Tuesday, October 15, 2019

In Gilbert's Footsteps


So here's where we are -- the Grim's Dyke Hotel, near Harrow. You probably don't remember, but I passed by here more than a year ago when I walked the London LOOP, the large circular walking path around the city. At the time, I wrote that I'd love to stay with Dave and Olga, and it's been hovering in the back of my mind ever since.

The main building is the former home of William S. Gilbert, half of the operetta-writing team Gilbert & Sullivan. We're not staying in the main building -- we're in the "Garden Lodge," a strip of more modern motel rooms at the side of the property. We've got a ground-floor room looking out onto a field and, beyond that, a fenced garden. As I write, Olga is sitting at the back door, watching for rabbits on the grass.


The big attraction here is the woods. There are gigantic trees all over the property, including redwoods like the one Dave is checking out above, and there's a dense forest growing around several ponds and the Grim's Dyke, an iron-age ditch of uncertain purpose that runs nearby. I remember walking through the woods on my LOOP hike and thinking that they were perfect for an outing with the dog -- and they are! As you can see, she's overjoyed.

Yesterday evening, after we arrived via tube to Stanmore and then taxi, we checked in and took Olga out to the lawn for a romp with her Kong. Then we walked through the forest out to an adjacent dirt road, which according to some maps has probably my most favorite street name in all of Britain: Ass House Road.


We found the Gilberts' old orchard, with gnarled fruit trees that definitely look as if they've been here at least a hundred years. Many of them had fruit on them. I took the liberty of picking these two small apples -- according to a sign on the tree it's a variety known as Blenheim Orange, with origins in 1740s Oxfordshire. I ate one of them -- tart and a bit chalky, but not bad. I don't think Lady Gilbert will mind me stealing a few of her apples, since most of them seem to wind up on the ground. (Plus -- she's dead.)


Last night we had drinks and dinner in the hotel's library bar. The bar is visibly stocked with every kind of liquor imaginable, but when I tried to order a martini the bartender informed me that it's "not a cocktail bar."

"Even with all of that?" I asked him, pointing to the rows of gin, rum, vodka, whiskey and liqueurs.

He told me he could make a gin & tonic. So I went with that, and then went with it again. Basically a slow-delivery martini.

There were a handful of other guests wandering around, but as you might expect on a Monday evening in mid-October, the place wasn't hopping. Sitting in the very quiet bar, at times with only the bartender present, I told Dave it felt a little like being the first guests at a party.

"Yeah, in 'The Shining,'" Dave said.

(He's exaggerating. This is not The Overlook. There are no creepy twins in the hallway.)

Anyway, today, more exploring the woods and scenery, and then back to London!

16 comments:

  1. Lady Gilbert may be dead but what about her inheritors? There is no justification for thievery Steve. As for that street, are you sure it's not in fact called Ass Hole Road? I believe that one of Boris Johnson's love nests is there.

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  2. Well that just looks fabulous! I have really missed walking in the woods this year. It's mostly my own fault - I could have left Mike alone & gone on a hike somewhere, but I was too trifling.

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  3. What a nice little get-away!
    But what shite about "not being a cocktail bar."
    A G&T is a cocktail.
    Oh well.

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  4. What a grand place for a get-away. I love that there are redwood trees there. Yes!

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  5. what a cool place. the whole house is a hotel? if there were so few guests why didn't you get a room in the main building. and a bar that's not a cocktail bar? what kind of bar is it? wine and beer? apparently I have nothing but questions. here's another, a holiday from work during the week?

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  6. That is such a gorgeous place and it even looks like it stopped raining for a while. Do you think that bartender just didn't know how to make a martini? As I recall, it's not any more difficult than a G & T. Maybe his shaker was damaged.

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  7. What a beautiful place, a lovely surprise for Dave, I'd say.

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  8. How utterly cool it is that you can get on a subway and get to such place. I am envious that these places exist and are so accessible.

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  9. What a gorgeous place! The grounds are absolutely beautiful. Looks like it is a winner with Olga. I love the redwood trees. I've never seen one in person, but I know that they are awesome. You enjoy the rest of your stay, hugs, Edna B.

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  10. What a great surprise for Dave AND for you! Even if it is like "The Shining".

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  11. That looks like such a lovely place to be.

    And when Olga's blurry, you know she must be having a good time! lol

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  12. What a lovely surprise getaway for you both not forgetting Olga she knows how to have fun.

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  13. Taxi from Stanmore, I never thought of that. Might give it a try. I've always had a soft spot for Gilbert. talking of parties he and his wife loved giving childrens parties - they had none of their own but it did their hearts good. I think I'd have liked him.

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  14. The house looks gorgeous! While Olga looks like she's giving the place her hearty approval, you've found yourself yet another non-contender for that flimsy pamphlet "Great Martinis of Britain".

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  15. Great place and amazing trees!

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