Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Place to stay: Zanzibar Hotel, St. Leonards-on-sea

Well well well, how could I forget to mention this one! The Zanzibar Boutique Hotel sits on the edge of the sea, down in St. Leonards - a sparkling little white-washed abode which emenates the most laid-back atmosphere. No pretention, just a little bit of comfort, and the most incredible sea-view!

If you're lucky enough to visit when they are painting the walls - you get a pretty good discount, and up on the third floor rests the Manhattan Suite. You have your own staircase... which leads to an open-plan, attic-style appartment with huge windows that open out to let in a cool sea-breeze and a big, sometimes moody ocean. I won't give everything away, because there are so many nooks, crannies and gadgets to explore... but the duke box was by far the highlight of this adventure.

The staff at Zanzibar as so friendly, making you instantly feel at ease and at home. There's an honesty bar, an interesting garden, some really beautiful design and decor, and an incredible breakfast!!

Up the road, just off of Norman Road (a five minute walk from Zanzibar) is St. Clements restaurant (as mentioned in previous post). The food is exquisite, and although a little on the pricey-side of town, it's not extortionate, and if you've got a spare bob-or-two and fancy a really good, hearty meal cooked by a great chef who trained at The Ivy - then do it!

St. Leonards is well worth a visit, and if you're planning a weekend treat away from it all, it's a haven of activity, culture, sea, great food and mystery. From ladies wheeling cats down the promenade in their buggies, to deleicious food, dukeboxes, plunge-baths and G&T's, you will, I'm sure, have a great time.

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Thursday, 19 May 2011

Morning Campers! : Sleep in a Yurt beneath the stars

Sleeping in a yurt is like snuggling up in the best 'den' you ever made in your nan's front room. They are little (or big) self-sufficient dwellings in and amongst the tweeting birds and rustling trees...

Baskets of blankets, a Wood Burner, cooker, coolbox and tea-lights are all provided for you - as well as all the cutlery and a big futon to nestle into as the night cools down... All you need is some food, a few books, a pencil and paper, a scrabble board, some wine (or Crabbies) and someone lovely to share it all with (if they are early risers and like putting the kettle on in the morning, even better!)

The Wowow campsite is really well organised, so they've set up some lovely big sinks to do your washing-up in after a good hearty risotto! When we were there, they were building a pizza oven in one of the fields... getting everyone together (if you want to) a couple of nights a week to eat delicious home-made pizza in a beautiful open field...not bad eh!

If you fancy stretching your legs during the day, there's a trail through the forest and over a big field which leads to a pub with a very enthusiastic landlord!! (Avoid the fishcakes... but enjoy your well-deserved pint!)

All-in-all, Yurt-ing is a magical experience, there is something about it's shape and the quietness of the surrounding fields and trickling rivers that takes you to a land of Zen. Even in torrential rain, as we discovered, there is still room for fun and laughter.

Have fun!

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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Place to visit: Hastings Old Town

Dotted with a couple of lovely rustic shops (Gone Tomorrow & another which you will see, it's a couple of doors down) selling everything from beautifully hand-picked pieces of old furniture & fabrics to wonderful old fireplaces, Hastings Old Town has some quirky shops, restaurants, a sea front, museums and walks to experience. Just try and make sure the sun's shining when you set out on your adventure... Hastings in the rain ain't so pretty!

If you get hungry, there's a wonderful little bookshop that also serves traditional Thai food. One Thai lady, in a very small kitchen cooks up a beautifully fresh meal for you and friends to enjoy, whilst you sit amongst the old books full of stories old and new. You can take your own booze too - which is quite a treat out of London!
The Dragon is also a winner for a good meal! You will find the Dragon at the end of George Street, which is the first part of the Old Town.

Moving on up on to Croft Road (left at the end of George Street) - there's a tasty Organic Bakery called Judges, which sells lovely bread in all shapes and sizes, and some great old fashioned cakes and slices! From iced Bakewell tart to Gingerbread men, it's a treat! Aside from the bakery, there's a whole range of delicious delicatessan too.

Also up this street, there are a few lovely eateries and bars - Porters and Harris's to name a few. And then there are some really great vintage clothing and furniture shops, proper old antique shops with reasonably priced picture frames (and all the other wonderful little finds), and the Electric Palace cinema, which shows a huge range of films from month to month, old and new. It's decked out with old red-velvet theatre chairs, and gives a sense of going back in time...

On top of that, there's also an art gallery being built at the moment, The Jerwood - which is on the seafront and going to be amazing.

Nearby Bexhill is home to the De-La-Warr Pavillion, and St. Leonards-on-Sea is another, very interesting little place to go and see. Norman Road holds an excellent (so I've heard) market, and there are some wonderful cafe's and again, the seaside is so calming. St. Clements restaurant also resides on Norman Road, and is renowned for it's exquisite menu. Affordable (in the day time) and frequented by many these days, the chef moved down from London where he worked as a chef in a top restaurant.

The beach, on a sunny day - is seriously stunning. Once you've sat yourself down on the (orthapaedic) pebbles, with or without a bag of chips and look out to sea, with the silhouette of the old pier glittering in the distance, you can't not feel a sense of belonging. Hastings is a seaside town without the pretention of the big towns like Brighton and now Whitstable... it's a bit rough around the edges, and that's why I, and I hope you, like it.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Beautifully odd: Shack-up in a Shepherd's Hut

Ahhh the feeling of Summer has taken my mind back to sleeping, nesstled away in a field or forest in a Shepherd's Hut: Fire lit outside, bottle of red wine warming against it, and woodburner puffing out warm woody smoke from the little chimney. You can wile away the hours in the peace and quiet of the beautiful Sussex Countryside... cooking and drinking, walking (along the river, to the castle, or to the pub!) and reading - all in the comfort of a transformed Shepherd's Hut, comprising of two double beds (it's a bit like a campervan in that you can turn the kitchen table into a bed!) a hob, sink, tea, coffee, woodburner, comfy seating area covered in brightly-coloured, hand-made cushions... and a little ladder that takes you up to the second double bed. Your 'fridge' is outside, and is filled with ice packs to keep food chilled, and there are logs-a-plenty to keep your fires stoked! If you like to do things a little differently, and enjoy creating your own comfort... check these out!

Also: The duvets are so thick and snuggly, and the linen is all clean, fresh and beautiful!