Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

So I’m finally getting round to publishing my series of posts on our recent trip to Germany (May 2019). My computer has been having a minor meltdown this past week or so! Monsieur has been helping me fixing it but it seems every electrical communications device I own has suddenly reached its “use by” date – a desktop software update has improved things but my iPad and IPhone are apparently well out of date and it’s now increasingly hard to use them for blog purposes. At some point I need to go shopping…..

Anyway back to the matter in hand. We chose to base ourselves in Mainz for 6 days in between visits to our respective families in Yorkshire and Somerset and a later trip back to London to see our daughter, Mlle.

Why Mainz? Well we prefer slightly less well known places, we’d been to the Rhine region a few years back (see here) and were keen to return and it gave me an opportunity to practice my German (I’ve been part of a weekly German class for over 8 years now!). Rest assured though English is widely spoken in Germany it’s just that I prefer to get the German conversation practice with native speakers.

First though I’m doing a bit of a detour by explaining our travel route. We took a British Airways flight from London City Airport to Frankfurt then caught the local regional train down to Mainz (about 25 minutes away). On the way back we took the rail route – 3 trains from Mainz to London St Pancras in under 8 hours.

We hadn’t been out to London City Airport before and the rail journey from our meeting point at Kings Cross Station took us out through East London and the old dockyards by the river – areas that I’d rarely seen before even though we lived in London for 9 years and of course things have changed dramatically in recent years.

We found the airport rather crowded and muddled our way through their self service check in point. I must admit to an embarrassing episode in security, which shows even experienced travellers can mess things up! We had the boarding passes in electronic form on Monsieur’s phone and we were waved away from the manned security gate to the self service gates instead. I tried to go through with Monsieur as he had both our boarding passes on his phone but this unfortunately triggered a security alarm. What I should have done was wait for Monsieur to go through, then he needed to pass his mobile phone back to me so I could activate my own pass. Just beware of this as we had not encountered it before. With the blaring sirens subsiding and the security staff thankfully lenient we made our way (in my case rather sheepishly) through the security screening gates and through to the boarding area.

A meal and welcome glass of wine later we boarded our plane for the relatively short hop over the Channel to Frankfurt. There is only one runway at London City and the planes have to taxi along the runway to take off – again something we hadn’t seen before. Despite the grey skies and cloudy conditions we did get an excellent view of the docklands area as we took off.

 

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The plane was, as you would expect, more of a shuttle service but all very pleasant apart from the very bumpy descent into Frankfurt due to the cloudy conditions. We were scheduled to land at Terminal 1, according to our itinerary. This is more convenient if, like us, you are connecting to a local train as the Regional Bahn Train service is situated under the Terminal 1 building. However for some reason we landed at Terminal 2 instead so had to take the SkyLine shuttle service bus between terminals (see here for more info).

Finally after a very long travelling day (we had both had early starts from the north and west of England respectively) we arrived at Mainz Hauptbahnhof in the early evening. A couple of minutes walk across the main square took us to our hotel, the AC Mainz. With our baggage we preferred to stay close to the station rather than lug our cases into town (about 20 minutes walk away). We easily got about either by walking or taking one of the many trams, which stopped just outside our hotel front door.  Despite the proximity to the station it was actually surprisingly quiet and the hotel restaurant had a lovely view out to the square and the impressive station facade.

I settled down for an evening relaxing at our hotel whilst Monsieur headed out to see a football game FC Mainz against Leipzig (an exciting 3 all draw and he returned with a newly purchased Mainz scarf to add to his collection).

Next day though we set off to explore downtown Mainz – lots more photos to come!

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

I’ve been writing about various walks and gardens in Yorkshire recently – some perennial favourites when I’m back there visiting my UK family (see here, here and here for recent posts).

For some reason I’ve never posted about Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal although I’ve been dozens of times before (apart from a few photos I posted back in 2015 here).

Set in a beautiful location in a valley alongside the River Skell (a tributary of the River Ure),  the ruins of the abbey and the 18th century designed water gardens of Studley Royal have been a World Heritage Site since 1986 and are now owned by the National Trust.

 

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The history of the “Dissolution of the Monasteries” by Henry VIII came about through a series of complicated political and religious machinations in the late 1530s and early 1540s. Sadly Fountains was destroyed in 1539 but, despite the chequered past, the ruins have stood the test of time and remain an imposing and sometimes haunting place to walk round.

Combined with the stunning water gardens of the nearby Studley Royal Park they make a lovely walk especially on a fine day. There is an iconic picture-perfect view of the ruined abbey coming into view as you round the bend approaching from the Studley Royal end of the park.

 

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You can start the walk at either the Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre at the top end of the site or the lower end by the lake at Studley Royal. There is a self-service restaurant serving a wide range of local produce adjacent to the Visitor Centre and a well-stocked National Trust shop nearby too (always a good spot to pick up some gifts and souvenirs!).

For a lighter snack-style meal try the tea rooms at the Studley Royal end or the Mill Cafe by the abbey ruins (formerly the Abbey Tea Rooms). Just note that the pathway from the Visitor Centre leading down to the Abbey, whilst tarmacked, is rather steep and might not be suitable for everyone.

On our recent visit in April we had lunch at the Visitor Centre Restaurant then drove back round to the Studley Royal lake entrance. From there we walked the full loop to and from the Abbey. Prices are fairly steep if you haven’t got a National Trust membership but well worth it.

Here is a pictorial tour!

 

 

 

Restoration of the Studley Royal Gardens is ongoing and we found some interesting information signs along the way including details of the “bosquets” (a landscape design term see here for a more detailed explanation!).

 

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For more information about the history of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal see the link here to the relevant National Trust website.

 

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For more interesting walks and rambles round the world join Restless Jo and her Monday Walks each week!

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

 

Temple Newsam House and Gardens was a favourite weekend outing destination when I was growing up in Leeds. Recently I had a pleasant stroll round the grounds again whilst spending time with my Yorkshire family. It must have been 25 years plus since I was last there!

It was the end of April and between floral seasons so the daffodils were waning and the rhododendrons and azaleas only just starting to bloom. Yet although the colours were more muted it was still a charming and tranquil place for a mid afternoon stroll.

We wandered past the goats grazing on the grass at Home Farm, which looked a fun place for children and young families. However we didn’t have time to go up to the main house or stop off at the cafe.

There is also a “Go Ape” climbing activity course for anyone who is interested. I preferred to stay on the ground though!

You can find other posts about my Yorkshire and UK travels both recent and historical here. I have one more Yorkshire post from my recent trip to share then we’ll be off to Germany and the Rhine before coming back to East London.

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

I wrote about Harlow Carr Gardens in my last post (see here) then remembered that I’d never blogged about an attractive alternative to driving there from the centre of Harrogate. I hunted out photos taken in Spring 2015 from my archive. On that occasion there was a family gathering for my brother’s milestone birthday and with space at a premium we stayed in an apartment adjacent to the lovely Valley Gardens with Mlle who’d come up from London for the occasion.

The Valley Gardens extend at the upper end into woodland known as Pinewoods. We decided to follow the signposted route one day to see where it led us. The pathway is gentle and undulating though did get a big boggy in parts so sensible shoes (or better still boots) are a must!

At one point the trees and bushes suddenly make way to give you an uninterrupted view across the valley towards the Yorkshire Dales. There is an information board giving you details of the Pinewoods Panorama. It was one of those clear crisp sunny early April days and we had a glorious view across to the moors. The Pinewoods Conservation Group is a registered charity that works to conserve the environment and natural harmony in this area and other parts of Harrogate.

From memory, the walk from Valley Gardens took us about 25 minutes or so before we came out at a little stile by the Harlow Carr carpark area. Naturally morning tea at Betty’s Cafe was obligatory before we wended our way back into town!

 

For more interesting walks around the world head over to Restless Jo and her regular Monday Walk here!

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Apologies for my lengthy absence from the blog! We are in the midst of  major renovations to the kitchen and laundry area and it has been somewhat chaotic to say the least but we are looking forward to the end result!

I did start my series on our recent European trip with a couple of posts about York (see here and here).

Today is a pictorial tour round Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate, always a favourite spot for a walk when I’m visiting my family (see here and here for a previous visit in spring and by way of contrast, autumn).

On the day my dad and I visited in April, it was unfortunately rather grey and gloomy but the moody sky did provide a nice contrast to the deep pinks, soft peaches and golden yellow colours of the tulips.

No trip to Harlow Carr would feel complete without an afternoon tea at Betty’s Cafe (one of several in Yorkshire, there is another one in Harrogate on the corner of Montpellier Parade in the town centre). The rainy weather provided the perfect excuse to head indoors and enjoy a delicious Yorkshire cream tea!

 

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Despite the rather grey and chilly weather, the walk round the old City Walls in York was a real highlight (see here for last week’s post).

Nevertheless the wind still had a definite chill to it and I wondered if I had been too optimistic in wearing a lighter jacket – perhaps my warm coat would have been a better option? By the afternoon, however, the sun had broken through the clouds and burnt off any lingering mist. It was simply glorious and I began to feel quite warm for the first time since I’d arrived in the UK.

York has multiple attractions and I’ve been lucky to visit many times previously. The Jorvik Viking Centre is a must see if you’ve time (see here), the Minster, magnificent both inside and out, the Castle Museum fascinating not to mention the gorgeous old streets with quaint names such as Spurriergate, High Petergate and the famous Shambles where you can wander for hours popping in and out of the myriad shops. And that’s just a few ideas for starters!

On this occasion both my brother and I wanted to do some shopping post lunch but first we had a wander round and browsed in the markets next to the Shambles.

 

 

By mid afternoon there were sunbathers in the York Museum Gardens (not me it didn’t seem that warm for someone visiting from the Antipodes!). I took some photos of the old Benedictine Monastery of St Mary’s Abbey that are situated in the grounds. First built in 1088, the abbey was destroyed as part of Henry VIII’s “Reformation”in the 1500s.  The ruins basking in the spring sun provided a perfect backdrop for a bridal party busy taking photos.

 

 

Strolling round I also came across the York Observatory. The oldest working observatory in Yorkshire, it is open each day from 11.30am to 2.30pm but it’s best to check before planning a visit as it is manned by volunteers and not always open to schedule.

 

 

We finally made our way back to the river, after a detour up to the Minster and enjoyed an early dinner at a pub we discovered a few visits ago – the Pitcher and Piano.

 

 

 

I always find new discoveries on every visit to York. This time I stopped to read the little plaque on the wall near St Martin’s Church. I must have walked past it many times before and never noticed it – another small vignette of York’s history this time from the 20th century.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

Back from our recent trip to the Uk and Germany and trying to get myself organised before we begin major kitchen and laundry renovations in a couple of weeks time! I thought I would write up my posts on our latest trip now whilst it’s still fresh in my mind and then go back to complete the lengthy series on Canada and Alaska (see here and here for those posts so far).

I spent about 10 days up in Yorkshire visiting my family. Of course I have blogged about this lovely area before but even so one always seems to find new things to do and places to visit. York is a perennial favourite of mine and I spent an enjoyable day out there with my brother. Despite its myriad attractions (see here and here for previous posts), I have never walked all the way round the old city walls before. I’ve taken the iconic photos of the Minster from Lendal Bridge and occasionally walked along a short stretch of the walls near the Castle Museum but this was my first complete circuit.

We strolled along at a leisurely pace stopping regularly to take photos and it took us about an hour and an quarter but according to the tourist information you should allow 2 hours (see here for more information). I’m quite sure we didn’t miss out any sections and we didn’t walk particularly fast so perhaps that is a conservative estimate. There are 5 main bars or gateways and you can access the walls at any of these main points. The history is well explained as you go round – the history of York is colourful, sometimes tragic but always fascinating and you get a feel for how the city has evolved over the centuries, a melting pot of different peoples, cultures and religions. Romans, Vikings, travellers from the Middle East, Jewish people, and opposing armies in the English Civil War have all walked here before.

The City Walls originated in Roman times but their course has changed considerably since then and they curve round what would probably have been the old medieval city. They are remarkably well preserved though there are sections where you just have to walk along a modern street for a little while before climbing the steps and rejoining the path along the walls. Dogs are not allowed unless they are guide dogs and you do have to exercise some caution as one side often didn’t have railings. Although they drop off to a grassy embankment I wouldn’t fancy falling off so do take care when passing people especially with elderly people and children. The steps to get on and off the different sections are also rather steep so might not be suitable for everyone. We arrived back near to our starting point at Lendal Bridge ready for a hearty lunch!

 

I was also very sad to read about the light plane crash in the Ketchikan neighbourhood the other week (see here). I had written about Ketchikan just before we went on holiday last month (see here). It’s a beautiful small fishing port, which relies heavily on the tourist industry for business – thoughts are with those affected by this tragic accident.

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Braving the elements we set off to explore Alaska’s Ketchikan (see here for Part 1)!

Billing itself as Alaska’s First City (since it’s the first port of call once you cross the border from Canada), tourism is the lifeblood of this region. We found the locals friendly and welcoming even on a cold damp August day.

We hadn’t realised that this part of Alaska has a coastal maritime climate and actually doesn’t get as cold as one would expect at this latitude though it does rain a lot! Apparently it has a similar feel to Scottish towns such as Aberdeen and Inverness or Stavanger in Norway (you can read up here for more information).

The abundant greenery is part of a temperate rainforest zone and although it does snow in winter we were told that temperatures don’t generally drop too far below freezing and the snow usually melts quite quickly. The area is also connected to Canada by roads though I should imagine it is a tough route to follow and most tourists come in by boat. I did find some information on the road system in the south eastern part of Alaska here.

We hadn’t pre-booked any of the tours available via our cruise liner Holland America and preferred to explore at our leisure. Our cruise was the second last of the 2018 season, which starts up in May, so all the shops were offering bargains aplenty. The salmon industry is a vital part of Ketchikan’s raison d’être and the market and shops greeted us with advertising signs.

 

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We had a good look round the myriad of salmon options on offer and tried a few samples of the various varieties, which were delicious. Most shops will ship goods all round the world. You do have to be firm to avoid bulk buying huge amounts of salmon especially as we can get a good variety here in Australia including frozen Canadian sockeye.

We decided to head round town on one of the local buses, which we discovered took exactly the same route as the flashier and more expensive tourist ones. Our driver was helpful and pointed out sights such as Dolly’s House on Creek Street once a bordello back in the day!

We loved the brightly painted timber houses that stood out in the gloom!

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The Native Tlingit peoples used the area as a summer fishing camp and the town is well known for its collection of totem poles that are of great cultural significance. You can see some of them at the Totem Heritage Centre,  which has a large display of 19th century totem poles rescued from abandoned villages in the area. We didn’t go round the museum but saw many other colourful and interesting examples round the town.

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Not surprisingly we soon felt the need to warm up and get out of the drizzle. The harbour front is dotted with small restaurants, cafes and bars and the “Crab Cracker Seafood Bar” caught our eye. Toasty and warm inside the cosy cafe, we enjoyed hearty bowls of their delicious clam chowder and crab bisque – a welcome antidote to the damp outside!

Fortified and insulated against the chill, we explored the deep water harbour and then headed to the local mall. Not unexpectedly it was packed with souvenir shops selling clothes suitable for an Alaskan climate, artwork, Christmas ornaments and other artefacts. I also made friends with a few of the furry locals and we admired the giant sculpture of a whale suspended over the centre from the upper floor ceiling.

Heading back to our ship later that afternoon, we enjoyed a hearty evening dinner.  Something to do with walking around in the cold seemed to make us ravenously hungry!

Later just before sunset the Noordam glided out of the harbour towards our next stop, Alaska’s capital, Juneau.

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The rest of our Alaska trip will have to wait awhile as we’re heading off overseas again to see family in the Uk. We also have a few days booked based in Mainz, Germany, situated at the confluence of the rivers Rhein and Main. We’re looking forward to relaxing and exploring this beautiful region.

In the meantime wishing everyone a very happy Easter and special thoughts with the people of France following the tragic fire at Notre Dame – somewhere we’ve enjoyed visiting on several occasions.

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

After a couple of nights and a full day’s sailing on board the Noordam (see here), it was rather surreal to open our curtains the next morning and realise we had docked in port.

Below us on the quay we got our first glimpse of the USA and South East Alaska’s first port of call, the little town of Ketchikan. Not a particularly auspicious start as it was pouring with rain and the town was coated in a thick mist reminiscent of sea frets in Scotland or northern England on a bad day (from my childhood memories!).

However the green wooded hills dotted with timber cottages reminded me not only of Scotland but also Scandinavia and in the gloom we could also just about make out shops enticing visitors along the quayside stocked with foodstuffs, jewellery and interesting objects such as totem poles reminding us of the First Nations heritage of the area.

So fortified with a hearty breakfast and well rugged up against the rain and cold we braced the elements and set off to explore the township. More to come in the next post!

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We had booked a seven day cruise up from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska. Check-in was relatively quick and efficient but you do have to be patient lining up for US Border Control procedures, which for convenience are carried out in Vancouver (the Alaskan US/Canada border is a few hours sail time north from here).

So on a slightly overcast late summer afternoon we found ourselves boarding our floating home (or rather hotel) for the next week. This was our first experience at cruising and I must confess we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Our ship the Noordam, part of the Holland America line fleet, carried about 1900 passengers yet we didn’t feel our space was unpleasantly crowded. It was somewhat bewildering at first to get our heads round the vast number of possibilities – as well as several cafes, restaurants and bars there were gyms, a swimming pool, a spa retreat, libraries, talks, wine and beer tastings, concerts, musical entertainment – the list goes on! Rather than go into great detail you can read up about the various options here.

 

 

For now I just want to focus on our own personal experience. The itinerary cruises up the Inside Passage along the western Pacific coast of Canada, past the Haida Gwaii (also known as Queen Charlotte Islands) before crossing the US border into Alaska.

Near the extensive shopping area on one of the lower decks was an information board and map charting our progress and current nautical position.

It took a day and a half to reach our first port of call, Ketchikan in South East Alaska  (a narrow strip of land, surrounded by the sea and British Columbia, Canada, dotted with settlements that just about clings on to the larger Alaskan land mass to the north west). Southeast Alaska is the northern end of the Inside Passage, a protected waterway that provides a passage between the many small islands and fjords in this area. Its southern terminus is in Puget Sound in Washington state. The waterway system was of great importance to the local First Nations peoples, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. We learnt a great deal about their heritage and culture during the time we spent in Southeast Alaska

I’ll cover the history, heritage and wildlife of the various small towns and communities we visited here in the coming posts.

Back on ship you certainly don’t have to join in anything on board that you don’t want to – the idea is to relax and enjoy yourself. We had booked a suite with a balcony facing towards the land side of the ship. I only took a few photos for some reason but this gives you an idea. It was incredibly comfortable and we were well looked after by our delightful valets – we got custom folded towels each night and they were friendly and helpful without being intrusive. Certainly you can just sit on the balcony and watch the world (or sea) go by if you like.

 

 

 

However we liked to get out on the main deck and soak up the pure fresh air – it was most invigorating and we covered a lot of steps on the Promenade Deck during the course of our trip. Laid out with attractive wooden decking it is designed so that you can walk laps to your heart’s content (or sit and relax on the deckchairs). There is a separate zone on an upper deck for joggers though a few did use the Promenade Deck as well. Three laps was equivalent to a mile so we made sure we got in nine laps a day at least!

We saw our first whales somewhere off the island archipelago – I managed a few distant photos. The ship’s crew are very good at announcing sightings over the loudspeaker – you just have to be in the right place at the right time to spot things though.

 

 

 

Our cruise package covered up to 15 standard drinks a day (which I certainly didn’t use, others though….). There were options for wine deals too but with an all-inclusive drinks package we weren’t tempted though I did go with one of our friends to a very interesting wine tasting where there was nearly a fight (nothing to do with us I hasten to add!). A couple of parties sculled their glasses of wine before the sommelier had a chance to explain the tasting notes thus rather missing the point of the event! However this hardly justified a couple of wine snobs having a go at them in the rudest manner possible – the situation was fortunately narrowly defused!

There were a couple of optional gala dinners on board and whilst I was a little apprehensive as we hadn’t packed anything too fancy (coming all the way from Australia with dinner jackets and ball gowns was not an option) it was actually more casual than I’d expected and a pleasant chance to a enjoy a gourmet dining experience.

 

 

I was also worried about potential seasickness beforehand as I have no sea legs whatsoever. I had bought some special bracelets from the pharmacist before I left home, which you wear on your wrist pressure points to ease any sickness. Whether it was psychosomatic or not I had no problem at all even on slightly rougher days. I heard later quite a few people had been sea sick on the first couple of days so I was glad I had the wrist bands with me.

So from being a sceptic I can say we would certainly consider doing another cruise at some point in future – not too long though, for us a week was just about perfect.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

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