Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Little Trip to Newcastle



I love travel, wherever it takes me. Whether it's near or far, I love getting out of town and exploring, taking in new sights, or revisiting a favourite spot.


A couple of months ago it was the latter, when Matthew and I headed up to beautiful Newcastle for a weekend. It's a city we both know well and adore, and with it being only a few hours away by train and a base for many of our family and friends we like to get up there fairly frequently!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Exploring Amsterdam with Canal Cruises


One of the great treats of living in London is how close we are to such a wide variety of destinations. While I enjoy flying off to places further afield, it's also delicious to hop on a plane and in an hour or two and be somewhere completely different!



Last month Matthew and I did just that and headed over to Amsterdam for a couple of days in the Dutch capital. We'd both visited before, but this was our first time visiting together.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Torcello


The gorgeous weather we are currently enjoying is both making me look forward to our adventures in Northern Europe next month and think back fondly to our time in Italy earlier in the the year. I'm sure I'll be sharing about both visits for a good long time, so if you like travel posts, you're in the right spot. If not, I'll try to make sure there's plenty of book / food / London / home stuff too!


I've written already about our lovely trip out to Burano, and today it's time to share a few shots from our visit to another of the islands of Veneto, the charming little isle of Torcello. Further out from Venice than the more famous Murano and Burano, it's still a beautiful little spot, and riding out on the vaparetto across the waters of the Venetian Lagoon was a treat in the spring sunshine.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Review: Do Not Become Alarmed


I love a good page-turner.

The kind of book you look forward to, that keeps you gripped during your commute, that makes you long for bedtime and a chance to tuck into another chapter or two.

My most recent reviewing read, Do Not Become Alarmed (Penguin, releases 6th July) is exactly that kind of juicy read. It spent far too long on my TBR pile, but as soon as I actually picked it up and dove below that blue cover I was taken on quite the journey by Maile Meloy. This book is entertaining, but also considers so big issues - family, travel, privilege, and I was often kept on the hop by the twists and turns of the narrative.

The blurb on goodreads summarises the book far more succinctly and skillfully than I can, writing this after an evening of reports, so I'll use that to set the scene. Man, I love goodreads.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Return of the Poppet


Ello hoomans!

It has bin a whiles, so I thoughted I would write oo all a little letter ere on Clur's bloggy-thing. She are busy at the moment with reportehs for the itzens and getting finished with the school year, so is a sooper time for me to log on and send oo all some friendlehs. Good hevens, I are clever.


All is well in the katzen realm at the moment. Last week we did have some noisehs and bangs and we had to be banished from the kitchen an the dining room while a noo hooman did do some fiximating. That was okay until then was wets and bangs and flashes in the weather outside! Maffoo and Clur did quickly get us in and dried and we had a sits with Clur in her lair. Leela was not happeh - she does not like the thunders!


Friday, June 09, 2017

Theatre: The Girls

Picture snaffled from the official website. Because as we all know, we don't take pictures at the theatre!
The Girls is a show that I remember wanting to see when it opened, but always seemed to be the one that got away - when schedules didn't work, when other shows came up first, when the ticket price was out of my budget for that month...

That's a shame, as I'm a great fan of the source material (the joy that is the film Calendar Girls) and the county so beloved in the film and the play, Yorkshire. So imagine my delight when my sweet friend Lou texted to say she had a ticket going spare - I swiftly added the date to my diary and looked forward to it!

Apart from the film background I knew very little going in, but sometimes I quite like that in the theatre. For every show I go into word-perfect (42nd Street, The Lion King, etc) I've gone to see plenty of things 'cold' and rather enjoy catching a show in the raw, reacting as things arise.

The Girls is a pleasant and moving piece of theatre. I laughed as much as one expects to in a musical comedy, but what really struck me was the space and time the writers were willing to lend to the sadder, deeper, more poignant moments. The Girls is about many things - friendship, community, making a difference, but it's also about loss, and in the moments where this took centre stage it was masterful. There was a good fifteen minute stretch where I was officially ugly crying. Thank heavens for the napkins I'd taken with my dinner from Pret beforehand!

The cast of The Girls is beladen with some serious talent. The whole ensemble is good, but there were a couple of highlights for me.  It was such a treat to see Joanna Riding sing live (the Witches of Eastwick soundtrack with the London cast is one of my favourite musical theatre recordings ever) and her performance as Annie was beautiful, the real heart of the show. Sophie-Louise Dann was brilliant too, in a role which balanced comedy, pathos and confidence - whenever I see her perform (I loved her in Made in Dagenham and Bend It Like Beckham too) I'm thoroughly charmed.

The Girls runs at London's Pheonix Theatre until the middle of next month. If you're looking for an entertaining, moving night of musical theatre, you'd do well to pick up some tickets - it's a great wee show!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

One World Observatory


When we were planning our visit to New York this year, we knew we definitely wanted to pay our respects at the 9/11 memorial fountains, and to visit the viewing deck at the One World Observatory, at the very top of the One World Trade Center.

Before we visited the site, we happened upon O'Hara's, an Irish bar a stone's throw from the site of the original World Trade Center towers. This pub became a real hub for first responders in the days, weeks and months after 9/11, and the walls are festooned with badges from police, firemen, paramedics, coastguards and other first responders from around the world who had made the journey there to pay their respects to their fallen comrades. We spent a couple of hours sipping beer and chatting with the barstaff, as well as leafing through the albums they kept, charting the events and aftermath of the awful attacks on September 11th, 2001. I'm so glad we got to spend a little time in the unique gem of a spot.


After our time at O'Hara's we headed over to the north and south tower memorials. These fountains are placed where the foundations for the fallen towers had been. This was incredibly moving - even in the midst of a busy city like New York, the spot had a solemn serenity. I don't think anyone who can recall 9/11 will ever forget seeing those events unfold, and it was heartbreaking to be in a space where so many had lost their lives. I was grateful for the chance to go and pay my respects.

Once we had spent a little while at the memorial, we walked the small distance to the One World Trade Center, to take the lift up to the Observatory. The lift takes just 60 seconds to speed you up to the 100th floor, which is quite the feat of engineering.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Current Reads, June 2017


May into June is always a busy time in a teacher's schedule, but I'm trying to make sure I still read a little each day. Commuting 90-plus minutes each workday and my no-screens-at-bedtime rule helps to make tearing through books a lot easier! Here are the five I'm working on just now - these are the books I'm on, or just about to start.


I love Nia Vardalos, so when I spotted Instant Mom the other day I had to pick up a copy. Like Nia it's funny, clever and kind, and I'm loving it!


Monday, June 05, 2017

Happy Monday #21

Oh yes, it's back - a quick round up of a few of the things that are making me happy right now.

1. Instagram Stories



Inasmuch as Instagram proper can drive me a little nuts with the algorithmic nonsense and non-chronological feed and bots bots bots, at its best it's a great way to share, and in stories I love sharing the little snippets of my day-to-day life. I'm cmclaire over there. Above, the chaos unleashed while I babysat a friend's child last week.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Pizza Magic at Firezza Dean Street


One thing London is not short of is places to eat. The city is crowded with cuisines from every corner of the world, at a multitude of price points, with about a thousand different service styles.

I always think the best places, however, are those that are conveniently placed, well-priced, serving delicious food with a little flair. So imagine my delight when I turned up to Firezza on Dean Street on Wednesday evening and found a brilliant little location (smack dab in Soho, a few steps from Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road), serving tasty food at a nice price point (£7.95 or less for a pizza? Yes please, purse-friendly dining) efficiently and with a smile.

Matthew and I rocked up over half an hour early but the team were very happy to seat us straightaway and get down to business. The menu is a simple sheet of brown paper, and you make your selections then head up to the counter to order. I love to see a short, well thought-out menu - tomes with page upon page of frippery can give me the fear! Always best to pick a few key things you do well and excel than try to cram six dozen options in.


Thursday, June 01, 2017

St Peter's Basilica


Our Italy trip feels simultaneously like it was yesterday, and a lifetime ago. Do you ever get that feeling? It was a glorious blur of culture, sunshine, history, gelato, wine and churches, and I cannot wait to return. In the meantime, I'll content myself with writing up our various visits, and getting all prepped for our new adventure (I swear, I often enjoy the planning as much as the doing!).

While we were in Rome we visited so many stunning churches, cathedrals and basilicas, so when we went to the Vatican a visit to St Peter's Basilica had to be on the cards. And it truly did not disappoint - the whole space is full of beauty, history and wonder.


The sheer scale of the the place is awe-inspiring. The letters in the picture below are ten foot high, but need to be that big so they can be seen from the floor below!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Circle Line Ferry Tour in New York

On our first full day in New York, we headed over to the Pier 83 on the west side of Manhattan Island, to take a Circle Line Ferry tour. We took the Best of NYC tour, which takes in so many of the sights you associate with New York. As there were bridge works we couldn't complete the whole circle of the island, but the horseshoe route we did take offered amazing sights of Manhattan, as well as Hoboken, Jersey City, Brooklyn, Roosevelt Island, and more.


We caught a glimpse of the USS Intrepid and the tail of Concorde at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum as we headed off on our tour.



It was such fun to spot the other traffic on the Hudson River and the East River as we sailed by. These bodies of water were huge and very busy with work boats, ferries, pleasure craft and other sailors.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

USA: Five places I've loved, and five I want to try (inspired by Trek America!)

Earlier this month I wrote about the awesome Trek America event I went along to, ceelbrating the debut of their VR films of various National Parks. It was absolutely amazing, and left me full of inspiration and ideas for my own travels stateside. I love going to the US, whether it's to catch up with friends, to visit family, or to explore. I've been lucky enough to see a lot of the country so far, but am also aware it's so vast I still have a ways to go (14 out of 50 states down has me at just over a quarter of them...).

In this post I'm going to look at five places I've loved, and which I'd like to visit again, and another five I'm chomping at the bit to get to!

Five places in the US I've loved and I want to visit again

1. New York


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Amtrak: NYC to Boston


When deciding on how to travel from New York to Boston on our latest USA trip, we had several options. We could fly, drive, take a bus, or take the train. As neither of us had taken a train in the US before, we decided to opt for the latter. The train from NYC to Boston is fairly swift (around 4 hours) and we booked onto first class for a little extra space too.

We were excited to experience train travel in another country and I was especially looking forward to seeing Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts as we whizzed by - the train line wends its way north along the coastline and I was excited to see the Atlantic from a new vantage point.

We journeyed down to Penn Station with our suitcases and perched in the lounge to await our train. The station is absolutely vast, with escalators and corridors going every which way! I was really grateful we had a porter to help us find our train and carriage as otherwise who knows what journey we may have ended up on.


Our travel day was clear and warm, with beautiful skies. It was lovely to look back at the city as we left the five boroughs behind and made our way onwards. The seats were comfortable and the air conditioning welcome, and we soon got comfy and read our books and played a little Uno as we travelled through the industrial belt just outside of New York City proper.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Tipsy Afternoon Tea with Amara



One of the things I love about blogging is the community I get to be a part of. Like any group, there can be infighting, catty moments and jealousy, but in the main I find myself small enough and old enough (eleven years and counting writing my thoughts here!) to be able to trundle along quite happily in a little Claire-bubble. Like everyone I have good days and bad days, lists I make and lists I fail to make, but in the main I cannot complain about my lot. There have been a lot of good things, but I'm most grateful for the kickass women and men I've got to meet along the way, and the cool brands I get to work with and the fun events I get to attend.

One such event happened last week, when I was one of the lovely Erica's plus ones (she's so fly she got two plus ones - bow down :)) to an event hosted by the lovely folks at Amara. Amara is already a site I spending far too much time browsing (homewares are my homeboys) so I was delighted to be able to make the event and meet the team! 

Amara have a site just full to the gunnels with beautiful, stylish homewares, so it was no suprise that they chose one of the city's chicest hotels, the Sanderson, for their event. Once there we had a little time to recover from the rainstorm outside before taking our seats for the Alice in Wonderland themed tea; The Mad Hatter's Tipsy Evening Tea, to be precise. 


Trays were brought, beladen with miniature cocktails. The cherry liqueur, orange marmalade mini espresso martini and the dark chocolate and raspberry liqueur mini martini were flavoursome, creamy delights, but I especially adored the teacup cocktails comprising spicy mango syrup and Falernum rum infused with hot Mad Hatter tea and pear and rhubarb liqueur infused with hot Mad Hatter tea. The delicate fruit and floral flavours were exquisite! As well as these we sipped Perrier-Jouet bubbles aplenty as we chatted and giggled the night away.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Santa Maria Novella, Florence


While in Florence, one of the places we were determined to visit was Santa Maria Novella, the beautiful basilica in the heart of the city, a stone's throw from the train station and our hotel, the lovely Hotel Diplomat.



Chronologically, it is the first great basilica in Florence, constructed before the magnificent Duomo (more on which soon!).



Saturday, May 06, 2017

Feeling inspired by Trek America 360


At the end of April I was invited along by the team at Trek America to attend a US-themed event to celebrate the launch of their 360 experiences - amazing VR films where you can view some of the USA's most beautiful national parks in glorious VR. As someone who loves to travel and is a fully paid up America fan when it comes to holidays, I was so happy to be able to attend!


The event was awesome, with so much to do, see and enjoy. There was a band (the phenomenal Loose Change) playing American rock and country classics, food from the four corners of the US, a casino where you could gamble your Trek dollars, and a superb guestlist - I spent the whole evening bumping into dear blog-friends. I'd popped along with the lovely Emma, and I finally got to meet the fabled Aftab, too!


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Wine tasting with Divino in Vino


Last week I was very kindly invited along to a wine tasting with the team at Divino in Vino. The older I get, the more inquisitive I get about wine, its history and provenance, the flavours you can explore and the many types of wine you can enjoy. So the chance to attend a wine tasting (along with a bevvy of lovely bloggers who I always enjoy catching up with) was a golden one.


We met in Pidgin, the most delightful little restaurant in Hackney (and owner of its very own Michelin star). We were to take over the premises to be guided through a six wine tasting by the lovely Silvia, a wine expert who has been working in the field for several years and whose passion and expertise inspired her to start Divino in Vino, to arrange wine tastings that help people to explore the many wines available.


Monday, May 01, 2017

My Travel Menu

Another month, another travel link up! I've been loving all the pictures from Traverse (and kicking myself for not getting tickets - 2018 here I come!) and have been doing a tonne of holiday planning for our summer trip over the Bank Holiday weekend so am very much in a travel mood :). The theme of this month's #TravelLinkup is a travel menu.

The question posed to us all was "If travel was a menu, what place is your starter (short haul), main (long haul) & dessert (lasting impression)?" A food style setting out and a travel theme? You know I'm on board!


Starter

Scotland-beach-sunshine

Scotland-beach-sunshine

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A little Anthropologie wishlist


There are a few stores which I visit which simply make me happy. Beautiful clothes, pretty homewares, lovely gifts, fabulous scents and pampering items, interesting books - all of these are the things I love to see, and purchase. And Anthropologie is always a place I like to visit to pick up some or all of the above. I popped into the beautiful Regents Street store the other day and just had to do a little wishlist post on a few things that caught my eye!


I couldn't find this exact set on the website, but I love the range of blues Anthro always stock.  Matthew's very good about the sheer range of plates I have in our house.

Speaking of, don't you just love these gorgeous melamine plates for picnicking or outdoor dining?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The CN Tower


Every city has its iconic monument, building or structure.

The Eiffel Tower.

The London Eye.

The Empire State Building.

In Toronto there are many beautiful buildings, but none are more iconic and recognisable than the CN Tower. So when we visited a few months ago, of course  we had to visit. After buying our tickets and a wait of about thirty minutes we were soon speeding up the tower, whizzing upwards as we looked out of the glass elevator at the city skyline.

Once there we were treated to gorgeous views of the city, the islands, Lake Ontario and beyond. At a height of 346/351 metres (or even higher if you venture up to the Skypod) you can see a long, long way!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Amedeo, Rome

 

We spent so much of our time in Italy on the go. As it was our first trip we were so keen to see and experience as much as we possibly could, and we walked for miles, hopped on and off coaches and trains, climbed a bazillion steps (seriously, my thighs lost a couple of inches in a matter of a week!), and general dashed around from morning to  night, having a ball.

We stayed in a sweet little hotel close to Termini, and on one evening we weren't sure where to go for dinner, so we popped around the corner to Amedeo, a little restaurant just off Via Cavour. As it was spur of the moment we had no idea what the food would be like, but man, was I glad we visited - everything was delicious!

As soon as we were sat down, menus appeared and we were soon sipping on fruity, mellow glasses of Anagni, a lovely red.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Diner, Islington


It is a truth universally acknowledged that I love me a trip to The Diner. In a city jampacked with food options, it's my frequent go-to for tasty comfort food and fun cocktails - from burgers to nachos to margaritas there are always a bunch of good things on offer. So when I was invited along to see the newly refurbished Islington location, along with some of my faves (oh hey, Erica, Jas, Charley & Charlie), you know I was all in, right?


I've always liked the Islington branch of The Diner - it's such a great location and a frequent brunch spot for me and my girls. The new refurb looks amazing - I love the bar in the middle of the restaurant, it really opens up the space, as well as giving you somewhere to wait if you're early for your table. The outside of the room is covered with booths, perfect for that Americana vibe we all love at The Diner!


Hi, I'm Claire...

Hi, I'm Claire...

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

If you'd like to work together, or if you'd just like to say hello, my email is: countrymouseclaire@gmail.com

Please note that on occasion affiliate links may be used in this blog. All items received for review or paid posts will always be disclosed.

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