Jan 2017 - Haworth

A quick trip out to Haworth .  A Monday in January is a great time to visit Haworth; its the time when shopkeepers and residents actually outnumber the masses of tourists that will fill the streets to capacity once the holiday season settles in. I think this is the first time I have actually climbed up the steep main street and seen it totally empty.

Having just watched Sally Wainrights beautiful biographical film about the Brontes ("To Walk Invisible") I particularly wanted to take a look at how they had created and dressed the street. As Jacqueline demonstrates in the side by side pictures at the top of this entry, new fake front facades were built to hide the modern shop windows. The effect however in film is much more dirty and grimy thanks to excellent lighting and basically lots of rain.. Not much different then to a normal day  here.

Unfortunately I believe the parsonage set with its treeless graveyard and cobbled school street were torn down almost as soon as filming was completed - the set was not too far away on Penistone Hill where we later walked and admired the both bright yet sombre colours of the heather. The real Parsonage was both impractical and is also a little too grand looking, as the incumbent who was posted after the Rev Patrick Bronte had a whole new gabled wing added to the right hand side.

The Parsonage is closed during January to allow for maintenance and the essential cleaning of items etc to take place. Of course the shop is always open for all your Bronte merchandise - though I can't help wondering what the sisters would have made of the range of Bronte Liqueurs currently offered for sale other than how to keep them away from Branwell. 

As a postscript the Bronte Tandoori near the heritage railway station now has a rival in the ridiculous names for restaurants in Haworth list - as we climbed up  the main street a poster in a shop window proudly announces that the Bronte Burritos restaurant will soon be open for business.

Jan 2017 - New Years Day Waxwings

Drove out to the Assheton Arms for our New Years day lunch (Lobster for J and Teriyaki monk fish and Prawns for myself) .On the way we passed through Barrow; a few days previously a colleague of J's had mentioned that some Waxwings had been spotted feasting on the Rowan berries in the village. Unsure as to the precise location we decided to drive through trying to spot the red flash of any Rowan trees. As we turned the corner into the village it looked like the SAS had moved in to embark on a rather non-covert spying mission; lots of camouflaged men with long lenses standing in the open surrounding three trees at the side of the main road.

The birds are actually oblivious to all this attention, merrily stuffing themselves with the Rowan berries from the trees. There seems to be at least 50 of them, probably here in such vast numbers due to the extreme cold and lack of food in their usual Eurasian home.

Dec 2016 - Portsmouth, Chichester and Brighton Weekend

Dec  2016 Portsmouth, Chichester and Brighton 

A weekend for a musical festival allowed us to call in on Portsmouth and take a look around the HMS Victory, beautifully preserved at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Now dry docked and top masts removed (with no water supporting the ship the weight of the masts was actually causing them to sink through the structure). A new support system is being developed.

A very full & informative tour from Richard who was a great guide, showing us all areas of the ship (approx 1 hour).. Yes its expensive but it really is worth it.

Richards commentary brought the ship to life and we  thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience but watch your head on those beams !

Inspired to dig out and watch Master and Commander its quite amazing how Peter Weir incorporated so many background details into the film which we had explained during this visit - such as the removable walls and the sleeping accommodations for the crew.

It was a long though remarkably painless and traffic free journey all the way down but we didn't arrive until late in the afternoon and the light was fading as we started our tour. It seemed to add to the atmosphere but I would recommend you book in advance - we luckily managed to get on one of the last tours of the day.

When we emerged darkness had fallen and the ship looked beautiful lit by the floodlights. It was time to head on.

The following day found us in Brighton and then Chichester. We spent the afternoon on a cold and blustery Brighton Pier where we tried in vain for a while to remember the name of the Graham Greene novel whilst standing next to a shop that sold nothing but the damn sticky stuff! Brighton Rock.

Then off to Chichester, not too far away but as its Saturday and every town seems to be having a market day or festival it takes an hour to reach.

Finally we are enclosed in the warmth of a blessedly quiet Chichester Cathedral (everyone seems to be at the Christmas Market) with coffee, scones and clotted cream.

Victoria & Albert at the Grand Floridian

Now this is  actually an older review from a long lost blog entry that I'm transferring over bit by bit but I hope you find it interesting as it is a popular location. It was from one of our  Christmas trips - the perfect time to go to get a little sun and heat if you have the stamina to plan and deal with the crowds (not as easy now with the new FP system - in the good old days you could arrive at a park for rope drop and start stacking up those passes like a pack of cards)

The Foyer of the Grand Floridian was beautifully decorated and there was a live band playing carols on the first balcony. We had taken a late sitting at 9.30pm (very unusual for us and not our ideal time - but the V&A is practically a  sell out all year round and we had only booked the holiday quite late to escape the cold and wet winter); we were shown to our table and treated with fantastic service and hospitality until sometime after midnight.

We had discussed previously that we did not want to take the wine package simply because there were other wines on the list we wanted to taste, beautiful Sauvignons from New Zealand and Ripe full Zinfandels from the Santa Rosa and Sonoma areas of California.
We were seated in the area under the dome with 3 other tables of 2. Outside this were a couple of larger tables including one of 12 with the most wonderfully behaved children ever. AC was oddly set on the low side as usual despite the fact Orlando was having some of the coldest evening temps for decades so J kept her jacket over her strappy black dress for the first course at least.

After a tongue tingling Amuse Bouche to freshen the taste buds I had the terrine of Foie Gras with Pumpernickel Curls and Sierra Beauty Apple Chutney and J had the Jumbo Lump and Peekytoe Crab Timbale with Avocado Crouton. 

The  texture of the Terrine was  perfect, every ingredient worked with the other, never did one flavour shout out or overpower the others. If I close my eyes I can still taste it, mmmmm.
The next course was a Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin and Belly with Serrano Ham for myself and Nantucket Scallop with Shaved Fennel and Satsuma Tangerines for J.

I have to say the small piece of Pork Belly was a masterpiece in long slow cooking..Tender as butter but with a great strong meat flavour. J's was so good I didn't even get a look in ;(

Next - Alaskan Sable Fish with Florida Corn, topped with a garnish of wild mustard cress that was a taste experience on its own; just a slight criticism here, babycorn (oh dear). It seems to me to be one of the most useless vegetables on the planet, thankfully it had been cut in half. It seems to be a dinner party cliche vegetable that provides no taste, a poor texture and is the most bland insipid colour in the world once cooked.. The fish however was superb and wonderfully cooked, flaking yet still translucent.
Jack had the Kabocha Squash Cream with Hazlenuts in a mini Zucchini, this she declared as wonderful, with just a hint of spice, both courses so good that we totally forgot to take any pics of this course.

Next came the MacFarlane Pheasant with Porcini Pasta and Truffle Foam (nice and Christmassy - even some baby sprouts) and the Marcho Farm Veal Tenderloin with Laura Chenel Goat Cheese Gnocchi.. Beautiful and seriously rich and deep flavours.

The next course was a Baked Seckle Pear with Gorgonzola Dolce and there was plenty of Gorgonzola in the poached pear, and J had the Pineapple Passion Sorbet with Micro Mint. Nice and refreshing.

I then had the Grand marnier souffle and J the Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee. All of this was then followed by a scientific demonstration in how to make coffee using a vacuum, only I forgot to take a picture of the antique looking machine that was brought to the table.
In all the bill came to $274 (so you can see this was a few years ago) , including wine and service. The service and most importantly the dishes were exemplary in every way, the whole experience is given that touch of  Magic (all be it in a good subtle way).
Worth therefore every cent.