Thursday, March 29, 2012

Father Daley in Chicago? Wasn't he the first man on the scene when Malcolm X was assassinated?

Afternoon everyone! Nic and I landed our jet-lagged asses back at Heathrow yesterday morning after a bit of a delay - we got back to Leamington and went pretty much straight to bed, and I'm only really getting myself straight now. A hardcore traveller I am NOT. Still, it was good to land to sunshine and it was totally worth it for an amazing holiday... and I'm going to tell you a bit more about it now. Lots more photos on their way!

On Thursday morning we had breakfast by the pool as usual, and then as I was taking some photos my camera broke! This was most annoying - I mean, obviously the darn thing had to break while we were on holiday. To be fair, though, it's a pretty old camera and one I got for free when my sister upgraded hers. Luckily we had a Walgreen's around the corner from our hotel so I was able to get a new one for £30! Result!
Green sundress - George at Asda via ebay and Charlotte Russe Madison wedges

This is (one of) my Amber knock-off look, as she has this dress and the orginal version of these shoes. Amber, I hope you don't think I am a total stalker. Seriously. This dress popped up in a green dress search on ebay and for a few pounds I thought it would be a good warm-weather buy. It was, too and once I took the straps up by about a foot it fit well too. This was another frock that the good people of Winter Park liked, the manager of the hotel told me at breakfast that I looked just darling. The abundance of compliments plus the year-round good weather could make me want to move to Florida, I'm just saying.

The Rev arrived in Florida on Wednesday evening and was speaking at Rollins on Thursday night, so we headed down to Park Avenue to meet him for lunch and a wander around the town. It was another beautiful day and while Nic and The Rev sorted some stuff out in the finance office, I explored a bit more:
The Church on Rollins campus. This reminded me so much of the Mission at San Juan Bautista that I joked with Nic that I wasn't going up there with him, much to our host Julian's consternation - "That is not the romantic relationship I thought you two had!" was his reply when I told him I didn't want to be no Kim Novak! The church is beautiful and the tower looked breathtaking when it was lit up at night. The dangling matter that you see on the trees at the top is Spanish Moss - it is nourished by the air and can be seen on almost every tree in Florida. It's beautiful and eerie, and apparently is home to all sorts of bitey creatures so I limited my appreciation to photo taking!
Koi carp - these lived in a shopping mall on Park Avenue and were too sweet not to get a photo of

These tiles are on the outside of the Rollins library building. The whole campus is full of details like this.

I waited for Nic and The Rev on the terrace of the library, reading in the sunshine on the beautiful wicker rocking chairs:

After The Rev's talk, our lovely host Julian took us out to dinner at Seito at Baldwin Park. Seito is a Japanese restaurant and over vegetarian sushi and TEMPURA CHEESECAKE (which is just as mindblowing as it sounds) Julian told us about the area - the benefit of having a tour guide who is an urbanist! Baldwin Park is a new urbanist community and was built with a very specific idea of building a community. The town that The Truman Show was filmed in is in Florida, and was built to the same specifications. Sadly I didn't get any photos but if you've seen the film you can imagine. By the time Julian dropped us back off at our hotel I was pretty tired so we went straight to bed.

On Friday we checked out of the Best Western. It was booked up due to Rollins Alumni Weekend, so for Friday night and Saturday night Nic and I were due to stay at a bed and breakfast in nearby Maitland, called Thurston House. I wasn't sure what to expect from the experience and I must say I was totally unprepared for how much I would fall in love with the place.

The innkeeper, Carole, kindly offered to collect us from Winter Park and take us to Thurston House. This was typical of her kindness and thoughtfulness - she made us feel welcome right from the very start. The house itself is gorgeous - set in around 8 acres of countryside and overlooking Lake Eulalia. It was built in 1885 and painstakingly restored by Carole and her husband Joe when they took it over around 20 years ago. The house is to die for:

There are three rooms available to stay in, and Nic and I stayed in the Hirsch room. We had a four-poster bed and a roll-top bath with a rubber duckie!

One of my favourite things about Thurston House was the wraparound porch downstairs, and the screened-in porch upstairs. It was right next to our room and home to a two-person hammock! Needless to say, I spent a good deal of time reading and napping in the hammock:
Hammock porch...
 A hammock for two...
...but most of the time it looked like this

Ruby Belle Photograph Beach dress and Vivienne Westwood for Melissa cherry Lady Dragon shoes. I wore these in the morning but changed out of them for afternoon exploring

This was the only strappy sundress I brought with me, reasoning that it would be too much of a faff with the sunblock and having to wear a strapless bra! But of course it worked out fine, and I didn't even burn. I love this wee dress - orange and cornflower blue are a beautiful combination and it is so comfortable. It's my most misadventured in dress as I keep spilling things on it, but it is cotton and washes well and the busy print is distracting anyway! Anyway - after another lounge around on the hammock it was time to get out and explore Maitland:
On the porch at Thurston House
Lake Eulalia
A house overlooking Lake Catherine
Maitland's lakefront homes

Maitland was once an artists' community, and nearby Eatonville was the home of Zora Neale Hurston. Maitland's love of the arts is still reflected in the community by the Enzian Theatre and the Maitland Art Centre.

Exploring Maitland Art Centre

A short walk later and we were at Lake Lily Park. We stopped for lunch at Antonio's before wandering across the boardwalk at Lake Lily Park. I didn't get any photos of the boardwalk itself because we were too busy looking at all of the amazing wildlife - ducks, dragonflies, ibises, fishes and turtles! I might have done a little squeal at all of the turtles we could see in the lake:

                                                   You can see why it's called Lake Lily...

Turtles! They're obviously used to being fed because as we stood on the boardwalk watching them, they congregated expectantly! They were so cute - some tiny little ones were concentrating on trying to climb onto the backs of the bigger ones, and they were all sticking their heads up out of the water to see what was going on. They can swim surprisingly fast and seeing all of them rather made up for the complete lack of Gator action I got on this holiday.

After visiting the turtles it was time to head back to Thurston House. Carole and Joe serve wine and cheese ont the porch at five, and we spent an hour or so chatting with them. More than anything else, I think this is what made me love Thurston House. I felt so at home, and Carole and Joe were such wonderful hosts! As the sun began to set, Nic and I set out in search of dinner before ending the evening with a bath before bed. It was another perfect Florida day!

Nic had to be up early on Saturday morning to get to his conference, so we had breakfast at 8. Carole had emailed Nic to ask about our dietary requirements before we arrived, and had a delicious vegetarian breakfast waiting for us - a gorgeous vegetarian frittata served with fried potatoes, fruit salad and scones and german chocolate cake to have with coffee. What a start to the day! Nic went off to his conference and I got in the hammock with my book, and stayed there until he got back at lunchtime! He brought The Rev back with him, so we took him down to Lake Lily to meet the turtles before all of us joined Carole and Joe on the porch for more wine at 5 pm. Julian picked us up at 6:30 to take us downtown for dinner. We went to Ceviche on Church Street, where both the tapas and the cocktails were incredible:
 Church Street station - this is all bars and restaurants and it was jumping on Saturday night!

Aaah! When flashes attack... with Julian and The Rev over drinks in Ceviche

We had pudding in Urban Flats before going to The Milk District (so-called as it's where the TG Lee creamery is) to a little bar called The Milk Bar which is renowned for its loooooong list of micro-brewery beers. It was a really cool place, even if I stuck to Root Beer. Root Beer, though? This was one of those American things I was keen to taste, I thought maybe it would taste like Dandelion and Burdock, or something, but it tasted like the way Deep Heat or maybe Germolene smells. So, yeah... it was fine, but I couldn't manage a whole bottle! Poor old Rev was feeling a bit jet-lagged so we headed back after this and it was two sleepy little people who crept up the stairs in Thurston House that night!

Right, that's enough for today... I'll share the last few days in Orlando with you all the next time!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Is it a coffee table? Is it a panther? There's no need to decide!

Hi everyone! This is just a wee short post to check in and say hi - we're halfway through our wee holiday in Florida and it's amazing. I will post about it properly all probably next week and bore all your arses off with every single detail and a bobajillion photos. Until then, just a wee taste....

Having never flown internationally (apparently flying from Birmingham to Belfast doesn't count) I was weirdly excited about the international flight. It was cool. Heathrow terminal 4 was a lot skankier than I was expecting but we had a good breakfast in Cafe Rouge (having spent the previous night in London) and then boarded. Having an Irish passport meant I was searched 3 times (yeah, thanks) but fine, whatever. We flew with Delta to Atlanta and then on to Orlando.

Here I am looking glamorous for the flight. I was very pleased with our little blankets - I get cold on the plane! The flight was grand, but getting through security at Atlanta was a bit stressful due to the massive queues. The Homeland Security people were very friendly, though. It was so good to land in Orlando and be met at the airport by Nic's friend Julian, who took us straight to our hotel. After a shower I was straight into bed - by this stage we'd been awake for about 24 hours!

Despite the long day I woke up early on Tuesday morning, eager to get out and explore. We stayed in the Best Western Mt Vernon Inn in Winter Park and it's really very nice. We were delighted to find that the weather was warm enough at 8:30 am to have breakfast outside by the pool:

Best breakfasts in Winter Park, according to the locals. I can't disagree - the pancakes were incredible and Nic had an omelette almost every morning.
After breakfast we lazed around by the pool for a while before walking down into Winter Park. Orlando - like lots of other Southern cities - isn't great for pedestrians but Winter Park is more like a small town. The Rev, who joined us a bit later in the week, nicknamed it Bedford Falls and he has a point! This part of Orlando has lots and lots and lots of lakes, and there was a little one behind our hotel - a great place for an outfit shot:
River Island bird print dress and Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Ultragirl cameo flats

This is the perfect hot weather dress because I was quite covered up but cool - well, as cool as I could be! Central Florida is experiencing an unusually hot Spring. Every day so far the temperature has been in the high twenties/early thirties. Thank heaven for factor 50 sunscreen! The other cool thing about this dress is how many compliments I got - like, people were stopping me in the street to comment on it. That's partly Southern manners - people stop and say hello - but it did make me feel very special all the same. You know I loves the attentions, yes?

Morse Blvd, Winter Park Florida

Winter Park is described as the Hamptons of Florida and I can see why. We were visiting Rollins College, where Nic was giving a talk on jazz in film. It's a private liberal arts college with a very small intake, and the campus is absolutely breathtaking. It's built around Lake Virginia, and was built in a Spanish style:

Our host gave us a tour of the college grounds, which are absolutely amazing. I can't imagine going to university in such a pretty setting, but then I can't imagine paying the astronomical fees for the privilege either! Before Nic's talk we walked along to Hannibal Square and enjoyed a few drinks in the sunshine at Dexter's:

Nic's talk went really well. He had a small but appreciative audience and it was my first chance to see him giving a lecture so I was incredibly proud. Afterwards, our host treated us to dinner in a Thai restaurant and a tour of downtown Orlando before taking us back to our hotel. I slept like a baby on Tuesday night!

We had the day to ourselves on Wednesday so spent some time just relaxing by the pool after breakfast. I confess, I'd never really seen the appeal of beach holidays because I like to be out and about and doing things, but spending a few hours sunning ourselves by the pool made me rethink that attitude! It was blissful.
A girl could get used to this...

After soaking up the sunshine for a while, it was time head into Winter Park to do some touristy stuff. We walked down New England Avenue, which is a really picturesque walk, through tree-lined residential streets, and found a good spot for another outfit shot:
At the Winter Park Museum - The Great Outdoors Retro dress by Limb and shoes as before. Just before we stopped to take this photo a lady stopped me and said "Will you give me your dress? No? How about them shoes? No? How about that purse, then?!" which I took as a huge compliment!

The Amtrak line runs through Winter Park and it felt vaguely wrong but quite exciting to just walk across the tracks:
A boy from the Wrong Side Of The Tracks?

We headed down East Morse to sample one of Winter Park's famous tourist attractions - the Scenic Boat Tour. It takes in three lakes - Lake Virginia, Lake Osceola and Lake Maitland, which are connected by canals. It took around an hour and we were captained by Wendell who told us the history of the area with folksy charm and a lot of lame jokes! It was fabulous to be out on the lakes, particularly as they are bordered by the most fabulous mansions.

Lake Osceola

 Rollins College from Lake Virginia

Lake Virginia

After the boat tour we wandered down Park Avenue, which is the main shopping area in Winter Park. It's filled with gorgeous boutiques and cafes, and there were so many dresses that made my heart race (especially the ones in Lilly Pulitzer) but my wallet sigh. I didn't buy anything, but I did meet this rather charming chap:
I loved this Bear. I wish there was room for him in my luggage...

We went back to the hotel to spend some more time by the pool before taking a little trip down to East Colonial Drive to Fashion Square, which is one of Orlando's malls. It's not one of the more famous or high-end ones but it was close by, had affordable stores AND a comic shop! It wasn't crowded at all, either so that was a bonus. After I bought some pretty shoes in Charlotte Russe for $20 (!) and we both bought comics in Coliseum of Comics we went across the street to Target. I wanted to get a full American experience! Target was good - apparently the one we went to isn't the best, but I enjoyed it. After a little bit of shopping we were both exhausted and bed was calling us.... after a slize of pizza from Park Avenue Pizza, that is!

Nic, after buying $40 of comics

 Charlotte Russe Madison sandals - a knockoff of the Schuh Garda wedges that you can see Amber wearing here.
Stuff I bought in Target...

I'm going to let y'all off early for good behaviour and finish off here. Also, there's a hammock waiting for me so I need to go and do some lounging in that. But I'll share photos of the rest of our week soon....

Monday, March 12, 2012

Yes! Can you imagine it? Out of the hundreds of people using the internet, only I was willing to help him!

Afternoon everyone! What a weekend it’s been! Obviously Monday always rolls around far too quickly, but it feels like it was even more cruelly quick to roll around after a lovely sunshiney weekend.

Friday evening saw us off to The Somerville for birthday drinks with Lauren and some other lovely friends, which was most enjoyable. Although Lysy couldn’t join us she had sent The Scientist along with a cake-shaped gift for the birthday folks, and it was typically delicious:
 Cake and booze - a winning combination

Saturday was Nic’s birthday and we celebrated the day mainly by eating cheese and watching films. Low key, but wonderful. I get more excited about Nic’s birthday than I do about my own and I had gone a bit overboard on the present front by putting together a birthday stocking full of toys, sweets and comics and essentially buying Leamington out of cheese. It was excellent. We emerged briefly to run some errands in town but mainly spent the day in a state of total indolence.
Birthday picnic!
Eucalyptus Olivia dress, white cardigan by CF2 and Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Ultragirl shoes  

This wee dress by Eucalyptus was quite comfortable for a day of laziness but I confess – I quickly detached the halter straps. I think I might sew them down because I just can’t get along with halternecks. It might be that I am too busty, but after only half an hour the knot was pulling uncomfortably on the back of my neck, which would have given me a headache. I’m not entirely convinced that halter styles suit me, at any rate. I like the faded print on this dress and the pink accents. The lovely white cardigan was a belated birthday gift from Denise and it neatly fills a gap in my wardrobe. Thanks, D!

Yesterday was absolutely brilliant. Nic and I were up early to beautify ourselves for a morning of modelling. Yes, that's right. I'M A MODEL NOW. Our dear friends Louise and Peter are embarking on an exciting venture into online retailing with vintage clothing store BeBopaLouLou, and had asked us to take part in some promotional shots for their website. We had an absolute blast – I can’t believe how quickly the morning flew by. Peter and Louise chose their pieces very carefully and it really shows – everything was in immaculate condition as well as being really stylish and interesting. I’m very excited about the launch of the store! They’ve kindly agreed to let me share a few shots from the day itself, but look out for more over at BeBopaLouLou and on their Twitter feed as well. All of the photos were taken by Peter:
Nic - chap about town
1960s yellow crimplene dress

                                                      Abbey Road comes to Leamington Spa
 This tweed dress is part of a suit

We did go off-piste a little during the shoot, at Char's request:
Zombies. Obviously.

After they finished up, it was time to get into my own clothes for an afternoon of jazz at Wilde’s. Lauren was in a whirl of trying on dresses – I gave her first dibs on my charity shop pile – and as Peter had found the photographic sweet spot in our flat, he kindly agreed to take our portraits. 
 Bettie Page Rita dress and Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon shoes

I love this dress and could quite happily wear it every single day. I’m having some sort of green moment, it would seem – I’m wearing a green dress today, too. This was a good choice of frock for listening to jazz, but less so for the massive feed of Chinese food we had afterwards! The jazz itself was excellent and the basement venue was very atmospheric. It was a gorgeous way to while away a sunny afternoon with friends, before moving the party to the slightly dubious but fun all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet next door.
 Jazz in the basement

 Trying (and failing) to capture Nic's jazz face in photographic form
 3D glasses... just because
Greggles is a badass

I can’t really complain about the weekend speeding by when we had so much fun, and also I only have three work days left before it’s holiday time! I shall see you all before I go, my dears!