Where to eat near Lourmarin in the Luberon

Where to eat near Lourmarin in the Luberon

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, May 26, 2016

Meandering through the beautiful countryside of the Luberon Valley,
through endless vineyards, orchards, olive groves
and at certain times of year, a vibrant carpet of lavender and sunflowers,
to dine somewhere special.....
Our suggestions, within a 30 minutes drive from Lourmarin 

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Dining in Lourmarin, Luberon, Provence

Dining in Lourmarin, Luberon, Provence

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Where are the best restaurants in and around Lourmarin?
Enjoy a paper thin pizza fresh straight from the wood smoke of a 'feu de bois' oven? 
Sample fresh, beautifully presented local ingredients within the captivating ambience of a former olive mill? 
Be pampered by award winning chefs at a Michelin star restaurant? 
For a tiny village in the Luberon, Lourmarin has much to choose from ~ here are our favourites! 

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Where to stay in Lourmarin

Where to stay in Lourmarin

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, May 20, 2016

Visualise yourself sleeping beneath the rafters of a stunning converted olive mill
or being pampered in an exquisite guest room of a Provencal mansion.
Perhaps you’d like your own garden and pool,
there are many gorgeous properties to choose from ...... 

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Lourmarin, why you should visit this treasure of the Luberon

Lourmarin, why you should visit this treasure of the Luberon

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I told you last time about Lourmarin, but why should you go there too?
Quite simply, because it’s beautiful. 
Twisting cobbled streets, limestone buildings the colour of honey,
 faded shutters and clay tiled roof tops.
Chic boutiques, galleries, vibrant cafés and restaurants.
 A fabulous Friday market,
linens, baskets, treasures from Provence.
A mystical 15th century château, lavish music concerts and soirées.
Local wineries, fairy tale perched villages of the surrounding Luberon.
The enchanting cities of Avignon and Aix-en-Provence less than an hour away.
 The dazzling Mediterranean coast hardly any further.
But there's another reason to visit Lourmarin.... 

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Ingredients that make a place special

Ingredients that make a place special

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, May 16, 2016

I have been wondering, what are the secret ingredients that make a place truly special?

Somewhere, when you arrive for the first time, makes your heart skip a beat and that when you return for the hundredth time, makes you shudder in delight as it welcomes you back.

The world is full of many beautiful locations. What is truly captivating to one person might be quite unremarkable to another. Of course there are world-renowned sights; The Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu, The Great Wall of China, dazzling cities like Rome, Paris, Sydney, all of which can stun and amaze; but they’re not really the type of places I’m thinking about.

What I’m referring to are much simpler, less sophisticated places whose list of attributes include character and charm; places with a story, a history begging to be explored.

My list includes meandering, cobbled streets, crumbling stone buildings, clay tiled roof tops and faded shutters. A gently rolling landscape resplendent with vineyards and olive groves, where once a year gently wafting lavender and dancing sunflowers, like an artist’s paint brush, splash their brilliance.

Countless sites boast such criteria but there is something which makes the place I am thinking of particularly special, one, which no matter how hard I try, I am unable to completely explain. Maybe that isn’t important, maybe all that matters is that I have found a place whose magical ingredients and ambience have captured my heart, a place I want to become a part of, a place which when I return to I never want to leave.

If you’ve been there maybe it has the same effect on you too?

 

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VinAzur ~ bringing the wines of Provence to the USA

VinAzur ~ bringing the wines of Provence to the USA

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

It's always heartwarming when someone I’ve never met contacts me from miles away because they’ve been reading what I write. Just recently someone with whom I share a great passion, asked me to write about what he does. The passion we share is a love of somewhere beautiful, the story of which has seeped deep into my soul. That place is of course Provence, where this person spends his time immersed in the terroir, with the vines and the vintners. Just chatting to him I could smell the warmth of the soil and the musty aroma of grapes working their magic inside aged oak barrels. I thought of balmy, summers days in Provence, where bustling street cafés and restaurants spill onto the cobbles, where it is impossible not to become beguiled by the heady atmosphere of carefree relaxation, too seductive to ignore and I was transported. 

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Explore the magnificent walled city of Avignon

Explore the magnificent walled city of Avignon

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Discover the charm of this enchanting walled city,
unravel the secrets from its medieval past
when it was home to the Popes
and the most powerful city in Europe.
Explore its museums, cathedrals shops and restaurants,
walk over the mighty Rhône River
and dance on its famous bridge,
'Sur la pont d'Avignon',
quite magical.......... 


 

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Avignon ~ where to dine

Avignon ~ where to dine

Caroline Longstaffe - Sunday, April 24, 2016

 Avignon offers many dining choices for the foodies among us!
From the gourmet sensations of
Christian Etienne and Les Cinq Sens, 
to fabulous home cooked food from Fou de Fafa,
or delicious pizzas at Chez Mimmo.
They're all good so booking is advisable!
 There are many more, let us know what you discover!



 

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Avignon ~ places to stay

Avignon ~ places to stay

Caroline Longstaffe - Saturday, April 23, 2016

The stunning city of medieval city of Avignon,
nestled on the banks of the mighty Rhone River
home to the Popes in the 1300's for nearly a century
It is surrounded by the breathtakingly beautiful countryside
of the Vaucluse, Provence. 
There are many accommodation options available nearby,
and within the city.
Here are some of our favourites,
both hotels and charming bed and breakfasts

 

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Avignon ~ City of the Popes

Avignon ~ City of the Popes

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The magnificent medieval city of Avignon is surrounded like a ribbon round a cake
by a beautifully preserved city wall built in 1403.
During the 14th century it was the center of one of the richest courts in Europe.
As home to the Catholic Church, it was one of the most powerful,
even today is still referred to as the ‘City of the Popes’.
Come and admire the Palais des Papes, home to 7 Popes from 1309 to 1376,
 a World UNESCO site and the largest Gothic Palace in the world.
Walk across the mighty Rhône River on the famous Pont d'Avignon,
built in 1185 from the inspirations of a shepherd called Bénézet.
Hum the bridge’s famous song as you explore the streets of Avignon,
 its museums, shops, restaurants and on Sunday its vibrant flea markets. 

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The Roman city of Nîmes

The Roman city of Nîmes

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, April 18, 2016

Magnificent Roman architecture, bullfights and concerts.
Sun drenched squares overlooked by stately shuttered mansions.  
Meandering cobbles streets packed with shops and restaurants. 
Stunning art museums, cathedrals gardens and treasures from the past. 
This is the seductive Roman city of Nîmes whose ancient treasures wait to be explore 

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Visit Pont du Gard here.....

Visit Pont du Gard here.....

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, April 07, 2016

Standing beneath the golden arches of the Roman aqueduct, 
Pont du Gard, just 6km from Uzès, Languedoc Roussillon, France,
it hardly seems possible that this magnificent structure has been here for over 2000 years.
Build from local limestone, for 600 years
it carried water from Uzès to the Roman city of Nimes, 30km away.
 Spanning the beautiful River Gard
it is a breathtaking site, 
one you won't regret including on your visit to
 Languedoc Roussillon and Provence

To learn more about the Pont Du Gard and how to visit it click here
For a travel guide and downloadable PDF to Uzès and the surrounding region click here

 

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The Pont du Gard, UNESCO site near Uzès

The Pont du Gard, UNESCO site near Uzès

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Just 6 miles outside of Uzès, towards Avignon,
serenely merging into the surrounding landscape,
sits the spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site
The Pont du Gard.
It has been here for well over 2000 years,
patiently waiting to be explored.
No matter how many times you have stood below its ancient arches
it will hold you spellbound,
as you stand and gaze up at in wonder.  

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Wineries and olive oil mills near Uzès

Wineries and olive oil mills near Uzès

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, April 04, 2016

Languedoc Roussillon has a steadily growing and well respected reputation for its wine
and there are some excellent wines produced in the Uzès area.
Predominantly they use the great Mediterranean varieties,
Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
Combined with the natural limestone and gravel of the 'terroir',
long days of brilliant sunshine and the skill of the local vintners
the result is wines of great rigor and of the highest quality. 
Reds, whites and the wine the South of France is so well known for, rosé! 
And of course where there are vineyards there are often olive groves.
Here are a few of our local Uzès favourites.

 

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Where to eat in the Uzès vicinity

Where to eat in the Uzès vicinity

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, March 31, 2016

Just a short drive from the city of Uzès,
amidst the rolling countryside,
abundant with vineyards and olive groves ,
you'll find a few special dining spots,
worth driving a little way out of town for! 

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Celebrating four years of Shutters and Sunflowers!

Celebrating four years of Shutters and Sunflowers!

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, March 28, 2016

It’s been four years since I started writing, when I was sharing my life in Provence. I’m still writing, mostly about travel and you’re still reading, thank you, but behind the scenes ‘blogging’ has evolved greatly.
  
Every day vast reams of content is shared across an ever growing social media world; Facebook Twitter Pinterest, Instagram, never mind Snapchat, Googleplus and a host of others! 

Spinning through this immense, tangled web, are giant, mysterious spiders, mostly called 'Google'. These are greedy spiders, they want feeding daily, to search, rank and then like victorious hunters display the most prolific content on their opening pages! 
 
But what about YOU, the reader, aren’t we all becoming overwhelmed by too much information? I don’t want to bombard you with more! So I have been trying to compromise; posting more often, becoming more information specific, mastering some audio visual and only telling you once in a while. I'm making progress, my Twitter 'friends' have grown from 197 to over 1000 in just four weeks, tweet tweet!

I have been focusing on areas of Provence I really know, the beautiful perched village of Les Baux-de-Provence the captivating video spectacle of Carrières de Lumières and as many travel tips as possible to make your visit to Uzès as magical as possible, after all, Uzès is where this all started!  

So scroll back through the posts or ‘Read More’ where I have added all the links to the last month's posts for you to click on. Please let me know what you think and thank you all of you for staying with me on this journey! 

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Know the historical facts on your visit to Uzès!

Know the historical facts on your visit to Uzès!

Caroline Longstaffe - Saturday, March 26, 2016

Uzès has a vibrant, ancient history, did you know that:

Uzès was first settled over one thousand years ago?

 During Roman Times it was an important commercial and cultural center?

Ducal Chateau at Uzes, home to the first duchy of France Uzès is the home to the first duchy of France,  
that it remains the oldest ducal peerage in France
and that the family still live in the ducal castle in Uzès today? 

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Visit the Uzès Markets!

Visit the Uzès Markets!

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, March 23, 2016

 Every Wednesday and Saturday Uzès hosts it fabulous markets.
by the arches of its magnificent central square, Place-aux-Herbes.
On Wednesdays smiling locals offer mouthwatering, regional produce.
Cheeses, garlic, wine, flowers, lavender, olive oil, honey and soaps.
On Saturdays the stalls tumble out onto the streets of Uzès,
baskets, linens, jewelry and art, everything and more
that you would hope to discover in a marché-provencal!
Take a peek here, I think you'll see what I mean! 

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La Place-aux-Herbes, Uzès

La Place-aux-Herbes, Uzès

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, March 22, 2016

La Place-aux-Herbes, architecturally stunning, is the heart of this beautiful city.
A vast, cobbled square surrounded on three sides by golden, stone arches
whose domed canopy covers the patios of shops and restaurants.
Her central feature is a large stone fountain which sits quietly chuckling at all who pass her by.
She's overlooked by tall, shuttered buildings,
softly painted in gentle shades of blue grey and violet, so delightfully French,
Place-aux-Herbes is like a splendid setting for a party.
Whether hosting her twice weekly markets, festivals, brocantes or local artisanal sales,
Place-aux-Herbes is a place to gather, a place to meet friends,
a place you will want to be in this charming, medieval city of Uzès. 

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The Fenestrelle Tower Uzès

The Fenestrelle Tower Uzès

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, March 18, 2016

Rue du Portalet, 30700 Uzes Phone : +33 4 66 22 68 88 
Uzès' most famous landmark, adjacent to Saint-Théodorit Cathedral,
 built at the end of the 11th century, this 'tower of windows'
is the only campanile tower in France.
A fairy-tale 'Rapunzel' tower
where can one imagine a handsome prince rescuing his beloved! 

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What to see in Uzès

What to see in Uzès

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, March 17, 2016

If all you did whilst staying in Uzès, was to meander around the town, 
 explore its shops, sample its many restaurants, 
and buy wine and cheese from the local markets, 
you would have a wonderful week becoming part of the magical charm of Uzès.
But, there are some wonderful sites you should try to see too! 

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Watch this video glimpse into Uzès

Watch this video glimpse into Uzès

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, March 14, 2016

The enchanting medieval bastide city of Uzès,
just outside of Provence, in Languedoc Roussillon.
Come and wander its cobbled streets,  
admire its gently worn, shuttered buildings.
Discover the Ducal château, its Medieval Garden and iconic Fenestrelle tower.
Sit under one of the golden arches fringing its magnificent square,
Place-aux-Herbes,
host to its weekly markets and festivals. 
Listen to the soft splutters of the fountain,
become immersed in the beguiling atmosphere of this special place.
Watch the 'video glimpse' next
and discover why people who visit Uzès always return...  

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Restaurants and dining in Uzès

Restaurants and dining in Uzès

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, March 11, 2016

Dining under the golden arches in Place aux Herbes,
shaded by the broad sycamore branches in the square.
  Enjoying 'feu de bois' pizzas on a cobbled streets or a pretty terrace. 
Savouring French cuisine at its best in an elegant dining room or exquisite garden; 
just a few of the dining options in Uzès.
Here are some of our favorites, most require a reservation especially in the summer.
Let me know what you discover to add to the list!

 

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Where to stay in Uzès

Where to stay in Uzès

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Imagine falling asleep in a luxurious room, once part of grand Renaissance French mansion
or under soft linens in the bedroom a now historical, listed building.
Or staying in an exquisitely, charming bedroom filled with fresh flowers
where the warmth and charm of your hostess
make you feel as if you were staying in a beloved Aunts home.
Some of the many options to rest your head during your visit to Uzès,
would you like to find out more?

 

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The best Provencal market is in Uzès!

The best Provencal market is in Uzès!

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A man with hairy ears selling goats cheese, a nun blessing us with her wine!  Smiling locals selling linens, ribbons, baskets, and flowers,  cheese makers, olive growers, and an abundance of fresh produce. How can you not visit Uzès fabulous twice-weekly markets, the most vibrant in Provence! 

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Uzès, the enchanting city almost in Provence!

Uzès, the enchanting city almost in Provence!

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, March 07, 2016

Easter is only a few weeks away and Uzès is getting ready.
Previously closed shops and restaurants, are re opening.
The cobbled streets below the magnificent, golden arches surrounding Place aux Herbes,
its stunning central square and market place, are being washed and swept.
New leaves are gently uncurling, to form their natural canopy of shade across the square.
Everywhere is bursting into life ready for an influx of excited Easter visitors,
thrilled to be escaping for a few days,
to explore and discover this delightful little bastide town,
maybe you are going to be one of them?

 

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Les Carrières de Lumières 2016 is open

Les Carrières de Lumières 2016 is open

Caroline Longstaffe - Saturday, March 05, 2016

Les Carrières de Lumières 2016 is open!
Located by the magical perched village of Les Baux-de-Provence,
Carrières de Lumières is an entrancing projected video art extravaganza.
Set deep within a disused bauxite cave
it profiles breathtaking works of art.
This year's Carrières de Lumières
features the artistic wonder of Marc Chagall.
Previous years have included Van Gogh, Gaugin, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
You can view a vignette of my previous visits to Carrières de Lumières below.
Carrières de Lumières is an unforgettable, part of anyone’s visit to Provence,
make sure it is part of yours!
  

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Les Baux-de-Provence, a magical view from a fairy-tale village

Les Baux-de-Provence, a magical view from a fairy-tale village

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, March 03, 2016

Gazing out from the ramparts of Les Baux-de-Provence, high up on the Alpilles hills
visitors are treated to a vista of Provence that dreams are made of.

Acres of silvery, green olive groves splashed with sprawling vineyards,
interspersed with pines and scrub oaks
and in the early summer the occasional tuft of Provence’s most defining bloom, lavender.

If time is short, come for just the view, you won’t be disappointed 

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Medieval Provence at the Château of Les-Baux-de-Provence

Medieval Provence at the Château of Les-Baux-de-Provence

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The Château des Baux  
nestled on a craggy limestone escarpment high in the Alpilles hills 
is one of Provence’s most famous fortresses.
Dating back to the tenth century, within the perched village from which it takes its name.
Although now in ruins you can learn its fascinating story
on a self guided audio tour exploring its tumbling ramparts,
guaranteed to take you on a magical journey back in time. 

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Visit the beguiling perched village of Les Baux-de-Provence

Visit the beguiling perched village of Les Baux-de-Provence

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, March 01, 2016

As you wander the meandering cobbled streets of Les Baux-de-Provence,
between the shadows of its medieval buildings, close your eyes. 
You’ll hear the swish of long gowns and velvet cloaks hurrying passed you
and the distant clanking of armour by the chateau.
None of Provence’s perched villages are as atmospheric as Les Baux-de-Provence.
A magical place, where you’ll find yourself wishing ‘if only walls could talk’
for to visit Les Baux is to journey back in time …….  

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Provence's astounding video art spectacle, set in a quarry, Carrières de Lumières

Provence's astounding video art spectacle, set in a quarry, Carrières de Lumières

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, February 29, 2016

Carrières de Lumières; imagine if your visit to Provence included standing deep within a disused bauxite cave surrounded by towering 100 foot high walls, upon which is projected a 360 degree, multi-media art show profiling the breathtaking work of Van Gogh, Michelangelo or Marc Chagall. This is the stage for Carrières de Lumières, a vast cavernous space, utterly breathtaking in its own right but when light up by the entrancing artistic extravaganza of some of the world’s Masters, it is an unforgettable, part of anyone’s visit to Provence, I hope it will be part of yours!

 

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Travel tips for a visit to San Antonio, Texas! Visit The Alamo, The Missions, King William District, The River Walk and The Pearl!

Travel tips for a visit to San Antonio, Texas! Visit The Alamo, The Missions, King William District, The River Walk and The Pearl!

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, February 22, 2016

Why visit San Antonio, Texas? 
Nestled along its meandering tree lined River Walk, packed with restaurants and history San Antonio, Texas exudes a special charm.

San Antonio has the largest concentration of Spanish Colonial architecture in North America, discover the influences of its captivating past; from being a Spanish Colony, to becoming part of Mexico before gaining its independence in 1836.

Explore not only The Alamo, San Antonio’s most well-known treasure but don’t miss its string of other beautiful Missions, all within minutes of each other.

Stroll passed the stunning 19th century mansions of the historic King William District which offer an incredible insight into how San Antonio grew and prospered and its German Heritage. 

A boat cruise and an amble along the River Walk is a must and a visit to San Antonio’s Pearl District will rival all your previous dining experiences! Set on the site of the beautifully restored Pearl Brewery this is a foodie’s heaven. A stay in the Pearl’s boutique, newly opened Emma Hotel would make your visit to San Antonio quite unforgettable!

 

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Provence Travel Tips from Shutters and Sunflowers interview with Perfectly Provence

Provence Travel Tips from Shutters and Sunflowers interview with Perfectly Provence

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, January 29, 2016

Perfectly Provence recently interviewed me to ask for my top tips for visiting Provence.
My suggestions are by no means a fully comprehensive list, as I told Perfectly Provence's creator, Carolyne Kauser-Abbott, there is so much to see and do that my first thought is don't try to do it all it once!
So click here to read my ideas 'Provence Travel Tips from Caroline Longstaffe' 

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Skiing... but is it always fun?!

Skiing... but is it always fun?!

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Skiing what's not to love?,
The fresh pine scented air, trees kissed with soft, white icing sugar powder.
Breathtaking mountain vistas above the clouds, which literally make your heart stop.
The mystical silence as you glide effortlessly down a snow covered slope.
Just you and nature connecting in a way that is only possible on a pair of skis (well possibly on a snowboard too)
A magical experience......
or is it?! 

[Read more...]

Celebrating Christmas, where ever you may be

Celebrating Christmas, where ever you may be

Caroline Longstaffe - Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas is about who we are with.
Celebrating together with the traditions that have become woven into our families' celebrations.

Do you, like me, think of the enchanted Christmases of your childhood,
pondering upon an a world wrapped in a mantle of white, bathed in candle light?

In each home, in every corner of the world, the scene is set on a different stage
the magic of another Christmas, where ever that may be. 

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Perfectly Provence, Shutters and Sunflowers, The Provencal Landscape

Perfectly Provence, Shutters and Sunflowers, The Provencal Landscape

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Perfectly Provence is a highly recommended online resource, for those of us who want to learn more about Provence, its culture, its wine, its food, great places to stay and what not to miss when you are there.

It's creator, Carolyne Kauser-Abbott, gathers content collected from Provence's top regional writers and this month that includes Shutters and Sunflowers! What is it about this enchanting part of the world that is so captivating, that has an English girl living in California returning there again and again? 

Click here to discover the answer and read the Perfectly Provence Article Shutters and Sunflowers, the Provencal Landscape

And don't forget to check out Perfectly Provence's fabulous digital magazine, all about Provence! 

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The Changi Gaol, Singapore, a World War II horror

The Changi Gaol, Singapore, a World War II horror

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, November 12, 2015

War; always tragic and horrific.
Creating desolation, carnage and destruction.

Causing immense suffering, misery and loss,
destroying and changing lives forever.

Singapore during World War II was thought to be an impregnable fortress. 
When it fell to Japan on February 15th 1942 it was probably Britain’s most humiliating defeat.

What followed were three and half years of hardship and cruelty.
No more so than at Changi .....

 

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Dubai, the western city in the desert

Dubai, the western city in the desert

Caroline Longstaffe - Sunday, November 08, 2015

Dubai, a large, vibrant, metropolis with ribbons of traffic clogging the roads in every direction.

Palm trees and mosques, peppered in amongst the towering skyscrapers.

Opulent shopping malls complete with indoor aquariums, ice rinks, ski runs and luxury hotels.

Throughout the day the wailing of the call to pray fills the air and it’s hot, very hot.

 

[Read more...]

The magical city of Istanbul

The magical city of Istanbul

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, November 05, 2015

Istanbul, mystical and wondrous, nestled on the Bosphorus in the very centre of the world.
A vibrant, exciting city where the cultures of East and West, Asia and Europe, literally collide.

Wander its narrow, cobbled streets and let the treasures of the Grand Bazaar entice you; eastern spices, silks, lanterns, pottery, carpets and of course turkish delight!

Become entranced in the Hagia Sofia, opposite the beautiful Blue Mosque where their ancient walls tell their story, where Christianity and Islam merge, where you will be held spellbound.

Stand in the Roman Basilica Cistern and step into an ancient structure that will stun you, an incredible underground wonder held together by an assorted collection of pillaged greek columns.

Be captivated by the very many marvels of Istanbul! 

[Read more...]

A snap shot of Madrid, a Spanish jewel

A snap shot of Madrid, a Spanish jewel

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Madrid, an alive and beguiling city, exciting and passionate.

A city of artists, beloved of Goya, Velázquez, Picasso, Dalí and Miró whose work adorns the magnificent walls of the Museo del Prado, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.
 
With probably more bars than any other city in the world, an evening in Madrid is full of sparkle and pidazz; from tapas to fine dining, eating in Madrid is a gastronomic delight but don't expect to eat early, reservations start at 9pm!

Madrid has a vibrant energy which bounces relentlessly off its city streets
It’s a city where music is part of the fabric of daily life,
Where people know how to live! 

[Read more...]

Amongst the fig and olive trees, Magnesia and Priene, Turkey

Amongst the fig and olive trees, Magnesia and Priene, Turkey

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, October 30, 2015

We veered the car off the main road to find ourselves bumping slowly along a dusty, track leading to seemingly nowhere.

Either side of us were an abundance of fig trees, their branches hung low, heavy with what looked like plump, black minature Santa’s sacks! Olive trees were scattered amongst them intermittently, truly the fruits of the Gods!

As we lurched forward and our trail narrowed we reached a small clearing, it was obvious we needed to continue on foot. Just a few steps to our right, over broken rocks and tall grasses our expectations were not high.

Ahead were what looked like the remnants of a few tumbled ruins, nothing at all spectacular, especially in this part of the world but as we reached them and glanced up to our left what we saw rendered us all speechless!

Before us was a spectacle that no-one could have prepared us for. Yes, Turkey is the museum of the world, the unexplored museum of the world!

 

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Cleopatra, Mary, John and Paul, biblical icons in Ephesus?

Cleopatra, Mary, John and Paul, biblical icons in Ephesus?

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Did these people really walk where I am standing?
Cleopatra, Marc Anthony, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, John the Apostle, Saint Paul?
Did they live here, on these same lush hillsides, amidst the olive groves and fig trees?
Did they feel the same warm breeze upon their face and gaze up at the same brilliant blue sky?

History ~ others’ interpretation of the past?
Faith ~ the cause of so much debate, so much pain, so much joy.
Archeology ~ proof?

Stand among the evidence, the tumbled down ruins of lost civilizations, the broken columns. 
Listen, only the shrill twitter of bird song breaks the silence.
Listen again, hear the cheering, the applause. 
Feel the brush of long robes as people hurry passed.
Sense the past
Decide for yourself

 

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Life in The Terrace houses of Ephesus

Life in The Terrace houses of Ephesus

Caroline Longstaffe - Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beautiful, stylish villa set on 4 levels, set around a spacious, el fresco courtyard where the sunlight dapples upon the hand laid marble floors.

The stunning and dramatic vaulted entrance hall leads to a series of spacious receptions rooms artistically decorated with hand painted frescos and murals.

Boasting all modern conveniences, running hot and cold water and the latest in floor central heating!

Oozing character and charm, guaranteed to impress from the minute you step across the threshold, you will never want to leave! 

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Walking with the Romans..... in Ephesus

Walking with the Romans..... in Ephesus

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Close your eyes, be quite still, concentrate hard and listen carefully…….

Then conjure up the sounds of Ephesus, the clattering rumble of chariot wheels passing along the marble paved street just inches from your toes. The occasional crack of a whip and startled whimper of a horse.

Snatched snippets of conversations peppered with laughter or exclamation.
Small, questioning children’s voices, complaining of the heat, pleading to go home.
 
The background hum of people, going about their business, some frantically rushing to appointments, others just out meeting friends or shopping. Pedlars trading their wares, the frenzy of commerce. 

The symphony of a city then, really not so different from now……………..

 

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Provencal rosé wine with friends in Lourmarin

Provencal rosé wine with friends in Lourmarin

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, October 09, 2015

As my stylish, little, Italian designed, rental car nipped along the twisting curves of Provence's Luberon Valley my heart skipped a beat in excited anticipation. Fields of lush vineyards flanked the narrow roadside, row after row of low lying bushes, their sun kissed leaves shading bunches of what looked like fat, black pearl earring clusters, drooping heavily to kiss the rich earth below them. The sky, although cloudless and bright had that feint hint of hazy pink and the air was perfumed with a musty, oaky, ‘wood barrel' aroma so typical of a warm autumn afternoon by the vineyards. The road ended in front of a golden, stone, clay tiled, winery where I turned right. I slipped passed the gently swaying olive trees, their silvery green boughs almost waving in welcome and then round the corner was that view, so well remembered, that I knew couldn’t fail to make me gasp, I was back in my special place, in Lourmarin

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Images of Southern France in Uzes

Images of Southern France in Uzes

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, October 05, 2015

Returning to a place that holds a treasured place in your heart is a bit like re-reading a well loved book. Even though you know what to expect, you can't quite believe that it's all just as you remembered it. Comfortingly unchanged, with the same power to draw you in although you still find yourself discovering things that you missed before. Last week I was back in Uzes, the enchanting bastide town just outside the far west corner of Provence, in Languedoc Roussillon. Special to me because it had been my home for 6 months and special to all who visit because of its magical ambience which quickly captivates all who become acquainted with this delightful town. Like turning the pages of a book, as I wandered through its well remembered cobbled streets, those carefully stored images were suddenly there before me, so many of the things that often spring to mind when one thinks of southern France. 

 

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England in September

England in September

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, September 25, 2015

England in September finds summer still lingering, the days maybe drawing in and autumn is just round the corner but the trees are still leafy green and although unpredictable the skies are frequently the colour of cornflowers. I went on a trip down memory lane with my mother, visiting places where I used to live but also where she lived as a little girl during World War II. As we explored the country lanes and villages together it hardly seemed possible that she had skipped along these very same pathways as a small child over 75 years ago, if only trees or walls or buildings could talk! 

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My capital city; London England

My capital city; London England

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When I was a little girl and first travelled to London I remember feeling so excited to visit our country's capital city, London, the name I had seen so many times on road signs! It was a big family outing, we got dressed up and went out to lunch AND dinner. Our parents, full of enthusiasm eagerly toured us round, it all seemed so wondrous and unending; from Harrods, to Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch, round back to Buckingham Palace, up the Mall to Trafalgar Square then down Whitehall passing Downing Street where that important person, the Prime Minister lived, on to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the list was endless; the museums, St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, The Tower of London, so many famous buildings and sights which I'd only seen in photographs or on the television. Red London buses, black London taxis, incredible museums, outstanding theatre and shops bigger and grander than I'd ever seen, bridge after bridge over the River Thames which seemed unrecognisable as the same river I was used to feeding the swans by in our home town! I remember feeling very tiny but I also remember thinking it was all so fabulous! So many years have now slipped by, so many beautiful cities now visited all across the globe but my capital city, London, still holds the most special place in my heart and I still think that it's pretty fabulous! 

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Stepping back in to the past at Henry Ford's Greenfield Village Michigan

Stepping back in to the past at Henry Ford's Greenfield Village Michigan

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Greenfield Village, Dearborn Michigan, is part of the Henry Ford also the home to the Henry Ford Museum and Ford Factory. It was the brain child of Henry Ford who created it to preserve the legacy of many famous historical buildings where notable people from America's past lived and worked. Strolling through the village is a journey back in time. Visiting the homes and offices of people such as Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers or Ford himself, is a fascinating insight into how such people lived. Standing in the dining room of Orville and Wilbur Wright one can almost hear the chink of china as they pass the serving platters to each other around the table. So atmospheric and 'real' you feel like you are intruding on a close family meal! Every building has a special story to tell, each exudes its own unique ambience which embraces you the minute you cross the threshold. You come away feeling quite privileged to have had the opportunity to acquaint yourself with this country's rich heritage, an experience which I am sure is exactly what Henry Ford had in mind when he established this incredible village. There is so much to explore, one day simply isn't enough! 

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The Henry Ford Museum - put it on your 'bucket list'!

The Henry Ford Museum - put it on your 'bucket list'!

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, September 11, 2015

The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan is part of what has become know as 'The Henry Ford', a vast campus which includes the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village and the Ford factory, home to over 26 million artifacts.  It was constructed from Henry Ford’s desire to preserve items of historical significance and portray the Industrial Revolution. Housing a vast array of famous homes, machinery and exhibits, including John F. Kennedy's presidential limousine, Thomas Edison's laboratory and the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop, the Henry Ford is the largest outdoor museum complex in America. It tells the story of American ideas and innovation, it is inspiring and utterly captivating!


 

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Exploring the beautiful region of South East Michigan

Exploring the beautiful region of South East Michigan

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sometimes life take us to places that perhaps we wouldn't have thought of visiting, and sometimes that place turns out to be a pleasant surprise! Just an hour north west of Detroit we discovered the leafy suburbs of Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham, the charming nineteenth century historic towns of Franklin, Plymouth and Northville, farmers markets, cider mills and art festivals, the incredible mansion house gardens and educational center of Cranbrook, the vibrant university town of Ann Arbor; sumptuous waterfront properties fringing the many local lakes and the amazing Henry Ford Museum and its adjacent inspiring Greenfield Village where you can step back into bygone times in the house where Henry Ford was born and where the Wright brothers invented the very first aeroplane; utterly wondrous! And despite all we did see there was so much more we didn't; we shall just have to come back and urge you not to miss a visit to this beautiful state.

 

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Cycling and boating in Lake Tahoe

Cycling and boating in Lake Tahoe

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, September 07, 2015

I have always wanted to cycle beside the shoreline at Lake Tahoe and take the bicycle trail along by the Truckee River. Last weekend we did both; what began as a leisurely bike ride by the lake to get a coffee became a 20 mile cycle from the West Shore to Squaw Valley! Once we'd started we couldn't help but keep going, it was just so beautiful! The following day we rested our somewhat sore behinds and cruised the lake; two wonderful ways to enjoy this incredibly special place! 

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Carmel-by-the Sea

Carmel-by-the Sea

Caroline Longstaffe - Sunday, August 30, 2015

There are some places which are breathtakingly beautiful and no matter how many times you visit, somehow, each time its natural wonder just seeps into your soul. Carmel, just 90 minutes drive south of San Francisco, on California's Monterey Peninsular is one such place. The dramatic coastline, the cypress trees, the stunning white sandy beach, the Mission, the quaint little town and even the fog......... simply put Carmel is enchanting; one on my favourite places, a truly special place, one that I love to return to again and again. 

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Hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail

Hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, August 13, 2015

When hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail one is following in the footsteps of many; winding your way through the sequoia and pine trees to every so often catch glimpses of Lake Tahoe glistening in the distance. Walking beside Mother Nature like this restores the soul, every day trivia gets put into perspective, how splendid to have little else to think of apart from where your path might lead! 

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Lake Tahoe, crystal waters where the mountains touch the sky

Lake Tahoe, crystal waters where the mountains touch the sky

Caroline Longstaffe - Saturday, August 08, 2015

Early morning on the east shore of Lake Tahoe, California; the breathtaking beautiful vista is utterly beguiling, Mother Nature at her finest. Gazing out across the lake your toes sink into the soft, silvery sand which circles the shoreline like a diamond necklace. The crystal clear water sparkles, as tiny fishes twirl their way through brightly glinting gold flecks almost winking at you as they dance with delight. A haphazard collection of smoothly worn granite boulders protrude like large sleeping turtles. On the far horizon the majestic mountain tops of the Sierras soar into the azure skies, their steep foreboding faces guarding the lake from unwanted intruders. The air, perfumed with pines is fragrant and fresh; apart from the occasional bird song the world is silent, at peace; almost as if you are at the very dawn of creation. 

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Discovering the essence of Provence in Uzes

Discovering the essence of Provence in Uzes

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Travel France Online has recently included my experience of returning to the magical bastide town of Uzès, 25 km west of Avignon. Having lived for several months Uzès had captivated my soul and visiting it a year later reminded me why! Uzès is the oldest duchy in France, it has a rich history and there is much to see; the Chateau, the Saint-Théodorit Cathedral and its Romanesque 11th century Tour Fenestrelle and just a 10 minute drive away, the incredible UNESCO world heritage site, Pont du Gard. Built in 50AD as part of the Roman aqueduct of Nimes, the arches of Pont du Gard are an ancient 2000 year old architectural marvel. Uzès itself is charmingly romantic, full of meandering, cobbled streets, flanked with golden limestone, shuttered buildings, many radiating off Place aux Herbes, the beautiful market place which rests at its center, home to a fabulous twice weekly market. Returning to this beloved place and re discovering its essence reminded me why Uzès is truly a special place. 

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Historic Route 49, memories of California's Gold Rush era

Historic Route 49, memories of California's Gold Rush era

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, July 31, 2015

I remember for my 9th birthday treat going to the cinema with my family and some friends from school who all came home for a birthday tea. In those days you actually got dressed up to go to the cinema, especially on your birthday! I felt very grown up as the film, although a musical, had serious 'tough guy' actors in it; Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood; that 1968 film was 'Paint your Wagon', re-telling the gritty story of the Californian Gold Rush. Of course I had no way of knowing then, that one day I would live in Northern California and on a regular basis chase up the freeway to Lake Tahoe, by-passing the small mining towns and trails from those early pioneer years. It's a journey we have probably done more than any other but this time we abandoned the four lanes of incessant traffic to follow historic Route 49. It twisted and turned its way through some stunning scenery, every hairpin a delight for my chauffeur, who gripped the wheel of his beloved German automobile in sheer delight! Set against a back drop of distant mountains, the narrow meandering route 49, lined with towering pines and sequoias followed the path of the bubbling, chuckling Yuba River; it reminded us of similar drives in France, Switzerland and Italy; maybe it was prophetic that the song I remember most from 'Paint Your Wagon' was the gravely tones of Lee Marvin singing 'I was born under a wandering star! Serendipitous perhaps that our journey took us through Downieville, the very heart of the Gold Rush and probably what the fictitious 'No Name city' was modeled on. 

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White lace and promises

White lace and promises

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, July 17, 2015

How does one feel on your only daughter's Wedding Day? It was hard not to be consumed with sentiment. Difficult not to think about my baby girl whose new born fingers had curled around mine; remembering the feel of her small hand trustingly holding mine as she took her first hesitant steps; that same little hand which timidly waved back at me when I left her on her first day of school; that hand which I have held through her joy, her pain, her laughter and her tears as she slowly blossomed to one day, this day, still holding my hand, she stood by her Daddy, adorned in white lace and silk looking more beautiful than words can define.

 

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Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times

Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, July 06, 2015

 

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Celebrating July 4th 2015

Celebrating July 4th 2015

Caroline Longstaffe - Sunday, July 05, 2015

Every year on July 4th, thousands of Americans across this great continent adorn their homes in the stars and stripes, don their red, white and blue, attend local parades, and light up their BBQ's to celebrate America's independence from us, the Brits!!! Incredibly, 239 years later, we are each other's greatest friends and international allies and have been for decades. As Brits living in this amazing country we have always been warmly welcomed and have found life long friendships with the truly special people who have become part of our life here. Each year we have been moved by the patriotism and pride, resonating from every street corner, when the locals pulls out all the stops to celebrate their beloved country, during our little town of Danville's wonderful 4th July Parade. 

 

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Visiting the Luberon's ghost town of Oppede-le-Vieux

Visiting the Luberon's ghost town of Oppede-le-Vieux

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Travel France Online has just added my visit to the ghost town of Oppede-le-Vieux to their portfolio. Situated in the Luberon Valley, in the department of the Vaucluse, Oppede-le-Vieux oozes atmosphere and ambience. Abandoned long ago it is a strikingly eerie spot and a stroll through its mystical, cobbled streets which lead to its 12th century ramparts should not be missed if you are in this region of Provence. Don't forgo the opportunity to become immersed into the spell binding shadows of Oppede-le-Vieux's beguiling ruins, the remnants of which remain a testament to a hauntingly by-gone era. 

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The golden stone walls, clay tiles and shutters of Provence's captivating architecture

The golden stone walls, clay tiles and shutters of Provence's captivating architecture

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, June 11, 2015

Travel France Online's just published my research on the charming architecture of Provence which beguiles the thousands of visitors that stay in this stunningly beautiful area of France each year. Despite the much admired golden stone walls, brightly painted shutters and low hung, clay tiled roofs these charming buildings were not build so much as to appeal to the eye but with more practical requirements in mind, the need to withstand the fierce gusts of the Mistral wind and the relentless summer heat. Regardless, the overall effect is entrancing and helps make Provence an idyllic spot. Its' dramatic landscape, abundant countryside of vineyards, fruit trees, olive groves, lavender and sunflowers together with its golden stone villages make it all utterly entrancing!  

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The charming town and sumptuous vineyards of Bandol, Provence

The charming town and sumptuous vineyards of Bandol, Provence

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Travel France Online's latest addition to their portfolio is a visit I made to the charming, coastal village of Bandol in the department of Var, Provence. Nestled within the embrace of a sweeping Mediterranean bay, Bandol is renowned for its clear waters and sandy beaches. The surrounding vineyards are some of the oldest in France, its first vines were planted by the Romans over 2,500 years ago! Bandol's close proximity to the port of Marseille meant its wine was exported globally from very early times, Bandol wine bottles could be found in India or Brazil 2 centuries ago! Stroll its charming quay side, admire the neat moorings of cheery, brightly painted boats and stop for a while to sip the regions truly delicious wines, you won't be disappointed!! 

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Sequoia National Park - 'Take only memories leave only footprints'

Sequoia National Park - 'Take only memories leave only footprints'

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, May 21, 2015

A visit to any one of the spectacular outdoor museums, which are America’s breathtaking National Parks, always fills me with wonder. The grandeur and magnificence of nature laid out before you to stare and marvel at. Our recent trip to California’s Sequoia National Park, America's second oldest National Park, reminded me of just how miraculous nature is. Towering Sequoia trees, crisp, air fragrant with pine, mountainous views reaching into the sky and stretching far into the horizon. Imposing granite rock faces dominating all around them, challenging the most intrepid to conquer them. For over 125 years this incredible park system has worked tirelessly to preserve and maintain these natural phenomena for the millions who come annually from all across the globe, simply asking of them ‘to take only memories and leave only footprints’. 

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Swiftly flow the years - Wedding preparations

Swiftly flow the years - Wedding preparations

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, May 07, 2015

I am still here! As many of you know, life is a little busy with my daughter’s wedding just a month away! Undoubtedly the most exciting and biggest event I have planned. I love all the anticipation, organization and creativity; in some ways it's the best part, like preparing for Christmas. Pinterest and I have become very well acquainted, so many ideas to tempt and inspire, so much to think about. And all of this at such a beautiful time of year, when each morning the air is full of bird song, everything smells fresh, newly unfurled leaves have brushed the trees and plants in soft green flowers and an aura of fresh expectancy lingers throughout the day.  

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A special occasion - the Bridal Shower

A special occasion - the Bridal Shower

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I love to entertain, it makes me happy and gives me such pleasure; preparing delicious food, choosing interesting wine, filling my house with flowers, setting a pretty table and creating an ambience with music, soft lighting and twinkling candles. I read many blogs about entertaining and decorating which are full of inspiring ideas, so am thrilled to share with you the beauty and creativity of a truly wonderful party I was invited to last weekend. It was my first ever bridal shower and what made it particularly special was that it was for my daughter, about to be married in June! As you will see from the photos it was magical, in an enchanted setting and overflowing with exquisitely arranged flowers, scrumptious food but more than anything the love of dear friends.  

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Be kind to others

Be kind to others

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, April 10, 2015

 

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When in a beautiful place

When in a beautiful place

Caroline Longstaffe - Sunday, April 05, 2015

 

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Never be afraid to take a new path......

Never be afraid to take a new path......

Caroline Longstaffe - Saturday, April 04, 2015

 

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Three different worlds on three different Saturdays!

Three different worlds on three different Saturdays!

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, March 09, 2015

We all know how a plane journey can transport us to a different world in a matter of hours. I have spent the last three Saturdays, just three weeks apart, in three completely different places thanks to the miracle of flight. From the sophistication of a glamorous, world class, capital city; London, to the breathtaking beauty of the ski slopes of Lake Tahoe, to the sun drenched beaches and palm trees of Southern California. 

 

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A village within a city, Clifton in Bristol!

A village within a city, Clifton in Bristol!

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, March 03, 2015

There are some places you visit which speak to your heart and you leave wishing to return as soon as possible. Clifton, a quaint village within the city of Bristol, 70 miles, west of London, England, is one such place. I came to know and fall in love with it when our daughter lived there whilst studying at the University of Bristol. Charming, historic and packed with trendy shops and restaurants, Clifton’s avenues are lined with imposing, regency style properties where one expects Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett to appear from at any moment! 

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Le Moulin de Lourmarin, a special place to stay

Le Moulin de Lourmarin, a special place to stay

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, February 23, 2015

On our most recent visit to Lourmarin we stayed at Le Moulin de Lourmarin, a captivating, golden stone, former olive mill. In the heart of the village, Le Moulin is a charming little haven, maintaining the authenticity of its former life yet lacking nothing in modern conveniences in its delightful and cosy rooms.  

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L'Occitane Factory, Manosque, Provence, something beautiful doing good!

L'Occitane Factory, Manosque, Provence, something beautiful doing good!

Caroline Longstaffe - Saturday, February 21, 2015

You doubtless have heard of L'Occitane en Provence, a soap, creams and lotions company to be found on the high streets and shopping malls of most major cities in the world. Until recently, when I visited their factory in Provence, I had thought they were just another version of several other seemingly similar global brands only with a Provençale twist, using the charm of Provençale mimosa and lavender to allure! I knew L'Occitane products were made in Provence and on the few occasions when I had sniffed and sampled I had thought they were very pleasant but if I am honest I had rather dismissed them. I guess you should never judge a book by its cover, or a soap by is wrapping, even if it is very attractive! Having learned their remarkable story and spent some time familiarising myself with their products I was impressed and am excited to share a little of their story! 

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A February Saturday in Aix-en-Provence

A February Saturday in Aix-en-Provence

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gracious, golden, shuttered buildings, cobbled streets, cathedrals, museums, fountains, chic boutiques, restaurants and on a busy Saturday, market stalls tumbling out along the winding alleyways and gently shaded squares. Each proud vendor jostling for trade, offering a profusion of locally grown fruit, vegetables and flowers and a variety of temptation expected to be found in a Provencal marché; honey, herbs, soaps, tablecloths and a rainbow of brightly coloured baskets, This is Aix-en-Provence, the city jewel of the Var region of Provence. A charming, university city, vibrant and bustling, home of artists and writers, enthused over by a never ending stream of delighted visitors, whatever the time of year! 


 

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Early morning in Lourmarin

Early morning in Lourmarin

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, February 12, 2015

 

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The magical light of Provence, in Lourmarin

The magical light of Provence, in Lourmarin

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

For centuries artists have flocked to Provence, in part for its beautiful setting and scenery but also because of its light. That transcendent quality like no where else, a clarity that sharply defines everything yet at the same time has the ability to create an almost translucent effect. The sun's rays stream illuminating orbs to dance across the golden, honeyed architecture, intensifying their colour and warmth, dappling the cobble stones and enhancing the natural ,mystical ambience of this captivating part of the world. Despite a biting February chill where the crisp, fresh air makes your cheeks glow, by early afternoon the sun has poured its warmth like a soft blanket over every unshaded corner. It allows you to bask outside in its glow, to sip a café crème and absorb the intoxicating atmosphere, and delight in the mere fact of being here. 

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The miracle of a plane journey

The miracle of a plane journey

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, February 05, 2015

We all know intellectually that a ten hour flight transports you to another world, yet no matter how many times you might make such a journey it never fails to surprise and amaze just how different that 'other place' is!  On Monday I left my home in Danville, just 30 miles East of San Francisco. The violet blue skies and 70 degree temperatures had enticed new leaves to unfurl, fruit trees to become kissed with clouds of cotton wool blossoms and camellias and magnolias to burst into bloom. 

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Going home

Going home

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, February 02, 2015

Yesterday, I was explaining that I wouldn't be available next week as I was about to go on a trip, 
and before I had time to really think, I'd said
 "I'm so sorry but I won't be here, I'm going home."

They say 'home' is where you make it, wherever your heart is,
for me, what a conundrum that is.  

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A San Francisco view; from dawn to night fall

A San Francisco view; from dawn to night fall

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Imagine waking up each day to a view of the San Francisco Bay, a view so special you can hardy believe it is yours. It lies there patiently waiting for you behind your drawn blinds. As first light dawns, the sky seems to have been delicately brushed from a pallet of soft pinks, as if someone has gently draped a thin veil across it, creating a subtle, translucent aura, in anticipation of the day to come. Small clusters of birds circle in the thermals or stretch their wings to soar like tiny shadows across the slumbering water, following each other to who knows where. Little stirs as the city sleeps on, the ceaseless flicker of traffic lights redundantly splash small orbs of colour along the almost deserted streets. The giant silvery wedges of the Bay Bridge momentarily glisten as its cobwebbed, perfectly symmetrical cables catch streaks of early sunshine. Within less than an hour invisible hands part the gossamer curtains across the sky revealing a cloudless, blue sky. Somewhere, someone toots a car horn, another replies, the city seems to stretch and yawn, another day beginning, so much to explore in this captivating place.

 

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The essence of happiness

The essence of happiness

Caroline Longstaffe - Sunday, January 18, 2015

Many of us see January as a new beginning, a time to change the things we don't like. As you reflect, how hard do you have to search to really know what makes you feel fulfilled or happy? As Robert Louis Stevenson said “There is no duty we so much underrate as the joy of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits on the world.” Maybe one of the keys to happiness, is understanding what brings you joy. How often do you take the time to savour the small moments that warm your heart and make you smile? They may seem insignificant on their own, sipping a warm cup of tea, arranging a bunch of daffodils, patting your dog’s head, talking with a dear friend, preparing a new recipe, simple pleasures that fill your heart. Take a minute to pause, think about what stirs your soul. As the days unfold be gentle with yourself but try to embrace each one of these precious moments and treasure them, for these are the things that cannot be bought. Happiness is not a possession but a living emotion, a state of mind, seeing the world with ‘a cup's half full mentality’. No one can do it for us, it has to come from within. If you think optimistically and reflect your own joy out, it will shine back on you. Smile at those you meet in the world and they might smile back at you. The past can only hurt you if hold on to it, let it go. Expect something good to happen each day, it very well might. Strive to be the leading person in your own life and remember,“no pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” Helen Keller 

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Alan Turing, a global hero

Alan Turing, a global hero

Caroline Longstaffe - Sunday, January 11, 2015

I wouldn’t normally write a blog about a movie, although I am not really writing about a movie, (as brilliant and Oscar deserving as it is) but more about the person the movie was about. The movie is “The Imitation Game”, the person, Alan Turing. And Alan Turing wasn’t just any person, he was THE person who bought World War II to an end, by probably as much as 2 years, saving about 14 million peoples lives. He should also be acknowledged as THE person behind much of our daily lives for “every time we use a phone or a computer, you use the ideas that Alan Turing invented. Alan discovered the intelligence in computers and today he surrounds us as the true hero of mankind.” Eric Schmidt Executive Chairman of Google.  

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New Year wishes to you all

New Year wishes to you all

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As the year draws to a close a new one to begin, it’s a time to reflect and think of what’s been.
Good days and sad, all part of life, happiness and joy, trouble and strife.
Maybe teardrops fell, like rain down your face, and at times, nothing appeared in its place.
Clouds of sorrow might have covered your heart, your whole world seemed to be falling apart.

Did you open your eyes and looked all around, up to the heavens and down to the ground?
Wasn't the sky still blue, the trees still green? Weren't lake waters ruffled, no clouds to be seen? 

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Happy Christmas from San Francisco

Happy Christmas from San Francisco

Caroline Longstaffe - Saturday, December 27, 2014

As you read this just after Christmas, I hope you have been sprinkled with the magic and wonder of the season, surrounded by those you love and the joy of giving and receiving. People all across the globe, have celebrated this wonderful day, blending the traditions of their families, handed down to them through the generations. We gathered together in our Californian home, to enjoy a very English Christmas, with roast turkey, Christmas pudding, mince pies and Christmas crackers. Living in San Francisco, one of the world's most beautiful cities, I thought I would share some of the sights of the season from this beloved destination.

 

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A Christmas story ~ wonder and magic

A Christmas story ~ wonder and magic

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas story continues:
Christmas morning wonderThe little girl turned away from the Christmas tree, leaving her sister to introduce herself to the much wanted dolly and bumped into her father as he finally made it down the stairs. Noticing her serious, worried face he knelt down in front of her and asked her where she was going. She muttered that she was going back to fetch her stocking and to her surprise he took her hand and went with her. She started to wonder if maybe she hadn’t been good enough this year to deserve the watch and consulted with her father for his opinion. Her Father said that he didn’t really know quite how Father Christmas decided these things but suggested that the two of them have a few special moments together to think about it. 

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A Christmas Story ~ opening stockings

A Christmas Story ~ opening stockings

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas stocking in tow, excitement bubbling over, the little girl scampered along to her parents' room when she suddenly remembered the stockings she had put together for them. Although only eight years old and desperately wanting to still believe in Father Christmas, despite some of her friends saying it was all a big story, she had learned that he never left stockings for parents. Somehow that didn’t seem right to her, so this year she had been gathering tiny gifts by saving her pocket money. She had begun in earnest in October, bribing her brother to contribute and together they had squirreled away a small collection of parcels. By now, they were a little torn around the edges on account of the number of times they had been opened and reopened, just to check of course. However she had decided her parents wouldn’t mind, they had always told her that it was the thought that counted and she'd certainly thought quite hard! 

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A Christmas story ~ waking up on Christmas morning

A Christmas story ~ waking up on Christmas morning

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, December 22, 2014

A little girl rolled over in bed, gingerly glancing at her bedroom window to see whether daylight was peeking through. It was still dark and the house was wrapped in silence. Disappointed and with no idea of the time she reluctantly snuggled back under the covers but of course was much too excited for asleep. She tried to imagine a field of big, white, fluffy sheep to begin to count, why that was meant to help you fall asleep she had never really understood.  

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Travel France Online ~ My Christmas Pudding

Travel France Online ~ My Christmas Pudding

Caroline Longstaffe - Saturday, December 20, 2014

Travel France Online has just published Shutters and Sunflowers' article about Christmas Puddings as part of a wonderful collection of Christmas wishes from all over France put together by Diane de la Guillermie, this fabulous website's founder. For me, as a child, just as it is now and probably has been for several generations, the days before Christmas were always busy, collecting greenery to decorate the house, finding the tree, buying and wrapping presents, writing cards, standing in endless lines at the Post Office and of course preparing special food. 

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Boxing day in England ~ when I was a child

Boxing day in England ~ when I was a child

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, December 19, 2014

Boxing day is an English tradition, dating back to the Middle Ages. It is also St Stephen's Day and has been a public holiday in England since 1871. There is much debate as to where it gets its name. Some claim that it is derived from the alms collection boxes, usually in churches, which were handed out to the poor, on December 26th. Others say that following Christmas Day, when most servants had to work, on December 26th, their employees handed them Christmas boxes full of gifts or money and gave them a holiday. Boxing Day is a time to relax, food preparation is minimal as everyone has lots of left overs, it is a day to watch Christmas films and do as little as possible. Today, it has sadly, also become an excuse for retail madness with many shops opening, often beginning their sales and hoards of people rushing out in hope of a bargain. It was never like that when I was a child. In our home Boxing Day meant more presents to open and more Christmas magic at my grandmother's. 

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Christmas Day ~ when I was a child

Christmas Day ~ when I was a child

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas morning would always begin in our parents' bedroom, just as it has for our children. Three excited little people, (and as the years slipped by, not so little people!) would drag their bulging stockings to our parent's bed, it was always still dark so it must have been too early for them! They would eagerly participate in our squeals of joy as each tiny treasure was revealed. Somehow we would all be detangled from the ribbon and paper, a turkey would be encased in the oven and we would succeed in getting to church on time. On Christmas morning it would always be packed, much loved carols would be sung, bleary eyed children (and parents!) would clutch a favourite Christmas morning gift and there would be a momentary quiet as we all listened to the story of the birth of a small baby, long ago. 

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Christmas Eve ~ when I was a child

Christmas Eve ~ when I was a child

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The time next week it will be Christmas Eve, the night before Christmas, probably the most magical night of the year. One when children everywhere (big 'children' too) really want to 'believe'. Excited, eager, little faces press their noses to the window staring out into the dark wintery sky hoping to catch a glimpse of a sleigh before being ushered to bed to hang up their stockings! Sparkling eyes and twinkling lights, it's a night of hope and expectation, a night of miracles when maybe dreams come true, it's the best night of the year! 

 

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Christmas cooking preparing for Christmas!

Christmas cooking preparing for Christmas!

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, December 15, 2014

As a child, just as it is now and probably has been for several generations, the days before Christmas were always busy, collecting greenery to decorate the house, finding the tree, buying and wrapping presents, writing cards, standing in endless lines at the Post Office and of course preparing special food. Our mother seemed to spend endless hours in the kitchen, often making yet more mince pies which seemed to disappear as friends and family unexpectedly appeared to drop off cards and presents. I can remember when I was finally allowed to help and feeling very grown up tasked with making a chocolate Yule log, mince pies and sausage rolls, so began my life long love of cooking!  

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An English family's Christmas traditions

An English family's Christmas traditions

Caroline Longstaffe - Saturday, December 13, 2014

I grew up in a family with an abundance of Christmas traditions, many from my incredible grandmother, my father’s mother, who, despite having twelve children never set a table without a fresh flower and who could make the simplest of meals into an occasion. Christmas was her favorite time of year, her home was swathed in garlands of green, ribbons and bells, with a giant Christmas tree and a festive bar, nestled into a dining room corner. Although just a few wooden shelves fronted with curved hardboard, once sprayed gold and adorned with pines and tiny lights, to a small child it was spectacular, it meant Christmas was near! On Christmas Day we enjoyed an enormous turkey with all the trimmings to much laughter and gaity! On December 26th, Boxing Day in England, the entire family would gather at my grandmother’s, children were dressed in their party best, party games organized and the highlight was the arrival of Father Christmas! Christmas was for sharing time with family and friends, it was about people, it was special…………… 

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Burford, Cirencester and Tetbury, more towns of the English Cotswolds

Burford, Cirencester and Tetbury, more towns of the English Cotswolds

Caroline Longstaffe - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

As many of you know, when I’m England I love to visit the Cotswolds. It is only about an hour from where I grew up but quite different and distinctive. Charming little towns spreading across Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, built mostly from the local, golden Cotswold stone. Each one distinctive in character which for the most part has been carefully preserved. Visiting there this time I was reminded of Provence, honey coloured buildings of varying styles and age necklaced along the narrow streets. Delis and bakeries offering homemade organic and artisan produce peppered with boutiques. Being England there is also a plethora of enticing antiques shops begging to be explored, treasures small enough for me to be tempted by, taking a little part of my home back with me! 

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London, from Borough Market to Covent Garden

London, from Borough Market to Covent Garden

Caroline Longstaffe - Sunday, December 07, 2014

When ever you visit a major city don't you feel you walk miles? I think it is one of the best ways to see everything, to become part of where you are and notice the details. With the hectic pace most of us live our lives, it's actually a treat to have the time to amble, to stop at things that just happen to draw you and in London that's a lot! We had lunch at Nopi, where I had been longing to eat, we strolled through Borough Market and along The Southbank, crossing Waterloo Bridge to the Strand and on to Covent Garden. There was much to catch our attention! We had a quick rest back at our hotel before heading out again to the theater, what better way to spend a night in this fabulous and most beloved capital city! 

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Exploring Charles Dickens' London

Exploring Charles Dickens' London

Caroline Longstaffe - Thursday, December 04, 2014

Join me as we explore the London of Charles Dickens where Dickens first moved to in 1815 at the age of two. He described his time both here and then in Kent as the most idyllic period of his life, brought to a sudden end when in 1824, his father, always a poor manager of money, was sent to the Marshalsea Debtors Prison. Our tour began in the shadows of the church of St George the Martyr opposite the grave yard where stands the one remaining wall of what was once this prison. Here our highly recommended tour guide, Richard, set the scene, quoting from Dickens’ 'Little Dorrit', that whoever stands on this spot will be standing among "...the crowded ghosts of many miserable years..." And so began an incredible walk exploring Southwark, London, an area frequented by Dickens, where without Richard, many significant sights would be passed by unnoticed. A fascinating insight into this talented, somewhat tormented author whose enduring works continue to captivate millions, both in books and on the screen. I hope I do justice to what we discovered about the London of Charles Dickens!

 

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The streets of London at Christmas

The streets of London at Christmas

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Growing up in England, I always associate cold and frosty weather with Christmas. Wandering around the streets of London last week bought those childhood memories flooding back. The weather was mixed, mostly damp and drizzly, quite mild but bundling up in a coat was still required. The clouds did part on occasion but even then the light had that subdued, wintry quality. By 4.30pm darkness had enveloped us and London’s sparkling lights of Christmas shone above like small twinkles of seasonal expectation. Everywhere on the streets of London there was an air of excitement and anticipation.

 

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Travel France Online publishes my post about Cassis

Travel France Online publishes my post about Cassis

Caroline Longstaffe - Friday, November 28, 2014

Shutters and Sunflowers' article about Cassis has just been published by 'Travel France Online' the excellent, free, online travel resource founded by Diane de la Guillermie which in her words, aims '........to help you discover and enjoy French history and culture'. I have visited Cassis many times and enjoyed its unspoiled charm and the incredible Calanques de Cassis, the incredible finger like forges which penetrate its surrounding cliffs. 

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Spending a day in Oxfordshire, England on Thanksgiving week

Spending a day in Oxfordshire, England on Thanksgiving week

Caroline Longstaffe - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It is strange this week to be in England as Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Here there is no ‘Thanksgiving' anywhere, just lots of 'Christmas'! I’m not rushing around food shopping or thinking about how I am going to decorate my table (my favorite part!), nor am I gathering piles of burnt umber leaves or an assortment of gourds and pumpkins. As an English girl living in California, Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday that our family has fully embraced, although sadly we seldom have any of the rest of our family with us. However, this week, although not officially celebrating, no turkey or pumpkin, we are in fact enjoying the very essence of the occasion, spending time catching up with our family who are all normally an ocean away. 

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Flying back to my life in England!

Flying back to my life in England!

Caroline Longstaffe - Monday, November 17, 2014

On Tuesday evening I fly to London…. Despite being fortunate enough to be able to make the journey a few times a year, each trip I make is still very special, if not somewhat unbelievable. It alway feels surreal and I am tempted to announce to people at the store or the bank or wherever I might be as I rush round attending to last minute details, “I’m flying to England in a few hours!” Maybe they wouldn't even care but I think it's terribly exciting, miraculous that you can sit in a piece of metal which somehow lifts into the sky and transports you to another world, and for me another life. It's such a comforting feeling landing at London Heathrow, back where I come from, home. As much as I love my life in California, I am so grateful that I can visit England as much as I do. As soon as I step off the plane, breathing in that slightly chilly, kerosene perfumed air, it’s as if I am being wrapped in a warm, welcoming embrace to be seamlessly absorbed back into my ‘other life’, my life in England……. Everything is all so wonderfully familiar, from grumpy airport staff, to English car number plates, the road signs, the somewhat greyer skies and all the special people in my life that I spend so much time separated from but who always allow me to slip back as if I had never left, thank you to you all, what adventures will we share together this time? 

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Christmas Shopping in Danville

Christmas Shopping in Danville

Caroline Longstaffe - Saturday, November 15, 2014

There is something special about this time of year, a mystical wonder in the air, the anticipation of the season. Daylight fades much earlier, evenings are longer, there is a distinct chill at night and early mornings are fresh and crisp. Thoughts turn to Christmas preparations and in USA to Thanksgiving. It feels like people are shopping with a purpose for the upcoming festivities. Two nights ago we wandered around our small town of Danville whose shops had opened its doors in preparation for the season. Excited children rode on fairy tale carriages and had holiday photos taken with Santa. Tiny lights twinkled through the trees and Christmas music filled the air, the magic had begun, for this, my favourite time of year.

 

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