Tresco Abbey Gardens

Today we had a tour around the Tresco Abbey Gardens with Mike Nelhams the curator, which was fascinating.  The Abbey Gardens are really quite amazing - due to the unique climate (it doesn't freeze, or at least it's not supposed to, and it doesn't get too hot) they are able to grow all sorts of plants from all over the world.  So sitting next to each other are plants and trees from South Africa, New Zealand, Chile and Burma.  There are all sorts of weird and quite wonderful things - and it does feel very tropical, there are palm trees galore.  In 1987, and in 1991 the weather was unkind to the garden and they lost a lot of trees and plants and have been replanting since then - it is a 'heavy planting' so the beds are full of all sorts - a camellia next to a giant dandelion, surrounded by many aeomiums, under a Norfolk Island Pine.The puya was in flower which is the most amazing dark turquoise, I have never seen flowers quite like them.  The sparrows are quite taken with the pollen of these flowers, and sometimes you see a sparrow with an orange head, having got a little bit too intimate with the pollen of the puya flower.Thank you for showing us the garden Mike!Alice xxxIMG_8266 

Don't Be Scilly

Today was one of those days on Tresco when it drizzled all morning, and then in the afternoon the sun came out and we went to the beach and swam in the sea.In the morning we decided to go for a bicycle ride around the island in the rain - cagoules at the ready - and had a nice coffee in the Ruin Beach Cafe to reward ourselves after.Alice xxxIMG_8171

The Sea

Today we went to Pentle Bay and went hunting for cowrie shells.  I think what I love most about Tresco is always being close to the sea ⚓️.  There is nothing better than a wander along a beach with the smell of salt in the air, listening to the sound of the sea, watching the waves and looking out to the horizon .  I love the way the light changes the colour of the water, sometimes a bright turquoise, other times almost silver, and often a deep angry blue.  I like the play of the sky, the land and the sea, and how they are sometimes in start contrast, and other times in complete harmony with each other.Tresco has white sand beaches, with translucent water and the weather changes often, and it is a wonderful place to see these beautiful arrangements of light and colour.  The beach is often deserted (I think most people are happily in their cottages, in no hurry to meet the rain), but if you do venture out, I think it is one of the best places to spend a very happy morning or afternoon.(And we did find two cowrie shells 🐚🐚 ☺️)Alice xxxIMG_8104 

Tresco

Today we walked around the north end of the island - it was very blustery, and the sea was very very blue.  And then we came home and ate banana and chocolate cake, made by Susannah, for tea as it is Emily's birthday 😃🎈.I am counting the first two photos as a pair 😉, and the bottom is a special extra for Emily's birthday 🎂💙.Alice xxxIMG_8071IMG_8072IMG_8073

The Scilly Isles

This week are on the Scilly Isles (islands off the very end of Cornwall) and rather than doing endless photos I have decided to post just one photo a day 🙈🙉🙊.  As  you can imagine, this has been quite tough for me, as there are just so many fun snaps 😉.  It was a tricky choice, there were some good contenders - but today I went with this:IMG_8035This is looking from Tresco to the sun setting 🌅 on the island of Bryher -  behind is the Atlantic ocean ⛵️.  To the right you can see the edge of Tresco and Cromwell's castle 👑.We are all very excited to be on Tresco - we arrived in a twin otter plane ✈️ and the landing was quite thrilling, the runway is on a slope.  And then we travelled to Tresco in the Scilly Cyclone 🚤, which is very speedy.  And the sun ☀️has been out and we've even had an ice cream 😃🍦I may well do a Scilly Isles round up once we are back, there are just too many fun photos 📷- but for now I will stick one photo a day 😃.Alice xxx 

Alhambra

One of my main reasons for wanting to go to this part of Spain was to see the Alhambra ⭐️.  You need to book very very early and we had not done this 😳.  Two weeks before we went, the kind man over the phone ☎️ tried to fob us off  with tickets to the Generalife garden 🌳'does this include entry to the Nasrid Palaces 🏤?' 'No' 'Are the Nasrid Palaces 🏤 the best part' 'Yes' - it is important to preserve.   After a fair bit of probing he did admit that the best way to get a ticket was to ring him the day before we wanted to go, as they always have tickets the day before ☎️.  I wasn't superbly happy about this, but we had no choice but to chance it.  The day arrived - I called up the lady 💁 in the ticket office - and NO tickets 😭.  Our only hope now was to go and queue the following morning (the ticket office opens at 8am, and she suggested getting there VERY early 😳).So I may have made Andy, Max and Laura wake up at 6am ⏰ to drive over to Granada to get into the disneylandesque queue so we could get into the Alhambra ⭐️ - sometimes it's important to do these things.  It was slightly drizzling ☔️ when we arrived at 7.30am ⏰there was already a monstrous queue 👬👭👭👬.  We split into two parties - 2 to queue for the actual ticket office 👭, and 2 to queue to buy tickets from a machine 👬, and drank some terrible coffee while we waited ☕️.  I am pleased to tell you we did get tickets - the ticket machine queue won and Andy and Max came back triumphantly 🎉.My two favourite parts of the Alhambra were the Generalife Gardens  🌳- the roses 🌹 were out and it had recently rained ☔️ and they are rather beautiful.And then of course the Nasrid Palaces 🏤 - there are just so many patterns ⭐️ everywhere, they are quite splendid.And they have a good gift shop 🏰 - I bought a glasses 👓 case covered in an Alhambra ⭐️ inspired pattern.  Andy suggested they should be selling Al - ham - bras 🐷👙 (that would be bras made of ham in a nice pattern) - sorry for giving your idea away Andy...I am SO pleased we made it 😍.  And I suggest you book in advance if you do decide to go.Alice xxxIMG_3170IMG_3171IMG_3173IMG_3174IMG_3176IMG_3177IMG_3182Photo 07-05-2016Photo 07-05-2016-2Photo 07-05-2016-3Photo 07-05-2016-5Photo 07-05-2016-7Photo 07-05-2016-8Photo 07-05-2016-10Photo 07-05-2016-11Photo 07-05-2016-12Photo 07-05-2016-14Photo 07-05-2016-15Photo 07-05-2016-16Photo 07-05-2016-17Photo 07-05-2016-18Photo 07-05-2016-19Photo 07-05-2016-20Photo 07-05-2016-21Photo 07-05-2016-22Photo 07-05-2016-23Photo 07-05-2016-24IMG_3191Photo 07-05-2016-27Photo 07-05-2016-28Photo 07-05-2016-29Photo 07-05-2016-31Photo 07-05-2016-32Photo 07-05-2016-33Photo 07-05-2016-35Photo 07-05-2016-36Photo 07-05-2016-37Photo 07-05-2016-38Photo 07-05-2016-39Photo 07-05-2016-40

Antequera

For the rest of our trip we stayed in a superb airbnb 🏰 is a town called Antequera 🏯.  Antequera is directly north of Malaga and in-between Seville and Granada, a good location 📉.We scooped up Laura from the train station 🚂 and arrived at Calle Federico Garcia Lorca (the nice lady on the sat nav isnt too good at Spanish - 'calais federi co gar cia lor ca' - I don't do it as well as her - she says the 'c's hard 'c's, like 'k' for 'kettle' - it's almost delightful.)  The airbnb was great -  modern with a pool 🏊 and an amazing view out over the town and the countryside towards the 'Peña de los Enamorados' 💔, a large rock 🗿that looks like a man's head in profile and is known as the 'Lover's rock' 💘 as a moorish girl 👧and a christian boy 👦threw themselves from it, knowing that they could never be together.  I was fond of this rock by the time we left, it's a really wonderful landmark 🗿.The airbnb was ideal and we decided we should also explore Antequera 🏯 - Andy's guidebook described it at the 'Florence of Andalucia' ⛪️ and it does have some rather nice churches and old streets.  I think the nicest thing is that there aren't too many other tourists 👫👫.  We visited the Acazabar - the fortress 🏤 - which has an excellent audio guide, and nice views.The other things we got excited about in Antequera was a fruit shop  🍓🍊🍌🍍🍇- SO MUCH fruit - the man running the shop was quite baffled by us, the oranges are the best 🍊.  We had some good food 🍴- Friday night was spent in Sal y Pimienta - and if you ever find yourself in Antequera please go here.  It is a tiny little bar 🍻, with one lady behind the bar 💁 and her mother 🙋in the kitchen, and was full to the brim with locals 👪.  More and more intriguing tapas kept appearing 🍛 - 'you must try this' - and much 'jerez' 🍷was drunk.  We even made friends with the woman who runs the 'Lobo Parc' (that's wolves) 🐺 and promised her we would visit.  Whilst in Antequera we ate at a number of good places - however would not recommend the 80s bar 🎤.  Spanish 80s music......and we really did try our best to dance, but they could have just played some Madonna 💃 - the poor youth of Antequera.  Surprisingly it was mainly filled with middle aged ladies all samba / salsaing away 💃- so perhaps we had chosen the wrong nightlife - they were much taken with Andy's dancing 👯.We visited La Laguna de Fuente Piedra ⛲️ where the flamingos 🐦 spend their time when they aren't in Africa.  We were very excited to see the flamingos 🐦 but sadly they are more sensible than us - and almost all of them had to decided to hide away from the horrid weather ☔️ - but we did see some , including a black and white one 🐦- apparently this happens when they don't eat the right food 🍤 that gives them their pink colour 💕.  They are really quite marvellous birds, and we watched them for quite some while - although it looks as though their knees bend backwards - they don't - these joints are actually their ankles.  They are very handsome birds 🐦💕.I liked Antequera a lot 🏯 - I liked the airbnb with it's amazing view and we did spend lots of time reading 📚 and not doing too much. The following day was our trip to Granada to see the Alhambra 🏰, and I will tell you all about it tomorrow!Alice xxxPhoto 05-05-2016-19Photo 05-05-2016-20Photo 06-05-2016-3Photo 06-05-2016-4IMG_3162IMG_3163Photo 06-05-2016-5Photo 06-05-2016-6Photo 06-05-2016-9Photo 06-05-2016-7Photo 06-05-2016-8IMG_3167Photo 06-05-2016-11Photo 06-05-2016-12

Onwards - Caminito Del Rey

We left Seville 🍊 and headed towards Caminito del Rey 🌄, our next destination.  Unfortunately it was closed when we arrived - rocks falling 🗻 from above are a little bit of a hazard.  There seems to be absolutely no way of finding whether or not it open apart from actually turning up at the start point (having walked quite some way), so we resolutely drove over there the following day and excitingly it was 😃!We donned our hard hats 👷 and off we went.  I would like to tell you that we are not that brave - yes it's high up, and yes there is not that much supporting you - but it would be pretty unfortunate to fall off the trail.  In the last couple of years they are have a built new trail above the existing one, which is safe, and means that you can pop along and walk through the gorge 🚶.Andy's guide book informed us that people had been accidentally dropping off the old trail up until 2001, when the government had closed it.  It was originally built for workers to move between two hydroelectric power plants 🏄 at either end of the gorge - one at El Chorro and one at Gaitanejo Falls.  The old trail is a stone walk-way attached to the side of the cliff and it is still there, below the new one.  Parts of it are missing, so you would have had to have jumped 🏃 - and until it was closed it was supposedly the world's most dangerous walkway 🚫.You start at the Gaitanejo Falls end, and they start you off happily, a short walkway through the first gorge with beautiful views🌄.  Next is a walk through the hills 🌲 and then you get to the main part 🗻 and the bridge - it is a little scary, particularly with the wind blowing, and it's a long way down, although the two small boys with their parents behind us were completely non-plussed 😎.It was lots of fun, and I am so pleased it was open! We rewarded ourselves with a nice ice cream 🍦 once we had finished.Alice xxxPhoto 05-05-2016Photo 05-05-2016-2Photo 05-05-2016-3Photo 05-05-2016-4Photo 05-05-2016-6IMG_3110Photo 05-05-2016-8Photo 05-05-2016-10Photo 05-05-2016-11IMG_3122Photo 05-05-2016-15Photo 05-05-2016-13IMG_3115Photo 05-05-2016-5IMG_3124Photo 05-05-2016-16Photo 05-05-2016-17IMG_3139IMG_3140IMG_3141Photo 05-05-2016-18

Seville - The Last Days

After the great success of the choir trip 🎶, we had a couple more days in Seville before Andy joined us.We visited the cathedral ⛪️ (the third biggest cathedral in the world) and climbed the Giralda (the bell 🔔 tower).One thing I haven't mentioned yet is the food 🍝 - we did eat many nice things, and some not so nice - there are so many places selling tapas it can be hard to get it right.  We did have some really excellent food in Pimenton  - the gambas 🍤were particularly good (the ones fried in butter and garlic).We went over to Parque de Maria Luisa 🌳 - and had a look at the Plaza de Espana 🇪🇸, it is rather splendid with painted ceramic everything and oh so many tiles ♦️🔷.  Rather than hire a row boat 🚣, we decided to hire one of those cyclo contraptions 🚴- the ones in which multiple people can sit and pedal and it all looks very jolly.  I have a fairly leisurely attitude to transport 🚴, Max likes to go fast 🚵.  The kindly man hiring it out to us immediately pointed Max 👦to the driving seat (how did he know) and off we went at a roaring pace 🚵 (I had been envisioning a gentle cycle about the park in the sunshine 👧, I should have known better).  The boy racer speed culminated in Max deciding to attempt a handbrake turn, because, you know, we were in a means of transport with wheels and a handbrake - and there was no one else on the road.  We didn't die, but we did go up on two wheels 😳 - and afterwards Max did admit that perhaps it had been a little ambitious.....There was some lovely bougainvillea 🌺🌺in the park, which I enjoyed a lot (more than than the near death handbrake turn experience) and we then went over to the Museo Bellas Artes (art museum) 🎨 to have a look at many Zubaran, Murillo and paintings by other spanish artists.  It's a rather beautiful building 🏤 with neatly arranged courtyards and they have AIR CONDITIONING which was very welcome.  You can also get in free if you are part of the European Union and have your passport with you..Seville also has good shopping 👗👠🎀 - I would happily go back just to browse the dresses, none of which are too expensive and are all beautifully made in bright jewel colours 💚💜💙.  And I imagine would be the perfect place to have a dress or dresses made for a particular occasion.So having experienced much culture, torn myself away from many dress shops, and survived a terrifying handbrake turn we met up with Andy who was joining us for the rest of the trip.Alice xxxPhoto 03-05-2016-2Photo 02-05-2016-6Photo 02-05-2016Photo 02-05-2016-2Photo 02-05-2016-3Photo 02-05-2016-4Photo 02-05-2016-5Photo 03-05-2016-4Photo 03-05-2016-3 Photo 03-05-2016-7IMG_3102Photo 03-05-2016-6IMG_3095Photo 03-05-2016-8Photo 03-05-2016-9Photo 03-05-2016-10

Cordoba

The second performance by the Islington Choral Society 🎶 was in Cordoba, so we all hopped on a bus 🚌and off we went for the day.Cordoba was all about the Mezquita 🏤.  This is a truly splendid building (although you would never know from the outside) and it is technically a mosque-cathedral 🙏.  A Christian temple stood on the original site, and in 784 the original structures were demolished and the grand mosque of Cordoba 🏤 was built.  In 1236 when Cordoba returned to Christian rule the building was converted into a Roman Catholic church ⛪️ and in the 16th century a renaissance cathedral nave was inserted in the centre.When you enter you are confronted by rows and rows of arches in a red and white stripe pattern ⚪️🔴 - the building is square, and the arches seem to go on for ever in certain directions ↘️↖️.  However, built into the centre is a cathedral nave ⛪️, with an alter and area for the choir 😯.  The nave has been built into the original structure of the mosque, so it feels almost as though it could always have been there - it is like a large well lit 💡 room surrounded by rows and and rows of arches .  There are also side chapels ⛪️surrounding the entire building, again built into the arches.  In the arched areas the light is intermittent 🔦- we were there on a beautifully sunny day, and the dark and light give the whole building a rather magical atmosphere🔮.  It is a truly amazing, and no description can match actually being there - there is so much to take in the combination of moorish and christian architecture and decoration is extraordinary.After the Mezquita, we had a quick wander around Cordoba in the sunshine, - they have a courtyard competition 💐which was about to take place, and we spied many well laid out, and decorated courtyards - and then it was time for concert number 2🎶.  The church, Parroquia de San Hipolito, was completely different to the one the night before - very simple with white washed walls and the acoustics were better this time.  Again a full audience 😃!Alice xxxPhoto 01-05-2016-14Photo 01-05-2016-3Photo 01-05-2016-4Photo 01-05-2016-6Photo 01-05-2016-9Photo 01-05-2016-2Photo 01-05-2016Photo 01-05-2016-10Photo 01-05-2016-11Photo 01-05-2016-12Photo 01-05-2016-13Photo 01-05-2016-15Photo 01-05-2016-16Photo 01-05-2016-18Photo 01-05-2016-19

Seville - The Beginning

Next stop - Seville 🍊.I took the high speed train 🚄 - and arrived in Seville 5 hours later, passing through many olive groves 🌳.I really like Seville 🍊.  The sunshine ☀️ helped a lot, but it really is just a rather lovely place.  At the centre, surrounding the cathedral ⛪️, the streets are mainly pedestrianised - and there are endless little bars 🍹and restaurants 🍜 lining the streets - and orange 🍊🌳 trees everywhere.  It is rather wonderful 😊.I was there with the Islington Choral Society 🎶 - I would like to make it clear that I DO NOT SING 🎤❌ - but know someone who does and I was there as support / enjoying a trip to Seville 💃.  The choir were about 100 strong, and I think we may have completely taken over the hotel.  Everyone was very excited - there were many mentions as to how brilliant the last trip to Perugia was.  There were to be two concerts - one in Seville 🍊 and one in Cordoba 🏰.We all visited the Real Alcazar 🏤- the main palace in Seville.  This may have been my favourite place we visited - the palace is a interesting mix of styles from different eras, the first part we went into has bright orange and yellow tiles in floral designs 🍊🍋💐- the second part is Moorish 🏰 - tiles in geometric patterns ◽️◾️.  And I loved the gardens 🌳 - tiles 🔷♦️ everywhere still, with palm trees 🌴 and roses 🌹 and many archways 🏰.The concert 🎶was in the church of Santa Maria Magdalena ⛪️ - and there had been many mutterings along the lines of - 'no one is actually going to turn up ....'  however, when we got to the church it was full to the brim, mass had just taken place and NO ONE left👫👬👭.  The huge, very ornate church was packed  - and they stayed listening to the whole of Mozart's Requiem 😯🎶.  Apparently local tv 📺had been plugging Islington Choral Society and people had turned up specially to listen 👏.  There was a lot of celebration after - the biggest audience ever 🍻!Alice xxxPhoto 29-04-2016IMG_3053Photo 30-04-2016Photo 30-04-2016-2Photo 30-04-2016-3Photo 30-04-2016-4Photo 30-04-2016-5Photo 30-04-2016-6Photo 30-04-2016-7Photo 30-04-2016-8Photo 30-04-2016-10Photo 30-04-2016-11Photo 30-04-2016-9Photo 30-04-2016-12IMG_3074Photo 30-04-2016-13Photo 30-04-2016-14Photo 30-04-2016-16Photo 30-04-2016-17Photo 30-04-2016-18Photo 30-04-2016-19Photo 30-04-2016-20Photo 29-04-2016-7Photo 29-04-2016-4Photo 29-04-2016-2Photo 29-04-2016-6Photo 30-04-2016-21Photo 30-04-2016-22Photo 30-04-2016-23Photo 30-04-2016-24

Barcelona Again

On the second day of my trip I walked up into the hills 🗻 to the Fundacio Joan Miro 🔴.  It had rained ☔️ in the night and walking up into the hills there was that lovely smell of just rained on tropical foliage 💧🌴.  It was wonderful to climb up above the city, I passed a man with a dalmatian 🐶and the most fantastically located outdoor swimming pool 🏊- not open - but as far as I could make out the pool, and staggered viewing seats above, must have one of the best views of Barcelona, I took a nice photo 🙏.I arrived at the Joan Miro Foundation 🔴🔵 and queued but not for too long.  I have always been really intrigued by Miro 🔵- all that blue 🔵 with those black lines ✏️ and white dots ⚪️ and red ♦️ - fun to look at, but never entirely satisfying.  It turns out Miro 🔵, who was born in Barcelona, experimented with all sorts of art styles, he never wanted his work to be classified as one 'type' 🎨.  And he really did experiment with all sorts of mediums 🔨✒️.  I enjoyed his early fauvist works 💖, and really liked his large scale abstract works - Fireworks I, II and III in particular 🎉🎉🎉.  I wasn't so sure about some of his sculptures 🗿and his works in textile 🎪are quite peculiar.  But I do like the way he kept pushing the boundaries - not allowing himself to be defined by any one type of technique or medium - although there is almost always something distinctly 'Miro' about his works - and you can't miss his spectacular use of primary colours 🔶♦️🔷.  I was also delighted to find Alexander Calder's mercury fountain ⛲️ - an image of which had been featured in the Calder exhibition at the Tate - it really is mesmerising.I had lunch 🍴 at the Fundacio Joan Miro - sandwich 🍕and a coffee ☕️ and then wandered down through the Jardins de Laribal 🌳.  If you ever find yourself in this area of Barcelona definitely visit these gardens 🌳- they are rather beautiful and there was practically no one else in them.I then took the metro 🚝 to the other side of the city to Park Guell 🏡.  I was citymappering 📉 about Barcelona and it told me it was a 20 minute walk from the metro station to the park....being city mapper it failed to mention that this was up a VERY steep hill 🗻.  On my way home I passed some inappropriately dressed, slightly over weight British tourists starting this ascent, and am pretty sure they would have soon been cursing whoever suggested they do the 'short walk' from the metro station to the park... 😳Anyway, I did make it to the top 💃 and spent a pleasant afternoon in the park 🌳.  I wandered about the Gaudi colonnades and bridges 🎢, and found the Turo de las Tres Creus - 3 stone crosses high up in the park ⛪️, and definitely the best view over Barcelona.  I liked Park Guell - it was rather fascinating with Gaudi's house 🏰serenely sitting at the centre.  I didn't actually pay to go into the main part - it was so crowded with people, but you can see most of it from above.I headed home with a quick stop to have supper 🍝 in La Monroe  - a very trendy bar.  I had a very very good strawberry 🍓salad - although did order 'chips' and got a whole bowl of crisps 🍟😔... but they were very kind to me.  Eating out on my own is not something I have mastered well - and I have to admit I spent a huge amount of time on my phone 📱 using the free wifi, all that instagramming to do 😉...  I did get better towards the end of my trip - less phone time!!I really enjoyed these two areas of Barcelona - it was rather nice to see a completely different side of the city - and I would highly recommend going to both.Alice xxx Photo 28-04-2016Photo 28-04-2016-2Photo 28-04-2016-4Photo 28-04-2016-3Photo 28-04-2016-5Photo 28-04-2016-6Photo 28-04-2016-7Photo 28-04-2016-8Photo 28-04-2016-10Photo 28-04-2016-11Photo 28-04-2016-12Photo 28-04-2016-14Photo 28-04-2016-16Photo 28-04-2016-17Photo 28-04-2016-18Photo 28-04-2016-20Photo 28-04-2016-21Photo 28-04-2016-19Photo 28-04-2016-23Photo 28-04-2016-24Photo 28-04-2016-25Photo 28-04-2016-26

The Beginning of the Trip - Espana

For the last two weeks I have been in Spain 🇪🇸 - which was really rather fun.  I set off the Tuesday before last to Barcelona, where I have never been before.  I was on my own and to start with spent a couple of days getting to know this really rather large city.The first day I wandered about the old city, which is fun - lots of small winding streets and I got rather lost.  I came across all sorts of things - many little boutiques 👗👠💍(a scarf, some sandals and a necklace made by El Pez Dorado may have been purchased..), I stumbled upon the cathedral ⛪️ quite by accident, and found some really lovely parks 🌳 full of weird and wonderful architecture and sculpture 🗽, my favourite was Parc de l'Estacio Del Nord 🚂🌳.In the afternoon I headed over to the main streets to look at Gaudi's architecture 🏰.  Gaudi's architecture reminds me a lot of Dr Seuss 🎩🐱 - all higgledy piggledy - and I have to say I am not sure how much I like it.  Strangely I think it would actually be better in bright bright colours 💛💙💜💚- and I am not quite sure what to make of the Sagrada Familia 🏰.Day one was very satisfactory - I got into the swing of travelling on my own👧🎒, attempted to remember some Spanish 🇪🇸😳 and got stuck into my book 📘.Alice xxxIMG_5368Photo 26-04-2016-2Photo 27-04-2016-2Photo 27-04-2016Photo 27-04-2016-4Photo 27-04-2016-9Photo 27-04-2016-7Photo 27-04-2016-8Photo 27-04-2016-10Photo 27-04-2016-11Photo 27-04-2016-13Photo 27-04-2016-14Photo 27-04-2016-15Photo 27-04-2016-20Photo 27-04-2016-16Photo 27-04-2016-17Photo 27-04-2016-19Photo 27-04-2016-23Photo 27-04-2016-24Photo 27-04-2016-25Photo 27-04-2016-26

Firenze - The Last Day

On day three we dragged ourselves and our hangovers 😳out of bed and headed over to San Marco to look at the Fra Angelico frescoes 🎨.  It was a pleasant trip, with only a small tussle on the way in (they wouldn't believe Harry was under 26 - 2 euros entry rather than 4 euros, gotta count those pennies 💵) and a stern telling off by a lady in fur, for giggling too much in the cloisters 👯.We made our way through the rain to the Medici Chapel ⛪️, and had a quick look at the Michaelangelo chapel ...  Lunch was in Trattoria Katti and we drank prosecco because we were in Italy and it was Jamie's birthday.  They were really very kind to us, as more and more party members kept appearing, and they very patiently added more tables and fed us more pasta 🍝.After lunch some went to watch the Rugby 🏉(WELL DONE SCOTLAND) and Alice, James and I headed over to Santa Croce, and I finally got a hot chocolate ☕️🍫 in Finisterrae - the proper thick soupy kind.  A number of people have noted that my 'no sugar for lent' appears to not be going very well, and you are quite right.  I have reined it back a little in since arriving home from Italy and am endeavouring to eat less sugar not no sugar.... 😇Anyway, we went into Santa Croce ⛪️ which is marvellous - it is huge on on the inside, and I am so pleased we went.   I love Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel, it's so pretty 💙 and we wandered about undercover with the rain 💧pattering down outside.Next it was time to go home and change for the ball 👗 - we had to start getting ready early each day 'Meet in the lobby at 5.45pm' and with barely time to wash hair 💆, paint nails 💅 and and put on a dress 👗 we ordered taxis that whisked us towards the Piazza della Signoria.  Unfortunately we had been straightening 💇 our hair too long - and we were supposed to be following a procession of pipers from Piazza della Republica to Piazza della Signoria.  We caught up with them outside the Palazzo Vecchio just in time to hear the piper pipe  from the balcony of the Palazzo Vecchio 🏤🎶.We entered the Palazzo Vecchio and had drinks 🍸 in the first courtyard downstairs,  thankfully no rain.  We drank something that look suspiciously like anti-freeze 💙 but was very pleasant.  And then we were ushered into the Salone dei Cinquecento which is truly magnificent 🏰.  It was built by Simone del Pollaiolo in 1494, commissioned by the Savonarola to be the seat of the Grand Council which consisted of 500 members - rather fitting as supposedly we were 500 Scots in total.  It is a very large room, and wikipedia tells me the measurements are - length 52 m (170 ft) and width 23 m (75ft).  Rumour has it, it is the largest ballroom in Europe, and this was the first time a ball has been held there for 300 years💃.So we were very lucky indeed, and after a slight table debacle 😳, I had one of those evenings that doesn't happen that often.  It was so just so splendid from the beautiful dinner 🍝, to reeling 💃 the night away including possibly the best Mairi's Wedding ever 👯 (we are sorry if we spoiled the filming 🎥, but we did dance step perfect, just adding some extra flourishes...my fave was the fax machine 📠..).  There was also an announcement half way through the evening along the lines of 'please don't leave your wine glasses on the Michaelangelo statues 🍸🗽'.  It really was a super super evening with the Italian national anthem 🇮🇹 and God Save the Queen 👑 being sang at the very end.  And it didn't quite end there 😊.We decided to follow the crowds and headed to the cluub 💃 which was full of kilt and ball gown clad Scots and some bemused Italians and partied the night away until 6am.  I think you will be pleased to hear that we all made it onto our flights ✈️ the next day, although we did accidentally leave Jamie on the train platform 🚂 at Gatwick - poor boy is never going to travel with us ever again.It was THE most fantastic couple of days - thank you so much Dena and the Scots in Italy team for organising it all and making it happen, we had the absolute best time, and are really very sad to be home again. Can't wait for the next reel 😊 😊💃Alice xxxIMG_3407IMG_3413IMG_3421IMG_3425IMG_3434IMG_3437IMG_3442IMG_3451IMG_3476IMG_3472IMG_3481IMG_3486IMG_3490IMG_3491IMG_3494IMG_3508IMG_3517IMG_3521IMG_3577IMG_354912783661_10156790134080495_6580164647743472097_o12814226_10204996448903920_8261869218945722076_nIMG_3564IMG_3686IMG_3587IMG_3603IMG_3616IMG_3624IMG_365612803256_10204996442983772_8236355454640643218_nIMG_366812802751_10204996485304830_6337262934538697430_n

Giorno 2 - Firenze

DAY 2For day 2 they had kindly laid on some tours of Florence for us.  Emily had managed to book herself onto the only tour at 11am, but the rest of us had a hasty breakfast ☕️🍪 and headed over to Piazza Ognissanti for 9.15am to find our tour guides.There were still many kilts in evidence - I think perhaps some of the youth had just partied 💃 on through the night and were still wearing theirs.  We joined the tour for Sculpture Vultures 🗽, which was being led by Francesca 🇮🇹, who was wearing a good purple hat 👒.  She rigged us up with ear phones 🔊, and off we went to have a look at the sculpture 🗽 in Florence.  We passed a number of exciting things -  Galleria Frilli where they make all sorts of sculptures 🗿🎎, Arte della Seta (silk guild of Florence)🎐, the church of Santa Maria Novella ⛪️, and made our way over to the Baptistery 🏤 to have a look at the doors.  Francesca told us many many things -  and I can assure you that everything in Florence is 'FANTASTIC'.  I mean you are quite right Francesca, it is.  We liked the bronze 🏮 Ghiberti doors a lot, and so did Francesca.  It was rather nerve-racking having her voice in your ear 👂 saying 'over here guys' when you had wandered off to have a look at a different part of the piazza - beady eyes 👀that Francesca.  But she did allow us to remove our ear phones and have a quick coffee ☕️ ,which we did in Scudieri (although apparently Cappuccino is just for breakfast - silly tourists).  Alice had hot chocolate ☕️🍫 in which her spoon could easily stand up, and there was a comment along the lines of 'you'll have a hot chocolate cast of your intestines'.... We went back to find Francesca, who took us along to Orsanmichele (I liked the alcoves of the sculptures - super patterns), and then to Piazza della Signoria to see David.  However at this point we decided to leave Francesca and her sculptures as it was lunchtime 🍝 and that's important.Palomi and Garrett were also in Florence by chance last week, and Palomi had found the lovely little Osteria Il Buongustai where we consumed spaghetti 🍝, and crepes 🍮 and some vino rosso 🍷and a BIG beer 🍺 and I have possibly traumatised Garrett forever.  Every time I see the poor boy I am in 'organising people mode' which scares even me - so I am sorry Garrett, lets have some civilised drinks soon.Next up was the Uffizi 🏤.  We scooped up some other members of the team, and took a hasty tour of the Uffizi 🏤🎨 - which, by the way, goes on forever.  Don't be fooled into thinking it is just one floor, and I would advise you to give the early renaissance art a miss unless it really is your thing.  It turns out there is a whole floor downstairs full of the stuff you actually want to see - Leonardo Da Vinci, some splendid Titian's, Caravaggio 🎨.  To be fair to them, there is a cafe half way round the museum, and we should probably have stopped for a quick espresso ☕️ - it was needed.  We did enjoy Botticelli's Prima Vera 🌸💐👸, and I love the Tribuna 🏯.  It was fun, we got some excellent photos 📷, and I feel that Harry and James got a much needed decent dose of Florentine culture 😉.Ice Cream 🍧🍦 next - we had a lovely gelato with Annabel who also turned out to be in Florence for the weekend, on the Ponte Santa Trinita in I think the only sunshine ☀️ of the whole trip.AND THEN WE WENT REELING 👯👯.We dolled ourselves up - I had a dress crisis, and changed dress at the last minute 😳👗 - and took ourselves off to the St Regis hotel.  We were on four separate tables for dinner - so we organised some 'speed dating' - boys to move table each course.  Excellent.  It really probably was the most absurd evening I have attended and I spent 4 years in St Andrews... Let's just dress in white tie, have a grand dinner and go dancing in a Palazzo in Florence.....The dancing took place in Palazzo Corsini - this was fun, as we were dancing in the ballroom, and our tables were spread throughout the different rooms of the palazzo, and there is a lovely balcony of sorts overlooking the Arno 🚣.  The youth had been placed nearest to this, I suspect because we are the ones most likely to be having a hasty cigarette 🚬 break between reels.  Apparently one set actually did an Eightsome on the balcony - I am so jealous.  SO I have to say, the ballroom in the Palazzo Corsini just wasn't big enough.  I am sorry Bartolomeo Corsini but we needed more space.  We did the Dashing White down the corridor, which was splendid apart from the fact we couldn't really hear the band 🎶❌....  but everyone got the hang of the tight space, and we reeled to our hearts content 💃❤️.  We did a fantastic Eightsome - it was dinosaur themed 🐉- for any still confused onlookers and Jamie and Ed (we realised after, that they had missed the dinosaur lunch discussion, and thought we were just being weird).  The wine 🍷🍷also almost ran out - really they should have known that with 400 Scots under one roof, they needed more than surplus.....But WHAT an evening, and Jamie got a year older at midnight - awkwardly they sang happy birthday to someone else - but HAPPY BIRTHDAY Jamie 😊😊🎈🎂.  After, the weary ones of us headed back to Villa Carlotta and others followed the bagpipes into the night towards the cluub 💃.  Rumour has it there was a Eightsome in Piazza Ognassanti at 4am, and a number of older Scots were not very impressed by being woken by the bagpipes at this early hour - I imagine the Florentines were also most confused.It was just so much fun, but we were there for one more day 😘.Alice xxxIMG_3168IMG_3182IMG_3188IMG_3192IMG_3199IMG_3218IMG_3226IMG_3230IMG_3233IMG_3243IMG_3241IMG_3251IMG_3262IMG_3274IMG_3286IMG_3289IMG_3291IMG_3299IMG_3304IMG_3310IMG_3659IMG_3321IMG_3340IMG_3343IMG_3347IMG_3387IMG_3389IMG_369112794431_10204996488504910_2826308452167182633_nIMG_3378IMG_3384IMG_3696

Day 1 - Firenze

So we went to Florence.I am rather sad to be home 🏡 - it was really very very fun, and just a little bit ridiculous 💃, and I am having slight withdrawal.  TEAM, it was great.We actually left on Wednesday evening - I scooped up Jamie and Emily and their luggage from Clapham and off we went to stay near Gatwick ✈️.  I suspect Jamie 👦 is a very organised individual, and I think a little terrified by the prospect of three unwieldy girls 👧👩👵 organising his weekend for him.  But he gamely got in the car 🚗 with us, and we picked up George 👦 enroute and with only one (very small) heated discussion between Emily and I (Jamie and George talked politely to each other whilst we got rageful and then made up) - we arrived safely at the airport on Thursday morning to meet the other members of the team.  We had a quick breakfast 🍛, did some reel revision curtesy of The Swinging Sporran, bought all those forgotten things in Boots, went to the loo and got on the plane.And off we went.  Well almost.  Jamie and Ed it turns out, had decided they needed extra breakfast so had sneaked off to Macdonalds 🍔🍟 - and somehow, who knows how, managed to MISS THE FLIGHT.Yup.  So off we went to Florence two men down - but at least they got their sausage and egg mcmufffins 🍔😉.On arrival we acquired two extra friendly friends 👦👦 for our transfer to the hotel, and our nice driver delivered us and our luggage to Villa Carlotta in one piece, with only a few mutterings about the level of noise we were making - I mean we were excited.It was lunch time 🍝 - and Antonio 👦 in the reception recommended we go to 4 Leoni, so off we pottered.  After some erroneous map reading 📈 and having sat down in the wrong restaurant (we all became incredibly embarrassed and British and didn't want to leave, but took the plunge 'so sorry we wanted pizza 😳') and ran away across the square sheepishly 🐑🐑 to 4 Leoni.Lunch was really delightful - I had the house special, Fiocchetti di Pera (pasta filled with pear and cheese with a cream and asparagus sauce and it is delicious - a really perfect combination) 🍝 - and we also had some yummy starters and very nice 🍷wine recommended by the super friendly waiter who didn't seem in the least bemused that his restaurant was overrun with Brits.  So we ate the food 🍝, and drank some wine 🍷, and got to know each other better, and talked about animals - mostly hamsters and dinosaurs 🐉, it turns out many of us are dinosaur fans...We then collected Suzie, Harry and James who had made it all the way from Edinburgh (properly Scottish) and had THE most delightful ice cream 🍧, a quick two scoops, one 'cioccolato fondente e arancia' and the other 'fior di latte e rose' in Gelateria della Passera.  One euro a scoop, exactly the right amount, just so good, definitely go.   (I had a lovely little photo which Emily very kindly deleted for me...)Next up was a quick nap 💤 and then time for the main event of the day - Vespers 🎶in the 'Duomo' or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore ⛪️.  So the boys donned their kilts 👗(big discussions on what to wear from the boys, an unusual occurrence), followed the sound of the bag pipes 🎶 and took out seats in the front row of the cathedral.It was rather wonderful attending a service in the vast cathedral, just enjoying the music (a Gregorian Mass) and looking at the interior.  It's gothic and I rather like it - not too much fuss, plain walls intersected by grey columns, and we had a nice view of the inside of the dome - frescoes started by Vasari and completed by Federico Zuccari 🎨.  They played the bagpipes at the end - and it was rather surreal to be surrounded by hundreds of Brits in kilts, listening to the pipes.  There was a nice speech about how the bagpipes have a European history - they are actually mentioned in Roman writings, they feature in an Italian painting somewhere and in Italy they still play an instrument called Zampogna, which is a smaller member of the pipe family.  So perhaps they aren't so unusual.  I think it is the men in skirts that really causes a stir 💃.....We left the cathedral ⛪️ following the dulcet tones of the bagpipes, and headed to the Mercato del Porcellino 🐷 to enjoy some stuzzichini (Italian eats), which there were many of.  Cheese 🍮, hot chocolate ☕️, and some other really quite exciting edible things - and then someone started some reels 👯 (can't help themselves the Scots).  We also had a quick look around the Palazzo di Parte Guelfa - once the headquarters of the Guelph party, merchants and burghers (not the kind Jamie and Ed had been eating 🍔 that morning, who did by the way, make it just in time for the church service, Easy Jet were kind to the poor souls).  The palazzo is now the seat of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino, an early form of football ⚽️originating in Italy.  So that was nice.We headed to Trattoria Za-Za for dinner 🍕 (after a quick whirl on a carousel 🎠) and finally got a table.  We had a booking for 10pm - and absolutely no explanation as to why our table wasn't ready until 10.15pm (it just wasn't OK) even with all the dark hangry mutterings from us.  Za-Za is a weird place, there are many dolls on shelves, and other strange things about the place - but they've got big tables and we enjoyed the food.  We wandered home via Piazza Santa Spirito where the party was raging, many drunk scottish youth 🍻, kilt clad and having a lovely time, and made our way back to the hotel and bed 💤.It was a super fun day, and just the beginning 😊I will catch up with you tomorrow 😘!Alice xxxIMG_3082IMG_3087IMG_3091IMG_3099IMG_3101IMG_3386IMG_3111IMG_3112IMG_3140IMG_3128IMG_3137IMG_3142IMG_3143IMG_3151IMG_3152 

4 Days, 2 Balls, 400 Scots

This week has been good.  I have helped create a photo 📷 wall - lots of nice photos, that look nice together in different sized frames.And I am going to be helping to organise an Alice in Wonderland ♥️♠️ themed birthday party for a 2 year old 👸 - I can't wait.  Actually.  Lots of mini Alice in Wonderland 🐰♥️👸 things, and I am doing some Alice revision 📚😍.Today I am off to Florence 🏰 for 4 days as there are some Scottish dancing balls 💃taking place there - which is really quite exciting.  We are going to be reeling 💃 - not the type when you're feeling a bit dizzy because you've had a little too much to drink 🍷😳, but the type when you and your dance partner 👦👧 stand in lines opposite each other and dance set dances 👯 to fun Scottish jigs 🎶, quite Pride and Prejudice esque.  It's going to be really quite great, and in-between dancing we are going to do some serious Florence sightseeing ⛪️📷, and try not to bump into the other 400 flat cap and tweed clad 'Scots' who are going to be in the city.  Also apparently Scotland are playing Italy in the rugby 🏉 on Saturday - I think it is just going to be a very fun, slightly ridiculous trip 💃💫.So today I packed 👖👗👠.  I need two 'ball gowns' 👗👗(really just full length dresses) - and I have two for sure, and a third just incase I change my mind - pink 💗, green 💚 and navy 💙.  Some pretty flats for dancing in 👡, and an umbrella 🌂, the weather is not looking so nice.  Anyway I am now all packed 👜, and ready to go, and we even had some champagne 🍸 this evening as it is George's birthday 🎂🎈.I won't post again until my return on Monday - but do check Instagram @alicefrancesb for updates 😍💃#scotsinflorenceIMG_3071IMG_3053IMG_3055IMG_3076

Went Skiing

This weekend I went to Verbier ☺️.  Jessica very kindly had us to stay, as she is living out there for the season, which is rather marvellous and I am just a tiny bit jealous - 6 whole months living in the mountains 🗻 , I am a big fan of mountains 🗻😍.  I still can't decide if I had to choose to live either by the sea 🌊 and or in mountains 🗻,which I would choose - I think the sea 🌊 would win, but those mountains 🗻 really are very nice too.After making our way from Geneva airport ✈️ to Le Chable by train 🚂 (by the way you change at Martigny, NOT Lausanne - it's confusing), we got the bubble 🚡 up to Verbier, which really is the best way to arrive anywhere.We met Jessica (wearing an excellent all-in-one ski suit and moon 🌙 boots) accompanied by Oscar 🐶 and India 🐶.  Oscar and India have adjusted well to mountain life - they have swapped walks in Battersea Park for romps in the snow with other mountain dwelling Border Terriers and seem to be doing just fine 🐶🐶 ☺️🗻.Verbier is pretty trendy.  We had dinner 🍝 with Bear Grylls 👱 and lunch 🍛 with James Blunt 🎹.  Ok, not exactly, but we did see Bear enjoying his fondue 🍜 (poor man was probably being ogled by every public school boy 👦, girl 👧 and their swooning mothers 👩💘 that entered the restaurant that evening).  Sadly James Blunt was hidden away around the corner, so we didn't actually see him, but he was there, enjoying his rosti 🍛 and rose 🍷, I hope as much as we were.I like skiing 🎿 but I do get the fear 😱.  I have been enough times that I shouldn't be too bad, but I'm not so good at not being in control and I dislike ice ❄️ immensely - I think it's the sound 🎶 more than anything.  Skis 🎿 sliding across ice ❄️ just sounds like impending doom.  I have been known to make it half way down a red run 🔴, get some serious fear 😱, have a big argument with my long suffering mother 🙆 (I can't do it, it's impossible, I will fall over, I will die 😢😰😭), take my skis 🎿 off and walk back up the piste to the safety of a nice blue run 🔵 🙊.I would like to tell you I behaved impeccably this time, no fuss made, and went down some blacks ⚫️⚫️ on the first day.  I did  take a small tumble 😵 on one of them - however luckily Alistair very kindly rescued me and helped me put my ski back on, etc - and after that I only faltered one more time on a black ⚫️ that was sheet ice ❄️😁.The skiing in Verbier is rather nice - we skied the 4 Vallees on the first day (actually I think we only got to three of them) but it was a fun adventure 🎿🗻.  We had Edward and Edric (Or Ed and Ed) with us, who were both on snowboards 🏂🏂 (very cool) but apparently snowboards 🏂 and button lifts / T-bars do not mix very well.  There was a point when we thought we may never see Edward 🏂 ever again, the ONLY way back up was a particularly vicious button lift, and I never found out how many attempts it took him to remain attached to the devious button - but thankfully he did eventually appear over the crest of the hill 😃.  Jessica and Alistair also got wiped out whilst on a T-bar by a very small child 🙍 whose stopping powers were completely beyond it.  Alistair attempted to avert the approaching hazard by grabbing the child by the scruff of the neck (ski jacket), however it was no use and they were resigned to skiing back to the bottom of the lift and start all over again, leaving the tearful 🙍small child with it's apologetic mother 👩.Our second day was white out, and I think I enjoyed that the most - just you and the mountain 🗻😎, with hopefully the person in front you still just in sight .  The third day Jessica very kindly showed us round Savoleyres, and mid morning we had a delicious apple tart 🍏 (maybe tart tatin) in Chez Simon.We did also drink 🍷☕️ many very nice things.  The hot chocolate ☕️🍫 in La Vache was the best part - 'chocolat chaud avec alcool et chantilly' I like the way they don't tell you what kind of alcohol.  Just alcohol.  That's fine. And it was DELICIOUS ☕️🍫🍸😍.  We also indulged in some apres 🍻 at Farinet - probably one of the strangest bars I have been too.  On one side you have ski boot clad seasonaires 👯 drinking many beers 🍻 (spilling much beer on the floor 🍻💧) and listening to a really quite good, extremely loud, live band 🎤🎸 playing Maroon 5.  Through the wall and visible you have a really quite swanky cocktail bar 🍸 which smells only slightly of stale beer 🍺, selling pricey cocktails 🍸with silly names.  I mean cocktails 🍸almost always have silly names - I tried the Pornstar (for it's contents not it's name, I don't really agree with outrageous drink names) and it was rather delicious.Verbier was fun, thank you very much for having us to stay Jessica and Alistair 😊.  It was lovely to be in the mountains 🗻, to have some real fresh air 😷 and to ski 🎿 (I'm sure I'm getting better 😉).Alice xxx IMG_2045IMG_2188IMG_2186IMG_2093_2IMG_2111IMG_2150IMG_2089IMG_2107IMG_2168IMG_2108IMG_2191IMG_2076IMG_2117IMG_2173IMG_2175

Do Be a Darling amongst the Cyclamen

The Darling

A recent trip to Amsterdam took me to 'De Negen Straatjes' or 'The Nine Streets', actually three streets, intersected by two canals, which are lined with charming independent boutiques.  The idea of the 'concept store' has really taken off in Amsterdam, and each clothing store is carefully curated like a gallery, but with the added bonus of the visitor being allowed to play with the items on display.My favourite was The Darling, a delightful shop on Runstraat 4.  Walking into The Darling made me feel as though I was entering the enviable walk-in-wardrobe of a good friend.  The clothes are beautifully displayed, the walls are covered in small prints and there are hydrangeas in vases.  Best of all, you can order a cupcake and cup of coffee and sit on their upstairs balcony, if you need need a break from browsing.The Darling sell a range of simple pieces in elegant fabrics - new, vintage and own brand items.  Their underwear particularly caught my eye, but the item I had to buy was the 'Darling' jumper.  I don't know if it was the connotation of the word 'darling' in English - it always seems to me slightly tongue in cheek, and makes me delightedly think of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, in which everyone she meets is 'Darling' - 'Step on it darling....'.I wanted to do a photo with the Cyclamen flowers, as they are looking wonderful at the moment in white and purple.  These perennial flowering plants are so dainty, and also strong.  This species, Cyclamen hederifolium is native to the UK and pushes it's way up through the soil during the Autumn.  The nose of the flower faces downwards, the five upright petals look almost like little wings and they have dark green, patterned ivy-esque leaves.  Coming across clusters of these little flowers at High Beeches garden, growing under the dark cedar tree (cedrus atlantica glauca) you might almost think you had wandered into an enchanted forest.  A perfect setting for a photograph with my new The Darling jumper <3.Alice xIMG_4190 The-DarlingIMG_4191         Top image:Photographed at High Beeches Garden sitting under the Cedrus atlantica Glauca tree among the Cyclamen flowers.Jumper: The Darling; Trousers: Zara; Shoes: Elia B; Unicorn clutch bag: The White Pepper; Ribbon: MacCulloch & Wallis.Photographer: Sarah Bray @SarahBray50Bottom images:Photographs of The Darling in Amsterdam, taken by Alice Bray