Yesterday I went into London to catch up with the lovely folk at Viking Cruises (you might remember me mentioning that I wrote the recipes for their cookery book and also for the gorgeous Nordic Style book they have on board). Viking Cruises are the sponsors of a brand new exhibition at the V&A: Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, which opens this Saturday, and I really do recommend that you give it a visit. Whether your interest is history, engineering or fashion, the whole exhibition is a fascinating insight into the glamour of the golden age of cruising. Known for their cool, Scandi-inspired ships and attention to detail, Viking Cruises really are the perfect match for this exhibition.
There’s a standard phrase in our house: ‘I want to move to Marlow!’. It’s uttered every time we see something fabulous happening in this lovely little Buckinghamshire town. We go as much as we can, but it’s an hour from us (though actually, right next to where Mr E works). It’s gorgeous in the summer, and magical in the winter. I’ve even earmarked my perfect house on West Street (you don’t even want to know how much it is). This weekend, we were lucky enough to be invited to the launch evening of The Pop-Up Festival, a unique pop up cinema experience combined with delicious food from the fabulous Tom Kerridge. I’d heard all about the Gourmet Picture Company as my lovely mate Amanda from Online Stylist attended one last summer at Chewton Glen. It looked absolutely gorgeous, so I was so excited to see how the Gourmet Picture Company would keep us all warm and cosy in December!
The run up to Christmas can be stressful. For most of us, it’s a whirlwind of online (and real life) shopping, cooking and planning, and of course my work doesn’t stop either (I’ve already cooked three Christmas dinners and it’s only just December). I decided to take a pre-Christmas pampering trip with a little help from Trainline’s new voice app. Here’s how I got on.
As we had some travel plans cancelled in August, Mr E and I have really been enjoying exploring our lovely local area. The Chilterns are stuffed full of historic stately homes and manor houses: from Waddesdon Manor, designed in the style of a romantic French Renaissance chateau, to Sir Francis Dashwood’s extravagant, Italianate West Wycombe Park, we have a huge diversity of beautiful buildings to visit. One that might have escaped your radar is Latimer House, now the De Vere Latimer Estate, a stunning mansion house estate that has recently undergone a huge (£7m) refurbishment that has transformed the original mansion house, including a beautifully renovated library, a coffee shop, a brand new restaurant: 1838 Restaurant and Bar, and the new Huntley Bar as well as additional luxury bedrooms and an elegant new reception.
There aren’t many prettier towns than Marlow, right next to the River Thames in Buckinghamshire. We spent a sunny morning wandering the shops (Sweaty Betty, Fat Face, a massive Jigsaw, Whistles, Mint Velvet, and loads of stylish independent boutiques and shops) down to the river, and then – all set to walk along the river’s edge for a while – the sky suddenly got really dark and fat blobs of rain started splashing on us. Ah well, instead we headed to West Street, to try the bottomless brunch at The Botanist, a pretty, quirky bar and restaurant on West Street. The front window completely rolls back, so when the sun finally came out again, it was a lovely spot to sit, sip a cocktail and watch the world go by while waiting for our table.
Are we allowed to say ‘staycation’? Well, whatever we’re currently calling it, I had a bit of travel cancelled recently and was getting majorly itchy feet, so I suggested to Mr E that we take a little weekend trip to London. And what a lovely weekend it turned out to be. We stayed at the very lovely Dorsett Shepherds Bush, which is the perfect hotel for a city break: it’s literally a five minute walk from the tube station (and Westfield Shopping Centre), and we spent the whole weekend exploring and hopping on and off the tube.
As the kids get older, the idea of lazing on a beach with an iced drink and a good thriller novel to hand (my idea of heaven) becomes a bit less realistic. I know some teenagers are happy to loll around on holiday, but we like to break it up and have at least a couple of days expanding our comfort zone. I thought it would be a good idea to suggest a few activities to get the heart-rate up and excitement pounding, so here are a few of my top activities for adrenaline junkies. These are also great if you’re not actually heading away anywhere, but want a few tips for great days out to break up the holidays.
So did you know that Sunday was International Picnic Day? Luckily the weather was absolutely gorgeous so it was easy to get outside and do some alfresco snacking. Of course planning the perfect picnic really shouldn’t include limp sandwiches and sweaty salads – I think the key to an impressive picnic is to mix a few things you’ve made yourself with a selection of ready made bits and bobs, blurring the edges so nobody quite knows which is which. I’ve been trying out a few items from Tesco’s brand new Mediterranean-inspired Deli range, and they fit the bill perfectly: you can eat many of the items hot or cold, and there are loads of tasty little bits and pieces perfect for eating with your fingers.
Last night, we spent the most magical evening in London. I always love going to London at this time of the year to look at all the lights (my Dad used to drive us to London and drive down Oxford Street when we were little – it was one of the highlights of Christmas!) and we were especially lucky to be treated to a gorgeous sail down the Thames with MBNA Thames Clippers, London’s fabulous riverboat service, alighting at the London Eye to catch the festive production of Peter Pan at the National Theatre. It’s such a lovely, lovely way to travel too.
Last week I headed up to London in the sunshine to do a little messing about in boats. I always feel that I don’t really go to London enough – from our local train station it takes a little over half an hour to get into Euston, and unlike some of my unluckier friends, our service provider, London Midland, is really excellent: on time, clean and efficient. In a happy coincidence, it was also Afternoon Tea Week (I know, who knew that was a thing?) and I made my way to London Bridge pier to hop on board and enjoy a rather delicious afternoon tea with MBNA Thames Clippers.
If you’re heading off on a winter holiday (lucky you!), it can often be difficult to track down everything you need. Bizarrely, swimwear only seems to be in the shops around May and then if you don’t grab the nice stuff it’s all gone again by summer, so if you’re going in November you’ve got no chance! Happily, the interwebs are here to soothe your woes, and if you hunt around you can get a bargain too!
I LOVE a trip to London. There’s something about a visit to the capital that feels so special, so when I was invited to the Autumn/Winter Asda wine preview to sample some of their festive fizz, I decided to make a little mini trip out of it with an overnight stay at the gorgeous Capital Hotel, right in the heart of Knightsbridge.
Glastonbury has ushered in festival season good and proper. I watched all the BBC coverage with mixed feelings. My boys love it, but I’m still not sure I’m a festival person. Still, there are still a good three months of quality festival action all over the country to make us change our minds, so book tickets to the one you fancy as soon as possible – I’m seriously considering Blogstock actually. I think it’s probably quite easy to do a festival badly, you know, assume it’s going to be sunny every day or you just bring bottles of wine and find out at the door (as my boys did) that no glass is allowed on site. So here are my top festival tips for making the most out of the experience.
This week, Mr E and I took a little road trip down to Kent. We were off to Dover for a date with the gorgeous, re-imagined Disney Magic, and looking for a place to stay in Kent the night before. A friend recommended the Heath Estate winery and its pub, The Goudhurst Inn, and frankly we didn’t take much convincing.
As you might have read, back in April, Mr E and I were lucky enough to visit Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s deliciously decadent hotel in Oxfordshire. I’ve also visited before and been lucky enough to be shown around the gorgeous gardens, too. If you watched Kew on a Plate you’ll know that Raymond Blanc is really keen on gardening and cooking with his own produce. It obviously runs in the family, because his son, Olivier, along with Charlotte Salt, has created a lovely little character, Henri le Worm to show children where food actually comes from and encourage them to learn more about nature and the important role it plays in our food.
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