Sunday 16th July 2006
Today was (and not just for Norm) an aviation treat – the second day of the Royal International Air Tattoo. As we had learned about the event too late to organise tickets on-line, we knew that if we were going to get any sort of a view at all we’d have to beat the rush and be at the RAF Fairford base really early!!
We responded to the 4:30 am alarm call reasonably promptly, but much to Norm’s horror, set off without breakfast! As if this was not enough, the day was nothing like the start of the 30° plus day forecast being foggy, cold and all of 9° when we “touched down” at 6:30.
As we had dressed for the heat, the hour-long wait until the gates opened seemed a lot longer. By then the queue behind us stretched back further than we could see and we were caught up in something of a stampede just to get to the next set of gates where the entrance tickets were sold.
Once inside, spurred on, as much by the competition as the cold, we made our way as quickly as frigid bones and chilled muscles would allow to the grandstand enclosure. There, our efforts were rewarded and we managed to obtain seats in the very top row of the stand from which we had an uninterrupted view of the aircraft whether they were on the runway or in the air.
By that time we were hungry as well as cold – the remedy for which was a seriously over-priced egg and bacon baguette and accompanying cup of hot chocolate each. Expensive they may have been and unlikely candidates for Foodie News – but worth every penny!!
While waiting for the start of the air show at 10:00 am, we did a circuit or two of the static displays which included, surprisingly for an air show, classic and vintage cars. These included a couple of MGs – a marque in which Carol has more than a passing interest.
We also found it almost impossible to miss the RAAF Boeing 707 from No 33 Squadron – suitably dressed out with an Australian Flag, the Boxing Kangaroo and a blow-up kangaroo in the cockpit – as did the queue of children waiting to be taken on a tour and, perhaps, getting a “Vegemite” sandwich for their trouble – or patience, or both.
We went back to our seats just before 10:00 am for a non-stop flying display which continued until 6:00 pm. In the course of the day, the weather changed remarkably – from 9° and fog to clear blue skies and 30°. Absolutely perfect! For plane-watching. Apart from comfort breaks, the occasional bottle of water and the compulsory ice cream, we didn’t move from our seats – and didn’t want to.
The display of both aircraft and flying was riveting. Amongst highlights for us were:
- The aerobatic teams, including the RAF’s “Red Arrows,” the Spanish Air Force’s “The Patrulla Aguila” team (earning a standing ovation for the being the only team to land on the runway together at the same time), and the Swiss Air Force’s team’s immaculately precise display ending with a “starburst” manoeuvre that included stars,
- The remarkable Russian MIG on its first display outside Russia,
- the “Utterly Butterlys” – two Boeing Stearman A75s biplanes each with an extremely brave and agile woman performing on the top of the upper wing.
- The RAF Harrier showing off its amazing versatility both in vertical and level flying.
- The Bell/Boeing MV-22B Osprey and the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s F-16AM Fighting Falcon,
- andThe Battle of Britain Memorial flight, comprising a Lancaster bomber, a Hurricane and a Spitfire was accompanied by music and commentary which was very moving. “Engineers designed them, craftsmen and women built them, and heroes flew them”.
There was so much more – but too much to include here. Needless to say we had a wonderful day – even if long, hot and tiring. Because of the traffic volume from the Tattoo, we didn’t get back to the hotel until 8:00 pm – tired, but not sufficiently to forgo dinner!.
Foodie news: Norm had pan-fried salmon, sautéed baby spinach, saffron, fennel and lemon butter meuniere plus vegetables which included baby Brussels sprouts, leek, carrot, broccoli and cauliflower. Carol had the pan-fried salmon but with a green salad.
Monday 17th July 2006
Norm spent most of the morning trying to track down a power adaptor to replace the one lost, stolen or mislaid in Shrewsbury – and which was essential to recharging the batteries of the laptop as well as our phones and cameras. Fortunately he was able to do so and we later picked up TWO at Argos in Cheltenham.
We enjoyed a pleasant walk into Cheltenham which turned out to be a beautiful city with lots of French overtones – from street names, cafes, open spaces, architecture and gardens. Not only that but we managed to find a Starbucks with “Caramel Frappuccinos”.
As the temperature had risen to the mid 30s we decided against walking home and took a cab.
Foodie news: Norm had Crab thermidor, sautéed spinach, Paris mushrooms a la crème, served with garlic herb rice. Carol thought that Norm’s pan-fried salmon from the previous evening with the vegetable looked pretty good, so she decided to order one. It bore no relation to the previous night’s offering or what was described in the menu.
Be aware of this, those of you who should mistakenly choose to stay at the Cheltenham Thistle Hotel.
The Pinot Grigio was, of course, up to its usual comforting best!
Tuesday 18th July 2006
A forecast of another mid-thirties day led to our decision to drive into Cheltenham mid-morning. We took the camera with us because we were so impressed with the gardens and architecture that we saw yesterday that photos were a must.
We also, of course, stopped by at Starbucks for our Caramel Frap and lunch.
Foodie news: We both had a light meal of “Salmon and Slaw” – poached salmon escalope served cold with mixed leaves, potato salad and crunchy cole slaw. In the event we had rice and pasta salads – so much for the menu. The pinot Grigio was still as advertised.
Wednesday 19th July 2006
Our choice of a day to travel south to North Petherton, near Taunton, was not an altogether happy one as it meant driving in mid thirties plus heat without the benefit of air-conditioning. Accordingly we spent the morning in the air-conditioned comfort of the Cheltenham Thistle (one of its few “pluses”) and then made the 75 mile motorway dash to “The Walnut Tree” in the hope that the requested air-conditioned room would be available. Thankfully, it was!
Foodie news: We both had poached corn-fed chicken breast, home-made tagliatelle, king prawns, dried chilli, and rocket and parmesan salad. YUM!
Thursday 20th July 2006
Encouraged by the slightly cooler weather – an almost pleasant 27° – we ventured out to two National Trust properties today.
The first, “Montacute House”, is a huge mansion and is said to be the first example in Britain of domestic architecture which combined the native Gothic tradition with new Renaissance from the Continent. The original owners were the Phelips family. Sir Edward Phelips made his fortune as a successful lawyer, entered parliament, where he rose to Speaker and led the prosecution of Guy Fawkes after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Another important “name” associated with the House, was that of Lord Curzon, an early advocate of preserving the ancient buildings of England. He was poised to become Prime Minister in 1923, but was passed over in favour of Stanley Baldwin.
The gardens here were formal in character but the inclusion of winding pathways between tall hedges for us to explore was sufficiently attractive to occupy us for an hour or so.
Our second call for the day was to “Barrington Court” – a Tudor manor house which, although managed by the National Trust, is tenanted by Stuart Interiors who use it as a sympathetic “showroom” for their Gothic, Elizabethan and Stuart style furniture.
Whilst the tour of the house was extensive and of interest, neither of us was altogether comfortable with the inclusion of antique and reproduction furniture for sale.
The gardens, however, were magnificent, from formal flower gardens to working kitchen gardens – the lushness of which would turn any vegetable grower “green” with envy!
Foodie news: Norm had a starter of Crispy duck salad – watercress, rocket, bean shoots, chilli and ginger; for main, rib-eye steak, tempura of onion and fresh watercress. Looking after his waistline, he spurned the “hand-cut chips” and Béarnaise sauce. Carol had two starters: the first being a confit fig and green tomato tart, topped with dressed rocket and Manchego crisp; the second being rabbit and Chablis terrine with Swiss sweet potato salad, fresh honeycomb and Shiso salad. Double YUM!