Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

A little vignette from our London travels in March. The day after our arrival our daughter, Mlle, suggested Saturday breakfast at a quaint little cafe not too far from her home in north west London. The Quince Tree Cafe is part of the Clifton Nurseries in the Warwick Avenue/Little Venice neighbourhood near the London canals.

 

From previous posts (see here and here) you’ll know that our trip was in the bitterly cold spell in March (such a contrast with the current July heatwave!). Therefore our planned walk turned into a quick Uber ride.

Tucked away down a little alley, the Quince Tree is a real gem. It’s housed in a converted greenhouse overlooking rows of potted plants and garden beds. Even on a gloomy March day it seemed light and spacious – the perfect spot to enjoy the gardens with a steaming pot of tea. We eagerly tucked into a very hearty breakfast (we were jet lagged and feeling the cold!).

 

 

On a warmer day we would have loved to linger a bit longer in the grounds but it was a day for staying rugged up indoors as far as possible.

 

 

Just up the road are steps leading to the pathway along the canal – Little Venice is the point where the Regents Canal joins the Grand Junction Canal and there are lovely walks in both directions along the banks. It was not a day for walking too far though – the pictures don’t show the black ice and we were slipping and sliding all over the place.

 

 

If you’re ever in the vicinity the Quince Tree is the perfect spot for refreshments and next time we hope we’ll be able to get our canal walk in!

 

IMG_6902(1)

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We arrived in London in March in the midst of the “Beast From The East”, the extreme weather front that gripped the UK for a week or so coming straight from the Siberian Steppes. It was minus two and blowing a blizzard when we landed belatedly at Heathrow Airport on the Friday night, after our original flight from Hong Kong was cancelled.

We had just a couple of full days to spend with our daughter Mlle in London and with the weather remaining bitterly cold and the pavements icy with the snow and frost, we didn’t fancy spending too much time outdoors. I’ve already written a quick account of the weekend whilst on the road here.  However we did brave the elements and in fact managed to pack quite a lot into our flying visit to the capital.

On the Sunday, when a slow thaw had set in, Mlle suggested heading down to the Temple area of the city for lunch at the Temple Brew House in Essex Street before taking in an exhibition. The moody blues and greys down by the Thames don’t really depict the full story – it was absolutely freezing even for Mlle who is more acclimatised than us by now to the cold!

 

The Temple Brew House proved an inspired choice. During the week it must be packed with workers from the legal offices and chambers nearby but on this cold Sunday lunchtime it was more or less deserted and the warming pies and drinks were just what we needed. I did manage to get a glass of wine though Monsieur and Mlle sampled some of the many craft beers on offer (well not too many I should hasten to add!).

 

 

Two Temple Place is just a few minutes walk away from the Temple Brew House. An imposing building near the Victoria Embankment with views towards the Thames, it is now owned by a private trust, the Bulldog Trust, and is open to the public at certain times of the year for special exhibitions. Mlle works in the music PR industry and a number of her clients are in the jazz world so it seemed serendipitous that the latest exhibition, “Rhythm & Reaction, The Age of Jazz in Britain” was on at the time of our visit.

 

Not only was the exhibition free (though donations were welcome), it gave us an opportunity to look round this impressive, albeit unusual, piece of architecture. Originally known as Astor House, it was built in 1895 for the wealthy American-born William Waldorf Astor, businessman, attorney, politician and newspaper publisher, who was apparently so scared of potential kidnapping attempts that he relocated himself and family to England (deemed safer than the USA). Constructed by John Loughborough Pearson the exterior is built from Portland stone whilst the interior is decorated with heavy wooden panels and stained glass windows – a bit reminiscent of something out of a gothic novel meeting an Elizabethan Tudor mansion!

 

Apparently used as both an office and living quarters by Astor and his family, it also housed some of his extensive artworks and certainly provided an interesting backdrop for the jazz history exhibition. Thoughtfully curated, the exhibition took us through the history of jazz in the Britain of the 20s, 30s, 40s and later, as well as providing a fascinating tour of the opulent mansion at the same time.

 

 

I had to restrain myself in the lovely gift shop, which was selling books, cards, prints, toiletries as well as other gifts – luggage allowances being of the essence when travelling though I can’t say I came away totally empty handed! We headed out from the cosy warmth inside the building to brave the crisp, cold air of a wintry London late afternoon.

 

 

Two Temple Place is one of those hidden gems and it’s well worth looking out for exhibitions or other events there if you happen to be in London.

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

I’ve written about the excellent Hotham Valley Tourist Railway before (see here).

 

 

Taking advantage of a gorgeous crisp winter’s WA day (after the heavy storms of the previous few weeks) we planned a similar outing down to Dwellingup last weekend. This time, however, the Steam Ranger train wasn’t operating – maintenance issues and finding volunteer drivers who have the time and qualifications to drive it are unfortunately proving to be a problem.

However, we were able to take the little diesel train, which trundles deep into the forest surrounding Dwellingup (the steam train goes in the opposite direction to Isandra Siding). The Forest Train took us on a ride through a part of WA’s history down to the little siding of Etmilyn, which in past times took the freshly-milled timber out to the coastal ports.

 

 

Unlike the Steam Ranger, the carriages are open to the elements (they have a roof but no enclosed windows). It’s wonderfully refreshing on a fine sunny day but obviously wouldn’t be as comfortable on a wild wet day! However it was pleasantly mild and we didn’t really need the heavy coats and scarves that we’d taken with us. You can almost touch the branches and bushes as the train gently chugs along.

 

 

There is a helpful map to accompany the journey. One of the most interesting places you pass by is the site of the former Holyoake Mill and Township. Once a bustling timber mill town it was destroyed by a devastating bush fire, which ravaged the Dwellingup area in 1961 and was never rebuilt. We kept looking round for old ruined buildings and huts but there was nothing there, only the jarrah trees, grass trees and wild bushland. It was somewhat eerie to see how the bush and forest have reclaimed the little township. A small plaque commemorates the town and mill, which stood here between 1910 and 1962.

 

IMG_7775

Wending its way gently uphill through the thick forest, the little train comes to Etmilyn after about half an hour. You can stay on the train if you like whilst it turns round but we took the opportunity to do the circular bush trail that neatly skirts round the forest back to the waiting train (again it takes about half an hour and they do a head count before heading back to Dwellingup!). Our granddaughters had great fun helping to gather firewood so our arms were quite full by the time we got back on board again!

 

 

The train leaves at weekends and public holidays at 10.30am and 2pm (check the website for further details here). As we’ve done on previous occasions, we had an enjoyable lunch beforehand at the Dwellingup Tavern.

All in all a very enjoyable day out. We hope that the steam train will soon be up and running again – it’s not only fun to ride on but an important connection with WA’s past.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We chanced upon Hong Kong’s Maritime Museum when we were trying to find somewhere for lunch on our last full day on the island. Having spent the morning wandering round Kowloon (see here) we were feeling pretty hungry and assumed we’d find something back at Hong Kong harbour pier with no problem. However, like many parts of Hong Kong, the area down by the harbour and ferry terminal is undergoing reconstruction. We wandered round the eclectic maze of buildings round Pier 8 trying to find a suitable cafe or restaurant without much luck before we saw a sign pointing to  Cafe 8 up the stairs.

 

 

Cafe style (you order at the counter but get served at the tables) we were lucky to get a table squeezed into a corner near the kitchens. It was evidently popular with the locals – one lady who must have been a university or college lecturer was conducting a meeting reviewing her students’ assignments at the table next to ours and there were several groups of business people having working lunches. What makes it special too is that it is a joint project between the Maritime Museum and the Nesbitt Centre – part of their mission is to provide gainful employment for people with special needs.

Revived by our bowls of soup and focaccias we decided we couldn’t miss the opportunity to explore the Maritime Museum on the floors below. We thought we would just spend an hour or so there and then maybe take a later afternoon cruise round the harbour. Suffice to say a even good couple of hours was nowhere near long enough to take in everything although we did our best!

 

 

 

The exhibits go into incredible detail about Hong Kong’s fascinating history from earliest times when traditional sampans plied across the seas around China. Gradually they began exploring further afield towards the Indian sub continent. There was so much information about the history of China and the myriad of dynasties that came and went over the centuries well before the British Colonial era. Interactive displays would keep children (and adults) happy for hours and indeed the museum runs many educational programmes. Advances in science, the importance of environmental protection and Hong Kong’s yachting and sailing history are all covered. I found the transformation of Hong Kong from a small fishing and trading outpost to multinational business centre with its high rise skyline fascinating.

It was also interesting to reflect how my great grandparents fitted into the jigsaw puzzle as they were part of the missionary movement that gained great popularity in the later Victorian era and spent many years as missionaries out in China (in West China and Shanghai). My grandfather was born in China in late 1898 but sent back to England as a small boy to live with relatives like his younger siblings after him. This period was covered in some detail in the displays – it seems rather strange today but the spirit of the times was very different back then. We learnt about the Opium Wars and the terrible effects that this drug had on communities at the time.

 

 

In a nutshell the Maritime Museum is well worth a visit – I couldn’t possibly describe everything here. The exhibition is housed over three floors with views overlooking the harbour on some levels. The light was not conducive to taking too many photos so please excuse the quality of the ones I’ve included here!

Finally the Museum shop (across the boardwalk from the museum entrance) is well stocked with a wonderful range of books, tasteful souvenirs, maps, prints of Hong Kong and much more. We just had time for a stroll around the harbour before dusk fell.

 

 

Our few days stopover in Hong Kong en route back to Australia was a great success. For all the other posts in the Hong Kong series see here.

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took the ferry over to the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour a couple of times during our Hong Kong trip (see here). This former outpost of the Chinese mainland in colonial times is now reinventing itself as a tourist destination. It is a fascinating place to visit though not always the prettiest.

The ferry takes you across to Tsim Sha Tsui where a bustling waterfront and new arts complex greet you. We did a questionnaire for some school children out on an excursion – they were excited to practice their English with a couple from Australia! Somewhere in a Kowloon or Hong Kong classroom there must now be a picture of Monsieur and me on the wall as part of the kids’ assignment!

 

 

We wandered up one of the main streets, Canton Road, surrounded by a myriad of people, office workers – it was packed and extremely busy. The streets were lined with all the high end shops you could possibly imagine – Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Chanel to name just a few. However the place was in a state of flux and rebuilding – cranes and orange and white road bollards were everywhere. We didn’t have to look too far to see the poorer side of Hong Kong. Tower blocks with crumbling paint and in states of disrepair dominate the skyline. We were astonished that they were still upright.

 

 

There are numerous small streets with little shops selling all manner of food, delicacies and trinkets. The best time to come though is to see the famous night markets, the Temple Street Night Markets, which are a hive of activity after dusk. I’m reliably informed they are well worth a visit but for us this will have to wait for another day though we did explore the night markets on the Hong Kong side (see here).

 

IMG_7290(1)

 

At the end of the high street we skirted round the remains of the infamous Kowloon Walled City. Leased to the Hong Kong British Colony by the Chinese Mainland in the late 19th century it was once an infamous maze of seedy streets, opium dens, crime and prostitution. It was virtually a no-go zone and later controlled by Triad gangs in the 1950s to 70s. After much deliberation and debate it was finally demolished in 1993 and replaced with the new Kowloon Walled City Park. Beneath the skyscrapers and flyover you can just see the old walls peaking out across the road.

 

IMG_7284(1)

 

We didn’t go into the Kowloon Park itself but found instead the King George V Memorial Park not too far away. It was like many places we found in Hong Kong – a quiet oasis away from the noise and bustle of the city streets.

 

 

Kowloon is well connected not only by the ferry but also by road and the rail network, the MTR. It does take a bit of negotiating but is a quick and efficient way to get round Hong Kong and its environs.

All in all I was glad that we decided after some debate to stay on the Hong Kong side but it is well worth taking a look round Kowloon for another perspective. The markets and the museums that are housed in Kowloon are worth taking a trip across the harbour. Next week though we’re heading off to the Maritime Museum back on Hong Kong Island – one of the highlights of our trip!

 

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

A quick detour from my Hong Kong posts this week as wanted to share some photos from our recent trip out to Araluen Botanic Park. I have blogged about this beautiful spot before (see here and here for previous posts) but never managed to visit during the autumn months.

IMG_0368(1)

The day was perfect – gorgeous sunshine, hardly a cloud in the sky and a wonderful backdrop for the greens, russets and gold tones of the foliage. We had our younger granddaughter with us who thoroughly enjoyed running around and exploring the pathways and being midweek we more or less had the place to ourselves.

 

The cafe, Chalet Healy, is open every day from 10am to 4.00pm (the kitchen closes at 3pm) and we stopped off for lunch and refreshments before continuing our walk.

We found a little island to explore and watched the waters of the stream meandering under the bridge. Although only half an hour or so from the metro area we always feel very away from it all up in the Perth hills and the fresh air does us all good – our little granddaughter was sound asleep almost as soon as we drove out of the car park!

IMG_0378(1)

IMG_0379(1)

 

For more wonderful and interesting walks round the world join Restless Jo for her regular Monday Walk!

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

The iconic Star Ferry has plied its way backwards and forwards across Victoria Harbour, connecting Hong Kong with the mainland and other islands, for over a hundred years. Whilst there are now road and rail connections using the under harbour tunnels, there is nothing like viewing the surrounds from the water.

The ferries are so charming and evoke a bygone age. They first began operating in 1888, initially known as the Kowloon Ferry Company, before adopting the present name, Star Ferry Company in 1898.

The main route shuttles from Central Pier on the Hong Kong side to Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side though there are other options too. We used our Hong Kong Travel card, the Octopus, to get around on all forms of transport including the ferries (similar concept to the London Oyster card). You can find all the information you need about the Octopus card here.

 

We loved the old fashioned feel of the boats from the old metal gangways used to board and disembark, down to the wooden bench seats, which you can swivel round in either direction depending on what view takes your fancy. We saw tourists, locals carrying their shopping bags and smartly dressed business people alike all using the shuttle service. I was amazed to read afterwards that the ferries take 70,000 passengers per day (over 26 million every year!).

 

It’s a lovely feel being on the water – even on warm humid days we enjoyed a pleasant breeze. You get a wonderful perspective of the buildings and distant glimpses of the hills overlooking Hong Kong. Naturally there are numerous photo opportunities so I’m only including a small selection! If we go back to Hong Kong, a night  cruise on the harbour would be top of the wish list as we ran out of time on our short trip in April.

 

IMG_7330

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

Having explored the attractions of the Peak Tower and viewing platform (see last week’s post here), we decided to escape the commercialism of the shops and boutiques and head off to explore the nature trails that criss-cross the Peak (at 552 metres above sea level, the highest point on Hong Kong Island).

Monsieur remembered doing the circular walk around the summit a few years back. At the start of the trails we found a helpful map and some information about the history. The elevated hillside above the city has long been popular with locals as a way to escape the humidity and often stifling air of the city streets along with the pungent smell of the markets, particularly in the hot summer months. Wealthy citizens began to build their residences up the hillside where they could enjoy the superb views (Governor Richard MacDonnell started this trend when he had his summer residence built there in 1868). In the days before air conditioning the breeze must have been especially  welcome!

 

It was interesting to see photos of the quaint cafes and early trams of a bygone era. However originally the only means of getting up and down, apart from walking, was by sedan chair! Fortunately for the porters the trams started running in the later 19th century and continue to this day. I was astonished to read that the Peak was reserved exclusively for ex pats until 1947 – an insight into the spirit of the times.

So we set off along Lugard Road (named after Sir Frederick Lugard, governor from 1907 to 1912) enjoying the relative peace and tranquillity away from the crowds of the Peak Tower. We were surprised how few people there were – a few tourists ambling along, a couple of joggers and a family out with their dog. Another couple passed us by with their white terrier beautifully shod in a small set of black leather shoes (I’m not kidding just wish we could have taken a photo!). We could catch glimpses of the city skyline through the dense vegetation but we felt far removed from a bustling metropolis.

 

The idea was to do the relatively short Peak Circle Walk  that hugs the hillside and takes you back via Harlech Road to the Peak Tower and tram terminus. We passed the Lugard Falls and came to a clearing where work was going on, apparently to develop a picnic and pavilion area.

 

Here we came to a signpost……

IMG_7223

 

Now clearly I should have realised that we ought to be heading back to the Peak Tram Station as obviously it is signposted in both directions so should have been a clue that this was in fact the circular trail. For some reason we had kept seeing signs for the Morning Trail as we walked along so, thinking this was our correct route, I overruled Monsieur and we headed down left instead of right (I should add it was a bit confusing as the main signpost here had no mention of the Morning Trail but there was a smaller one at the side of the pathway).  Suffice to say it became obvious that we had moved away from the previously flat trail and were heading steeply downwards. It was pounding on the knees to say the least! Anyway by this stage we didn’t particularly want to turn round and go uphill again so we carried on wondering where we were going to land up. Past a gentleman loudly doing some sort of martial art ritual, we came to a spectacular lookout point.

 

We asked a walker coming up the path where the trail led but he turned out to be a Swiss tourist visiting his daughter, had only just arrived and was none too sure of his bearings either! However we had an interesting chat about the relative merits of Switzerland and Western Australia and I was able to practice my German so that was an unexpected bonus. So we kept walking downhill! Near Hatton Road the path wended down past the original city boundary marker from 1903. Apparently there are a whole series of these small obelisks round Hong Kong Island (see here for more details)

 

Eventually we came to small rest area and met a jogger who turned out to be local out on his daily run. He explained the Morning Trail was a longer one that took you up from the residential area called the Mid Levels towards the Peak. We could see why he was so enthusiastic about the area – such a beautiful resource on his doorstep and a chance to get out into nature and escape the urbanisation and pollution that affects the air quality in the city.

A few hundred metres further on we were back in residential streets and were able to hop on one of the many minibuses for the last leg into the city. We’d been able to experience a different side to Hong Kong – the Morning Trail had turned out to be a serendipitous discovery!

 

IMG_7245

 

For more fascinating walks round the world join Restless Jo every week for her Monday Walks!

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

The Peak is one of the highlights of any trip to Hong Kong.  The highest point of Hong Kong Island, it has long been popular as a place of retreat when the residents need a break from the densely populated city. Being at a higher altitude it is also a bit cooler than down below in the city streets.  No doubt that was part of the attraction in the colonial era when residences were built up the hill – no surprise that the area round the Peak is one of the more exclusive residential addresses on the island.

There is a famous tram that takes you up to the top but the queues are huge – apparently you can wait over an hour on some days. We did check the tram station out but decided it was better to take one of the many buses or mini buses that ply the route instead. For some reason the bus route round the corner from the tram was not operational when we were there last month, so we retraced our steps back down to the city and caught bus number 15c from Central Pier 8. The number 15 bus from Exchange Square also works as well.

 

 

Initial impressions at the top were that it was rather touristy. The Peak Tower looks a bit like a space station and houses a huge mall over several levels, a Madame Tussauds, numerous cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.

 

 

However the viewing platform, the Sky Terrace 428, affords superb views on a clear day across Victoria Harbour and over to the Chinese mainland. We were very lucky though on the day of our visit – often the landscape is obscured by haze and smog and you can’t see much at all!

 

 

There were the usual touristy gimmicks – people trying to sell us photo shoots for example. Whilst the area overlooking Victoria Harbour was crowded with people taking photos, the far side of the platform was relatively quiet by comparison. I don’t think people realised there were more great views from this point towards the sea and other islands – it was actually quite peaceful!

 

 

After a quick bite to eat we headed off to explore the nature trails round the Peak. Monsieur had done the circular trail round the summit before and we planned a reasonably quick walk on this pathway before heading back down to town on the bus. In fact we ended up doing the longer Morning Trail down the hillside (quite by accident).  More about that next week!

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We arrived in Hong Kong around lunchtime on our first day but by the time we’d got the train from the airport to Hong Kong Central and negotiated the shuttle bus to our hotel, the Novotel Century in Wan Chai, it was late afternoon. Having been plied with food on our flight from London we weren’t particularly hungry. Rather than having a large dinner we simply took advantage of the hotel executive lounge facilities for aperitifs and a light snack before heading out to absorb some of the Hong Kong street atmosphere at night.

 

IMG_7137

 

Wan Chai is like much of central Hong Kong – busy, bustling, people everywhere, shops, markets and an incredible contrast between the old and new, east and west, rich and poor. Monsieur had visited before for work reasons, which was just as well as it did take a little while to get our bearings.

 

The street markets were starting to pack up for the day – we strolled through taking it all in. There was something of a pungent smell but the food choices were incredible – all manner of exotic fruits, fish stalls (may explain the smell!), meat dishes and quite a few ingredients that I hadn’t come across before. The beautiful oriental flower stalls especially caught my eye.

 

About 10 minutes down the road eastwards of Wan Chai you come to the Causeway Bay area, noted for its high end shopping facilities – luxury malls, department stores and boutiques. All in all a huge contrast to the shops we found in Wan Chai!

 

IMG_7165(1)

 

We weren’t there to shop as such but it was intriguing to peak inside the enormous Times Square Complex, probably the showpiece of Causeway Bay. A sky-high tower block, it houses many famous fashion brands – Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Jimmy Choo and the list goes on. I did a bit of window shopping and picked up a couple of things at Zara – just about in my price bracket! It was rather surreal having been wandering round the street markets a bit earlier and epitomises the many contrasts we found throughout our time in Hong Kong.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

%d bloggers like this: