May flowers bloom into June

While the last few weeks have been wet in the UK, a heat wave is on its way. Catch the flowers while you still can:

The Valley Gardens Punch Bowl (Windsor) — The 250-acre Windsor Great Park features thousands of azaleas and rhododendrons in every color, shape and size.
The Royal Landscape, Valley Gardens, Wick Road, Englefield Green TW20 0HNN

— As a protected species and nearly half of ancient bluebell woodlands are the UK, there is a good chance you can still spot some fields.

— Considered the new 'British olive oil' and commonly known in
the US as canola oil can be seen on the side of highways and from above in case you take to the skies this bank holiday.

Just like the weather, it is hard to predict just how long these will last!

Cozy and covered dining

Book now for May 3rd bank holiday

Despite the easing of coronavirus rules on April 12th, pubs and restaurants are still not able to serve people inside. Between this and given the unusual weather lately, cozy and covered al fresco dining will be at a premium for the upcoming May bank holiday. Six weatherproof options in London and Surrey:

Chiltern Firehouse (London) — Chiltern Firehouse operates on a walk-in only basis and features an outdoor fireplace. To beat the crowd, head in for a reasonably-priced breakfast early (7 am on weekdays and 9 am on weekends). 2070 737676
1 Chiltern Street, Marylebone, W1U 7PAG

Coq d’Argent (London) — This popular French restaurant features panoramic views of London complete with heaters. Ala carte menu available Monday to Friday noon to 4 pm for lunch and 5 – 9 pm for dinner and Saturday 5 – 9 pm. 2073 955000
No. 1 Poultry, City of London, EC2R 8EJ

The Ivy Cobham Brasserie (Cobham) — The upmarket brasserie has a beautiful covered garden terrace with heaters. Their all-day seasonal menu (ala carte, vegetarian and vegan) includes light snacks and starters. 1932 901777
48 High St, Cobham KT11 3EF

The Mitre (Hampton Court) — Located on the banks of the River Thames, the riverside terrace is covered by a stretched tent, including blankets, fire pits and heated lamps. 2089 799988
Hampton Court Road, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9BN

Radio Rooftop (London) — Situated ten floors up within ME
London, Radio Rooftop offers iconic views of London's skyline. The open air rooftop can be cleverly covered and heated when the weather doesn't cooperate. Avoid the crowds and minimum spend in the evenings by making a daytime booking. 2073 953440
ME London, 336-337 Strand, London WC2R

The Wheatsheaf
(Esher) — A family-friendly (four-legged ones too!) 200 year-old pub close to Esher Green offers array of ales, daily specials and pub classics. 1372 464014
40 Esher Green, Esher KT10 8AG

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Fit for a Prince

Of the 800 Royal Warrant Holders, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh has granted 35 of them. A Royal Warrant of Appointment can be made to businesses who have supplied highly quality goods or services for at least five years. Once an application is accepted, royal warrants are issued for five years. Those granted a warrant are responsible for displaying the relevant coat of arms of the Royal Family member.

Among them include Jaguar Land Rover
— the company that collaborated with the Duke over the past 18 years to customize the vehicle that transported the Duke of Edinburgh's coffin at his funeral.

If a Land Rover or custom suit by a Saville Row
tailor are beyond your reach, here are a few more affordable options:

Boots Opticians
— Commonly located on High Streets, Boots Opticians has 600 locations throughout the UK.
Hunters Boot 
— Established in 1856, Hunter is known for their popular classic boot originally introduced in 1956.

— Founded in 1860s by William Henry Penhaligon, a barber and perfumer to Queen Victoria.

With Prince Philip’s passing, his Royal Warrants are now void and the company has two years to discontinue the Royal Arms.  However, since many are also favored by other royals, there is a good chance the affiliations will endure.

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Afternoon Tea Delivery

10 springtime teas

Even though restaurants and non-essential shops remain closed, it is still possible to enjoy an afternoon tea delivered to your door:

Lola’s Cupcakes
(Multiple) — Cream Tea Box of scones, strawberry jam and fresh juice for family of 4 (£18.99). Deluxe Afternoon Tea box of sweet and savory treats (baked scones, clotted cream, jam, Victorian sponge cake) for up to 8 people (£59.99).

Warren House
(Kingston) — Traditional Easter Sunday Afternoon Tea with sandwiches, scones, pastries, and teas for collection (£24.95) or delivery (+£5).

Ham Yard Hotel (Multiple) — Traditional (£30), Spring Cocktail (£40) & Sparkling Afternoon Teas (£170 for 4) includes finger sandwiches, sausage rolls, scones, clotted cream, preserves and cakes.

OXO (London) — Afternoon Tea for 2 includes selection of sandwiches, Bailey’s panna cotta, scones, clotted cream and jam (£40).

(Multiple) — Afternoon Tea for 4 includes scones, lemon curd, strawberry jam, ream and an assortment of miniature cakes and sandwiches (£42).

The East India Company (London) — Wicker Easter Hamper with milk chocolate raspberries, shortbread & clotted cream biscuits, and loose leaf tea (£55).

sketch (London) — Five different Spring Afternoon Teas (original, vegetarian, pescatarian, champagne, cocktail) arrive in a pink jewelry case (£55).

(London) — Bee Happy Hamper includes English Tableware Company’s products combined with Twinings teas (£55.25).

Fortnum & Mason (London) — Wicker Easter Hamper includes chocolate Easter egg, loose leaf caddy, Simnel biscuits, jelly carrots, raspberry & rhubarb conserve, pistachio & clotted cream biscuits and nougat chocolate eggs (£100).

Hotel Café Royal : Cakes & Bubbles (London) — Afternoon In includes two signature desserts along with bottle of Grand Reserve champagne (£100).

With teas of every size and budget — consider it a much-deserved treat for making it through a year of a global pandemic!

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Gifts for Mum’s Day

March 14th and beyond

In the UK, Mothering Sunday is different each year since it is linked to Easter and determined by the lunar calendar.  The UK's Mother's Day is held on the fourth Sunday during the period of Lent. 

This year’s holiday happens to coincide with when the first UK coronavirus lockdown took place (March 16th). While a one-plus rule went into place March 8th, for many it will mark a year of not being able to see and spend time with Mum.

With the Government's advice that people continue to keep their distance, there are two gifts to let Mum you are thinking of her everyday:

Emma Bridgewater Plate
— Emma Bridgewater's Mother's Day Everyday 6-1/2” plate with green cabbage white butterflies. Well-priced at £12.95, you can buy one for all the Mums in your life.
Fortnum & Mason Tea — Limited edition Mother of All Teas Caddy is filled with 400 silky tea bags of Fortnum & Masons famous Royal Blend. While it is priced on the high-end of £195, it works out to less than 50p a cup.

While your gift may not arrive in time for Mothering Sunday, you can be early for Mother’s Day in the US — the second Sunday in May (May 9th).

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Mardi Gras & More

Mardi Gras falls on Shrove Tuesday (February 16th), the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent (a period of 40 days of fasting).  While there will be no parades this year, there are still ways to celebrate:

Despite cancellation of New Orleans signature event, the spirit of Mardi Gras will still be on full display . .
Mardi Gras for All Y'all is inviting everyone to tune into a 4-1/2 hour online show complete with carnival, celebrities and musical performances.  All three segments will be re-broadcast on February 16.

Po' Boys
Based on 1920s New Orleans legend of the Martin brothers who gave free food (meat and seafood on french loaves) to striking tram workers who became known as Poor Boys or Po'Boys . . .
Poor Boys
(Kingston) —
Inspired by the Martin brothers, this Kingston restaurant started by two brothers features build-your-own Po Boy sandwiches and other New Orleans street food favorites. Available for carryout or delivery

Traditionally, pancakes are an ideal way to use up fatty ingredients like eggs, milk and sugar. While there will be no public Pancake Day races this year, you can get your pancake fix at home . . .

Breakfast Club The Pancakes At Home Kit comes with pancake mix, double cream, tasting toppings (vanilla essence, salted caramel chocolate ganache, cherry compote, ginger snap & macadamia nut granola crunch, dark & white chocolate chunks, maple syrup) and tea towel.  Serves 4 for £40.

Crepeaffaire The Pancakes in the Post comes with six pre-made crêpes £14.50 or a box of pancake mix (makes ~10) for 10.  Both come with Nutella, strawberry & toffee sauces, as well as sprinkles, marshmallows and Oreo pieces.  Add 50p for vegan and gluten-free box.

Fat Tuesday may actually end up being Fat February!

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Ring in Year of the Ox Online

Beginning February 12th

While public celebrations have been cancelled due to the pandemic, it is still possible to celebrate Chinese New Year virtually in London and beyond:

London (February 14) London usually boasts the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia, but this year's celebration has been moved online. The London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA) will have an online and live (Freeview UK - Channel 8, Sky - Channel 117, Virgin Media - Channel 159, Youview 8) broadcasts beginning at Noon feature dance and musical performances.

New York (Through February 16) — With an estimated 90K-100K people, Manhattan's Chinatown has one of the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. To celebrate the Year of the Ox, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will host a daylong festival of performances, activities, exhibitions and workshops on February 13 10 am to 10 pm and other activities through February 16.

California (February 20-21) — San Francisco is home to one of the oldest and most established Chinatowns in the US. While the the iconic Chinese New Year Parade (named one of the top 10 in the world) is cancelled, the city will host a one-hour special on Facebook live that gives a behind-the-scenes Chinese New Year moments 4:30 — 5:30 pm followed by a special on KTVU Fox 2 at 6 pm (rebroadcast at 9 pm and February 21 3 pm) sponsored by Southwest Airlines.

Texas (Through February 26th) — Houston is home to two Chinatowns — with 'Old Chinatown' located just East of Downtown Houston and one in Southwest Houston, which opened in 1983. Asia Society of Texas Center will release virtual arts and crafts, cooking and performances content through February 26 and Chinese Community Center will host cooking, educational and performance programming through February 13.

With Chinese New Year officially lasting 16 days, there is plenty of time to celebrate — 新年快乐! Xīn Nián Kuài Lè!

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