Thursday, July 23, 2015

Magdalene May Ball, Cambridge, UK

So, The Ball was, well.... Splendid!  

The student organized event offered guests nonstop food, drinks and plenty of other entertaining options from early in the evening through to sunrise the next morning. While we didn't quite make it for the 4:00am breakfast or the survivor photo, the sky was beginning to lighten when we took a final selfie on the bridge whilst walking home.

Magdalene is the last of the Cambridge colleges to maintain a strict formal dress code at their May Ball. As specified in the Dress Code, most of the gentlemen were handsomely dressed in evening tailcoats and the ladies wore full length ball gowns. One could also wear their nations equivalent to formal dress, my favorites were the embellished sherwanis and saris I saw strolling the grounds. Scottish Highland Dress and hunting dresses were also permitted. 

We started off with an 8~course dinner at 7:15pm. As the sun set the gorgeous, rich colored lighting transformed all of the gardens into a fantasy wonderland. The landscape was speckled with tents filled with food and entertainment and many of the historic buildings housed even more wonders.The activities ranged from lounging on the carpets of the Hookah Bar {I did not inhale!}

to rocking out at an indoor or outdoor stage to a line up of music including The Fratellis and my new favorite band Balloon Ascents, <- <- <- click on the name to see my video of them. I have a feeling we're all going to be hearing a lot more from this talented Oxford band; I can't stop listening to their music (remember, you heard it here first, folks :).

The light show on Pepys Library by Projection Artist Ross Ashton was one of the most amazing displays I've ever seen, beautiful scenes flowed continuously over the ancient stone facade as party goers sipped champagne and danced the night away. Click on the caption below to see the amazing aquarium scene which leads to the beginning of the roses blooming in the image below. 

Light show video

The Variety Stage tent held chairs, comedians, magicians and smaller musical acts to entertain those who's feet needed a rest.

Now here's a fun idea for a party: a silent disco! In what is normally a very formal dining hall party goers could don remote headphones with 3 channels. Channel 1 was manned by a line-up of top British DJ's, Channel 2 by a resident DJ and channel 3 had Electroswing music. Couples and groups could choose which channel they wanted to listen to and dance and sing along to their hearts desire. 

It was hilarious to watch and listen to the scene sans headphones: click on the caption below to see what we were hearing & seeing from the balcony {sadly, the sections I took of the fun, raucous dancers up on the balcony with us are a little dark, but you can hear what a great time they were having and see the lights on their headphones bopping to the (silent) beat}.

Silent Disco Video - what a fun notion for a party! 
Now, click HERE to hear what they were listening to. Another great aspect of this concept is the fact that there is no ambient noise, making it a great option to party quietly. HERE is a link to a company I found in Seattle that rents out the equipment. 

Tents of tempting treats were set up all over the campus, oysters on the half shell, roast pig, falafel wraps, fish and chips, gyozas (Japanese dumplings), puddings, liquid nitrogen ice cream and sorbets, cheeses and port..... something for everyone. Champagne flowed freely throughout the eve at the bar beneath the light show; other pubs served bespoke cocktails, frozen drinks and a refreshing fruit punch. A beer bar was set up in The Pet Cemetery (doesn't every schools have one?) with fresh cooked potato crisps and pork scratchings.

There was a whiskey tasting from 11:00pm to 2:00am in the Scholars Garden and a gin tasting from 2 - 2:30am in Pepys Club for the VIP's. 

Thoughtful services were available to keep everyone looking glamorous and dapper. There was a seamstress in The Cloakroom to make any emergency alterations or repairs. In The College Bar there there were stylist on hand to touch up make-up and tame tresses, if you're dancing shoes were a little too tight you could get a foot massage, and when it began to sprinkle they handed out umbrellas. 

If all of this wasn't enough to keep people busy they did have a few other activities including ballroom dancing classes, the Helter~Skelter plunge, a silent film tent complete with gourmet popcorn, and a formal photo booth. 

Bravo to the committee who put this on and thank you, my dear school chum, for persuading me {it didn't take much} to come to this splendid event!

If you never did, you should.
These things are fun, and fun is good.

~Dr. Seuss, One Fish, Two Fish

Friday, July 10, 2015

Going to The Ball....

It's not everyday one gets invited to a ball, so it seemed as though it could be a regrettable mistake to not make the effort to shoot up to Cambridge, from Eze, to attend the Magdalene May Ball with a dear friend from elementary school when he asked.

Riding into town, I loved seeing all of the students, dressed in full length gowns and white tie, the required dress code, hobbling along the cobbled roads and waiting in line to enter the sprawling white tent where an eight course dinner would be served to start the evening.  

Because Magdalene College in on The River Cam, we went to the ball by punt. Here are some shots from our tranquil ride along the Cam where we saw "The Backs" of the other schools on the river;

 bridge after beautiful bridge, 

Students attending another, more casual, ball and my feet :), what a soothing way to get to a party.

and many other beautiful views of this legendary campus. 

We arrived to the dock relaxed and just in time for the dinner. 

Next post I'll share highlights from the ball.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tulane bound, New Orleans scrapbook...

As much as I worry about how I will survive after my daughter goes off to college next year, I did gain some comfort about my eminent "freebird" status during our visit to New Orleans for her orientation. My visit was brief, but after getting a little taste of the area, I'm really looking forward to coming back.   

Our first night there we were walking down the street in the garden district and came across a group brewing up vats of this amazing concoction on the sidewalk in front of  the Maple Leaf Bar.

Every Sunday night they do a crawfish boil, this one contained sausages, mushrooms, corn, whole garlic cloves, corn on the cob, rabbit, frog legs, oranges, bay leaves, and plenty of herbs and spices to make it zesty and flavorful.

They covered the pool tables and shuffleboard tables inside with plastic sheeting, and all of the regulars stood around waiting for a feast. Once it was ready they drained the mix in giant plastic baskets and then poured it all out on the tables. Hungry customers used their hands to devour the tasty mix and in the end all that was left was piles of crawfish shell. 

Wouldn't this make for fun party fare?

We stayed at the charming and hospitable Parkview Guest House which is right near the campus and Audubon Park, where we walked each day along the beautiful trails filled with lush plantings and lined with beautiful grand homes. 

I didn't even mind the rain that rolled in one day, because it was still so warm and balmy out. 

I know she will eat well because I met with the Executive Chef over a plate of barbequed shrimp and cheese grits in a fabulous open kitchen dining room. He offers a very cool program to the kids, for a swipe of their card students can participate in cooking classes with world class chefs, barbeque pit masters, and other culinary experts and then share the meal together. 

What do you think of these cowgirl boots? Would that be a little too-too for Parent's Weekend?

Thank you for the southern hospitality and delicious food, New Orleans! Looking forward to coming back soon.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Kgotla, Botswana...

This twisty Leadwood log wall and the shade of the glorious Marula tree were a welcome sight after our 8 hour ride across the Kalahari Desert. 

It had been a long, hot day and I was more worried about the horses than the riders. As soon as we reached The Kgotla on the banks of the Motloutse River the the horses were relieved of their saddles and allowed to roll in a dust bath.

Then they were given plenty of food and water in a nearby grove of leafy trees.

We were led into our delightful new home for the next 2 nights, a traditional boma, where all of our beds were arranged around the edge of the circle with a firepit and chairs set in the center. 

A dining table and bar were set up to the side.

After cooling down for a few minutes we got to work unpacking our bags and getting settled into the new space, the logs served as useful hooks.

Just down the hallway were the bathrooms and showers.

These carefully crafted outdoor showers, with heads attached to the trees, revitalized our spirits and washed away all of the dust and grit from the trail. 

Rough hewn timbers and slabs of stone provided us with all of the comforts of home in this enchanting open air setting.

Our stay in The Kgotla was definitely a highlight of the trip, it was absolutely magical to sleep, dream, wake, eat, sing and laugh beneath these beautiful protective branches,

knowing that our trusty guard was on duty, just in case any cats came calling.