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.
The 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.
I got too close and scared them, so they moved their party to the tree.
Aren’t they marvelous?
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
It’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!
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.
Have you ever heard live jazz, in Scotland, in the shadow of a castle? I hadn’t … wow, what an in-the-moment experience.
It 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.)
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 Saintswas 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!
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.
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.
Online 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.
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!
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.
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.”
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!
Tiramisu and Espresso
Enjoying the carbonara
Holding up the menu for the photo to send to me
Life is good. And so is the Spaghetti Carbonara at Da Corradi in London.
mystery diner savoring thoughts and pasta silent silhouette
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t you love it when you’re reading a book and the character unexpectedly goes to a place you’ve been? It’s like you’re joining in the adventure, walking down the street with them. As an avid reader and traveler, that happens to me quite a bit – I seek books set in the cities I treasure and hope for these chance encounters down a literal memory lane.
My most recent travel-serendipity experience was this week as I was reading Sarah-Jane Stratford’s latest book, “Radio Girls”. Set in 1920’s London, it highlights that pivotal time after WWI as British women won the right to vote, the Nazi movement began to rumble in Germany and the BBC was new and on its to becoming that bastion of news and information we know today. It was a wonderful read, and, having finished it this morning before dawn, I miss the plucky and smart main character already. Here she is as she happened on a street from my most recent London trek:
“Maisie turned from them and held her breath, waiting for the entrance onto the Strand, this last mile of the marathon. So many magnificent buildings to pass on the way, the Royal Courts of Justice, the charming and appropriately antique Twinings tea shop, and then at last, the Savoy Hotel, an almost-palace on a street that once boasted palaces.”
How cool! I was just there earlier this month, walking down the Strand toward Picadilly, taking in the sights and sounds of that wonderful city I love with camera in hand. I felt just like Maisie: “so many magnificent buildings to pass on the way.” The Royal Courts of Justice are gorgeous, and my quick photos do not do justice…
And here I am at the famous entrance to Twinings (the venerable tea shop), which was, as Maisie said, “charming and appropriately antique,” even when she fictionally strolled the Strand back in 1926.
I haven’t made it to the Savoy yet, but it’s on the list. Maybe next time…
I had the good fortune to be in London on a Saturday recently with free time to roam and a friend to share the journey.
Highgate Cemetery called to us, and we answered.
It was a typical London afternoon, cool and foggy, with the subtle air of mystery and contained excitement that the city always holds for me – just perfect for roaming through this “garden cemetery” that was opened almost 180 years ago and is home to the remains of over 170,000. It was awesome.
I’ll share more about Highgate Cemetery on another day, with some of the best pictures, but for now, just a few images with a haiku to set the stage. I hope you’ll see why this beautiful, rambling and nature-lush landmark was so enchanting, and how we longed to know the stories of the dead and those who grieve them.
here lies…mysteries stone tablet forget-you-nots forest of secrets
Cemeteries always become center stage during the Halloween season, but I don’t understand how anyone could see this nature- and memory-preserve as spooky. While it is a monument to thousands of deaths, it speaks of peace and memories, and even life.
A recent trip to Scotland had many surprises, including a wonderful interlude with a couple of owls. Yes, owls. And no, it wasn’t on a walkabout in the verdant Scottish countryside – it was smack-dab in the middle of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
The beautiful and wise-looking creatures were surveying a small crowd outside of Gladstone’s Land, a museum run by the National Trust for Scotland.
The human handler for the owls looked wise, too, and shared stories and myths about them, which piqued my interest.
Back at home, curious, I realized that the only thing I knew about owls was that it really bugged my mom when a family of them made a nest in the rafters of our home at the beach when I was growing up (I thought it was kindof cool, but I didn’t have to deal with the situation). I did some Googling, and learned that owls have inspired myths and legends for centuries on several continents. Bad stuff like stealing babies, seeing into the darkness of the human soul, being a harbinger of death and doom … and good stuff, too, such as clairvoyance, bringing enlightenment and truth through dreams, symbolizing wisdom and strength. Looking at the closeup of one of the owls I met that day in Edinburgh, I can see why they’ve captured imaginations through the ages. There is an undeniable sense of mystery and knowing in those eyes, as though she actually could see right through our souls to the other side.
She-Owl: a Haiku
soaring through the skies holding secrets, truths and lies in amber-wise eyes