From the BlogSubscribe Now

Mail and Fly Gets Your Items Back from Airport Security

Mail and Fly is a service that sends you your items that have been confiscated by airport security.

Last August, I watched as my knapsack glided down the conveyor belt at Heathrow Airport and suddenly veered into another lane. It stopped behind a few others that were being hand checked by a security agent.

What did I have in my bag that caused it to need further inspection?

I searched my brain trying to remember what I’d stuffed into my bag. Nothing I could think of caused me to be concerned.

May I search your bag? she asked as she got to my bag.

You may, I replied.

I was impressed that she even asked but did I really have a choice? Not if I wanted to fly that day.

She pulled out my small cosmetic bag, took out my liquid lipstick, mascara, eye drops and a small tube (30 ml) of hand cream and put them into a clear plastic bag. Even though there was room to spare, she still weighed them.

I can’t tell you how many international airports I’ve traveled through with roughly the same items (which are as essential as food for some of us women) and they never raised an eyebrow – sculpted or not.

She continued rifling through my bag and when she took out two bottles of jam and said ‘we have to take these,’ I realized why my bag was flagged.

It’s jam, I said. Like surely, that can’t be prohibited.

No liquids, aerosols or gels, she replied dryly.

But it’s jam, I protested. It’s not exactly a liquid, neither is it an aerosol or gel. I was baffled and steaming.

I had bought the jams at the Jane Austen Center in Bath. Mindful of weight and airport security, I had selected the smallest size – about 3 ounces. The bottle, with the Jane Austen Centre label and its little fabric cover was charming. I was looking forward to spreading some on crackers and enjoying it with a soothing pot of tea when I returned to New York. Now they were being confiscated.

According to the UK Government website, liquid and semi-liquid foods such as soups, jams, honey and syrups are not allowed in hand luggage. 

The question I’d love an answer to is, how can anyone use jam to take down a plane?

She must have seen my disappointment.

If you really want them, she said, you can have them sent to you.

I perked up. Really?

We can send them to you via Mail and Fly.

I’d never heard of Mail and Fly, which operates only in the UK, US and Sweden at the moment. She explained that it is a service that sends you your items that have been confiscated by airport security. 

What a fantastic idea, I thought.

She walked away and returned a few minutes later with a large plastic bag into which she put my jam, sealed it and gave me its detachable flap that had a number and barcode.

Enter this number at the website and follow the instructions to get your jam mailed to you.

I logged into the site a few days after I returned to New York, mostly curious to see what it would cost to have my jams, which I paid about $5 each for, shipped.

Except for a little glitch with entering the item number (their instruction said to include the airport code but I discovered that it wasn’t necessary), the site was easy to navigate. 

However, instead of the $30 or so I was willing to pay, my total was now a whopping £80.94! Back in August, it would have been $124.88.

Had this been a treasured item, sure, I’d grit my teeth and spend the money. But jam, even Jane Austen jam, couldn’t pry that money from my hands.

Mail and Fly keeps your item for up to 42 days. On October 7th, I received a follow-up email from Mail and Fly that the status of my item had changed. I logged in to find out that my jams were discarded. I wonder if it was or if it ended up in a store that sells items that have been confiscated by airport security.

Resources:

Check the TSA list of items that are prohibited from entering the US and a discussion of liquids. The UK list is almost similar.  

 

The Secret Cottage Tour of The Cotswolds, II

Leaving Chastleton House, we drove directly to the Secret Cottage, which is about 5 minutes away. Built in 1580, the cottage has the typical thatched roof, with kitchen and living room downstairs, and sleeping quarters upstairs. 

Secret Cottage

Secret Cottage

When we arrived, we were greeted with a colorful spread of scones, clotted cream, cookies, jams, coffee and tea. 

Cotswolds Strawberries

Cotswolds Tea

With its crackling fire (sorry, no pics of the fireplace or the family’s living space), the cottage felt so cozy, I could have been tempted to stay but we had a full itinerary. Leaving the cottage, we stopped to admire Becky’s garden with its beautiful blooms. (Wish I knew more about flowering plants.) 

Secret Cottage garden

Secret Cottage garden

Cotswolds Secret Cottage bees

Cotswolds Secret Cottage succulents

Secret Cottage succulents

I took a few shots of the flowers but I was most interested in the thatched roof. According to Robin, our driver, the roof is made from Norfolk or water reed and costs approximately £30,000 (about $45,000).

Detail of a thatched roof

Detail of a thatched roof we saw in one of the villages

The reed, which is waterproof, is cut, dried and installed in layers. Once installed, the roof keeps the home warm in winter and cool in summer. I was surprised to hear that these roofs can last about 50 years. The ridge, however, must be replaced every 20 years. (Wonder how long a conventional roof lasts?)

Upper Oddington

Our next stop was the village of Lower Oddington, a preserved area with no new buildings.

Cotswolds Street

The two villages, Upper and Lower Oddington, have about 400 residents. We exchanged waves and hellos to a few of them as we left the car. 

Cotswolds Beauty

Adlestrop

Next was Adlestrop, a pretty little village of about 120 people. Adlestrop has a post office and a church, St. Mary Magdalene. 

The poet, Edward Thomas (1878-1917) wrote a poem around 1912 which celebrated its beauty. Sadly, Thomas died in WWI, 5 years after the poem was published.

Adlestrop Post Office

Adlestrop Post Office

Jane Austen stayed at Adlestrop House, which was then the rectory where her mother’s cousin, the Rev. Thomas Leigh, lived. Adlestrop House was Austen’s inspiration for her novel, Mansfield Park

Adlestrop House

Adlestrop House

Cotswolds St. Mary Magdalene Church Adlestrop

St. Mary Magdalene Church

Cotswolds Adelstrop hedge

A thatched cottage in Adlestrop

Great Tew

When Mr. Boulton, the owner of the manor house died in 1914, he didn’t leave an heir. Fifty years later, they found someone to assume ownership but in the intervening years, many of the cottages fell into disrepair, some swallowed by thick vegetation.

Great Tew

Great Tew

Robin said that the new lord sold two of the paintings from the manor and got enough to renovate. Of 100 cottages, 80 are thatched, 90 are owned by the manor.

Cottage overrun by vegetation

Cottage overrun by vegetation

Falklands Arms

Falklands Arms

Approximately 150 people live in the village, which has a pub, the Falkland Arms.

The Rollright Stones

Near Chippen Norton, Robin slowed and pointed to the location of the Rollright Stones, a monument about the same age as Stonehenge. The Rollright Stones further establishes that this type of monument construction was common in prehistoric Britain. 

Cotswolds Dry Stone Walls

Dry stone walls, like these are an enduring feature of the Cotswolds. Surprisingly, they are made without mortar or cement and can last for many years with little attention.

Cotswolds stone fence

Dry stone wall, made without mortar or cement

Stone wall, detail

Stone wall, detail

Bourton-On-The Water

We drove through this picturesque town that is large enough (approximately 3,000 people live there) to accommodate tour buses, hence it receives lots of visitors. Bourton-On-The-Water is located on the  River Windrush.

Upper and Lower Slaughter

Upper and Lower Slaughter (from the Old English word, Slohtre, which means muddy place) are two pretty villages located on the River Eye.  Upper Slaughter is called a “sainted village” because it lost no one in WWI. `

Cotswolds Lower Slaughter

Lower Slaughter

Lower Slaughter

Cotswolds Lower Slaughter4

Lower Slaughter has a waterwheel, and an old mill which has been converted into a tea shop and store. Although it is located near Bourton-On-The-Water, because of the narrow streets to the village, Lower Slaughter isn’t accessible to large tour buses.   

Approximately 170 people live in Upper Slaughter, 200 in Lower Slaughter.

Cotswolds Thatched Roof Cotswolds Thatched house

We also drove through the villages of Wyck Rissenton and Cornwell before returning to Secret Cottage for coffee and tea. Robin took us back to the train station at Merton-in-Marsh in time to catch the train to London. 

Some Old English Words and Meaning

Chest, Shire – fortified settlement.
Chipping, from ‘cheapen’  – market.
City – has a cathedral.
Comb or Combe – valley.
Cots – sheep.
Dovecot or dovecote – a place for doves and pigeons. The scrapings are collected and used to fertilize the fields. Its size is usually a sign of the wealth of the landowner.
Ford, as in Oxford – a way across a river.
Ham, e.g., Cheltenham – a settlement.
Slaughter, e.g., Upper Slaughter – from Slohtre meaning a marshy, muddy area.
Staddle stones – used to prop up graneries to keep the rats out.
Ton, e.g., Oddington – an enclosure.
Town – a community of 1,000 people or more.
Wold, Wolde – a hill.

Some Famous Residents of The Cotswolds

David Cameron, PM
Kate Winslet
Hugh Grant
Patrick Stewart
Kate Moss

Secret Cottage Tour Details

6-hour guided tour of select Northern Cotswolds villages, tea, coffee, pastries, buffet lunch, and traditional cream tea – £85 or US122. For more info, check out the Secret Cottage site. Enjoy!

 

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations.

Budget Travelers Sandbox

The Secret Cottage Tour of The Cotswolds, I

The Cotswolds covers an area of approximately 100 miles from Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south, and about 25 miles from Oxford in the east to Cheltenham in the west.

The region is covered in oolitic limestone, called Cotswold stone, which varies from honey colored in the north, to golden in the central areas, and cream or white in the south.

The stone is mined from local quarries (some still in operation) and used in building the distinctive cottages and churches, and walls, made without mortar or cement, that crisscross the area. Full of rolling hills and open spaces, The Cotswolds was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966.

Cotswolds Countryside

Cotswolds Countryside

The Cotswolds has been on my radar for a few years and as soon as I decided to visit relatives in London, I started looking for tours to the area. I opted for a walking tour so that, like a delicious meal, I could move slowly and savor the experience.

Unfortunately, after one too many glasses of wine at my cousin’s birthday party the night before, my enthusiasm lost the battle to exhaustion. Although I woke up on time, I felt tired and instead of pushing myself, I relaxed. 

Later, as my energy and reasoning returned, I started to regret not forcing myself to go. I knew I’d kick myself when I returned to New York so I pulled out my iPad and began another search.

I looked for tours of no more than 15 people that offered pickup from a railway station. Several fit the bill. I was about to book one I thought I’d like when I saw Secret Cottage‘s 6-hour guided tour of “hidden villages that are inaccessible to public transport.” I was sold. 

In addition, according to Secret Cottage’s website, Becky, the owner, would invite us in for a peek at her cottage offer traditional English cream tea and pastries, as well as lunch.   

I was excited (did a little Happy Dance), relieved and justified that I didn’t push myself to do the walking tour. The Secret Cottage tour would definitely be better – I knew it! 

A few days later, I was on the 7:50 a.m. train from Paddington Station for the 90-minute ride to Moreton-in-Marsh (such a descriptive name, isn’t it?) in the Northern Cotswolds where Becky’s driver would pick me up at 10:15.

Cotswolds Merton in Marsh

Two Mercedes SUVs pulled into the station’s parking lot at 10:15 sharp. Once the drivers sorted out who was waiting for the tour, we split into two groups of seven and got into the cars.   

As Robin, our driver, eased out of the parking lot, he explained that the name Cotswolds comes from the Old English words, Cots (sheep, sheep pen) and Wold (hill). He also gave us a brief history of wool and its impact on the area.

A Wooly History of The Cotswolds 

England, in the Middle Ages, was famous for its wool and the best fleece came from the Cotswolds, from the local Cotswold sheep. By the 15th century, wool was the country’s main industry.

England was so wrapped up in wool that the Lord Chancellor of the House of Lords sat on a woolsack, a chair made of wool.

During Charles II’s reign, the Burial in Wool Act of 1667 and 1678 directed that all bodies (except those who died from the Plague) had to be buried in wool; the coffins lined with the material. Anyone who violated the Act had to pay a fine. This Act stayed in effect until 1814!

The demand for wool created great wealth for The Cotswolds area merchants built lavish homes and fine churches. Many of these churches (called wool churches) were so large they dwarfed the villages in which they were located. 

By the 1700-1800s, however, competition from wool production in other parts of the world caused a decline in the English wool industry and without a diversified economy, the country and The Cotswolds suffered. The decline had another effect: that of preserving much of The Cotswolds architecture that now makes it special.

Though wool is no longer its primary product, you can still see sheep grazing in the fields, as well as acres of barley, wheat, corn and rapeseed.

Chastleton Village, Chastleton House

As we drove from Moreton-in-Marsh to Chastleton Village, which has about 30 homes and 75 residents, Robin explained that villages have about 100 people, towns about 1,000, and a city has a cathedral.

Villages typically had a large house for the landowner, smaller cottages for the workers as well as a church, a shop and a school. The cottages traditionally had a room with a fireplace and kitchen on the main floor, living quarters on the upper floor that were accessible by a ladder.

Chastleton House

Chastleton House

Though it wasn’t open yet, we stopped to have a look at Chastleton House, which was built between 1607 and 1612 for Walter Jones. The house stayed in the family until 1991, when the National Trust acquired it. Seen from the main gate, it is quite impressive. 

Chastleton House, back view

Chastleton House, back view

Robin led us round the back of Chastleton House, which was protected by a wall however, I was able to climb up and snap a photo.  The best view was of the Topiary Garden.

Topiary Garden

Topiary Garden

A church, St. Mary’s, which dates to the 12th century, is located near the house. 

St. Mary's Church

St. Mary’s Church

Dovecote or Dovecot

Dovecote or Dovecot

Across the street, there’s a dovecot or dovecote, basically a large birdhouse for pigeons and doves where workers collect the droppings to use as fertilizer. The size of the dovecote is usually a pretty good indicator of the wealth of the owner. 

One famous resident of Chastleton House was Robert Catesby, the leader of the famous Gunpowder Plot, the failed 1605 assassination plot against King James I.  

In 1866, croquet rules were standardized at Chastleton House. It was also one of the locations for the 2015 BBC series, Wolf Hall.

Chastleton House is open Wednesday to Sunday, 12:30 – 3 from March to October, 12:30 – 4 from April to September.

 

In Part II, we’ll go on a tour of Upper Oddington, Adlestrop, Great Tew, and Upper and Lower Slaughter. Hope you stay tuned.

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday hosted by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox,  Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales, and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations. Be sure to head over and check out more travel photos from around the world.

Budget Travelers Sandbox
 
Also linking with Weekend Travel Inspiration hosted by Michele at Malaysian MeandersReflections Enroute, The Crowded Planet, ContentedTraveller, Albom Adventures, Safari 254, and FamiliesGo.
 

A Photo Review of 2015

The end of the year usually inspires reflection on the year that’s ending and a look forward to the one that’s approaching.

Maybe it’s getting older, but it seems like time moves more quickly now (I’m beginning to hear myself lamenting its rapid passage just like my mother did. I, however, prefer to think that I’m packing in 1000% more into my life, and this makes the days, weeks and months zip by in a blur). So it’s good to have this time to slow down and look back.

Photos are great for doing that. Think of them as moments of emotions frozen in time, that are re-released each time you look at them.

Unlike previous years, I didn’t have many new travel experiences in 2015 – or so it seemed until I started looking at my photos, a lot of which never made it to the blog because I didn’t post as often as I used to.

Still, whether I’m in Montego Bay or New York, I’m in a prime vacation destination. People, lots of them, leave home to see the things I pass by without noticing.

A Photo Review of New York

Take Times Square, for example. I avoid it as much as I can but every so often, it surprises me. Like the night I was hurrying through after seeing a play and saw this: two giant, colorfully illuminated lights wishing Happy Birthday to the late Bob Marley, the reggae superstar who would have been 70 last February 6th.

Times Square Marks Bob Marley's 70th

Times Square Marks Bob Marley’s 70th

Later that month, during Japan Week, I watched as a bride-to-be (winner of a contest) was dressed in a traditional wedding kimono, called uchikake, in Grand Central Station. Japan is a country steeped in culture and tradition so it was fascinating to watch this demonstration. 

On a personal note: I started learning Japanese this year. Hopefully, by the time I make it to Tokyo, I’ll know enough to get around.  

Bride-to-be being dressed in traditional wedding kimono

Bride-to-be being dressed in a traditional wedding kimono – Japan Week 2015

It goes without saying that the arts are big in New York. Here’s a look back at a few of the exhibitions I saw last year. 

I went twice to Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery to see Romare Bearden’s collages, drawings and watercolors that he based on Homer’s epic poem, The Odessy. I’m a Bearden fan – I even have one of his collages – but this piece touched me to the core. 

House in Cotton Field, Romare Bearden

House in Cotton Field, Romare Bearden

At the Brooklyn Museum, I revisited Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, which is on permanent display. Each time I see it, I marvel at Chicago’s vision and her celebration of womanhood.

The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago

The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago

Also at BAM, I saw Kehinde Wiley’s, A New Republic – portraits of contemporary blacks painted against Old Master backgrounds, like the one below of Michael Jackson on a horse. I also breezed through (the museum was closing) Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Unknown Notebooks

Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson) Kehinde Wiley

Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson) Kehinde Wiley

I rush to see Cecile McLorin Salvant, who at 25, has been called a jazz “phenom.” The Grammy Award winning artist has a voice that recalls Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Betty Carter. She grabs hold of your attention whether she’s singing in English or French, her own compositions or jazz standards.

Cecile McLorin Salvant performing at Ginny's Supper Club

Cecile McLorin Salvant performing at Ginny’s Supper Club

When the Whitney Museum of American Art relocated to its new building in the Meatpacking District this spring, it hosted a Block Party that drew thousands of visitors. Although I hate crowds, I was curious to see the new space. Plus, the warm temperature made it the perfect weekend – the one where you linger over brunch, look at art and take long walks. 

Museum goers at the Whitney Museum's Block Party

Museum goers at the Whitney Museum’s Block Party

We waited on line for close to an hour (the museum handed out bottled water) however, by the time we got to the inaugural exhibition, America Is Hard to See, I was so over stimulated visually, I couldn’t appreciate anything I saw. I just wanted to get back outside. 

High Line Park

High Line Park

We walked the length of the High Line from the Whitney (Gansevoort Street, south entrance) to the north end at 34th Street. It was a glorious day to be out.  

In June, we saw Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, run the 200 meters at the Adidas Grand Prix at Ichan Stadium. 

Usain Bolt after winning the 200m, Ichan Stadium

Usain Bolt after winning the 200m, Ichan Stadium

I love going to Coney Island but I prefer the quiet of the off-season when there are no crowds and I can hear the sounds of the waves crashing to shore, birds cawing overhead, walk the beach and look for shells.  

Luna Park, Coney Island

Luna Park, Coney Island

Coney Island beach. Where's Everyone?

Coney Island beach. Where’s Everyone?

Soon the hectic pace of summer gives way to the calm of fall. This year, we hosted Pope Francis, as well as more than 150 heads of state, including President Barack Obama, at the UN General Assembly.

Since my office is close to the UN and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the Pope celebrated mass, I had to plan ahead to avoid street closures and ‘frozen zones.’ I’ve never seen Fifth Avenue so deserted. 

Fifth Avenue closed for the Pope's visit

Fifth Avenue closed for the Pope’s visit

The first Sunday in November, the city slows down for elite and everyday runners and wheelchair athletes who come from all over the world to participate in the New York City Marathon.  

Wheelchair athletes

Wheelchair athlete – I doubt this is as simple as it looks

Marathoners

Marathoners, photo taken from my window 

New York does it up big for Christmas and the UNICEF Snowflake Star at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue is an important symbol of the season. 

The Star

The Star

A Photo Review of 2015’s Memorable Eats

Aren’t these cupcakes eye-catching? 

St. Patrick's Day Cupcakes

St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

When I lived in DC, my colleagues and I would go to Cristfield Seafood for lunch every payday. My favorite thing on the menu: a cup of lobster bisque and a shrimp salad sandwich. The salad was so stuffed with shrimp, I’d save half for dinner.

I returned to Cristfield’s after my White House tour and was pleasantly surprised to find the bisque and the sandwich taste exactly the same as they did the last time I had them – more than 10 years ago.

Shrimp Salad Sandwich

Shrimp Salad Sandwich

Whenever we visit my friends in Toronto, they always have a hot, new restaurant for us to check out. Last time, it was Quatrefoil and I selected this entree.

Year in Review - Quatrefoil Restaurant, Toronto

Salmon Meal, Quatrefoil Restaurant, Toronto 

The first time I had bangers and mash was at The Shakespeare in New York City, just before my trip to London. My writing group had one of our social events here. 

Bangers and Mash, The Shakespeare

Bangers and Mash, The Shakespeare

My 2015 Travels in Review

So where did I go in 2015? I visited Toronto a few times but my major trip was to London. I’ve written several posts about London, Stonehenge and Oxford. Stay tuned for my posts about Edinburgh, where I spent a day. 

If you read paperbacks, I’m sure you recognize the logo. This plaque marks the location where Penguin published its first paperback. 

Penguin

Penguin

Ede & Ravenscroft, London’s oldest tailor and robe makers, has been around since 1689. In case you’re wondering, they also do women’s clothing.

Ede & Ravenscroft Royal Robe Makers

Ede & Ravenscroft Royal Robe Makers

This needs little explanation.

Look Right

Look Right 

Red phone boxes similar to these probably made their way to all of Britain’s colonies – we had some in Jamaica. But with cellphones so ubiquitous these days, phone boxes are not so necessary anymore. After I took this photo, I noticed that there was a guy sleeping in the middle booth. 

Iconic Red Phone Booths

Iconic Red Phone Booths

I look forward to flying into Laguardia Airport for one reason – this incredible view of New York City.

Aerial View of New York CityAerial View of New York City

Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog and for taking this look back through 2015 with me. 

In appreciation for your support, I’d like to offer you a chance to win one of ten GPSMyCity‘s Self-Guided City Walks Apps. The app is available on iOS and Android and you can select one for the city of your choice (Please check the GPSMyCity for a list of cities). 

If you’re one of the ten lucky winners, you’ll receive a promo code that will allow you to download a full, FREE version of a City Walks app. The app includes a detailed, fully functional city map and several carefully selected self-guided city walks.

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday, hosted by Nancie at Budget Travellers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales, and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations. Be sure to check them out!

Budget Travelers Sandbox