Friday, April 15, 2011

Here comes the sun - 9,10 April 2011

With the mercury rising eight degrees above normal, and the hard-top removed from the car for summer, it was time for another mini-vacation out of London.

The whole of England was forecast to have a sunny weekend, so the only criteria for where to go, was where we could get a special deal on accommodation. The result was Essex. The clue in the hotel promotional material, was 5 minutes from Stansted airport. It was interesting to be at the receiving end of the noise from the many European holidays we have enjoyed, departing from Stansted!
But as we didn't notice the intrusion after watching an after dinner movie of the new London show 'Legally Blond' (must see the show now – the movie was hilarious), and the morning flights didn't seem to start until about 7am, it was not too bad. But next time we fly out of Stansted, we'll have to look down and try and spot the lovely spot we stayed in, an Elizabethan Manor house and picturesque 15th century church next door.

On Saturday we explored Essex in a circular drive from Ingatestone, going as far as the coast at Maldon. The RHS garden at Hyde Hall was just off the route, so called in to enjoy their spring flowers. They were opening an exhibition of African sculptures, with African dancers giving a spirited performance. The sculptures were stunning; all carved from various types of stone.

There were many lovely towns on the route, and after our favourite town of Maldon (which we have visited before), our second favourite would have to be the delightful sleepy hollow of Terling.

After a great nights sleep and breakfast in the delightful Tudor hall in our hotel, we set off for Grantchester, just outside Cambridge. Last time we visited, the queue at the famous Orchard tearoom, was so long, we were didn't bother to stop for tea. Today, we only made one stop on the way in Saffron Waldon – a wonderful old town, where we walked the town trail – so were in good time to secure the last table, and beat rush hour.
The lovely light scones were so huge, they constituted a meal in themselves. The orchard is relaxing, and people arrive in droves by foot, car, bicycle or boat – carrying their oars into the grounds. The tearoom's history pamphlet claim that 'more famous people have taken tea than anywhere else in the world', we may have to believe them, as we seldom see famous people when out and about, but a well-known TV face went through the orchard when we were there.

We devised our own route home, and hoped it would prove scenic. It did, and the best town off all was Barrington. Like the Orchard, time seemed to have bypassed it too.

There was time for one last stop on the way home, as we practically passed the gates of Knebworth House, we popped in the see how their gardens were responding to spring. The answer was, “not”; parts were looking good, but the daffodils were mostly over, and apart from some great tulips, the gardens won't really come alive until summer.

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