Fortnum & Mason, London

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher



Entering Fortnum & Mason reminded me of stepping back in time to the department stores featured in old movies. A store complete with glass candy jars, sculptures made of colored chocolates, free samples, an array of sliced meats sold by the pound, decorated Christmas trees, smiling staff, velvet overstuffed sitting chairs, the sound of Christmas music, shiny staircases and a fireplace. The display windows are breathtaking at Christmas time. Nothing in the U.S. compares to Fortnum & Mason.

The Holiday Window Displays


2015 Christmas Display Window



Window Display

Located in the Piccadilly Circus shopping area of London in the city of Westminster, Fortnum & Mason is famous for their holiday window displays which change with each season. In 2016, the theme was Together We’re Merrier incorporating unusual pairs using 3D sculptures.  In 2015, pictured above, Fortnum & Mason opted for a traditional scene complete with reindeer, instruments and festive food which was an instant favorite with kids.  Fortnum & Mason collaborated with Kristjana S Williams to create hand-painted geese, puddings and sweets. In June 2016, Disney took over the windows displays to promote the release of ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’. Disney is the first company to take over designing a window display for Fortnum & Mason in 309 years! The window displays captured Tim Burton’s version of the Lewis Carroll story using such props as a looking glass, chess piece, butterflies, teacups and pendulum clocks. No matter what season it is, the window displays are always a conversation for the viewers.


White Chocolate Ice Skates

There are some blog posts which have one or two main pictures. Not this one, there are so many fantastic pictures which capture the true feeling of Christmas at Fortnum & Mason. Just one of the many specialty items were the meringues, big, fluffy and made to perfection. They were absolutely colossal! For those of you who are not familiar, a meringue is a dessert made of whipped egg whites, sugar, salt, cornstarch, powdered sugar. When the powdered sugar is added to the meringue, it forms a pavlova (meringue cake). When making meringues, it is all about the stiff peaks! Meringues are often flavored with vanilla, almond, coconut by infusing with oils rather than using extracts. The staff are happy to hand out samples and it was my first time eating divinity.




Fortnum & Mason is best known for supplying high quality foods. The brand picked up recognition and saw rapid growth throughout the Victorian era. Even though they are more of a department store today, they continue to carry a variety of exotic, specialty products. More recently, in 2012, The Queen opened the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the fourth floor. Eventually new departments were created such as the Gentlemen’s department on the third floor. The third floor is also the location of a celebrated tea shop and several restaurants.


Fragrances~ Fortnum & Mason carries an exclusive collection of soaps, lotions and 1707 fragrances for men and women. In addition, they are an exclusive retailer for high-quality perfumiers. An example of some of the fragrances sold at Fortnum & Mason are Clive Christian No 1 for Women, 50ml at £450.00, Imperial Jubilee No1 costs £650 ($1043) for 50ml.


Christmas Time at Fortnum & Mason

Hampers~ Fortnum & Mason sells loose-leaf teas and world-renowned luxury picnic baskets, known as “hampers” in England. These hampers were originally sold to Victorian High Society events. The hampers contain Stilton Cheese, champagne quail eggs, and smoked salmon at a cost of £35 to £25,000.


Interesting Facts~ Fortnum & Mason began in 1705 by Hugh Mason as a small store in St. James Market. What is a British Royal Warrant? British Royal Warrants grants the retail establish the permission to advise that a specific product is sold to the Queen. These warrants can only be granted by Queen Elizabeth II, Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Whales to companies selling goods & services. In November 2010, PETA UK started a campaign against Fortnum & Mason’s sale of foie gras (duck or goose liverwurst). Fortnum & Mason is privately owned by Wittington Investments.


img_7040$$ Saving Tips~ Fortnum & Mason is an experience in itself whether you shop or not. Samples are available at the meat, cheese and confectionary counters. We chose to purchase very small, inexpensive items as souvenirs, plus we wanted the cute, green bag and the complementary gift wrapping which comes with all purchases. I purchased two Christmas bars of soap. Stop in to their tea house and have a cup of tea, after all, it’s Queen approved! We didn’t have a chance to sit down for tea at the store but we found a smaller Fortnum & Mason at Heathrow airport in Terminal 5. It’s the perfect way to end your trip before saying goodbye to London!


Fortnum & Mason Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport

A Blistery Day at Stonehenge


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.


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  

Roman Baths, England


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.


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.


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.