Around the World in Christmas Gifts

Every gift received this Christmas has a special association for me: be it reading, travelling, visiting libraries, drinking tea or communicating via traditional pen and ink or modern internet methods.

ipad mini

I am now the rather nervous owner of an iPad Mini. I’m sure I will get used it and love using it but currently it sits pristine on its box whilst I still tap away at my laptop and snap away with my camera or iPod Touch.


I’ll be checking dates and tempted to book Landmark Trust stays every time I look at my Landmark Trust Calendar for 2014. There is Astley Castle on the front (and also on the back) cover.


Whilst at the Landmark St Mary’s Lane in Tewkesbury earlier this year I came across “Cotswold Follies and Fancies”. It’s a guide to the curious, whimsical and romantic buildings around the area. I’m happy to have a copy of my own to take with me next time I visit the Cotswolds.


In 2014 I have travel plans for another ATG walking holiday this time in Italy. We will be staying just one night in Rome but will be sure to hunt out at least one of its “Quiet Corners”. In 2015 I’m hoping to spend a bit longer in and around The Eternal City.

Fodors Maine

No plans yet to return to New England next year but if we do I have just the up-to-date guide to make planning easy in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Tea and spoons

Paris is one of my favourite destinations and this (academic) year one of my Swiss friends is working there in her Gap Year. She sent me lovely Mariage Freres loose tea in a tin and two pearl spoons from the shop where she’s working : Sabre. It would be lovely to visit her whilst she is there.

“The fragrance of adventure and poetry endlessly pervades each cup of tea” – Henri Mariage [Founder]


On a visit to Paris in 2010 a Parisian friend and I visited The House of Victor Hugo in a quiet corner of the Place Des Vosges. We’re still hoping to make a rendez-vous together at his other former home (owned by the City of Paris) Hauteville House on Guernsey. In the meantime I have this ‘writer’s’ candle whose scent of bergamot-iris-hyacinth is reminiscent of Le Jardin D’Hugo.


My friend, fellow blogger and fellow online book group  moderator Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book read and recommended “Phantoms on the Bookshelves” this year. About it he says “Jacques Bonnet is more like the friendly face at your book group who will enthuse about managing to squeeze another bookcase into the corner of the living room.” I’m looking forward to reading Mr Bonnet’s book, translated from the French, very soon.

The Library

I understand that M. Bonnet writes about other libraries beside his own and some may be included in this coffee table book “The Library : a world history” which will find pride of place on Miladys table. I’ll be dipping into it all year and beyond.


Since joining The Leeds Library I have been a regular reader of The New Yorker so it was with great delight that I unwrapped a box of 100 cards taken from the covers of that magazine over ten decades. When I need to send a card I should find a date or subject suitable for almost every recipient. If I don’t find one in that box then I can turn to a gift box of 20 cards of designs by Frank Lloyd Wright for the American Liberty Magazine.

Lavendar bath

And at the end of the day I can relax in a Lavender Foaming Bath: “A new definition of calm.”

Many thanks to everyone who gave these gifts … and I hope you were at least half as pleased with what I gave you!


At Home With the Windsors – La Maison des Amis

I am off to France shortly. It’s another Landmarking holiday but with the added difference that I shall be in France and staying at the former weekend home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

This will be my second visit. Last year the day of departure coincided with the Royal Wedding. I had my own Royal Weekend in France which made up, somewhat, for missing the live broadcasts of Kate and William’s happy day.

Le Moulin

La Maison des Amis is situated within the small estate that comprises The Moulin de la Tuilerie on the edge of the village of Gif sur Yvette in the Essonne department of France. We didn’t use it last year but there’s an RER train link with the centre of Paris and the journey takes about  40 minutes. We’re hoping to have a little trip to town this time. We don’t have too many plans but we have reserved at a restaurant in Versailles for lunch on the Sunday.

La Maison Des Amis (rear)

There are three rental properties on the site. Le Moulin  itself (which sleeps 12 in total) and which the Duke and Duchess themselves occupied for their weekends away from Paris and La Maison de Amis (sleeps 4) and Le Celibataire (sleeps 2) where their guests – people like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (I sleep in their room!), Cecil Beeton, Marlene Dietrich and Maria Callas – were accommodated very comfortably.

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie from ‘Cardiac Hill’ as the Duke of Windsor called it!

Those Windsors they recognised a great location when they saw it. In addition to being 40 minutes from the centre of Paris (or rather 35 minutes by Buick from their home in the Bois de Boulogne) the lovely old town of Versailles and its OTT palace and  grounds are about 20 minutes away and as Landmark puts it :

“Just as for Edward and Wallis, still today this is a place for contrasts: a wonderful setting to play host, or enjoy deep tranquillity; an easy day trip by direct train to the bustle and culture of central Paris or the delights of Versailles, and yet a place where the city finally yields to deep countryside.”

Sunday evening strollers in the park at Versailles

There is plenty of good reading matter in the Landmark Library, as usual. We spent a lot of time looking through the Sothebys New York 1997 Sale Catalogue of the Windsors’ stuff.