Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Herts, Bedford and Buckinghamshire.

Ashridge Estate has miles of walks and forest though the Manor House is now a Business college. The National trust Cafe is a nice place to eat and has wonderful homemade cakes. There is a information centre and lots of things for the children like Easter Egg hunts.  The Monument at Ashridge can be accessed for a smal charge and although the steps are steep the view is great from the top.
 The Grand Union Canal passes through Hemel Hempstead providing interesting walks with plenty of bird life to watch. Herons stand guard on the bank of the canal waiting for their dinner to pass and kingfishers light up the trees like blue candles. You can often see horses in the Boxmoor fields facing the railway station and the canal has a number of pubs on the walk from Hemel Hempstead to Berkhamstead. The Fisheries Pub is shown in the above photo and   a Harvester by the station.

St. Albans Verulamium Park in the photo below shows the Cathedral peeping over the trees. The weather is so lovely today that it makes me think of picnics. Need to wait a little while yet I think unless I intend sitting in the car but Summer will soon be here. There is something really nice about a picnic in lovely surroundings, a picnic rug and the children playing nearby. St Albans park has a fantastic childrens play area, lake to feed the ducks and a great cafe. It also has Roman walls, a museum and a water play area.

Ashridge was pretty in the snow and a great place to walk. In May the Bluebells shower the ground and all year deer sneak over the golf course.

The Magnificent Dunstable Downs -

Dunstable Downs - Fantastic views, a visitors centre, National trust cafe with their wonderful homemade cakes. Free parking if you are a National Trust Member, £2 for all day if not. Plenty of benches to sit and just admire the world. London Gliding club is based here so you can watch the gliders sway in the winds. Colourful kites that families fly startle the birds and provide hours of fun for everyone.

Whipsnade Zoo is only a few miles away and is a partner of London Zoo. I have never been inside the Zoo so can`t honestly write about it but it does seem huge and has an impressive list of animals. The annual family memberships seem very good value and allow access to Whipsnade and London Zoo prices Family - 1 adult and up to 5 children £158.00 - 2 adults and up to 5 children £237. Children under 3 are Free

One of my favourite places to eat is the Abbots Kitchen in St Albans Cathedral it has a good childrens menu and lots of choice. When you step outside the door who can not be impressed by the Cathedral itself, even little ones like the huge stained glass windows and the glass cases showing photos.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

London NHS

Just a bit of banner about the NHS this is meant as light hearted.

I am 15 and I drank a bottle of cider so should I be treated as it was my own fault?  I am 40 and 2 stone over weight should I be treated as its my own fault?
I am 29 and I rock climb but fell and broke my leg should I be treated its my own fault? I am 19 smoked a bit and my head went funny. should I be treated?
I am 73 and a bit confused but like the old brandy should I be treated?
I am a runner and ran into a wall should I be treated?
I`m 20 and get very drunk every weekend but usually get home ok but this week I didn`t should I be treated? I like to go over the speed limit  whenever I get the chance should I be treated when I crash my car?
I`m a chef and burnt my arm it was my fault I wasn`t paying attention, should I be treated?

See the point? how dangerous is it to start saying people are not worthy of treatment for whatever reason, just where does that thinking stop. The NHS is not free it is only free at point of contact we all pay for the NHS and I would rather pay more then see it eroded.  It is a system, it will never be perfect but lets not try and exclude people.
Pictures of drunken young people flood the tabloids, then the questions start should the hospitals have to deal with them, should the police. YES! they should because at that point they are vunerable young people, have the talks another time, but don`t forget to include everyone else.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Inspire by hats

This photo taken by me of my sister in Cannes market last year trying on the colourful display of hats. Since then I have been  interested in the history of hats and what it says about the times we live in. As its fashion week next week I thought I would re-awaken this hobby.
The 12th Century book in the second photo was taken by me in St Albans Cathedral recently and while its not about hats, though it is beautiful, I noticed the following.
The wings on the holy figures in the pictures point almost straight up unlike the way wings are  portrayed in later works.  The wings reminded me of the conical hats worn by women throughout the world from 13th century and before. In the book above the devil is seen as black but still with pointed wings, could the black witches hat have developed from a black conical., the dunces hat.  Where women of status wearing conicals because their status was seen as closer to God. The hierachy displayed in stone on many Cathedrals does put kings up there with the popes and angels. Maybe women of status were indeed seen as closer to God even if they were considered less significant then the males of the time.
It is a bit like the chicken and the egg question isn`t it, which came first, fashion following religion or religion following fashion.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Magic of Fashion and Food

Fashion week is starting and who can not be excited by the thought of Kristian Aadneuks new collection. His Chimera clothes in 2011 influenced by Black Metal Music were sensational, teamed with long straight hair and ankle boots he stole our hearts.
The frenzied colour and movement of behind the scenes is addicitive, instantly you want to be involved even just to make the tea. The TiGi Urban creative team will be dressing the models hair and as this is such an important part of the whole look I can`t wait to see the creations. Hair like clothes has its own fashion history and speaks of rebellion, fun and independence without uttering a word.
Who can not be tempted to watch the front row for the  fashion famous the dark sunglass wearing elite who enter at the last minute. That is part of the fun of fashion week when your camera slips from the leather shimmering goddess on the catwalk to snap the cele sitting with her friends.
The live stage show has all the glamour and anticipation of  a dozen weddings as you wait to see the brides dresses. With Kristian you get a mix between a rave, festival and show stopping dynamic colour blocks.
Fashion is about the drama for me and I think in another life I would have worked in the theatre. I am definetly an observer though rather than a centre stage person put me behind a pen and paper, or a camera and I`m happy.
On March 6th I will be standing outside Westminister with many other people as we hand in a petition against the cuts in community care. I work with young people leaving care, I am also a volunteer at a food bank and homeless hostel. While fashion is vibrant and trend setting, fun and colourful it is superficial when compared to someone sleeping on the streets in sub zero conditions. This photo was taken on 8th February 2012  and shows the frozen lake at St Albans Park, the bench to the right had been a place to sleep for a young man.
Food is like fashion, we dress our food in colourful displays, we add and take things away, we make receipies and take photos. We know that just to live we would need a lot less artistic ways of cooking a cabbage or a steak but its nice. It fun and its interesting. Like fashion really.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Abbots Kitchen At St. Albans Cathedral

I am lucky enough to live near St. Albans in Herts, today I decided to return to St Albans Cathedral and its friendly Abbot Kitchen.
The food is mostly homemade with huge slices of cake, soup and irresistible three course lunch menus. A three course menu costs £13.95  and includes a hot drink. There is a separate menu for  children. If you only want a coffee thats fine too. It is waitress service and the staff are friendly and efficient.
I asked for a cheese and ham sandwich and this was served with a large amount of salad and a good number of crisps. The coffee I ordered black and it was very good coffee total cost £4.80.
I noticed they do a very classy afternoon tea served with the traditional cake stand full of scones, small cakes and cream, for a very reasonable £8 per person. The Abbots kitchen is open untill 5.30 pm and where else can you walk out the door and be in the wonderful St. Albans Cathedral. The Abbots Kitchen is actually in the Cathedral and it is quite special to soak in the history while sipping your tea. The Cathedral is very popular and so is the Abbots Kitchen so do try and avoid weekends.

Spend an hour roaming around the impressive Cathedral before or after your lunch. This 12th Century book is one of the Cathedrals most treasured possessions and sits in a glass case next to other anicient treasures. The lead glass window is from the middle ages.

Don`t forget to look up as you wander through the Cathedral, these Coats of Arms are up in the ceiling.                                                                
My Review of St. Albans Cathedral can be seen on

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Reviews and Travel Writing

I write reviews about resturants, days out, theatre, hotels and places of interest for:  and  you can see any of my reviews by putting Christine Reid in the search bar of the site. I enjoy writing and taking photos so it is  interesting to write reviews and see them published.
Here is a recent review I wrote about Venice which is published on

Flying from Luton Airport to Treviso Airport took two hours and then it was an hour by coach to Venice. My friend and I rented a one bed roomed apartment near St Marks Square for four days at the beginning of May. Renting an apartment near St. Marks square is a noisy option but it is worth it for everything is within reach. The wonderful Rialto bridge, museums and tiny art galleries as well as beautiful churches and winding alleyways. Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world and for me has never lost its power to enchant. Taking a speed boat ride up the Grand Canal, going under the Rialto bridge the stunning glory of Venice is all around you. The magnificent old palaces competing for attention with glorious gondolas, waterside cafes and beautiful churches. The waterbuses are excellent value and you can buy a two or three day pass which is then even better value. Luxury yachts parallel park along the wooden walkways, jostling for space with speedboats and working barges . St Marks Church steps bustle with locals, tourists, digital cameras and expresso coffee cups. Arriving at St. Marks Square for lunch the question would be which restaurant? The one with the piano playing sweetly while serving fresh seafood or the full orchestra and pizza Italian style. On a tight budget we went to the tiniest Mcdonalds at the back of the square to buy coffee but then sat in the square listening to the music. St Marks church sits dominating the right side of the square and its magic glows from the intricate painting to the gold topped domes. The paintings on the walls are spellbinding and the survival of the church in such wonderful condition is jaw dropping. The romantic reputation of this city comes alive as we take a ride in a gondola through narrow side canals and under tiny ornate bridges with people waving above us . It is a busy beautiful place. See it quickly as it feels like it will disappear into the water forever.
 The history is also staggering like the ghostly story of the black Gondola carrying the dead to Isola di San Michel the cemetery island during the plague. The long nosed white masks that were filled with pepper in the hope they would protect the living look spooky and menacing. As evening approaches we go to Lido island where a flat sandy white beach merges into the calm sea. The wonderful Victorian hotels stands grandly facing the ocean with their private beaches and bandstands. It is here we decide to have dinner at a pretty side street cafe with a set menu price so no surprises, and fresh seafood. We drank wine from glasses that have been hand blown on the island and bought cheap rainbow coloured vases to take home.

The wonderful St. Marks Church