Happy New Year
to You All!
Amongst the grey sogginess that's England at this time of year, New Year's Day stood out as a miracle of blue skies and bright sunshine.
So, of course, lots of people went out to take advantage of unexpectedly fine weather and we were no exception. Our first tandem ride of the year was lovely - though after the recent heavy rains the roads are in a bit of a state - and I'm looking forward to many more like it.
I started my own business last year, so the England site got a little neglected in the whirl of new stuff I was having to deal with, but I can promise you that that won't be the case this year. Now that I've found my feet, Essentially England is firmly back on the map - and I'm very glad to have your company while I try to bring you the very best of English history and food!
A Most Awkward Royal Wedding
Kings have a bit more leeway to be eccentric than most people. Though some, and most particularly King Henry VIII, took that eccentrity to decidedly new levels. Many of the anecdotes told about him seem to indicate that he loved to make his attendants uncomfortable.
Take his fourth wedding, for example. Henry had met his newest fiancee, Anne of Cleves, on New Year's Day 1540 - but the meeting really hadn't gone well. Not only was the king not impressed by Anne's looks, he was trying his very best to get out of the engagement altogether. When this didn't work, he threw a rather kingly tantrum. Asked on January 5th to set a date for the wedding, he promptly decided that he would be married the very next day. And at 8am in the morning, to boot. I can only imagine the consternation of his staff as they scrambled to get the ceremony organised.
But seeing that Henry married Anne Boleyn at daybreak, maybe the man had a thing for early morning weddings!
January and February are traditionally cold, dark and unpleasant here in England. So to improve the mood, many of us plan our holidays. And as I write, I'm happily wondering which county should go next on the list.
Essex comes to mind for an early summer break with the tandem. Situated between Suffolk, which was beyond peaceful, and Kent, which was unexpectedly rural and quiet, Essex has much Saxon history, fine castles and plenty of food to explore.
Derbyshire has been one of our favourites since we spent three years living in Sheffield, and we're planning to revisit some old haunts this spring for a walking break.
Shropshire is on the list for early autumn. Cycling will be hard in that part of England, but there's just sooooo much history to explore that we really should get started.
As usual, we'll be renting a holiday cottage for each stay. I love picking through the catalogues to find unusual cottages to stay in... and if you've followed Essentially England for a while, you'll know that I tend to add my best finds to the site. So, if you're planning an England holiday this year and want to stay in a holiday cottage, keep an eye on the places to stay page where new lists of cottages will appear shortly.
Spiced Apple Juice
Spiced drinks - wine, cider, juice, perry - were very popular during the Middle Ages. And they're good recipes to have to hand during the colder months. A variation on a thermos of hot tea, spiced apple juice makes a nice pick-me-up on a chilly winter walk. It's not as heavy on the calories as hot chocolate and is generally liked by adults and children alike.
So before you get ready for your next walk, fill a saucepan with apple juice, add a stick of cinnamon, 1-2 cloves, a few slices of lemon or orange and heat. When the juice comes to a boil, turn down the heart and simmer for at least 5 minutes. Taste and add sugar if you like it sweeter, stirring carefully until all the sugar is dissolved. Then fill into a thermos and you're all set to go!
And Next Month …
We had a wonderful holiday in York at the end of October, so I'm working hard to set up a whole new 'Yorkshire' section of the site.... add my annual holiday cottage extravaganza and I'm looking to have a wonderfully busy time ahead.
So until then, keep well and think of England…
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