London called, we answered

by Mark Graham on October 27, 2014

Call us crazy, its OK, but a long weekend in London was just what we needed.  I haven’t been into London in over ten years, so it was fun to go back.  We left San Francisco on Thursday, connected in DFW, and arrived in LHR at about noon on Friday.  Thanks to being a very frequent flyer on American we got to take advantage of the arrivals lounge, which allowed for a much needed quick shower and change of clothes before heading into town.

Tip #1: Take the Heathrow Express to/from the airport.  It is clean, comfy and runs every 15 minutes for a short 15 minute trip to Paddington Station in central London.  There are some trains that do make some local stops so be sure to get on the non-stop train.

We stayed at the Hilton London Metropole Hotel Exteriorwhich is a very short walk from Paddington Station and very close to Hyde Park.  It is a nice hotel with excellent service and comfortable rooms.  The neighborhood is very Islamic, so lots of Halal options and Houka lounges!

That night we used to Uber to get us to dinner at Bistrotheque, which we had found online and booked via OpenTable.  What a great restaurant, read my post on Bistrotheque for more details. That night we crashed and recovered from our crazy two days of travel.

On Saturday we got up and walked through Hyde Park, grabbed a sandwich at one of the cafés hidden throughout the park.  Tip #2: Don’t go to Hyde Park hungry!  The cafés have very few items other than ice cream…and only a couple of them have sandwiches.  We lucked out and found one that did have sandwiches. There is a restaurant inside the park, but we weren’t that hungry yet.  We then took the tube over to Leicester Square and walked around SOHO and Covent Garden, then tubed from Charing Cross over to the Embankment and walked across the river and along the South Bank.  We stopped at the Understudy, which is part of the National Theatre.  They serve a range of draught craft beers, wines and cocktails.  Tip #3: Give this place a try. It is a great place to have a sit and sip a nice glass of wine watching boats move along the Thames and to watch people, of course!

We walked a bit farther and headed back to the hotel to prep for dinner.  We walked from the hotel to Bricole, a nice Italian restaurant.  Check out my post on Bricole here. Today we walked just under 6 miles not counting the miles between tube stops underground and the hundreds of steps on those multifloor stairways!!

After a nice dinner and some good wine we headed back to the hotel for a sleep before our early flight.  We took the Heathrow Express back to the airport and managed to get through security in just a few minutes.  Heathrow is not the horrible mess it used to be.  They have made some nice changes that seem to have made it a more navigable airport.

It was a a fun trip, and would do it again.




Bistrotheque, London

by Mark Graham on October 25, 2014

This is a fun place!  We found Bstrotheque online and it just seemed like it would be a good place to spend our one ‘big night out’ in London. It wasn’t such a ‘big night’ since we had just flown in from San Francisco and made it back to the hotel just before the travel caught up with us.  But dinner was fun.

BistrothequeFirst, this is NOT an easy place to find!  You must look at the location on google maps with street view so you will know when you get there, our driver didn’t even know it was there!  The address is 23–27 Wadeson Street, which is a very narrow industrial looking street. There is no signage outside and the restaurant is upstairs, so you really can’t even see it from the street.  But once you get inside it is well worth it.

The menu is limited to a few very well thought out and prepared items.  We started with a couple of house specialty cocktails.  For starters we went with a very nice scallop and gurnard ceviche and cured salmon, beetroot and horseradish, both of which were outstanding.  The baked chicken and lamb rump main courses were prepared perfectly and were quite substantial. We enjoyed a nice bottle of Rioja Crianza that paired nicely with both of our meals. Armagnac was the perfect end to this very enjoyable meal.

Make a reservation, this place is crazy busy after 8PM and don’t even think about driving!  Take a cab or Uber.

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Bricole – London

by Mark Graham on October 25, 2014

We wanted a place within walking distance of the hotel and without the crazy London dinner prices. It was a good find. Very Italian, very nice staff and the food was great. Bricole includes a deli, cafe bar and trattoria all in one. They also have outside seating if the weather cooperates.

Bricole outsideThe food is authentic Italian, mostly from the Latium region, (Where Rome and the Roman Empire started) but they also offer plates from other regions. The cheese selections are quite extensive and the dinner menu has plenty of options and there are specials too. We started with 2 proseccos and a light appetizer. For the main course we had the Tagliolini con gamberi (tagliolini with red prawns) and the Tagliatelle al ragu di cinghiale (tagliatelle with wild boar ragout). Both were quite delicious. A nice bottle of Nero d’Avola made the meal complete (we passed on desert!). Reasonably priced by London standards at just under 70 pounds for the two of us.

Everyone who worked there was Italian and extremely helpful. They did a nice job of explaining menu items and answering all questions. The service was polite, timely and not rushed.

We didn’t have a reservation and they were able to seat us.  It might be a good idea to make one though.  You can do it from their website or OpenTable.


Fburg Shines home tour 2014Casa Grande at The Willows is proud to announce our participation in the Fredericksburg SHINES Home Tour.  We are the 3rd home on the tour and will have Lynn Herrmann, designer and builder of the house, on the property to answer visitors’ questions. 

Fredericksburg SHINES hosts their second annual Fredericksburg fall tour of homes to spotlight local examples of sustainable-living practices. Nine homes (ten locations) are on the tour which will be Saturday, Sept. 20, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sustainable practices to be showcased on the tour include solar applications for electricity generation, water heating, and solar tubes as interior light sources. For those interested in water applications, there will be examples of xeriscaping and rainwater collection systemCasa Grandes.  Compressed earth block, rammed earth, strawbale, and “cool roof” type constructed homes will be included on the tour.  

Tickets for the event are $25 and include a map and a description of what is available for viewing at each home. Tickets are available at these locations in Fredericksburg:   Judy’s Liquor, Memorial Presbyterian Church, and Peach Basket.  Tickets may also be purchased in Ingram at the office of Rainwater Systems, Inc. and Solar Power Systems.  For your convenience, tickets may also be purchased online. Maps will be emailed to online ticket purchasers.  Program booklets will be available at our base home, listed as home #1 on the map.

For more information:  Email:   Phone: (830) 997-3543, ext. 27


Summertime at Domaine de St. Remy

by MPI Traveler on August 28, 2014

St.Remy summer 2014

Summertime at Domaine de St. Remy and the living is easy.  The pool invites our guests to come sit outdoors with a glass of our award wining wine and enjoy the late afternoon sun.

Close to the village of Aimargues, St. Remy offers great hospitality in quiet comfort. 

for more information: