we continued north to Newcastle - or more precisely Gateshead, Newcastle's sister city across the Tyne River.  Our hotel was on Gateshead Quays, an area which includes the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the Sage Gateshead concert venue.  It's obviously undergoing serious regeneration; the remaining derelict industrial buildings and weed-strewn vacant lots were overshadowed by modern metal and glass springing up all around. On the Millennium Bridge with the BALTIC Centre behind. Millennium Bridge with the Sage behind (that wavy building). We had a view of the river from our fifth-floor room, and Toby was most excited about sleeping on a sofa bed: "They're going to make my bed by magic!"  Theo seemed content enough with his familiar Moses basket, which we placed in the bathroom - a travel tip I'd seen somewhere.  It gave us a little more space in the main room, but whether it improved the quality of anyone's sleep

Fountainless Abbey

"It's called Fountains Abbey but it doesn't have any fountains! " - Toby West front of the abbey church It's true.  It has plenty of other things, though. Beautiful stonework, for one We had picked the Abbey out as a good place to stop for lunch on our journey up to Newcastle-upon-Tyne last weekend, and I thought we'd spend a couple of hours there.  In fact we doubled that time estimate!  The abbey ruins are much more extensive than I'd expected, and I could have easily taken longer to explore all the fascinating nooks and crannies.  Plus we had to go to the playground, and walk through the water gardens, and duck into a cave, and stop at the all-important ice cream shop, and admire the church... St Mary's church Fountains Abbey is one of the best-preserved Cistercian abbeys in the UK.  Graham asked what a Cistercian was, and the only response I could come up with was, "A kind of monk".  This not being entirely informati

New Look

Well, what do you think of the new look?  Does it work on your computer / laptop / tablet / phone?  Can you read it OK?  Does it make you want to share this blog with all your friends? Whatever you do, pleeease don't tell me you preferred the old way!  You wouldn't believe how many little things there are to tweak once you decide to make it a little bit different.  And my boys don't nap for that long any more... Really that background in the title was meant to be yellow.  But for some reason every time I uploaded it, Blogger decided to make it a hideous shade of yellow-green.  Yeuch!  Not on my blog!  So I had to compromise with that tan colour.  Not quite as cheerful, but maybe I can pretend I was going for sophistication instead. And yes, after all this messing around, I'll get on to writing a proper post as soon as I can.  But if you'll permit me a moment of bragging:  I won a prize!!!  For a cake!!!! Third prize in the local village bake-off, to be

Well, Well, Well!

One of the joys of moving to a new area is the discovery of local traditions, often unknown outside of their small area.  England is rife with such customs, ranging from the riotous  ( Padstow 'Obby 'Oss - a Cornish village May Day parade) to the ridiculous ( Gloucestershire cheese rolling - chasing a Double Gloucester cheese down a 1 in 3 hill).  Both of these have become internationally famous, but few people we know outside of Derbyshire seem to have heard of the local practice of well dressing. That's not the same as being well-dressed, you understand.  In fact wearing your best clothes to help dress a well would be a really bad idea.  The process starts with trampling clay underfoot, softening it to fill a wooden frame.  Then you have to trek through the woods to find flower petals, leaves, twigs and alder cones to build up the picture.  Only natural materials are allowed, although not necessarily British - we noticed coffee beans and glacĂ© cherries included in som

Chex Mixed

When we lived in America, we occasionally got to confuse people with our strange English habits, such as putting butter on sandwiches or eating baked beans as part of breakfast.  Now that we're back in the UK, we occasionally get to confuse people with the strange things we learnt across the pond. Our small group at church is a wonderful bunch of people, who have helped keep me sane in the craziness of moving to a new place and bringing up two boys.  Between us we represent quite a number of different nationalities, so when we had to set up a table at church to tell people who we are, someone suggested that we could bring food from our respective countries.  A lady of Indian origin volunteered to bring onion bhajis, and I tried to think of something distinctively American. After flicking through a few recipe books, I settled on Chex mix as something that was well-known in the US, easy to make for a crowd, and unlikely to make a huge mess.  Chex cereal is not easily obtainable h

Tasty Cars and Vintage Ice Cream

On the recent bank holiday Monday, a village near us had a Transport Festival .  For Graham and Toby, any display of interesting cars within 20 miles is an opportunity not to be missed, and even I can admit they're quite photogenic.  So off we went. It reminded me of the Wood, Wind and Waves event we visited in Texas, although of course with a British slant.  Instead of longhorned Cadillacs and shiny Mustangs, there were stripy Minis, bug-eyed Rolls-Royces and sleek Jaguars. Over here, iced drinks come a distant second to a nice cup of tea.  One car owner had carefully set up a kettle next to his antique vehicle, complete with proper china mugs.  Someone else was handing out luscious slices of Victoria sponge cake to his friends from the back of a Landrover. And naturally, a nice bottle of beer never goes amiss!  This specimen belongs to the National Brewery Centre, just down the road in Burton-on-Trent. At least one American car had found its way across the