Slice of Life Friday: High Tea Anyone?

MP900387878Ever do high tea? Proper high tea? It’s truly a brilliant and civilized invention, and I’m fortunate that with my husband’s Indian background he “gets” it too. The British Raj and their 200 plus years in India ingrained the wisdom of high tea pretty solidly into the Indian culture. This means that 1: my husband makes THE perfect cup of tea, including heating the cups ahead of time, and 2: sometimes our tea is accompanied by cucumber sandwiches.

And I’ve been fortunate to have visited India many times. Sitting on the shady veranda of the Ram Bagh Palace in Jaipur sipping tea and overlooking the maharaja’s garden through marble pillars truly feels like a frozen moment in time… Then there’s tea at the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur…a floating palace,  mind you. If you don’t feel like royalty there, what the heck’s wrong with you? (Dude, click on all the links in this article if you want to truly fall in love with tea places!)

Usually I have high tea fantasies on those cold rainy days, days that remind me of when I lived in England for half a year. Perfect time for a cuppa strong Earl Gray, and a plate of dense scones with clotted cream and jam. Yum! Two of the fancier more atmospheric teas I’ve enjoyed were in London.

The first was at the Orangery on the edge of Hyde Park. Gorgeous structure with sweeping high ceilings and vast windows looking out on formal knot gardens…plus it’s part of the Kensington Palace layout. Sipping tea and having scones and mini sandwiches amid the beautiful surroundings and with Greek sculptures staring down at you as if envious for a bite = heaven.

Tea Sandwiches and PastriesThe second really fine tea I had was in Fortnum and Mason’s department store (department store to the Queen, thank you very much). It’s the same place that the snotty brat in  The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson is taken for his coveted “Knickerbocker Glory”…which is still on the menu.  High tea here is delightfully stuffy. All fine china, the usual tea fixins displayed in a beautiful manner, and, honestly, the most shockingly good lox I’ve ever had in my life.

I’ve also had tea in countless bakeshops throughout the Cotswolds. Those upstairs rooms are a fragrant delight with their fussy flowered curtains and little trolley carts wheeled past the table. Every single tea = yum.

Why all this tea nostalgia? Today, I’m heading out to tea with my wonderful daughter. It’s an annual tradition, and yes, there is a wonderful place right here in PA: The Talking Teacup.  I’ve been basically not eating all week so that I’ll have room for this feast. It’s mysterious how those teeny tiny sandwiches and a delightful little cookie shaped like a teapot expand in your stomach.  Then again, it could be all those scones with clotted cream I wolf down first.

But I’m ready!  Bring on the tea.

Have any great high tea spots to recommend across the globe? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Book Review: Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

What sort of book would you like to have if you were sick in bed all day, like me? (Insert pity party here… I’m getting better, though, really). Well for me, I wanted something that would entertain, that would make me laugh, that wouldn’t hurt my head too much more than it already hurts (aw, more pity!), and that would make me forget my worries for a while.  Fortunately, I was handed the perfect novel for what ails me: Twenties Girl by Sophia Kinsella (Dial).

All day today, I’ve been snuggled under blankets, sipping hot tea and flipping pages of this novel, thoroughly entertained.  I read it from start to finish, with pleasure. I love when that happens. Really, it’s such a rare thing. I don’t know about you, but all too often a book has a cute premise, an attractive cover, but by page 100 or so, I’m beyond bored, or aggravated by the writing. Sigh.

I’ve always enjoyed Kinsella’s Shopaholic books (if you get a kick out of the ridiculous and love everything British, definitely check these out… ignore the movie — that was a dud in comparison), but I especially loved Twenties Girl.  The premise is both touching and funny.  A great aunt who dies at the age of 105, forgotten by the world, never visited by family. The ghost of this same aunt, in the form of her flapper 23 year old self, haunting her great-niece. The mystery of a lost necklace. The truth of a girl who stupidly pines for an ex (something everyone can identify with at some point in his or her life…admit it, it’s true!).  And a cast of interesting characters, including the best friend who isn’t, the parents who fill you with a confusing mix of love and guilt, and the broody guy with a secret.

One especially beautiful scene occurs when the heroine visits a nursing home and sees the youthful spirits in each wheelchair-bound elder rise up and dance. Fabulous writing.

You might hear people refer to this novel dismissively as chicklit and light and fluffy. But, honestly, it was a hoot to read, engrossing, and had some real depth. Everything you could want from a book on a cold wintry afternoon. Let this novel work its ghostly magic on you.  Highly recommended.