Tag Archives: winter

Babington House

Babington House Drive

Miles from London, in a faraway land called Somerset, there’s a long tree-lined lane. It leads to a pocket-sized chapel, St Margarets, and just beyond it, the dour Georgian manor that is Babington House.

Part of the Soho House portfolio, I was expecting a snazzy English countryclub scene, but the other guests were mainly just local mums bringing the kids swimming, and a few other couples in for the weekend from London. But mostly, we had the place to ourselves.

Babington House St Margarets Sign

Babington House Lawn

Babington House Lawn Chapel

Babington House Cobblestone Path

We stayed in the Coach House, in a delightful room over two stories. Sweet touches were everywhere you looked – fresh flowers, vintage books with winsome titles, a silver tin of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Babington House Coach House

Babington House Do Not Disturb Door Soho House

Babington House Coach House Room Velvet Sofa

Babington House Room Coach House Dressing Table

Babington House Room Coach house Spiral Staircase

Babington House Room Coach House Loft Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Loft view

Babington House Room Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress Knit Bobble Hat

Babington House Room Bathroom Tub White Tile

Babington House Room Bathroom Clawfoot Tub

Babington House Room Robes Big Feet Little Feet

Babington House Room Coach House

Babington House Coach house room Flowers

Babington House Room Fresh Flowers

Babington House Eat Sleep Nap

Babington House Room Tea

Babington House Room Tea Treats

We couldn’t resist a spot of tea before heading outside for an afternoon of countryside pursuits – strolling the sprawling grounds, going for a bike ride, and then a swim.

Babington House Wellies

Babington House Walled Garden Green Grass

Babington House Walled Garden Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Walled Garden Spa Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress

Babington House Pond Rear

Babington House Backyard Tree Pond

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Bicycle Path

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Blue Dress

Babington House

Babington House Chapel

Babington House Chapel View

The outdoor heated pool is a perfect warm-up for these chilly February days.

We raced to see which one of us could shimmy back into their hooded robe the fastest, thick clouds of vapor wafting off our poached bodies like a pair of Chinese steamed buns!

Babington House Pool

Babington House Pool Steam Sun

Babington House Pool Swim Bun

Back in the room, we opened a bottle of champers, but before you could say “Pop, fizz, clink!” I was already in a clawfoot tub full of bubbles, where I had a good long soak before dinner.

The bathroom was stocked with shelves of Cowshed products, so no shortage of goops and creams to daub on.

Babington House Bathtub Clawfoot White Tiles

Babington House Bathtub Bubbles

Dinner was A-OK. Candlelight, dainty flowers on the table, the universal Soho House playlist audible above the din of the orangery. It felt a bit like going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, surrounded by other couples.  But we are far too diffident to canoodle publicly at the dining table. (As my husband likes to chide, “We’re English, not savages, Sarah!”)

Instead, we sipped our Babington martinis (amazing, with Noilly Prat, Tokaji and grapefruit oils, by the way) and nearly choked with laughter piling up a tower of mussel shells, a perilous house of cards of molluscs, which eventually gave way and sent a few shells toppling to the floor!

Most-meal pastimes, such as pool, were on hand, but we found we were happiest in the Study sipping Moscow Mules by the fire.

Babington House Lobby Mirror Flowers

Babington House Games Room

Babington House Study Fireplace Light

Babington House Study Fireplace Drinks

Yes, it’s a chain and not really a country club in the true sense, but Babington House is a great choice for a relaxing and romantic weekend.

I can say I was actually sad to leave. But London missed me, I had to get back! Lots more city adventures coming soon…

All-Day London Brunch

It’s a well known fact that January is a month for New Year’s resolutions, detoxing, hitting the gym, and swearing off booze and other forms of excess.

At least for some people it is!

For me, it’s about “how am I going to get through the bore and chill of another wintery month in this great city when most of my friends are off on a wagon ride somewhere?”

So my enabler and I hit the town on Saturday chasing the perfect all-day brunch.

Pearl Bracelet

Rocking my new arm candy, an oversized pearl cuff, and bundled up in layers, I set my sights north to Marylebone. Our destination was a London brunch institution, The Providores.

Leather Leggings Marylebone

Providores Downstairs

We bypassed the communal tables of the popular ground floor Tapas Room, and headed upstairs to the bright dining room. I need lots of elbow room when I have a breakfast this good!

Grilled chorizo with sweet potato and miso hash, a soft-boiled egg, garlic labne and star anise cashew nut praline

Grilled chorizo with sweet potato and miso hash, a soft-boiled egg, garlic labne and star anise cashew nut praline

French toast stuffed with bananas and pecans, with grilled smoked streaky bacon and vanilla verjus syrup

French toast stuffed with bananas and pecans, with grilled smoked streaky bacon and vanilla verjus syrup

I’m not normally a fan of sweet and savoury combinations, but this French toast had me changing my tune on that rule, especially as the syrup was so light and not too cloying.

Although the food is wonderful, The Providores is not the type of place you can settle back and linger over a long chat and bottomless cups of coffee. It’s very busy at the weekends, and once our plates were cleared, the wait staff’s expectant eyes were upon us. We didn’t feel rushed; but there was an inherent understanding. We get the picture; so it was “check please” and we were back on the streets.

Titiana's Garden Marylebone

Church on Wyndham Place

Ginger Pig

Smily Face

Cool Guy Cool Shwood Sunglasses

Walking to Chiltern

Now what to do? We strolled for a bit, then headed for a comfy place to chill with a decent wine list, Chiltern Firehouse.

Chiltern Firehouse bar

Chiltern Firehouse Wine Drinking

Crab donuts

Crab donuts

Fried chicken with bacon aioli

Fried chicken with bacon aioli

Spicy tuna tartare deviled eggs

Spicy tuna tartare deviled eggs

Chiltern Lounging Text Messaging

We spent the afternoon lazily chatting, nibbling (and even distractedly checking BBC football scores on our mobiles) – all perfectly justified ways to waste a January Saturday.

Sometimes you just have to shrug off the virtue of moderation, and enjoy a day of self-appointed gratuity! It sure helped this lychee martini go down rather well.

Chiltern Firehouse Lychee Martini

With the day well and truly spent, we retreated from our cozy den of inequity and out into the twinkling lights of Marylebone – after the perfect all-day London brunch.

Chiltern Firehouse Outdoor Front Garden Patio Pots

 

 

Roman Baths and Stonehenge

My parents are in town! Which is great because not only did I miss them, but now we get to explore around England together!

We set off for a day seeing Bath and Stonehenge, stopping along our route in the charming market town of Tetbury. Every Saturday, the 17th-century market hall comes alive, and I loved browsing the racks of vintage furs and rummaging through trays of antique jewellery.

Tebury Town Flag

Tetbury Flea Market England

Tetbury Market Fur

Above the market hall is a vendor selling a hearty selection of sheepskin and leather goods. We picked up two pairs of shearling gloves for £15! A terrific bargain for locally made products.

Tetbury Sheep Market Steps

Tetbury Sheep Market Skin Pelts

Tetbury Market Shearling Gloves

Tetbury Genuine Sheepskin Shearling Gloves

We piled back into the car and rambled through some beautiful countryside to the World Heritage city of Bath. Bath has special significance to me and my family because it is the sister city to my mother’s hometown of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia – also a historic resort town known for its natural springs.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Bath Cathedral

Our time in Bath was severely limited, so we made our primary stop the ancient Roman Baths. The ruins here date back to 60 AD when the city was a spa town called Aquae Sulis.

Bath Roman Baths Entrance

Bath Roman Baths View Down on Water

Bath Roman Baths Railing

Bath Roman View Cathedral

Bath Balcony Rail Roman Baths

Bath Roman Bust

The first Romans to come here were soldiers. Their architects and craftsmen built the Baths and Temple. Below is what remains of the temple front.

Bath Roman Baths Freize Temple Front Stone

Bath Roman Baths Sun Head God Freize Temple

People from local tribes, officials and priests, and traders from across the Empire began to settle here. Pilgrims travelled here. And monuments were built here.

This stone head probably decorated the tomb of a wealthy lady. Her hair-do was fashionable in Rome in the later 1st century AD.

This stone head probably decorated the tomb of a wealthy lady. Her hair-do was fashionable in Rome in the later 1st century AD.

Bath Roman Baths Source Waterfall

Bath Roman Baths Looking Up Inside Springs

Bath Roman Baths Surface of the Water Springs

Bath Roman View

Roman Baths Springs Private Area

Bath Roman Baths Sitting Springs

There was a fountain at the exit where we were able to taste the purified spring waters. It has a stinky sulphuric taste, but contains hundreds of times more minerals than your standard mineral water. I savoured a few sips, letting my body absorb the curative powers of the water. However, I won’t be giving up my Perrier anytime soon!

Our final stop for the day was the obligatory Stonehenge tour. It is, by far, one of the most moving sites on earth. I swear I can feel the energy in the air.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

When I came two years ago, you could park your car right across the street from the stones, then cross through an underground tunnel to walk right up to the site. Now there’s a new visitor centre, and a shuttle bus ride one mile down the road.

But same as before, the experience once we reached the site was equally breathtaking.

Stonehenge Green Grass

As much as the little wheels in my brain churned away at the thought of it, these stones and how they got here, and the reason why, is frightfully unexplainable.

Stonehenge Up Clsoer

Stonehenge Up Close

Stonehenge Portrait Gloves

Stonehenge Portrait

Stonehenge Portrait Audio Guide

Stonehenge Sunset

We walked the circuit around Stonehenge, utterly mesmerizing from every angle, the landscape changing like a kaleidoscope around it. A true wonder of the world!

Chelsea Physic Garden

After all the rain and record flooding plaguing England this month, the bashful sun finally peeking out was a welcome excuse to get outdoors! I decided to be a tourist in my own backyard, and paid a visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden. Tucked discreetly behind old brick walls facing the Chelsea Embankment, it’s the oldest botanic garden in London. And it swings open it’s gates for one week only in winter – to showcase the February blooms of the snowdrops!

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Snowdrops are winter flowering plants with delicate white blossoms. They are symbolic as blithe little harbingers of spring. There are dozens of varieties on display during Snowdrop Days – along the Snowdrop trail, and for sale in nursery.

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There's even "Grumpy" snowdrops!

There are even “Grumpy” snowdrops!

There are also multiple greenhouses around the grounds, including a restored Victorian fern house.

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Asteraceae, Olearia Nummulariifolia, New Zealand

Asteraceae, Olearia Nummulariifolia, New Zealand

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Founder, Dr. Hans Sloane

Founder, Dr. Hans Sloane (1660-1753)

The Curator's House

The Curator’s House

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Boranginaceae, Echium Bethencourtianum, Canary Islands

Boranginaceae, Echium Bethencourtianum, Canary Islands

Crassulaceae, Aeonium Castello-Paivae, Canary Islands

Crassulaceae, Aeonium Castello-Paivae, Canary Islands

Who knew so many verdant species of flora and fauna were thriving in this bleak chilly cityscape? The cold air was pricking my skin and burning my nose, so I had to dash to a cosy little pub around the corner for a warmer-upper. A wonderfully wintery day in the neighborhood!

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