For my Christmas present, Mark arranged for us to take a long weekend trip down to Dartmoor, to stay in a manor house hotel near the moors and luxuriate in good food, lovely surroundings, and quiet winter walks. The trip was absolutely wonderful and coincided with snow, which made everything a bit more magical. We woke up on Friday to a dusting of snow, which was more pronounced on the top of the moors. A snowy walk around a reservoir worked up our appetites for afternoon tea and cake. The following day we went to visit Tintagel, the mythical birthplace of King Arthur. As it was winter, the shops selling tacky plastic swords were mercifully shut, and some wild and windy weather made the castle ruins very atmospheric. In fact, I don’t think they often get weather other than ‘wild and windy’, given the castle’s position right on the edge of the west coast, jutting out into the sea.
More summer memories… in late August I went to Paris for work and the meeting times were so arranged that I actually had a few hours spare to explore the city a little bit. This never normally happens on work trips, so I made the most of it! I have not been to Paris for years and so asked my very good friend Emily, who lived there for a time, where I should go to occupy a couple of hours in the sunshine. She suggested the Rodin museum and gardens, which was a wonderful idea.
It was difficult to photograph the sculptures while avoiding everyone else who was doing the same, and in any event I would never do them justice, so I humbly photographed my ice cream instead. (This was more to record my wonder at the fact that, on a work day, I was in Paris eating lavender ice cream, than any aspirations to photographic excellence.)
I walked to le ‘Relais de l’Entrecote’ for dinner (another Emily recommendation) which, apart from the company, was as good as I remembered it being when I went there with her a few years ago.
After dinner I walked back along the Seine to my hotel enjoying the late-evening warmth (not a common occurrence in England) with a stop to take the obligatory photo of the Tour Eiffel. A good day at work.
We spent a lovely week in the Loire Valley at the beginning of July. It was sunny and warm, the countryside was beautiful, and the food was scrumptious! We stayed in a lovely gite which meant we could cook our own food (or rather, eat bread and cheese and pate and red wine for dinner).
Here it is: Annie’s House near Saumur, run by a lovely English lady and her equally lovely French husband.
All the gardens seemed to be just soaking up the sun and bursting with the most gorgeous colours.
We visited a few chateaux, including Chenonceau which I saw in a book of chateaux of the Loire Valley once and have always been transfixed by. It was magical to see it in person.
There was a glimpse inside of how the floor must have looked before it was worn away over the years…
and some really incredible copper pots!
We also visited Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci lived and was buried. It was covered in scaffolding so not the most picturesque in places, but this gargoyle was quite charming.
And of course, we stopped for refreshments a fair few times.
Our final day we spent in Honfleur, which is a lovely seaside town on the coast. I cannot imagine the kind of weather they must get sometimes, as the houses are commonly tiled with slate all down the sides. Not a good sign!
It is a very beautiful place though, and these days is quite bijoux and expensive. We had some very expensive drinks on the waterfront and watched the world go by, but they were worth it. Vive la France!
The walk we went on after I took my photos in Philly’s garden was so lovely- spectacular views almost the whole way. We parked at the North York Moors visitor centre at Sutton Bank, and walked along the edge of the escarpment with moors on one side of us and a sharp drop down on the other side to green fields and hills. I tried to take a few photos to capture the view, but they don’t convey the sense of space and distance. It was magnificent.
The last few weeks of December essentially involved me crafting away frantically at one secret project after another, having over-optimistically planned to make or embellish presents for many members of my family. They all turned out well in the end, but I was so exhausted by all the effort that I forgot to photograph most of them, and also forgot to blog or photograph much of anything at all.
I did, however, have to capture possibly the most complicated hot chocolate I have ever consumed, which is saying something. This was a deluxe hot chocolate, with all the trimmings, which were comprised of the following:
marshmallows (goes without saying)
brownie chunks, AND…
a chocolate flake!
This amazing confection was produced by the hot drinks stand at the Tunbridge Wells ice rink, and more than made up for the fact that the rink was fully booked so we weren’t able to skate. So, wet bums and sliced-off fingers 0, tasty hot chocolate 1. Excellent result.
They had also decorated the stand with pretty twinkle lights, for extra festive cheer.
Just what was needed after a fortnight of concentrated needle-work!
Wandering around Munich on a sunny Sunday morning was very enjoyable, except for one thing: all the shops were shut! I am trying these days not to be such a shop-a-holic but there were some things in the shop windows which I would have dearly loved to investigate more closely… particularly:
Schnapps! This shop was filled, floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall, with different varieties of schnapps, and little (or big) bottles you could take some home in. It was very disappointing not to be able to sample their wares.
We also passed by what looked like a paint pigment shop, which I have never seen before. Not general art supplies, just pigments, but in all colours and sizes of container.
Probably a good thing I was unable to be lured in by the pretty rainbow colours and buy some random pigments which I would have no practical use for whatsoever. And finally, not behind shop-window glass, but deli-counter glass, some glorious slabs of salmon in a very fancy food shop.
We didn’t sample these either, although we could have, but instead chose not to spoil our dinners with late-afternoon snacks, which was probably wise considering the heft of traditional Bavarian fare!