Breathing slowly.

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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

24 hours in Norwich: A Guide

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Norwich is such a charming city. I had heard lots of good things about it and so was pretty keen to go! It was a lovely day out with plenty to see and do, as well as with places to rest in, but we didn’t have much time. I think 48 hours would be perfect for time to see the Castle (a museum and gallery – top picture), go into the Cathedral, and wander around the Lanes (independent businesses, pictured above) and antique shops. Here are our top picks for 24 hours in the city:

Stop number 1: Looses Emporium | http://www.loosesemporium.co.uk/ | 23-25 Magdalen St, Norwich, NR3 1LP

This place is pretty huge and has a whole range of items from furniture to Roman coins to children’s books. I found a few bits and bobs (like the fireside spaniels and an enamel teapot), but I could easily have bought more if I had room in my bag!

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Stop number 2: St Gregory’s Antiques & Collectibles | http://www.st-gregorys-antiques.co.uk/ | Pottergate/St Gregory’s Alley, Norwich NR2 1ER

Antiques in a 14th century church? Yes! So cute. The church is beautiful with a well-looked after stained glass window – I loved the old airplane suspended from the ceiling! A lot of old stuff in a bit if a jumble but good for a rummage. Loved the collection of old pocket watches and clocks.

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Stop number 3: Aladdin’s Cave | http://www.aladdinscavenorwich.co.uk/ | 52-56 Magdalen Street Norwich, NR3 1JE

I couldn’t take a picture of the shop front as I didn’t have a lens with a wide-enough angle! This place is prety big, with a pretty good mix of things. There were old toys, a fab selection of ephemera, and plenty of china.

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If you are in Norwich, you have to visit the Cathedral. We barely had time to because I had spent all day rummaging through old things. As the sun was out, however, we couldn’t help but laze about in the grounds of the Cathedral and bask in the light.

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Places for food & drink: We stumbled upon Number 17 late-ish afternoon, desperate for food before our train home. How glad we were! The lovely, family-run place had outdoor dining in a little courtyard/back garden, where the B&B rooms were. We loved the fruit growing on the trees, the quiet garden, and the vintage crockery/tea sets. Oh, also, the food is freshly made and the cakes are homemade!

1. Number 17 Bed & Breakfast | http://www.number17norwich.co.uk/ | Colegate, Norwich, NR3 1BN

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2. Roots | http://www.rootsnorwich.co.uk/  | 6 Pottergate, Norwich, Norfolk NR2 1DS

We stuck our heads in but didn’t end up stopping here for food. However, the menu looked delicious and reasonably priced. We loved the idea of cake tapas!

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Images: Courage & Dash

Colourful crockery in a medieval town on a cliff…

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Rocamadour, in the Dordogne region in France, is listed with 4 stars on the AA map, and noted as an area of impressive natural beauty. I was truly blown away as I first laid eyes on the beautiful medieval village built into the side of a mountain. At Overlooking the village and the surrounding valley is a cluster of Christian buildings (shrines/chapels) called the Cité Religieuse, at the top of the mountain. The site is a destination for Christian pilgrimages, and remains a key attraction. Famous pilgrims include Henry II of England and Louis XI of France. There were signs explaining the different points of reflection for the pilgrims, and if I read correctly, the journey to the top of the cliffs was often done on one’s knees! It was a fairly long way to the top – today there is a funicular and lift to take visitors up to the site.

The village is small enough to spend a day wandering through, although there are other prehistoric/Gallo-Roman sites just beyond. We were lucky to have such beautiful weather when we went, so we were able to enjoy ice creams in the sunshine and escape into the cool of the chapels. It felt very much like the village portrayed in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! As Rocamadour is now a tourist destination, there were many shops selling soaps, pottery and various souvenirs. They were fun, but the main attraction for me was a shop selling colourful, patterned crockery in all styles – from Japanese tea cups to Polish plates. It was called Petit Pot, but there sadly isn’t a website or anything like that at all.

Have you been to Rocamadour or its surrounding region?

Images: Courage & Dash

Rambles through the Dordogne

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Before this summer week-long break in the Dordogne, I had never been to France outside Paris. I love Paris; absolutely adore it. Plenty of fond memories of general larking in hazy sunshine and getting sticky faces and hands from melting ice cream meant that I was always drawn back to the city. This time, however, I was invited along to a family holiday in Calviac, so off I went.

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First things first, I was desperate to go to plenty of vide-greniers + brocantes. I had spent some time researching events in the area during my stay there, but alas and alack, most of the fairs/markets were held on Sunday, and I was only there late Sunday to Saturday! In addition, I didn’t have a car, so travelling anywhere without begging for a lift from the parents-in-law was out of the question. Whilst the holiday was very relaxing and utterly blissful, I did not get my fill of flea-marketing, so um, sorry, husband, but I guess I’ll be heading back out to Paris before too long?

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In any case, I would highly recommend a visit to the Dordogne region for the pretty French villages and delicious food. DELICIOUS. On my last day in the valley, we went to the weekly Saturday market in Sarlat and every trestle table lining the cobblestone paths of the town was groaning under the weight of all kinds of cheese, olives, sausage, oils… and I managed to buy 3 small bottles of truffle oil and vinaigrette for EUR10! I’ll be back soon with a little guide to some of my favourite villages (and a couple of fun vintage shops!).

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Images: Courage & Dash

Weekend Styling with Flowers

Last weekend, I finally managed to give up my Saturday lie-in (I’m usually at my desk by 6.30am during the week) for a wander to the New Covent Garden Flower Market in Vauxhall. I used to visit quite a lot a few years ago, travelling across London from Islington at the crack of dawn; it really baffles me why I can’t seem to make the effort nowadays, given that I live locally…IMG_7224

In case you haven’t heard of the market, it is a wholesale market that caters to the floristry industry. Wedding planners and most of the city’s florists get their supplies from the market, and because it’s also open to the general public, people like me also tend to find their way there, either to shop or just to look at the vast selection of flowers/plants. Beside the flower market is a fruit and vegetable market (I’ve never been) which is similar. The market is open from 4am to 10am, Mon to Sat. However, given that it is a wholesale market, most of the trade is complete by 4am… Anything after tends to be considered late! Don’t let the early hours put you off though – there are still plenty of stalls open at 8 or 9am on a Saturday.

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Whilst you do get better value for money buying your flowers at the Flower Market, the downside is that you do have to buy them in larger than average sizes, so be prepared – they can get quite heavy! For £10, I got a massive bouquet of tulips, about 6 large bunches in total (I filled quite a few vases and jars!), which I thought was great. You can also bargain if you fancy it – I didn’t as I wasn’t buying that much. Also, it might help to have an idea of the arrangements you are making beforehand, especially if you are like me and love flowers generally and have very little self-control. Once, I left the market laden with enough blooms for a mini wedding (I exaggerate, but you get the picture) – it ended up costing more than I would have wanted and I had to make up so many bouquets/vases.

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The tulips I purchased were the most beautiful tulips I have ever had. They were so blousy and bright, with crinkly petals that looked so different to the usual ones (they reminded me of peonies). They were also very easy to style and dot around the flat to inject some colour into the space.

I really do love flowers and don’t have them around the house as much as I would like to. Of course, one doesn’t have to go to the flower market just for some fresh flowers – there’s always your nearest supermarket or florist. If you like learning about different plants and discovering new blooms, the Flower Market is the place to visit – naturally, the colour scheme and scent of the place evolves season to season, which is great.

New Covent Garden Market, London, SW8 5BH | http://www.newcoventgardenmarket.com
Opening hours: Mon – Sat, 4am to 10am
Nearest Station: Vauxhall Tube Station/Vauxhall mainline (South-west Trains)

 

Images: Courage & Dash