Monday, November 24, 2014

Eating in an ancient Church: St Bartholomews London: Cafe is not the same

The striking interior will draw me back on every trip, even if the cafe is not worth a trip
While in London last week I made a special trip back to St Bartholomews to have breackfast.
I wrote last year about the great selection and staff at the cafe.   The architecture is wonderful and the setting is so peaceful.

So I was very sad to see the major changes to the cafe:
NO FOOD selection
NO fresh food
NO customers

It could not have been the day I was there nor the time (late morning).  It was the cafe.

I have to complement the man who staffed the cafe.  He tried to offer me a selection (3 or 4) of cakes from the day before.   Lunch was not available until noon (I arrived at 11+ am).   Having skipped breakfast so I could enjoy the cafe, I was hungry but did not want to leave this quiet spot in the middle of a city with so many people.

The wifi connection is great here so I sat and uploaded photos while I enjoyed the BEST cup of coffee I had been served in the 2+  weeks I was in the city.    I also drink tea but a good coffee is wonderful.

Chatting with the staff I was told it was a special blend and a drip process, something I did not find elsewhere.  NOTE:  I drank coffee at McDonalds 1.20 pounds and not bad, very, very hot'  at the multiple locations of take away foods, warm, bitter and not worth a refile.    So this cup of coffee was wonderful.   WARNING:  the coffee is VERY hot.   If you have ever had a pizza burn (a USA event) you know what to expect.   I had a burn for 7 days after this coffee, my fault, not the cafe's.

By this time it was lunch time and the kind staff asked if I would like soup.   Great!   not so.   It was vegetable but from a can and 4.5 pounds.      Again NOT the staff's fault.  He was trying to offer me something because I said I was hungry and not willing to pay $5.00 us for cake!    The french bread served with the soup was good.

I shall be sending a review to the management of the cathedral.   A great cafe in London has been replaced with something that resembles a bar with a microwave.   If you have visited this year, please give me your opinions.

Monday, November 17, 2014

London Highgate Cemetery: The Dead Share Their Secrects

Highgate Cemetery:  London

One of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ historic cemeteries around London, Highgate Cemetery was described as the best example of Victorian architecture.

I have had a fascination with stone angles and other tomb sculptures for years so a visit to Highgate was on the top of my list.    I was not disappointed.

Highgate is divided into East and West sections.     Visiting the east side required a reservation and a ticket that I booked weeks in advance for Halloween, an appropriate day.

How strange that you must have a reservation and pay to visit the sleeping.

Promptly at 2 PM the small group was allowed to enter the chapel in the two story stone building at the entrance.   We were introduced to Peter and started our adventure.  For the next hour we were entertained, informed and gained a little insight into Victorian burial practices.   Dating back to 1839 there was much to learn.  A wonderful book available in the ticket office, “Highgate.  Saved by its Friends” was a good source of details on the history of the cemetery, the more famous people buried here and the distinctive architectural styles found.

My goal was to photograph the monuments throughout the cemetery, particularly the angles.   But there were many other buildings and decorative carvings that were equally as interesting.   Highgate is a rolling terrain of natural growth of trees and plants that surround the monuments and border the trails.  This is not the trimmed grass and standardize monument cemetery we find in many American locations.   At first glance you think the many acres are not tended.  Peter explained that invasive plants and trees are being replaced with other plants that will not damage the monuments.  

This is a very peaceful place.  Although only families of the interred and paid tours are permitted to visit, there is no sense of sorrow or dread.   The most noteworthy avenues lead you to the Joshua Tree which is believed to be 100+ years old.  The impressive Egyptian Avenue leady to the Circle of Lebanon.  You could easily spend all day in this beautiful ‘forest’, strolling and reading the inscriptions on the monuments.

Peter (our guide) pointed out some of the symbolism that the carvings depicted:

Pointing angels
Inverted Torch
Broken Columns
Draped Urn

To describe each monument and give the history of the more famous ‘residents’ would become another book on this one of a kind locations.

Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust

Saturday, November 15, 2014

London: High Tea at Kensington Palace, a mistake

I am in love with England and the traditions that make it so unique.   And a country that enjoys cake and tea every afternoon is on my list of places to live.
During this trip I found myself at Kensington Palace and decided to have afternoon tea as a local in the Orangery.  This separate building overlooking the expansive park sent my mind back hundreds of years imagining strolling through the gardens as a diversion before the next formal event or scheduled ‘meet and greet’ at the palace.

I was not certain my ‘travelers attire’ would allow me entrance, but found there was no problem as i followed another solo traveler with a back pack into the room off the main dining area.   At this point it was too late to change my mind when I finally translated the menu.  Yes it was in English but my brain did not calculate that the full tea service at 24L was closer to $40 US.       The only alternative was not any savings.   So I decided to splurge and experience high tea.  


There was a tired stand that offered sandwiches, cakes and scones with cream and jam.      I tried everything.  The salmon sandwich wedge did not impress me nor did the pick and white cake with a marzipan casing.     My excuse for eating everything, was that I had skipped lunch. 

The presentation added to this pleasurable hour:  starched white table lines, china cups and dishes and a bottomless pot of tea.

An interesting fact I discovered in the Hyde Park Newsletter my London host edits for a large volunteer group, was that the loo (rest room) is located outside the building and you must ask for the secret code to unlock the door.    So although I did not see any Royals while having afternoon tea nor walking in the park, I do have the secret code to use the loo.

Save a Child with water

While at the World Travel event in London in November I visited a booth that was
promoting Clean Water:  JUST A DROP, SAFE WATER =SAVED LIVES

With their permission I am posting info from the brochure given to me when I purchased a special H2WOW GP bottle.   

From Just a Drop:

*  Every 20 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease

*  768 million people i the world do NOT have access to clean, safe water

*  2.5 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation

*   More people in the world own mobile phones than have access to a toilet

If you take a moment to think about the above numbers, it is staggering.  We have all seen the info commercials on TV where the villages have no paved road, housing is not to the standard most countries would consider suitable for families and these are NOT photos after an natural disaster but every day life.

As I contemplate my dream of a trip around the world I may never visit a town or city that falls below the poverty line but i WILL see a different standard of life.   I fear the massive crowds in India and understand that many live in spaces smaller than an American closet or even on the pavement of large cities.   I expect my visit to China will be ‘sanitized’ by the tour providers (no i don’t take tours but in China and India I will need on the ground help) so I may not see the China of the 1960’s or earlier.  

Nevertheless this appeal moved me and I purchased two of the water bottles.

Additional Information from their brochure:

“Our Mission:

To reduce child mortality caused by dirty water and poor sanitation by providing a local, clean water supply and sanitation facilities to communities worldwide

What we do

Working with local partners, we construct wells, boreholes, pipelines, hand-pumps, sand dams and latrines and support the establishment of WASH (Water and Sanitation Hygiene) educations programs.

Our projects focus on the basic water, sanitation and food security development needs of communities as identified by them. Enabling the community to operate, manage and control their own projects within a sustainable model

Just a Drop is a charity with global reach, with a particular emphasis in Africa, Asia and South America.  Projects have reached an estimated 1.5 million people.”

For  information contact Just a Drop at

Gateway House, 28 The Quadrant

Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1DN


Tel in the UK:  +44 (0) 20 8910 781

Disclosure:  I have not been paid for this blog post nor did I receive my water bottles complementary.  I am just sharing what I find on the road by a solo mature traveler.  I wonder if they accept volunteers for any of their projects?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

LONDON: Mr. Lee, head sushi chef

Mr Lee, head sushi chef at London Whole Foods

On an earlier post about the London Whole Foods massive store,,
I mentioned the delightful head sushi chef, Mr. Lee.

With lightening speed he prepared sushi rolls and presented them as works of art. to the waiting dinners.

I had a good view of the operation from the counter seat and Mr. Lee noticed me filming his work.
I don't eat raw fish or meat and had to tell Mr. Lee I did not eat sushi.  When he asked about tempura I admitted it was my favorite and he promptly brought me two of the best shrimp tempura I have eaten.

Thank you Mr. Lee for your generosity.   

While the opinions in this post and the companion post are my own and my meal was not complementary, the tempura was.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

London has a super Whole Foods!

There are Whole Foods stores in many cities across the world but NOTHING prepared me for my visit to the London store on Kensington High Street.

A massive three story former department store has been transformed into a sea of international foods and prepared meals that go on and on.  

 This was late on a Saturday afternoon and the lack of people in my photos does not indicate how busy the store was.   when I returned on Sunday for lunch it was wall to wall people buying and the restaurants were also full.

 I chose to sample the Japanese offerings and met Mr. Lee the head sushi chef who was fascinating to watch.   

Chicken Yakitori

Shrimp Tempura

As you can tell I enjoyed everything.