this is where the magic happens {la colombe d’or}…

la colombe d'or

even without the beating mediterranean sun & the fragrant smell of lavender in the air, there’s something undeniably magical about la colombe d’or

maybe it’s the history, maybe it’s the tranquil location nestled beneath the ramparts of the historical town of saint-paul de vence, or a combination of these things & more, but on our recent autumnal visit we found ourselves instantly enchanted…

la colombe d'or_reception

once a refuge for artists, movie stars & royalty alike, the patinated walls of this humble establishment are laden with nostalgia, most of which comes in the form of precious artworks often gifted in return for lodgings & hospitality…

boasting the works of picasso, matisse, calder & miró {to name but a few}, this restaurant-cum-lodgings-cum-art gallery is a rarified find & a retreat in the truest sense of the word…

entry is via a set of large wooden doors which bear the politest of signs informing the outside world that what lies within is for the consumption of restaurant & hotel guests only: already you feel a little special with a side of smug…

as you step inside your senses are arrested, not the least by a giant marble thumb sculpted by césar which stands sentry at the gate & sits rather incongruously with its provincial surrounds {every home should have one of these}…

cesar_la colombe d'or

a ceramic mural by leger hangs nonchalantly nearby, shaded by foliage & forming a colourful backdrop to the crisp linen table tops, whilst a giant white dove sculpture perches in the branches overhead…

leger_la colombe d'or

alongside gnarled figs trees with makeshift pendant lights fashioned from hollowed-out pumpkins, it’s the perfect blend of over-the-top fabulous meets rural thrift…

the terrace_la colombe d'or

our room upstairs follows suit: rustically charming with white walls & exposed beams, it’s simply furnished with a smattering of antiques & understated artworks, white waffle-weave bedding & kilim rugs which skim the tiled floors…

it all feels a little like a weekend away at auntie’s: pleasant, homely & lacking pretension {as an ill-concealed leaking pipe & a hand-held shower which strains to reach its wall mounting bear testimony to}…

la colombe d'or_bedroom

& then there’s that view…

the view

despite it being the middle of october, we left the french doors flung wide open to make the most of the pool-side vista & the scent of wood fires burning in distant chimneys: this is the thing memories are made of…

dinner in the restaurant downstairs was, however, disappointingly less memorable although indisputably atmospheric nonetheless…

la colombe d'or_restaurant

there, overlooked by dimly-lit masterpieces & decidedly brusque wait staff, we chomped our way through the house specialty hor d’oeuvres {definitely a dish for two}, a plate of fresh fig & ham the size of the moon, beef steaks, a melt-in-the-mouth chocolate slice & a flambé soufflé {a version of which the lady at the table across from us humorously tried to blow out}…

but, truth be told, as lovely as the dining room was with its yesteryear charm & warming tones, i found my thoughts drifting elsewhere:

la colombe d'or_calder

to the poolside oasis where you get to hang with an oversized calder mobile amongst the spear-like conifers…

la colombe d'or_bar seats

& the snug surrounds of the bijou bar just off reception where leather cushions plonked in window seats invite lounging with an apéritif {if only these walls could talk}…

la colombe d'or_terrace

&, invariably, back to the courtyard beyond where, beneath a canopy of twinkling stars & lovingly-tended trees, the true magic of la colombe d’or happens…

the festival of san fermin {pamplona}…

a nomadic abode

love it or loathe it, one thing you can rely on at the sanfermines is that you will be exposed to an array of extreme cultural highs & lows…

this weekend we survived a whistle-stop tour of pamplona taking in an opening ceremony, a bull run {encierros}, a religious procession & a bull fight all over the course of less than 48 hours…

after much forward planning we arrived at pamplona on what turned out to be one of the busiest weekends imaginable: the lure of the opening ceremony {6th july} & the first bull run of the season {7th july} always draw a crowd, but when these events fall on a weekend the size of this hillside town swells four or five-fold…

streets are swiftly engulfed by rivulets of alcohol mixed with the heady scent of urine, garbage collects indiscriminately along pavements & bleary-eyed revellers, still wearing their distinctive sangria-stained outfits, wander the streets before collapsing in nearby parks to sleep off the partying…

we chose, advisably, to encamp ourselves on the perimeter of the city in a behemoth of a modern hotel, the alma pamplona muga de beloso, &, after a brisk 20+ minute walk into town on saturday morning we joined several hundred thousand of our closest ‘friends’ shuffling naively towards the town hall plaza in order to partake in the opening ceremony: chupinazo

pamplona

the buzz of the crowd was positively deafening as we approached & it was every red & white clad man/woman for themselves in this mosh-pit of humanity…

once we’d shimmied ourselves into squinting distance of the town hall we were fully immersed in the experience: from the fiery body heat emanating from the crowd to the collective cheer when water was hurled at us from the smiling balcony patrons above…

it was fun, until it wasn’t, & i was relieved to eventually hear the rocket-fire which heralded the start of the fiesta…

we dutifully held our red bandanas aloft in a salute to saint fermin, patron saint of navarra, before leaving our newfound ‘friends’ to get positively blotto…

this was our cue to take refuge in some tented food markets on the far end of town where regional restaurants vie for prime abdominal real estate with an assortment of local dishes: calamari & paella won that day!

a nomadic abode

a night-time saunter through town to survey the damage & a fireworks display later, it was time to return to the sanctity of our pristine cotton sheets in preparation for the big day ahead…

at 5.45am on sunday morning we prized our eyelids open & charged our way through the backstreets of old pamplona to reach our viewing spot for the 8.00am bull run…

booking a balcony to view the bull run was by far the best thing i planned for this whole weekend: by 6.30am the streets lining the route were already full to overflowing with spectators & participants alike…

from the safety of our balcony we enjoyed a bird’s eye view of proceedings below whilst stuffing our cheeks with cakes & freshly-brewed coffee…

a nomadic abode

slightly oversubscribed, this year’s bull run started as a bull walk with hundreds of front-runners being unceremoniously ushered down the cordoned runway by neat rows of police long before the beasts themselves were even within sniffing distance…

it was a little anti-climactic, but comical nonetheless…

minutes later, again heralded by rocket fire, the run itself commenced…

it was a ‘blink & you’ll miss it’ affair {hence no photos!} as the bulls swiftly swept down our street then rounded the corner & out of sight: predominantly without incident …

as soon as they’d passed we legged it with our knowledgeable hostess down to the bull ring to watch the encierros…

a nomadic abode

there was standing room only in the arena as spectators crowded in to witness drink-fuelled revellers baying for the bulls’ attention: whilst some ducked & dived theatrically into the startled animal’s path {or even somersaulted over the bull itself}, others hugged the perimeter of the arena ready to jump the barricade if & when required…

at times i felt a little like i’d been transported back in time to a roman ampitheatre & that any minute a gladiator would swagger into the stadium…

the mob mentality was equal parts uplifting & disturbing & i did wonder if i was alone in shedding a tear for the taunted & anxious bulls thrust into an arena of adreneline &/or alcohol-fuelled revellers…

on a happier note, a highlight of this weekend for me was our stumbling upon the procession of san fermin…

a nomadic abode11

a key event in the fiesta, the 15th century statue of saint fermin is paraded throughout the old town escorted by a cluster of gigantes & cabezudos {giants & big heads} & a regally-attired gathering of religious & city officials…

a nomadic abode10

music, dancing & singing make this a much more family-friendly aspect of the sanfermines…

aerial image via: arxxiduc

falling down the rabbit hole {claydon house}…

a nomadic abode

our recent sojourn in the english countryside tied in nicely with some of our 3*6*5 for 2013 plans {particularly the best of british bit} & having availed ourselves of a hire car we took the opportunity to stretch our wings that little bit further…

on a crisp spring afternoon we checked out of our hotel in hurley & headed north to visit claydon house

despite its austere facade, claydon house, as promised, affords “splendid 18th-century english interiors in an idyllic country setting”…

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a weekend in hurley {the olde bell}: part two…

a nomadic abode

there’s a point at which, having had so many things go awry, a given situation can turn from infuriating to comical…

i’m pleased to say i got there by day three of our stay at the olde bell

i could eventually see the humour in punting on the success rate of various things we ordered actually turning up {with some startling accuracy on my part dare i say!}…

& hearing a plethora of fellow guests muttering under their breath in exasperation eventually brought a smile to my lips instead of further fuelling the flames of anger that were ferociously flambéing my own innards…

there was even a point where my disappointment turned to compassion because, at the end of the day, i get what they’re trying to achieve here &, quite frankly, it’s commendable…

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my 3*6*5 {& other updates}…

a nomadic abode

i thought i’d give some quick updates today on the happenings around these parts…

at the beginning of the year i mentioned putting together my 3*6*5 in 2013: a list of things to do/see/achieve this year…

i recently updated my 3*6*5 list to outline some of the smorgasbord of life experiences i’ve given myself to choose from so do feel free to check it out {& any suggestions, particularly in the ‘best of british’ section, would be hugely appreciated}…

this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it all to be done in the next twelve months {in case any of you were panicking}, but having this list handy to refer to from time-to-time helps to keep me in check & definitely guilts inspires me to put some plans into action…

so far this year we have planned and/or actually achieved a few things on the list:

  • in january i learnt how to make a pasta dish from scratch {i’d attempted it in the past, but only half-heartedly}… it was the boyfriend’s birthday & he requested home-made gnocchi for dinner, so armed with his mum’s recipe i set about learning how to make this more-ish dish: as it turns out, there really wasn’t anything to worry about as it was actually pretty easy &, as with most italian dishes, it’s more about manual labour than hard-to-find ingredients or tricky techniques!
  • february saw a trip to historic york {also part of the boyfriend’s birthday celebrations}… york was definitely somewhere we’ve been wanting to visit since we first arrived in england nearly 7 years ago, so it was great to finally tick that off my ‘best of british’ list: as a weekend destination i can definitely recommend it highly & there’s so much to do it took two blog posts to cover what we got up to {here & here}
  • in july we’re heading to pamplona to chance our luck at the running of the bulls {truth be told, we’ll be watching it from the safety of an egregiously-priced balcony}… i’m not sure what’s more frightening, the prospect of being chased by an angry bull or the dent this trip is making in our bank accounts but, again, this one has been on the ‘to-do’ list for a long time…
  • for our annual summer vacation we normally try to head somewhere warm & sunny, so recent destinations have included the amalfi coast, santorini, mykonos & dubrovnik… this year we’re thinking of maybe trying out the algarve {wherever we end up, deck chairs are most definitely on the agenda for the lad whilst laneways to explore & photograph are on my wish list}… we’ve visited madeira before, but never mainland portugal so i think this is worthy of a new country listing!
  • october will see us brushing up on the lyrics of jesus christ superstar {always wanted to see this musical live} after the original show planned in march {which it turns out i would have missed} was rescheduled… bonus!
  • we’ll also be putting on our fancy pants in october to check out the royal albert hall {also part of my ‘best of british’ list}… we’ve booked to see the buena vista social club which should be a*m*a*z*i*n*g {& since narrowly missing seeing them in cuba several years ago this has been on my ‘always wanted to do’ list also}…  these are definitely the most far-in-advance tickets i’ve ever booked!
  • & in december we’re contemplating the prospect of doing a safari which would in fact cross two things off my 3*6*5 list {a new country & the safari itself!}…

phew, that’s not a bad start to accomplishing my 3*6*5, but of course there’s still many other things on the list to achieve…

but, given there’s still a trip home to oz next month {maybe time to finally master my mum’s apple pie & make a start at the family tree}, two unaccounted for long weekends in may, a 10 year anniversary & a birthday to squeeze in, i’m hopeful we’ll make it!

best take some berocca & win the lotto!

in other updates, a few of you have asked whether or not the boyfriend is on board with the 30 day photo diary project i assigned him… i can happily report that he is indeed on board & once i’ve collected 30 days worth of images i’ll report back: should be insightful to see inside the mind of a non-design driven man!

right then, i’m off to enjoy some of that lovely blue sky i see outside of my window today!

happy wednesday all!

gunpowder, pirates & a blood-red bordello {30 hours in york}…

this past weekend we simultaneously fulfilled the first of my 3*6*5 list for 2013 & celebrated the boyfriend’s birthday with a trip to historic york…

this has been on the “to do” list for a while now &, given it’s been recently subjected to floods & blizzards, we couldn’t have timed things much better with blue skies greeting us upon arrival…

we made the 10 minute journey from the train station by foot & checked into our base for the night, the guy fawkes inn

guyfawkes

nestled in the shadow of the majestic york minster {the cathedral}, these are atmospheric lodgings indeed: they owe their historic significance to marking the birthplace of their namesake, guy fawkes {the ill-feted traitor who conspired to blow up parliament back in 1605}

“remember, remember, the 5th of november; gunpowder, treason and plot; i see no reason why gunpowder, treason; should ever be forgot”

a nomadic abode

candles & gas light struggle to illuminate the murky downstairs quarters & it’s hard to not feel momentarily transported back in time as you pull up a pew at a planked table…

i loved its brooding darkness: the boyfriend did not…

regardless, the pub & restaurant drew a lively crowd both day & night…

but we didn’t linger, instead choosing to make the most of our limited stay & explore the cobbled streets of york…

there’s something about oldy worldy places that immediately makes me want to eat my body weight in sugar & so our first stop was to witness some fudge making & partake in some consumption of the deliciously creamy confectionary…

sugared up, we set off for a quick amble along the famous shambles which is york’s oldest street {as it’s mentioned in the domesday book it can be dated back to more than 900 years ago}

shambles

here higgledy piggledy fifteenth century buildings overhang the cobbled street below, their doors & windows sagging & contorted with age like the jowls of an old & toothless matron…

formerly home to the city’s butcher trade, the raised pavements create a channel along which the blood & offal of slaughtered animals could be easily washed away…

now sadly all that remains of this bygone era are the meat hooks & window benches where their wares were once displayed: the last of the butcher shops has long since closed its doors, giving way instead to a proliferation of sweets & souveneir shops…

a stroll through the rest of the city & it became abundantly evident that the shambles weren’t this city’s only aged offerings…

york

gargoyles & pub signage sit alongside the distinctive black & white facades of tudor dwellings, dotting the city like pock marks on the face of a burger-eating teen…

i had to perpetually prompt myself to look up, look down & look sideways in order to take in all there was to see…

covered alleyways beckon further exploration & the softly-lit doorways of century-old pubs invite refuge, but with the sun still shining we decided to brave a climb up the minster tower to partake of the views it promised…

york cathedral

the cathedral itself is of course captivating & a must see, but, like most of us, i’ve visited approximately five million, 622 thousand and 453 cathedrals & churches in my lifetime…

so perhaps i wasn’t quite as enchanted with the vaulted ceilings, towering gothic arches & 14th century stained glass windows as i might otherwise have been…

but they sure were pretty…

minster

instead i engrossed myself in tales of cowboy builders who started construction from the outer reaches of the building & worked their way inwards, only to realise upon reaching the middle points that the walls didn’t quite meet as they should {personally i think the resulting wibbly wobbly ceiling lines & patched-up archways add character}

i’m quite sure there were many more amusing tales to be told, but we cut our guided tour short to partake of the tower climb…

i’m really not a huge fan of heights, but as it happened that was the least of my worries…

“climbing the 275 steps to the top of the central tower is an exhilarating experience” proclaims the website…

minster roof

what is should have said was:

“feeling your heart pound unforgivingly on the walls of your chest & your legs threaten to give way from under you, all the while your ass is threatening to wedge itself in an ever-narrowing, spiral stone staircase is nothing short of terror-inducing”

but i guess that might not sell so many tickets…

minster view

fortunately the views from the top were worth the exertion…

after cautiously descending we then sort refuge at our predetermined lunch spot, the nearby grays court

considered to be the oldest continuously-occupied house in the uk, grays court dates back in part to 1080 &, though it’s wedged between the minster & the city walls, once inside you really do feel like you’ve absconded to the countryside…

we took lunch in the long gallery, a jacobean oak-panelled room overlooking the courtyard, which had historically served as the venue for the knighting of 8 noblemen by james i…

the long room

here we ate rarebit & open sandwiches beautifully presented on a wooden chopping board, whilst i daydreamed about kings & knights & all things regal…

we also learnt that the hotel had once played host to an infamous duel fought by two love rivals for the affection of one “miss mallorie”…

sadly nobody got the girl, however one of the rivals did manage to catch a bullet which severed his artery & abruptly ended his life & thereto his hopes of a happy-ever-after with the fair maiden…

perhaps he should have contented himself with taking afternoon tea as it really was a rather splendid way to while away the hours…

to be continued…

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