I'm in Birmingham as I write this, recovering from an amazing vegan Thanskgiving feast. More on that in a minute...
Two and a bit fabulous days in Liverpool with Claire. I slept through a good first evening, blissfully unaffected by the caffeine. Alas, that did not happen the second night!
On Tuesday, Claire and I decided that no visit of mine would be complete without a trip to a National Trust property. Dunham Massey! Unfortunately, I've come out of season for touring stately homes and going 'ooh' and 'aah' over all the plush furnishings and traditions. That being said, we enjoyed a brisk but just lovely walk around 'Britain's largest winter garden' which involved a whole lot of comments like 'What is that?' I can imagine that this garden must be lush and nicely informal in the spring.
On our way out, we went right up to the workers sitting in the garden ticket shed and asked them about the interesting plants/berries we saw in the garden. They wrote down names, pulled newspaper clippings off the shelves to show us. It helps to be here on down season. All the lovely retired people volunteering their time have something to do.
A walk around a winter garden requires one thing before exploring the rest of the grounds: tea. We walked upstairs in the old stables to enjoy a snack and a warm cuppa before heading back out in the cold. Nothing says England to me like a cup of tea in a stately home or churh. Nothing.
Off we went through the deer park, looking for the 150 deer that supposedly hide out in the park. We managed to see about 10, so that probably wasn't too shabby. It was as close as Claire and I will get to a safari for awhile, so we did the proper stare down and photo shoot. There were gunshots in the distance, so hunting season is on. After a nice little saunter around the park (we sauntered, indeed), an obligatory walk through the gift shop before heading home.
Both Tuesday night and Wednesday night, Claire hosted dinner parties and made such great food. Tuesday night we ate with her friend Carrie and her partner Claire. Wednesday night we at with her lovely family. So, so, so nice. To hug and meet people I have heard about but never met. To hug people I love and haven't seen for a few years. To sit in a friend's kitchen and cut veggies and talk and prepare for a small and cozy dinner party.
On Wednesday, I woke up a bit late (ahem 11:30am), but luckily Claire was at work. When I got myself put together, we went into Liverpool City Centre. She ushered me to a wonderful veggie cafe, The Egg Cafe. OMG. I had vegan lentil & apricot soup with garlic bread. Claire had tandoori mushrooms and salad. Just my kind of place. Not as bohemian as the veggie restaurant Claire and I visited in Copenhagen (Morgenstedet), but delicious. The soup was so large that I had no room for vegan dessert. Tragic.
On our walk around Liverpool, we came across the student demonstration against the raising tuition fees. Policemen on horses, on foot, in vans. Claire said they were reacting to the recent demonstrations in London. I just thought they looked cute and a bit silly. As a proper tourist, I took a picture.
We walked around the Docks, admiring the new Museum being built, and the Pierman's house. The museum had a nice looking garden growing. It looked like nobody had picked the tomatoes in awhile, but I refrained. The potatoes looked pretty ready, too... Then, off we went back to Huyton for dinner with the family and a nice long talk into the morning hours.
Thus ended my stay in Liverpool. Birmingam, Huzzah!
Jackie picked me up, and off we trekked to her house. She looked quite disappointed to be missing a day off work, so we indulged in some tea, some lunch, some much needed catching up, and Julie & Julia. Jackie and Eric just returned from a trip to Morocco, so I interrogated them over dinner. I'd like to go there soon, I think. Though my head goes: Morocco, Egypt, Morocco, Egypt. Anyway, off track.
Much to my surprise, we were having a vegan thanksgiving meal! Jackie chose some wonderful recipes online, and we set to making the dinner before Eric got home. It really was a wonder of a meal! Avocado with Raspberry Viniagrette, Mushroom & Chestnut Wellington , potatoes, baked brussel sprouts, and steamed veggies, and gravy. Much more decadent than I ever make myself for the holiday! With little turkey table decorations (thanks, mom), we had quite the spread. We sat on the couches in a food coma for a few hours.
Tomorrow, Jackie and I are off around and about B'ham. Causing trouble, no doubt. Jackie and I had a whirlwind eight hour visit when she was in Chicago last July for work, so it's nice to have a full 48 hours! Aye Caramba!
It's funny to think I've known Claire & Jackie sixteen years. How did that happen?