Bank Holiday Weekend Trip to London – 25th May 2018

I was very lucky to join family on a birthday weekend trip to London, helped by a very good Travelzoo deal to the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington (room, breakfast and welcome cocktail for cheaper than one of the popular chains provisionally booked).

Luckily we caught a South Western Train up to Waterloo, which ran like clockwork (much better than the coaches that were running one and a half hours late).  We checked-in to our room and enjoyed the views while enjoying a cuppa before going out for our evening meal.  We were surprised when there was a knock at the door to find room service had delivered a ‘Happy Birthday’ chocolate treat… mmm… delicious!

 

We decided to have breakfast in our room as a treat as we needed to be up and out early for our our Transport for London’s Hidden London tour of 55 Broadway, which straddles St James’ Park Tube Station.  It was originally London’s tallest skyscraper/office block when it was opened in 1929 at 55.3m in current terminology.  We had booked in for a one and a half hour tour of this lovely Art Deco style building.

It was interesting to hear the origins  of the building, which was built in the style of an American skyscraper with a steel frame and an outer skin of Portland Stone.  It was very opulently built with marble floors and oak panelled walls on the higher levels.  It was very clear to see the class structure of the time with the secretarial pools on the lower levels and the Management on the higher levels, with separate eating and toilet facilities.  It was also built with a stepped back design as it went up to ensure light reached street level and the cross design let natural light in to all offices.  There was quite a hoo-ha about the sculptures in those days, which seem quite tame nowadays.

We had a very enjoyable tour with a knowledgeable lady who used to work in the building, the highest views being gained after going up narrow metal staircases to the top viewing level, with magnificent, if hazy, views of London.

I would definitely consider going on one of the 5 other Hidden London tours, plus I haven’t quite managed to visit their museum yet – apparently there is an Open Day at their Acton Depot early in July, which sounds interesting.

It was warming up so we decided to visit one of the smaller cinemas in the centre – the Empire, Haymarket, which was also reasonably priced.  What a beautiful building!   It gave us chance to put our feet up and enjoy the air conditioning for a couple of hours.

After wending our way back via Kensington Gardens, always a lovely place to visit, we had a quick change and made our way back to Westminster for a meal at the Royal Horseguards Hotel restaurant One Twenty One Two (another brilliant Travelzoo deal) where we had a delicious meal but unfortunately the service was very slow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our final day, we took our time getting up, having a lighter breakfast than usual as we were having a Sunday lunch later.  We decided to have a wander through Kensington Gardens and visit the Serpentine Gallery, who we found out were having an exhibition of the work of Ian Cheng called Emissaries.  Well, I did love the colour of the images but I didn’t really understand what was going on.  I’m not a fan of contemporary art, but I did like the artwork outside -that was quite fun!  The lady in front of me saw only half her Jack Russell Terrier reflected but we couldn’t work out where I had to be to do that, so I made do with three of me instead!

  

I do love a walk in the Royal Parks and Kensington Gardens is no exception.  London is always busy and noisy and I like the quieter interlude of a green space, vital for man and beast!

We had time for a wander up Kensington High Street but found the department stores open later on a Sunday than they do down our way, so contented ourselves with finding a few small souvenirs and then collected our bags.

We had a super stay at the Royal Garden Hotel, which we noticed on our travels is quite close to the Royal Albert Hall, which we sometimes visit, so we would definitely stay there again – the rooms were well-appointed, the tea tray well stocked (always a must for me – I do like s cuppa!) the food and drink delicious and the staff very helpful.  Also well done to Travelzoo for highlighting this deal.

We finished our London adventure having a birthday Sunday lunch Gaucho Piccadilly, an Argentinian Restaurant,  which was recommended to us by a friend.   We are glad we took their advice as the service well brilliant and the meal delicious, one of the best Sunday lunches we have had in a long time.

We just need to go back home and get back on our diets before the next adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

Screening of ‘An American in Paris’, the Musical from the West End – Monday, 21st May 2018

Another enjoyable evening in Wimborne ahead, although as we made our way there the heavens opened and we could hardly see where we were going!  Then to cap it all it started thundering, our poor dogs at home – they hate thunderstorms.  I did feel guilty leaving them (they were fast asleep when I got back and were fine).

I met up with an old friend for a meal in Prezzo in Wimborne Square, which was delicious and much to my surprise I was very good and ordered a lighter option with a tiny dessert and coffee afterwards.  I did feel virtuous (for a change – that will go down hill with my trip to London at the weekend 🙂

We made our way a few doors down to our local volunteer-run theatre, The Tivoli, which is set a charming Art Deco building and always a delight to visit, to see a screening of the Tony Award winning musical ‘An American in Paris’.  We found our places in the auditorium at the front of the main seating area, an aisle row which was a favourite of Rosemary’s because there was always plenty of leg room and people wouldn’t trip over her walking stick.

I vaguely remember seeing the film starring Gene Kelly many years ago but had forgotten the story – basically it is set in Paris and is the story of Jerry Mulligan, an American GI trying to make his way as a painter in post-war Paris.

Robert Fairchild took the title role of Jerry Mulligan, along with Leanne Cope as Lise Dassin, who I reminded me of Audrey Hepburn with her gamine looks and bobbed hair. They were accompanied by Haydn Oakley as Henri and David Seadon-Young as Adam, all of whom were in love with the lovely Lise.  Jane Asher and Zoe Rainey completed the main cast members and their solos and group numbers were quite delightful.  The music was by George and Ira Gershwin and included such favourites as ‘I Got Rhythm’, ‘S Wonderful and They Can’t Take That Away From Me’

The musical consisted of supremely graceful ballet routines – the cast’s footwork was as light as a feather (I’m very envious, being a heffalump of a bear with two left paws!) .  There was also an extravagant Top Hat and Feathers MGM style tap routine, a personal favourite of mine.

We lost ourselves in the era, thoroughly immersed in the performances and the evening went by in a flash.  Thanks to all the cast and crew for a splendid show! It was a real treat and I was glad I went, although I must say it is nice to have these screenings as I wouldn’t be able to go to a top theatre and see them live on a regular basis.

Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Lighthouse, Poole – Tuesday, 15th May

We were looking forward to attending the opening evening of the musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Lighthouse, Poole starring Hayley Tamaddon (being an Emmerdale and Dancing on Ice viewer , I thought it would be good to see her performing live).

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As we filed in to the theatre we saw a board that said she wouldn’t be appearing and her place would be taken by her stand in Jessica-Elizabeth Nelson – I later found out it was her debut performance.  We were disappointed initially, but we needn’t have been.  As soon as Millie came on stage we were captivated.  She was a delight to watch as an aspiring actress hoping to find fame and fortune (rich husband) in New York and Michael Colbourne was great as her love interest Jimmy Smith.  There was an underlying white slavery storyline – Mrs Meeks, a baddie in disguise, was looking for orphans to sell abroad.  Although the musical was set in 1922 that was quite topical!

The evening was full of song and dance (I particularly liked office routines) with comedy provided by the wicked hotelier Mrs Meers (Lucas Rush) and Millie’s boss, Trevor Graydon (Richard Meek) – the drunk scene was hilarious.  I should also mention the two oriental characters, Bun Foo (Patrick Jeremy) and Ching Ho (Guy Salim), whose conversations were cleverly translated on an overhead screen and the grand dame Muzzy Van Hossmere, played by Nicola Blackman.  Lisa Bridge also shone as Dorothy – her voice was magical.

The art deco stage was well thought out, easily changing between scenes and allowing the story to flow.  The cast and ensemble had many varied costume changes and it worked very well and it’s always a treat to have live musicians providing the music.

All in all it was a hugely enjoyable musical and the cast deserved their standing ovation at the end.  Bravo!

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Romsey – Saturday, 12th May

After a lie in and a delicious breakfast at the Premier Inn, Bagshot, we loaded up the car and decided to wend our way back home via the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens.  It was a good job we did as the traffic on the M3 nearing Southampton was coming to a standstill.  We came off the motorway and had a pleasant journey through the country lanes until we reached our destination.

As we arrived we noticed a lot of people in a colourful national dress and it appeared that the Gardens were having their annual celebration in memory of the Gurkha soldiers who laid down their lives in the service of the British Army.   That’s definitely well worth remembering, as we owe them a great debt (politicians please note) and we were honoured to be watching the service.   As we wandered round you could hear their music as they paraded round to the Gurkha Memorial, which made it a very atmospheric experience – and we  also learned that Lali Gurans, meaning Red Rhododendron in Nepali, is the national flower of Nepal.

A selection of Nepal’s unique flora is in the Gurkha Memorial Garden. The Gurkha Memorial Garden is between Himalayan Valley and Jermyn’s House. It was created in 1997 with generous funding from the Kadoorie Foundation of Hong Kong.

On the top level stands a traditional Nepalese resting-place, the Chautara. This displays the regimental regiments. A chautara is a four-walled roofless structure for tired travellers to rest. It is common in Nepal for a chautara to be in memory of a recently deceased loved one. The one here is in memory of Sir Horace Kadoories (1902-1995). He was a benefactor to the Gurkhas and their homeland of Nepal.

Before having a look round the garden we stopped at the Pavilion Tea Rooms with some friends for a most delicious piece of ginger cake and a coffee

 

The gardens are magnificent and we only managed to see a small part of it, which leaves plenty to see on another occasion.

We found a seat in a tranquil spot to admire the view and listen to the birdsong.  One thing we enjoyed was the artwork interspersed among the vegetation

On my travels I am often asked what I am doing and I explain about my connection to Motor Neurone Disease and the Association.  We met a lovely couple on our wanderings today – they spotted me taking my photo opportunity on the pine cone – and we had a quick chat and thank you for your kind words.

We truly enjoyed our visit today and popped in to the gift shop for some souvenirs – a biscuit, some honey (yes, we bears love honey) and an azalea plant.  We shall be back to explore some more at a later date …

Travelzoo Invitation to Ascot Race Evening – Friday, 11th May

One day last week I had a real surprise – an invitation to join Travelzoo at their exclusive Ascot Evening Race Meeting, which included a parking pass, welcome drink, a fine dining meal in the Furlong Restaurant overlooking the racecourse, tour behind the scenes and live entertainment, too.  Someone in the office had seen the calendar of my previous adventures and was kind enough to suggest my name to the organisers.  I wasn’t sure who to take with me but in the end Isabel and Rosemary’s sister Joan came along, who was very excited as she hadn’t been away for a long time.

I’m very glad I accepted the invitation as it was a marvellous evening.  None of us have ever been to Ascot Racecourse and we decided to stay at the Premier Inn at nearby Bagshot rather than drive back in the dark.  Plus it made an extra treat – we had another adventure the next day… I’ll get to that later.

We booked in and had a quick cup of tea, the room was up to the Premier Inn standards we have come to expect, the beds are comfy, room clean and I do like a tea tray!  After this quick pitstop to freshen up and give Joan a quick break, we made our way to the racecourse.  The High Street was very busy and it seemed strange to see all the people in their finery, men in posh suits and ladies in their best attire, many with beautiful hats and fascinators. At least I had made the effort to buy a new dress and hat!

After making our way through the security checks, we went in to The Queen Elizabeth II Grandstand, a magnificent building, and were  guided by the bowler hatted members of staff to the Furlong Restaurant, which was was filled with circular tables.  We were met by the Travelzoo team including Nicola, Ceri, and two lovely gentlemen who were involved in organising the event (apologies, being an old bear, my memory isn’t so good at remembering names!), given a glass of fizz and shown to our table.

There were two tables of VIP guests, all very friendly people, and the remainder had bought the experience through Travelzoo – Definitely an offer to watch out for in the future as Travelzoo organise  exclusive deals with welcome extras  (Sign up for their emails, folks, you won’t be disappointed.)

Unfortunately we arrived a little late and just missed the behind the scenes tour of the weighing room, chat to the jockeys, etc but it would have been a bit of a strain for Joan as she is 84 and was looking forward to a sit down, having walked from the car.

There were copies of the Racing Post and individual booklets on the table, which had all the runners and riders.  I must admit we just use the technical method of choosing one with a name we like!  I bought a booklet with an assortment of pre-paid bets, as I don’t really understand all the bookie-speak!  There was a Tote Betting counter and staff even came round with special machines so you could put a bet on from your table, now that’s a luxury I could get used to!

Ascot is a beautiful course with a delightful country outlook and standing on the balcony to watch each race and then to continuing our meal in between was a great treat.  Not being up on the Masterchef style description of meals and forgetting to take a photo of the menu, the courses consisted of smoked salmon and beetroot, followed by chicken & veg in a sauce with truffles and a mouth watering sweet – see photo (they’re my speciality… mmm!).  Anyway, you don’t need posh descriptions, in layman’s terms we enjoyed a really delicious meal, accompanied by a glass of wine and followed by a cup of tea.

An official photographer made his way around during the evening and I managed to get snapped a few times!  I’m getting to be quite a famous old bear – if you google Rosie Bear 4  MND you’re met with a page of my physog from different adventures and in a variety of outfits I might add, including my MND Association t-shirt.  One has to make an effort, you know!

A special guest, who was making his way round the room was Conor Shoemark,  a jump jockey who has been racing for six years now, firstly as an amateur and now as a professional with over 100 wins under his belt.

His brother Kieren is a very successful flat jockey who rode his first Royal Ascot winner last year.

Conor was offering tips on the runners and riders and giving us background information about racing and the Ascot course.  He showed us the typical saddle he would use and it was tiny to our eyes.

Conor, a very smartly dressed young man, was kind enough to let me have my photo taken with him and Isabel.

By the end of the racing I had won £20, which I have put on my justgiving.com/RosieBear page for the MND Association, every little helps.  Isabel even managed to win enough to pay for the hotel room, so that was a bonus!

After the six races and three course meal, the entertainment was in full swing and we decided to call it a day as it was getting a bit loud for Joan and it had been a long day.  We all had an immensely enjoyable time and were very glad we were able to attend.

 

Thank you to Travelzoo for a wonderful experience – we’ll keep an eye on your offers in the future… til the next time…

 

Highwood Garden, Charborough Park, Wareham – Saturday 5th May

Highwood Garden, Charborough Park, Wareham (the Drax Estate), which lies behind an amazingly long brick wall – a landmark that I have been driving past for years and years and never been inside.  When I saw it on the local MND Association calendar, I thought I’d love to see what lies behind the wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The local MND Association were having an open afternoon with a selection of stalls – books & puzzles, plants, tombola, bric-a-brac, MND awareness & information, among others and people could then pay to visit the beautiful woodland walk.  They had also been beavering away baking cakes and brewing tea and coffee, offering a much needed sit down.  The sun was baking hot all day, definitely a good start to the bank holiday weekend.

After wending our way through the magnificent grounds, we came across the lawned area near the woodland walk, where the MNDA volunteers had set up the tables and awnings.  First on the agenda was a picnic – cheese and pickle sandwiches followed by fresh strawberries.  Mmm.  We decided we wouldn’t visit the cake stall until we’d been round the woods, which were quite delightful.  The bluebells were in abundance and the azaleas and rhododendrons were only just beginning to come in to flower.  The view from the top of tower hill was quite amazing.

We did a stint on the book stall for a while then had a browse through the other stalls, had a go on the tombola, chose some geranium plants for the garden and I found a rather apt Rosie puzzle!  I even managed to say hello to this handsome chap – the MND Association official teddy bear!

A very good day was had by all!