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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!
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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.
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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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