Friday, 25 March 2016


So lovely to be able to enjoy afternoon tea with our good friends, Gillian and Carol, 
in the sumptuous surroundings of Oulton Hall in Leeds.  Built in the early 18th century as a luxurious home - set within 300 acres of grounds with its own church - for the Blayds family, it is now part of the Q Hotels group which has invested in a major refurbishment programme to bring it back to its former glory.   

Oulton Hall has had quite a chequered history, having been largely destroyed by fire in the mid 1800s.  Following a rebuild, it served has a convalescent home during WWI, then a mental hospital, and by the 1970s was listed as derelict. In the 1990s it was bought by a hotel chain which invested £20m in its refurbishment, creating the hotel we largely see today.

Its sweeping landscape gardens make it a great destination for afternoon tea which is served in the imposing Drawing Room by an efficient and friendly team of waiters and waitresses. The food was excellent and the Prosecco went down rather well too - they had to almost throw us out at 6.30pm we were enjoying ourselves so much!

Gillian wears a Mint Velvet top and jeans and shoes purchased on a trip to France. Anne C wears jacket from M & S, dress and shoes from Hobbs and handbag is one she has owned for years.
Anne H wears jacket from Massimo Dutti, jeans from MIH, jumper from Cos, silver bracelet from The White Company and handbag from Michael Kors.

Carol wears a top from Zara and jeans from M & S   We think for a group of ladies in their sixties we are wearing pretty darn well.  Mind you, the calorie count of the cakes may fill us out a bit too much for our own good. 


Friday, 18 March 2016


Anne C here.
Visiting the medieval city of Bruges is like stepping into a Disney film set. With perfectly neat cobbled streets and unbelievably pretty buildings, you expect to see Belle wandering the streets before she becomes entrapped by the Beast!

My trip - with daughter Louise - was a Mother's Day gift and of course she accompanied me on our mini-break.  The weather was very cold but clear and sunny, so perfect for sight-seeing.

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Rather than fly, we took the P&O overnight ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge, which not only works out much cheaper, but is a less stressful way to travel, with hardly any queues, and no baggage restrictions.  Our suite on the way out was very basic and tiny, so we upgraded to a larger suite on our return journey, which was a little more spacious, and perfectly adequate.
We arrived in Bruges fresh and relaxed before a coach took us into the city and dropped us off by a pretty park. Unfortunately it was a bit of a hike to the hotel, but probably our own fault as we didn't have a map.


Now a world UNESCO Heritage site, the city of Bruges was a thriving trading centre in the Middle Ages, trading in exotic goods from throughout Europe.  As a prosperous city built on the back of the textile trade, the merchants built their magnificent buildings, and art and culture flourished.

Today there are museums to suit just about every taste and interest, from history to health, but since we spent only a couple of days there, we had to make do with a whirlwind tour.

The first thing we did was about as touristy as you can get - we went for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.The carriage driver spoke perfect English and gave us a running commentary of all the buildings as we passed. Starting with the bell tower in the main market place (shown in a scene from the film "In Bruges" starring Colin Farrell (more of which later), to the various museums, to the oldest buildings and the fine art in the local churches.

Top of our list was the Chocolate Museum - Choco-Story.  For 8 Euros each, we learned how chocolate is harvested and made into the favourite sweet in the world, and watched a demonstration of a chocolatier making praline - with lots of free samples of course. You can even take part in a chocolate-making workshop.

Staying with the chocolate theme, we did our best to sample as many hot chocolates as we could in the numerous pavement cafes.  Top of the list must be at the delightful Old Chocolate House, where the menu is just chocolate, and of course, there is a shop downstairs where you can buy - yes - chocolate!

Bruges Chocolate House

So back to the Bell Tower, which we were told had 366 steps to the top.  The stairs were very steep, with very little to hold onto, and it was awkward to pass those coming down the stairs.  I managed to get to the 128th stair before admitting defeat and coming back, but my fit young daughter carried on, but even she struggled towards the top, where she was almost on her hands and knees because the steps were so narrow and steep. I saw the pictures she took at the top, which were stunning, but I knew I wouldn't have made it up there.


Our hotel - the Duke's Palace - had a huge turret outside, so when we were looking for it, I thought it would be easy to spot.  Wrong - just about every building has a turret! The accommodation was absolutely stunning.  Our twin room was huge with amazingly comfortable beds, while the bathroom was unbelievable, with large bath, huge separate shower and sumptuous L'Occitane toiletries.

Bruges Hotel Dukes Palace

The friendly receptionist easily switched languages from German, to French to English as he answered questions from guests and chatted to his colleagues. In fact, everywhere we went, everyone spoke perfect English so we didn't even need our Flemish phrase book.


Later in the afternoon, we took a boat trip around the canals, which surprisingly used to allow the massive trading ships in, until they silted up and became too small for anything other than boats.


Almost every shop in Bruges sells either chocolate, Belgian beer or lace and tapestry - the latter being something the merchants' wives took up to pass the time, but the tradition continues today and creates a thriving tourist industry.

If we went looking for local fashions, we were a little dismayed to find the shops were mainly the same as at home - Zara, H&M, New Look - and a blast from the past with C&A.

I did manage to do some shopping (of course!) We found a pretty shop called " Gifts At Home" off the main market place, which sold kitchen gadgets and pretty nick nicks.  But I fell in love with a luxe quilted and diamante soap and make up bag set which I just had to have for my next travels. I also found a 4711 perfume shop in the main market place, which gave me a touch of nostalgia.  I remember my mother wearing the original 4711 perfume when we lived in Germany some 50 years ago.  Now they have a whole range of delicious fragrances which were too hard to resist.

We only managed a couple of meals out, but discovered fries with mayonnaise at Ellis Gourmet Burgers - especially delicious mixed either with tarragon or mustard!  Beware of eating in the main market square, however as the prices are much more expensive than the side streets.

One thing I didn't manage to see was the diamond museum as we simply ran out of time. 

Sounds like a good excuse to return!


Friday, 11 March 2016

La Ville Lumière - PARIS

Anne H here, reporting on a fabulous trip to Paris, from where I have just returned, with my daughter Lizzy.  This is definitely the most beautiful city in the world and somewhere I fall in love with just a little bit more each time I visit.  

I thought I would share with you, not just a couple of outfits, but some of the places we visited to shop, eat and drink and of course, sightsee.  We were there at the same time the Paris fashion shows were on so the city was teeming with amazingly dressed women and quite a few men besides!


Chez Fernand on 9 Rue Christine in Saint-Germain is a restaurant I have visited before and it did not disappoint on my return.  They serve what is possibly the best boeuf bourguignon I have ever tasted, in lively, unpretentious surroundings. 

Paris Restaurant Chez FernandWe enjoyed a lovely lunch at La Cidrerie du Marais on 4 Rue de Sevigne in the Marais.  They offer incredible savoury and sweet crepes and I enjoyed one of each washed down with sweet cider.... might not be the best for the waistline but worth the gain. 

Paris restaurant Cidre CreperieParis restaurant Cidre Creperie

Cafes did not go unnoticed either.  Amongst those we visited of note would be Le Cafe Marly in the courtyard of the Louvre, overlooking Pei's pyramid, where we enjoyed a cappuccino and croissant, both of which were great but the pastry was a little too dainty for my liking.Paris Cafe Le Cafe Marly

For an unbelievable hot chocolate make a stop at Jean Paul Hevin on Rue Saint Honore where the patisseries and chocolates are beyond your wildest dreams.  We chose a hot chocolate with raspbery coulis.  You are under strict instructions to not stir the drink - in fact you are not even given a spoon, so strict is the regime - so you drink the chocolate through the raspberry sauce.  Amazing!

Paris cafe Jean Paul Hevin


We certainly made the most of the delights of Paris shopping and made sure to visit our favourite shopping streets and areas.  These included Saint Germain to pop into COS but more importantly to take in Le Bon Marche.  This bills itself as the first ever modern department store and includes luxury fashion boutiques, accessories, furniture, an incredible shoe section and of course beauty.  But it also reflects a strong creative vibe and includes an Iris Apfel exhibition and most dramatically artist Ai Weiwei who has employed Chinese kite making skills to create mythical creatures as shown here in front of the escalators - which are rather beautiful in their own right.
Paris Shopping Le Bon Marche

It is impossible to spend time in Paris and not walk miles, but you see so much more of the city by doing so and it really does not seem like hard work. We made sure to take in some of the high-end designer stores on Rue Saint Honore, Rue du Faubourg and Ave Montaigne and they did not disappoint for making us lust over amazing shoes, handbags and clothes.
While on Rue Saint Honore we made sure to pop into Collette, a real cult concept store stocking an array of merchandise and including the Water Bar in the basement which stocks more than 90 water brands.

We also spent time in the Marais where there are some trendy boutiques and concept stores mixed with major chains, including an amazing Uniqlo. All interspersed with some of the hippest (I think that is a word) bars and restaurants in town.

We made a special stop at Shakespeare and Company on the recommendation of our hosts. This is an English-language bookstore on the banks of the Seine, overlooking Notre-Dame and is definitely worth making the effort to visit with rooms packed with books and atmosphere. And there is a lovely cafe as well - perfect for savouring a cup of coffee while enjoying your book purchase.

Paris shopping Shakespeare & Co

Paris shopping Shakespeare & Co


There really is no better way to experience Paris than on foot. Turn a corner and you are confronted by the iconic Eiffel Tower in all it's glory.  The medieval beauty of the narrow streets in the Latin Quarter and Marais delights, but walk a little further and you experience Haussmann's Paris in all its neo-classical beauty.  

Paris Eiffel Tower

Paris architecture

Paris architecture

Paris Iconic Metro sign


Yes,  as promised I will touch on a couple of my outfits.  One that I wore and one that I purchased.

First up features a coat from La Redoute  from designer Coralie Marabelle and available in the sale.  The scarf and jumper are from COS and jeans from 7 for all mankind. 

Paris fashion outfit

Paris fashion outfit

And featuring a Uniqlo purchase with a jumper from their Lemaire collection and georgette printed blouse .


Friday, 4 March 2016


Well, as it is nearly Mother's Day we thought we would do a post all about our wonderful daughters, Louise and Lizzy.   We are both Godmothers to our respective daughters so that makes Mothering Sunday all the more poignant to us. We really can't understand why there aren't Daughters and Sons Days - surely the greetings card industry is missing a trick!
Because our daughters are really worth celebrating and we are both so proud of them in our capacities as both mothers and godmothers.

Anne C is pictured here with Louise.  Anne is wearing a sweater from H&M, scarf from local boutique Oaks in Leeds.  Louise wears a coat from M & S and a scarf from Primark

Anne H and Lizzy are pictured at Lizzy's graduation last summer.  Anne is wearing a Valentino jacket from Catherine Smith Vintage  a fabulous shop in Harrogate - well worth a visit to hunt down some amazing designer finds.  Teaming this with a Jaeger cross-over dress from the summer sales.  Lizzy is wearing a Victoria Beckham shift dress from the Harvey Nichols sale.  

What is really lovely is that Lizzy and Louise have been friends all their lives and as they are both in the twenties they can definitely rival their mums in the length of their friendship. An enduring friendship with holidays, Christmas and weekends away.

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers, godmothers and most especially daughters.   

© Sensational Baby Boomers

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