Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

It’s always tricky deciding where to eat in London – you’re spoilt for choice but places can be pricey and you probably want to avoid the more obvious tourist traps.

We wanted to have a family get together during Mlle’s lunchbreak (my dad had come up with me from Yorkshire for the day). So the easiest thing was to put Mlle in charge of the arrangements! She came up with an excellent choice – Percy & Founders just round the corner from her workplace in Fitzrovia.

A casual bar and restaurant tucked away in Pearson Square, halfway between Oxford Street and Warren Street, we wouldn’t have come across it if we hadn’t been in the know. The surrounding square is dominated by tall office buildings but the quirky and charming feature of Percy & Founders is that it is built into the side of the old Fitzrovia Chapel, a lovely Grade II listed building (now restored and preserved for functions including weddings).

 

Initially we were seated in the rather noisy bar area but the staff were very helpful and we were soon relocated to a quaint little corner adjacent to cosy display shelves and with a nice view towards the old arched window of the chapel.

Percy & Founders describes itself as “British European” cuisine – an interesting concept! I didn’t take any photos of the food and drink as we were busy chatting but I would describe it as traditional food with a modern twist and an excellent wine list. Our wait staff were friendly and attentive without being intrusive.

The interior is very chic and stylish and the arty theme continues down to the toilets which so intrigued Monsieur that he photographed them for posterity.

 

We had a thoroughly enjoyable time. It was the perfect spot for a lazy extended lunch though plenty of people just popped in and out for a quick bite to eat. Overall Percy & Founders is a great find! Afterwards we came across another old church now dominated by the trappings of modern life – All Souls Langham Place sitting at the top end of Regent Street in the shadow of the BBC building!

All Souls Langham Place Regent Street London

All Souls Langham Place Regent Street London

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Regent’s Park used to be one of our favourite places for a weekend stroll when we lived in London. We would push our elder daughter around in her stroller – she’s now grown up with a family of her own! I also remember trips to London Zoo, which is housed in one corner of the park and on one especially memorable trip there as a little girl, seeing the very old giant panda, Chi Chi, in her enclosure (am really showing my age now!).

We had a couple of hours to fill on our brief trip to London last month. We’d had lunch near our younger daughter’s workplace in Fitzrovia and decided to catch a bus up from Oxford Street, which dropped us off on Marylebone Road. We wandered up Park Square, past the elegant Regency style villas, to the southern entrance of Regent’s Park.

 

I had a good view back towards St Marylebone Parish Church, on Marylebone Road, which has a family connection as my 3 times great grandparents baptised some of their extensive brood of children here in the 1830s/40s (see here for a previous post about family connections around Baker Street).

 

 

We weren’t following a particular path round the park so am not sure exactly which direction we went in but there are plenty of maps to guide you on your way! Past trees overflowing with May blossom, attractive lakes and pretty bridges we ended up somewhere near the centre of the park and enjoyed a welcome afternoon tea before heading back to the hectic pace of the city.

 

 

 

It wasn’t a particularly sunny day but the spring flowers still looked lovely and the birds were out in force along with some friendly squirrels, one of whom followed me a considerable distance no doubt hoping for an edible treat (not forthcoming as I think he would have followed me home otherwise).

 

 

 

Amongst all this beauty it is sad to think of yet another tragedy in London this week not too far away in West London. It is beyond my comprehension that this dreadful fire could have happened – sincere thoughts go out to all the people deeply affected and suffering at this time.

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

York has always been one of my favourite places to visit both when I was still living in Yorkshire and nowadays on visits back home. With its rich tapestry of history, wonderful old cobbled streets, alleyways, the imposing Gothic minster not to mention the numerous little curiosity shops plus cafes and restaurants galore – suffice to say you’re spoilt for choice (see here for an earlier visit).

York Minster

Street leading up to the imposing Gothic York Minster

However on last month’s trip, there was only enough time to fit in a quick afternoon visit one day with my dad. With the bottleneck and one way systems in the centre of town we always use the Park and Ride and take the bus into the city centre. Getting off at Lendal Bridge there are attractive walks in all directions. We could have gone down to the River Ouse via the Museum Gardens or taken a tour along the city walls.

We were, however, making for Coppergate and the famous Jorvik Viking Centre which we discovered had recently reopened (courtesy of the advertising poster at the bus stop!) following extensive damage in the York floods of 2015. It’s about a 10 minute walk from Lendal Bridge and we skirted round the Minster, Deanery Gardens and the pretty Treasurer’s House nearby en route to the museum.

York’s history has always fascinated me – I can well understand why ghost tours are a popular attraction as there must be plenty haunting the old streets and buildings!

York has its origins as a Roman fortress town (becoming known as Eboracum at this time) and later as a trading city during the Viking period and middle ages. In the 1970s workmen came across some historical artefacts quite by chance during renovation works in Coppergate. This discovery turned out to be of major archaeological significance as over the course of the next few years the 10th century Viking city of Jorvik was unearthed. It led to a rethink of the Vikings’ links to the north of England as they had actually formed a thriving settlement here. Jorvik proved that they lived and traded extensively from this base rather than simply plundering and pillaging and disappearing back to their Scandinavian homelands.

The revamped Jorvik is an amazing experience. The famous interactive ride takes you through a re-enactment of the bustling town as it would have been in AD 960.  The last Viking King in Jorvik, Eric Bloodaxe, had been banished and the city was once again a flourishing manufacturing and trading centre. It was also a cultural melting pot with Scandinavians, Anglo Saxons, Irish and peoples from far away in the East coming to and fro to trade. The animatronic figures are very life-like and the homes, furnishings, markets and animals (down to the rats!) have been recreated complete with the sounds and smells of the ancient town. The time travel ride (with commentary in many languages) takes about 16 minutes. You really feel you could be in the old town – it’s a great interactive way for people of all ages to enjoy history. The lighting was not conducive to taking too many photos inside so you’ll have to imagine the experience!

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Jorvik Museum

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Coppergate Outside Jorvik

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Museum Exhibits

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Jorvik Museum

After the ride you can explore the museum exhibits in more detail including seeing some of the skeletons that have literally been unearthed. The gift shop, as always, is one of my favourite places to browse round, with a large range of books, jewellery, china, trinkets and toys – there is something for everyone here!

Wandering round museums is always thirsty work and we had just enough time to stop off for afternoon tea at one of our favourite cafes, Bailey’s Tearooms, before heading off back home!

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Bailey’s Tearooms Looking Out

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Bailey’s Tearooms Inside

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

A favourite spot for a walk when I’m visiting my family up in Yorkshire is the gardens at Harlow Carr in Harrogate. Run by the Royal Horticultural Society, the Harlow Carr Gardens have a lovely natural feel about them though it must take a lot of work to maintain, even if does appear effortless! I love the country feel and the soft colours.

A delight at any time of year they look especially beautiful in the spring when displays of tulips mingle with green trees and shrubs and the rhododendrons and azaleas are just starting to bloom.

There are explanations about the different displays and themed gardens along the way, plus you can wander through the greenhouses – the alpine flower zone is always one of my favourites. We also visited the bird viewing area, which is a wonderful spot from which to watch the birds feeding, though you do have to be very quiet! I forgot to take any photos there but as I didn’t want to disturb the birds it was probably a good thing.

With cafes including a branch of the world famous Betty’s Tearooms, a children’s playground and an extremely well stocked gift shop plus a fabulous garden centre, Harlow Carr is always well worth a visit.

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The photos of the flowers on the blog today also serve as a memorial for the people caught up in the atrocity in London over the weekend. Our younger daughter, Mlle, like so many others, was out having a fun evening with friends in the Spitalfields area of London, about a mile away from the awful events unfolding just to the south. She let us know straightaway that she was safe, albeit somewhat shaken up by what had happened. Other families weren’t so fortunate. Hearts go out to them.

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Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We got back from our travels last Sunday and are still adjusting to the change of time zone and seasons (summer is definitely over here in Perth and winter is just around the corner). It’s always a surreal feeling when you travel so far in such a short space of time. The pets were very happy to see us and all seemed well on the home front.

I’ve already covered our long weekend at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival (see here). After that we had another 10 days or so visiting family in the UK (Yorkshire and London for me, Somerset and London for Monsieur) before heading off to Switzerland for an 8 day break. Our younger daughter, Mlle, managed a few days break from work to join us for part of the time.

Thun Switzerland

Lunch by the river – Thun Switzerland

Here is a quick review of some of our Swiss travels – I’ll gradually be working through the photos and writing up posts over the coming weeks.

Montreux

Zermatt/Gornergrat/Matterhorn

Thun and Lake Thun Switzerland

Luzern/Lucerne

More posts to follow and I’m looking forward to catching up on blog reading in the next few days!

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We spent our first weekend in the UK checking out the annual Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Our younger daughter, Mlle, works in the music PR industry and was working there all the long weekend though we did manage to catch up with her in between all her commitments!

We saw some great artists performing including the world premier of “Decade Zero” by David Maric with Phronesis & the Engines Orchestra, the multi instrumentalist, singer and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello and scored last minute tickets to the Grammy winning ensemble Snarky Puppy. We also sat in on some radio shows – the range of music was wide and eclectic some of it far removed from “traditional” jazz. The age range of visitors spanned small children right through to the elderly – there were even quite a few dogs there though not sure what they made of the music!

We also checked out the food stalls and watched quite a few of the many street performances. Cheltenham is a bustling spa town and the elegant Regency buildings made a lovely backdrop for the festival.  Venues included the Town Hall as well as the central site in Montpellier Gardens. All in all we had a fabulous time and were also able to see a lot of Monsieur’s family who live locally.

The Cheltenham Jazz Festival normally takes place at the end of April and spreads across the May bank holiday weekend – we’ll be looking out for the 2018 programme!

I’m writing this post up on my iPad so please excuse the fact it’s not up to my usual editorial standards! I don’t find the WordPress  iPad app particularly user friendly but at least it means I can get some posts out whilst on the road!

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Le Chic En Rose is heading off “En The Road” again! We’ll be in the Uk for a couple of weeks catching up with family, including our London-based daughter and then spending 8 days relaxing amongst the stunning lakes and mountains of Switzerland.

It seems rather far off at present and just hope we manage to get on the plane later this week! I won’t be blogging as much whilst travelling although I hope to stay in touch as best I can. I plan to put photos up on my Instagram and Facebook pages (see here and here for links) and I will pop in to check on what’s happening in the blogosphere from time to time.

Although we’re looking forward to our holiday, I always have a few mixed feelings – leaving the other half of our family (our other daughter, son-in-law and little granddaughters), not to mention our 2 pampered pets, Winston the Schnoodle and Duchess the cat (though they will no doubt be equally pampered by our lovely house sitters). I’ll also miss my daily walks round about especially as we’ve been having a stunning autumn so far!

 

 

A bientôt Perth!

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We’ve often been on the road at Easter time but this year we’ll be spending it with family and friends in Perth. Our seasons “Down Under” being in reverse we’re enjoying the pleasant autumnal weather – crisper nights but still sunny days.

Going through the photo vaults I came across some lovely photos of a day out in the Yorkshire Dales a few years back when visiting our UK families at Easter time. The green countryside and profusion of daffodils sum up my childhood memories of Easter. We drove up to the pretty village of Kettlewell and had lunch at the Blue Bell Inn (the waitress was from a small country town in New South Wales!). We used to go here a lot when I was growing up as my late Nanna knew the then owners. It had all the character and charm I remembered – a great little spot for a welcoming pub lunch.

 

 

After a quick walk round the village to walk off our rather hearty lunch, we headed off back over the moors. Our drive took us into Upper Wharfedale via the quaintly named Hubberholme and its little church, then over the top to Wensleydale calling by the stunning Aysgarth Falls before wending our way down the dales back towards Ripon and Harrogate.

 

 

 

 

Wishing everyone a very happy Easter!

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

On our last night in Berlin we decided to head down the Oranienburger Strasse not too far from our Mitte base. I knew it had been the heart of the old Jewish settlement in Berlin back in the 19th and 20th centuries and that amongst the hub of restaurants, clubs and bars were some memorials of the past.

We decided to walk from our hotel by the Spree River (which took us about 20 minutes or so). So far the street seemed fairly unremarkable and we were debating which restaurant to go into when we came across the “New Synagogue” . Originally built to serve the growing Jewish population coming from the east into Berlin in the mid 19th century, it has been restored in recent years and has a poignant inscription on the front.

New Synagogue Oranienburger Strasse Berlin

Inscription On The Front Of The New Synagogue Berlin

The translation (by me) is as follows:

“This synagogue is 100 years old and was set on fire by the Nazis on 9th November 1938 in Kristallnacht. 

During World War 2 (1939 – 1945) it was destroyed in 1943 through bombing attacks.

The front of this House of God should remain for all time a place of reminder and remembrance.

Never Forget

Jewish Community of Greater Berlin – The Board

September 1966

Jewish services are once again held in the New Synagogue. Most of the building, however, houses offices and a museum.

We felt it fitting to go into the next door building, Cafe Orange, for our dinner. Situated in a lovely old building, Cafe Orange took us back into Berlin’s pre war heyday with jazz music accompanying our meal in the background and posters of the original cafe decorating the walls (with faded ochre paintwork).

 

It was a wonderfully relaxing meal and a great way to spend our last evening in Berlin. We’d been walking all day though so decided to catch a tram back to our hotel (they trundle up and down Oranienburger Strasse linking Hackescher Markt with Friedrichstrasse).

One slight word of caution – Oranienburger Strasse is probably not the best place to take young children or anyone easily shocked out at night, as it is one of the centres of Berlin’s perfectly legal red light trade. You may need to explain why a number of ladies are standing on street corners wearing thigh high PVC leather black boots! We felt, however, perfectly safe – just exercise the usual safety precautions that you would do anywhere if out at night.

The journey back on the tram was a chance to sit back and enjoy the night lights of Berlin. We’ll certainly be coming back again at some point to this wonderful and vibrant city!

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

The Mauermuseum was one of the highlights of our trip to Berlin last year. “The Wall” is such a huge part of the consciousness of Berliners and indeed many others such as Monsieur and myself who grew up with the concept of the “Iron Curtain”. The iconic museum just by Checkpoint Charlie does a fabulous job of putting this grim period of history into historical context and is well worth the entry price.

 

 

 

The museum’s founder, Rainer Hildebrandt, was a fervent campaigner against the Soviet occupation (here is part of his obituary).

Rather than going into a lengthy dissertation on all the background, here is the mission statement from the museum’s website:

Our museum was founded shortly after the construction of the Berlin Wall(August 13th 1961), on October 19th, 1962. The founder of our museum, Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt, believed that it was vital in the non-violent struggle for human rights „to be as close as possible to the injustice itself, where human greatness fully unfolds“. He came to Checkpoint Charlie to express his protest against the Wall and to provide assistance to the persons seeking help. Gradually the museum increased its exhibition space and contributed to the fall of the Wall. The museum had a vital role in history.

 

It is sobering to think how close the museum was to the border of the two zones. Today the streets are bustling with locals and tourists going about their business. Back in the day the view would have been very different – grim border posts and armed soldiers (rather than the actors who recreate the roles for today’s audience).

 

Mauermuseum Berlin

View From Window – Mauermuseum Berlin

 

 

The museum isn’t pretty like many others with classical antiquities and beautiful works of art, so although I took quite a few photos they are atmospheric rather than attractive! There is a huge range of memorabilia including chunks of the now torn down wall and plenty of interactive displays. Large sections are also devoted to displays on various human rights struggles around the globe.

It is a lot to take in and quite draining at times but fascinating stuff. Three hours was about my limit – some of the escape attempts from east to west were harrowing and my brain just couldn’t take in any more information! However we would definitely go back again – we still have the third floor of the museum to cover!

A lengthy browse in the well-stocked gift shop and debates about how many more books we could fit into our luggage revived our spirits! On the way home we had a pleasant detour through the old Nikolaiviertel and late afternoon drinks by the Spree restored our energies.

The Mauermuseum is compelling stuff but like many museums can be quite a tiring experience especially if like us you try and read absolutely everything. We found interspersing “heavy” museums with lighter activities for the rest of the day was the way to cope with information overload and the darker chapters of Berlin’s past.

Other museums I can highly recommend in no particular order are the Deutsches Historisches Museum (permanent displays and seasonal exhibitions), The Story Of Berlin (800 years of the capital’s history and a tour of the nuclear bunker under Kurfuerstendamm), and the quirkily kitsch DDR Museum (another one with fantastic interactive displays including one of the infamous Trabi car). There are so many others and we have yet to visit all of them – saving those for future visits!

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Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

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