A postcard from November

Hello there! It’s the last day of November already eek! I’m not ready for December!!

It’s been a busy old month – perhaps that’s why it’s gone so quickly. It’s only now I look back at what we’ve been up that I’ve realised it’s been quite a lot.

In the latest twist of the Covid story it’s also been a month of regular trips to our local testing centre every time anyone gets a cough or sniffle or we are alerted about a close contact. I think we may have been about 10 times lately – I’m thinking of asking for loyalty points!! Fortunately all tests have come back negative.

Here’s what we’ve been up to this month…

A golden tree at the end of the rainbow

Yet again this year, after over a decade away from the UK I have loved seeing the beautiful colours of autumn this month. I may no longer have little people at home who like to make pictures out of autumn treasure, but I can’t help but pick up pretty leaves when I see them!

No it’s not Christmas yet!!

Eek – am I the only one who gets freaked out by early Christmas decorations? I took Littlest out for hot chocolate on 1st November to a local café and they had a huge tree, giant baubles… the works! On the first of November!!! Maybe I’m just a Scrooge but it’s seems a bit early to me. This photo was of the Trafford Centre on the first Saturday of November…. Christmas lights galore!

Meeting real people in real life!

One evening early in the month, I had the most wonderful time ‘out out’ in Manchester. Since February/March last year I have been a virtual member of a super community for podcasters.

After months and months of zoom virtual meet ups where we hear from real ‘professional’ podcasters and swap advice and help amongst our community, I actually got to meet everyone in real life!! What a thrill. (People were so much taller than I expected after spending so long just seeing them on my phone/laptop screen 😂! )

The occasion for this meet up was to celebrate the club’s 3rd birthday and the 30th meet up in total. There were drinks and even birthday cake!

If you are a podcaster yourself or are thinking of starting your own podcast do come along to a future zoom. The group’s called MIC’s Podcast Club and although it’s based in the North West of England, there are members from much further afield (like America) and I was still living in Gibraltar when I first joined. You can find them on Twitter @MICsPodcastClub and maybe one day you can have the thrill of seeing your own podcast up in lights on the wall of a real-life meet up!

Costa del Ship Canal

Littlest’s football match got cancelled one week and instead the team coach opted to run a team building training session in our local nature reserve.

It was a perfect morning for it – definitely worth setting the alarm for an early start on a Saturday!

Just look at those blues and the golden leaves….

That water almost looked Mediterranean – well almost – it is the Manchester Ship Canal!

Plastic hedge be gone!

In this era of everything needing to look perfect and be convenient, we end up with situations like astroturf and plastic hedges. I am not a fan at all. I’m a bit more slap dash and enjoy going with the flow with nature, plus I really enjoy gardening. So when we inherited this delightful plastic hedge at our new home last year, it’s days were numbered. It did a lot better than expected as other jobs took precedence but this month, it’s time was up.

It didn’t take long, it was so rotten inside it practically fell apart – very little force was needed at all. I’m looking forward to installing a rather more environmentally friendly replacement soon!

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

A few weeks ago I received a message from a lovely friend I used to know in Gibraltar. She, like me has moved back to the UK and is now based in the South East of England. She wanted to let me know she and her partner were having a few days up North and would I like to meet them at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park? Yes! Was my answer!!

Barbara Hepworth sculptures

Before we moved to Gibraltar, we lived in Wakefield just a stone’s throw from YSP and it was a regular destination for us as a family on a weekend. It was so lovely to be able to go back there – albeit briefly while the Little Postcards were at school.

Ai Weiwei’s Chinese Horoscope Characters

The weather was so kind to us. It was very cold but it was beautifully sunny. The perfect conditions for having a wander through the beautiful park and sculptures.

Close-up of one of Ai Weiwei’s Chinese Horoscope heads
You can never have a big enough hand bag!
A Diamond ring made out of car wheels!

We didn’t spend too long together as I was clock watching to get back across the Pennines in time for school pick up, so we didn’t get to see the whole of the park but one exhibition both myself and my friend (who’s also a crafter) enjoyed immensely was one by Joana Vasconcelos who likes to create amazing things out of everyday objects… like giant stilettos out of pots and pans…

…. Lots and lots of crochet!!! Viva crochet!

Just look at that intricate work!!

Close-up of the above statue
Animal heads enrobed in intricate crochet

But the next fabric structure stopped us in our tracks… it was huge!

The photo doesn’t do it justice – it was giant and filled the huge exhibition space. It was a combination of patchwork, embroidery and very complicated crochet.

The photo above shows the end of one of those tentacles and was over a metre in diameter.

There were also pictures made of bulbous crochet structures…

Finisterra 2018
Close-up of above picture
Heartbreak 2015

How about this for a giant pouffe for your living room?

There was also a sculpture made purely of red plastic knives & forks..

Red Independent Heart #3

And then more examples of intricate crochet covering everyday household items…

A double sink
Detail of the sink piece above
A urinal called ‘Purple Rain’

And a fabulous chair…

The back of the chair above

The Joana Vasconcelos exhibition is on until 9th January 2022 both in the underground gallery and with pieces in the open air too. The artist’s work is said to be “sculptures that comment with a feminist perspective on cultural identity and tradition and celebrate the creative lives of women” – YSP Guide.

It was a lovely visit to the YSP and fabulous to be able to see my friend again – who I hadn’t seen since pre-Covid times. I can highly recommend a visit if you haven’t been, I’ll certainly be back when I can spend longer there.

Sock knitting update

Remember the pair of socks I was knitting thanks to Christine Perry aka Winwick Mum’s fabulous book?

Well they’re finished!!

Knitted using the Winwick Mum Basic Sock Pattern in West Yorkshire Spinners 4ply in ‘Brightside’ also designed by Winwick Mum

I now have toasty warm toes!

In other crafty news, I’m currently working on Eleonora from Coastal Crochet’s Winter Walk Scarf CAL.

It took a while to get started as my hand-dyed skein I’d been saving for the right moment got into rather a big tangle…

But I got there in the end…

And I’m on my way!

Making Stitches Podcast

In podcast news, there have been 2 new episodes this month – both of them yarn inspired.

Emma Leith
(photo credit: Emma Leith Atelier)

The first was with the hugely talented and inspiring crochet designer Emma Leith. You can find that here.

Sara Mulvey from Black Sheep Wools
(Photo credit: Black Sheep Wools)

The second was a real treat to record because it meant I was able to go ‘back stage’ at the fabulous Black Sheep Wools Craft Barn and speak to Sara Mulvey. What a joy it was to have a proper chat with Sara after months of watching her videos through lockdown – it was such a positive part of a rather unpleasant time. You can listen to Sara’s episode here.

And finally…

My first ever crochet patterns have been launched and are available to buy from my Etsy Shop!

There’s Flora the Gardener and Hope the Snowdrop and all being well they will be joined by some more friends very soon!

And that’s just about it for this month. I hope November has been kind to you.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Lindsay x

Edit: I forgot to mention the snow! We also has some of the white stuff fall in the last few days – super exciting even if it was very cold!!

A Postcard from October

Well, here we are in November already. I really don’t know where the past month has gone. October has been such a busy month with day to day, nose to the grindstone kinds of things that I feel like I blinked and missed it. It’s only when I looked back at the photos on my phone that I realised what I had done and achieved – sadly I can’t share all of that with you, but before too much longer I will be able to – hurrah!

So here goes, here’s my postcard from October!

The beginning of the month began much as September ended, with children in school and me busily trying to get my ducks in a row for a deadline of the end of the month. As the calendar flipped into October the realisation dawned that by the end of the month, we would have been living in our ‘new’ home for exactly a year. It was Halloween last year that I hired a van, and with the help of two very strong friends, we moved from our rented temporary house into our very own home. That meant that twelve months had passed and there were still quite a lot of boxes sitting around the place hiding under crochet blankets….. they have many uses! I set myself the target of getting rid of the boxes by the end of the month. Did I manage it? Well, I’ll reveal all at the end!

There has been a definite autumnal chill in the air this month, and in case the changing colours and falling leaves didn’t give us a clue about the season, our neighbourhood squirrel (or maybe even squirrels) certainly let me know as they planted my newly cleared pots with all sorts of treats to sustain them through the winter!

Stepping far outside my comfort zone!

Early in the month, I was invited to do something utterly terrifying. I was asked to speak to a my local group of the WI about my podcast and crafts in general. Blimey it was a nerve wracking thing to do. I’m very happy to speak into a microphone in a room on my own but to speak to a room with about 100 pairs of eyes staring back at you – that’s quite another thing!! I debated long and hard about whether I should do it or not, but friends encouraged me to and I’m so glad I did. The ladies were lovely and didn’t bite! Not sure I’d do it again in a hurry but it was a bit of a high to know I’d managed it!

A lovely trip out

Christine and I outside Black Sheep Wools

Back in September I interviewed the lovely Christine Perry from Winwick Mum for Making Stitches Podcast (You can hear the episode here). While we were chatting online we realised that we are actually not that far apart geographically so we arranged to meet at one of my favourite places for a chat and a brew – Black Sheep Wools. It was so lovely to speak to Christine and get to know her a bit better, and she has helped me get over my fear of knitting in the round. As the ‘Queen of Socks’ (I hope she doesn’t mind me giving her that title!) she has helped thousands of people learn how to successfully knit socks with her ‘sockalong’ which you can find on her blog. At the last count, over 15,000 pairs of socks have been knitted by people using her technique and that’s just the ones she knows about. Incidentally Christine has just completed a whole month of daily blogging – phew what a feat! The above photo features in one of her posts!

Christine guided me (and another lady who happened to be in the shop at the same time) on what yarn to buy and what needles were needed to get started. So using her blog and her brilliant book, I have set off on a sock-making adventure. My initial momentum has been dulled by some necessary work on some crochet related items, but I’m back on it, and about to begin decreasing on my first toe!

In crochet news, my Making Stitches wreath which I made from a pattern in issue 96 of Simply Crochet Magazine actually got featured in the magazine itself. What a total honour! Thank you Simply Crochet!

I’ve opened a shop!

Also this month, I launched my Etsy shop called the “Making Stitches Shop’. I decided to try and see if I could sell a few bits and bobs to help support my podcast activities. Whilst I would not want to put the podcast behind a pay wall, it does cost quite a bit to keep going with hosting fees and other things and I thought that if I could raise some money via the shop, it would help me keep going. In the summer I bought a custom made screen with my podcast logo on it, and began screen printing cotton tote bags. It took a lot of trial and error and advice from others, but in the end I successfully printed enough bags to open the shop.

The wonderful Amanda from Mrs G Makes also helped me with advice on running the shop and postage etc. Then, she became not only my first ever customer, she also gave me a glowing review and showed the world her new bag in an episode of her Vlogtober YouTube series. Thanks so much Amanda!

In that first month of being open, my shop completely sold out! Thank you to everyone who supported me! I had to get my screen back out and print a load more on a sunny day just before the Little Postcards finished school for half term!

2nd batch drying on the line!

Half term holidays

Half term was a bit of an odd one for us this year, Littlest had soccer school for most of the week and Eldest was away most of the time on work experience too, so it was just me and Middle Postcard for a lot of the time. Being a teenager, most of that time was spent in his bedroom and I made the most of the peace and quiet by beavering away on something special I’m working on for this month…. (I will reveal all very soon!).

In amongst the hard work, we had a trip to the Etihad campus in Manchester for a teenaged Covid jab. So that’s all bar Littlest done. I feel a lot happier about that now.

Anniversary of moving

As we were celebrating our first anniversary in our home, I decided to have a soirée to celebrate our first year on Saturday evening with the two families who helped us with our move a year ago. As it was Halloween weekend, we had to make the house look the part, so we had a go at pumpkin carving. I think we did pretty well.

I even had a go at carving a squash myself and crocheted one too for good measure!

The innards were used along with some Butternut Squash to make some spiced soup for our soirée and the pumpkins are now out in the garden so the birds and other creatures can enjoy them.

And that pretty much brings my October ramblings to a close. Apart from those boxes. Do you think I managed to get rid of them all?

Well no, but my excuse is that I need a new cupboard to store some of this stuff in, and I can’t find the right one, in the right colour and the right dimensions to fit in the space I want it to go in…. is that a good enough excuse?! I did get rid of about 12 others though – so it wasn’t a complete failure!

I hope October was good for you and that November is even better!

Thanks for stopping by!

Lindsay x

A postcard from North Yorkshire

Hello there, it’s been a while since I’ve sent you a postcard, so I thought our recent trip to North Yorkshire was the perfect opportunity to send one!

Last weekend we packed up the car and headed off up North from Manchester to visit the North Yorkshire coast. It’s been about 20 years since I’ve been up in this part of the world so I was very much looking forward to seeing it again.

We stayed in a modern apartment right on the side of the River Esk which meets the sea in Whitby. Not only could we see the River and the boats near by, we also had steam trains chugging past on the opposite side of the river!

We arrived on a beautifully warm and sunny Saturday and once the car was unpacked we rushed out to make the most of what was left of the day and the sunshine, knowing the good weather wasn’t expected to last for long.

Whitby looked stunning in the sunshine!

On my previous two visits, we had come out of season and I’m pretty sure it was in the depths of winter so it was lovely to see at least a few hours of summer here!

Looking south

We ventured out along one of the long curving piers – something which I hadn’t done before and wasn’t entirely happy with… I’m not great with heights and despite there being railings along the side was worried I may lose a Little Postcard or even myself over the side. I was very glad to get back onto terra firma and not entirely sure I would repeat the experience!

The view back to Whitby from the pier

Being a bank holiday weekend and being very sunny, pretty much everywhere in Whitby was rammed which made us feel a little uneasy after months of avoiding crowds. We did find a few spots which were quiet though…

Henrietta Street

And this made me laugh… experience told me there would be a few of these this holiday.

We woke up on Saturday morning to grey skies – as had been forecast – but wouldn’t let that stop us getting out and exploring. Our arrival in Whitby had coincided with Whitby War weekend, which was being held on a large field behind the ruins of Whitby Abbey.

On our wander about on Saturday we had spotted a number of people dressed in 1940s style clothing so my interest was piqued and I dragged the Little Postcards up the hill to discover what was going on.

We were immediately greeted by some America civil war soldiers. There were demonstrations going on in the main arena.

And lots of folk in costume from lots of different conflicts from around the world including the Spanish Civil War, Vikings, Roundheads & Cavaliers as well as World War I trenches and World War II memorabilia.

The Little Postcards found it a bit odd why the Confederate flag and Swastika were allowed to fly freely on British soil. That led to a heated debate about whether certain factions should be airbrushed from history or remembered for what they did.

In other news, they did enjoy the archery!

As we left the War Weekend event, we walked down past the atmospheric Whitby Abbey ruins which were hosting a medieval event. We didn’t go in though, opting instead for an ice cream!

The views from the cliff top were beautiful in spite of the rather dull weather.

We popped into the beautiful St Mary’s Church and saw the first of many references to craftiness we would see on our trip…

It’s a beautiful old church with ‘boxes’ for people to sit in rather than pews.

And there were more knitted & crocheted remembrance poppies inside…

Then we ‘did’ the famous 199 Steps the easy way… heading downwards!

It gave us a great vantage point to see Whitby’s rooftops from above.

Later on we climbed up the cliffs on the other side of the river to see where we had been.

Bank Holiday Monday gave us the same kind of grey weather unfortunately along with a fair amount of misty rain so we got into the car and headed south to Robin Hood’s Bay. Although I have been before, I had very few memories of the place so it was lovely to visit it again and enjoy the quaint narrow streets down to the sea.

It is so quaint it almost felt like a theme park rather than a real place where real people live!

The cottages are so lovely and well looked after although if there are any people still living there full time, they must find the invasion of tourists a bit of a drag (apologies for that!).

It can’t be easy living on such an incline – especially in winter. I know what it’s like to live on a hill after our time in Gib but at least we didn’t experience snow and ice there.

After taking a walk through the village and down to the sea, we explored the cliffs above the bay for a while.

And we happened upon a lovely mosaic on the sea walls. There’s craftiness everywhere if you know where to look… it says “A community knitted together. Woven in time”

Do you see the giant knitting needles?

I thought this was lovely.

We hopped back into the car again and set off for Scarborough next. It was a typical British bank holiday… crumby weather but still some brave souls on the beach. I believe Scarborough ‘enjoyed’ the UK’s coldest weather that day! Typical!!

Inspite of the grey skies, the beach huts were looking bright and cheerful. I am a great fan of beach huts, having had many holidays in Norfolk & Suffolk over the years but never in all my days have I seen two-storey beach huts before!!

A quick lunch & wander through Peasholm Park brought us back to our car.

Peasholm Park

We headed back to Whitby to have some dinner before heading out on a spooky ghost walk with Dr Crank!

Dr Crank in action!

We heard stories of a headless horseman, a hand of glory, grey ladies, terrible terrorizing black cats and of course, lots of information about Dracula and where Bram Stoker got his inspiration from. It was a super 90 minute-long walk and talk with plenty of jokes and banter. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

Whitby whalebone arch – the beginning and end point of the ghost walk

If you’d like more information about this Whitby ghost walk – which is suitable for families (ie – not too gruesome) please visit the Whitby Walks website.

Whitby harbour at night

Tuesday was our last full day in Whitby so we headed back into town and climbed up through Pannett Park to the Whitby Museum and Pannett Art Gallery, as recommended by Dr Crank the night before.

It’s very reasonably priced – it cost us just £6 to get in and that granted us a year-long season ticket! It’s filled with treasures from Whitby’s past from fossils to Whitby Jet jewelry, and antique toys to the town’s seafaring traditions.

Some of the samplers on display

There were beautiful examples of embroidered samplers and handicrafts from overseas brought back by the town’s sea-going explorers.

Examples of native North American beadwork

It really is worth a visit. The Little Postcards loved the huge array of model ships on display including a model of HMS Victory which, of course, was captained by Admiral Nelson in the battle of Trafalgar and had to be repaired in Gibraltar before returning to Britain with Nelson’s body. There seem to be links to Gibraltar wherever we go!!

There she is! Ever present in maritime history…

Around Whitby itself there is a lovely collection of metallic sculptures to commemorate the town’s history. They even gave a nod to knitting too.

At first glance I thought she was knitting a sock, but upon reading the plaque you can see she is knitting a fisherman’s gansey – a sweater which would protect her fisherman husband from the elements.

And for any real life crafters visiting Whitby, I have to recommend a visit to Whitby Crafts. What an amazing Aladin’s Cave of crafty delights it is, with floor to ceiling racks of fabric in every hue of the rainbow as well as embroidery kits and yarn too.

And in the blink of an eye our holiday was over. 4 nights in Whitby gone in a flash. We’re now back home, the washer’s on and the cases are up in the loft again already! Thank you North Yorkshire for a lovely time even if the sun didn’t shine much!!

Sunset on our last evening

Thanks for stopping by!

Lindsay x

A postcard from Another Place, Crosby

As yesterday was August Bank Holiday Monday and as we woke up to sunshine, we jumped into Bluebell (our car) and headed off to the seaside.

Look at that blue sky!

It took less than an hour to drive from our home in Manchester to Crosby on the Lancashire coast. A really good friend of mine who was brought up by the sea and subsequently moved to Manchester recommended it as a trip out if we were ever finding ourselves missing the seaside.

Eldest and I were in Gibraltar recently but the two youngest Postcards haven’t been near the sea since we moved here in July. As they have spent most of, if not all of their lives within sight of the sea, six weeks inland is the longest they have spent away from it for over a decade!

We parked up by the Crosby Marina and followed our noses towards the sand dunes, passed a busy adventure playground and some fairground attractions for small children. There were plenty of people out and about but it wasn’t overcrowded which was good news.

To the left of the footpath was a large boating lake and to the right, a smaller body of water teeming with birds. There were lots of swans looking rather elegant and aloof!

We crossed the sand dunes and spied…

… Sir Antony Gormley’s statues…

I have seen them before on tv and in photos, but I was glad to be able to see them for myself at last!

‘Another Place’ is the name of the installation of 100 life size figures which are set into the sand along the beach at various heights. The installations stretches 3km along the coast and up to 1km out to sea.

The cast iron figures were made from a cast of the sculptor’s own body, and left nothing to the imagination. The sight of his crown jewels caused much tittering (hence the tastefully positioned crown below).

All the statutes stand facing the sea and looking towards the horizon – they are meant to signify man’s relationship with nature and the ebb and flow of the tide.

Crosby beach is a non-bathing beach because of the tides and quick-sand, so visitors are asked not to attempt to reach those statues out in the water. This one (below) looked as though he was striding out towards the Snowdonian mountains in the distance.

I thought I would join him and paddle my toes. It was surprisingly warm to dip my toes in the Irish Sea compared to my swim in the Med just over a week ago. Not sure I would like to go the whole way in though!!

We walked a good distance along the beach…

… before tummies started rumbling and we succumbed to the ice cream van!

We headed back towards the car, this time walking amongst the dunes. The Little Postcards loved scrambling up them and sliding back down again!

What a beautiful place to visit, I’m so glad we had the recommendation to go. The perfect place to spend the last day of August!

Now we know the way, we will definitely be back…

Thanks for stopping by!

Lindsay x

A postcard from Cornwall

Over Easter, we were lucky enough to have some time off together as a family and hopped on a flight to the UK headed for Cornwall. We stayed in the beautiful seaside town of Padstow, where Mr Postcard and I last stayed the summer before we were married. I wonder what our much younger, unmarried selves would make of us, a family of five turning up all these years later…. Mr P reckons he would probably have broken off the engagement – the cheek!

Here’s a little postcard from Cornwall!

Our first full day was a rather damp and grey affair, but that didn’t put us off exploring Padstow’s quaint alleyways and streets.

Our second day, however, was beautiful. The sun came out, and so did hoards of visitors…

So we headed up and out of town…

…past the beautiful war memorial…

… and along the coastal path along the Camel Estuary where the open space and fresh air was so welcome.

There were people there, but it wasn’t quite so densely populated. Some were having sailing lessons, and these three little sail boats being towed behind a rhib made me chuckle. I thought they looked like three little ducklings following their mum!

We clambered down onto the beach and skimmed stones. It was lovely.

We headed back towards town and realised we were running out of beach we had to get a wriggle on and clamber over some rocks before the tide came back in forcing us to walk the long way round. We made it!

Our walk had made us hungry, so we stopped off at Rick Stein’s chippy for a portion of chips and sat on the quayside to eat them under the watchful eyes of these two….

Padstow is home to a lobster hatchery and we popped in to see it.

This chap is known as ‘Captain Barnacles’ and is thought to be between 40 and 50 years old. These lobsters though, are a tad younger and were swimming around in the lobster nursery.

We took a drive out of Padstow and to the bay of Trevone. What a beautiful spot.

We weren’t the only people to have that idea, but it was gorgeous!

The next day, we took a trip north to Tintagel, the home of Merlin’s cave and Arthurian legend. We were blessed with another beautiful day…

There was a lot of maintenance work being carried out on the ruins of Tintagel Castle so it wasn’t open to the public unfortunately, but we could still view it from afar.

It’s a very pretty place on a sunny day, but it must have been a bit bleak to live there on stormy days… very Game of Thrones.

Our walk back up into town was rewarded with a lovely lunch and then an espresso ice cream – it was amazing!

Littlest Postcard was incredulous when he saw this…

“I didn’t think King Arthur had a car!” No son, neither did I.

The drive back to Padstow took us through beautiful countryside and quaint villages and hamlets. This church looked so lovely.

We headed to Padstow’s stately home, Prideaux Place..

Used as a filming location for a number of films, including Twelfth Night starring Helena Bonham Carter and Richard E Grant. It’s a family home still and sits in beautiful grounds.

We were very lucky to see it on such a beautifully sunny day and with many of the spring flowers at their best.

Living where we do and not having easy access to cycle trails etc, we aren’t much of a cycling family. But I have always wanted to go cycling as a family and we did it here in Cornwall. There are several bike hire places in Padstow and a fantastic cycle trail (The Camel Trail) along the Camel Estuary to Wadebridge (and on to Bodmin). So we hired bikes…

…and set off. It was hard work but lots of fun once we got into the swing of it. The views were fab too, when I was brave enough to look up from the road!!

We managed to cycle 11 miles in total – so that means we earned a reward don’t you think? 😉

Our last day in Padstow saw us hop onto the little ferry which takes passengers across the River Camel from Padstow to Rock.

We waited on the jetty by the harbour wall for it to arrive and for the passengers to disembark.

Once aboard, we headed across the River to the sand flats left by the low tide.

The Little Postcards loved the quick-sand and pools left by the low tide. They got a bit wet… so our trip to Rock itself was a little curtailed. It was fun though, nonetheless.

After a walk and a coffee, we headed back down the beach to wait for the ferry back home and some dry clothes for the Little Postcards!

Within moments we were approaching Padstow again, but to the beach this time as the tide was too low to reach the harbour.

We had such a lovely time in Padstow and the surrounding area. It’s s truly beautiful part of the world.

Full of quaint little streets and alleyways…

Thank you for having us to stay Padstow!

A Postcard from Stockholm (Part 2 – The Museums)

Hello again! As promised, here is part 2 of my Postcard from Stockholm…

As I mentioned in the first part of my Postcard from Stockholm last week, we visited a few museums and tourist sites while we were visiting the beautiful capital city of Sweden. Our first museum visit was to the ABBA Museum in Djurgårdsvägen. It’s an amazing place, which charts the lives of the four band members from their childhoods, to their first meetings and the relationships which developed.

Their Eurovision Song Contest winning medal was on display with many pieces of memorabilia from their time at the top of the charts. There were mock ups of recording studios they used…

…and even their costume making department, which I particularly enjoyed being a dressmaking student myself.

Many of their stage costumes were there for you to admire up close too…

I couldn’t get over how slim they all were!

The work which must have gone into their costumes was incredible.

They even had the Spitting Image puppets which featured in this video

The museum was such fun, there were Karaoke booths for you to sing along, mixing desks for you to have a go at recreating the ‘ABBA sound’, a stage where you could dance and sing along with holograms of the band and I even got to sit in a helicopter just like the one which featured on the album cover ‘Arrival’.

I had a whale of a time and on a couple of occasions was disowned by my teenaged travelling companion. But it would have been rude not to have completely got involved in everything – don’t you think?!

I would highly recommend a visit to any ABBA fan, whether you remember the music the first time round or whether only came to know them recently through the Mama Mia films. ABBA, thank you for the music!

Nordiska Museet

The imposing building of the Nordiska Museet is just one tram stop along from the ABBA Museum in Djurgårdsvägen. Initially built to house exhibits from all the Nordic countries, it now only houses items from Sweden.

Inside it was equally beautiful…

And this rather portly regal gentleman welcomed us in…

King Gustav Vasa

The museum itself is dedicated to the cultural history of Sweden as well as its ethnography. Our first port of call was the exhibition detailing how Swedish homes have evolved over the years beginning with a typical farmer’s dwelling, which would have been shared with workers and livestock – especially in the cold winter months.

Right through to a 1960s style government built apartment, then a modern home decked out for a mid-summer celebration.

There was also an extensive collection of Swedish furniture over the years.

The exhibits which resonated with me most of all were the ones featuring arts and crafts. From the beautifully decorated clothes worn by the native Sami people..

To the folk art and traditional dowry gifts made ahead of weddings.

The embroidery was just beautiful…

Sweden is famous for its woven fabrics and literally thousands of examples of weaving were on display.

There was even a woven pictorial bible…

One exhibition which was right up my street was one dedicated to women’s fashion in the 1950s & 1960s and particularly home sewing.

Oh, to have a nipped-in waist to be able to carry one of those dresses off!!

City Hall (Stadshuset)

Another interesting place we visited while on our Stockholm adventure was the City Hall (pictured below in the view from our hotel room) on the island of Kungsholmen.

This beautiful red brick building is less than 100 years old and was built as a home for the local city council.

As it’s a functioning building and home to the City Council of Stockholm known as Stadshuset, tourists aren’t allowed to wander around at will. We signed up for one of the English speaking tours and were taken around by a lovely guide called Christopher.

The Blue Hall (above) was originally going to be plastered and painted blue but we were told that the architect liked the look of the traditional red bricks so left it like that – but the name stayed! Christopher led us up from the ‘Blue Hall’ and along a corridor which offered views to the internal courtyard below.

We were led into the council chambers which are used on a regular basis for political meetings and debates which can be viewed by the public from the public gallery (see auditorium at the rear of the chamber in photo below).

The ceiling in the chamber was beautiful. It was made to resemble the open roof of a traditional Viking longhouse.

As was the ceiling in one of the stairwells…

Above this ceiling stands the tower which has on its summit the three golden crowns, the crest of Stockholm. Our tour guide told us that as the tower was being built, a civic building in Copenhagen was also being built at the same time. As the Danish tower was taller than this one, the plans were altered to extend the original tower height, so that this one would stand 1 metre taller!

On from the stair well and into this beautiful hall, known as the Princes’ Gallery…

….where the walls were covered by murals painted by royalty – Prince Eugen.

Our next room was a true show stopper- the Golden Hall…

At the far end, the image shows the Queen of Lake Mälaren who sits on a throne and has the city of Stockholm on her lap. To her left is the western world, complete with the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Tower of London among other images of the ‘West’.

And to her right lie images of the East including an elephant, tiger and camel.

Stockholm’s industry and important Swedish historical figures as well as other significant chapters in the city’s past were depicted in the stunning mosaics.

It’s an absolutely mind blowing place – and to think all this mosaic work was completed in just 2 years!

We left the Golden Hall to return to the Blue Hall again, where we learned about its role in important celebrations. It is here where Nobel Prize winners are entertained with a banquet after the prize giving ceremony.

And those stairs down below were specially designed to assist the prize winners and other dignitaries (especially the ladies in their long dresses and high heels) navigate the stairs on their way down to the banquet while all eyes are upon them.

The stairs are apparently shallower in depth but are longer in length than ‘normal’ stairs to allow for a graceful descent and a special star (below) carved in the wall ahead is the point at which you should look to prevent you from falling or from looking down so the press photographers can get a decent photo of you!

Our tour was finished as we left the Blue Hall and said our thanks and goodbyes to Christopher, then we went outside to cross the courtyard and see the gardens and waterfront on the other side of the Stadshuset.

It was rather nippy outside for us Southern softies from the Med! We don’t see ice on the water where live!

Our trip to Stockholm was truly lovely, and if you ever get the chance to visit it for yourself, I’d highly recommend it. We were made to feel so welcome, and we hope one day, that we will be able to return.

A postcard from Stockholm (Part 1)

Recently I went on an adventure to Stockholm. It was a short city break but we packed a lot in!

I was traveling with Eldest, a Mum and son adventure. Our first taste of Sweden was at Stockholm Arlanda airport. The quietest, and most pleasant airport I’ve ever visited. People spoke in hushed tones – even the children in the play area sat quietly reading!

There was seating for so many people… no need to sit on the floor here! How civilized!

There was no problem finding out where to go to get the train into the City Centre! What a stunning station…

And here comes the train…

Our first impression of Sweden was incredibly positive….

…if a little bit colder than what we had left behind at home!

The view from our hotel room (above) was amazing – look at the frozen waterways below! The building with the golden tipped tower is Stockholm City Hall – where the Nobel Prize celebrations take place. There will be more on that later on…

On our first evening we headed out for a stroll to get our bearings. It was really rather chilly, but incredibly beautiful.

This building (above & below) belongs to the Swedish parliament.

And this square looked like something out of Bladerunner when it was lit up at night!

Back at our hotel our view came alive at night.

On the first full day of our trip we headed by tram through the City Centre to get to somewhere I just had to visit…

….the ABBA Museum!!

It was amazing and told the story of all four band members from their childhoods to their 1974 win at the Eurovision Song Contest and beyond…

I will be writing another post about all the museums and buildings we visited because there is too much to put into just one post!

Suffice to say, it was magnificent and a must-visit for any fan of ABBA!

Lunch had to be at Starbucks – I was traveling with a fan of the place and as we don’t have one in Gibraltar it’s a novelty. We did have a taste of Sweden though – this Cardamom Bolle was utterly delicious.

Talking of edibles. We had no end of giggles at the name of the chocolate (which is very nice by the way!)

I couldn’t visit a new country without going into a crafty shop could I? I was very restrained though and only bought one ball of yarn… but I could’ve got so much more if I had a bigger case!

Late afternoon/early evening we headed out to a dinner date which had been planned for us by Mr Postcard in advance. I think he wanted to make sure we tried some proper Swedish food, so he booked us a table at an award winning restaurant.

The atmosphere was cozy and welcoming, and the food very interesting…

We had crispy pork rinds with smoked mayo & dill flower as an appetizer. Then pork & chicken skewers, with baked cabbage with buttermilk & lovage. And for dessert, Petrus Bun bread pudding with Swedish punsch crème. The flavor combinations were completely new to me but very tasty.

Then it was back on the train to the hotel for the night…

On day 2 we crossed over from our hotel to visit the City Hall.

It’s a magestic building and only around 100 years old. This amazing golden hall took just 2 years to complete the mosaics! It was stunning to see.

It’s also the home of the Stockholm City Council….

… the council chamber has the most amazing ceiling.

After the City Hall, we took a tram to visit the Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum).

Another imposing building…

With a rather regal gentleman to greet you as you enter!

It documented all kinds of Swedish life, from homes & furniture to celebrations and death. More will follow in part 2 of my Stockholm postcard.

On our wanderings we passed the Royal Palace (above) and had a mooch around the old town on the island of Gamla Stan…

…which is charming and full of character.

As night began to fall, we headed back out again in search of something we couldn’t come to Sweden without tasting….

….meatballs!

They were a bit special! And washed down perfectly with some Swedish beer! And that lovely meal brought our fabulous few days in Stockholm to an end, this was our last sunrise before heading back to the airport and flying home.

Thank you Stockholm for having us to stay and making us feel so welcome, we had a wonderful time and hope to return one day!

Remember that chocolate with the funny name? Well being the mature individual that I am, I had lots of fun with some other words I spotted on my travels…. (I will never truly grow up!).

Next week, I will share more about the museums we visited and the City Hall. Look out for part 2!

A postcard from Lagos

We’ve just had the midterm holidays and last week, we packed up the car and headed off to Portugal, Lagos to be precise. We’ve been to this part of the world a couple of times before but stayed closer to Portimão, this time we fancied a change of scenery and headed further west to Lagos.

We stayed in a lovely apartment on the western edge of Lagos. Sadly it was too nippy to make use of the outdoor pool (well for the softy grown-ups at least!). Can you see the Atlantic Ocean in the distance? It was a lovely spot.

Lagos has a rather pretty old town which is surrounded by city walls.

The archetypal Portuguese tiles are in abundance here.

Even the pavements are artistic…

And there are some gorgeous front doors too…

At the start of our visit to the city there was a craft fair going on in town. Housed in an old building which used to be a munitions store, it was the home for stalls selling needlework, jewelry, fused glass and cork items.

I was in my element and bought a few bits and bobs which will come in handy for Christmas presents.

Among the stalls was a marvelous collection of yarns and woven items.

The lady who runs this stall hand dyes all her yarns and weaves them into beautiful scarves and bags. She also sold balls of yarn…

She dyes the yarn using seeds, vegetables, bark (for the deep purple) and insects for the pink and red tones. I bought this gorgeous yarn which was coloured using tree roots.

If you would like to see more of her work, you can check out her Facebook page.

Another craft emporium had this fabulous window display;

It was run by a German couple who between them wrote books and poetry and whittled beautiful wooden jewelry. They had been living in Lagos for 20+ years and raised their children here. I bought some earrings made by the wife and a book of folk lore stories written and illustrated by the husband.

Zoo Lagos

One morning we took a drive out to Lagos Zoo. I’m uncomfortable with the whole ‘zoo’ thing but at this one, the animals seemed well cared for.

It was a perfect small zoo for young children. In some areas there were no fences at all, and some of the creatures just wandered around at will.

These pelicans caused quite a stir as they just ambled along the path amongst the visitors. We even got to see them being fed a little while later…

There were plenty of primates, many of whom lived on this primate island. The noise of the calls and booming cries could be heard a good distance away in the car park!

This bird had a really funky hairdo…

I’m told that this Pygmy hippo bore a more than passing resemblance to me…

I loved the flying foxes, they were fascinating to see up close.

My absolute favorites had to be the rainbow coloured parrots (macaws to be precise) and this angora nanny goat!

Lagos fort

At the western edge of Lagos seafront/riverfront stands an old fort-like building. Rectangular in shape, with lookout towers at each corner and with a drawbridge on the land side, it caught my eye the first time I saw it.

On our first trip into Lagos, we had tried to get in, but it was closed for lunch sadly. I made it my mission to be back in town one day while it was open to have a mosey inside.

Over the drawbridge and through the old wooden doors we went to buy our entrance tickets.

The Forte da Ponta da Bandeira is a restored 17th Century maritime fortress. On the ground floor are a series of small rooms which were being used as galleries displaying a photographic exhibition.

There was also a very small chapel, dedicated to Santa Barbara. It may be small, but there was such a calming, yet powerful atmosphere in there, and as you can see it was totally covered with traditional Portuguese tiles.

Up the ramp, to the upper floor…

… and the many wind sculptures…

They were so striking.

In each corner of the fort, as I mentioned, there is a little lookout turret, and we were able to go into three of them.

The narrow slit windows perfectly framed the views they looked out on…

…. both inland….

….and out to sea.

It was such a lovely spot.

Back downstairs, we found another small gallery featuring more work from the artist who had created the sculptures on the roof…

José Maria Silva Pereira is the artist who created these installations and the sculptures on the roof are called Caminhos do Vento (which I think translates of Paths of Wind). They were specially designed to be moved by the north wind which is common in Lagos during the summer months.

And that, is just about it for this postcard from the Algarve. We had a lovely few days, and mainly good weather, if you’re ever in this neck of the woods I’d definitely recommend a visit.

A postcard from Bee in the City Manchester 2018

All this summer, there’s been a buzz in the City of Manchester and very soon, it will come to an end. While we were visiting my parents a few weeks back, we went on the Bee in the City trail to see what we could find.

The big golden Bee was at the start of the Bee in the City trail at Piccadilly Station, from there we set off our our Bee quest to see as many bees as we possibly could…

The Urban Jungle Bee (above: top left) was a particular favourite is mine…

We saw some (but not all) of the bees in the Northern Quarter:

Before heading towards the Arndale Centre where this lovely homage to Salford artist LS Lowry was …

… then on to the Printworks and this Bee celebrating the Manchester music scene:

Before taking on the Bee in the City trail, I downloaded the app to my phone. Every Bee has a code on it which you can enter into the app to say you’ve found it. Some of the Bees offer rewards, and this one gave money off on meals at restaurants in the Printworks. That seemed like the perfect time to stop and grab some lunch Rock and Roll style 😉

After lunch we headed towards the main shopping area and found not only the Bee in the City shop, but also Liam Gallagher (of Oasis)’s Rock and Roll Bee…

We wandered around town spotting a few more before heading to Manchester Cathedral…

Manchester Cathedral:

Manchester Cathedral hosted a whole swarm of the smaller, community created bees. Among them were bees made by local schools and youth groups;

Market Street:

In Manchester art gallery, we found ‘Crown Jewels’.

Outside the Bridgewater Hall there was Buzz-wig van Bee-thoven …

…and across the road at (what was once known as) GMEX was this gloriously shiny bee called Bling Bee!

Albert Square / St Peter’s Square:

In front of Manchester’s currently empty Town Hall were two bees, This is Manchester…

It came complete with its own version of a Gib Rock

The Birds and the Bees bee, no less!

Beside the Library theatre we spotted this worker bee…

A botanicals gin bee…

…and even a virtual bee called ‘Buzzi’ who only appears on your phone! Now you see him…

Now you don’t…

This rather elegant bee stood inside part of the library…

With the St Peter’s Square bees ticked off the list, we jumped onto a tram and left the City Centre behind. We spotted another bee through the tram window:

Next stop: Media City, home of the BBC, ITV and lots of television programmes.

Media City UK

Children’s BBC programmes are made here and it’s now home to the relocated Blue Peter garden.

And, Blue Bee-ter!

He even has a Blue Peter badge!

Between Media City and the Lowry theatre we had a close encounter with a space bee:

In the Lowry we found a little swarm of five small bees… including (on the right) the ‘Sewing Bee’!

Upstairs, by the L.S. Lowry exhibition space, there were three more:

By this point, we had clocked up 61 bees and some rather tired legs, so we decided to call it a day and head home. We really enjoyed our day with the Bees in the City!

That evening, my Dad went to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United play, and whilst he was there, he sought out this Bee too…

The Bees are being sold off for charity next month so if you would like to see them yourself, you’ve not got long – it’s the last day tomorrow!

For more information about the Bees, check out their website.

A Postcard from Carcassonne

Last summer, we visited Southern France and stopped off for a few days in the beautiful medieval city of Carcassonne. It’s taken me a while, but at last, I have finally got round to writing this long awaited postcard….

Fate brought me and Carcassonne together. Several years ago, while visiting family in the UK we found ourselves with babysitters for a couple of hours one evening so we visited a nearby pub. The establishment in question had shelves of second hand books for drinkers to read and Mr Postcard perused the books as we waited for our drinks. He handed me a rather dog-eared green book with a golden circular labyrinth image on the front and said “I think that’s up your street”.

He was right. I read the blurb on the back and was immediately drawn in (we were at the pub with Mr Postcard’s brother and I was very antisocial I’m afraid, because I became absorbed by the book which had found its way into my hands). I felt a bit  disappointed when the time came to leave and go home, reluctantly I replaced the book on the shelf and made a mental note to hunt down my own copy.

Fortuitously, as we walked through the airport to catch our flight back to Gibraltar, I spotted a brand spanking new copy of the book in a shop and had just enough time to buy it before catching our plane. The book was Labyrinth by Kate Mosse.

I loved it, both the characters and the setting of Carcassonne. It sounded like such a magical, special place. For the first time ever, I felt compelled to visit a place I had read about. I had no idea when that would happen, just that I really wanted to go there. I went on to read the next two books in the Languedoc trilogy (Sepulchre & Citadel) and thoroughly enjoyed them both. I even got the members of the book club I belong to to read Labyrinth (I had to spread the love). Then, in 2015, I had the good fortune to be able to see a talk with the author, Kate Mosse, when she came to the Gibraltar Literary Festival.

I went to hear her talk about her latest book, the Taxidermist’s Daughter, but unfortunately I couldn’t stay on afterwards to meet her (as I had to dash off to collect a child). I rushed back later with said child in tow in the hope that I would be able to get my book signed.

I couldn’t believe my luck. As we arrived at the front door of the hall where Kate had been speaking, there she was, about to leave, alongside another literary heroine of mine, Joanne Harris. Totally star struck, and full of apologies for detaining her further I asked if she would mind signing my book. She was very gracious and obliged.

And so, several years had passed since I first laid eyes on Labyrinth and last summer we were planning a trip to France. There were two direct flights available from Malaga airport, to Paris and Toulouse. We opted for Toulouse as we fancied exploring somewhere we hadn’t visited before.

It was only after booking the flight that the penny dropped that Carcassonne wasn’t far from Toulouse. [I may have applied a little pressure for us to hire a car so we could have a day trip out to Carcassonne ;-)]. As it turned out, Mr Postcard surprised me by booking a gîte just outside the old city walls for a few nights so that we could explore Carcassonne properly. I can’t tell you how happy that made me!

I’m not sure I have enough superlatives to describe the medieval Cité. It’s just beautiful and as atmospheric as I imagined. We had a day or so to potter around the narrow streets by ourselves, before going on a pre-booked tour with a guide, so that we didn’t miss anything.

It’s taken me a while, but at last, I have finally got round to writing this long awaited postcard….

The ‘old’ Carcassonne sat on the hill above where we were staying, beckoning us up to explore…

The first thing I was struck by, was how well preserved the medieval Cité was. Sitting atop a hill with a clear view of the River Aude, it looked magestic. It hasn’t always been so though. After its heyday, the Cité fell into disrepair and locals moved out into the modern city on the opposite side of the river. Over time the stones of the Cité walls and its buildings began to be taken by scavengers who needed the stone for new buildings in the new city, effectively turning it into a quarry. It wasn’t until 1853 that Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was given the job of attempting to restore the Cité to its former glory. It is his Carcassonne which you see today when you visit.

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Although we did have plenty of time to explore the ancient streets and buildings ourselves, we decided to pay to join one of the official guided tours which left from the tourist office on a regular basis.

We gathered together under the giant horse chestnut trees outside the main entrance of the Cité to begin our tour. One of the first questions our guide asked was whether any of us English speakers had read Labyrinth. I was the only one and put my hand up. I just happened to have my copy with me (it was at this point that the Little Postcards died in embarrassment and ever so slightly disowned me! Cue the cry of “Muuuum! I can’t believe you brought that with you!”).

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We were led in over the drawbridge (which isn’t original, it was created during the renovation works).

Our first port of call was the Lices area between the two sets of ancient walls which encircle the Cité. Once filled with housing for the less well off in society, but now cleared to make a pleasant green area.

We then headed into the rabbit warren of streets and alleyways. Full of hidden corners and nookie holes and history. The architecture is really beautiful.

I won’t give you a blow by blow account of our tour, as I couldn’t do it justice. I’ll just share a few bits with you…

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I’m so glad that we did take the tour, the significance of certain buildings were highlighted and it put the Cité into a much clearer context both in medieval times and the intervening years. The most interesting thing I learned was that it became the Southern French HQ of the Gestapo during WWII and they took over the 5* Hotel de la Cité as they explored the surrounding mountains of Languedoc in search of buried Cathar treasure. In more recent times a host of celebrities from Michael Jackson to the Queen Mother have stayed there.

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The Basilica of Saint-Nazaire nearby is surrounded with some very ominous looking gargoyles. They must have seen some sights over the centuries!

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Inside the Cathedral are the most stunning stained glass windows.

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We bought tickets to go into the 12th Century Château Comtal, which is the only part of the Cité you have to pay to enter.

Another interesting fact is that the Château Comtal (which is where Alaïs, the heroine of Labyrinth lives at the start of the novel), was actually used as a location in the making of the Kevin Costner film; Robin Hood Prince of Theives. The exterior of the Château became the outside of Nottingham Castle, home to Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham.

While much of the Château is just a network of empty rooms which tourists wander through on a trail from one section to another, the views were pretty spectacular from the windows. (There may have been some really interesting stuff in there but I had a slightly impatient 5 year old with me, who’s patience had run out, so it was a bit of a whistle stop tour for us).

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Inside the Château is a collection of archaeological exhibits from the Cité’s past.

The end of the Château tour led us out onto the inner ramparts, which afforded us lovely views across the valley and to the more modern city beyond the River Aude.

Every day we were in Carcassonne, it was busy with tourists. However, as we were staying nearby, we were lucky enough to be able to come back up to the Cité in the evenings and enjoy it while the streets were a good bit quieter, and really soak up the atmosphere among the medieval buildings.

I had high hopes for Carcassonne before I had arrived, and it didn’t disappoint. The atmosphere and the architecture are just lovely. As an old romantic who would love to live in a castle, it was marvellous to spend some time there. So that was last summer, and as luck would have it just two weeks ago this beauty was published….

…. another Kate Mosse novel which is partially set in Carcassonne. This time I can read it knowing exactly what the places are like which are described in it’s pages. I had to patiently wait for my copy to make it down to Gibraltar, but now it’s here, and I’m off to put the kettle on and start reading!

Thanks for stopping by, and if you made it all the way to the end of this particularly long postcard – thank you! You deserve a pat on the back!!