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Travel stories past and present

And then it was Tesco…takeaway meal, microwave, bottle of wine, telly…all in Ludlow. Heaven Forbid.

Where do I begin with this post. Last night while I was still on adrenaline after the fiasco, I started to blog. I decided to start basically where I had left off… Actually no, I did skip a few days in London, but those experiences have been catalogued on Facebook so they can be added later.

It was a good thing I delayed, I may have been somewhat more scathing in reporting on our final Ludlow Food Festival experience.

Let me back up. Years of spending dining moments with other foodie friends in London, it was suggested that we may want to attend the Ludlow Marches Food Festival. This 3 day extravaganza in Shropshire County England, has a bounty of local producers that come and display themselves and tantalize our appetites with food, ale, cider and spirits, all produced in a 4 county radius.

 

 

There is an ale trail, a sausage trail,a bread trail and a pudding trail. This all in addition to tents upon tents set up in and around the Castle and its grounds. It is delightful to see a Castle being used for one of its original uses. For three days, you can sample food and drink, take in countless demonstrations on 3 or 4 separate stages, take Slow Food workshops, and join the trails and grade their offerings.

 

 

We decided the sausage trail was for us. You purchase a ticket for £3.50 that is really a form, you wander around the town to find the five sausage tents, line up, eat and grade. At the end you take your grading form to a final stop, hand in your form and in exchange, you get your favourite sausage in a bap! It’s a great deal, yummy and a lot of fun.

The ale trail would have you stop in at 14 pubs with a mini cask on a lanyard, sample and grade the same. Folks usually do it over 2 days. You get the picture. The pudding trail isn’t about what we call pudding at home, pudding over here refers to desserts of all types.

So back to the fiasco. From Canada, prior to leaving, I tried to arrange a few of the Slow Food workshops and also snag a reservation at the ‘pop-up’ Michelin Restaurant that sets up inside the Castle. The problems I ran into were that both wanted money ahead of time to secure the reservation. The workshops were not expensive so I did what I tell others not to… I send some cash in the post. I did it with a guarantee on it and as it wasn’t much, I wasn’t too worried.

The festival restaurant was another story. The costs of wiring money were a bit prohibitive from my bank and I had left it a bit too long so mailing a money order wasn’t an option. I sent a note back and asked if we could pay upon arrival. They were very accommodating so we were set.

On Friday when we got to the festival, we checked in with the restaurant and everything was in order for our Saturday night reservation. I had previously let them know about Don’s food allergies, so all was going according to plan.

In the interim, sausages, ales, ciders, wine, more sausages, slow roasted pork, wood fired pizza, goat cheese, sheep cheese, charcuterie … to name a few… abounded.

After heading back to the Elm Lodge

 

where we were staying, we napped, then primped, then strolled first to a close ‘locals’ pub with Sky sports (Man U vs Bolton), then to another pub near the Castle.

Our reservation was for 8:30 pm so we made our way at 8:15 and were escorted through the grounds to the venue and greeted by some very lovely ladies who appeared to have everything under control.

The place was humming. Our escort had told us 100 people were dining and we were all to get 8 courses…so 800 covers were going to pump out of the ‘pop-up’ kitchen… Or so they thought….

With our drink order placed, we chatted about how lovely the setting was… About the other people around us… And then waited…and waited… and waited…and waited….

The drinks had come, but that was it. After 45 minutes we had not had the server come back. There were LOTS of staff, and they were in perpetual motion. Not sure what all the moving about was about, but it was not to bring food. We checked with a server, who seemed surprised… Finally I went to the entrance and checked in with the lovely ladies… They were horrified and immediately we received 2 Kir Royale appertifs…this on top of the bottle of wine we had started. Seeing as it was now 9:30 pm, I had to keep a lid on the wine consumption or the 8 courses would be a bit of a blur. Then one of the lovely ladies came over and comped our wine… I knew we were in trouble then…

We did get the first course, Don could only eat half of it…(pureed broccoli soup with whipped Stilton/blue cheese)… And I did get one slice of bread. And when my sugar levels bottomed out, I got up, screwed the lid back on the wine… And we left. The lovely ladies at the entrance were not surprised nor did they try to stop us. I guess something had imploded in the kitchen and they knew what was coming.

 I mention here a curious moment… Actually two, almost like a premonition, on our way from ‘locals’ pub to pub #2, Don inquired about whether I was excited for this anticipated feast… I said that I had lowered my expectations around things like this as I have been let down too many times. The other was the gal that served the wine, she made a specific gesture of leaving us the cap for the wine in case we didn’t finish. 8 courses, 1 bottle of wine and no driving? Seemed rather odd that we wouldn’t finish it….

But there it was… Our comped wine came with us and my inability to pay ahead of time meant that no further action was required by anyone.

We left the Castle and the Festival behind, stopped at Tesco(like Safeway) on the 1 mile walk home and picked up Spaghetti Carbonara

 

for me and Chicken Tikka Masala for Don.

We had a little kitchen where were staying and we heated up our late night dinner and turned on the telly…

 

 

 

And that was Ludlow.

 

(Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device in Europe)

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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Food, From the Travel Files

 

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When I get to wifi, I will categorize and tag appropriately…Meanwhile here is the trip to Ludlow

So we left Aber… Little did we know the locals got a little tired of the mouthful of saying Aberystwyth… And renamed it Aber?! (we practiced for weeks to say it correctly!)

We hiked and ate and hiked some more and… OK enough of that…. After 3 days of gale force winds, we got in the 1 series and headed across to Ludlow. It was almost uneventful, driving across the ‘border’ from Wales to England. When you do, the Ministry of Transport breathes a big sigh of relief and gives up thanks for the relative cheap cost of road signs that they have in England.

As we can appreciate in Canada, the cost prohibitiveness(sp) of a bilingual people is not something to be taken lightly….or for granted (thank you Pierre)

So we got to the Elm Lodge on the outskirts of Ludlow in a lush spot named Fishmore. The lodge was situated on a 9 Hole, par 3 golf course, backing onto a number of fields home to black sheep and Alpacas.

And I think I will save the rest until later and send you once again some images from along the way.

The festival had some most memorable moments and then some disappointments… But the lateness of the hour is calling so once again I am going to post and hope for the best…. No wifi, so faith abounds and my ability to post ‘blindly’….. enjoy….. (Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device in Europe)

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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in From the Travel Files

 

Mobile updates abound…Don’t drink wine and blog…(and then press send!)

 So where were we?… Oh yah… I uploaded the car photo and off the email-blog-post went. Ooops! Needless to say we visited with our wonderful friends Matt Powell and Charlene Killeen, who planned on having a baby on August 18th, but instead delayed the inevitable until 6 days before we got there.

As would have it, the in-laws/out-laws left the afternoon we arrived so we met at a pub and had the first ‘day’ out for Mom Lenny and new baby Ace.

Don and I carried onwards to Aberystwyth with ‘Sheila’ as our guide. We learned early on, not only from warning signs on the motorway…. But from first hand experience, ‘Sheila’ aka GPS or SatNav as they refer to it over here….WALES IS NOT IN THE COMPUTER.

Sorry Matt, I had to let you down lightly, but the SatNav/Google people just didn’t think it high on the priority list to get the roadways accurate…. thankfully I have a sense of direction (AND a google map printed out in Canada!). Let me tell you about getting to the Welsh coast… Actually let’s not and let me just upload some photos from our time in Aberystwyth…….. (Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device in Europe)

  
 

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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in From the Travel Files

 

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High Expectations abound….Ludlow Marches Food Festival…

I haven’t yet written a blog on the Wales portion of our trip but that’s not because I don’t want to, its just that blogs are written when one is motivated AND combined with time available…. So I have made lots of notes, waiting for the perfect time to write.

BUT

Then I had an experience tonight that needed to turn into a blog, so here we go….

We left Wales… Oh yah… the last time I posted we were in London… So we left London. We took bus 73 from Oxford to Victoria and jumped the Gatwick Express to… Where else… Gatwick, where we picked up a little 1 series BMW (automatic) and headed to Cardiff. I trust enough of you follow me on Facebook to see the baby pictures that resulted in that portion of the trip. Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device in Europe

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in From the Travel Files

 

London…food, fun, friends…

The days in London have been just stunning. We arrived on Thurs afternoon to glorious sunshine and unseasonable temperatures. Most of us relate London to London Fog… There is a reason that company chose that name to sell coats!

In all our visits here, we have been very fortunate with the weather. I can count the times that I have had to use an umbrella. Don insists that its the sun that follows us around…

Lucky we had a suitcase full of warm weather wear for our imminent Italy portion of this trip. The best way for us to combat jetlag is to go walking outside during the day and visiting in the evening. The combination of the light and talk therapy does the trick.

As soon as we got here on Thurs, our friends from Reading, Andy and Djura met us at our hotel. The London Grosvenor Square Marriott had once again provided us with a suite and some champagne and red wine, so we met up in our sitting room. My phone had a breakdown so the pictures from the first day are missing….

The next night we met up with Graham and Lucy and hit a great tapas restaurant, Salt Yard. It is such a popular place that we had a set allotted time of 2 hrs, 630 – 830 pm.

Don and I had been there in the past and it was even better this time. We stopped in at a pub on both ends of the visit and then saw Graham and Lucy off on the train to their home in Faversham.

Graham has just started a food blog himself so in the future we will be swapping ideas and recipes. Looking forward to staying in touch over the miles in all things related to food and travel.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device in Europe

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2011 in Food, From the Travel Files

 

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From my travel files…. LeSport Christmas 2008. Amy Winehouse RIP

When December rolled around this year
Don and Con decided to yet again not to be near
 
So they hopped a plane to St Lucia
Where in the past they had escaped from the minutia
 
The first night they met up with Julia, Richard and Matt
Over dinner enjoying a visit and chat
 
Julie the beautiful blond newly in from Leeds      
Now enjoying much warmer weather indeed Matt the fresh faced Welshman who cheers for
THAT team
Where winning the cup is only a dream  
Richard’s been here longer than he cares to admit
But at least his name around here is not Dick
 
Julia arrived to carry out training up in the spa
Where we are certain her standards will soon become law
 
Matt came on board to make bodies more aware
To teach the unhealthy guests how to take more care
 
Richard tries to teach us to spin, balance and have marital fun
Without his expertise, most things would not run

 

Julia tends to her students and her friend Natalie
Who we think before long will possibly be free
 
Matt who appeared on the beach as drunk Santa                                   
We know that he would much rather be watching Sentanta                 
 
Richard the ever present ultimate host at this resort
We know he will certainly be missed when he leaves LeSport
 
And so that one gets left out of my rhyming tribute
We reserve this mention for the latest body holiday recruit
   
For the subtly intriguing Amy with her ever present leer
This does go down as one of the most unique Christmases around here  (RIP Amy)
 
You three at our table have made our stay so fabulously great
And so we toast you now on Christmas two thousand and eight!
 
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Posted by on July 23, 2011 in From the Travel Files

 

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From the travel files…Paris in the Springtime…oops I mean November

It all started in 2005…  My husband and I, who travel frequently, could not agree on going to Paris.  I was interested and he was not.  So around my 38th birthday, while chatting with my world-traveller friend, Steffany, we devised a plan to go for my 40th  birthday.    She went as far as suggesting we try it in November,  6 months after my birthday, but what the heck, I could celebrate the milestone all year long if necessary.

A year before the trip, we cashed in some points and booked business class flights to Paris.  3 months out, we started researching hotels.  As the day drew closer, we almost couldn’t make it happen due to conflicting schedules, but somehow we made it work and on November 10th we were flying across the pond ensconced in our own little beds on Air Canada.

Upon arrival at Charles De Gaulle, we groggily stumbled into the baggage area,  here we just stood and laughed.  Here at a world class location, there was about 4 feet of space between the row of carts and the baggage carousel.  It was quite a sight, with everyone contending for their opportunity to hoist their oversized bags onto carts.  We just waited out the chaos.  I guess there is no need to upgrade it as people will wait for their luggage regardless of how long and arduous the process is.

Our schedule was as such: 3 days in Paris, 2 days in the country, 3 days back in Paris.  We had booked a 3

Champs Elysees

star hotel to start, 2 star in country, 5 star on the return Paris trip.   We got 2 out of 3 right.  We stayed in the Opera district both visits to Paris.  We spent 2 nights in the Loire Valley, supposedly a 2 hr trip from Paris (more on that later).

Our 3 star hotel was fabulous.  Great location, spacious room, thick towels, washcloths, superb front desk staff.

3 star Paris hotel

One employee informed us that 2 star was all that was required when traveling to the country.  We were happy, we were lucking out with our hotel choices.  You only need a 2 star in the country because the rating system will not bump you into a higher category unless you all the criteria.  You could have 5 star accommodations, but if you do not have, for instance, say bathrobes, you would

2 star Country Inn...with a sitting area

still be a 2 star.  This is valuable information to know when arranging your own accommodations.

As our first 3 Paris days drew to a close, we found out that a Metro strike was scheduled for the next day.   At the time we had no concept of the impact that a Metro strike would have on us.  Good thing we had booked a car.

Good thing we had booked a car…. that was actually there.  A Metro strike in Paris means, that there are no rental cars, no taxi cabs, a zillion bicycles, a million motorcycles and 5 times the amount of cars on the roads than a normal day.  So the car we booked was not there, but a nice manual transmission Passat station wagon was.  So after 15 years of not driving a stick shift, I drove up out of the parkade and onto the streets of Paris to exit the city… or at least try.

A metro strike means that there are protests and blockades throughout the major routes.  A metro strike means that you sit still for ½ hour at a time.  A metro strike to me, meant driving in the bus lane.  My reasoning was that with no busses running, who would be in the bus lane?  We were lucky,  we did not get a ticket, but meant just being in the right place at the right time.  After an hour and a half, we found the peripherique(ring road) and eventually the toll highway and left the city and the strike behind us.  We were more than happy to pay the 17 Euro to drive on the high speed motor way (140 km/hr was slow!).

5 star meal (Loire Valley)

The Loire Valley was surreal.

 We stayed at a small Auberge (Inn)

The Auberge in Limeray

that had a 5 star restaurant.  4 courses for 23 Euro.  Considering that in Paris, a glass of wine at the George V is 23 Euro, this is great value.  Satiated we wandered to our spacious room for a very quiet, restful, country sleep.  The next day we drove 150 km around the Valley, taking in the scenery, the wineries and the wine caves

Wine cave

(wholesalers who store and sell the wines for the wineries).   We had booked both nights at the Inn’s restaurant due to its high ratings, and so after a nice afternoon nap, a bottle of local red, another gourmet feast awaited.

The Paris metro strike was supposed to last 2 days but in fact, it lasted 10 days.  So our plans were changed.  Upon returning to the city, after another harrowing experience getting to our new hotel, we found out the computerized underground trains were running,  or should I say, train.  Number 14 train was running.  For some entertainment, there are some youtube clips that show trying to get on these trains.  They are accurate, it gives new meaning to the word sardine.

We spent the last 3 days at a posh, 5 star hotel.  Don’t bother, would be our recommendation.  The staff is more likely to be snooty, the hotel old, the drinks expensive.  One redeeming quality was the location, good if you have to walk, which we did.  The weather had taken a turn for the worse, so our planned site seeing took

5 star Paris room

the back seat and we spent more time shopping and wandering around our local area.  Galleries Lafayette and Le Printemps are great department stores in Paris.  We had no trouble filling our time with shopping, eating and drinking wine.

The one last bit of excitement for this story happened on our departure day.  We had pre-booked a shuttle service to return to the airport. This is recommended because sometimes it is very hard to get a taxi and when you do, you have to pay from where it is hailed. So if the taxi has to drive 10 minutes to pick you up, you pay

sitting in the cab going to the airport

from that point.  We confirmed the pick up the day before but the morning of, at 8 am, the shuttle company phoned and cancelled our ride.  It took 45 minutes for the bellman running up and down the street to get a taxi  (at a 5 star hotel) and once again a 90 minute journey to exit the city with long bouts of just sitting and not moving at all.

We did make our flight, we had left ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport, our intention had been to get to the airport early, sit in the business lounge and reflect on the week over some lovely French wine.  The only change was that we reflected once in the air instead of on the ground.

We had quite a trip, laden with our purchases, fully bellies, and joie de vivre.  We both lost some weight due to all the walking.  We were both elated and amazed,  so maybe it is true that French women don’t get fat.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in From the Travel Files

 

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