I do believe that you all have guessed which country I have been visiting. Yes, the photograph I gave you as a hint, a big hint, was taken in Lewes, in Sussex.
Most of my holiday was spent in London, where I tried to keep a balance between getting out to see lots of places and people, and also trying to have a relaxing time.
However, the day on which I attended the Country Living Magazine's Christmas Fair was quite a full day.
I arrived at Fair's Islington location not long after the doors opened for the day and found that a crowd was already assembling. the noise level was high. Lots of female CL fans seemed to be filled with excitement.
Just inside the entrance to the large, multi-tiered exhibition area, we were greeted by great whiffs of cinnamon and oranges that had been used to decorate a large sleigh carrying Santa.
Even the reindeer were covered in a potpourri mix. I pressed on with my plan to do a systematic tour of the entire Fair, and make a few notes in my Fair brochure of any particular exhibitors whose stands I wished to re-visit.
I found that my experience dealing with New York City crowds served me well on my tour. Years and years ago, I attended some of the magazine's first Spring Fairs, and very much enjoyed the opportunity to meet many famed craft makers and designers.
Decades later, it seemed to me that there was less to interest me at the Christmas Fair. However, I did connect with a very talented lady, Halinka, who makes intricate figures that she calls halinka's fairies. They are exceptional, and may currently be seen in many of Harrod's Christmas windows.
If any of you all plan to be in London before Christmas, I do recommend your having a look at these windows.
My photographs do not do these tableaux justice.
I could not resist taking one of Halinka's tiny ballet dancing hares home with me. His pose was based upon a photograph of Nureyev. Halinka told me that she began making these little figures to help fund her daughter's balled studies.
I did not stay too long at the Fair, and was glad to have the chance for a quick stop at the marvelous yarn shop, Loop, where I bought a few skeins of Jamieson's subtly colored Shetland wool.
Loop is a place that encourages knitters to share ideas and enthusiasm.
On another morning I traveled via the Tube down to Tate Britain to see the Late Turner exhibit. I have seen many, many Turner exhibits at the Tate, and was curious to see what this exhibit might add to my appreciation of Mr Turner.
As is often the case for me, my favorite parts of the exhibit were the watercolors and sketchbook pages on display. There were quite a few paintings in the exhibit that I didn't think were really Late Turner, but more like Late Middle Turner. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the show and was glad that it was not as crowded at the CL Fair had been.
I am also looking forward to seeing Mike Leigh's movie Mr. Turner.
From the Tate I headed up to the Hackney Road to visit Barn the Spoon and his tiny shop.
I walked to the shop from Liverpool Station and along the way saw increased evidence of changes coming to this area.
Some of the route shows quite a bit of gentrification, while other parts are resisting this transformation.
I enjoyed having a catch up chat with Barn about how his spoon carving and workshop endeavors are flourishing. I could not resist bringing home another of his creations.
Isn't this cherry wood spoon beautiful?
I do hope that your eyes are not getting tired. There are many more photographs to come. Perhaps you might wish to make a cup of tea.
The next photographs I will share with you were taken on my Saturday trip down to Lewes in Sussex.
I left from Victoria Station anticipating a journey of just over an hour, but a surprise awaited me.
Before anyone had come through the carriage to collect tickets, I heard an announcement that passengers wishing to travel to a selection of destinations, including Lewes, would be required to de-train at a station called Three Bridges (near Gatwick Airport) and continue their journey on a shuttle bus.
And so we did. The little red double decker bus's driver selected a series of winding country roads to take us first to Haywood Heath, and then on to Lewes. It took quite a while, but the scenery was wonderful. My Country Dreams came alive.
Finally, we did reach Lewes and I started my climb up the hill from the station to the cobble stones of the High Street and other interesting sights. I was glad to be wearing my comfy Doc Martin oxfords.
Since getting home to New York, I have yet to check the site on the above notice. I wonder how many older folks like me could manage the many steep hills of Lewes.
I took many photographs to record the fabulous cloud formations over the town. I was caught up in the spirit of Constable.
Lots of poppy wreathes and other memorial messages surrounded this statue.
The vistas were remarkable.
Lots and lots of very old buildings.
And wow again.
The angle of the midday sun kept one side of this street in shadow, while the other side caught the light.
On my way up to the Castle, I found this solitary rose.
I am very unused to this sort of natural splendour.
Tiny green sprigs are also beautiful.
This view, with handy bench, was near the Castle. Seems very Constable to my eye.
And also near the Bowling Green.
More contrast of sun and shadow.
There is nothing like this in my New York neighborhood.
Or this. Historic figure Thomas Paine is said to have lived here for a while.
As I was not sure how long my return trip to London might take, I decided not to stop for lunch in Lewes but rather to return to the train station to find out what the return journey would be like.
A motorway-suitable bus had been deputized, and so the trip to Three Bridges was much more speedy than the one on the red double decker. I was back to London fairly quickly and found myself back on the Tube.
I am always fascinated by the Tube advertising that are on the actual curved walls by the tracks. We don't have that in our NYC subways. I loved this poster and think that its designer might be a Lowry fan.
Another exhibit that I enjoyed was the Kiefer show at the Royal Academy. Large vitrines with strange floating ships were installed in the courtyard.
On Sunday morning the exhibit inside the RA was not at all crowded which was bonus for those of us wanting to take our time in viewing all on display. This was very different from my viewing experience at the Hockney show.
This was the view from my hotel room. A lovely city view.
I really love the Victoria & Albert Museum and am happy to be a member. I was also very happy on this trip to meet two grand blog pals of mine, Celia and Gina, so that we could see the Constable exhibit together and also continue our conversation over lunch.
I had not previously met Gina in person, but as I expected, it was as if we had known each other for years. Have a look at this beautiful rosy textile brooch that she made for me!
It was grand to see Celia again, and a treat to discover that she was giving me a set of her newest Christmas card designs, plus a set of covered buttons, employing Liberty Tana Lawn in a fabric designed by Grayson Perry.
It was so much fun having a day in a beautiful place with these two very creative ladies. I am already looking forward to the next visit.
This is a city view from Bermondsey Street, where I had traveled to see yet another interesting exhibit. Old and new meet in the frame.
The Fashion and Textile Museum is a small museum that is definitely worth visiting if fashion or textiles are amongst your interests.
I also liked this opportunity to see another part of London.
From Bermondsey, I hopped back on the Tube at London Bridge and headed up to Bethnal Green and the delights of my favorite East End restaurant, E. Pellicci.
It was a Tuesday, the day of the week that the marvelous chef Maria Pellicci makes her famous meatballs. I cannot tell you just how delicious these are, very light and perfectly seasoned.
I also cannot tell you what fun it was to renew acquantances with the legendary Juke Box Jimmy.
I have had the pleasure of sharing a table with Jimmy on several other occasions and comparing our appreciation for very fine rock and roll music.
On this most recent visit, Jimmy was wearing a badge given him at the BBC studios just that morning when he and Nevio Pellicci had been interviewed about the old and new East End and a bit of music, too.
I think that I surprised Jimmy by letting him know that I recently had my nomination of Smokey Robinson's You've Really Got a Hold On Me accepted on to Dotun Adebayo's BBC Radio's Virtual Juke Box. We are birds of a feather.
Pellicci's is an institution that I heartily recommend to you all. You'll be welcomed by beautiful Anna who'll make you feel at home immediately.
Tony and Nevio Pellicci. You can see a marvelous interview with Nevio in the restaurant, if you click here.
I wish that I could visit Pellicci's every week!
Bethnal Green Road intersects with Brick Lane and Brick Lane intersects with Hanbury Street where there is a ever-changing display of graffiti artists.
I always want to see what is new on Hanbury Street.
And lovely window boxes.
Towards the Knightsbridge end of Kinnerton Street you will come upon the bijoux Patricia Roberts yarn shop. It was not yet open on the day I walked past, and so I did save myself some money.
Looking through the window bars at the new designs on display, I smiled to see the following cardigan.
It is made from the very same pattern at my own jumper shown in the following photo. I knit this one way back in the late 1980's from Shetland wool purchased from Patricia Roberts. It has a multitude of stitches and textures and six of the squares in the design's grid spell out my last name, Oakley. in all caps, of course.
On my last full day in London I had two special arrangements. At midday I met fellow blogger Lucille for the first time. I knew we would get along well, and we did. Lunch and an exhibit at the V & A, intermingled with lots and lots of chatting. Lucille, it was grand meeting you and I look forward to seeing you on my next London jaunt.
On my last London evening, I had the pleasure to attend The Gentle Author's book event at Waterstones Piccadilly. It was fun to be able to have a bit of a chat with TGA before and after he presented his magic lantern show of photographs from his latest publication, Spitalfields Nippers. Please do take a look at this book. The photographs are rare and beautiful and educational records of young folks who lived in Spitalfields quite a few years ago. And yet each photograph truly invites to to learn a bit more about the children in the pictures what what their lives were like.
And so I do believe that I have come to end of my vacation post. My flight from Heathrow to JFK was comfortable and safe and on time.
Since returning home, I am holding my memories of this trip tightly. Although the New York City atmosphere is calling to me, I am trying to rejoin this city's different pace gradually.
Thank you all as always for visiting here and leaving such kind comments.