LLBean: Bike, Boat, Ski, Hunt, Fish, Hike and kit out your Cabin or Home


I hate camping ...


Don’t you just love this cartoon which I saw in The New Yorker earlier this year? It really sums up the last full day of our holidays this year. We stayed at a rather smart hotel in Portland, Maine for the final two nights and spent the afternoon at one of our favourite stores. It’s an amazing place and this was our third visit.

Hiking list

To make sure you don’t forget anything

About a twenty minute drive north of Portland is the town of Freeport. And Freeport is the home of LLBean. In fact Freeport is given over almost entirely to shopping (there are many outlet and other stores) with some hotels and restaurants thrown in. I suppose some people live there but you wouldn’t notice.

LLBean 2009

The Flagship Store : we visited on 11 September 2009 (hence the flag at half-mast)

LLB Main entrance

The Main Entrance

L.L.Bean, Inc. has been a trusted source for quality apparel, reliable outdoor equipment and expert advice for over 100 years. Founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company began as one-man operation. With L. L.’s firm belief in keeping customers satisfied as a guiding principle, the company eventually grew to a global organization with annual sales of $1.56 billion. Our company headquarters are in Freeport, Maine, just down the road from our original store.

LLBean sign

With over a century in business, a satisfied customer is still our most important goal. We’re proud of our heritage and values, and we invite you to celebrate with exciting events and activities throughout the year. In the meantime, you’re welcome to browse the stories, facts and figures in this section and learn more about our company, our heritage and our history.” [From the website]


Bean Boot MoBile

The Bootmobile

LLBean never closes! There are no locks on the doors and it’s even open on Christmas Day. However, although all of this sounds like a gimmick the goods are all excellent quality and, with the current exchange rate, reasonably priced. I came away with a couple of pairs of walking trousers (trail pants) and another fleece (I have bought four of these altogether on different visits). In the past I have bought a tote bag, waterproof over trousers, other casual trousers etc all of which are still in use.

But the main store is not just of interest to me as shopper. There’s also lots of history : how they enjoyed the outdoor life in the past and how it’s all come a long way since!

Camping artefacts

Camping Artefacts

Fly fishing artefacts

Fly Fishing Artefacts

Dew Drop Inn

One of LL’s early camps “The Dew Drop Inn”



Nearest I came to a bear

The Nearest I came to a Bear!


Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day Four

Day 4 : Morning visit on foot to the superb collection at Lille’s Musee des Beaux Arts, the second largest collection in France after the Louvre. Time allowed for lunch before transferring to the station for return by Eurostar to St Pancras.

Yes, the  visit to the Musée des Beaux Arts was wonderful but as no photography was allowed I have very little pictorial evidence from the visit.

Instead, I’ll post my final report from Lille about a young hero of the First World War and a yummy cake, waffles and chocolates shop – the Lille equivalent of Yorkshire’s Bettys.

Leon Trulin

Leon Trulin Statue

Each day as we left our hotel and each evening as we returned to it we passed the life-size statue of a young man with the collar of his jacket turned up. This is Lille’s memorial to the ‘glorious teenager’ whose name can be seen on the street sign nearby: Léon Trulin. Our tour manager Karen told us the gist of the story and when I got home I looked it up again on this website.

LT wording

Born in Ath in Belgium in 1897, Léon Trulin came to Lille with his family after the death of his father and went to work in a factory to help his mother bring up his brothers and sisters. And then war broke out.

In June 1915, with Lille and much of Belgium occupied by the Germans, Léon Trulin went to England to join the Belgian Army in exile only to be turned away because of his diminutive stature; however the British Army proposed that he collect information in the occupied zone.

He set up an organization which he called ‘Noel Lurtin’, an anagram of his name, to which he recruited his teenage friends, some of whom were still children.: 15 and 16 or 18, like their leader Leon. Together they sent reports, photos and plans back to Britain.

They were arrested near Antwerp and sent to Lille. Trulin, and two others were sentenced to death on 5 November 1915. His two colleagues saw their sentences reduced however Trulin was executed in the ditch before the Citadel three days later.

Léon Trulin occupies a prominent position in Lille’s memorial to the men of the Resistance. The monument stands on the very spot where he was executed in the defensive ditch of the Citadel. His grave in Lille East Cemetery is marked by a statue of him awaiting execution, his back to the wall. The monument to the Lille Resistance in Daubenton Square shows him lying on the ground next to members of the Jacquet Network.

The above statue was erected in his honour in 1934 on avenue du Peuple Belge before being moved to its current location on the street which now bears his name. The plinth of the statue bears an inscription taken from his final letter to his mother, ‘I forgive everyone, friend and foe. I show them mercy because of the mercy they have not shown me’.” Adapted from the website.

I bought some chocolates, as gifts, in Antwerp – Belgium being the place to buy. However, after the visit to the Beaux Arts Museum on Sunday morning and on our way to another museum (which turned out to be closed for two hours for lunch) we made a detour to visit and go inside and even buy from Maison Méert. All other shops in Lille were closed on Sundays.

Meert 1

Through the shop window

A past fan of Méert was General de Gaulle himself – a native of Lille. The speciality, I read later, is the Méert Waffle made with fine butter and Madagascar vanilla. “A masterpiece of of culinary refinement that has been the bedrock of Méert’s reputation since 1761.” So, Something to go on the shopping list for next time. The shop décor dates back to 1839 and “abounds with mirrors edged with Pompeian motifs, moldings and ornately carved balconies.” Being on a narrow busy road it wasn’t possible to take a picture of the exterior. There’s a charming looking teashop at the back with a restaurant, verandah and terrace beyond that. Another trip to Lille and Antwerp must definitely go on the cards.

Meert 2

A Dam Busters Walk and A Damn Good Lunch

Our younger son lives in Sheffield so we arranged to go Christmas Shopping (with a difference) together today. We met up at The Ladybower Inn then headed to a small car park beside the upper part of Ladybower Reservoir in the Derbyshire Peak District National Park.


Lovely Ladybower

There are good paths along the edge of the ‘lake’ and there’s a visitor centre and cafe and other facilities at the northern end of the reservoir.

Dambuster books

A Selection of Dam Busters Books in the Visitors Centre

From there it’s a bit of a climb up to the Upper Derwent Reservoir where the ‘Dam Busters’ trained and practiced their low level flying during the Second World War.

Upper Derwent Reservoir

The Upper Derwent Reservoir

Derwent Dam and Sign

Note the Derwent Dam (very loud!) in the background

Derwent reservoir was used by the RAF’s Dambusters to practise their low level flying techniques during 1943, in preparation for delivering Barnes Wallis’ famous ‘bouncing bombs’ to German dams. Located in the West Tower of the Derwent Valley Dam is the Derwent Dam (617 Squadron) Museum which houses a collection of memorabilia dedicated to the famous Dams Raid carried out by 617 “Dambusters” Squadron.

Dam Museum

Dam Busters Memorial

Dam Buster’s Memorial

It includes photographs and other material covering all aspects of the Dams Raid, including details of the training flights carried out by 617 Squadron over the Derwent Dam and material relating to the film “The Dambusters” starring Richard Todd as Guy Gibson, made in 1954. There is also an example of the famous “Bouncing Bomb”, which forms the centrepiece of the museum’s display. Opening times are 10.00am to 4.00pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays only.” 

[from http://www.derbyshireuk.net/derwentvalley_reservoirs.html website]

West Tower

The Museum is housed in the West Tower

The museum was closed as our visit was on a Saturday but definitely worth a return visit. We climbed up to the see the West Tower and were intrigued to see a memorial to a loyal dog nearby.

TIP Memorial

The Memorial to faithful Tip

Our walk continued on the eastern side of the reservoir past a National Trust owned farm but only too soon it was time to turn back to the cars. N often runs right round Ladybower: a total of 11km including the additional 2 km to and from the car park at the Ladybower Inn. But the days are short at this time of year and we hadn’t even started our shopping.

Old House Farm

Old House Farm

So, back at the cars we headed for Hathersage and the lovely Country Shop at David Mellor’s Round Building. I also recommend the Cafe where we had fresh warm soup and chunky bread for our late lunch. There’s also a Design Museum showcasing David Mellor’s work within the building.

Design Museum

The David Mellor Design Museum (yes, those are his traffic lights!) and Café

By 4 o’clock it was dark and time to head back up the M1 to Leeds. Yesterday the weather was icy and  freezing cold (-3C)  but with typical British contrariness today the temperature hit 8C. I’m glad I was able to make the journey without any hitches. It was well worth the trip. I hope the recipients enjoy their gifts. We certainly enjoyed shopping for them!!

Amsterdam Made By Hand – De 9 Straatjes en De Noordermarkt

For quite some time I have had my eye on this lovely little book and as soon as I knew about my trip to the city I could not resist buying. To me there is something very special about these travel publications from the Little Bookroom. Here’s a press comment from their website :

“The Little Bookroom…wants travelers to slow down. They’ve carved themselves a niche in the over-crowded travel book industry by thinking small with titles that define the character of a city.”—The Pittsburgh Tribune

There’s an area of Amsterdam, very near to our digs, called The Nine Streets  [De 9 Straatjes]. On our first morning we found ourselves wandering along the nine streets, popping into cafes for sustenance and to warm ourselves, calling into boutiques, shoe shops, design shops, galleries and studios, trying things on and generally having fun spotting the unusual. We also took lots of photos.

Antiquariaat Culturel

Gasthuismolensteeg 4

Culturel is run by Hans and Ina Cramer, who I like to imagine spending their non-working hours amid a snug muddle of crosswords, sleeping dogs and homemade cake. Their business oozes quintessential second-hand bookshoppishness, with precarious towers of tomes and ceiling-to-floor shelves crammed with literature, art and history books hand-picked by Ina. None of them is catalogued; there is no computer, let alone a website, or even a till. Among other books, I have bought an Esperanto translation of The Little Prince here, and also a copy of The Diary of a Nobody, mainly because I liked the fact that on the inside cover Hans has written ‘very funny’.”  From an article in the Guardian in 2008 : Amsterdam: literature’s capital city

De Kaaskamer – The Cheese Shop (7, Runstraat)

The Noordermarkt celebrates its 25th birthday on 5 May 2012.

Akelei on the Noordermarkt

The Noordermarkt, also very near our place, lies in the shadow of the Noorderkerk just by the Prinsengracht. Mainly it’s an organic farmers’ market with stalls of mouthwatering fruit and vegetables, spices and herbs and homemade honeys and preserves. It operates on Saturdays and in addition to the food stalls there are several secondhand and ‘made by hand’ stalls, including Akelei (jewellery),  Anne (recycled clothing and stuff) and Anna Maria Preuss.

Anna Maria Preuss stall, Noordermarkt

Anne’s Stall, Noordermarkt

On our Saturday morning the sun shone and we sat outside by the church where a band of musicians played Russian music and we watched the world go by.

Then it was on to the famous daily Flower Market by the Singel canal – a good place to stock up on bulbs to take home!