St Ives Day One

Greetings from, um, rainy Cornwall!

Within 24 hours, I went from the sweaty confines of central London to the salty air of St Ives. I’ve been here less than a day, but I’ve already eaten my body weight in various Cornish delicacies and taken about 5 million obligatory photos of the beach (see below).

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Holiday posts can be awfully boring, a 2013 version of the snooze-inducing slideshow, but because so many people now choose St Ives as a holiday destination, I thought I’d write some recommendation posts this week for newbies. There are heaps of restaurants and cafes, and choosing where to go can be a little overwhelming. Don’t worry though, being the intrepid, courageous explorer that I am, I’ll step up to the plate (literally) and suggest the best.

Firstly, though, is our wonderful accommodation. I’m staying in the gorgeous Velnoweth house. Four bedrooms, a wood burner, ridiculously comfy sofas, and a massive kitchen are just some of the amazing assets. This morning I’ve even been grappling with the house cappucino machine. (I failed, but I’m DETERMINED to improve)

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When in Cornwall, you can never have too many stripes:

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The four essential fabric groups for holidaying in the West Country: cable knit, tweed, waxed cotton, wool:

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Porthminster Cafe I saw one review describe this Art Deco space as looking like the set of Poirot. All white walls and sloped ceilings, Porthminster is much more towards the fine dining side of St Ives. This time though, we only went for afternoon tea. An absolutely perfect flat white and a gooey blondie that gave me a huge and instant sugar rush.

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The Loft Very much tucked away, The Loft has a team of charming staff, an outside terrace decked out with fairy lights, and a rather hearty menu. As a vegetarian, it can be difficult to find inventive meals in a town based on seafood, but the waitress very kindly allowed me to combine different sides from the meat dishes, creating my very own meal.

After some tinkering, I ended up with smoked butter mash (GLORIOUS), kale sauteed in butter, apple and red cabbage slaw, and a genius crispy poached egg. Dipped in breadcrumbs and fried on the outside, and yet still perfectly runny on the inside, it’s something I’m keen to try and recreate at home. Also boasting a diverse cocktail menu, I started off the evening with a delicately flavoured elderflower Collins. Full of twinkly candles and dim lights and with Laura Mvula songs playing softly in the background, The Loft is a great choice for a simple but elegant supper. Oh, and the triple-cooked chips are what dreams are made of.

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Weekends in the Country: Bateman’s

I’ve never appreciated living in Sussex quite as much as I am right now. Of course, during the week, it means I spend what feels like half my day on the train, but at the weekends…well, I’m more than grateful. We’re surrounded by endless fields that come alive in May with lush verdancy, complete with grazing cows and the odd chicken (sometimes the VERY odd chicken…) And of course, we’re in a National Trust hotspot, bordering with Kent. And so, Mama Simmons and I took off in the car for a country road trip.

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Sloping along the winding path through banks of wild flowers at Bateman’s, I stopped for a minute to feel the sun beating on my shoulders, and to breathe in the scent of a nearby azealia. I suddenly felt a million miles away from the dawdling, sweaty, claggy train journeys that bookmark my weekdays now. For those of you who haven’t been card carrying members of the National Trust since you were born (like me…), Bateman’s is Rudyard Kipling’s house, and boasts rolling lawns, overgrown meadows, a working mill, and the occasional friendly chicken.

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At this time of the year, the wisteria was in fine fettle, there was green as far as the eye could see, and lazy bees drifted through rustling trees.

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Ain’t nobody here but us chickens.  (and duck).

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Of course, a true middle-aged Saturday wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a garden centre. I got a bit overexcited. I’m going to be spending my Sunday morning planting up round carrots (wut!), purple cauliflower, strawberries and pineapple mint. PINEAPPLE MINT!

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Bottom line: the National Trust is ace. Find your nearest properties here , but I’d strongly recommend getting a membership card – a young persons card is £26 a year, and you really only need to visit three properties and it pays for itself!

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Bellowhead & Oxford in the snow

Some places in the world have a particular draw, and you find yourself instantly feeling at home as your feet touch the tarmac. There’s something about Oxford that wraps me up and makes me feel…right. I got on the Oxford tube at Victoria and bagged myself a spectacular seat at the front of the bus, mainly because there were only about two other people on the thing. It was a bit like having a giant red double decker taxi to myself. After a dozy journey listening to Joni Mitchell (a huge gap in my musical knowledge that I’ve decided to remedy).

I arrived at 2pm to find a slate-skied Oxford, chilly and snowy. I’d intended to have a wander and find some new places, but it was just too cold. After some determined trudging, I decided to cut my losses and parked myself in Turl Street Kitchen for most of the afternoon. A cup of black vanilla tea and a sublime vanilla cupcake later, I was feeling much more human – the James Brown on the Turl Street playlist helped too. Around 5, I met my friend Lucy and headed to The Big Bang in the Castle Quarter for ginormous plates of bangers and mash, water in teapots and a very deadpan waiter. I mentioned before I was into British food at the moment, and I’d strongly recommend this place for any veggies looking for a decent savoury meal. For once, I felt like just as much thought had gone into the veggie options than on the meat, and I opted for one stilton & walnut and one vine tomato & basil sausage on grain mustard mash with red wine gravy. I followed it with an apple crumble, which was a bit on the ‘smooshy’ side and needed a little crisping up. But for the savoury part, it couldn’t be faulted.

After supper and some lethal Cotswolds cider, we practically had to stagger up to the New Theatre for Bellowhead. I first started listening to Bellowhead when they played Latitude in 2011, and I’ve been a firm fan ever since. Some bands sound identical to their recordings when playing live, and then there are other bands who bring something phenomenal to their live shows. I like feeling that the performers are creating something that only this particular audience will see, something that can’t be recaptured even with YouTube. Bellowhead do this, as do Foals, who I’m seeing (again!) next month.

I’m not going to go into too much detail and review the performance or their new album, Broadside, as there are many more eloquent reviews out there. All I’ll say is, give them a go even if you don’t think you like folk. It’s an outrageously brilliant, stomping, barnstorming album full of intriguing instruments and catchy melodies. For the live show, the band ran at it with full energy, jumping up and down while playing, hopping around, battling with each other. It was a frenetic show but unforgettable. Not an especially coherent post from me today as I’m pretty exhausted, and very aware of needing an early night prior to London Fashion Week tomorrow and St Andrews over the weekend…until then x Oxford 004Oxford 010Oxford 014Oxford 017Oxford 019Oxford 020Oxford 022Oxford 024Oxford 025Oxford 027Oxford 029Oxford 037 Oxford 032 Oxford 036