Friday, 23 December 2011

Bright Be All Your Days!

And happy may you be. With very best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year x

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Paris At Midnight

Well if Santa is going to be doling out any pressies around here this year, I certainly deserve prize for world's worst blogger. Not sure what's happened this year, I just can't seem to sit down and write a decent post. Apologies all round, I will try harder in the New Year. Note to Santa, "Please, if you're reading this upon your travels and happen to find my blogging mojo, please return and I'll make sure there's an extra mince pie waiting for you at bottom of the chimney".

Looking over my blog I can see that the last thing I mentioned was a chocolate pumpkin and an earlier post on my eldest's 18th birthday. Well the two are sort of connected - and I'm not inferring that my Big Sister is in anyway related to Cinderella....
On the evening of her 18th we promised her a party and recklessly agreed to leave the house. We went to see Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris", hoping that in some way it would a) take our mind off of what was going on at home in our absence (it did, kind of), b) offer picture perfect glimpses of one of our favourite places (it certainly did), c) mark a return to form for Mr Allen (it almost did) and d) whet our appetites for a forthcoming holiday in Paris (it certainly did).
We sat through the film oohing and aahing at the most romantic nighttime shots of Paris, recognising most of them and vowing to revisit them. We gasped when we saw our favourite restaurant featured in the film (not the 'posh one" but a little bistro where much of the pivotal action happens) and vowed to retrace our steps on our return.

So this time in Paris, again we were blessed with wonderful Autumnal weather, bright in the day and mild at night - we walked and we walked and we walked. Paris at night is heavenly, and definitely very very romantic. Up and down the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter, along the Seine, over Lover's Bridge (Pont des Arts) which is covered in padlocks symbolising lovers' everlasting love, we walked our socks off.

Not being in a position to do any shopping (boy was it expensive in Paris!), we indulged in late night window shopping along the Boulevard St Germain, choosing our favourite macaroons and designer clothes. As it was just before Halloween the windows of the chocolatiers were resplendent and it was there we saw that chocolate pumpkin.

Our eldest daughter had taken a literary guide with her and by day we followed in the footsteps of F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway (who, incidentally lived for a while in an apartment opposite our hotel). We traced their steps through the Jardin du Luxembourg to cafes and shops along the way to visit Gertrude Stein at her 'salon". We were lucky enough to visit the most wonderful exhibition at the Grand Palais of the many fantastic works of art collected by the Stein Family again at night.

We pounded the streets in search of Oscar Wilde's final resting place. We walked from North to South, in search of the Beat poets, Samuel Becket and many more. We finally were able to take the girls along to visit the beautiful Pere LaChaise Cemetry and the one at Montparnasse too. It was not morbid at all just very, very interesting.

We visited our favourite ever bookshop again.

We ate our lunches at 5pm and suppers at 10pm. We stumbled out of bed just in time to catch the last of the breakfast in the hotel salon (we stayed again in the same pretty hotel as last time),

bathed our feet and somehow steeled ourselves for more miles of walking. We visited museums, markets, bakers and took shelter from the most dramatic rainstorm I have ever seen, and learnt that the very best way to see this beautiful city, apart from in that Woody Allen film, is on foot in the Autumn, at night when the light and romance fills the air, or during the day when the history, culture and determination of an 18 year old to complete her literary tour makes you forget your blisters and savour it all.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Waiting For The Oven....

I'm sitting here waiting for the oven to warm up, so it can be nice and toasty for my carrots to roast... not good at twiddling my thumbs and the rest of supper is taken care of . So thought I'd just let you know that Dottie and I have got our skates on and opened the Grotto, and with a loud and jubilant "ho ho ho!", I'm happy to say you can find it HERE.

We're also over the moon to say that you can also find it mentioned in this month's edition of Homes & Antiques magazine too.

I'm off now to spice my carrots and crank up the heating, have a wonderful weekend and I will be back soon with tales from The Left Bank

Vintage gramophones....
and, the biggest chocolate pumpkin I have ever seen


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Ned's In The Nursery

Over at The Emporium, we were slightly perturbed yesterday to hear the clippety clop sound of hooves and wheels on the Nursery floor. Imagine our surprise to find this little fellow, settling down with all the other vintage toys and games.

This 1950s Chiltern Toys donkey on wheels seems to have trotted over seeking pastures new. We have both taken a bit of a shine to him and have spent rather too much of the past 24 hours smuggling carrots into the Nursery. In good condition for his age too, he really is hot to trot!!!

Worry not, he's not completely alone, along side all the other gorgeous cuddly vintage toys, it's fair to say that Stocking Stitch Suzie has taken rather a shine to him ... those big beautiful blue eyes of hers have come over all bashful...

Elsewhere in the Emporium, there are crinoline ladies in the Scullery (just perfect for afternoon tea) - who could resist a set of "Pinkie" tea plates?

And as Autumn takes hold and the evenings and mornings become decidedly "brrrrrr", there are recipe books full of home recipes and this gorgeous Duck Egg Blue Casserole Dish for your Autumn casseroles.

We refuse to say goodbye completely to summer and there are lots of summery florals in the Attic at the moment.

1940s calendars to decorate your walls (and allow a spot of daydreaming), pictures and paintings aplenty.

If you can't bear the thought of wellies and woollies, then how about a spot of armchair gardening - vintage of course!

Or childhood nostalgia or adventure - Enid Blyton style?
Judging by the sound of rolling wheels, I expect Ned and Stocking Stitch Suzie have trotted along to view the Library shelves too - hope they've found something good to read...

Just thought you might like a quick peep at what's been going on over at The Emporium recently. Lots of new goodies and the odd giddyup!

(Thank you all so much for all the lovely birthday wishes for Big Sister. She had a wonderful day and night! And has plans to do more of the same for a good few weeks to come!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Seems Like Yesterday...

Eighteen years ago today my beautiful daughter was born. I don't know where the time has gone, but I do know we have been blessed.
Open that window wide my darling, the world is yours, go and embrace it.
We love you - Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Food For The Soul

Readers, get your paniers! Mornings like this call for some serious retail therapy. When its wet and grey, when an unexpected school run forces a very unpleasant contretemps with a rude and surly man in a van, when you've already drunk your daily quota of tea and feel like your never going to feel warm and dry again, a touch of shopping is just what's required.

No, we're not talking ordinary trundle round the supermarket, trolley, purse and reward card at the ready -

we're talking a gentle stroll through the Provencal streets that are so hot that you're grateful of all the dappled shade you can find. Reader, on a day like this, can you imagine that?

Against the sunbleached ochre walls of shuttered buildings underneath an azure sky, let's take some time choosing our meals today...

no need to hurry, time is on our side and there's always tomorrow as there's a market every day here in Aix.
A kilo of this and a kilo of that, a bunch of basil, multi coloured tomatoes,

baby aubergines, zingy zesty fresh mint.

How about some olives?


Even the peppercorns are colourful today...

Some crockery to brighten the kitchen table.

Sunflowers against Provencal tablecloths, carrier bags echoing their golden hue.
The summer sunshine increases as the morning progresses so we shall wander slowly, breath in the scents and sounds and savour the delights.

A gentle nod to Autumn as we discover the stalls of mushrooms, fresh and dried.
Nothing pressing to do, just wander and taste ... some goats cheese and figs for lunch perhaps?

Ratatouille and salad for supper maybe?

Definitely an ice cream on the way home...

But don't worry, we can do it all again tomorrow (and believe me reader we did! A morning didn't pass without a trip to the market) - now wouldn't that be nice ....

Monday, 12 September 2011

Three trains, one underground & a whole lot of scenery...

We had to wait right until the end of the summer for our holiday this year, but it was worth the wait. Amidst much excitement, anticipation and adrenalin which covered how very tired we were at starting the day so very early, we set off to catch our first train. Up to London via train and underground (never a good experience with luggage) at the crack of dawn to catch Eurostar. Laden with luggage, books, magazines and croissants we boarded the train at St Pancras and before we really had time to adjust to French time we were in Lille.

Just enough time for us to decipher where we were to board our TGV southwards (we had forgotten just how stressful this bit can be). Searching desperately for your coach number, locating the boarding point along the very long platform, negotiating the stairs, lift and escalators with 100s of other passengers and somehow managing to watch aghast as our youngest daughter disappeared with her luggage in one hand down an escalator whilst we stood waiting for the lift. I will never forget the look of horror on her face as we set off as fast as our luggage allowed in hot pursuit of her!

Excitement over, we somehow managed to hurl ourselves and half of the girls' wardrobes onto the train and sat back ... and relaxed... and smiled ... and ate ... and smiled ... and read... and smiled ... and played cards ... and smiled.

And all the while the everchanging beauty of the French countryside surrounded us. Through flat green fields, lush green pasture lands, through rain showers, clouds and brilliant sunshine we headed south. The alps to one side the Massif Central on the other as the landscape grew more dramatic, the temperature rose. Medieval hilltop villages, olive trees, meandering streams, majestic rivers flowing through Provencal cities. Plane trees, poplar trees, cypress trees and olive trees.

When i was at University I spent summers driving up and down the length of France and had vowed to do the journey this way ... I think the other passengers could gauge by the squeals of delight coming from our table just how happy we were.

Five hours and hundreds of kilometres later we found ourselves on a blisteringly hot Provencal train platform, negotiating once more the stairs, lifts and escalators ... a quick bus trip took us to our final destination and after the obligatory "I think it's this way, no that way, no, this way" walk to our new home which took a good half an hour longer than necessary, we arrived at a huge 19th century wooden door that would be our front door whilst we were there.

We arrived to half locked shutters, with tantalising glimpses of the view beyond

Views to the left of an already setting sun from our terrace against the bluest sky I had seen in a very long time

And just looking to the right stood the most beautiful 13th century church that would waken us each morning and frame our glorious view across centuries old chimneys, balconies, shutters and weather worn and sun bleached terracotta tiles.