What the Suffolk?

Now that we have our car, we can go on road trips!  Last Friday we decided to seek out Dedham Vale, also known as Constable Country, where painter John Constable grew up.  He was well known for painting this idyllic country side.  To brush up for this trip, I made sure to update myself on the most famous Constables, and because we live in London, I went to see them in person:

I have to say walking the 2.5 mile path through fields and across the River Stour was inspirational!  I felt like Constable and I would be friends in a different life.  He was a guy who wanted to live in the country and paint his homeland but had to move to London to learn to paint and to be taken seriously.  We had a few adventures on this walk.  The main was getting shut out by cows in our path, forcing us to make our 2.5 mile trip into a 4 miles trip:

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The second adventure was Andrew siting on a freshly made bale of hay:

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We thought, “Why stop there?”  So we took our car and explored Suffolk further.  Our first stop was “The House in the Clouds”, pictured above, which led us to the cute town of Aldeburgh for lunch:

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After a stop there, we got a call from a friend who told us, “You are in the best place in the world.”  Quite a statement, but we were pumped to continue exploring.  We set our sites on the town of Snape:

What an amazing place for an artistic compound.  It is basically and old malt mill that has been converted into artistic spaces, a music venue, sculpture garden and retail shops.  Again, we were surprised at how non-tacky these little Suffolk towns were.

After Snape, we were in the mood for a castle and a coastline, so we headed to Orford where we saw Orford Castle, a little quay, and bought some smoked mackerel:

Getting out of London is a new concept for us, and we love it!  In such a small amount of time, you are in such a different kind of place. We can’t wait to do more trips like this before the summer is over! Suffolk, who knew?

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“If I only had a train”

photo by Alan Mitchell

As many of you know, we hate flying.  The stress and hassles of packing, getting to the airport, delays, turbulence, terror, etc, can actually end up being the thing I remember most about a trip. At first I thought that this was my fault, but then someone told be this old Arabic saying: the soul travels at the speed of a camel.  When I heard that I thought, No wonder I hate flying.  I’ve been traveling without my soul!

Now, when we take the train somewhere, I usually do a huge jolting movement about a day after we have arrived and exclaim, “My soul just caught up with me!”  But in all seriousness, the jarring disorientation caused by plane travel simply doesn’t happen with train travel.  Twice in the past six months we have taken a train all the way to Denmark, the second time adding a ferry and bus to get to the small island of Bornholm.  For me there is time to relax, read, watch birds in fields, journal, talk to Andrew, eat real meals, stay hydrated, meet new people, and wonder.

Our best friend during our train travels has been The Man in Seat 61 who has shown us it is possible to get almost anywhere in Europe by train in 24 hours.

You can watch a really boring video of what it’s like to take the train all of the way to Copenhagen and back, with some exciting moments here and there of Andrew and I getting stuck on a rollercoaster and also taking the world’s tiniest train here.

Top reasons why trains are awesome: (click on gallery to scroll through)

A list of the top five (weird, interesting, creepy, and noteworthy) things that have happened to us on trains:

1.  Not understanding how to use the Danish train bathroom and the automated door opening mid-stream.

2.  Sitting next to a guy from Iran that seemed cool at first, but then started preaching white supremacy.

3.  The train driving onto a ferry!

4.  The train accidentally pulling onto the wrong tracks and stopping one track away from the platform announcing to passengers getting off in Calais that they could not in fact get off here, because, “We missed the platform.”

5.  The train driving off the ferry, breaking down in the middle of nowhere, and telling us that the train is terminated.

Guests in London

One of the most difficult things can be hosting a guest when you live in a world famous city.  it seems like it would be easy, with endless things to do, but I always want to give my friends and family an authentic experience that we’ll all enjoy.  Some guests have come to visit with a list of things to do, while other have visited just passing through, and other have just wanted to hang out with us, doing things that we normally do.

This past week we were visited by one of our best friends who has been to London many times before and didn’t have an agenda (except to see the “White Cliffs of Dover”).  So if you have people staying with you in London, here’s a great list of summer fun to be had!

In rainbow order:

starwarsRed desert at Secret Cinema Star Wars.  After surviving Star Wars the Empire Strikes Back full immersive experience, I have changed my mind about Secret Cinema: it’s amazing!  We spent the day creating our costumes and then took off into outer space where were dodged customs, spent time on the planet of Tatooine (the one with the desert and the the cantina bar) where we met Han Solo, learned Jedi tricks and and traded spices, crystals, and seeds for goods.  Then we caught the space shuttle to Alderaan, but got sucked into the Death Star where we spent the next thirty minutes hiding and running from storm troopers and Darth Vader.  I genuinely forgot I was in London.

rhymeswithorangeRhymes with Orange.  This poetry/comedy/singing spectacle is always a blast to go to!  Our friend is part of this hilarious and poignant group that showcase their rhymes monthly.  The coolest part is that each audience member writes a limerick and may read it on stage to a supportive audience.  There are laughs, tears, and good times!

punting

Yellow punting boats.  Have you ever heard of punting?  It looks easy, but judging by the fact that we spent thirty minutes spinning in circles about 5 feet from the dock proves otherwise.  Eventually we got the hang of it and punted for about an hour. This classic Oxford tradition should be replaced by canoeing!

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Watch the Wimbledon Green at “Strawberries & Screen” at Lewis Cubitt Park.  The next best thing is sitting out on the comfy deck chairs in the sun and watching the semi-finals outside.  We had two great days of matches: Serena v. Maria and Andy v. Federer.  Good because they were fairly quick and the sun was really beating down on us.  You can order a jug of Pimm’s for a ridiculous price of £26 or you can bring your own picnic.

seven sisters

Blue Water at the Seven Sisters Coast.  We drove this short drive to Seaford to walk a three mile path to the beautiful scenery and site on the coast watching the tide come in.  People at the coast are so nice and welcoming.  We then headed off to Rye, a nearby coastal town (which we will write about in a different post.)

purplePurple hues at the National Gallery.  I learned this great gallery game from my friend Anne (and I think she learned it from her mother).  Go to the gift shop first and pick five postcards that jump out at you.  Then, it’s your job to find each of the five paintings and learn about them.  Mike and I did this last Tuesday and we learned a lot.  Andrew stayed home.  When I said we’re going to the gallery to learn a lot he said, “I guess I’ll just stay here and stay stupid.”

Chelsea Physic Garden

I highly recommend a trip to the 350 year old apothecary garden located in the heart of Chelsea on the Thames.  Click on images to see slideshow and a summary of our quick trip!

Click here for their website and history.