Something from the weekend…. A stunning wedding weekend in Austria

I bally love a good wedding. And so an entire weddingy weekend was just bliss. I was honoured to be be invited to our friends Katie and Peter’s wedding, and even more delighted that it was all taking in place in Austria! If you’ve read my last few posts you’ll know that I was lucky enough to take a holiday to Vienna in November for the Christmas markets, and I was only too happy to get back there in the sunnier weather…..

Friday started out a little stressful, as in taking a little holiday, we had to leave the pup for the first time! It was worse still because Adam’s mum, who would usually look after him for us, is away at the moment so he had to go to her friend…..she’s a long time dog owner and lover though and we got him used to her and her house over the last few weeks by going for walks together and visiting her cute little cottage. Still, I was a bit of a wreck and properly welled up as we left him, despite the fact that he was clearly very happy to be having a bit of a holiday of his own!

After dropping Cooper off, we made our way to the airport and had a nice leisurely journey to Vienna. We had a couple of hours to spare at the airport at that end, before the coach arrived to take us to the wedding venue, so we indulged in a nice big dinner….I love the food in Austria, and very happily yummed up a large helping of Wiener Schnitzel with parsley potatoes, as well as some excellent coffee…..there’s no pretence with Viennese food, but it’s all such great quality and so very tasty!



After a few more guests had arrived on a later flight, our little coach took us south towards Graz, to the little village of Bad Waltersdorf where the wedding venue is. We made the journey fun by taking along some very sweet fizzy wine and lots of sweets, and so it didn’t seem too long a journey at all. We were taken directly to the Schloß Obermayerhofen and walked through the castle grounds up to the idyllic little chalet at the top of the hill. The Gaisrieglhof is a 250 year old farmhouse from nearby Pöllau, rebuilt here and used for the traditional pre-wedding gathering. Some guests had dressed in the traditional national dress, including the beautiful bride, and there were traditional musicians playing and wearing wonderful lederhosen! It was lovely to have a little pre-wedding catch up with everyone and drink a couple of glasses of the delicious local wine after our journey!



After our long day prior, we enjoyed a bit of a lie in on the Saturday morning and spent most of the day getting ready for the wedding in the afternoon. It was great fun getting ready with some of Adam’s lovely old school friends, and at 2pm we all took a taxi up to the Schloß from our hotel to start the celebrations. We were greeted by lovely cold drinks and yummy nibbles as part of the Agape feast, and before long watched the stunning Katie walk down from her room. We moved through to the pretty meadow behind the castle, where a cute gazebo surrounded by chairs was set up for the civil part of the wedding….it was beautiful to be out in the open air and the weather was certainly kind! There was a Catholic ceremony after that, in the gorgeous Baroque chapel, then music and fizz out on the castle’s terrace as the couple had lots of photos taken.

The wedding breakfast took place in another of the castle’s incredible rooms, and we were treated to an exceptionally good dinner (asparagus soup with herb dumplings, wild garlic ravioli, crusted lamb and a trio of chocolate desserts!) alongside some wonderful local wines. The speeches were all very funny and touching, and after dinner the happy couple took to the floor for a very impressive tango for their first dance.


We whiled away the night chatting, drinking and dancing, and having a lovely time in great company. There was a midnight feast of gulaschsuppe (possibly my favourite thing we ate on the whole trip and absolutely divine!) and so we were very contented indeed when we finally got to our beds.


After breakfast and checkout on Sunday morning, another coach took us back to Vienna airport where we dropped off our bags and then made our way into the Vienna Mitte to spend a few hours before our flight home. We’d not managed to visit the popular Zanoni Eis gelateria when we were there last, so that was an obvious choice….. we were a little overwhelmed by the masses of flavours though, but did finally manage to choose six different scoops to fill a nice large tub with (nutella, melon, pistachio, strawberry, coffee and chocolate!). They were all super-yum, but the melon was a definite favourite, and the treat was very welcome in the city heat!



We had a little mooch around the city after that, going back to the fun clock in the town and also heading back to the wonderful Cafe Pruckel next to the Stadtpark…..we yummed up very naughty iced coffees that were drowning in cream and chocolate! We walked off the treats round the sunny park, and then slowly made our way back to the airport for the flight home.



We were lucky enough to catch a lift home with some other friends who’d taken the same flight, so our journey wasn’t too arduous. Still, we were pretty exhausted when we got back and flaked out almost immediately. The house didn’t feel like home though until our precious pup was delivered back to us on Monday morning….I’d missed him so terribly and despite having had a wonderful little holiday of his own and loving all the attention from his new friends, he seemed delighted to see us too!

Hope you had a lovely sunny weekend too!

Ems x


A few days in Vienna

This Friday I’m lucky enough to be jetting off to the beautiful Vienna. Friends of ours are getting married just south of there on Saturday, and whilst we won’t get to spend too much time in Vienna itself, preparing to go is reminding me of the wonderful holiday Adam and I had there last November.

Just in time for all the Christmas markets opening up all over the city, we spent a few days in Vienna and absolutely adored it. It’s a stunning city, with lots of open space so that you can stand back to be wowed by the wonderful architecture. We loved the palaces and museums, as well as the incredible food and amazing coffee shops. We were delighted to see dogs everywhere and welcomed into shops, cafes and restaurants.

The Christmas Markets were definitely the highlight of the trip for me, but I can’t wait to see the city again in the warmer weather.

And as I’ve been promising other wedding guests some tips on where to visit whilst there, I thought I’d share some of my favourite bits about Vienna here on my blog over the next few days…..there’ll be a post about our best food and coffee recommendations, where we most loved visiting, and some of the must-see sights. I’ll start tomorrow with food….as that was definitely a huge highlight for us both!


Ems x

Some pretty big news….

So…… I got engaged!



Me, my ring, a milkshake manicure and a big smile!


Adam asked me just over a week ago, and we’ve spent the time since telling family and close friends, in person where possible.

We hopped into town on Saturday to shop for the ring in Hatton Garden, and found the perfect one, in the only shop we went into….. it was rather different than all the others, with a window jammed full of mis-matching, jumbled up antique pieces of all kinds.



My very sparkly ring!


I tried on LOTS, all very different (including ones with opals, peridot, and in Art Deco, Victorian and Georgian designs) but there was no real competition…. My 1950s diamond cluster ring is just the most sparkly and wonderful ring in the world, and I picked it up today after they altered it from a size S down to my tiny size H!



I so prefer antique rings….they are always so pretty even from the side!


So now I can wear my ring proudly, there’s no stopping us from telling all and sundry! We’re not sure when we’ll actually tie the knot, but it’s likely to be next year some time…..we don’t want to leave it too long (too excited!) but we also want to be able to plan the most wonderful celebration!

I’m obviously in my element now….. I’m exceptionally excitable about weddings, even for a professional wedding planner, and we’re already well on our way to deciding what we want from our big day!

I don’t expect this to become a totally wedding-saturated blog, but I will warn you now that there will be plenty of planning and craft project posts coming up over the next year as a result of my news!….so apologies in advance as I’m likely to get even more over-excited!

Ems x

Rockrose Photography at Hannah and Jamie’s wedding

I wrote about my gorgeous weekend down in Devon for Hannah and Jamie’s wedding a couple of weeks ago… I’ve even dropped off the roll of Velvia film I took whilst there (all I need to do now is pick it up!). But whilst I wait to see if I got a couple of decent analogue shots or not, I thought I’d share the professional photos from the day.

Hannah and Jamie were lucky enough to find Rockrose Photography and secure a booking with them to take photos of the wedding. Local girls Becs and Jules came along to the tiny village of Knowstone to take photos throughout the day….at the intimate ceremony, the stunning church blessing and the village hall knees up….and Hannah has just put me onto their lovely blog post about the day….

I’m so impressed with all the photos….they so capture what a perfect day it was, with the incredible sun, the stunning couple, and lots of happy people! I even don’t mind the photos of me, which is rare! They got some great shots of the little cake topper I made too. It’s not often I’ll rave about wedding and event photographers….I’m so picky….but these guys are quite obviously brilliant at what they do.

The below picture is one of my favourites from their post and if you click on it you’ll get through to their post itself….

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. To Devon for a wedding

Early on Saturday morning we hopped on the tube to Paddington, purchased coffees, and then jumped onto a train which was taking us to sunny Devon. That afternoon, we were invited to the blessing and wedding celebrations of my very dear friends Hannah and Jamie, in a tiny village near to the stunning Devonshire moors.


For the journey

I spent much of the journey worrying about my little part in the wedding….I was to present a reading as part of the service, which I’ve never done before. Still, snacking all the way and staring out of the window at the glorious countryside around us, it wasn’t too bad a train journey.

We arrived at a little out-of-the-way train station, which it transpired was miles away from the nearest less-out-of-the-way-place (although a jolly cab driver and a couple of horse drawn caravans made the journey very pleasant). Once in Tiverton, the nearest town to the wedding, we realised that we were yet further from our extremely-out-of-the-way destination, and so had to make an SOS call to our lovely friend Lou to come and rescue us. Our journey from Tiverton Parkway station ended up taking us longer than the journey from home *to* that station, but it did take us to the charming Sampson Barton Guest House.

It was a bit of a rush once we arrived, to get ready and head over to the wedding, but I did enjoy calming my nerves with the lovely pot of tea and plate of cake that welcomed us to the guest house. We didn’t get much chance to take in our stunning surroundings before jumping back in Lou’s car to drive to the tiny village of Knowstone, where at the little church and village hall the wedding was to take place.

I was keen to be there in plenty of time, as I’d made one of my little jam jar scenes as a wedding cake topper and wanted to ensure it got set up nicely on the cake….and I wanted to get a seat nice and close to where I was reading so that I had less of a chance of stacking it on the walk up to the lectern! I managed both in plenty of time to sit and wind myself up further whilst waiting for the wedding party to arrive…. and by the time they did, and walked down the isle to Gershwin’s “Someone To Watch Over Me”, I was a blubbing wreck!

Hannah and Jamie had already gotten married earlier in the day, with a civil ceremony attended by just their very closest friends and family. So everyone seemed wonderfully relaxed as they came into the church, and it seemed very much as though they could now all just enjoy the blessing service and the rest of the day. There was lots of beautiful singing from the choir (brought in specially, and the same choir that Hannah used to sing in, and her mum still does). Before my reading, our friend Chris read a wonderful piece by Dr Seuss, and Hannah’s Godmother ready one of my favourite Sonnets, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.

But after we all sang a hymn together, it was my turn to get up, and with hands shaking I read an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. It was all I could do not to burst into tears whilst reading it, but I tried very hard not to rush it and to ensure I didn’t look at Hannah who I knew would be weeping too! I managed quite well until the last line (about ‘people who don’t understand’), then caught sight of Hannah and heard my voice crack as I finally succumbed to the tears.

After that came their blessing, and then it was time to leave the church again, out into the amazing sunshine. The couple looked so very happy (and stunning to boot!) as everyone took photos outside the church in the gorgeous bright light, and they continued to pose for the professional pictures as we all drank Champagne outside the village hall which is right next door.

It was great to catch up with so many people we’ve not seen for ages, and to soak up some of the sun! There was giant Jenga to entertain us also, and Jamie had made an amazing skittle run and coconut shy which were super popular too. It was no time at all though til we were heading inside for more drinks and the highly anticipated Hog Roast buffet! Inside the little village hall, Jamie had swagged white satin all the way across the ceiling, with pretty coloured lights and fairy lights inside…. it all looked so charming, and I especially liked the ribboned jam jars filled with bonbons on each table, as well as the personalised stickers holding the napkins in place.

The caterers had done a smashing job, and I devoured a plate full of absolutely delicious food…. the pork was Free Range so Adam and I had the rare joy of enjoying the full menu (and wading through all the Weight Watchers points we’d saved up for the week too!). Once we’d all filled our faces, Hannah’s Dad kicked off the speeches, and we toasted the couple lots with plenty of yummy Champagne. After that, Hannah’s Mum and Dad, along with a couple of other members of the village, got together to perform a few songs….it was so lovely to have people close to the couple as entertainment, and they got us rearing to go for the first dance!

I didn’t manage to get many good photos on my digital camera whilst inside at all, so I’m rather hoping that my analogue ones come out ok….but I was rather pleased with this rather grainy Instagram snap of Hannah and Jamie dancing their first dance…..


First Dance

After that, we were up and dancing for most of the evening……. along with our RSVPs we’d all been asked to choose three songs to add to the playlist, and so we all took it in turns to get excited about hearing our choices come on! After a late supper of cheese, pork rolls and cake, we were rather whacked….probably a little to do with all the travelling and fresh air too! But we finished the night dancing to New York New York, swaying in a circle and kicking in time to the music as is tradition, and then made our sleepy ways back to the guest house.


Full English

Shockingly, we were up in plenty of time to get downstairs for breakfast at a reasonable hour….. We yummed up a bowl each of fresh fruit before our Full English breakfasts were served up…. it was all super delish, especially the mushrooms and black pudding. After that, we walked off a few of the calories whilst adventuring in the guest house’s gardens….. they seem to go on forever! We met a lovely ginger cat on the walk, found a swing in a tree, and spotted stacks of gorgeous plants and flowers.


A new friend

The Guest House itself is just delightful. The view from our room was incredible, and the house remarkable too. We received a lovely welcome from Bev and Neil, the owners, and I’d be delighted to go back again.


The view from our room at Sampson Barton Guest House


Pretty chintz in our room


Outside the Guest House

By late morning though it was time to check out, so lovely Lou drove us back to Knowstone to help out at the village hall. I had a wonderful time helping Jamie take down the satin ceiling, tidying up and coiling cables and whatnot. It was great to get to spend a bit more time with everyone, especially Hannah and Jamie, and I even got a tour of Hannah’s parents cottage. The village is so very idyllic…. I can’t think that I’ve ever been somewhere where everyone really does know each other, and it’s a credit to the little community that so many people from the village were around to help with the wedding too.

Once we’d gotten nearly everything done, and the village hall restored to its former state, we spent a while relaxing in the beautiful garden at the Masons Arms. The pub actually has a Michelin star and is well known for its amazing restaurant, so it was a shame we weren’t there long enough to discover it properly. Still, it was amazing just to sit and soak up the sun with a cold drink in hand, and to natter to folk a bit longer.

Before too long though, it was time to head back to the station, and homeward. Our friend Timmy gave us company on the train journey home, and despite delays it didn’t seem any time at all before we were home and passed out in bed!


The garden at the Masons Arms

Wednesday Wants….. From Old Spitalfields Market

I know I bang on about Old Spitalifeilds Market, but it really is the most amazing place. On Sunday, having decided to keep the weekend’s adventures pretty local and undemanding, we took the short wander along to Spitalfields to while away a couple of hours. I really do feel so lucky to have this wonderful market within walking distance, and I know it will be one of the things I miss the most when I one day move out of London.

In the mean time though, I will make the most of it, with trips to the antiques and vintage markets on Thursdays, the special markets on Saturdays and the reliable Sunday markets. And whilst I’m there, it’s inevitable that I find plenty of ‘wants’…. there are so many original designers and producers, with fantastic ideas and skills…. from clothing to jewellery, baked goodies to homewares… there is always far too much to tempt me!

Last Sunday was no exception of course…. here are my Wednesday Wants, all courtesy of some of the amazing Spitalfields traders…..

We spotted the Tina Maas Photography stand for the first time this weekend, and whilst we were initially drawn in by the high quality digital images in mounts and the little photo squares hanging on the walls, it was the amazing ‘Polaroid Lifts’ collection I really coveted. Each image is hand made from an original Polaroid photo, by separating the emulsion from the print, then stretching and crinkling it into a new image. The result is a completely original, unpredictable and beautifully low-tech piece of art…. the images remind me of a very fine patterned silk, and the translucency is just stunning.

I love that there are no sneaky Photoshop techniques involved, and that each one is so very different. They are amazing value to boot, starting at just £8 for a 5×7″ and up to £35 for a 16×20″….. you can also buy them direct from the website. I would LOVE the Union Jack, and in fact all of the wonderful London landmarks!

I’ve always had a fascination for geodes and crystals and shiny, colourful semi-precious stones. And so a stall like Decadorn’s is supremely exciting for me! Decadorn creates and sells stunningly unique statement jewellery, using crystals which are carefully sourced from all over the world. Each treasure is carefully selected and hand made into a striking and wearable piece.

I am crazy about the chunky, but elegant pendants, where the crystals seem to be growing right of the hunk of gold which secures them onto the pretty chain. And the chunkier still rings, which are hand carved around the natural shape of the stone, are straight out of a fairytale!

Pendants start at just £28, with the rings from £52, which I think is incredibly good value, considering the originality and quality of each piece (again, you can buy from their website, AND they do gift certificates). I’d love a stack of the different pendants to wear all at once!

And what with us enjoying this traditional British Summer (read ‘grumbling constantly about the unpredictable weather’, at least on my part), what better to lust after than a good Autumnal coat?! Love and Be Loved boasts a stall full of incredibly original, remarkably well tailored, and insanely covetable fashion. It was really the beautiful tweed coats that caught my eye at first….. they have lovely slanted pocket patches of various soft leathers, and the tailoring is complex and different, with a very classical edge. Their dresses too are intricately pleated, and rather reminiscent of Roland Mouret with their geometric seaming and pocketing.

At £300 + for the coats, they are not a suitable impulse buy, but I think for the quality and originality, they are very well priced and a definite treasure to save up for and keep forever.

Aptly named after Nat King Cole’s wise words in Nature Boy (“The greatest gift we’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return”), the brand also creates incredibly stunning wedding dresses… you can contact them here for more information. Oh and check out this amazing jump suit! Want!

Something from the weekend……. a night market, a wedding, and London’s oldest Music Hall

Another amazing few days this weekend! We didn’t ram as much in as we sometimes do, but it was certainly fun filled!……

On Friday after work, Adam and I met up with our good friends Kate and Jason at the Bermondsey Square Night Market, “The StockMKT.” It’s silly that I’ve not made it to one of the markets there before as it’s so close, and we enjoyed a lovely walk over to the other side of the river from home. The whole square was filled with food stalls, bars, crafty things and vintage treasures, as well as a band tent. The latter was hosted for the evening by the fabulous Albert Ball’s Flying Aces, whose wonderfully retro sounds had us all toe tapping.

First off though it was a visit to the first bar we spotted….. and luckily it was a bar hosted by the very wonderful Sparrow Gin from Peckham! Serving a small but perfect list of cocktails, as well as good old fashioned G&Ts, the stall was super cool with jam jars, striped straws and vintage glasses and serving things. We got chatting to the lovely Pru who told us proudly about the gin’s super grapefruityness (although rather more eloquently than me) and gave us a taster of the tipple straight up. It is a beautifully fresh and citrusy gin, and almost a little herbal with the generous number of botanicals used in its production. It’s currently on very limited availability, so we did our best to drink up the current batch and encourage the guys to brew up some more….. the Negroni and the Martini were especially good (we tried the whole list), but I think, like Pru, I would prefer to drink it straight up, nice and cold.


With drinks in hand, we took a wander about the stalls of pretties and treasures, finding the super Ink Heart Kicks which I’ve been oggling on Etsy, BG Design from where we bought some gorgeous cards, and Kamm and Sons  from whom we bought a bottle of delicious Ginseng spirit. I also picked up some great vintage post cards from a stall of vintage treasures, and we yummed up a very large slice of Yummy Boutique’s super delicious Red Velvet Cheesecake.


Afterwards we made our way homeward, stopping off for a curry in the award winning Empress Curry House for supper. Although I’d not had a proper meal, I was really too stuffed with gins and cheesecake to need the several dishes I yummed up, so I did rather roll home.

Saturday saw the FINAL arrival of our friends, Matthew and Siobhan’s, wedding. I’d been excited about it for aaaages, but for the last week ridiculously so! After spending the entire morning primping and packing the various bags I ended up taking (shoes, hat, cameras, confetti……) we jumped on the tube to make our way to Putney. The venue for the whole day was the beautiful Star and Garter which is right on the river. The Ballroom has a gloriously high ceiling, chandeliers and stacks of natural light.


Matthew was looking super hot in a beautiful kilt and tweed jacket, and seemed pretty cool as we chatted before the ceremony. I’d been lucky enough to see Siobhan’s dress at her fitting at Liberty, but I still felt my jaw drop as she walked into the room looking so incredibly stunning. Both of them were glowing throughout the ceremony, and I honestly can’t think I’ve ever seen two people look more happy. It was so touching to hear them exchange their vows, as well as bridesmaid Jo’s lovely reading….. I shed plenty of tears of joy too!


After the ceremony we drank saucers of Cham in the bar downstairs whilst the happy couple had photos taken out by the river and the Ballroom was turned around ready for the reception. It was brilliant to have time to catch up with people and have some good chat time….. as well as a chance to sample some of the bar’s wonderful cocktails!

Back upstairs, we readied ourselves for the couple’s first announcement into the room…. I had made confetti in little vintage sheet music cones, which several of us sprinkled on them from our balcony seats as they walked in. Then it was a yummy buffet dinner at large round tables dressed with gerbera in vintage IRN BRU bottles, and hand made paper stars (good work Justine!). There were lots of personal touches that reminded us of Matthew and Siobhan too…. the tables were names after Radiohead albums, and they had prepared special CDs as favours, stamped with a cut-out style image of the two of them.


We had so much fun, chatting and throwing balloons around and dancing the night away….. Matthew and Siobhan had created their own playlist for the night packed with floor fillers, and even Adam got up to dance (first time ever!). There was cheese, fruit cake and bacon rolls as a wonderful late night snack which kept us going, and I danced my last song, rather aptly to Tiffany, I think We’re Alone Now. It was such a joy to be part of their special day, and to see them enjoy it so much. Love you guys!


It was a traditional lie in on Sunday, as we were feeling rather worn out. So we decided to keep it local and just popped over the road to Wilton’s Music Hall for a few hours in the afternoon. It was the last day the historical venue was open, before the refurbishment of the auditorium takes place. After we’d had a wander about and taken a few snaps, Artistic Director Frances Mayhew took to the stage alongside Capital Project Patron David Suchet who talked of the importance of the refurbishment and the continued fundraising necessary to protect the music hall.

We were lucky enough to get tickets for the final tour, and so ‘Deputy Tour Guide Chris’ gave us the lowdown on the history of the local area and the beginnings of Wilton’s, before Carole told us all about the history of the building itself and some of the most notable events in its history. It was wonderful to hear some of the stories about the place and I would highly recommend taking the tour there…… the auditorium is due to open in 2013 but until then the beautiful Mahogany Bar is still open for drinks, as will be the new cocktail bar which will open soon, and even some performances taking place in the smaller rooms (I very much want to go to the Horror! Horror! Halloween show!). I’m really looking forward to seeing the auditorium again once it’s finished, although we were promised that the appearance won’t change.





After that it was home for a pot of tea, and to finish up a pot of clotted cream we had left over from my birthday…… I made up a large helping of what I’ve named ‘French Tea’ (strawberries, clotted cream and jam on thick slices of brioche in lieu of any scones!). And after that we were only fit to slob about and watch Planet Terror….. a nicely quiet end to a super weekend!

Hope you enjoyed yours….do share!

Ems x


Clockwise from top left: Channelling the 70’s vibe and Margot of The Good Life in floral jump suit and wedges….. Carry On prints in the snug at Wild and Woods….. prize May purchase: Deco silver pineapple candelabra….. home made pot … Continue reading

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As April came, so did an early summer, and with it droves of sun worshipers. Trinity Square Gardens and More London were full of sun bathers and picnickers as I walked home and we even managed a lunch break picnic in the grounds of Kings (although I had to drape everyone’s cardigans over me to stop me from burning!). And with lighter and warmer evenings coming in we were less inclined to spend them cooped up in the flat so off we dawdled down to the river with a bottle of chilled rose and sat in Wapping watching the sun come down, with Tower Bridge as our rather impressive backdrop.

And not wishing to miss the sunny opportunity, we headed off the following weekend around the City (not venturing more than five minutes radius from the flat though, but walking for hours nonetheless!) with our cameras and a packed lunch. First we climbed the Monument which I’ve been meaning to do for years. There are 311 steps to the viewing gallery at the top of Christopher Wren’s 200 ft Doric Column, but it was worth the climb for the views underneath the gilded urn of fire it’s topped with. Although it’s surrounded by mesh to stop you falling off / throwing things down like at the top tier of the Eiffel Tower, you get an amazing 360 view of London and you can poke your camera lens out of the mesh anyway! We enjoyed working out where the flat is and spent time gazing at the yet-to-be-finished Shard over the other side of the river. My Diana loved it up there too and the header image for Pretty Pretentious was actually taken up there on 120mm film….I love the colour and the graininess which of course I didn’t get on the digital photos. To cap it all off, when we got back down (you come back by the same steps so it’s a bit of a struggle passing everyone, like in the bell tower in Florence and the city walls in Sienna) we got A CERTIFICATE!

Having rested at the foot of the Monument with our picnic (and there met the most adorable little dog!) we went on for our next adventure….. I’d heard there was a sort of secret garden near to Monument and over the road from Old Billingsgate (we do a lot of events there and a colleague had mentioned she’d had a picnic there). So around the corner we found St Dunstan’s In The East, a ruined church and now the most idyllic public gardens. You’ll be able to see from the number of photos I took on both film and in digital on the Flikr links below, but I absolutely adore the place. There are fig trees, palms, fountains, fragrantly filled planters, climbers and even an ‘insect hotel’. In the knave which has no roof at all after the church was partly destroyed during the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, the garden is one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever found. I could have sat there for the rest of the day easily.

But then of course we had the rest of the city to discover and photograph, and it was on to the Lloyd’s Building next. Adam hadn’t been before so I took great delight in showing him one of my favourite pieces of architecture. I spent ages taking shots staring up at its weird exterior conduits and pipes, and then of its reflection in the adjacent building. More fun still was lying down on the nearby St Mary Axe looking up at the Gherkin, taking fish-eye shots with Diana. Passing tourists were fairly confused but of course that just added to the fun.

Next it was a walk down Cornhill towards Bank (finding an amazing church on the way, called St Michael’s, set back from the road hidden in between the offices and shops, but great for close up photos) and some photos around the Royal Exchange (not to mention a snoop around Lulu Guinness, Pretty Ballerinas and Jo Malone!). And that was about as much as we could muster for the day really….although the last leg home found us a moment of magic in a stray balloon….. A solitary green balloon was just caught in the railings around the corner form the flat, and kept catching the breeze so it looked as though it had a little personality or something. It was like our very own Red Balloon (gorgeous film….you must see) as Adam and I chased it along the road taking photos and playing with our shadows against it. Until of course it popped.

Finally over the grief of the popped balloon, we went to dinner at Hix at the Albermarle that evening. Not really for any reason other than perhaps it was too warm to bother cooking and we wanted to dress up a little. The place is stylish in a linen with neon kind of way….it’s a cool hotel but you don’t feel like you have to be trendy to be there and it has just enough of the traditional touches. My starter was a salad (well of course, it was the start of ‘summer’ after all) of Chicory, Asparagus and Quail Eggs…the latter being plentiful and superbly soft boiled. After that for me it was Sea Trout with Mussels and a rather naughty Mashed Potato (well, I’d just had salad hadn’t I?!). For pudding we had the same….Seabuckthorn Trinity Burnt Cream….and impressed I certainly was. Not least because they did the right thing in calling it Trinity Burnt Cream rather than crème Brulee (we are British after all, and I’m tired of going to places which apparently pride themselves on their British food but then name half their dishes after their French counterparts), but also because the service team could tell us in so much detail about all of the ingredients….my only experience of Seabuckthorn is in that amazing Weleda hand cream so naturally I needed to ask what on earth it was doing in a dessert, and our waitress went on to tell me exactly where it came from, its characteristics, flavour, texture, the lot. Brilliant. Our sommelier was top notch too, and the cocktails lovely. And our Poire William truffles with the coffee were the end to a practically faultless meal.

Viewing in April was fairly action packed, beginning with Source Code. Whilst I can’t deny it was the lovely Jake Gyllenhaal that had my interest and in fact got me to the cinema in the first place, the not overly original plot, did keep me engaged with its fast pace and absorbing detail. Playing on some of the concepts we see in Inception and Moon, the action centers on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. Of course there is a twist though, and a make-you-think ‘moral’ that doesn’t quite give you the happy ending you might want, but is probably the better for it.

Twists and almost-but-not-quite happy endings continued with April’s next film, in Thor. It took me a while to convince Adam to go, but Natalie Portman I think sealed the deal. The totally shameless trashiness was somewhat buffeted for me by the fairly (I think) accurate Norse Mythology, but in honesty I was quite happy with the over-the-top action and special effects. We’re left with a satisfying twist and a nice open ending which promises the comic book fanatics a link up with some other super hero friends for an almighty fantasy action epic. Can’t wait.

Work wise in April it was all about preparing for an unusually busy May, but we did manage to skip out of the office to RSVP to see MD Claire give a talk on all those finer details and fun bits we pride ourselves on. Having cheered her on though, we managed to spare just enough time before dashing back to the office to try a few of the new services on show… ice cream parlour here, a cupcake station there….hard work. And the hard work continued as we cheered on colleague Sarah as she took on the London Marathon, spectacularly dressed up of course, head to toe in fuchsia with feathers, glitter and sequins! But really it was peach that was floating our boat as spring sprung, as my obsession to find the perfect peach nail polish took over (see my blog link below).

Easter took us, as tradition dictates, to Nottingham where we meet with a big bunch of folks for fun, drinking and football, all under the pretense of something called Join Me (I’ll have to tell that story in a whole other post, too long). The weekend afforded us some light shopping, lots of pub grub, and plenty of good company. After a day spent catching up at the pubs along the canal, we adjured as usual to the famed Cookie Club where we danced like crazies to cheesy ‘alternative’ music whilst trying to stay awake with vodka red bulls (well it had been a long day!). The morning after and it was a Full English we needed before braving an almost unbearably hot sun to watch the boys in their annual North vs South football match. Despite their enthusiasm, it was more of a kick around this year, and we’d hardly finished our ice creams before the whistle was blown and we headed back into town. But we weren’t too disappointed to make an early finish as this left of plenty of time to enjoy the real ale festival at Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem. A darling old inn (which indeed purports to be England’s oldest pub, dating back to 1189AD), set right at the foot of the old castle, it’s by far my most favourite place to sit and drink in Nottingham. And so we did, for the rest of the afternoon, with excellent company, wonderful ales (in lovely little half pint tankards) and glorious sun.

The month came to an end with a weekend in Hitchin to celebrate birthdays and weddings of Adam’s friends. Claudine and Mark had recently been married in Jamaica, and so had planned a big get together in Hitchin for family and friends, complete with a family-made Jamaican and French style buffet. We were totally fussed upon by their mums and aunts who were desperate to feed us all up on their signature dishes (Goat Curry, Beef in wine stew, Spicy fish cakes, rice and peas….), and we were only too happy to be spoiled by them.

Next was karaoke in honour of Martin and Rachel’s birthdays. Thankfully a private room had been arranged, so embarrassment was kept within our small circle, which after a few cocktails was just as well. The climatic performance had to have been Martin’s epic rendition of Two Minutes to Midnight by Iron Maiden, including several minutes of (air) guitar solo. Less impressive was Jamie’s attempt at a rockstar-esque scene as he thrust his microphone into an ice bucket, rendering it useless. Not cool.

But the real highlight of the month for me was the Royal Wedding. I’d been looking forward to it with so much excitement….bothering Adam to buy commemorative tea towels….checking out Jason’s sticker collection (now complete I believe!)….and following all the media hype on the dress and associated gossip. By the time the big day arrived I could hardly contain myself and felt almost as though I had some kind of involvement in it. I still can’t believe I wasn’t invited (obviously an oversight). Despite Adam’s protests and my concerns that being at Adam’s parents’ house would mean I wouldn’t get to watch it live, the BBC coverage ended up on the TV and we settled down to watch it. Before long, the build up footage got too much to bear for Adam and he began to write a bile-filled blog about how ridiculous it all was (link to his epic diatribe below). I though was engrossed in every detail and began a sort of stream-of-consciousness on Twitter (I think perhaps if my phone weren’t a touch screen I’d have broken the hash key that day).

After hours of interviews and teasing, we finally got word that Kate was about to emerge from the Goring and I edged even closer to the end of the sofa. As she stepped out and we caught the first glimpse of her though, it wasn’t her dress, the veil or the borrowed tiara that sent me reeling…. her pretty bouquet of Myrtle, Sweet William, Hyacinth, Ivy and LILY OF THE VALLEY made me jump right out of my seat in some kind of rage as I sqwarked ‘but that’s *MY* bouquet!’ It’s true of course that there is nothing terribly different about an all white bouquet full of blooms chosen for their meaning, and of course there is nothing to stop me from having my wedding bouquet still made up of one of the flowers Princess Catherine had in hers, but for just a moment there my future bridezilla well and truly reared her head in an embarrassing display of materialistic spoiled brattishness. And in front of Adam’s mum too. Not cool.

Diana in the City……

Diana’s secret garden……

Photo adventure……

St. Dunstan in the East…..

The Red Balloon……

Hix at the Albermarle……

Peachy Perfect Blog……

Adam’s royal wedding blog……

Favourite hotels blog……