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Archive for November, 2011

Sketchbook memories

Since the first day I attended Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, I have carried a sketchbook. My favorite medium for sketching is pure line – over the years I have developed a technique where I first draw in the line, and then come back afterward and beef up certain lines to give the subject matter more of a focus. It’s fun and it keeps me in the moment recording what I see and want to remember. My sketchbooks have also taken on more of a collage element in recent years, as I have mainly used them when I travel, and it’s a great way to integrate mementos of a trip including my favorite: MAPS!!! I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something about maps that you find along the way (not the ones you download off the internet that all look the same). Generic and local maps hold a lot of interest for me! I tape them into my travel journals now as a way of cementing the geography of the areas I’ve traveled through on my journey. Hey, you never know when you might need that map when you’re referring to something relevant at some point in the future!!

With that in mind, I would like to share a few of the sketches I did on this trip, as well as a few of the maps – cheerio!

This was the last night of our time in London and we were maxed out but we really wanted to see the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) and our son had told us about this cool show called Power of Making. We staggered over, our feet crying for help after walking all over London that day. We got there late afternoon and saw the show. As we were coming out of the show, we noticed a big bar set up in the foyer and some great jazz music wafting through the air! What’s going on here? Oh, it’s Friday night and it’s “date night” in London!! All the museums do the coolest thing – come have cocktails, listen to great music, look at amazing artwork and mingle with other cool folks who want to do the same thing! So we did!!! We had a couple of cosmos and sat in a huge room facing out to a number of challenging marble statues – the one above was closest to us. I had no idea of the name of the statue, but it looked like the easiest to draw out of the ones I could see, so I set about to draw it!!! I had the basic line elements sketched in and Richard was ready to leave. I asked him if he could please tell me the name of the sculpture to put on the sketch and when he told me I was rather surprised! I had not intended to draw a rape scene!!! But I must admit, her sad expression did account for something. Actually, if you consider that this piece of marble looked fairly close to what I have drawn, it’s down right amazing to think it balances on its own – that’s quite a heavy load he’s carrying!!!

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How could I have lived this long and never visited London? Thanks to Champlain College’s commitment to juniors studying abroad, Chris chose London and we, of course, HAD to go for a visit!! So much to see and do – how to choose? We just took it one day at a time and had a blast! Stayed in Kent (about a one hour train ride away) in a small town called Edenbridge at the Hever Hotel, next to the Hever Castle. So we were daily commuters on the train to Victoria Station and then primarily “tubed” it or walked around town.

Food highlights:

Hereford Road in Notting Hill – amazing menu! Appetizers we enjoyed were Roast Jerusalem Artichoke, Hazelnuts and Rocket (note to self: get some Jerusalem artichokes and roast them – divine!!) and Braised Cuttlefish in Red Wine. Main courses: Roast Pheasant with Lentils and Girolles; Braised Hare Leg with Carrots and Pickled Walnut. We passed on dessert, but I must mention a few of the options here: Sticky Date Pudding, Rice Pudding and Baked Fig, Buttermilk Pudding and Poached Quince, and Apple Crumble with Cinnamon Ice Cream! Very interesting that the chefs are preparing the food at the front door where you walk in – an open kitchen! They greet the customers as they enter! Considered by the foodies who we shared a cab with (met them at a bus stop!) to be one of the best restaurants in London!

–Wanted to go to Cow off Portobello Road (recommended by Fodors) for Sunday Roast, but when we arrived they were all booked up. Ended up across the street at The Westbourne and loved our lunch: Pumpkin soup with sage; Grilled sardines with baby spinach and beetroot salad (they call beets “beetroot” all over the UK); Steamed mussels with “chilli”, garlic, and parsley; Roast Welsh Black Beef, with roasted potatoes, carrots, green beans, Yorkshire pudding, and horseradish cream. Marvelous!!!

–Dinner at Chris’ favorite corner hang out in South Kensington, Builders Pub, offered some great food too: Deep fried whitebait with tartare sauce; Sweet potato and coriander “houmous”; Free range Gloucester Old Spot sausages with kale colcannon, and red onion gravy; Slow cooked Ox cheek with red wine pie; Roasted Barbary duck breast, sautéed cabbage, bacon and potatoes with red wine sauce. All delicious!!

–Another Fodor’s recommendation that really panned out well for excellent food AND great prices (3 course prix fix menu for L18 = $30) was Arbutus on Frith Street in Soho. Our group tasted and loved: Salad of beetroot, endive, quinoa, seeds, and grains; Soup of autumn greens, lemon and nutmeg; Chicken and smoked ell terrine, with a fruit relish; Lamb shoulder pappardelle with olive oil and Parmesan; Roast rabbit, cabbage and bacon; and Grilled Cornish mullet with white beans. For dessert we enjoyed: Soft meringue with custard and pralines; Poached pears, toasted rice ice cream with amaranth popcorn; and Cold chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream.

Cultural highlights:

The National Gallery – groundbreaking Leonardo da Vinci show was our goal, but sadly it opened the next day. Really enjoyed the Impressionist’s paintings in their collection.

The London Eye – great fun and great views of the city!

St. Paul’s Cathedral – along with the protests going on outside

Wicked! Brilliant, brilliant show! We were lucky to have scored great seats in the “stalls” for 1/2 price (L42 = $71)!

The Tate Modern Museum – we barely scratched the surface – you could spend weeks roaming around this vast museum which used to be a power plant. Brilliant renovation, huge rooms and installations.

The Tate Britain – saw a fabulous show of John Martin’s Apocalypse – he lived from 1789-1854 and painted huge monumental landscapes of biblical catastrophes and cataclysmic events. Perfect for those who are afraid of the end of the world! Amazing command of landscape elements, composition and depth of field.

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) – again vast amount of space. We focused on the show that Chris recommended on the main floor called Power of Making – a brilliant exploration of objects and arts and crafts made in completely new and unorthodox ways. The opening sculpture was a huge gorilla made up entirely of coat hangers. An innovative knitter made huge knitting needles (6′ long) and created a large cable stitch swath about 10’x20′ that used the wool from 18 sheep!

Harrod’s Department Store – a tourist destination for sure – and a cultural icon! We decided that at least 50% (if not more) of the customers were Saudis – many many women in head scarves with stunning make up! Enjoyed all the designer gowns and actually looked at a price tag on a pair of studded jeans – L1,300!!!

The Borough Marketplace – fabulous food vendors of all stripes and great food products! If I lived anywhere near, I would shop for all my food there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the slideshow of the rest of my photo memories from London and Kent.

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We just returned from a fabulous two week sojourn through Scotland and England! As always, editing the photos is quite challenging – there are just so many phenomenal sights to share:  today, Scotland – next, England.

Our departure from Newark Airport on October 28th was miraculously smooth, considering the next day a freak snowstorm blew through the Northeast and the airport was closed! We arrived in Edinburgh with a rental car awaiting us: stick shift Jetta diesel with the steering wheel on the right side. I left the driving on the left side of the road to my intrepid husband Richard who did a valiant job negotiating the many roundabouts we encountered on our 2 hour journey to our hotel in the Trossachs region (northwest of Edinburgh). As we got closer and closer to our hotel, the roads got narrower and narrower until they were almost one lane, with moss-covered stone walls and hedgerows defining the edges, no shoulders! I still consider it a miracle that we made it safely that day considering the lack of sleep traveling overnight!

Our hotel, The MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel overlooking Loch Ard, was originally a château which had been added onto over the years and “modern” 60’s time share units added somewhere down the line. Not much to look at from the outside, but once we opened the doors, the two bedroom, two bathroom unit was lovely with a big roomy living room, kitchen and dining room. It was a great base of operation for our week of exploration in Scotland!

We started our first morning in the elegant hotel restaurant with a full Scottish breakfast of eggs, haggis, black pudding, mushrooms, baked beans, sausage, tomato, and fried bread! Richard took on haggis as one of his culinary challenges for the first few days and ate it in many different forms at breakfast and as an appetizer at dinner. The name sounds revolting, and the description is sketchy too: (here from Wikipedia “Haggis is a dish containing sheep‘s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours.”) I must say I tried it with trepidation and was quite surprised at how tasty it was!!

Black pudding? Here’s another mystery food to me that was actually quite tasty, as well: “Black pudding, blood pudding or blood sausage is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. The dish exists in various cultures from Asia to Europe. Pig, cattle, sheep, duck and goat blood can be used depending on different countries.” (Sourced from Wikipedia.)

Baked beans for breakfast? I must admit, I’m a simple yogurt and granola girl, so I watched the guys (oh yes, we had the distinct pleasure of our son Chris joining us for our first few days in Scotland!) chow down at breakfast and I had wee tastes of the mystery foods!

The greatest pleasure we had was exploring The Queen Elizabeth National Forest in the Trossachs – the experience of being immersed in vast, stunning landscapes that awaited us just up the road and around a few precarious bends from our hotel: Loch Katrine (pronounced Kaatrin), Loch Lomand, and the epic views of the mountains that have been carved out by the glaciers. I hope you enjoy the pictures, which of course can never truly share the sense of grandeur, but attempt to do so.

Chris had to take an early flight Monday morning back to London, so we decided to spend a night in the heart of Edinburgh and explore the city as well. Fodors recommended the Scotsman Hotel, so I booked a Sunday night special that included a bottle of champagne and a bouquet of flowers, plus dinner and breakfast for two! Such a deal! And it was a spectacular room with a stunning view of the city, great food in the restaurant – the only drawback being getting to the hotel through the maze of streets in Edinburgh! And the next morning, despite our best efforts getting OUT of town was equally challenging (1 1/2 hours of driving in circles we finally escaped!)

The next leg of the journey was really at the heart of the trip for me: visiting the home at the heart of my Turnbull family bloodline called “Hassendeanbank” near the beautiful village of Melrose, one hour southeast of Edinburgh. We had arranged to meet a potentially distant cousin named Alan Turnbull who generously offered to drive us around to the important family sites. We found Hassendeanbank, which has been documented as our family home all the way back to my great great great great great grandfather Adam Turnbull who was born there in 1969! We then visited the family gravestone in Bowden Kirk Church yard (on Halloween day – crawling around cemeteries was perfect!) which lists my great great grandfather Thomas Turnbull and all his siblings, as well as his parents – thrilling!

The next morning offered an even more amazing experience of connecting with another distant cousin, still alive at 92 in her home that also has been part of the family tapestry since the 1700’s when her ancestors built the home, along with many other important homes including one for Sir Walter Scott!

We made a pilgrimage even further south into the rolling hills of the Borders Region to the town of Hawick (pronounced Hoik) to view the Turn-e-Bull statue, erected to honor the man who is responsible for the name Turnbull. Here is an excerpt from a page written by Wally Turnbull explaining the origin: “On a day that began like any other, William Rule saved Scotland’s beloved King Robert Bruce from death by wrestling a charging bull to the ground in the Caledon woods on the borderlands of Scotland and England. As a reward for his feat, William was given lands in Bedrule and dubbed Sir TURN-E-BULL (Turnbull). Centuries of persecution drove countless members of the Turnbull Clan out of their beloved homeland and forced many more to change their names in an often-futile effort to escape execution. The Turnbulls became Trimbles, Trumbulls, Turnballs, and Trumbles. The names may have changed, but the legacy has remained as strong as the man who turned the bull.”

Another highlight that day was lunching at Turnbull’s Delicatessen, founded in 1855 by James Turnbull – almost positive he is part of my same blood clan – more research to follow on this! Purchased a bottle of 8 year old Turnbull scotch to bring home, just because – not a scotch drinker, but when one of our clan comes for a visit, we’ll break out the bottle for sentimental reasons! Driving back north that day, we stopped at a mill where they sold tartans and I was able to pick up two swatches of my Turnbull clan tartans: one for dress and one for the hunt! Now I’m official!

The next few days held divine adventures hiking through the moors, experiencing the marshy earth covered with heather and peat! remarking on being in a vast landscape where there were no other humans, vehicles, or homes in sight! taking in the sweep of clouds running down mountains, rainstorms blowing through to reveal bright blue patches of sky and then the descent of clouds and mist again! An ever-changing landscape to delight the eye of the beholder. Scotland is a land of enchantment that I hope to return to again and again.

Enjoy the slideshow of magnificent Scotland!

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