Where in the World is Capital Citizenne

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It’s been nearly a month since my last check in, so where have I been?  Great question.  

In the month of December I have been in London, Washington, D.C., my lovely island home in SW Florida, and then embarked on a whirlwind trip around the World visiting France, Morocco, China, Japan, Norway, Mexico and Canada before making it back to the U.K. for dinner, then heading to Hollywood, Main Street USA and of course, a quick safari in Africa before trekking Everest and heading back to the island.  

As you may have guessed, when I said trip around the World, I meant Walt Disney World.

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It was my first trip back in over a decade and it was just as magical as I remembered, and the perfect way to readjust to “real life.”

Thankfully, “real life” does not have to start until after the holidays, so until then, I will continue to soak up the Florida sunshine and snuggle with this furry face.

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So Much To Be Thankful For

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Though I may be 4,500  miles away from home and family, and unlikely to find the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on the “telly” here, it is still Thanksgiving, and as anyone who has seen this blog knows, I have so very much to be thankful for.

Not least of which was getting to celebrate the holiday with friends and a traditional feast of turkey and all the trimmings this past weekend.  We spent the afternoon and evening cooking, crafting and of course, eating.  A far cry from the turkey burger I enjoyed during my last Thanksgiving in London* it was an amazing meal (the arrival of Whole Foods in London has transformed the expat Thanksgiving experience) and a wonderful evening spent with friends.

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*That was also a wonderful Thanksgiving in its own way: I had an internship and had to work on Thanksgiving, but my co-workers (who knew it was my first holiday away from home) took me to lunch at the only place they could find nearby that served anything turkey (thus the turkey burger), had me tell them the story of Thanksgiving, and then promptly put me in the conference room with the international calling card so I could chat with my family on the holiday.  I still get a little teary eyed when I think about it.  

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In less than two weeks, I will be headed to Heathrow, with overstuffed bags to be sure, but also an overstuffed heart full of the wonderful people I have met and places I have seen. Rather than bore you with a laundry list of the many reasons I have to be overflowing with gratitude today, I will just say that I am so thankful to have had this amazing opportunity,  for the wonderful friends I have made along the way and especially for my friends and family who supported and encouraged me to take this leap (and continue to do so daily). Thank you hardly seems sufficient, but for now it will have to do.

To my dear family and friends, near and far, I thank you and wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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Autumn’s Last Hurrah at Chatsworth

IMG_9631The UK may have enjoyed one of its most spectacular summers in recent history this year, but for me, nothing can top this autumn.  There is something magical about the light here this time of year, it seems as if everything is light from within, and tipped in gold. So on a particularly beautiful day last week, I decided to venture north towards the Peak District and visit Chatsworth House.  One of the most famous and visited homes in the U.K., Chatsworth is familiar to visitors around the world from its star turn as Pemberley in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.IMG_9427The House was turned out for Christmas, depicting scenes from The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, but to be honest, I didn’t spend much time inside as the upper rooms were closed for renovations and, as I mentioned, it was one of those days that practically demands you spend it outdoors. IMG_9396

So I bundled up and ventured outside to enjoy the estate’s 105 acres of gardens, soaking up the beauty of autumn in all its glory. IMG_9548IMG_9512IMG_9530  IMG_9545

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Hogwarts at Christmas

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From the first time I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (yes, I saw the movie first, before reading the books, gasp!), I was hooked on the magical world of Hogwarts and the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione.  I subsequently read every word of every book, anxiously awaiting the next installment, and savoring every film.  My mom and I even ventured up to the Universal Studios Harry Potter theme park a few Christmases ago.  So when I woke up to a particularly cold and rainy day in London this week, I decided it was the perfect day to escape to Hogwarts (aka, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, where guests can tour the actual sound stages where filming took place, complete with original sets, props and costumes used in the films) conveniently located just outside of Central London (and easily accessible by public transport!).

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From the cupboard under the stairs, our tour took us to Hogwarts…

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…where we arrived to a great feast in a delightfully decorated Great Hall.

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Dumbledore and the rest of the faculty and staff were on hand.

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Harry’s original robes from the first film were on display in the Gryffindor section of the Hall.

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Speaking of Harry’s robes, here’s his Invisibility Cloak in the Gryffindor Common Room

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Dumbledore’s office and Hagrid’s Hut (fun fact, most of the canine actors that portrayed Hagrid’s dog Fang were rescues!).

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The Borough, home to the Weasley’s and of course, Diagon Alley.

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Getting to walk down this set was a treat!  Then we moved on to darker places…

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Voldemort’s robes were the only ones that were not made of heavy materials, they were made of silk so that they would be more dramatic.

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Copies of the Daily Prophet, a few of the (many) letters inviting Harry to attend Hogwarts, and the Marauder’s Map.

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One of my favorites parts of the tour was seeing the original sketches and miniature models of the sets.

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But the “showstopper” was the giant model of Hogwarts, used in the first seven films to depict the exterior of the castle.  The final film used a CGI version.

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The lighting cycled from day to night, highlighting the amazing detail in the model, with twinkling lights and miniature owls tucked away.

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I had a lovely (one might say magical) day in the world of Harry Potter.  If you enjoyed the series, I would highly recommend a visit.

The Prettiest Village in England

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Confession: of all of the beautiful, stately homes in the United Kingdom,  I really wanted to track down  the adorable Rose Hill cottage (and equally charming town) from The Holiday (aka the chicken soup of movies, pure comfort, and a bit underrated in my humble opinion).  Much to my dismay, I learned that the cottage wasn’t real, and the facade was actually constructed on a set in La-La Land, where most of the movie was filmed.  Dreams dashed, I was determined to find and visit the most charming village or town in England (complete with adorable cottages).

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After some research, I found that it is widely accepted that the “prettiest village in England” is Castle Combe, on the edge of the Cotswolds, near Bath.  And as luck would have it, it is only about an hour and a half’s train ride from London!  So, when I woke up on Tuesday to clear blue skies and sunshine, I hightailed it to Paddington Station to see if Castle Combe lived up to its reputation.

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In addition to being among the prettiest, Castle Combe must also be among the tiniest villages in England.  But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in charm.

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I spent the day wandering about, following paths both well defined and less so, climbing muddy hills as best I could in boots without any tread (I even succeeded in staying upright on the climbs down, somehow).

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It seemed like every time I turned around, I saw another pretty view.

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When my hands finally got so cold that it was difficult to take photos, I retreated to the lovely Manor House Hotel for High Tea.

 

 

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The tea was wonderful, the location was breathtaking, and the staff were incredibly kind.  I have no idea what the rooms are like, but based on my experience, I would highly recommend the Manor House to anyone wanting to visit the area!  They also have a Michelin starred restaurant for you traveling gourmands.

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I could have happily sat in front of their roaring fireplace all afternoon, the light was fading quickly and I had a train to catch!

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While I cannot say for certain that Castle Combe is the prettiest village in England (I haven’t visited all of the others, yet), it is hard to imagine a prettier or more charming place to spend a day.

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I went to Oxford (for a day)

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After my lovely trip to Cambridge, I was promptly informed that “Oxford is better.” The person who uttered these words has a reason to be biased; a friend from my Canterbury days, Ashley went to Oxford for graduate school (smarty pants) and, determined to prove herself right (or actually just because she’s really nice), kindly offered to show me around town, and I could not have asked for a better tour guide!

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We started at Pembroke College, where Ashley was a student.  It was a treat to get to go beyond the doors and actually see the inside of a college, especially one so pretty!

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Founded by King James I, the College is known for having a strong Boat Club and was where J.R.R. Tolkein wrote The Hobbit and the first two Lord of the Rings books while he was a Fellow.  Fun fact: the founder of Washington’s Smithsonian Institute, James Smithson, was a student at Pembroke

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My fabulous tour guide, Ashley

After getting an insider’s look at life as an Oxford student, I made my way through town to the Bodleian Library for their Reading Rooms tour, taking a few pictures along the way (naturally).

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Usually closed to the public,  Duke Humfrey’s Library with its rare books and the Radcliffe Camera Reading Room were stunning, and well worth the trip!  Sadly, photography is not permitted in the Library, but I was able to take photographs in the Divinity School, where the tour began.  If it looks familiar to you, then you are a Harry Potter fan! This is where they filmed the infirmary scenes from the first film.

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After the tour I met Ashely at the coziest pub I could imagine, the Turf Tavern, for a proper Sunday Roast.

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Then it was time to wander over to Hogwarts, I mean Christ Church College. Many thanks to Ashley for her patience as I continued to snap away.

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Christ Church Hall was the model for the fictional Hogwart’s Great Hall (sadly, no enchanted ceiling or sorting hats in the real one, but incredible nonetheless). The college is also the setting for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as Lewis Carroll studied and taught at Christ Church.

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After a walk along the river and a visit to the boat houses, we enjoyed a pint at the Eagle and Child, a favorite of Tolkein and his friend C.S. Lewis and their literary club, The Inklings.

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All in all it was a wonderful day with an old friend, I am so glad that Ashley and I have gotten reacquainted during my time in London.

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All text and images copyright © 2013, Capital Citizenne.  All Rights Reserved.

Bikes, Boats and Bridges: a day in Cambridge

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After a few blustery days here in London (thanks to St. Jude the storm), I woke to beautiful blue skies on Wednesday morning.  It was the kind of crisp, Autumn day that makes you want to buy new pencils and notebooks and go back to school, which made it the perfect day to visit Cambridge.  Armed with my camera, I caught a direct train from King’s Cross to Cambridge and in about an hour I found myself wandering the city’s cobblestone streets and passages, exploring the colleges, and criss-crossing the River Cam on it’s many bridges.

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In addition to being home to one of the world’s best universities and beautiful architecture, Cambridge is also home to more bicycles than I have ever seen in my entire life!  Dozens of bikes were outside every college, and there were hundreds of them “parked” at the train station.  It seems like everyone in Cambridge zooms around on bikes with big wicker baskets. (Note to self: must re-learn to ride a bike!)

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Trinity College, one of the University’s three royal colleges.  Alumni include Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon,  Prince Charles and more than a few handfuls of other notables!

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King’s College Chapel. The famed Choir’s Nine Lessons and Carols are broadcast from the Chapel by the BBC every Christmas Eve.

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Clare College and the River Cam

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The Mathematical Bridge (never being much of a math student, I do not understand the explanations I read about the engineering of this bridge, something to do with tangents.  I do know that, despite the arched appearance, the timbers are all straight and it has been rebuilt three times since 1749.)

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All text and images copyright © 2013, Capital Citizenne.  All Rights Reserved.