Saturday, May 4, 2019

Best Asparagus, Vale of Evesham

Asparagus with mushroom and garlic filled pasta, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Photo Alison Plummer.©
Just the best asparagus ever from Revills Farm Shop. I enjoyed it with delicious filled pasta and parmesan. Why the best? It was just so tender! It was also a happy surprise as I really only called in to ask for directions to the wonderful, semi-ancient Tiddesley Wood*, but naturally bought a selection of fresh produce from the shop while I was there. The asparagus certainly looked inviting but I was seriously delighted later when I tasted it.

The British asparagus season is from March to June and Vale of Evesham Asparagus has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status under the EU protected food name scheme covering regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed. The PGI mark is awarded if produce 'has a reputation, characteristics or qualities that are a result of the area it’s associated with'.

Find farm shops, delis, greengrocers selling asparagus around the Vale of Evesham area including:

Revills Farm Shop at Defford near Pershore, sells only PGI status Vale of Evesham Asparagus and is close to Croome Court and on the way to the fabulous Malvern Hills, home of the Morgan Motor Company (you'll see many Morgans on the roads). There's a Farmhouse Cafe for light lunches and afternoon teas with a selection of yummy cakes daily. All-day breakfast at weekends.

Ellenden Farm Shop, Harvington near Evesham. 2019 Midlands Regional Winners for the Countryside Alliance local food and drink award, offering a wide range of fresh vegetables, fruit and other delicious local produce, home-farmed meats. Merguez sausages! The inviting cafe serves breakfast, coffee, freshly-prepared dishes, afternoon tea, cakes. Close to The Valley shopping and garden centre, Golls Garden Centre and not far from Coughton Court. The Ellenden newsletter is a lovely connection to the seasons and produce news in the Vale of Evesham.

Hillers Farm Shop, cafe, gift shop and garden centre with beautiful show gardens to wander through. Near 'Roman' Alcester and not far from Ragley Hall and Coughton Court.

Castle Nurseries Farm Shop on Broadway Road off the A46.

Fruit Salad 48 High Street, Pershore, an attractive town for shopping, bakeries, foodie haunts and cafes plus the wonderful Pershore Abbey, now a parish church.

Wayside Farm Shop on the Broadway Road between Evesham and Broadway, with a teashop.

Broadway Deli in beautiful Broadway village –  the great choice as a base for exploring the Vale of Evesham and the Cotswolds.

The historic Fleece Inn at Bretforton is the home of the National Asparagus Festival, asparagus auctions and many events during the season. (Great range of beers and ciders.)

The Round of Gras pub is named after the traditional rounds (bunches) of asparagus in the Vale of Evesham market gardening region. April-June asparagus menu as well as fish and chips and other pub grub and carvery days – traditional roast with all the trimmings.

Asparagus is on seasonal restaurant menus and find specialist produce in the shops. Abbey Butchers, High Street, Pershore, makes an asparagus pork pie and Vale Porker sausages with black pepper and asparagus.

*Tiddesley Wood near Pershore was once a deer park owned by the Abbots of Pershore, now managed by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. In spring the new leaves are bursting into life on the trees and there are carpets of bluebells, cowslips, violets and wood anemones. Shady areas are home to greater butterfly orchids, herb Paris, dog's mercury, violet helleborines.
Tiddesley Wood, above and below. Photos Alison Plummer.©

Big shout out and thanks to fabulous friends Fiona and Neil whose FB post inspired me to go hunting for Tiddesley Wood in the first place. I am so envious of your orchid finds – native orchids in NSW, Australia, are a passion of mine but  I haven't looked at the British ones, until now. Thanks also to John and Mardy for John's birthday celebrations at the Round of Gras, so much enjoyed. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Farmstead at Royal Malewane opens in the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa

Photo © The Royal Portfolio

This looks inviting! The Farmstead at Royal Malewane safari lodge is the latest addition to The Royal Portfolio with three Luxury Farm Suites and The Farmhouse – a three and a half bedroom villa offering private services. The interiors by Liz Biden, owner and Founder of The Royal Portfolio, are described as combining the contemporary style of The Silo Hotel and the capricious opulence of La Residence. Light oak, tin rooves, wrought iron and gentle hues of blue and white define the style with lively splashes of emerald and ruby. 

Photo © The Royal Portfolio


The Royal Portfolio collection of hotels in South Africa is owned and run by the Biden family and includes Royal Malewane in the Greater Kruger National Park, Birkenhead House in Hermanus, La Residence in Franschhoek and The Silo Hotel in Cape Town.

Source: Press release.


AGNSW Packing Room Prize Winner

Through the looking glass, by Tessa MacKay©. Photo: AGNSW

The Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) has announced the finalists for this year's Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes, the finalists for the Young Archie competition and the Packing Room Prize winner, Perth artist Tessa MacKay.  

The winning portrait of actor David Wenham, Through the looking glass, won the approval of AGNSW head packer Brett Cuthbertson (who controls 52% of the vote) who said he ‘loved the work’ from the moment his packing room colleague Stu, brought it to his attention. “I love the reflection of the glass and that David’s in a reflective mood too. We blokes have a lot to think about these days!” Cuthbertson said.

Newcomer finalist Tessa MacKay said she was ‘thrilled’. “David's thoughtful gaze in the middle of the work is a kind of anchor. The portrait is about stepping into David's world. I like to think that his somewhat pensive eyes, lost in thought, are another kind of ‘looking glass’ that we're peering into,” MacKay said.

David Wenham said he felt privileged to sit for MacKay who he met through her husband, a writer/director. "Aware of my fondness for sitting, people watching and general day dreaming, Tess had a very clear vision of what the look, feel and purpose of the portrait should be."

Now in its 10th year, the 2019 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes exhibition is proudly presented by ANZ. 

Source: AGNSW press release.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Why Brits Love to Kew

Dale Chihuly: Summer Sun. Photo By Alison Plummer.©
"It's going to get spicy," says the ticket person as my friend takes out a year's membership of London's Kew Gardens. He means really busy but, because of the new membership status, we are able to skip the queues that have already formed on this gloriously sunny and warm Easter Monday, experiencing that giddy rush associated with an upgrade!

In the gardens it's a seriously perfect spring day. The leaves are dressing the trees in fresh spring shades of green, the tulips are showy in their splendid attire. Multiple-headed narcissi are strewn beneath showy magnolias with petals like porcelain.
'Flaming Parrot' tulips, above, and below with Chihuly Paintbrushes.
Photos by Alison Plummer.©

We've come to see the gardens of course, but primarily the glass installations of Chihuly: Reflections on nature as legendary American glass artist Dale Chihuly returns to Kew with glass artworks including some never seen before in the UK. In the chat about membership and the crowds expected we have not picked up the map indicating the installations, so we set off on our own route, seeing many of Kew's  features along the way including The Hive, an incredible geometric beehive, resonating with vibrations of living bees in a hive at Kew.

Problem is, there's just so much happening at Kew that each feature is a story in itself. There are ancient trees and the Tree Top Walkway, the Palm House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory. The Marianne North Gallery is dedicated to the female artist who travelled solo in the late 1800s to paint plants in their natural settings. Families with kids also adore Kew – a new Children's Garden will open in May, designed as a fun interactive space in a setting the size of 40 tennis courts.

The entire Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is a UNESCO World Heritage site containing more than 50,000 plants in diverse collections in the grounds and in the famous glasshouses. The restored Temperate House, the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world, re-opened in 2018 after a five year renovation and houses over 10,000 rare and endangered plants.

The Temperate House is not only a landmark building but also a centre for study into the future of plant science and issues including climate change, drawing on more than 250 years of plant study. The Temperate House is currently home to many of the stunning Chihuly installations including some with a marine theme. On our way there we see a field of fritillaries and more Chihuly in white, purple and blue as well as these Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds (above and right) erupting from a long grassy bed planted with tulips.

What's fascinating to contemplate is that the exhibition will remain in place until October 2019 and so the outdoor settings will change seasonally from spring to summer planting followed by autumn colours. I think my friend will get more than her money's worth from her membership! Living on the doorstep, popping in for a look would be irresistible. As we leave after three hours there's still a queue - busy, OK spicy, indeed!

Chihuly Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds top  left and right.
Chihuly Neodymium Reeds and Turquoise Marlins, above.
Images ©AP
Ethereal White Persian Pond. Image © Alison Plummer. 
 The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, above. The Hive, below.
Images © Aison Plummer

All photos © Alison Plummer

Chihuly at Kew: Reflections on nature
 13 April – 27 October 2109
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Tickets and prices

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Run Away to Sea on a World Cruise

Newsflash: Considering a world cruise? This could be your moment with the potential for possible savings if you book by the end of this month.

'Myths, Marvels & Monuments: A Cultural Mosaic' is the title of Crystal Cruises 2022 World Cruise aboard Crystal Serenity with several embarkation/disembarkation options, from 86 – 116 nights. All-inclusive fares (cruise only) begin at US$37,989 per person, with segments from US$4,769 per person, based on double occupancy. Book by April 30, 2019, to save up to US$20,000 per stateroom on this voyage as part of Crystal’s Book Now Savings program, subject to availability and terms and conditions. See the video at Crystal Serenity World Cruise.

Source: Press Release, The Brandman Agency, Sydney

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Haute-Savoie: Annecy, Talloires, a magical alpine hideaway and mouthwateringly melty cheeses in France.

Talloires, France. Photo ©Alison Plummer
Sun-drenched and sparkling one minute, moody and brooding the next, Lake Annecy is beautiful and as entertaining to watch as any film as the light cycles across it through the day. Our vantage point is high on a hill above Talloires, a gorgeous village a short drive from the historic city of Annecy and home of the Michelin-starred Auberge du Pere Bise on the waterfront. 

Lake Annecy from Talloires. Photo © Alison Plummer
Talloires is a brilliant base for hiking, biking and watersports in summer with easy access to the ski fields and resorts of Chamonix Mont Blanc in winter. The village is also only half an hour's drive or so from Geneva Airport in neighbouring Switzerland, so it's easy to fly and drive. (easyJet.)

It would be so easy to just relax and enjoy the view, but there are places to go, things to do. A walk into the village for coffee and a stroll around the picture postcard waterfront for starters, checking out the bike hire.

Basecamp Cafe and Bike Hire, Talloires. Photo © Alison Plummer
Annecy is seriously beautiful, built around canals and the Thiou River and often described as the Venice of the Alps – a twee description, but you'll soon see why. Sitting in a cafe watching the world go by is de rigueur while the shopping is delicious French boutique style.
Annecy. Photo © Alison Plummer

Local produce markets are held on Tuesdays (the best day for cheese, I'm told), Fridays and Sundays with a craft market on the final Sunday of the month. Rain stalks us on our market visit, but doesn't diminish the vibrant colours and range of local produce from the surrounding Haute- Savoie region. Cheese is a speciality of the area, made with the milk of the cows and goats that feed in the alpine meadows of the mountains and including Comte and Raclette, melty cheeses used in dishes served on both the French and Swiss sides of the Alps. Tomme (or Tome) is the generic name for a range of cheeses made from cow's, goat's or ewe's milk - here,  Tomme de Savoie is made from cow's milk from local breeds such as Abondance.

Annecy Markets, above. Photos © Alison Plummer.
Cows feeding in the alpine meadows are iconic and we meet some for ourselves on a hike to the Mont Blanc viewing area. The mighty mountain (indeed the whole area) is shrouded in mist so we are not to view it on this day – but the delightful Chalet d'en O more than makes up for this with delicious food in a rustic farm setting. Since our visit it has become simply a B&B, but it's made for romance, just the place for a hideaway weekend.

Photos © Alison Plummer

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Hong Kong to Washington DC with Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000: Fly it then Bindu it.

Cathay Pacific welcomed the newest member to its fleet as the first of its 20 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft prepares to fly from Toulouse, France to the airline’s home of Hong Kong today on a blend of *biofuel

Eight of these aircraft will be delivered this year with the remainder to arrive by 2021. After initial rounds of regional services, starting with its first commercial flight to Taipei on 1 July 2018, the A350-1000 will launch Cathay Pacific’s new service to Washington DC on 15 September 2018, which at 8,153 miles makes it the longest on the airline’s network. This technologically-advanced aircraft will also serve Madrid, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, Manchester and Zurich from the coming winter. 

Cathay Pacific Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Paul Loo said: “We already have one of the youngest long-haul fleets in the sky, and with the arrival of the A350-1000, our fleet is only going to get younger. 
“The aircraft follows the successful entry of the -900 variant which has enabled us to expand our long-haul network at a near unprecedented rate, providing our customers with a wider range of non-stop travel choices, while at the same time strengthening Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s largest international aviation hub. Source: Press Release

How to Bindu it!

Read more about Washington DC and find free travel itineraries on Bindu Trips where travel expert Candyce H Stapen says the city 'isn't always and only about politics'!

For Hong Kong itineraries go to Beth Reiber's intuitive itineraries on Bindu Trips:

Cathay Pacific and Biofuel Technology

*Achieving carbon neutral growth from 2020 is an important target for Cathay Pacific and using alternative fuels is one of its pillar initiatives. Compared to traditional jet fuel, sustainable biofuel can reduce life cycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%. 

Cathay Pacific is also the world’s first airline to invest in biofuel technology. In 2014 it became an equity investor in US-based Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc., which focuses on turning municipal waste into sustainable aviation fuel. In May 2018, Fulcrum broke ground on its first commercial-scale plant in Nevada. When the plant begins operations in 2020, it will produce over 10 million gallons of fuel for airlines including Cathay Pacific each year.