Cotswold October

October was a time of hibernation preparation. Cakes were baked, exhibitions were ticked off the list before the nights drew in and the customary Westonbirt trip was made before all of the Acers shed their fiery leaves.

Gloucester Cathedral hosted an incredible modern sculpture exhibition which teetered on the edge of suitability, given the religious setting, which only added to its vibrancy.

One fine Sunday in Tetbury provided eye candy in the form of some beautiful buildings chock full of old fashioned, good looking stuff! Tetbury is any antigue collectors Mecca with more boutiques per square foot of any town in Britain (I haven't verified the accuracy of that statement but, really, this is a tiny town and there are a good 10 antique shops on the high street!)

The Close Hotel offered a brilliant Sunday roast and the dining room was gorgeous.

Strictly nights in are now in full swing and I believe there is no better way to socialise! My friends and I get comfy on a sofa and that's the last time decorum is shown that evening! Loud verbalisations rent the air and we wax lyrical about Aljaz's perfect rendition of Heathcliff, Anton's obvious predilection for Judy and just how cute a couple Karen and Kevin from Grimsby make! For any Strictly fans out there, you know what I'm talking about. For all the rest; you're missing out, big time!

November so far has been full of staring at computer screens at a new job, making treacle toffee for a very scrumptious bonfire night with a cosy yurt filled with homemade food, fireworks, fire jumping children and marshmallow. A trip to Centre Parcs with the family went down a treat and, for the first time ever, I've actually started thinking about Christmas presents before the month of December!

Happy winterings lovely readers!

The Frome Independent

A couple of weeks ago I visited The Frome Independent. Billed by its organisers as ‘more than a market’ it is nevertheless a vibrant and bustling affair with independent small business producers and traders setting up enticing stalls full of delicious looking (and smelling) food, vintage furniture and gifts in the characterful Somerset town of Frome. 

As we were flanked by two small kiddies we made frequent pit stops for food and fun. Lots of young families congregate at the pop-up ‘village green’ to listen to vintage mobile disco ‘Donna Somerset’ which sets up here every market Sunday. We sat down on benches to munch food we’d bought from the pedestrianised food market. The music was quite loud which didn’t suit our littlies but lots of children were running amok on the village green’s Astroturf next to the makeshift disco decks. Having placated the tots enough for a quick whizz around the vintage market we managed a look at some lovely old stuff before making our way to the Vintage Tea Party at Rook Lane Chapel.

Positive Action on Cancer put on a really great little tea party with rolled up sides of a bell tent welcoming little adventurers to play, face painting, tea and cake and local musicians creating nice backing tracks to a relaxed afternoon. Rook Lane Chapel was a lovely location. It is a converted chapel which now runs as an arts centre. If I lived in Frome I would definitely check out its exhibitions. If its tasteful conversion is anything to go by its exhibitions and shows will be great!

The Frome market is a throwback to when the high street was dominated by independent producers with very few cars around and people mingling and talking with other people from their community. There’s a great vibe and, as long as you keep plying the kids and yourself with yummy things (you’ll be hard pressed to resist the temptations!)  is a great day out. Market days are the first Sunday of each month March-December. The market is on from 10am-3pm. Happy browsing!

Benahavis in August

Benahavis is a white town atop a hill about 45 minutes from Malaga airport in AndalucĂ­a, Spain. The tranquil town, set up in the hills away from the busy, develop seaside resorts of the Costa Del Sol but with the benefit of being so close to the airport was a gem of a holiday destination. Unbeknownst to us the annual Feria, a summer festival where adults and children alike dance into the early hours of the morning in the village’s one high street, fell slap bang in the middle of the holiday but happy locals having a boogie only added to the holiday spirit. 

It was HOT, the temperature rising to a brain-thumping 35 degrees one day, but the pool at our villa offered much needed respite from the heat and also provided a playground for games of lilo piggy-in-the-middle, 'how many headers can you do?' and the mandatory lengths under water test. Apparently no matter how old you get pool antics remain pretty much the same as when you were a child!

We ate so much amazing food. Meat, meat and more meat (plus some seafood if you’re feeling exotic) made up the entire menu of every restaurant in town. During the Feria suckling pig is the celebratory plate of choice and we took full advantage and ordered it wherever possible. Benahavis is known for its excellent choice of eating places and Andalucian specialties. All the restaurants in the village seem to be of equally good calibre as they vie for the attention of the multitude of tourists and locals looking for a place to eat.

Running alongside the winding mountain road into Benahavis is the river Guadalmina. As we drove into the town on our first day we saw lots of people parked by the roadside and changing into outdoor gear. We were curious to find out what they were all up to so asked the owner of our villa who told us that people ‘river run’ or go canyoning down the river from Benahavis. Our interest was piqued so, after buying water shoes, we planned an early morning trip to the river before the masses turned up later in the day. It was an incredible experience, much more hair raising than we first imagined. 

It took us an hour and a half of scrambling down marble-like rocks, splashing through the shallow algae-rich river and swimming through the dark waters of deep gorges to reach the pebbled beach at the end of the river. I’m usually really scared of deep water that you can’t see the bottom of but the deep ravines of the river, where the only sounds were the rushing water and the sudden flutter of pigeon’s wings, were so magical that no matter if there was a man-eating giant squid at the bottom I was going to get through the water to see what other beautiful things lay ahead. I’d really recommend the river run to anyone who visits the area but, no matter how casual all the happy people jumping off rocks at the beginning make the whole thing look, you have to be a strong swimmer and wear solid shoes. We saw a lot of discarded trainers and the like along the way! (no picture, of trainers or the river, unfortunately as far too wet for camera!)

So here's our cheepy bird friend instead!

Other than river adventuring the holiday was made up of reading books, lounging about and eating lots of delicious food. Now it’s back to job hunting and to the rather miserable British weather. Hey ho! Thank you to Family Brook for such a lovely time over the last three weeks!

Northern Tour 2 - Wales

The second week of our grand Northern tour was spent on the Llyn Peninsula in Gwynedd, North Wales. Wetsuits were clad for mad bucking bronco rides over the waves in the family speed boat, ice was ingeniously transported to the beach for gin and tonics made at the beach hut turned bar, family poole and tennis table tournaments were sweated over long into the night and many species of crab in various sizes  were found whilst rock pooling along the beautiful Welsh coast. 

Since planning our adventure packed August whilst I was sat in my little room in Mzuzu I’ve been looking forward to these days of relaxation, laughter and languorous eating, drinking and making merry. It does feel pretty naughty to have so much time off but I figure that I’ll have many years of full time work in the future and so it’s best to grasp opportunities like this to enjoy myself and spend time with loved ones before getting down to the nitty gritty of job hunting and moving house again.

Tomorrow we fly to Spain for more high jinks. Hopefully the sun will be shining and we will eat lots of fresh fish, swim in the sea, read lots of books and generally be very happy! Then (I promise Mum!) it will be back to real life!

Northern Tour – One

The first leg of a three week tour of the North (and Spain!) started with a night away in the spa town of Buxton and a visit to the majestic Chatsworth House.

For two period drama fanatics imagining ourselves alone whilst surrounded by snapping cameras and people speaking many languages in long corridors and bed chambers where Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire once walked was enough of a thrill to last a whole day. The tour of the ostentatiously grand house and magical gardens cost a fair bob (£18 each) but was well worth it.

We got frustrated in the maze, were wowed by a child virtuoso when she sat down at a piano in one lavish room off the main dining hall and proceeded to tear up the keyboard, imitated statues of fair maidens and mad lions and picnicked happily in the car when the ominous rain clouds finally split open!

Tomorrow we set off for Gwynedd, Wales for a week of family gatherings, dog walks on the beach and reading Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen to continue the Victorian vibes!