A Blistery Day at Stonehenge

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There are no accidents, only unsolved mysteries

Stonehenge is actually a bucket list item for my husband. I have seen many documentaries on The History Channel, National Geographic and Travel Channels. While visiting London, we decided to schedule a tour two hours away to Stonehenge. It was a dreary day in December with blistering wind and mist. I highly recommend booking a tour if staying in London to take in the scenery along the way and enjoy a beverage without the worry of driving and directions. We hopped on a tour bus that picked us up at a nearby hotel and stopped at two other sights along the way to include Windsor Castle and the town of Bath.

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Bus ride to Stonehenge

There are so many stories and hypotheses about Stonehenge as the site was created by a culture that didn’t use any written documents.

Stonehenge’s ring of standing stones are located in Wiltshire, England. It is believed that Stonehenge was created 3000-2000 BC. The earliest phase of Stonehenge was the circular earth bank and ditch dating back to 3100BC. It is a mystery how the bluestones, also known as spotted dolerite, were brought 200 miles, from the Preseli Hills of Southwest Wales, to the area of Stonehenge.  Each stone weighs several tons and some predict the stones were transported by dragging while others believe they were possibly floated over water or a glacial act. The bluestones were present from the beginning phases and throughout the completion of Stonehenge. Stonehenge is thought to have possibly been a burial ground in the beginning, as human bones were found during the digging of the ditch dating back to 3000 BC. There is no evidence of how the stones were constructed to design Stonehenge and this is why there is so much fascination around the mystery. Many have suggested that the construction was supernatural due to the size and weight of the stones which would make it impossible for humans to have relocated them 200+ miles without a wheel or pulley system. In 1995 a team of 100 people decided to conduct an experiment using a sleigh along a animal fat-greased track carrying a 40 ton stone which was successful for 18 miles.

Interesting Facts~ Stonehenge has been legally protected since 1882. In 1986, the site was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Stonehenge is owned by the Commonwealth and managed by English Heritage Trust. The site is aligned facing the sunset of the winter solstice and the sunrise of the summer solstice. The design allows for a celestial observatory, which some believe was for the purpose of predicting the eclipse, solstice, equinox and other events of importance at that time.

There are newer theories which have surfaced to include the idea that Stonehenge was a place of healing, thus explaining the high number of burials. The thought isn’t that it was only a burial but more a of a multifunctional worship area. Analysis shows that remains have been found from other regions. Another theory is that Stonehenge may have been part of a ritual landscape to celebrate the past and recently deceased.

One of my most memorable observations was the size of Stonehenge. I had expected the stones to be much larger and taller than they were. Looking up towards the top of the formations is an awesome sight. It is mindboggling how the rocks sit on top of each other and have remained there, perfectly still all this time. The ring also seemed much smaller than it looks on documentaries. It was very quiet at the site, even though it was packed with tourists.

$$ Saving Tips~ You can walk along the grounds without paying for the guided tour or listening to a headset. If you’re visiting the site during the winter, be sure to bring an umbrella, jacket, scarf and gloves. We were SO cold, to the point of misery! We purchased souvenirs in the gift shop to bring back. I try to collect an ornament from each place that I visit. I was pleased that they sold a cloth ornament of Stonehenge which I could easily pack and bring home.

Stonehenge with Mom

Stonehenge with Mom

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life- and travel-leaves marks on you.” ~ Anthony Bourdain  

Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall!!!!

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“There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless” ~ Simone de Beauvoir

Many of us grew up watching the Rockettes perform at the Macy’s Day parade on Thanksgiving and a sneak peek of their Christmas Show on The NBC Rockefeller Center Tree-Lighting Ceremony. In my mind, the Rockettes are synonymous with wintertime, blistery weather, glitz & glamour and the holidays. One day as I was reading a travel magazine while waiting in a doctor’s office, I saw an advertisement for the Rockettes performing at Radio City Music Hall in the summer!!! It just so happened to be when we would be in Manhattan.

The summer show theme is the magic of New York and since this would be the first time my daughter and I would visit Manhattan, I thought what better way to experience the city.  The show had a storyline including many of the iconic New York attractions while using larger than life puppetry, detailed costumes and songs to include classics, new compositions, and pop music.

Since my daughter has enjoyed years of participating in theater, tap and jazz, I knew she would love the storyline about siblings Emily and Jacob who are lost while on vacation in Manhattan and take off exploring the sights without their parents. It couldn’t have been more perfect, as we had just been to the top of the Empire State Building and walked Central Park and Time Square that day.

Stage

Stage

Photography is not allowed once the show begins. We made sure to take as many pictures as possible prior to the start of the show. The lighting is extremely dim inside. Be sure to stop off at the bar to grab a signature Rockettes cocktail with a souvenir stir stick. They also have popcorn and non-alcoholic drinks.

The show absolutely blew our expectations!!! On tv it is apparent that all of the ladies are the same height as well as similar measurements. What we could not believe was the PRESICION. Not one dancer was off, not a hand, a finger or head turn, nod or smile. The timing, the sharpness, facial expressions along with their infamous high kicks were unbelievable. We could not believe that our tickets were $38 per person!! I have paid $150 for shows that do not come anywhere close to watching the Rockettes in person. At the end of the show, everyone was standing, clapping, cheering and we all had chills.

The Rockettes were founded in St. Louis, Missouri in 1925 and have been performing at Radio City Music Hall since 1932.

Foyer

Foyer

The Rockettes present five shows a day, seven days a week during the Christmas season. I would love to see their Christmas show! At every Rockettes performance you are sure to see the eye-high leg kicks performed in absolute unison in a chorus line.

3 Generations

3 Generations

Fun Facts~ 400 to 500 women audition each year. The Rockettes draw over 2 million viewers per year, as one of the most-watched live shows in the United States. The Rockettes have performed annually at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since 1957 as the last pre-parade acts to perform.  IMG_1004

$$ Saving Tips~ Try booking the matinee for slightly lower prices. All seats are fantastic due to the circle seating arrangement as well as the large screen projecting the dancers.

The Best Thing About Paris~ le Croissant

“Until I discovered cooking, I was never really interested in anything” ~ Julia Child

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Chocolate Croissant ~ Paris

IMG_5506Blog posts are inspired by so many different things. Sometimes, it’s just a picture that I reflect on. This post was inspired by a picture and then the memory of one food item. Travel is as much about food and aroma as it is sights and sounds. In fact, food is a huge part of traveling for me. When I think of Paris in December, it draws on the memory of freshly baked croissants, hot out of the oven in a small pâtisserie tucked away in an alley. I had visited Europe in May and September but never in the winter. Paris is very cold in December, even snowing the day we went to Reims. As we roamed the streets, nothing sounded better than a hot coffee, croissant and French onion soup. I think we lived off of these three items for a week!! What more do you need? A hot croissant is not complete without a coffee or espresso!

I am going to assume that everyone has enjoyed a hot croissant at one point in time. They are buttery, flakey and well-known for their crescent shape. Viennoiserie are puffy pastries that have been around since before the middle ages, made of a layered yeast with lots and lots of butter. Croissants should be light and airy not heavy and greasy. Everyone has had that hard, store-bought, greasy croissant at a banquet or conference and they are terrible! The key is eating them while they are fresh. Croissants are a popular item featured at Continental breakfasts. I have had the pleasure of dining at many high-end, five star restaurants and hotels and trust me when I say- nothing is better than a fresh croissant from a corner pâtisserie. If you go to Paris, you must try a freshly baked croissants. Rather than purchasing a croissant from the case at the pâtisserie, we chose to wait for the hot ones to come out of the oven, resulting in the picture below. Bliss! It’s equivilent to drinking chianti in Italy or paella in Spain~ a must. While in Rome…..

Interesting facts~ Making croissants are rather labor intensive and time-consuming. In the 1970’s, factories started making frozen, pre-formed dough which can be baked at home or by fast food outlets. This process is called croissanterie, which is completely Americanized. Today, 30–40% of the croissants sold in patisseries are made from frozen dough.

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Best croissant of my life! Paris, France

Usually when I blog about food, I attach a recipe at the bottom. When it comes to croissants I couldn’t find an “easy” recipe from scratch. Most of the recipes involved multiple days and anything over a couple of hours is not defined as “easy” in my book. For those of you who are craving a croissant and are willing to tackle this, I have posted a recipe which claims to only take 45 minutes just for you. Have at it! I will attempt this recipe at some point in time for myself and post a picture. Please feel free to post a picture in the comment section if you are brave enough to try this recipe. I challenge you!

Ingredients

  • 1 package yeast (2 & 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1cup warm water
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 3 1cups flour, about
  • 1 cup real butter
  • 1 egg white (beaten until frothy)

Directions

Proof the yeast in the warm water and set aside.

Beat egg yolks,stir in warm milk,sugar,salt, yeast mixture,and 2/3 cup of the flour.

Beat until smooth and set aside.

Cut butter into remaining flour until particles are the size of LARGE PEAS.

Pour in yeast mixture.

Mix lightly with a spatula just until flour is moistened.

Cover and chill at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

IT MUST BE COLD.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead lightly.

Divide into thirds.

Roll each into 16 inch diameter circle and cut into 12 pie shaped wedges.

Roll wedges starting at the wide end.

Place point side down on a greased baking sheet.

Cover with towel and let rise at room temperature until doubled.

Brush each with beaten egg white.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Serve warm or re-heat in low oven– not microwave.

Makes 36 small, but you can make as big as you want.

The recipe is courtesy of Barb Gertz at food.com and can be found at http://www.food.com/recipe/too-easy-croissants-72309

A View From the London Eye

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

London Eye

London Eye

Remember your first experience on a Ferris wheel? They have been creating memories for all ages around the world and remain popular for several reasons. Some passengers ride for the unparalleled views and the thrill of being high above, while others prefer the wind in their face while going around and around on a wheel.

In 2014, I wrote an editorial in Destinations Travel Magazine titled Worlds Best Ferris Wheels with Scenic Views. The London Eye was featured in my article, but at that time I had only researched the observation wheel. I am happy to say, 7 months later I had the opportunity to ride the London Eye myself!!

How did it all begin? The Ferris wheel is named after George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., who designed the first wheel for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago standing at 264 feet tall. The Ferris wheel is usually the first object that catches your eye when approaching a carnival, fairgrounds or amusement park due to its height.
Ferris wheels may be referred to as observation wheels, big wheels or giant wheels, which are basically one in the same. The term “observation wheel” refers to the phenomenal, panoramic views which can be seen while riding the wheel. The Ferris wheel turns at a fairly slow speed to allow passengers the ability to get on and off at the bottom, take in the view and snap pictures while riding. The modern observation wheels tend to be much larger and more sophisticated than Ferris wheels. Ferris wheels usually include the classic, two passenger, open air seating while most observation wheels offer enclosed, air conditioned seating for groups called capsules or pods. The picture below provides a sneak peak inside the capsule with hardly anyone in it- besides my mom! December is a great time to tour Europe as most people are no longer on holiday. We pretty much had the capsule to ourselves!
Inside the capsule

Inside the capsule

IMG_6639The London Eye stands at 443 feet tall and is located in the heart of London on the South Bank of the River Thames. Since the opening in 2000, the wheel has had several names to include British Airways London Eye, Merlin Entertainments London Eye and the Energy London Eye. Also known as the Millennium Wheel, it is the tallest in all of Europe attracting 3.5 million people annually. Take a 30 minute ride with panoramic views of the London skyline highlighting the Palace of Westminster, Charing Cross railway station centre, Waterloo railway station and Big Ben. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Windsor Castle. The London Eye has 32 capsules which hold 25 passengers each. Interested in reserving a private capsule? The London Eye offers an array of options, choose from the Champagne Tasting Capsule, Hotel Chocolat Capsule, Cupid’s Capsule, Wine Tasting Capsule, Children’s Birthday Party Capsule or create your own!

Riding the wheel is all about a view from the top! The anticipation of riding slowly, higher and higher until you reach the very top to take in the view is worth the wait in line. The picture below is from the top of the observation wheel on a cold, December day in London. Bliss
View from above

View from above

Ferris wheels are a great way to view cities from high above. They are fun for all ages and just keep getting bigger and better. On Labor Day Weekend 2016 The New York Wheel on Staten Island is expected to open at a height of 630 feet! In 2013, Dubai announced plans to construct The Dubai Eye, inspired by the London Eye, expected to reach 689 feet on the new Bluewaters Island.
Get ready!

Get ready, we’re going up!

Roman Baths, England

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The Great Bath

When visiting London, there were several sites that I wanted to venture out to. Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and the town of Bath to name a few. We visited in December, which is very cold, rainy and cloudy, reflective in the pictures. Bath is where I first sampled the true form of cider. Do not make the mistake I did, thinking it was the American version of hot, apple cider. It looks and smells just like the American version of spiced apple cider. The United Kingdom has the world’s highest per capita consumption of cider. The most notable difference between American cider and European cider is the alcohol content! In the UK the law states that cider must contain 35% apple juice whereas in the U.S. it must be 50% apple juice and in France, the cider is solely made from apples. The cider in Bath will knock your socks off, but anything hot was wonderful in December. A warm beverage is a fantastic addition to the Christmas caroling in the streets. The cider in Bath is served from a big copper pot, continually stirred. Perry cider, made from pears, is quite common in England as well. I would recommend grabbing a hot cup of cider AFTER touring the Roman Baths, just speaking from experience.

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The town of Bath, pronounced both as in moth, is located 97 miles west of London in the county of Somerset, England. The town is well-known for Roman-built baths in 60 A.D., which were created from bath stone and feature four areas: the Sacred Spring, Roman Temple, Roman Bath House and the Museum. Over 1 million tourists per year stay in the town of Bath to visit the baths and the Grand Pump Room. 3.8 million visitors come for the day per year. Visitors are prohibited from entering the waters as they are considered unsafe for bathing. The waters pass through the original lead pipes. Bath stone has a warm, honey color and is easy to cut, square and shape without crumbling. It is interesting that the Roman Baths are actually situated below street level. The buildings above street level are from the 19th century. Bath has their own sports team called Team Bath.

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The Water System

It is fascinating to view what the engineering was like 2000 years ago. This is a picture of the water system at the Roman Baths, which were naturally heated by use of warm water from the local springs that would enter through the water system. The Romans were able to design complex plumbing systems to provide hot water to run into their baths. Where does the water come from? The water comes from the rain in the Mendip Hills and then bubbles up from the ground at Bath Falls. The water then filters through the limestone between 2,700 and 4,300 meters, causing the water temperature to rise between 69 and 96 °C. The pressure forces the heated water to rise to the surface.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

In the picture above, you are able to see a portion of Bath Abbey, also know as the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint1505197_10152903067556838_6691900010662982068_n Paul, which is visible from all over the town. Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century and rebuilt in the 12th & 16th centuries as one of the largest perpendicular structures in Southern Western England, seating 1200. While the abbey is a major tourist attraction, it is also an active church, concert & lecture hall inclusive of hundreds of members. At the outdoor market, vendors sold locally made items for tourist to browse. Christmas is a wonderfully festive time to visit Bath.

Stormy Day in Bath

Stormy Day in Bath

Interesting Facts~

Jane Austen lived in the town of Bath in the early 19th century. The Roman Baths were featured in 2005 on the program Seven Natural Wonders as one of the wonders of the West Country. Bathing in Rome was considered a communal activity, not private as it is practiced in the United States.

Cheers, headed to Bath!

Cheers, headed to Bath!

$$ Saving Tips~

If visiting Bath for the day, it is best to book a tour from your hotel. If you are not staying in a hotel, than you can still book a tour and can be picked up at a hotel in town. We booked a tour and the pick up location was the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel. Our tour had several stops which was a 12 hour day. Shop around, compare prices and decide what you want to see in the span of a day. We loved the convenience of being able to have a couple of drinks and not have to worry about driving, getting lost or viewing maps. In addition, the tour guide was extremely knowledgable providing historical facts along the way. It is about a 2 hour ride from London each direction. We chose a tour that included wine (of course) and lunch. Many of the tours allow free time as well, so not to feel smothered or restricted. Be sure to inquire where the drop off location is. We assumed that it was the same as the pick up and after a very long day, we discovered we were on our own for a cab ride back to our hotel from downtown London.

Harrods ~ The Ultimate Shopping & Dining Experience, London

Harrods

Harrods

 

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Omnia Omnibus UbiqueAll Things for All People, Everywhere, Harrods Motto

IMG_6796 (1)I love the picture above which shows one of the confectionery display cases. It’s as if you’ve stepped into a movie, complete with staff in uniform and hats, bright and cheery smiles, and the ceiling laced with light fixtures every 12 inches. The cases, shiny and absent of fingerprints, simply go on and on for what seems like miles to include the finest of chocolates from all over the world. It is not just chocolates in the confectionery case, you will find an assortment of nuts, chews, Turkish delights, truffles, caramels, brittles, bars, mints, chocolate covered coffee beans, gold foiled coins, biscuits & fruits, pralines, alcohol-free selections, florentines, toffees, candied fruits, and hand-crafted selections just to name a few. It gives a whole new meaning to a kid in a candy store. Everything is exciting. Even when I saw something that was familiar, the packing was unique or the colors and flavors were original. Keep in mind, this is just the sweets section of Harrods.

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Harrods is located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge in London. Harrods is difficult to describe as there isn’t anything else in the world that compares to the 5 acre, 1 million square foot store with 300 departments within. Harrods was founded in 1834 by Charles Henry Harrod, it is the largest department store in Europe and the third largest in the world. While Harrods may not be the largest store, it is by far the most spectacular, displaying the finest products from around the world.

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Picture yourself walking around for hours and not fully experiencing the entire store. I found Harrods to be absolutely fascinating for several reasons, one of which is their dress code which was implemented in 1989. How many stores have a dress code? It is common for fine restaurants to require a jacket and tie, but this was the first I had heard of a department store requiring specific dress, not to be confused with their “afternoon tea dress code”.  The first time I had been to Morton’s Steakhouse, my husband and I were young and not aware that suit jackets were required. Fortunately, they had a closet full of jackets for people like ourselves.

To be a patron of Harrods, you may not wear ripped jeans, high cut Bermuda or beach shorts, swim wear, cycling shorts, spandex, flip flops or thong sandals, dirty or unkempt clothing, bare feet, radical hairstyles or exposed midriffs. While growing up, my grandmother told stories of when she was a little girl and wore gloves and a hat to shop at the departments stores in San Francisco and when boarding a flight.

Harrods is so much more than a luxury department store, inclusive of 32 restaurants, a personal shopping-assistance program known as “By Appointment”, a watch repair service, tailoring, pharmacy, beauty salon and barber shop, Harrods Financial Services, Harrods Bank, Ella Jade Bathroom Planning and Design Service, private events planning and catering, food delivery, wine steward, fragrance formulations, and arcade machines.

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Coffee assortments

Coffee: For all the coffee connoisseurs out there, Harrods sells the most expensive coffee & teas in the world! What are luxury coffees? For starters, the beans are hand selected. The coffee is scarce and has very low production.

Terra Nera is the rarest coffee in the world sold exclusively at Harrods. It is sourced from Quechua (Peruvian Andes) due to the altitude. The coffee beans come from coffee berries fermented through a cat’s digestive tract, creating a fragrant, flavorful bean with hints of cocoa, hazelnut, buttery body with a velvet finish. Six different grades of coffee are available. Grade 0 is the finest of all the beans which are hand-selected. If you’re asking, what do I get when ordering the Grade 0 coffee? The Grade 0 coffee is sold in a 24-carat gold-plated sack.  Harrods has arranged for each sack to be individually engraved and hand-crafted with the customer’s name by renowned and award-winning silversmith, Rebecca H. Joselyn. The customers who place orders exceeding 500g will be offered a complimentary coffee machine. Prices for Terra Nera coffee range from £140 to £6,800.

Shopping

Lulu Guinness Luggage

IMG_6807When it comes to shopping, I love luggage. Maybe is has something to do with my passion for travel or the ability to spot my bag as it comes down the belt at the airport? I don’t necessarily have the need to “travel in style”, but I know that I am fascinated by great, durable bags. With that said, I also am realistic in that there are very few items in which I can afford at Harrods, luggage being one of them. However, I still love to look. I took a couple of photos of luggage and texted them to my daughter as she shares the love of luggage. Did you know that Harrods has stores in two airports? Harrods is located inside Heathrow and Gatwick. Harrods luggage selection is broken down into four categories: Alpha Collection, Alpha 2, Arrive Collection, and Tegra-Lite. Harrods even has a section called Children’s Travel. What does all this mean? It is overwhelming  in the sense that there are over 20 brands of luggage at the department store. A few of the brands which may sound familiar are Samsonite, Lulu Guinness, Mulberry, Kelsey and Burberry. The imagine to the left is the Ted Baker line, notice the print on the outside continues into the lining of the luggage. The luggage is also available in light pink starting at £275.00 ($391) for the small size.

Let’s talk food

Harrods Restaurant, Rotisserie

Harrods Restaurant, Rotisserie

Harrods 1849 Lager

Harrods 1849 Lager

Dining at Harrods is an experience in itself, offering 10 classic restaurants, 12 contemporary options and 6 cafes. When dining at the Rotisserie, be sure to try the Harrods 1849 Lager. After a cold, blistery day in December, we ducked into Harrods for hot, succulent, free-range chicken, roasted over a flame. Sit up to the bar and watch the chefs cook your dinner and saute with flames, while listening to the clanking of pans, laughter, International aromas and languages fill the air. The décor at the Rotisserie dates back to the turn of the century. Try one of the specialty kebabs and side dishes such as roast potatoes and gratin dauphinois (potatoes and crème fraîche).

Harrods restaurants are categorized by Classic, Contemporary and Cafe. There are 26 restaurants including some familiar companies such as Cafe Godiva, Disney’s Wild West Cafe by Harrods, and Bentley’s Sea Grill. I love that Harrods is not super fancy, you can bring children and dine someplace fun. It is a great place to pop in and just have dessert or hot tea. This blog post would never end if I attempted to describe everything in the store but there are certain things that caught my eye. I thought of my daughter who absolutely LOVES ice cream, when I passed by the Ice Cream Parlour.

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Ice Cream Parlour, Harrods

Located on the second floor, the Ice Cream Parlour is decorated like an old fashioned soda parlor. Sit up to the counter, choose your favorite flavor and build a dessert! Items found on the delicious menu consist of freshly made sundaes, shakes and decadent desserts with an array of flavors. All 13 traditional gelato and sorbet flavors are made using only the finest of ingredients. Other places to find dessert are YooMoo, Cafe Godiva,

Inside Harrods

Inside Harrods

Egyptian Decor

Egyptian Decor

The most interesting part of touring Harrods were the two memorials of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed. The first one, a picture of the two behind a pyramid display along with a wine glass with Diana’s lipstick from her last dinner which was unveiled in 1998 and is located at the base of the Egyptian Escalator. The second memorial is located at the escalator by the door titled “Innocent Victims”. It is the first time I have seen a memorial in a department store. The bronze statues show the couple dancing on the beach under an albatross. The statues were unveiled in 2005 and are very peaceful and beautifully designed by William Mitchell, who was a close friend of Mohammed Al-Fayed, Egyptian multi-millionaire and the father of Dodi Fayed.

In 2010, Al-Fayed sold Harrods to Qatar Investment Authority  for £1.5 billion.

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Display window

Harrods at Christmas Time….

Window display

Window display

Just when you think it can’t get any better….visit Harrods during the holidays. Magical, like you’ve never seen before. The display windows are out of this world. Bright with color, music playing, gowns made of jewels, snow falling and the displays move. Absolutely spectacular! We rode in the taxi cab with the windows down in December (freezing) just so we could hear the music playing in the display windows. Parents with children, couples holding hands and people passing by, stop to look into the windows on a cold, dark evening pointing with excitement and speaking in various languages.

 

 

Interesting Facts~

In 1898, Harrods debuted England’s first “moving staircase”, known today as an escalator. Harrods is the only department store in Britain that has continued to sell furs. Female employees are required to wear six kinds of makeup at all times. Harrods has been connected with several high profile crimes over the years, including the 2012 theft of a £24,000 designer dress. A memorial statue of Michael Jackson was unveiled in April 2011 at the rear of Craven Cottage football ground and then removed in September 2013 on the orders of Shahid Khan.

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Dinner of a lifetime at Harrods!!

Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, Maui

 

Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm

Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm

Spanish Lavender

Spanish Lavender

When thinking about Maui, several things come to mind such as breezy beach days, The Sugar Cane Train, Maui Gold pineapples, wind surfing and fresh fish. After reading this blog post, hopefully you will think of lavender in a whole new light and explore the gardens at Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm while visiting Maui. The first part of the adventure, is the scenic drive up Haleakala to the small town of Kula, sitting at 4,ooo feet. Upon approaching the farm, I thought there was fog in the air and then realized that we were sitting in a cloud looking down on the ocean. We visited the gardens in October when the lavender was not as vibrant in color but the weather was nice and cool. Kula has a MediterraneanIMG_4797 climate consisting of drought-like conditions with a light mist, which allows the lavender to bloom year round. Kula has an average rainfall of just 25 inches per year which is surprising given its green glow. Lavender is not native to Maui, so how did it flourish into these gardens? Ali’i Chang grew up with his grandmother on a 20-acre farm on Oahu where he learned how to plant, prune, farm and fertilize. In 1989, he purchase a protea farm in Kula filled with gardens and flowers. Ali’i was given  lavender in 2001 by and friend and decided to plant it on the farm, which flourished in the climate that Kula offers. The rest is history.

The lavender flowers have a spiral shape and are held on stems, rising above the leaf. Some of the lavender plants display leaves with colored flowers at the end of the stem which are blue, violet or lilac in color and sometimes even blackish purple or yellowish.

Protea

Protea

lavenderDid you know that Lavandula (lavender) is a herb and is part of the mint family? Lavender is commonly found in Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Europe, northern and eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, southwest Asia to southeast India. The benefits of lavender….the plant is grown primarily for the production of essential oil, offering antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Lavender is mixed with herbs such as chamomile in aromatherapy. Lavender, when consumed in capsules, is used to assist with alleviating anxiety and sleep issues due to the high percentage of linalool and linalyl acetate. Lavender honey is created from bees feeding on lavender plants and is believed to help in preventing wounds from infection. Lavender flowers, once dried and sealed in bags, provide a fresh fragrance and deter moths.

Let the Lavender Treasure Hunt Begin

Getting the stamp at the Native Hawaiian Garden

Getting the stamp at the Native Hawaiian Garden

Secret Garden

Secret Garden

Admission to the farm is only $3.00 per person with discounts offered to local residents, seniors and military. Children 12 and younger are free. In October, the farm was offering free admission with a canned food item to support a local drive. Daily guided tours are available for $5.00 per person. We opted to walk around on our own, taking in the lavender aroma while exploring! Pick up a treasure hunt card in the store and wander around collecting stamps throughout the botanical gardens. IMG_4812After all of the stamps are collected, go inside the store and collect your goodie. The Lavender Treasure Hunt is a fun way to view the various gardens along beautifully landscaped walking paths. The farm has the most amazing overlooks and ocean views. The crisp air makes for a cool stroll, stopping along the way to take pictures of exotic, tropical flowers, plants and trees.  The 13.5 acre farm includes 55,000 lavender plants and 45 different varieties of lavender.

Scone time!

Scone time!

Saving the best for last….Lavender tea & scones!!! In an effort to promote sustainability, the lavender farm will generously provide a complementary cup of lavender tea or coffee when customers bring their own cup. There’s something to be said for sitting on the lanai, overlooking the gardens, while toasting lavender scones in cool, crisp weather and smothering them with butter and lilikoi jam.

Gift Shop

Gift Shop

Gift ShopBe sure to check out the gift shop on your way out. You will find unique items such as Lavender Raspberry Panna Cotta mix, bath & body products, teas & coffees, honey & jams, scone & brownie mixes, travel sets, jewelry, candles & soaps, essential oils, seasonings, aromatherapy and apparel.

Lavender fields

Lavender fields

$$ Saving Tips: We picked up the map at the General Store and decided to tour the gardens on our own, saving $5.00 per person. Research the property beforehand to ensure that you are not missing valuable information that may have been provided on the tour. Read signs along the way which indicate the plant types. Bring your own coffee mug to receive a cup of FREE lavender coffee or tea. This was a highlight of the trip to do with my daughter and dear friends. Create your own high tea memories for the simple cost of a scone.

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Don’t forget to bring your friends & family for a relaxing stroll through Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm

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