Saturday, January 22, 2011


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"Pussycat pussycat, where have you been?"
"I've been up to London to visit the Queen."
"Pussycat pussycat, what did you dare?"

"I frightened a little mouse under her chair"

We visited London, but didn’t see the queen nor did we frighten any mice. We did have a great time visiting our Vaison neighbor who also has a house in Stamford. We knew that Jane had gone the extra mile in welcoming us when we saw this sign about 100 yards from her house.

We ate at some great pubs and also had wonderful meals at Jane’s house. One of the pubs where we ate was called "The Olive Branch" and was just a short drive from Stamford in a little village called Clipsham. I had a wonderful game terrine as the first course followed by a game casserole with juniper fondant potato and roasted root vegetables. Jane had the other option: prawn & crab cocktail and then breaded plaice, brown shrimps on buttered kale. Ellen chose from the regular menu and had fish and chips served with minted peas. (She managed to surprise an otherwise unflappable waiter by ordering broccoli as her entrĂ©e.)

After leaving the pub, Jane took us to the “Clipsham Yew Tree Avenue” where huge yews have been trimmed to a variety of images. There were yews that celebrated each decade of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, yews with animals and even one tree celebrating Neil Armstrong’s lunar walk.

 and as if ordered by the stage props people, there was a herd of deer eating and romping in the estate at the end of the avenue of yews.

The bookends of our visit to England were our first two flights on Ryan Air ( Our tickets from Marseille to London-Stansted were 10 euros each way. It is much cheaper to fly to London than to take the fast train to Paris. Ryan Air is the cheap-ticket airline. We carried on our bags (maximum 10 kilos per person – ONE bag per person. If you have two bags such as a carry on and a purse or briefcase and cannot insert the second bag into the first and still meet the weight/dimension requirements, you must pay 35 euros for the second bag.) Though no longer the only airline to do so, Ryan Air charges for water, drinks, food items, etc. (At one point, they joked about installing pay toilets but have not.) As the man seated beside Ellen said when he heard that we were first-time Ryan Air flyers, he said: “Welcome to the world of slum-dog millionaires.”

It had been 40 years since the last time we were in England. With cheap tickets from Ryan Air and good friends who enjoy showing us around, I know it will not be another 40 years before we visit again.