North Devon coast

I love Devon. The word itself conjures up memories of cream teas, crabbing in Ilfracombe under the Statue of Verity and watching the kids on their belly boards at Woolacombe.

It’s been a few years since we last managed to get down to the west country but I am sure sooner or later, that we’ll be packing the car up and revisiting our favourite places again.

verity ilfracombe

The fact that Paul’s dad was sent to Hele during the war meant that, as a child, every summer, his parents would pack up the car and go for a two-week break with their four boys. We cannot go down without spending a day in Combe Martin, a visit to Ilfracombe and a long list of plenty of other wonderful places to choose from.

From the quirky choices like Berrynarbour and spotting the flowerpot men around the village, to the fascinating gardens dotted throughout the rolling hills.

 

berrynarbor

One thing we do when we’re in Devon, is to eat pasties. There are some fabulous pastie shops with all kinds of wonderful recipes to try. In fact, they are so good we always buy a huge box to bring home and freeze so we can extend our holiday memories that little bit longer. There’s nothing quite so sad as pulling out the last pasties from the freezer!

We have stayed in plenty of different places in Devon but one idea that really captures my curiosity and one that gives the real experience of living in the area would be to book a cottage, that way we could really make the most of our time and for a moment live the west country like the locals.

Christmas by the Sea

woolacombe beach

There, I’ve said it. I have said out loud what would be a dream Christmas for me – Christmas by the sea in Devon. I’m imagining long coastal walks wrapped up in gloves, hats and scarves, I’m picturing pub lunches in villages that are celebrating the locals rather than crammed with tourists. Drinking local ales and eating freshly caught fish or locally reared lamb.

How about a family night in your seaside cottage playing board games whilst the Cornish pasties are being reheated? Candles flickering on the fireplace and a log fire burning in the hearth?

I know Paul would want to go in the sea with his wetsuit and belly board, I would place money on the girls following him in too…imagine doing that on Christmas Day? There would be nothing to say you can’t do it, just push back the roast turkey to later in the day! In fact, there are some wonderful places that can sleep large families too and are dog-friendly too; Baxter would be in his element down there.

The more I think about it, the more this idea is taking hold in my mind and, fingers crossed, one day I will celebrate Christmas in Devon overlooking the sea and feasting on pasties and cream teas.

Where would you like to spend an alternative Christmas? Norfolk also offers a wealth of things to do and see.

Disclosure: A collaborative post

autumn in norfolk

If you haven’t considered taking a family break in autumn or winter before, then now is the time to start considering the idea. As the days get shorter and colder, the desire to wrap up and snuggle down becomes greater but this doesn’t mean we can’t be as cosy and comfortable away from home.

With cottages all over the UK available for rent for long weekends or longer breaks, it seems silly not to take advantage. It’s the perfect excuse to take the family away to discover some more of our beautiful country. From Yorkshire to Cornwall, there is something for everyone and this time we are shining the spotlight on Norfolk

Autumn breaks in Norfolk

Norfolk is a relatively flat countryside so it’s perfect for walking and getting outside without getting too strenuous. Autumn is renowned for colour and you can choose from the coastal path or a number of ‘Ways’ that take you on some spectacular journeys through the county. (Angles Way, Peddars Way, Boudicca Way and plenty more to choose from). If walking isn’t your thing then maybe cycling the routes could be a better way to get out and explore.

Beaches of Norfolk

The beaches are just as beautiful out of season – if not more and I know Baxter would love to run up and down a few of Norfolk’s favourites like Winterton, Brancaster and Wells next the Sea which is lined with the prettiest beach huts to photograph.

I didn’t know that Norfolk was a great place to watch birds. This is the time of year when birds are migrating from the Arctic and you can see the familiar v-shaped formations of geese as they travel down from Iceland and Greenland. I hear that Welney is the perfect Sunset spot to capture the wild swan feeds; the area fills with swans and ducks as they make their home for the winter.

Norfolk food and beer

Harvest time of year always brings lots of food festivals and special occasions to take part in. There are funghi forays, nature trails plus Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse has a wonderful Apple Day to visit. Maybe you could buy some and make a crumble or a Toffee Apple cake.

The city of Norwich always has plenty going on if you’re looking for a buzz, if not, enjoy the cobbled lanes and quaint town centre, maybe pop into a pub for some local beer from one of the many local breweries.

Heritage railway

The beautiful heritage railways of Norfolk travel all over the county and this is the time of year that you can take the children on a Santa Special. Sit back and take in the glorious scenery, I am told that the North Norfolk Railway from Sheringham to Holt is breathtaking.

Norfolk has a wealth of stately homes and museums to discover, parks full of wild deer and other wildlife and what’s more, it apparently has the best climate in the UK too.

You can find out plenty of more things to do on the Visit Norfolk website

Cottages to rent in Norfolk

Now all you have to do is find the right cottage for you to stay in. Norfolk Cottages has plenty to choose from for example, The Old Coach House in Pentney sleeps up to 8 people and allows dogs… just look at the swimming pool!

autumn in norfolk

Or The Granary? A luxury property in Aslacton. Take a look at the photos – I don’t think I’d ever leave it’s so beautiful.

autumn in norfolk

Have I convinced you to take a look at Norfolk? Do let me know if you go there and where you visit.

Disclosure: A collaborative post

pete-bellis-472570-unsplash
Pete Bellis

I’ve been talking a lot recently about my connection to Italy; an account of our day trip to Venice with the kids which was utterly amazing and memories of my time when I used to live in the country. Like running the clubhouse for the local golf club. I still think of that period of my life as my best years and the time when I ‘grew up’.

Having arrived in the country as a 19 going on 20-year-old and with just one year of work under my belt, I really was ‘wet behind the ears’ and trying so hard to be a grown-up. It was a difficult time having no family to turn to for guidance and all my choices and actions were completely down to me. It was like walking through life blindfolded.

However, as I understood more and more of the language and was able to make friends and converse with them, a whole new chapter opened for me and I entered into the fascinating world of fashion.

You cannot visit Italy and not notice the clothes. Everyone you come across will be dressed beautifully; it was one of the first things I learnt. My English student background had given me a baseline of charity shop clothes, make do and mend and the odd piece that had been a gift or I had saved up for. The suitcase that I arrived with was stuffed to the brim with trash. Although I’d never have admitted it back then.

I guess I started to understand my look wasn’t quite the ticket when my friends mentioned how ‘quirky’ I was. Or how I was ‘proprio inglese!’ Was that a compliment or not?

I started to take more notice of how the people around me dressed. I watched with intense curiosity as the shops displayed their new seasons and I started to pay more attention to how I put items together. That was the moment I fell in love with clothes and shoes and … boots.

Living in the mountains, boots become a necessity. With months and months of snow from October through to March, you must make sure you look after your feet. In fact, the montanari will remind you many times, ‘Keep your feet warm and you’ll be fine.’

Most of us had more than one or two pairs of boots. We had flat ankle boots, Moon Boots, snow boots, riding boots and for the more special occasions I’d recommend these Uppersole over the knee boots with lace up back  for those evenings spent dancing.

Coats were another important item and I remember, when I first returned to the UK, how I found it so odd that people here would go out with no coat or jacket on! I clearly remember a school group visiting the resort during a bitterly cold February half term and walking down the snowy high street in heels and skimpy dresses for their night out. I admit to cringing as I listened to the Italians murmur how foolish they were, ‘Why not take a coat and put it in the cloakroom?’ they asked me baffled at why the English would put their health at risk when it wasn’t necessary.

Different countries, different customs I would reply with a smile, shrugging my shoulders and hoping they weren’t including me in that bracket of fools.

I had a quick peek at my current boot collection and counted 4 pairs. How many pairs do you currently own?

Photo by Court Prather on Unsplash

Did I ever tell you that I used to run a restaurant in Italy with my brother? It was called Maso Spilzi and was the clubhouse for the local golf course in Folgaria. I could go on to say I am very knowledgeable about golf, but I’d be lying. However, I did get a great insight into the world of golf, in fact, many of my friends played the game and even tempted me up on to the driving range a few times.

It was during my ‘when I lived in Italy’ days and I know I’ve told you about that before. It’s funny as it all seems such a long time ago but my friend from Italy got in touch a while back to say her husband was now running the place. (I’ve told you about him too, he runs Malga Millegrobbe which is at the top of a mountain and one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been to.)

That tiny piece of information sent me right back to the year 2000 and I could see myself in the bar of the restaurant, serving drinks, taking lunch orders and doing tasks that restauranteurs do.

One of our weekly tasks for the golf club was to put on a ‘spaghettata‘ for the weekly competition. It was a fun occasion when the whole golf club would come together and play against one another. Some weeks there were some very prestigious prizes and others there were more humble offerings for the winner but no matter what was up for grabs, there was one thing every golfer who took part did, and that was to take great pride in dressing accordingly.

Golf fashion goes back decades and has always been a step aside from what may be considered ‘normal’ fashion. On the course, bright colours are the way forward, Rupert Bear checks are seen as immensely desirable items, the beautiful leather shoes are unique to the sport and the overall look must be one of refined elegance. A casual smart to be reckoned with.

This is a tradition that doesn’t seem to ever go out of fashion and golfers secretly are vying with one another for the best look. I have found some great golf t-shirts available at Function 18 to look the part

That same sense of presence exists here on the British golf courses and I frequently see my friends posting photos of themselves in the golf gear and being very proud of themselves. Sometimes I wonder if they are more interested in the look rather than the 18 holes?

I found their sense of fashion and care of attention to dressing on the golf course very endearing and noticed that everyone takes part from the top lawyers and doctors who arrived in the latest BMWs or Mercedes, to the local plumber who enjoys a round of golf with his friends at the weekend to enjoy the fresh air and company.

You couldn’t really tell who was the plumber and who the doctor in the sea of bright colours, but I can tell you, they all tucked into their plate of spaghetti after the prizegiving and enjoyed a glass of wine too.

Do you play golf, and do you own special clothes to wear on the course?

Roast dinner

I’d be lying to you if I said husband had put his barbecue away – of course he hasn’t; we’ll be barbecuing in the middle of winter, just you wait and see. However, I can declare Sunday Roast time of year is now in full swing in our house and it’s the one meal I look forward to every week.

Sunday is always that day in our house where we spend time together aware that as of the following morning, it’s going to be a long, mad rush to get through the week until Friday when we can all be together again. I start thinking about our Sunday roast midweek as that’s when I tend to do my online shop for the week. I like to alternate between beef, chicken, pork and gammon but my favourite roast of all is lamb, especially Welsh lamb.

Luckily for me, I have an enormous rosemary bush in the garden which works perfectly with lamb and there’s something very ‘Good Life’ about nipping into the garden to snip some fresh sprigs from the bush.

Of course, no roast can be called a roast in my book unless it is accompanied by all the trimmings and that includes roast potatoes and parsnips and then a couple of veg like carrots, beans, cauliflower of cabbage depending on what’s in the fridge.

Yorkshire puddings are a must and oodles of gravy poured over the meal too; I have to make a lot of gravy for my lot!

It’s really pointless me writing recipes to use for leftovers as there is very rarely anything left to use. The family devour the whole lot and if there are leftovers they normally want another roast dinner during the week to use them up. That’s when I might need to boost the meal with some sausages.

If we are in the town we will go into the local butcher and stock up on some of his finest products but one of husband’s favourite shopping experiences is looking at online meat suppliers. I kid you not. He can spend hours looking and deciding which hamper to go for. Graig Farm has been a recent find of his and he can spend hours trawling through the site, jotting down notes and making comparisons.

Of course, the excitement doesn’t end there. The minute that email lands in his inbox and he has a delivery date, he’s on the lookout. Sticking post-its up with instructions in case we are at work when they call by. Even going to ask our next-door neighbours if they will let the delivery man leave the box inside the front door for him.

Husband has been known to take photos of his purchase and post them on Facebook, proud of his choice and encouraging his friends to follow suit. We then have a lengthy discussion about what is to be eaten and what is to be frozen. I know, all the fun in our house but when it comes to sitting down for our Sunday roast, I can honestly say it was worth it.

Seeing as our barbecue won’t come back into regular use again until April at the earliest, I am looking forward to months of Sunday roasts again.

How about you? Do you enjoy a particular family meal together or is it just me?