Tag Archives: England

Trip Advisor: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week looking online at London hotel web sites.

I’ve read Rick Steves’ recommendations; he has a certain point of view that I’m not sure I always share. I’ve read some other travel guides, but I often come back to Trip Advisor. My experience has been that if a hotel has mostly Excellent and Very Good ratings and has enough such ratings to actually have some credibility, I can trust Trip Advisor. Open online forums such as Trip Advisor allow for fake positive reviews posted by the relatives of the innkeeper, but also allow for negative reviews created by competitors to drive business away. That’s why I look for an accommodation with lots of reviews and I read them pretty carefully.

I rated the bed and breakfast we stayed at on our 2011 trip to England, and gave it glowing reviews on Trip Advisor. We were there for eleven days and knew the place inside and out. One morning there was a disgruntled guest who complained about her breakfast experience the entire time she was in the dining room — and she wrote a negative review on Trip Advisor about it. Hers is the only remotely negative review about the place, and frankly, people should take it with a grain of salt.

What’s your experience with Trip Advisor? Do you write reviews? More importantly, do you have a place in London to recommend to our readers? Please put links in the comments — we’d love to check out your favorite London accommodations!

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Linky Love: Monday’s Child Is Fair of Face

This week I’ve decided to hook you up with blogs that I follow and love EVERY day. Using the ancient British nursery rhyme, I’ll take you on a tour of my favorite blogs. Everything about Mike’s photos are “fair of face.”

Monday’s Child is Wilden Marsh: Another Year of Living With Nature at Hoo Wood and Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve. Mike’s photography is crazy good — and I’m hooked on his stories about life at the reserve.

In addition to being funny, witty, occasionally sarcastic, and all around entertaining in a low-key kind of way, Mike teaches us about the beauty of flora and fauna in his role as Warden of this Nature Reserve in Worcestershire, England.

After having followed his blog, I am enchanted by his stories (especially about the foxes) and want to visit the next time I am in England!

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Writing Workshop: My Drink(s) of Choice

Mama Kat asked me today, “How did your love affair with Coffee begin?” That’s a really good question, but ironically, a funny thing happened on the way to being sixty. I forget when I drank my first coffee, but I still remember that I pretty much can’t live without it now.

My husband is partly to blame for my addiction to coffee. We’ve become connoisseurs of the different Starbucks blends — venti, dark, and black is my order. He prefers decaf and I live for the kick of caffeine. We shop carefully for whole beans, always on the lookout for a sale. When we travel, he scouts out the Starbucks locations on his smart phone or maps them out on his computer before we leave. We plan our driving breaks around the visits to Starbucks, knowing they will have good coffee, won’t sneer because we bring in our own reusable mugs, and we can depend on clean bathrooms.

At the Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse bed and breakfast in England where we stayed during the summer of 2011, we were always served coffee in a sprightly little press pot, so I decided to buy one for Christmas. I searched and searched for a coffee press large enough to satisfy our coffee habit. I wanted to make two fresh mugs for each of us, with one being decaf and the other caf. I hoped the freshly pressed coffee would satisfy our coffee hunger and that we wouldn’t just continue to drink the dregs of the big coffeemaker pot out of habit. That hasn’t worked out so well, as we are still using our big Gevalia coffeemaker and are each still sacrificing for the other — to caf or not to caf is an important question in our thirty-year marriage.

The second part of Mama Kat’s prompt is easier to remember. She continued the question by providing an alternative — “Or Diet Coke or Tea or whatever your beverage of choice might be.” My true beverage of choice is the nectar of the gods, a good wine. I blame it all on moving to California in 1974 and discovering wineries, and my love for wine has progressed from the Boone’s Farm Apple Wine, Mateus, and Lancers of our college days to the fine wines from around the world to which we have access (and can better afford) today.

One of our most recent trips to a winery was in southeast England, where some amazing wine is made. Our host at Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse is also the CEO of Chapel Downs Winery, and I blogged about our visit here.

The bookends of my day are a strong jolt of joe in the morning and slow sips of liquid terroir in the evening. What’s not to love?

I’m linked up to Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop today. Please stop by and spread some comment love around to my friends.

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Book Club: A Table in the Tarn

France is probably going to be on my mind a lot during the next year; we’re planning another trip in 2013. That means it will probably be in my blog as well, since I mostly write about what I am thinking about. Not too much space between my thoughts and my fingers, actually. To paraphrase my favorite movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, “It’s my process.”

Given that we’re going to France and I love food, I put my name on the list at the library for what appeared to be a very cool book — A Table in the Tarn: Living, Eating, and Cooking in Rural France. I mean, really? How could this be bad? I read all of Peter Mayle’s books about his experiences living in southern France and reviewed a couple of them here and here. Oliver Murrin’s book looked like it was worth waiting for at the library.

I was right. It was a wonderful book, packed with personal stories of giving up the city life and starting up a bed and breakfast in southern France. It was also packed with recipes; about two-thirds of the book is mouth-watering ideas for fabulous eats. I was drawn to the Roquefort Tart pictured above — the recipe is here at what appears to be a blog on hiatus.

Imagine my surprise when I actually went to find the web site for Manoir de Raynaudes to see if we could stay there. It’s gone. Well, not actually gone, but sold to the highest bidder!

It appears that Oliver Murrin and his partner Peter Steggall went back to their British roots, bought a very old manor in southwestern England’s Somerset Levels, and operate it as a bed and breakfast. I’m pretty sure we’ll stay at Langford Fivehead when we do our southwestern England trip, which will of course include my pilgrimage to Daphne Du Maurier’s Cornwall.

But that’s another set of books and another year of traveling. 🙂

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I’m Baaaaaa – ck

As I prepared for my recent trip to England for a wedding, I became unsure how much to disclose on the internet. Most of the people who consistently read my blog already knew that I was going, but I had some (perhaps) irrational fear of stranger danger while I was gone. I suppose it’s possible that someone could figure out where I live and break in, not that there’s much beyond electronics to steal. Anyway, I’m home again, my house was fine, and I’m full of new stories to tell. I appreciate that you hung in there with me while I was on hiatus from blogging.

When I came back through U.S. customs, I struggled with one of the questions on the customs declaration card — something about having been up close and personal with any livestock or a farm. Although I didn’t ride any horses and didn’t actually touch any sheep, they were everywhere. Lambies here, lambies there, everywhere a lambie. Even the wedding venue had sheep up close to the fence that separated Kingscote Barn from the actual working farm. From what I understand, the intent is to keep people from bringing in animal-borne disease, so I said I hadn’t been near any farm animals. It’s just another one of those nuances of the English language that people who write questionnaires don’t seem to understand. You have to be exact about what you are asking and why you are asking it, or you won’t get the response that you need. But my rant about precise language can be saved for another day. You’re here to find out about the lambs.

That’s another thing. Silence of the lambs. I didn’t notice any silence. The lambs baaa — ed all day and much of the night. I’ve never lived near where there are actual sheep and cows in close proximity and within hearing distance. For a time while growing up, we did have goats that bleated and a rooster that crowed, but they didn’t seem so omnipresent as these sheep were. Perhaps I’ve been away from the countryside too long and just don’t remember the sounds of rural Ohio.

The setting for the wedding in a restored 17th Century Cotswold barn was extraordinarily beautiful, despite the sounds of the sheep, and both the bride and groom looked stunning.

Even though this was one big pain in my patootie to go to this wedding in the Cotswolds while school was in session (think volcano erupting and union contracts limiting the amount of days I can be gone from school), it was worth every minute and every dollar. If you ever get a chance to attend a country wedding in England, JUST GO. You won’t regret it.