Our annual trip to south-east asia is usually the highlight of our holiday calendar. Without it, winter would feel far too long and depressing, and my skin would go into Vitamin D cold turkey, no matter how many supplements I took. It’s a treat for the senses, being in the tropics, and it’s a real chance for us to spend some quality time resting and catching up on sleep. This time, I even managed to read some books (instead of my usual habit of swimming and sunbathing all my time away!). Love it.
We decided to venture off to a northern island off the Malaysian hinterland, to Penang, which is well-known for its heritage architecture and tasty Asian food. And that’s exactly what we got! Our favourite bit was our little stay in Clove Hall, in Georgetown, a UNESCO heritage site. The owners of the boutique guesthouse, Jo and Jim, were super friendly and helpful. The house was a cosy yet luxurious (it is possible!) Edwardian colonial building which was perfect for hiding out in.
If we could have done so, we would have stayed forever. Sadly, because the suite we were in (a sweet – pun intended! – two-storey wing of the house, complete with outdoor rainforest shower!!) was booked up for the weekend, we had to vacate the premises on Saturday morning. I have never stayed in such a large suite before and cannot wait to go back. The three days were so dreamy…
For our last night, we relocated to the beachy part of Penang (Batu Ferringhi), which was also fab; to be honest, though, nothing really could compare to Clove Hall. The interiors were a perfect combination of colonial antiques and traditional Peranakan/Straits Chinese everyday objects – a real treat for an antique-love like me!
See their website, http://clovehall.com/, for more information and for bookings (there are a limited number of rooms, so do book early if you are planning to). Hopefully we will return before too long!
Images: Courage & Dash (our stay was not in any way sponsored)
You know how you have this new year thing happening so you decide to do things a little differently this year, and mix things up a bit, learn from your mistakes, or just try something new? Well, this year I have decided to embark on more adventures. Such a great word, isn’t it, “adventures”? Makes me think of Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear or Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean. If I had more adventures in 2016, I would be very happy.
In keeping with that aim, I have joined Meetups, subscribed to Time Out, Secret London, and various other things. The thing is, there is so much going on that there is far too much to keep up with! But equally, I guess if I don’t try then I’ll soon slip back into my little routine (which is needed but dull). I found an Owl Experience Day with the English School of Falconry on Time Out and took the husband for a little jolly to Bedfordshire – 3 hours of handling owls and flying them? Yes, please! We were lucky it was sunny, because the day was amazing. Friendly staff, sweetest owls (how cute are they??), impressive falcons/eagles/other birds of prey in the falcony show, sunshine (although it was freezing cold)… it was such a fun afternoon. The School of Falconry has a range of experience days and demonstrations (by the way, England has very strict rules around birds of prey in captivity – the birds are well-looked after!) – do check them out!
Images: Courage & Dash
I’m already quite a homebody, but if my home was like Inveraray Castle, I would never leave. Not even for brunch with Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jonny Depp at the same time. Nope. Home is where I will always be found.
The beautiful castle was the setting of a Downton Abbey Christmas special, where the Granthams went to Scotland to see Rose McGowen’s family and for plenty of grouse shooting. It is lived in by the current Duke of Argyll, but is also open to the public. With a cosy cafe (that serves tasty food), neat and attractive gardens, and charming interiors, the castle was the perfect pit stop on our way from Fife to Argyll. Our favourite room was probably the armoury, in the middle of the castle (tallest room in Britain!), where the ceiling was over three storeys high and the walls were bristling with weaponry. The cheerful yellow-painted walls added to the spacious feel of the room and half reminded me of the domed room in Castle Howard. Oh, also, of course, I spent all my time sat by the large open fireplace. Joy.
The best thing about the castle was how welcoming and approachable it was. Some stately homes can be so lavish as to be uncomfortable, even to a reverent visitor. Inveraray Castle was grand but clearly a home lived in by a family. Well worth a visit!
Images: Courage & Dash
Often, when the husband and I sit down to a meal and remember our favourite people, we feel frustrated that our friends are now so spread out across the world. Even within London, they seem to live across the length and breadth of our (massive) city. It’s fun to have the excuse to travel and see people, but it’s also quite sad not to be able to spend as much time together now as we did when younger.
We recently headed for the north of Edinburgh, to a place called Fife where our friends Stuart and Imo live. The husband was best man for Stuart, and Stuart composed my wedding entrance music, so they are terribly dear and special to us! It was a gorgeous weekend of eating haggis, meeting Percy (their new dachshund puppy), endless walks through fields and woods, and sitting by the wood-burning stove sipping whisky, laughing about everything and nothing.
Quality time with such wonderful people is priceless – we have so much to be thankful for. It’s a shame Fife and London are on quite the opposite ends of the country! Do you have close friends who live far away from you? How do you manage to keep in touch? Hopefully it won’t be too long before we are back in bonny Scotland! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating – what are you thankful for this week?
Images: Courage & Dash
If I have spoken to you recently, you will know that I have been desperate to use the phrase “Winter is coming” legitimately, either as a title to something or in conversation about the weather. I am not well-acquainted with Game of Thrones (either the books or the television series), much to my embarrassment (everyone seems to have seen/read it!), but I just really rather like the motto. I tried to explain it to my boss last week, but as you already know, I don’t actually know the plot of the series at all, and so failed pretty much as I started.
On a cold and rainy day during our Scottish holiday, the husband and I decided to have a really lazy and slow day. When we woke up, the sky was grey, and light rain was pattering against the skylight. I cannot tell you enough how much I love rain whilst indoors, tucked under a warm duvet with fluffy pillows I can sink into. It was fab. After a hot brunch, we decided we really ought to get the fire going, and so the husband was dispatched to make some kindling, which I duly built a fire with.
By a stroke of luck, a couple of Produce candles landed on our doorstep that morning, courtesy of I Love Produce Candles – perfect timing for a cosy day in! In fact, it was exactly the right candle for our pastoral, farmyard surroundings. I first discovered Produce candles at Top Drawer, a home+gifts trade show – they smelled divine, like freshly grated vegetables or gently frying herbs (they are also aptly named things like “rosemary”, “honey”, “sage” and “radish”). These beautiful candles are hand-poured in Charleston, South Carolina (possibly one of my favourite southern cities, and where Frank Underwood from House of Cards went to university) – and now they are being sold in the UK by I Love Produce Candles. Hurrah. I think I want to try Wildflower next (I was sent Rosemary and Fig), and possibly Coriander.
We spent the rest of the day lazing by the fire, eating cake, reading, and dozing. I think I am a true champion when it comes to sitting around and not doing anything!
Images: Courage & Dash
Last week, we had the pleasure of staying at Kirnan Estate, a set of cottages+B&B in Kilmartin Glen, Argyll, which is surrounded by acres and acres of land and 6miles of salmon fishing. There were sheep and donkeys and goats and geese and free range chickens that produced eggs with brightest orange yolks the size of my fist.
One drizzly day, the husband and I thought to take a walk around the estate, in particular to the woods behind our cottage – it looked like something out of the Lord of the Rings or Snow White. We wandered over that misty afternoon and were transported hundreds of years back. Wild and eerily quiet and seemingly untouched, the forest was cloaked with furry lichen and soft moss which had grown over uprooted trees and across untrodden paths.
It was so quiet.
Everything was dark and grey-green; raindrops hung from every pine needle and fallen branch. It was so strangely satisfying to get lost amongst the stillness of nature. We splashed across streams and trudged through boggy ground and felt delighted! City life sometimes makes you forget the simple things.
Images: Courage & Dash