Tag Archives: travel

Galavanting for Gateaux


I was once asked why I exercised & I flippantly replied ‘so I can eat all the cake I want with out worrying too much’! I also like to travel so when it’s possible to combine the two things then its definitely a win for me.

USA Cupcake – Last before Lockdown

Its hard to think back to March 2020 but there I was sat in a Fort Lauderdale hotel eating this cup cake & trying to take in the fact that the trip to join daughter for shore leave at Disney World was now in total abort mode.

Trying to maintain a sense of calm eating cake was certainly one way of coping with cancelled flights & being marooned in the USA.

It was a case of ‘every woman for herself’ as events unfolded at an alarming pace it was clear meeting up was not an option. I found myself confined to the vicinity of the hotel trying to bag a seat on any flight home.

I have to confess to succumbing to thoughts of several potential ‘escape’ options that saw me apply for a Canadian visa & google how far it was to drive to the border! It’s true I love a road trip but honestly with hindsight this idea seems a tad crazy now but at the time the rising fear of being marooned away from home engendered a sense of panic I had not experienced before.

As it turned out a nice lady from American airlines secured me a place on one of the last flights out of Miami while I tucked into a slice of key lime pie.

Pie

As the plane touched down it occurred to me that essentially I had travelled ‘there & back again’ to buy a guitar book that whilst useful ordering via Amazon might have worked out a cheaper.

Confined to barracks as we were & the introduction of what seemed to be onerous travel rules its been over two years since I have taken an international flight. The lockdowns certainly redefined many things for me one of which was the realisation how important the small things that give you pleasure can be. With domestic travel restricted & cake shops closed being forced to stay indoors the only option was to bake at home so below are a few examples of cakes made by daughter & me.

Ever creative & tiring of home made cakes daughter & I realised that we could visit local garden centres & suddenly the ones with cafes become destination venues.

By June following weeks of lockdown collecting a drain cover from Swindon now constituted a road trip & the prospect of stopping at a Starbucks drive through never more welcoming even if cake options were limited.

It was August before the restrictions lifted enough to allow a jaunt on the motorbike to Monmouth in Wales. This was no mean feat as Wales now operating as a separate entity to England meant the rules were slightly different. However the weather was good & we managed to get a seat on the pavement outside in the sunshine which felt like we were on holiday for a brief moment or two.

The local ‘cakery’ of choice has to be the Vintage Birdcage which serves an alarming array of delicious cakes but if on a venture to London then a visit is not complete without a visit to a branch of Peggy Porschen.

As the restrictions waxed and waned the desire to get out increased and so it was hubby & I ventured out on the motorbike again. When it comes to scones my Cornish genes prevail & I am definitely a jam before clotted cream person regardless of location and choice. If visiting UK definitely add this tea time treat to your ‘to do’ list.

Clotted Cream

As a child I remember being sent to collect this from the local shop where the lady broke the crust of a large tray with a big spoon to add to the container I brought. Now days it comes in repacked pots from the supermarket. If taking scones anywhere don’t settle for whipped, pouring or synthetic ‘squirty’ cream as you will not be getting the authentic experience in my view. Ideally with tea served in a teapot & china crockery too.

Although a fully paid up cakeaholic it has to be said I’m not especially drawn to lemon based cooked items unless they are exceptional. The lemon Earl Grey combo in Rhayader was certainly an example of one.

More biking this time to the North found us in Coldstream taking afternoon tea with friends in the Alice in Wonderland themed tea shop. The Biscoff based cupcake evoked memories of being in San Francisco on the pier & visiting the Biscoff shop.

The return to galavanting for gateaux in the company of friends or family has been at times a complex & drawn out procedure but most definitely worth the effort. As the weeks & months have gone by arrangements once again can be made to get out and do things & get back to a place which previously we all took for granted.

One of the great things has been getting back to eating out at pubs & restaurants and sampling the glorious puddings on offer. Below are a selection of the best I have had recently all for different reasons in terms of texture & flavour. None likely to be considered good for the waist line but definitely for the soul as they were part of the process of creating new memories with family & friends.

While the ‘mask on / mask off’ debate still lingers the future is starting to look a little brighter & the prospect of international travel without onerous difficulty has started to look like a realistic prospect once more.

But until next time all masks are off & I’m off to the pub – now menu please!

Clapped out clutches & wet weather


As the end of lockdown loomed in England the urge to flee the confines of home grew and the chance to grab coffee with a friend too great an opportunity to miss. So despite the atrocious weather forecast & some other constraints we plotted a quick trip to Wales.

Checking the forecast the night before departure hubby decided the safer option was to take the car so we packed accordingly & set off the next morning. We only got to Chepstow when the aroma in the car turned from ‘fresh linen’ to ‘burning clutch’ which left only one option – turn back rather than risk a total breakdown of both us & the car! Undeterred I repacked in a flurry while the bike was being got ready & we set off once again. Scary probably doesn’t cover the sensation we felt recrossing the Old Severn Bridge in gale force winds but we didn’t get blown off. Relentless rain dogged us which meant we were more than a little damp when we stopped for a cup of tea & chat with a friend before remounting for our final destination. By the time we reached Portmadog it was several hours later than scheduled & we resembled drowned rats. Thankfully the staff at the Royal Sportsman were on the case getting us checked in quickly and hot meals organised.

All thoughts of ‘whose mad idea was this’ were pushed aside the next day as we rode to Portmerion for a look around. Whilst the ground was wet underfoot the sky was blue & by mid morning the sun was blazing. One of the small upsides of the restrictions was that there were not many others at the venue so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. Wandering down through the village with the eclectic mix of architecture was relaxing & interesting. Plenty of times to snap instagram worthy shots without having to wait for a vista to clear!

A couple of hot drinks & some sticky buns later we had seen the sights, walked the grounds & bought a picture so were ready to venture on. Collecting the helmets from the storage we hopped back on for a ride around the area soaking up the beautiful scenery & feeling lucky to have escaped the rain. Stopping for another brew ( yes we are truly British & consume way too much tea) we did get caught in a local shower but it was nothing compared to the previous day.

The following day we opted for a ride on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways which winds its way up to the unique spiral at Dduallt where fantastic mountain scenery can be had. The covid restrictions meant that we pretty much had the carriage to ourselves and didn’t have much a queue at the Tan-y-Bwlch Team Room.

The forecast for the return journey home was grim but we set off in the dry with our fingers crossed. As we headed through the spectacular scenery it felt that we were being chased by the rather dark & angry looking clouds but miraculously it didn’t rain.

Earl Grey & Lemon Cake

If you ever are passing through Rhayader then the Swan Tea Room is definitely worth a visit the coffee & cake are lush but you do need cash they don’t take cards. Suitably refreshed we continued onwards and managed to dodge the rain until we reached the outskirts of Gloucester where we got soaked but we were so close to home it wasn’t so bad.

Meanwhile the restrictions in England seem to have lifted a little but we still are by no means back to ‘normal’ what ever that might mean now. Second jab next week means I should be good to go for some of the music events that for the moment still seem to be viable but what last year taught me was ‘nothing is certain’. I remain sad that international travel still seems largely ‘off the table’ at the moment due to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any parity between countries over what is a consistent policy for managing length of quarantine or acceptable paperwork. The traffic light system the UK is a list of ‘countries ok to visit’ but seems ill conceived & likely to change as quickly as you can utter ‘new variant’. Literally you could quite legitimately leave to visit a ‘green country’ to find its turned ‘red’ which would risk you being stranded (as happened to my brother in law) or trying to source a premature return journey with all the nightmarish scenarios that might lead to. So frustratingly for me it seems that the tent will be getting some use if the festivals get the go ahead & UK based accommodation will be the thing. Our next planned visit should be to Scotland to use a voucher purchased nearly two years ago! However its by no means certain we can go at this point as Scotland are still running on a completely different set of rules. It will make travel plans a challenge what ever your destination.

Meanwhile trying to make up for lost time by eating out & catching up with friends and family. The relaxation of some restrictions means its been possible to catch up with some friends & family so in order to support local business we have been eating out more than normal. Out being the operative word as literally most has been in some drafty cold places but largely its been worth it.

So until next time stay safe but hopefully have some fun & lets see where this crazy roller coaster takes us next time.

Going round the Bend, Oregon?


 

Bend is a trendy place in more ways than one with its growing desire to replace fourway junctions with rotaries as (who knew) they are  statistically are safer than the junctions. Having driven in Europe I negotiated these easily, avoiding any fines & admiring the art on those we encountered to meet my niece, her partner & my ‘dog nephew’ Eddison.

In true Oregon style we packed up the wagons and hit the trail to George, Washington for the Sasquatch Festival. Pre sale booking meant parting with  more than a few bucks in advance so I was a tad perplexed to be given a hand written post-it note  with a look that sort of said ‘are you at the right campsite’. On parking up it was evident that none of my fellow campers as far as the eye could see was much over 30 & facilities very basic. Armed with ‘no water’ body wash from a previous adventure in Ghana I still was happier than being corralled with the ‘older folk’ near the entrance.

 Whilst its true my love of rock, punk & indie rock drew me to listen to bands such as Pup & Hippocampus I was surprised to discover a hitherto hidden taste for country and western courtesy of Margo Price!

Being an honorary Millennial for the trip was proving cathartic. Climbing  through Forrest’s sky light to party on the roof it occurred to me that as you age embracing the opportunity to dust out the corners of your firmly held mindset was very empowering………. and possibly why I woke up the idea that I wanted a tattoo!