Rainbow Roundup Sunday

Three Rainbow sightings!  One from the bus window passing by Selfridges.  And two of them looking out my very own window.  I realized that our apartment in London faces the same exact direction as our Portland home.  This makes sky watching really amazing because with afternoon rain showers in the summer, you get amazing views of rainbows out the front windows.  Also, the moon rises from 6:30pm beginning at first quarter moon and gradually every night becoming more and more central until the grand finale of the full moon rising right in front of our flat every 28 days.

Which brings me to a few recommendations:

When I worked in Minnesota I always knew what phase the moon was in and where it was going to be, but living in the city where not only is it cloudy but you’re living amongst tall buildings, it’s more difficult to know.  I’ve been reading The Way of the Happy Woman which has re-inspired me to know where the moon is and what it’s up to.  It’s essential for my health and connection to the natural world.

I’ve been using this app to keep track (the only app that I use besides citymapper)

Luna Solaria

But I would love to get this watch, instead!  How neat is that???

The glass hanging in my really dirty window is from my dear friend, Bambi.  A few weeks ago I went to her house and I saw it in her window and I was immediately drawn to it.  She begins to tell me how she was in Glastonbury and she saw it in a shop and bought it for me.  But she loved it so much.  She confessed, “I bought it for you, but I kept it for myself.”  We laughed about it, and then, on the first day back at work last week, she brought me a package and inside was the glass rainbow.  She had ordered another one!  Thanks, Bambi!  i’m so glad we both have these.  They remind her of the chakras and I look at it every morning when I’m doing yoga.  See the glass hanging here.

I’m having a hard time thinking of a way to link up the Selfridge’s window.  Hmmm…I’ve got it!  For those of you who don’t know, Selfridge’s is a fancy British department store.  There’s even a show about it.  A period drama.  What else is a period drama?  Downton Abbey.  Who played the BAFTA Awards (equivalent of the American Oscars) Downton Abbey Special two weeks ago?  It was Andrew!  He shared a green room with the stars of the show and had a fabulous time.  Oh no!  Just as I finished writing all of this, I realized that’s not at all a picture from Selfridge’s!  I have no clue where I took that…oh well.

There you have it: Deep friendships, connection to the Earth, and British period dramas.  It’s all one needs.

Love,

Steph

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Holm Sweet Holm

Well done, Scandanavia…Again!  All of our best travel experiences have been to Scandanavia and this is the best one yet!  The island of Bornholm is a small island in the Baltic sea, about 1.5 hours by ferry from Sweden and Germany.  So it’s really in the middle there.  There’s something so special about these island communities that are not easily accessed (think Vancouver Island).  Just far enough to have its own identity and just large enough to have a culture and flourishing community, Bornholm is full of wonderful people, sweeping vistas, white sandy beaches, dense forests, and plenty of smoked meats and fish to go around.  What’s even better is that it’s probably not on your list of places to go, which means a more affordable and non-touristy vacation for us.  In fact, when we were waiting out a rainstorm at a hot dog kiosk this guy said, “Are you American?!  I think we had Americans here before…How did you even find this place?” Yes, it was awesome.

Bornholm in rainbow order:

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Red bikes.  We rented bikes for the entire week and spent every day biking for hours and hours.  We pedaled through rolling hills overlooking the sea, through old growth forests with hidden deer, along the coast, past windmills and round churches, and through quaint towns.  Even though we were barely able to walk every night, there was something really satisfying about knowing we had spent the whole day getting around without a car.  Plus, coasting down those hills at sunset was breath taking!

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Orange fire.  We rented a small cabin in the forest at Balka Beach from an AirB&B host.  Each morning I was the first to wake up and I would go out on the porch and sit in the sun with my tea journaling.  White/pied wagtails and a willow warbler visited me every morning.  Don’t be deceived by the pictures though:  it was cold!  At night we had roaring fires, so hot we needed to open the windows!  Andrew and Scott played chess by the fire and it was super Hygge.

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Yellow rocks.  One of the days we went to Svaneke, a little harbor town with beautiful coastline that you can walk along.  After a nice meal at the Rogeri, we climbed on the rocks, basked in the sun, and dreamed of opening a commune on this island!

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Green hillsides.  The whole island of Bornholm was lush and green, providing rolling green hillsides.  When you’re on a bike, it seems like everything is uphill, but with the surrounding scenery, it was magical!  The best day on bikes was this day (pictured here).  We rode for hours through an ancient forest to the center of the island where there is a farmhouse.  There is a restaurant where you can order, you guessed it, smoked meats.  While we were eating, the owner came out to talk to us and explained his process of meat smoking.  What an amazing place, you can read about it here.

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Blue sea.  This was not at all what I was expecting.  I thought the Baltic Sea  would look grey and foreboding.  However, it looks clear, blue, and tropical.  The beaches have white sand.  In fact, if you have an hour glass, chances are the sand inside of it comes from Bornholm.  It’s so soft and clean.  We biked to Dueodde beach (we just went with “dude” beach) and found a sand dune to lie in to protect us from the wind.

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Purple skies.  One of the coolest places to watch birds was along the bike path leading into town from our cabin.  There were always at least three cormorants drying their wings on the rocks offshore.  We always happened to be biking by near twilight when the sky was purply and the water was calm, reflecting the light.  I know, it doesn’t look purple in this picture.

In case you’re not convinced yet, click on the gallery below to see more pictures of our amazing trip.  Note:  if the photos seem better quality to you this time it’s because there were all taken by Scott Hardingham.  Andrew and I need to get a better camera!

Rainbow Grocery Run

I’ve been wanting to talk about grocery stores in London for a long time, because it’s something that has actually been quite a shift since moving here.  Where is the cornmeal to make cornbread?  Why do all vegetables come wrapped in styrofoam and plastic?  Why do all of the farmer’s markets have the same ten vendors?

When it comes down to it, nothing beats Portland grocery stores and farmer’s markets with free shopping carts, the option of paper bags, and the amazing quality of fruits and vegetables.  But after much searching, we have found an adequate substitute while living here:  Swiss Cottage Grocers on Finchley Road.  I successfully went to the store this morning and bought al of these fruits and vegetables without any plastic wrap, or any wrapping at all, plus all of my teas, nuts, canned goods, and grains for the week.  Each week we go stock up and only spend around 30 pounds.  Also, there is never anyone else in the store, except the friendly woman who works there.  All of the produce comes from New Covent Garden, which is where all of the produce for the city comes from.

I always get sad on Sundays when I see people walking down the street with about 20 plastic bags from Waitrose or Sainsbury’s.  So if you’re looking for an alternative to the big chains and you’re tired of filling up your garbage with excess plastic wrap when you come home from the store each week, then check out Swiss Cottage Grocers! You can read more about the owner here.

Rolling through Rye and East Sussex

(all photos by Mike LeChevallier)

We had planned to go to Seven Sisters after planning this trip about 11 times with other people.  It was complicated.  No one had a car so we would have to rent one.  Or when there was finally a sunny day, we decided spur of the moment to go and the train tickets were too much.  Or it rained.  Or it was windy.  But finally, after long last, when Mike said he had a vision of himself standing at the White Cliffs of Dover, I knew we would finally go.  With our car loaded up and an old fashion road atlas, we started our adventure to Seven Sisters.

This is more of a walk, less of a hike, to see outstanding views of these cliffs.  I remember being in Normandy in 2002 and seeing almost the exact same thing from the other side.  So coming here was like finding a lost puzzle piece.  We were able to walk down to the beach, even though it was high tide and there were saw some awesome things.  First, there were two men fishing and they caught one!  The guy smashed the fish with a rock and put it in what looked like a backpack.  Then I had an opportunity to make friend with a woman who asked me if I’d enjoy a paddle.  I thought that meant swimming so I said no, but it turns out in British speak it means wading in the water.  Another lost opportunity because of words.

As we looked over to the seven sisters, Andrew suggested we summit them.  The beach was fun because there’s chalk everywhere and you can draw designs on the rocks so I didn’t really want to climb anywhere, but I agreed to.  Unfortunately we had to walk all of the way back to the car in order to access the cliffs first, so I knew in teh back of my mind we would bag the climbing idea.

Sure enough, we picked our next adventure while back at the car and never made it up those Seven Sisters.  Brighton was going to be our next stop, but the description in the guidebook made it sound absolutely horrible, so we turned to the road atlas and began searching.  We found a place called Rye, about one hour up the road, a medieval village with tons of character and wonderful food.  We ate at the Ypres Inn on the lawn overlooking the dry harbour and the sea and wandered a bit after dinner.  Mike ordered a trifle for dessert, but that turned out to just be whipped cream in a fancy cup.

I would go back to Rye in an instant to experience relaxation, good food, and really friendly people.  I would take the high speed train and switch to a smaller train and be there in under two hours.  Driving was an adventure, but the train still prevails.

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Some random, fun things in London

Straying from the Rainbow theme for a moment (even though one can find rainbows everywhere!), I thought I would do a summer roundup of a few places I have been that don’t get an entire post, but are worth visiting.  I went into work today to gradually try and test the waters, but the work mentality hit me like a ton of bricks!  I love my job and am looking forward to going back, but it is so hard to make that transition from my time to someone else’s time.  Thích Nhất Hạnh would say that all time is your time, but it sure doesn’t feel like that on your first day back at work after a long, productive, refreshing summer!

Click on the gallery to see the pictures and read the captions:

Wilton’s Music Hall.  A beautifully, not-restored, Victorian hall where Andrew played last week along with silent films.  It was magical!  The audience loved it and we met lots of nice people after.

East Sussex Coast.  If you haven’t been to Rye, I would recommend it for a nice little trip out of London, but maybe not a whole day.  The food we ate was amazing and the people were so nice.  The beaches we stopped at along that way were rocky, but nice.  We heard a rumor of a sandy beach somewhere near by, but we never made it!  The mystery man in the picture was the only one who went in the water!

Battersea Park.  Wow!  I can’t believe it took me that long to go to the park.  We have been to Battersea lots of times, but the park is worth a trip on its own:  rose gardens, cool buildings, grassy fields, ponds, and who knows what else?  It’s a really big park and right along the river as well.

Skygarden.  We booked tickets to go to the top of the Fenchurch Street building for free!  It is now open and quite a neat place to hang out.  The cafe and bar is really modern but casual looking and there aren’t too many people up there at one time.  You can go out on the terrace and walk around the botanical-like garden.  This was an A+ and I would totally go again if I have out of town guests.

Overall, the summer has been a quiet one, with some memorable day trips and some interesting things in the city.  Of course, there’s still out big trip at the beginning of the summer to talk about, so stick around because it was THE BEST!

Loop de Loop: Section 3

Just a reminder:

The London Loop:  The London Outer Orbital Path— more usually the “London LOOP” — is a 240-kilometre (150 mi) signed walk along trails, through parks, dumps woods and itinerant camps meadows around the edge of Outer London, England.

Distance covered:  48.5 miles exactly

Distance remaining: 102.5 miles

Featured Section: 3, Petts Wood to West Wickham Common

Highlights:  Wheat field, community orchard, good fish and chips, old cemetery, yew avenue

We have decided to walk the entire London Loop for no reason except to do it.  All sections of the loop are accessible by rail or bus.  Our New Year’s Resolution was to finish the whole thing by the end of the year.  We have completed seven sections so far and found some common themes.  Here’s our journey of section 3 in pictures (make sure to click on one to see the full size images):

Bristol Clear!

(don’t forget to click on any picture above to scroll through the gallery)

We have been wanting to go to Bristol for a while now as people will often say, “Oh, you’re from Portland?  You should go to Bristol!”  So we did it!

We drove to Bath and parked the car and then head out to Bristol on a 12 minute train ride.  Apparently, Bristol has the worst gridlock in all of the UK.  We were immediately impressed by the train station designed by Brunel:

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Then we walked from the station the “Brunel Mile” and ate some lunch a really nice cafe, that was about two pounds cheaper than London prices!  I would really recommend Spicer and Cole:

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Knowing that we were in a music mecca, we decided to stop into one of Bristol’s many record stores, where we purchased three records:

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When I asked if they take cards the man said…”Noooooo”.  I can’t believe I even asked.  Given that Bristol has their own currency.  The mayor even gets paid in it!

After a little shopping we couldn’t believe our eyes, when just mere weeks after discovering the Chelsea Physic Garden, we discovered:

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Then it was a little walk to see the SS Great Britain, a luxury liner designed by Brunel.  I’m not really a ship enthusiast, so I didn’t take any pictures.  Then we walked back to the train station, where we hopped a train to Bath and spent two glorious hours in the Thermae Bath Spa.  Rick Steeves, in his typical uptight and overly frugal way, absolutely 100% advised against going to this spa.  So when we were here in November, we avoided it.  I have since sent that guide book to the charity shop.  And yes, Andrew and I spent £30 for a two-hour-luxury excursion on the rooftop looking over Bath and a lotus flower smelling steam room that smelled better than anything I have ever smelled.  I don’t care, Rick.

Last but not least, we ate at our favorite restaurant in the UK!  A wonderful dining experience, as usual.  See here for info about Acorn Vegetarian.

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It is nice that we have learned to return to places we love.  Too often we become obsessed with trying new things.  But really, it’s nice just to know what you like and love every new experience you have in that same old place.