Les Papiers

Les Papiers

Not long ago, who’d have thought you, or me, could have a piece of Jean Paul Gaultier in your own home?

If you’re a fan of the unconventional designer, you can now have a roll (or two or three) of wallpaper from his couture collection, Les Papiers. We saw, and fell in love, with this gorgeous design, when we flicked through the showroom samples in David Gavin Design, in West Didsbury. Elegant, but utterly playful, the Recreation wallpaper features classical bathing beauties dressed in contemporary clothes, chubby cherubs and stripe-clad sailors, all vying for attention. It’s a definite hark back to 18th century Toiles de Jouy (meaning, “cloth from Jouy”), a type of print that is characterised by complex vignettes scattered over the surface. But with the immediately recognisable Gaultier motifs.

Although not in this house, I have a wall ear-marked for a couple of rolls of this stunning paper.

Just need to move first…

 

Road Trip : September 18

Road Trip : September 18

We’ve made a few trips back to England since we moved out to Istria, and we’ve just completed our second road trip. Driving is definitely not the quickest way to get back, but it’s surprisingly less stressful than flying. And especially landing in a UK airport. Specifically Manchester…

Last time we drove, we headed across northern Italy, through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, skirting around the edges of Switzerland and up through France to Calais. We decided to try a different route this time and headed north up into Austria, Germany and Holland. We could have chosen a very scenic, mountainous route but that would have added hours and hours to what was already quite a long drive, so we didn’t get to see the best that these countries obviously have to offer. Germany, in particular, was pretty flat for the duration of the route we took and certainly no real Instagramable moments. However, the German motorways made up for lack of spectacular scenery – although very fast, they felt very safe as everyone seemed to really respect the rules of the road. Unlike in Italy. Holland, whilst still very flat – as we expected – became a lot prettier the more north we travelled. It has to be said, all three countries seemed to manage roadworks way, way better than happens in England. There were roadworks along the way, but the traffic largely kept flowing. Until we got to England, and this was what greeted us as we left Harwich, and became almost the norm as we travelled to various points in the country…

You definitely know when you are back in the UK…

This time we decided to try a different ferry crossing, opting for the longer Hook of Holland to Harwich route. This turned out to be a good decision, because finding and navigating both ports was really easy – they are both quite small, compared to Calais and Dover and Portsmouth etc, and well sign-posted. Maybe it was the time of day/year, too but on both journeys, we embarked and disembarked and got through passport control quickly and efficiently.

We didn’t book cabins as the crossings were in the daytime, but did book seats in the Stena Lounge. This was described as a quiet lounge, where you could relax or work, in comfort. In reality, it was a little bit like a lounge in a retirement home – although with the added bonus of complimentary drinks. The crossing was a good seven hours, so for the return journey we decided to book a cabin (see below) – with a 9am departure, it seemed like a good opportunity to catch up on some much needed shut-eye, and before arriving back in Holland at 5pm. We hit very, very lucky with the weather on the return leg – brilliant blue skies and a very calm North Sea…

Now, here’s a bit of a top tip if you ever do this crossing. It does take a whole day – and a whole day sitting in a communal area can go quite slowly. So, once onboard, get yourself along to the Guests’ Services desk and enquire about booking a cabin, because if they’re not all booked, they sell them off. Cheaply. So, we bagged a triple berth cabin which had a double bed, with a single bunk above, sea view, desk area and large(ish) bathroom with good shower, for just over 35 euros. Worth every cent to be able to have some privacy, catch up on sleep and freshen up. We’d also pre-booked lunch in the main restaurant – at 16 euros for two courses it seemed good value. And, we weren’t disappointed. The food was good restaurant standard and the portions very filling. Although it did all feel a bit “Triangle” when the Prawn Cocktail & Marie Rose Starter arrived. No Kate O’Mara though…

Retro North Sea lunch…

We’d never been to Harwich before, and needed somewhere to stay when arrived as we didn’t dock until 7.30pm, but to be honest we struggled a bit finding somewhere that looked appealing. However – and here’s another top tip – Walton-on-the-Naze is only 20 minutes away and I remembered our last stay here, at the beautiful Georgian Townhouse. There was availability on both nights we needed (arrival & departure) so we booked again. It was like a home from home and everything we remembered. Beautiful room, bathroom with a roll-top bath, super comfy bed, excellent breakfast, uninterrupted sea views and wonderful hosting from Chris & Geoff. Do yourself a favour if you’re ever Essex way and make a booking. You won’t regret it.

On the way back, we decided to take more of a tour through Switzerland. A word of warning coming up here – if you are going drive on a Swiss motorway, and you’re only passing through, get on Google Maps or which ever app you use, and find a route that AVOIDS motorways. You have to have a vignette to drive on the motorways – if, like us, you hadn’t realised, as you approach the motorway, the police will syphon you off into a lane where you then have to buy a vignette. At a cost of 40 euros! Once we’d got over the shock of this unexpected expenditure, we realised that actually this wasn’t too bad for us, because we can get to Switzerland quite easily and now having paid to drive on the motorways, we’ll probably explore it more over the next year. But, as I say, if you are literally just passing through, it’s quite a hefty fee to pay – especially if you’re unfortunate enough to join at one junction and exit at the next…

Having said that, and we didn’t even get high up into the mountains, Switzerland is beautiful and it was probably worth the 40 euros to see the little that we saw. I’ve since read this excellent article from The Culture Trip and will be definitely using this as a guide next time we visit, because we were a little bit captivated by Heidi Land.

We sailed a return trip with Stena Line for less than £250 for two of us, plus a car. If you book seats in the Stena Lounge, drinks (wine, soft drinks, water, tea & coffee) are complimentary – and although you could get well and truly sloshed, as there was no limit applied to how many times you could refill your glass, it didn’t seem quite the right thing to do on this occasion. As well as the restaurant where we pre-booked lunch (we didn’t realise the ferry would be quite as quiet as it was, so a booking, post summer, is probably not necessary), there is also another restaurant which serves hot food and when I looked, had a really extensive selection, including veggie options and salads, sandwiches etc.

So, will we be doing a road trip again? Yes, most definitely. It gives us freedom. We can decide how long we are going to be away, plan the route to suit ourselves, and have the bonus of having an empty car we can fill up with goodies when back in England, and en-route. Those French hyper-markets are just too good to not factor in a few wine stock-up stops!