Levens Hall—stunning topiary in Cumbria, England

By Sandra Hutchinson

Near Kendal, in Cumbria, on the southern edge of England’s Lake District, lies Levens Hall, with its extensive topiary garden, said to be the oldest and most extensive garden of its type in the world.

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Levens Hall itself is still a private residence, home to the Bagot family, but it and the surrounding gardens are open to the public (for a fee) from spring to fall. Photographs are not permitted inside the home, so unfortunately, I have none to share. The original home was built circa 1250 to 1300, and subsequent additions turned it into the sprawling manor house that visitors see today.

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A week in Beatrix Potter’s Lake District in England—a bit of heaven

by Sandra Hutchinson
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Many people know of Beatrix Potter, the English writer and illustrator, because of her series of beloved children’s books about Peter Rabbit and his friends. 

But Miss Potter (1866-1943), later known as Mrs. Heelis, was far more than a genteel Victorian lady who penned stories about woodland creatures like bunnies and hedgehogs and painted charming watercolors of them wearing human clothing. She was a naturalist, a conservationist, a scientist (a mycologist, to be exact), a visionary merchandiser of her products, a farmer who raised Herdwick sheep, and a far-sighted land preservationist. 

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Churchill War Rooms, London

by Sandra Hutchinson

If you’ve seen the recent movie The Darkest Hour, for which Gary Oldman won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his depiction of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II, you’ll know that some of the pivotal scenes take place underground, in what were called the Cabinet War Rooms. 

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This warren of rooms is located underground, below a government building just a few blocks from the Parliament building, in Westminster. It was the command center for the British armed services from 1939 to March 1945, when the German bombing ended. 

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Stopping by Liberty of London

by Sandra Hutchinson

Continuing with my posts about some of my favorite London spots, here’s the view inside (and one of the outside) of Liberty, the landmark London department store.

First, the building itself, on Great Marlborough Street in London’s West End— an imposing Tudor revival, built in 1924, using timbers from two sailing ships. Note the weathervane.

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Must see (and taste) in London: Harrods and Fortnum & Mason Food Halls

by Sandra Hutchinson

It might be a touristy thing to do, but when in London, many visitors feel compelled to make at least one visit to the Food Halls at both Harrods and Fortnum & Mason.

Harrods Food Halls are legendary. Located in a sprawling building on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, Harrods is now owned by the state of Qatar, but the Food Halls are still quintessentially English. The space is not only a feast for the palate, but for the eye, too, with magnificent tiled walls and ceilings, gleaming glass cases filled with everything from meat pies to Scotch eggs to locally-sourced shellfish to exquisitely crafted tiny cakes, smartly outfitted and aproned staff wearing straw boaters, and a seemingly unlimited selection of teas and biscuits. There are dine-in options (like the Seafood Bar and the Fish & Chips counter), and a vast selection of prepared foods perfect for a picnic in nearby Hyde Park (or in your hotel room).

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Diana: Her Fashion Story — exhibit at London’s Kensington Palace

By Sandra Hutchinson

While in London in May, 2018, I visited the popular exhibit “Diana: Her Fashion Story,” at Kensington Palace, the late Princess of Wales’s former home.

The exhibit includes outfits, largely dresses, worn by Princess Diana, and follows her style progression from tweed suits, tartan dresses and over-the-top “Dynasty” glam gowns to the more sleek, body-fitting and sophisticated attire that Diana was known for during the last years of her life.

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Historic Garden Week in Virginia

By Sandra Hutchinson

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At Morven, in Albemarle County, Virginia

If your interests run to historic homes and gardens, I urge you to request some vacation days, board your pooch or kitties, fire up your GPS and head to the beautiful Commonwealth of Virginia during the last week of April to take in some of the tours offered during Historic Garden Week. Now in its 85th year, Historic Garden Week is organized by the Garden Club of Virginia and offers tours in various communities over the course of eight days, providing glimpses into homes, buildings and gardens across the commonwealth, most of which are normally not open to the public.

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