It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…

Store display in Fortnum & Masons

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been playing the remember when game here in Chez Tracey. You see it’s two years since we were on our mega roadtrip around the UK, and every day another memory is popping up on the Timehop app on my phone.

One of the strongest memories we all have of that trip is just how much we enjoyed the lead up to Christmas over there. Especially in London. It was somehow more, I don’t know, how I’d imagined that Christmas would be.

It wasn’t just that it was grey and cold, or dark so early, it was also the smells, the lights, the decorations, the…you know what? I think I’ll need to list them all…

The Christmas markets

We were debating the other day which one we enjoyed the most – the one in Edinburgh with the carousel bar, or the one in London along Southbank…or maybe the one in Bath?

Edinburgh Christmas markets
Edinburgh Christmas Markets

One thing we all agree on is that the best part of the markets was the mulled wine and yummy things – and all the Christmas jumpers.

Christmas jumpers

at Notting Hill market

They really are a thing. There’s even a “wear your Christmas jumper to work day” day. Sarah bought 2 jumpers – which she actually does wear at Christmas…with the air conditioning going, of course. She really wishes she’d bought this one.

It’s not just about wearing Christmas sweaters though, check out this guy who had a whole suit made from Christmas themed fabric.

The ads

Oh how we loved the Christmassy ads. It wasn’t just the fabulous ads the major department stores do, but the ones you’d see on the Tube that would have you singing the tune with all the wrong words.

And my favourite? This one for Mamma Mia.

The store windows

So so so gloriously, luxuriously, decadently seasonal.

And then you step inside the store. Words and pictures just can’t convey how it feels to walk into these stores. It’s completely overwhelming.

As for the money that some people spend on things, well, that’s just ludicrous. We had a competition in Fortnum and Masons to find the most expensive pack of Christmas crackers. The ones in the pic below were 1000GBP – and not a paper hat or daggy joke in sight. Speaking of which, what do you call 50 penguins in Trafalgar Square? Lost.

The thing is, there’s only 6 crackers in this box and if you can afford to spend this on crackers, I’d like to bet that you’re having more than 6 people for Christmas lunch…just saying.

Then there was this heirloom advent calendar that for a ridiculous amount of cash you could pass down through generations of silver spoon-fed little darlings.

The lights and street decorations

Covent Garden

London does this well…really well.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of AgeLifestyle Fifty  and, of course, me.


Burford…revisited

I’m writing this sitting at Brisbane Airport waiting for a flight out to Wellington for a long weekend. It’s one of those spur of the minute things that happened when I was messaging my bestie a couple of weekends ago. I’m more excited that I probably should be for a four day break.

I didn’t think I’d have time to get a post up today, but on the way to the airport this morning (at 5am thank you very much) my timehop app reminded me that this time two years ago we’d checked into our B&B in Burford, in The Cotswolds, for the first few nights of our seven week UK road trip. And I figured I might as well revisit that trip – as a way of transferring the posts to here…sort of… Then I read Debbish’s post about how she was contemplating a visit to the area and I figured it was meant to be…

Anyways, we ended up coming back to the Cotswolds for another week – a stay which gave me the inspiration for my book Wish You Were Here – but those first few days around Burford were all we could hope for.

Where we stayed in Burford

A B&B called Star Cottage, a 10 minute walk from town. I wrote about it here. It was everything an English B&B should be – complete with a spaniel that did circles.

Star Cottage, Burford

Out and about in Burford

Burford
Burford

I showed you around Burford in this post. It’s everything you want in a quintessentially English country town and more. There’s the old church and cemetery, the history, the oh so cute shopfronts, and the pubs. Oh the pubs.

Plus a river running through it and plenty of country walks. As I said, everything you’d expect it to be.

Out and about from Burford

From here we re-traced steps from our last trip – 20years previously – and went out to Bibury, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Bourton On The Water…and more.

For more pics and road trip ideas, check out this post.

Because it’s Thursday, I’m linking up with the LovinLife Ladies. Check out the happy in the links below.


Welcome to Brookford…

Stunning vibrant Autumn foggy sunrise English countryside landsc

If you’ve read Wish You Were Here, you’ll have been introduced to Brookford. But where is Brookford? Unlike Queenstown – which is, of course, a real place – Brookford is mostly from my imagination.

Burford
Burford

Essentially it’s an amalgam of any number of quintessentially Cotswolds villages. It has symmetrical streets lined with old yellow stone-walled cottages similar to those in Burford and Broadway and many other Cotswolds villages. It has a village pub – like all good Cotswolds villages do – named The Lamb.

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Given the Cotswolds tradition of wool and fortunes made from wool, there are a number of pubs with similar names, although The Lamb in my story is actually based on the Crown Inn – a 16th century pub in Frampton Mansell.

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As an aside, The Bell at Sapperton (mentioned in Chapter 1) does exist – and does have a fabulous wine list, great food, and even a place to tether your horse. If you’re in the area, I’d recommend both it and The Crown Inn for a good meal.

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As for physical location? If Brookford were to exist outside of the pages of Wish You Were Here, it would be located roughly somewhere between Stroud and Cirencester. It’s a gorgeous part of the general gorgeousness that is the Cotswolds. It’s an area with sweeping green hills dotted with sheep, dry-stone walls, and views that go for miles. According to Instagram, those fields are dotted with buttercups in the summer- although I’ve never visited in the summer. Max and Richie’s bluebell wood is a figment of my imagination, but could very easily be there. Somewhere.

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Cockshutt Cottage

Max and James’s cottage in Brookford was inspired by Star Cottage in Burford, and Old Balwil in Buchlyvie, Scotland.  Curlew Cottage is modelled on a cottage we stayed in last December – Cockshutt Cottage at Westley Farm, Cowcombe Hill, near Chalford and Minchinhampton. Don’t you just love those names?

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It was in that cottage that at least 10,000 words of this book were written. And yes, the donkeys down the lane exist – as does Bella the collie. I recall watching a group of kids attempting to herd a gaggle of geese up the dirt road one grey morning.

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Just up the road at Frampton Mansell is Jolly Nice – a farm shop, café, butchery, and maker of great coffee and (in the summer) ice-cream. When we were there in December, the area behind the shop was dedicated to Christmas trees – real ones – and the yurt out the back was full of produce for Christmas. The sorts of food that made you wish you had an old stone house with a huge fireplace – lavishly decorated for Christmas – and a long wooden table with enough photogenic family (who got along with each other) to make it all look like an ad from a Christmas catalogue.

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I remember that when the owner of Westley told us they had Jolly Nice food shop up the road, I thought she was saying that the shop up the road stocked some jolly nice food. Anyways, Blossoms & Buds – the garden centre that Max and Richie work at – is partly modelled on Jolly Nice; and partly on a nursery we bought firewood from in Aberfoyle (near Buchlyvie in the Trossachs); and partly on Woodhouse Farm Shop at Kippen on the road to Stirling (in Scotland) where I bought a journal with a spaniel on the front cover.

As for Queenstown, the other major location in Wish You Were Here? Obviously it does exist, and I’m heading back there on Friday to tramp Milford Track – and to get some more location ideas for a future bookie project. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for some pics and posts as I show you around this vibrant and remarkably picturesque city.