How to make a good first impression; The Hall

As a break from the travel blogs (back next week) today I thought I’d just write something short to tell you about the smallest area in my flat, (although you could argue the most functional) the Hall.

Now the word Hall makes it sound rather grand, what I am referring to is the bit of the flat you step into when you come through the front door.  Mine is 2.6 x 1.4 metres so not huge but a usable space all the same.  It has a door leading into the kitchen, however we’ve taken the door off the hinges as there wasn’t really any room to open it.  Constantly dancing around door to get people in and out. Obviously, we’ve kept the door opening.

Pretty soon after moving in we replaced the old front door and decorated the Hall, and now its the area I always tidy if I’m expecting visitors, as it gives the first impression of the flat and, well me really. I went for the friendly, relaxed but organised look – can you be relaxed and organised? I think being organised helps you to be relaxed but that’s altogether another blog.

But a Hall can’t just be for giving a show stopping impression, unless you’ve a lot of space and a walk-in cupboard close to hand to hide the coats and boots, unfortunately we don’t. So before we did anything we thought about how we needed to use the space on a daily basis.  You may think two people don’t need much coat hanging space etc, but we live in a cold part of the country and love to go out walking in both the rain and the shine.  We have coats and boots for every weather situation. There was a time of year when I lived in the South of England, where I would put the winter coats and shoes away for the summer.  Not anymore. Bearing this in mind as much space for coats and boots was essential. Also, it needed to be an area where it didn’t matter too much if it got a little muddy.  I didn’t want tiles (very cold) so I went for sisal flooring.  Having incorporated our main needs, I then prettied it up with some wallpaper and a mirror,  kinda in-keeping with the age of the house (1880s) but not over the top.

 

If I’d been organised I would have taken ‘before’ pictures, but I didn’t so let me describe it to you, it had been a neglected area.  The entire end wall was covered with a built set of pine cupboards, kitchen cabinet style with a worktop surface, above which were a matching wall cupboards. They were soon filled with our clutter. We never put shoes in the cupboards just placed them outside in a human nature fashion, meaning you could never open the doors.  It really didn’t work for us as a space however, we did re-use the pine surface to make the bench.

Today I’ve no visitors calling, we’ve just bought a new vacuum cleaner and Mr Husband has just had to replace his computer monitor so the ‘Hall’ has become a bit of a dumping ground as you can see, the reality of real life. But that’s OK for a while (very short while, there will be a trip to the dump on the weekend, I promise!).

hall3

 

Do you have the same needs for your ‘Hall’? If you want more Hall inspiration why not take a look the Pinterest Board I’ve put together just for you.

Soon we will wander through the doorway into the kitchen, for which I do have some before and after pictures.

 

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Why you should explore Faro, Portugal

We are firmly back on the travel trail as I’ve finally sorted out pictures from my recent trip to Faro, Portugal.  So sit back and let me show and tell.

Now in the past my knowledge of Faro has been an airport for those wanting to escape to the Algarve. Apparently it has 45 airlines flying in, including the largest number of low cost airlines.   Faro sits on the south coast of Portugal and is a town steeped with history….and it gets HOT in the summer months.  You can see many of my holiday criteria are already being ticked.  If you want to find out more about Faro’s history etc take a trip to the Wikipedia site but not just yet!

We landed into Faro Airport late on a Sunday afternoon wearing jeans, trainers and a rain jacket (don’t forget I’d left my house in Buxton UK in the morning). It was baking, the sky was the bluest sky I’d ever seen. I was going to see a lot more of that colour before the end of the holiday.  Having navigated out of the airport, not always straight forward for me navigating out of large buildings.  I once got trapped in Oslo railway station and inside a massive hotel in Los Angeles, but they are other stories.

There was a bus stop just outside the airport and we took the local bus into Faro.  Our backpacking adventure had begun.  The room where we were staying (all the details at the end) was about a 15 mins walk up a gentle hill from Faro bus station. I’m used to hills…..just not heat.  Once we’d settled in and replaced our clothes with something more suited to the climate we were off to explore.  But not before soaking in the view from our terrace, it was fab.

faro view from apartment

Now I’m not going to take you through and blow by blow account of what we did,  I just hope to give you a feel of the place.

The Town

Faro town centre is a very pretty maze of narrow streets that meandered us towards to the harbour front.  The shopping areas are well punctuated with cafes and restaurants, with tables spilling out into the black and white tiled streets, especially by night.  I loved the canopies draped from building to building to keep the streets shady.

The buildings and squares around Faro provide a very pleasing backdrop for a stroll.

And you can also go stork spotting, they seemed to be nesting on every tall build.  Their nests were remarkably large. Spot the two on the tips of the towers

Then a relaxing promenade along the marina.

faro marina

The food

The choice of places to eat and drink was never ending, too much choice is not always a good thing as I’ve said before.  We did a lot of walking trying to decide where to eat and then ending up in the first place we passed, sounding familiar? I like to try local food rather than eat what I’m used to, and if next to the sea love to have a bit of seafood.  Mr Husband is not so keen on the seafood front but was willing to share this big cataplana, which I since found out is the name of the pan used to prepare Portuguese seafood and it was big, the size of a wok. There was much cracking of shells, squirting of juices and generally getting in a bit of a mess, however it was delicious and sitting outside on a warm evening with a glass of dry white, it was perfect.  I also took a trip to the local undercover market.  There was a vast array of fresh bread, pastries, fish, meat and vegetables and if we had been staying in a self catering apartment I would have made much better use of the place. But let’s take a look at that cataplana…..

cataplana faro

The beach

What better way to work off a hearty cataplana than a trip to the beach.  I’m guessing the reason Faro is not more holiday-fied is because you have to make a little effort to get to the beach. I’d already done my research at home (all in the holiday folder!) and saw there was a regular bus to from the town to the beach, about a 20 minutes ride.  However that was all put to one side as the person who showed us around our room mentioned she really enjoyed getting to the beach by boat and pointed us into the direction of the harbour.  There were plenty of opportunities for boat rides around the Ria Formosa, the coastal lagoon that separates Faro from the Atlantic.  If you’re a nature lover its definitively worth an explore (rare birds & seahorses). Our little trip to the beach using the ferry boat allowed us to enjoy the lagoon on the way.  The trip took about 30 mins each way.  The pictures below show the boat and the beach with golden sand stretching as far as the eye could see…… there was no overcrowding here and the waves were great. I’ve inked out the lady lying on the beach!! If it’d been a pic of me I would have left it in but it wouldn’t have been pleasant.

OK so we’ve done the beach, the food, strolling in the streets, so that just leaves the chapel of bones!  I wasn’t going to visit the Chapel as seemed a bit gruesome, but for you I went. Apparently the 4 by 6 meter sized chapel is built of the bones of more than 1000 Carmelite monks and has been inaugurated in 1816. It is situated behind the main church (Igreja do Carmo) and contains also 1245 skulls.  I didn’t count the skulls or stay too long.

To sum up

So what did I think of Faro.  If you like busy streets, a beach on the doorstep, burgers and fries and lots of attractions then Faro is not for you.  However, as these are all the things I try and avoid I loved it.  Small enough to explore on foot and yet enough to do to keep you very occupied for 3-4 days without having to go further a field. I looked forward to returning Faro at the end of my trip, which must have been a good sign.  But for now it was backpacks packed and a downhill stroll to catch the bus to Seville so keep following.

Do you think Faro might be somewhere for you to  visit?

Accommodation facts

3 Nights Bellavita City Apartments Faro.  We stayed in a room on the top floor so had a great view.  Room and terrace was very spacious and clean.  We had access to a shared kitchen and fridge but its not somewhere you would cook, just heat up food if needed. We just used the plates and glasses etc.  About 10 minutes walk downhill to the marina and of course a 10 min walk uphill back to the apartment. I would stay here again.

2 Nights Hotel Sol Algarve.  Central place for one or two nights.  It had a nice little courtyard for breakfast.  Only a few minutes walk from the bus station and main areas of the town (all flat).  Looking at the pictures on the site I think room size varied, maybe ours was not the biggest.  I would stay again but politely ask for a room with a private terrace or balcony.

explore faro

In the Test Lab – Paddywax scented candle

Thought I’d give something new a bit of a try.  You may not know but most of my life I’ve worked as a scientist – do you ever stop being a scientist? Many hours I’ve spent in the biology lab testing and experimenting, so I thought I would introduce a little bit of the Test Lab vibe into my blog to give you some insight of products I’ve tried and tested.  This is not because lots of companies are sending me free products (they’re not, but if they want to…..), it’s just because sometimes I come across a product that surprises me.  I also come across products that disappoint but I’m not someone who is going to write bad things, so you won’t see those kinds of reviews.

The first product I’m going to share with you is the Rosemary and Citrus Paddywax Candle, a soy wax scented candle, which was bought for me on Mother’s Day by the Son, he often surprises.

Paddywax soy scented candle Rosemary and Citrus

You might think yeah, yeah another scented candle and to be honest when I got it I thought along those lines too.  I’ve used many a scented candle in the past as I’m a little bit of a candle person come summer or winter, probably the reason I got the present I did. However, I was more than surprised when I lit the candle as it filled the room with a delicious scent.  I’ve been using it regularly now for about 3 months and the scent is still as good.  It has a snug fitting wooden lid that you can replace when not in use and this seems to seal in the aroma. So you get an instant fragrant wiff when you take the lid off.

The candle sits in a green glass, which is apparently made from a recycled wine bottle. When the candle has all burnt away I’m going to use the glass in the bathroom to hold the toothbrushes, so I will be recycling something that’s already been recycled. Can’t be a bad thing.

Have you tried Paddywax candles, should I get another one, mine is nearly all gone?

Paddywax scented soy candle Rosemary and Citrus

paddywax review 2

Backpacking for the over 50s? My holiday adventure.

This is the first in a series of posts telling you all about my recent travels. My aim is to give you some ideas for planning your own holiday if like me, as you’ve got a bit older (both Mr Husband and myself are the other-side of fifty) a big summer holiday has taken a bit of a back seat in the hurly-burly of daily life.  Our year instead is punctuated with last minute weekends away, which although nice don’t quite hit the relaxation spot. We’ve been on a few longer trips in the past few years (Jordan, South Africa) since the children have flown the nest, but these have been prompted by family events rather than being for the sole purpose of a holiday.

Now you might say booking a holiday is easy so what’s the issue, just go to a travel-agent site and book a package deal, everything is sorted, flights, accommodation, transfers. However, I’ve only ever done this once and I felt a little bit out of control of my own destiny, yes crazy I known. I would much rather put the holiday together myself and if it all goes wrong…..well I will just have to sort it out. So early this year I finally got my planning head back on and set organising a trip.

The Criteria

When planning I always find it useful to have a bit of a check list, and these were criteria for this holiday.

  1. Needed to be somewhere hot and sunny, guaranteed! Rain was not an option. I live in Buxton I just needed to dry out and warm up (only joking, the weather is not that bad – really).
  2. Needed to be able to fly from my local airport and the flight time needed to be 3 hours max.  I love to travel, just not by plane. Luckily for me Manchester is my local airport so there was plenty of choice.
  3. Needed to be a beach focused holiday allowing me a splash about in the sea but needed to have other things of interest as I get bored sitting on the beach everyday.
  4. Needed to have a good variety of local food and wine.  Most (all) of our family holidays have revolved around sampling local food, it’s just part of our holiday. I’m not an all-inclusive holiday person.
  5. Needed to be somewhere featured in the recent Rick Stein Long Weekend TV show aired last year. For those who don’t know Rick Stein is a British restaurateur and TV chef etc. I know that sounds a strange criterion but every time I watched this show I would say “we should go there”. It also narrowed our destinations, too much choice can be a bad thing you know.
  6. Needed to be able to travel using public transport. Didn’t want to hire a car.
  7. Needed not to be too expensive – budget airline and mid-price accommodation, lets not go wild with the kids inheritance just yet.

So not a lot of boxes to tick – as you can see I’m quite easy to please (ha ha). The place I chose to centre the holiday around was Cadiz, a city on the South West coast of Spain. However it’s a tricky place to fly to so I planned a bit of multi-centre trip, Faro to Seville, Seville to Cadiz and back again.  It was going to be a mini-trek as we were only going to take a backpack each as I do love travelling just with hand luggage.  I hate waiting for suitcases, would much rather cram everything into a back-pack or just not take it, liberating don’t you think?  How many clothes could you need for twelve days in hot weather??  Mr Husband was a bit concerned but we did a practise run and got everything in.

So everything was decided.  Here’s the basic itinerary

Itinerary 

  • Local bus from Buxton to Manchester airport
  • Return flights Manchester to Faro Portugal (Ryanair)
  • Local bus from airport to Faro town
  • 3 Nights in Faro
  • Bus from Faro to Seville
  • 2 Nights in Seville, Spain
  • Train from Seville to Cadiz, Spain
  • 5 Nights in Cadiz
  • Train back to Seville followed by bus back to Faro, all in one day
  • 2 Nights in Faro before getting the bus to the airport and early flight back to Manchester and bus back to Buxton

Here are some pictures to keep you going……..

 

All tickets and accommodation were booked online about 4 months before we went……easy?  It may all seem a bit complicated but not in the era of the internet. I booked all the accommodation through Booking.com as it meant I had all the details together on my phone app – like having a mini travel agent at my disposal.  I possibly could have got slightly cheaper prices booking directly but saving the odd few pounds was not the aim of the exercise for this holiday, keeping it a simple as possible was.

The bus a train tickets were also booked online directly with the various travel companies and all tickets printed before we left. Call me old fashioned but I do like having my tickets and boarding passes printed out.  I have stood behind numerous people younger than me frantically scrabbling on their smart phone trying to find their tickets.  It makes me smile and not always to myself.

So that was the holiday planned, I on my way. In the next post I’ll share with you my experience of Faro. It was all good, if you want holiday nightmares you’ll be reading the wrong blog.

Have you organised a similar trip or do you like it organised for you?

Backpacking for the over 50s

 

 

 

Back at the blog – what’s coming up

Hey there, you may have noticed I’ve not posted for a couple of weeks, but if you follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram you will have seen I’ve been on a bit of a journey. I was travelling light so no laptop and at my age the eyes (and coordination) are just not up to writing blogs on my phone.  Besides the sun was shining and I thought best just to soak up the atmosphere so I could describe it to you later 🙂

However, I’m back now and keen to tell you all about my adventures and some other posts I’ll be making over the coming month.  So relating to the travels, I’ve been exploring Faro, Seville and Cadiz and got lots of pics to share.  I’ll also be sharing my thoughts of travelling light (yes just a backpack) and relying on the joys of public transports.

In addition I’ve be doing my research and am going to share with you some predicted home decor trends for 2018 (yes 2018).  I’ve got an update on what’s been going on in the garden, the good and the bad, as well as my tips on de-cluttering. Plus (yes there’s more) the ten best things about my current home town of Buxton UK and the reasons you should visit.

Cadiz beach

OK, I confess it’s not a picture of Buxton, I’m back in Cadiz at the beach

But enough of the beach, I’d better get on with it all.  Before I go, just want to say a BIG thank-you for all those who continue to follow and I hope I can bring you something you’ll like over the next month.