Friday, 23 June 2017

A DAY OUT IN WHITBY




WHITBY - THE OLD TOWN 


The coastal resort of Whitby on the East Coast has long been a favourite destination of ours.  Every year we would spend a week there with our girls and family members, usually around the first week of the school holidays, so that the girls could spend time playing together and we could start winding down.

Famous for the setting of Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula" and the place from where explorer Captain Cook set sail on his adventures, there is plenty to do for a week, but when we recently returned for a nostalgic visit, it was just for the day.

The story of Count Dracula has enjoyed notoriety in the media of film and ballet, telling the story of how the vampire ran aground in Whitby aboard the Russian ship Demeter.  Fans of this ghoulish tale can hear all about the story and its legend at the Dracula Experience on Marine Parade - but do be aware this is definitely for the tourists.

The town itself is dissected by a single carriageway bridge which rises when larger vessels sail into the harbour.  Whitby is still a live fishing port, but there are many tourist boats which take visitors through the harbour and out to sea - including on board the former Lifeboat. Serious anglers can also take fishing trips out into the North Sea, though children tend to do their fishing from the promenade wall, where we saw a young man catching crabs with no more than a hook and line.

Because of its fishing heritage, there is an abundance of lovely old fisherman's cottages, many of which are now converted to holiday accommodation, and which line the harbour, though parking cars may be something of a problem as access is down tiny picturesque alleyways - built in the days before cars.

The Captain Cook Museum sits almost next to the bridge, in Grape Place, and details the explorer's amazing adventures.  As a museum there are also a number of visiting exhibitions, lectures and activities for children - so a great place to go if it's raining.


We have a couple of favourite restaurants in Whitby, so headed to the White Horse and Griffin for lunch on this occasion - a traditional old inn, and former meeting place of Captain Cook.  They also do accommodation, though we have never stayed there - but we can recommend the restaurant - the food is superb!



The famous 99 steps lead up to the ruined Gothic abbey (circa AD657) which features in the Dracula stories. There is also a wonderful abbey museum detailing Whitby's sea-faring history, with lots of summer activities, all housed in a beautiful old mansion, which is the former home of the Cholmley family, landowners and a prominent local family.

There are of course, lots of tourist shops, but look out for jewellers selling highly polished Whitby jet jewellery - made from fossilised wood, compressed over millions of years. Jet is mainly found in north east England, and particularly from an area between Robin Hood's Bay and Boulby.  It became fashionable in Victorian England after the death of Queen Victoria's beloved husband Albert, since she wore the jet black jewellery in his honour.






WHITBY WEST CLIFF & THE NEW TOWN



The new town leading to West Cliff is what you might expect from a British seaside resort. With amusement arcades, ice cream parlours, clairvoyants and fish and chips galore, the road leads directly down to the beach.



The wide expanse of sand is perfect for the children with their buckets and spades, and you can hire a wind break and a deck chair for less than £5 - perfect for a hot afternoon after a quick dip or a paddle.

The West Cliff is also home to some of the larger Victorian hotels, and B&B accommodation. Most of these are situated around the Royal Crescent (where Bram Stoker stayed in the late 1890s).  There are a couple of landmarks in the form of a striking statue memorial to Captain Cook, presented in 1978 to the town by the people of Canada to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth. The nearby 20 foot whalebone arch commemorates those seamen who sailed off Greenland in search of these magnificent creatures to hunt for whale oil - which would have guaranteed prosperity and riches to those who returned - but many did not as the inhospitable seas claimed many lives and ships.


Having lunched at the White Horse and Griffin, it is worth mentioning another of our favourite restaurants, which is Trenchers - a modern fish and chip restaurant serving locally caught fish, but with some modern variations - including gluten free batter on the fish! When we visited all those years ago, we pushed the boat out and ate our traditional fish and chips with a bottle of champagne, as we were usually celebrating a summer birthday.

Another famous Whitby fish restaurant, The Magpie, is currently closed as two fires in early May destroyed the roof.  The original building dates back to 1750 and was a merchant's house, before being used as a shipping office and by whaling crews.  It wasn't used as a restaurant until 1939, and has since won many international awards. 


ROBIN HOOD'S BAY 

We didn't usually stay in Whitby, but in a village just outside Robin Hood's Bay called Fylingthorpe.  This is a small village with a butchers, a post office and a pub, from which it was a short stroll through woods into Robin Hood Bay.  However, if you drive to the Bay, be aware that you cannot take a car down to the sea, which must be left in the car park, and the hill is very very steep (since my accident last year I'm not sure I could walk up it now!).


In fact Robin Hood's Bay was initially a much more important town than Whitby itself, appearing on ancient charts dating back to the 16th Century.  It had a thriving fishing industry, largely because it was relatively safe from piracy, and the topography meant sailors could walk into the village straight from their boats. It later became much more famous as a smugglers cove, due in part to its isolation, and the marshy land which surrounded it on three sides.

Robin Hood's Bay is also noted for its fossils - many of which can still be found today at low tide - something the children loved to hunt out when they were younger.  Beware the tides though - it is easy to find yourself cut off as the sea comes in very quickly.



It is also worth mentioning Sandsend - just a few miles along the coast, with a beautiful beach on which our girls spent hours playing in the sea, which had a small inlet and was great for paddling and sailing in a blow up boat!  The lovely Estbek Hotel served yummy toasted sandwiches and scones, though having just looked at their website, it is now boasts a posh restaurant!

And our girls always loved to hire a rowing boat at Ruswarp, just outside Whitby, which was also next to a small Crazy Golf with a cafe.  We enjoyed such simple pleasures before they both grew up, and yet they both look back on these holidays with such happy memories!

A final note from Anne C - Whitby is such a great base for a traditional English seaside family holiday.  I once asked my own daughter, who was aged about nine at the time which type of holiday she preferred - our annual trip to Greece, or our week in Whitby.  She chose Whitby!
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Friday, 16 June 2017

WEDDING GUEST HAT STYLE


This is our final blog about hats, and this time we are concentrating on wedding guest hats. Anne H is attending a friend's son's wedding this year, so it seemed a good idea to style some outfits around lovely summer weddings. All the hats are from Simply Devine Hats in Tadcaster.

Although she originally planned to wear a black lace dress, she has since had second thoughts, so we may see a change when she finally attends the wedding!

The first hatinator she is wearing is in a bright pink with wonderful feathers, which make it seem larger than it actually is, since the base is quite small but the feathers add presence.

Her dress is from a previous season bought in Hobbs, with a matching black shrug.



Anne C is in a very vibrant cobalt blue sparkly hatinator delicately trimmed with feathers and diamante. Her dress is Zoe, and is currently available in the sales, from Phase Eight. She has accessorised with a crystal watch from Swarovski, bought at McArthur Glen outlet near York.


Back to Anne H with another wedding guest style, in a bright lipstick pink, trimmed with a silk flower and sparkling crin fabric. Her pearl necklace and bracelet are also from Simply Devine.


Anne C is showcasing a bright pepper red hatinator, which she is wearing with a Monsoon dress from previous season.  The pearls and earrings are also from Simply Devine.



Here's Anne H again, wearing the purple Hobbs dress with a cute little purple pillbox hatinator - just right for a wedding guest, and a perfect match to her dress.



Not sure Anne H would ever wear these two colours together  (a bit Leeds United-ish!), but the yellow hatinator certainly adds a pop of colour to the cobalt dress.


Our final pillbox is an explosion of shimmering pleated crin on a black and white pillbox hat - very much in keeping with Anne's favourite mono palette. She is wearing a black Mint Velvet lace dress, black and white shoes bought from L K Bennett at the McArthur Glen outlet, with clutch bag from Coast.


That is the last of this year's hat photoshoot, but we love the shop so much that we may go back again next year.  Look out for some of Simply Devine's wonderful creations at Royal Ascot this coming week!

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Friday, 9 June 2017

OUR BEST HOLIDAY FINDS!


Anne C here and I am much more of an impulse shopper than Anne H – I always come home from my travels with something new – whether it be clothes, jewellery, shoes or handbags – the latter is my absolute weakness.

Fabulous clothes!

Since I have been holidaying on the Greek island of Santorini every year for the past 15 years, many of my summer purchases have come from there – including last year which featured on our blog here.  I have discovered a cute Greek brand of casual clothes by LS which feature lightweight summer clothing in wonderfully bright colours – exactly what I go for – and the best thing is that you won’t bump into anyone else wearing the same outfit.  Since I usually travel there towards the end of the summer season, I have managed to get quite a few of their garments at half price, which is always a bonus.



Santorini also has a great selection of linen dresses and tops – of which there is a huge choice – though linen isn’t particularly cheap, even in Greece. Linen is always so cool, comfortable and easy to wear, and for holiday visits to steamier climates, it is a must …. though one of the drawbacks is that linen creases so badly, so probably not too good for travelling in long haul.



If you’re lucky enough to visit the Far East, which we did three years ago, there are some fabulous shops and markets offering great bargains. I have a lovely cool white cotton Chinese-style blouse bought in Chatuchak market in Bangkok for less than a fiver, while a made-to-measure suit in silk and cashmere cost around the same price as an off the peg polyester one back home – and was ready within a day. Look out for great deals in Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore – you can get made to measure clothes at a fraction of what they cost at home – and they don’t even need a pattern.  My “dressmaker” copied the design from a photograph and it was completed within 24 hours!

Top tip: If you’re travelling to tourist destinations, always look for bargains at the end of the season, and if you’re visiting hot climates, seek out clothes in lovely cottons and linen fabrics to keep you cool.


Anne H meanwhile loves city breaks, so her clothing purchases have been bought in independent fashion boutiques which also tend to be slightly more formal.  She bought this stunning black coat from Carin Wester with peek-a-boo back opening  in Amsterdam last year, which looks fabulous with either tailored trousers or jeans, while her cream Max Mara jumpsuit, also bought last year, but in Rome – is completely on-trend this season.




Top tip: For city break travellers, seek out independent boutiques if you want unusual finds, and steer away from global high street brands – though to be aware that different countries do offer different styles from home.


Jewellery
Thira, which is the main town in Santorini, has a stunning choice of jewellery shops with the most fabulous diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies and designer watches at ridiculously high prices – aimed at the hundreds of cruise ships which dock there.  Unless you are extremely wealthy, I would avoid these shops unless you are specifically looking for something unusual and have found either something completely different or much cheaper than home.

However, if you want fabulous costume jewellery, Bizermani has the most unusual and limited pieces. From beautiful pearls to a peacock style gold-tone and thread necklace to a rhodium plated and coral long necklace, these are definitely one of a kind.  The tourist resorts too will often have ranges of inexpensive jewellery in leathers, unusual beads or turquoise stones, and which are great for gifts and you can always save until Christmas!



As Anne H has family in Tropea, Italy, she travels there at least once a year, and she always manages to find interesting pieces.  She is pictured here with a handcrafted cuff with coral inserts, which complements her dark green Zara top.  Her Versace glasses too are a Tropea find from a couple of years ago, which she has now updated with a new pair of MiuMiu glasses, bought in New York. If you find a spectacle design you like while on your travels – don’t be afraid to buy them and then take them to a good optician back home to get them glazed with your personal prescription.



We have visited both Dubai and Bangkok together over the years and have come home with some fabulous jewellery.  Dubai in particular is a wonderful place to buy gold at reasonable prices – try the gold souk in Deira – but do your research before you go and be prepared to haggle and walk away if the price isn’t right.

Top tip when buying jewellery abroad: do your research!  You can actually find some real bargains in certain parts of the world if you’re prepared to haggle, but you can also end up paying a fortune when you don’t need to if you’re taken in by the glitz of glamorous foreign high streets!

Shoes and handbags

I have a weakness for handbags and shoes and my go-to leather shop is Transit in Perissa, which also has another shop in Megachlahori.  My lovely Greek friend offers comfy leather thong sandals and a good selection of soft leather handbags and traditional old-style suitcases. I always need a larger shoe size in hot countries –apparently British and Scandinavian women tend to have problems with swollen legs and feet in the sun – so when I go abroad I always take shoes or sandals that are too big at home.  And don’t go away on holiday with brand new shoes – I made that mistake with a pair of flats which I thought would be comfortable for walking in Singapore.  They weren’t and I had blisters for three days!

Top tip: Don’t fill up your suitcase before you get there – you can find fabulous shoes and sandals  to buy once you get there, usually at great value for money.

**Extracts taken from a post written for Sixtyandme first printed in May.**


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Friday, 2 June 2017

HATS FOR THE MOTHER OF THE BRIDE

You may have got the impression from the previous hat posts that we love dressing up and styling outfits - and you would be correct! Entering our friend Liz's fabulous hat shop in Tadcaster is like entering a sweetie shop - full of goodies and gorgeous rainbow colours!

Last time we looked at fancy race days - particularly with Royal Ascot in mind, but this time we are looking at styling for a mother of the bride - although neither of us has had that pleasure yet, indeed it isn't even on the horizon for our respective daughters who are too busy building their careers.

Anne H is wearing a fabulous creation in pale cream edged in black, which blends perfectly with her black lace dress and off white jacket from Mint Velvet.  She has accessorised with black and white shoes from LK Bennett and a black and white clutch from Coast. The bracelet is from a selection at Simply Devine.

Anne C's gorgeous feather hatinator (a cross between a hat and a fascinator) in champagne goes perfectly with her champagne Chesca dress (which she wore during the Christmas shoot - so a very versatile outfit). The couture hatinator is completely covered in a profusion of delicate feathers with pearl centres.

The rose gold drop earrings are her own, but bought from Simply Devine at Christmas.  She is holding one of Simply Devine's special occasion clutch bags in a deeper shade of champagne.

Anne H's hatinator is a very pale silver, made from sinemay, and beautifully trimmed with flowers, pearls and quills.  She is wearing it with a contrasting dress from Hobbs, bought some years ago. The silver clutch and bracelet are from the Simply Devine accessory collection. 
The navy blue hat (below) has a stunning display of gorgeous navy blue feathers.  Although Anne has worn full hats in the past, she now prefers hatinators, which work much better when wearing her hair in an updo.  The also successfully eliminate hat hair!



Anne H's gun metal grey hatinator trimmed with dark charcoal and pale blush pink silk flowers and feathers is one of our very favourites in the entire shop - and also comes in a lovely cobalt blue which we will feature next time!



The champagne and coffee hatinator she is wearing with her Chesca dress is covered beautifully with hundreds of little sequins so it shimmers and sparkles in the sunlight. This is more delicately trimmed than some of the others, but since the sinemay is patterned, it gives a more sophisticated vibe.



Another beautiful feather creation - this time in a very delicate pale blue.  With slightly less flowers than the champagne version, you can see more of the upturned brim, which is very flattering.  She is wearing it with a black James Lakeland chiffon dress with a fluted hem.





Finally Anne H is wearing a full hot pink hat, again beautifully trimmed with gorgeous feather and quills.  Her matching hot pink bag is another of Simply Devine's special occasion collection.  Anne's classic black suede court shoes are from Dune and pearl bracelet is from Simply Devine. 





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Friday, 26 May 2017

THE COTSWOLDS REVISITED

It was so lovely to get the chance to catch up with an old friend and spend a few days in the beautiful North Cotswolds exploring some of the most picturesque villages in England. I haven't visited this part of the world for over forty years but was pleased to see that it has changed little from the Cotswolds of my memory.

BLOCKLEY near Moreton-in-Marsh

My friend Lynne and I have known each other since we were at school and it is one of those wonderful friendships where you can pick up as though you just saw each other yesterday.  We stayed in the lovely Alice Cottage, a quaint two bedroom cottage that we rented through Character Cottages. It was the perfect base for two looking to explore the area while staying in a village with its own amenities including a local shop/cafe and a couple of pubs. 

Picture courtesy of Character-Cottages. 

Blockley is a really enchanting village with plenty to explore and some lovely walks right on the doorstep. The colours of the houses in this part of the world are just so pretty - a soft golden hue that seems to glow in the sunlight. We ate at one of the local pubs, the Great Western Arms, twice during our stay and enjoyed pub fare while being served by some incredibly friendly staff.  We also sampled a fabulous breakfast at the local cafe which is attached to the village shop and is an amazing community venture which forms the true heart of the village. 

Blockley Village near Moreton-in-Marsh

THE SLAUGHTERS

On our first day we took a trip to the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter walking between the two, and then onto Bourton-on-the-Water.  

Pretty Lower Slaughter 
We started our journey in the larger of the two villages, Lower Slaughter, which is set on the banks of the tiny River Eye and abounds with wisteria-clad cottages and paid a visit to the Lower Slaughter Mill and Cafe for a browse around.  We had parked across the road from the Slaughters Manor Hotel which although we did not have time to visit looked really lovely.  


The pretty wisteria clad houses in Lower Slaughter 
On our return to the village from Upper Slaughter we stopped for a drink at the Slaughters Country Inn and if time had allowed we were going to go back there for a late afternoon sandwich as the food looked amazing.  Sadly we had underestimated the amount of time it would take and it had closed by the time we returned, but it is definitely on our list to visit again when back in the area.  


Lower Slaughter 

The walk between Lower and Upper Slaughter takes you across fields and is a really pleasant stroll, particularly this time of year when the fields are full of lambs.  There was not as much to see in Upper Slaughter but we did note the rather lovely looking Lords of the Manor Hotel which it turned out my daughter had stayed in on her visit the month before. 


Upper Slaughter 
On our return to Lower Slaughter we then embarked on the walk to Bourton-on-the-Water which a local had told us would take around 20 minutes.  Not so - although an easy walk and very pleasant as much of it is along the river it took nearly twice that time.  Bourton-on-the-Water is much larger with plenty of shops and eateries.  It is known as the 'Little Venice' of the Cotswolds as it straddles the River Windrush and is really picturesque but also frequented by a lot more tourists.  I prefer the quieter villages where you can explore and take pictures in relative tranquility so we didn't linger that long before heading back to Lower Slaughter.
Spring Lambs seen on the walk between Lower and Upper Slaughter 

HIDCOTE MANOR GARDEN near Chipping Campden

Entrance to Hidcote Manor 
Next on our list of must sees was Hidcote, an Arts and Crafts garden created by the American Major Lawrence Johnston in the early 1900s from over 10 acres of what was largely fields.  We visited on our second day and started our exploration entering the house through its wisteria and clematis-clad entrance and walking through Johnston's office with desk overlooking the garden .  
The view from the house. 
Hidcote consists of gardens within a garden as Lawrence Johnston created garden 'rooms" linked by narrow pathways and separated by hedges and walls. 

Renowned for rare species of shrubs and plants it is a horticulturalists dream and sure to give inspiration of any gardener, created so that different plants are in bloom at different times of the year so there is so much to see and take in. 



There are no fewer than thirty areas of the garden to view including the White Garden, The Maple Garden, The Alpine Terrace and Rose Walk, plus the plant house and, of course, a cafe - and a very good cafe it was too.



Some of the vistas he created are amazing and none more so than the Beech Alley shown below. 



CHASTLETON HOUSE near Moreton-in-Marsh

I particularly remembered this house from my visit over 40 years ago when we stumbled upon it and found that it was open to visitors so went to the door to be greeted by the then owner, the artist Alan Clutton-Brock, who personally showed us around.  It was an amazing experience to have such an intimate view of this beautiful house, which although shabby had retained so many of the original Jacobean features, which made it such a rare find.
The view of Chastleton as you walk from the car park

I was really keen to go back and see what had happened to the house in the intervening years, wanting to know if it had passed out of private hands and had it been renovated to such a point that its charm and historic importance had been compromised?  

It is now with the National Trust, having passed to them on the death of Barbara Clutton-Brock whose wry comment that 'poverty is a great preserver' explains why the house had remained unchanged for the best part of 400 years.  It would appear that none of the descendants of the original owner Walter Jones, who had the house built in the 1600s, could afford its upkeep so although much ravaged by time, it was not tampered with.  The National Trust has taken a deliberate decision to preserve this state of affairs and not embark on an extensive renovation, instead ensuring the fabric of the house is conserved while maintaining the interiors pretty much as I had seen it in the 1970s, peeling plasterwork and all. I can't recommend visiting this beautiful house enough - seeing the long gallery and its barrel vaulted ceiling alone makes the trip worthwhile.  No other gallery of similar length or date survives, and this is just one of its many treasures.  It will particularly resonate with lovers of Wolf Hall as it was one of the locations used for the TV adaptation.  


CHIPPING CAMPDEN

Of the towns we visited I think Chipping Campden was my favourite, it was so pretty, with beautiful medieval houses dotted amongst the shops and cafes and the ancient market hall built in the 1600s standing at its heart.  The long, broad high street consists on each side of what is essentially an unbroken terrace with buildings of various ages and styles, but all blending perfectly to make a picture perfect view. 


We stopped for tea at The Bantam Tea Rooms and sat out in their courtyard garden.  Highly recommended and we noted that they did accommodation as well. 



It was a really lovely, but all too short, break and although we were there for three nights we could have seen so much more as we only toured the Gloucestershire portion of the 800 square miles of the Cotswolds which spreads into Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.  But then that is the perfect excuse to visit again!

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