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Charmed by the Cotswolds

Charmed by the Cotswolds

Thursday, November 19, 2015
The Cotswolds & Bath, England

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Our guests have been looking forward to a day in the Cotswolds – it’s been twenty years since they were last here! Well, this is a part of the world that probably has not changed much in twenty years – and the Cotswolds like it that way!
Even in the drizzle the villages are a delight11191501 bourton on the water and under the water…we walk along the river trailing through Bourton-on-the-Water, well-prepared with our umbrellas. 11191501 bourton on the water and we are preparedAfter greeting the ducks, 11191501 quack greetingwe stop for a warming lunch in The Rose Tree, then bundle up and explore further.11191501 pretty even in the rain Kirk demonstrates the boot cleaning station – this is an area for serious walkers and they’re well provided for! 11191501 bourton on the water boot washThe official weather forecast? 11191501 forecast stone is wetThe stone is wet – it’s raining (notice that’s the first option here in damp England), no surprise! We’re not the only ones exploring the village, 11191502 rain stops no oneother umbrella-toters are taking in the late fall beauty as well.11191502 lunch and strollThe drizzle continues as we drive on to quaint little Bibury – doesn’t this look like a fairy tale illustration? 11191502 sweet village of biburyA plus of the dreary weather is that there are fewer sightsee-ers here today. In September we had trouble finding a parking place, and had to weave between busloads of people checking out the tiny village. Now we can actually see the entire Arlington Row, 11191502 weavers cottagespicturesque cottages built in the 1300s as a monastic wool store, and later lived in by weavers in the 17th century. Current owners keep them beautifully maintained both in front and behind. 11191503 beauty all aroundThe village, just steps away, is quietly lived-in, with a primary school and a beautiful old church.11191503 lining topiaries Hardy roses hang on11191503 hardy rose amidst colorful traces of fall11191503 fall remains and approaching winter.11191503 seasons all winter berries on roofThrough the churchyard, we’re surprised to see the gate leading to Bibury Court, a former hotel, now open. 11191503 surprised to find gate open as it used to beSo we accept the invitation and wander through the beautiful gardens,11191503 would love to see in summerpausing by the stream to watch swans on the lookout for a snack. 11191504 bibury swans are lookingThey found it!11191504 bibury swans foundSpeaking of snacks, it’s tea time! So on we go to beautiful Barnsley House, where we’ve reserved our favorite spot, right by the cozy fire. 11191504 cozy fireside spot waitingIt’s our last day in England – and we’re finishing it in quintessential English style.11191504 cream tea What a perfect finale this scrumptious afternoon tea is!11191504 deliciousBarnsley House is an ideal country house hotel, complete with an outstanding restaurant, gorgeous gardens, and a spa – but it’s family friendly as well – wellies of all sizes at the ready! 11191504 family friendly plus spaBack in Bath, we’re fitting in a final evening of music as well – 11191504 last concert schiff last sonatas the gala 25th Mozartfest Anniversary concert in the Assembly Rooms11191504 lovely assembly rooms featuring pianist Sir András Schiff. We’re spellbound by his artistry as he plays the final sonatas of 4 composers: Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. A perfect finale to our Music and Markets week.
And now it’s goodbye to our Alfred Street apartment, 11201504 goodbye to alfred streetand on to more adventures.

 

A Bountiful Bath Day

A Bountiful Bath Day

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Bath, England

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

There’s a tempting shop around the corner that we’ve passed several times, and since we have a bit of time this morning, we stop by for coffee and a look around.11181501 am coffee in intriguing shop around corner I believe that there are individual boutiques combined in the space, everything from an Italian coffee shop and deli to home decor,11181501 beautifully displayed furniture11181501 am many enticing things and unique clothing…yes, lots of temptations indeed!
Another fascinating shopping area in Bath is Margaret’s Buildings, a pedestrian lane between The Crescent and The Circus – 11181501 boutiques on Margarets Buildingsmore intriguing shops peddling tea and produce,11181501 fruits veggies and tea antiques, 11181501 colorful antique shopsclothing and locally crafted leather goods. An easy place to fill a suitcase or two!
On the tour itinerary today is lunch at The Circus11181501 lunch at Circushighly recommended, as you can see!
With an intriguing menu (this unlikely combo of roasted cauliflower, grapes and almonds was fantastic!) 11181501 unlikely but delish comboand a lovely ambiance, it effortlessly lives up to its reputation. We’re seated in the elegant lower level, where the kitchen of this Georgian terraced home was generations ago – the ancient stove has been left in place. 11181502 dining downstairs former kitchen of georgian townhouseOur guide on Sunday said that his favorite crescent is Lansdown, so we drive further uphill (we’re already in the upper town) to check it out – 11181502 lansdown crescent recommendedanother gracious neighborhood of Bath.
Continuing to enjoy this non-rainy day, we pause to take in the sunset 11181502 look from our windowsbefore tonight’s Mozartfest concert, once again in the beautiful Guild Hall. 111815023 back in beautiful guild hallWhen we arrive we find that the scheduled soprano is indisposed, and a tenor will be performing tonight. He is just wonderful – with a program of French love songs,111815023 tenor and we all agree that we prefer this program to the original!
And now for a post-concert snack – at Jamie’s Italian. Yes, that English genius continues to expand his empire, and we feast on some excellent Italian cuisine – a board of salumi, cheese and garnishes, 111815023 then delish light supper at Jamie's Italiana luscious squash risotto, 111815023 squash risotto music paper and mushroomsand a hearty mushroom dish baked in a shallow earthenware dish lined with  “music paper”- thin sheets of Sardinian bread. Another place we can highly recommend!

 

Dining in Style in Bath

Dining in Style in Bath

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Bath, England

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

What a treat to enjoy clear blue skies today! 11171501 beautiful dayAfter a marvelous noontime concert at the Guild Hall – the Galliard Ensemble playing the first Mozart we’ve heard at the Mozartfest this year –11171501 wind quintet we stop for a pint and a pie at The Raven, an historic pub known for its pies – 11171502 late lunch at ravenand yes, they were delicious!
We have a treat in store tonight – dinner at the elegant home of David and Brenda. 11171503 beetons georgian townhomeDavid, a chef extraordinaire, served a dinner that was as delicious to the eyes as to the palate, beginning with hors d’oeuvres topped with gold leaf and garnished with a lily.11171503 delicious to eye and mouthInto the dining room,11171503 guest is wife of drwhere beautifully plated courses continued to appear before us, until the grand finale-11171503 pavlova with sparklesa sparkly-silver-topped pavlova – wow!
A funny coincidence – we’d stopped by a local doctor in the morning, and who should turn up for dessert, after lecturing in a nearby town about medicinal uses of the thermal baths, but that very doctor!11171504 dr later wrote book He’s also written a book about the waters of Bath – ” Diseased, Douched and Doctored”. After his long day, he’s certainly ready for a glass of wine with his pavlova!

Thatched Roofs and Ancient Stones

Thatched Roofs and Ancient Stones

Monday, November 16, 2015
Avebury and Lacock, England

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

The southwest of England is full of intriguing spots – Stonehenge, that we passed on the road a few days ago, more prehistoric stones we’ll see later today, and on the way to Avebury a white horse or two carved into the hillside! These aren’t as old as the stones, and this one, the Cherwel White Horse, was cut into the chalky hill in 1780 at the direction of a certain “mad doctor”.11161501 cherwel white horseIt certainly catches our eye from the road!
The Red Lion in Avebury, proudly “the only pub IN a stone circle” now boasts a new thatched roof –11161501 new thatch sept photo too remember it was under renovation when we stopped by in September? 09271502-thatched-in-process-aveburyWe wander among the rocks, part of the largest stone circle in the world, and sheep, 11161501 trade photo opsclimbing up the berm which winds for miles above a vast ditch (called a henge). 11161501 rocks and sheepWe think Avebury is so much more interesting than better-known Stonehenge – we love being able to walk and dream among the stones, here for more than 4000 years. No need to stay at a distance as at Stonehenge.
The village of Avebury is well worth a visit too – just one lane, home to a handsome church, 11161501 village charming tooSt. James (with an ancient Saxon window or two still intact), and several pretty homes. 11161502 homes prettyWellies at the ready here,11161502 doorway boots and this one’s reserved for the teacher – nice! 11161502 cottage for teachersNext stop, the village of Lacock, which is a National Heritage Site in its entirety. Our table is waiting at The George, an historic pub dating from the 15th century. 11161502 lacock lunchUnlike many popular tourist sites, or a place renowned for its history rather than its food, The George serves terrific British food, such as this quintessential dish, complete with mushy peas.11161502 mushy peasTheir authentic Sticky Toffee Pudding is deeper and darker than any I’ve tried – almost a musky taste. The chef shares her secret – a lavish amount of dark treacle syrup!11161502 secret is treacle I’ll have to try that at home!
It’s recess time  – Lacock’s primary school has around 75 pupils. 11161503 recessThe village, with its well-preserved church, 11161503 sturdy church has lastedhomes, 11161503 sturdy homes have lastedand businesses, is perfect for a tv production or movie set centuries ago. Scenes from Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, some Harry Potter movies, and most recently, Downton Abbey have been filmed here – can’t you imagine this lane, minus cars, with actors in period dress stopping by a shop? 11161503 so imagine with no cars ready for filmingReturning to Bath, we’ve got time for an evening stroll 11161503 walk around eveningbefore a pre-concert aperitif in our apartment. 11161504 apero before concertThe Abbey shimmers at night as we pass on our way to the Guild Hall. 11161504 bath abbey on the wayBuilt in the late 1700s, this gem of Bath architecture was originally built as the town hall, and still houses the Council Chambers and registry offices. Have you ever seen such detailed beauty UNDERNEATH stairs? 11161504 georgian elegance even under the stairsMozartfest concerts are held in the splendid Banquet Hall, 18th century chandeliers glittering above, 11161504 georgian elegance in the guildhallornate Georgian decorative elements and original royal portraits complete the elegant chamber, 11161504 viola and pianoa perfect venue for the Mozartfest. We close another wonderful day with Schubert, Brahms, Ravel and Franck from a talented piano-viola duo.

A Mozartfest Weekend in Bath

A Mozartfest Weekend in Bath

Saturday & Sunday, November 14-15, 2015
Bath and Wells, England

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Our guests, a delightful couple, Stan & Elaine, arrive from London, settle into their lovely room at the Queensberry, then meet us in the lobby for an introductory stroll around Bath – 09251503-where-Austens-heroines-walked1tomorrow morning we’ll have a full-blown tour of this fascinating city.
After an early dinner, we’re back at Bath Abbey for the first concert of our Music and Markets Mozartfest week – The Sixteen. 11141501 back in the Abbey for The 16This renowned orchestral and vocal ensemble, specializing in early music, is the traditional opening Saturday performance at the Abbey. With delicate period instruments accompanying, the pure tones of Monteverdi, a late 16th century Italian composer, soar to those exquisite arches high above us. 11131502 fan vaultingSunday morning we’re back again, ready to discover Bath with a Mayor’s Guide. With a few minutes before the tour begins, we usher Stan and Elaine into the Pump Room for a view of the Roman Baths below,BathRomanBathsand the glasses, awaiting the brave souls who will “take the waters”.  11151501 but first a peek in the pump roomBeau Nash, the arbiter of taste in Bath’s heydey, watches over the elegant salon.11151501 good taste arbiter overlookingThe popular Mayor of Bath’s Guides Tours are an institution in Bath, and each of the guides we’ve listened to through the years have an obvious love for their city along with an in-depth knowledge. 11151502 bath tourAs Andrew, our guide this morning, talks about the baths and the Romans the Abbey bells peal out a welcome to Sunday service.
I’m happy to see some lingering tinges of fall as we walk through the town – autumn remains my favorite season! 11151502 touches of fallFrom the lower town, by the Abbey and the river, we ascend to the upper town, where we’re staying. One of Bath’s most famous landmarks, The Crescent, 11151503 crescentwas designed by architect John Wood for the city townhouse dwellers to feel that the countryside was at their door, and the wide expanse of green below the crescent still gives that sensation today. 11151503 designed to embrace countrysideFrom Bath we depart for “England’s smallest city”,  delightful little Wells. 11151503 pretty little wellsThe Crown, right in the market square beside the cathedral, is just the place for a traditional Sunday Roast, 11151503 pub lunch at the Crownand we eat our fill11151503 pub lunch before walking to Evensong –  we’re JUST in time! And today, rather than the usual boys choir, sweet young voices of girls sing the psalms and hymns as we sit with them in the beautifully carved choir,11151504 evensong with unusual girls chorus intricate tapestries and needlework adorning the seats. 11151504 exquisite carvings embroideriesBuilt in Early English Gothic style between the 11 and 1400s, the Cathedral is filled with awe-inspiring craftsmanship, such as the massive and unique scissor arches stabilizing the center after an earthquake left it weakened. Although this video is too dark – by the time Evensong is over at 4 the short winter day is dimming – I think you’ll enjoy the organ resounding in this splendid space. 11151504 fantastic scissor archesThe Chapter House, up a well-worn stairway,11151504 up worn steps to charter house is another don’t-miss part of this ancient beauty. Built in 1306, this meeting place for church affairs would have been an inspiring place to conduct business, with it’s delicate tracery and vaults rippling across the ceiling, supported by a central pillar that’s been likened to a giant palm tree, spreading it’s foliage above. 11151504 vaulting fanReturning to Bath in time to prepare for the evening’s events, we walk to the Assembly Rooms, 11151505 assembly rooms pale turquoise stage set upwhere the Belcea Quartet is expanded with Adrian Brendel’s masterful cello added for Schubert’s String Quintet in C – 11151505 quintetbreathtakingly beautiful music to complete our Sunday.

 

 

Surprises in England

Surprises in England

Thursday & Friday, November 12-13, 2015
Southwest England

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

So we’ve landed at Heathrow, picked up a car, and are driving along, on our way to tonight’s destination, the giggly-named Limpley Stoke, when we both snap our heads to the right – is that…?!? Well, yes, it is! 11121501 airport to stonehengeWho knew we’d drive right by Stonehenge on our way!
Before checking into our apartment in Bath for the Mozartfest tour week, we’re spending tonight at a Best Western in this village south of Bath…and like so many of the European Best Westerns we’ve stayed in, this one is a delightful example of a local establishment, unique to the country – a sprawling manor house in inviting gardens. 11121501 best western limpleyWhen we check in, we’re upgraded to a terrace suite (thanks to being members of the BW loyalty club – we recommend joining ALL the loyalty associations, you never know what you’ll get!) and ooh and aah at the comfortable English country style of the room and the gorgeous view from the terrace. 11121501 best western upgradeAs often happens when arriving from a post-flight drive, we’re too late for lunch, but the amiable and helpful young man who checked us in suggests a meal in the hotel bar – perfect! 11121501 lunchWe can certainly recommend the charming Best Western Limpley Stoke!
After a quick nap we begin our pre-tour research, re-acquainting ourselves with the village of Wells, where we’ll take our guests on Sunday. After a hearty dinner in an historic pub, we stroll  the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace,11121501 wells then through 15th century Penniless Porch,11121502 cathedral passthrough named for the beggars who plied their trade there, and to the soaring cathedral.
On the way to check in to our Bath apartment on Friday we spend an hour or so in Bradford-on-Avon, crossing the bridge over the Avon, 11131501 bradford lockuppeering into the dome-topped “lockup” where troublemakers were tossed for the night centuries ago.
Check out this inn from 1500 – a lively historic pub-with-rooms. 11131501 historic innOn the outskirts of the historic center is a spectacular monastic tithe barn from the early 14th century, 11131501 huge tithe barnwith entries and ceilings high enough for laden wagons to roll right in and deposit a tenth of their production as a tithe (tenth) or tax to the local Abbey.
We’ve noticed several of these dovecotes built into houses –11131502 dovecote I wonder how old this one is?
Our Alfred Street apartment in Bath looks out over the Assembly Rooms  -a perfect location, since our Music and Markets guests will be staying in the lovely Queensberry Hotel, on the other side of these historic rooms where we’ll be for several Mozartfest concerts. We drop our bags, and head out for errands – picking up our concert tickets before spending a minute in the glorious Abbey.11131502 fan vaultingFinding our way to Waitrose for breakfast supplies, we walk  through the Corridor, a lovely old shopping gallery,11131502 passage called corridor check out a Bath-seal approved chemist (a drugstore to us Americans) 11131502 town seal above pharmacy then pause to gaze at the rushing weir by Pulteney Bridge, Bath’s answer to Florence’s shop-lined Ponte Vecchio. 11131502 weirWe’re eager to share this beautiful town with our guests, who will arrive tomorrow!