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The World of Chanel at Harrods

13 Sep

This past weekend, some friends and I popped into Harrods to have a look at the Chanel installation that’s been created on the third floor. It is a sight to behold, even if you’re not a Chanel nut like me.

Une Promenade – Coco in Wonderland is what it’s called and it is rather wonderlandy.

From the minute you walk through the giant bubbly pearl bead curtains and over the mirrored floor, you’re transported into Karl Lagerfeld’s slightly surreal world of giant bags, video screens, dolls and camellias camellias and more camellias.

There’s a recreation of Karl Lagerfeld’s library, with a larger-than-life glowing slightly terrifying image of the man himself; a room dedicated to the 2.55 bag; Chanel’s garden, complete with Chanel watering can and garden tools; the Coromandel screens and split mirrors in Chanel’s studio … and so much more.

I particularly liked this Chanel wallpaper:

But my favourite bit was the haute couture room, showcasing some astoundingly gorgeous pieces.

If you want to take a trip into Coco’s Wonderland, go soon. The installation is only around through the 25th of September.

(Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in the Chanel installation, so I’ve borrowed these images from the fantastic Alex Loves and British Beauty Blogger.)



Copeland/Spode China at Trelissick Mansion

8 Sep

Today I visited Trelissick Mansion near Truro for a viewing of the Spode-Copeland china collection.

Trelissick has been around since the mid 1700s, but the Copeland family didn’t own it until 1937. The house is now owned by the National Trust, although the family is still in residence.

The Copelands were Master Potters back in the 1700s when William Copeland and Josiah Spode were partners in the Stoke Potteries business. Copeland later bought out Spode and continued making china under the name of Spode right up until the family sold out to Portmeirion in recent years.

We were given a talk and tour by William Copeland, great-great-great-grandson of the original William Copeland.

The house is set in gorgeous grounds, overlooking the River Fal and planted with hydrangeas, rhododendrons and an amazing array of trees.

But the highlight, of course, was the china. There were cases and cases displaying spectacular pieces, all part of the collection accumulated by Ronald Copeland (the current William Copeland’s grandfather) at the Spode factory.

There were plenty of examples of the blue transferware that we’re all familiar with, but also stunning pieces of Parian ware:

… and lots of quirky little pieces, including items made for the royal family over the centuries, and a couple of these lovely little milk jugs:

I especially liked seeing things like these setters used for firing plates:

Even the gift shop was lovely, with big boxes of apples for sale from the estate’s orchard:

The gardens at Trelissick are open year-round, but if you want to see the china collection you’ll have to plan your trip carefully. It’s open by appointment, and only between 2 and 4pm on Thursdays from May through September. But it’s well worth a visit.

A Holiday in Normandy

30 Aug

We had a fabulous holiday in Normandy, seeing as many of the sites as we could squeeze into our few days.

We saw a lot of the D-Day landing things.  Utah Beach and its monuments and museum:

The American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, near Omaha Beach:

The village of Sainte-Mère-Église, with its church spire from which a paratrooper hung for hours after getting his parachute entangled (that would be Red Buttons in The Longest Day!):

And, finally, the remains of Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches:

It wasn’t all history and seriousness, though. We also had time for some non-war-related things. We saw the Bayeux Tapestry and also had a wander around lovely Bayeux, including a visit to the cathedral:

My favourite day included a visit to Beuvron-en-Auge, a village on the Cider Route. We had a few degustations and came home with a car boot laden with Calvados and Pommeau. Beuvron was definitely one of the prettiest little towns I’ve ever seen:

We also did a bit of shopping at the Isigny Ste. Mère dairy cooperative. Isigny, very near where we were staying, is famous for its dairy products, particularly butter. And, oh, that fame is deserved. My favourite was the very sinful one with salt crystals in it.

And we even had time for a brocante and a day on the beach:

It was my first trip to Normandy, but I know it won’t be my last. There’s so much more to see, so I’m glad we saved a few things for our next visit.

Le Chateau de Monfreville

29 Aug

Last week we spent a few days camping in Normandy at le Chateau de Monfreville, a superb little campsite in the Calvados countryside.

With 20 acres of land and only 12 pitches for tents (plus two roulottes) but no caravans or camper vans, it’s never crowded.

Paul and Zoe, who own the chateau, have ponies, a donkey, a lovely dog, two cats, some sheep and loads of ducks, geese, chickens and quail, so there’s always company of the furry and feathered variety. My husband and Hector the dog formed a particularly strong bond, perhaps due to the treats that were constantly being tossed Hector’s way.

Our tent was next to the field so Bert the donkey became a close friend.

We were also in the perfect spot to see the glorious sunrises.

One day, the roulottes were both empty, so I took the opportunity to take some sneaky pictures.

One night a week, there’s a family style moules frites meal in one of the barns. Everyone brings a bottle (or two) and gets to know each other, which is absolutely lovely.

Paul and Zoe grow a lot of their own vegetables, all of which can be bought in the little shop in one of the out-buildings. There’s an honesty box for shopping for organic veg, eggs, milk, etc.

There’s a swimming pond, complete with fish and frogs, on the site.

One of the nicest things about the site was that cars aren’t allowed. You park up in a field on the other side of the chateau, and all your gear is brought down to your pitch by an ancient tractor.

And, best of all, every evening, Paul comes round to each tent taking bakery orders for the morning. Then, as if by magic, fresh croissants, brioche, etc. appear outside your tent early the next day.

It was a wonderful holiday and I think we’ll be going back next year!

St. Michael’s Mount

10 Aug

Going over to the Mount is something we never seem to do, even though it’s right on our doorstep. But this week, I did go over and it was lovely!

We took the boat from Marazion:

And then had a good wander around the Mount. We discovered you can spend a happy couple of hours there without actually paying admission or going up to the top. And with the boat fare at only £1.50, it’s a cheap day out!

The café is rather nice, especially if you sit outside:

The island was quite crowded, so I think I’d like to go back in the winter when nobody’s around. Queen Victoria had the right idea in 1846. She came in September:

By the time we were ready to leave, the tide was out, so we were able to walk back over the causeway. Obviously a lot of others had the same idea:

I was quite taken with the  notion that we were walking on the seabed.

A lovely place which is definitely worth another visit.

The Hay Festival

7 Jun

I’ve just come back from my annual pilgrimage to the Hay Festival, and what a wonderful time we all had! My friends and I rent the same old farmhouse not far from Hay every year. Each morning I thought how lucky I was to be waking up to this gorgeous view:

I went to hear loads of speakers, from Nigella to Naipaul. In fact, here’s the rundown of the events I went to:

  • Gaynor Arnold and Polly Samson talking about their latest collections of short stories
  • David Baddiel talking about his latest novel
  • Jo Brand being absolutely lovely
  • Marcus Brigstocke, my imaginary boyfriend, sporting some rather unfortunate facial hair, talking about the book based on his God Collar stand-up act
  • Lizzie Collingham talking about the role of food in World War II
  • Dan Cruickshank discussing the British country house
  • Andrew Davies giving the inside scoop about writing his screenplay for South Riding
  • Gilbert and George being their fabulous selves. And singing! They sang!
  • A.A. Gill being his usually prickly self
  • Daisy Goodwin talking about My Last Duchess

    Diana Quick (left) interviewing Daisy Goodwin

  • Nigella Lawson looking even more gorgeous than she does on television

Nigella Lawson

V.S. Naipaul

  • Mavis Nicholson talking about What Did You Do in the War, Mummy?, her collection of women’s remembrances of World War II
  • Virginia Nicholson, one of my perennial favourites, talking about her latest book, Millions Like Us, also about women’s stories from World War II
  • Allison Pearson discussing I Think I Love You, her book about a teenage Welsh girl obsessed with David Cassidy in the ’70s
  • Justine Picardie in what might have been my favourite talk of the week, discussing her amazing biography of Coco Chanel
  • Vanessa Redgrave talking about her life and getting the longest standing ovation of the week


Vanessa Redgrave

  • David Sedaris, someone I never tire of listening to

David Sedaris

  • Tim Smit making me feel inspired to change the world
  • Edward St. Aubyn being … Edward St. Aubyn
  • Sandi Toksvig and Sue Perkins doing their comedy lecture thing
  • Michael Wood talking about the book based on his ‘Story of England’ television series from last year
  • Lucy Worsley in a fascinating talk about the book based on her If Walls Could Talk (history of the home) television series
  • Michael Wright being endearingly nervous but not terribly funny, talking about his C’est la Folie books

Between the busy, bustling, buzzing festival site and the sometimes sleepy peaceful town, I spent a glorious week of drinking cappuccino, reading, listening, thinking and (far too much) shopping in the lovely bookshops of Hay.

Booth's Books

My friend Barbara and I also went to a wonderful free talk about Welsh blankets, given by Athene English in the garden of her shop, The Great English Outdoors.

Athene and her blankets

The garden hidden behind The Great English Outdoors

If you haven’t been to the festival before, I can’t recommend it highly enough. But if you want to go in 2012, book your accommodation now. It goes quickly!







St. Ives Food and Drink Festival

22 May

Between Friday’s farmers’ market and today’s trip to the St. Ives Food and Drink Festival, this has been an extremely food-ful weekend. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

It was great to see St. Ives buzzing and full of people.

And the weather couldn’t have been better.

We really only went to the food producers’ market along the pier, but that was enough to keep me dipping into my purse every minute or so.

There was local fruit and veg:

… delicious cheeses:

… smoked haddock chowder (which was scrumptious) and giant pans of paella:

…lots to wash it down with:

(The husband will report back with his verdict on the Boilers Cornish Ale later on, and I can already vouch for the yummy-ness of Polgoon’s Aval, which you can order online. It’s one of my very favourite tipples.)

…and plenty of sweet treats for afters:

I opted for Jaffa Cake which was homemade dark chocolate ice cream and orange ice cream swirled together with an orange reduction syrup type thing, and with chunks of Jaffa Cake mixed in. Heaven.

A splendid day. Shame we didn’t leave many crumbs for this fellow and his friends:

Hidden Gardens of Penzance

21 May

Today was the Hidden Gardens of Penzance, a wonderful opportunity to nose around some of Penzance’s loveliest gardens.

In spite of the spotty weather, loads of people turned out and the event was a huge success!

As well as seeing some fabulous gardens, I also discovered parts of Penzance I never knew existed – like the wonderful cottages on Penlee Manor Drive.

We walked to all 10 gardens, from Castle Horneck to the Promenade, and felt we more than deserved our cream tea at The Morrab Library at the end.

Here’s hoping next year marks the second annual Hidden Gardens tour!


14 May

Yesterday, I went on a trip to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home near Dartmouth in Devon. It was so wonderful! The sort of house that’s big but not too big, grand but not too grand. I could have moved straight in. Really, I could.

Christie and her archaeologist husband, Sir Max Mallowan, bought the house in the late ’30s for £6,000 – and that included the 33 acres of land that surround it!

In her autobiography, Christie writes:

… I asked its price, though without much interest. I didn’t think I had heard the answer correctly.

‘Sixteen thousand, did you say?’

‘Six thousand.’

‘Six thousand?’ I could hardly believe it. We drove home talking about it. ‘It’s incredibly cheap,’ I said.

In 1959, the house was transferred to Christie’s daughter who lived there permanently with her husband and son. It was given to the National Trust in 2000 and has only been open to the public since 2009.

We started off in Dartmouth and took the Christie Belle ferry up the Dart to Greenway.

There was no photography permitted in the house  (which was a real shame), so I’ve taken these few interior pictures from the internet:

During the war, the house was requisitioned for use of the U.S. Navy and became the Officers’ Mess for the Coast Guard. During this time, Lt. Marshall Lee painted a mural around the wall of the library at Greenway:

When the house was returned to the Mallowans, they opted to keep the mural rather than paint over it. And a good decision that was too.

The best thing about the house is that it’s not museum-like. You can sit on most of the furniture. Well, perhaps not the tables. But the sofa in the sitting room was invitingly squishy. The other thing I loved about the house was the STUFF in it. The Mallowans were big collectors, as were Agatha Christie’s daughter and son-in-law who lived there later. Consequently, it’s jam-packed with their collections of … well, everything. China, paintings, clocks, watches, stamp boxes, pottery, glass, shell pictures, tapestries, etc. I could go on. The house is full of it and it’s all fascinating.

The grounds were rambling and wonderful and full of hidden corners. Not to mention the glorious views of the river.

And the greenhouses! During his life, Anthony Hicks, Agatha Christie’s son-in-law, ran a commercial nursery at Greenway. Since 2000, the greenhouses have been beautifully restored and are a joy to explore.

Plants are still sold at Greenway. I liked the way they were displayed – with signs telling you where to see them growing in the garden:

Agatha Christie didn’t write any of her books at Greenway. She saw it purely as a holiday home, and liked to escape from her work while she was there. She did, however, use the house as the backdrop for three of her murder mysteries, Five Little Pigs, Dead Man’s Folly and Ordeal by Innocence. Those, and all of her others, were for sale in the giftshop.

We ran out of time to explore the boathouse (I’ll save that for the next visit), but did pass it on the boat trip back to Dartmouth. It’s the spot where poor little Marlene Tucker met her end in Dead Man’s Folly.

Next time, I’ll try and allow more time so I can see everything. And, who knows. I might even convince the other half to book a week in the holiday apartment contained within the house. Though at over £2,000 a week, it’s not likely. For that price, I’d expect at least a murder or two!

A Trip to Looe

7 May

We finally had a rain-free day, so decided to head off to Looe. I’d never been before and I’m so glad we went – and doubly glad we didn’t go during the school holidays!

We hadn’t known that today was the second annual West Looe May Fayre, a small but lovely fair which is now back after a 70 or so year hiatus. There were stalls and crafty things:

And I was particularly enamoured of these green painted and upholstered chairs:

And there was music and the usual assemblages:

And a lovely exhibition of old photographs of Looe in the church:

Looe is actually made up of two towns, East Looe and West Looe, connected by a bridge:

I liked the plaque on the Old Looe Bridge, marking repairs made in the 17th century:

Looe has some remarkably old buildings:

and is a mass of hidden lanes and alleyways:

There are also some rather gorgeous shops:

All in all, it was a splendid day!