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A Sunshine Day in Taunton

A Sunshine Day in Taunton

Weekend of  January 13-15, 2017
Taunton, 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.

After a bountiful breakfast by the fireplace in The Castle’s dining room, we have an hour to have a look around Taunton before the morning lecture and concert – and the sun’s out today!Within the castle complex is the Somerset (the county that Taunton is in) Museum, and this cute “tiny house” is an Almshouse – subsidized housing of old – of which we’ll see more in the town. Following a path along a stream, over a bridge, and into the center, we ramble along, enjoying the views of Victorian bridges beside Tudor buildings – eons of history in this town!
Then back to The Castle for another interesting lecture followed by Dvorak, Beethoven and Schubert….Richard Wigmore describes the gorgeous cello duo in the Schubert quintet as “peaches and cream”, exclaiming “I want to hug it, wrap it up and take it home with me!” After that refreshment for the soul, the tea table is waiting…scones, cream and more for days in a row – heaven! Finding ourselves a cozy corner, we sit and enjoy…
As I’m dressing for the evening events, I glance out the window  – what a sunset!More Dvorak, and a Brahms Sextet delight us… with yet more “wow” moments for the cellos – strains of a Bach cello suite in the slow movement – exquisite! Another fabulous dinner, and we climb the stairs for a deep sleep in our cushy bedroom.
Today will end with buses, trains, flights….but we won’t think about that this morning, just enjoy the decadent breakfast, walk around town some more, and relish a final lecture and concert – Dvorak, Mozart, and Brahms. Before our taxi comes to take us to the bus pickup (from where we’ll shuttle to Bristol Airport, fly to Brussels, then Marseilles, then shuttle to Aix and walk to our apartment!), we walk a bit more – it’s a bit blustery with showers coming and going, but we’re going to be sitting for hours so are eager to walk! We find a few more interesting churches, an old mill that’s now a restaurant, and on the edge of town a lovely park – well worth the stroll! Taunton has been a pleasure from start to finish….a town we’d never even heard of, which boasts a castle to stay in, heavenly music, superb cuisine…when can we return??
Coming up – France awaits us!

 

Music in the Castle

Music in the Castle

Weekend of  January 13-15, 2017
Taunton, 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.

Don’t you love traveling by train? And this Great Western service from London Paddington to Taunton is exceptionally good, with electrical outlets by our comfortable seats, and free wifi. It’s a pleasure to gaze at the beautiful English countryside as we zip southwest.The sun is shining when we pull into Taunton and walk the short distance from the train station, passing through the archway to Castle Green, where The Castle Hotel, our abode for the weekend, now occupies the historic edifice, the origins of which first stood on this site in the 900s. Elegantly renovated inside, it’s now an excellent blend of ancient history and modern comfort.
Afternoon tea is our introduction to the cuisine of The Castle – and if the pastries, sandwiches, scones and cream are any indication, we should be in for a delicious weekend!
I take advantage of a couple of free hours before the evening events to see what’s in the neighborhood – delightful ancient buildings (can you see the “1578” under the eaves?)  tucked convivially in with new construction, scents of sausages wafting through the air, several gorgeous old churches, and an impressive town hall in the center of it all.Back under the arches to The Castle, and we dress for the evening…first a pre-concert lecture by BBC music critic Richard Wigmore, who brings delightful life to the pieces by Dvorak and Mozart. The Wihan Quartet, whom we so enjoyed at Orpheus and Bacchus on our Bordeaux/Dordogne Tour in the fall, once again thrill us with their music…I’m in heaven! We’ve long heard of the outstanding cultural tours offered by Martin Randall, and now finally experience one for ourselves!
We finish the day with a superb dinner, getting to know our fellow guests as we savor one delicious course after another. “Oh, you’re the Americans!” we hear time and again – we’re the only non-Brits here for this delectable weekend and I hope we’ll be back for more!

 

 

London in the Rain

London in the Rain

Thursday, January 12, 2017
London, 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.

Are we surprised to find never-ending showers in London? Not really! And in spite of the rain I’m eager to walk and see as much as we can in the few hours we have here before training southwest tomorrow. So bundled in our coats and protected by our umbrellas, we leave our elegant warm room (are we crazy?!) at the Royal Park and walk the couple of blocks to Hyde park, then down to Oxford Street, in search of a cozy pub for lunch. The Marlborough Head squeezes us into a window side table, and we both order one of their “proper pies”  – Chicken and Mushroom. A perfect first taste of England!
Just across the street is grand old Selfridges, and I can hear the overture to the PBS series and just imagine Harry Selfridge proudly striding into his spectacular emporium – that was a great series!
I convince Kirk to go a little further in the rain to Liberty – a tudor wonder outside and in. Those Liberty prints so remind me of reading Seventeen in my pink bedroom under the eaves in Quito decades ago, wishing for that flowered a-line dress on Twiggy.
A little nap back at the hotel, and we’re off to another pub for dinner – The Victoria, which proves to be quite a neighborhood favorite – and we quickly grab a table by the fire that’s just been vacated.What a treat to find that the rain has ENDED when we exit! We take the long way back to the hotel, enjoying being umbrella free 😉
Café Nero has become a favorite stopping place on our recent UK trips, and, passing one elegant white townhome after another,  we find a nearby one for breakfast…yes, I know scones, cream and jam are for tea, but I can’t resist!
That blue sky didn’t last for long..we’re walking back to the hotel in the snow! And as we pack to walk to Paddington for our train, we watch the flakes flurry in the mews. Regards to Paddington Bear, and we’re on our way to Taunton for a weekend of music with the Wihan Quartet.

 

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.

 

Cruising the Cotswolds

Cruising the Cotswolds

Thursday, September 24, 2015
The Cotswolds, England

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy

It’s another glorious day in the English countryside…sun filters into the sitting room,09241501 am filtering sun beckoning us to the gardens beyond…and just in case, a plethora of wellies right by the front door can keep our feet dry in the dewy grass.09241501 am prepared boots by doorThrough a stone arch, the path winds down beside the manicured lawns to a lake, but we’re headed first out the back door to explore Upper Slaughter..09241501 am walkSt. Peter’s church tops the town, with a unique mix of architectural styles – it’s obviously been modified through the centuries.09241501 church of st peterInside it’s simple and peaceful, with an impressive beamed and vaulted ceiling.09241501 church simple beautyI’d love to watch a crew of ringers peal the bells above! How many people does it take, I wonder…does each rope have a ringer, or is it a one-person job?09241501 church web of bell pullsDown the hill we walk, passing a pretty front yard09241503 mailbox pack up to stowe, and a  re-purposed red phone booth still jaunty beside a stone cottage. It now houses a defibrillator!09241501 phonebox now defibrillatorA sign by the road warns “unsuitable for vehicles”  – but this ford looks pretty harmless to us. We cross the narrow walking bridge beside it.09241501 sign not suitable for vehicles the fordA public walkway meanders between Upper and Lower Slaughter, taking us through a field with a good view back towards Lords of the Manor.09241501 to lower slaughter by lordsThrough woods, grassy meadows and quirky gates we go, 09241501 woods and fields and gatesand arrive at Lower Slaughter in about 15 minutes.09241502 down to the millThe old mill is the village’s claim to fame,and now houses a couple of crafty shops, 09241502 etsy items in the crafty shopsand a courtyard of golden stone garden objects.09241502 golden stone for the gardenA bit bigger than Upper Slaughter, the village is filled with pretty homes and gardens,09241502 nice gardens this one with reds of every shade, 09241502 reds of every shadegently arched bridges,09241503 bridgesand tall-steepled St. Mary’s.09241502 pretty church in a bit bigger townWe’re heading further north today, through rolling fields crisscrossed with drystone walls,09241503 undulating fields to the bustling village of Chipping Campden,09241504 chipping campden where we’re spending the night in a cute B & B over a tearoom overlooking the beautiful market hall. 09241504 market hallBuilt in the early 1600s, the market’s floor sure shows its age!09241504 old floor 1627Pauline, the founder of Slow Europe, who now lives in the Cotswolds, recommends the Badger Tea Rooms for their scones baked in an Aga 09241504 from the aga– I love their crisp outside and tender inside, and the cream, of course, is delectable! 09241504 chipping campden sconesTwo days, two cream teas…not my usual diet, that’s for sure!
The over one hundred mile Cotswold Way, a walking path, begins here and goes all the way to Bath.09241504 way starts here goes southMuch larger than the hamlets we’ve been in earlier today, Chipping Campden boasts several good tea rooms and pubs, charming thatched cottages,09241505-pass-cottage-on-way-to-church many beautiful homes,09241505 elegant townhomes not a village and a majestic “Wool Church” 09241505-q-churchso called since it was reconstructed in grand style by the wealthy wool merchants of medieval times. We still see lots of sheep on the hillsides, but I don’t think they make their masters so much money as they did way back then! The graveyard beside the church slopes down to a ruined manor, all that’s left is a many-towered entry.09241505 q graveyardWe stop by the Lygon Arms to make dinner reservations,returning later for a hearty meal and even heartier conversations by the locals.09241506 delicious dinner and fun conversation eavesdropping Last night, too, we enjoyed eavesdropping on the teasing banter by the bar – it’s obvious that these pubs are a nightly stop for many.
The town seems to glow as we walk back to our room…09241507 goodnightgood night, Chipping Campden!

The Cream of the Cotswolds

The Cream of the Cotswolds

Wednesday September 23, 2015
The Cotswolds, England

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
How about celebrating Mozart in the matchless city of Bath, England in November?

It’s one of those special birthdays…ending in a 5…and where in the world have I chosen to celebrate? In the peacefully gorgeous Cotswolds in England! And in one of the most beautiful places in which we’ve ever stayed, Lords of the Manor in the tiny hamlet of Upper Slaughter.09231501 Arrival Lords of the Manor From the first glimpse of the golden stone mansion tucked into luxuriant gardens, I was absolutely delighted.
And then the gracious hostess walked us through the cushioney and inviting sitting areas, 09231501 inviting seating areasand down winding hallways to our room as the delight continued. 09231501 our room thanx for bday upgradeIf there were anything available to eat this late in the afternoon, we’d just stay right here! But getting out of Heathrow took too much time, as usual (longest passport control lanes we’ve EVER been in!) and with the nearly two hour drive on top of that, it’s waaaay past our lunchtime! The closest place to get a bite to eat at this time is Bourton-on-the-Water, not far from the Manor, so off we go. 09231501 starving took hours to get out of airport to bourtonThis area and our beloved Aix are both filled with buildings of a honey golden stone, its color shade-shifting as the light changes through the day. 09231501 town golden stone like beloved Aix and gardensWhat could be more satisfying on a crisp fall afternoon than a cream tea? 09231501 treat cream teaOh how I love that dense clotted cream – there’s just nothing like it! Slathered on a raisin-studded buttery scone, topped with a smear of strawberry jam….just what I wanted on my birthday 😉
A stroll around Bourton-on-the-Water confirms the fact that we’re here at the most beautiful time of year, with fall hues09231502 blooms prime time and fall color joining the lush flower-filled window-boxes09231502 blooms prime time and gardens – heavenly! 09231502 blooms prime time everywhere we lookHave you ever seen so many colors of hydrangea on one bush?!09231502 blooms prime time oneWinter’s coming…and this home is well-prepared with a hefty stack of firewood by the front door. 09231502 but cold weathers on the wayBack to Lords of the Manor for a cozy nap to help us get over jetlag,09231502 lords of the manor nap enjoying the fragrant lavender as we pass.09231502 stop and smell the lavenderThen we’re off again09231502 out to lower swell pub dinner for a pub dinner in nearby Lower Swell (loving these names!), before returning for a good night’s sleep09231503 so cozy and inviting – we’ve got lots of fun to pack in the next few days!