It feels like ages since I was last up in Scotland, even though it was only last month! Now that M and I have got a set of wheels again, we’re putting them to good use with the wee car’s first long-haul adventure to Edinburgh. I love a good road trip – any excuse to visit the Tebay services to stock up on yummy local treats and handmade ceramics. What a great weekend we had too though. We caught up with C and L (happy birthday L!) for a delicious dinner of wood-oven fired pizzas at La Favorita, which has recently reopened following a refurb – check out the light fittings, now on my wish-list for when M and I have our own home again! I also managed to finish off my latest knitting project – a neck-warmer for M, for when he’s on his bike to college. My first attempt at stocking stick, since my course with Mrs Moon last week – I’m quite chuffed with it, what do you think?
Just back from a lovely visit to see my friend KT in Cheltenham and we had so much fun! It was a real treat to get out of London into the countryside and we headed straight to the idyllic Cotswolds village of Stow-on-the-Wold, somewhere we’ve both always wanted to go to, but never quite managed it. It was so pretty, especially in the snow. We mooched around the shops – fantastic selection of greetings cards at Eklektika, and the most delicious mix of vintage treasures and home furnishings at House Etc – before returning home for a Saturday night in (Take Me Out!!!) with a meze-style supper. Yum!
I am just back from the most amazing experience ever and I had to write straight away to tell you all about it. I first read about the carols at Imber in Country Living magazine and knew immediately that I had to go, especially because they take place not far from my mum and dad in the neighbouring county of Wiltshire. Imber is a village on the Salisbury Plains that, during the Second World War, was taken over by the Armed Forces for training purposes. The inhabitants were relocated, but told they would be able to return to their homes once the war had ended. But they weren’t. Today, the public is granted access to Imber on 60 days of the year – so former residents can visit the graves of loved ones buried at St Giles, Imber’s Church, for example. The Christmas Carol Concert is one such day so today me, M and my mum went along. What an experience.
The organisers put on a vintage London bus from Westbury train station to Imber, which is fun in itself. We all huddled together and willed it forward as we manoeuvred steep hills through the pouring rain. When we arrived there was a rush of umbrellas as everyone quickly weaved their way through the mud to get inside the church. There was mulled wine and a mince pie when we got there – much appreciated – and then we found a seat at the front by the brass band. We’d got there in the nick of time because there was a constant stream of people coming in and before we knew it, it was standing room only – outside! It was packed. But, even if we had been one of those left standing, it would have been worth it. The atmosphere was incredible; such an overwhelming sense of coming together. Everyone sang at the top of their lungs and it felt so special to be part of this seemingly secret community. It was like entering another world. What a way to start Christmas and one I will certainly never forget.
Yay! After four months and a one-week delay because his ship broke down, M is finally on his way home! He’ll be flying back from Rio tomorrow and is due back in the UK on Saturday. Can’t wait! Am heading up to Edinburgh tomorrow to meet him and, of course, will be using it as an excuse to partake in some of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at the same time. Watch this space!
This weekend I headed out of London for a mini-staycation! I was catching up with N, a lovely friend who I used to work with in Colchester. The plan was for pub lunches and countryside walks but, sadly, the weather wasn’t on our side. However, we weren’t going to let a little of the wet stuff spoil our plans so N and I went for an adventurous drive through Suffolk, exploring off the beaten track and down narrow lanes, instead. On our travels we stumbled across The Ramsholt Arms, an uber-friendly, traditional pub right on the banks of the River Debden. It was a beautiful setting and the rain held off just long enough for us to enjoy fresh whitebait & chips in the open air. After lunch we headed to the nearby Snape Maltings, a warren of galleries, craft stalls, and antique shops. I picked up a set of vintage, hand-embroidered linen napkins for £1.50 – bargain!
What a wonderful weekend of Jubilee festivities. I went home to Somerset for some much-needed TLC and what fun I’ve had! From quality time spent with mum and dad to watching the flotilla on the tele, and taking part in the village street party – it was the perfect getaway and celebration of the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.
As well as Jupiter Artland, when I was up in Edinburgh I also had my first visit to the Royal Botanic Garden. It’s recently had a striking new entrance and cafe built so M’s parents were keen to show it off and treat me to a hearty breakfast at the same time. Unfortunately we were too late for breakfast – they stop serving at 11.30 on the dot – but we had the most enjoyable stroll around the gardens, which are free!
My highlight was the Edible Garden, a stunning allotment where they grow many of the ingredients for the cafe and restaurant. They had every sort of vegetable and herb imaginable growing and I loved the use of pebbles as name tags (the plant descriptions were written on different shaped small stones). They’d also used branches as supports instead of canes – very sustainable! rbge.org.uk
We then headed outside the gardens to find sustenance for my journey back to London, and stumbled across the newly-opened Earthy, a chain of three health food and organic cafes/delis in the city – their tag line is ‘Forage, nourish, share'; love it! I couldn’t choose from the array of homemade cakes, many of which were gluten-free or vegan (a pleasant surprise), so ended up just having a coffee – but what a coffee! It was honestly one of the best ones I’ve ever had (Matthew Algie). But don’t take my word for it; check it out for yourselves… earthy.co.uk
What a weekend of discovery I’ve had! I was up in Edinburgh visiting friends and M’s family, and have had such an exciting time.
I travelled up on Friday and happened across an article in The Guardian about a new art installation at Jupiter Artland, a ‘gallery’ situated a few miles outside of Edinburgh. The display was by Turner Prize nominee Anya Gallaccio and featured 10,000 fresh roses, which over the next four months, will slowly age and decompose.
Now, I’ve been on a bit of an art trail of late (Tate Modern last month, V&A and National Gallery this month) so I was eager to check it out. I headed there yesterday, with M’s parents, and what a find. I can’t believe I’d never been there before! For not only was Anya’s exhibit thought-provoking and strangely mesmerising, but Jupiter Artland is like another world – not a gallery in the usual sense of the word but a living and breathing exhibition, situated outside, in the midst of a stunning bluebell wood with views across to the Firth of Forth. Pieces ranged from an intricate web of coloured fishing line (see pic below) to a series of ghostly wax works of weeping girls, made even more sinister by the drizzle of the day. It was refreshing to be outdoors with the space and quietude to stand back and appreciate the art on show, without the jostle of city crowds.
We ended up, as is custom, in the on-site cafe – in this case an American aluminium Airstream – where I enjoyed a wedge of ‘Barry’s Favourite Coffee & Walnut cake’, served by none other than the man himself! Now I’ve found this place, I’ll definitely be coming back. The whole Artland boasts sustainable credentials (which I love) and Anya’s got a new installation opening later on this year – an underground chamber of amethyst protected by gold barbed wire. But, even without that, the changing seasons alone would make each permanent artwork, look like new.
What better way to celebrate the bank holiday weekend and extra day of freedom than with a trip out of London towards the south coast. And, what better place to spend it than Rye, a cobbled streeted, picture perfect town in East Sussex, that brims with history, cream teas, and cavernous antique shops. B and I booked into the delightful Four Seasons B&B (£70; 01797 224 305), just a 10-minute (if that) walk from the centre. Rita and her husband were the perfect hosts and, in the bright and large, yet cosy bedroom, all comforts had been thought of from biscuits on arrival to dressing gowns on the back of the door. And then the breakfast – yum!
We arrived on Saturday and, after dropping off our bags, headed straight out to explore – fuelling ourselves up en route with buttery crumpets from The Cobbles Tea Room (cobblestearoom.co.uk), which is literally set in a former front living room and therefore tiny. If only it had been afternoon, we would had sampled their impressive looking array of cakes.
The day then sped past as we went from one antique shop to another, picking up everything from butter knives to wooden-handled screwdrivers and vintage tea dresses – all at bargain prices. An afternoon pick-me-up was a scone with clotted cream and jam in front of the fire at Fletcher’s (fletchershouse.co.uk) before a dinner of sausage and mash at The Globe (theglobe-inn.com). Both, as does everywhere in Rye, boasted wonderfully friendly staff.
The next day (Sunday), B and I walked the three miles to Camber Sands, a stunning stretch of white beaches and dunes. Fortunately the beaches were breathtaking because Camber itself leaves a lot to be desired. After blowing away the cobwebs and clearing out our lungs, we headed back for more cake – a mini-break counts as a holiday after all! – and one last perusal of the shops before catching the train home.
For anyone who hasn’t been to Rye, GO. I can’t believe I haven’t been soooner and, one’s thing for sure, I’ll definitely be going back.
Sorry for not writing for a couple of weeks. It’s been crazy!
Easter Friday saw me head to Dans Le Noir for dinner with M and my parents. What a treat! It’s a restaurant where you eat completely in the dark. And it’s so dark! We couldn’t even see our hands when we held them a centimetre in front of our faces. You’re served by blind waiters and you don’t know what you’re eating, the idea being you have to use your taste, smell, and touch (!) to identify what’s on your plate. It was a real adventure – venison carpaccio to start, followed by beef with cabbage and salsify puree – although I have to admit I didn’t do too well with cutlery and ate everything with my hands! Thoroughly recommend it, if not for the food, for the experience. It makes you look at the world in a whole different way when you come back out into the light. danslenoir.com
Easter was then spent in Edinburgh with M’s parents – the big send off as he’s now sailing his way around South Korea, China, and South America for the next four months on his first sea phase with the Merchant Navy. Communications so far have been by email only, which, for a couple used to speaking on the phone most days, is surprisingly hard. It’s funny how you come to rely on hearing someone’s voice. But, on the plus side, it does make checking my emails much more exciting! He should be starting his own blog to document his adventures so watch this space; you’ll hear about it here first!
Then this weekend I’ve just been home to Somerset – yay! Another lingering (three hour!) coffee morning at the lovely Mes Amis catching up with my godmother then the rest of the time with my mum and dad, chilling out, catching up and enjoying curry. Yum! Went for a walk to make the most of the sunshine – pics below – then crashed out in front of a warming fire. Heaven.