seville

We always like to stay a night in either Seville or Malaga on the way to Vejer – its a good opportunity to experience the colourful and vibrant Spanish city life, and then go to a smaller town and the sea. This time we flew into Faro, Portugal and visited a friend and then drove over the border to Seville, about 2 hours.   It’s amazing that there is no time difference in Portugal, but as soon as you cross that border,  you are an hour ahead.  a lovely hotel right next to the border is the Grand House Hotel , St Antonio, with the beautiful surrounding beaches of the Algarve.

Seville is a difficult city to navigate around in a car – I would really suggest parking in a car park near the centre and then walking in – getting caught in those narrow old streets can be not only frustrating, but also nerve racking.

Seville is the perfect city to visit for the weekend.  We stay at the lovely hotel Casas de la Juderia, perfectly situated in the old quarter, or nearby the 1950’s style Hotel Fernando III.  A friend just recently stayed at the Eme Catedral Seville, right opposite the Cathedral and of course there is the  Hotel Alfonso VIII which is ultimate luxury.

Bear in mind that Seville is always hotter than the coast, and not recommended for visiting in the summer months – great for the early evenings, but you can’t walk around in the day without getting hot and bothered.  start by crossing the bridge for a walk along the river, watching the rowers go by, have a drink on calle Betis, Triana , then cross back to the imposing cathedral and make your way through the windy streets of the Barrio Cruz taking in some of the many tapas bars.

There are so many good places to eat, but eating tapas in a variety of restaurants is a good start, especially on an evening when it is cooler. For many years we have eaten at restaurant modesto, it’s a trusted restaurant popular with the locals and next to the Jardins de Murillo.  Other favourites are la bodeguita gongora,  bar alfalfa, taberna aguilas, and Mamaraacha for more modern tapas. E. Morales is a lovely old traditional bar,  as well as Bodega Diaz Salazar. Tapas in Cerveceria La Giralda is quite atmospheric, though in a busy street, but is housed in an old hamman and the tapas is usually quite reliable.   my all time favourite area is Alfalfa, its not so touristy, young and vibrant with real life – there are also some great flamenco  shops and antiques in this area, especially on street acetres.

seville’s marie luisa park  is undoubtedly one of my favourite parks in Europe  with its famed Plaza de Espana – which was the centrepiece of the expo, this decorative Palace has beautiful tile work that represents each of the provinces of Spain.   at another end of the park is the Plaza de las Palomas (Plaza of the the Doves), where you find the home of many doves.  you will find that the  children love to feed the doves – you can usually buy seeds to feed them with.     the landscape architect, Nicolas Forestier who redesigned the gardens in 1929 also designed the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.    either take a leisurely walk through the gardens, or take a horse and carriage ride through the wonderful old city of Seville and through the park too.

 

 

 

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Exhibitions

I always seem to see exhibitions all at once – and then nothing for ages – but there is so much to see at the moment. All the exhibitions are so very different, some poignant and full of messages, others showing the dark side of the artists’ personality, and some just portraits. I find that paintings that are pretty or nice to look at with no obvious message can be criticised for being frivolous – for me art can be so many ways of self expression – it shouldn’t be judged whether its serious or not. Art is there for everyone to appreciate – we all have our own tastes….

Louise Bourgeois ends tomorrow; in intriguing mix of art pieces – some very dark and abstract, some feminine with a twist, some delicately put together with pretty textures and shades. Her personal life experience obviously had a great impact on her and this is very interesting to see. The Hayward Gallery is the perfect space to show her work.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye are beautifully painted stories about fictitious people, either from found images or from her imagination. They speak identity and representation and are colourful and almost graphic in style – at Tate Britain. I particularly love the characterful clothes.

Also at Tate Britain is Walter Sickert, which I absolutely loved – dark, mysterious, his images of naked women in Camden are challenging and must have been controversial at its time; he liked to picture everything theatrical from performers in music halls, individuals from the newspaper articles – he definitely liked to paint real people at work.

Whistler’s women in white is romantic depictions of women dressed in white, and especially the model Joanna Hifferman. her red hair went onto influence the pre raphaelites and their style of portraiture – at Royal Academy. wildly romantic and ethereal – I too have taken to wearing white dresses …..

At the Whitechapel we can revisit the artists studio from 1920 – 2020 – an interesting curation of works from lesser known artists to Picasso, Schiele and Bacon. its celebrating a century of image makers and artists through their studio. Some are actually painting in their studio, some are actual mock ups of their studio – its a loosely named theme, but is an interesting mix and gives you an opportunity to see a wide range of artists in one exhibition.

Postwar Modern at the Barbican brings together an amazing display of paintings, sculptures and photography from 1945 -1965. This is an incredible body of work put together – and introduced me to some amazing artists and photographers previously unknown.

There is so much to see in London at the moment; its definitely inspiring looking at the real paintings – we recognise so many of them from postcards and books, but actually seeing art in life is the best thing. Purchasing a national art pass allows you to visit galleries at half price, so if you are going to see a few, it maybe worth it. I now buy a gallery membership for my friends’ birthday presents, it gives them so much pleasure to be able to visit freely, so worth putting on your birthday list.

April feria

I am so missing visiting spain with its wonderful traditions and colour. its about this time in Vejer de la Fronterra that the annual  april feria occurs 10 days after Easter.  Easter, or Semana Santa as it is called in Spain is such a big occasion , more important than Xmas, with its evening street procession carrying the statues of Jesus  on Good Friday and  Easter Sunday bull run in the narrow streets, it is a sight that you never forget. The feria, that follows is a mini version of the seville feria, which if you have never seen is just spectacular, horses and carriages,  flamenco dresses and full of colour and splendour;  vejer’s feria is held in the new town, which is only 15 mins walk from my house, but mainly consists of a few casitas (tents for eating drinking and dancing) and an enormous fairground!  but for 4 nights there will be numerous flamenco shows and horse riding events.   the local school children clamber on their floats and there is a procession through the old town to the new town – there are so many festival days in spain, you need to check the calendars before you go so that you can watch them – there is a feria in almost every town in spain at some time of the year – its what makes Spain a wonderful country still steeped in tradition and fun.  sadly due to the pandemic, it will have been more than a year of disruption – so I am not even sure what celebrations will be happening;  I am so hoping that by the end of the year, life will resume as it used to be……

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Easter eggs

I always remember these eggs that talented artist Mary Mathieson, made for our ilovegorgeous shoot several years ago.

Barrier Reef Dress, Sea Green, 698
Harliquin Dress, Sea Green, 482
Harliquin Dress, Sea Green, 487
Barrier Reef Dress, Sea Green, 685_1

Easter is a Christian festival and for Christians the custom of giving eggs at Easter celebrates new life. The first eggs given at Easter were birds eggs. These eggs were painted in bright colours to give them further meaning as a gift. We still paint bird eggs today but usually only chicken eggs.  my daughter loves to paint eggs, but you do have to be really gentle or they will easily break.    you need to pierce a hole at either end blow out all the liquid inside the egg, use for scrambled eggs, or bake a cake!  then perch your egg on a barbecue stick or on a chopstick and paint with acrylic paints.  you can always thread pretty ribbon through the holes and hang them – they look pretty cute. 

Southwold Pier

i love piers, there is something romantic, dreamy and nostalgic about them……

I am lucky to have Southwold so close to the cottage – its the perfect seaside town with its long sandy beach, beach huts and pier, fish market and harbour, plus a sprinkling of good restaurants and shops.   I hope to get to the cottage a lot more in 2020;  you can rent it directly through my website limeblossom cottage. 

I recently discovered the little neighbouring village of Wangford, hidden from the A12, its a tiny village with a great grocery shop and pub, the Angel Inn.  Suffolk is full of hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered.

Rye

now that Robert is working at weekends, we have decided to explore parts of UK that we have rarely visited. we asked a friend for a recommendation of a hotel and ended up at the Gallivant on Camber Sands. Typically the weather was grim, grey, cold and drizzly, so we first headed for the ancient town of Rye – a very pretty town, up and down steep cobbled streets. we parked by the quay and ambled around the street. I have never seen so many gift and vintage shops in one little old town – the good thing was that there were no chains on the main street.

my favourite were Merchant and Mills, an emporium of cottons in so many colours and patterns, it really made me want to get my machine out and learn to sew. They also sell so many useful gift ideas, such as little sewing kits, great array of scissors, and lovely patterns to make workwear style clothes.

I bought some lovely vintage towels from Soap and Salvation, a lovely old chapel selling a mix of vintage and craft style objects; there are a great church beeswax candles from Puckhaber and handwoven rugs and baskets from Rae. Also delicious hand made chocolate from Rye Chocolates we ate lunch at the Fig, nice and healthy. there are a lot of places to choose from, so it depends how you feel on the day. Mermaid street is a lovely old street that looks like a film set – one tip, don’t wear heels whilst walking around, the cobbles were difficult with boots on as quite uneven.

Gallivant hotel is a 10 min drive away, right by Camber Sands – a short, but steep climb over the dunes takes you to the vast beach. The tide was out when we arrived, and there was the typical film crew on the beach, but it really is a beautiful sandy beach

Its worth a drive to Rye harbour, watching the boats come in – there is a pub there to grab a drink and a bite to eat, strangely selling Greek food, rather than fish, which is what you would expect. you could get fish and chips. Just 10 mins away is Westchelsea beach – a pebble beach, but much easier to reach from the roadside.

its definitely a great day trip out; we stayed the night at the Gallivant, where the food was very good, dinner and breakfast. I even managed to do an early morning yoga stretch class – there are 2 daily classes plus and meditation walk on offer. Its pricey, but I think that all hotels in the UK seem highly priced at present; Jeake’s House looked quite quaint in the old town of Rye. it really is a breath of fresh air, taking you away from the despair that we seem to be surrounded by at present.

all this washing of hands

we all must be suffering from parched hands – all this washing with harsher soap.  I must admit, I am still using a more natural soap thats more gentle but washing thoroughly after I return from the outside.  this strong wind is not also helping the skin.  if you suffer from dry skin, especially in the winter months – remember that the central heating  doesn’t help, but if you put a glass of water by your radiator this will help put some moisture back into the air – add a few drops of lavender essential oil for a lovely aroma ;  there are lots of different products out there, other than cortisone cream which is what doctors seem to dish out. cortisone is good in small doses and especially to stop spreading and keeping the excema under control, but try and use sparingly and then use the more natural options.  my poor husband has very dried out excema knuckles now as he is washing his hands every hour at work.

my daughter has always suffered in the creases of the arms, ever since she was little, and i have tried so many different products.  I am quite a natural person, white witch my son calls it, but generally i try to use natural to cure illnesses first, then if i have to resort to the chemical stuff, fine.  the best of all the products i have tried for dry chapped skin is Napiers, Infant Starflower cream – its soothing, penetrative and doesn’t sting.  Calendula cream can sting excema, and therefore make it look redder.  barefoot sos is another soothing moisturiser.. one of my favourites though is golden tumeric cream by  suneeta – it works in all areas that are dry and irritable. hopes relief is an excellent moisturiser for excema and irritable skin.  one cream that really helped my excema breakout last year was dermalex, its apparently steroid free, but it really worked for me.  I never have suffered with excema, just the odd patch here and there, but in recent years, it seems to be getting more often – I put it down to the change of life, the added stress of moving house, the harsher winds that we seem to be facing at the moment.

the wonder product for me at the moment is borage oil, which you can squeeze from a capsule, it doesn’t smell wonderful, but it is an amazing soothing oil that I use on dry patches on my face before my moisturiser  or from Ordinary – Liz Earle sensitive moisturiser and CiCa cream also has borage as its key element and it really is soothing. I find that at different times of your life, your skin reacts differently and products that did work, no longer do, so I try to list the products so that you can find what suits you.  I recently discovered Cicaplast balm from Roche Posay and this is quite soothing and if you get the one with the SPF 50 in it, it will help shield some of the sun rays.

other alternatives –  Stellaria cream by Neale’s Yard, or Aloe Vera moisturiser from B Natural Skincare, which is equally as good for any part of your body and Goats milk cream from Elegance.    Apparently lanolin is a big aggrevator of the skin, so avoiding products containing lanolin is advised.   For general everyday use, shower gel, body cream,  aveeno, seems gentle enough and is affordable to just use generously all over the body.  Aveeno has many different creams, some for the hands, some for the face, and it really is moisturising.   hope’s cream is a great non steroid cream and also is available as a body lotion – I use this cream a lot and is my favourite daily body moisturiser at the moment – I alternate between the Hopes Cream and Aveeno.  Remember that hair products, shampoo, conditioner, and especially hair dye all contain chemicals and can cause allergic reactions – it was one of the main culprits in my daughter’s case – its the lathering agent that can cause reactions.  liz earle products are very good for people with sensitive skin, as is australian organics for the hair.   Green people do a very good sensitive hair range and this is great for itchy scalps and people with allergies.   simple products are also non irritating if you want something that is widely available.  the best cream i have tried for dry cracked heels is Cerave and good old coconut oil – try one of the organic ones –  it really has worked.   for lips I love skin & tonic’s naked lip balm. 

As with all creams, i tend to think that your skin gets use to all creams and changing is always a good thing, as your skin responds to new things.  Of course, everybody is different and they react to things differently, but natural is worth a try and none of the above are very expensive, so worth a try.

how time flies

I cannot believe how fast time flies – it was just a little over 6 months since we moved out of Camden, leaving a house after 26 years is hard to get used to, but now that we are finally in our new apartment, it seems so long ago. living in temporary accommodation whilst organising building work is not at all grounding, but it does prepare you for the big transition from a large family house to a 2 bedroom apartment, especially if you choose a place that is smaller than your final abode.

I thought that we had been quite ruthless with our packing, throwing out things that we didn’t need, but now that we are finally unpacking the many many boxes, I realise that I was not at all thinking how much we had to reduce our possessions. I know that they are only things, but its hard to let go of memories, souvenirs, photos, but I have had to be a bit more practical. why I thought keeping years of invoices, bank statements, old cards was something I would need, seems ridiculous now that most things are available digitally. I have managed to keep a few boxes of momentos though…… isn’t that just what cupboards are for.

we were quite fortunate that the buyers of our house bought quite a few pieces of our furniture and most of our lights and fittings, stuff that we knew wouldn’t fit in the new apartment, meaning we only had to purchase 2 major items, a dining table and a sofa and of course new lights.

last week was our 27th wedding anniversary, and I have always wanted to go to the highlands in Scotland, and we finally made it. we stayed in the beautiful Fife arms set on the banks of the River Dee, which was incredibly comfortable, a little bit over the top with the Scottish decoration theme, but the service and food was very high standard and the village Braemer was incredibly picturesque with the biggest skies and morning sunrises that just take your breath away. we managed to fit a lot in 3 days, including a visit to Ballater, Burn O Vat in Dinnet, and a mountain ride up to the peaks of Inverey and the lake of Glen Muick …. I thoroughly recommend a short break in Scotland, especially if you love nature, rivers, layers of mountains and forests; winter was actually beautiful, deserted, bleak subtle layers of grey and warm brown, you felt that you were actually within the contours of a map. It was cold, but if you take enough layers and wrap up warm, it makes returning to the open fire of the drawing room of your hotel such a pleasure.

buying gifts is such a difficult thing….

what to buy each year becomes a dilemma – here is my list of what usually works for most of the family.

  1. curzon  cinema vouchers or membership to local cinema, could be any of the lovely independents that are around ,  2. tate, v & a membership or any gallery subscription – older kids seem to have preferred the Barbican, which also gives you discounted access to the gallery and cinema, 3. ticket or gift voucher to the theatre, maybe somewhere unusual like Wiltons or Sam Wanamaker theatre, 4. daunts book voucher or again any local bookshop, 5. anything from aesop, 6.  anything from the wonderful art shop cornelissen 7.  food gifts from la fromagerie ,Lina stores or my favourite Italo in Bonnington Square , 8.  jewellery from Tidy Street, Peppi Taylor or  sweet pea,, 9. ceramics from ceramics 274,  at the moment, I love Japanese bowls from Sway gallery 10. candles from cire trudon or Tom Dixon’s fab new shop 11. a treatment from the Cow Shed, my husband got me a voucher last year for my birthday and the pedicure was pretty amazing. 12. of course there is a night’s stay in a hotel somewhere in the countryside, and there are so many lovely hotels to stay in and one extra – a course in ceramics, a language, drawing or just about anything – there are so many courses on offer at city lit and the neighbouring adult colleges.

Robert and Alfie’s favourite shop for classic  men’s clothes with style,  visit  J.Simons  shop on chiltern street –  it brings together a handpicked selection of American, Continental and British brands, classic loafers, harrington jackets, jeans and even includes a few vintage pieces – perfect if you want to find your male partner or friend a gift.  i love the pendleton shirts!  you go in there wishing that they did the same things in womens sizes.

struggling to find presents for men, go along to the aesop shop in soho – their products are all plant based, high quality and specially made to benefit the skin and absolutely smell beautiful. last year i bought a foaming shaving balm for my husband with a steel dish for him to whip up the foam with his brush – he is very old fashioned and still likes to wet shave.  a lot of men hate bits and pieces, collective memoirs, so finding something to buy them  can become a bit of a challenge.  a guess this means that you have a limited list;   here are a few places that i know robert will always be pleased to receive from  -any products from  kiehls,  scarves and silk handkerchieves from peckham rye, vintage books and out of print books  from the numerous antiquarian book shops on cecil court, poetry books from  daunts, I still think that they have the best choice of books, and the re issues of classics such as Agatha Christie and Dickens are so beautifully presented that they can be the start of a collection, travel notebooks from smythsons – you can even have your own initials embossed on the beautiful leather covers, margaret howell for vases and accessories , rapha for absolutely anything cycling, brooks for classic cycling bags,chapmans for classic bags.

alfie has now gone from the great basic uniqulo boxers to the supremely quality cotton boxers from sunspel – their cotton is just lovely.