My Blog List

Sunday, 31 July 2011

The pleasures of home

On the flight home from Spain, I was thinking to myself that I would turn over a new leaf on my return. I would de-clutter, clear the decks and resist the lure of the charity shop and car boot sale for a while.
6.45am this morning and the sun was glinting through the curtains, the birds were singing....could I resist?
Fifteen minutes later, I was in the car and heading for my old stamping ground, my big straw basket on the seat beside me.
It was a beautiful day, and the car boots were out in force. I thought I was going to be a bit late for the best loot, but I had a great morning's hunting. A pretty, pretty Staffordshire tea set for a fiver, more buttons, some lovely floral jugs and a little stool to recover (for £1!). And I love this:

It is dated 1935. No Alco-Pops or Facebook on their horizon!

When I got back home an hour or so later and put the coffee on, the house was still quiet. No one had stirred while I was out.

I have to face it, I can't give up my Sunday morning junking jaunts.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Spanish colours

A small craft market came to our town and although Ryan Air's punishing baggage restrictions meant that I couldn't really buy much, I was able to admire these gorgeous woollen blankets. The makers were spinning the wool near their stall.

We all enjoyed mooching around town that day. We bought fresh fish for tea and climbed up to the highest part of town where there is a stunning old church, Santa Maria de los Angeles, with wonderful views.

A little more watercolouring, some canoeing - and that was a very good day for everyone.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Changing gear

We went to Cantabria, in Northern Spain for our holiday. It's on the Atlantic coast and it's a very mountainous region. We stayed on a campsite, but it was cheat's camping because we had a little cabin with its own bathroom and kitchenette. My favourite spot was our balcony and it was here that I set up my little still lifes. A kilo of white peaches from the market, a three euro metre of spotted fabric, my watercolours and a little morning sunshine...I could feel the tension rolling away. There is something very relaxing about being on a campsite too (especially when you're not sleeping on the ground!). All those morning rituals that you can savour rather than dash through as fast as possible. Here is the view from our cabin:

That is the sea through the trees, with lots of little boats bobbing up and down upon it. And the nearest town, San Vicente de la Barquera, half a mile away over a long and ancient bridge. The beach was just two minutes away from our hut. It was a perfect setting, but we did just wish for a bit more sunshine. The climate was a little too similar to our own. But we did have some lovely days and we certainly made the most of them.

When the sun wasn't out, and we were unable to swim, surf or sunbathe, we went inland, and found some beautiful old towns. Places such as Comillas, which was only a few kilometres away.

This old tiled building (below) was falling down, but it was beautiful.

It was covered with these amazing tiles. We strolled into town and found some interesting shops:

There were very few antiques shops or shabby chic in this area of Spain (probably to my family's immense relief). This place was about the only one I came across - and it was terribly expensive. Nice to browse, however. And I do love this shade of pigeon grey.
There was some amazing Gaudi architecture in this little place, but it was one of those days when everyone was feeling a bit scratchy, and somehow an expedition to a Gaudi palace just didn't hit the mark (we'd already explored quite a few ancient ruins by now).
I'll post the rest of my snaps tomorrow.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Back soon

We're going away for ten days, so I won't be posting for a while. Plenty to report when I get back, though, and I'm really looking forward to taking lots of photos. I've packed my watercolours and a pile of books, so here's hoping I get chance to take it really easy.
Thank you to everyone who is reading regularly and to my latest followers. Come back soon!
* Thanks for your comments. I can't reply to them today, not sure why. I am hoping it will be warm-ish where we're heading, but we'll be near some large mountains, so I don't think sunshine is guaranteed. Fingers crossed anyway....

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A bit more Switzerland...

This was the view from my hotel room, overlooking Lake Constantine. When we arrived, the area was in the grip of a huge thunderstorm, the clouds were down and you couldn't see a thing. But after a couple of hours, the sky cleared completely and revealed this amazing vista. I went for a quick stroll around the town, Arbon, before dinner and found this:

The window is like something out of a fairy tale - but how do they see out??

We saw a rainbow later on (and I think that is a little bit of Germany on the horizon). We had a busy schedule and there wasn't time for shopping, but I did sneak off to the kiosk to buy these:

Yes indeed, they are magazines that I can't understand, but I don't mind because the design is lush. I'm a magazine junkie anyway, and I do love to browse foreign interiors titles. My absolute favourite is Swedish, and it's called Bolig Liv. If ever I hear of someone travelling to Scandinavia, I have to beg them to bring me back a copy. But these are German titles and they are pretty gorgeous.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Switzerland, naturally

I've just returned from a two day press trip to Switzerland. I feel as if I've been gone for much longer as we were very busy and saw lots of interesting and wonderful things. The aim of the visit was to go behind the scenes at A.Vogel, makers of herbal remedies and natural medicines. This being Switzerland, everything, even the factory, was incredibly clean, efficient and photogenic.
Echinacea is one the best selling products, and this grows in fields around the factory, so it is picked and processed within a couple of hours. But the company was founded in 1923, and started life at this beautiful natural health clinic in Teufen.

The garden is the public face of the company, and visitors come to enjoy the flowers, herbs and organic vegetables that are still grown on site.

Even though it's at 900 metres, the garden was full of flowers, organic vegetables and fruit, all looking incredibly verdant and lush.

We made our own fresh echinacea tincture, chopping the flower and stem, and adding a combination of alcohol and water.

After lunch, it was off to St Gallen, a small university town, where we visited a library containing some of the world's oldest manuscripts, and did a bit of sightseeing.

We ate some sublime salads. I vowed never to even look at an unhealthy food ever again...wouldn't it be great to live on things like this.....

And this...the cheese was seriously good. You wouldn't even consider a sausage roll or a bag of crisps if this was at your fingertips on a daily basis....

Back tomorrow with a few more impressions of Switzerland.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Shakespeare on a Saturday

With buildings like this, we could only really be in one place: Stratford-Upon-Avon.

We arrived mid-afternoon to have a wander round before going to see Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. My husband was given four tickets as a present for his birthday last year, and we'd been planning our trip for some time. We were so lucky to have a beautifully sunny day for the excursion: warm but not too hot.

The town centre was packed: Shakespeare's birthplace still stands, but it's in the middle of a high street surrounded by chain stores, and was mobbed with parties of tourists and charges an extortionate entry price to get in. The pretty side streets were more peaceful and beautiful. And then of course there is that famous river.

Love these boats with their Shakespearian names: Ophelia and Rosalind. There was a river festival taking place, with a parade of colourful narrow boats gliding past and mooring by the banks. Quite a spectacle.

What we'd really come for was this:

It didn't disappoint. Younger son has been studying the play at school, so it was a good choice. He was able to fill everyone in on the story beforehand, and the production was so well acted that the speeches made perfect sense. We loved the special effects: instead of three witches, there was a trio of ghostly children who made their first appearance like three broken puppets dangling from the ceiling. The only music was provided by three sombre cellos. But there were plenty of sword fights, blood and gore, too! We all agreed that it was an amazing experience.

As the new theatre is by the river, you can stretch your legs on the banks at interval time, and enjoy the balmy evening.

We all agreed that we'd love to come back again.