Sensational Baby Boomers

Friday, 21 April 2017

CHESTER MINI BREAK




We love to travel abroad, but there are so many great places in the UK to visit that we thought we would love to see a little bit more of our own country, so we booked a short mini-break recently and headed for the historic city of Chester.

With its pretty Tudor buildings and historic walls, it was the ideal place - and not too far away from us since we live in the north of England.


On a personal recommendation from a friend, we stayed overnight at Edgar House - which has recently been voted the No.1 Small Hotel in the World on TripAdvisors Travellers' Choice Awards.  This is a lovely Georgian hotel with just seven bedrooms and is renowned for good food at its Twenty2 restaurant, which is also open to members of the public. Both our dinner, and breakfast the next morning were beautifully served, cooked and presented.

The hotel is situated on the banks of the River Dee close to the remains of the Roman Baths (a medieval spa no less!) and was just a short stroll into town.  Our Garden Room was on the ground floor, with a small terrace in the garden (obviously!)  While lovely and quiet at this time of year, we can imagine that since the garden accommodates the outside eating area for the restaurant, it could get noisy in the summer months.


The room was lovely and comfortable, and the bathroom was fabulous - with lovely Molton Brown toiletries - in fact in their partnership with Molton Brown visitors can pop into the shop and get a glass of Prosecco!  Unfortunately we didn't see the shop, but instead settled for afternoon tea with scones and jam in the small comfortable lounge at Edgar House.







We headed for the city centre and marvelled at the wonderful buildings, walking around the city walls and taking pictures of the second most photographed clock in England, after Big Ben.  The EastGate clock stands on the city walls and marks the original entrance to the city and Roman fortress of Deva Victrix, although the clock was not added until 1899.








The main shopping area is in and off Eastgate Street, with its famous medieval galleried two tiered Rows - the oldest shopping facade in England. This was originally a market town, and Chester's retail heritage included fruit, root and herb markets with horse, cloth and cheese fairs flourishing in the city. While today there are many high street names,  there are also a number of individual boutiques and independent shops not found elsewhere. Wander off the main street and there are a number of cobbled side streets and alleys where you can find a few treasures.





We popped into the Chester Grosvenor Hotel for a quick cocktail - one mojito and one vodka, rhubarb and vanilla cocktail which I can't remember the name of, but it was delicious! It was definitely a place for ladies who lunch and for afternoon tea, although on this occasion, we didn't!

Other places worth a mention are the remains of the Roman Amphitheatre and the stunning Chester Cathedral, both of which are in the city centre.  A previous visit for me also included a day at the oldest race course in the country, Chester Races - the Roodee - and which was originally a Roman harbour, no less! Another venue worth mentioning, particularly if you have children, is Chester Zoo just a little way out of the city, which claims that wildlife conservation is at the heart of everything they do.

For us, however, day two of our little trip was a visit to the designer outlet Cheshire Oaks, which stands in a huge shopping complex of designer and high street outlets at Ellesmere Port. And while we marvelled at Ralph Loren and Michael Kors - we just went home with a few special offer Molten Brown bubbles!
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Friday, 14 April 2017

SARAH LEWIS SPECIAL OCCASION JACKETS


This is our final post from our new designer friend, Sarah Lewis, who makes the most beautiful coats and jackets, and this week we are showcasing special occasion jackets – and let it be said that Anne C fell in love with the black and gold Linton Tweeds jacket she is wearing.

Linton Tweeds is the favoured fabric of the House of Chanel and other prestigious high fashion labels. Woven at their factory in Carlisle, Linton Tweeds has been a favourite luxury fabric since the early 1900s, and is available for anyone to buy – but not until several seasons after the couture houses!



Anne is wearing “Jane”, in black and gold Linton Tweed wool/mixed fibre with a luxurious 100% satin acetate gold lining. This is a collarless, swing jacket with loose fitted sleeves and side pockets. The buttons are original art deco vintage glass. 








Anne H is wearing “Ciana”, a straight, collarless coat with fitted sleeves and four fringed patch pockets in wool and mixed fibres in an off-white colour with contrasting dark grey thread running through. It has a gold lining in 100% satin acetate.






Our final jacket, worn by Anne C is another “Jane” whose dominant colour is oatmeal/natural with bright threads and a silver thread running through. It has a pearl white lining in 100% satin acetate.







We hope you have enjoyed reading about Sarah and her designs, and trust you will join us in wishing her every success in her new business.  Please feel free to browse her website here – she is a lovely lady and has worked incredibly hard to produce her range and deserves to succeed, and we wish her well in the future.
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Friday, 7 April 2017

MY TOP TOURIST SPOTS IN ROME


Welcome to Part 2 of my Roman journey where I want to share some of my favourite places to visit.  First I must start by saying my top tip for visiting any city is to take a hop on, hop off bus tour and get your bearings, spot some of the places you absolutely must go back to and some places you might not even have thought of visiting.  It is not an expensive way to see a city and you get a good overall feel, particularly if you do the full circuit in one sitting. 
On the steps in the Garden of the Palazzo Barberini
ART GALLERIES 

Rome is exceptional for art lovers whether you are visiting the Vatican's picture gallery, The Borghese Gallery, or as we did the Palazzo Barberini which houses the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica. Contained in this magnificent palazzo in the centre of Rome are over 500 works of art spread over 34 rooms featuring artists such as Caravaggio and Raphael.  



There were so many works that I found it rather a slog after a while, but I never tired of seeing the ceiling frescos that were just magnificent!


And I was particularly thrilled to see the Caravaggios, notably the Narcissus painting which was completed in the 16th century. 

A favourite from a previous visit is the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj on the Via del Corso with its beautiful renaissance arched courtyard.   It managed to combine splendid apartments with the history of the previous occupants and a gallery housing the masterpieces of the Doria Pamphilj's private collection.  I felt this was a more intimate experience and more to my taste.

CHURCHES 

With more than 200 churches and 19 Basilicas within the ancient city alone, there is always a gem to be found even before venturing to the Vatican City.  Just turn a corner and you will likely spy a magnificent church,  venture in and prepare to be awe-inspired by what you find.   


One such find for us was the Church of St. Mary Magdalene on Via della Maddalena, the magnificent vault of which was decorated by Michelangelo Cerruti between 1730-32 and portrays the Episodes in the life of St Mary Magdalene. 


The gilded elements, vibrant paintings with antique-yellow marble panelling give the most sumptuous finish. 


One other church I would particularly like to visit on my next visit is located in the Piazza della Repubblica and is the unusual Santa Maria degli Angeli which was dedicated to all the Christians who died constructing the Baths of Diocletian - the remains from which the church has been built within.  

VATICAN CITY

I have never visited the Vatican Museums or the Sistine Chapel as I am not particularly keen on religious inspired art en-masse, which I am pretty sure is my loss and something I should rectify, but I do think I still have a lot of impressive churches to visit before I venture further into the Vatican.  I do however love to visit St. Peter's Square to feast my eyes on St Peter's Basilica the greatest church in Christendom.  


I have visited the Vatican City in the daytime before and it is so busy that it is hard to take in the beauty of St Peters Square and Basilica.  But go in the evening as we did and the square is all but deserted.  You can walk right up to the steps and see the Swiss Guards on duty in all their magnificent finery.



ANCIENT ROME 

We decided to book ourselves a Viator half day trip to see the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill and it proved a really good decision.  Our guide, Marco, was an archaeologist and therefore incredibly knowledgeable.  The tour takes around 3 hours and was not rushed in any way, even though there were 25 of us in the group, nor was it arduous.  You can skip the queues so you maximise your time in the various locations and can ask as many questions as you want.  

Enjoying a Cornetto before venturing into the Colosseum
I was really surprised to find out that the Colosseum had originally been the venue for naval battle re-enactments and they flooded the arena in the days before gladiatorial contests.  Being March it was not too busy so you could view the underground chambers in the Colosseum where gladiators grouped and the animals were housed before being winched to the arena floor.   
Underground chambers at the Colosseum Exploring the Roman Forum, seeing the House of the Vestal Virgins and being led by such a knowledgeable guide is well worth doing. Completed by a visit to the Palatine Hill to take in the remains of the Imperial Palace and wonder at the sheer scale of such an edifice built centuries ago.
The Arch of Constantine 
Walking back from the Palatine towards the Colosseum security was noticeable, as it is  throughout Rome, but then that is the norm in most European cities now. 

SPANISH STEPS AND TREVI FOUNTAIN

No trip to Rome is complete without a trip to the Spanish Steps, taking in the Trevi fountain on the way.  Make sure to pop into one of the many glove shops such as Sermoneta  where you can get the most incredible cashmere lined leather gloves in every colour of the rainbow.  Look out for some of the independent boutiques on the back streets as there are some fabulous finds to be made.
Spanish Steps

Try to get to the Trevi fountain earlier in the day so that you are not fighting hoards of people to have your picture taken or indeed throw coins into the fountain. 


Trevi Fountain

PANTHEON, Piazza della Rotonda  

Really this should be included under churches, but I think it deserves it's own stand alone billing, not least because it features what is still the worlds largest unsupported dome which was built nearly 2000 years ago - a staggering achievement before you even start thinking about the 16 columns that support the portico, weighing 60 tons each and literally manhandled from a quarry in Eygpt to Rome. 

Portico of the Pantheon 
The building is in superb condition and is the best preserved ancient building in Rome even retaining the original marble floor. And what a testament to the Romans it is.  The sheer beauty, scale and ingenuity of the engineering is amazing.  We had seen that they host concerts inside occasionally but unfortunately we had missed this, I would love to stand and listen to singers in what I am sure is an unbeatable acoustic environment.


Part of the magnificent Pantheon Dome
View from the portico into the Piazza della Rotonda

I can't recommend a trip to Rome enough.  It is such an easy city to walk and there is so much to see and do.  Whether you love history, art, shopping, fine dining .... it is there in abundance. I am already drawing up a list of places I still want to visit including the Catacombs - any other suggestions gratefully received.
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Friday, 31 March 2017

A ROMAN HOLIDAY


I was lucky enough to enjoy a short break in Rome last week and I can't recommend this time of year enough for visiting this beautiful city - which is one of my favourites in the world. I have been a number of times before, the last being in July 2015 when it was so so hot that we had to really time our excursions to miss the heat of the afternoon.  No such problem in late March, it was just perfect weather for a city break... fine to sit out and watch the world go by, and ideal for walking, walking, walking.



We stayed at a lovely apartment on the Via dei Cappellari, booked through Booking.com called the Rome as you feel - Cappellari apartment  It is near the Campo di Fiori and made a great base for visiting all the major attractions.  This is a really vibrant and lively area with a strong artisan vibe and a medieval feel to the streets.  

I prefer to book an apartment as I like the freedom that goes with a true home away from home where you don't have the worry of bumping into housekeeping, you can do your own washing, cooking and just blob out when you want.  This apartment was lovely - two bedrooms and bathrooms and with its own small terrace so we could sit out for breakfast before setting off on the tourist trail. 



It was beautifully decorated with lots of unusual artwork and every comfort of home.  There was air-conditioning in each room, which wasn't relevant for us but would be if you visited in the summer months.



Being so near the Campo Di Fiori there are lots of places to eat and there is also a daily market, selling everything from flowers to spices and some amazing shops - so you can easily cater for yourself should you wish to.  Not that we did. 

There are plenty of restaurants on the piazza itself but these tend to be more expensive than others nearby and are not my favourites.  But stopping for a drink and watching the world go by is a must.


On our first day out and about we were heading towards the Trevi Fountain and decided a lunch break was in order.  We just happened to turn a corner into the Piazza Accademia di S. Luca and came across Il Ristoro Dal Patriota with its pretty lace umbrellas over the seats where we enjoyed a pizza - nothing special but not over priced and very tasty.   






Our favourite and most highly recommended eatery was just yards from our apartment and we visited here on two evenings.  The Carbonara was amongst the best I have ever tasted and the service was excellent - friendly and not intrusive. 



Osteria dei Cappellari was evidently the haunt of a lot of locals and I can't think of a better recommendation for any establishment.  The wine was excellent and it was all really reasonably priced.



We were also lucky enough to have this lovely little coffee bar down the same street (via dei Cappellari) where we stopped for breakfast.  A really popular spot and one of the best coffees I have ever had.



Not the normal croissant (cornetto in Italy) but at the recommendation of the owner we had focaccia with ricotta and hazelnut spread.  Delicious. As it was on our street we walked past it a number of times and it was always buzzing, particularly at lunchtime.


Another place we visited a couple of times was the Tucci Ristorante on Piazza Navona.  As one of the top tourist destinations this was never going to be a budget option but I must say it was really good - good food, good value and good service.  And if you like Tartufo - well this is the place to go.  Great for people watching as well.



There will be another blog on Rome soon - such a fantastic place there's just too much to saY!
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