Monday, 30 January 2012

Happy Burgh-thday!

Two Saturdays ago it was darling hubby's 40th birthday so to return the favour of him sending me to Chicago for my 40th, I took him to Burgh Island for the weekend. Being an avid Agatha Christie fan, it was the perfect spot as this was the hotel where she wrote two of her books - And Then There Were None and Evil Under the Sun; the ITV Poirot version of Evil Under the Sun also used the island as a filming location.
Grandma and Grandad came down to look after DC, so we had a lovely couple of child-free days. We set off fairly early on Friday morning and made a pit-stop at our favourite breakfast spot - the River Cafe in Axminster. I had my favourite of poached eggs and mushrooms on toast and hubby had the full English; best of all, hubby's breakfast was free since I had filled up my loyalty card on our last trip and was able to redeem it this time. Result!
Then it was time to press onwards through Devon to Bigbury-on-Sea, the small seaside village located on the mainland opposite Burgh Island and from where we were collected in the hotel's Land Rover and driven to the edge of beach where we transferred to the SEA TRACTOR!!!! We were so chuffed at having the opportunity to ride on this as it's only used when the tide is in; otherwise hotel guests are taken across the beach in the Land Rover. We had clearly timed our arrival to perfection as the tide had only just started coming in, so the water wasn't too deep/choppy/splashy and the trip over was very enjoyable indeed.

We checked in (having been upgraded to the Cunard suite!) and since our room wasn't ready, decided to head for The Pilchard Inn, the pub which has been on the island since 1365. Yes, that's right 1365, which makes it very, very old. Imagine the tales that have been told in that pub - tales of smuggling and piracy and treachery on the high seas! We had a spot of lunch and a glass of something alchololic; the roaring fire provided a great spot by which to settle in with a book for an hour or so - bliss.

When our room was ready, we headed back to the hotel and oohed and ahhed over the 1930s flavour of the decor and furnishings. The view from our balcony out over the beach and the village of Bigbury was wonderful. Then it was time for an afternoon nap - isn't that what every weekend break calls for?

In the evening it was time to dress up and head down to the Palm Court Bar cocktail lounge where canapes were served and we made our choices from the dinner menu, all very civilized, before heading through to the dining room: I chose scallops for starter, five-spice duck breast for main course and something totally divine which I completely forgotten for dessert. After dinner we went back through to the Palm Court Bar for petite fours with coffee/tea. The food was absolutely superb and it was a lovely end to a very pleasant and relaxing first day on the island.

The following day was hubby's 40th birthday and we started the day with tea/coffee and Buck's Fizz (the drink, not the 80s pop group) in bed.We wandered down to the breakfast room at about 10.15am (very civilized!); again, the food was wonderful - a great selection of fresh juices, yoghurt and cereals to help yourself to, plus a menu of lovely cooked options; I went for the American pancakes with caramelised bananas - delicious! - while hubby had some of the many options from the Full English.

Then it was time to walk off all that food and really wake ourselves up with a very blustery (and sometimes wet) walk across the beach to Bigbury, and back again. Can you see the paler streaks of sand on the beach in the photo below? That was where the drier sand was being blown across the beach by the wind - quite something to see (when we didn't have our hats pulled down over our faces to keep out the chill/rain.)

When we headed back to the island we decided that since we were all trussed up in coats, hats, boots, etc we may as well do a little more walking and explore the island itself. The views from the top were stunning - the sun even came out from time to time and we were rewarded with a rainbow across the bay.At the very top of the island is a 'Huer's Hut' - this was where the huer would live and keep a look out for the tell tale signs of pilchard shoals; when he saw one he would send out a 'hue and cry' to alert the local fishermen.It may not have all the modcons, but it's all about location, location, location!And here I am looking somewhat windswept, with the hotel in the background.When we walked back down to the hotel we had a look round the grounds, which include the Mermaid Pool situated at the far end of the island, down a set of steep stone steps.This is the hotel from the rear; our room was on the very far right corner - the last three windows on the first floor.Here's the Palm Court Bar from outside.And here it is from inside when we decided a spot of afternoon tea was in order after all that walking and battling with the elements!Isn't that a wonderful view? We spent a good couple of hours enjoying not just the food, but the calming vista too.And you can see the waves crashing in these two photos - very atmospheric.Even looking upwards we were rewarded with a stunning sight - the glass roof of the Palm Court.That evening it was time to get dolled up again as there was live music in the dining room (apologies for dreadful photo!). Once more, the food was fabulous - canapes and cocktails in the Plam Court, then I had a delicious starter which totally escapes me at the moment, followed by black bream and finished off with lemon tart. And once more it was back to the Palm Court to end the evening with petite fours and coffee. Another wonderful day on the island.

The following morning, our last, we feasted once more on a delicious breakfast - smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for me and sausage sandwich for hubby - before checking out and saying our fond farwell to the hotel and island.

Rather than taking the Land Rover back over to the mainland we decided to walk across and make the most of the fabulous sea air and wonderful views.

All in all a delightful weekend, very relaxing, with great food, stunning views and great company!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

THE Chair

Do you remember THE Chair? The one hubby and I first clapped eyes on and plonked our derrieres in back in November in John Lewis? The only chair that we kept going back to and saying 'ahhhhh' when we sat in it. The chair that cost an eye-watering £999.

Well, on Tuesday hubby had a brainwave; he phoned the John Lewis outlet store in Swindon where unloved and unwanted (ie ever so slightly damaged) items from JLs throughout the land go to live until someone takes pity on them and gives them a home. He wasn't particularly hopeful but asked whether they ever had THE chair in stock. The lady at JL said that yes, they did sometimes get THE chair and to call back on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday as those were the days on which they got new deliveries. So, the following morning hubby called and, you can probably guess what I'm about to say, they had actually had one of THE chairs delivered! And it was 50% off due to a few marks, so instead of £999, it was being sold for £499. OMG! Hubby immediately asked for them to reserve it in his name, called me (I was in High Wycombe and Reading visiting friends) and asked if I would make a small detour on the way home, via Swindon.

So on Thursday afternoon I hot-footed it to the Swindon "Designer Outlet" mall and gave the chair a quick once over to check for damage. Quite honestly, it was minimal - there were some scratches on the feet which can really only be seen if you lift the chair up or squat down to floor-level (not something I tend to do much of if I can help it), a small (VERY small) dint to the back corner, and a small scratch on the back cushion (you can just about make it out in this photo.)
So, quick as a flash, I said 'I'll take it' and the deal was done. Thirty minutes later there was a very large bubble-wrapped parcel in the boot of the car (thanks goodness for capacious boots) and I was homeward bound (with another detour via Bristol to collect my mum.)

And doesn't THE chair just look so at home in the snug? Hubby is one very happy boy; even happier because his parents gave him the money to buy the chair for his BIG birthday which he celebrated last weekend.

And here are both chairs, his and hers so to speak - my bargain JL purple chenille wingback number - reduced to £450 as an ex-display model and hubby's bargain Tetrad Totnes reduced to £499 due to 'damage'. That's two chairs for less than the price of one - got to love a bargain!

So, can I just recommend to anyone and everyone - check out the John Lewis Swindon outlet for anything you may have set your heart on at JL but can't quite stretch to. You don't even have to make a trip there, you can call up to see if they have what you're looking for in stock to save a wasted journey.

A new dining table, perhaps? (the one at the front caught my eye, reduced to £249)

Sofa or armchair?A new bed, wardrobe, or bedside cabinetsmattresses in all shapes and sizesFridge freezer anyone? (as long as you don't mind a couple of dints or scratches)Washing machine? Tumble drier?

Or a new light for that dark corner?

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Toy Story

Have I mentioned before my desire to find a toy cupboard of some sort for DC's room? Those of you with children/grandchildren will no dount appreciate the need for toys (especially those made of huge chunks of plastic) to be corraled somewhere/somehow (preferably out of sight...) in order to maintain some level of sanity and tidiness. In my head I had a picture of the piece of furniture that would do the job - so high, so deep, so wide, to fit the space where the bookcase currently resides, and not too ugly, if at all possible.

The photo below shows the bookcase which I was looking to replace (although since the photo was taken the wardrobe and bookcase have swapped places)

And here are a couple of old snaps of DC's room (while cardboard at the window was all the rage in fashionalbe abodes...) to show just how many toys were dotted about the place.

This bookcase (apologies for dreadful photo, it was just a quick 'reminder' snap that I took)from John Lewis made it on to my 'to be considered' list since it wasn't too hideous or too expensive (£99, so not exactly cheap, but not too bad if push came to shove), but that was if nothing from the 'vintage/antique/junk' era could be found before we drowned under a sea of garishly-coloured plastic toys, cute and cuddly critters, and hundreds of books. But still the hunt for 'THE' toy cupboard continued. Until Tuesday night.

Our nearest auction house, Lawrences, holds a general sale every Wednesday with viewings until 7pm on Tuesdays. Hubby suggested I go to the viewing on Tuesday night since in all the 9 months we've been living down here, I'd not been along, and auctions used to be a really big thing for me. So, with some grumbling, because it was 6pm and I didn't really want to go out, I trundled off. Well, what luck I did because there in the auction room was a cupboard that, if I won it, was just perfect. So I left a commission bid and kept my fingers crossed that £65 would be enough to secure the little beauty. I was away for the day of the auction but hubby called up to see whether I'd won anything (I'd left bids on three other items) and it seems lady luck was smiling on me since the lovely cupboard was mine for £10 less than my maximum bid (although it came in at about £67 once the fees were added). And here she is, in all her glory (no idea why the cupboard has become female).Snuggled next to her big brother, the wardrobeAnd, doing what she does best, providing a happy home for toys and books.Do you like our little reading nook? DC's not content to sit on our laps for bedtime stories any more, he prefers to sit in his own chair and read stories to us - cute! And the chair he sits in used to be mine when I was little.Unfortunately the toy cupboard wasn't big enough to hold the large collection of cuddly toys that DC has amassed, so they now live in a big canvas bag at the foot of his cot.Quite a transformation, don't you think? The room is so much tidoer, and feels so much bigger. It also means DC can see his toys and get hold of them more easily too. Big thumbs up for storage cupboards (and auctions.)