Summer in Brittany

We wandered over to Britanny – lounged about, saw Benodet, Quimper, Oceanopolis Aquarium in Brest and Parc Branfere, did more lounging. Many pictures were taken (dungeekin was a camera fiend and all these pictures are courtesy of and belong to him) but these are some of my favourites.

cherries

Chocolate Cherries, Quimper

huts

Beach Huts

icecream

Holiday Ice Cream

solitude

Shared Solitude

Banbury’s Independent (Shop) Spirit

The weather was too nice to stay inside today so I went out along the canal into town – took some pics, made some purchases along the way and shared it all over on The Banburian.

One of the things we like best about Banbury is that while it is well-supplied with the usual big name chains, there are also a great many independent shops – and offering a wide range of goods. What this means is that yes, I can go and pick up my contacts at Boots, or check out the sales at Debenhams but I can also treat myself (and others) to “won’t see everywhere else” handbags, toys, gifts and books, etc. I love Banbury’s Independent Shop Spirit.

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Spring has Sprung in Banbury!

According to Tennyson, ‘In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love’ – and that’s as may be but come Spring, this girl’s fancy turns to long walks, farmer’s markets, the garden and cheese.  At TransAtlantic Towers, we can tell that Spring has sprung because we have been replanting beds in the garden. Behold!

newbed_sideview

Between that, the fruit trees – we now have five! – and the “herb potting” marathon we have planned for next weekend, I feel very seasonal. Spring planting in NYC was more a case of sweeping the balcony off, cleaning the chairs and moving the jade plants back outside. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it was a lovely spot, as you can see below, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

balcony

I do miss having jade plants but we just do not have the right window for them here for wintering.

Another thing I miss about NYC in Spring – the ‘long walks’ season along the river. And when I say long, I mean long. It was not unknown for me to go from 72nd & 1st over to 110 & West End then turn down along the River to the Village all in one go. Still, plenty of walks around here – more rural than urban, of course but no complaints there.  I have a lovely canal to walk along here in Banbury.

banbury_canal

In theory, I could follow the canal and walk from here in Banbury to Oxford though I think that’s a bit far even for me. I’ll break it into sections, thanks very much and tackle it that way. Luckily, walking is a bit thing around here and the local council even produces a set of scenic walk brochure/maps for some of the more popular ones. So does the Walking in Oxfordshire website. All downloadable and free!

Spring is also when I once more became a frequenter of those staples of the Manhattan street scene – I love  the ‘one of a kind’ or ‘not often seen’ items you get at the outdoor markets. One of my favorite regular days out when in NYC is the Union Square market – the best place to get apples in all of Manhattan – or (if I can’t be bothered to go that far) the St. Stephen’s Market up on 82nd.

Union-Square-Fall

Luckily, Banbury comes up trumps for me there as well.  The canal walk will wait until we’ve had a few more days of good weather so the footpath can dry out a bit more but the weekly markets are only a short, dry stroll away.

Banbury has two markets – the Banbury charter market on Thursdays and Saturdays then the farmer’s market on the first Friday of every month. Both markets take place in – wait for it – the Market Place. There’s also an additional antiques market that runs along side the charter market on the 2nd Thursday of each month.  I’d also seen news that an artisan cheesemonger would have a stall for the first time. I love living in a place where the word cheese monger in in common usage. And so as this past Thursday was a 2nd Thursday and the weather was fine, I figured it was worth a wander in.

And I was right! I mean look at that fruit and veg!

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    market3a

market4a

I also scored the most amazing pair of cheeses from Curds & Whey, the cheesemongers. Well, they were amazing and so are these cheese: a black truffle cheese and an extremely mature gouda. That black truffle cheese is going to be made into an extra special risotto tonight.

cheeses

Rather than rush immediately home with my score, I also decided to check out the antiques market and see what the percentage of antique to junktique they had. And by saying so – I am in NO WAY dismissing junktique items as worthy. Some of my favorite things are such things. “Junktique’ – by my definition – is that which is old, vintage-y and/or perhaps something someone else would have just tossed. Not garbage by any means – just not ACTUALLY antiques. And I have to say, I saw quite a lot of things I might have picked up if I wasn’t walking home with two ENORMOUS wedges of cheese and a tiger bread baguette (and let me give a two thumbs up to Isla Jane Bakery for that AMAZING bread) .

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junktiqueA

There will more on the delights of Spring in Banbury to come but that will have to wait – for I have some cheese to indulge in.

New York City World Fairs

New York City has hosted two (well, three if you are fussy) World’s Fairs – an April historical highlight in both cases.

ny1939WF

The first opened on April 30, 1939 and the other one on April 22, 1964. Both took place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park (can I get a big whoop whoop for the borough of Queens!). There was a third fair – earlier than both of these and held before the whole “World’s Fair” moniker came into common usage. It kicked off in July 1853 and was held in what these days is Bryant Park in Manhattan. Much smaller and not really in the same league at all.

This gives you an idea of the look and feel they were going for in 1939

wf1939

It was in 1964 that the iconic globe went up

1965WF

Each World’s Fair has a theme and the theme in 1964 was “Peace Through Understanding” – and the flag of many nations were everywhere as were visitors from all over the globe. Lots of opportunity for cross border understanding. The exhibits themselves however were dominated by American corporations showing off their latest and greatest which was less about peace and more about “LOOK AT WHAT WE’VE GOT TO SELL YOU” – which you could convince yourself was in line with the dedication of the fair, “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.”

corp_pav1964

As of right now, there are no more World’s Fairs (now called Expos) scheduled for New York. But you never know … they come up every five years or so and no decision has been made for the ones post-2020.

Take Note of Americans Abroad

I’ve often observed that people of different nations and cultures vacation VERY differently. The word vacation is one way – Europeans “holiday” and “go on holiday.” Americans go “on vacation” and almost always as a noun, less so as a verb. But never mind. We can overcome these minor cultural differences and learn from each others.

This was the idea behind my latest piece “We think… we could learn a thing or two from American tourists” – it’s part of the We think …  opinion series in The Club, a monthly digital magazine sent to British Airways’ Executive Club members.

online-travel-agent

So take note of the Americans abroad. If you look beyond the cliches (and aren’t there cliches about all sorts of tourists?) and you might learn something about maximizing your vacation experience.

March in Marrakech

Marrakech – one of many places I never considered as a holiday destination until I moved to the UK and found them within easier reach (logistically) than from the States. So, when we found a great all inclusive deal to Marrakech – off we went. Me with my ebooks and dungeekin with his camera.  All pictures courtesy of and belong to him.

Festive, Foodie Banbury

While I was just back to NYC for a visit, it was a bit too early for a tour of the annual 5th Avenue Christmas windows.  That’s OK, I did the NYC Christmas windows from a distance last year and I can do it again this year, thanks this time to Time Out New York who have done a lovely round up of these annual holiday spectaculars. But it IS holiday time once more and I’m at home in Banbury and Banbury is all dolled up for the festivities. True, we don’t have anything like the windows at Barneys in NYC. But we have windows. Behold!

banbury_xmaswindow2

And not to be left out of the holiday fun, our new local Mexican eatery has Christmas burritos on offer. How can you say no to that? Can you get a Christmas burrito in NYC? I’ve never seen one.

xmas_burrito

In any case, it’s holiday time and a whole SLEW of new places have opened up in Banbury – some to keep everyone’s energy levels up for the last push to Christmas like Little Amsterdam (pictured below) and some to make finding gifts for even the hard to buy for, like Pink Pig, a recently reopened record shop- yes, RECORDS! The round vinyl things we use to have to slip in and out of cases. More on all these soon. Right now, I’ve got some gift wrap to organize. And maybe a pancake in the near future.

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Other places I’ll be checking out or checking in with over the next few weeks (especially that almost two weeks I’ve got off work at the end of the month). Some new, some established favs:

  • Books & Ink – because I can’t NOT stop in this store every time I am in town.
  • Naomi’s Cafe Bar – a cafe, art space, reading nook and performance venue all in one.
  • The Whistling Kettle – my favourite kind of coffee shop, a local one and one that tweets things like, “Writing a book? Our cafe has a cosy corner for creative customers.” How could I not love that?
  • Fresh Air Junkie – an outdoor store just opened relatively recently on Parsons Street, because a girl can never have too much fleece this time of year.
  • Buzzy’s Emporium – ’cause I saw an old tin advertising sign that REALLY spoke to me.
  • Abraxas Cookshop – because this baking thing is apparently not JUST a phase and I might as well do it right if I’m going to do it.

There are tons of other places too – many independents, well-stocked representatives of chains and – that’s even BEFORE we mention the whole mall thing.

Yes, I miss New York City this time of year – but I’ve got all new holiday habits and ‘go to’ spots here now.  And these days – with new places to try all the time – I’ll have more choices than ever.

Banbury’s Foodie Landscape

I’ve mentioned previously (quite a while back and I apologize for the delay) that one of the things we most love doing here in TransAtlantic Towers (as I always did back in NYC), is a bit of culinary exploring.

We discovered the delights of Daylesford Farm, I’ve talked about some of our favourite eateries and food shops in the area in Boppin’ Around Banbury, and mentioned some of the historical places to grab a bit in Bits and Bobs About Banbury.

But a new fabulous foodie find – Bakergirl – has brought me back to you once more.

breakfast_bakergirl

Looks yummy, right? Well, hop on over the my food blog – Fabulous Foodie and share the delights of a morning bun (think super light and delicious cinnamon roll but not), fantastic coffee and a space that would make a New York Real Estate agent weep for the commissions that might have been.

bakergirl_interior

Bakergirl Bakery in Banbury  is my first review of the growing and increasingly impressive foodie scene in Banbury.

 

Bits and Bobs About Banbury

Get Out & Explore,” Apartment Therapy said as part of their Guide to the Perfect Summer. As one of their prompts, they asked “What is Your City’s History?”

Well, there I had a dilemma of sorts. I could have done NYC (where I lived for decades) or Houston (where I grew up) or Banbury (where I live now). Upon reflection, I decided that New York City’s history had been done many times over and by far better folks than I. Houston’s history probably has too but as I recall its origins lie somewhere between a swamp and a land swindle, which while it SOUNDS good isn’t exactly edifying.

So – Banbury. And of the three, it is by far the oldest so I have lots of information I can play with. Being an American who a) travels extensively and b) lives in the UK, I am frequently in the position of being in places older than my entire home country. It entertains me as I “bop around Banbury.” Possibly I find these things more interesting than the locales as a result. After all, they live with it all the time.

Did I say old? You bet. I present the facts as I find them:

  • Founded : Iron Age. In 2002, the remains of a British Iron Age settlement were found – including buildings dating back to 200 BC
  • First settlers: If we mean a proper settlement – what we might consider approaching village or town status and not just a scattering of Iron Age circular dwellings – then the Saxons. 500 AD or so. The spelling as changed quite a few times since then (it was ‘Banesberie’ in Domesday) but the town’s name originates with the Saxons –  “Banna,” a 6th century Saxon chieftain  and “burgh” which means settlement.
  • Oldest Building: Well, apparently huge areas of town were wiped out in a fire in 1628 so only a handful would qualify I suppose. The Old Auctioneer pub (1570) describes itself as “the third oldest building in Banbury, having survived the great fire of 1628.” Guess I’ll have to find out about the other two.
  • Oldest Building, Take Two: Take your pick, really. Ye Olde Reinedeer Inn says they are the oldest pub In Banbury and that parts of the building (largely post English Civil War) date back as far as the medieval period. The Globe Room at the Reindeer is a panelled room which is of “historical significance” from an English Civil War perspective. Cromwell used as a base of sorts while laying siege to Banbury Castle (the last of several on the spot of the same name) and several Royalist trials were held there. When the original paneling was removed in 1912 (for shipment to a museum – it was later returned), a double barrel pistol was found behind it and it had an inscription that read, “Presented to Dick Turpin at the White Bear Inn, Drury Land Feb 7, 1735”

reindeer_inn

Globe Room at Reindeer Inn

  • Oldest Building, Take Three and Four: St. John’s Priory School in Priory Road is reputed to be all that is left of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist, founded early in the 13th century so that’s one contender for oldest building in Banbury. And if the markings on the Wine Shop are to be trusted (it says 1537), that’s another.

stjohns2

old_wine_shop

So my conclusion is that Banbury is full of Very Olde Things that predate New York and Houston by ages. It even had a castle – the not so imaginatively named Banbury Castle. Which survived (in one form or another) in place until Cromwell laid siege to it. Castle Quay shopping center now stands on on that spot.

Just an insight into life at TransAtlantic Towers – when I saw that Castle Quay sits on the site of Banbury Castle, I turned to Dungeekin and remarked that if I were Cromwell besieging said castle, I’m not sure putting my base for that a few doors down at the Reindeer Inn would be strategically sound. “Shouldn’t it be,” I suggested, “SLIGHTLY at a distance?” This led to a discussion of historical battle tactics – as it does. At least, it does here.

And yes, Banbury is the same Banbury from the English nursery rhyme “Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a Fyne lady ride on a white horse.
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes.

And that – as they say, is that. I shall definitely have to stop in again at some of these spots next time I venture into the town centre. These are just a few of the buildings that have caught my eye on piqued my interest but now I know a bit more about them, I may need to dig a bit deeper into some of the others pictured below.

sweetshoppe

coal_coke

cargo

abraxas


Sources:

  • History of Banbury on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Banbury
  • Banbury-Cross Website http://www.banbury-cross.co.uk/banhistory.htm
  • http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=63789
  • http://www.localhistories.org/banbury.html
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/oxford/features/2004/09/secret_oxford_01.shtml
  • http://www.banbury.gov.uk/Banbury-Town-Council/history__and__traditions-5569.aspx
  • http://www.banburymarketplace.co.uk/the-old-town/
  • http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/england/oxfordshire/banbury/map
  • http://www.hooky.co.uk/content/our-pubs/reindeer-inn-banbury.ashx
  • http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1912/07/18/100543292.html
  • http://www.ye-olde-reinedeer-inn-banbury.co.uk/pages/the-globe-room.php

Echoes of Gotham

Lots happening, lots happening and that is – in part – why there has been a delay since my last post. More details to come on all that but in the meantime, I went to Scotland on a road trip and look what I found!

newyork_villagesign_blog

Hilarious! Not in Scotland (we hadn’t gotten there at that point in the trip) but on the way up via Scarborough. Also on the way up, I found a bookstore that had me homesick for The Strand (though I admit, this one had a lovely cafe as well and the space was spectacular. It’s called Barter Books in Alnwick  and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

barterbookblog
I’ll be posting some more details on the roadtrip soon but I just HAD to share these two finds.