These Recent Things (Tea, Travels & The Midwinter Movement)

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http://thermograve.co.uk/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?url=http://thermograve.co.uk/news/ I entered 2017 smelling of bonfire, with a fractured rib and liquid nitrogen burns. None of these things are related.

his explanation December was full on. I can’t even remember it. 2016 who? Where did all those mince pies go?

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Early in the month I was invited to  speak at Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam and spent three wonderful nights in the city. We stayed at the stunning Conservatorium hotel, and then moved on to the quietly luxurious Waldorf Astoria.

To balance out my incredible luck I ate an overdressed purple potato with bits of prune and some clay.

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Amsterdam is a beautiful city; the people are friendly, the architecture is stunning, and the stroopwaffles are one of the best inventions known to man (them and the internal combustion engine). I definitely plan to go back soon, probably with a small army of pancake loving pals.

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Returning from Amsterdam I travelled up to Cheshire and spent a couple of nights with my friends at Willington Hall. I will keep saying it, but it’s one of my favourite places in the UK, a real home from home. Natalie had helped organise a flower arranging event for over 100 ladies (and two men) to raise money for the premature baby unit at the local hospital, so instead of catching up on my emails (like I said I would when I justified the trip to myself) I hung about and took pictures of ornamental cabbages, which was nice.

The house was dressed for Christmas, all cosy and calm. We took afternoon tea in the study and watched the sun set across the fields.

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Back home the chickens have been on high security lockdown. They don’t really seem to mind, we’ve been giving them extra snacks. It’s a small sacrifice to make in comparison to the possibility of contributing to the spread of avian flu and causing thousands of birds to have to be killed. Also, I’ve not stood in chicken poo for a whole month now.

We celebrated 11 years of MoJo living with us, making him about 18 in human years now, and over 90 in the cat equivalent. Rocky came to stay and pulled his tooth out. That wasn’t part of his birthday surprise!

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We had a lovely Danish Christmas dinner with Martin, Gitte and Oliver; we walked in Greenwich Park and saw a big man fox and a bunch of deer. Then we had a pleasant and peaceful Christmas at home. Adam was in charge of the dinner, he’s the King of the roast.

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I mentioned before that we planned to embrace the Midwinter Movement, and we did just that.

Sara shared the hashtag in her monthly Me & Orla newsletter and (I’ve just checked) almost 3000 images have been tagged #themidwintermovement over on instagram, have a look. It’s been quite interesting to see how other people respond to an idea that I hold so strong. It’s personal to me, but they’ve made it their own. I’ve initiated them into my cult and they don’t even know!

For me the Midwinter Movement is about finding ways to add light and joy to the season, embracing the darkness and filling it with light, decorating for the winter, making wreaths and bringing greenery into the house, lighting fires and candles, good dinners, sharing the simple things, backing off from the consumerist Christmas crap – it’s not British hygge or a fad, its just how I think life should be.

And, it means you can keep your sparkly lights up for as long as you like. No twelfth night misery for us, no decoration withdrawal symptoms, we’re keeping our fairy lights up until the evenings draw out and we no longer need their warm glow.

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Over on Shutter Hub we shared our Year in Review. Cor blimey, it’s been a corker! I’d really love you to pop over and have a read of our 2016 highlights, I’m proud to be able to share them with you.

Also, thank you. Thank you for all your voting in the UK Blog Awards. Obviously the three of you could only do so much, so the this old Peas blog didn’t make it, but Shutter Hub is through to the finals  in the Best Photography Blog category. Thank you.

And, the grand finale of 2016… I fell over on the ice and my bobble hat flew off into a dog poo!

 

A Night at The Waldorf Astoria, Amsterdam

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Arriving at the Waldorf Astoria, Amsterdam, we looked up at the beautiful buildings, wrapped with a  sparkling festive bow, and were won over immediately.

First admiring the marble floor, incredibly detailed ceilings and beautiful sweeping staircase, we were lead to our room to check in. The welcome was so warm and friendly I felt quite at home (although of course at home I don’t have a personal concierge, choice of rooms scents, or a mini bar, but, you know!)

Our room was light and bright with beautiful white embroidered bed linens. Classical music whispered gently in the background.

From the large windows we had full view of the city’s grandest canal, Herengracht (Gentlemen’s Canal), which was built in the Golden Age and is now a UNESCO heritage site.

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On a table next to a vase of almost-open tulips, atop a glass stand, sat a chocolate dome – hand decorated with a row of marzipan canal houses in front of a frosty night sky. Underneath this fabulous cloche of cacao freshly baked cookies sat neatly on a paper doily. Doesn’t it sound decadent? You should have seen me modelling that chocolate masterpiece as a very fetching (and melty) hat. So decadent.

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The fruit bowl was brimming with berries, beside it cotton napkins and a finger bowl decorated with petals. The mini bar was stocked to the gunnels with all the best bits, and the bathroom had everything you could possibly need.

But, the carpets. You know how I love a good hotel carpet!  The carpets were fabulous – designed especially for the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam to reflect the calm waters of the canals outside, with a little nod to the palette of Vermeer too.

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It was hard to leave the room when it was so comfortable and relaxing, but there was a whole hotel to explore, and then some more of the city – which included the fabulous Botanical Gardens, and the not so fabulous purple-potato dinner ( all of which you can read about over here).

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I couldn’t help be be drawn to the gloriously glitzy Christmas decorations – the huge wreaths, the piles of golden fir cones, and the massive tree with it’s small heap of presents placed around it. (No, I don’t think those packages were empty. Yes I do think they were full of magic.)

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The hotel is made up of six individual canal houses neatly stitched together with personality and charm. Most of the buildings had been a bank, and the old safety deposit boxes remain – now a feature in The Vault Bar, providing storage for single malts and aged cognacs.

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Behind the beautiful buildings is a large private garden (the largest in the city) which, in the spring, bursts into colour with thousands of tulips.

Looking up to the rooftops, along the undulating roofline, there’s an interruption of houses so small they look to be only good for Borrowers, or bees.

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When the Waldorf Astoria brought the bees to the city they made every effort to welcome them. The Queen bee arrived by Rolls Royce and was walked up a red carpet to a welcoming reception and ceremony fit for royalty. I would have dearly loved to have been there for this experience, but it’s okay, my imagination is vivid and I can picture it all quite well. (Her crown was a work of art!)

Everywhere I looked I spotted charming details – odes to the past, marble and plasterwork, and a finish that looked like it had just been completed yesterday. Maintaining such historical buildings is an ongoing task, and one that the Waldorf Astoria appear to do with unseen precision. Not a thing out of place, not a chip in the paintwork, nor a crack in the ceiling, everything thing is perfect as it should be. It might be odd, but I am always most impressed by these things!

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I had the most peaceful and comfortable nights sleep I have ever had away from home. Eight solid hours, undisturbed. I didn’t want to leave.

For breakfast we ate the Waldorf Astoria classic of Eggs Benedict, sat in the calmness of the gently toned Librije’s Zusje restaurant, sipping hot tea and discussing what we’d do next time.

Next time I’d dine in the 2 Michelin starred restaurant, drink cocktails in The Vault Bar and take afternoon tea in Peacock Alley. I’d have lunch in the Goldfinch Brasserie, swim in the beautiful pool, and have a treatment in the exclusive Guerlain Spa. Next time.

I feel happy to think that there could be a next time. One night might not be enough (it wasn’t!) but it was such a delight to extend a work trip and make it into a superb getaway, that it feels like a real privilege to even be able to think ‘next time!’

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Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam Herengracht 542 – 556, 1017 CG

With the greatest thanks to the wonderful people of iamsterdam for hosting me in their beautiful city, and the Waldorf Astoria, Amsterdam for hosting me and my guest for a night in their incredible hotel.