We’ve been back for a few days from our latest travel adventures in England. For days I have been wondering how to approach this travel post and what to tell you about and what you really want to see and read. There is so much!

I’ve decided to begin with what we call our “encounters.” And next week I will write about the specific things I love about England. Does that make sense?

This is, in a sense, why I travel. It is those spontaneous, serendipitous, chance encounters that shine through all the tiredness and adapting while in another country. I also think it is why husband and I are both drawn to (sort of ) staying in one place. We are not tour people for many reasons, but this is one of them. Local life and people is what we want to see.

We had an encounter almost every day on our most recent trip and I think these moments are what we will remember most.

A view to the outdoor tea room at Chelsea Physic Garden. I had wanted to see this historic garden !

The very first day we arrived in London, in the city, at 8 AM. We were, of course, jet lagged and feeling anything but energetic. And the worst part was the hotel was quite adamant that there would be no room available until 2 PM. Panic set in. This was the worst scenario possible!  Well, we set out to walk and headed to the Chelsea Physic Garden which, while further than we thought, was (just barely) doable. Oh no: it didn’t open for another 30 minutes. So we dithered on the sidewalk and happened to see an older woman chatting up a youngish man with a baby in a sac. We all got talking… He eventually left and the lovely, most charming woman continued to chat us up. Margaret. You can’t get much more British than that. She is 86 and, as it turned out, had worked in design all her career. She knew exactly of the Orla Kiely show I was headed to the next day. Oh she was a gem.


Chelsea Physic Garden Greenhouse

The greenhouses: built in 1906

Poppies of all colors but the red were outstanding.

We walked and talked and she finally led us to the National Army Museum and said to go on in to their lovely tea room. “You won’t regret it,” she said. And off she went. And yes indeed, it had lovely sofas where we could relax for an hour or so, and the most delicious home-made cakes and tarts and was altogether a refuge for us.

Cafe at Natl Army Museum

So many delicious totally homemade cakes and tarts, with a pot of tea, and comfortable sofa and chairs at the Cafe of the National Army Museum (who knew??)


The next day I went to the Orla Kiely exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum. I love walking in Bermondsey and had fun introducing my husband to the area.

Orla Kiely at Fashion Textile Museum

Fashion Textile Museum: you just know there will be lots of color inside!


View of her working desk area. A delight to see..


Even the chairs in the museum video room were done up just the right way.

I went to the show, was totally engrossed and then thought oh yes, I need to take some pictures and wouldn’t it be great to have one of me in front of a certain exhibit. So I asked two women who were nearby (it was not crowded) and one said oh yes, certainly. Well, it turned out that Patricia is from Paris; she and her husband are retired; she had been wanting to see this show for ages; she preferred to speak in French which was fine with me (!); and we exchanged emails etc.   I said I would be back over in October and probably going to Paris so maybe….

My new “friend” Patrice took this of me, showing my own Orla bag from 2006.


Another delightful encounter was at
Quarr Abbey

This a Benedictine Monastery on the Northern coast of the Isle of Wight, midway between Ryde and Ventnor. I, of course, particularly liked all the flowers. There was woman cutting and gathering all sorts of flowers from shrubs and perennials and we began chatting. She admitted she knew nothing of flowers or gardening, but was a volunteer and responsible for this “job.” And that seemed to be all there was. We walked and toured and then had the MOST delightful lunch at their outdoor tea room. But wait….as we were leaving to walk down the lovely country lane to the ruins of the original Abbey, she came running after us carrying a small bouquet of lavender! For you, she said, and turned around.




The old ruins; looking toward the Solent River and North


Yours truly showing an outfit I wore several times. Love those Scala hats and the Geox shoes!


The last encounter is perhaps the best: our hotel.

North House Hotel in West Cowes

I had found it on line after searching travel sites for days, looking at maps of the island, reading so many reviews, and trying to get a sense of place.

It was superb. No other way to describe it.  At the heart of this hyperbole is the staff. Not only were they so well trained, they were simply very nice people! Ellen and Kitty and Lila and Nadia: thank you. The cleaning staff, the bartenders, the chef, the gardener… you all made our stay the best ever. The hotel has only been open for, I think, four years. The attention to detail is everywhere. It is all very tastefully done and the public spaces open and inviting. Our room was lovely. We had a harbor/water view. We were there for six nights which I gather is unusual (many weekenders and short trips down from London.)


The view from our room


Bar area


travel to pool at north house cowes

Lovely and inviting heated pool!


eggs florentine

Eggs Florentine. A full breakfast, and an extensive pastry and fruit table, come with the room .


tea service at North House Cowes

Tea service in our room! Yes, I was in heaven.

If you have any questions about the information here, please do contact me.  These travel encounters were perhaps easier to experience because we were all speaking English…and yet…an yet. And there were more. A truly lovely and unique experience at the church service we attended. A couple at the hotel.
I hope, when you travel, you will experience a similar chance encounter; savour it; remember it!