Friday, 31 July 2009

An Adventure! -or- Google Maps is your Friend

When Dave was here we decided to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Turns out there are two parts: the Anglicans have the actual Medieval shrine, and the Roman Catholics have the Slipper Chapel, one of the old stops for pilgrims on the way to the shrine, so named because they would leave their shoes there and walk the last 6 miles barefoot.

So we took a train. Then the underground. Then another train. Then a bus. Then another bus. As we had no idea where we were going (other than to the Slipper Chapel, located in the town of Houghton St. Giles), Dave alerted the driver to where we wanted to go. He stopped in almost the middle of nowhere, and told us the shrine was down the street to our left. Thank you very much. :)

Let me tell you about HSG: There is a sign, a house, a barn, another house, another barn, and some sheep, followed by another welcome sign facing the other direction. Seriously. So we walked down the road (the 4 way sign at the corner made no mention of anything down that road other than a ford. I know Catholocism has not always been very popular in Englandworld, but you would think that there would be any sort of signage). We walked around the ford. We came to a dead end. Left or right? Right. So we walked. And walked. And walked. It wasnt that we walked particularly long or far, but there was nothing there. Not even sheep. And nothing in the distance to speak of either. So we turned around, went back up the road we came down, walked through the ford, and came back to the 'main' road.

We started walking there, figuring that the Anglican shrine is this way, so maybe... It was hot, it was sunny, that part of England has these freaky little black bugs that just swarm on you out of nowhere!!!!! *twitch* Eventually, seeing still nothing in front of us, we turned around and eventually flagged down the bus on its way back. It was not so much giving up as we had gotten a late start, and had to be back to the other bus stop in time to get the other bus to get to the train to get home, and had spent all of our shrine visiting time walking. *sigh*

So Google later tells us that had we turned left (remember the dead end?) we would have *eventually* come to the shrine; the bus driver really just let us off one block (one very large block) up too far. So now we know for next time! :-D

Tea of the Day

Hibiscus Flower (Wellcat): 2/5

A very sour tea, by itself. And STRONG. If you have ever had Celestial Seasoning's Raspberry Zinger, this will taste familiar (mostly because Raspberry Zinger is mostly Hibiscus flowers, as are most fruit teas). But stronger. I like my tea stronger than most, and this was strong for me, and I had already put less in the tea ball than usual. So be warned, weak tea drinkers! And its sour. Hint of sweet, but only a hint. Stick to Hibiscus mixed with something- anything really, but if you want to be able to taste the other ingredient, put VERY LITTLE Hibiscus in.

Extra: The earliest credible documented record of tea is chronicled in the Erh Ya, an ancient Chinese dictionary written in 350 a.d.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Vanilla Caramel (Bigelow): 4/5

I really liked this tea. It was interesting because when I thought about it, the tea itself was pretty bland with hints of either sweet or bitter. Most of the flavor comes from the scent, which is gloriously sweet. Thus, I dont recommend drinking it if you have a stuffy nose. The smell is very caramely, which was a little frustrating because the taste was not as strong as the smell. Tis an interesting concept and I do recommend it.

"I always fear that creation will expire before teatime." ~Sydney Smith

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A Puffin Anecdote

The trip to the Seabird Sanctuary to see the Puffins was my big surprise for Dave. I did very well with the secret keeping. I had been worried that he might not like it all that much after I had kind of promoted this Surprise Trip so much. While we were waiting for the train to North Berwick, I, in a round about fashion, managed to get him onto the topic of Puffins, just to see what he would say on his own about them. He then proceeded to be sad that he had come to Scotland, and not seen a single Puffin! :( He then asked me to fetch him a Puffin. I, using my fantabulous acting skills, sincerely apologized that I had no Puffins at hand to give him. (I did provide him with an invisible one.) The subject was dropped, and we went for a ride on the train to: PUFFINS!! :-D

Tea of the Day!

Red Raspberry Leaf: 5/5

The rating has nothing to do with the taste, and everything to do with RRL's very effective use against menstrual cramps. For real. The downside is that while the effects don't last very long. Tastewise, a very strong cup of RRL tea (again, not real tea, just the Raspberry leaves) tastes like very week Green Tea. It has a bit of grainy-ness that some Green Teas do as well. Not bad tasting at all, though for someone who likes strong tea, it can be a bit frustrating. Highly recommended if you can get hold of it.

Extra: White tea primarily hails from mainland China where it's plucked once a year in early spring. Its light, delicate flavor comes from minimally processed tender young buds and leaves covered with tiny, silvery hairs.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

We got to see a LOT of London during Dave's trip! First off, the British Museum! I had never been there, and that is a pretty unfortunate fail on my part. We did not get to see much of it, as they were closing about an hour after we got there, but we did see the Rosetta Stone! It is much larger than the replica at the UPenn Archaeology museum would have you believe. We also went upstairs to see the Sutton Hoo exhibit. Why? Oh why? WHY did I veer from archaeology? What kind of stupid pills was I taking in undergrad? Sigh. I suppose this is my chance to be a true 19th century scholar- teach myself to be an Egyptologist for fun. In a few months... The point is, the museum was brilliant, and I can not wait to go back and see more of it!

We also took the walk through Westminster Abbey- sadly we were not there at the proper moment for the open-to-the-public prayer service at the tomb of St. Edward the confessor. We also went to Westminster Cathedral, which is just wow and lovely. It is very unfinished on the inside, and rather dark as such. I must say that I am not one for bright, shiny Byzantine style mosaics, but I am sure it will be glisteningly gorgeous when it is finished! Sunday morning we attended Mass at the Brompton Oratory (loooooots of churches this week). It was also lovely, but very different! I am not sure exactly what the style was, but it was less mosaic and more pillar with fancy molding on the ceiling and a million candles! Tres pretty. (That was followed by some really yummy thai food!)

We also met up with Elena and Pete for HARRY POTTER AND THE
HALF BLOOD PRINCE IN LONDON!!!!! Dressed up, of course. They do not seem to do midnight showings here, and very few people were dressed up. I saw a nifty Bellatrix shirt though. And there was one older woman with a light up witch hat! :-D I personally thought it was the best of the movies since the second one. There were a few changes I would have made, but I am glad that Hermione at least sent the birds after Won-won. Well done Alan Rickman. I also love Jim Broadabent. He is, in my humble opinion, a fantastic actor. And I got to see a Harry Potter movie in London. We went for dinner with Elena and Pete, ended up in Trafalgar Square (sadly, I could not reach any money out of the fountains from where I was) and then for Ice Cream! Yay!

We met up with Natasha for the Tower, which was great, and really not that crowded. (Hint: Go on a Sunday afternoon) We still did not get to see all that we wanted, but we're history dorks, it happens. Some of the areas were really amazing, with intricate carvings done by those who had been imprisoned there. Other parts, like Bloody Tower, were much less so. I want to see the dark, dank cells where two frightened little boys were imprisoned before being murdered, not whitewashed walls and a fun 'Whodunit' display. The Crown jewels on the other hand: SHINY. I meant it when I said that I prefer the Scottish Honours, but still. SHINY! The White Tower housed a display on arms and armour (Dave finally understands why I refer to KH8 as King Henry the Codpiece). They even had old jousting poles!

We tried going to Camden Town after a failed attempt to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, but we were just too late, and all the shops and stalls had closed. However, I did learn that while by day CT is a haven of strangely dressed people, by night, it becomes the land of no trousers!

P.S.: Dear England: Keeping Ravens whose wings have been clipped in cages at the Tower is CHEATING.

P.P.S.: This is my friend, Stumpy the Chicken Pigeon. We met at the train station and quickly became fast friends.

P.P.P.S.: Um. Well, our food and clothes are tax free. And we have bears in the zoo, and maybe elsewhere? Yay PA, but...WHAT??

Tea of the Day!

Peppermint: 3/5

If you've had one peppermint tea, you've had them all. Nice minty (obviously) taste. Very refreshing when chilled. Wonderful for getting rid of those small annoying headaches, both as a hot drink with minty steam and as an ice cool jolt of minty freshness. Some people claim that you can add it to a cup of hot chocolate and have Hot Mint-Chocolate, but I have yet to get it right. So far, sticking a bag of peppermint in hot chocolate is not the way to go, as it ends up tasting rather awful. If anyone has any suggestions on this front, do please share!

Extra: The finest tea comes from elevations of 3,000 to 7,000 feet. The plant grows more slowly in cool air, adding to its flavor.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Tea of the Day!

Apricot: 3/5

This tastes like Republic of Tea's Ginger-Peach. Not bad. But not what I was expecting. It's sweet-ish, with a bit of a burn-your-throat (but not temperature-wise) bite. If steeped for too long it seems to take on a coffee like undertaste.

Extra: Make sure you aren't using a teapot that you dislike, no matter what its reputation, because as a constant daily companion it will make you feel uncomfortable. ;)

Canterbury! -parts 1 and 2

I have been to Canterbury twice now, once with Hilary and her Family, and more recently with Dave. I am in love with the fact that you get off the train, walk over the bridge, and enter the city (well, the part with the Cathedral anyway- I am fairly sure it has expanded a bit since the Middle Ages) by walking around the old Medieval city wall! Complete with turrets! It is a cute little area, with a tower with an arched doorway in all four sides being the only remaining bit of a small church in the middle of town (complete with slabs marking the places of those buried in the floor). I am also highly amused that next to be large, ornate, Medieval entrance to the Cathedral property, and I mean as close as it can possibly be without being in the Cathedral, is a Starbucks. You know you are a tourist trap when you have a Starbucks sharing a wall with you.

The Cathedral is lovely (obviously) on the outside! In terms of the inside, all I can say is: Well done, rib-vaulting! (or, in the words of my former Monastery and Cathedral Towns lecturer: Well done, rib-waulting!) Stained glass, you do not need to be jealous- I love you too!

I am going to abuse you with pictures now, sadly none of the crypt, as, well, there are no pictures (theoretically) allowed there. I know people are going to do what people are going to do, and tourists even more so! However, if you are going to put up a sign in a tourist trap that says no talking, no cell phones, and no picture taking, you might want to at least have 1 employee down there to say something to the people talking, on their cell phones, while taking pictures with them. On second thought, why can people not get over their tourist-ness for five minutes and respect someone's holy site? arrrrgh. Anyway, the crypt is, well, I do not think I can describe it. There are fewer tombs there, but a lovely Lady Chapel, complete with what looks like completely intact medieval (or at least really well restored medieval style) paint- which makes me curious- how did that bit survive when the rest has either been left to peel away (as in some chapels) or very obviouslly scraped off? Anyway, it was gorgeous. There were also some engravings on the wall- possibly intending to be paintings someday? A lot of the carvings on the pillars were unfinished as well. It was really interesting to see the process. *puts on nerd hat* There were other small vestiges of medieval paint on the ceilings of some of the chapels.

Dave and I went to the second half of an Evensong service. I love boys' choirs. Sadly, because of Evensong, the upper part of the church was closed, but never fear! It was open when I was there with Hilary! (I believe it was Canterbury that finally made my brain finally come to terms with exactly what radiating chapels were.) At the very top (the church seems to go up and up as you go further back) in the center was an open area and a candle representing the location of the long destroyed (thank you King Henry the Codpiece) shrine to St. Thomas Beckett. Also can be seen the tomb of Edward Almost the IV: the Black Prince, and his nephew, Henry IV and Queen Mary de Bohun. Also, Medieval Floor Tiles. I'll throw in some pictures of the Chapter House and Cloister area as well.

Now that I have Abused you with photos, and no, I am not sorry about it, and fully intend to do it again, I want to talk to you about taste. I think we can all agree that the above pictures are quite aesthetically pleasing. Lovely, even. But the past few decades have been sad for church art (I refer particularly to RC churches designed to look like conference rooms at a spa...) First off: Medieval stone Cathedrals do not need rainbows. They really dont mesh. Example A:

Secondly, and pay attention, this is important. St. Thomas Beckett was not, I repeat, NOT a vampire. I promise. So...why would anyone design the shrine for his Martyrdom this way?

That was a bit Terrifying, I suppose, so here is a picture of me looking cute to cheer you up!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Tea of the Day!

Cranberry and Sanguinello Orange: 3/5

I want to say it smells nice and fruity, but as, it's a fruit tea (and thus not ACTUALLY a 'tea') it mostly just smells like Hibiscus. Why, oh why does everyone have to use Hibiscus flowers as a base? Or rather, why do they have to use so MUCH Hibiscus? You might as well just sell Hibiscus tea and have done with it. Anyway, I was worried, but it's actually pretty good! It may smell of Hibiscus but the citrus taste Really comes through! I really can't recognize cranberry flavor (sorry). It's mostly Hibiscus overlaid with citrus, which is really nice. Very peppy! Will definitely wake you up in the morning. :)

Unfortunately, as an Iced tea, it loses much of the citrus flavoring, which is taken over by the Hibiscus.

Hibiscus, rosehips, apple pieces, natural cranberry flavouring (10%) , natural sanguinello orange flavouring (10%) liquorice root

Extra: In 1700s London, tea was the major beverage served in coffee houses. Exclusively for men, these coffee houses were termed "penny universities." For a penny, a man could buy a pot of tea and a newspaper while engaging in lively conversations with other men who shared his interests.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Going Backwards in Time - or - My Summer Vacation in Scotland!

What's this? A real post? No! Well, yes, it is. I figured since it's fresh in my mind, I shall share all the exciting bits of my recent trip to SCOTLAND with Dave! First, Edinburgh is my Favorite City- probably the only city I would live in. And it still smells like cereal. That is Dave and I at Edinburgh Castle! (dance of joy) It was really fantastic and took all day. I will probably bore you with more photos on facebook sometime. I got to see the Scottish Crown Jewels, which are just nicer than the English ones. There were new towers, old towers- some really nifty vaults and catacombs and such, an old chapel and even a pet graveyard! I also love the street performers in Edinburgh. Sure it is just show for the tourists, but it is still nice, and I would throw money at them even if I lived there. We took the 'Underground Cities' tour- more vaults that they're actually still digging out- cheesey ghosty stuff, but the history was nifty, though I did enjoy the 'Haunted Graveyard Tour' (see future post on my first trip to Scotland) a bit more. We went to St. Margaret's RC church and saw relics of St. Andrew. We also found this nifty little pub with great desserts. That yummy looking treat wasnt actually all that yummy, sadly. It was kind of like oatmeal whipped cream over raspberry/whiskey mix. Rather lackluster. Their other desserts and food were really good too. Speaking of alcohol- you might want to sit down for this: Guenevere found a beer that she likes. Loves. It was delicious. I couldn't finish it- the room started doing things that I'd rather it didn't. What is this? You do not believe me? Yes, that is me drinking my beer (Innis and Gunn) (I'm not sure why it came in a goblet). Also, the hotel we stayed in was the first I'd ever been in that lacked a Bible! Sadly, we did not have time to make it to Holyrood Palace. Now I have an excuse to go back! Also, I was pooped upon by a pigeon. :(

Our last day in Scotland was spent not in the city, but rather to the South (the Highlands will have to wait until that fabled return trip) I surprised Dave with a trip to a Seabird Sanctuary to see Puffins! Also part of the tour was the largest seagull colony in the world (the birds have some specific name, but really, they were glorified seagulls). One of the islands nearby had a white top to it. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that it is ALL birds! It smelled terrible, but was really gorgeous looking. There is also an old prison on the island that I would not mind touring eventually. The Puffins were darling! I had not realized that they were so tiny! When they fly, they actually look like those wooden ducks with the windmill wings that people insist on putting in their yards. Did I mention tiny??? We also saw two seals poke their heads out of the water. I had never seen seals in the wild before!

While we were in the area, we popped over to Dirleton to see the Norman castle! Anyone who has been to my mom's house in the past several years should recognize it! For those of you who have not, I painted a portrait of that castle in High School! It was thrilling to see it in person- something I never thought I would do. Unlike Edinburgh castle, it's pretty ruined, but left that way- no dry wall and fluorescent lighting. Just reinforced concrete floors and some helpful plaques (though they would do well to check their dates) We did not have much time to spend there, which made it even more exhilarating. It was like climbing about the best play house in the world. And the fireplaces in the kitchen were bigger than my bedroom. I also bonked my head on the low doorway into the live-in priest's latrine. :( And naturally, it rained all day. Which was kind of nice, in a way.

I love Scotland.

And the man with the Thistle.

Tea of the Day!

Assam BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) 2/5

Assam is one of your basic plain black teas (loose, it's like plain Lipton Tea, just better quality.) Honey gives no improvement, so stick with sugar if you'd like a little sweetness to it. If you're in the habit of leaving the tea in the cup, it will get strong to the point of bitterness (which can be good). A no fuss, no frills tea.

Extra: Launched in 1869, the world's only surviving tea clipper is the Cutty Shark. Today, more than 15 million people have visited the restored ship at a custom-built dry dock in Greenwich, England.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Tea of the Day Returns! (Sort of)

Ambrosia 0/5
Not so good. Not sweet, not bitter, almost reminded me of feet. It smelled really good, so I was upset that this one didnt work out. Remainder given to my mom (who really likes it)

Yes, this is an old post from my LJ, but I wanted to jump right in with the tea, but have not yet sampled my new tea from Scotland. I'll get right on it. Tomorrow. Maybe. In the meantime, I have a nice backlog to choose from for all the days I dont have any new teas to tell you about!

Extra: Celestial Seasonings began when founder Mo Siegel and his friends picked wild herbs in the Rocky Mountains. By 1969, the same year as Woodstock, they packed 10,000 muslin bags with Mo's 36 Herb Tea and sold them to a Boulder, Colorado health food store.

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Tea Break...

My oh my, what's this? Guenevere has a blog? Will she actually post on it? I suppose we'll find out later after she's finished playing in the library with the vaulted ceilings...