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Love is Louboutin

May was our third wedding anniversary and to celebrate we decided to go away for a week. Having spent the last few years visiting various far flung places, we thought it was time we explored the treasures the UK has to offer and as such headed to Scotland.

We could have driven or flown but we opted to travel by the Caledonian Sleeper train, which booked in advance was very reasonably priced and hired a car once there. Now the sleeper train is not luxury but an experience none the less and it certainly is nice to fall asleep in London and wake up in the Scottish Highlands.

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We were greeted at Fort William by horrendous rain – the main problem with staying in the UK. As we were unable to book into our accommodation before 4pm, we sought refuge at the Inverlochy Castle hotel and indulged in afternoon tea.

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Highland scenery is stunning and by our bed and breakfast there was a beautiful wide expanse of lake which was ironic given that they ran out of water by the Thursday!

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A walk through Nevis Gorge to Steel Falls is well worth it, if not for the faint hearted – it’s a four and a half mile round trip. The ground is rocky and rough with sheer drops but you are rewarded with a beautiful photo opportunity. Just make sure you wear appropriate footwear – my Italian leather ballerina pumps didn’t cut it!

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Glencoe also provides beautiful views and has been used for films such as James Bond – Skyfall and Harry Potter – it’s where Hagrid’s hut was built.

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T-Shirt Oasis, cropped jeans Oasis and ballet pumps from Milan

A great way to see some of the flatter scenery the highlands have to offer is by horseback. I have always enjoyed horse riding and really enjoyed my trek in Tain – not least as I managed to tick off my bucket list, riding on the beach.

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Sweatshirt Joy, Jeans Oasis and rain jacket New Look

On our actual anniversary we boarded the Jacobite steam train for a journey from Fort William to Mallaig, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct – made infamous by the Harry Potter films. We celebrated with champagne and exchanged gifts. The three year wedding anniversary is leather and as such, we couldn’t have let it pass without him adding to my shoe collection. I was ecstatic to open my very own pair of classic Pigalle Louboutins in black patent! You can read more about Louboutin in my previous blog First Steps.  I bought him a leather wallet with his initials embossed on it from Aspinal of London.  Leather is traditionally used to protect and shelter due to its durability, so as your relationship matures, a gift of this represents those qualities.

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Glenfinnan viaduct

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Butter-brew cocktail

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Harry Potter Charm

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If castles are your thing, Scotland has some fabulous examples. We visited Urquhart castle, overlooking Loch Ness, for a great example of castle ruins which date from the 13th to the 16th century and Dunrobin which is a true fairytale style castle. Interestingly Dunrobin castle was used as a boarding school for seven years – imagine going to a school that looked like that!

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Urquhart castle

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Dunrobin castle

If you are looking for an adrenalin rush, I can highly recommend the Seaxplorer fast boat trip out on Loch Leven. We got to see seals and sea birds as well as our captain doing some elaborate fast turns like they do in lifeboats to add to the thrill.

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We couldn’t visit Scotland without going to Balmoral of course. Having always been a royalist it was fabulous to see the Queen’s holiday hideaway. Balmoral castle itself is beautiful although we saw very little of the inside. The Landrover safari trip revealed how vast the grounds are, with stunning views and we got to see some majestic deer.

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Balmoral

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T-Shirt Zara and leather jacket New Look

 

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Being us it was a mad rush to get from Balmoral back to Fort William to catch the sleeper train home but we made it and got a lovely view of Ben Nevis on the journey too.

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Ben Nevis

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KIP (Krissy is Phil’s) elephant snuggling on the Caledonian sleeper

The UK really has some great sights that shouldn’t be overlooked.  We had a great anniversary and look forward to many more years happily married.  I love my husband because he knows me inside out and loves me anyway.

All Aboard the Maple Leaf

Canada is synonymous with maple syrup (Quebec is responsible for 75% of the world’s output), bears and Mountie’s – that was about all I knew of Canada but it was another place to tick off my travel bucket list so I decided it was time to learn more.

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After the horrendous flight out to the States and the hustle and bustle of New York City (in my opinion the greatest city in the world outside London) my husband and I were pleased to join the Amtrak train for a 12 hour relaxing trip which would whisk us through up- state New York and into Canada. Some of the scenery on the journey was breath taking and I had plenty of time to ponder my trusty Lonely Planet guide on what was the longest train journey I have ever done, not that it felt like it. The stop at the Canadian border was a little chaotic with them first suggesting passports would be checked on the train only to then detrain us and our luggage to go through the check!

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Upon arrival at Toronto we were surprised at the grandeur of The Fairmont Royal York hotel we were staying in, across the road from Union Station. The hotel was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway and is steeped in art deco opulence being that it opened in 1929 and has often been the hotel of choice for Queen Elizabeth II. We only ventured a few steps from the hotel to grab dinner, still tired from our long journey. Here I sampled a Canadian sundae which had maple leaf biscuits in it.

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The following morning after refuelling with a Starbucks (a life saver for lattes in any foreign country) we joined a coach trip out to Niagara. The first stop was right up my street with a visit to a vineyard and a wine tasting. Needless to say I purchased a bottle to take home.

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Sporting the seasons off the shoulder trend with a red Oasis top

When we approached the falls – nothing could have prepared me for such a spectacular sight. Pictures really do not do justice to what in my opinion should be included in the seven wonders of the natural world. Victoria Park offers fantastic views of the falls and apart from the visual experience there is the audial one of the power of the water cascading down.  More than a million bathtubs of water plummet downward every second according to the Lonely Planet Guide.

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Following lunch overlooking the falls we joined the Hornblower boat trip, formally known as the Maid of the Mist tour. This is an experience like no other. It is a chance to view the falls up close whilst feeling the mist or spray and hearing the mighty roar.

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The tour finished with a stop in Niagara on the lake village. This is such a quant 19th century village that really is what you think of when you imagine an American or Canadian village. The boutiques are wooden and painted in pastel colours. The highlight was the Christmas shop! We also found a jewellery shop where my husband treated me to a Pandora maple leaf charm exclusive to Canada.

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Once back in Toronto, we rounded off our day with a trip to the Rogers Centre Baseball stadium to see the Toronto Blue Jays. Neither of us really understood the complexities of the game but it was great to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of what is an integral part of North American culture.

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Canada, although part of the continent of North America is in some ways very European being that it has had a long history of both France and England ruling it. To this day, although now independent – our Queen is still their head of state. Montreal is the only officially bilingual city; speaking both French and English. The landscape and the people of what is the second largest country in the world is truly diverse and by visiting only the Eastern side I fear we may have missed out on some of the beauty the country has to offer.  Toronto itself is the most multiculturally diverse city in the world with over 140 languages spoken.  It is said that over half of the people that call Toronto home were born outside Canada.

Had we had longer in Toronto, I would have liked to go up the famous CN Tower in the glass lifts but sadly it was time to move on; we did however get to admire the 1970’s structure illuminated by the nightly light show.

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Souvenirs of Toronto

Our next stop was Ottawa – Canada’s capital. One of the main attractions here is the Rideau Canal with a series of 8 historic functioning locks. The banks are flanked by the parliament building and Chateau – Laurier – a hotel which is a national historic site.

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The following morning we observed the changing of the guard ceremony outside parliament. The ceremony echoes that of England’s changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

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We refuelled at Zak’s Diner, a typical 1950’s American diner, where I enjoyed pancakes and maple syrup and a coffee milkshake.

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Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot more to do in Ottawa and the weather also took a turn for the worse. We spent our final day here riding the open top tourist bus and getting soaked. We did jump off the bus at the Canadian Mint which was an interesting insight into how coins are made as well as getting to feel the weight of a gold bar.  We also visited the Notre Dame Cathedral-Basilica which is the oldest church in Ottawa, built in 1841.

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I was taken by a local delicacy here called the Beavertail which was served in the Byward market. The name comes from the shape of the sweet treat which is a fried dough pastry topped with any number of delights – I had a cinnamon and apple one.

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Back on an Amtrak service, we headed to Quebec City. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me, along with Niagara. Not having really practiced my French since A Level, I was looking forward to being surrounded by it; after all it is such a beautiful, romantic sounding language. We stayed at Hotel Clarendon, one of the oldest hotels, built in 1870 and right in the hub of the old town. A few short steps from the hotel the Rue du Tresor can be found. This is a short, narrow street which has been commandeered by local artists to showcase and sell their work, giving the air of Monmartre in Paris.

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There is plenty here to while away a good few days with the most famous site being Le Chateau Frontenac which is in fact a luxury hotel originally built in 1893 by the Canadian Railway.

The funicular, across from Le Chateau Frontenac, is a must and transports you to the beautiful cobbled streets and squares of the lower town where murals, statues, street artists and amazing boutiques can be found.

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Denim pinafore – Oasis, shoes converse, bag Biba, necklace Andrea Garland

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For another angle on the city, outside the city walls, we ascended the Observatoire de la Capitale for views at 221m up.  You can see all the green roofs which started off copper, like the one on the historic armoury building which is being rebuilt following a fire in 2008.  We also admired parliament building Hotel du Parlement which was mid renovation.  The front lawn has statues honouring women obtaining the right to vote.

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Unfortunately the weather let us down again and we ended up on a walking tour of La Citadelle in the teaming rain.  This fort was built over a century, starting with the French in 1750 and finished in 1850 by the British.  The fort serves as a base for the Canada’s Royal 22s and was intended to serve as a defence to an American invasion which of course never happened.

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We finished the day with a meal and a bottle of wine, in a restaurant that had an accordion player to entertain you whilst you ate.

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Following the floral trend from spring/summer 2016 with a midi skirt from Oasis – top and shoes also Oasis, clutch bag Aldo

Following a visit to Basilica Notre-Dame de Quebec which is one of the continents first cathedrals, I wanted to make the most of the romance of the place, so I persuaded my husband to part with a somewhat large chunk of our cash for a horse and carriage ride around the city which was stunning and we finished up the day eating at the Auberge du Tresor 1640 restaurant, thus named after the year the building was constructed – the oldest building in Quebec City with a hard to miss bright red roof.

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The final leg of our tour, took us to Montreal. We arrived late afternoon and our stomachs were requiring some attention. An Indian restaurant called Gandhi which was listed in the guide book caught our eye. We decided to walk it from hotel but picked the most dodgiest route possible which meant our initial impressions of Montreal were not the best. The meal however was spectacular and after we wandered back to the hotel via a much nicer route; taking in the Basilique Notre Dame which was beautifully lit and passing a number of projections on the walls which is a project depicting the history of Montreal in advance of the 375 year anniversary next year.

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Feeling a little tired of city sites we decided we wanted to get out to Mont Tremblant and the Laurentian Mountains to see some of the breath taking Canadian landscapes you see in photos. It appeared from a quick search online that to do the trip in a day there was only one bus a day out there that departed at 0730. Foolishly thinking this couldn’t be true, we set off on foot for the long walk to the bus station, arriving around lunch time only to find that the internet had of course been correct and there was only that early bus to Mont Tremblant if you intended to do the trip in a day. Feeling hot and sweaty from the long walk, we were desperate to not write the day off and the Lonely Planet guide mentioned the town of St-Jerome as the gateway to the Laurentians. That was a place we could visit in a day so we purchased a ticket and waited in the nearby picturesque park of La Fontaine, soaking up the sun before joining the bus.

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Nautical style top M&S, shorts Oasis

The book mentioned a beautiful cathedral to visit with a beautiful stained-glass window. On arrival late afternoon we discovered said cathedral closed an hour earlier than the book had said.

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Disappointed, we wandered about only to find ourselves among the local down and outs. This was my first bad experience in many years of Lonely Planet guides. We parked ourselves in a bar and just drunk until the bus returned to pick us up. Never have we been so glad to see a bus!

Shattered from the day we got the metro back to our hotel rather than walking back from the bus station, changed and then enjoyed a meal and a few cosmos in a restaurant near to the hotel.

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Mod style dress M&S

The final day was unbearably hot and we were up early hoping to see a few more sites and then cram in the obligatory last minute shopping.

We headed out to the Olympic park, built when Montreal hosted the Olympics in 1976. The funicular that takes you to the top of the 165m Tour de Montreal is well worth doing if only giving you the chance to say you have been up the world’s largest inclined structure.

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I couldn’t leave Montreal without going inside its most famous sight – Basilique Notre-Dame.  It was built in 1829 and has a stunning alter and a midnight blue ceiling covered in stars.  Celine Dion was married here in 1994.

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We walked back to the hotel to check out via Place Jacques Cartier which in the centre of old Montreal is a square full of activity with stalls, entertainers, cafes and bars. Nelson’s column stands at the north end of the square.

All that was left to do before heading back to the airport was some shopping.  I was amazed that even my husband caught the shopping bug. We got some great deals in North  Face and I couldn’t resist an eye shadow from Sephora.

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Before we knew it we were on the flight home. It was a whirlwind of a trip that once again we tried to cram too much into.   On reflection I think we should have either spent more time away or had more time in New York and Toronto and then a few days in Quebec. I hope one day I will get to do the Rocky Mountaineer train trip and experience Vancouver and some of the picture postcard views of Canada away from the big cities.

Sparkling Sunset by the Whitby Coast

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis blog is my final entry before I turn the big 30 and begin a new chapter, leaving behind my twenties.  I am happy to announce that my boyfriend and I are now engaged – something I never thought I would get to experience and write about in a blog.

The other weekend my partner and I decided to go for a long weekend in Yorkshire and we happened to have some of the best weather so far this year – must be our weather magic.

We arrived on Friday in York and began by going on a haunted tour of the city.  The guide really made this tour as he took us round to the Minster, Guy Fawkes birth place and the shrine to Margaret Clitherow – the martyr of the Roman Catholic Church.  He involved different people including my other half in acting out being hung drawn and quartered.  I think even the tour guide jumped though as we stood in the historic street ‘The Shambles’ where he explained butchers would hang up their meat and people emptied chamber pots so blood etc would make a river down the street, when someone pulled loudly shut a window above us.

We then met up with my friend and her other half for dinner in the Mumbai Lounge.  Pregnancy is really suiting her.  I predict it will be a baby girl – watch this space!  That night we stayed at The Golden Fleece pub.  This is the oldest Inn in York – mentioned in archives as far back as 1503 and is believed to be haunted.  We stayed in Lady Peckett’s room.  Lady Peckett’s husband owned the Golden Fleece around 1702 and some guests have reported seeing her ghost.  The pub has great charm with its uneven floors – our bed had a block of wood under one leg to make it level.  Whilst we didn’t see the ghost of Lady Peckett the waiter at breakfast, we joked, seemed almost ghost like!

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We met up with my Mum and Dad the following day and visited York Railway museum for the 75th anniversary of Mallard doing the fastest speed of a steam train in the world at 125.88 on July 3rd 1938.  Little did I know that when my other half and my Dad went somewhere for a quiet chat it was for my now fiancé to ask my Dads permission for his daughters hand in marriage.

That evening the two of us travelled on to Whitby and had a most enjoyable fish and chip tea in the famous Magpie Cafe.  The building itself was built in around 1750 when it began a long association with fishing and shipping.  It opened as a cafe in approximately 1939 and is widely considered the best place to get fish and chips in Yorkshire.

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Full from our meal, my other half suggested a walk along the beach and then as the sun was setting, colouring the sky red, and the sea was rhythmically grazing the shore; he dropped down onto one knee and produced a stunning sapphire and diamond ring.

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Engagement rings go back to the 13th century in the Western World and are worn on the second finger on the left hand as this is believed to be the shortest distance to the heart.  I was so stunned – the first thing I said was are you joking before giving an enthusiastic yes.  It couldn’t have been a more romantic proposal given that our first date had been fish and chips on the beach in Broadstairs.    We celebrated in Wetherspoons of all places with a bottle of champagne which the staff had to dust off!

Champagne was actually discovered by mistake when the cold winters halted the fermentation process only for it to start again in the spring creating a bi product of carbon dioxide which remained trapped in the wine.  It is now generally seen as the drink of choice for celebrations and in a book I am reading that I was kindly bought as an engagement present ‘How to Wear White’ it is said that the UK spends over £5million a week on champagne!  There is some suggestion however that the consumer trend this year is towards people buying Prosecco over champagne to celebrate with.

The following day was spent walking round the town, playing crazy golf (where I got a hole in one) and in arcades as well as going on a boat trip.  I’m sure those cuddly toy machines are rigged!  I couldn’t resist this gem of a satchel – so like the ones of the Cambridge Satchel Company but far cheaper, which I discovered on a market stall.

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We had a fish and chip tea down on the beach again whilst the sun set and I dipped my toe into the cool sea.

We then finished our stay with a trip on the North Yorkshire Moors railway and a visit to Goathland where Heartbeat was filmed.  On arrival back at Whitby, we grabbed some freshly baked doughnuts only to be dive bombed by seagulls!

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We returned home to break the good news to both sets of parents.  I still can not quite believe it has happened to me – the little girl who said no one would ever marry her.  I cannot stop admiring my ring and feel like I am on cloud nine.  This wonderful event also ticks another box on my bucket list, so I have achieved 4 out of 10 of the items – got engaged, been to India, done the Moonwalk and started riding lessons again.  The others will be carried over to my new bucket list to do before 40.

We now have around a year to plan our special day and I can’t wait to get started.  Look out for lots of wedding planning themed blogs over the next few months!

3 More Sleeps to go!!!!!!!!!

So it’s almost the big day.  The Christmas cake and pudding has been made for some weeks which threw my senses into the Christmas spirit even if no other part of my body followed.  The kitchen was filled with nutmeg, cinnamon and fruit smells whilst I sipped a snowball, the first of many! Lol!  It seems as though the whole country was late in feeling Christmassy this year and then December arrived and suddenly Christmas songs blared out in shops and on the radio along with Heart beginning their sleeps ‘til Santa countdown.  This was a refreshing change to the usual pattern of it beginning in August.  Even Rufus my rabbit is now in the Christmas spirit!

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My cousin and I revisited our childhood Christmas’ by losing ourselves for a few hours in Hamleys.  We also enjoyed a visit to the Hyde Park winter wonderland and browsed the German Christmas market before warming ourselves up with a coffee and some roasted chestnuts; another smell which alerts us to the holiday season.  I took my friends little boy to see Santa the other week and as a new twist, it also included a 3D film about the reindeer.  I’m not sure who enjoyed the trip more, me or him?  What did I ask Santa for; well that would be telling!  Cards then began to drop through the letter box on a daily basis.  Christmas is one of the few times of year when the postman delivers something other than bills and junk mail!  Wouldn’t it be nice if we all still wrote letters to each other; I used to love to receive a letter to read over breakfast.  The advent of modern technology has unfortunately diminished the nation’s letter writing skills.  Text messages encourage brevity and the notion of even a good long phone call seems to be less and less popular.  Now don’t get me wrong text messages do serve their purpose and I’m not about to join the English language experts debate on text messaging being responsible for the declining standards of spelling, however in my own experience I have found that they often can cause misunderstandings and fail to convey true emotion.  With this in mind, I had four very enjoyable phone conversations with friends and family today. You would think with all these wide ranging methods of communication people would never lose touch but sadly there are people who you have no contact with from one month to the next, yet the sign of true friendship is that when you do meet up with that person it is like you have never been apart, as I found with an old school friend at my annual festive get together this week.  Anyway getting back to Christmas cards, where did this tradition come from?  I watched Victorian Christmas the other day and found the origins to this and many other traditions; we have a lot to thank the Victorians for.  Henry Cole sent the first Christmas card in 1843 as it would have taken a long time for him to have written letters to all his friends.  Those he had left over he sold.  The popularity of these was helped by the post office introducing a half penny stamp for Christmas cards.  This was made possible by the expanding railways which made transporting post faster and cheaper.

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Another tradition we owe to the Victorians is the Christmas tree.  They became part of the British Christmas after Queen Victoria’s husband put one up at Windsor castle in 1841.  They were of course at that time decorated with candles; an accident waiting to happen if you ask me.  My partner and I put up our tree and dusted off the nativity scene the first week of December in preparation for an early Christmas dinner party I arranged.  Aside from the desire to catch up with some very good friends of mine, my partner and I also attempted to play matchmakers for two of our friends.  Sadly it was apparently too early for me to acquire a sprig of mistletoe!  It was a most enjoyable evening and I enjoyed making the years first mince pies.  Now these pies go back to the 13th century when European crusaders returned home with recipes from the Middle East.  By the Victorian era, meat was no longer used in these sweet treats but suet remained an ingredient as it still does today.

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The Victorian era has long been a fascination for me and with so many Christmas traditions being a result of that period too; when my partner was off work we decided to go and visit the Victoria and Albert museum in London.  I got a bit of a shock having to pay for a train ticket for the first time in eight years!  The museum was rather a let down; we had misunderstood it to be a museum of the Victorian era when in fact it is a museum of art and design, simply named after Victoria and Albert.  Then to add insult to injury, the fashion room is currently closed much to my disappointment.

At the time of writing, I have now been officially unemployed for almost a month and the time has flown; I almost wonder how I ever had time to work and I still haven’t completed half the things I intended to.  It is now starting to hit me however that this is not a holiday and the job search now needs to begin in earnest; the financial situation has not been helped by my continuing shopping addition!  After all the perfect Christmas dress is essential for any girl; or in my case two but they were a bargain in the sale.  The quest for the ideal dress is never easy but just think of poor Kate Middleton who needs no less than five dresses for her first Royal Christmas day.  I did resist the urge for a gorgeous pair of heels I saw in Topshop; thinking about it though that may have been a mistake given that according to a Metro survey, 13% blokes would like their girlfriend to wear nice shoes.  Talking of shopping, the present’s bill hasn’t helped either but I so enjoy giving people a thoughtful gift.  This year I did the majority online which was far easier than battling the shops, except for the fact that one parcel has still yet to turn up.  Some think tanks estimate as much as a 16% rise in online shopping this Christmas.  Perhaps this online explosion of choice and price cutting has led to the demise of Barratts and La Senza; both now in administration which one close friend of mine has felt acutely.

I have done some productive things with my time since leaving work though.  I spent a week volunteering at another local primary school; this time with the children in the last year there.  I greatly enjoyed it; some of the children even got me Christmas presents.  Whilst doing this experience I also had some good news, I have an interview for my teacher training course so fingers crossed I’m on my way to becoming a teacher.

Now with little time left to wait for the special day which cheers up the long winter, I must get on with the rest of my wrapping and make some paper chains.  Merry Christmas readers!

Ik hart Holland (I heart Holland)

Mum and I decided on an impromptu trip to Holland as my uncle was doing an opera there in Enschede and so had a place we could stay with him.  I thought it would be a nice chance to spend the quality time with my Mum that I have been missing since moving out as well as an opportunity to add another country to my list of travels without breaking the bank.

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My boyfriend walked me to the station to get the train to London where I would meet my Mum.  As we walked up I noticed a beer delivery lorry from the company my ex worked for and there he was.  How strange that he should be delivering locally to me, just at the time I was walking past and on a Saturday which he wouldn’t normally work.  Some people would say this was fate working in mysterious ways and once upon a time I would have chosen to see it as some sort of a sign; nowadays however, I would call it pure coincidence and I think my boyfriend found it most uncomfortable.  On the journey to Holland I read ‘One Day’ and I couldn’t help but see a comparison to the relationship I had with my ex.  Together, not together, together, not together, seeing everything as fate.  There’s one difference in our story though, I’m glad we didn’t end up together as it meant I met my wonderful boyfriend, who is perfect for me.  I felt quite sad waving goodbye to him as the train pulled out, knowing I wouldn’t see him for nearly a week.  He said it took him back to when we weren’t living together and had to wave goodbye to each other after the weekends.

Mum and I got the Eurostar from London to Brussels and had a bit of a wait there for our onward train.  Naturally my nose led me to a shoe shop.  I saw a gorgeous pair of shoes but sensibly decided to wait until my journey back, when I did indeed purchase them.

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Mum and I had a pleasant lunch with a glass of wine and I got to exercise my French vocabulary before we joined the TGV to Schiphol airport.  Once on the train however, we were told that due to engineering works we would have to go to Amsterdam and change there for a train to Enschede; it’s refreshing to know we are not the only country in the world to suffer engineering works on the railway!  Anyway we eventually made it.

The first day we went to Arnhem.  Arnhem is a place of historical importance since the battle of Arnhem during the Second World War.  We visited the bridge which the battle was centred around.

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We then went on to view the British war graves in nearby Oosterbeek.  It was a very moving experience.  What a waste of young lives.  Even sadder are the dead who were never identified, whose tomb stone simply says ‘a soldier of the 1939-1945 war, known unto God’.

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The following day, we ventured to Amsterdam.  As soon as we got off the train and into the centre of the city, the air was perfumed with cannabis and bikes weaved through the streets whilst a waterway, lined with canal boats broke up almost every block.  We started at the Nieuwe Kerk in Dam Square, which just happened to be holding a fashion exhibition.

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The architecture is beautiful too as is the 1655 organ and a stained glass window depicting Queen Wilhelmina to rival the famous window of Notre Dame.  Well worth a look.

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Next stop was the Anne Frank house.  We walked around the annex where the family hid from the Nazis; the entrance to which was disguised by a bookcase.  Cuttings from magazines of the time which Anne herself stuck on the walls still remain which was extremely emotive.

Being that Holland is so well known for Tulips, we visited the Tulip museum where I purchased some tulips to plant at home; actual ‘Tulips of Amsterdam’.  Next stop was Begijnhof which is an inner court, which once housed religious Catholic women rather like a convent.  To this day only women live there.  Inside this court yard is one of the oldest wooden houses in the Netherlands which dates back to circa 1528.

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I must admit whilst in Amsterdam, I was curious to try one of their ‘coffee shops’ but being with my Mum that was really out of the question.  Mum felt most uncomfortable when I took her on the quick walk of the red light district which was suggested by the Lonely Planet City guide.  The area does have to be seen to be believed with women in bikinis posing in shop windows.  It is worth the walk though to see the Oude Kerk which is Amsterdam’s oldest church dating back to 1306.

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We finished the day with a canal boat trip and a nice meal where I tried the local delicacy of herring.  I left Amsterdam wanting to see more.

Munster was our next stop the following day.  Being that Enschede is very close to the German border; I thought I might as well use it as an opportunity to visit Germany for the first time. Munster was what you imagine a typical German town to be like and we had a very pleasant lunch sitting in one of the squares.  I stopped off to buy a beer to take back for my other half at the local Pinkus brewery.

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We made the most of the nice weather and sat out in the garden when we got back to my Uncles, sipping wine and eating prawns and other snacks whilst listening to the country sounds of the cows being herded in for milking.

Our final day in Holland, I convinced Mum to join me in a return trip to Amsterdam on the proviso that we would get trams around rather than attempting to walk miles like the previous trip!  We visited the Rijks’s museum which everyone says is a must in Amsterdam and saw the famous Rembrandt Night Watch masterpiece.  We also visited Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s answer to Central park.

Now my cultural interests had been attended to, it was on to a more apt museum; the diamond museum, after all diamonds are a girls best friend.

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Following that we visited the handbag museum; can you believe they have a whole museum dedicated to the history of handbags?  The only thing better would have been a museum dedicated to shoes.  An interesting fact I learnt from the museum was that the need to make stronger bags from materials such as leather only arose with the advent of train travel becoming popular.  By far the best exhibit in my opinion was the cupcake bag as seen in the Sex and the City movie.

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Now no trip to Holland would be complete without seeing a windmill which was our last stop in Amsterdam.  We enjoyed a nice glass of wine in the bar underneath it.

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We rounded off the wonderful holiday in Lucius fish restaurant which I highly recommend.  You can enjoy your seafood whilst being entranced by the fish tank.  There’s an irony there!

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After a good nights sleep, we headed back on the train to Blighty, without a souvenir pair of clogs which my boyfriend expected me to bring back.  If you ever get the chance, Holland is well worth the visit.

‘It’s Pimms O’Clock!’

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I shall begin by apologising for the delay in posting but one of the things I wanted to write about needed to be common knowledge first.  My blogs this week will be rather like buses; you wait ages and then two come at once!!

So I take you back to the start of September.  I don’t know about you but since my school days, I always feel that 1st September marks the official end of summer.  The evenings start to become darker and the cardigans begin to come out!  X factor has begun and the countdown to Christmas starts.

In order to make the most of the last of the good weather, my boyfriend and I decided to go to Broadstairs, Kent for the day, which was where we went for our very first date.  I love Broadstairs and it is often referred to as the ‘Jewel in Thanet’s Crown’.  Charles Dickens regularly visited there between 1837 and 1859 and wrote David Copperfield whilst staying there; it does inspire my writing imagination too.  Today Broadstairs still retains the vibe of the traditional British seaside resort minus the donkey rides.

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We began with a game of crazy golf, followed by fish and chips on the beach; it always tastes better by the sea even if you do get a sand garnish!  The first Fish and chip shop that opened in London was in 1860.   Railways played a big part in fish and chips becoming a staple of the working class diet as it linked cities to the coast and they also can be credited with the increased popularity of a holiday at the seaside.  We followed up with an ice cream, then on to the arcade with the great 2p machines.  I even dipped my toes in the sea but wasn’t brave enough for a swim!  Many were braving a swim though; perhaps apart from protecting their modesty, the Victorian swimwear which covered most of the body was made as a result of Britain’s inclement weather?  It was funny when my partner and I went to Egypt and our guide in Cairo was saying it gets quite cold in the winter, around 20 degrees and we said, in Britain if the mercury reaches 20 then we all have our shorts and flip flops on!

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We finished off with a Pimms in one of the local pubs.  Pimms was actually invented by the son of a man from Kent in 1823.  It is now a drink very much synonymous with the British summer, hence its popularity at events such as Wimbledon.

That evening we went to friends for dinner which was a most enjoyable end to the day.  I remember being sent to bed whilst my parents entertained friends at dinner parties and now I’m attending dinner parties; how time flies!  The food was restaurant standard which sets the bar high for when we invite them back.

During the week I treated myself to some star print palazzo trousers after realising that my other pair of plain black ones had been badly torn by my high heels.  At least now I can be on trend with the star print.  I spent many evenings browsing the internet for a perfect pair of shoes to wear as Godmother at my baby nieces christening at the end of the month.  My boyfriend looked over at my surfing and said ‘you really do love shoes, don’t you!’  Had it really taken him this long to notice???  Men, eh!  I couldn’t find what I was looking for but did find a gorgeous pair of shoes for my baby niece; after all, got to start them young!

Image Courtesy of Google Images

Image Courtesy of Google Images

That got me thinking about my first pair of shoes; little did my parents realise that they would be the start of a life long love affair.  I think I inherited the obsession from my maternal Grandma; when she died my Mum found enough shoes in her wardrobe to open a shop!  I’m only sad that she died when I was 7.  I think we would have been great friends.  My main memory of her is sitting for hours and drawing together and how she always gave us a small bottle of lemonade, some fun size sweets which were a new concept then and £1 pocket money.  My Mum says she always said if you couldn’t decide which dress to buy, she would say get both!  For my first birthday Mum says she bought me a dress from Bentalls which was £25 then.  She was always generous to a fault.  No wonder I live to shop, it’s in the genes.

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I remember when Mum and I went to Bromley to get my first pair of welly boots and ended up on the wrong train on the way back!  I was so proud of those wellies!

Later once I started school I remember we all had the Clarks Magic Steps shoes, mine were patent burgundy.  You were no one unless you had them.  These had a key in the sole.  My friend actually tried to smash the key out.  They made you feel like the princess in the adverts.  Even now some of my most glam shoes make me feel like a princess.  The power a piece of footwear has!

Image Courtesy of Google Images

Image Courtesy of Google Images

This reminiscing called to mind some other fashion and footwear trends over the years.  There were jelly shoes, heeled jelly shoes, crocs and Ugg boots to name a few.  Does anyone else remember the Bon Bleu tracksuit?  I always wanted one but alas we can’t always have what we want.  It’s quite ironic really that on own clothes day at school, most kids wore the alternative uniform of the Bon Bleu tracksuit!

On a more serious note and the cause of the delay on this blog; a bombshell was dropped on me at work.  They are closing our department and I will be redundant at the end of November, unless a suitable alternative within the company can be found.  Guess this means I will have to seriously curtail the shopping habit!  The shoe collection will certainly suffer.  We had expected the day would come but I don’t think any of us thought it would be quite this soon.  They sent us home early and I literally felt sick with shock.  I’ve had chance to get used to the idea now though.  I’m doing my best to look at this positively, as an opportunity.  Perhaps this is the push I needed; after all, what I really want is to be a teacher and a writer.

I should also mention that the complaints to the shop where we got Rufus finally paid off and we got the Vets bills refunded as well as £30 of vouchers which I intend to treat Rufus with.  It does pay to complain!

I shall leave it there and consol myself with a drink; perhaps ‘it’s Pimms O’clock?!’

Kilts vs Hot Pants?

The week started with a blow to fashionistas and chocoholics, ‘Jane Norman’ is in administration and ‘Thorntons’ is to close 180 shops.  Now I know some of ‘Jane Normans’ stuff could leave a bit to be desired but I have always found their dresses second to none.  Admittedly they could be quite pricey but always had very good reductions in their regular sales.  Last chance to grab some sale bargains!  Rather ironically it looks as though ‘Edinburgh Woollen Mill’ who I worked for quite some years ago may buy out ‘Jane Norman’ and its stock.  It remains to be seen what this would do to the brand considering the large gap in target age range; with ‘Jane Norman’ being 15-25 and ‘Edinburgh Woollen Mill’ being 45-60 year olds.  Perhaps they will meet somewhere in the middle at a target age of 35?!

bags(Photo courtesy of Google images July 2011)

It’s sad if  ‘Jane Norman’ does disappear being all the years it has been going; I remember my Mum telling me that she used to shop there.  She also shopped in the high end, iconic store of the 1960’s ‘Biba’ which has now had some what of a revival.  Unfortunately it’s rather out of my price range and so I had to settle with a small purse which was still nearly £40!  My Mum often tells the story of when she was in their Kensington store and they had communal changing rooms.  She was trying something on and when she looked round, someone was trying on her dress that she had come in wearing!

Now for all you like minded shoe lovers, I have discovered a fantastic site thanks to it being mentioned in ‘Look’ magazine, ‘Shoeaholics’!  They sell hot designer shoes at seriously cut prices.  I feel my bank account getting a hammering again!  Also in the current ‘Look’ magazine; Olivia Palermo, the US socialite is shown with her infamous ‘Sondra Roberts’ hot pink clutch, priced at $99.  I went in to a boutique called ‘Torza’ and there was an almost identical clutch at a fraction of the price.  They also had it in champagne colour which is what I ended up buying as I thought it would be more versatile.

Saturday night was an opportunity for a girl’s night out to celebrate my friend’s birthday and an occasion also for my new playsuit to be worn.  My present to her was a personalised compact mirror as I believe no girl should be without a good compact; or two in cases where I have forgotten I had bought one for someone and gone and bought another!

Whilst I was waiting at the bar to be served it struck me that perhaps if I complimented the barman on his tie, I might get served quicker.  It was truly quite unusual though with a piano keyboard design.  A guy also at the bar waiting then turned to me to request some fashion advice. When you wear a long sleeved shirt he asked, where was it appropriate to roll the sleeves too?  I advised just below the elbow and another girl agreed.  He then asked the barman.  I said what would a man know, even though he has a good tie, a girl would have chosen it for him as in my experience most men unless gay have a poor sense of style.  The barman was forced to admit that he hadn’t in fact picked the tie out for himself.  It takes me back to my boyfriend and I in ‘Fenwicks’ where each shirt he chose I looked at in disdain and ended up choosing two for him, much to the shop assistants amusement!  My final decision on the subject of shirt sleeves is that they shouldn’t be rolled up so far that it looks like the skin is being pinched.

Some cosmopolitans later I made my way home.  The tube was packed out and it got me thinking about my week of commuting.  The hot weather inevitably makes the people who avoid deodorant stand out.  You know who you are!  It’s not pleasant when you are all packed on a train like sardines!

I will leave you with some of the funny things I have heard people say this week.

‘What business does a fly have on a train?’

‘Why do they make the railways so wonky?’ (Said as the train was rocking about)

‘Why don’t they have the US Open in America?’

Until next time, happy shopping!