on chesil beach

my friend Maria is a member of Barbican cinema, which has a great offer that enables you to go to see new films for a very reduced price on a Sunday morning – its a lovely comfortable cinema and it was quite refreshing to travel to a part of london that I don’t usually frequent on a Sunday. I really liked this film, despite its mixed reviews;  based on a novella by Ian McEwan, its set in early 1960’s and retells the honeymoon night of a young couple.  its very sensitively told and their youth and upbringing is revealed through flashbacks.  it may seem quite old fashioned now, but its a stark reminder how we used to hide our feelings and be affected by social stigmas.  its also quite sad, that 2 people who obviously love each other can’t be quite honest with one another and risk losing each other.  its quite slow, but both actors, Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle are both convincing and excellent, and the cinematography is very beautiful.   I have never been to chesil beach, but its definitely on my list now.


oriental poppy

known as the oriental papaver, the vibrant orange bloom makes any garden exotic.   the flowers dont last long, but they return year after year – mine have just bloomed and look amazing. flowers are not only beautiful to look at, but help nature generally –  Oriental Poppies attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

my garden is blooming with colour, roses, camellias, wisteria, poppies, nasturtium, campanula – remember my garden is tiny, the size of a bedroom front and back, but with some clever planting, you can have flowers all year round.


an inspiration

cant believe that my little baby will be 19 today!  its beautiful and sad – a passing of time, a transition into womanhood, a progression, a growing, its everything and yet there is so much for her to do and look forward to in the future – its the beginnings of adult life!

always my inspiration, my model,  my pride and joy,  my beautiful maude – i thank you for all the times you have patiently sat, ran, walked, poised for my photos!

all too human and a century of painting life

if you love painting, then you would love this exhibition of paintings;  i think its the medium that i am drawn to the most with art – as well as paintings by Bacon and Freud, there are a selection by Rego, Auerbach and Sickert.   Tate Britain is a wondeful spacious gallery situated by the river – I find it less hectic and more peaceful than Tate Modern.

I particularly love walking around the area of Pimlico and Victoria – interesting independent shops, including lots of vintage and charity .  love this washing line really close by.

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petersham nurseries and hotel

as it was eilleen’s birthday last week we booked lunch at the petersham hotel to celebrate what would have been her 92nd birthday;  we meet at the family grave to plant new flowers and remember this wonderful lady and  it is  now an annual treat that we share with Robert’s brother and wife – the hotel is wonderfully positioned with a view of the river;  you have to book in advance to get a window seat, but its worth it.  they have a set Sunday roast lunch, which is very lovely, but afternoon tea looks pretty amazing – scones, sandwiches and cakes beautifully perched on a cake stand.   there is something old fashioned and traditional about the hotel that I quite like – you are transported to another world with the setting.   if you do get to go to petersham hotel then you should pop into petersham nurseries too – my favourite garden centre and less than 5 minutes away – you can also enjoy tea and cakes there!  its quite busy on a weekend, but on a weekday its a haven set in a series of beautiful old conservatories.


culinary vejer

well our little town is now the destination for restaurants in the area – who would have guessed this. when we bought our house over 18 years ago, there was only a couple of restaurants, plus a few local bars who did tapas; now there are a variety of high quality restaurants, not only in the village but in the countryside close by. there are even cookery classes on the local cuisine – how amazing! this is the view from our balcony.


Vejer has been listed in the sunday times top 100 , as one of spain’s tastiest town and recently as one of the prettiest towns in Spain. we have also hosted the big cycling event la vuelta finishing in vejer too- what a sight that was. it lists restaurant el patria and el castilleria (our favourite eating place, though mainly excelling in steak and lamb) as places to go as well as participating at Annie B’s , where Annie will take you out to the local food market and then teach you how to cook local specialities in her beautiful andalucian home; she will also take you to Barbate to the local fish market – which is still kept to its original working state with an amazing variety of fish to buy, including the famous locally caught tuna. Barbate is not a pretty town, but a working fishing town – it has one of the best restaurants in the area, el Campero – serving a variety of tuna specialities including sashimi.

our first port of call when we first arrive is always the reliable seafood at la fontanilla in conil – perfectly situated on the beach with awnings to shield from the sun and wind, the food is not just delicious, but it means the kids can wander safely onto the beach whilst you sit and eat. kids being kids, they just get bored sitting in restaurants…… next door, there is another similar restaurant, francisco la fontanilla – equally as good, so if you cant get a table in one, you will be able to get one at the other. remember though that sunday lunchtime is always the busiest time, even out of season. not only the locals come to the beach for lunch, but also visitors from seville and jerez. paella is a classic sunday lunch dish and is delicious at these restaurants – i would tend to say that fish is best by the sea, rather than inland in a village.

Restaurant Sajorami is a lovely restaurant to have lunch or an evening meal and watch the sun set;  its a bit more pricey due to its location.  Its enviable position on the edge of a hill right next to Zahora beach guarantees beautiful sunsets. Zahora beach is the next beach to the Cape Trafalgar.

the restaurant at hotel antonio in Zahara is a new favourite – with a great position facing the sea, its a classic traditional restaurant, bustling with spanish locals.

its probably one of the nicest places to sit at sunset. the garden of la chanca restaurant on el palmar offers great views of the sunset with the natural sand dunes between the garden and the beach – we celebrated our 20th anniversary with friends there in the garden and it really was perfect.

this was given to me by one of my clients who stayed one spring, and although the weather wasnt perfectly sunny, she enjoyed a gourmet trail around vejer. here are her comments, which i think sum up the restaurants in the area.
We loved:
La Patria for the quality of the food and the friendliness of the owners and staff;
El Tresoro for the sublime beef and spectacular view;
La Castilleria for the beautiful food and ambience;
and El Jardin de Califa because the garden was so lovely and the service was good.

One of the newer restaurants in town, marengo has more modern style tapas but for a change it is good quality food, and of course Garimba has a few tapas dishes that are tasty, though like a lot of the restaurants in the area, they tend to do too many swirls on the side with the sauces.

Up in the new town, by the molinos, old windmills, there is a pizza pasta restaurant, called il Macinino, c/Jose Maria Peman . If you go up there as the sun is setting, there is also a bar close by housed in one of the converted windmills and you can watch the sun set and then eat dinner at the restaurant. The restaurant itself also has great views over the plains of Vejer countryside stretching to the sea, but depending on the time of year, you may want to watch the sunset before eating. Restaurants in spain tend to not open before 8.30pm.

i personally love Vejer out of season, you may not get the super hot weather, but you still get the charm and ambiance of a moorish town which offers a great variety of food and beaches.

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they are not frequented by many tourists, but ventas – roadside restaurants in many areas of spain – can serve great typical food of the region;    we would normally dismiss them as motorway cafes, but the locals all love them.   generally on the boundaries of towns or in vejer’s case at the foot of the hill, they are a  great choice in rainy weather, when what you are looking for is warmth and comforting food.  venta pinto is a perfect example of a good venta with wood burning stove, traditional interior and menu, its good reliable food and because its aimed at mostly spanish locals, its open all year round.  other ventas that i have been to in the area that i can recommend are venta antonio, just outside of Jerez, on the road to san lucar  and venta la duquesa, just outside of medina sidonia.   both restaurants are very popular on a weekend, so its essential to book in advance.  dont be deceived, they may remind you of motorway stops, but some ventas are regarded as high quality restaurants.