Tag Archive | united kingdom

Kew versus Longwood: Two Gardens Worth Visiting

The first time I saw a lily pad the size of a kiddie pool was at Kew Gardens in London.

At that point we had seen many gardens around Europe, but Kew was on another level. We walked around mesmerized by the size, the artistry and the peacocks.

Phone pic - Lilies at Kew

Lily pads at Kew Gardens

Earlier this year when a friend posted photos of Longwood Gardens on Instagram, I realized that we had been completely unaware of this European-like garden just a little more than 2 hours from Frederick.

I surprised my husband by taking him to Longwood as his birthday gift. I wanted to keep it a mystery, so he had never even heard of it until we turned into the parking lot and he read the sign.

I assumed Longwood would impress us, but that it would be nowhere near the scale of Kew. I was wrong.

Longwood is actually larger than Kew (although the open-to-the-public spaces are about the same acreage), and both my husband and I were shocked to realize in many ways it’s better than Kew – the meadow, the tree house, the farm house, the beer garden.

Most impressive of all, though, was the conservatory. The size alone is larger than I’ve ever experienced, and its variety of plants and displays made us want to wander for hours.

That’s when we came across the kiddie-pool-sized lily pads again. This time the lily pads were the focal point of the courtyard in the middle of the conservatory. The glass reflected the sunset and the water reflected the glass. It had a dramatic effect.


Longwood Gardens does lily pads


Longwood’s Conservatory

With that said, if you live in the U.K. or are traveling to London and love gardens, don’t miss Kew Gardens. However, if you live in the U.S. (especially in the mid-Atlantic region), you should make a trip to Longwood for a European experience right in your backyard.

A Pimms Cup in Frederick

We spent six days in the U.K. recently and it wasn’t until we were just about to go back home to Maryland that I realized we should have been drinking Pimms cups the entire time. It’s the ultimate British summer drink, and we had completely neglected it.

DSC_0654 Needless to say we had a major Pimms craving when we got back to Frederick.

After a little Internet searching we found that you can get a version of a Pimms cup in downtown Frederick. The Tasting Room has a Pimms Stawberry Smash, which sounds delightful with *you guessed it* strawberries (but also cucumber vodka).

We decided to go another route – we’d make our Pimms cups at home. We found Pimms #1 at Riverside Liquors for $19.99. Next up was figuring out the mix ins.

Recipes are all pretty similar for the Pimms cup, but one suggestion I decided to take was to use San Pellegrino Limonata, which sounded more interesting than lemonade or Sprite.

Here’s the recipe for our Pimms cup if you’d like to join us toasting this ridiculously hot and muggy summer we’ve been having this year.

Pimms Cup Recipe

Pimms #1
San Pellegrino Limonata

Muddle 3-4 mint leaves in your glass. Add 2-3 orange slices and 1-2 lemon slices. Muddle. Add in 1 part Pimms #1 and 3 parts limonata (I used 1/4 cup Pimms and 3/4 cups limonata). Add ice and enjoy.DSC_0659

Have you found a Pimms cup anywhere else in Frederick?

Picture + 100 Words: Scottish Highlands

Another Scottish castle

We drove deep through the heart of Scotland. We started at the East Coast at Dunnottar Castle and then had the laborious task of cutting through the center of Scotland, the Highlands, and driving only on back roads. They twist and turn up hills and mountains taking us all the way to the Western coast to our destination: the Isle of Skye. The drive was an idyllic peek at Scottish life – sheep grazing near the road, long open roads at the top of mountains with 360 degree views of the landscape, small villages, and ubiquitous signs advertising Scotch tastings.

Travel in 2013 & Five Pictures

If you’ve read the blog for a while, you’ll know that I love to travel.

One of the coolest apps I downloaded in 2013 was the TripIt app. If you don’t already use it, and you travel at all, it’s worth a download. Any time you make a flight or hotel reservation, you send it to the app and then you have all the trip details in one central place – confirmation codes, rates you agreed to pay for the hotels, etc. It’s really handy.

One other cool feature? It collects your traveling stats. I was floored to see my 2013 travel stats:

Number of Trips: 7
Days spent traveling: 42
Distance traveled: 50,884 mi
Cities visited: 13
Countries visited: 5

Admittedly I didn’t have the app in previous years to make comparisons, but I was pretty surprised to see 50,000 miles traveled (going to Dubia will do that to you). The countries number is less impressive, but here are five pictures from the five countries I visited in 2013.

1) UAE

Burj Khalifa

2) Netherlands

2013-02-02 11.41.43

3) Wales

Beddgelert hotel, Bryn Eglwys, in Snowdonia National Park

4) England


5) U.S. (Seattle)

2013-10-12 08.55.00

Happy New Year and happy traveling in 2014!

South Downs Saga

I recently finished the Forsyte Saga (all three novels and two interludes) by Nobel Laureate John Galsworthy. We just traveled to the U.K. back in June so reading about the characters living the landed gentry life in London was a trip down memory lane. 

When one of the characters goes down “south” to see his cousin who lived near South Downs, I was reminded of my visit to South Downs and wanted to share that experience with you.

The White Cliffs of Dover are famous. So on our trip to the U.K. we wanted to visit Dover. To squeeze it into our itinerary, however, we would have had to drive three hours from Brighton to Dover and then 2 more to get to London.

Luckily, we found out about white cliffs just 30 minutes from Brighton – Beachy Head, thanks to Rick Steves England.

My husband and I and my mom and dad (who joined us for this trip) drove there one morning and parked in a field turned parking lot at Beachy Head. It turns out that these white cliffs are in some ways better than Dover because there is easy access to the beach below via stairs giving you views of the cliffs from below and above.

Bogdan and I have seen our fair share of natural wonders, but these cliffs were one of the most unusual and striking. Made of chalk, they towered above us, blindingly white and leaving a chalky feel on everything. The chalk is very fragile and prone to breaking (the boulder-sized chalk scattered along the beach were a clue), so we walked the beach at our own peril.


And, yes, it is chalk. Like chalk in a classroom. We tested it.

After dad and Bogdan tested the water (it was cold), we spent some more time admiring the cliffs from above, walking on a sliver of the 100 mile South Downs Way.

My dad, the daredevil, kept getting dangerously close to the cliffs’ edge, which was tempting to do because the views were spectacular.


But you could definitely admire from a safe distance and we did. For a long time. It was hard to pull yourself away.


Picture + 100 Words: A Curious Mom. A Curious Dad.


Every summer growing up, we’d go on a family vacation. It was always by car – from Louisiana to Michigan, to D.C., to Portland, Maine. By college, I’d visited my fair share of the 50 nifty states, but we never went abroad. This year when my parents met us in England for a trip, it was my first time with them in Europe. It was my mom’s first time in Europe ever. Their curiosity, captured here in Bath, England, was infectious. Soon all four of us were peering over fences. And having a jolly good time.

Picture + 100 Words: Bieber Pony in Wales

The teenage girl (or Justin Beiber) of the ponies.Driving down an impossibly narrow road in North Wales, we saw a few ponies relaxing in a field. As soon as we could find a pull off, we parked and walked back. This pony became the “teenage girl” and we joked that she doesn’t just wake up with hair like this. Later in the day, while reflecting on the ponies, we started referring to her as Justin Bieber. It was then that my husband asked, “how did a teenage girl morph in to Justin Bieber?”  Without realizing it, he hit upon a question for the ages.

The time we met Mark Knopfler in Hyde Park

My husband was playing Mark Knopfler songs  on the guitar today and I suddenly remembered the time we ran into him in London. It was one of those experiences where you think back asking, did that really happen? We traveled to the U.K. in 2009 for a grand tour that started in London went all the way up to Isle of Skye through Cambridge, York, Whitby, Newcastle, and Edinburgh, and ended in the Cotswolds paradise of Woodstock (which we are always reminded of when watching Downton Abbey).

So, yes, we met Mark Knopfler. The one we had seen in concert several times in the states because my husband has been a huge fan of his since always, from Dire Straits to his new(ish) solo work.

It all started with a bike ride. On the suggestion of Rick Steves (who is usually full of good economical suggestions), we rented bikes for that unusually bright and sunny day in London and spent the morning pedaling like crazy on the “wrong” side of the road with double-decker buses and those oh-so-proper looking taxis whizzing past us…

…We had a lot to see on our last day in London, and our feet had given up on us. We rode the bikes across the Waterloo Bridge and headed to Buckingham palace where we were just in time for the changing of the guards. We then rode on to Hyde Park for a bike ride through London’s “Central Park.”

Parched, we pulled off the bike path to buy some juice when Bogdan matter of factly points to a man walking nearby and tells me, “that’s Mark Knopfler.” Skeptical, I say, “well then go meet him.” Bogdan hesitates, looks around, shifts from side to side. I repeat, “catch up with him and meet him.” So he gets on his bike, rides past “Mark”—I still being skeptical because Bogdan’s main ‘goal’ in London was to meet either Mark Knopfler or David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), highly unlikely!—and Bogdan sat on a bench waiting for him to approach the spot. Bogdan and Mark Knopfler (from Dire Straits!!)

At this point, I’m riding up to meet Bogdan when I hear him ask, “Mark Knopfler?” Mark replies, “yes?” It really was him! Bogdan asks to take a picture with him all the while babbling uncontrollably about Ukraine, LPs, and listening to his music as a child. Mark’s friend snaps the photo, asks if it looks alright, and Mark tells us, “enjoy your time in London.”

Dumbstruck, we both stand there watching Mark Knopfler walk down the path, wearing sweat pants, and enjoying a mid-Sunday-morning stroll through Hyde Park.