Hamilton, New Zealand

Pubs in Australia and New Zealand

Decided to stop for a few days at Hamilton. An average size town with a couple of good pubs. The first pub called The Londoner served up a decent IPA and amazing chicken fillet filled with spinach and soft cheese, pine nuts, mash and veg. Omg it was delicious. Hubby, I might add, enjoyed a London Pride real ale.

Onwards to The Local Taphouse for a few IPAs and a look at their local CAMRA mag. Well obvs not CAMRA (thank goodness) but an organisation called soba… Society of beer advocates. Much better title, in my humble opinion. Love the irony. Somebody has a sense of humour.

We were advised that a decent pub doesn’t exist in Aus and NZ by many people. Nonsense. We’ve found some smashing pubs in both countries. Had some wonderful beers, accompanying food and friendly locals. They aren’t all boxy sterile places but great places. Funnily enough the first pub was awful. A great big soulless hall type building serving beer in stupidly small glasses. Oh dear, I thought, this is going to be a long, arduous trip. After that we found loads of decent places and it’s been a tremendous trip.

The Aussie and NZ pub is great. You heard it here first or should I say thirst?

Hamilton Gardens

This place is a lovely surprise full of beautiful flowers, trees, shrubs and ideas. Ideas? Yes, the landscaping is innovative and at the moment they are working on a Surrealist garden.

The area has a collection of gardens from all over the world including Japan, India, China, Italy and of course, the best, England. Exquisite and so well done.

Unusually, they are not known to be botanic gardens but gardens that tell a story across all cultures. This concept was started in the 1980s by Hamilton Gardens director Dr Peter Sergel and the concept was enthusiastically received by the local community.

Of course, the gardens were originally a rubbish dump and the area was passed to the Hamilton City Council During the 1960s for opening as a garden for the public. The site is now a wonderful 54 hectares, free to visit and worthwhile visiting.

 

Bundaberg, birds and beer stories….

We arrived at Kelly’s Villas and thought I’m on the set of the Aussie soap Home and Away. The place has an old world Aussie charm about it. Staff are cheerful, hard working folk and we immediately felt at home.

An evening dinner was booked in Kelly’s Restaurant and beforehand we had a quick exploration drive around the surrounding area. The beach is pretty and very Home and Away plus the surrounding area has neat, tidy attractive houses with colourful immaculate garden areas. Aussies definitely seem to take pride in their surroundings.

Back at the residence, the dinner was amazing. I enjoyed barramundi and quickly realised this quaint place had secured a superb chef. Also, a good range of beers was supplied by a well stocked bar. The beer comes from a local brewery, the Bargara Brewing Company and the beer Drunk Fish, has an interesting story attached to it.

During the night, we kept the windows open because they are covered in mesh. Trouble is, the wind banged the blinds, the birds woke up early and I said to hubby:

”It’s like trying to sleep in a zoo.”

He laughed out loud and replied, “Or an Avery.”

I kid you not, the noise of the birds are incredible in Australia. Swear I thought there was a bloke standing out of our bedroom window whistling. Nope, it was one of the birds. Squawking, whistling and believe it or not, tapping.  Sure they are all in competition with each other. Then they come into a crescendo, go quiet for 5 seconds and start again.

Hubby’s phone went and we washed, dressed then I shouted out to hubby, it is only 3.45 to which he told me he wouldn’t be long and I bellowed out the time again. He heard me properly this time, and shouted out that he understood my point. We were meant to be getting up at 5 am for a trip. The ‘alarm’ was a spam phone call. We dozed until about 5am, but the Avery became too much, so we got up ready for our trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

Next post is all about our jaunt to the Great Barrier Reef. What could possibly go wrong? 🙄

Gardening, BBQs, beer and a funny story…

Can’t believe I’m revealing this, but think the gardening thing is coming back to me, a bit. During my younger days, the garden would be an escape. Hubby came home from work and enjoyed bathing and reading the children a bedtime story.

I used to sow seeds in the greenhouse and then plant them out in May and continue to tend the flowers, weed, prune and so on. During their teen years, I succumbed to study, because of my love of all thing literature and I guess that took over. Now they descend on us for Sunday roasts and summer bbqs and we have a fabulous time, putting the world to rights and enjoying a glass 🥃 of something…or two.

This year, I was dreading the gardening season (don’t succumb to soil activities in the winter) because it looked so overgrown. However, it has now been weeded and I somehow found the strength to mow the annoyingly long grass.

In the UK, the weather has suddenly improved. The everlasting grey clouds have been replaced by some white clouds and sun. It won’t last, but it is lovely while here. This has motivated me into a flurry of cleaning and gardening. What is surprising, is this year, I’m actually embracing the glorious weather and garden. We’ve even been to the garden centre to buy a supply of gardening acrutriments and plants. This includes copious amounts of gardening gloves, for our precious hands, garden forks and bbq tools, so the hubster doesn’t burn himself whilst turning the flaming meat over. Yes, we have a new bbq, bought by the kiddies. The previous one was disintegrating before our eyes.

Everybody visited on Sunday, for a bbq: “The weather is looking good for the weekend, so shall we try out the new bbq?” Son asks, with a cheeky smirk on his face.
I agreed, because I’m determined to enjoy, or endure, more bbqs this summer. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it rained. Luckily, we changed the time and cooked and entertained at lunch time, eat inside and then chilled out in my summerhouse. Beer was involved. Well you need to keep warm somehow, don’t you? We watched the rain pour down, but being typically British stayed huddled in the summer house.

My son-in-law, arrived during this time and after some painful deliberation, my hubby, bravely ventured out into the pouring rain, to unlock the garden gate. He arrived at the summerhouse, for some reason, declaring “You are all mad!” The summerhouse is not large. We huddled some more, I was introduced to a beer called ‘Elvis Juice’ and a funny tale (more later), the chaps then escaped and lit the chimnea. Then we huddled around that instead.

What a splendid day.

Oh, the strange tale… Apparently, the Elvis Estate, in their wisdom, decided to object to BrewDog naming the beer Elvis Juice. So, the BrewDog owners/brewers, in their wisdom, apparently, changed their names to Elvis! Well, two of the brewers (owners) did. They won their case and it is still called ELVIS JUICE and is the third best selling beer in the UK!

https://www.brewdog.com/lowdown/blog/elvis-juice-here-to-stay

Visiting the Cotswolds, cake, cold weather and pubs…

Witney

 

We decided to go ahead with our visit to the Cotswolds despite the beast from the east heading our way. The weather was sunny and looked like a glorious spring day but bitterly cold. As it wasn’t grey and pouring with rain and not snowing until the following week that would be OK.

We stopped at a pretty town called Witney on the way to the Cotswolds area and enjoyed a wander around the town. Popped into a coffee shop for some quick refreshment and were duly sent upstairs because they were so busy. Amazing how coffee shops are always busy and you have to fight to find a space to sit. Anyway, we found a table and sat and admired the view of the old radio, church and common. In fact, it was so pretty, I decided to take some photos much to the fascination of the other customers.

Burford

 

Next stop was Burford, which is basically a town on a hill with far reaching views of the countryside. This place is the ‘gateway to the Cotswolds’ and a popular medieval wool town. Lots of stone walled buildings which are said to retain the original medieval street plan and some houses bear traces of the Middle Ages. The road runs east-west, originally past the 16th century market hall called the Tolsey which is now a local history museum. We strolled down the hill observing the views and when we came to the bottom of the hill there was a pretty stream and a house with dogs watching us through the window.

Burford

 

We stayed in a wonderful B & B guest house in Cheltenham that night, which was simply stunning. A beautiful, immaculate French colonial style villa built in 1855, called The Battledown. It is conveniently located on the east side of Cheltenham and about a mile from the main town. When we arrived, we were given a warm welcome and offered a cup of tea. So I admired the décor of the immaculate dining room and enjoyed a cuppa with homemade cookies. The owner gave us a map and information about Cheltenham and the Cotswolds and even told us about the local pub, the Sandford Park Ale House. Wonderful service and attention to detail. We were then shown our room (where our bags had already been delivered) and left to unpack.

We then walked into Cheltenham to explore the town. Was expecting something more grand to be honest, but we did enjoy a small libation in the Sandford Park Ale House, which was rather splendid and had a superb selection of ales and craft beers. I enjoyed a small Mad Goose Pale Ale, which was rather delicious.

Sandford Park Ale House

 

After a superb full English breakfast the following morning, with homemade baked beans, marmalade and banana bread we set off to explore the Cotswolds.

First stop, was a quick look at the Pittville Pump Room, which is basically a wedding venue but interesting to view nonetheless. Majestic columns, ornate interior, impressive domed ceiling and set in extensive lawns. Pleasant enough to have a quick nose around and also had a quick look inside, but scurried off when we heard the echoing footsteps.

Pittville Pump Room

 

On the way to our first stop Winchcombe, we paused to admire the countryside of Cleeve Hill. This is an area of outstanding beauty and it shows. Also known as the Cleeve Cloud, it is the highest point of the Cotswolds hill range at 1083 feet. The whole area commands some of the most breathtaking sights. Well worth taking some time to admire the local countryside and probably, like the rest of the Cotswolds, a great place for some exacting walks.

Cleeve Hill area

 

Winchcombe was our first stop and very quiet. I feared everything would be shut, but as we sauntered through the town, many places were open and the town soon came alive. Winchcombe is a pretty ancient Anglo Saxon village with the nearby Sudeley Castle. Apparently, Winchcombe means ‘valley with a bend’ and the town still has the street which does a curve along the ‘combe’. The area was known for tobacco growing which was banned in 1619 due to the interest of industry in America and the colonies.

Winchcombe

 

Next stop was Broadway and Chipping Campden. Broadway is a little different because of the broad road area. However, it is just as picturesque with an interesting heritage and was an ancient ‘ridgeway’ and the main road from Worcester to London. The high street is lined with horse chestnut trees and has a fascinating mix of period houses with the honey coloured stone cottages that are so prevalent and world famous in the Cotswolds. We enjoyed seeing some early spring flowers and blossom too. Don’t be fooled by the sunshine, it was very cold, but little did we know how cold it was going to become!

Broadway

 

Broadway

 

Onwards to Chipping Campden, where we enjoyed a memorable chocolate cake. I say cake, it was like a thick biscuit with chunks of chocolate and it was amazingly delicious. The sedate ambience was lovely and the residents are said to be fiercely protective of the woollen boom. The place is delightful and well preserved with a magnificent 15 century church and market hall built in 1627 as a centrepiece for the town.

Chipping Campden

 

Later during the afternoon, we had a brief stop at Moreton in Marsh. My husband used to visit there as a child because his parents travelled to the town to visit friends. It is a pleasant town and historically known for its coaching station before the Oxford to Worcester railway in 1853. There is an array of pubs, inns, hotels, tea shops and an elegant eighteenth-century feel to the place.

Moreton in Marsh

 

Finally, we went on to Bourton on the Water where we had booked a B & B for the night. We stayed in a great B & B guest house, the Broadlands Guest House, and welcomed by a friendly owner. The breakfast was again, splendid with very generous portions. Great value for money too.

Bourton on the Water

 

The tranquil river is fed by springs and meanders through the village which epitomises a rural England. Quaint shops, the Old Mill and the arched stone bridges are so relaxing and attractive. The earliest bridge is said to have been built 1654 (known as Broad Bridge) and that is what is so charming about the Cotswolds; it is old and has preserved its beauty.

Bourton on the Water

 

If you go to the Cotswolds, do not miss this place as it is, in my opinion, the jewel in the crown. One thing though, make sure you frequent the pub just outside of the village centre called The Mousetrap Inn. It is the pub to relax and eat in. You will enjoy a well stocked bar offering ales, lagers and ciders and has been included in the CAMRA ‘Good Beer Guide’ over several years. We enjoyed a scrumptious roast lamb and chocolate brownie. The place was busy even on a fiercely cold Monday evening so is probably heaving with people, in the summer.

Mousetrap pub

 

So for a last full day we visited Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter. The cold weather was really taking the Micky out of the glorious sunshine now, as temperatures plummeted to –2c. Most of my photography shows warm, sunny spring days, but in reality, it was so cold on this day, we could barely stay out of the car for too long!

Lower Slaughter

 

Lower Slaughter is tiny and very picturesque, although there is not a lot there the countryside and mill views are joyful and I felt this is where my photography really captured the Cotswolds. The Old Mill which was last used commercially in 1958, and the shop full of curious and unusual gifts. This place was voted Most Romantic Street in Britain (2011) and this title is probably well deserved. I wonder how many men have proposed marriage here? The name comes from the Old English name of a wetland ‘slough’ or ‘slothre’ which is Old English for muddy place.

Lower Slaugher

The ‘Most Romantic Road’ at Lower Slaughter

 

Upper Slaughter is another super place for photography and wandering aimlessly. The village is known as a Double Thankful Village because all of their members of the armed forces survived both World War I and World War II.

Upper Slaughter

 

Onwards, to Yanworth where I enjoyed some landscape photography while hubby waited patiently in the car. Can’t tell you how cold the weather was. Oh, I already have haha! Not been so cold for years and years and even wore tights under trousers! Haven’t done that since I was a young girl.

Yanworth

 

On the way home, we stopped at Cirencester which was so cold (minus 2c) and with the wind factor felt like minus 10c. We had a quick look around and enjoyed a teacake and cuppa and set off home knowing we were facing several inches of snow in Kent. We got home OK, although they shut the A21 due to a serious accident so we did a risky cross country tour and arrived home to a freezing house because the heating had inadvertently turned off.

Cirencester

 

To sum up, I can highly recommend the Cotswolds area and thoroughly recommend you take the above route through the beautiful stone villages and enjoy visiting…

Witney

Burford

Cheltenham

Cleeve Hill

Winchcombe

Broadway

Chipping Campden

Moreton in Marsh

Bourton on the Water

Lower Slaughter

Upper Slaughter

Yanworth

Cirencester

 

Hopefully, it will be sunny but not quite as cold. Thank you for reading this rather long epistle on the Cotswolds. A truly wonderful, outstanding area of natural beauty.

On the way home, we visited Chipping Norton and saw this amazing building which fascinated us so much we stopped the car and went for a walk towards it so I could take some photos. I’ve since discovered it is called Bliss Tweed Mill, which manufactured tweed and became a listed building around 1980 (Grade II). The Mill was built in 1872 for cloth manufacturer William Bliss and designed by George Woodhouse of Bolton. The chimney stack is styled as a tall Tuscan column and supported by cast iron columns. The mill prospered in the First World War after a large order for khaki cloth for the British Army, was received. The mill closed in 1980 and was converted to residential apartments during the end of the ‘80s.

Bliss Tweed Mill

 

 

Links and sources:

http://www.thebattledown.co.uk/home/4583623248

http://www.broadlandsguesthouse.com/

http://www.spalehouse.co.uk/

http://www.cotswolds.info/places/winchcombe.shtml

https://www.broadway-cotswolds.co.uk/

http://www.themousetrapinn.co.uk/

http://www.cotswolds.info/places/upper-slaughter.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bliss_Tweed_Mill

Musings about December…

After my rant about the festivities, I had a wonderful holiday and feel quite refreshed. However, now realise some motivation is required to move forward any projects, etc., planned for this year. Funny how you tell yourself ‘after December, I’ll do this, that and the other’ and now it’s here, finally, one needs to make some decisions about life! Trying not to panic haha.

After the family gathering on the 25th Dec, which was a hoot, we went to Sheffield Park Gardens on Boxing Day and had a saunter around the lakes, decorated Christmas gardens and woodland. We took a picnic lunch, because, and I must plan this better, we had so much food left over. Next year, I must remember to prepare less food. I really didn’t need to bake those lemon cakes, and quite so many mince pies. Do you do this?

When in the car for a coffee break, the heavens opened and it poured with rain, so as it was 1 o’clock, we had our lunch. It was delicious and I’ve decided to start taking picnics more often because it’s so much less hassle than queuing up with the crowds and over paying for something quite ordinary.

We ventured back around the gardens and I concentrated on taking some photos with my new camera, the Nikon D3300 which was great fun. The place is beautiful even in the winter. The trees expose their structural form and reflect over the lakes. Having recently done a photography course, I was rather chuffed with the results and hopefully will improve during 2018.

We explored the 250 acres of parkland which dates back to the 18th century and you find yourself pausing and admiring the view of copses of trees around the hills. It is a wonderful place to explore, reflect and admire the parkland, streams, meadows and woodland. If you haven’t been, I can highly recommend a visit. A relaxing and serene environment where you feel you can get away from it all.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

The next day, I took the borrowed dog, Oscar, for a long walk. It was quite windy and the sky was incredible with an amazing sunset. Really enjoy our walks and I’ve got to know many woodland and field walks in the area.

On Thursday, 28 December, we visited family and enjoyed a trip  to the pub for a couple of beers. I drank a very hoppy Dark Star, Hop Head. The Land of Liberty in Hertfordshire, is a CAMRA pub and always has an exceedingly splendid selection of beers.

On Friday, 29 December we went with my son and girlfriend to see the latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi. I cooked a beef casserole which was delicious and made a change from turkey. The film was brilliant and wonderfully produced. To be honest, I found it a little long, but I did enjoy it.

“The greatest teacher, failure is.” – Yoda

Mistakes are inevitable. They hurt. They’re hard. But we learn from them. Lift someone up after a misstep with this quote from Yoda.

On Saturday, we met my husband’s brothers for a few beers and a meal in London, Bakers Street. We met up in The Volunteer a pub near Regent’s Park. It seemed funny, because I used to drink there when I worked in the area many years ago. Someone then told me that people don’t drink during the lunchtime anymore. This I find hard to believe. Although, judging by the amount of suits in the pubs during the evening, I assume evening drinking is the new trend? Anyway, the food was good and I tried to have something healthy so opted for a Verdure and then Seabass for my main course. Very pleasant.

On Sunday, we were rather relieved to have ‘a day off’ which is a little ironic as it was New Year’s Eve. We stayed in and enjoyed some beer and watched the BBC drama ‘The Miniaturist’. It is about a new, young wife who is given a doll’s house for a wedding present. The exquisitely made contents, which she mysteriously receives, appear to reflect the Brandt family’s hidden secrets. The drama is majestic and creepy, but quite enticing. The photography of the Amsterdam canal house is extraordinarily clever. In fact, you feel like you are watching a Dutch masterpiece.

We were so pleased not to have to go out, we couldn’t even be bothered to go to our local. Rock and Roll. Strange how we go out all year round, but stay in the one night most people go out!

After all that, although I am against dry January, because it does harm to the pub industry, I do feel I need a break from alcohol and rich food so will focus on feeling better with some exercise and fresh air, etc. More on that in the next blog posts!

So another year over and onwards and upwards. Happy New Year everyone!

Andy xxx

 

#London Adventures… Art, Decorations, Curry and Beer…

Enjoyed a busy weekend which included a trip to London and a sunny and cold walk on Sunday. The decision was made. Go to London for a day trip, but what to do?

The website https://www.timeout.com/london is an excellent source of inspiration and I soon spotted an art exhibition that will interest us… Dali Duchamp at the Royal Academy of Arts.

After suffering the train journey which was expensive, late and crowded, a soup and sandwich had to be consumed in Pret. Ok, I’m well aware the skeptical could go on about a marketing ploy, but I love the way they care and don’t waste food at the end of the day. See the pics at the end of this post!

After relaxing with my warming soup and sandwich, we ventured forth to the exhibition which was very interesting and informative on a variety of art movements (Dada, Surrealism, Readymade, The Surrealist Object, Eroticism and Paranoiac-Critical Theory). My only complaint was that it only kept us quiet for about two hours and unlike other exhibitions you pay for, there weren’t any free exhibitions in the same facility. Never mind, it was a magnificent glimpse into the legendary Dali and included paintings, drawings, book illustrations, prints, sculpture, photographs and historical film. You can submerge yourself in their subversive work and satisfy your curiosity about Dali’s friendship with Duchamp.

Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp maintained a bond of mutual admiration despite having different artistic endeavours. Ultimately, it is clear, from this fascinating display of their work, that they shared absurdity and cynicism which subsequently led them to challenge conventional art. Duchamp’s legacy was often hailed as the father of conceptual art and his friendship with Dali, who was flamboyant and dramatic, puzzled Duchamp’s admirers. However, upon examining the juxtaposition of their work, you can see common ground because of their experimental and philosophical associations. Both are quite bizarre but absolutely fascinating. Highly recommended.

Afterwards, we wandered over the road towards Fortnum and Mason to gaze at the glorious, colourful window displays. Then, of course, I could not resist a look around the store. It was packed full of shoppers, mingling amongst the impressive Christmas decorations. Good grief, bit early, isn’t it? Not even December yet. They do this, in case you are wondering, because everybody shops in November now, to miss the crowds (hahaha). If you go up the magnificent staircase, you can visit the cook shop, ladies department and the posh men’s accessories too. Lots and lots of leather. The food hall is downstairs where you can by miniature bananas and other stupid things, normal people don’t want. The glamour and grandeur may be over the top, but it is London and amusing to visit.

Upon arrival at Kings Cross we popped in a pub called The Betjeman Arms for a quick glass of Beavertown IPA. Delicious! We sat outside overlooking the amazing arches of St Pancras. Yes, there was heating, thank goodness and it was a relief to sit down. Next time, we will go to London during the week. What was I thinking?

Next stop, was Kings Cross for the curry. Although not a big curry fan, I had heard about the restaurant, Dishoom, and wanted to visit. The restaurant at Kings Cross, was featured on Tricks of the Restaurant Trade, Channel 4, UK. We arrived at about 4.30 pm and it was packed. There was me thinking the place will be empty! Nobody eats curry at that time, right? Wrong!

It is based on:

“THE OLD IRANI CAFÉS of Bombay have almost all disappeared. Their faded elegance welcomed all: rich businessmen, sweaty taxi-wallas and courting couples. Fans turned slowly. Bentwood chairs were reflected in stained mirrors, next to sepia family portraits. Students had breakfast. Families dined. Lawyers read briefs. Writers found their characters.

Opened early last century by Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran, there were almost four hundred cafés at their peak in the 1960s. Now, fewer than thirty remain. Their loss is much mourned by Bombayites.”

So the food is traditional curry and encapsulates quality food without fuss. The service was excellent as the waitress skilfully guided us through the menu which was useful because it is quite different from your usual curry establishment. Again, I can recommend this immersive experience. Be warned though, it is very popular. As we left we passed a long queue outside! Everyone must have been freezing.

Overall, a great day out viewing superb art, shopping (although I didn’t buy anything), eating and drinking. Oh, the beer was good too! Dishoom IPA, oh yes.

 

 

Other photos of bits which I found interesting. Good intentions from Pret and art on a building (Kings Cross)…

 

The Ivy, Tower Bridge – Part 2

After the blogging event, we jumped on the Tube and went to The Ivy, London Bridge. It is near the station and the bridge so easy to find. The restaurant has a large glass window front with a magnificent view of London Bridge. We crossed the bridge to reach the restaurant and was able to take some wonderful night time views.

When we located the place we had trouble finding the entrance as you have to walk around the corner to actually find it. We arrived and was taken to our table. A lovely place which was exceedingly busy with lots of people having animated conversations about life and enjoying the delicious food.  We were asked if we would like still or sparkling water and my daughter firmly said ‘tap please’. I love the way she doesn’t worry about what people think, although nor do I nowadays.

The staff were friendly and told us all about the menu, but we couldn’t hear because it was soooo noisy. Unfortunately, this does seem to be a problem, but I could see that the problem would not last and many people were finishing their meals and had come from work so would probably depart which is, exactly what happened.

I had duck pate to start, lamb for my main course and then this most amazing chocolate bomb. I decided to have a beer because I had to drive home from the station, in a few hours time. Unfortunately, the glass was completely inappropriate for a female as it was large with a handle and the rime was about half an inch thick. I tweeted them about it, but was positive apart from complaining about the glass. The food and service were superb. The chocolate bomb was incredible and the highlight of the meal.  The waiter poured hot caramel sauce over the smooth mound and it all collapsed into a kaleidoscope of beauty and gorgeousness.  Oh, the  decadence of it! Yum! We are still dreaming about it. Quite sublime.

Can recommend the experience and it wasn’t too pricey. Not really. It is what life is all about really, isn’t it?