Header

One of the reasons my son was most excited about our recent visit to Pennsylvania was to show us around one of his favorite places to eat and drink – Tröegs Brewery in Hershey PA. As we pulled into the parking lot on a Friday evening, the place looked packed, but he assured us that the tasting room was large and it would be worth the wait, should there be one. He also advised checking out the merchandise in the gift shop, since it closes early. All sorts of tee shirts and beer related souvenirs arranged in a spacious store with a window into the production facility.

IMG_9931.JPG

IMG_9932.JPG

IMG_9936-0.JPG
Upon entering the tasting room, we were greeted by a host who explained how to get beer and food and described a number of specials. The room is full of booths and long tables to share. We were in luck when we spotted a table of folks getting ready to leave, so we sat down and studied the beer menu to make our sampler selections. Sampler trays are offered two ways – six samples from their Year-Round Beer list for $8 or Pick Three from the whole list which includes limited draft beer and Hop Cycle Seasonals for $5.50. The detailed beer menu included information about ABV and IBUs as well as clever descriptions, such as “colossal, palate-numbing” for the Impending Descent Stout, which was my favorite.

IMG_9939.JPG

IMG_9938.JPG
Beer orders are placed at the bar – food orders are placed at a counter where you also pick up your trays of food after your buzzer goes off. We decided to share a couple of appetizers from the “Shared” section of the Snack Bar menu – Poutine hand-cut fries with turkey neck gravy, celery salt, sage, cheese curds and cranberry ketchup and a charcuterie tray which came on a round wooden board and included house made pickles, radishes and horseradish mustard.

IMG_9940.JPG

IMG_9941.JPG
Entree selection was even trickier! So many interesting choices from a menu that changes seasonally and includes a list of farms and friends which source their ingredients. I had the crispy chicken leg with mole spices, black bean tacos, pumpkin guacamole and pickled chayote squash. David ordered a troegswurst sandwich, and Ben got the beef short rib pot roast with root vegetables, and duck fat mashed potatoes which came in a canning jar. It was accompanied by a wheat roll and a little paper cup of the most delicious smoky butter I have ever tasted. Candice got duck confit with almond stuffing, pear relish and cardamom syrup.

IMG_9948.JPG

IMG_9950.JPG

IMG_9945.JPG
Since I am a sucker for holiday brews, I had to order one Mad Elf Ale – brewed with sweet and sour cherries, local PA honey and chocolate malt!

IMG_9951.JPG

IMG_9988.JPG
We piled back into the car, stuffed and happy, yet doubting whether we had made the best menu choices in light of all the other tempting selections we had not been able to sample.

Lucky for us, our Sunday drive brought us back to Hershey for a little time at the outlet mall and a chance to see the Hershey kiss streetlights in the daylight – and it just so happened to be dinner time. Visit #2! No complaints.

This time we all knew what beer we liked, and the menu took less time to sort through. We started with a basket of popcorn with brown butter and rosemary salt to share. David got the deconstructed lamb burger which is served on curried naan, Ben chose the venison and aged cheddar bologna which was served with a tiny cast iron skillet of braised red cabbage and I decided to try the wood smoked trout salad. No traditional salad here! It was served in a small canning jar and tasted like tuna salad’s worldly sophisticated sister. Another round wooden serving tray with bread crisps, crème fraiche, lemon rosemary jam, pickles and radishes and a tiny trio of creamy potato pancake like hash browns.

IMG_0015.JPG

IMG_0017.JPG

IMG_0014.JPG

IMG_2594.JPG

I love eating out and trying new dishes, but I describe the food at Tröegs in such detail because it is an awesome brewery that could get by with serving their Oktoberfest pretzels and other simple bar fare. Instead the menu might trump the beers!

What did we do when we left? Go back to Ben and Candice’s apartment and continue the food coma by watching Chef.

A Day of Breweries in Kalamazoo

November 10th, 2014 | Posted by Lackey in My Traveling Life - (0 Comments)

We decided to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary with an overnight in Kalamazoo, MI.  Why Kalamazoo, most of our friends asked?  Food, wine and BEER!  In April 2014, U.S. World & News Report named Kalamazoo as one of 8 undervalued beer cities in the world.  I made a reservation at The Kalamazoo House, a  lovely bed and breakfast and we enjoyed a beautiful fall to a very cool city we initially knew very little about.

IMG_9720.JPGMy investigation in to breweries to visit suggested a good place to begin would be The Kalamazoo Beer Exchange.  Located in the historic Globe Building in downtown Kalamazoo, The Beer Exchange offers 28 rotating draught beers from around the world, with prices based on real-time sales, like the stock market, resulting in an ever-evolving happy hour. Occasional “market crashes” will occur daily, dropping beer prices to their all-time low.

IMG_9724.JPGWe did experience one drop in the market, which resulted in the immediate appearance of our server who explained that you could stock pile a few beers at their low prices if you were interested.  What a concept!  The food was decent and the atmosphere was great for our first night.IMG_9725.JPGThe next day we knew we were going to have to pace ourselves.   Our first order of business was a visit to the Gilmore Car Museum, an amazing museum campus worthy of its own blog post – but I’ll leave that to my husband.  I would certainly recommend it if you are in town.  They even have displays of period costume pieces to accompany the beautiful cars.

IMG_9750.JPGWe made it to Bell’s Eccentric Cafe in time for lunch.  According to their website, they are “Michigan’s oldest brewery and one of the oldest craft brewers east of Colorado, Bell’s Brewery, Inc. offers distinctive beers including Two Hearted and Oberon, which enjoys a cult-like following and who’s release date corresponds with the start of the Major League Baseball season”.  IMG_9762.JPG

IMG_9760.JPG

IMG_9751.JPGWe both ordered a sampler and a bowl of soup and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of their casual tasting room.  We could have easily spent more time, but we visited their General Store to get a few gifts and headed for nearby Arcadia Brewery.IMG_9740.JPG

IMG_9752.JPGA stark contrast to the worn wood homeyness of Bell’s, Arcadia’s tasting room is sleek, stark and stainless steel.  We chose another sampler from their interesting offerings.  I particularly enjoyed the Jaw Jacker!  There isn’t really a restaurant on the premises (there is a pub at a different Arcadia address in town) but there was a cafeteria style counter where you could get freshly barbecued meats and a few accompaniments, including a cardboard dish of sautéed greens that I thoroughly enjoyed.IMG_9749.JPGAfter a nap back at the B & B, we headed out for dinner at Gonzo’s BiggDogg Brewing .  The place is really unassuming from the outside, and the menu selections were as well.   But the beer was pretty tasty.

IMG_3335

 

IMG_3336Our evening ended with a short walk to a crusty old establishment that just recently became a brewery as well.  Rupert’s Brew House  is a college dive bar that advertises live music 5 nights a week.  The night we visited the entertainment was provided by young university jazz musicians and Rupert himself.  Rupert is a Great Dane with a bar high nose who has clearly inspired the naming of some of their brews.  My Mulit-grain Mutt was the perfect way to end a pretty perfect day.

IMG_3338

IMG_3337

 

 

UK 2013 – Days 12-14 – London

November 17th, 2013 | Posted by Lackey in My Traveling Life - (0 Comments)

We ended our two week UK excursion with three nights at the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street, which turned out to the perfect hotel in the perfect location for London sightseeing. After dropping the car off at Heathrow (and almost getting into a last minute accident as the car return sign was beckoning us across the busy round about) we lucked out with a friendly, very helpful cab driver – shout out to Mohammad – who gave us a map for the sightseeing bus we could hop on a few short blocks from our hotel, and we were off. I must say, it was a bit of culture shock, though. We had left simple, unhurried Chipping Campden, where we chatted with the ladies selling homemade breads and soaps at the community farm market that morning, and found ourselves on crowded sidewalks full of people speaking many languages and hurrying to get somewhere. We were glad to take in the city from the upper deck of the Big Bus, which we rode through its complete two and a half hour London loop to get our bearings and pick out sight seeing destinations for the next two days. We had our first glimpses of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Bridge, the Tower of London and the London Eye from this vantage point.

20131117-072910.jpg

20131117-072932.jpg

20131117-073022.jpg

20131117-073117.jpg

20131117-073133.jpg
It was getting dark by the time we ventured out to find dinner on a Friday night, but we discovered several charming old pubs within walking distance of our hotel. Unfortunately, we also discovered that pubs don’t begin serving food on a Friday night until after the drinking crowd – most of which spilled out onto the sidewalks in front of pubs – was done with happy hour.

20131117-073545.jpg
We did happen upon a fantastic gastro-pub, The Coach Makers, where a very attentive server kept an eye out for an emptying table for us and we eventually enjoyed one of the best meals of the trip. David had a burger with chips and I had a roasted beet salad followed by an appetizer portion of pumpkin ravioli.

20131117-073947.jpg

20131117-074003.jpg
Following dinner, we walked around the scrabble board of pubs restaurants on the side streets of the Marlyebone neighborhood, and finally settled for a drink at The Barley Mow, a historic pub, where we had the first of many toasts to our wedding anniversary. When we arrived back at our hotel, I inquired about the poster advising visitors that the clock would be set back an hour the next night. When I mentioned to the concierge that the next day was our wedding anniversary and we were, coincidentally, married on the day we set the clocks back, he thanked us for celebrating our anniversary at the hotel and wrote our room number on the back of his hand to remind him to sent us an anniversary treat.

The next morning we were up early to take a cab to Old Spitalfields Marketwhere we would meet our Eating London tour group. This tour was so memorable it rates its own post! What a great way to see the East End of London and get a taste of its culinary heritage.

From there we walked (the travel mode of the day) to the Tower of London where we paid the only London attraction admission to see this historic site! We took the interesting and humorous Beefeater tour and even stood in line – for the first time in two weeks – to see the awesomely impressive Crown Jewels.

20131117-214423.jpg

20131117-214506.jpg
Following the tour, we consulted our map and decided we could easily walk to the South Bank and maybe catch a tour of the Globe Theater, but once there ( the walk along the Thames was lovely ) we decided not to wait – and pay – for the last tour of the day and opted instead for the free Tate Modern art museum after a few ceremonial pictures of the Globe.

20131117-215130.jpg

20131117-215149.jpg
Then we had to savor a walk across The Millenium Bridge – the first pedestrian river crossing over the Thames in central London for more than a century.

20131117-220257.jpg
By then, we had walked so much, what was a few more miles to get the the posh Oxford Street shopping district? We arrived just as the skies were darkening, but the crowds were not lessening one bit – it was Saturday night and I had not yet been to H & M London.

20131117-220631.jpg

20131117-220651.jpg
We had watched a season of Mr. Selfridge on PBS, but I wasn’t anticipating the spectacle of Christmas windows already in place! A shoppers glory on a balmy London night.

20131117-220950.jpg

20131117-221006.jpg

20131117-221027.jpg
A few gifts purchased, a few more miles walked – wasn’t it time for dinner? We ended our marathon day at the loveliest Italian restaurant – Caldesi Restaurant Marlyebone – where the servers were so Italian that , although David thought he ordered a glass of wine, we got the whole bottle for a price the exceeded our entrees combined. Back at the hotel, we were greeted by a complimentary bottle of wine, which added to our giggles. Daily walking total – 11 miles and just one more day to see ALL the rest.

20131117-221959.jpg
In retrospect, our last day could have been much better orchestrated. We set out early and arrived at the Marlybone Farmers Market before the set up was even complete. On the the British Library which didn’t open for another hour. We killed time – gloriously – inside of the St. Pancras Train Station, where I visited my first Cath Kidston store! The train station was awesome in the old fashioned sense of the word – old meets new!

20131117-223104.jpg

20131117-223157.jpg

20131117-223225.jpg
Once open, we did a quick tour of the Treasures of the Library and we the we were off walking again

20131117-223344.jpg

20131117-223408.jpg
This time, a quick and windy stroll through Regents Park would put us on our course to Abbey Road.

20131117-223652.jpg

20131117-223706.jpg
Abbey Road Zebra Crossing is indicated on all the maps and draws visitors with the simple promise of walking in the footsteps of the Fab Four. After walking half of the day to get there, we could have spent the rest of the day watching musical pilgrims recreate the stroll. David did his best.

20131117-224104.jpg

20131117-224118.jpg

20131117-224202.jpg
Having achieved this life goal, we walked back to Marlyebone High Street shopping district, wandered into acclaimed Daunt Books, gorgeous for its architecture, before ending up at the very last pub of the trip. We had met Theo, who manages The Gunmakers Marlyebone, at closing time at a different pub the night before. Apparently, British pubs take their Sunday roast dinners pretty seriously, and he invited us to spend our last night dining in his establishment. However, since we reached our hunger peak mid-day (it was another 11 mile walking day) we opted for Black Pudding Scotch Eggs and a gorgeous cheese board for our “last meal” – and of course a pint of cask ale for David and cloudy cider for me.

20131117-225334.jpg

20131117-225349.jpg
We retired to our room ridiculously early to pack up and watch the weather report about the looming storm. Added bonus – new season of Downton Abbey already airing in Britain and a bedside stand full of Sherlock Holmes literature!

20131117-225728.jpg

20131117-225746.jpg

Leaving Hay-on-Wye, we drove a bit north to see Leominster, but we were really on a mission to get David to the National Motorocycle Museum just outside of Birmingham, England. Coincidentally, the Barber Motorsports Museum, which we visited a few years back, is just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. The English museum has five huge exhibit halls containing 650 fully restored BSA, Triumph, Norton, Brough Superior, and Vincent machines, among others. David is looking forward to returning so he can spend more time there.

20131109-074326.jpg

20131109-080038.jpg
Of course we knew when planning this trip that we would have to include a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Stratford sits at the upper edge of the beautifully hilly region of southern England known as The Cotswolds. After much research on my part, we chose the perfect town – Chipping Campden – as our three day base in The Cotswolds. Chipping Campden may our favorite town of the trip. Two grocery stores, a wine and cheese shop, a post office, lovely shops to browse in, many excellent pubs and friendly people.

20131109-080441.jpg

20131109-080401.jpg

20131109-080339.jpg

20131109-080547.jpg
Placed all around town are signposts for The Cotswolds Way, a 102 mile National Hiking Trail that runs from Chipping Campden in the north down to Bath. We inquired at the visitors center in town and got a good hiking map and set off early in the morning – the sun was finally coming out – to do a circular walk up to Downers Hill.

20131109-081907.jpg

20131109-082038.jpg

20131109-082114.jpg

20131109-082230.jpg
We had the extreme good fortune of spending our three nights at Twine Cottage, a 17th century two-story thatched roof cottage that sleeps two! It is steps away from the Cotswolds Way, on a quiet side street just a short walk from town center, and it was perfect for us. I almost hate to share photos – but if you can manage to go there to stay, Rosie, the owner, is a delight to deal with.

20131109-082816.jpg

20131109-082847.jpg
<br />20131109-082916.jpg

20131109-082944.jpg
Chipping Campden is surrounded by equally picturesque little towns, and we spent one day driving around to several of them – Bourton-on-the-Water, Burford, and Chipping Norton. In Chipping Norton we visited by favorite UK independent bookstore, Jaffe and Neale (see related link) and David’s favorite brewery, Hook Norton, just up the road in Hook Norton. Founded in 1849, the brewing plant is an imposing structure, a traditional Victorian ‘tower’ brewery in which all the stages of the brewing process flow logically from floor to floor.

20131110-083103.jpg

20131110-083131.jpg

20131110-083151.jpg
Each day, a driver hitches a pair of draft horses to a wagon and delivers the casks of ale to The Pear Tree Inn at the foot of the hill below the brewery. He brings along a pint for himself and one for the horses. Lunch and an ale tasting at The Pear Tree is not to be missed.

20131110-083525.jpg
The best part of one of our Cotswold days was spent driving up to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit all of the William Shakespeare sites. We made the wise decision to park the car as soon as we got to town and purchase a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off bus that would allow us to visit several of the Shakespeare attractions and enjoy the narration and history of the area provided along the way.

20131110-084325.jpg

20131110-084406.jpg

20131110-084441.jpg

20131110-084502.jpg
We hopped off the bus at Shakespeare’s birthplace and museum where interesting guides in period costumes told about Shakespeare’s family and youth. Then we stopped at Hall’s Croft, the impressive house is where Shakespeare’s eldest daughter Susanna lived with her medical genius of a husband. It is near to Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried, so we were able to chalk another dead author’s burial place off our list. And, of course, a stop at Anne Hathaway’s famous cottage, which looked serene against the slanting sun of late day.

20131110-085448.jpg

20131110-085509.jpg

20131110-085556.jpg
Our day with the Bard was finished with a very nice meal at Eight Bells in Chipping Campden, where Hook Norton ale was on tap and the free wi-fi allowed us to begin to plan the end of this amazing trip. Three nights in London!

20131110-085920.jpg

From Chester, England we drove the most remote and winding pathway through the middle of beautiful rolling countryside to Hay-on-Wye, Wales – often described as the “town of books”. For its under two thousand residents, the town offers more than two dozen bookstores, and hosts the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts each spring. When a friend suggested we plan to visit Hay on our trip, I was reminded that I read a book called Sixpence House a number of years ago about a guy from San Francisco who moved his family to this town to work in a bookstore. We booked a room for two nights at The Seven Stars bed and breakfast which is in the middle of town, steps away from Booth’s Books.

20131104-203057.jpg
Booth’s is the largest bookstore in town and offers a mixture of used and new books, along with a nice cafe and great places to sit and read throughout the store. Many of the other small bookshops specialize in used, rare and out of print books. It was very rainy, so we had a lazy day of browsing.

20131104-204405.jpg

20131104-204440.jpg

20131104-204519.jpg

20131104-204604.jpg
Murder and Mayhem, with a chalked body outline on the pavement in front of the store, specializes in crime and detective fiction.

In the middle of town, amongst the bookstores, antique shops and high end specialty clothing stores are remains of the Hay Castle. A few shops outside the castle walls beckon tourists up the steps, but nestled behind the walls are the Honesty Bookshelves – a bunch of open shelves and the invitation to pay inside for your purchases!

20131105-164036.jpg

20131105-164117.jpg

After a morning of book browsing, we decided to take a hike. One of the other appeals of this town for travelers is that it is just off of Offa’s Dyke, a historic pathway which roughly follows the Welsh/English boundary. The path, more than 170 miles long, brings hikers from all over the world into Hay, and is the reason the town also hosts a walking festival in October. We put on our walking shoes and hiked along the Wye River in the rain before taking a path through a pasture back into town and to a pub to dry off.

20131105-165100.jpg

Our favorite pub was Three Tuns, and we ended up eating dinner there both nights we were in town. The first night we both had fish and chips and they may have been the best of the entire trip.

20131105-165531.jpg.
The second night David had a pizza and I had a bowl of spicy parsnip and apple soup. This pub dates back to the 1600s and was so cozy with its fireplace on a damp night, that we stayed a few hours – using their free wi-fi and chatting with a Swedish archeologist who was monitoring a construction site just down the road. Lucky for us, Three Tuns was steps away from our B and B, since we enjoyed a few pints of Wye Valley Ale and some Meer-low.

20131105-170604.jpg

Our initial itinerary allowed an empty day to fill, and we took the suggestion of my brilliant British friend, Anne, and made a reservation for one night at The Queen Hotel in historic Chester. The Queen was built in 1860 to serve first-class railway travelers. Just about a half mile from city center, it was a luxurious place to spend the night.

20131102-080828.jpg
We arrived, hungry, just before dark, so we eagerly took the restaurant recommendation of the helpful hotel staff and walked just a few blocks to The Old Harkers Arms Pub, one level down from the street, along the canal.

20131102-094418.jpg
On a Saturday night, we found it to be just as its website describes “a very social place with a lovely clubby atmosphere, and you’re pretty much bound to meet someone interesting.” It was standing room only around the long bar, but one of the things we were learning to love about dining at British pubs is that any table with a few empty seats is an invitation to have a seat, order from the dinner menu written on the blackboard, and, mostly likely, make new friends. We joined a couple on a weekend holiday who had already been served their food, and they gave us some suggestions for our sightseeing the next day. After they left, two more couples joined us as we enjoyed our dinners – Steak and Suet Pie for David and a fish stew for me.

20131102-095236.jpg

20131102-095316.jpg
A walk into the walled city in the full moonlight gave us a glimpse of what we had to explore the next day.

20131102-101934.jpg
The next morning, we gave in to the appeal of the hotel breakfast buffet (especially since we had been awakened in by a 12:30 fire alarm that brought everyone spilling into the hallways – including a bride still in her wedding dress). A full English with plenty of mushrooms, to-mah-toes and fried rice? Really?

20131102-102313.jpg
Although it threatened rain, we bundled up and began our day in Chester by walking the 2 mile or so wall that encircles this ancient Roman town. Several well marked flights of stairs lead you up a level to a historians tour of the city.

20131102-102605.jpg

20131102-102630.jpg
From this vantage point visitors see remains of old Roman Gardens, the racetrack which was once used for chariot races and what is left of an old amphitheater.

20131102-102837.jpg

20131102-102853.jpg

20131102-102912.jpg

20131102-103224.jpg
We came down off the wall to go inside Chester Cathedral and soak up a little of its two thousand year old history. Since it was Sunday morning, there was a worship service in progress in a small central worship area and, luckily for us, the magnificent pipe organ was in use.

20131102-104711.jpg

20131103-165448.jpg

20131103-165406.jpg
One of the fascinating combinations of historic architecture and modern convenience in Chester is the retail stores inside the Chester Rows, which consist of covered walkways at the first floor behind which are entrances to shops. The Rows, found in each of the four main streets of the city of Chester, Cheshire, England, are unique; nothing precisely similar exists anywhere else in the world.

20131103-171049.jpg
We wandered into a few shops, but really we were searching for a place where you can view remains of the Roman baths we learned about from the couple we sat with at the pub the night before. We didn’t ask them to spell the word, and didn’t know what to expect, but we were surprised to find Spudulike is, in fact, a made to order baked potato fast food establishment where you can get your spud just the way you like it! And standing outside this particular chain restaurant is a cheesy statue of a Roman soldier luring you in to spend a few coins to investigate the recently discovered ruins.

20131103-172253.jpg

20131103-172325.jpg
Our day in Chester was very enjoyable, but we had some driving to do before we would reach our next destination – Hay-on-Wye, Wales – so we were off to discover what lay beyond the rainbow(s).

20131103-172811.jpg

We were only about 30 minutes from the Scotish border during our stay in Cockermouth, and we began to hear Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s favorite literary son, calling us to come up for a visit.  Over a smoked salmon and scrambled eggs breakfast, we made plans to stop at the Robert Burns Center in Dumfries, Scotland and then a swing past the Bladnoch Distillery in Wigtown before heading up to Ayr, Scotland for the night.

Robert Burns (1759-1796) was a Scottish poet and lyricist who is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. He was a pioneer of the Romantic movement, but may be best known to Americans for the folk songs he collected from across Scotland, including his poem (and song) “Auld Lang Syne”.

The Robert Burns Center is situated in an 18th-century watermill by the banks of the River Nith in Dumfries, tells the story of the Bard’s extraordinary time in the market town. We found him waiting for our visit!

20131031-072604.jpg
At the centre, we picked up a walking map of the Burns sites in town which included his home, some memorial park statues and his burial place.

20131031-073039.jpg

20131031-073137.jpg

20131031-073256.jpg

20131031-073216.jpg

20131031-073356.jpgOne Burns poem that remains well known across the world today is “A Red, Red Rose”, which we found inscribed on a marker in a small rose garden.

We found ourselves at The Globe Inn, Burns favorite local pub, around lunchtime and made ourselves at home for a bowl of soup before heading back out into the rain.

20131031-074230.jpg
Inside the pub, Burns favorite chair sits beside a fireplace in a shrinal corner.

20131031-074649.jpg

Back in the car to taste some Scotch! Bladnoch Distillery, on the banks of the River Bladnoch, has been producing the “Spirit of the Lowlands” since 1817. Even with Mary Poppins on the GPS, we had some trouble finding the place, but did recognize that Wigtown, Scotland would have been a great place to spend a day. Wigtown is known as Scotland’s Book Town and hosts over 20 book stores. But we kept on to the distillery, only to discover we were the only car in the parking lot and distillery tours were not running that day. We did grab a few tastings, buy a small bottle and watch a bit of an informational video. Even in the rain, the facility was impressive.

20131031-075642.jpg

20131031-075711.jpg
Our drive up to Ayr, Scotland would have been even more beautiful without the gray, rainy skies. Ayr is a coastal town which lies on the mouth of the River Ayr which flows into the larger Firth of Clyde estuary. From the coast, the Isle of Arran can be seen, and on a very clear day, the northern tip of Northern Ireland, but we had no such clarity!

20131031-080418.jpg

20131031-080459.jpg
Luckily, we had booked a last minute accommodation at the Horizon Hotel and enjoyed a great Scottish dinner at The Waterfront Restaurant. We always try to sample the foods of the region, and decided the we had to give haggis a chance. We were surprisingly pleased with our appetizer of Haggis Fritters served with turnip purée and potato with a side of whiskey sauce.

20131031-081211.jpg
I was overjoyed to find Mussels with chorizo and cider on the menu, since I fell in love with mussels in Ireland two years ago, and David celebrated the miles of sheep we had passed during our day’s drive by ordering the double loin lamb chop with mint purée and potato fondant.

20131031-081655.jpg

20131031-081719.jpg
The next morning, it was off to nearby Alloway to visit the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. We have been to MANY museums and homes associated with authors, and this is one rivaled the John Steinbeck museum in Salinas, CA. State of the art displays – some interactive – allowed for a self guided tour of the museum building.

20131031-174612.jpg
One showcase was devoted to Burns’ connection to John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men. The title is borrowed from Burns’ “To a Mouse”, which begins with the epigraph “On turning her up in her nest, with the plough, November, 1785” and ends with the proverbial lines “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, gang aft agley.” Burns’ mouse was everywhere this trip, beginning with the artwork hanging at Langdale Chase, where we attended the wedding.

20131031-175916.jpg

20131031-175943.jpg

20131031-180042.jpg

20131031-180117.jpg
This larger than life mouse was placed along the Poet’s Path, a walking route connecting the museum to the Burns Cottage where Robert was born and a monument overlooking the late medieval bridge Brig ‘o Doon, made famous in the poem “Tam o’ Shanter”.

20131031-180638.jpg

20131031-180704.jpg

20131031-180734.jpg
We felt so reconnected to Rabbie Burns at the end of these two days that we made a promise to celebrate Burns this winter – on January 25? Anyone want to be invited?

Day two began with smoked haddock and eggs at The Croft House where breakfast is the highlight of the day. Eddie, who used to run pubs, waits on his guests while his wife, Barbara prepares food in the kitchen. Eddie aims to please and was full of weather predictions and travel suggestions for our trip to the wedding at the Langdale Chase Hotel in Windemere, almost an hour away. Although it was rainy, the views were spectacular across the lake and the hotel was full of historic elegance – a perfect venue for an intimate, emotional and classical fairy-tale wedding. We were honored to be among the select guests.

20131029-202916.jpg

20131029-202944.jpg
The day after the wedding was ours to explore the charm of Cockermouth – and try to appreciate not having to drive anywhere. It is a charming and very walkable town. Our first stop was inside of Mitchell’s Auction House to sit and take in a bit of local color.

20131029-210000.jpg
Then on to the birthplace and home of poet William Wordsworth right in the middle of town. Wordsworth (1770-1850) was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads. It looked like it might rain, but most of the day featured sun peaking through the clouds, which brought to mind a Wordsworth favorite:

I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay: 10
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood, 20
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
1804

20131029-210452.jpg

20131029-210811.jpg

20131030-074832.jpgCockermouth experienced a devastating flood in 2009, and many shops and business still display the water marks and before and after renovations photos. No where was this history more evident than in J. B. Banks Traditional Ironmongery and Hardware Shop with a small hardware museum in the back end of the fascinating shop.

20131030-074231.jpg

20131030-074309.jpg

20131030-074343.jpg
Many interesting storefronts line the streets of the town – the butcher, the grocer, the fishmonger and the bike shop with an name that made us giggle!

20131030-075947.jpg

20131030-080034.jpg

20131030-080105.jpg

20131030-080151.jpgReally? 4play in Cockermouth?

Luckily, we had worked up a thirst by the time we walked across the bridge to the Jennings Brewery which sits in the shadow of a castle. We took the 45 minute, thoroughly enjoyable brewery tour with Phil, who ended the tour in the tasting room and insisted that anyone who wanted sample each of the available brews in their charming little pub.

20131030-080937.jpg

20131030-081059.jpg

20131030-081132.jpg

20131030-081343.jpg

20131030-081439.jpg

20131030-081025.jpgDinner was at Tarantella, where I chose a local fish, panfried bream.

We realized we were still recovering from the time change, so we retired early to watch enough BBC news to assure us that the US government was, in fact, up and running again. Pleasant dreams!

After a long night’s flight, we arrived in the UK bright and early on Tuesday October 15 and fetched our rental car – a Volvo diesel wagon – from the Manchester airport car hire and we were off. With very little adjustment time for David, he was driving on the wrong side of the highway to Liverpool in order for us to meet our John Lennon Fab4 Cab Tour at the appointed 10:30 time. Thanks to the Mary Poppins voice on the GPS we arrived with enough time to have breakfast at Leaf, a restaurant I had chosen when researching the best full English breakfast in Liverpool. We were not disappointed – except that there is no cream for your coffee. Just milk in the UK! David got the full English breakfast which included two sunny side up eggs, black pudding, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, toast and baked beans.

20131029-093110.jpg
We still don’t get the baked beans part. I ordered the pescatarian full English which swapped the sausage for some smoked salmon.

20131029-093206.jpg
Plenty of time to eat and find a car park to ditch the car and meet Eddy, our most enjoyable Beatles tour cab driver. In approximately 3 hours he had us in and out of the cab to stop at about 15 different locations in Liverpool associated with the life of John Lennon. He carried a binder full of photos in plastic sleeves to augment his narration by showing us historic photos in front of many of the buildings.

20131029-093907.jpg
Beginning with the hospital where he was born, we got a full dose of John Lennon history and learned quite a bit we did not already know.

20131029-094220.jpg

20131029-154305.jpg

20131029-154349.jpg

20131029-154412.jpg
The tour was a great way to see Liverpool, which turned out not to be the dirty, industrial city I had imagined. The only problem was I kept falling asleep every item the cab began moving.

We had to keep moving on to get to Cockermouth in the Lake District two and a half hours north of Liverpool. We checked in to our lovely room at The Croft Guest House and met another Eddie – our host. He gave use directions to a great place nearby for our first pub dinner and pint – The Castle Bar.

20131029-160115.jpg

20131029-160149.jpg

Lake Erie Wineries

August 11th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in My Traveling Life | My Wining Life - (0 Comments)

A lazy, rainy day with friends gave us an opportunity to revisit our favorite wineries around Vermilion, Ohio. The day began at Paper Moon Winery.

Their outside covered seating area was a great place to share some cheese and hummus plates and a bottle of their Silver Lining Dry Reisling, a new limited edition wine on their wine list.

Best friends

On to Vermilion Valley Winery where a crowd was already assembled and waiting for the doors to the tasting room to open at 3:00. We enjoy their Pinot Gris and outdoor seating area overlooking a pond and rows and rows of vines.

The last stop of the day was Quarry Hill Winery, just up the hill from the orchard and fruit stand where we purchased a nice basket of roma tomatoes that will be used to make spaghetti sauce some day soon. The view from the hilltop winery is breathtaking and there was enough sunshine to sit out on the balcony and look out over the orchards.