A Little Princess

“Are you learning me by heart, little Sara?” he said, stroking her hair.
“No,” she answered. “I know you by heart. You are inside my heart.”

No, this post is not about me!

Today I will, once again, be geeking out for Frances Hodgson Burnett. My love, my boo, the one lady with the key to my childhood heart – the author of The Secret Garden.

Now The Secret Garden is one of my favourite novels of all times, and The Little Lord Fauntleroy is a solid Christmas classic – so of course I got super excited when I saw a new, beautiful edition of one of the Burnetts that I hadn’t read yet: A Little Princess. I’ve read about this novel before, specifically concerning (almost) perfect protagonists and how they work in some novels. That sort of spoilt the story for me a little bit, I suppose, although I’m not sure if that’s a valid concerning when reading Burnett novels. They’re all almost fairytale-esque in their storylines, often concerning a conversion of some kind; Scrooge to lovable uncle, miserable to lovely child, and of course riches to rags…to riches again.

Yes, when you sit down to read a Burnett story you know what you are getting into. It’s like a Disney movie: you will not be surprised by the “twists” of it, and you essentially know what will happen after five minutes. But, like Disney, you’re not here for a subversive story – you’re here to be enchanted by style and characters.
And like with Disney, you will be.

A Little Princess tells the story of Sara Crewe, daughter of an adoring father based in India. She gets dropped off by her father at a boarding school for young girls, and he spares no expense for her to have the best imaginable. She is either loved or hated by the other girls, as she is rich, a talented storyteller, and sweet almost beyond belief. See, Sara is not a real princess, but a princess in her behaviour and morality. After her tables are turned horribly, and she is reduced to utmost poverty and friendlessness, she keeps her head held high and remains polite and friendly to everyone.

“Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”

Of course her fate gets changed for the better at the end, and she helps other characters improve their situations as well. I do think that Burnett walked a fine line with Sara: she is very close to being too perfect. The things she goes through are horrible, and she just stays sugar sweet throughout all of it. However, the thing that I think makes it work is that Sara is a dreamer, a storyteller. When she tells a story, she can visualise it to the point where reality and fiction get blurred. This is the thing that keeps her going – she’s kind of delusional. By pretending that she’s a princess, whatever that means to her, she manages to cope. This mixing up of fact and fiction is a big flaw that she uses to her advantage, and turns into a trait we as readers can admire. Yes, I do wish she would punch some of the kids and the headmistress, either physically or verbally, but I think her grace and pride (although not necessarily befitting a child) make her admirable and lovable in exactly the way I imagine Burnett intended it to.

That said, out of the 3 Burnetts that I’m familiar with so far this is probably the one I connected with the least, and it is probably because of the characters. I don’t feel any of them really grew at all – Sara is always lovely, and the others remain the same also, it is just the situation that changes. In The Secret Garden Mary and Colin both go through a tremendous transformation, as does the garden, and in Little Lord Fauntleroy the story is the uncle changing himself to live up to his nephew’s expectations. Although Sara is a lovable character, I’m not sure if she is a good character. The typical Burnett click didn’t happen for me, and because of that the magic meter was stuck at A Christmas Carol (unpopular opinion I know).


So what tea would go well with a story of riches, rags, riches, and magical storytelling to escape from abject poverty and hunger?
After thinking long and hard, staring at my tea collection, I decided to go for a tea that tastes like a little princess would drink it: luxurious, sweet, and with a small nod to Sara’s background in India. The tea in question is Coconut Truffle by Whittard. It’s a white tea infusion, with coconut, apple and cocoa nibs. It’s sweet, but sugar free, and velvety rich in flavour – exactly what Sara and her friends would crave!

So sit down with your decadent cup of Coconut Truffle and imagine yourself a little princess.

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Cafe Savoy (Prague)

Wait – Prague?
Yes Prague!

Last week has been awfully quiet on this blog (but not on our Instagram or Facebook *hint hint*), because my lovely partner whisked me away to lovely, wonderful Prague.

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This city y’all. It’s so gorgeous and romantic, and the cultural history is just such a quintessential aspect of it all that you feel smarter just looking up at the buildings you’re walking past.
We spent 3 wonderful nights there, and being back in grey Bonnie Scotland I already miss it so much (being back at work doesn’t help).

One of the things we did, of course, was sit down for a cup of tea and a cake. Now Prague is full of places where you can get tea and cake, and lots of it looked absolutely delicious. However, as it was the day that we were going to go to the opera, my partner and I decided to live it up and go to the Cafe Savoy.

Cafe Savoy

This place was fancy you guys. I spent quite some time staring at the gorgeous ceiling and the chandeliers, and my dressed up boyfriend, and the cake display and ooh it was beautiful.There is also lots of staff around, and the display of cakes, and wine on their winewall, was very impressive.

One thing to note though, about Prague rather than Cafe Savoy specifically, is that the service is horrid. I always felt like I had done something to offend the staff – even though there is no way, as often I’d just walked in when this feeling hit me – and they would be loath to come over to help out. At Cafe Savoy we sat upstairs, and saw 3 out 6 staff members just hanging around, not doing anything. There was one man who was wonderful though, and I’m so sorry that I didn’t catch his name. But you know who you are, and hats off to you! You provide service that is outshining your entire city.

Cafe Savoy Prague

It all looked very yummy – the only issue being that the names were all in Czech. As my Czech is not the best, I based my judgement on looks alone. After debating for a while I decided to go for the strawberry cup, also because we decided to have a glass of Prosecco with our tea (because we’re fancy that way).

After somehow managing to get a waitress to give us a tea menu, and then to take our order (it took a while), our table ended up as beautiful and enticing as anything:

Cafe Savoy Prague

Sorry for the blurry pic, I was just too excited to dig in!

The strawberry cup was very yummy, a refreshing combination of fresh strawberries, vanilla cake and some kind of thick, vanilla cream. It was also a wonderful match for the tea I went for: the Marco Polo. This tea is a velvety black tea infusion. All the information you get on the menu is that it has “Chinese and Tibetan flowers”, and whatever these flowers are – they mix beautifully.

This tea was wonderful, absolutely amazing, and made very well. It also went pretty well with the strawberry cup and Prosecco!

Bottom line is – go to Prague. This city is definitely worth the visit, it looks fantastic, the food and drink are cheap and delicious, and there is so much to see and do!

If When you go to Prague, should you go to Cafe Savoy? You can, depending on if you want something very Czech, or more silly posh. It’s quite expensive for Prague standards, at around UK prices, but the over-the-topness of it all is quite worth it!

I loved it, and now I’m back with new books to review – hurrah!

Tearoom Review Update!

Hi guys!

You may have noticed that this week’s tearoom review has not come out yet – not to worry, it’s coming later this week!

I’ve been working quite a bit, and my lovely partner is taking me away to Prague tomorrow! So the next review is going to be a travel blog too!

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I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are too 🙂 see you soon!

A Song for Ella Grey

This week’s review is a tough one for me. To be honest, it was supposed to come out last week, but I didn’t manage to finish the book in time. I actually thought I would never finish it at all!

If you know me, you know that it pains me to not finish a book I started. It’s a dramatic gesture, only reserved for those books I just cannot stand. This was pretty much one of them. So let’s dive right into A Song for Ella Grey, by David Almond.

This book is a modern retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Euridyce. A quick refresher: Orpheus is a master musician, who can charm every living creature with his song. He marries the lovely Euridyce, who gets bitten by a snake and dies pretty much immediately. Heartbroken, Orpheus goes down to Hades and persuades him via song to take Euridyce back to the living. There is one condition: Orpheus cannot look back at Euridyce whilst on their journey back up, or she’ll be dead forever. Of course he does, and it’s tragedy all around.

This story is essentially the same, but Eurydice is now called Ella Grey, and the story is told by Claire, Ella’s obsessive best friend. (As Ella is Euridyce I’ll just go ahead and call her Elladyce, because I like to think I’m funny.) It’s set in modern(ish) time England, so there’s some interesting accents and lots of partying.

And that’s it, that’s the story. As it is pretty much the same as the original myth, I will spend most of this review talking about style and narrative strategies. Don’t worry, it won’t be dry!

He smelt his fingers. A beetle was crawling on them. He breathed on it and let it crawl to the earth.

A blackbird sang. He turned his face to it and smiled, and sang quickly back in answer.

‘I found nothing,’ he said, ‘I thought I would have to kill myself.’

A sudden flock of pigeons swooped over our heads. He made a noise of feathers with his breath and tongue. He made more birdsong and more birds came. He made a sound of water and two salmon leapt.

‘Then I knew I had to come back here,’ he said.

He blew an echo of the breeze. And the breeze blew warm. The clouds were opening, preparing for an astounding dusk, and twin beams of brilliant light shone down through them onto the city.

‘I knew I’d have to start from here,’ he said. ‘Where it all started.’

All emphases mine to highlight the word repetition.

It’s kind of bad to have so much repetition in just one page. Sometimes, you can’t avoid having to use the same words. This is not the case here. Even worse is that you could just skip this page all together. This is the part after Elladyce died and Orpheus and Claire are looking for the entrance to Death/Hades. It should carry at least some form of suspense or drama, and as the reader has been battered to death with how whimsically magical Orpheus is, all that these descriptions mount up to is breaking the flow of the narrative. This happens throughout the entire novel, and I understand why: the author wanted to make it feel surreal, and flow like a dream. Unfortunately, in this case this came at the expense of an enjoyable read.

It’s a bit painful to read this novel. I like the original myth, and I love modern retellings of classic tales. The idea for this text was great, and having the story be told by an outsider (who is also totally in love with Elladyce) was very clever as it could shift the focus from Romeo and Juliet style lovey love love to a story about a different kind of loss. However, making Claire be in love with Elladyce means we have yet another YA love triangle – seriously, why couldn’t it just have been about friendship? Have we learnt nothing from Daria? – and the writing makes it really hard to get through this book at all. For some reason, for instance, everyone pretty much always refers to Elladyce by her full name. The dialogue in general is very stiff and unnatural. Here, for instance, you have two overbearing, heartbroken parents confronting Claire and her parents about the death of their beloved child:

‘Ha! And you,’ said Mr Grey, baring his teeth at me now. ‘What did you do to protect her? What did you do, oh best of friends?’

‘It was an accident,’ I answered. ‘It was a chance in a million. It was the snakes.’

‘It was no accident,’ said Mrs Grey. ‘It was not the snakes. It was you and you and you, and the rest of the stupid motley crew. You are the ones who caused the death of Ella Grey.’

The retelling strategies in this novel are also a bit confusing: choosing the name Orpheus for the same character from the myth makes it obvious what the story will be, but why change Euridyce to Ella? Or Hades to the too-vague Death? Calling Orpheus by that name makes it impossible to see him as a part of the modern setting, which is probably what the author went for. It also makes it impossible to see him as a part of Elladyce, no matter how much the author tries to paint her as something that is not a part of this world.

I feel sad about this book. The idea was so great, and it was clear that the author knew what he was doing. He just didn’t manage to pull it off.


As I said above, I struggled finishing this book. I found myself skipping sentences, paragraphs, almost even pages. To keep myself awake and going, I decided to match this novel to a tea that maybe superficially makes no sense – but bare with me here.

This story’s tone is fairytale-esque and dreamy – and confused. There’s a lot of talk about beaches, parties, divine music, young and obsessive love and heart breaking death. I would therefore recommend a tea which is also light, slightly floral, and elegant in tones. However, the only way I could keep going was through dissonance. I had to enjoy at least something from this experience, and the only way to do that was to enjoy the tea. Because of this, I decided on Yumchaa‘s Chilli Chilli Bang Bang. Described on their website as something to drink when “you need a superhero side kick” it seemed appropriate. It’s a wonderful infusion of cinnamon, ginger, red thistle, sweet red pepper corns, and a Rooibos base. The Rooibos does have that light and elegant nature to match the dreaminess, and the rest is very healthy for you. And to keep you awake, it’s got a slight punch of chilli!

A Song for Ella Grey Chilli Chilli Bang Bang


So if you feel like reading about Orpheus and Euridyce, do so – the myth is a classic for a reason. But maybe skip this book and just have the tea instead.

Victor Hugo Delicatessen (Edinburgh)

Today, as almost every Monday, my partner and I went for tea in beautiful Edinburgh. The sun was shining, the trees are blossoming, and we both felt a great pull to a cute little café situated by  a large park. As we are both continentals living in the UK, it was quite a nice change of things to go to Victor Hugo Delicatessen, a continental café.

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This place is quite sweet! – especially for us foreigners: it is nice to get a sense of home. With the displays of cheeses, meats and breads, combined with the classic wooden floors and decorations, it’s all very European.
Going to this place is a quick fix for your European needs!

Although they offer all kinds of savoury foods here, I came with one thing in mind – cake. And oh my, do they have cake!

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The tea they have here are from the brand TeaPigs again, and this time I went for the Rooibos Creme Brulee infusion. For my cake I selected a slice of carrot cake.

The tea was sweet, but not overly so, and with a nice amount of caramel in its flavour. It was comforting and warming, and although it didn’t really taste like crème brûlée, it did taste good.

However. That cake stole the show. I am a sucker for carrot cake anyways, but this one was the best I have ever had. I think this may be because there was a layer of cream cheese icing in the middle as well? It was deliciously moist and perfectly sweet and I loved it.

I am saying it right here, right now: for the best carrot cake in Edinburgh, go to Victor Hugo Delicatessen. Oh and they serve tea too.

The Elephant House (Edinburgh)

Today I did something I never thought I would: I went to The Elephant House.
There are really only 2 reasons I figured I would never go in there: it’s always super busy with tourists, and it proudly claims to be the “birthplace of Harry Potter”, which it isn’t – although it was in part written there.
However, as I am running out of places to review in Edinburgh, I found myself braving the crowds and going in for some tea and cake.

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Although I knew it was going to be busy, the queue still took my by surprise. It was so crowded! When you enter the café, you are to place your order by the counter before you can take your seat – a measure presumably enforced to prevent Harry Potter pilgrims from simply coming in without purchasing something. It makes sense and isn’t too much of a bother, providing the crowd isn’t too big. Which it was.
The decor is nice, with lots of elephant statuettes scattered around and an overall comfortable and warm air. There is essentially no service to speak of, as it was too busy for the staff to deal with.

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As for the tea and cake, I decided to go for the Japanese Cherry Green Tea infusion, with a slice of Walnut-Nutella cake. And I was charged £6.40, a price unrivalled in Edinburgh I think, which is quite the achievement in an already expensive city.
This sudden lightness of my wallet, combined with my hard prejudice against this place (I have to admit), weighed heavily on my shoulders as I was about to tuck in.

However.
I also have to admit that it was delicious. The cake was perfectly moist, with the exact right amount of nuts, and without an overpowering amount of Nutella. The tea was beautifully delicate, the cherry notes providing the perfect amount of sweetness and the green tea never reached bitterness. It was, quite frankly, very good.

Was it worth £6.40?
Well, considering that it wasn’t coated in gold, nor was it presented to me on a silver platter by a butler assigned to me- I would have to say definitely not. That said, the satisfaction I got from the guilty pleasure cake and the elegant tea did soften the stinging pain from my wallet a little bit.

Final verdict?
Go to The Elephant House if you are a) a die-hard Potter fan who believes the claim on the window, or b) very rich and forgot the value of money. Or c), silly like me.

Blog Layout Mistakes

Hi all! (Especially my loyal reader from Brazil, obrigada!)

So I’ve just browsed through the blog myself for the first time in a while annnd I noticed some layout issues, like how every post after March 28th was in full italics (I did not write it like that)! So as soon as I’ve got the time, probably this Sunday, I’ll have a look at it again and fix it all. Expect to see lots of updates!

I’m also considering adding new regular-ish features to the blog: a fairytale review, and a cooking/baking recipe using tea as an ingredient. These would only be every once in a while, maybe biweekly until I see if it goes down well. Let me know what you think!

Anyways, update over. Please enjoy your time on this blog, let me know what you think – and as always, thank you for reading! ❤