Monday, 29 April 2013

Scenes From Brighton

I'd been wanting to check out Brighton since we moved here and just never found the right time to go - it was either snowing or raining every time we tried. And then our friends Tici and Felipe asked if we wanted to go this past Saturday, so we jumped at the chance. Brighton was just a quick 1-hour ride from London and we arrived around noon to mildly overcast weather with bits of sunshine. The first stop was the famous Brighton Pier which includes everything from amusement park rides overlooking the water to arcades and stands selling 'Brighton Rock' candy (unfortunately didn't look that appetizing!). Everything is a bit run down and rusted in Brighton, which seems natural because it's a beach town. It's like a city that was once the posh place for Brits to go during the summer but is now left a little unloved since air travel has become so much cheaper and people can make their way to other warmer climates.

Nevertheless, there's something very unique and beautiful about it - from the pebbled beach to 'the lanes' which are winding curvy little streets with cute shops. I loved this one flower shop we passed by, they had the most beautiful tropical flowers pictured above. We didn't really have an agenda besides walking around town, so we spent a few hours having lunch at Donatelli's Pizzeria where we indulged in a three-course meal complete with that amazing tiramisu hot fudge sundae. Our final stop was the Royal Pavilion, a seaside palace built for George, Prince of Wales, and designed with Hindu/Indian/Chinese influences (as it was built around the era of British colonialism). We took a quick tour of the inside which was lavish and ornate, and then made our way back home on the train. It's hard to believe this was our last visit to another UK city, time is just flying! Only three more weeks to enjoy beautiful London...

Friday, 26 April 2013

New Flat Nesting

As we get ready to move back to San Francisco, I've been thinking a lot about our flat and how I want it to look and feel. One of the lovely things about moving places is being able to start with a fresh design. Of course I'll make use of the furniture, frames and pillows we already have but maybe in different ways, and then I can fill the gaps with pretty new things (Pottery Barn, here I come!). Not sure about any of you but I feel a bit scared of colour...I always tend to stick with neutrals and I would love to be a bit bolder, even if it's just pops of colour here and there (like that bed below with the tangerine throw). A new design could even be about the way you arrange furniture in a room or how you place little nick-nacks on the dresser...a little change is always healthy. Here are a few things and projects I want to incorporate in our new place...

I really want a nice bed frame. It gives the bedroom a focal point and makes the bed seem even cosier. That gold gallery frame collection is also a fabulous addition.
I really want to use vintage furniture, it adds such a nice contrast to new, clean furniture. And I'd love to have a plush white loveseat or couch to sink into at the end of the day.
I am beyond excited about this idea of using maps of cities we've traveled to inside a frame with a picture of us in that city. It's such a nice way to travel through time.
If at all possible, I'd love to have a work space at home where I can spend time blogging. Just a small, clean space with a table, flowers and my laptop.
One of the things I feel our place lacks now is original artwork. I would love to find a few affordable, eye-catching pieces to hang in the hallways.

[Images via Clever Confidante, Houzz, Martha Stewart Weddings, Pinterest, Cozamia]

Monday, 22 April 2013

Sunny Weekend Snaps

This weekend was all about relaxation and sunshine. Jim was away on a trip to Wales so I had the whole weekend to visit my fave places. After a fun evening with my friend Meg including pizza from Firezza (best takeout pizza spot in London, I promise) and a mini bottle of French champagne from Vagabond, I kicked off Saturday with a Zumba class. My reward was a trip to La Bottega Deli in Chelsea....a place I'd been wanting to try for a few months. I went for a cappuccino (no skinny milk in this authentic Italian spot) and a fresh caprese sandwich with a bean side salad. The weather was surprisingly nice this past can literally feel the buzz when the sun's out in London...people are wearing shorts even when it might not be hot enough, there's Pimm's everywhere you look and everyone's just so much happier. I for one am thrilled that I can finally wear sandals again!

On Sunday after a mind/body workout class, I continued my foodie weekend with a visit to Gail's for leek and goat cheese quiche. After strolling through South Kensington admiring the gorgeous cherry blossoms, I made my way over to the Kensington Roof Gardens off of High Street Kensington. You take an elevator up to the sixth floor and come outside to these glorious themed gardens which luckily were blooming in vibrant colours. I walked around each area of the garden before settling on a chair to soak up the sunshine. The highlight of my visit was spotting the famed pink flamingos napping in a corner. How cute are they?! I feel so rejuvenated after such a relaxing weekend and ready to take on the week.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Back To The Sunshine

Well, the tickets are officially booked and we're headed home in less than two months! It's hard to believe our journey here is coming to such a quick end. We were told at the beginning of our time here that we'd feel completely settled in and comfortable right as we were about to leave and I must say, this is very, very true. We have our favourite places, we've made close friends, we have a routine and we love the ease of travelling in Europe.

It's going to feel very weird to just give this all up in one quick move, but I do appreciate that where we're headed is also beautiful and exciting and sunny (well, most of the time). We will be close to our families and friends, life will be even easier to adjust to since it will feel very normal and of course, we'll be able to drive again! There are so many perks to both cities and I think I've grown to love them equally.

We're now in that phase where we're getting everything in order for the big move - from finding temporary housing to booking our packing date. And of course, finding a car and then an apartment in San Francisco is going to be a challenge when we get back. I cannot believe how high housing prices have risen since we left! I'm hoping we get lucky and find a hidden gem. There are also the fun parts of moving like redecorating our apartment and starting everything with a clean slate. That will definitely be a welcome change. I'm surprisingly not that stressed about everything, probably because we know what we're getting into back in San Francisco, so I'm just focusing on enjoying our time left here in London. Time to finish that bucket list!

[Image via Pinterest]

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Scenes From Mallorca

Our trip to Mallorca over the weekend completely surpassed my expectations. Everything was just vibrant and tasty and beautiful - and on top of all that, I got a tan. Hurray! The first thing Jim and I noticed on our drive from Palma Airport to Soller was the amount of bikers and runners on the road...apparently Mallorcans are insanely active people. That or Brits go there to exercise...maybe both.  It's the perfect climate to exercise and be outdoors - it was about 75 degrees and sunny the whole time. 
We arrived at our Hotel Ca'l Bisbe around noon after a fairly painless driving adventure (potentially due to my co-pilot skills). The hotel or 'finca' was lovely and very authentically Spanish. We checked in and headed straight to the main little town square for lunch. Soller is small, very small. It's a quaint little town nestled in a valley about 2 miles away from Port de Soller. The main square consists of a few restaurants and shops, a beautiful, ornate church and the town hall. For lunch we opted for the traditional Mallorcan sandwich: pa amb oil (in Catalan) which means bread with Mallorcan cheese, olives and tomatoes. Simple but satisfying. We washed that down with some sangria which was perfect in the sunshine. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool at our hotel and then headed down to the Port for dinner. 

Port de Soller is really pretty and the sunset was incredible, but I'm glad we stayed inland in our quaint little town. We watched the sunset at a bar on the water before walking down the Port to a restaurant we'd read about called El Passeig. It was such a relaxing meal with fabulous food and good service - I had spaghetti and prawns and Jim had fresh seabass with prawns and jamon. The Mallorcan white wine we had with the meal (and on other occasions) was actually quite good. 
The next day we made our way up north to Alcudia where we toured around the small town and feasted on a huge plate of paella. We browsed the shops through old narrow streets and picked up some yummy chocolate covered Spanish Marcona almonds - a must-try! After a few hours we headed to Pollenca where we stopped to basque in the sun overlooking the clearest blue water. I almost felt like we were in the Caribbean. It got a little windy so we moved on to Formentor where you get some great views of the coast.
Saturday was my birthday and it turned out to be a relaxing sunny day spent lounging on Es Trenc beach on the southwest side of the island. Although it was a bit of a drive - 1.5 hours - this private beach was worth it. We lounged for several hours before heading back to the hotel for a poolside reading session followed by sunset drinks on our patio. On our way we passed the house below and had to take photos because it was so beautifully rustic with the horses out front.

Jim took me to a gem of a restaurant called Ca'n Boqueta which is right in the town of Soller. My sister and parents had secretly ordered a bottle of champagne to be sent to the table which was such a lovely surprise. The three course meal was so nice and the setting was pristine - white-washed walls with dark wood tables and candlelight. A perfect evening to end a wonderful trip.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Mallorca Retreat

Ah, glorious Spain! I have such a soft spot for that country from my days living in Barcelona, so when we were thinking of where to go on our final weekend trip, Mallorca instantly sprang to mind. I’ve always wanted to go and experience the Spanish island lifestyle – cafĂ© con leche on the beach, anyone?! We leave this Thursday morning and come back on Sunday, making it a perfect way to celebrate my birthday. We’re renting a little car and driving about 30 minutes northeast to Soller where we’ll stay in a small family-run hotel. And our plans include touring some of the beautiful spots around the island like Formentor, Alcudia, Cala d’Or and Palma, but we don’t really have a set schedule. I’m so looking forward to relaxing, soaking up some sunshine, eating tapas and drinking sangria. If anyone has any tips for where to go and what to do in Mallorca, I’d love to hear them!

[Images via Pinterest]

Friday, 5 April 2013

It's All Good

So I’m mildly obsessed with Gwyneth Paltrow and when I found out she was coming out with a new book, I jumped in line to order it. I love her philosophy about making good, fresh food that is totally delicious. She has such a great physique and lifestyle so I’m just hoping that making these recipes will help me become a little more like her…wishful thinking! I’m especially interested in trying to eat cleaner, less processed food – when I’ve tried doing this in the past it always makes me feel so much better and more energised. Living in the UK has helped this a bit as in general things aren’t quite as processed since there are stricter food regulations in place. Eating well is definitely difficult to maintain and can be pricey, but I think the short and long-term benefits are worth it. Combine a healthy diet with a good workout regimen and you’re good to go! I’ll make sure to post some of the best recipes on the blog once I've attempted to make them so stay tuned.

[Images via GOOP]

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Scenes From Seaview

A gorgeous crisp afternoon walk to the Boathouse pub for lunch on Friday
Turning left towards Love Lane on a leisurely but windy walk in Ventnor
The beautiful view from the Seaview harbour 
Meg & Will being cute and coupley on a walk before our pub lunch
Although the sky looks a bit dismal, this was a beautiful view and walk

Admiring the stripes in the Ventnor...such a fitting feature for a beach town
Bundled up in the cold and ready for lunch!
Local crab for our crab linguine...will be making this again soon and sharing the recipe with you
Divine sea salt and caramel chocolates on Easter morning

Our Easter weekend was spent on the lovely Isle of Wight this year with our good friends Meg & Will. We arrived on Thursday night by train to Portsmouth and then took a catamaran to Ryde, followed by taxi to Seaview. We’ve been once before last year and had a wonderful time, so it was nice to be back in this sleepy little town. It’s one of those places where everyone knows each other’s names, there’s only one pub and the grocery store is a 20 minute drive. After a good sleep on Thursday – 13 much-needed hours to be exact – we had a leisurely breakfast and then quickly nipped over to grocery shop for dinner before our pub lunch at the Boathouse where we met up with the local Seaview crowd. I had traditional fish & chips and cider and we chatted for a few hours with new and old friends before walking back along the seafront. Dinner was up to me and Meg and we opted for a Barefoot Contessa jambalaya recipe which ended up being incredible. The combination of chorizo, shrimp and spicy flavours was so satisfying – it seems like one of those dishes that would just get better over a few days.

On Saturday we lounged around and then headed out to Ventnor (about a 30 minute drive) for a walk – this is where most of the photos above were taken. It’s such a cute little seaside town with cosy restaurants and shops filled with nick nacks. On our way back home, we stopped by several fish shops for fresh crab as a few were completely out (apparently Easter weekend is big on seafood). This was definitely necessary for the amazing crab linguine that Will’s sister Jo made that night (again, must make this again and share the recipe). It was so nice to just relax the rest of the evening and enjoy some tasty chardonnay – my fave!

Easter celebrations commenced on Sunday morning with chocolate. Everyone does Easter a little differently so it was fun to take part in the Simonds tradition where each person brings some chocolate for all to enjoy. Meg brought the delicious sea salt caramel truffles pictured above and they were insanely good. We also feasted on yummy Lindt chocolate bunnies with tea before heading down to the annual Easter egg toss. We made sure to practice beforehand to avoid any embarrassing drops, although those happened anyway! Loads of people from Seaview line up at the dock to throw eggs to their partner, hoping and praying it doesn’t splatter everywhere. It’s really rather amusing to watch, especially with waves crashing all around. The rest of Sunday was a lazy day of movies, more wine and another delicious dinner of salmon with cherry tomatoes, basil and asparagus. I’m actually making this tonight for my sister and brother-in-law and am really hoping I remember the recipe!

Hope you all had a lovely Easter!

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