Notting Hill, London

Notting Hill, London

There is nothing like a day out in London to restore your spirits. Apart from going to the carnival, I’ve never properly encountered the delights of Notting Hill. You know when you think you’ll arrive and recognise the place, well, that was me. However, I’ve never been before and it was a great place to visit.

During the day, I explored the Museum of Brands, Portobello Road Market, Beach Blanket Babylon bar and finally had a meal in the seafood restaurant, Bucket. Plus, I explored the general Notting Hill area, including some great shops and some stupid shops haha. What a fabulous, day.

The Museum of Brands

The Museum of Brands is a place to revisit the world of advertising and branding. The period of marketing begins during the Victorian era and ends up looking at recent advertising. The exhibition covers everything, including packaging, ads, fads, fashion, food, toys and games and how we’ve evolved as a society. It is like going back in time and fascinating to see. There are a lot of flash backs as you venture towards your own childhood advertising decade and the iconic brands. Certainly a trip down memory lane and great fun too. The latest exhibition discusses the future of packaging and changing from plastic to other options. Let us all hope they include the flipping supermarkets in their observations too!

If you want to go and explore the museum, the nearest Tube is Ladbroke Grove and then a minute’s walk.

Portobello Market

After this excellent experience, I went to Portobello Road and became absorbed in the hustle and bustle of the market. This was also an exuberant experience and although busy, very interesting. There are so many people selling and buying a vast array of Antiques, Bric-a-brac, fashion, food plus street performers too. The energy of the place is captivating and next time I shall explore more but by this time (1pm) I was definitely not up for eating the delicious looking street food because a sit down was needed!

After lunch, I looked around the shopping area and explored some fancy shops. Notting Hill is fashionable and has some beautiful property and people to match. It has to be said, I noticed people are somewhat stylishly dressed in this part of London and was fun to look at the quirky fashions. Must admit to being partial to a bit of people watching.

Posh shopping…

Although there are some lovely furniture/lifestyle shops in Notting Hill, I’m afraid I didn’t get Gynneth Paltrow’s shop, Goop. Just seems an overpriced lot of nonsense to me and a bit daft. The ethical side is all very well but for me the place is an exorbitant ‘I see you coming’ sort of shopping space.

The charity/vintage shopping, on the other hand, is amazing. I just bought a thin cotton and wool jumper, but my companion bought a Calvin Klein dress, Hugo Boss jacket and Banana Republic blouse, all as new. This particular shop is like a posh boutique rather than a charity shop and so it is definitely worth nosing around the shops because you can get a designer bargain! Who can resist a bargain?

Bar – cocktails

Yep. It was late afternoon and I popped in one bar for a glass of wine, then discovered my online researched bar called Beach Blanket Babylon. So glad I did do some research online, because it was glorious. I had a Porn Star Martini and it was wonderful to sit and watch the world go by. This establishment is in a Georgian mansion in the heart of Notting Hill and known for its cocktails. I, of course, shall return for another cocktail or two at some stage.

Bucket Seafood Restaurant

This was the last stop and is a popular fish restaurant and very good. You can have a bucket of seafood, which is sustainably sourced or alternatively a normal meal. I had a yummy fish pie with sweet potato chips. The chocolate ‘soup’ with icecream and sponge was rather good too!

A great day out and highly recommended. Be prepared to wander miles, watch the glamorous people, eat and drink too much and go home very tired indeed. Also, don’t do what I did, and wear flat but slightly uncomfortable shoes. You will walk miles and miles so find some decent footwear before you venture out.

Things mentioned:

http://www.museumofbrands.com/
http://www.beachblanket.co.uk/nottinghill/
https://bucketrestaurant.com/

Cornwall – Trip to Truro, shouty lady and music in pubs?

Truro

On Thursday, I decided to go to Truro by boat and strolled into Falmouth town and was promptly told the boats are not running due to the weather. Didn’t think about the weather when I decided to walk into town.  Without my car, a train into Truro was the best option even if it did mean another 20 minute walk!

The train journey was quick and efficient and I managed a quick doze. Upon arrival the clouds opened and it poured with rain so stopped for a quick coffee.

As I was slurping my delicious coffee, a woman came bustling into the cafe, obviously to have a rant about another woman, to the long suffering owner/server and I sat there rather hoping the shouty woman wasn’t going to sit near me. She did. The poor lady did seem anxious and continued shouting her woes to the embarrassed and busy server. As the server gave her the ‘relaxing’ (poncy) tea, she cleverly soothed her by being efficient, sympathetic and telling her it will all be fine.

Not sure if a public cafe is the time or the place for airing your dirty laundry, do you? However, think the customer found it liberating as her complaint was obviously on her mind and sometimes having a rant releases the turmoil. Don’t think she was being narcissistic just a little over dramatic. Felt sorry for her, as it sounded like she was being bullied which is a dreadful thing.

After the drama, I braved the incessant rain and wandered around Truro purchasing a new jacket (for hubby) and admiring the architecture. When it did stop raining, I enjoyed a meaty pasty in the fresh air. Also, enjoyed an obligatory ice cream too. Dieting will definitely be back on the agenda next week.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my amble around Truro and eventually found the cathedral, which is impressive and surprisingly, not particularly old. It was built in the Victorian era and has three iconic spires. The cathedral is situated in the heart of Truro and has over 200,000 visitors per year! It was designed by John Loughborough Pearson, and has the most exquisite stained glass windows. After the cathedral, I stopped at the cafe for a quick cuppa then headed back to the railway station.

The ‘Front Pub

During the evening, I found a tapas restaurant with dishes from around the world and then went to the pub and enjoyed some music and beer. The pub is called The ‘Front and I think you are supposed to guess what goes in front of the ‘Front. How very arty and very Cornish.

It is a lively establishment serving a full range of real ales, ciders and spirits. A folk group was playing on this particular day and the place seems constantly busy. It has been awarded best pub in Cornwall by CAMRA, which is well deserved. If you sit outside you enjoy a superb view of Falmouth Harbour too (top black and white photo).

What are your views about music in pubs? Personally, I think it is not only a good thing, but almost necessary. It makes the atmosphere lively and more interesting. Anyway, it is a great place as you can see from the photos.

St. Mawes

Well, as I had such a splendid evening in The ‘Front pub, I was in no rush to leave my Airbnb during Friday morning. By the way, the flat was ok, reasonably priced and meant that I could still enjoy the occasional meal cooked by myself. Sometimes, get a bit bored with eating out.

Upon filling myself with breakfast, I decided to catch a ferry over to St. Mawes. So glad I did manage to make the effort, because it is a lovely place to saunter around. Great for photography too.

It is a town opposite Falmouth, on the Roseland Peninsula. Apparently, the harbour is one of the largest harbours in the world and beautiful in the sunlight. Really enjoyed the ferry across from Falmouth even if a little chilly. The ferry runs all year round and costs about £10 return.

The town’s name derives from the Celtic saint Sain Maudez (Mawe) and is a fishing village with a gorgeous winding road and plenty of shops, cafes, pubs, etc to peruse. Can recommend for a day out.

Back home now watching the rain come down. Thanks for reading and any comments are welcome.

Bye for now.

Cornwall – Castles, beaches, art, pubs, walking and opinions…

Before this blog dissipates completely, I thought I’d better write a post. This week I am holidaying in Falmouth, Cornwall and have been very busy.

On Sunday, I visited the magnificent Pendennis Castle, one of Henry VIII’s coastal forts. Really enjoyed wandering around the castle and surrounding area. The castle itself transports you back to 16th century invasions and the tensions of World War 2 defences. The grounds are equally impressive with beautiful coastline views and various exhibitions of canons and artillery.

On Monday, I drove to the Eden Project which has certainly grown up since I last visited it with rather unimpressed children 👶. Nestled in a crater are Biomes housing a rainforest, Mediterranean gardens, art installations and other events such as an over loud story teller for the bored children. Entrance fees, which are extortionate, support environmental projects. You can also enjoy or endure a zip wire which is England’s longest and fastest zip wire experience if you wish too. I was quite keen, but put off when I saw some chap get stuck half way. He just stopped. The zip wire chaps left him dangling embarrassingly for several minutes before they arrived and dragged him back with rope and poles. No to that zip wire fun then!

On Tuesday, I drove to St Ives for a day of wandering around galleries, craft shops and stuffing myself with ice cream with clotted cream on top. Some contemporary art, which I love, is very inspirational and ingenious but some pieces are ridiculous and vastly overpriced. However, this is part of the experience to formulate an overinflated opinion and be judgemental whilst looking for that piece of art you just have to have. The beach views, as a backdrop to the aimless wandering, are quite glorious too.

Today, I went on a 6 mile walk around Falmouth through farmland and ending up walking along the coast. Beautiful Cornish views helped keep up my energy as did the humongous crab sandwich and just when I thought I was full, I stuffed myself stupid with another clotted cream ice cream 🍦in the wonderful beach cafe.

So that is how the week has gone so far. Of course I have frequented a few pubs too. Beerwolf Books is my idea of heaven. A pub with a book shop. Browse the books and have a pint. Pennycomequick is a great place too for both food and drink. The staff are ‘millennials’ and extremely helpful, cheerful, efficient and enthusiastic. Having encountered many experienced but curmudgeonly  landlords during my time, can’t help thinking this is the approach to stop so many pubs closing. Be pleasant and sell a good variety of what people want in a clean and inviting ambience.

The pubs, cafes and restaurants in Falmouth are splendid and everyone seems friendly too which helps the beer go down.

Ok, I’ve walked a long way so just out for a quick drink. Thanks for reading.

Apartment or Hotel? Which is best?

Which is best? Well, during our recent holiday in the South of France, we decided to try both options. Here are my thoughts…

Apartment in Antibes

AirBnB rents homes in 192 countries world wide. The business of renting rooms, apartments or whole houses has grown rapidly over recent years. We used AirBnB in Rome and enjoyed a week in a superb apartment near the railway station, shops and main tourist areas. This time we rented an apartment in Antibes, Cote d’Azur and although ok, not ideal.

This taught me a lesson to research thoroughly. Although to be fair, this has been the first time I’ve been unsuccessful in gaining an ideal holiday space. The main problem, on this occasion, was location. Antibes is a beautiful town but we weren’t within walking distance of the bars and restaurants. I learnt about the public transport but unfortunately buses stopped running at 9.30 pm. Then I had the brainwave we could walk a mile to the nearby railway station and get a train. However, they were all cancelled due to a strike. Aaaagh. So, we made the best of it and a couple of evenings we just got a taxi home, one evening we stayed in and the rest we went home early. No big deal.

The flat was ok but probably more suitable for a millennial. Rather basic, full of storage boxes, which is fair enough, and without enough towels and sheets. We arrived to be told the sheets weren’t dry and only one bath towel each (no hand towels). During the week, Hubby unblocked the sink for the owner and I watered the plants. We found the hose by accident. Instructions were written, in French, on some note paper and the owner texted me (often) during the week, for one reason or another.

From this experience, I’ve learnt if you are going to rent a place abroad, one needs to research thoroughly. I enjoyed watering the plants in the evening and there was plenty of space. Most things wrong with the flat (cooker, bed, stuff) were fine just for a week but as I’ve said, I have learnt from the experience…

Tips:

Location – If twenty minutes away from a town find out whether it is by car or not! If you want to be near bars/restaurants then make sure you are.

Check reviews – Work out whether they are valid or concocted by the owner’s mates. Are they written by the same age group, different nationalities and time periods?

Room type – Room, whole apartment or entire house? Check to see if it is the owner’s home. This makes a difference as you are likely to have their stuff all around you.

Amenities – Wifi, TV, Kitchen, towels, sheets and is the pool area actually open when you are at said residence? (Yes, you’ve guessed correctly.. it was closed.)

Host – Language and responsive? Ours host was very responsive…

Photos of residence – Check them carefully.

 

Hotel – Juan Les Pins

During our first visit to Juan Les Pins, I discovered that F. Scott Fitzgerald lived there during 1925 to 1927. This became the place to stay for the wealthy during the warm summers of the ‘20s and 30s.

The Belles Rives Hotel, Juan Les Pins, Cote d’Azur

 

When I first visited the area I couldn’t believe how much I adored the place. It had a ‘20s feel about it. So I looked online and discovered that Fitzgerald had enjoyed living in Juan Les Pins, as described above. Now I’m not easily impressed but when we investigated, the now Belles Rives Hotel, I was swept away by the beauty of the place. Not normally stupefied by luxury, etc. this was different. I fell in love with the place. It helps that I’ve read all of Fitzgerald’s work and actually adore his writing. It concentrates on an underlying social commentary, rich juxtaposed with poor, but focuses more on parodying society as he explores space, the historical changes of the female and their ensuing relationships and attitudes towards men. He creates a panorama of life by moving from scene to scene, and character to character with no event or character usually standing out from the rest.

Last year, we went to lunch at the Belles Rives Hotel, and as I was shown to my seat, by the water, I felt quite emotional. The scene before me, as I sat down, was beautiful and captivating. I will never forget that moment. The meal was delicious, the waitress lovely and the food, delicious.

This year, we decided to stay for three nights and once again the whole experience was superb. Expensive, but worth every penny. We enjoyed a comprehensive breakfast and on a couple of evenings enjoyed supreme dinners. One dinner in their sister hotel, The Juan, and on our final night, a Michelin Star meal in the Belles Rives dining room. The standard of everything is extremely high and it is fun to treat yourself once in a while. The hotel visitors seem to absorb the style and beauty of the splendid house and enjoyed having a special treat. Yes, it caters for celebrity and the wealthy but so what? It manages to keep the original furniture, style and elegance as when Fitzgerald resided there.

Which is best and why?

I enjoyed both experiences. The apartment suits me because I like shopping in foreign supermarkets, buying food and cooking. Recently, I’ve joked about preparing artisan sandwiches for our lunch too. You can come and go as you please or just chill out and relax if you return home early.

The hotel is fun too and although ridiculously lavish, great fun to be spoilt rotten. Probably, if you work long hours and want a relaxing break, this may be the best option. However, if you are out and about, then a pack lunch, hire car and your own space, is rather splendid too.

Cap d’Antibes – Coastal Walk

This walk captures the beauty of the Cote d’Azur and is a superb way of ingratiating yourself into the natural environment of this area. Plus the simple fact that your can park for free at the Plage de la Garoupe beach and then feed your soul with the magnificent 5k walk. It only takes about a couple of hours and is well worth doing. The walk can be rocky in places so do wear trainers or sensible footwear.

Cote d’Azur is known for magnificent properties, manicured gardens and superfluous wealth but this walk is surprisingly simple and enjoys a wild natural landscape. Also, you have the Mercantour National Park and the Estérel mountains to savour as you scramble carefully over the rocks.

On one occasion, I nearly fell because I was so busy looking at the clear blue sea, mountains, flowers and resplendent landscape. Parts of the path are properly built pathways but then dissipate into rocks, beach, and steep steps so can be precarious.

The limestone cliffs are very pretty because they are covered in glorious vivid flora, olive trees, exotic cacti and the cumbersome agaves. The blend of crystal clear blue water, rocky coves and mother nature is spectacular.

The final part of the walk is along a road called Avenue de Beaumont and then along Avenue de la Tour Gandolphe. Make time to enjoy the gardens and general serene landscape of this gorgeous vicinity, and then when you locate the beach, you can then enjoy some refreshment at the beach café and languish some more. Great fun.

Margate, England

Feel compelled to write about my wonderful day out at Margate because it is such a fabulous place, these days. Visited yesterday, so decided to write this impromptu blog post about my adventures…

I started off with a visit to the Turner Contemporary and viewed an exhibition called Animals and Us. All about the examination of humans and animals and concentrating on modern and historical art works and installations. An unusual exhibition which displays our distance and closeness with animals using symbolism, cultural and experimental views.

Next stop was lunch at the Sands Hotels. I sat next to the large window with the most spectacular view of Margate beach. Had goats cheese mousse, beef and Etonian mess. Fantastic, not expensive and once again, I felt quite spoilt.

Then I wandered around the beach area, had a few soft drinks, enjoyed the views and realised, as I was relaxing, that I should frequent Margate more often. Going to the beach for a day is like having a mini holiday because it is so much fun and very relaxing.

Then I had a look around the Shell Grotto which was discovered during 1835. Nobody knows why it was built and who was responsible for this incredible tunnel full of shells. Ornate and quite a surreal structure. Apparently, the folks of Margate have argued about the grotto’s origins ever since it was discovered. Rather a perplexing matter. Maybe an ancient pagan temple or meeting place? Very odd.

Popped in a burger place then the, what must be, the world’s most quirkiest micro pub, Fez. Really fun place, full of quirky artefacts, vinyl music and a warm welcome. What a day!

Fez

Margate has a fantastic selection of micro pubs, cafes, galleries and of course, a wonderful beach. Can highly recommend. I left Margate walking along the promenade whilst viewing this amazing sunset!

Thanks for reading my blogs. Don’t forget to follow…

Source: http://shellgrotto.co.uk

Nice, France

During our most recent visit to Nice, during April of this year, we explored the historical Old Town. The previous visit was August 2017 and rather hot. I’ve included some photos from the August 2017 visit, to show the superb Nice park and how much the French children enjoy it. Well, not just the children, but adults too. Note the two chaps doing handstands; they weren’t young!

Nice has a long, pebble beach with the bluest sea I’ve had the pleasure to see. In fact, the first time I visited Nice (about 5 years ago), I remember an overwhelming joyous feeling upon viewing the vivid azure water and felt like I’d come home. (Still feel like that, but really adore Juan Les Pins, as the place to stay.) The coastal area of Nice, is called Promenade des Anglais (Promenade of the English). This is because the wealthy English aristocracy spent time in Nice because of the fine weather and panorama along the curving coast. You will see palm trees, pergolas, walkers and lots of French people with small dogs. They seem to love their little dogs and quite right too.

During a bad English winter in 1820, the Rev. Lewis employed workmen to build a promenade and it became France’s first piece of tourism infrastructure. It derives much of an Italian influence because it was the Kingdom of Sardinia. Not until the Treaty of Turin in 1860, did Nice become integrated with France. It was also part of the Grand Tour, which wealthy people enjoyed during the 18th century. This was a long holiday and they enjoyed extensive travelling through France and Italy whilst taking in the cultural sights. When I studied literature, I remember reading about Wordsworth and Coleridge undertaking such a journey.

The region has a splendid mix of beach life, shops, restaurants, hotels, history, architecture and a useful tram going through the centre of Nice. The Place Massena and surrounding area, is a spectacular city square full of bustling life and so impressive because of the Italian red ochre architecture. The lack of traffic, is an inspiring ideal and endorses a thriving Mediterranean square which is quite stunning.

The historical area is lovely with the colourful houses, winding streets, old traditional shops and markets. We ended up, eventually, at the harbour and decided to have a spot of lunch. We sat down at a busy café. They were all busy, but this one supplied a good menu so we ordered, and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Obviously, the French don’t mind the interminable wait for their food. Listening uselessly to the incessant, loud chatter, I became obsessed with watching food leaving the kitchen. Well, I was just beginning to die of boredom, when the long awaited food arrived and it was, I must declare, delicious. After which, when trying to pay, the card machine wouldn’t work, and the owner started to laugh hysterically whilst pulling and pushing at the wires of the credit card machine. By this time, I strolled towards the bobbing boats thinking I may throw myself in (not really) and my husband came out joyfully saying he has now, finally, paid for our meal. Incidentally, I do prefer to pay for my drink, as in the British pub, and sit down then… well… just leave the building. Find it annoying to drink your beverage and sit there and wait and wait and then have to beg a server for the bill.

Anyway, I can certainly recommend Nice for a long weekend away or holiday. It has an abundance of history, culture, coastal and culinary delights. It is the fifth largest city in France and is exciting and interesting. The people are friendly and welcoming. There are plenty of inexpensive hotels and of course, Easy Jet flies to Nice, which is a short flight from Gatwick, London.

Source and loads of information here: https://about-france.com/cities/nice-city-guide.htm

 

Next blog postHotel or Apartment?

Is about whether it is best to stay in an apartment or a hotel plus some tips about what to look out for when choosing holiday accommodation.