Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

It’s actually on the 15th of the month, but I’m a bit slow to catch up this time. In bloom in my zone 7 garden last Monday:
snowbells (just starting to bloom)

species daffodils (my favorites)

winter aconite (just going by)

crocuses (I don’t remember planting these here, but okay)


It’s been a cool spring, and things are late this year, judging by last year’s photos. The forsythia is not blooming yet, and the daffodils in the cutting garden have just started to open. Soon enough it will be on us like a runaway train!

Block printing, part one

India, and especially Rajasthan, is one of the places where block printing is a specialty, and the Anokhi Textile Museum not only displayed the results but showed us how it was done. 

We started out in the exhibit spaces. The fabrics are so lovely, and the patterns so beautiful and so reminiscent of quilt patterns, that I could not stop taking pictures. I especially liked the cloth game boards with their marching soldiers and geometric designs. The garments were lovely, too.

After such a big lunch and no nap, with the guide telling us things in a soothing singsong voice, I was nearly out cold as we made our way through the galleries, despite the beauty.  But the block carving demo was fascinating (and allowed me to stretch my aching back), both for the man’s skill and for his ability to sit in a full squat for hours on end!

Here is the man who carved the blocks, squatting on the floor and tapping skilfully at the wooden block to create the design.

Then we watched the man who prints the blocks quickly but with great accuracy, much more challenging a task than he made it look.

They showed us how to make a pretend block print on the inside of our wrists, which was oddly wonderful,

and several of us tried our hand at printing on paper.

A few more images from the workshop: carved blocks, and the trays of inks.

The gift shop offered many delights, including some little notebooks for the girls, and little purses for the nieces, plus a pack of 100 block printed squares for the quilters among us.

On the way out of the village we saw lots of kites in the air, plus monkeys shinnying up the wires and leaping from ledge to ledge.  Back at the Trident by 5:00 and dinner not till 7:00, time for a welcome rest after a busy day.

Food, glorious food

Today started with a walk through a produce market. It was hard not to photograph absolutely everything because of the colors, textures, and people. Unfortunately, I can’t identify all of these things, but aren’t they gorgeous?  

Here’s a very short video to show the sweep of items,

We were advised to ask people for permission before taking their picture. Dressed in a bright orange sari, this woman sat by her produce smoking a bidi, and I was happy to give her a tip in exchange for this photo.

And here we are threading our way between the stalls, most of which are simply on the ground, on trays or wrapped in cloth bundles.

The little metal pieces next to the carrots are weights used to weigh your produce.  You can see the scale at center top.


We had to skip the flower market because of street closures (Indira Gandhi’s grandson was in town), so we returned to the hotel for a quick break.  There’s a little shop where several of us went in and found fabric.  The tailor measured us for shirts, helped us select the fabric, and assured us that we would have the result tomorrow (and only $35!).

Back on the bus, we stopped at a Hindu temple built in the 17th century.   Several people were there praying in front of an altar that had two big figures in front of it, looking a bit like dolls but made of shredded tissue paper.  Everyone takes off their shoes before entering.

A flock of doves wheeled and flew above our heads.

Next door was a restaurant with a very friendly and jolly owner, along with several cooks and helpers.  For our lunch demo there were two stations set up with gas burners and prepared/chopped vegetables, manned by a man and his wife.  This spice box is found in most Indian kitchens.

Together with a helper who rushed over with the needed ingredient when called for, they demo’d several dishes to us:  cauliflower with turmeric and tomatoes, roasted eggplant in spices, okra, and more.

The cook worked so fast, her hands were just a blur. Then we went outside to gloriously colorful tents set up on the lawn and were served the most delicious food.

Appetizers of delicate samosas and something fried served with two chutneys, then the most delicious tomato soup cooked with cinnamon, chapatis and another bread, and the dishes we had observed them cooking.  Plus a most delicious dish of chickpea dumplings in sauce.  But we were not yet done!  A small dish of butterscotch ice cream with pistachios and then peanut brittle and sesame candy, which I clearly ate too fast to get a photo.  Followed by mango lassi that was delicious.  Wow!

The chef explained the tomato soup prep to us – I’m not sure I could replicate it but I’d love to try.

This was a lovely interval, and we even got to see some leopard tracks (apparently they come down from the mountains from time to time)

and a pair of parrots.  A very good visit.

Continue reading

Bulb Orders fall 2020

All bulbs have arrived, except for the B&B order, which annoyingly won’t be here for another ten days.  Tulip Maytime will go in the raised bed for cutting, and the crocuses will go around the maple tree.  I love the West Point tulips, so some will go in the raised bed and the rest will go in places where I will see them easily.

Mary’s Garden Patch

Tulip Lily Maytime 

McClure & Zimmerman

Budlight Lily-Flowered Tulip
Crocus Tommasinianus Roseus
West Point Lily-Flowered Tulip

White Flower Farm

Tulip ‘Tom Pouce’
Tulip ‘Queen of Night’
Tulip ‘White Triumphator

Brent and Becky’s

Narcissus – Topolino
Narcissus – Pink Charm
Narcissus – Sunlight Sensation
Narcissus – Baby Boomer
Tulipa – Happy Generation
Ipheion – uniflorum ‘Jessie’
Ipheion – uniflorum ‘Tessa’
Narcissus – Paperwhite ‘Ziva’

Palaces and pots

Today turned into a relaxed day, starting with the City Palace, so much better preserved than the previous palaces we’ve seen. Jaipur was a planned city, built in the early 18th century, and the palace dates from 1699.  Along with numerous buildings, courtyards, galleries and offices, it houses the royal family.

Here is a touristy shot of me at the palace with two of the royal guards.  Notice my beautiful scarf, a present from Sujata and Amy on our first evening.

Inside are gorgeous spaces, including these beautiful blue rooms.  You can see why this is also a wedding venue.

Other rooms featured mirrors and jewels. Here you can see the group taking pictures like mad, we couldn’t stop ourselves!

Another view

In this room (above) a guide turned out the lights and showed us what it would look like by candlelight.

In the courtyard are beautiful gates, each dedicated to a different season and each beautifully decorated. This is the green doorway dedicated to Lord Ganesha.

And this is the lotus gate.

The peacock gate is especially  intricate.

After lunch and a much-needed liedown we headed to a pottery center with a plan to watch a master potter at his craft. Unfortunately, he was away that day, much to Sujata’s disappointment, and we would not have a chance to paint the pots ourselves.  Nevertheless, we rallied enough to do some shopping and I bought a big vase that when carefully wrapped was big enough to fill half my suitcase.  I loved the colors and the shape…Sadly, the TSA unwrapped it and it arrived in pieces, but I did manage to bring home intact a floral tile and a small head of Durga.

On our way back we had another tourist opportunity, this time to get a picture of the Hawa Mahal or “The Palace of Winds” or “The Palace of Breeze,” built in 1699 and recently restored. Women in purdah could look out of one of the 953 small windows and watch the world go by unseen.

A day filled with colors, sights, shapes, beauty!

A fort, a step well, some shopping

Today (Sunday) wasour first full day together, starting with a visit to the Amber Fort, high above the city. The landscape is entirely different from the flat, dry plains of Delhi and Agra; green, with hills and mountains in sight and the fort at the top of a dusty hill. We got on the minibus to the town of Amber and then took Jeeps up the steep mountainside. We stopped first at the Panna Meena ka Kund stepwell, dating from the 10th century.  Stepwells were commonly used to collect and store water but were also gathering places, especially for women, and provided cool air on sweltering day.  It functioned like a cistern, with steps along the sides so that you could get to the water no matter what the depth, depending on rainfall. The design was graphically strong, very striking and filled with patterns, light and dark. And of course there were monkeys everywhere. Here are Carol and Caron in a little gazebo overlooking the well.

At the top of the hill, we met our affable guide who explained the fort to us, though between being hard to hear and hard to understand it was not terribly iluminating. Though it’s called a fort, there are three palaces here, winter, summer and monsoon, where the princesses lived, with no man allowed in except for the king. Again, beautiful carvings and painted walls. And long walls along the ridgeline to keep out…someone? The winter palace featured mirrored walls to reflect the light on cold winter days.

(Bad hair day, but so it goes!)  (And this was my go-to costume: travel vest where I could put my phone, guidebook or pamphlet, hand sanitizer, tissues, etc., small purse, and backpack for other layers, water bottle, emergency book, etc. etc.  Luckily I no longer care deeply about how I look when traveling!)

And everywhere, beautifully detailed inlaid designs.

There are elephants that you can ride, though it’s not a good idea for the elephants, so we did not indulge.

On the way out of the Amber fort we stopped by a bookstore with an interesting selection.  I’m really liking the Dalrymple book so hope to read more of him when I get home.

After lunch at the hotel, we gathered for a quick intro by each one of us.  Many stories to tell – Pati and her benign optic nerve tumor, M and her debilitating car accident that’s still being litigated, Sujata and her recovery from breast cancer, Amy and her year of refocusing that included a decision to stop designing fabric, Ginger and her story of finding her true love in Saskatchewan, et al.  A great group!

The afternoon was long.  We began by stopping at a new city gate that has been decorated in the traditional style.  It was beautiful and much visited by locals, especially young ones.  Then off to two markets at which point I was beginning to sag.  The first was an outdoor market set up in conjunction with the Literary Festival, where I saw some fabrics that I liked but nothing I needed to own. (This is also where we saw the creepy monkey man.)  The second shop had lovely clothes but I was really dead on my feet by now. Dinner at the hotel around 8 and then fell into bed.

Revisiting England 1995

Inspired by wherethewindblows, I’m going back to old journals to transcribe earlier trips.  Here’s the first, England with Mom and Dad, Uncle Buzz and Weezer 1995.  Note that all photos are from the web.

Cathedral Gate Hotel, Canterbury

We finally got here!  After a mix-up at Hertz about the B&B vouchers which ended happily, we took the M25 and stopped on the way at a place that sold T-shirts proclaiming “I survived the M25!”  I need one.  The car [Toyota van] is easy to drive and doesn’t feel too big, but lots of traffic.  

The hotel is right next to Christchurch Gate and we have views of the spire from our windows.  The way to the room is peculiar but wonderful, including a short stretch on the rooftops, decorated with daffodils in window boxes and a view of the cathedral. [Here is a view of that walk without the daffodils]

Sandwiches and a nap and a walk around.  The car is staying in the car park on Duck Lane and is happy there.  The streets are narrow, half-timbered buildings and alleys, perfect for walking.

We had a very nice dinner at a Spanish tapas place and shared delicious bites after a pungent curried parsnip soup.  We’ll all have breakfast at our own pace and meet tomorrow at 9:30 (after Uncle Buzz goes to 8:00 communion) for a cathedral tour.

We made it!

Wednesday, April 19

Toured the Cathedral this morning, an impressive building – Norman, so very massive, but with many side chapels and a large undercroft and cloisters.  Then we followed a walking tour around the cloisters and other buildings.  Thomas a Becket was murdered here most horribly and there is a powerful memorial to him where he was killed.

After a so-so lunch in the Queen Elizabeth restaurant (nicely decorated plaster ceiling of her era), we parted way for naps, etc.  I went back to the Cathedral for the audio tour and enjoyed it.  Then we all went to the Canterbury Tales, somewhat hokey but fun [and now closed after 35 years], and to Evensong.  Beautifully sung by a mixed choir, and we prayed for law enforcement officers (a policeman was killed last night in East London).  Then supper at a pub that advertised Old English Fayre and featured nachos and “Tennessee toffee pie.”  Called AO and determined that all is well.

Canterbury is filled with school groups, many of them French, so it seems crowded, but outside of the main streets it’s busy but charming.

Thursday, April 20

A long day.  Booked our rooms for Salisbury this a.m. which took a long time.  Then off to Dover (only 16 miles away) to see the Castle.  Impressive but brutal, perched on a steep hill overlooking the Channel.  Must have been frigidly cold and damp.  A chapel to Becket – Henry was very penitent once the deed was done.

Jacket potato lunch at the castle and then down to the town for a view of the white cliffs from the docks.  We got a bit mixed up but did see them.  [I’m sure we didn’t get this great a view!] 

First we went to Hellfire Corner, the caves under the cliffs first used in Napoleonic times, then during WWII to plan the Dunkirk evacuation and then up to the 60s.  It must have been cold and stuffy!

Then set out for Salisbury, which took forever.  It was 4:00 by the time we left and it took four hours.  Parts of the drive were beautiful – flat through Romney Marsh, then over the downs and finally to Salisbury.  The Byways Guest House on Fowlers Road [still there in 2020 tho it seems to be apartments instead of rooms], soup for dinner in a non-smoking pub, served by a funny and quick man, then thankfully bed.  I have a single with shared bath but it’s right next door.  All worked well.

Friday, April 21

A nice breakfast and then to Salisbury.  Parked at the Cathedral and had a tour from a wonderful guide who had us five alone.  Salisbury is more open and brighter than Canterbury and set in a lovely expanse of green lawn.  Inside it’s simple and elegant and has no choir screen so it all seems more beautiful.salisbury cathedral

The Chapter House chapter househas a stone frieze all around it telling the stories of the Old Testament – beautifully done – I wish there had been a book or postcards of it.  [Adam and Eve]adam and eve

Also, of course, the Magna Carta [on display above].  The guide told us that for years the librarian – who lived in the Close as one of the perks of her job – took it home with her every night for safekeeping – up until 1975!  Unbelievable.

We had lunch at the Haunch of Venison, recommended in Fodor’s and The Good Pub Guide.  Delicious sandwiches in an upstairs room overlooking a church. haunch I booked our rooms in Wells at the TIC – they’re all en suite – and then we drove to Avebury, stopping briefly along the way at Stonehenge, just long enough to see it from the road.

In Avebury Museum, a wonderful National Trust man told us about ancient stone circles and how Avebury had sites older than Stonehenge.   Then we walked around the stones.  They’re all higgledy-piddledy in among people’s houses, quite incredible.  An exhilarating walk along a ridge above the stones.avebury

Then drove to Wells, again longer then I thought – 1 1/2 hours not 45 minutes – so Mom and I left without dinner to meet Silla and Bruno at the plane in Bristol.

We drove like mad through Cheddar and north – the chef at the Red Lion who gave us directions said we’d know when we got there because there are signs along the highway that tell you to stop your car when lights are flashing to let the planes go by!

S & B were among the last to get off the plane because their luggage was left in Brussels but they seemed unconcerned.  Silla looks great, and Bruno is very affectionate with a nice sense of humor.  We drove back to Wells and had a supper of yougurt and pasta salad before bed.

Saturday, April 22

A grim start because it’s pouring down rain, the hot water kettle doesn’t work and I left the hair dryer in the car – oh, and the shower never got too hot.  But one must soldier on.

A nice breakfast of muesli and toast and then we all but Weezer went to the Cathedral (she is feeling tired and cranky and stayed behind to read).  wells cathedralAgain, we had a wonderful guide, and Wells is beautiful.  The decorated ceiling, scissors arches and Lady Chapel are particularly wonderful.  wells interior




The guide pointed out a number of wonderful carvings, as well as the clock and the stream of steps up to the Chapter House with its beautiful ceiling.

wells stairs

We had a soup lunch at the Crown Hotel, where William Penn was fined for preaching without a license.

Then did a mild driving tour, stopping at Chewton Cheddar Dairy for cheese and then to Chew Magna, ancestral home of Thomas Minor.  A nice church and a small town set among beautiful green hills with trees silhouetted along their ridgetops.chew magna

Chatted with a woman in the supermarket who told us most people now commuted to Bristol or even to London (2 hours by train).  Then back through Cheddar Gorge – very dramatic, especially in contrast to the soft Mendip Hills, and on to Wells.

Dinner tonight at the White Hart – garlic and mushrooms and lamb and red wine – with a funny waitress, small and dark and sharp.  Walked back by the Cathedral – not lit as dramatically as Canterbury – and so to bed.

Sunday, April 23

glastonbury torA bright day, so we drove south to Glastonbury andc climbed the Tor – very dramatic, rising out of the landscape, with the tower on top and sheep grazing all around.  Windy and bright and wonderful views.  Then we drove south to Street, said to be a beautiful village though it escaped us.  But we went to the Shoe Museum and found enormous 17th century jackboots and the huge boots worn by peat workers.  [Closed last year but incorporated into another Trust to do with shoes!] Lunch at The Mullions, a very nice pub down the road, then back to Wells.

Silla and Bruno and I decided to go for a walk.  The very nice people at the Tourist Information Center recommended Ebbor Gorge, and it was great.  Bluebells and anemones and primroses along the path, a steep climb up the gorge, then at the top we followed the footpath across the sheep fields towards the TV transmitter on Pin Hill.ebbor gorge

Silla and Bruno are wonderful together.  He told a funny story about trading Africa stories with Papi and telling how he contracted a disease in Africa that resulted in a discharge from his penis!  Papi was interested from a medical viewpoint while Mami kept asking if anyone wanted more potatoes. Fabia said later it must have been the first time that word was ever spoken on Ottoplatz!

It was a great walk, very invigorating even though the sky was overcast and a light wind was blowing.  Great views over the Mendip Hills.

Dinner tonight at the Fountain, a restaurant near the Cathedral.  We celebrated M&D’s 47th anniversary, Dad’s 74th birthday, Weezer’s 42nd and the reunion of all of us.  A very nice dinner and then walked back through the Cathedral Green.

Monday, April 24

A gloomy day.  We drove to Mells, said to be one of the most beautiful villages in Somerset.  A wonderful church with a seven-foot-tall embroidery designed by in the style of Burne-Jones.  burne-jones embroideryThen on to Castle Combe, most beautiful village in England.  castle combeVery nice.  Had lunch at the White Hart where they, unbelievably, could not make tea because the kettle wasn’t working!

Then a mad rush to the airport at Lulsgate-Bristol, where signs on the road warn to stop when lights are flashing so the planes can go by!  Goodbye to Silla, who wept when she left us…

We drove on through Cheddar to Priddy, where school was just letting out.  The church has a 12th century font and was filled with huge bouquets of daffodils.

Back to Wells.  I walked to the Bishop’s Palace and then followed the footpath to Dulcote, 1 1/2 miles away on a paved path.  A church was for sale, obviously not used as a church for some time.  Rain off and on – back around the moat to Vicars Close, quiet and peaceful, and back to the hotel.

Dinner at the Star.  We started out at the bar, which quickly filled with a huge after-work crowd, and then ate starters only in the restaurant, and so to bed.

Tuesday, April 25

Drove through Cheddar and then through the Quantock Hills to Dunster.  A hazy but bright afternoon.  dunsterDunster is a fairy tale castle from the road: high on a hill, with turrets and surrounded by gardens of tree peonies, rhododendrons and palm trees.  The house was less full of stuff than most English great houses, and from every room was the most beautiful view of the surrounding hills and pastures.  We had a picnic lunch under a huge oak: cheddar from the Chewton Cheese Dairy and cheddar with Guinness from the supermarket in Wells.

Then on to Tintagel.  The NT guides were leery of such a long trip at 3:00 in the afternoon, except fror one young woman who agreed that she drives the way I do and that I could make it in three hours.

Exmoor (before Dunster) was beautiful and even more so after Porlock Hill, so steep I couldn’t bear it Porlock-hillJPGand instead we took the scenic route which was perfectly steep enough.  At last we’re in wild country and Dad is happy.  We stopped at the Information Center for Exmoor at the County Gate car park.  exmoorStark views down the moor to the East Lyn River, hillsides covered with sheep and yellow gorse.  Then along the coast, in and out, to Boscastle, occasionally very steep hills, especially up to Boscastle, but not so bad as Porlock.

The B&B is Trerosewill Farmhouse, very modern.  trerosewillThree of us in the bungalow at the bottom of the hill and I’m in the main house, a room under the eaves with the shower and sink right here in the room so I can watch TV in the shower.  A pub dinner – chicken curry – at the Napoleon Inn.

Wednesday, April 26

A slow start to the day.  Cloudy skies and a good breakfast, carried Mom up the hill at 7:30.  Then Dad and I walked down the steep hill to Boscastle in search of information.  A slow walk up the hill following the village guide that points out interesting buildings.  Then off to Tintagel around 11:00.

Uncle Buzz and I walked and the others took the Land Rover down to the mouth of the harbor.  Who knows if King Arthur ever set foot here, it’s a glorious setting.  Steep steps up to the top of the headland, where low walls are the only remains of the 12th century castle.  Truly exhilarating and filled with primroses, violets, thrift and something white – cow parsley?

We all had pasties in the little cafe and then drove on to Bodmin Moor.  We stopped in Camelford (camel on the church tower  city hall weather vane) for directions and went through Tor or Monter as they call it.  Dramatic and empty but we stopped for just a quick look (it was starting to sprinkle).

Then on to Bolventor and Jamaica Inn via Altarnun, a small village with a church known as the Cathedral of the Moors – 16th century carvings on the “bench ends.”  [thanks to for the image]

Blisland 2010

Jamaica Inn had a fire going with tremendous logs in the fireplace.  We all had cream teas at 3:30 and felt much better.  The sun was even shining!

Then we drove on to Dozmary Pool – not too much there – and then to Minions to see the hurlers, a stone circle inhabited by cows who were scratching themselves on the stone, and the Cheesering, a natural stone outcropping some distance away.  The wind was blowing and we really felt we were on the moors – a bleak place in February!

Then home, and all but Dad (who was full of clotted cream) went to the Wellington Hotel in the bottom of the village for dinner.  Vegetable curry and lemon sole and the pub cat, tabby, who came to visit us because of the fish.  Also Murphy, the pub dog.

Thursday, April 27

Sunshine!  We got a fairly early start and went to Port Isaac [which I now know as Portwenn in the Doc Martin series].  Parked at the top of the village, and Dad and I walked along the coast path looking at gulls nesting in the cliffs.  We could see the other side of Tintagel from there.  Daddy started talking with a couple – the man had been in Norfolk during the war.  They both love St. Ives and told us we should go there.

Port Isaac had colorful but steep alleys between stone or whitewashed houses.  A real maze and hard to find your way back except by going up.

Then we drove straight through to St. Ives.  We missed the turn-off to get the trolley into town and ended up driving through incredibly cramped streets into a car park with barely enough room for the van.  Very stressful but then we went to the Sloop Inn and had a nice lunch.

After lunch we separated and I took a walk around St. Ives with a brochure from the Tourist Office.  Up to a high point overlooking the harbor and a brisk wind, the sea splashing on rocks below.

Then across to St. Michael’s Mount, very close though the other side of the peninsula.  We took a ferry across, that is, a 12-passenger boat bucking up and down in the waves.  Mom was very brave and we all helped her in and out.

St. Mary’s Mount is very romantic, rising out of the sea.  Uncle Buzz and I went up – straight up! – to the castle and took the tour, including a model of the castle made out of champagne corks by a former butler.  As Dad says, they parody themselves!

A dramatic view over the terrace almost straight down to the sea crashing below, and semi-tropical gardens terraced along the sides.  I sat next to the Lord on the ferry across – Mom noticed his beautifully made shoes – and we met him again on the tour.

We all met for tea and found that the National Trust director was meeting with the Lord and the staff of St. MM for tea.

By now it was 5:00 so we headed back to Boscastle.  Bread and cheese and wine in the family room for dinner.  And so to bed.

Friday, April 28

It’s grey again but not raining.  After breakfast we drove across to Forrabury Church and Dad and I walked across the Common to the tops of the cliff where we saw crashing waves and caves below.  Then across the moor to Launceston and then to Tavistock and so on to Dartmoor.

What a wild and wonderful landscape!  We got out of the car on top of the moor and felt the strong, wild wind blowing and could see for miles.  Wild country!

We drove on to Princetown,[home of Dartmoor Prison, scheduled to close in 2023], where the Dartmoor National Park Visitor Center is, and looked at their very good exhibits. I got a list of recommended pubs along our route from the very nice ranger.

We took the tour from the notebook starting at Twin Bridges going east.  We stopped a few times for views and moorland ponies and then came to the Rock Inn at Haytor Vale, where we had a most wonderful lunch – white vegetable soup and shared smoked salmon and prawns with Royal Oak ale in front of a huge  fireplace.  Quiet and elegant.

Then got directions to a nature walk nearby.  The others napped while I walked the three-mile woodland trail.  The booket focused mostly on the management of the forest.  I heard birds and saw ferns, primroses, bluebells and the granite tracks of a railway used to haul granite down the Teign River.  Some good steep hills and a few great views.

Then on to Exeter.  Getting into cities is never fun but we made it to the Clock Tower Hotel, only to find that the owner had decided, rather than have three there and one in another place, he would send all of us down the toad to his son’s place, Highbury.

Not a great place.  The owner was sweet and shy and his wife was friendly and not bright.  The house was freshly painted but the rooms lacked niceties such as hand towels and soap.

We had a picnic dinner in my room after Daddy, Uncle Buzz and I made an expedition to Sainsbury’s.

Saturday, April 29

It’s raining!  After a plonky breakfast – the first time we’ve had baked beans for breakfast – we drove to the TIC and decided to go to the Cathedral.  Walked through the High Street pedestrian area, relic of the Blitz, a newly built area with not much character.

After Wells, no cathedral can seem quite so wonderful.  Exeter is known for its length and its colorful bosses (including one of Becket’s murder, we can’t escape him!),as well as surviving the Blitz.  The close is small and pretty.  We walked back to the car and then had lunch at a not great pub recommended by Frommer’s, down by the quay.  Saw some huge swans chasing each other, they really almost walk on water as they try to take off.  Then looked at the movies but nothing suited so dropped everyone back at the hotel and I went into town to shop.

Looked at Dillon’s for J. Herriott’s Yorkshite – o.p. here too but the clerk was sure it wou ld be re-issued now that he’s died.  Peeked in a jewelry store, too, but nothing was right.  Saw a wonderful exhibit of photos of Dartmoor from the last 10-15 years, looked as if they could be from 100 years ago, people killing hogs, plucking chickens, herding cows.

Drinks in my roon and then we went to the Taj Mahal Tandoor – very nice!  but too much food.  Kebab and samosa and lamb and chicken, etc.  And so to bed.

Sunday, April 30

[The diary stops here, so I can only imagine that we somehow turned in the van and made our way to Heathrow and home.  I do have pictures but since they’re only analog, I have filled in with pics from the web.  ]



The long, cool spring of horrors

The horrors, of course, are the many manifestations of Covid-19, aka the coronavirus, aka the pandemic, the global pandemic, the quarantine, etc.  Starting around March 13, when everything shut down with only a few hours’ notice, we have been living a different life from anything we were imagining before.  No socializing, library and schools closed, businesses shut down, restaurants only providing takeout (and several with groceries available, too), curbside pickup at stores, no going out to eat, listening to music, having meetings. Don’t even think about traveling, not an hour up the road to Washington or across the ocean to Vienna, as was our plan for September.  It’s not so bad for people like me who have money and access to food and supplies, but it still wears a person down, especially given the criminal negligence of the government.  But that rant will remain unwritten here.

On the other hand, it’s been a lovely spring.  The cool weather has persisted with none of the 80+ degree days in April that cook the tulips.  Instead, long stretches of cool, sunny weather with even frost warnings a couple times in the last week.  We’re down for the year, but for the month our rainfall is right on track.  I can’t complain!

Narcissus ‘Sunlight Sensation’ and ‘Baby Boomer’ not only bloomed prolifically but lasted and lasted.  This is ‘Sunlight Sensation.’  Would definitely buy more next year to strew under the maple tree.

The tulips were a bit meager this year, with a few exceptions.  The ‘Happy Generation’ tulip that was supposed to bloom with this ‘Pink Charm’ narcissus barely grew a leaf or two. Tulips in pots seemed to be particularly weak or non-existent.  Voles??

On the other hand,  these dark pink tulips seem to be perennial (so far) and dutifully bloomed at the same time as the viburnum (just out of the frame).

The unfortunately named tulip ‘Bud Light’ was particuarly beautiful, though I don’t have a good picture from my garden.  Here’s one from Jackson & Perkins, and it’s just about how it looked for me, too.

Another one I’d buy again.

The oak tree garden, as always, was an absolute delight, starting with the winter aconites in January.  Here they are on February 9th, interspersed with snow drops. 

And a wider view, on April 11,

when the aconites are gone except for their foliage, and the bluebells, star of Bethlehem, columbine, Japanese roof iris and bleeding heart have taken over.

A closeup of the bluebells in late March: 

Not to forget the hellebores!  They bloom so early, last so long in bouquets, and are so incredibly lovely that I don’t mind that they breed like rabbits and self-seed everywhere.  This one was blooming on February 9th. 

So many beauties that I had to make a slide show for you.

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But wait, don’t forget the peonies and roses!  This was a hand-me-down from my friend Susan Hepler, known to me always as the Hepler peony.  The ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ has tons of buds but no blooms yet.

‘Zepherine Drouhin’ is one of my favorites, though it seems to have a fainter scent this year.  Maybe because of the cooler weather?

The ‘souvenir de Ste. Anne’ is an Earthkind rose, the very palest of pale pinks.

Then there is this neglected part of the garden:

The oakleaf hydrangeas that were supposed to grow six feet tall and help to obliterate my view of the neighbor’s shed never did grow very tall.  Then last year we had lots of rain at one point, and this corner of the garden tends to get soggy.  I think they have given up the ghost, and a great culling will happen here soon.  Edging, obliterating the hydrangeas and forsythia (at least some of it) and cutting down the maple saplings that have taken root.  What a mess!  Welcome to spring in Virginia!

A fort, an introduction, a monkey

Today was our first full day together, and it was a good one!  After breakfast – a buffet filled with delicious Indian food as well as hearty English fare – we piled into two minibuses for our morning out to the Amber Fort (above pic is from the bus).  We transferred at the bottom of the hill to several jeeps for the steep ride up.

But first, a famous step well, built 400 years  ago to collect water during the rainy season. The structure is well-known for its Escher-like stairs.  Some claim that you can’t go up and down using the same set of stairs unless you’re a local. I didn’t dare try!  Another view:

It was also a gathering place for women (as it was for us!). 

Carol and Caron sitting in one of the little gazebos at the top.

And of course, the ubiquitous monkeys.

Back in the jeeps for the final stretch up the steep hill to the fort or palace, another UNESCO World Heritage Site and an example of Mughal-Indian architecture.  Once inside, you enter a series of beautiful courtyards.  (Thanks, Getty images.)

We met our guide who explained the fort to us, though between the noise of the crowds and his strong accent,  it was not terribly illuminating. There are three palaces here, winter, summer and monsoon, where the princesses lived. No man was allowed in except for the king. Again, we marvelled at beautiful carvings and painted walls. Inside the palaces were more decorated walls, the winter palace with inserted mirrors to reflect the light on cold winter days.  This one featured sparkling inlaid glass in intricate patterns.

and more beautiful carvings and decorations.

And looking up from the fort, long walls along the ridgeline to keep out…someone?

Elephants were seen everywhere, including in real life (though one is advised not to take a ride for the sake of the animals’ health).

It was a fascinating site, though I felt very much like a tourist. But it’s a great memory to invoke when I next read about the Mughals.

On our way back, here’s a glimpse of the small town of Amer from our jeep.  I was trying to capture the incredible traffic and the millions of small food stands and shops though I missed the elephant lumbering along, so you must just imagine it. 

After the Amber fort we stopped by a bookstore with an interesting selection. I’m really liking the Dalrymple book so hope to read more of him when I get home.  Here we are waiting for the rest of the group:  Pamela, Janice, Marty, Carol, Lucie, Caron and Cathy.After all this glory, we took the minibuses back to the Trident for lunch and a brief break. After lunch we each introduced ourselves to the group. There were many stories to tell (some on the bus ride from Agra, and some here):   Pati and her benign optic nerve tumor,  Sujata and her recovery from breast cancer, Amy and her year of refocusing that included a decision to stop designing fabric, Ginger and her story of finding her true love in Saskatchewan, et al.  It is an amazing group of women!

At this point, we were supposed to visit the Jaipur Literary Festival (William Dalrymple is one of the organizers!), but Sujata and Amy got word that it would involve big crowds and lots of waiting in line, so instead we went into Jaipur and visited the Patrika Gate.

This is a modern tourist attraction that opens out to a park right in the middle of Jaipur.  The arches and ceilings are covered with beautifully detailed paintings of local heroes, sites and mythology.

As always, the patterns and colors were mesmerizing, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

After this, we stopped by a local crafts area that was here as part of the Pink City Festival. 

The craft booths were mildly interesting, but this creepy monkey man was the most memorable. 

He just looks odd here, and people are certainly laughing, but he was very creepy, and some of the children were really scared of him.  He scurried around just like a monkey and tried to steal things from people.  I think he must have been a version of Hanuman.

Our final stop was to a popup shop that catered to the not-me audience, lovely things like shoes, purses and clothes, but I was really dead on my feet by now.  Home, late dinner and then fell into bed.  A rich, full day!

Agra to Jaipur

Our next stop on the way to Jaipur was a rug cooperative in Agra, which was fascinating.  On the main floor we saw people actually knotting the rugs.

Apart from admiring their skill, I could only think of the strain on their eyes and especially on their legs, sitting at an angle like that.

Then we went downstairs, where a world of carpets awaited us.  I had not realized that we would then spend hours buying carpets! But who am I to talk, since I bought one, too. There’s a story, of course.  The original was in the Taj Mahal and now lives at the Met in New York.  This shop has exclusive rights to reproduce the rug, only 60 copies (I think) in two sizes.  (Another blogger bought this, too, by the way, not long before before I did, apparently…)  I looked it up later, and there it is in their collection, though not on display currently.

There was lots of bonding during this experience, from falling into the piles of wool  to discussing possible purchases with each other. I think that most of us bought at least one rug, and several bought multiples.  These are savvy shoppers!  But it took forever and we did not get on the road until close to 1:00.

But first, a visit to the Agra Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (check another off the list!), and the home of the Mughal emperors until 1638.  Built (or rebuilt) of red sandstone, it was more like a city than merely a fort.  The Indian military still uses part of it.

Some lovely architectural details:

We had been scheduled to visit a step well, but we were obviously way out of time, and there’s another one on our itinerary in Jaipur.  So we hit the road and  enjoyed a late lunch at a lovely garden spot (visiting the small gift shop where I bought an Indian edition of Kipling’s short stories). Finally, the long trip to Jaipur. We arrived at 8:00 just in time for an elegant dinner at our hotel, including this welcome laid out in marigolds, this delectable dessert, and music.  The musicians kindly invited me to sit down and join them, so I did, strumming the stringed instrument with more enthusiasm than skill.  We also met everyone, very important, but, typically for me, I have no pictures of the group.  But more to come later.