England’s Gravetye Manor has it All

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This looks like countless country house hotels, at first blush. But it’s far, far better than them all. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

Gorgeous Gardens created by a Groundbreaking Designer

The gardens were designed by one of THE GREATS in garden design, Mr. William Robinson, who pioneered the English country garden look. Robinson’s home was Gravetye Manor for many years, during which time he transformed the 1,000-acre property. Today, Gravetye Manor employs eight full-time gardeners, lest you be wondering why your garden doesn’t look quite like this.

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(photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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Take a stroll through the gardens, cocktail in hand, as the sun is setting before dinner. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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(photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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Garden design revolutionary, Mr. William Robinson, on his 94th birthday surrounded by the 94 white peonies he received as a present. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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Gravetye Manor grows much of the fruits and vegetables it serves, as well as a profusion of flowers, which you will see on tables, windowsills, desks, everywhere around the house. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor) 

Beautiful Restaurant with a Well-Deserved Michelin Star

Gravetye Manor Hotel & Restaurant

That’s the Michelin-starred restaurant in the glass-fronted room looking onto the garden (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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(photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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When sitting inside the restaurant after dark, one can see the garden thanks to tasteful up-lighting. (my fab photo)

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Eating at Gravetye Manor’s restaurant is like eating inside of a Monet painting! (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

I usually find food photos intensely boring but had to make an exception here.

ALC Starter (Salad)

When I requested a starter with lots of vegetables, they whipped up this beauty with a perfect egg yolk in its center, despite its not being on the menu that night. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

ALC Dessert (Souffle)

Rhubarb souffle with ginger ice cream: Swoon! (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

Old, Pretty Manor House in Mint Condition

Built in 1598 Gravetye Manor has had many an owner but its most notable was Mr. William Robinson, who lived here from 1884-1935 AND pioneered the English country garden look. He grew up poor, became a gardener, worked on increasingly fine gardens, wrote about them, and gradually saved enough money to buy the 1,000 acres that make up Gravetye Manor today. Read about him here!

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The wood is polished to a sheen and nary a speck of dust is in sight. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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Reception: warm, welcoming, and flower-laden (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

Gravetye Manor has 17 big, handsome bedrooms with beautiful views. Holly and Chestnut are among the best.

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This was our room, called Chestnut. (photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

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This is the view from our window! Despite it being early Spring, the garden is still stunning. (photo courtesy of moi)

Flawless Service

Among THE best service I have ever experienced anywhere, including Asia, which is famous for its service. The managing director is a gentleman who is down-to-earth, has a sense of humor and believes it’s important for the staff’s personality to shine through because only that way does the customer receive genuinely warm service. Perfect! Considerate attention to details included:

  • When I merely glanced in the closet, the lovely woman who showed us to our room volunteered to bring more hangers.
  • When I asked for another soap, she brought two.
  • When we arrived back to Gravetye after a hike, they offered to clean our hiking boots, as if they were the finest of shoes.
  • Room service arrived when requested.
  • When we came back to the room after dinner,
    • the TV guide was open on our bed with the controls on top of it,
    • the tea kettle had been filled with water for the next morning,
    • a detailed map of the local area with the sites marked on them was open on the desk,
    • and a bookmark had been placed by each of our books.

Fun Facts

  • Gravetye Manor is 12 miles from England’s Gatwick Airport…though nary a plane will you hear when staying there.
  • While Gravetye Manor is 30 miles from central London, don’t think about taking a day-trip here, as you will be sad to leave after dinner.
  • We went to Gravetye because I had seen this article in Flower magazine about its glories. Check it out!
  • Things to Do: Many historic houses, famous gardens and fun activities abound nearby, including Winston Churchhill’s home, Chartwell, and Hever Castle, the girlhood home of Anne Boleyn, one of Henri VIII’s wives.
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My photo, of which I am VERY proud!

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(photo courtesy of Gravetye Manor)

When you go the Gravetye Manor, please try to get that Rhubarb Soufflé recipe from the chef and pass it on to me. So good!

Cornwall, England: Three Magical Destinations

Cornwall is gorgeous! Stunning beaches, spectacular hiking, charming little towns and ancient history. Cornwall’s got it all. I highly recommend THREE magical DESTINATIONS in Cornwall–the Isles of Scilly, St. Mawes and Portloe–each different one from the other.

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Isles of Scilly (photo courtesy of 2017 Cornwall Guide)

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Chun Quoit, a 2,500-year old chambered tomb (photo courtesy of 2017 Cornwall Guide)

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(photo courtesy of 2017 Cornwall Guide)

ISLES OF SCILLY

There are 150 Isles of Scilly, of which five are inhabited by a grand total of 2,200 people. These Cornish islands are the westernmost part of England. They offer beaches, kayaking, sailing, birding, hiking, golf and biking. A lot of places offer these BUT what makes the Isles of Scilly magical? Their windswept wildness and natural beauty;  lack of commercialism, crowds and traffic;  wild horses gracefully meandering the heath-covered moors; children going to school by boat; and stumbling upon ancient stones while hiking its hills. Stay for at least three full days, but five would be so much nicer.

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(photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

Temp’s on the Isles of Scilly are above 50 degrees 360 days of the year, thanks to the Gulf Stream. Due to these temperatures, flower farming thrives here. Surprising flora and fauna (seals and puffins) live on the islands, due to their isolated location. It’s easy and fun to island hop by public boat service.

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Scilly puffin (photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

Getting to the Isles of Scilly

  • FIRST take the Great Western Railway from London to Penzance (5.5 hours) “Rail hounds used to say the real name of the GWR was ‘God’s Wonderful Railway,’ and it’s easy to see why once the train leaves London and ventures into some truly iconic countryside. Castles, rivers, puffy clouds, thatched roofs, it’s all here. Sit on the left side” for best views. (Departures magazine, 2015)
  • NEXT take taxi or Isles of Scilly Travel Shuttle from Penzance (not particularly scenic) to Land’s End airport and catch the 20-minute helicopter flight west to St. Mary, one of the Isles of Scilly.
  • NOTE: Of course, if you want to be a party pooper, you can always fly from London to Land’s End.

STAY on the Isles of Scilly

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Hell Bay Hotel

  • Hell Bay Hotel (on the island of Bryher)—Bryher is two kilometers long by one kilometer wide, so the views from the hotel are of water and meandering wild horses on the surrounding moors. The hotel is very attractive (neutrals with enough splashes of color to add happy) with spacious bedrooms, a spa, heated swimming pool, bar, restaurant, large terrace for dining, and nice ambience. Bryher is traffic-free, w/ half a dozen houses, a bar, convenience store and deli. (25 suites, some with balconies, most w/sea views)
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Your room at Hell Bay Hotel

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View from your room at Hell Bay Hotel

SEE THE SIGHTS on the Isles of Scilly

  • Tresco Abbey Gardens–Outstanding! Tresco is the island closest to Bryher. These gardens are spectacular and feature highly unusual subtropical plants, thanks to the Gulf Stream effect and tall windbreaks constructed by the garden’s designers…all set in the ruins of a 12th century priory; five generations have built this garden over decades, collecting plants from all over the world specially for this garden. From its website: “Many of these tender floral gems would stand no chance on the Cornish mainland, less than 30 miles away. Yet even at the winter solstice more than 300 plants will be in flower. All in all, the tropical garden is home to species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa.” It’s heavenly!
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Tresco Abbey Gardens (photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

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Tresco Abbey Gardens: Note the tropical succulents growing on that arch (photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

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Tresco Abbey Garden (photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

  • Bronze age and Celtic ruins
  • Spectacular beaches, like the one at the top of this post
  • Wild horses
  • Bird watching is big here!
  • Hiking and biking.
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(photo courtesy of Visit Isles of Scilly)

ST. MAWES

Back on mainland England, St. Mawes is a charming small town on an idyllic small bay, approached by classic narrow Cornwall lanes. I recommend you stay at least three nights.

STAY in St. Mawes

Hotel Tresanton–This is a smallish and comfortably sophisticated hotel. It is quite perfect! All bedrooms, which are beautifully decorated, have views across the little bay to the St. Anthony Lighthouse. It has a restaurant, bar, and very attractive gift shop.  (30 rooms, some with a balcony or terrace)

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Lunch, anyone? Yeah, baby!  (photo courtesy of Hotel Tresanton)

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This photo captures the Hotel Tresanton’s style: beautifully decorated throughout!

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Hotel Tresanton’s bedrooms are individually decorated.

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Note the view from the Hotel Tresanton’s dining room. We saw a triple rainbow from here, and ran out onto the adjoining terrace to check it out.

SEE THE SIGHTS in St. Mawes

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Charter the Hotel Tresanton’s gorgeous 8-meter classic yacht, pictured above, from May-September

  • Just  back from St. Mawes, my cousin highly recommended the hike to see St. Just in Roseland’s church, as well as The Watch House restaurant in St. Mawes.
  • See the bottom of this post for more sights to see near St. Mawes, which is nearish Portloe.

PORTLOE

Portloe is a tiny village that looks just like Portwen, the fictitious fishing village featured in “Doc Martin,” a public TV hit show. Portloe is nestled in a charming cove and tiny harbor, surrounded by cliffs and headlands. When we were there several years ago, Portloe had only two commercial establishments: a nice pub (good fish pie) and The Lugger Hotel. It was great, so genuine! I suggest you stay at least three nights.

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Portloe (photo courtesy of The Lugger Hotel)

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Portloe (photo courtesy of The Lugger Hotel)

STAY in & near Portloe

  • The Lugger Hotel–Charming, updated 17th century inn located on the water, with an attractive restaurant. (22 rooms, some with a terrace, plus a 2-bedroom cottage available for rent)
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Your room at the Lugger Hotel: Can’t beat that view!

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breakfast room at The Lugger Hotel

& nearby…

  • The Nare Hotel–We walked along the spectacular Cornish Southwest Coast Path from Portloe to The Nare Hotel, stunningly located on a huge, undeveloped cove with huge, crescent-shaped beach. The NH has the cove all to itself! The Nare is not in a town but is self-contained with its own restaurant , bar and other amenities. (36 bedrooms and suites, some with balconies and terraces)
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The huge crescent beach in front of the Nare Hotel (above) is among the prettiest I have ever seen!

SEE THE SIGHTS in & around Portloe

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Cornish Southwest Coast Path (photo courtesy of 2017 Cornwall Guide)

  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan
  • Tregothnan, the largest private botanical garden in Britain
  • St Just in Roseland (two miles north of St. Mawes)  is famous for its 13th-century “St Just’s Church, St Just in Roseland set in riverside gardens luxuriantly planted with semitropical shrubs and trees, many of which are species rare in England. The church perches on the edge of a tidal creek beside the Carrick Roads on the Fal Estuary just outside the main village. The path from the road to the church is lined with granite blocks carved with quotations and verses taken from the Bible,” per Wikipedia. My cousin just hiked from the  Hotel Tresanton to St. Just and reported that it was WELL WORTH the trek through some mud. She wished she had seen the Hotel Tresanton’s wellies, set aside for the use of its guests!
  • National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth
  • St. Michael’s Mount–This striking National Trust property  is the English equivalent of France’s Mont St. Michel.
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St. Michael’s Mount (photo by Mike Newman, courtesy of St. Michael’s Mount)

From the St. Michael’s Mount website: “By the time of the Norman conquest in 1066, St Michael’s Mount had come into the possession of the monks of its sister isle, Mont St Michel in Normandy. In the 12th century it was their hands that built the church and priory that still lie at the heart of the castle today. From 1193 when the Mount was seized by Henry La Pomeray who disguised his men as pilgrims, through the Wars of the Roses in 1473 when the Mount was held by the Earl of Oxford, to the Civil War, when Royalists valiantly held back the forces of Oliver Cromwell – the Mount has weathered many times of battle. Gaze out across the rows of cannons which once drove a Napoleonic ship to its capture on Marazion beach or peer up to the top of the church tower where the first beacon was lit of the series that warned London of the approach of the Spanish Armada.”

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St. Michael’s Mount (photo by Claire Braithwaite courtesy of St. Michael’s Mount)

Literary Traveling Companions: “The Shell Seekers,” by Rosamunde Pilcher   and “Rebecca,” by Daphne du Maurier

DVD’s to Watch in Advance of Your Trip to Get You into the Cornwall Mood: “Doc Martin” PBS series

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New Orleans’ Sultry Style

New Orleans’s got soul! Style! Respects tradition and quirkiness! This is a city for all of the senses: great food, drink, architecture, gardens, musicians, artists, writers, and museums. Pull up a chair, stay a while!

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Sit on this glorious porch and watch the world go by when you stay at the lovely Soniat House hotel, pictured above.

STAY

  • Soniat HouseMimi’s Travel File personal fav! I have stayed here twice and loved it. Set in several adjoining 19th century French Quarter houses with two beautiful courtyards, this elegant boutique hotel is a 3-minute walk from Bourbon Street and an 8-minute walk from the French Market. PLUS they serve the BEST biscuits for breakfast! The rooms are traditionally decorated with antiques and the ambience is relaxingly elegant. (31 rooms)
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Soniat House: Just far enough from the madding crowd

  • Windsor Court Hotel–The WCH is frequently touted in travel pub’s but I did not feel the love. I found it lacking in personality and warmth.

Vogue magazine (2016) likes:

  • “Situated in the Garden District, the intimate Henry Howard Hotel, a gleaming white 1860s mansion (both built and named after the beloved native architect), feels like a friend’s house. Its 18 guest rooms are accented with custom toile wallpaper, second-line instruments, and poppy, whimsical portraits by artist Hayley Gaberlavage. Corner rooms 201 and 202 grant glorious balcony access, and come early evening, the light-filled parlor or shaded backyard garden are both ideal for a cocktail.” (18 rooms)
  • “…the 35-room Catahoula Hotel, nestled in an iconic 19th-century Creole townhouse, retains exposed brick walls, original patinas, and candlelit courtyards. There’s also a rooftop deck, coffee shop, and café offering Peruvian small plates and plenty of pisco cocktails.

SEE THE SIGHTS

Vogue magazine (2016) suggests:

  • Ride a streetcar uptown to the crumbling, gothic-tinged Lafayette Cemetery #1, where the iron gates reveal a pathway framed by a double line of magnolia trees. A quiet stroll warrants hauntingly cinematic images sprinkled with perfectly worn, elaborate mausoleums and gravestones randomly peppered with loosely strewn plastic Mardi Gras beads. It’s a ghostly photographic portrait of the past, a decidedly beautiful depiction of lingering spirits.” (located in the Garden District)
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Lafayette Cemetery #1 (photo courtesy of Musik Animal via Vogue)

  • Afterward, curate your own walking tour of the posh Garden District (or pick up a paper map at Commander’s Palace). Ramble along those narrow sidewalks flanked by stately oaks trees, shady magnolias, and leafy palms. Note the intricately designed wrought-iron gates and, behind them, the elegant, dreamy homes with stunning architectural styles from Neoclassic to Beaux Arts. The spooky bourgeois manor on Chestnut and First Street is where goth fiction queen Anne Rice once lived and gussied up her Southern occult novels. And nearby, the three-story, pink-hued Carroll-Crawford House, with its ornate cast-iron balconies, reportedly hosted lavish parties for guests like Mark Twain and Edgar Degas.
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(photo courtesy of Tim Graham/Getty Images)

  • “Back downtown, on the cusp of the Quarter, the funky, boho-meets-punk–flared vibes of the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods remain a creative, hipster hub with a quirky cast of characters. This diverse milieu calls for prime bike cruising exploration past rows upon rows of kaleidoscopic Creole cottages, where both locals and a recent influx of New Yorkers and Los Angeleno expats reside. And, if it’s the second Saturday of the month, pedal up Camp Street and over to the sweet Little Flea NOLA for vintage and resident artist wares, and afterward, pop into Hi Volt for a hit of coffee,” per Vogue.
  • City Park–50% larger than NYC’s Central Park and “holds the world’s largest collection of mature live oak trees, some older than 600 years in age,” per Wikipedia.
  • The St. Charles and Riverfront streetcar lines are a fun and easy way to see NOLA. Leaving the Garden District and traveling up St. Charles Avenue, beautiful Victorian mansions border the lush, oak-lined boulevards of Uptown New Orleans.
  • The Cabildo is a Spanish colonial building on Jackson Square that houses a museum focused on Louisiana history. The Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803, which finalized the United States’ acquisition of the Louisiana Territory and doubled the size of the fledgling nation. The Cabildo served as the center of New Orleans government until 1853 and the Louisiana State Supreme Court, and became a museum in 1908.
  • Longue Vue House and Gardens is a stunning National Historic Landmark house with gorgeous gardens.
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(photo courtesy of Longue Vue House and Gardens)

  • Mimi’s Travel File Fav: Ogden Museum of Southern Art–Saunter through this fine fine arts museum with Morgan Freeman describing what makes southern art southern on your audio guide.

EAT

Gumbo! Crawfish Etoufee! Jambalaya! Muffulettas! Beignets! Po’ Boys! Order all these traditional NOLA foods and walk it off around New Orleans’ gorgeous neighborhoods. Mimi’s Travel File Insider Information: My longtime family friend who lives in NOLA and is a foodie–and KNOWS what he’s talking about–highly recommends:

  • Herb Saint–Don’t you just want to sit on that upstairs balcony, eating glorious food and sipping a cocktail, while gazing at the views of New Orleans?!
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Herbsaint: Note the streetcar going by!

  • Kenton’s – Check out the seafood mousse appetizer with roe on top!  They have really fresh fish as well as good steak and chicken dishes – but their menu goes with what the chef finds that is fresh and special that day.
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Yes, please! (photo courtesy of Kenton’s)

  • Baru – great for tapas – eat until you are almost full – and then order a crispy whole fish to finish it off! The food is “Latin Caribbean.”
  • Galatoire’s  – in the French quarter – Tip from  my friend: “Ask for Shannon as your server.The only way to get served at Galatoire’s is to have a server!”
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Galatoire’s (photo courtesy of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation)

  • Eat a Po’ Boy: The place for them is Parkway Bakery – – – – this is where they took Obama for his Po’ Boy.
  • Elizabeth’s – go here for breakfast – many variants of eggs Benedict – and try the praline bacon
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Elizabeth’s (photo courtesy of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation)

  • Eat the BBQ oysters at Drago’s
  • Casamento’s – This is THE place to go for oysters! But call in advance – because if the chef doesn’t like the oysters available that day – the restaurant doesn’t open that day.  Gotta love their high standards!
  • Mimi’s Travel File Personal Fav’sBayona and August, both with lovely food and ambience. 

COCKTAILS, ANYONE?

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(photo courtesy of the Sazerac Bar)

Vogue (2016) recommends:

  • “The sophisticated uptown James Beard Award–nominated Cure whips up refreshing seasonal cocktails like the Maybe Always with a bright mezcal and negroni with hints of anise…
  • While its downtown Caribbean-inspired sibling Cane and Table slings tiki-themed rum-centric drinks and fancy Pineapple Sazerac.
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Cane and Table (photo courtesy of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation)

  • The long bar at the hip, rustic Barrel Proof is for whiskey (more than 250 varietals) and beer.
  • The vino-inclined head to Bacchanal, a wine shop and leafy outdoor space set amid a torch-lit backyard with live music.
  • At the lively French Quarter landmark Old Absinthe House, vintage football helmets dangle from the ceiling and business cards are pinned to distressed walls. Sip the signature house frappe made with local Herbsaint, anisette, and a splash of soda.
  • Saunter down the street to Arnaud’s French 75, a warm, wood-paneled bar known for its elegant namesake libation, a mix of cognac, champagne, lemon, and sugar. And, upstairs, the little-known Mardi Gras Museum houses a collection of elaborate gowns and costumes from the mid-1930s to 1960s.” Mimi’s Travel File loves this classic!
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(photo courtesy of French 75 at Arnaud’s via Vogue)

LIVE MUSIC

Vogue (2016) likes:

  • “Of course, jazz is synonymous with New Orleans—just thank native legend Louis Armstrong for that. In the French Quarter, visit famous venues such as the tiny beloved Preservation Hall (est. 1961), run by local tuba player Ben Jaffe and famed for its standing room (and liberal BYOB) policy.
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(photo courtesy of Preservation Hall)

  • Uptown, the unfussy, pressed tin–ceilinged Maple Leaf Bar retains its outstanding Tuesday evening Rebirth Brass Band concert.
  • Away from the tourist-laden Bourbon Street, the alluring, indie-flared Frenchmen Street hosts a high concentration of cafés and clubs like intimate, old-school Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, along with d.b.a. and the weathered The Spotted Cat Music Club.” My family friend who lives in NOLA highly recommends “Snug Harbor – they are always reliable – and an authentic NOLA Jazz place.”
  • Mimi’s Travel File Fav: Rock ‘n’ Bowl–SO MUCH FUN! Live zydeco band plays to a packed dance floor while people are bowling mere feet away. The dancers are old, young, stylish, unstylish, black, white…all shapes, sizes and colors and all having a blast. (see below)

SHOP

Vogue (2016) recommends:

  • “For the design savvy, browse the assortment of mid-century goods like early Jens Risom chairs and ’70s Lucite table lamps at Loisel Vintage Modern.
  • Nearby, Perch (click thru to its gorgeous web site) blends vintage pieces with seriously old antiques.
  • The airy shop Loomed works with artisan weavers and stocks a bright, handsome mix of organic Turkish towels and lightweight scarves.
  • In the lower Garden District, DVRA’s vibrant tropical pouches (think: banana leaves and pineapples) beckon summer (it shares space with Tchoup Industries and vinyl outfit Disko Obscura).
  • And in the Quarter, brush up on American fiction and New Orleans history at the hidden literary landmark Faulkner House Books, where author William Faulkner once lived.
  • Pied NU: This West Magazine Street boutique features clothing, jewelry, and housewares by independent designers and an aesthetic that’s one part Anthropologie, one part ABC Carpet & Home, and one part vintage. You’ll recognize some of the brands (think: John Derian and Aigle boots), but most are small and relatively unknown.
  • Hazelnut is a quirky home shop beloved by locals and co-owned by Bryan Batt (aka Salvatore Romano of Mad Men). Come for the New Orleans–themed toile and stay for New Orleans kitsch like a King Cake Baby–inspired pin.
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I want these bags!!!! (photo courtesy of Hazelnut)

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(photo courtesy of Hazelnut)

  • Soniat House Antique Galleries: Like so many other businesses in New Orleans, this antiques shop is attached to a hotel (the Soniat House hotel). If, after a weekend in the Big Easy, you want to bring some of the feeling home, stop by to browse its collection of 18th- and 19th-century French furniture and housewares.”
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(photo courtesy of Soniat House Antiques via Vogue)

THE NOLA LOOK: Traditional meets Quirky

Bon Voyage!

Beaufort, SC: The Newport of the South

Most people have heard of Charleston and Savannah but many don’t know about Beaufort. Yet once upon a time, they were referred to as the Three Colonial Sisters, each stunning in her own way. Beaufort is located in between her sisters, an hour’s drive north of Savannah and hour and a half south of Charleston.

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Beaufort has a cosmopolitan history: “10 flags have flown over this area, including those of Spain, France, England, Scotland, Switzerland, and the Confederate and Union forces; not to mention the many Native Americans that have lived here for at least 5,000 years.” (from the Rhett House Inn brochure)

“…from the mid-1700’s to the mid-1800’s, Beaufort enjoyed a prosperity and way of life comparable to that of wealthy elites in Charleston, Savannah, and…Beaufort was known as ‘The Newport of the South.'” This largesse was courtesy of the slave labor and lucrative indigo, tobacco, cotton and rice crops grown on Beaufort’s plantations.

The Castle_Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce

(photo courtesy of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce)

I stayed in Beaufort for five wonderful days in 2015 and loved every second. These houses pictured are within walking distance of the lovely Rhett House Inn.

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Walk, bike or drive around Beaufort to see its many MANY perfectly gorgeous houses and gardens. My Beaufort-savvy friend suggests viewing the houses and port of Beaufort from the water via a kayaking tour lead by a local guide. Sounds like fun!

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(photo courtesy of Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce)

  • Attend Sunday service at the Tabernacle Baptist Church (907-911 Craven St.)–The TBC was built in 1811 as a “praise house”and later morphed into a black meeting hall, referred to as a “tabernacle.” The present building was built in the 1840’s. The services are inclusive, welcoming, and filled with inspirational foot-tapping hymns. “Built in 1840, Tabernacle Baptist Church is the resting place of one of Beaufort’s most beloved icons, Robert Smalls, who was born into slavery in 1839…he went on to a distinguished career of public service including serving in the South Carolina House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and four terms in the United States House of Representatives,” per the Beaufort Chamber of Commerce.
  • Bike to Port Royal–Established in 1562, PR is a low-key little town on the water with a lot of history and no pretense whatsoever (read: no fancy houses).
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Port Royal

  • Old Sheldon Church (17 miles north of Beaufort)–built between 1745-53, burned in 1799 by the British during the Revolutionary War, re-built in 1826, burned in 1865 by General Sherman…this baby’s seen some history! Old Sheldon Church’s beautiful setting is in the country, by itself, and surrounded by lovely old trees.
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Old Sheldon Church (photo courtesy of Lyndi Leary)

  • Explore evocative, Spanish Moss-draped St. Helena Island, just over the bridge from Beaufort–
    • Parish Church: one of the oldest churches in the U.S., established in 1712
    • Penn Center: lovely setting and interesting. Of its 16 buildings registered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, three are especially worth of a visit, as they reflect different points in Beaufort’s history:
      • The Brick Baptist Church, built in 1855–“In 1862, the U.S. Navy declared victory at Port Royal Sound, South Carolina and freed 32,530 slaves from plantations in the Beaufort District. White inhabitants fled the Lowcountry. Northern abolitionists recognized the need to educate the freed slaves, and the Philadelphia-based Port Royal Relief Committee sent funds and a progressive young woman named Laura Towne to teach former plantation slaves “habits of self-support” and to “elevate their moral and social condition.” Towne was joined by Ellen Murray, a Northern Quaker. They settled on St. Helena Island, one of South Carolina’s largest sea islands. Their first class was held at Oaks Plantation with nine scholars. It soon expanded to The Brick Baptist Church, which survives today,” per the Penn Center’s website.
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Gantt Cottage (photo courtesy of Lyndi Leary)

  • The Gantt Cottage: “In the mid 20th century, Penn Center again shifted focus…Penn Center became a center and meeting place for interracial social activists—the only place in the south where segregated meetings were held without excessive legal and violent harassment. It was a safe haven and retreat for Martin Luther King, Jr. until his death in 1968…,” per PC’s website. Dr. King wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Gantt Cottage, pictured above.
  • The York W. Bailey Museum, located inside the Penn Center visitors center, features “artifacts and photographs that depict the history of Penn Center, as well as the Gullah Geechee history and the strong African cultural influences they’ve maintained,” according to PC’s website. The YWBM also showcases beautiful art exhibits.
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painting by Diane Britton Dunham at the current art exhibit at the York W. Bailey Museum

STAY

  • Rhett House Inn–big, beautiful rooms with deep porches that span the front of the inn, built in 1820 in the Greek Revival style. Think wicker porch furniture, hanging ferns, pots of red geraniums…all spic ‘n’ span and in good taste. (10 rooms, some in the main house and some in an adjacent building; we stayed in the two on the front of the house on the second floor and loved both)
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Rhett House Inn

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upstairs porch at Rhett House Inn

SHOP

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Scout Southern Market

  • Scout Southern Market (709 Bay Street)–The owner has great taste!! This shop sells all things Southern and stylish for entertaining (decorative lanterns,  embroidered linen cocktail napkins, charming serving dishes painted by local artists, bar ware), sophisticated or whimsical South-centric coffee books, etc.
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vignette featuring Scout Southern Market’s beautiful wares

  • Red Piano Too Art Gallery  (870 Sea Island Pkwy., St. Helena Island, SC)–wonderful, graphic, colorful Gullah art; per its website, “Art Gallery with a focus on Lowcountry/Gullah original Art to include paintings, sculptures, glass, baskets, quilts, books, calendars, notecards, jewelry and much more.”
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(photo courtesy of Red Piano Too Gallery)

  • Penn Center Visitors Center gift shop (St. Helena Island)–When I was there last year, I fell in love with a couple of LARGE, beautiful, evocative paintings, for sale in the Penn Center’s Visitors Center. This a visitors center with KICK! They also sell folk art, books, and charming knickknacks.

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

  • Sweetgrass Restaurant and Bar (100 Marina Drive, St. Helena Island, 11 miles from downtown Beaufort)–This restaurant is the new, personal fav of my good friend, whose been summering in Beaufort for over 25 years. At the dinner-only SR&B, it’s all about local: local fish from the surrounding waters and local produce from the surrounding farms. While it is located in a private marina, they will let you in to go to the restaurant. Go for dinner at sunset!
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photo courtesy of Sweetgrass Restaurant

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inside Lowcountry Produce and Market Cafe

Traveling Companions

  • Reading Companion: Pat Conroy’s “The Great Santini” or “The Prince of Tides”
  • Driving Companion (book on tape): Pat Conroy’s “My Writing Life”
  • Movie Companion (hopefully your hotel room comes w/a DVD player): “The Big Chill” because the house around which this movie revolves is in Beaufort
Downtown Beaufort_Lyndi Leary

entering downtown Beaufort (photo courtesy of Lyndi Leary)

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–posted August 2016

London (part 1/2): Hotels & Sights

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Pip Pip, Cheerio, Let’s Go! Here’s the scoop, based on many articles in my travel file and over 30 trips to London:

STAY

Chelsea

Sloane Square Hotel 2013

Sloane Square Hotel

  • Sloane Square HotelIf modern décor in a great location is your thing, the SSH is attractive and sits right on Sloane Square, with its wonderful shops off the Square on Kings Road and on Pimlico Road, plus plays at the Royal Court Theatre right on Sloane Square, plus the nearby & lovely Chelsea Physic Garden, good restaurants, and a tube stop on the Square). Request a room overlooking always-buzzing and stylish Sloane Square.
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The Draycott

  • The Draycott Hotel–Two blocks from Sloane Square, the Draycott is refined, homey elegance, with traditional décor. This article from the HuffPost describes it best.The rooms are named after famous stage actors and your name will be inserted into the discreet name plate on your guest room door. Nothing flashy here, plus it is reasonably priced (though not cheap, because nothing good in London is). Request a  room with a balcony looking onto beautiful quiet Cadogan Square.

NOTE: If you are staying at the Draycott, drop by the nice bar at 11 Cadogan Gardens, a Small Luxury Hotel half a block away. Here’s what it looks like:

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11 Cadogan Gardens bar

  • The Sloane Clubis my personal fav, so if you can swing a letter of intro to this private club, go for it! In addition to individual rooms, they also have apartments. Great location just off of Sloane Square on Lower Sloane.

Knightsbridge

  • The Knightsbridge (10 Beaufort Gardens)–stylish, cheery, townhouse hotel decorated by its owner, the fabulously creative and successful Kit Kemp!
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The Knightsbridge Hotel

St. James

  • The Stafford (16-18 St. James Pl.)–VERY nice, old-school townhouse hotel with cozy, elegant bar. This photo shows the mews rooms (left). Ours was called The Daisy room because, in a former life, it was a stable for a horse named Daisy.
Blue Ball Courtyard

The Stafford

Following hotels get lots of positive press:

Mayfair

  • Claridge’s (Brook St.)–formal, traditional, fabled past, art deco, très élégant! Two beautiful bars. “…the suite with the prettiest of all balconies is 406,” per Departures (2015).

Claridge's lobby

  • The Connaught (Carlos Pl.)–very nice, with a buzzing, snazzy bar! This is where the Middletons stayed for Kate’s wedding. “The Apartment suite is London’s best example of making a hotel feel like a private home,” (Departures 2015)
  • Beaumont Hotel (Brown Hart Gardens)–Masculine art deco, upscale, nice neighborhood very near Grosvenor Square.

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Soho

  • Ham Yard Hotel (1 Ham Yard)–“the happiest hotel in London,” per Departures magazine (2015) PLUS beautifully decorated by owner Kit Kemp. The lobby was a-buzz with stylish people drinking tea and tasting champagne at 3:00 pm on the weekday afternoon when we popped in. It is a fun, happy place!
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Ham Yard Hotel

SEE THE SIGHTS

London has too many fascinating sites to list here. Following are my fav’s, organized by neighborhood, from least obvious to most:

Embankment

  • Somerset House–history, fashion, art, good food, sublime terrace for drinks overlooking the Thames…it’s all here; SH is a former royal palace on the Thames, with four huge buildings and a central courtyard, in which Fashion Week’s fashion shows take place; the four buildings house art and fashion exhibits. PLUS Departures (Oct. 2015) recently named Spring restaurant at SH as one of 25 “tables of note.”

The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House © Jeff Knowles 2

Chelsea

  • Chelsea Physic Garden–LOVE this walled garden founded in 1673 to provide plants for medicinal purposes to the neighboring Royal Hospital; today, a section of its garden is organized by plants with healing ingredients for specific ailments. The CPG has a simple café, the Tangerine Dream Café, with very good food; suggest you make a reservation if you want to dine in the garden on a weekend, as fashionable Londoners fill up the tables for pastoral lunches…nice gift shop, too!
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Chelsea Physic Garden

  • Chelsea Flower Show (every May): HEAVEN ON EARTH because so fabulously over the top, the best-of-the-best horticulture specimens and garden designs, beauty and brains meet creativity. The photos below say it best!
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Chelsea pensioners look at ‘Peter Beales Roses’  at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London

RHS Chelsea Flowe Show

Two men look at a flower display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London

Westminster

  • The Houses of Parliament–in session: House of Lords and House of Commons (the H of C is better because they have more meaningful debates). Be sure to get tickets in advance through the U.S. Embassy because you do not want to wait in those long lines. The very best ticket is for the “Prime Minister’s Question Time,” though hard to get. No line or ticket needed for the House of Lords, whose ceremonial chamber is worth a short visit.
  • Westminster Abbey–lots of famous people buried here, gorgeous in and of itself, PLUS Kate and Wills were married here, so you gotta go!
  • Buckingham Palace–The public is allowed inside once a year, in summer when the royal family is in Scotland. Otherwise, you are limited to watching the changing of the guard (not a life-altering experience), visiting the Queen’s Galleries (traditional, top quality, art), and the coach collection in the Royal Mews.
  • St. James Park–In front of Buckingham Palace, this is one of London’s several beautiful public parks.
  • The Tate Britain–fantastic, traditional collection in classic building
  • Churchill’s Underground War Cabinet Rooms–I found these fascinating. My husband, who reads a lot of history, found them superficial. Go anyway! They’re great.
The Map Room at IWMCMCWR. 7th October 2009. Shot for Film Location.

The Map Room at Churchill’s Underground War Rooms

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Directly Across the Thames from Westminster

  • The Eye–This is a ferris wheel whose views are like looking at a giant map of London. It takes about an hour to go around and that’s because it does so verrrrrrrrrrry slowly. Each “car” is clean and big, so not claustrophobic. I did not wait in line either time I went, so you probably won’t have to, either.

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Southwark

  • The Tate Modern–art museum in a very modern building with very contemporary exhibits/collection

Kensington

  • The Victoria & Albert Museum (“V and A”)–has exhibits on any and everything related to design, be it design of wrought iron hinges, sterling silver or fashions; huge and something for everyone here; they even have an ice skating rink in the winter

St. James

Holborn

  • British Museum–historic artifacts on a major scale, e.g. THE Elgin Marbles are here, as is THE Rosetta Stone=fascinating and transporting; if you are short on time, the museum has a Top 10 pamphlet that directs you to the highlights.

Street walking: Yes, I am listing walking as a sight in and of itself because it’s a great way to soak up the many, charming details of London streets and architecture and style and history.

TIP: If you like to see the sights on foot, pick up a London A-Z, the small, detailed map book with every street in London, available at most bookstores and newspaper kiosks.

DAY TRIPS

  • Hampton Court: Henry VIII’s castle with beautiful garden; recommend you go one-way by boat (depending on the tide) & the other way via rail.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew–impressive and historic
  • Greenwich’s Royal Observatory–as in, Greenwich Mean Time! Go if you’re interested in clocks, longitude & the British Naval Museum. Take a boat (make sure you’re going with the tide; recommend you pick up at Westminster or the Eye, for best city views) one way and the tube the other way,

WARDROBE

London is dressier than most US cities. You will see more women in heels and skirts here than in US cities. Also, they are not big on bright colors…except for men’s shirts, socks and waistcoats. Lots of black and grey assembled with panache.images

For RESTAURANT & SHOPPING recommendations, go to my “London: part 2/2 post.”

-posted May 2016