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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raiding the vaults of ma & pa {& my favourite place in our home}…

ana_dining room_02

it’s virtually a given that whenever i venture back home my suitcase is going to be heavier on the return journey than it was going out…

after many years of travelling the globe i consider myself quite the accomplished packer…

i’ve learnt to be a little more realistic about what i’m actually going to wear on holidays & resolved to simply make do with less of everything else {toiletries, etc}…

but when it comes to paring back on my travel finds: well that can be another story entirely…

because shops & markets aside, i’ve tapped into a fantastic source of vintage homeware finds that never, never fails to impress: it’s called the vaults of ma & pa…

raiding the cupboards & back rooms of our parents’ houses have yielded some of my favourite ever homeware finds to date…

& not only do these pieces bring individuality & quirk to our home, but they’re positively laden with memories of moments that can never be replicated {& moments that were, until the unearthing of some of these pieces, forever consigned to history}…

my latest haul yielded this…

ana_bust3

that cheeky chap is none other than my boyfriend as a rambunctious two year old immortalised in bronze by his very talented cousin…

& i love it {all 11.5 kgs of it}!

i’ve coveted it for such a long time & since it had been relegated to a back room at his parents’ house i thought now was as good a time as any to ask if they’d mind my relieving them of it…

not only is it such a tactile, beautiful piece of art, but it represents a piece of my boyfriend’s history {a perspective sadly lacking in our home}…

other trips home have been equally fruitful: a painting by my mum, a second by my brother, some groovy old coffee jars repurposed as vases & some beautiful decorative ceramic plaques {seen below} mounted on wooden bases…

ana_cockatoo4

these were salvaged from my dad’s childhood silver cross pram & gifted to me by my mum after he passed {though my dad never did display them in his home, i do so with immense pride}…

for the most part, a lot of these vintage pieces now hang out in what has quickly become my favourite place in our home: the dining nook

a nomadic abode

it’s a pretty modest set-up {& given we rent, we’re a little limited in what we can change}, but the impact of this room has been elevated by the recent acquisition of a glossy, slimline console table which provides a good-sized, prominent spot for me to display many of my favourite pieces {alongside some much-needed storage}…

filled with vintage finds that are, in turn, filled with memories, this nook makes me smile every time i happen upon it: without fail…

{this post is being submitted as an entry to the fashion for home: home love photo contest… if you’re a uk blogger & want your own chance to win £500 to spend on homewares from their website check out all the glorious details here: the contest closes today, 18 april 2013}

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

at last, here’s part two of our recent trip to york! {you can revisit part one here}

ghost hunt of york

no visit to a medieval city would be complete without a ghost tour: would it?

i’m a sucker for a bit of history, some storytelling & goosebump-inducing tales of the dead, so when in york we decided to squeeze in a quick stroll with the spirits before dinner…

the hope was that the tour might at least lead us down some alleyways we were yet to explore or give us a little history of some of the sites…

no such luck! {& it was completely our fault for not doing our research in advance}

& so it was we spent the next hour & ten minutes being paraded around the city by a long-haired, middle-aged pirate: as you do!

{note, we did not take the ghost tour pictured above}

the eeriest aspect of our entire tour was the fact that our host, resplendent in a feathered cap, more than faintly resembled the painted portrait of guy fawkes hanging outside our first floor bedroom back at the inn…

& the most entertaining part of our walk? that would be reading the hilarious trip advisor reviews of our tour guide the next morning which seemed very much in keeping with our own experience…

live & learn…

hoping to end the night on a rather more upbeat note, we headed to the blue bicycle restaurant where we had dinner reservations…

blue bicycle restaurant

once there we were escorted down a spiral staircase to our table in the blood-red dining room below…

a former brothel, this room featured a series of low-ceilinged alcoves dotting the perimeter into which private tables were set for two: intimate dining indeed!

at the turn of last century these same alcoves had housed beds &, whilst i suspect there may have been menus of one sort or another circulating, i wildly doubt the home-made soup, salmon starter & sirloin steaks we enjoyed that night were in keeping with the offerings of back in the day!

a little delving & i discover that the alcoves aren’t the restaurant’s only hint at its less than salubrious past…

indeed, this eatery gets its name from the preferred mode of transport of the former proprietress: legend has it she always rode a blue bicycle about town & its presence parked outside the building signalled to clients that the establishment was open for business…

oh the romance!

guy fawkes inn

after dinner we headed back to our equally-atmospheric lodgings for a swift nightcap before calling it a night…

there’s little more charming than being awoken from one’s dreams by the sounding of sunday morning church bells from the nearby minster {a symphony enjoyed from the comfort of our room’s four-poster bed}

a quick breakfast by candlelight later {odd, but again atmospheric} & we were off to continue our historical tour of york…

jorvik centre

the jorvik viking centre is deservedly one of the more popular tourist attractions in york…

straddling a former archaeological site where 1,000 year old remains of a former viking city were uncovered, it affords unrivalled insight into a world long-since passed: the remains of ancient houses rest literally beneath your feet & excavated artefacts abound…

truth be told, i was a little history-lessoned out by this stage so didn’t make the most of the many informative displays throughout the museum, but i genuinely enjoyed the tour of a reconstructed viking village…

strapped into a pod-like craft, you hover & whirl along the ancient streets of jorvik: strange smells & sites surround you & the sound of a blacksmith hammering away in the distance whilst you eavesdrop on conversations held in old norse really does transport you back in time…

i was so enthralled by this part of the exhibit i’d seriously contemplate revisiting the museum just to do this bit again!

york city walls

back outside & a brisk walk around the city walls snapped us back into the present day…

it was cold & blustery atop the stone walls, but this exhilerating walk afforded lovely views & allowed us to gain some perspective of the city’s layout below…

a full circuit takes approximately two hours, but we could only get half way around before we had to head back into town for our penultimate rendezvous: afternoon tea at betty’s cafe tea rooms

betty's afternoon tea

i’d read good things about bettys & it didn’t disappoint: moist sandwiches, fresh scones & cakes made on the premises…

bettys itself was built by frederick belmont following his trip on the maiden voyage of the queen mary in 1936: he was so taken aback with what he witnessed therein that he commissioned the ship’s designers & craftsmen to create this lovely inner-city cafe…

we took tea amongst the refined art deco surrounds of the upstairs belmont room & were serenaded by the tinkling of ivory in the distance {a nice touch}

the sugar hit, washed down with lashings of freshly-brewed tea, was just what we needed before making our final stop in york…

railway museum york

the national railway museum in york is a trainspotter’s paradise, but for those less-enamoured by locomotives it still makes for an interesting visit…

the museum is expansive & features everything from replica rockets to streamlined bullet trains {& pretty much everything in between}, but the exhibit that captured my imagination most was the royal carriages housed in the magnificent station hall…

here we could see the spoils of privilege laid out before us with all its pomp & passementerie…

but, despite being privy to the royal coffers, it was comforting to witness that when it comes to train journeys there’s a limit to how much comfort money can actually buy…

& so it was with this new-found knowledge that we happily boarded our own, slightly less glamourous, train back to london, bringing to an end our 30 hours in york…

exhausted? we were!

image of the blue bicycle restaurant via: the blue bicycle restaurant

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…

my summer…

if i could ascribe a colour palette to the amalfi coast it would consist of various combinations of the same three colours: burnt orange, sky blue & lemon {naturally}…

it’s a scheme oft repeated in the various seaside townships that dot this coastline along the south of the sorrentine peninsula: in the sunshades & deckchairs, religious shrines & ceramic souvenirs…

& it’s a colour combination which will, for me at least, forever speak of summer…

since my first visit four years ago, this italian idyll has beckoned me like a siren’s song in the still of the night… & this summer that call was finally answered {thankfully with less traumatic results than for those folkloric sailors}

my mum, boyfriend & i first overnighted in napoli to break up the journey from london & then joined my inlaws to take the morning hydrofoil to sorrento… from there we continued by road to our base for the first week, a villa in the hillside retreat of positano…

the trecherous, but incredibly scenic, cliff-edge route is nothing short of exhilarating: whilst passing through tunnels chiselled from the rock, looping in & out of hair pin bends & seemingly defying gravity as the car wheels hug the external barricades, a sense of calm descends upon you once you realise, should it be your time, there are most definitely worse places to meet your fate…

afterall, this is where heaven meets earth…

known for its breathtaking scenery, sunny climes & sfusato amalfitano {lemons}, the amalfi coast is a huge drawcard for visitors from near & far… & despite my preference to avoid overly-touristy destinations, i can overlook this shortfall on account of all the other gems the region has to offer…

to a queensland girl, like myself, beaches consisting of hot, grey pebbles lined with orderly rows of costly deck chairs & view-obscuring umbrellas took some getting used to… but i’ve come to love the notion of organised beaches where you hire a deck chair & drinks & snacks are ferried to your sunbed whilst you while away the hours with a spot of light reading, sporadic napping & people watching {the most fun by far}…

we spent several glorious days doing exactly that…

exploring a town like positano, with its unexpected nooks & fabulous vistas, winding stairways & vine-covered alleys, was my second favourite pursuit… & the lure to explore & fill my camera’s memory card was only abated by the blazing mediterranean sun…

but sometimes seeking refuge from the heat of the day reaped its own rewards too…

some of them truly divine!

excursions to amalfi, ravello & sorrento, & ultimately our move to capri, were just a ferry ride away & brought more photo opportunities than a click-happy girl could hope for…

along with a good dose of local humour…

some age-old regional pride…

& a dedication to devotion which proved virtually omnipresent…

colour-washed walls…

jewel-toned tiles…

& decorative niches were never far from reach either…

yes indeed, i can definitely think of few better places to end spend your days!

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