Springtime in London!

london-roses
sunny-london
hyde-park
sweet-william
leilas-shop
london-window

London is one of my most favourite places in the world. It’s one of those places I always feel at home — even though I’ve never lived there! I love the hustle and bustle of an international city mingling with gobs of history. I love walking down Brick Lane sniffing food stalls full of bubbling curries and freshly baked bread as much as I like people watching in Soho whilst slurping lemon, basil sorbet (because that’s a thing!) and oggling Matisses at the Tate Modern. Shops are always open, the people are always varied (and somehow seem more comfortable being awesomely eccentric than in other international cities I’ve been to) and museums are packed.

This past weekend, I saw a different side of London. Not only was it hot and sunny (can it still be considered part of the UK when it does that?!), but it also seemed so calm and beautiful. I spent a lot of time traipsing around Hyde Park and looking at trees sniffing roses. And on my last morning in the city, I finally found Leila’s Shop in Shoreditch where I had the most simple, but beautiful breakfast in the world (fried eggs with butter and sage and a side of crusty bread and out-of-this-world butter). I think of Leila like the Alice Waters of East London. The pics above of the peaches and sweet william are from her shop. I bought a peach — it smelled so peachy and tasted like sweet, syrupy heaven.

Nature and slow, simple living isn’t what I usually expect from one of the largest (and most expensive) cities in the world, but I love it just as much as the louder, busier sides of the city too.

My dream is to one day live in London (and magically move all my family and friends there too). Do you guys have a place that feels like home to you that isn’t actually where you’ve ever lived?


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Sunbathing on a Scottish Beach

bathingroomsNorth-Berwick-ScotlandNorth-Berwickseaside-doorsLobsterruins savoury-muffin beach-chairs by-the-sea  beach-yogi

This past weekend Matt and I took a short train ride east to North Berwick, a lovely little Scottish seaside town. Edinburgh is right on the sea too, but we don’t have a beach and I miss the susurration of waves lapping the sand.

But you can’t be picky when you’re in Scotland. Going to the beach usually means being an intrepid toe-dipper or agreeing to sunbathe in layers — yes, even in spring (and summer!).

We had a beautiful sunny day, but it was wiiiindy! And I shed my winter coat momentarily to take some pics, but generally I was bundled up tight while my hair whipped around my head and I tried not to get it in my butter garlic lobster dipping sauce. A hard life, I know.

Ahhh to be by the sea!

 


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Georgia Cider (and Fried Apple Pie) Tasting

Dearest Lar,

A week after your Amsterdam adventure (which sounded so magical, btw), Troy and I made our way back up to Blue Ridge, Georgia. It had been over a year since we visited last and we thought it was the perfect spot to celebrate our 6 year anniversary.

We stayed at Aska Lodge B&B again – the sweet owners made us chocolate cake and gave us a bottle of champs for the occasion :)

Unfortunately it rained for most of the weekend, but Troy and I aren’t the hiking types anyways. Instead of enjoying the great outdoors, we went back to Mercier Orchards and visited the new cider tasting room.

Merciers_ciders

In my previous Blue Ridge post, I didn’t fully explain how GIANT Mercier Orchards is. I mean, it’s set up for the thousands of tourist that come every year in the fall to pick apples and enjoy the beautiful foliage of Blue Ridge. And they’re constantly updating and adding to their facilities. So in the past year they created an awesome cider tasting room. The experience is very much like a wine tasting with a selection of ciders, some salty bar snacks, and helpful staff explaining the flavors.

Since I don’t like sweet ciders, I choose to taste the four most dry ciders on the list. It was only $8 for a flight of 4 ciders and a souvenir wine glass. Troy and I ended up getting a bottle of Grumpy Granny, Adele’s Choice and Lone Tree. They are all apple-ly, but not sweet. Just what I like!

Merciers_cider_tasting

When you’re at Mercier’s, you cannot NOT stopped by the bakery for a fried pie. Look at all the amazing options:

Merciers_Fried_Pies

Troy and I ended up getting the classic apple fried pie, because, you know, it’s an apple orchard. It did not disappoint!

Merciers_Fried_Apple_pie

Did I mention we did the cider tasting and the fried pie eating before noon? And this was after having huge breakfast at the B&B. So before we headed into downtown Blue Ridge to eat and drink some more, I burned a few calories by visiting the Mercier Orchards gift shop.

hair

The gift shop is endless with every apple-themed item you can think of and so much more. There is a whole room just for kid stuff. Like these creepy/cute big-eyed stuffed animals. This is my impersonation of them:

Merciers_giftshop

And even though I didn’t buy this pretty box of tea, I’m including a photo of it because I love the design – like a pinky, neutral, clean-lined watercolor.

Teaforte_blood_orange

Troy and I walked away from Mercier Orchards with 3 ciders, half a bushel of apples and full bellies. Afterwards we spent the day in downtown Blue Ridge eating and drinking at Chester Brunnemeyer’s Bar and Grill, Masseria and Harvest on Main with a nap in between lunch and dinner. So despite the rainy weather, it was pretty much a perfect mountain getaway weekend.

The setting wasn’t as beautiful as Amsterdam and the winter isn’t the best time to visit Blue Ridge, but it wasn’t bad for a quick 2 hour drive north of Atlanta!

Hope you’re having a wonderful start to the week. Let’s Facetime/Skpye this Saturday!

xoxo, Cath


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What to See, Do and Eat in Amsterdam

stilllife2
Amsterdam totally surpassed all my expectations. I’m completely in love with the glimmering, shimmering canals and curlicued brick and stone, the deliciously gooey caramel waffles and an entire museum district! It’s a shame that I always associated it the red light district and pot (not that there’s anything wrong with the latter), but it just never seemed like it would be my thing.

I was utterly and completely wrong. I didn’t stumble on to a single naked lady or dubbie (I’m not even exactly sure where the red light district is). So if you’re as rock and roll as me, you should totally do the following:

stay2

Airbnb-amsterdam

I’ve used Airbnb for years, all over Europe and the States. I’ve loved each of my stays, but Johan has possibly the most beautiful flat I’ve ever been in. He has an eye for colour that would make Van Gogh jealous, the most comfortable, fluffy king-sized bed and a colour-coded book case that would make any reader feel right at home. The house is an historic canal house built in the 17th century, so the few days we were there I pretended I was Rembrandt (minus the talent) and Vermeer’s girl with the pearl earring (minus the pearls).

stroll canal5

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The soft winter light bouncing off of the canals was so soothing and breathtakingly beautiful when the sun set.

gaze canal1 canal2 lar amsterdam

(Posing by canals and tiny cars totally optional).

eat food amsterdam green juice frites chocolate indonesian food

The deliciously unhealthy:

Best stroopwafels: Verse stroopwafel at the Albert Cuyp Market

Best fries (curry or satay sauce optional): Vleminckx

Uber healthy and so amazingly tasty:

The Cold Pressed Juicery

Mumu chocolates (not just the best raw chocolate I’ve ever had — just the best chocolate hands down).

My dream dinner:

Indonesian at Tempo Doeloe

museum van gogh rembrandt house rembrandt house amsterdam

I went to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Rembrandt House Museum, but those are just the tip of the iceberg. I would have happily gone to 20 museums if I had the time.

I am head-over-heels in love with Amsterdam and hope I get to go back one day to ogle more canals and soak in more painted canvases. In the meantime, let me know what you’ve done if you’ve been. For those of you making plans or day dreaming about a trip to Amsterdam, I hope these wee tips gave you a bit of inspiration.

——-

Dear Cath

I know you think of Amsterdam as Schipol and that place of limbo where you are stuck between two flights, but I so wish I could have teleported you to a canal last weekend!

One day was even warm enough where Ali and I sat on the stoop outside of our canal house and ate fresh fruit while wiggling our toes in the sun. It was heavenly!

It’s the perfect city for us and reminds me of Edinburgh: compact, historic, beautiful and grand. One day we will go together.

Until then, close your eyes and dream of freshly made stroopwafels with gooey caramel centres and layers of Van Gogh ochre swimming in a sea of forest green and aquamarine.

Love you like the shimmerest of canals and gooeyest of stroopwafels,

Lar


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A Winter Sea

winter sea
Saddell House

Dear Cath

I think Saddell House will always be one of my favorite places in the woooorld. I’m not sure how many people wouldn’t enjoy a large, comfortable home by the sea — even though it’s a blustery, wintry Scottish sea. Somehow the remoteness, the shush-shush of the waves and the sound of the wind through the pines makes it all the more perfect.

And once you’ve had your daily tramp along the pebble beach and your cheeks are rosy from the buffeting wind, you can snuggle up on the down couch by the fire and enjoy your cuppa and a plate of buttery (or coconut oiled) toast. Heaven!
pancakes jam

I know it’s not Saint Antonio, but I think you would just love Saddell, Cath! It makes me feel the way we first did when we fell in love with Scotland the first time as uni students!

I didn’t take as many piccies of the house this year because I had a ton from our first year there if you need a refresher.

Spending a week Thanksgiving-ing was just perfect: delicious food all the time and roaring fires and candle-lit dinners. But the setting is what makes it all that much better. If I could wake up and see the sun rise over the water morning I wouldn’t ever complain about the Scottish rain later in the day.

I hope these piccies make you feel nice and relaxed during your last, very, very hectic week. You are almost done, master’s student!!! I’ll be crossing my fingers and toes for you whilst you do your exams and writing!

Love and sweet potato pancakes,
Lar

 thanksgiving
saddell sunrise
saddell bay
arran
 moss
winter beach

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London Round-up

Brick-lane

Dear Cath,

I want you to feel like you were there with us, but I hope that doesn’t mean you’ll get finger-scrolling-itis — there are an excessive amount of photos in this one. It’s the only way it can be done.

London: 2 weeks ago
Your first full morning in town, you wake up and head to Brick Lane with us. It’s a gloriously sunny and warm day in east London (yes, London!) and the marketeers are just tying their tarps to metal poles and unpacking their wares: everything from cutsey dresses to tangles of wires to vinyl and chipped tea cups.

We were so early we made it before all the amazing food had fully started bubbling away in their shallow cast iron pots: thai curries mingled next to tacos who rubbed shoulders with samosas. But before we get ahead of ourselves … breakfast.

Beigel Bake. Open 24 hours. Cheap as chips and delicious as any self-respecting New York bagel would be. We got cream cheese and smoked salmon on ours. It wasn’t fancy — just served wrapped in a napkin. We ate ours blinking under the florescent lights (even on a sunny day in London, it doesn’t mean you turn those off):

Beigel bake

There are a lot of bricks in Brick Lane:

Brick lane luncheonette

Next up, let’s go across the water (Thames not Channel) and visit the Tate Modern. Matisse’s cutouts are on view!

Tate Matisse Cut Outs

(I took this pic before I realised we weren’t allowed. Don’t you love Matisse’s handwriting for his Jazz book? He made it purposefully large to match the curvy robustness of his dynamic paper shapes:

Matissies

We didn’t just stick to Matisse though. I wanted to see some of the permanent collection too. I’ve never heard of Chen Zen, but I loved this piece by him called Cocon du Vide. It’s an oriental chair (like the ones we had in our living room growing up — French Horn seat!) with a cage of abacus and rosary beads woven above it. I know it’s a bit cage-like, but instead of feeling trapped it makes me feel safe (says the semi-agoraphob):

Cocon-du-vide

Matisse and Zhen were not at all contemporaries (and not connected in the Tate) but both of them worked while very ill. Zhen had terminal cancer and Matisse was recovering from a very difficult surgery after being diagnosed with colon cancer in the 50s. I wonder if art was a solace for them or an absolute necessity in dealing with illness. One to ponder.

Pondering make you peckish? Why don’t we stop by for some lunch while we rub elbows with some overpriced designer handbags? To Harrods’ Food Hall!

Harrods sandwich

To work off all our salmon and watercrest, I think we should probably (window) shop. How does Liberty sound?

Liberty

Liberty-london

I love how Tudor-y the facade is and all the displays on the inside! I managed to drag myself away with just one delicious smelling (£6 gulp!) bar of soap. It smells like heaven. Citrus, Italian, heaven. Anything strike your fancy? It’s not really our style, but I think the bits and bobs we picked for Mom are right up her alley.

Ooops! Too much dawdling we’ll be late for our appearance in Covent Garden. To the the-a-tah! (Such lovely lighting London has after a fresh washing in the evening):

Covent-Gardeny

Did you remember your opera glasses? Being in the nose bleeds, they will be absolutely necessary to see Thomas Cromwell rise to power (and Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn circle around each other in Tudor fashion):

Opera glasses

Tomorrow morning! (You’re not tired, are you?). As we know we’ll be eating and eating and eating again, shall we start with good intentions? Expensive green juice at the juice bar just a few blocks from our flat? Alkalize away (because this ends with cronuts)!

Green juice london

A delicious appetizer to Borough Market, just a jaunt to the southern end of London Bridge:

borough-market

We might have had some curry and cookies and brownies (no photographic evidence on blog means calories unconsumed). Back north for some more (window) shopping (I really am trying to consume just with my eyes — and mouth — and not with my wallet) on Carnaby Street:

Carnaby street

Phew! Now that’s out of the way, there might, I say might, be some more eating in store (not all in one afternoon, I promise). It wasn’t all dangerously heart-clogging. One lunch I actually stuck to my endo diet and had this lovely salad plate from (ironically) Pan Quotidian:

clean salad

And we went to one of London’s best pizza places (and my favorite pizza ever), Homeslice Pizza, with Gracie and Nicolas. This one was zucchini and deliciousness:

Home-slice-pizza

But by far my most favorite eating all weekend was Chinatown — the street food. We got the most delicious char sui baos I’ve ever had — and they were vegetable! Usually I think the pork is the only way to go (and you know I don’t like pork) but these veggie ones were the bees knees:

char-sui-bao

Right next to char sui bao heaven was what looked like a teeny savory crepe stand. I couldn’t read most of the menu but there was something that said “Pancake + crispy + Egg” so we got that. Here’s how it went down: lady ladles out pancake batter on the crepe cooker plate, while it cooks she breaks a raw egg on top and scrambles it around so it cooks and then sprinkles on green onion and cilantro. Flip. This side gets some hoisin sauce and duck sauce with a bit of chili. And then the crispy. Which is exactly that: layers of crispy (wanton dough?) goes on top of the sauces and then everything gets folded up into a neat pocket for you to munch while walking to lunch (bibimbap, to be exact):

Chinatown pancake

Chinatown-street-food

Before we hop on the train back to Edinburgh (a place that now seems sorely lacking in abundance of constant foodstuff variety), let’s stop by a French bakery and get some cronuts (or crodoughs as they were called). We’ll take them to Bloomsbury Square to sit on a bench and digest — all our meals and trip well spent, me thinks:

crodoughs

Pan-de-pie-london

The end!

Do you feel like you were right there with us and are now too stuffed to eat dinner? Fun had by all, but so wish you were there! Can you believe the last time we were there together was 11 years ago? Criminal, that is.

Love you like Cripsy loves Egg,

Lar


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Londontown: Where we stayed

The Thames

Dear Cath,

Oooh lala isn’t she beautiful? This pic above is from a few days into our trip but I wanted to give you a nice opener to London: sun, the Thames, standing on the South bank, eying St. Paul’s.

When we first alighted from our train however, she wasn’t so very well behaved. Five minutes after leaving Euston Station, the skies opened up and monsooned (is that not a verb?). Heavy, heavy rain that lasted about 45 minutes and laughed in the face of our water repellent jackets and dashed under everyone’s umbrellas. We took refuge in a doorway and waited it out with our fellow drenched Londoners. The pic below doesn’t do justice to how sodden we felt (duck face is misleading as ducks like water):

London rain

We airbnb-ed it this drip. Not cheap right in the heart of Covent Garden, but totally worth it and best birthday prezie (would have been best ever if you were with us!). In the photo below do you see the dormer widows peaking out on the roof? That’s our wee flat! Just a studio, but with a nice little kitchen and bathroom. Oh and 4 windy flights of stairs to mount every evening when we got back home:

Monmouth Shaftsbury

This is the main room with the stairs/ladder up to the sleeping loft. Just enough room for a table and chairs — no sofa, but lovely windows on all three sides:

Air-bnb

Our views looked right down at Monmouth Street and Shaftsbury Avenue and across to Neal’s Yard and then the Royal Opera House in the not-to-far distance. At night the trees’ sparkly lights would come on — it was so lovely and not at all noisy even with the hustle and bustle below because we were up so high. Our Edinburgh flat is way noisier.

Covent-Garden-flat

Below is a pic of Monmouth: lots of cute shops and coffee places and the best pizza I’ve ever had at al place called Homeslice. We would go to Monmouth Coffee in the morning and sit on the bench and people watch: mustaches, waistcoats, man buns (shaved head except for the top which is bunned), well-dressed cyclists, way more summery clothes than you could ever get away with in Edinburgh:

Monmouth-street

Another perk to our teeny “lofty” flat? We had access to the roof via the kitchen window. The last morning there, we crawled out we ate breakfast perched between the eaves. After posing for numerous selfies and shoveling oatmeal down my gullet, I looked across to the office building next to us and someone was waving. I scurried back in the window after that:

rooftop Lar rooftop

I know you guys are all worried we will run away to London and never come home, but as much as London is my favorite city in all the world (or at least the small bit I’ve been to), it doesn’t have you guys in it. That outweighs Old Smokey by a couple tons.

4 weeks until I see you!!!

Love you infinity more than I love London,

Lar


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Adventures in Detroit

Exploring Detroit

Dear Lar,

While you were exploring Lindisfarne Castle, I was spending time in the equally exotic Detroit. Alright, not the most exotic place in the world, but I was still excited to visit since I love exploring cities  – especially ones that I’ve never been to.

(Note to our readers: I went to Detroit for a conference, but also had the added bonus of getting to visit Troy’s cousins who live just 25 minutes north of the city. This trip was probably my only summer “vacation” since I’m trying to buy a house and have zero extra money to spend)

I know Detroit gets a bad rap, and some of that is warranted, but there are some amazing things about the city. Get ready for some scrolling! I’ve including lots of pics and text so you can get a feel of the city – or at least my very biased view of the city.

First on the tour: The Fox Theater!

Fox Theater Detroit

This place is just like the Atlanta Fox Theater except MUCH bigger and even more fabulous. It’s so hard to believe that in the 1920a amazing, opulent theaters were built for the movies. Troy, his cousins, and I got our own private tour of the place and we had an amazing tour guide that turned out to be the theater’s organ player. After the tour he played the Star Wars theme music, which is crazy to hear on a giant organ in a nearly empty theater that seats 5,000.

I wish movie theaters still had crazy, over-the-top decor. Now  a-days you’re lucky to get a seat without squished up popcorn and a sticky floor.

Next stop: Lafayette Park.

Layfayette Park

The conference I was attending offered a downtown bus tour of Detroit. I’m so glad I signed up for it because one of the stops on the tour was Lafayette Park, a mixed income neighborhood just east of downtown Detroit. My absolute favorite part was the rows of condos designed by Mies van der Rohe. They look timeless in their peaceful, grassy surroundings and I felt like I was walking around in a Dwell magazine article (Funnily enough, I just found an online Dwell article about Lafayette Park. See the slideshow here). What made the tour even better was that one of the homeowners (wish I could remember his name to give him credit!) opened his home for the tour group so we could see what the interiors looked like.

Lafayette Park home

Lafayette Park details

I fell in love with the floor-to-ceiling windows at the front and back of the house and efficiency of van der Rohe’s designs. Also check out the extra tall doorways in the photo above. You’d think that would look silly and disproportionate in a small townhouse, but it just adds to the airiness of the space. If I ever had to move to Detroit, I would live in one of these townhomes – if I could. I hear there’s a long waiting list to move in. Can you imagine a waiting list for housing in Detroit?! That’s what good design does!

Next stop: Shinola

Shinola Detroit

I recently learned about Shinola at Worthmore Jewelers in Decatur. They started carrying Shinola watches and have a Shinola bike in their storefront window that I pass by everyday on my way to Starbucks. When I was planning my trip, I knew I wanted to visit the Shinola store.

Back in the day Shinola used to be a brand of shoe polish and the famous saying went, “You don’t know shit from Shinola.” Poetic. Anywho, now it sells/creates made-in-America products like watches, leather goods, and bikes. Apparently if you buy a Shinola watch, you’ll get a little tin of Shinola shoe polish.

Shinola

The Shinola store is located in midtown Detroit – an up and coming yupster area. I took tons of photos in the store and tried to cull it down to my favorites. I loved the succulent display in the front and there’s a juice bar, Drought, right inside the store. I bought the yellow juice (pictured above), which was a combination of apple, ginger and lemon. It was so delicious! Across the street from the Shinola store are two other super cute stores, City Bird and Nest. I highly recommend visiting all three stores if anyone finds themselves in Detroit.

Next stop: Food and bev around town

Eating in Detroit

Since I was stuck at my conference in downtown Detroit for most of my trip, I didn’t get to explore as much of the dining scene as I would have liked. Nevertheless, I did find some gems (with the help of some suggestions on Instagram – thanks @moybien1212!). The first and third photos are from Public House in Ferndale, a Detroit suburb 20 minutes north of the city. Ferndale is filled with mostly independently-owned shops and restaurants, which you know I love. I always look for neighborhoods like that when I travel and Ferndale doesn’t disappoint. The second photo is of Sugar House located in Corktown – a downtown neighborhood. It feels like a bar in Brooklyn. I stopped in for a Negroni before heading next door to Slows BBQ for dinner (not as good as southern BBQ, but still worth a visit). Another restaurant favorite was Roast. It’s in the touristy area of downtown and is more for the fancy business-types, but the quality of food was so good I figured it was worth a mention here.

Next stop: Eastern Market

I took some pictures of the Eastern Market on my iphone, but none of them did it justice so I’m skipping photos for this section. What is the Detroit Eastern Market, you ask? Well, think of your favorite Farmer’s Market and multiply that by 100 and you’ll roughly have an idea of the size of this place. It consists of multiple buildings and is only open on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I was incredibly lucky to be in town during the annual Flower Day, which pretty much means every plant/flower nursery in the state of Michigan comes to sell their plants. Between all of the amazing flowers (check out my Instagram here), food vendors, and street performers, I could have spent all day at the market. If you come on Flower Day, you would have no idea that Detroit was suffering economically. It is so crowded that you have to shuffle along at such a slow speed I swear I saw a snail pass me as I was trying to get to a succulent booth.

Next stop: housing

Detroit Houses

Detroit has an abundance of housing stock. The further you get away from the city core, the more empty homes you see. It almost reminds me of NOLA post-Katrina. The houses in the photos above are actually in the city center near midtown, which used to be filled with mansions (the wealthy auto CEOs had to live somewhere!). Some mansions are still standing, but most of the them are abandoned and in total disrepair. There are a handful that have been fixed up like the house on the left in the photo above, which gives me hope.

And no visit to Detroit would be complete without stopping by the old train station building:

Detroit train station

It’s been vacant since the 1960s and was too big for the city even when it was initially built 100 years ago. There are hundreds of thousands of photos of this building online so I almost didn’t post it, but it’s so eerily amazing and the architecture is breathtaking that I’m including it anyways. If only we had something like this in Atlanta!

Detroit doesn’t have the critical mass – or the money/economy – to see an immediate rejuvenation, so beautiful mansions and huge historic buildings are left to rot. But after spending five days in the city, it’s evident to me that the situation is not hopeless. There are pockets of life throughout the city. And one benefits to having a shrinking and slow economy, is that it’s affordable. So creative/entrepreneur/artist-types are drawn to the city and are moving in to set up places like Shinola and Public House. I hope I’ll get a chance to visit Detroit again and can’t wait to see how it’s changed for the better.

Goodness! I never thought I’d have so much to write about Detroit, but there you have it. Have I convinced you that it’s a city worth visiting – at the very least?!

Love,

Cath


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Exploring Lindisfarne Castle

Lar-lindasfarne

Dear Cath,

Are you ready? This is gonna be a long ‘ne — lots of piccies. Get your scrolly finger limber and settle in with a cuppa. Oh wait, you probably don’t want hot steamy tea in Atlanta at this point, do you? Iced soy latte then?

We are house museum people through and through, aren’t we? Remember one of our very first AsianCajun posts? House museums make me giddy. I think it’s all the historical voyeurism. What did they eat, draw, listen to, see? Lindisfarne Castle, run by the National Trust, totally scratched all the nosy itches. You would love it! But since you weren’t there, I’ll take you! Step-by-step through this post:

Lindasfarne-Castle-view

Firstly, it’s located on Lindisfarne (aka Holy Island) just off the north eastern coast of England — spitting distance to Scotland. It’s a lovely walk from the village of Lindisfarne to the castle rock (see below). It sits in the midst of a green, sheep-dotted field on the shore:

HolyIsland-castle

The castle was originally built by Henry VIII to keep out invading Scots (maybe to be used again come September?) but was never used for more than housing bored military men.

Lindasfarne-edwin-lutyens

Skip ahead a few centuries and Edward Hudson, editor of Country Life magazine, decides he wants to make the castle his summer home. Who doesn’t love a bit of cold stone and rain for a summer holiday? Regardless of his questionable climatic tastes, he was by all accounts a lovely, shy man who would entertain the likes of J.M. Barrie, Lytton Strachey, Anna Markova and cellist Madame Suggia here.

Country-life-magazine

To make his castle more hospitable, Hudson hired famed English architect Edwin Lutyens (pronounced “loo-chins”): an arts and crafts man through and through. So this castle is arts and crafts coziness meets Elizabethan stone. A good combo if you’re into dark rooms, roaring fires and comfy sofas.

Lutyens’ signature is his herringbone brick, which you see a lot about the castle passageways:

Edwin-Lutyens-herringbone

Want to see the kitchen? Here’s Matt inspecting some veg:

Matt-veggies

Lindasfarne-castle-kitchen

I love when house museums are set up to look like their owners just left. In this case, they made a mad dash for the sun as they were having their tea and reading the newspaper:

newspaper

And someone was just about to give the dishes a good scrub-a-dub:

oldsoap

They were expecting guests for dinner too:

Lindasfarne-castle-dining-room

I love this Yves Klein blue in the dining room:

Lindasfarne-blue

Someone spent their morning sketching:

Lindasfarne-watercolours

Writing letters:

letters

Powdering their collars (?):

stiff-collars

This is known as the ship room because of the wooden ship suspended from the ceiling. A good place to kick your feet up and read Country Life magazine:

Lindasfarne-ship-room

Another good reading spot: the windowseats looking out toward the ocean (don’t they look like the Mary’s windows at Applecross in Persuasion?):

windowseats

You could also go upstairs to the music room and listen to Madame Suggia play her cello or at least have nose around her sheet music:

Madame-suggia

Or maybe a room tidy? Seems you’ve left your Edwardian chemises hanging all over your Renaissance canopy, tsk, tsk:

edwardian-chemise

A few things didn’t exist when Mr. Hudson was around, like this anthropomorphized tapestry chair:

anthropormorpized-chair

Another delight? Famed gardener Gertrude Jekyll planted a small garden where the garrison used to keep their veg patch:

Lindasfarne-gertrude-jekyll

Lindasfarne-garden

She also landscaped the harder-to-reach bits around the castle mound by shooting pellets of seeds into the cliff-side: gives Garden and Gun magazine a whole new point of inspiration. Nicely done, Gertie:

Lindasfarne-flowers

Here’s one last look of the castle (and the sheepies!) from Gertrude’s garden:

Lindasfarne-castle-2

And one last view to the sea from the castle:

Lindasfarne

How’d you like the tour? Could you smell the salty air and the rain moving in across the grass?

I hope you are having a wonderful time in Detroit, Cath! I know that you are probably not going to house museums (Detroit must have some beautiful, crumbly old places) while you’re conferencing, but I do hope you are having some fun.

Love you like Lutyens loved brick!

Lar

 


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Living in a Scottish Castle

Roslin-castle-scotland

Roslin-castle-door

Last week Matt’s family came to visit us in Scotland — it was schwonderful and I miss them already. But do you know what was the icing on top of the trip cake? We stayed in a castle. A for real castle. With a turret and everythang. And dungeons, people. Dungeons. It would have scared the bejebus out of me staying there alone, but luckily I had my nephews to hold my hand when I wanted to go exploring:

Roslin-castle-stairs

Originally (we’re talking 1590s-1700s) the castle looked a bit more like this (that house-y bit to the left is what we stayed in):

Roslin-castle-drawing

We spent most evenings by a roaring fire in this room (the portraits looked way creepier at night with the fire flickering):

Roslin-castle-lounge

Cath and I have stayed in a number of grand houses via The Landmark Trust (in Italy, Cambell Town, and Aryshire). The difference with this ole pile is that it’s still owned by the St. Claire family (aka the Earl of Roslin and his brood) who’ve been around this neck of the woods since the Norman Invasion. So Roslin Castle still feels quite lived-in, what with the ancestral portraits, photos with the Queen (for reals) and such. And it’s quite cosy, you know, for a castle (she says like she’s stayed in lots).

Roslin-castle-couch

Roslin-castle-details2

So what does one do in a castle all day, you ask? Drink tea, eat copious amounts of clotted cream with warm scones and sunbathe in the courtyard-which-used-to-be-the-great-hall-in-1590 natch:

Roslin-castle-courtyard

Roslin-castle-details

We had lovely dinners in this red dinning room which is supposedly haunted by a lady in white (wayyy creepier at night when it’s just lit with candles — but good creepy).

Roslin-castle-dinning-room

Roslin-castle-dinning

Another thing to do in your castle? Take timed self-portraits — such good backdrops for blog photos! But know that if you are staying in a castle with nine other souls (or more — lady in white and co.?) someone will walk in when you are doing your blogger posing and then you end up looking like a startled prairie dog:

Roslin-castle-tapestry

This was the stair down to one of the bathrooms. When I was little and in princess-mode I never imagined Princess Buttercup et al descending the turret stairs to the toilet. What do princesses need loos for?

Roslin-castle-turret

Roslin Castle is situated right above a gorgeous glen that acts as a sort of three-quarter moat (Yes, a moat! And there was a bridge over the moat!). So lots of lovely walks to be had. And it’s just a short walk up the hill to Rossyln Chapel of The DaVinci Code fame. Rosslyn Chapel is beautiful and really magical even if you don’t care for the Dan Brown-iness of it all.

Roslin-glen-mill

Roslin-castle-ruins

Do you want to hear some modern day magicalness surrounding Rossyln Chapel? Weeeeell, we went up to the Chapel for mass on Sunday. When I walked in I noticed this lovely young Asian woman in the back pew — one notices such things in more rural parts of Scotland where the general population is decidedly not Asian nor young. Halfway through mass I noticed she’s waving at me and mouthing the words “Lar.” Holy smokes! I know that lovely young Asian woman!

Three and a half years ago Cath and I met the author Cheryl Tan at the Decatur Book Festival and got to interview her for this here blog (read the interview here). So a writer from New York met a blogger from Atlanta once in Decatur, and then they meet again in Roslin, Scotland nearly four years later?! What are the chances?

Lesson to be learned here? All Asians do know each other. Red coats are in. Rosslyn Chapel is magical.

Cheryl-tan-author

(Cheryl, I’m still so excited about this! And I’m so glad I’ll get to see you in a few weeks post-retreat!)

So, hows about it guys? Have I finally convinced you that Scotland needs to be number 1 on your places you must visit now? If you come, we’ll go castle hunting together.

—–

Dearest Cath,

Even though this year has been utter poop in a lot of ways, it has also been the exact opposite of that. I got to see you like FOUR times in six months and we stayed in a villa in Italy. And now me in a castle. Next stop? Move over Karl, the AsianCajuns are staying in Versailles.

The only logical next step, non?

It’s only been a week, but I feel like I haven’t talked to you in 20. We have to stop being busy and just skype each other all day. What are you doing? Whatchu you got on this week? When are you coming?

LOVE YOU!!!!

Lar

 


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