Thursday, September 19, 2013

The secret garden and high tea

9/10/2013

I'll have to admit that I got more sleep on the bus than I did on the plane, but I'm not sure about the quality. It took awhile to nod off, and the ride was not very smooth; however, I comforted myself with a few thoughts:
  • I had set my expectations low, envisioning that I might not sleep at all and should focus solely on letting my body rest.
  • Drum corps members sleep on buses and gym floors all the time - I could do this, right?
  • Lady Mary Crawley surely had to experience this but WORSE on an overnight coach service where she could not lie down. If she can do it, I can do it!
Well, we survived! The bus arrived at Victoria Station in London at 8:00am. We cleaned up a bit and grabbed a taxi to Paddington Station where we would meet the train to take us to Newbury, England. Near Paddington, we stepped into a breakfast café and feasted on warm "brown" (aka wheat) toast, fruit, and scrambled eggs. Then, we took the 11:18am train to the lovely town of Newbury, where we had two rooms booked at Rookwood Farm House. The taxi driver who took us from the train station to the farmhouse told me that he once taxied Dame Maggie Smith, and she sat RIGHT WHERE I was sitting <deep breath>.

When we arrived at the farmhouse, I was led to my room and told it was the bridal suite. I didn't bargain for that! When I stepped into the room, I was pleasantly surprised by a romantic little canopy bed, rustic armoire, and windows opened to a cool breeze, inviting me to drink in the gardens surrounding the B&B.

 
Despite the wonderful <insert limited/toss-and-turn/uncomfortable> rest I got on the sleeper bus, the bed looked too inviting to ignore. I took a two-hour at nap and then cleaned up to explore before another adventure: high tea. The gardens outside the farm house were an array of lovely flowers, along with a vine-covered wooden canopy and an attractive, rustic pavilion. I felt as though I was walking through The Secret Garden.





For my first experience with high tea, we strolled down the street to The Vineyard, known beyond Newbury for it's high quality food and service. If you know me well, you know I don't drink caffeine and there must be something more to high tea than tea.

There was.

We started with tea (senza caffeine for me), followed by scones and jam. Then, the waiter delivered two sets of finger sandwiches, each containing: salmon and cream cheese, ham and spicy mustard, tomato, cheese, and turkey. Finally, he brought out the fireworks:

 
 
My favorite treat after the scones was the peach sorbet in the cup made of delicate wood shavings.

Oh, and get THIS! Our waiter told us that he had served Dame Maggie Smith room service when she stayed at the hotel! That second connection basically means I'm next-of-kin, right?

As this was my first high tea experience, Lora charged me with trying high tea at a nice hotel in Dallas sometime to compare. Any interested parties?

The night wound down with a nice, hot shower and curling up with the Kindle, hoping for rest and sweet dreams before a day of excitement as we get lost in the world of Downton Abbey.

Favorites: canopy bed, pretty flowers, napping, scones

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