London’s Jekyll and Hyde Park

London’s Hyde Park has multiple personalities, and that’s a good thing.

During the holidays, there’s the excited frenzy of families enjoying Winter Wonderland. It is all that if you’re into that kind of thing – and lots of folks are, let me tell you. Hordes. Masses. Gleeful sticky-faced children clamoring for that next ride on the Ferris wheel or another hot chocolate, serious shoppers searching for treasures at the Christmas Market, ice skaters at every skill level gliding around and around the rink. It’s an experience.

Photo from Visit London

But Hyde Park is a big, big place. If neon, joyful shrieks of small children and hot dog vendors aren’t your thing, you can ease on over to the other side of the Serpentine and take a quiet walk along its banks.

That’s what I did. 

That’s what the waterfowl did, too. 

There were others, but only a few.

It was lovely.

Those Brits are smart, with their multiple-personality parks. There’s something for everyone, even the birds.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Silver Bells Reminiscing: “It’s Christmas Time in the City”

This photo I took in London last week reminds me of the lyrics of Silver Bells. I could feel the Christmas classic’s rhythm in the busy sidewalks, hustle and bustle, and general air of festivity and expectation as folks hurried on their way in the December dusk of this great city.

Shoppers rush home with their treasures near Hyde Park's Marble Arch and Marble Arch Station.
Shoppers rush home with their treasures near Marble Arch station at Hyde Park.

Silver Bells, by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans

Silver bells, silver bells
It’s Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, (ring-a-ling) hear them ring (ting-a-ling)
Soon it will be Christmas day

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas
Children laughing, people passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you hear

Silver bells, (silver bells) silver bells (silver bells)
It’s Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, (ring-a-ling)
Hear them ring, (hear them ring)
Soon it will be Christmas day

Strings of street lights, even stoplights
Blinkin’ bright red and green
As the shoppers rush home with their treasures
Hear the snow crunch, see the kids bunch
This is Santa’s big day
And above all this bustle you hear

Silver bells…

And in memory of my Dad, who would probably be listening to this right now while drinking his coffee and reading the paper if he were still with us, here’s the iconic recording of that ubiquitous holiday song by Bing Crosby. Perhaps Dad and Bing are harmonizing on it in heaven.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Deck the Hall at Heathrow

London during the holidays is teaming with people admiring how it glitters and glimmers with over-the-top decorations. Here are a couple of photos I snapped from the top of one of those iconic double-decker buses as it passed through Regent and Oxford streets.

That’s cool.

In stark contrast, here’s a little tree that was all by itself in a long, lonely hallway between terminals at Heathrow Airport.

A Charlie Brown tree in a hallway at Heathrow is full of holiday spirit and pluck.
A Charlie Brown tree at Heathrow

That’s cool, too. The hall was decked.

Someone has a sense of humor.

That’s really cool.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Window Shopping: C. Lidgate’s in London

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From outside the window, looking in

Dear Reader, I stood outside this butcher shop and charcuterie at 110 Holland Park in London and gawked.

And then I went inside C. Lidgate’s and gawked some more.

Oh, to have a local butcher shop like this nearby when planning a dinner party or Christmas feast! It’s a carnivorous cook’s dream (with apologies to all of my vegetarian friends). There’s a huge selection of meats, fish, poultry, sausages, cheeses, house-made pies and casseroles, condiments, cured meats and deli items (even Scotch eggs!), and everything is displayed beautifully, looking almost Victorian in its lushness.

From a review by author and food writer Hattie Ellis on the Lidgate’s web site:

Chefs, dedicated carnivores and the locals of this foodie neighbourhood come here for anything from a lunchtime sausage roll to a magnificent rib of grass-fed beef for a dinner party.

The staff are super-friendly and were quite welcoming to this Texas foodie gal, telling me that the shop has been in the same family for 5 generations since it originally opened in 1850. They didn’t mind my gawking at all.

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This photo from Lidgate’s Facebook page perfectly captures the vibe of the staff: “we’re here to help, and we’re happy to do it”

I refrained from snapping photos inside Lidgate’s, because there were customers eager to be waited on, and I was something of an interloper, a traveler who could only window-shop and imagine what it would be like to have a neighborhood butcher shop like Lidgate’s where I could source all of my meat. I think I may have emitted a bit of a jealous sigh when a man asked for a chicken carcass to make stock, and the butcher said, “Right away!” That just wouldn’t happen at my local grocery store meat counter.

But if I’d been willing to annoy those regular customers going about their meat-shopping day with my shutter-bugging, I’d have gotten images of the house-made pies for you. They were things of beauty. So for you foodie-tourists, here are some of the photos from the Lidgate’s Facebook page.

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Oh my goodness! Can’t you just see this bounty on your holiday table?

Just a reminder, Glover Gardens is not a commercial blog and has received no compensation from Lidgate’s. I’m just sharing as a public service, so you can window shop along with me.

And for the family, I’ve put Lidgate’s cookbook on my Christmas list. 🙂

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You can find the cookbook on Amazon

© 2018 Glover Gardens

The Little Brown Social Birds of Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland

I’m in a birdy mood! Yesterday’s post had a haiku and a variety of our feathered friends. Today, I’m sharing the social networking of just one flock of birds who fascinated me on a recent trip to Scotland’s Aberdeenshire region.

fullsizeoutput_2a92The ruins of Dunnotar Castle in Stonehaven are surrounded by nature’s beauty: the sea, fields of heather dancing in the wind, gorgeous grain meadows and huge open skies. I’ve got a lot more to show you from the castle, but today, it’s just about that flock of fun little birds.

They swooped in en masse and settled on tall grasses, chirping and squawking. It seemed like they were talking.

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Birds in the field

Hanging Out
Hanging out

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Wait for me!

The Castle
The castle backdrop

Bird, Watching, Waiting
Sentry

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Togetherness

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Fluffy little thing

I got too close and scared them, so they moved their party to the tree.

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Watching, waiting

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Going the same direction

Aren’t they marvelous?

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Like Christmas tree ornaments

I’ve done my homework trying to identify the species who gave me so much pleasure that afternoon, and I’m not quite sure…I think they are twites, but I look to my Scottish readers to correct me.

And now I see an easy haiku in this:

a treasure trove of
twites in a tree near the sea
in Aberdeenshire

© Glover Gardens

Haiku: Bees on a Mission

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You have to look closely for the industrious bee on the middle flower, getting every last fragment of pollen

bees on a mission
devouring the last pollen
before winter comes

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These bees blend in, too, as they scour the flower of its potent pollen richness

There are lots of bees in Scotland, and they’re feasting.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

 

 

Edinburgh Farmers Market – Jazz and Memories in the Shadow of Edinburgh Castle

NFMW2018_MGbannerIt’s National Farmers Market Week and I promised to share, so I’m unearthing more farmers market memories. Today, we’re in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Just last summer, I had this amazing experience in Edinburgh. Only a few weeks after my Dad died, I was on a European business trip which required a weekend stay-over, and the location happened to be Edinburgh. Lucky me. In a hotel that looked out to Edinburgh Castle. Double-lucky me!

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The hotel is in the center of town, in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. That was the (zoomed-in) view from my hotel window. Wow.

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Photo of Mary King’s Close from the Guardian by Murdo MacLeod

My colleagues and I did touristy things together on Saturday morning, including a macabre underground ghost tour that taught us all about how the Scots of way back handled the plague, and then we split up, some of them headed out to castles in the distance, some of them shopping, and me – just wandering around and thinking about Dad.

Getting back to the hotel and in desperate need of a nap, I was amazed to learn that the city’s month-long music festival had taken up residence right outside my hotel, the street blocked off at both ends to hold three stages and various food and drink vendors.

Score! I shucked off my inclination for a nap like a new year’s resolution on Jan. 3 and flung myself headlong into the crowd.

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Have you ever heard live jazz, in Scotland, in the shadow of a castle? I hadn’t … wow, what an in-the-moment experience.

Festival in the Shadow of Edinburgh CastleIt was the end of the performances for the day, sadly. The first – and last – tune I heard was, unbelievably, When the Saints Go Marching In.

Here’s a little bit of video of that performance.

Oh. My. Gosh.

The connectedness. The synchronicity. The serendipity. The simple, awesome experience of enjoying delightful live music with an appreciative crowd.

Saints is a tune that is important in my family. My Mom always loved the New Orleans tradition of the second line parade after funerals, that lively and joyful conclusion after the pre-funeral dirges. We made sure it happened just that way after her funeral; I will always be grateful to my friend / ex-husband for bringing his whole jazz band and playing their hearts out in her memory. Joy in sorrow, joy in sorrow.

Before this Scotland trip, I had been at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, when Dad was still alive. I had happily heard When the Saints Go Marching In about 10 times over a long weekend, including once by the legendary Herb Alpert. OMG, he is awesome! Dad and I texted each other during the Herb Alpert performance at Jazz Fest, when the Grill-Meister and I were awestruck at how vibrant he was at 80-something; Dad said, ‘your mother and I saw him ’round about 1965. Good times.” (Another story for another day.)

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Herb Alpert and his wife Lani Hall brought the house down at the NOLA Jazz Fest

Just three weeks prior to the Edinburgh trip, the venerable Saints tune was the joyful conclusion at my Dad’s funeral, just like it had been at my Mom’s 17 years earlier. Just like it will be at mine when it’s my time to go. I’m partial to that song, you might say.  🎶🎶🎶🎶 “O Lord I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.”

So, to be in Scotland on a business trip and just stumble into a live performance of Saints was almost too much.

The connectedness. The synchronicity. The serendipity.

I felt Dad’s presence on a grand scale, and my heart grew too big for my body, just like the Grinch’s when he saw that Whoville would still have Christmas without presents and food. It was a transcendent experience.

Back to the the Farmers Market

I haven’t forgotten, truly I haven’t – this post is supposed to be about the Edinburgh farmers market. My journey there tonight took place via music and reminiscence.

As I said, I hit the ground at the music festival at the tail end of the performances. Sigh. I jammed and jazzed to Saints, but then, sadly, the musicians began to break down their gigs and pack up. I was just getting started!  I noticed that there was a farmers market on the other end of the street … hmmm. Curses, is it about to close, too?!!? But no, the stalwart vendors didn’t ‘up and leave’ when the music was over; they were on their regular Saturday market schedule.

And what a lovely market it was. It had everything: produce, cheese, a bridal couple (he wore a kilt), dogs galore, arepas, paella, olives, breads, leather goods…a plethora of products to peruse while people-watching.

I’ll be in Edinburgh again soon, and will likely fall more deeply in love with it. Watch this space!

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© 2018, Glover Gardens

Comfort Food Alert: My Beloved Da Corradi in London has the BEST Spaghetti Carbonara

I still think of myself as a little girl from a small town who is constantly surprised by her life, and sometimes find it hard to believe that I have a “favorite Italian restaurant in London”. In my 20s, that sentence would have been alien to me; I didn’t even make it to Europe until I was 34. This post is about that favorite little restaurant, and its fame-worthy Spaghetti Carbonara.

Da Corradi in London

 

It’s Not Just My Opinion

Da Corradi’s carbonara was fantastic!

I think that was the best Carbonara I have ever had.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara with fresh ham is the best you’ll ever eat.

IMG_0857Online reviewers of Da Corradi, a tiny, family-run Italian restaurant in London’s Mayfair district tucked back in the Shepherd Market, agree with me about their Spaghetti Carbonara: it’s the best.

My TripAdvisor review from way back in 2010 when the Grill-Meister and I visited was titled Marvelous – so good we went twice in one week, proclaiming:

The Spaghetti Carbonara is the best I have ever had – even compared to the same dish in Italy.

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I’m pretty sure they serve this in heaven.

It’s true. I’ve never had a better carbonara, and I’m fairly sure I never will.  It’s that good. Just the right balance of rich creaminess from the egg and cheese, saltiness from the ham, and al dente spaghetti, with a liberal sprinkle of freshly ground pepper.  Close your eyes after taking just one bite and you’ll expect to find Northern Italy when you open them.  I try not to eat heavy food like this very often, but there’s never even a question that I’ll order anything else at Da Corradi. The only question is how much of it I can consume, and the answer is always: more than I thought!

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This pic of the Grill-Meister and me in 2010 reveals that I almost finished my carbonara; I’d like to dive in and take a bite right now

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One of my companions had a marvelous pizza on a visit last October, but I stuck with the carbonara

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Big chunks of ripe tomatoes with garlic and spicy basil atop crunchy sourdough make a tasty and authentic bruschetta appetizer

The food at Da Corradi is hearty-homestyle rather than Mayfair pretentious, and the prices are very reasonable. More reasons to keep coming back!

The Peeps are as Fun as the Food is Good

The staff at Da Corradi are a big part of the overall experience.  They’re cheeky and flirty (in a family-friendly way) and their banter with each other betrays an affection and respect that is charming. They collaborate to ensure that your experience with them is fun, filling, and fulfilling. You don’t exactly have a waitperson, you have a wait-team.

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This wait-team duet kept us in good spirits on a recent visit

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We posed together, a couple of blonde ladies; she was pleased to be featured in the Glover Gardens blog and pretty sure I would make her famous : )

A Celebrity Hang-Out (or Hide-Out?)

In its 40+ years of serving great Italian food, Da Corradi has attracted a lot of admirers beyond this Texas gal and the online reviewers I quoted above.  The wall overlooking the tiny main floor dining area sports photos of celebrity diners who must enjoy the carbonara and cheeky charm as much as I do. While high-end Mayfair is swarming with tourists and beautiful people, Da Corradi’s exact location within Shepherd Market is a little off the beaten path, a perfect place to avoid the madding crowd. Shepherd Market’s web site says, “This unique little enclave is tucked away between Picadilly and Curzon Street, in the heart of London’s Mayfair. A hidden gem known for its wonderful relaxed village-like atmosphere.”

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They Trust Me, They Really Trust Me!

I am blessed with a wide network of friends and foodies  in many locales across the world who feed me, enjoy sharing a restaurant meal together, send me their food pictures for the blog, and give and take restaurant recommendations.  I love love love it when someone trusts my choice of a restaurant; it’s like setting friends up on a blind date and having it work out (only better because there’s no chance of divorce or blame). It feels good to influence where someone has dinner halfway across the world…just call me the restaurant matchmaker!

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My Houston friends; seeing them there makes me long to visit again

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My Norwegian friends; they both had the carbonara

Life is good. And so is the Spaghetti Carbonara at Da Corradi in London.

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Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens

Haiku: Eating Alone in London

mystery diner
savoring thoughts and pasta
silent silhouette

Man Eating Alone at Da Corradi

Dining at my favorite Italian restaurant in London (Da Corradi), I used my phone to snap this picture of a man who came in, ate alone, and left. He didn’t seem lonely; he seemed thoughtful and deliberate. He didn’t read a book or squint at a tablet or smartphone. He simply ordered his pasta and wine, ate and drank them, and left. I like to eat alone on solo travels, and in looking at him, I decided that he does, too, and jotted down a quick haiku to post with the photo.

But when I looked at the photo later and cropped it, there was an Edward Hopper / Nighthawks feel to it, especially when I looked at it in black and white. Not the style, just the mood. The camera sometimes sees things differently than the eye. I like that. I changed the haiku a little to match the photo. I’m learning about this stuff from another blogger (not the photography – I have a long way to go there – but the wisdom of letting the material drive the finish product).

Stay tuned for a review of Da Corradi.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

St. Paul’s at Midnight, in the Moonlight – a Haiku and Some Photos

Staying in a hotel a stone’s throw from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London recently, I wasn’t sleepy one night and set out on foot at midnight, camera in hand. The moon was full. I was enchanted.

Just outside the hotel, St. Paul’s loomed large on the left. The streets were alive that full-moon Friday night. My camera trigger finger was hyperactive.

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A haiku for that moment, when I was truly in love with the night, the cathedral, the moon, and London:

the full moon beckons ~
ancient cathedral’s appeal:
London’s bright magic

I walked all around that magnificent, centuries-old landmark, passing lovers and cyclists and police, and snapped these photos to share with you. If you go to London, don’t miss a chance to go to St. Paul’s at midnight in the moonlight.

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Incidentally, after my 360° tour ’round St. Paul’s with the camera, I slept deeply and soundly for 10 hours, dreaming of days gone by and the rich history in these magnificent structures.


 

51kvpsnjk6l-_sx323_bo1204203200_You can read about St. Paul’s and its 1,400 years of history here. I took a tour of the inside the day after my midnight photography jaunt, but interior photos are not allowed.  And, along the same lines as my post Reading London: A Chance Encounter Down Memory Lane, Literally , I read a book just after this trip that was set largely at St. Paul’s, just after the Great Fire of 1666. The Ashes of London was an excellent read and a great way to absorb the feel of St. Paul’s and it’s massive hulking presence in another time.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook