April in Istria

April in Istria

We’ve realised that there is little point in trying to predict the weather in April in Istria. This our fourth April here and previously, we’ve had fierce Bura winds coming down from Slovenia. Torrential rain. Soaring temperatures. And this year, just to be different, snow blizzards. Only one day of snow, but enough to put out the electricity on multiple occasions throughout the day and cover everything in a thick blanket of white. Including our beautiful hyacinths, which had been standing tall and proud.

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house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

The tallest of the hyacinths suffered the most, as the snow came so fast and thick we didn’t have time to do much apart from cover the bed with plastic sheeting – the weight of the snow crushed them and there wasn’t much chance of them recovering, so they were cut and the house now smells gorgeous. The other bulbs seem to be rallying, so we’re talking nicely to them every morning.

We knew the snow was forecast, as it has been a few times since the new year, but we thought it would be like it always – a few flurries and then nothing more. How wrong we were! Our day in photos…

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house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

The snow fell consistently for about seven hours, with strong winds whipping the snow flurries up against the house. Thankfully, after doing a bit of deforestation earlier in the year, we still had a lot of wood for burning and so the woodburner was cranked up. Candles also had to be lit as it was dark, and we didn’t know how long it would take until the electricity was back to normal. This was the kind of day we were wishing for in the depths of January, but not in April!

Then, as quickly as the snowy weather had arrived, it changed. The light changed and things suddenly seemed brighter in the garden.

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

house for sale in istria, property for sale in istria, renovated stone house for sale

The snow has all but gone now and we think that’s the excitement over for this year. However, April being April, we know there will still be some weather surprises. Rain is due over the weekend, and one thing we think we do know now, is that when rain is forecast in this spring month, it’s generally not just a shower. We will have torrential downpours over the course of a few days – it’s what we now know nature does to kick start the explosion of green that happens at this time of year. So, it might be a week or so yet before we’re sunbathing on the renovated loungers or eating al fresco, but this crazy weather is a sign that winter is over and summer is around the corner. Not long until this will be the view from the house…

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Our (full time) home is for sale, as we have found another property, very nearby, to renovate. If you would like to find out more, we have a very comprehensive website, as well as a dedicated Twitter account and Facebook page. The renovation part of this blog also details our journey from the day we moved into the house. No white-washing, no little white lies and cover-ups – it’s all there as we believe that if you making a big purchase like a house, especially if abroad, you need ALL of the facts, not just the gloss. If you have any questions, or want any further information, I’d be happy to answer anything via email – helen@escapetoistria.com

 

 

Brondo Architect Hotel, Palma

Brondo Architect Hotel, Palma

Over the last few years, we’ve been very lucky to be able to pack in a huge amount of travel – as well as actually move abroad, relocating from Manchester to Istria, in northern Croatia. We’ve spent the last couple of years renovating a stone house and exploring our new environment. But, one place has so far eluded us – Mallorca. Even though it’s always been on our radar, we’ve always found ourselves plumping for somewhere else. Until now. A combination of being very busy with our design business, cracking on with the house renovation and some pretty unseasonal weather – rain, rain and more rain – made up our minds and we booked flights to Mallorca. First port of call was Palma, and a night in the absolutely beautiful Brondo Architect Hotel.

There’s so much choice, accommodation-wise in Palma, but we have a very clear idea about the kinds of places we want to stay. Wherever we stay must be at least as nice as our home. It must be unusual. It must give us interiors inspiration. It must also be mid-range, budget wise. Too cheap, you get what you pay for. Too expensive – just silly. We’ve not got a bottomless money pit. So, Brondo Architect Hotel seemed to tick all of our boxes when we spotted it on Booking.Com.

Tucked away down a cobbled side street, but less than a 10 minute walk away from Palma’s iconic cathedral, the hotel is set in a 17th century Mallorcan building. From the moment you step into the reception area, you know that this is going to be a special experience. A huge eye-catching mural, featuring Rubenesque women dominates the entrance – it is bold and brassy and totally in keeping with the style of this unusual hotel. Public areas feature quirky artwork, astonishingly beautiful Spanish floor tile, exposed brickwork and copper piping with striking lighting features.

Our room was more of a junior suite, with a large bedroom and seating area, and a big separate bathroom, with an adjoining corridor. The decor and furnishings were really lovely – a super comfy four poster bed, two squishy armchairs, great artwork, map wallpaper. A stylish mix of retro and modern.

Our stay was short, unfortunately – but, we will return as we genuinely loved this hotel – so we didn’t get to experience the roof terrace. There’s also a gym, and massages can be arranged. However, we did enjoy a welcome drink (a nice touch) on the terrace outside the restaurant. We stayed early season, so there didn’t seem to be too many guests, which was lovely as we largely had this decked courtyard area to ourselves. Eclectically furnished with low sofas, brightly coloured parasols, big cushions, olive trees and bouganvillea and mis-matched tables and chairs, this is the perfect spot for an early evening drink, before heading out into the bright lights of Palma.

Morning coffee, in the warm May sunshine, was an absolute treat on the terrace. Those colours. And that sky…

The restaurant is quite simply, stunning. Packed full with interesting and unusual objects and pieces of furniture – and a very pretty cherry blossom tree – it’s the perfect place to enjoy breakfast. And, what a breakfast! There’s a huge choice – pastries (sweet and savoury), pies (yes, pies for breakfast!), cold meats, cheeses, fruit, youghurts, juices, breads and a really good hot selection. I always tend to avoid the hot options, which have usually sweated all morning in silver catering trays. But this one was exceptional – the food is obviously refreshed regularly, rather than allowed to sit and become rubbery, and we enjoyed a Spanish style full English. Very, very tasty.

Communal areas are filled with quirky artefacts and artwork.

The hotel is located on a pedestrianised side street, but we found a car park, just a 5 minute walk away which meant that we could dump the car and not worry about parking restrictions etc. Brondo is also really centrally situated, so wandering the labyrinth of Mallorcan streets is a joy.

I’m delighted that we opted for this hotel for our first night – and by sheer coincidence, as we had absolutely no idea when we booked that they were connected, our next stop was the exquisite Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller. The sister hotel of Brondo, and the second in the tiny chain of Unusual Hotels…

This is NOT a sponsored post. We paid the full price as quoted when we booked & have received no payment for this blog. We just wanted to share this lovely find of a hotel in Palma.

Ca’n Llimona, Soller, Mallorca

Ca’n Llimona, Soller, Mallorca

This restaurant is probably known, and frequented by, all of our friends who’ve ever been to Sóller, but just in case you, like us, didn’t know about it, here’s the low-down on Ca’n Llimona.

Tucked away down a side street called Carrer de la Victoria, just off the main drag, Carrer de sa Lluna, it could be easy to miss. The frontage is pretty but it it’s quite a small frontage and so doesn’t really stand out, especially if you pass by when it’s closed. However, we were recommended that we eat here, by the hotel we were staying in – more about them in next blog – and so we decided to have dinner here. We stayed in Soller in mid-May so still quite early in the season, and the restaurant wasn’t busy but this gave us a much better chance to have a mooch and actually speak to Claudia, the owner and head chef. Her passion for what she does is palpable, as she explains the menu, the methods and the inspiration and design for the restaurant. Which, interiors-wise, is beautiful, with a real fusion feel of being in both Spain and Morocco.

Everything is mix & match, which when done well, is just lovely. Painted wooden chairs and tables, display crates, fresh lemons on tables, an apothecary cabinet to display the wines, Spanish tiles, candles, glass lanterns. Everything that I just love in one place.

When life gives you lemons, the place to go to is Ca’n Limona…

The menu is very small – home made pasta dishes and sauces only, and a small range of home made desserts. Do not let this put you off, as you will be missing out on an amazing gastronomic experience. The pasta is freshly made every day by Claudia, and she then cooks it and serves it. What a woman! When you make your choice, the uncooked pasta is presented to you on wooden trays, prior to cooking. A really nice touch, I think. We chose the spinach and ricotta ravioli with a rich tomato based sauce and the lemon tagliatelle with pesto and parmesan, both served with the juiciest, freshest tomato salad. Incredibly simple, but so well executed and the taste was out of this world…

The wine we chose was La Sastreria, a very Spanish palatable dry white – perfect with the pasta and with prettiest label I’ve seen…

All in all, an exceptional dining experience, which just goes to show you don’t need to be all fancy-pants. Sometimes, simple is best. Or, as we always say over at We Are Life Design, less is more

Mallorca : One To Avoid…

Mallorca : One To Avoid…

It’s hard to imagine that there could really be anywhere to avoid on Mallorca. We’d discounted Magaluf, as unfortunately we’re no longer in our early twenties, and so, when booking places to stay, we were pretty confident that every place we chose, would be a winner. When we travel we do our homework. We read reviews, check out websites, look at the area etc. My rule of thumb is, if it’s not at least as good as our own home, we’re not staying there. So, Brondo Architect Hotel in Palma, Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller and Petit Sant Miquel Hotel in Calonge were all amazing, and we’d highly recommend.

We decided that we wanted to have a few days doing absolutely nothing, apart from lazing around a pool. We quite fancied a hotel on the western side of the island, so we could catch the sunsets. We definitely wanted a pool. Somewhere that played quiet, chilled out music. Somewhere a bit funky. And we definitely thought we’d found all of this when we discovered La Concha Soul Boutique Hotel, in Paguera.

Now, we’d not been to Mallorca before and so had no idea what Paguera was like. Not that it really mattered when we were looking for accomm0dation, as the plan was to pool lounge for a few days. For those of you who know Mallorca well, you’ll probably know what’s coming, as we checked out of the beautiful Lluna Aqua in Sóller after two amazing days, and set off for Paguera. Looks pretty snazzy, doesn’t it?

The website certainly suggested it was a cool, laid back, chilled out kind of place and the photography certainly reinforced this. Reviews were promising. Just what we’d been looking for.

The first sign that things weren’t going to be as expected, was as we entered Paguera. Gone were the beautiful Mallorcan townhouses, and individuality and beauty, of Sóller and Palma. Instead, a long beach front strip of fairly down-at-heel hotels, souvenir shops, bars, fast food joints and hoardes of tourists. Now, nothing wrong with any of this, IF this is what you’ve come for. But we hadn’t. And I was already beginning to wish I was somewhere else.

However, we’d already decided that we wouldn’t really be investigating Paguera, as we were going to be relaxing around the pool, so all would be OK. Only, it wasn’t. The hotel, on arrival, definitely did not look as pristine as the one we’d been seeing online. A hunch told me that this wasn’t going to be a long stay, so the suitcases remained in the boot of the car as we went to reception. The main entrance – at least we think it was the main entrance, as we couldn’t find another – was around the back of the hotel, where the car park was located. Plus point – free parking. You’ve got to find these plus points somewhere. The entrance was in need of some TLC – peeling paint, scuffed door, neglected plants. However, we decided to give it a chance – even though the reception area had the feel of a youth hostel…

See, I wasn’t exaggerating. This is the main entrance. OK, that tree to the right looks OK, but I mean, look at the plants on the balconies…

We were advised we’d been allocated a superior room on the top floor, with a view of the pool area. Unfortunately, this was where it all started to go really wrong. There’s no lift in the hotel – not a problem at all, as we’d left our luggage in the car – but it did mean that we got to see the communal hallways in all their glory. Filthy. Scuffed walls and ripped wallpaper. Cleaning was still going on – a plus point, because at least we witnessed that cleaning of sorts happened – but on one of the landings, dirty towels were all over the floor. So many of them, that we couldn’t step over them. There was no way I was moving them, so we had to walk over them. The cleaner wasn’t arsed in the slightest. Unreal. And then, the room. The superior room…

Yep, this is what we walked into.

Above, was the window ledge. Below, the shower cubicle…

We weren’t sure if the bed had actually been properly made, or if this was how a previous guest had left it…

Word to the wise, guys. If you include the word “Boutique” in the name of your hotel, understand that there will be expectations from guests. Shoddy, shoddy paintwork…

Our superior room, with a view of the bins. Sorry, pool…

Safe to say, the receptionist seemed not in the least bit surprised when we headed back down and told her we wouldn’t be staying, and exactly why we wouldn’t be staying. Because we’d booked through Booking.Com, the payment for four nights had already been taken – at this point, we didn’t care. We just wanted out and away. She was very understanding regarding what we were saying about the filthiness of the room, and the hotel in general – she couldn’t really argue once we showed her the evidence. However, she did want us to give the hotel a chance and offered us another room. We politely declined. The manager was called. He too seemed completely unsurprised by what we were saying. Although he also wanted us to look at another room. There would also be a free BBQ that evening and if we left, we’d miss that. He (and the receptionist), to their credit, took everything we were saying on the chin, and finally accepted that we would absolutely not be staying. We were most surprised that the manager agreed to refund three nights – we definitely did not expect this, and certainly didn’t expect that he would do it as quickly as he did. So, another plus point for La Concha Soul Boutique Hotel – but unfortunately, a hotel which was not boutique, and with no soul. We’ve since looked back at the hotel website – and yes, it does make the hotel look better than it is, but look closely and the tell-tale signs are there. We just didn’t spot them, which is unusual – so maybe, good on whoever designed the website or took the photos. They’ve certainly done a good job of glossing over the fact that this is a pretty dire hotel. Although, we seem to be in the minority having this view – as rave reviews are still coming in for it. Maybe we’re over-fussy. Or prefer to stay somewhere that is clean and isn’t the standard of a hostel, but the price of a hotel. Or maybe, we just arrived on the wrong day, at the wrong time. But, we don’t think so. That grime on the window, and around the door and in the shower, had been sitting there, for quite some time.

But, all’s well that ends well – and very fortunately, the Lluna Aqua Hotel, back in Sóller, had one room left. Which unsurprisingly, we booked. And got out of La Concha and Paguera as fast as our car could take us! An hour after taking the above photographs, we were delighted to be back *home*…

The difference between that awful, slapdash paintwork and these beautiful Mallorcan tiles. Attention to detail = a boutique hotel.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Lluna Aqua Hotel would be a much more expensive a hotel to stay in. It was more pricey, but definitely not at the kind of prices you’d blanche at. And, it was very, very clear what you were paying for.

A real boutique hotel. Full of soul. The real deal.

Vrbnik, Krk Island, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk Island, Croatia

This was originally posted in August 2019, so all pre-Covid, when we could all travel much more freely…

As well as family and friends coming out to visit us in Istria, we now have the opportunity to meet up with people who come to Croatia on holiday. We still find this very exciting as we get the best of both worlds – entertaining and travelling. Good friends from Didsbury were returning to Croatia, this summer, for the second year running and their final destination on their island hopping trip, was Krk. As we can reach Krk in about 90 minutes, we arranged to drive over and spend an evening with them, in the beautiful little town on Vrbnik, on the eastern side of the island.

Krk is a very accessible island. It can be reached by one of the many ferries which cross between the northern islands, or from Istria, there is a roadbridge from Rijeka. You pay to cross to Krk but not when you leave. Once on the island, roads are very good and because the island is small, you can tour it quite easily in a day. On this visit, our destination was Vrbnik and the road took us through vineyards and crop fields and around the bay of Soline, famous for its salt pans which date back to the pre Roman period, and healing black mud. It’s quite a sight to drive around the bay and see people wading ankle-deep in the shallow waters, plastering themselves in the mineral-laden black mud…

Vrbnik was first mentioned in 1100, and is thought to be one of the oldest towns on the island. Its inhabitants were mainly farmers, then navigators and fishermen, but today the most important product is its golden yellow wine – the Žlahtina. Originally a walled town, it is situated 50 metres above the Adriatic Sea on a dramatic limestone outcrop – and now is a labyrinth of winding cobbled streets. Including, allegedly, the narrowest street in the world – Klančića passage – only 17 inches wide…

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

There are approximately 1000 full time inhabitants in Vrbnik, as well as numerous holiday apartments in the middle of the old town – but we have absolutely no idea how anyone manages to get any furnishings into these properties. I imagine even getting back from the car with a load of shopping would prove to be a challenge! However, the narrow streets and tiny doorways and windows and quirky architectural features, make this town an unmissable delight.

Many of the beautiful old dwellings have been refurbished and are now boutique style accommodation or very pretty shops, many selling traditional arts and crafts, olive oils and the famous Žlahtina wine. We bought a couple of litres of this from a very tiny winery, straight out of a cooling stainless steel wine tank. Can’t say it lasted too long, but it was very nice!

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Because Vrbnik is perched on the top of a cliff, the drops down to the sea are stunning. As with most of Croatia, there are very, very few sandy beaches. Most coves and beaches are either rocky or pebbly and many are only accessible by boat. Even if you don’t get down to any of these beaches, we’d recommend just soaking up the azure blue waters below. As clean as a whistle and supposedly populated with dolphins. Although sadly, they didn’t make an appearance when we were there.

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Every corner you turn around, reveals another sight to behold. I loved this door, with the utterly gorgeous metal frame, affording both beauty and privacy. I think it’s an idea I might like to incorporate somewhere along the line…

Vrbnik. Krk, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

Vrbnik, Krk, Croatia

The city walls are still remarkably intact in places, with fully formed turrets, reminding you that this was obviously once a town which was in danger of attack. Also within the city walls, you can still walk through the doorways – which are so small. Hundreds of years ago, people must have been very short of stature.

Whenever we used to go on holiday, usually to Greek islands and so islands quite like Krk, we always used to wish we could stay and not have to return to the rainy north west. Now, that has become a reality. It is now very surreal leaving such an idyllic location and knowing that we are now returning to the house we’ve been renovating. Sometimes dreams do come true…

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And, if you have dreams of moving somewhere idyllic – or owning a holiday home – you may be in luck, as we have now found another property, very close by to renovate. Meaning that our current home (above), located in northern Istria near the borders with Slovenia and Italy, is for sale…

 

 

 

The First Sign Of Spring

The First Sign Of Spring

Without realising, until very recently that it’s actually become an annual tradition, there’s a default meal we always make when the first warm days and lighter evenings arrive. It goes back to when we lived in West Didsbury, in Manchester and those first few days of warm sunshine, after a long winter, usually meant we’d fling open the French doors, get out the garden furniture and eat outside, no matter how chilly it got later. And after a winter of carb loaded stews, soups, curries and although usually delicious, always quite heavy food, we always craved a salad. Not a summer one with delicate leaves and light dressing, as it generally wasn’t quite warm enough for that kind of salad. No, what we wanted was the kind that still was substantial enough to withstand a chill in the air, but be a cold dish, with salad ingredients. I think this started out as being made from what we had in the cupboards/fridge at the time, but it definitely wasn’t from a recipe I followed, so the ingredients do change.

Easter Monday 2021 was a lovely warm spring day and we had everything necessary to knock up our first Spring Salad of the year – with enough left over for a working lunch the next day. If you fancy giving it a try, here’s what was included :

  • New potatoes – cubed and boiled, then left to cool
  • Hard boiled eggs, quartered
  • Ripe, ready to eat avocado, chopped roughly
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Thinly sliced red onion (or sliced spring onions if you want a less intense flavour)
  • Pitted black olives
  • Tuna (I used a tin of smoked tuna, from the Greek range in Lidl) and/or chopped anchovies
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Olive oil and salt and pepper

There’s no fanciness to the way we do this salad – everything is piled into a big bowl, mixed and drizzled with olive oil. It’s very tasty on it’s own, and because it is actually quite a substantial salad, you don’t really need anything else to accompany it. It’s great as a very quick meal to make for friends and if bulked up with crusty bread or pittas and hummus, it’s a winner as it’s quick, easy and good on the washing up. It also looks very pretty as a centre piece because of the colours.

spring salad, istria

Oh, and the working lunch the next day? Yes, we did have plenty left over which had chilled over night in the fridge. Perfect to eat as an unexpected April snow blizzard raged outside…

Spring Bathroom Makeover

Spring Bathroom Makeover

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This rather lovely rustic, wooden A-frame ladder, hinged at the top and held together at the bottom with thick rope, hasn’t really been utilised in our house as well as it could have been. It’s usually covered in throws, which as the weather warms up, are discarded from beds and sofas. When we decided to titivate the top bathroom, I suddenly saw the ladder with new eyes and new it was the perfect accessory for what I was imagining in the bathroom.

With a very high sloping ceiling, although the bathroom is quite small floor-space wise, it feels cavernous because it is so high and I knew that the solution was to try and bring down the ceiling. Without actually going to the expense of doing that. So, the idea of a jungle bathroom was born. Although not with real plants unfortunately. The beams from which I intended to suspend the plants, are high and a bit difficult to access so regular watering would have been problematic. Also, because the downstairs bathroom has a powerful shower, this tends to be the one we use most, so chances are we’d actually forget to go in and water plants in the upstairs bathroom. The other consideration was that we have a houseful of faux plants and foliage, which meant I could easily redistribute what we already had, without having to make any additional purchases. The only real consideration then was how to suspend the foliage, without overloading the beams. And, voila – this is when I saw the potential of the ladder, with the hinges removed and the rope cut, so that it could be opened and laid flat across the top of the beams. Because of the angle of the ceiling and the position of the door and walls, it was a tricky manoeuvre, but through sheer determination, we wrestled it into place and started to attach the faux stems of ivy and vines with the rope we’d previously taken off.

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A metal wall rack, from Rockett St George, was brought up from the living room and another vine hung over it. I think the green glittery pigeon is very happy in his new home, too.

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An adhesive, battery operated LED strip was attached to the join between the back of the bath and the wall, which gives off a very pretty glow. (And yes, they are ready to be refilled recycled gin bottles on the bath shelf. The cut of the glass bottles and the colour of the bath foam is really accentuated now with the lights behind them).

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There will undoubtedly be more tweaks that we make to this room, but it now feels a whole lot more “finished”, and a much more comfortable room in which to fill up that bath, pour a glass of wine and sink back and relax.

Our home is up for sale. We have fully renovated it – and as with this bathroom, we continue to do so, as we live in it full time – but we have found our next renovation project, 5kms away, and it’s time for us to move on. If you’d like to find out more about our home – it’d be perfect as a holiday home/rental if you didn’t want to make the move full time – then do visit our website. We guarantee you won’t find a more comprehensive house for sale website

 

 

Easter 2021

Easter 2021

It really only seems a couple of weeks ago that it was Christmas, and yet here we are, having just had Easter weekend. Sometimes we feel that we don’t seem to do much with our time, but with a quarter of the year already gone and the fruits of our labours beginning to show in the garden, I think that we must occupy ourselves quite well, despite not really – until very, very, very recently – being able to really go anywhere. However, slowly, slowly things are beginning to awaken. Although Istria is still in a kind of lock down state, restaurants and bars which have outside areas have started to re-open and tourists are beginning to return. From 1st April, people who have been vaccinated or have a negative PCR or EU-approved Antigen test, can enter Croatia. We’ve started seeing cars from different countries – definitely not as many as we’d normally see at this time of year, but there is something nice about seeing a license plate other than from Croatia.

We’re spending a fair bit of time in the garden, getting it ready for the summer. And hopefully, for new owners. The lavender plants are now bedded in and the crocus bulbs are beginning to push up through the soil. Where we’ve cleared the trees, we’ve sown wild flower seeds and these are now beginning to show. No sign of the sunflowers, yet, though. The dahlias have all been potted and have been sitting in the warm spring sunshine. Under the well room windows, we have a long raised bed which is now filled with varieties of hyacinths – the blues and purples are utterly gorgeous, and the aroma is just intoxicating.

Good Friday was glorious – very sunny and very warm, so we took the opportunity to begin the job of finishing off the shed which we built last year. When it was constructed and painted, it took quite a long time and I think we were just a bit of sick of working on it, and so a top coat was never applied inside and the door, on the inside, only had one coat of satinwood, so it was all looking a bit sorry for itself. Also, we wanted to investigate why wasps were beginning to find the shed interesting – everything was taken out as we thought there might be a nest. No nest in sight, but an empty shed, so we decided to crack on and get it finished. I didn’t want a shed in the garden to be filled with tools and be a bit of a mess – we have an external cellar that can accommodate work stuff, so the idea has always been to use it for storage of sun bed pads, seat cushions, the hammock – the kind of things we’d use throughout the summer and need easy access to. As well as sitting pretty in a garden we’re now investing a lot of time and effort into. I’ve always been taken by this photo and all along this has been my shed inspiration…

Over Easter, we made good headway with finishing the shed. All of the paint pots and tools have a new home in the cellar and now everything is easy to find. It felt good getting the cushions, pads, throws and hammock out of their winter wrapping and getting order in a little space which we think we finally come into its own over the summer. Hanging baskets, bursting with lilac and white and purple petunias have added immediate colour and our purple clematis has been repositioned against the side of the shed, and this will hopefully grow up and over.

The garden furniture has had an Easter makeover too. The table and chairs – originally brown, but spray painted in an anthracite colour by us – have been spruced up. Two years of sun and rain had weathered them and the colour was starting to fade, but they look as good as new now. Equally, the sun loungers – originally brown wood – were sprayed at the same time as the table and chairs, but were also faded and weather beaten. It’s proving to be quite a slow job, as we’re finally doing them properly – tightened, washed, sanded, two coats – but the one that is almost finished is looking so much better now that it’s been painted in the same soft blue satinwood as all of the exterior woodwork.

We could also finally actually eat outside of our own house this weekend, and after a stop off at the new renovation to begin making a plan with our builder, we had our first visit of the year to our local Konoba in Oprtalj. Overlooking hills and valleys and vineyards, with a sliver of The Adriatic in the distance, it is in the most perfect location. It was a real treat to eat some fresh pasta with local wine, sitting under the big chestnut tree on the terrace, as the sun started to set.

A gorgeous weekend, filled with sunshine, good food, hard work and the thought that summer is tantalisingly close. Fast forward to Tuesday morning. Let’s see how all of those budding bulbs and shoots of wild flowers have fared when the snow has melted away. Just as well we checked the weather, as we managed to get the potted dahlias into the warmth and cover the long raised bed of hyacinths, but we’ll have to wait and see what carnage lies beneath that very pretty snow…

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

The Adriatic Hotel is located right on the picturesque harbour of Rovinj, a Venetian town on the south western coast of the Istrian peninsula. It is in the pedestrianised old town, full of pastel coloured Venetian buildings fringing the sea. Cobbled streets, full of the most exquisite shops, bars and restaurants, wind their way up to the top of the hill and the Church of St Euphemia, who from the top of the spire, watches out across the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

It’s one of our favourite destinations – and we know that we are very, very lucky because now that we live in Istria, we can book out of season when prices are much more suited to our pockets. It is Rovinj’s oldest hotel, dating back to 1892, the most recent refurbishment being done in 2015. The original facade has been retained and in its pale grey render, it is elegant and understated. A terrace outside, with big squishy grey and white sofas, which wraps around the front and side of the hotel, is the perfect place to while away a couple of hours, people watching or just being soothed by the sound of small fishing boats coming in and out of the harbour. The wooden shutters above the grounds floor – which comprises the Adriatic Brasserie and Breakfast Room and beautiful, beautiful bar – hint at the luxury behind them.

By hotel standards, it is small – there are fourteen rooms and four suites. All are different sizes and configurations – there is absolutely no “corporate” feel here. The ensuite rooms and suites have high ceilings with the original old-fashioned cornices retained. White walls are hung with big mirrors, wooden parquet floors have that added touch of luxury with modern black-and-white rugs. The beds are huge, with crisp white bedding and lots of pillows. Lighting is subtle (but sophisticated) and individual artworks, by local artists, can be found in every room. Coffee-making facilities are available, with fresh milk delivered and every afternoon, a little treat of homemade chocolates is delivered to your room. One of my favourite touches – as well as the hand written welcome postcard – is the selection of three mood scents by the bed. Grey-marble bathrooms have black-and-white mosaic-tiled floors, rain showers with glass doors, and Molton Brown toiletries, with matte black taps and handles and radiators. Of all of the rooms we’ve stayed in, the bathrooms have been huge and spacious and light. Communal areas are stylish – black carpets (with not a speck on them) fitted onto sweeping stairs, with almost black walls and very subtle lighting. Just gorgeous.

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Hotel Adriatic, Rovinj

Although Rovinj is packed with amazing – but reasonably priced – restaurants, including Monte, awarded a Michelin star – the hotel brasserie is fabulous, and definitely recommended. If you don’t fancy eating in the restaurant itself, room service is quite something too. All off the a la carte menu (although you can order form a smaller room service menu too) and brought your room on a trolley, presented in exactly the same way as would be if you dined in the restaurant. Breakfast too, is a real treat – an extensive menu of hot dishes, plus an array of continental options. And, as you are eating it, you can watch the glitterati of Rovinj, strolling past.

We have always paid, in full, for every stay at Hotel Adriatic and have never asked for, or received, any kick-backs. This blog is based solely on our personal experiences.

 

 

Spring Wreath

Spring Wreath

The Spring Equinox weekend definitely seemed the right time to dismantle the dead and decaying winter wreath I’d made, way back in November. The vines and ivy were cut back from our green wall in the garden and I had salvaged some of the cuttings which were still a vibrant green with red and black berries. It’s been outside all winter and has withstood winds, freezing temperatures, icy rain and snow but was definitely past its best, with withered leaves and shrivelled berries. So, off came everything and I was left with a metal hoop – originally the circular bottom of a solar IKEA lantern lantern which hung in the tree, but which met its end in a particularly strong storm. All that was left of it was the hoop, which I kept, knowing that one day “it might come in useful”. And it has done. The new wreath has been made from faux sprigs of cornflowers and pink daisies and foliage. I had these already and just repurposed them, so it cost nothing to make. And, although real blooms would be even prettier, they’re not growing the garden yet and obviously have a much shorter shelf life.

MATERIALS :

  • Hoop
  • Faux flowers and foliage
  • Scissors
  • Twine
  • Hook

and about 30 minutes of your time.

The stems of the flowers and the foliage are made of quite flexible wire, so they’re easy to twist around the hoop and wrap in on themselves. For extra strength I used some very thin gold wire to keep them secure and in place. I’ve no idea what this spool of gold wire was ever bought for, but it’s proved itself to be pretty invaluable for tasks like this one.

I knew that I wanted a wreath, in soft pale colours on the front of the shed door in the garden, and the pinks and cornflower blues were perfect against the pale grey paintwork. Our potted clematis – which has big, beautiful purple flowers – has been moved into the sun, next to the shed. It’s already shooting up and it will be trained up the side and over the roof. Meaning that come the height of summer, the shed won’t just be a shed – it’ll be a gorgeous pop of colour in the garden.