Lyme Park: Pemberly from Pride and Prejudice

Fans of the movie will know exactly what house this is. The whole reason we chose to head into York was so we could visit some of the movie locations where Pride and Prejudice was shot. I am obsessed with the book and movie (the BBC version with Colin Firth, that is). I remember the first time I read the book I was at a critical point in the plot when I had to go to work. It was painful to put the book down and when I finished I wanted nothing more than to discuss it.  No internet forums back then. 

Then I discovered the 6 hour BBC movie and fell in love again! It became my scrapbooking go-to movie, my need alone time movie, my "I am sick and lay on the couch movie." Even now, I will run it in the background if I am doing something else, but want the company of movie. 

Fast forward about 18 years, with a husband and daughter now indoctrinated we finally had a chance to see Pemberley. Lyme Park is the real name of the estate which claims my affections. The house and gardens are delightful though perhaps not as grand as some of the other estates in the county. I was giddy to relive movie moments as we walked the park and my husband was such a good sport to humor us.  Here's to making dreams come true! 

Making Chocolate Truffles

I can't believe I couldn't get either of my children to join me for this super fun activity--fuddy duddies! While in York we passed the Cocoa House offering a number of classes and the truffle making class was the only one that fit into our schedule, so I ditched my family for a couple of hours one afternoon to try my hand at chocolateering. 

A couple of interesting cooking notes--
First, we melted our chocolate with a hair dryer. It is a little more forgiving in a classroom setting as you can't really melt the chocolate too fast. 
Second, there isn't a whole lot that goes into truffles, it was like chocolate chips, vanilla and cream. 
Third, Those poo shapes blobs are what we rolled into balls for dipping. I've since read of a more efficient way of getting a ball, but in a classroom setting this worked fine. 
Fourth, before dipping truffles in chocolate, the melted chocolate must cool down just a bit. It is ready when you can touch your bottom lip and it doesn't burn. 

If you find yourself in York this is a fun activity and very (or should have been) family friendly. 

Silent Sunday

York Minster
Linking with Photalife


At last summer is here! Best birthday present ever, this year we boarded the plane heading for England where we will spend 3 weeks. First stop, York. York was settled by the Romans in 71AD, Constantine was proclaimed emperor here in 306AD, the Vikings left behind a city dating from 971 AD and the 14th century wood timbered buildings recall a time when the city had an open air slaughterhous called the Shambles. 

We mostly just walked around the city enjoying the church, Roman ruins, the ancient city walls and quirky neighborhoods. York is popular with the college crowd, so if you are there on a weekend night be prepared for lots of intoxicated youth. 

The York Minster was originally a catholic church, but during the Reformation it sustained much damage in an attempt to remove any signs of Catholicism.
Eliza and I broke from Bob and Eden one afternoon to try a proper English afternoon tea. We stopped in at Betty's Cafe Tea Room. The question I keep asking myself is, why haven't I tried afternoon tea before? The concept is so smart and given how we travel, eating late in the evening an afternoon treat is the perfect way to tide you over.  We enjoyed a selection of sweets, finger sandwiches, a Sultana scone and the best butter I've ever eaten. Honestly, I could do tea everyday.

Lastly, we visited the Jorvic Viking Center. It's a museum highlighting the Viking city found preserved in a peat bog. Inside the museum you board a ride, so to speak, and are toured around a reproduced city. You meet people along the way whose bones were actually found. You learn about their life, the kinds of foods they ate, the jobs they performed, animals they kept and tools they used. After the ride you will tour a museum of with 40,000 objects pulled from the mud. It was quite impressive. Make reservations ahead online to avoid line, no pictures allowed. 

Keukenhof--Oh My Word, AWESOME!

The whole time we lived in Germany I wanted to go to Amsterdam to see the tulip festival--it never happened. So when we booked our Spring Break trip to Amsterdam I thought, "finally!" Unfortunately, tulips arrive early or late depending on the weather and our trip ended the first week of April--about a week or 2 before the optimum bloom time. I literally checked the tulip report everyday and on the day we were returning to Saudi Bob dropped me off for a 2 hour run through the park. The fields were not in full bloom, but I got my fill and boarded the plane with my bloom bucket filled. 

The gardens are gorgeous and did you know there are over 1000 varieties of tulip--neither did I. To really take full advantage of the park you need more than 2 hours,  I'd recommend going later in the month and rent a bike to see the fields beside the park. Just know that everyone else is going to have the same idea and be patient as you share the beauty with a lot of other people. 


Having lived in Germany, I know a lot about WW2, but know virtually nothing about WW1. We took a day trip to visit Ypres, its fantastic museum and the trenches that date to 1914. 
St. Martin's Cathedral--The first church on this site was finished in 1370.
The In Flanders Fields Museum is housed in that building with the bell tower in the picture below. The museum is first rate! With the use of technology visitors can really connect with the personal stories told here. The retelling of Christmas Eve from the perspective of the opposing sides was really touching--even high school girls were tearing up.

Personal affects such as diaries, uniforms and mess kits humanize the war effort. Artifacts from a recently excavated bunker that lay hidden for 50 years are on display--you can even watch a video of the excavation. I can't say enough about the museum, it was that good.

It is hard to believe that these peaceful fields were once the sight of much pain and destruction.

City Exploring Ghent

There is one compelling reason to visit Ghent--it is Hubert and Jan Van Eyke's alter piece known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, found in St. Bavo's Cathedral. Painted by the brothers in 1432, it has been stolen 7 times, most recently by the Germans during World War 2. Kept in Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria it was then moved to a salt mine when air raids threatened the castle.  It was later found by a group of Allied Art Historians tasked with locating the thousands of precious works of art taken by the Nazis.  Today it is kept in a low light room where for a fee you can sit and listen to a recorded lecture on each of the panels, but no photos allowed. 
Ghent is another of these fantastic cities that just deserve to be explored. So much of its medieval past has been preserved in the architecture, it is hard not to be impressed.

"The history of Ghent begins in the year 630 when St Amandus chose the site of the confluence of the two rivers, the Lys and the Scheldt to construct an abbey. Nearly 1400 years of history are still palpable in the city today: a medieval castle surrounded by a moat, an imposing cathedral, a belfry. Nowhere else does one find so much history per square metre than in the historical heart of Ghent! From the year 1000 to around 1550, Ghent was one of the most important cities in Europe. It was bigger than London and second only to Paris in size.

Gravensteen, or Castle of the Counts, has an interesting history. The earliest structure on this site was a wooden fortress built in 11th Century. Gradually, wood was replaced with stone as the castle was expanded. Civic buildings such as court rooms,  and dungeons were added. Cruel torturous acts were preformed here to exact confessions from prisoners--one room houses the interesting implements of torture used and all I can say is, I am glad I didn't live in the middle ages. 

By the 18th century the castle had lost its usefulness and was slated for demolition. Viewed by the city inhabitants as a symbol of abuse and power plans were to level the castle, fill in the moat and build a road over the top. Lack of interest in the property delayed demolition. In 1865 the city turned its eye towards historic preservation and the castle, once slated for demolition, was eventually renovated and opened to the public.
National Geographic calls Ghent one of the most authentic Medieval cities in Europe.