Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Cotswolds - death by tearooms!

Oh my goodness, the Cotswolds are revolting! I know this isn't the normal reaction (the area is very popular with tourists, particularly with Shakespeare fans going to Stratford on Avon) but there's something about the richness and almost fakeness of these twee little towns...

Recently my lovely husband wanted to go on a day trip. I'd had a visit to Hidecot recommended as it's a famous garden and fairly local to Bristol.

In the morning we fluffed around getting ready, eating breakfast etc. then eventually set off driving up the M4. Sadly by the time we'd stopped for a quick lunch and wended our way through the country lanes of Gloucestershire, it was heading on for 3:30pm.

We reluctantly decided it was too late to do the garden justice so instead we stopped in a market town called Chipping Campden in the area known as the Cotswolds for afternoon tea.

Why did the Cotswolds make me ever so slightly nauseated? Well, in these pretty little towns, every car is a new BMW, Range Rover, Audi etc. The houses are all of the same golden stone and piled close on top of each other with roses and hollyhocks around the doors. Houses have names, not numbers and most of them are hundreds of years old. There are dozens of tearooms, a couple of antique stores, maybe an art gallery and a few discreetly signposted useful shops. There's always a stunning church which shows that this village or market town has been rich for centuries. I just find it all a bit much - like eating too much clotted cream on too many scones. Have a look at the pics of a little town called Broadway to see what I mean...

I'm not that familiar with the Cotswolds, but I have driven all over the South-West. Even the prettiest towns in these counties like Dorset and Wiltshire (Marlborough, for example) seem more lived in by normal people than these Cotswold towns.

So, after a very nice but rather overpriced cherry bakewell slice and coffee in a twee little tea-room, we drove back to good old Bristol.

We will try again to see the gardens at Hidecot and we will also trot up and see Sudely Castle as I've heard good things about that too. Don't fret, we haven't entirely shaken the dust of the Cotswolds off our shoes, but still the place does kind of bring me out in hives... Am I just being odd here?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The great top dilemma

The great top dilemma

The great top dilemma by eleanorbirdy featuring a white shirt 

 How difficult is it to find useful tops? Arrghghgh! (That's the sound of me tearing my hair out.)

Once again I'm in that familiar place of wailing, "I've got nothing to wear!" each morning before work. The weather is so changeable at the moment I need tops that I can layer over but that also look nice enough for work when worn alone. Tricky. 

In terms of early autumn 'bottoms' I have two pairs of dark blue trousers (one cobalt and black pattern, the other royal blue jacquard), a pair of jade green trousers, beige chinos and the trusty workhorse black pair (these are a heavy patterned fabric with a slight jodhpur cut so a bit more interesting). I also have a black and white check A-line skirt. I'm not wearing as many skirts as usual 'cos I want to avoid tights as long as possible.

Anyway, I'm sorted for bottoms but the top situation is driving me to distraction. I tried on eight tops (EIGHT) in a shop the other day in order to find one that I liked and that fit nicely (it was a pastel floral number nothing like the one pictured above). 

I did get some relief on a trip to Oasis  as they had dozens of different versions of the roll up sleeve shirts shown above. These fit the bill of being non-iron, machine washable and appropriate for early autumn. They're not cheap (by my standards) but I snapped up the rather translucent black one and the jade green one (brighter than it looks in the pic). I've only had them a week and they've been worn twice each so safe to say they were a good buy!

The best thing is that they'll be useful when it gets colder with a warm singlet underneath and a wool cardigan on top.

I think I could do with a few more work tops (as my black and white patterned blouse is on its last legs) so wish me luck in the search! 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Grey weather - grey outfits

Grey clothing

Pep up your greys by eleanorbirdy featuring cuff jewelry

Grey is in this autumn (this phrase reminds me of my mother asking me every season what the 'in' colours were). This is kind of a shame as I love grey and what is 'in' with soon enough be 'out'. I'm quite happy wearing colours that aren't fashionable, but it's not so cool wearing something that used to be fashionable a year or two ago... anyway, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. 

I have the Gap jeans pictured above and I love them a lot. They've got a subtle floral pattern and they're generously sized but flatteringly cut.  I also have a similar grey cashmere cardigan which I got on sale from M & S, although mine is from the old lady range so it needs careful styling to look current.

I really like wearing tone on tone but I tend to add a few bits to break up the uniform colour. Smallish black and white patterns (like the snow leopard scarf) read as grey from a distance, but provide a bit of visual texture. Black provides a bit of contrast and the patent flats give another texture to the outfit. I've got these ones from Oasis - they were cheap and I think they have a bit of an Audrey Hepburn feel. 

I also like white with grey to lighten things up and of course silver goes beautifully with grey. I also love how the green animal print shoes are a bit quirky but tone in nicely with the rest of the reasonably subdued outfit. 

I'd wear outfits similar to the ones above out on the weekend, shopping or doing whatever in town. If fact, I think I will today!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

How to spend two weeks in New Zealand

I've just been asked for advice by a friend who's taking three weeks in the South Island of New Zealand. I explained that actually, I've only ever been there twice so I'm really not an expert, but there are lovely things in the North Island to see...

It's not the first time I've been asked for tips by people taking a trip to New Zealand, so I thought I'd share my suggestions.

1) If coming from Europe, spend a night or two in Singapore as a stopover. I've raved about Singapore before in this post, so I won't go on here.

2) You will probably fly in and out of Auckland so here are some ideas about what to do with a few days in Auckland (Hint - hire a car and avoid the central city 'cos it's crap).

3) Depending on how long you've got, you can drive up north to Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands via some of the most stunning beaches in the world in Northland. You can even go all the way up to the top at Cape Reinga and see the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meeting up in a visible wave.

I miss hot pools!

4) Then drive down to Rotorua and Taupo for huge lakes, trout fishing, adventure tourism, Maori culture shows, seeing kiwi and possibly patting baby lions in the animal parks and most importantly, thermal hot pools! There is a hot pool you can sit in and look out over Lake Rotorua - gorgeous, especially when the weather's a bit cooler.

5) If you want, depending on the season, you could check out the three mountains near the middle of the North Island and take in a bit of skiing. There's also some lovely walks/ treks to do in summer.

Contrary to popular belief, NZ isn't all hobbits and wild places!
6) Next, drive down to Wellington and stay somewhere central. Soak up the atmosphere, the cafes, the art scene, the harbour. Go to the Zealandia bird sanctuary.

7) Take the car ferry over the Cook Strait and spend a bit of time touring wineries in Nelson and Marlborough. Take a boat trip through the fjords (and take a waterproof coat!).

8) Fly down to Queenstown for incredible scenery, skiing in winter, adventure tourism etc. (I've never been, but I hear it's excellent). Then fly back to Auckland and back home or...

9) If you've got the time and money, consider a side trip to Australia while you're in the area. Or a Pacific Island (I like Samoa). Or a stopover somewhere interesting on the way back (Hong Kong is cool).

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Do you feel lucky?

The other night I was achy and tired from several nights of poor sleep. My husband was out for the night. I picked up a book and a cardigan, poured a glass of chilled rose, shoved my feet into some shoes and walked out to sit by the harbour. 

I watched night fall in stages like a keen stagehand was dimming the lights, bit by bit.The water rippled and scintillated hypnotically, its pattern broken by fast rowing boats pulled by crews straining at the oars.

There was a tapestry of sounds - a single cry from a seagull, swallows flitting and twittering after some final bugs, people laughing and chatting outside the pub, the padding strides and puffed breath of occasional runners...

My cashmere cardigan was warm and soft around my shoulders, the wine was sweet and mellow as I sipped, the book was excellent but I spent long moments just soaking up the scene around me. 

I felt so lucky.