In which we have a new house

Standard

There has been a somewhat deafening silence on this blog of late, mostly because my days have been consumed with last minute DIY and packing. Because, finally, we’re in our new house, after ten months, seven trades, eight rooms and more trips to B&Q than I can count! It was a lot of hard work, but so worth it.

Olivia is now settled in, after a two week imprisonment during which she wasn’t nearly as grumpy as I thought she would be. The two cat flaps and tunnel made of four extenders she has to use in order to exit the house aren’t her favourite, nor is Billy, her doppelganger next door who has already ambushed her in the garden, but she loves sitting on the bedroom windowsill and taking in the view.

10714360_10154786945780343_657551041277326108_o

S and I have also settled in well, despite the extra five minute walk to work and the station that the new house entails. For the fact that our bikes are now out of the house and in the cellar, I’ll take a longer commute. And S has celebrated his new storage space with the purchase of yet another bike (n+1 is the magic formula!).

We’re still unpacking the two spare rooms and the balcony is yet to be built (touch wood it will be up by the end of the month), but as soon as all these are complete, I will definitely be posting some photos.

In which I discover the perfect gift for a bookworm

Standard

A while ago, I read over on Janet‘s blog about this amazing place called Gladstone’s Library in North Wales, a Victorian library where you can stay overnight. I filed away the idea in the part of my brain labelled ‘good ideas for presents’, and so when I was looking for something for my mom earlier this year, a trip there seemed like the ideal gift. My parents have worked really hard over the past few months helping us with our house renovations, so S and I feel they deserve extra-special birthday presents this year (my dad’s isn’t until December, so we have a few more weeks to get his right!). So back in April I presented my mom with a voucher for dinner, bed and breakfast for the two of us, and knowing we had a busy summer ahead, we booked it for last weekend.

It’s quite a schlep from Bristol, but the 4.5 hour journey soon melted away as soon as we saw the library.

general-building

Photo from Gladstone’s website

Beautifully built in red sandstone, it resembles an Oxbridge college with its wings and carved statues.

2014-09-27 17.44.27

2014-09-27 17.44.43

Gladstone’s makes it clear on its website that it’s not a hotel, but a library with accommodation, so if you’re expecting room service and a TV in your bedroom then this isn’t the place to come. If however, beautiful surroundings and one of the best libraries ever are your thing, then you won’t be disappointed.

museums-at-night

Photo from Gladstone’s website

2014-09-27 17.47.46

After dinner we retired to the Gladstone Room to take advantage of the honesty bar and to play a game of Scrabble.

gladstone-s-library

Photo from TripAdvisor

Gladstone’s is also very close to Chester so we called there for a few hours on the Sunday. I hadn’t been there before, and my only knowledge of it came from watching Hollyoaks in the nineties and early noughties, but there wasn’t an angsty teenager in sight, just a lovely city with a beautiful river and gorgeous medieval buildings.

2014-09-28 11.19.42

The weather was so warm and we ate lunch outside in a café on the Roman city walls – perfect.

If you’re looking for an unusual place for a weekend get away or want to surprise a book-loving friend, you have to visit Gladstone’s – I can’t recommend it enough!

Postcard from Croatia

Standard

Whenever we told people we were going to Croatia for a holiday, we got one of two responses: “oh you’re going to love it, it’s so beautiful there”, or “I’ve heard it’s really beautiful there”.

Luckily they weren’t wrong.

10653700_10154618044940343_6568350490910780674_n

After three solid weeks (and I’m not exaggerating: 21 straight days/evenings) of painting, during which the arthritis in my wrist flared up to the extent that I couldn’t bend it anymore, we were so ready for a break. Even more so when our timetable for the three days before we flew out was a day of early morning sanding followed by a wedding, an entire day of sanding followed by a 30th birthday barbecue and then yet another entire day of sanding.

So when this greeted us on arrival, I was very happy.

10678735_10154618034925343_670981178259108738_n

Diocletian’s Palace, Split

10671399_10154618034865343_4432302395650517230_n

We flew to Split, had an evening there, then drove up to the Plitvice Lakes, a stunning area in the north east of Croatia. It was a long drive but worth it: crystal blue water, stunning scenery, night skies so free of light that you could see the Milky Way and one of the best Air BnB places we’ve ever stayed in.

10355834_10154618036190343_1303524305753610842_n

10698569_10154618039235343_4342742251623152317_n

10612640_10154618037600343_4085698448053591004_n

10610789_10154618035860343_3604522814481217881_n

10659298_10154618041280343_5601628103035202560_n

10620758_10154618042040343_5756435378967523375_n

After three days of walking in the national park, eating homegrown vegetables, hanging out with our hosts and their super-cute pets and visiting the local beekeeper to sample honey cakes and honey schnapps, we sadly said our goodbyes and headed down to the Dalmation Coast.

Staying in another Air BnB place about 40 minutes from Dubrovnik, we were extremely pleased to find that our little apartment had a private beach.

10698542_10154618042495343_8464663504077667630_n

The sea wasn’t the warmest, but we made the most of it.

Visiting Dubrovnik was on the plans, but I think the weather gods didn’t want us to. We had about three hours there before heavy rain started, and the worst storm I have ever seen was ushered in. It lasted for about 12 hours in total, with dramatic forked lightning, torrential rain and ridiculously loud thunder. After attempting to wait for it to pass, we realized this was futile, so had to drive back to our apartment. I genuinely thought we wouldn’t make it: all I can say is thank goodness S was driving and thank double goodness that Croatian drivers are nothing like Italian ones.

Two days later we attempted another visit to Cavtat and then Dubrovnik, only for the same thing to happen: insanely torrential rain. We got soaked to the skin, took refuge in a restaurant, and then ended up helping the waitresses and other customers keep the rain off the awning with broom handles and umbrella poles. But we managed to see the funny side of it, and the carafes of white wine the waitresses handed round in thanks certainly helped.

We also, en route, saw plenty of Game of Thrones locations, including the gardens at Trsteno where the Kings Landing garden scenes are filmed. Trsteno’s harbour was beautiful, and after our visit we realised we had been to the very spot featured on the cover of our guidebook. I also loved climbing the fourteenth century walls at Ston, and rewarding myself with a piece of Ston cake afterwards – a delicious combination of nuts, honey and pasta.

10698569_10154618043395343_7752435056948999159_n

Channelling my inner Margaery Tyrell

10672424_10154618044645343_4636553374502275030_n

Trsteno harbour

 

 

 

 

10426326_10154618046030343_5380351509668438282_n

10620758_10154618045680343_545488261812867855_n

So despite the inclement weather, the rest of Croatia certainly made up for it, and after ten days of beer, sun, sea and peanut puffs (my favourite Eastern European snack), I was ready for the final push on the house.

In which there is a lot of white paint

Standard

Go to the office, come home, eat a quick dinner, head over to the other house, paint. Repeat. At weekends, remove the office, add in more painting. That’s been our life for the past month, as we’ve gone through 100 litres of paint and given each room three coats of emulsion and gloss.

But, but the end is in sight. The bathroom is complete, and the white Metro tiles with black grout look fab and give it a vaguely Art Deco air, which fits in well with the 30s style of the house. The majority of the emulsion-ing is now finished, and my parents are lending a hand this weekend to knock the glossing on the head. The kitchen has been delivered and is residing in the garage, ready for fitting next month. (Finally, finally we have a dishwasher- roll on it being plumbed in!) We’ll be hiring a sander next weekend and transforming the floors, and then when we return from our (much looked forward to and needed) holiday to Croatia in September, we’ll be putting the finishing touches to rooms, such as building floating shelves, restoring the original Bakelite door handles and getting everything clean, ready to move in.

IMAG0759

The new bifolds with our glorious view

IMAG0761

Woodburner, new hearth, fresh plaster, coat no. 3

And we should find out next Monday about whether our balcony is approved, so please send prayers to the planning gods for a successful outcome. Otherwise it’s a big drop out of those bifold doors!

In which we climb England’s sixth highest mountain

Standard

Last week S and I took a week off work and headed off on a Northern road trip. First stop was Leeds, for the joint reasons of seeing S’ family (including our lovely nearly two year old niece) and also watching the Tour de France’s Grand Depart. While it wasn’t as exciting as seeing the mountain stage last year, it was still fun to be a part of such a big event, and to get our share of the random free stuff chucked out from the caravan. Shame the Brits are having such a bad year!

10351161_10152143372471046_5163756898453327395_n

10527313_10152143372581046_5095770445721732365_n

The following day we headed up to the Lake District to camp it up for a few days. It’s not an area I’ve ever explored properly, so I was stunned at how absolutely gorgeous it is there. Sparkling water juxtaposed with brooding mountains – just beautiful. The glorious sunshine helped to make it feel even more Alpine.

Our campsite was on the edge of Lake Ullswater, so we were greeted with this view every time we unzipped the tent.

10463928_10154367442390343_4121130577071521125_n

The plan was to climb Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, which would have brought our Three Peaks total up to two thirds. But unlike Snowdon, Scafell Pike is actually pretty hard to find and not actually signposted or anything. I know that sounds really stupid, but it’s dead easy to find Snowdon – there’s a railway, a tourist centre, some very clearly marked paths. Scafell Pike is just one of a mass of mountains, and while we had a walkers map showing us how to get there, we seriously underestimated how long it would take us to walk down from the Langdale side and reach the summit. After hiking for a couple of hours and realising it wasn’t going to happen, we settled instead for climbing Bow Fell, which at 902m is still nothing to be sneezed at. I’ve heard that Scafell is actually the hardest of the Three Peaks to climb, due to the loose rocks, and if it’s anything like Bow Fell I can see why. We were on our hands and feet for the last few metres, delicately picking a path through large stones to make it to the top. (The view and sense of achievement was worth it, however.) We realised afterwards that it would have been better to approach Scafell Pike from the Wasdale side, which the internet also backs up, so it’s on the list for next time!

To rest our aching muscles the next day (as a result of seven hours of walking over rough terrain, including a quite nasty two hours of descending over rocks which was not my favourite part of the day), we became proper Lake District tourists and headed to Windermere for a mooch around the town, a cream tea and a trip around the lake, which was just lovely. I also bought a piece of Kendal mint cake, but managed to not succumb to anything Beatrix Potter related!

And although when we came back on Wednesday we spent the rest of our holiday doing DIY, we also a friend over for dinner on the Saturday night, I caught up with another good friend in Knaresborough for a few hours, and our bifold doors were finally completed, making it a very good week indeed.