Monday, 26 September 2016

Altrincham Artisan, Craft, Vintage and Food Market

Altrincham market in Cheshire, has been trading for as long as I can remember but in the last few years it has been transformed beyond all recognition into an amazing market for makers and creatives to sell their wares and even more astonishing a destination place to meet for excellent food and drinks.

At weekends this space comes alive with traders selling, home made cakes and bread, crafts and vintage finds and beautiful individually sourced home wares. Its an all weather destination, covered with its original Victorian glass roof and in the food market next door you can dine on some of the best food the North West has to offer. From award winning pies, to the best cuts of steak, to wood fired pizzas and craft beers, the food market has the best of the best on offer. Since it opened two years ago, it's won many awards including Observer monthly's market of the year in 2015.

Recycled wooden tables and simple folding church hall style chairs, bring diners together in a communal area, giving the place a great social atmosphere and with live music floating in from the artisan market next door, it's no surprise, that this place is packed with friends and families all day long.
Some of my favourite stalls include Object Style and Room356 for home wares, BE for clothes and accessories and VintageHoneyInterior for all things recycled and reclaimed and highly desirable.

I wasn't going to write another blog about Altrincham market as I thought it was so fabulous that anybody and everybody had heard about it, but I've been amazed how many people I mention it to haven't. So here you have it,an update on the two previous blog posts I wrote in 2014, which you can read here and here and a snippet of what's currently on offer, you won't be disappointed!

The market is closed Mondays and Wednesdays and you can find opening times on their website here.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Fairfield Historic Moravian Settlement Manchester

I am a born and bred Mancunian and although I think I know quite a lot about my city, there are always little hidden pockets, that always take me by surprise.

Last week I was working with a photographer who told me about a Moravian settlement in East Manchester on the borders of Tameside, that he said I would love and so yesterday as we were heading over that way for a shopping trip to Ikea, we put the postcode of the settlement into google maps and headed over there.

The first indication that you are entering into some where quite special as you turn the corner off Fairfield Road, is an original Victorian post box and two large stone pillars at the entrance of what leads you into a cobbled square. The square opens up to a village of beautiful untouched Georgian houses built by the  Moravian settlers in1785. The cobbled streets are lit by the original cast iron street lamps and there is  a beautiful old school, church and college building. The area is surrounded by fields and unmade pathways. Its unbelievable to think that in this over developed part of Manchester, there is such a hidden world tucked away.

Originally the settlers, from Moravia, near Bohemia in the Czech Republic. had their own self sufficient village with an inn, shop, farm, laundry and doctor but most of the buildings have now been turned into residential properties. There are also more recent additions of houses built around the 1930's but the whole area is like taking a step back in time to a simpler life, the only modern addition being the cars parked in the centre of the village.

If you're interested in visiting the village, they do have open days when they have guided tours, which you can find here. It's a lovely way to spend an hour or two walking around with only the sound of bird song and the church bells, you feel like you truly have stepped back in time,

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Independent Interior Shop and Online Store - Room 356

I really believe in championing independent retailers and makers and shopping local whenever you can. As they say "if you don't use it, you lose it" and never has a truer word been spoken than when it comes to our High Streets.

Last week while visiting an old Uni friend in her home town of Bolton in Lancashire, we decided to pay a visit to Room 356 who have a shop in the town. I knew of this small independent through their presence on Altrincham artisan market every week, where they have a stand selling a selection of their home wares and so it was lovely to actually visit the shop and see all of their stock, beautifully merchandised in a lovely spacious, bright space.

The shop is owned by mother and daughter, Bev and Cassie and is stocked with cool classic Scandi inspired interior objects, with an emphasis on quality but affordability. The familiar Scandi products by names such as House Dr and Bloomingville are here, but with other smaller brands and some local makers products.
The shop is merchandised using cool whites, greys and soft pinks with metallic accents and urban concrete finishes, perfectly co-ordinated to create a cohesive collection. They also have a great selection of lighting, including pendants and floor lamps and some great industrial style lighting that can be wired using a variety of coloured flex.

Bev & Cassie provide a warm welcome in their shop and we were offered a hot drink whilst we browsed and Bev talked us through the collections and the new products that are expected to land any time soon. If you can't get to Bolton or Altrincham Market, the store is also available online here and selected items are also available from NOTHS.

As a lovely gesture to welcome in the new season, Bev & Cassie have offered a prize for any new followers to both my Instagram here and  Room356 instagram account here.

The winner, chosen at random, will be sent a selection of their new grey speckled crockery, which is perfect for all those hot chocolates and steaming bowls of soup we'll soon be eating as the Autumn draws in.

For further news on Room 356 they also have a lovely blog which you can read here.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

What I've Learnt about Blogging over the last 5 years

So about 5 years ago or more I started writing this blog. To be honest, back then I had no idea how a blog worked, other than that you wrote about something, hopefully of interest, added some pictures, better if they were your own, but it didn't matter too much and then posted it? 5 years ago I didn't realise the importance of also sharing said post on social media sites and that, my friends, was my first mistake!

Over the last 5 years I've gone from loving writing my blog, to it being a chore sometimes, many times if I'm honest, with work commitments and a demanding family life and as these other demands took over I decided to put my blog on the back burner, out to graze for a bit, to be honest, again, I'd given up on it.

This was for many reasons but mainly because it felt like I was writing for no reason any more, to nobody. I've realised recently however, through talking to other blogger friends, that I actually miss writing and sharing experiences with like minded people. It's never going to get me a Booker prize, but I enjoy it, it's my hobby and I miss writing (did I just say that again?!)

What I've learnt  from blogging is this:

Some people will read your blog and enjoy it but not tell you, some people will.
Some people will read your blog and not enjoy it and they will tell you that!
Some people won't understand why you bother to write it, others will totally get it.
It's a form of diary, a sharing information tool, it's a way of collating your images, whether they be good or bad.
If you enjoy it, don't over think it or justify it to anybody or most importantly compare it to other blogs.

So with all this in mind I've decided to go back to blogging, whenever I can and whenever I want to and again importantly, when I have the time. I'm going to try however to be consistent, there's nothing worse than following a blogger who drops out for months on end, guilty your honor! If I can, I'm aiming for once a week, if I've got something to say.

To kick start the blog again I'm collaborating with a local interior shop who have provided me with a prize for my readers (no this isn't the prize just a teaser about the shop!)
There'll be more news on this soon.

If you're still following my blog after all these years, thanks for sticking with me and if you've just come across this post, stayed tuned and welcome aboard!

You can also follow me on Instagram here if you like?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Manchester Jazz Festival 2016 and All That Jazz

Being brought up by parents who dated in the 1950's and frequented Jazz clubs in swinging Manchester, I've always loved that genre of music. At the nuptials of myself and Mr B, after attending Hayfield Jazz Festival we employed the talent of a duo of Jazz musicians who had recently graduated from Manchester Royal College of Music, who entertained us and our guests all throughout the day and beautifully filled that lul between the meal and the evening entertainment.

Fast forward 26 years and my favourite Radio show, that I force my 14 year old daughter to listen to as we drive home from the gym, is Jamie Cullum's Jazz show, Radio 2 on Tuesday night, so another child gets turned on to Jazz and history repeats itself. I'm not sure if she actually enjoys it yet, but she's stopped asking me to turn over to Capital Radio, which is promising?

Anyway where all this is leading to is that Manchester Jazz Festival starts again tomorrow until 31/7/16, when our city becomes host, across various venues to the many sounds that Jazz encapsulates. There are some free gigs, within Manchester's Northern Quarter and some much anticipated well known Jazz musicians at popular venues such as Matt & Phreds Jazz club and Band on The Wall, which my parents used to frequent. There are talks and sophisticated afternoon sessions at The Midland Hotel and new talent from the newly graduated RNCM students.

In collaboration with the MJF, HOME are showing a series of Jazz related films, Jazz on Film highlights some classics such as Around Midnight and others which focus as much on beautiful cinematography, as the music, such as one of my favourite documentary's,about Chet Baker, filmed by Bruce Weber, "Lets Get Lost", magical.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Three of the best Art & Fashion Exhibitions to Visit in The North West This Summer

As a working mum, I love August as it gives me a reason to take some time off with my youngest child during her school summer holidays. I take most of the month off and the weeks that I'm home, I try and take in some films and exhibitions that I've wanted to see.

This summer there are three amazing exhibitions showing, two of which are in my home City of Manchester and one in Liverpool, just an hour down the motorway.

The first of these exhibitions that I can't wait to see, is Vogue 100 A Century of Style, which I had every intention of seeing when it was exhibited at The National Portrait Gallery in London earlier this year, but was so busy that I didn't make it. Imagine my excitement then when I discovered it was coming to Manchester Art Gallery!

The exhibition runs until 30/10/16 and features iconic images of models, celebrities and designers,including some unpublished work, by leading 20th century photographers such as Cecil Beaton, David Bailey & Corinne Day.

Another fantastic exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery running until 27/11/16 is Fashion & Freedom, a show that explores the changing roles of women and fashion after WW2. Supported by The British Fashion Council, the exhibition will showcase new pieces by several contemporary designers including, Vivienne Westwood, Roksanda & Holly Fulton.

Tate Liverpool have an Exhibition of Francis Bacons work, showing now until 18/9/16. Francis Bacon Invisible Rooms, is the largest exhibition of the artists work ever to be staged in the North of England, which is definitely something worth seeing. The exhibition includes over 30 paintings, drawings and documents and concentrates on the ghostly surrounding structure that often recurred in his work.
Tickets can be booked online here.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A weekend City Break in Lisbon Portugal

Lisbon is a city I've thought about visiting for years, but for some reason, never have? So when my friend Bev asked me to organise a city break for a group of girl friends to celebrate her 40th birthday, her main criteria being "make it some where none of us have been"  Lisbon seemed to fit the bill.
It's a perfect summer destination for a short city break, being only 2 1/2 hours from the UK, warm & sunny but with an Atlantic coastal breeze, keeping it comfortable enough to sight see and shop and it's also incredibly cheap compared to other European cities.

I found our apartment through and it was exceptional in style, size and location, right in the heart of the Baixa district, close to everything. The photos on their website, although good, don't entirely do it justice. On entering, it felt like we were walking into the pages of an issue of Elle Decoration, it had beautiful wooden floors, Scandi chic furniture and high ceilings and was fitted with every modern convenience you could want, dishwasher, air con and power showers in both bathrooms.
 Above, one of the apartment bedrooms and the Street it was situated on  

After arriving late on Friday evening, we dropped our bags and headed out for something to eat. The area we found ourselves in was going toward the Alfama area which is rustic and authentic, with a sense that this is where the locals eat and drink. The restaurants and cafes are cantina style, not designer at all but with good honest food and a friendly atmosphere. We explored this area again on the Sunday night when the city threw its biggest party of the year, in celebration of its Saints day. The area is not picture postcard pretty but it is a mix of faded grandeur style buildings with small twisting alleyways, climbing up to the top of the city. It had such a fantastic atmosphere, it reminded me of how travel to Greece and Spain first felt 30 years ago, when as a teenager, I made my first trips overseas. Lisbon has a real feeling that their true culture exists and that what you are eating and drinking are what the locals are too.
On Saturday we shopped, but first we ate breakfast in downtown Lisbon in a local bakers. As a coeliac this was a challenge,as pastries are the main breakfast staple, but after a salad of smoked salmon and Feta, with freshly squeezed orange juice and a strong coffee for €6, it did the job. We climbed up and up towards the Bairro Alto district, wandering past a viewing platform with an amazing Cityscape view, stopping to capture photos and drink home made lemonade from the street vendors. We carried on walking through a pretty park, which was the location for a local artisan market and found some beautiful clothes and interior shops.This is probably Lisbon's most popular area for tourists but again its not aimed at tourists, it's just a hive of activity, shops, bars, restaurants, markets & parks.

After a long rest in a small square, drinking chilled rose wine, we jumped into a tuc tuc back down towards the sea front. This area is lined with restaurants and bars and grand maritime buildings and colonnades still decorated with the original cast iron street lanterns, which are hanging from practically every building in the city.

On Sunday we took the No.28 tram up to Chiado. The number 28 tram is apparently the best tram ride to take if you take no other during your stay. It travels all the way up to the Estrela district and gives you a lovely scenic tour of the city. You can buy a 2 day ticket for just over €12 which includes any form of public transport which is much cheaper than the open top tourist bus, which is a one off trip. Many of the trams, which are all over the city, are the original wooden trams from the 1930's. They look so lovely as the rattle up and down the hills of the city, painted yellow on the outside, with polished wood interiors. I can't actually believe I didn't manage to take a photo to add here of my own but you almost take them for granted while you're there!
Chiado is another lovely old area above the city, full of beautifully tiled buildings and home to the oldest coffee shop in Lisbon, Cafe Brasilia where we ate breakfast on Sunday morning. It was originally the theatre district and still has a feeling of grandeur. I would have liked to have spent more time in this area, but we were only there for 3 nights, 2 days and the time went so quickly.
Cafe Brasilia in Chiada

 After our quick visit to Chiado, we took the No.15 tram to Belem, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the location from which Christopher Columbus set sail to find undiscovered parts of the world. It is a lovely place to spend the day, particularly on a Sunday, when the area was full of families chilling in the surrounding park, riding bikes along the cycle path and sitting along the water front eating ice creams or sipping cocktails from the many retro vans selling street food.

We spent a few hours sitting in the sunshine sipping mojitos and had a lovely long lunch in one of the water front pop up restaurants, a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon with good friends. As well as the historical Belem tower, the area is the site of Jeronimos Monastery built in the middle ages, which is a stunning building.
The festival on Sunday night was exciting and crazy, the air was filled with the smell of sardines smoking, Portuguese Fado music played and bunting lined the streets every where. After about an hour of the mayhem we took a quick taxi ride back to Bairro Alto where the celebrations continued but in a slightly more relaxed environment. As we sat drinking cold white wine with a plate of tapas on our knees, watching the lights of the city below us, we all agreed we loved Lisbon and we would choose it over other Mediterranean city breaks such as Barcelona for it's pure authenticity, lovely people and unbelievable value for money. But that's our secret, don't tell everybody for fear it will be spoiled :)