Review Number Seven

7) Lydford Gorge – National Trust

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There are many things my boyfriend and I have a mutual passion for; cooking absurd amounts of food, watching our childhood programmes, rambling down country lanes and championing castles.

So it comes as no surprise that my darling boy thought it a grand idea to take me to Lydford Gorge to enjoy a long walk together.

A long walk isn’t even close to what I had to endure!!!

I am not a seasoned walker and I had nothing but a vague idea of what I was letting myself in for. It wasn’t until I reached the front desk to hand over my membership card that the realisation struck hard. The kind lady behind the counter issued instructions to us; suggesting pit stops and recommending a variety of routes that weren’t quite so steep. I was stunned.

‘It’ll take you about 2 to 3 hours to finish the entire walk’ she signed off.

WHAT?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

I ran to the toilet to take a breather before my gallant knight dragged me off to begin our journey down the one way track. I was hesitant and could but think of the halfway point where my darling said we would be stopping for a tea break.

But my body surprised me and for the first leg of the trail I was mostly alright, the valley was beautiful and I only really struggled with the uphill parts. We took no pit stops except when we spotted a view that was camera worthy (which was often) and I felt triumphant every time I passed a bench feeling well enough to trek on. The constant gush of water created a mystical atmosphere and it felt as if we had stepped into a Peter Jackson movie. The stunning views were accompanied with the potent smell of wild garlic and a consistent drilling sound from a covert woodpecker; I was enthralled and healthily out of breath.

I wasn’t expecting the waterfall to look as serene as it did; you are used to seeing these great walls of crashing water but the White Lady (so it is aptly named) simply skidded down the valley like a children’s slide.  When we reached this halfway point we had a difficult decision to make; stay and dine? Or press on and earn a well deserved treat at the finishing line?

We chose the latter and continued on our expedition.

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We soon realised, however, that I seem to have a cut off point; a point where I rapidly lose the ability to speak and become irritably desperate to just give up and go home. I had found the end of my tether after an hour of walking. I was an uncommunicative zombie who could but grunt and moan at the views being presented to me by my fresh faced exuberant companion. The devils cauldron zapped the final ‘awes’ I had in me and mumbled notions of dinosaurs scampering about the horizons of the valley ridge (I speak truth my Bandicoot caught it on camera). I had meant to say that the scene had a Jurassic essence about it and that I could easily imagine a T-Rex leering over the crest of the gorge; I guess the roaring noise of the cauldron drowned out my senses.

I dragged my feet into the tea room and near collapsed on the cashier. He was a very very very nice man and was understandingly sympathetic of my exhaustion and fatigue. We found a park table outside, away from some ghastly loud children and waited for the kind man with a feathery blonde beard to bring us our well deserved prize.

Even in my zombified state I was still able to consider the cream tea that was presented before me with a respectably critical eye.

No I lie. I’m sorry …

I was so thankful and desperate for them that any serious evaluations of the subject were lost, forgotten and discarded. I ate with the primeval instincts of one who had nothing left to focus on.

So here, my review, in the words spoken at the time of consumption;

‘Icing sugar?! What?! Amazing! Raspberry jam?! Yum! Omg it looks like tadpoles, no you know what I mean … frog spawn! Tasty frog spawn! Wow there is SO much cream! Look at those nipples! Omg this is so good. Awe and the buns are warm! Man I needed this, I’m drinking this tea like its water, agh you know when you are just thirsty and tea is like water? It quenches my thirst just as much as water! Aww no! The icing sugar is all over my leggings! Ketchum did you notice the jam and cream is local? Look the jam has won awards, tasty frog spawn though it’s a little sharp … maybe that’s why they gave us icing! Cream is so good though. Wow. Just. Nom.’

So yes they had sprinkled our buns with an unconventional layer of icing sugar and were presented to us on charming oval plates. They were warm, fluffy and substantial. The generous amounts of cream and jam enabled us to greedily mount the buns with several layers of the stuff. I had immaturely made my scones to look like nipples and childishly giggled at the icing sugar mess I had made on myself.  The jam did, admittedly, look like frog spawn, but it tasted as fresh and as fruity as if we had picked the berries ourselves and had placed them on top. The fact they gave us a choice in jam won bonus points in my eyes and they had NO fruity scones, not one …

BANG ON THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!

There was a generous pot of tea for us with an added topper of hot water, which I was most grateful for, because I downed my first cup of the milky brew instantly and was in need of plenty more.

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I admit that my state of fatigue may have acted as a ‘rose tinted glasses’ effect and made me perceive the scones in a much better light than I might’ve done, had I not just undergone a 3 mile walk. After a ‘stroll’ like that I doubt anyone could look at them in any other way. You will certainly not be disappointed when you enjoy them at the finish line and that I can bet my life on.

My only advice to Lydeford Gorge would be to add markers on your map of where all the benches are during that walk; would be great for those who are less robust than my Aladdin; using them as motivators to reach the next rest stop!

We did the walk in approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. My legs didn’t thank me for it but it was well worth it in the end; the sights were magnificent and the cream teas were, well … like I said well earned and damned tasty.  Hoorah.

Review Number Six

6) Boston Tea Party – Exeter

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On Friday the 26th of April I had the pleasure of experiencing what Boston’s had to offer, by way of a cream tea, with two of my fellow connoisseur’s; my Aladdin and my Becca.

It was an odd experience because I never usually go there for that particular beverage. I always tend to order a delicious white hot chocolate with one of their blackberry and apple flapjacks smothered in a generous layer of yogurt. Yum. Yum. But today we had planned to make an exception. Bandicoot and I had conquered an empty table (which by the way is really hard to do during the lunch rush hour) and were waiting for my less than punctual friend to arrive.

We were starving, eager and uncommunicative by the time she graced us with her presence. So you can imagine how quickly we rushed through the pleasantries and forced her to accompany Ash Ketchum with our order.

We, the couple, decided to share a cream tea (after the last episode at A La Ronde I wasn’t going to ruin myself again) and to consume some of their toasted sarnies. Becca, however, decided to go for a brownie instead… WHAT?! I know, right? Apparently she was too full from lunch and couldn’t handle a whole one to herself! Disgraceful!

BUT, I had to forgive her, chastising a girl fresh out of work from a long shift is unfair and cruel. So I gave her a warning that if she did it again, next time, I wouldn’t be as … understanding. It would be wise for you to remember that Becca, that a one time offender is all you can be, perhaps I shall text you daily reminders … would you like that?

Constant Cream Tea Rejecters are rogues and fiends; not to be trusted – remember that all!

So once that unfortunate matter was settled we moved on to the most important concern of all – eating the cream teas.

These were the notes I made whilst gobbling (pictured below on their comment slip):

1)      Not enough sauces

2)      Toasted without permission

3)      Pre-sliced

4)      Small teapots, but good tea

5)      Cheese Droplets

6)      “It’s not emulsion” – several layers

7)      Spreads well, not flaky nor brakey

8)      No choice of Jam favours

9)      Moist

6/10

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I feel some of these points need to be explained …

For some reason they had decided to pre-slice and toast our scones for us, I have never come across such a heinous act before and was confused as to why they felt this was necessary. I am not incapable of cutting a scone in half, no, in fact I’ve had plenty of practice! And the toasting thing? Baffling. The only benefits such a function gave us was that it made spreading the cream on top easier and prevented the scone from excessive crumbling, other than that; pretty redundant.

The presentation of the food was nice enough though; the buns came to us on a beautiful plate of blue china and the sandwiches in these funky looking terracotta bowls with tissue. For one this cream tea would be decent enough, but it was a lucky thing I ordered my own pot of peppermint tea because there wouldn’t have been enough for Ketchum and I from the one pot they gave us. Tea was of excellent quality but I wouldn’t have minded some more. And the sauces…? There was not enough, not enough at all. I mean what we were given did cover each of our halves but it didn’t feel like an indulgence. Instead it was pristine, neat and somewhat flat. I spread and spread layers and layers of cream and jam but I felt forced to hold back in case there wasn’t enough.

Oh and number 8) is self explanatory.

As far as looks go I was dubious and unimpressed, I was worried that because they had toasted the buns they would be dry and crispy.

Lucky, my criticisms stop as soon as they got into my mouth.

What? Really? Yep!

They were… MOIST and NOMMY! Totally not what I was expecting at all. The jam was sweet and the cream was nourishing. It was certainly a ‘Boston Tea Party’ in my mouth … (ha ha get it? … ahem …) The Moroccan mint tea I had went SO well with it too, I had my happy cat face on every time I took a bite and a sip, I enjoyed having my expectations altered. All those apprehensive feelings I had, prior to my mouth party, dissolved along with each morsel that was being devoured by digestive enzymes.

So, ya, on the scale of ‘orgasmic to nauseating’ it hit the satisfactory mark. It did the job. A 6/10 according to my lover is what it deserves.

Oh and number 5)? Well those cheese droplets came from our delicious Sandwiches; Aladdin had an Eldorado and I had a Hot Chick – super tasty and super crispy – they toasted them to the max…

Perhaps they just really love their toaster? I accidentally breathed out while taking a bite of my Chick and this embarrassing cloud of crumbs blew forth from my lips! It went everywhere! In my tea, in the jam, in Ketchum’s tea, in Becca’s face, on Bandicoots lap and ALL over the table … I don’t think anyone could’ve missed it. Reminded me of that scene in the Little Mermaid when Ariel blows Grimsby’s smoking pipe and the tobacco covers his face …

Almost AS embarrassing as the jam knife incident when it jumped out of my hand and stabbed my side on its way down to the floor (that happened on this very same occasion by the way – Boston’s obviously wanted to humiliate me this particular trip). So unfair.

Anyway, back to the cheese droplets, they were just droplets of cheese from our sandwiches which I ate. Even Bandicoots droplets… yeah that’s right I ate ‘em.

To sum up – deceptively good but I recommend don’t share one between two unless you buy an extra pot of tea. Also don’t feel threatened by the seating upstairs, just because you have to share a table with a stranger doesn’t mean they will bother you, but if it makes you uncomfortable avoid going at lunch time and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to land a sofa!

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Oh! They also like to promote local artists in their tearooms so keep an eye out! Jane Perkins is currently on show and her work is amazing! (I’ve tagged her website if you want a looksie!)

Review Number Five

5) A La Ronde – National Trust

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My stomach has often been compared to that of a horse or a pig or… a black hole. I can pack away most things and can keep up with any man and his platter. Eating vast quantities of food has never been a challenge for me. My body’s ability to pack the food around my thighs and my arms has always been a quick and effortless process; much to my displeasure and shame. I am always hungry. So, you can imagine how shocked and appalled I was towards my stomach when It struggled to consume two gigantic scones.

You don’t believe me? Neither can I to be honest!

When I went to A La Ronde National Trust property I asked my boyfriend, with bundles of confidence, to purchase a pot of tea and two scones, EACH, after our jaunt around the round house. I had sat down with not a fear in the world. The tearoom itself was small, crowded and charming; the only concern I had up to that point was whether we were going to find a table and whether I’d be able to hear my Ketchum over the racket of our nearby diners.

I like to add that though the tearoom was completely crammed it didn’t feel overbearing; it felt homely and lively. The tables were arranged in varying angles and dimensions so although it wasn’t ‘organised’ it wasn’t cluttered. This particular tearoom has won awards for its creamy jammy buns so my expectations were high and hungry, so the fact that the room was packed out didn’t bother me too much. I was just excited to pack as much in my mouth as that room.

HE RETURNED TO THE TABLE… and we waited for our food to be delivered; unaware of the perils about to befall us.

Our table turned into the centre of all social interaction. We were in the way of the cutlery and the communal water jug. I became the master of the jug and the passer of utensils due to the fact that our table, and other’s, had fenced off access to them. I enjoyed being their liberator. I found their apologies amusing. They had no reason to feel guilty, it wasn’t their fault they were stuck between tables, in fact, I was actually grateful for the distraction.

I was failing.

The giant buns had me stumped.

Filled.

Stuffed.

In Devon… we do Cream Tea’s right. We are generous in every capacity; size, taste and serving. So generous in fact that even my greedy stomach could barely manage. It was embarrassing. My belly protruded out of my shorts and winced every time I took a bite out of my heavily clad scone. My darling Bandicoot cast me many bemused and mocking expressions; he wasn’t struggling like moi. He had even managed to cut one scone into three parts… thats how big they were!

I considered him, in that moment, severely out of favour. My eyes narrowed and I was determined to finish them both even if I’d be immobilised for the rest of the afternoon. Indigestion could ravage my body as much as it wanted; I wasn’t going to give up.

The property itself was remarkable. So unique and shockingly bizarre. I definitely recommend a visit; they were one hell of a creative family. I shan’t delve any further for it deserves a chance to surprise and astonish you, without me giving you any spoilers.

Ahhhhh still struggling.

Communication between Aladdin and I had ceased. My attention was no longer lovingly looking at his face; it was humiliated, angry and focused on the last slab of scone. He teased me to give up, I scowled.  He offered to eat it instead, I glared.

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I FORCED IT INTO MY MOUTH.

And the torment was over. I relaxed into my chair and remained motionless while I chewed and then, finally, swallowed. My brain was triumphant but my stomach groaned as the last morsel was engulfed and forced inside. Bandicoot still had an amused expression on his face, my puffed out cheeks and swelling belly was obviously not as attractive as I had envisaged, but my victory was glorious and beautiful. I cared naught for his look of ridicule.

I LOVED WINNING.

So if you too are up for a challenge, go forth to A La Ronde in Exmouth. If not, just buy one scone and save yourself an embarrassing hobble back to your car and from an evening of outrageous indigestion.

Review Number Four

4) Sissinghurst Castle – National Trust

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On Sunday the 17th of March my Bandicoot and I did our usual; we went to a National Trust property for a cream tea. I had worn a skirt because the weather had duped me into thinking it was going to behave and shine like a good little sun ball, but, I should’ve know better. British weather is as reliable as a drifter, as deceptive as a spy and as cruel as a child. Colloquially speaking… IT CHUCKED IT DOWN and it made my middle finger on my right hand go numb… I even put gloves on my feet when we finally found the sanctuary of the onsite restaurant just to warm up my tootsies that bit quicker.

We had a rushed viewing of Sissinghurst but from what I saw from the restricted view from my hood was rather beautiful. Though I am not really sure how it qualifies as a castle… maybe if I had been able to look around longer a notice board may have told me… but for now I am left baffled. It was quaint and homely nothing like a domineering and overbearing castle should be. Its gardens were playfully hidden by mazes and were still delightfully picturesque in spite of the rain beating down. However, it was a most hurried affair and I was more anxious to get inside the restaurant than look at the estate so we’ve agreed to go again when the weather is in a better mood.

So yes, the cream teas were a long-awaited comfort we desperately needed and I was impatiently pulling my boy towards our destination. He was infuriatingly slow because he wanted to take pictures so steps were quickly taken; I glared and then threatened to run off with the brolly which effectively got the message across. The glare should’ve been enough though… my powers seem to be waning… We were damp and severely chilled by the time we reached the counter, the lady behind it looked rather bemused as did other customers around us who had escaped the downpour and were waiting it out. The lady behind the counter was exceedingly friendly and was in agreement with us that raspberry jam is far superior to strawberry. We also got to pick which scones we wanted, two plain for me and one of each for Bandicoot. I felt absolutely positive by the time we sat down. So happy in fact that I stuck up two fingers to the view of misty fields and draping rain from our window seat. He brought over the tray and I prepared to TUCK IN!

All in all they were good. There was plenty of jam and both of my scones were glazed and plumped to perfection. However, one complaint I do have is that when they provide us with the pre packaged pots of Roddas clotted cream… there’s just not enough. Obviously it’s not National Trust’s fault, some of their tea rooms in other properties provide generous pots of self scooped local varieties but Roddas… Roddas… just because you are one of the biggest brands for clotted cream doesn’t mean you can get away with being… STINGY!!!

The cream to jam ratio therefore was severely imbalanced. Not good for me but my Ketchum wasn’t bothered; the ratio was perfect for him.

What also surprised me was how floury the scones tasted… I assume that because my scone was so lacking in cream my tongue had more chance to appreciate the bun vessel. It was floury yes, but not crumbly, it clung together nicely and was fittingly warm. It was a treat I enjoyed but knew I’d had better.

What ruined the experience completely for me was that Aladdin and I had gone there to relax and take our time because we were in no rush to return to the rain but hovering over us was a group of four elderly people waiting for us to leave. There were hundreds of tables to spare yet they insisted on creating an uncomfortable atmosphere by waiting for us to move. I hate being hurried or forced out of a seat and I couldn’t fathom why on earth they wanted our spot. Other tables were clean ours was covered in crumbs and sugar residue, other tables had four seats like ours but didn’t have us in them and other tables were FREE GODAMMIT!! So abominably rude, one tried to turn it into a joke by saying ‘yes we are waiting har har, I know it’s a bit obvious har har, slightly embarrassing har har’ YES YOU’RE RIGHT YOU ARE BEING OBVIOUS AND BEING RUDELY EMBARRASSING. THERE ARE PLENTY OF OTHER TABLES TO CHOOSE FROM.

I glared. A lot. I took my time putting my coat on, removing my gloves from my feet to put them on my hands and shook my umbrella to make sure it was dry for a good few seconds. They were like vultures as soon as we were an inch away they swooped in with our tray and mess still on the table. I felt no remorse leaving them there either. I continued to glare at them until we were out of the door, but, like I said my glares seem to be weaker than usual and they just laughed at each other as if victorious that they had driven us out. I was fuming. All the comfort and warmth I felt from my adequate cream tea was ruined. The rain continued to storm upon us and all I wanted to do then was snuggle up back in bed… with another cream tea.

Character Profile 3

Ash Bandicoot/ Ash Ketchum/ Aladdin

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Bandicoots are quirky creatures. Look them up on Google and I doubt you’ll disagree. They are small, have goofy ears and don’t look anything like that PlayStation character Crash Bandicoot fox thing. I mean they are kinda cute, they may have a pitiful smudge of stripes on their back and a tail that looks like a… a… a penis, BUT, they have this little snout that wiggles. Wiggles!

It is a modest and unassuming creature, which often goes unnoticed when stood against the might of attention thrown at the larger and more appealing animals of this varied planet.

But one such bandicoot managed to catch my attention. Not in the conventional sense of how a girl usually meets a boy for it was more of an accidental deviation.

I was actually in pursuit of a lanky lobster boy named Lauro one drunken evening when our tryst first began. That particular night had gone well up until… I lost him. Yes bloomin’ well lost him.

I stupidly made the mistake of going to the bar alone and when I came back he was gone. Great. Just perfect I thought. I marched through crowds of drunken students hoping he wouldn’t be too hard to find, he was really tall, but to no avail. That is until I rejoined his friendship group and was greeted with a devastating sight. Whether it was fate that intervened that evening or whether I went temporarily blind I’ll never know…. but I saw ‘him’ pressed up against the wall sucking face with a girl who had much bigger bosoms than me. Well, at least, that’s what I thought. Anyway like I said I was devastated, I looked at his friends like a wounded puppy… which looking back must’ve confused them a lot because Lauro was in fact stuck upstairs conversing with some bouncers while all this was happening… opps. So there I was confused and hurt when suddenly this smile appeared.

Ash Bandicoot was one of his friends and I had met him a few times before. He had noticed I was upset and decided it was his duty to cheer me up. What can I say? Rejection is a hard and massive pill to swallow, so having this cutie take my hands and dance with me like an idiot was extremely flattering and it wasn’t long before I was sucking face with him instead.

Yay me. Well yay me until the real Lauro finally found me… on Ash’s lap… think I may have run up to him and kissed him as well which must’ve confused them both… uggg I was a lip whore… no other way to put it, I was greedy and took advantage of both of them, such yummy morsels…

So… YEAH, it’s not the most romantic of beginnings, but it sure beats all the soppy stories most couples come out with and I’m glad I mistook that rampant face sucking Lauro-look-a-like for him. Four years on and I still see the goof-ball who was swinging my arms around like a crazy person, encouraging me to laugh. You know that scene in Harry Potter when he dances with Hermione in that tent? Well BINGO that’s him in a nutshell.

Ash, is MY bandicoot, a creature who doesn’t mind being overshadowed by his taller and more laddish friends. He’s a beast that doesn’t need to put on a macho bravado to compete with the other boys; he is at ease with himself. This is why he doesn’t get embarrassed or hurt when they tease him for being soppy with me; for buying me presents, thinking about our future together or giving in to our arguments – because he knows what rewards he will reap. Pretending to be one of them certainly won’t get me into bed, no sir, even if it does boost his precious man points.

He is a geek end of. A geek who still loves Pokemon as much as I do (hence the nickname; Ash Ketchum, just fits so perfectly) and still enjoys watching Thunderbirds and Thomas the Tank Engine in the same way as I still watch Sailor Moon and My Little Pony (80’s style). He buys jumpers and tops with cartoon characters on them and has only recently developed a sense of fashion that I actually approve of. He is obsessed with Nando’s, Tennis, Golf, Football… (I’ll just say Sports), writing lists, cream teas (yay… like I hadn’t made that clear already), BBC’s Merlin, his Mac and IPhone, Geography and David Attenborough… well who isn’t? Such a sexy man.

However, he does have one massive flaw; his downfall being that he has a tendency to force this obsessive trait upon others. No I do not want to play that game for the hundredth time. No I do not want to watch that show anymore. We always go to Nando’s can’t we go somewhere else?! I am fed up of cooking that. No shoo! Stop following me everywhere and writing ballads about me all the time… its creepy. Luckily, these are just phases and he does eventually lose interest, it’s just pretty intense when he’s in the thick of this enthralled period 24/7 for however long it lasts. AND as his girlfriend I MUST be supportive 24/7 for however long it lasts… uggg… so tiring I tell you.

BUT!

Imagine, if you will, this sundry animal wearing an Aladdin outfit. Complete with the little hat, silk waistcoat and loose white harem pants and you might understand why I like him so much. He has a cupid bow mouth sandwiched between two dimples, eyes as dark as his fur and has one of those manly cleft chins I can’t seem to get enough of, Man I love prodding that cleft… and trying to shave the little hairs that grow out of it… weird I know, but I bet you’d do it to if you had one for your own! I could go on and on about this being, about his comical ears, his peculiar way of saying the words Museum, Music and Railway and of his annoyingly short attention span, but I won’t, because I’ve probably embarrassed him enough already.

I love him and that’s all that matters.