Category: Holiday

San Francisco (Holiday!)

We went West for Christmas. It was good, for us both. Although the weather was not all that California weather is meant to be (read pissing rain for many of the days we were there) the enforced inside time and relaxation was a blessing.


Due to the terrible weather we spent the first day in the California Academy of Sciences. They had an amazing coral reef aquarium with the most beautiful array of fish. I could have watched it for hours.


Of course there is the bridge, which is as spectacular in real life as it is in your imagination. And it really was that grey for many of the days… Although there’s something about dull, low grey and mizzle which makes me feel so cosy.


Our friends took us in search of sunshine and find it we did. We even found some Elk. Who knew there were Elks in Northern California, certainly not I. Speaking of Elk we also saw Elephant Seals and hummingbirds (so very amazing).


And then the last day spent in a blaze of sunshine, seeing the city on foot and enjoying the colours and contrasts that this city provide, old vs new, green space vs urban sprawl, poor vs rich.


I’m sure we’ll be back.


Christmas 2012

We spent Christmas together this year, just the two of us in San Francisco. For the first eight years together we went our separate ways for Christmas, it was the easiest thing to do, I saw my family, he his. Sometimes we might visit the other one after Christmas and before New Year but in the main we kept things as they had always been.

The last two years have been different. Last year we were in DC, sharing Indian takeaway with friends. This year we were on holiday, our first holiday which was longer than 4 days since probably last Christmas. It was a quiet affair, the weather in San Francisco was horrid, truly truly horrid and so we didn’t have much of a desire to get out and about. Instead we made one foray to the restaurant for lunch and then spent the rest of the day relaxing, I even squeezed in a two hour nap.

Lunch was dim sum, a big departure from the more traditional Christmas fare, and certainly no pudding, Brussels sprouts or even Port. In some ways it was good to be doing something so different, it made it less odd to be so far away and just the two of us.

As much as it was lovely to be spending the time together and having a very relaxed time, having done things differently for two years I now feel ready to return to more traditional ways and to sharing it with family as well as friends. At some point J and I will get to build our family traditions for Christmas, thankfully this shouldn’t be too contentious as both families are relatively aligned. In the meantime however, I will look forward to next year knowing that it will again be different from the last two but familiar too.

Images from Istanbul

A few snaps from our trip to Turkey last week. It was a fabulous visit, spent with wonderful friends and seeing some lovely sights. I’ll write a little more about it soon but work is busy and I am tired (although refreshed mentally from the holiday).

Holiday time…

We’re off for our final holiday of the year, until Christmas that is. Two locations, down to see the in-laws for a few days of relaxing with them and then off abroad for hopefully a bit of sunshine!

Things have been busy but I’m getting much much closer to being able to spill the beans on the Big&Scary, hopefully in a couple more weeks! And feeling a hell of a lot more positive about it all, so all’s good.

Wishing all UK bound bloggers a fabulous long weekend and for everyone else hope you have a lovely weekend!

A final Italy post – the artwork

My first real life Damien Hirst – stunning, vivid colour and a subtle skull which isn’t menacing.

One of the two Mark Quinn Kate Moss statues. J did ask if Kate Moss really could do that. I suggested probably not… Fascinating and loved the gold.

Anish Kapoor’s concave circles. For their simplicity I loved these.

Another Damien Hirst, this was perhaps my favourite. All butterflies in a fabulous mosaic/geometric design. Ticking my symmetry and colour and material boxes all at once. If only I could have this in my house one day…

Not sure who this one is by but it made me smile and I like having it hanging off in the first room you walk into.

So there we are, I’m finally going to stop banging on about our one night in Italy!

Verona Arena – A night at the opera!

The whole reason for us to go to Verona was for a night at the opera. Every year they hold an opera festival which lasts during the summer and is held in the Roman arena in the middle of Verona. We went to see the first night of Carmen showing and it was just fabulous!

The sets were all done by Franco Zefferelli and were beautiful. Plus the stage is about three times the size of a normal theatre so you fit many more singers and animals on stage! As you can see by the horse above…

It was a great opera, a wonderful experience and one I won’t forget for a long while.

Review: Byblos Art Hotel – Verona

We stayed at the Byblos Art Hotel, a leading small hotel of the world, and boy is it a leading hotel. Not only is the setting absolutely stunning, on a hill just outside of Verona in an old villa but then inside is a delight. The service was great, breakfast was a feast and dinner was fab. Plus they provide a shuttle service in and out of Verona making staying a little further away not a problem at all.

Our room was a riot of colour but put together beautifully. I love bold colours so this suited me to a tee. The bed was big, and comfortable plus the bathroom huge and really well equipped (bar the hairdryer which was like all hotel hairdryers I have ever experienced, pants).

All around the hotel are various artworks, I have a whole other post about the artworks because they really were stunning and exciting to see too! but below just a small example of how the fabulous old architecture was mixed with modern art.

And then there was the pool… Oh sweet delight when it was nearing 40C (over 100F) on Saturday and Sunday! We spent most of Saturday afternoon relaxing in the sunshine and frolicking in the pool.

The gardens were beautiful, so verdant and full of fabulously scented herbs which left the air smelling sweet.

Finally one of the art pieces, a painted bronze orchid by Mark Quinn. Truly beautiful, the colours popped out.

In short a hotel I would absolutely recommend, for it’s service, for the luxury, for the beauty and for being such an escape from the humdrum of normal life, which was really just what I needed right now.

Whisked away to… Verona!

What a lucky lucky girl I was, early on Saturday morning we hauled ourselves up, me excited to go away but tired. And then at Victoria we met some friends who were joining us on our mini adventure and were off on the Gatwick express. We left a very cloudy grey Gatwick to arrive in a scorching Verona, a city I have never visited before. And what little we managed to see of it was lovely.

After lunch we hopped in a taxi to our hotel, again no idea where we were staying so to turn up to the below driveway I was excited to say the least…

And then we walked into this entrance hall, wowee! And we were at the Byblos Art Hotel, just outside of Verona. Another post to follow on the hotel, we spent most of our time there!

Whisking away

For the first time in 7.5 years J is whisking me away on a surprise trip tomorrow morning! I’m very excited, I know its Europe, for one night and with a couple of friends. Beyond that nada…

So I shall have stories and photos on Monday!

Hope you all have lovely weekends, xx

Ashburton Coookery School

The real reason for going to Devon was to spend a day on the Gastro extra course at Ashburton Cookery School. This was a one day course which we thought might be fun to do before middle sister has her baby and we’ll not be able to escape together so easily.

And it was fun! We started with making a starter of curried mussel soup. A nice light soup packed with flavour. Although neither of us were too keen on muscle so it was a bit more of a curried veg soup with the odd mussel in it! Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it. We also made yummy bread, which came out really well. A lot better than my bread normally does! I felt like I learnt quite a bit from the bread making bit as it’s improved my confidence a lot and taught me a couple of tips.

Our main was pork medallions with braised fennel and a creamy taragon and haricot bean sauce. My only criticism of this was that the haricot beans weren’t quite right with the meal to me but the sauce was lovely and the pork good to cook as it’s not something I normally cook. Oh and this also came with a shallot tarte tatin! Yummers!! And another thing I’ve always wanted to make (tarte tatin that is) but haven’t quite had the confidence to.

For pudding we griddled pineapple, peppered it, added passionfruit sorbet (which they showed us how to make) and a spiced syrup, which was lovely and had a great chilli kick. Plus a couple of extra bits. Although by this time a little full as we were eating all we made 🙂

Finally a picture of me and of instructors. On the right is Phil who was lovely and really helpful, on the left James, equally lovely and you might recognise him from the Restaurant on BBC2 or ‘Out of the Frying Pan’.
Highly recommended, even if you are relatively confident just to pick up a few tips. I now feel much more confident about my seasoning as we were told that our seasoning was good 🙂 I would definitely go for it also if you have no confidence in the kitchen as they do all levels of teaching and the instructors are great.