#49 Part two: Lacock Abbey’s response

Dear Jonathan Gardner

Thank you for your email regarding your visit to Lacock Abbey.

I have reviewed the incident with our House and Collections Manager who manages the Abbey after she discussed the matter with the volunteer you met and the duty staff who was there on Sunday.

I am sorry you had a disappointing visit to the Abbey, the volunteer you met on Sunday was talking to two other visitors when you came into the Hall, which is the exit from the Abbey. The Abbey has a long and complex history, as I’m sure you will have discovered, and we have planned a roughly chronological route, starting with the oldest part which is the Cloisters, through the house and finishing the Great Hall. We feel this displays the Abbey in the best way but also, since it is quite compact it minimises congestion. We’ve found this route helps visitors enjoy the Abbey most.

When you stepped into the Hall, our Volunteer, broke away from the couple she was talking to, to explain you had come in the exit and ask you kindly go in through the Cloisters. (We get one or two folk doing this each day and they are asked to do the same.) That request, for whatever reason, broke down into a situation I know neither of us would have wanted and our volunteer, thinking it may help, put her hand out to try and calm you down, but this clearly backfired on her and was obviously the wrong thing to have done.

I am very sorry that this came across as inappropriate to you, we want everyone to have a great visit here. There was a misunderstanding, our volunteer misread the situation and we are all sorry for upset caused and hope you do come back and see us again sometime.

Yours Sincerely

Graham Heard
General Manager

[I’m not sure how much this address my complaint.
Feel like the shoving has been entirely misrepresented.
Any thoughts? – Jon]

Heavenly pillows

yardfox:

Following on from the Cakes of Portugal series… one I missed.

Originally posted on Salt of Portugal:

No trip to Portugal is complete without visiting Sintra and no visit to Sintra is complete without eating a travesseiro at Piriquita. Travesseiro means large pillow, and that is what these pastries look like. But, instead of cloth and feathers, these pillows have layers of puff pastry filled with an egg and almond cream.

Despite many attempts, no one has been able to copy these travesseiros since Piriquita first opened its doors to the public in 1952. Some say that fairies sprinkle them with star dust. Others claim to hear sirens singing while they prepare the pastry. All we know is that for us, mere mortals, these heavenly travesseiros are one more reason to go to Sintra.

Piriquita-Antiga Fábrica de Queijadas, Rua Padarias 1/7, Sintra, tel. 219 230 626. Lines can be long in the Summer but, if you go up the street, you’ll find a second Piriquita café with…

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#49 Lacock Abbey – Fortress of orthodoxy

View of Lacock Abbey from the south on a sunny summer day.

I went to Lacock yesterday with the kids, my partner and her kids.

I ended the day writing this to the National Trust complaints board:

Dear Madam/Sir,


I am writing in response to surprisingly hostile and aggressive behaviour from a member of staff at Lacock Abbey this afternoon. The incident was witnessed by my two young children, my partner and her son, as well as other visitors.


Having enjoyed the grounds, my family and I entered the abbey via the exit. This was an honest mistake, easily made, but what followed was utterly unacceptable. 


The steward in the room – Denise – strode across the room and demanded we leave. I was taken aback at the bluntness of her tone, and asked why it wasn’t acceptable to continue around the property from this point. We were told it was ‘prohibited’. I asked why, and was met with a hand being pushed into my side as Denise immediately lost her temper. 

Would she have done this if I had perhaps been one of the more genteel visitors?

I asked your employee to stop shoving me and to get out of my personal space. She backed off, with an ironic apology aimed at visitors around us.


 
I remain stunned at the fact that I have been shoved and insulted by someone who managed to summon moral indignance at being asked if it were possible to walk around the property in a different direction. 


I asked Denise if she would find it acceptable if someone invaded her personal space.
Her response? 


‘”I’m British. I live here, so I’m already in my personal space.”‘

I find this to be a particularly revealing and unpleasant conflation of hostile nationalism and interpersonal respect. 
As she has shown herself to be a singularly officious and self-righteous individual, I have no doubt that this employee will already have mounted a vehement and aggrieved defence. However, even though I have a shaved head and was wearing a pair of trainers, I have the right to be unmolested, and be treated with the same degree of courtesy as any other of your members. I happen to be British, but deplore the thought that someone from another country might be treated to this type of petty conservatism. 

That someone entrusted with dealing with the public can summon such disproportionate fury at the notion of walking the abbey in a different direction is laughable. That this person would then immediately resort to shoving, hostility and implied racism is deeply offensive, and calls into question Lacock Abbey’s judgement in employing such a person. 

I would like an apology, and assurance that this type of assault is prevented from recurring. If I do not hear from the NT, I will pursue this matter further.

#48 The front garden

After Ron’s death, new neighbours moved in upstairs. After a time, they set to work on their front garden.

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Essentially, they hand-rotavated the borders, massacring flowers and weeds alike. When I first came upon what had happened, I felt sad. Another part of what Ron had left, gone.

I photographed it again a few weeks back. It has changed without anyone doing a thing.

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It’s got fuller since, joined now with a large stand of borage.

Ron’s hands planted the flowers. They were cut down, but their seeds dwelt invisible in the soil and rose up legion, even stronger than before.

#47 Cakes of Portugal No.4 Quejada amendoa

Monday, 27th July – Local kiosk cafe, Volta Duche, Sintra 

Cake no.4: quejada amendoa

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Two quejadas. The amendoa (almond), beneath.

Quejadas are the speciality cake of Sintra. Sinatra is a special place itself, a town spilling up into dramatic hills, littered with fantastical castles built with fairy tale wealth and fancy. Compared with the neo-romantic splendours of the town, the cakes are relatively humble. They are made with lots of milk, giving them a slightly cheesecake texture.

My quejada amendoa had a syrupy surface, speckled with the remnants of crushed almond kernels. The interior texture and taste is much like a bakewell tart, though less cakey. It is enclosed within a narrow, firm pastry that assists my many measured bites approach, though I’m sure it would support a more frenzied attack.

This quejada amendoa was a fine accompaniment to a great expresso.

(This cafe doesn’t feature on the internet, and I omitted to record its name, so remains nameless. It is a modest cafe on the sweeping approach road to the old town, set up a flight of stairs near the public toilets. It has a number of tables, all with yellow Lipton ice tea parasols. I recommend it very much for its modest prices, as much as the friendly and genuine family who run it. Our waiter (the son) is called Harley Davidson, and chatted with us for a while about his portrait drawing and artistic hopes. I wish him well. His tag is below.)

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#46 Cakes of Portugal No.3 Bolo de chocolate

Monday 27th, July – Landeau, Rua das Flores, Lisbon

Cake no.3: bolo de chocolate

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The bolo de chocolate translates simply as chocolate cake, and is not a cake undersold. Extracts from reviews suggest that this is ‘the best chocolate cake in the world’.

There are two branches of Landeau in Lisbon. Both are beautifully designed, industrial retro-chic locations. We were at the Chiado cafe which is the least pretentious of the two, like a cross between a wine vault and 1950s schoolroom. There is a monastic calm in this cool interior that insulates from the city beyond, which my children managed to quickly dispel by tussling over who could ride the 1970s trike in the corner. There was no-one else here and the waitress was entirely happy with them careering around the cafe in circles. It was fine.

The menu here is simple – a bolo de chocolate, accompanied with either tea/coffee/hot chocolate/port. A slice of the best chocolate cake in the world costs €3.50.

The cake is constructed in three layers. The base layer is a delicate sponge cake, the mid layer, a light mousse, and the upper layer, a dense, rich dark chocolate ganache (or similar) dusted with cocoa powder. It is very nice. Despite being founded on such a light base, the cake coheres well. Each layer compliments the other well (they are each chocolatey, after all). It is deliciously rich without being cloying, and the aftertaste is intense with a lingering coffee taste (that isn’t just the accompanying coffee).

After one mouthful, the kids disdained it. I had forgotten they treat all dark chocolate the same way, and we were happy to dispatch their leavings. Neither my friend or I are gourmands, we enjoy food, but lay no claim to sophisticated palates. It is hard to say whether this is the best chocolate cake in the world, it certainly isn’t the worst, or even the most average. But, when confronted with a cake of such weighty acclaim, the likelihood of anticlimax is high. The lasting impression was of having eaten a really nice chocolate mousse. This makes sense, as the chief component of the cake is the mid layer mousse which is, really, very nice.

I can also report that the coffee at Landeau is great.