Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Morris dancing in London

My At Home In London  location in Hampstead was only a few blocks from the river walk.   This pedestrian path went from my Hampstead location east towards central London and West.     I hiked parts of the path on both days I stayed at property #305.   Had I stayed longer at this location I would have spent far more time on the ‘walk’ even trying to take the route to Richmond.     There were pubs along the route that were full of locals every night, spilling onto the lawn.  
As I walked the 1 or 2 miles from Hammersmith town center I heard music, not bag pipes but something I recognized and singing.   Then I saw men dancing……  something like a skipping  version of the American square dance.  

My host suggested it could be Morris dancing……..have you heard about Morris dancing?

From Wikipedia I found the history of Morris dancing:
today, there are six predominant styles of Morris dancing, and different dances or traditions within each style named after their region of orign. 
  • North West morris: more military in style and often processional, that developed out of the mills in the North-West of England in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Border Morris from the English-Welsh border: a simpler, looser, more vigorous style, traditionally danced with blackened faces.
  • Longsword dancing from Yorkshire and south Durham, danced with long, rigid metal or wooden swords for, usually, 6 or 8 dancers.
  • Rapper from Northumberland and Co. Durham, danced with short flexible sprung steel swords, usually for 5 dancers.
  • Molly Dancing from Cambridgeshire. Traditionally danced on Plough Monday, they were Feast dances that were danced to collect money during harsh winters. One of the dancers would be dressed as a woman, hence the name.
  • Cotswold morris: dances from an area mostly in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire; an established misnomer, since the Cotswolds overlap this region only partially. Normally danced with handkerchiefs or sticks to accompany the hand movements. Dances are usually for 6 or 8 dancers, but solo and duo dances (known as single or double jigs) also occur

Royal Baby contest at Krispy Kreme in London


Voting about the Royal Baby
At Krispy Kreme

While looking for the Spitsfield market on my May trip to London and beyond, I was arrested by the Krispy Kreme shop at the exit from the train station...

Apparently this is a BIG campaign in the UK

At home the Krispy Kreme is the 24 hour   'Hot Donut" sign store.   For those deprived of donuts on demand, the sign goes on when fresh, HOT donuts come off the assembly line.

but what stopped me at this store was the contest they are running to guess if Kate and Will's baby will be a girl or a boy!

                                                                                                                                                                                                You buy the pink or blue donut to vote your

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Near Dover: tea room you MUST visit

High Tea and CAKE,  my favorite 

    How fortunate to have 6 days here to sample Tea in a number of places.  And tea must come with cake.

    I have to admire a people who take the time to sit, relax and sip their national hot beverage while EATING CAKE!  It has been perfected to an art of "temperature, origin of the tea leaves and presentation". 

Coffee in Italy is a staple but una café is bolted not sipped.   The idea of sitting at a table drinking coffee for an hour is somewhat foreign to the Italians.

Discovering The Lavender Tea House in the south of the UK

          When i asked a greeter at the Dover dock where I was catching a ship,  "Is there a famous cake baked in this area" I had no idea she would suggest a new tea room in the next town that her daughter just opened and I would have an opportunity to visit the Lavender Tea House the following week.

           I had just been in Canterbury and found their 'special cake' (unfortunately they were sold out) and thought this would be an interesting theme.   Tea and cake throughout the UK, a perfect topic for my blog or a great excuse to eat cake several times a day!

A motto I can follow

The opportunity to visit the Lavender Tea Room in Folkestone, UK was too good to pass.     A call from her mother and a few emails had me taking the train the following week to Folkestone, a short distance from Dover, UK.     

Natalie Chessman is the owner of this charming tea room on a pedestrian street not far from the sea.   Visiting on a Saturday, the busiest day of the week, limited my time with Natalie but she was very generous to share her ideas about enjoying tea.   See the video interview below 

On a pedestrian street not far from the sea (and the train station)  the Lavender Tea Room has an outdoor patio

Your cake selection is served on English china  
How to choose what cake to try?   I selected 3 to take with me 'so that my story would be from a personal viewpoint".     What an enjoyable task I had in front of me....

Some of the amazing cakes, baked that morning, are on display.  


The  three cakes that are most popular.    I could have sampled any of the selection.  The scones were incredible and they even had a glutton free cake!

The LTR was busy when I arrived about 11 am just before the midday rush.  The pedestrian street was busy with Saturday shoppers and a small festival in one of the streets.     As soon as I entered the shop I was greeted by one of the staff members who knew I was coming and sat me down with a pot of tea!.    A lovely welcome while I waited for Natale to finish in the kitchen.

Natalie had arrived very early to mix and bake all the wonderful cakes I saw in front of me but still she gave me some time to explain the philosophy behind opening the Lavender Tea room.   
Some of topics we covered in our chat:  (If I have omitted any facts, I shall ask the owner to correct me and correct the post)

Q.   How did your interest in baking, get started, did you bake as a child?

A.  I have always enjoyed being in the kitchen and  have always cooked.                                                   My father is a very good chef and I have grown up around ‘food’

Q.   How did you decide to open a tea room
a.      A.         There was a gap in the market, I picked Folkstone because  there are a
lack of tea rooms, lots of coffee bars.... 
(A tea room) harps back to the days, I think we have forgotten , what having tea is all about.
about the ritual of having tea, spending the
time,  sharing it with friends, having a chat,
I wanted to create an atmosphere

Q.  Did you grow up with the ritual of tea in the afternoon?
a.       A.   I spent a lot of time with my grandmother and she would always have tea around 4 o’clock with a piece of cake, buttered toast and a nice pot of tea   

The shop attracts many locals for tea, lunch and even parties.  While I was there several 'regulars' stopped in and were greeted by first names and a cheery hello.

  Q.  Do you bake all the cakes by hand or are they done 'commercially?
   A.  Natalie bakes all the cakes very early in the mornings….  home made cakes have no preservatives and           do not have the same texture as a 'box mix".   This feature makes her cakes like a treat you would have at a friends home.    
And she bakes with a Kitchen aid mixer the same one we would use in the USA.

The variety of cakes will change during the week but she told me her most popular treats are: 

Carrot cake
Lemon drizzle cake

 What might be in the future for The Lavender Tea Room?
  A signature cake for the area?   Currently they make Lavender cupcakes but were sold out this morning
  Lessons to teach others how to bake these marvelous cakes?   I would sign up for a class
  Shipping cakes as special orders?
  A cook book?

Natalie reminded me they have only been open a year, and many options are open for the future. 

 A British tour group may have some interest in adding  a stop at the Lavender Tea Room to a future tour schedule.

Today most of her customers are locals and myself the sole tourist.  If I lived in the area I would also become a regular, trying a different treat on each visit.

                   When you visit the Lavender Tea House in Kent, be sure to tell Natalie you saw her article on

 Click below to see their web site.
The Lavender Tea House
Homemade Cakes, Fine Teas, Freshly Ground Coffee and Light Lunches in the Heart of Folkestone's Old Town.
Now Open in Church Street, Folkestone . . . 
The Lavender Tea House is the destination in Kent for fine teas, home made cakes and light lunches. The perfect place to relax after a shopping trip, during your lunch break or just to treat yourself to some calm, indulgent ‘me’ time!
Sit back, relax and enjoy a pot of fine tea served with a delicious slice of home made cake. Perfect!
Natalie Cheeseman
The Lavender Tea House
5, Church Street, Folkestone
01303 2545215

Friday, June 21, 2013

Do Solo Travelers pay Double the cost on Cruises?

If you prefer to travel solo, should you be charged double?           

         Although cruise lines do not avidly search for solo travelers, they will 'allow' solo travelers to join the ARK at up to 200% more than other passengers are paying.      Cunard has recently and in the past few years offered attractive rates for solo travelers and after taking one of their Atlantic crossings, I can say they are everything you imagine an elegant British ship to be.
The pricing policy for solo travelers has become a ‘movement’ in the ever growing solo traveler market.
If you choose to travel solo or because of circumstances you are traveling solo, why should solo travelers be further restricted by price?    There are wonderful trips advertised every day and if they are listed as ‘packages  or vacations’ the price is always higher when you select your travel dates and hotels.  If you double the price of even the discounted cruises they often are $300 a day and the dream of an around the world cruise equals the price of a high end automobile!
Air travel, although increasingly  uncomfortable and expensive, still charges passengers by the seat.  Even the airlines offer promotions for your ‘companion to fly free’ or the dreaded 2 for 1 pricing.      Travel providers should be challenged on their misleading 2 for 1 advertising…..  try to buy this promotion for a cruise as a solo and you are told you will be denied travel if you arrive solo. 

What other travel services charge solo travelers more:
As far as I know rental cars do not charge solo travelers any ‘supplements’.    Hotels in the USA charge by the room but often do NOT offer single room rates.    Some hotels in Europe offer single rooms that are usually very small and not always the best the hotel has to offer.   At other times I have received a standard double room, there does not seem to be any standard.   When I travel off season I can often book 4 star hotels in Italy for the price of a single room at other times during the year.  

The cruise industry continues to charge solo travelers for enjoying the special pleasure of traveling solo
Alan Fox, the president of Vacations to Go, has one of the few web sites that lists cruises with low or no solo supplement.    Recently he posted an answer to this question on his web page.    With his earlier permission to share solo cruise information, I am posting his response here.
on line question:
Q: When a cruise ship has less than a full capacity of passengers, why do they not permit someone to travel solo and not pay double occupancy? I would think that since they have to keep a full crew, even one person in a room makes more sense than having the cabin empty for the cruise.
A: Except for 6-star ships, cruise ships generally sail full year-round because cruise lines drop the rate to whatever it takes to sell out. They prefer to fill those empty cabins with two people to maximize their onboard sales and gratuities. However, lines sometimes slash the single supplement for a limited time, and we list every one of these opportunities on our site.

Alan Fox,   Chairman & CEO, Vacations To Go,  5851 San Felipe Street, Suite 500, Houston, TX 77057

Why don’t cruise lines charge solo clients double the mandatory gratuities fees and allow solo’s to travel?    The staff would not suffer financially.   And there are no guarantees two passengers in a room will spend more money on drinks, tours, the casino, alternative restaurants or shopping, other profit areas of the ship.  

I troll the cruise web sites months before I begin to plan a trip. will list solo supplement trips but this list does NOT include every sailing.    I have tried 4 cruise ‘agents’ with varying results.   I have never found any cruise or travel agent who is excited about working with solo travelers.   Or perhaps it is just how I travel.  I was told off by one specialty agent when I mentioned I would be traveling throughout Italy for a month before the trip and would not be able to bring ‘dress’ clothes with me. Her response was something to “Well you can’t go around the ship in sloppy pants”.       A new division of an established cruise booking site opened a ‘solo travel division’ but found the sales after I did!

So now I search any sailing to a location on my ‘bucket list’ with a posted price of $100 a day or less.   This may insure a solo price of under $200.00 a day……beyond that price you  may be able to fly business class!      If you see a great price on a solo cruise let me know at

Friday, June 14, 2013

What is your philosophy on travel?

DSCN2319     Travel Philosophy, what is yours?  
When travel is no longer the 1 or 2 weeks your don’t work every year but part of your life just as integral as the need that may come over you to see the sea or the view from a mountain………one that expands your    viewpoint.                                                                                
  I didn’t think I had a philosophy about travel until I finally decided to have adventures not vacations.
When I travel I try to keep this mantra in mind: Be a Traveler not a Tourist Learn Something New find a New Adventure Experience the Local Life  
Last night I read on Budget Travel Adventures the following:   To be a better traveler, you can't just visit a place.
You have to experience it with your emotions and soul.
Only when we go beyond what we see can we tell a travel story (through words or photos) that's worth sharing.

I love it when a simple sentence or statement will arrest my thinking or stop the project I am working on.  
Too often we don’t take time to think.  Until I stopped working a 24/7 job I had no idea there was such an exciting ‘box of chocolates’ (from Forest Gump) out there and I will keep sampling….…..

I asked the author of Budget Travel Adventue, if I could use his motto for his blog:
Travel passionately, budget wisely, and experience more - that's the motto of the new blog, Budget Travel Adventures.
Jeremy Branham Horsetail Falls mountains-S
Budget Travel Adventures wants to help you experience more when you travel and inspire you to be a better person.
read more about JereBranham on the above web site.                                                                                                                                                      
What is your Philosophy?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Stay in a University Dorm while traveling

Flip Flops and Pajama Bottoms

Stay in a University Dorm during Summer Travel


I have been searching for alternatives to staying in a hotel when I travel.     As I find new opportunities I share them on my blog.
You may have read about staying in convent (hotels) and monasteries in Italy  (   something I have done for the past 8+ years.   Each location is a  unique experience.    I have tried an  air stream parked on a beach at KOA on  Cape Hatteras.    Far better than I expected and somewhere I would be happy to return to.   See the story at:

I have read about Universities' offering dorm rooms for rent during summer  and/or other times the dorms are not in use.     The price is always reasonable and the locations are often in the city and near public transportation. 
Planning for a visit to London in May I started to search for Universities offering ‘rooms for rent’.    There was as a surprising number of schools participating in ‘summer rooms for rent’.    Unfortunately  many  of  the programs  did not start until the end of the of the
the school term. 
DSCN3012      DSCN3006      DSCN3005

  The  London University had rooms available and I booked a single room with full bath.      Sharing a bathroom with 25 to 50 college students would only make them uncomfortable not to mention me……so rooms with full baths were exactly what I was looking for.
The dorm I was assigned to was a short walk from the St Pancreas train station where I arrived from Dover.   After the amazing renovation of this historic station it was a treat to take a walk through the extensive shopping and dinning mall.       Cafes were noted for future meals if I needed a ‘solo friendly’ establishment.    After all most travelers at a train station are solo.
I had Goggled the walking instructions and picked up a map from the very friendly Tourist Office at the west side of the station.   It was an easy walk and more important one with sidewalks and ramps for those dragging a piece of luggage.
Arriving before 2 pm I was told to return at 2.   At 2 the small problems started.   Even after 5+ emails to assure my room was ensite, I was assigned a room with communal bath.   I have to confess to ‘loosing it’.   As I am using the buildings WIFI to find a ‘real room’ my savior Sapina arrived.   Since this was a weekend there was no one at the University housing office to help. A senior in the building was assigned to ‘fix’ the problems and Sapina did a GREAT job.   After a tour of the building I settled into my ‘dorm’ room.    Since no other ensuite   rooms were available, I was given one with a kitchen, no pots, not pans, no dishes but a kitchen.

A single bed, small kitchenette and on the other wall a large desk area
The bath was modern and had extremely hot water!
Negative:  you only get one towel so bring your own second if you need one.
Bed was more of a cot, long term stays might be uncomfortable.
The building has quiet rules and after 11pm is very quiet.  


The building has endless facilities:       laundry, game room, squash court, courtyard for sunny days, recreation/TV room, movie room and more. 

An easy walk from the Russell Square tube station and the St Pancreas train station.
The room comes with daily breakfast but if you are a tourist or have an early appointment don’t plan on breakfast on a Saturday or Sunday, there is brunch and it is at 10:30!     Because I wanted to experience the breakfast I returned to the dorm to walk through the line with my other ‘students’.
Apparently many parents visit the university and often stay in the dorms so I did not look too out of place.   I think they put me in the grandparents file.     What was very interesting is that NO ONE SPOKE TO ME.    I suppose some of the students had ‘big’ nights and were not in a chatty mood.   Many were wearing sweat pants and flip flops and some of those pants looked like PJ’s.
After all these years I thought I would feel memories from the old days but I just felt foreign, both in nationality and age.

Food hall on the lower level of the building            The atrium was bright even on the cloudy day

Rental links:

good article on alternative housing options:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

NUTS about Chocolate....

                          Chocolate night done on the Holland America Ryndam

       I remember the midnight chocolate events on the sun and sand sailings where sensible adults fight for a place at the head of a line to each chocolate.......
As far as I know chocolate is not a controlled substance.   But for me it should be..... It is a new food group in the pyramid.
The price of chocolate is not the same as a fill up for your car so what gives, why the frenzy?
When they announced a 10:30pm chocolate extravaganza on the first 7 days of the months' trip,    EVERYONE ATTENDED, it was a wild time.     The event was repeated on the next 21 days and was more controlled.


But why would they offer Jello at a chocolate event?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cabbage or Curry? What is this?????

Cabbage or Curry?    Who cooks for Virgin Atlantic?

                My flight to London on May 5th was amazing.    Yes I had to fly to Boston to catch a Virgin flight  to London or I could have gone to lovely downtown Newark.  The benefit was only a 6+ hour flight instead of the horrid 8+ hours it usually takes to arrive in Europe.
I splurged on the overnight flight and purchased an upgraded seat.  Well it was as nice as the Business Class seat at Delta.    I knew I was in OZ because the  staff was NICE, seemed to even like their jobs and the passengers.   Wow!   

But I must ask Sir Richard Branson, “What were you Thinking????”

The only choices for the dinner meal was CURRY OR some kind of meat with CAABBAGE! 
With only a 6 hour flight,  no one starves in that length of time but the smells were NOT pleasant.

On the return my seat was in the back of the bus, yes it was cramped and the flight was FULL but the staff was still wonderful.   They even filled my water bottle so I did not have to ask for water over the hours.   Shorter flights make the pain of the seats bearable.   On this flight I ordered a vegetarian meal and all was fine.virginatlantic

NOW can you please add Atlanta to you list of airports????

Friday, June 7, 2013

Solo Sale on Cunard only till June 30: Call Ron to book

Solo Sale on Cunard only till June 30:  Call Ron to book
Ron has been my source of ongoing sales that I share here.                      IMG_1341-resized-920x360
Call: (404) 474-3851
Toll free: (877) 207-4476
Independent Associate of Brownell — A Virtuoso Agency
Ron Phillips is my Specialty Travel Expert.  
He just emailed me this GREAT savings for Solo travel.
Speak with Ron Phillips to check pricing,find a cabin and crossing date.

I took an October crossing 18months ago and it was truly an ‘experience’.  Lee Laurino

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M317N 8-Aug-13 SOU NYC Westbound Transatlantic Crossing
M318A 15-Aug-13 NYC SOU Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing
M324D 8-Oct-13 SOU NYC Westbound Transatlantic Crossing
M326A 27-Oct-13 NYC SOU Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing
M328B 12-Nov-13 SOU NYC Westbound Transatlantic Crossing
M329 19-Nov-13 NYC SOU Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing
M333 15-Dec-13 SOU NYC Westbound Transatlantic
M402 3-Jan-14 NYC SOU Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing
M404 9-May-14 SOU NYC Westbound Transatlantic Crossing
M318N 15-Aug-13 NYC HAM Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing to Hamburg
M322 22-Sep-13 NYC HAM Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing to Hamburg
M324 6-Oct-13 HAM NYC Westbound Transatlantic Crossing from Hamburg
M326 27-Oct-13 NYC HAM Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing to Hamburg
M328 10-Nov-13 HAM NYC Westbound Transatlantic Crossing from Hamburg