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Author: Leigh (Bella) St John

Exploring Historic Dunster, Minehead and more…

Prince, my beloved convertible, and I headed off for a day of exploring and working, heading north from the English Riviera toward the Bristol Channel…

When we arrived in historic Dunster, I thought I would check out Dunster Castle and Water Mill, however when I discovered that one would need to walk about a half a mile or more from the closest place to park the car, that option became less appealing…  🙂

So, we continued on…

This building below is the old Yarn Market in Dunster, built around 1609.  It was damaged during the Civil War, but restored in 1647.

Minehead is lovely and settlement here dates back to the Bronze Age…

My ‘office’ for the afternoon has been The Old Ship Aground pub – and it was wonderful!

View into the kitchen…

No, this isn’t Dubai…

The food was amazing!  I hadn’t had breakfast, so decided to order both a starter and mains…  This was the starter!  Fresh muscles in a green curry Thai-ish sauce…  Yum….!  …and for only £5.85..!

…and main meal of trout…

I curled up here for several hours working – it was wonderful!  (and their wifi was lightning fast compared to most!)

Now a tea-room, this building below has quite the history!  Here is an excerpt from the Minehead Town Council’s website:

“[The] old building was the scene of much activity when the harbour was full of tall-rigged ships and was the home of Minehead’s famous ‘Whistling Ghost’: Old Mother Leakey.

It is said that Mrs Leakey, who died in 1634, became notorious after her death by her unpleasant habit of whistling up a storm whenever one of her son’s ships neared port. The townsfolk became so anxious that the Bishop of Bath and Wells presided over a commission to inquire into the matter. This resulted in a statement being issued to the effect that the elect commission doubted the credibility of the witnesses and did not believe that such an apparition as Mother Leakey’s ghost existed.”

…and a magnificent sunset to finish off a magnificent day exploring…

~ Bella

 

 

Staycation Day

Sometimes it is lovely to stay in your home town and explore… and in my case, that exploration involved the museum, a film-maker, French lunch, people-watching, and Michael Portillo!

The day prior, I was thinking about this weekend being Remembrance Day, and of all the young men who gave absolutely everything so that we may live the life we have now.

Living here in England for six months of each year, one can see and feel an ever-present reminder of the sacrifices, the horrors of war, and the wonderful gratitude of a nation.

As I was thinking about the armistice, when I looked at my phone to check the time, I thought it interesting that the clock showed 11-11…

 

So, on to Saturday and my Staycation Day…  First stop was the museum and this beautiful church right next door…

Torquay Museum has been in existence on the same spot since 1874.

There is soooooooooo much to see in the museum and after just a short cursory tour, I headed to the main auditorium…

…for a presentation by an inspiring young film-maker, Jessica Pearson.

Jessica was talking about her journey into film-making and the award-winning short-film she has produced, as well as the series she is filming on women who have done extreme adventures, such as walking to the south pole, climbing Everest etc…

I wasn’t sure where I was going to go for lunch, but felt compelled to go to one of my favourite spots, a fabulous French restaurant overlooking Torbay – and then discover my waitress just recently arrived home after canoeing from Ireland all the way to Romania!

So, of course, I told her about Jessica and her film series!

I don’t know if you can see this clearly, but the food here is extraordinarily delicious, the wine list is extensive, the view is every-changing and stunning – and two courses are a ridiculously low £11.95!

When I was at the museum, I saw a book that I knew I would love, however when one lives out of several suitcases, books are a luxury in which I rarely indulge – however……

The Hamsters that live in my head chimed in with a wonderful suggestion – now that I have a car here in England (that goes into storage when I am away), I can indulge in books to my heart’s content and simply store them in my beloved Prince (car)!

So, I purchased the book – that has two of my favourite words in the title:  optimism and opulence!

…and speaking of opulence…  Yum!

…and I have been thinking about pancakes for weeks – I don’t normally do dessert, let alone pancakes, but a French crepe fit the bill perfectly!

After a leisurely lunch, I returned home, had a snooze, and prepared to go out to the theatre…

You may know of Michael Portillo if not for his politics, for his wonderful documentaries on great rail journeys…

The evening was interesting, entertaining and generally wonderful.  One topic in particular left me pondering still…

Michael Portillo’s father was a university don, celebrated poet and writer in Spain but escaped during the revolution to England.  While he picked up enough of the English language to communicate, he never again felt he was able to effectively express what was in his mind and his heart in a language where he did not possess complete understanding of the subtleties…

I found/find that entire subject fascinating…

…and after the event, caught a taxi home and curled up for a lovely night’s sleep.

While it is wonderful to go exploring far afield, there is often so much on one’s own doorstep that a glorious day can be had without going more than a few minutes from one’s own door.

~ Bella

Weekend Away on a Victorian-Era Sailing Ship

You know me, I love anything Victorian/Edwardian – and I love anything boat/water related…  So, this weekend I combined those two passions and spent the entire weekend away on “Pilgrim”, a glorious small tall ship that was built in 1895!

Walking along beside Brixham Harbour, it is wonderful to ponder what life was like here when the Pilgrim was first launched…

She is the one on the far right…

…and as soon as I was safely on board, I turned off my cell phone and didn’t turn it back on again until Monday morning…

Here is more background information on “Pilgrim”:  http://www.classic-sailing.co.uk/pilgrim-brixham-sailing-trawler

 

While she may be Victorian in age, the contents of her chart room are definitely not…

Our Skipper, Brendan in the yellow jacket…

…and this is one of my new absolutely favorite people, John.

As the sun began to set, it was time to tack and head into the mouth of the River Dart, otherwise known as Dartmouth, for safe mooring for the night…

I love watching as the lights all start to come on and twinkle…

Since someone was already moored where we were supposed to be, we simply grabbed a mid-river bouy and secured for the evening…

Just as you call a taxi on land, so too do we call a taxi on the water…

…and we say farewell to Bob…

…and thanks to Chris and Sarah for the lovely bottle of wine (birthday present) that was just perfect for this voyage… and then a wonderful and surprisingly comfortable night’s sleep…

Morning was magnificent, misty, chilly…  It was glorious watching Dartmouth and Kingswear wake up and come alive…

Historic Royal Dartmouth College…

This fellow rowed across the river…

…perhaps headed to work…

 

 

Another water taxi and our Skipper abandons ship to go in search of two new passengers who were to join us for the return voyage… however they were a no-show (but since the clock changed for daylight-saving time, we later worried they may have been there an hour earlier…)

Breakfast of champions…

…and now headed back out the River Dart for the English Channel…

It is so sad to see this little cottage falling apart…

…Dartmouth Castle…

…and another look at my little friend…

 

 

There is something very quirky of taking a photo of someone who is taking a photo of you!  🙂

WWII gun placement and watch tower…

Such a fabulous group of people!  I felt so incredibly honoured to not only take this journey, but to share it with such a lovely men.

France is that-a-way…

…back in Brixham…

…and here is a collection of short videos from the trip…

If you would like more information, here is the website:  http://www.classic-sailing.co.uk

Thank you to everyone…

~ Bella

Perfect start to a long weekend…

After a rather challenging couple of weeks, and with another huge week ahead, I decided to treat myself to a long weekend… beginning with a day out with a wonderful girlfriend…

So, it was off first to Exeter on the train…

…not a bad view from the train…

…delicious sustenance to provide energy for our day…

So, after a very successful day of shopping, it was off to somewhere lovely for late lunch / early dinner…

Coombe Cellars is situated on the banks of an old smugglers’ cove – and was soooooooo lovely, I want to live here!

…and the food was magnificent!

The perfect way to start my long weekend…  Next – tomorrow it is off on a sailing trip on a Victorian sailing ship!

~ Bella

Champagne Reception at Downton Abbey

After a lovely night in Derbyshire, I set out under a veeeery strange sky toward Highclere Castle, home of the famous Downton Abbey.

The sun was an eerie red colour through the clouds – and at one point, the whole sky turned an unusual colour – well, unusual for the sky, anyway…

…but I eventually made it safe and sound to my destination of the Carnarvon Arms.  Built by Lord Carnarvon (I don’t recall which one) as a coach house, this place is quite lovely and the staff are excellent and ever so friendly…

…and the food was superb!

So, it’s time to head off in our finest attire to Highclere Castle for a charity champagne reception hosted by Lord and Lady Carnarvon, and with David Robb (who played the doctor in Downton Abbey and is such a lovely man in person) in attendance.

Although no photos were permitted inside, we largely had free run of much of the main rooms in the castle, as well as visiting the extraordinary Egyptian exhibit in the bowels of the building.

In case you are not aware, it was the fifth Lord Carnarvon who, along with Howard Carter, discovered King Tut’s tomb – and many of the antiquities are still at Highclere Castle.

It is extraordinary to look at some of the jewellery and consider that thousands of years ago, that was being worn by a real life, flesh and blood, breathing person – someone just like us – but literally thousands of years ago…  What were they thinking as they put on the artifact?  What thoughts occupied their daily lives?  What were their dreams?

If you have read / are reading Bridgit’s story (my Quantum Lace series), you know that she uses personal touchstones including jewellery as her vibrational links (and if you have no idea what I am talking about, you’ll just have to read the book!) – and I wonder what she would have made of these items…

We have to thank the current Lord Carnarvon, a very lovely gentleman, for having the foresight to take all of the artifacts and put them together into such a fascinating exhibit.

Carriages were at 9:00pm and I then came together for wine with two new friends – Ginger from America and Naomi from Japan, both of whom were visiting England.  We were especially impressed by Naomi who, with very little English, was travelling by herself on a ten-day tour.

…then off to a glorious slumber in a huge bed fit for a princess.

~ Bella

My Horse-Drawn Journey back to the 1890s

Anyone who knows me knows that I am very much a Victorian/Edwardian girl at heart – complete with a wardrobe to match!  So, when I heard about the opportunity to ride in an authentic and historic 1800s carriage, recreating a nostalgic journey in the actual coach, the ‘Tantivy’, that last travelled the same route in 1895, 122 years ago – I was in raptures!

After getting up when the sparrows were still in their jammies and the sun hadn’t yet peeked over the horizon, Prince (my trusty convertible) and I headed on a long drive north to the starting point for my part of the journey, the beautiful Greyhound Hotel, built in 1778, and now run by the lovely Paul and Tina who took such good care of me (I stayed the night there).  (Here is some history about the hotel)

…and some very rare photographs of yours truly – as you know, I much prefer to be behind the camera these days!

…one lady was fascinated by the back of my jacket…

The trumpeter signalled the arrival of the carriage…

(these people were on the first leg of the journey – I was about to embark on the second)

Btw, I’m not certain about this (and didn’t think to ask at the time) but I am pretty sure that different coaches had different tunes that would be played…

Here is an excellent article about the whole event:  http://www.derbyshirelife.co.uk/out-about/events/the-return-of-the-tantivy-recreating-a-nostalgic-journey-from-belper-to-cromford-1-5223492?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social_Icon&utm_campaign=in_article_social_icons

…and complete with BBC coverage of the event…

Once everyone had disembarked, we headed inside for a delicious lunch…

(photo on the wall of an earlier journey)

Two of my new favourite men…

This couple (below) were so lovely and recently married…

…and we are off…

The Derbyshire countryside is astoundingly beautiful!  It is the first place since I fell in love with South Devon that I could happily be ‘planted’ (as long as it was near water of some description – even if just a river!).

We were overtaken by a cyclist…

Very useful little spot for bag and umbrella!

The sun shining through the clouds was majestic!

Somehow I don’t think we were going fast enough to worry a helicopter…

Our wonderful photographer always racing ahead of us – he did an excellent job…

…but we definitely felt sorry for him when he dropped his phone mid-sprint…

…and safely arrived at our destination, the lovely Lion Hotel

Early dinner with lovely new friends…

…and then back to the Greyhound to change…

…and back to the Lion for wonderful local music…

Breakfast the next morning…

…and then I was off on my next adventure…

What a magnificently lovely day!  This was indeed one of the best days ever…

~ Bella

 

Q&A with the author of the “Victoria” mini-series

After travelling from Torquay by rail to Paddington Station (and by the way – there is a new Paddington Bear book that I was excited to read until I discovered, as one newspaper put it, “Paddington Bear will encounter migrants, electronic tagging, and ‘elf ‘n’ safety laws in a brand new story”… Ah, thank you, no) – I then took an iconic London Black Cab to my lovely hotel, where I was greeted by a doorman wearing a top hat…

The reason for this London trip?

A members-only Q&A with Daisy Goodwin, one of my favourite authors and the author of the mini-series, “Victoria”.

It wasn’t really the place for photos so instead here are a couple of stock photos to give you an idea…

First, as the event was in the evening after closing time at Kensington Palace, it was admittance through a private gate (not quite as an illustrious gate as this below), then driving past the residence of Prince William and Princess Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge…

…and for the event itself that began with hors de’oeuvres and a lovely crisp white wine, it was off to the magnificent Orangery, built in the early 1700s for Queen Anne…

Hosted by Lucy Worsley, another of my favourites and Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces…

…what I didn’t know was that Daisy Goodwin was once Lucy Worsley’s boss!

The event was extremely interesting and Bridgit was encouraged that my question to Daisy Goodwin related specifically to her transition from books to screen…

Also in attendance were several of the actors, including Jenna Coleman who plays Queen Victoria.

View as we were leaving…

Back now in my lovely hotel and tomorrow going first-class rail for the four-hour journey back to Torquay – but thankfully we have a direct line from Paddington Station so there are no transfers or changing trains between here and there…

I may not have seen much of London on this trip, but every time I come here I love it!  I wouldn’t want to live here, but I adore visiting London…

~ Bella

PS:  view from inside the train carriage on the way home…

…and Paddington Station…

 

Fabulous day exploring a foundry, two castles, a Saxon village, a 13th century pub and Egyptian mummies!

What a magnificent day!  I needed to go for a drive to clear the cobwebs out of my head and managed to find and explore some fascinating places!  I needed to be home by around 3:30pm or just a little after to take care of a bunch of work and I then had back to back calls with clients until 10:00pm, but the morning was mine to explore to my heart’s content…

After sleeping in, having a leisurely breakfast and start to the day then leaving home around 10:30am, my first stop was The Finch Foundry, a 19th century water-powered forge and the last of its kind in England.

Andy, the blacksmith, gave us a wonderful demonstration of what is an almost forgotten art…

…and then it was time to fire up the big guns…

Next discovery on my travels – Okehampton Castle.

Built between 1068 and 1086, the castle was still in use until the early 17th century, but soon afterward, fell into decay and ruin…

Meandering along lovely Devon roads, I happened upon the self-proclaimed “most unusual pub in England” – and a well-deserved description!

Originally built as an inn in 1282 (yes, that is 1 2 8 2), the Highwayman Inn is now a supposedly haunted eclectic treasure-trove.

Yes, that is a replica of King Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus…

These pots are actually embedded in the wall…

Time for a good old-fashioned pub meal for lunch…

…and a one-penny slot machine!

This little fellow lives on the roof…

Hmmmm – “weak bridge” does not instill one with confidence!

…and now we enter the Saxon village…

…and Lyford Castle – originally a prison, it was built in 1195 and is apparently the earliest example of a purpose-built gaol in England.

Time to pop the top off Prince (my beloved convertible), pump up the volume once we were past the township, and head for home…

Oh, and this is the “weak bridge” – looks strong enough to me!

Back home on the English Riveria – home sweet home – one of only seven UNESCO Global Geoparks in all of the United Kingdom!

…and upon my arrival, I see the postman has delivered my acceptance as a member of the Goodwood Road Racing Club Fellowship!

…and still home in time to complete all my work and client calls…

Am a very happy, happy, happy Princess Pixie!

~ Bella

 

Steam Trains, Owls and Abbeys

Yesterday, a friend and I went exploring on the South Devon Railway Buckfast Abbey and back via beautiful Devon countryside.  So, where does the owl come in?  You’ll just have to scroll and see…

Somehow a man checking his smart-phone doesn’t really fit the image…

I love old newspapers, and especially ones that feature critical moments relating to subjects about which I am fascinated…

Then off to Buckfast Abbey.

Although the first abbey was built on this site in 1018, it was demolished and the site was purchased by Benedictine Monks in 1882, with the abbey, incorporating the existing Gothic house beside, being completed in 1938.

~ Bella