SWATCH: Mrs. Hedgehog’s Knit Shop

IMG_1336One of the joys of travel is squeezing in quick shopping expeditions to a wool shop for new knitting projects or a great book store. I had identified Mrs. Hedgehog’s Knit Bits in Cowes on the Isle of Wight before I left so I didn’t look for wool in Denmark. I also packed a few patterns that I plan to knit (after my disastrous assumption that I could translate Norwegian patterns when I got home).

It turns out that Google thought the shop was one place, and it was not. So I found my way there by asking other merchants on High Street until I found it on the corner of York Street and Mill High Road. It was the Big Woolly  Weekend and I was hoping to find a public knitting event to join. There wasn’t anything planned for Cowes so I focused on looking for yarn for a baby sweater.

Mrs. Hedgehog offers only acrylic yarn but in a great range of colors. The shop also offers everything you’d need for tools and some kits and patterns. I found a range of colors I loved and I might still have held out for washable wool, but the women in the shop were so friendly and helpful, I made a purchase.

 

24 Hours in Monterey, California

I had a little less than 24 hours in Monterey on a Wednesday-Thursday. Monterey takes some effort to get to since you have to get through San Jose traffic. Every time as I approach the peninsula I wonder if it really is worth it–and then I see the Monterey Bay and ‘yes!”

Ever since I saw my friend Jen’s photos of the penguin parade at the Monterey Bay Aquarium I have been hankering to visit. I lived in Pacific Grove in 1984-5 and when I return I like to eat at my favorite restaurants and check out favorite beaches and walks. A lot has changed in 30 years so some flexibility is needed.

I was driving up from Bakersfield after a business meeting, so I got there too late to eat at my favorite dinner place SandBar & Grill on Wharf #2. I checked into the Lone Oak Lodge on north Fremont Street. It deserves the good reviews it received on Trip Advisor: clean, comfortable and spacious in a good location for under $100 a night. After a long day of driving I was ready to stop. I made a cup of decaf with my in room coffee maker and checked my email on the free wifi.

After a great night’s sleep I checked out by 8:30 so I could try a new breakfast place, LouLou’s Griddle. It is located on the same wharf as the SandBar & Grill. It was a beautiful, brisk morning. The wind was already blowing so I was relieved to find hot coffee and a seat at an inside table. It is a popular place and once you taste the food it is obvious why. The food is excellent in addition to the classic diner charm in a great location.

I returned to my car and headed to Pacific Grove to enjoy the ocean views at Lovers Point. Pacific Grove was originally a Methodist church camp with many of the smaller homes built as cabins. Lovers Point was Lovers of Jesus Point. There is a trail and walks from Asilomar to the Aquarium in New Monterey. The views are incomparable with opportunities to see otters and other sea life.

I like shopping in the Pacific Grove village. Over the years some things have stayed the same, like the classic post office and library, and other things have changed. Holman’s Department store closed. You can still buy books at the Book Works shop. I discovered a new shop Tessuti Zoo with unique gifts and colorful crafts made by the shop owner.

I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a couple of hours of fun. (more to follow) I walked around Cannery Row and a ways down the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail. Next time I’ll explore bike rentals at Adventures By the Sea bicycle rentals at 210 Alvarado Street. You can cycle over 3.5 miles to Pacific Grove via Cannery Row.

I was ready for lunch around 1 p.m. and I really craved Gianni’s Pizza. Alas, they are only open for lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So I circled back to Vivolo’s Chowder House that I passed at 127 Central Avenue. It was a happy discovery. It looks unimpressive from the exterior but it is elegant and the clam chowder deserves its local favorite status.

I debated doing more in Monterey, but the traffic is always miserable going through San Jose at rush hour. I decided to drive back via Santa Nella so I could see how full San Luis Reservoir is and enjoy a less stressful drive. The reservoir is completely full and the hills are the greenest I’ve seen in 7 years.

All together a very happy adventure.

Remembering Yarn Crawl in Bergen

Reprinted from a 2013 Redesigning 49 post, “Sweater Countries” in honor of Slow TV an Evening of Knitting:

Tevis observed that I always seem to spend the most time in countries that are known for their wool, knitting and sweaters. He is right: Ireland, UK, Peru, New Zealand, and now Norway. Our last full day in Bergen it was pouring rain, so I left Tevis working in the room and I went on a yarn adventure. I started with the yarn shop closest to my hotel. It was well-lit and had great sample projects in the window. Nellfrid, the shop clerk spoke broken English and I said I only knew two words of Norwegian “tak” (thank you) and uffda, although I haven’t heard anyone say uffda. Nellfrid explained that uffda is more commonly shortened to “uff”, like the weather today, uff.  I really wanted to buy the yarn for a project in the window for Cameon’s daughter. Alas they didn’t have enough yarn or the pattern. Nellfrid sent me on my way with directions to a bookstore and another shop across  town.

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“Across town” is about 10 minutes walking. On the way I stopped at the Norli bookstore. It is strange travelling in a country where the bookstores are not a temptation (almost everything is in Norwegian). Good thing because bookstores still abound in Norway.  They did not have any interesting knitting books in English, so I ducked out quickly went to the yarn shop in the very touristy section of town that one blogger called “similar to JoAnn’s”. I actually liked the cosy basement full of yarn. The clerk spoke English and she explained that they did not have the full line of Rauma yarn and directed me to Husfliden. This is where I bought yarn in Oslo. Actually, not. The shops look identifical (same goods, type of displays, etc.) But the clerk assured me that they were not related. They had the yarn and the “recipe” I needed (insert sound of cash register). I am going to have an adventure using Google translate. Or I will impose on Susie and trade some services.

Now I was close to the train station and I remembered that there was a good coffee shop there as well as a yarn store called Norwegian Spirit. By now it was pouring. The coffee and chocolate croissant revived me. I also met a  delightful waitress Cecilie.  The Norwegian Spirit had some ready made traditional sweaters and some others made by the shopkeeper, a textile artist. They also had a recipe book from the original designer for Oleana Knits. (Insert sound of cash register here)  That led me to the Oleana flagship store. The factory is just outside Bergen. And wow! The designs and the prices are amazing. While skeins of wool are a bargain, ready made sweaters are not.

I was starting to flag Thought about jumping on the bus and going to the Knitting Factory and Museum but the rain and my soaked feet prevailed. I hit one more store where I was rewarded with a penguin.

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I practically skipped back to the hotel–I had such a good day. For a smallish town they have a lot of yarn shops. Nellfrid says knitting is very popular due to the weather.

Tevis was still working hard and I wanted to watch the Tour de France with company. I ventured out again and after a couple of tries I found Finnegan’s Irish Pub. The Pub Man, from Manchester with an Irish mum, loves Le Tour too. He was having all kinds of difficulties opening (no hot water, etc.) However, he was more than happy to set me up with the Tour on television–on the British sports channel so it was in English!–and at one point he locked me in so he could pick up parts. He popped in every so often to find out how the race was going. By the time Kittel won the sprint and the stage the pub was filling with customers. Lovely, lovely day.

Postscript:  I have learned the hard way… take patterns in your native tongue when you travel so you can wool shop for projects you know you can complete!

Swatch: Liberty of London

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Originally built in 1885 and opening to Regent Street, the store front was redeveloped using retired British naval ship timbers in the 1920s.

I have long drooled over the Liberty of London fabrics and clothing. It is harder to find the fabrics in the USA. J Crew carries some of the clothing. I have been to the fabric corner of Harrods numerous times to stroke and oogle the Liberty fabrics, the whole time not realizing that they have an entire department store near Oxford Circus!

I had just started the #5 Jane Austen walking tour (more on this in future blog), when I looked down Argyll Street and spied Liberty stores at the end of the street. I had to detour.

Starting with the stunning florist at the entrance, the entire place is a palace of beauty. My heart beat faster as I tried to take it all in. I quickly recalculated the day I planned. I was not going to rush through this store. I wanted to soak in every display, every lovely English item.

Liberty does not just carry their own brand. You can find Stella McCartney baby outfits in the children’s section and designer clothes throughout. I started in the stationary shop and looking at bags and scarves. Some of the prices were quite reasonable and some made me hyperventilate. I bought some notecards and decided I may as well sign up for the loyalty points program because I was headed to the third level where the fabric and yarn is displayed.

I thought I might be going to a yarn shop in Islington at the end of the day, so luckily I had tucked in a couple of patterns that I plan to knit for my expected grandson. I shed all my bags and jackets and prepared for a good long browse.

Trudy asked if I needed assistance. We had a wonderful time trying to sort it all out with different weights and US and UK measurements. She is a very experienced knitter and we shared back and forth. The wifi in the store is excellent so I was able to show her Little Cotton Rabbits (I could hardly believe she had not seen this UK treasure!). She showed me her knitting project. In the end I spent more than I expected and I could not be more pleased.

I looked through many more departments and I stopped in the cafe for tea and an English cheese tray. The lovely customer service department refunded my VAT. Yet, the highlight for me was shopping with the assistance of Trudy Healy-Potter. She is a textile designer and offers classes at Liberty.

She showed me how she spliced three patterns from the Rowan loves… pattern book to create the colorful sweater she has almost finished. Not only am I excited about the projects I will be knitting this summer in anticipation of Grandson #1, I am reenergized about the craft overall. Liberty is so clever to have Trudy on their team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Keep Your Sense of Humor Whilst Traveling

After 24 hours on the road it can start to become a challenge to see the lighter side of situations. I like to laugh instead of getting angry, but sometimes your nerves get frayed from crying babies keeping you awake and one too many hurdles to overcome. This is when a great travel book comes in handy. Sometimes it is enough to know that someone had it worse than you. Even sweeter, if the travel book is also full of humor.

DribblingIt was serendipitous that on the afternoon that my travel plans dissolved like sugar in hot tea, I discovered Bill Bryson has a new travel book. If you have never read Notes from a Small Island or Walk in the Woods (or any of his dozen books), then you have many great days of reading ahead. Just one warning: do not read in public because you will laugh out loud so hard you will snort embarrassingly. I had no idea that it has already been 20 years since his memoir of tramping around the UK was published. He did some more long walks to celebrate and captured his misadventures in The Road to Little Dribbling.

I was in the Gatwick airport bookstore and it was already past the 24-hour mark since I departed from Sacramento when I discovered Bill Bryson wrote a new book. My flight had already disappeared from the marquee, and I knew it had been rerouted to Pisa and was delayed 2 hours. I was going to miss dinner with my cycling fan friends but still had hopes of getting to the Villa I Barronci before midnight.

As soon as I boarded the sauna like Vueling flight and wedged myself in the middle seat, I cracked open the Bryson cure. If anything could inoculate me from grumpiness, reading Dribbling would. Sure enough before they could circulate the air in the cabin I was smiling. I did not worry about my fellow passengers noticing my mirth as they were so absorbed in their electronic gadgets that they did not even acknowledge me.

I am so glad I had taken the cure because as we stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac it began to rain in Pisa. I made friends with Janet from Cambridge, England and we helped one another figure out where to catch the bus to Florence. As she predicted, there was much faffing around before everyone collected their bags, and the airline provided us buses, and we loaded on, and they counted people and we finally began the journey to Florence.

I was punchy by the time I collapsed into a taxi at midnight and gave him the Villa’s address. I thought if my mom was with me we would have been side-sore from giggling as the GPS sent my driver on U turn after U turn. I called Jacinta my tour guide when we turned on the road to Rome. Once she put us in touch with Leonard from reception to speak to my driver in Italian, we course corrected and arrived about 30 minutes after we should have. The driver took 20 Euros off the bill, which was very decent of him.

Leonard was handsome and welcoming and made more attractive by bringing me a plate of Italian ham and cheese with bread. My room is so comfortable and this morning I discovered the views just shout “Tuscany!”

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View from the gate of the Villa I Barronci.

We cannot control very much when we travel. We do get to choose our attitude. I am so glad Mr. Bryson gave me a much needed assist so I could see the brighter side of the situation.

Super Travel Shoes: allbirds

I just finished canvassing for Sacramento Mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg. It meant walking door-to-door for over 6 hours with a few breaks for coffee and lunch. In the past I might have worn running shoes, but on my Australia adventure I got sore feet. So I started a search for better travel shoes.

I saw an ad for allbirds–a shoe made with New Zealand wool–and ordered a pair. I loved the packaging.IMG_9480

I started wearing them and they were instantly comfortable. There was no awkward break in period.

IMG_9481Today was the real test. I walked all day on pavement and while my feet are not singing they are not barking either.  I am excited to take them to Italy in May.

IMG_9482They are just funky enough to be stylish.

Shop in Adelaide’s Central Market

IMG_9055It is “Throwback Thursday” and this is my last post for my recent adventure in Australia. This shopping experience reminds me so much of the Russian Market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In my Phnom Penh adventures there were many markets, but the Russian Market was the most staggering. It is still the largest market that I have ever experienced for variety and depth. And the bargains! (sigh)  Alas those photos are stored on various crazy discs and not easily accessible. Instead we will feast on this shopping experience just a block from my Hilton Hotel in Adelaide.

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Adelaide’s Central Market is not a place I would go for bargains. However, under one waterproof roof you can find loads of produce, cheese, bread, meat, used books–you name it–someone probably sells it. It is Los Angeles Farmers Market, a flea market and more all rolled under one roof.

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I especially liked how the vendors called out what they had to offer. It made it more fun and I do think it encourages you to make a purchase. California farmers markets are laid back by comparison and lack the energy of this place. And it is open everyday. I bought used books and some cheese and bread for lunch.

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Who can resist cheese?