Thursday, 29 January 2015

A weekend away and a break from reality

I adore weekends away, they are chance to sit back and forget the hectic schedule of everyday life; all while enjoying exploring a new place and spending some time with those you love. As you may have noticed from my Instagram, I spent the weekend in London (gold star for you, Sherlock). I was born there and we generally visit pretty regularly, so Paddington Station has become a bit of a haunt! This time it was my sister’s birthday which called for the occasion, so we put our weekend in her (and my mum's) hands and let our trip be dictated by her desires.  

My sister is vegan so before leaving home we hunted down several vegan restaurants and booked out evening meal for Saturday night – I’d recommend having some idea of places to eat in the area you are visiting because not all restaurants are vegan friendly! For dinner we settled for Wild Food Cafe, a small hub of activity nestled in Neals Yard where you can watch your meal being cooked whilst getting to know your fellow diners. Almost everything there is both raw and vegan and we really enjoyed the cheesecakes, so much so that we ordered two simultaneously! Although now we eat mainly vegan at home, I really enjoyed trying the different specialties the restaurants had on offer and am definitely inspired to attempt some now I'm home.
Enjoying dinner at Wild Food Cafe

Breakfast was at Le Pain Quotidien (the only place, in my opinion, to eat breakfast when out!) after a snoop in the beautifully renovated St Pancreas Hotel, and a promise to come back and stay.  As my sister was queen of the family for the weekend, we trailed the canals to Camden and spent a good few hours having a root around the market and haggling with reluctant stall holders.

Knackered and a bit flustered by the never ending crowds, we stumbled upon the most fabulous cafe, My Little Village, in the centre of the high street. Filled with a warm amber glow and ultra friendly staff, I had a hard time remembering the busy streets of Camden were just a stone’s throw away. On arrival we were presented with homemade soup and spiced hot chocolate (which I can honestly say was the nicest drink I have ever tried) and around us there were groups of families, friends, even what seemed like colleagues enjoying lunch and tucked in the corners were lone wolves snuggled up with books. I almost didn’t want to leave and continue our trip, but time was ticking and the train was calling.

I hope you've had a lovely week, what did you get up to over the weekend? Any plans for this one?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Commemorating 2014

Okay, I am a tad late with this, I know. But, I think it is still early enough in the new year to contemplate the last and I wanted to commemorate the passing of 2014 through sharing with you my top reads of the year.

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist made it in here with just a few days to go. A Christmas gift, finished on Boxing Day, I have been recommended it to anyone who will listen! 
A historical read, set in one of my favourite places, it was already looking promising; last summer we spent a few weeks in the Netherlands and whilst exploring Amsterdam visited The Rijksmuseum. I spent a good length of time peering in awe at the dolls house which inspired Jessie Burton’s novel – I was one of the few people over the age of ten, I must admit! 
The novel follows the tale of the young, naive, bride Nella Oortman as she embarks on her new married life in the capital with a husband who she hardly knows and who gives her a delectable dolls house to entertain her, rather than do it himself.  It is exquisitely written, beautifully descriptive and brilliantly compelling.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres 

I’ve had several attempts over the years to engage with this novel; however it wasn’t until the week of my English Literature exam that we clicked, and oh boy did we click. I have vivid memories of lying on my bed, engrossed, whilst crucial cue cards lay abandoned by my side. 
It follows the occupation of a Greek Island, Cephallnia, during WWII, and taught me a lot about a section of the warwhich I had never previously mulled over, that of Italy’s role in the conflict and the occupation of Greece. 
Its beautiful descriptions made me pine for Greece and fall head over heels in love with Carlos, a gay Italian solider. I don’t often cry at novels but I wept at Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

Funnily enough I read The Goldfinch as my holiday read in Amsterdam and it also partly set in the city (see any theme here?!).
The Goldfinch follows Theo, who on the cusp of adolescent ends up in possession of Carel Fabritius’s painting ‘The Goldfinch’ after an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. As well as reaffirming my belief that I will never, ever send my future children to an American high school, it had me gripped from start to finish and really made me think about made me think what I would do in Theo’s shoes.
It's unsual for my mum, myself and my sister to all enjoy the same book but The Goldfinch was passed between us and finished in a matter of weeks! 

What were your top reads of 2014? And what books are you planning to enjoy in 2015?