France on film

I’m a big fan of film photography, and although I don’t take use my film camera as often as I’d like to, I adore looking through the pictures. Film photographs have that wonderful nostalgia, hazy quality that is so popular now with modern camera apps – but I always prefer the real thing. We usually just get the negatives developed, then scan them in ourselves. It’s more time-consuming, but means we can choose which ones to print out and immortalise on our walls.

We recently got the film from our Summer jaunt to France developed, and with the weather round these parts turning gradually colder, I’ve loved looking through pictures from warmer climes. To sum up, we drove to the Loire Valley to buy wine for our wedding next year: via Paris, down to Batilly-en-Puisaye, where we stayed in a treehouse; through the lovely town of Gien, then through miles and miles of wine country in Blois, Tours and Saumur; then to Nantes, where we visited Les Machines de l’île. We then drove up through Rennes, along the north coast and spent our last night and morning in France looking out across the channel, towards home. It was a busy trip, but a really fun one too, and I’m sure these photos from our last holiday together as “single” people will bring us joy for years to come. I hope you enjoy this bit of Summer in your Autumn.

(You can see more of my film adventures right here.)


An Estonian love affair

Last month, we spent a week in Tallinn, Estonia. We like to visit unusual, off-the-beaten-track sort of places, and Tallinn certainly didn’t disappoint. When we arrived we had just missed the latest big snowfall, so it was very cold, with the ground white and icy, but the sky was blue and clear – perfect weather for exploring. Tallinn is a small but beautiful city, a true mix of ancient town walls and modern shops. We stayed just at the edge of the Old Town, the perfect spot for exploring local wool shops, vintage stores and cafés, and as well as good access to museums and flea markets further out of town.

Before holidays, we like to do plenty of research. This usually involves scouring the internet for local flea markets, festivals and recommendations of good places to eat/drink/party. While researching Tallinn, we stumbled across a wonderful resource called Like a Local. Currently covering almost thirty cities across Europe, the Like a Local guide includes only recommendations from locals. In the words of the guide’s creators, it is “about finding those cool and hidden spots that locals like to hang out and missing the tourist traps. All our content is created by selected locals who’ve lived in their city for years and really know what they’re talking about.”

Brilliant! We thought. And it really was – especially since the guide has a mobile app, which requires no internet connectivity when you’re out and about. This was especially helpful in Tallinn, where many restaurants and bars which were lovely inside didn’t look exactly, erm, welcoming from the outside. If you are holidaying in Europe anytime soon I would heartily recommend checking out the Like a Local website and app. This guide truly helped us out every day of our holiday, and thanks to it, we ate, drank and shopped in some great, and extremely varied, places.

Ok, I think I’ve gushed enough about the guide, haven’t I? (Seriously though, check it out. It’s great.) Our week away really was magical, with highlights including exploring the many woolly-goods shops in the Old Town; catching local buses and trams to trapped-in-time flea markets; the snowy wonderland of Kadriorg Palace; getting engaged; taking a day tour of the stunning Lahemaa National Park; visiting the brilliant Puppet and Seaplane Harbour Museums; and of course, eating some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted. Giant pancakes anyone? Oh, did I mention we got engaged!? More about that below…for now, though, here are some photos:

we did it
So…the engagement! In the middle of our third day in Tallinn, in a tiny, cosy little café called Chocolaterie Pierre, Jim proposed. I was taken completely by surprise, especially as I had no idea when he would have been to get a ring. Turns out he had been fibbing about where he was going and sneaking off ring shopping with his friend Stan. Crafty! Of course I said yes, and for the rest of the holiday we were in a delirious happy bubble, so much so that I didn’t really fancy coming home…but I knew the reactions from our family and friends would be wonderful, and they were. We are getting married in May 2014 in the Welsh countryside, and I am so excited!

So Tallinn will always hold a special place for us, not just for obvious reasons, but because it is a beautiful place. A sparkly ring always helps to make a holiday, but when the city itself is a true gem, well, you can’t really go wrong.

You can see the rest of our holiday snaps over on flickr.

Snow adventures

We recently had a LOT of snow around these parts, which, like many of our friends, we took as the perfect opportunity to go frolicking. Erddig House is a National Trust property in Wrexham, which features an 18th Century country house and a beautiful 485-hectare country park. We are lucky enough to live within walking distance of the park, and have enjoyed many picnics, walks and frisbee games in the summer sunshine. It’s a lovely place, popular with dog-walkers and families alike, and is a wonderful pocket of greenery right near the town centre.

So when the snow came, we decided to spend an afternoon in Erddig, wandering through snowdrifts and taking photographs. Although the snow caused a lot of disruption in the town, it also transformed our surroundings into a Winter wonderland. Erddig was especially enchanting, and I was awestruck by the beauty we encountered on our walk. Snow may be annoying, but it has the power to make everything silent, calm, and utterly stunning. Here are some photos from our afternoon out – and you can find the whole set over on Flickr.


Lately: Liberty Christmas shop

The final part in my London trilogy is by no means the least. I’ve written about the wonderful knitting shop and craft fair I stumbled across on our last trip down south, and today is the turn of the CHRISTMAS SHOP. Yes, it’s time to get excited. Even back in September I was giddy as heck when, upon entering the lift in the Liberty store, I looked up to see that floor four contained a Christmas shop. Now, in late November, even looking back at the photos makes me downright giddy for that fast-approaching fuzzy-feeling time. I can’t wait!

To get you in the mood too, I would love to share my photos. If you haven’t ever been to Liberty before, I strongly recommend you add it to your “places to visit in London” list (we all have one, right?). Sitting majestically just off Regent Street in Soho, it is an enormous black and white mock-Tudor building which dominates the road. It is best viewed from Argyll Street, the pedestrianised street opposite, when its true size and beauty is clear.

Liberty is worth a visit just for a nose around the beautiful building, which was built in the late 1800s and has four huge floors. Each one has a mezzanine around a stunning middle section, through which hangs a shimmering glass centrepiece.

Liberty sells a huge array of items, from homewear such as cushions, candles, crockery, lighting and home furnishings (they even have a rug room!) to stationery, make up, perfume and accessories (the hat and scarf room is stunning), as well as clothes for men, women and children AND a lovely little flower shop. Phew!

Usually, though, I head straight from the little card and stationery shop up to the fabric and haberdashery section on the third floor. If you are crafty-minded, this too will be your favourite place. Packed full of Liberty’s own printed fabric (and clothes in said fabric), sewing and knitting accessories, it is hard to know where to start. It truly is a haven of loveliness.

In true Liberty style, the Christmas shop was equally jam-packed full of beautiful things. Christmas music played, lights were strung across the ceilings, and magical offerings peeked out from every corner: crackers and paper decorations and fat stuffed robins and furry reindeer and sparkly Christmas cards and wrapping paper, and hundreds and hundreds of different glittery shimmering Christmas baubles. It was a real winter wonderland! After a lot of umming and aahing I came away with my own little fat robin and oversized baby-pink pearlescent bauble. Beautiful.

I highly recommend you hop on down to Liberty to get some Christmas shopping done, but if you can’t make it to London you can always internet browse in the online Christmas shop. Just put some festive music on, get yourself a mulled wine, and imagine you’re there. Did I mention I’m off to London again this weekend to visit my brother? I’m sure he won’t mind a little stop-off…

Lately: Renegade Craft Fair

Our jaunt to London last month not only included a trip to knitting heaven, but also lots of other fun things. So fun in fact, that I thought they deserved their own blog posts. Today it’s my visit to the Renegade Craft Fair, which took place in the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. You may well have heard of Renegade Craft Fair, who are the bees knees at organising fairs showcasing the very best in beautiful handmade goods. The team behind RCF held their very first fair back in 2003 in Chicago, with only 75 stallholders. Since then they have gone from strength to strength, adding Austin, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco to their regular locations. And then, in 2011, they made their debut over here, holding their first ever UK fair in London.

I have known of RCF for a while, and enjoyed following their craft fairs via flickr. The fairs tend to be huge, featuring hundreds of stallholders at a time, and encompassing a wide range of handmade goods including housewares, ceramics, jewellery, paper goods, clothing, artwork, wool, comics…phew! So imagine my delight when I found out that the next London fair would be taking place the same weekend I was going to be there! Now that, I thought, is crafting fate.

And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a lovely sunny day, and the fair was bustling – held in a huge hall above the famous food hall on Brick Lane, it was an ideal spot. At times, it felt a bit like being in a greenhouse, with the sun streaming in through the glass roof, but being a bit warm wasn’t going to stop me enjoying the lovely crafts. And lovely they were! I came away with beautiful jewellery from Lovely Pigeon and Oh, Hello Friend, a whole stack of business cards and, as usual, many a photograph – some of which you can see below. You can find the rest over on flickr. And if you happen to find a Renegade fair happening in your next of the woods anytime soon, you know the drill: GO!

In the loop

A few weeks ago, I accompanied the boys behind Salle Pierre Lamy on a short trip to London. In between going on the radio, eating large quantities of food and lots of giddy running around in Liberty’s (just me, really, that one), Jim and Ian succumbed to being dragged into the Loop knitting shop, in Islington.

If you have never heard of Loop, it is a knitting mecca. You may well have seen their adverts in knitting and crochet magazines, and they have a strong online presence with a lovely, but positively evil, shop and a great blog, packed full of knitting and crochet-related news, patterns and events. I have visited the Loop shop on previous trips to London, but this time I was armed with a camera.

The shop is a lovely little haven in Camden Passage, bright and colourful and stuffed full with glorious things to look at: countless shelves and jars of buttons, washi tape, skeins of thread arranged in rainbow colours, knitted oddments and various crafty magazines and brochures. There is an actual WALL OF WOOL that greets you as you walk in, where you stop and realise with a tingly feeling that you will be spending a lot of money today. Delightful handmade paper decorations adorn the windows, and upstairs, there is an alphabetised bookcase of craft books, along with a basket full of wool, crocheted blankets and the most amazing rug I have ever seen.

The women in the shop were happy for me to take photos, and they didn’t even seem to mind when I didn’t actually buy anything. To be honest, I was too overwhelmed by it all! It’s difficult to find just one thing to buy in Loop, so when you go, remember two things:

1) That week, you will probably be eating only beans on toast
2) You should definitely not blame me when this happens

Enjoy the photos!

Lately: Lisbon edition

Admiring: Lisbon’s beautiful architecture and pastel-coloured buildings

Falling: in love with the magical haven of nearby Sintra

Exploring: Lisbon’s botanical gardens, streets, flea markets, views – and cafés

Finding: inspiration in Lisbon’s beautiful old tiles

Spending: quality fun time with one of my oldest, and best, friends

For yet more photos from our holiday head on over to flickr.