paris for the day

last week Maria and I took our annual day trip to Paris on a £65  return ticket – you have to book in advance and usually go midweek, but its worth it.   we arrived around 11am, in time to have breakfast in one of the many street cafes – we always start at rue Buci, with its vibrant fruit and flower market – its a great spot to watch the world go by –  luckily it was not raining and not too cold, so we could sit outside.  buy a book of 10 metro tickets – you may not use them all that day, but they are worth keeping for the next visit and means that there is no queuing for tickets – you can get these on Eurostar when you get your coffee.  the metro gets you from one side of paris to the other very quickly.   Paris is a city for walking around, enjoying the sights and streets – its amazing that its just over 2 hours from Kings Cross by train.  there are  always so many wonderful exhibitions and this time we chose Charlotte Perriand at the Louis Vuitton foundation.  It was the first time that I had seen this building, which is very similar to the Guggenheim in Bilbao – same architect, same complex planes – more a feat of engineering than of wonderful architectural design.  however the roof terraces give a wonderful view of Paris and the adjoining park Bois de Bologne.  Charlotte Perriand was an amazing designer, born at the beginning of the 20C century – she not only designed furniture and interiors, but also buildings and kit form studio spaces.   She worked with Le Corbusier and spent some years in Japan where she was highly influenced by their simple traditional design with wood.  she also took lots of photographs of nature;  all round a very interesting woman;  the exhibition is dotted throughout the whole building over 4 floors of gallery space, and includes reconstructions of the rooms that she designed.  Definitely worth the trip,  though you do need a good couple of hours to see this exhibition.

although Paris is perfect for strolling, its good to plan a route bearing in mind closing times.   we then headed  back towards le Marais and Merci,   for a final bit of shopping, which we knew stayed open later and then back to gare de Nord for a train that returned us into london before 11pm.  its tiring, but so pleasurable, inspiring and is a lovely way to spend a day with a good friend.

fortunately my friend maria is very organised at seeing whats on and always organises this, but you can sign up for offers with eurostar.


vintage linen

i love the rolls of linen that you find at kempton market – not sure what they were used for, maybe industrial towel machines,  you can also pick up some of the hopsack lengths that are usually sacks that have been unpicked and sold as runners.  they make great table runners, or you can do like i did, sew them into cushions or put 2 or 3 together for a sofa throw.   i  recently bought a lovely french white linen top – i love the way the initials have been sewn delicately at the front of the shirt and the delicate darning to patch up a tear. this company Streett Marburg has beautiful vintage fabrics, but they are a high price.

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I have started to do mini repairs to some of my vintage dresses, which seem to tear each time I wear them – its a dilemma, do you keep them perfect in your wardrobe, or do you get the pleasure of wearing them out and risk the damage?  the latter has been my choice and thus my having to learn how to patch and repair. here I have patched in a piece of lace edging into the cotton fabric, and used a contrast cotton.   I love the Japanese sashiko repair that I first picked up from the lovely Esthea Evans.  



absolutely loved the latest film by Almodovar, Pain and Glory – its a beautifully shot semi autobiographical tale of growing of age and your sense of losing creativity…..  It really summed up how I feel some days…..  it really does take a bit of getting used to this growing older lark……

I urge you to see it on the big screen.  I love that you can  catch up on things on your computer, but its really not the same experience as sitting quietly in a movie screen with nothing around you to distract you.  if you go in the daytime, there is usually a cheaper price.

seeing the beautiful cave buildings in the film reminds me of some parts of our town – many of the old houses are built into the old city walls, and incorporate a deep well which reaches deep below the houses – these provided water stores in moorish times when the town was under siege.  our house still has the well and there is a storage cave under the street which is just off the entrance hall.




loving all the dahlias out at the moment – bought these in Garnetts Gardens, that not only sells plants, but freshly cut flowers, local cakes and produce!  i discovered this on my way home from suffolk the other day – its always good to divert to another route – opens your eyes to new things!  my favourite nursery in the area though is Darsham Nurseries – lovely food and small gifts to buy, plus inspiring planting and vegetable patches to view, plus its just seconds away from the train station that brings you in from london.

robert and I took a walk in hampstead recently, enjoying the last of the   sunshine – the dahlias there outside kenwood house are just amazing!  drop in and see inside the house – its free entry and you will marvel at the wonderful collection of paintings, by Gainsborough, Rembrandt,  Vermeer and Reynolds, all in this beautiful setting.  there is also a cute second hand bookshop thats worth popping into, right by the cafe seating area.

cadiz and ribbons

i cant resist a haberdashery shop, so visiting some of Cadiz’s shops is like entering an aladdins cave of ribbons, bindings, threads and trimmings –  it is also a great opportunity to buy yet another beautiful set of ribbons to add to my collection- the collection that is designated for when i have time to sew myself a beautiful dress, or make that quilt of vintage and found fabrics!

if you have never been to cadiz, then you must – its a charming old city, especially around the fruit and fish market, which now re-opens in the evening ; to get the full experience you should come in the morning for the produce, and then stroll the edge where there are lots of food and tapas stalls  that sell snacks – we decided on amazing freshly squeezed fruit juices and tortilla for lunch.

cadiz is one of the least well known of the spanish cities -built on the atlantic coast, its crumbling buildings are reminiscent of havana.  fishermen line the coastal walls to catch their daily fish ; wander through the many stalls of the fish market and see the locals selling their freshly picked home grown herbs and veg – anything from camomile flowers, chestnuts, sage flowers to wild asparagus.  its great to see that market life is still in abundance, when in many cities, the growth of the supermarkets has killed local trading.  i love the fact that spain still has shops that solely sell one thing – scissors and knives, tobacco and cigarettes, ribbons and trimmings.

we recently discovered the beautiful botanical gardens, just near to the city beach area – and next to the  Alameda walkways and old trees, its a peaceful haven in what is a busy port city.

there is also the site of the old amphitheatre, which has been recently restored to visit too, so lots of interesting things to see.





















in london, i love to browse in V W Rouleaux –  you can choose beautiful ribbons, trimmings and lots of other interesting flowers and tassels – everything and anything to make your hat or costume pretty, or just to simply find the  essential tie backs for your curtains.


this year we have decided to have our family holiday later than usual, at the beginning of September – some days it was unusually windy, not a cold breeze, but a hot gust – levante – coming from the sahara; fortunately its this wind that keeps the town bearable from the heat.  even with the breeze the sea is always refreshing at this time of year, its definitely warmed up throughout the summer.  what you must not do is sit on the beach during 12 – 5pm – the art is arriving at a nearby restaurant, taking a leisurely lunch, then moving to the beach. we have several favourites – conil and restaurant la fontanilla, el palmar and nacarum (formally la chanca),  ohana is a casual snack bar on cabo de trafalgar, but has a lovely relaxed atmosphere and the beach there is unspoilt; but my favourite is la taberna de el campero and the restaurant at hotel don antonio  both in Zahara followed by a dip in the sea on the lovely beach, which is surrounded by dunes and desert plants.  canos de meca is also a lovely beach at this time of year, with its chiringuitos (beach bars) –  its a bit more sheltered on those windy days.


i increasingly seem to be visiting Liverpool en route to seeing my mother;  its a 2 hour train journey from london and then a 45 min drive to manchester.  my friend Elise is very taken with the city and takes me to new things each time we visit.  this time we found the Bluecoat gardens, with their lovely exhibition space and ceramics shop – it’s a pleasant courtyard garden right in the heart of the shopping centre.

if you have time pop into the tate – Keith Haring is on at the moment  – london isn’t the only place to have important art!  stop to eat at ‘the quarter’ in the beautiful georgian area around hope street, or the florist for a bite to eat or just for  coffee and cake; and then a must see stop are the 2 opposing cathedrals – both architecturally amazing in their own right.  if you have more time, take the 15 min drive to Crosby beach to see ‘another place’ by Antony Gormley – a series of life size cast iron figures set along the beach seemingly entering the sea.  there is definitely a revival for Liverpool – I really enjoyed the programme about the history of a Georgian house in Liverpool , fascinating social history.


incidentally this opening shot of my book ‘stolen glimpses’ is from the window of Tate Liverpool.