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Posted on July 15, 2016

Reflections on a Boutique Eco Pod Retreat

Two weeks ago the husband and I headed North to a tiny place called Appin, near Oban in Scotland. We were going to an Eco Pod.

It felt cool, adventurous and loaded with anticipation; the trip had been booked for months and it was a place I’d wanted to stay for a while.

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandThe sun came out briefly as we drove over the narrow bridge, in awe at the sight of Loch Awe.

It soon started pouring again as we arrived at the Castle Stalker View CafeI was glad I’d brought wellies and a rain mac.

A winding path led through the woods like a mystical fairy trail. The leaves seemed more green, the rustle of nature amplified; more noticeable, the air laden with purity and relaxation. We’d arrived. The door was unlocked.

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandThe Eco Pod was much bigger than we’d imagined, but looked just as luxurious as the pictures on the website promised (we stayed in Pod 1).

Except it was cold. The weather didn’t help, but even looking back over the pictures now, a shiver goes down my spine. (Did I mention it was cold?)

The hot tub was wonderful – the second time.

The pod features a Japanese cedar-wood affair, and for hygiene it requires to be run fresh each time. So far, so good. But on our first attempt the gas ran out resulting in less than luke-warm water, followed by a freezing shower.

The situation was quickly rectified after a desperate voicemail, text, and a hot breakfast in the cafe. (Thanks Jim.) I felt warmth for an hour, and then it was back to the Eco Pod. It was raining and we could see our breath in the air. (Did I mention it was cold?)

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandEventually the hot tub came into its own. The view was unadulterated tranquility. The view is the reason to visit. The view is worth every penny.

We took our own champagne and a basket of goodies left in the fridge meant we didn’t go hungry (eggs, smoked salmon, cheese, chocolate…)

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandOne thing the Eco Pod does guarantee is privacy and isolation, but when you want it, there’s an Apple TV, iPod dock and Wi-Fi. And a hairdryer. (If you need that kind of thing in the rain-strewn wilderness.)

On the Saturday we headed into Oban. Read more

Posted on March 24, 2016

New York City Photo Diary: Streetscenes, Sights & Signs

Exactly one month ago I was in New York City.

Exactly one month ago I was walking across the Williamsburg Bridge (give or take the 5-hour time difference…)

Exactly one month ago I was feeling the ferocious cold of the wind-chill factor right up there on the bridge, #fresh.

New York City: A Photo DiaryBelow I’m sharing some of my favourite photographs snapped hurriedly on my (android) phone as I traversed the sidewalks of Manhattan, Long Island City, Roosevelt Island, and all the NYC districts in-between.

New York City: A Photo DiaryNew York City: A Photo DiaryNew York City: A Photo DiaryNew York City: A Photo DiaryNew York City: A Photo Diary Read more

Posted on March 11, 2016

New York City Art Journal

I’ve just returned from my first visit to New York City and as my head explodes with ideas, plans and words as I try to express and capitalise on all the inspiration I’ve been exposed to, I thought I’d share my attempt to art journal my day-to-day experiences while I was away.

New York City/Manhattan Skyline in a fish bowlI’m part of the Get Messy Art Journal collective and my trip meant missing half of the Season of Happy.

Luckily I found my own ‘happy’, channeling an ‘Empire State of Mind’.

New York City Travel & Art JournalIt started with this cute Sukie Travel Journal that has a mix of lined and blank pages with little envelopes (some brown, some transparent) to keep tiny, delicate things in.

I glued in my trawl of papers, receipts and flyers every few days and wrote down some of the things I’d seen/visited – when I had a spare moment.

New York City Travel & Art JournalI visited both MOMA and MOMA PS1 and loved the little stickers they give out as entry tickets at PS1.

New York City Travel & Art JournalThere was a visit to one of the many speakeasies – Beauty & Essex.

The entrance is disguised as a pawn shop with all sorts of treasures to browse and a vintage cash register. It was a bit busy when we went and the smuck of maître d‘ were snippy and confusing so it wasn’t quite the full experience, but the interior looked suitably expensive and fabulous…

Meanwhile, I wanted a Kate Spade New York bag, but managed to resist. (It’s still a lot cheaper than a Chanel 2.55.)

New York City Travel & Art JournalI knew that Victoria had a secret because everyone had a shopping bag bearing her name. I was lucky enough to receive a surprise birthday gift from there though which made my day. Read more

Posted on December 14, 2015

Krakow Christmas Market: Photo Diary

This time last week I was on my way to Krakow, Poland, for a few days of touristic wanderings and festive indulgence.

Market Square festive scene, Krakow

Even the airport had a beautiful Christmas tree, and the shopping centres too, festooned with baubles and lights.

Around the city oversized baubles lit the way, providing an opportunity to pause a moment and take in the surroundings. They were a good way to orient yourself in the dark too…once you realised there was more than one.

Christmas Bauble, Krakow

In the heart of the ‘Stare Miastro‘ (old town) the market square, one of the largest in Europe (the largest?) boasted the illuminated stalls and oversized barrels where you could buy the Grzaniec Galicyjski (the Polish version of ‘Gluhwein’), with its pungent blend of red wine and spices.

It was strong. It was hot. It was delicious.

IMAG3824 Polish Bread, Christmas Market, Krakow

The horses and carriages lent the square a fairytale charm, and I never tired of taking pictures of them (even the man who had to keep jumping off the back to collect the dung…!)

Horse & Carriage, Krakow Christmas Market

The image below has gone a bit wrong, but I love it. It conjures a lovely sense of movement and atmosphere, like a reflection or a glimpse of another time?

Horse & Carriage, Krakow Christmas Market Read more

Posted on September 7, 2015

Amore e Psiche: inspirations from Italy

I’ve been writing about my experiences in Lake Como, Italy and beyond on my blog The Magpie Diaries for the last week. Now for the inspirations.

I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful (though of course I had been told), and I didn’t expect to fall in love with the very essence of life there; the lake, the literary associations, and that never-ending sensation of sun on my face.

Inspirations from a trip to Italy

I loved hearing about the art and the poetry, the history of Italy, the food, the olive oil, and the stories of Mussolini’s capture in Dongo.

I loved hearing the bells from the churches on Sunday in Bergamo, and savouring the delicate flavours of local speciality casoncelli alla Bergamasca.

I bought real, Italian liquorice and a million postcards and took over 100o photographs.

I smelled the handmade soap in Bellagio and drank way too much coffee for someone who never drinks coffee, and I apologised to a lizard when I almost put my bag down on it!

I thought about the patterns of every day life – the things we rarely notice in our home towns or the places we are familiar with – and photographed quaint little walkways, shiny cobblestones, plants and flowers and signage and picked up artists’ literature in galleries.

I often photographed my own reflection, by accident, but love this shot taken while I’m wearing my sun hat. (And I love the dress.)

Dress reflection

I tried to take notes wherever I went, and visual notes with my camera, and I wrote down the colour palette of Lake Como as I saw it:

Salmon pink, sage, terracotta, misty blue, mustard, flecked gold, bright orange, cream, rust, and stripes reflected in sunglasses.

Finally, I love this postcard ‘Amore e Psiche’ at Villa Carlotta, which called to me on my last day:

Amore e Psiche

It describes the love of Cupid and Psyche, a story from a Latin novel, and the overcoming of obstacles to their ultimate union in a sacred marriage.

How wonderful is that?

Italy is filled with romance and love stories in the paintings, poetry and sculptures and I have so much love for Italy right now.

I just wish I’d bought more of the beautiful soap. And the perfume that I sampled: Acqua di Bellagio. It features bergamot and lemon and mandarin; a brisk, citrusy recollection of sunshine – a fabulous, frivolous reason to go back?


Posted on August 11, 2015

August Inspiration #1: Pink Trailer with Plymouth

Pink Trailer with Plymouth – a static caravan. Beaten up, weathered, weeds growing out from under it, damp and humid.

Pink Trailer with Plymouth (1974) August Inspiration #1

An old car. Everything sepia tinged, seventies-style, with the whiff of summers’ past.

Plastic beakers and portable toilets and showers smaller than…everything. Chintzy curtains and sofas that fold into beds and wooden balustrades, ornate but dusty. Jigsaws and card games and abandoned colouring books, the lids off felt-tips, drying out yet staining the padded velour seats of the sofa.

That’s how this postcard inspired me: with nostalgia and a certain kind of longing for a time gone by. Sort of.

Just a feeling really and a happiness too; taking pleasure in the simple, the mundane, the less than perfect. Memories and adventures. Trailers and camping and caravan parks and losing a glove in Anglesey.

I picked it up at the IKON gallery in Birmingham.

The image is by John Salt and is called ‘Pink Trailer with Plymouth‘ (1974)

Thanks John Salt.

Does this postcard inspire you?

Posted on July 24, 2015

Postcards from New Orleans

Last month my husband spent some time in the ‘Deep South’ of America.

His trip spanned several states – Georgia, Texas, Louisiana – and  I must say, I was a little jealous that I didn’t get to go too.

When he asked me if there was anything I would like him to bring back – perfume, electronics, make-up – the only thing I could think of was what I always say – pretty postcards that I can add to my ever-growing postcard archive.

I just love postcards. They’re light and cheap and fun; a teeny snapshot of a place, a photographic souvenir, particularly from a place that I haven’t yet visited myself.

So here’s my new collection of postcards from New Orleans, with a pleasing vintage aesthetic:

Postcards from New Orleans

I love the image of the gate – an invitation to travel? – and the alligator orchestra is rather quirky too. And of course, the famous Mardi Gras pageant.

The colours are vibrant within a muted palette, and they all sit nicely together. My favourite probably has to be ‘The Broadway of New Orleans’ night scene.

Night is so evocative and particularly so in a strange city full of mysteries to explore – the lights and stars and neon signs.

A nice thought for the weekend.

And if anyone wants to send me a postcard from somewhere far away, I’d love that!


Posted on June 25, 2015

They call it Wanderlust: Season of Adventure – Wk4

This week’s prompts were perfect for me, and the one that caught my attention the most was to write a poem on the theme of ‘Wanderlust’:

'Wanderlust' poem in the Get Messy Season of Adventure

I was imagining the sense of restlessness when considering all the places there are to go in the world – wonderful, inspiring, exotic places –  and perhaps at the same time being bombarded with images on social media of other people’s holiday adventures and feeling desperate to escape to somewhere, alone, to soak up a new experience and extricate from the day-to-day of life.

But, then. That’s not always possible. So, just: wanderlust…

Instead of actually writing this out on a page, I used a typewriter font over a colouful ‘map’ scrapbooking paper.

My second page this week is dedicated to a trip I took in 2011. It really was ‘exotic’ and one of the furthest places I’ve been: Cuba. Read more

Posted on January 15, 2015

Industrial Glasgow – a view from The Waverley

A view of a crane from aboard the Waverley; the world’s last sea-going paddle-steamer.

I love this image; am drawn to it again and again.

Grey and dark, powerful, hard-working and a little bit iconic.

Industrial Glasgow viewed from the Clyde

It’s the skyline of anytime, but the bleak scurry of clouds is particularly suited to the whims of January.

Posted on December 8, 2014

Inside the Palace of Versailles

The opulence of the season lends itself to the glory of gold, as the whiff of a chill in the morning transports me back to Versailles.

Inside the Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles sprawled in snow-laden splendor like a scene from a jigsaw puzzle or a Christmas card. You could see your breath in the air and the path was slippy with slush.

I’m re-posting these images from a trip to Chateau Versailles last year, because they seem so fitting as winter descends. It was such a wonderful experience that words can’t do it justice.

Inside the Palace of Versailles Snow in the gardens at VersaillesInside the Palace of Versailles

I love this image (below) of the lilting corridor that goes on for miles, policed by marble statues.

Inside the Palace of Versailles Read more

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