Thursday, June 5, 2008

Strawberries on a Hill and Swans at the Sea? England and Wales, 19 - 26 May 2008 (Written 30 May 2008)

I arrived in London late at night on the 19th, and went straight to Dani and Jorge’s house. Oh, and of course, the real owner of the house is their beautiful golden retriever, Gisele, Gigi, Gidioca…lovely. On the 20th Jorge was kind enough to cycle with me around Regent’s Park, we saw the Rose Garden, stunning Japanese and English Gardens, and I got to see the area around Finchley Road.

In the evening I went to meet Firas at Strawberry Hill, where we were staying on his friend Kirstie’s houseboat. On the Thames, no sound of traffic, lots of ducks and other waterfowl, eating up on the roof of the boat, gently swaying…it was magical. We spent the next day walking around the area, cooking very international vegetarian food, just being. Lovely lovely.

The next day we went to Richmond early in the morning and wandered around Richmond Park, which was quite impressive; it’s the largest urban parkland in Europe (according to Lonely Planet London) and it feels wild. Deer, rabbits, and other animals roam freely without paying much attention to the human intruders.

Then it was off to Paddington to catch the train to Cardiff. I arrived and Martin and Jenny were there, waiting. I absolutely loved my stay with them…on Thursday they took me on a walking tour of Cardiff, and Friday we did a walk down near Swansea (apparently Catherine Zeta Jones’ homeland); we went to Three Cliffs Bay and Rhosilli Beach, the later considered the best beach in the UK. It was certainly nice. What really impressed me was how many different shades of rich, full green there were…but then I quickly confess that it rains such ridiculous amounts here that if it wasn't this green I would be disbelieving.

Saturday was spent doing a quaint flat walk alongside the canal in Breacon, about an hour away from Cardiff. We trodded through sheep paddocks on the way back, which resulted in us having to nimbly avoid all sheep droppings, which meant more looking at my feet than the scenery around.

And Sunday was BBQ day, so staying at home and cooking for hours, followed by eating for hours. But the wonderful food gluttony started much earlier. Thursday evening was Penne Puttanesca, all made from scratch, Friday was oven roasted vegetables – lots of different vegetables – with sausage, Saturday morning we had paninis with grilled halloumi cheese, roasted red peppers, rocket, and lemon olive oil, Saturday evening was stuffed mushrooms and Moroccan lamb tagine. Martin is a fabulous cook and that is no understatement.

So Sunday was all about food. We were three people at home, and there was one couple coming over. So for a grand total of 5 people:

Yuri Salad (which actually is a variety of what’s now quite common in California) – beetroot, spinach, goat cheese, and mandarin

Avocado, Mozzarella, Tomato, Sun-dried tomato and red onion salad – this was GOOD

Rocket and Red Onion Salad with Lardons

Mango chili salsa


Good old Caesar salad

Pesto / Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Pita Bread and Tortilla Chips

Burgers and Pork Ribs

And lots and lots of beverage…I was in heaven.

To top this all off, we were going in the hot tub every evening, which we all referred to as the onsen…I really believe now that that is the hardest thing about me not being in Japan, I absolutely love jumping in and soaking and relaxing…Ahh I love Wales. Or, actually, I love Martin and Jenny’s house.

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