Seaham Hall Hotel

Seaham Hall Hotel

We were very lucky to be invited to the party of a great friend, held at the astonishingly beautiful Seaham Hall, on the north east coast, where, in January 1815, Lord Byron married Anne Isabella Milbanke. This association for an ex-English teacher, is just literary perfection 🙂

The hotel itself is also perfection. Completely hidden from view on three sides, and overlooking the North Sea – which, when we stayed seriously looked like the Aegean, because it was so gloriously hot and sunny – you are guaranteed complete peace and quiet.

We were allocated The Garden Suite (No 4 if you ever decide to book), on the ground floor. It’s a very grand affair, with a living room, bedroom, huge bathroom and a private garden, with a very stylish eco hot-tub. Bliss! The bed is huge, with sumptious white pillows – a lot of them! A lovely touch is the turning down of the duvet by staff at night and a pillow spray. The living room area is very large, with a deliciously comfy teale coloured velvet sofa. Pops of colour punctuate the room – pinks, yellows, blues – and complemented by butterfly wallpaper and motifs. French doors lead out onto the private garden and the secluded hot tub. I’ve never been a fan of hot tubs, always think them a bit naff, but this beauty from Naked Tubs, made from fully sustainable wood, changed my mind.

The bathroom is just the perfect place to relax, with its free standing bath with beautiful Victorian style shower head. Special little touches like candles, Elemis toiletries, rubber ducks etc just add to the experience. Towels are super large and fluffy, as are bath robes and the complimentary slippers. Attention to detail is exquisite.

For us, the only downside to our stay, was the overly complicated light system – we eventually went to bed leaving on the bathroom lights as we gave up in the end, trying to work out how to do it. (Maybe the party had affected our light switching off capabilities, but they are complicated. Honest!)

The Serenity Spa was investigated all-too-briefly the following morning and was beautiful. It is very peaceful and serene – maybe an area to investigate more closely in the future. The hotel does have restaurants – Byron’s and the Ozone – but as we were at a private party, our catering was slightly different. Afternoon Tea is also available, as well as a Beach Terrace Menu. Staff at the hotel are excellent – utterly professional, immediately helpful but unobtrusive.

All in all, a gorgeous weekend, spent in the company of fabulous friends, in amazing surroundings in the glorious North East.


Malmö Central Station

Malmö Central Station

Interiors-wise, Malmö Central Station is about as beautiful as it gets. Designed by Swedish engineer and architect, Adolf Wilhelm Edelsvärd, it first opened in 1856, in what was then considered the outer edge of the city, but an area convenient to Copenhagen-bound ferries, which loaded and unloaded in front of the station building. The building was nearly destroyed in a fire ten years later, on 14 December 1866, eventually re-opening in 1872. In 2000, both local and long-distance trains began running directly to Denmark via the new Öresund Bridge.

In the UK certainly, we’re used to city stations with the usual fare of uninspiring convenience shops and foodplaces. Not in Malmö. The foodcourt is like a smaller version of the vibrant Torvehallerne Food Hall & Market, with a variety of independent outlets, serving freshly made food and drinks, from a range of international cuisines.

We arrived mid-morning so weren’t quite ready for an Indonesian curry – although could have had one if we’d wanted – and so settled for coffess and Danish (or were they Swedish?) pastries, before wandering into a beautiful chandelier bedecked cafe space. It was heaven – aqua blue metro tiles, ornate black pillars, a curved ceiling with metalwork struts holding it all in place and super gorgeous glass skylights. This huge, light, airy space was perfect for elegant potted palms and trailing foliage.

And then, this! Huge pendulous bronze lightshades, pannelled walls, reading lamps, wall storage cubes with books and magazines, plenty of charging points and sockets and a layout which encourages conversation.

How to do a modern railway station – for some people, the introduction to a city – by taking the old and mixing, so brilliantly, with the contemporary. (It’s also, btw, one of the cleanest stations I have ever been in, but I think that’s Scandinavian standards for you).

Hotel Basiliana, Matera, Basilicata

Hotel Basiliana, Matera, Basilicata

Hotel Basiliani in the ancient town of Matera, in Basilicata, in southern Italy, is a real modern jaw dropper, built into the rocks of the Sassi.

I’ve been intrigued by Matera for a long time – as a child I was fascinated by these dwellings in the rocks that were abandoned in the 1950s. Then Mel Gibson came along with his film “The Passion of The Christ” – and all I was interested in was ethereal scenery as much of it was filmed in & around Matera. We’d planned on a one day/night stop-over on the way from Tarsia in Calabria to Alberobello, and so wanted somewhere a bit different, but that again wasn’t silly money. The old default search of “boutique hotel in …” brought up Hotel Basiliani – but a quick glance at the gallery of images made me think that this particular boutique hotel would be waaaaay out of our budget. As with a lot of things in Italy, sometimes the perception of something is much more expensive than the reality – and a quick search on threw up the most incredible apartment. For just over 80 euros. We booked there & then…

When we arrived, we were blown away, by the setting. The car had to be parked up and off we set, on foot, along the cobbled road, winding higher and higher up through the cave dwellings. I’ve honestly not been anywhere quite like it and was certainly unprepared for the hotel…

Where past and present merge in perfect harmony…

The hotel is a series of apartments, built into the rocks. Although it was early October, it was still very warm in Matera, but once inside, the natural air conditioning kicked in. The hotel is described as a “design hotel” and oh my word, it is. Attention to comtemporary detail is incredible – once inside the “cave”, we discovered our apartment to be spacious, light, cool and so wonderfully tastefully and understatedly furnished. Bare whitewashed walls contrasted with chocolate brown floor tiles and red furniture accents. Well thought out lighting accentuated the space beautifully. After a few days on the road, a deep sumptuous bath was most welcome too! And, as if to put the icing on the cake, a monumental thunder & lightning storm – but no rain – illuminating the re-inhabited rock dwellings…

The furniture was understated and simple – a thick double mattress, on top of an exposed slatted base, with thick covers – which were needed in the night as the temperature inside our cave room dropped. Seating was extremely unusual – the sofas and large square footstools, were constructed from what seemed like inflated plastic with soft internal lighting. Sounds mad – and it should be – but it worked. The sofas were very forgiving, even without cushions – and I think generally that a sofa without cushions is a crime. Soft and comfortable and definitely something to curl up in. I loved the idea of them being softly lit up too…

Even though this design hotel takes a very modern approach to the minimalist furnishings, the internal rough walls – now all painted white – and the arches and domed ceilings, do remind you that this used to be a cave dwelling. A dwelling that would have had no running water, no electricity, no comforts.  2013-12-12_0003 2013-12-12_0004 2013-12-12_0005Each of the rooms/suites has an individual entrance, with an outside area, so you do get a real sense of space and tranquility.


The communal areas of the hotel are tranquil and beautiful. Like our well chamber at home, the reception desk – a simple red desk – sits on top of a reinforced glass cover. And, like our house, the rough walls have been painted white to bring in light and create a sense of space.

This hotel will remain in my memory for a very long time – not only because it is so elegant and restored so sympathetically, but also because it is in the magical Sassi of Matera.

Hotel Basiliani, Rione Casalnuovo, 115, 75100, Matera, Matera, Basilicata, ITALY.


Going Green…

Going Green…

We’ve decided that the not-so-bottle-green bedroom wall, is staying. Despite it not being the colour I had in my mind’s eye, we’ve grown to really love it. And a bargain of a find in TK Maxx when we went to Graz, in Austria, sealed the fate of the colour – a beautiful green angle poise style lamp, which works really well against the new wall shade…

Gorgeous green angle poise lamp from TK Maxx, Graz, Austria

Gorgeous green angle poise lamp from TK Maxx, Graz, Austria

So, green has been on my mind recently. One of the next parts of the house that we’re intending to tackle, is the upstairs bathroom. Like the one downstairs, it’s small, but we’ve got a bit more floorspace to play with and it does have a natural space for the bath (where the sink and toilet currently sit opposite to each other). Because plumbing is already almost in the right places, we can hopefully fit a rainshower head over the new bath. I’d already found this image, and loved the copper/brass showerhead, but hadn’t really taken much notice of the green tiles…

The bathroom is going to be a real mix and match, in terms of style. The downstairs bathroom is now quite sleek and co-ordinated and so we feel that we can be a bit more adventurous with the other room. Once, what we thought was a negative – the size and shape of the bathroom – is now actually a positive, as it means we have to be a little more creative. Our thinking is that the bath will be quite a standard bath, but we’ll have a frame built around it as the footprint it will go into, is a bit of a cheese wedge shape, so the colour of this doesn’t matter so much. The sink and toilet will move to the wall under the window, and so these will be immediately visible, as they’ll be what you see as you enter the room. We do have a gorgeous enamel sink, rescued from a science lab in a school I used to teach in – one of those really deep, white, rectangular shaped sinks – and we have thought that this would be the new bathroom sink, mounted on a new plinth, with wall mounted taps over the sink. I have found out that you can actually paint these sinks, so that’s a possibility, if we can have it done professionally. But, whatever, I’ve been poring over Pinterest, and as ever, my interest has been aroused…

So, what do you think? Should we go green?