Long weekend in Stockholm August 2019


We took a lovely around 1.00 pm flight with SAS.  No hitches or glitches finding a taxi outside the airport.  We had read that it would be about 550 Swedish krona (at the time, this was the equivalent to €51.23).  We had thought we were going to take the bus or train, which is possible, but it almost worked out the same.  Actually, we were a bit slow on the uptake; there are a huge amount of taxis available outside and they are bargaining away, but we ended up paying 650 krona.  The upside was, and there’s always an upside if you look for it, because Dan was going hiking in the north after our stay, and we had a huge case, it was comfy and the journey took only about 40 minutes.  He was a “speedy gonzalez” of a driver.  Hotel was the Clarion Hotel in Amaranten .  It was in a great location, a very modern, happening hotel but the rooms were very small.  You know when you have to squeeze by the bed to get at the bathroom which fits a half person very comfortably? However, spotlessly clean and buffet breakfasts to die for, albeit very busy. Because we arrived late, and it was sprinkling rain, we decided to walk along the river and happen upon a restaurant.  We found a glorious one by the lake.  It was located in the beautiful Stockholm City hall, serving contemporary Swedish dishes inspired by local produce.  We had the tasting menu with wine pairings.  Each dish tasted better than the other and they cater for vegetarians also.  Our waiter was such a character; full of charm, and ceremony.  We left the restaurant to walk home along the river, whilst my hair turned into Monica from Friends (if you catch the reference)

The next day, Friday, we walked to the Old Town or Gamla Stan.  I had given Dan a Garmin watch for all his cycling and hill walking and it was the curse of the holidays in that he had my little feet in trusty Birkinstocks, walked off me.  We hit our target of 10,000 steps and way beyond (insert eyes up to heaven emoji).  Anyway, Gamla Stan is just full of atmosphere with loads to offer from souvenir shops, bookstores and antiques shops to elegant palaces, churches and museums.  Many medieval cellars are now restaurants or cafés and the streets are wonderfully narrow and cobbled.  We bought tickets from the Royal Palace or Kungliga Slotten and had a wonderful tour and later one with audio guide. This tour includes the State Apartments, The Guest Apartments, the Bernadotte Apartments – and the history of how Bernadotte came to be King is fascinating – Hall of State, The Treasury to name a few.  On our walk around the old  town we booked a Bach organ recital in the main church, Storkyrkan.  I’m not a huge organ music fan, but this was short and very sweet.  Only took an hour, plus we had cushioned seats in the church.

During the day, we stopped in the Stortorget Square. The square is frequented by tens of thousands of tourists annually, and is occasionally the scene for demonstrations and performances. It is traditionally renowned for its annual Christmas market offering traditional handicrafts and food. The buildings on number 18-20 were merged in the 17th century and subsequently named after Johan Eberhard Schantz, the secretary of the king who also added the stepped gable and the grand portal on the left building. Parts of the interior still reflect the luxury which surrounded the royal secretary. The 82 white stones on Number 20, Ribbinska huset (“House of Ribbing”) or Schantzka huset (“House of Schantz”), are occasionally said to symbolize the heads decapitated by the King in 1520.  I loved the colours of the houses, luckily against a beautiful blue sky, and they offer a mean open prawn sandwich.  I keep trying to count the white stones on the building to the left, just to see. We happened upon a spontaneous sing song by Spanish students.  I think it was to mark exam results.  Anyway, great fun.

After the Bach concert, we remained in Gamla Stan and ate “open air” in  Once again a tasting and wine pairing menu, but typically Swedish fare. Forget the meat balls in Ikea; you haven’t tasted them till  you come here.  I’m going to try recreate when I’m home.

Saturday, we took a boat trip that we had booked from a company called “Under the Bridges”.  It cost us roughly €30 per head. It was just glorious.  We started out at 11am and it lasted three hours.

We passed under all 15 bridges that connect the central islands of Stockholm’s Archipelago, gliding through leafy Djurgarden and passing through locks that connect the city’s canals to the Baltic Sea and Lake Malaren.  Hard to imagine, watching people bathe and sunbathe along the lake that this will be completely frozen over in the Winter.  We were told, many a time, how healthy and fit the Swedes are, and I have no doubt about this.  They seem to be a people of activity; whether it be boating, running, cycling or using those nifty electronic scooters.  They are also people we could take a few lessons from; many apartments face out over the water, ensuring they are full of light.  They also have their own system for getting rid of waste.  Stockholm/Sweden is known for hugely reducing the rubbish sent to its landfills. Less than 1 percent of household waste finds it way to landfills.  Many apartments have their own tunnels to separate their rubbish and this in turn links to factories to convert into energy.

After the boat trip and a nice espresso, we went to the  I absolutely LOVE seeing how people lived, “back in the day”.  This is a brilliant museum; Nordiska Museet is Sweden’s largest museum of cultural history. An everyday palace, and a place of stories about the life and people of the Nordic region – yesterday, today and tomorrow. It contains clothes, fashion, textiles, jewellery – some made out of hair -, homes, furniture, photography, toys, folk art, glass and porcelain. There is also an exhibition about the only indigenous people in Sweden, the Sami.  Once again, you have an audio guide and I loved it.

Afterwards, we walked through Strandvagen, on to Blashiholmen Bridge

to Kastelholmen

and onto  One of the best Dim Sum I have ever tasted, with once again a wine pairing and such attention to detail from the waiters.  Dan surprised me each evening with  new places, as it’s usually me who has done all the research, so it was like diving into a party bag full of treats each evening.

I wanted to try catch a sunset and we were very lucky, because the weather obliged.

If you’re an adventurous soul, be sure to visit the fun fair.  Gröna Lund is open from late spring (April/March) to September. and contains 30, looked to be, amazing rides.  You can book online, as the queuing is long.

Sunday, we took a cycle tour.  We booked, checking the best cycle tours on Trip Advisor, and found Stockholm Adventure.  We had a great little guide; it lasted three hours again but don’t let that put you off, as you stop so often and it compounds what you have already discovered walking or going on tours yourself and the hills are very slight.  Our last stop was an ecological garden,  Great food and lovely gardens in the middle of the city.

We never got to the Vasa Museum,  which is highly rated and I never got my chance to strut my stuff in the Abba Museum,  They say you walk in and dance out and if the phone happens to ring, you must pick it up as the likelihood is it’s one of the Abba band.

We kept our our regime of over 10,000 steps (dear lord) and I just had to have a coffee and something sweet.  We literally just came upon this gorgeous little, graffiti filled cafe called Café Schweizer,  Just go.  I had not one but two of these divine, chocolate covered, mousse filled cakes that boosted my sugar and kept me going for the next week.

We went to Sodermalm, but to be honest, not half as pretty as Gamla Stan, and as it started to really bucket down with rain, we got a taxi to Dan’s next foodie adventure.  Very down to earth, and great craft beer and wholesome food.  We sat watching the world go by and listened to the rain drum on the roof before we set off to our hotel.  This was our last night together for over 10 days, although Dan keeps saying it’s only 8, as he is hill walking in the North of Sweden.

We made the very best of our time here and like Lisbon, would definitely come back again; if life allows us to do all the things we still want to do and still want to repeat.


Bren x



Trip to Lisbon in May

One of the winding streets of Lisbon

We had heard so many good things about Lisbon, we decided to go for a weekend until we came to the realisation (again) that we are retired and we don’t have to limit ourselves to weekends anymore; so we booked a much cheaper Aer Lingus flight from a very early Sunday to a very late Wednesday.  For the first time in ages, we had practically four full days.  I reserved, as I usually do, a hotel on  The best thing is that even though you  pay a little higher rate than normally, you can reserve without payment and pay when you get to the hotel.  I think this is brilliant and worth it, because you never know what can come up and at least you’re not at a loss.  The given a great review and was in a perfect and quiet location;  a hop, skip and a jump from everywhere we wanted to go.  We took a metro from the airport to the Marquis de Pombal close to the hotel. Literally across the road from the metro entrance. In the metro station, there are ticket machines where one can buy a ticket that can last you the duration of your stay and which entitles you to Metro, most buses, tram and some boat journeys.  We dropped our cases off at the hotel; really pleasant staff (and to be found out later on in the day, huge rooms, a great big bed that Goldilocks would be happy with and great air conditioning) and headed off to which is an open, airy food court featuring a wide selection of global restaurants with family-style seating. All the restaurants are run by the very best of Portugal’s chefs.  It’s a wonderful concept and the choice was very difficult but scrumptious.  One of the best things we did en route was download one of the many free Lisbon apps.  which give excellent descriptions of various city sites. And if you’re using all these apps on your phone, be sure to have a portable charger.

We had pre-booked two tours before we left Dublin and the first was at 3.00pm with a Trip Advisor tour provided by We met in Rossio Square with about 12 other people of all nationalities.  She gave us a three hour walking tour of Lisbon, and although this was certainly not the highlight of our stay, it did get us a little acquainted with the streets and history and the wonderful Jacaranda trees that are in most of the Lisbon squares. The air is drenched with their perfume.

Another valuable lesson from this tour, was that there are lifts dotted around the city.  Lisbon is very hilly, and these lifts take you to some fabulous vistas of the city for example the Santa Justa which  connects the lower streets of the Baixa with the higher Largo do Carmo which typically has very long queues.   Or the Chao do Loureiro and Castelo which links the Baixa with the Moorish Castle and Alfama district and rarely has queues as it’s like a secret that the locals only know and now you do!

Speaking of the hills, be sure to have worn in your shoes/sandals as the streets are also beautifully cobbled.  We had a divine pastry, Pastel de Nata,  in the Baixa district called Natas D’Ouro. Do indulge.

We used the elevator that took us to Alfama.  The steep streets of Alfama, one of Lisbon’s oldest areas, are lined with cafes and shops selling traditional crafts. Passengers pack the historic no. 28 tram, which winds through Alfama on its way up to 11th-century São Jorge Castle. Views from Miradouro da Graça terrace stretch over the city to the River Tagus. In the evening, melancholy Fado music can be heard in some of the area’s long-running restaurants. And if you want to listen to Fado, don’t go for the all in version with food, try out the Tivoli (not in the Alfama district) which has a tasting menu with the music and better value and food all round. We were lucky enough to be in Alfama for the preparation of the Santo Antonio Festival which is held in June.  Stalls were being built along the narrow streets and food, a cherry liquor, called Ginjinha and their green wine Vinho Verde, are sold without a licence by house owners.  The guide took us into what appeared like someone’s back yard for some sausages and wine.  The cherry liquor was served in chocolate cups and I could drink Vinho Verde till the cows come home.  A wine with just the right amount of a sparkle.

Preparing for the Festival

Back to the Marquis de Pombal station to our hotel, to our HUGE bedroom to freshen up and take some of Rick Stein’s advice from his weekend in Lisbon.  We headed off to to eat Porco a Alentejana and their famous Sardines.  I have to tell you what I learnt about how to eat Sardines.  You place the sardine on top of crusty bread, then peel the skin; then you eat the meat of the fish and peel the bones out.  Then you eat the bread which is soaked in the sauce.  Thank me later.  The meal with wine came to €38.00 but the meal was just ok, to be honest.  Lisbon is so reasonable.  We “walked up the Avenue” – (cue a duet from Fred Astaire and Judy Garland) Liberdade, which is very posh and lovely and I can’t afford anything there, to our hotel.  I said goodbye to Dan in the large bed.

Day Two: We headed to Belem to see the Monastery and Tower………………….but this was Monday and they were closed.  Lesson to be learnt.  CHECK THESE THINGS OUT.  However, we did have another pastry.  Belem is the orginator of the famous Pastel de Nata.

Making Pasteis

The queues here are out the door.  The story goes that the the monks at Jerónimos Monastery used the whites of eggs to starch their clothes, so there were lots of egg yolks left over.  They used these to make the tarts to be sold at a shop next to a sugar cane refinery. Since then, the original recipe hasn’t changed, and it’s still a secret today, known by only a few, and kept in what is known as the “secret room”. There are quite a few “pretenders” and even competitions to win the coveted prize of next best Pasteis de Nata.  We walked off this pastry by looking around the area and of course then we were thirsty and had to have a Vinho Verde on the pier. It’s a very pretty town but the Padrao dos Descobrimentos sculpture is not worth climbing its 276 steps for the view.


Freshly Squeezed juice
Padrao dos Descobrimentos

We headed back on the bone-shaking tram to meet our second tour guide from  This was brilliant.  A four hour foodie tour with two local drinks and with the most gorgeous tour guide called Mariana.  If you take this, do ask for her.  She was quite wonderful; full of stories, wit and wisdom.  The four hours flew.  We ate snails, pork sandwich and sardines in Casa da India – a wonderfully authentic place, then moved on to taste salted cod fish cake called Bolinhos de Bachlau and Rissois de Camarao, pastry filled with prawns.  Our last port of call after seeing so much of the city was Cruzes Credo right beside the Se Cathedral in Beco Da Caridade where we had a lovely cheese platter as the sun faded. Mariana is a travel blogger so everything came easy to her and she was charming company. I have to say that Lisbon would fail on a lot of levels for Vegans, but I did spot one restaurant on my travels called  It’s rather a pescatarian’s paradise and of course they do serve Piri Piri chicken in this renowned restaurant  On the recommendation of my son, try the cocktails at Chinese Pavilion and

Day Three: Heard so much about Sintra and also Cascais, it was a decision we had to make as to which one we wanted to visit.  Sintra won, so we took the train.  About 45 minutes from the Centre.

Village of Sintra.

A long-time royal sanctuary to get away from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon, its forested terrain is studded with pastel-colored villas and palaces. The Moorish- and Manueline-style Sintra National Palace is distinguished by dramatic twin chimneys and elaborate tilework. The hilltop 19th-century Pena National Palace is known for a whimsical design and sweeping views.The “mad, bad and dangerous to know” Lord Byron spent much time here in Sintra.  Apparently, he was supposed to land in Malta but took a wrong boat and ended up in Lisbon. “Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes in variegated maze of mount and glen.”

We took the bus at the station to the Palace.  Dan had some barmy idea of cycling and boy am I glad it just remained in his thoughts.  It was a steep and scary ride up in the bus and they are all quite crowded, so you may have to stand. There was a queue for the Palace, despite the fact that we had pre-booked, but it was sunny and delicious and we were on our holidays, so who cared. Get your audio tour guide for your phone.  Takes you every step of the way and Pena is well worth visiting for its whimsy alone.

Palace of Pena

We took the glorious trail to the Historic Centre from the Gardens of Pena.  Oh, do please take this trail.  Our sandals were rather ridiculous as this is really a hill walking trail, but it is a down hill trail, at least.  The gardens are magnificent.  On our way down we spotted a gorgeous and quaint little cafe called Casa das Minas.  It’s an absolute gem of a place with amazing views overlooking the gardens and you can buy lunch for as little as €3.00 plus it caters for vegetarians.  They had Celtic Woman playing in the background, so we felt right at home as the owner hates Fado, which made us laugh.  I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of Celtic Woman, but it added to the quaintness.  I believe it is also an Art School and if you couldn’t find inspiration in those surroundings, I don’t know where you would.

Gardens of Pena

I could insert loads and loads of photos of the garden, but if you haven’t switched off yet, you surely would then.

We headed then to the National Palace of Sintra which is a present-day historic museum.  Glad we did Pena first.  Although worth going to, not quite as good as Pena.

National Palace of Sintra

That night, as suggested by our tour guide, we had booked into “Lisbon Under Stars” held at the famous Ruins of Carmo Church.  It’s spectacular and pretty wonderful, gazing at the real stars in the heaven and the projected scenes of the history on the walls of the old church with beautiful singing and lighting.  We ate in a wonderful restaurant, once again recommended by our guide as being like sitting in someone’s sitting room, in the Bairro Alto called Cantinho do Bern Estar  Worth it for many reasons along with the food.  And the price. We strolled through the Bairro Alto,back to our hotel.

Day four: We decided this was our day to potter, to be without a set plan.  After checking out the annual Book Fair very close to our hotel

Parque Eduardo V11

we headed to the Castelo de S. Jorge. Is it worth it? Not particularly except for the views and the Sangria served overlooking the city. And the peacocks.

A very proud daddy peacock

We had a really lazy day and it was 34 degrees.  But we did make it to another of Rick Stein’s recommendations, the restaurant called Cervejaria Ramiro If you enjoy fish, this is where you should go.  Be very aware that there are vast queues.  We were lucky in that we went around 5pm, but it packs up really quickly.  Prawns, sizzling in butter, garlic and chili peppers, clams in a broth of coriander and wine and another dish of huge prawns.  All with toasted chunks of garlic bread.  I breathed fumes for the journey home.

Lisbon is a city I would return to; it’s beautiful, friendly, reasonable and for fish foodies, you have died and gone to heaven.


Tram Heaven

Bren xx




A few days in Cornwall


A decision at the end of last year, brought us – me, my friend, my sister and my cousin –  to Cornwall, the land of myths and legends this April.  And the land of Daphne du Maurier, Rosamunde Pilcher, Doc Martin and the utterly lust-worthy, Poldark aka Aidan Turner.  We took an Aer Lingus flight to Newquay; a short skip and a jump of an hour and 10 mins, (the tiniest airport, with just a small, mainly gin selling duty free on the way back) collected our car and drove to where I had booked our hotel quite close to Padstow.  Disaster struck!  I had booked an Olde Worlde type inn, full of character that we all loved the look of.  I had used, as I have used them so many times before with great success.  I made an amendment with the original booking and when we arrived, it was to be greeted with “I thought when you amended you had cancelled” despite the fact that both the hotel and I had been receiving notifications from  A wedding party had been accommodated instead.  All very much an error on their part as my booking was still relevant. I was pretty annoyed and disappointed to put it mildly.  To cut a long story short, we were then booked into an alternative hotel in Saint Issey It was just absolutely superb. Better than we ever thought.  Swimming pool, tennis courts, enormous baths, stunning views, jovial host and the friendliest staff. Plus, they are dog friendly and only about 10 minutes from Padstow. An error that could have turned out badly, turned out wonderfully. Highly recommend this hotel.  The suites were glorious.  A bath fit for two with a television that looked at first glance like a  mirror,  a bed fit for four and gorgeous breakfasts.


We had hired a car, so after a little lunch at the hotel Dickens themed bar,  we went to Port Isaac, home of Doc Martin I believe.  I don’t watch the series, but it’s a lovely fishing village and this was the start of us realising that Cornish people are utterly charming and adore dogs; the biggest bonus for me.  We saw all the haunts of the TV characters and even got to see an episode being filmed on the beach. “Mrs. Tishall’s” chemist, sells Fudge in real life and “Portwenn School” is a restaurant; its sign was being changed as we got there.

Then we travelled to what can only be described as “Stein” land.  Padstow – choc a bloc with Delis, Restaurants, Patisseries, gift shops,  owned by Rick Stein. Padstow had lots to recommend it.  A very lovely fishing village,you can visit Prideaux place  – positioned overlooking Padstow,  this fine Elizabethan country house is complete with formal gardens and deer park. Prideaux Place was built in 1592 and has been passed down through the generations to its current owners, Peter and Elisabeth Prideaux-Brune. You could take the Camel Trail, which follows the route of the former North Cornwall Railway.  There are no steep inclines along the 17 mile route. The trail begins in Padstow before passing through Wadebridge and on to Bodmin and then to the village of Blisland on Bodmin Moor. Following the course of the River Camel, the scenery is stunning and there is plenty of wildlife to spot too. Or take a boat trip.  There are no shortages of nice shops, tea rooms and restaurants, if you are a land lubber.


We had booked one of Mr. Stein’s restaurants for the next night, so ate in  Lovely food and nice decor.  We are such very exciting people to be with,  we headed off to our hotel and television in bed.

Next morning, lovely breakfast and off to the shops and a visit to Truro.

Flowers cathedral_0

This gothic revival cathedral of Truro, copies the great cathedral builders of the medieval age, its huge spires soar over the city skyline, and inside there are some of the finest examples of Victorian stained glass in the UK.  Not be missed are the gardens of Truro – fountains, bandstand; perfect for picnics, but it was so cold when we were there, the blanket never showed its face

Boscawen park flowers2

Instead we visited – a glorious little bit of old fashioned loveliness, complete with waitresses in uniforms who never heard the like of a double espresso macchiato and winced when I asked for “Devonshire” Cream Tea.  They were quick to put me wise and say that Cornwall was the first to bring out the Cream Tea and  they “suggest” that you put the jam on the scones first.  Once a Coinage Hall, this is now a Grade 2 listed building, re-built in 1848.

If any of you like crafts and cake making, there is a great little store called just to the left of the Hall as you look at it.

We headed back to our hotel after some shopping.  Does anyone else feel that there is now a sameness to shopping both in the UK and abroad?  I used to love, back in the day, when my aunts would bring me home Opal Fruits and square Cadbury’s Milk chocolates, but now all cities have the same shopping.  We put on the war paint (well, I did) as we had booked The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow for dinner at 7, but first cocktails in Quite yummy and full of atmosphere, just on the corner of Broad Street. Great cocktail menu…………..


Lovely bright surroundings with a nautical theme in the Seafood Restaurant; all crisp blues and whites.  Very pleasant and knowledgable staff.  I had the Oysters Charentaise ” A seemingly odd combination of freshly opened oysters with some hot, spicy sausage .  The idea being that you eat with a cold gulp of Muscadet.” Mmmmm, yes.   The Main was, yes you guessed it – fish.  Cornish Sand Sole.  All very nice.  No rush on us leaving the table either


Next day, we set off to St. Ives.  We didn’t have too much time there and we were all just a little bit underwhelmed; perhaps I had more expectations of the cobbled streets?  Now, I have to say in its defense, it was a particularly windy day and very busy.  We knew that the town has been attracting artists for decades who come to capture the area’s undeniable natural beauty. It started with J M W Turner and the marine artist Henry Moore who first came to St Ives in the mid-1800s and since then the town has become a magnet for some of the world’s greatest painters, sculptors and ceramists.

Reasons to visit St Ives

  • Numerous galleries and exhibitions
  • Attracts famous artists all year round
  • Four fabulous beaches with the UKs mildest climate: Porthmeor, PorthgwiddenHarbour beachPorthminster
  • Fantastic surf at Porthminster beach
  • Plenty of pavement cafes, ancient pubs and top notch eateries with mouth watering menus
  • Working harbour
  • One of Cornwall’s top destinations

Things to do in St Ives

  • Arrive in breathtaking style by taking the twenty-minute train ride on the popular branch line from St Erth to St Ives and be the first to spot the colourful fishing boats coming into harbour as the branch line snakes around the golden bays to the town
  • Kick off your shoes and stroll along the white sand at Portminster Beach where, out in the bay, you’ll see the dreamy view of Godrevy Lighthouse, inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s famous novel To the Lighthouse
  • Visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives where sensual sculptures by one of the country’s leading 20th century artists are exhibited in tranquil gardens. Wander along pathways through trees and shrubs and discover some of her most celebrated works in bronze and limestone. At the top of the town can be found the Bernard Leach Pottery, established in 1920 and now a working museum.
  • Behind the 14th century Sloop Inn on the Wharf and the Harbour beach there is a maze of narrow cobbled streets and fisherman’s cottages. This is the heart of old St Ives, known to the locals as ‘Downlong’. Spend an hour or so delving into the life and times of bygone St Ives at the local museum. The large space is packed with memorabilia and artefacts that reflect St Ives’s long and varied history including fishing, boatbuilding, art and agriculture
  • There are only four Tate galleries in the world and one of them is Tate St Ives. Opened in 1993 in recognition of the international importance of art in Cornwall and St. Ives in particular, the impressive gallery holds hundreds of works produced by the St. Ives School from the late 1800’s through to the 21st century. In late 2017 it reopened with a much larger floorspace including extra gallery space.
  • Since the 1930s visitors have been taking the boat trip from the harbour out to sea to watch the local colony of seals frolicking in the sea and sunbathe on the rocks. Located 3½ miles (6km) to the West of St Ives, the aptly named Seal Island is home to more than 40 seals who inquisitively like to say ‘hello’


St.  Ives is pretty, and the sea was a shade of turquoise but my heart ultimately belongs to Schull plus we needed much more time to really take it all in.

My good friend, Susan, had booked the for a production of The Secret Garden.  I have this book in my attic.  My aunty Myra had bought it for me as a little girl, as I was an avid reader and she  wrote lovingly on the inside cover.  This was such a lovely treat and surprise.  The Theatre is spectacular; the idea for the theatre was born when Rowena Cade, who lived in Minack House at the top of the cliff, decided to create a place for local drama enthusiasts to perform Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Over the winter of 1931 and into 1932 Rowena and her gardener, Billy Rawlings, moved endless granite boulders and earth, creating the stage and the lower terraces of the theatre, in the same place as you see them today. The first performance was in August 1932.


“When a garden’s kept proper, like these, all weeded and neat, that chases the wild away.  But when it’s left alone, for nature, who knows what secret things ‘ud grow there” says Dickon in The Secret Garden.  The play has an “enchanted score and some beautifully crafted puppets and it has been a joy to work on from the beginning to the very last chapter. The Secret Garden is all about regeneration” so writes the director.

If you decide to visit, and I class that as bucket list territory, be sure to bring lots and lots of warm layers, depending on the season.  Although I figure the wind will always be strong.  Bring a warm flask, a hot water bottle (lots of places with kettles to fill it), food, drinks.  There are some vans selling really lovely curries and spicy food and also coffee and hot chocolate.  Be sure to buy a seat which grips around your back and gives support on the very high steps.  It is an experience not to be missed.

Back to our hotel, absolutely shivering and shaking with the cold and we ate in the Inn itself.  Really nice dinner.

Our last day, we just drove into Padstow and mosied around the shops and had a Cornish Pastie; it would be rude not to, being in Cornwall.  Then on to our Aer Lingus flight home.  It was a lovely, lovely break.  All the better for being with people I love, but I know there was so much more to do and see. It’s “à bientôt, Cornwall”.

Bren x




Fashion for 60s

If you read my blurb, all about me, you would know that there are certain clothes that I will never wear.  I am most definitely not a pink, or frilly or sparkly person.  I loathe white trousers, well those that cling in all the wrong places so I suppose the trick is to get a material that is really good quality and make sure they don’t hug the knees and are a bit bendy.  However, you still won’t catch me buying them because I am very fair skinned and think they look wonderful on those among us who are lucky enough to have sallow skin.

I have been fortunate enough to be styled for TV Fashion by the likes of Roxanne Parker, Judy Gilroy, and Lisa Fitzpatrick and all had an instinct about what suited me.  I have a shape that is common to a lot of women.  I have very small boobs and a bigger bottom half.  All in all, it still amounts to being a size 10.  I aid and abet my tiny boobs with a good bra, preferably smooth,  padded and sometimes resort to “chicken fillets”.  I have a funny story about those that my friends know all about!. All I will say is, be very careful when wildly jiving at a new job work bash.  I think at the ripe old age of 60 I know what suits me and what doesn’t.  I prefer the longer lines on my top half, and love the new trick of tucking shirts or tops into the front of trousers/skirts and leaving the back down, so as to balance what my sister used to call my “ballet bottom”.  I love both crisp shirts and flowing, not bulky, skirts, though not necessarily together.  I am better making my top half look broader, once again to balance things out.  If I wear a pencil skirt, I like the top or v necked sweater to come to the top of my thighs.  I like my trousers to be fairly high waisted (think Simon Cowell) and to allow me to either wear brogues or kitten heels.  I really adore trouser suits, as opposed to skirt suits.  I like midi dresses and sometimes  vintage; check out Charlotte and Jane who made me the most glorious Mad Men dress, perfect for Mother of the Bride.  I would never wear anything above my knees.  It just doesn’t suit me and I actually think that it rarely suits women of a certain age.  God bless opaque tights.  Likewise I prefer sleeves to come to either just above or below my elbows, or full length.  Crepe is all very well in a material or as a pancake……………..

I love jeans that have a bit of give in them, and I found the absolutely perfect pair in And Other Stories  Best pair.  Hands down. Comfy and just the right length for my 5’10.


I bought both these dresses from Instagram @kristinitla and they were  just perfect for summer and winter and did everything I want a dress to do.  She has some very good sales and they took no length to arrive. I tend to wear a certain shape in a heeled shoe; rather than round toes,  I think more of a point elongates the legs and makes your ankles look better.

I found the following on my “dry January” browse of the internet shopping.  I decided that since I retired, I really need to wear all the clothes in my wardrobe. So I am not buying.  Repeat after me, Brenda. I was very very very tempted by the sale in Zara – do have a look.  Better by far than browsing the rails

I really want this, especially since my hair is redder and think charcoal grey is divine.

Can’t go wrong with black tuxedo jacket in your wardrobe.

Love contrasting patterns

Perfect over jeans – very country chic.

Cos is a great store, and I have a very chic friend, Marianne, who is smaller than I am and also a completely different shape and always looks elegant and well put together in clothes that she often buys here.  They do wonderful crisp, white shirts.

I love bottle green but think I would wear this with a tan belt and boots.  I am a big fan of not wearing something right up to the neck,  rather leaving some decolletage. It just seems to lengthen the neck and doesn’t concentrate on any turkey neck one might possibly have.  I love polo necks for just the same reason and an icon is Diane Keating.

So, that’s my style.  Sometimes, I get it.  Sometimes I don’t,  But you know despite knowing the bits of my body that I don’t particularly like, I concentrate on the fact that I can move.  I can dance – with or without chicken fillets.

Bren x


Rooms. Small + dark – a mistake? Not one bit

Small rooms can be a decorating challenge, and we often reach for light colors in hopes of making the room look larger. However, a light color palette isn’t the only way to decorate your small space, and it doesn’t always make a room look larger. Don’t be afraid to use dark colors in even the smallest rooms of your home; small spaces can handle a dark color palette.

We have a small house, a bungalow.  Most rooms have seen various coloured walls but they have never seen wallpaper.  They were plastered well when the house was built 27 years ago and it just never entered my mind to wallpaper.  However, that doesn’t stop me admiring wall papers and accent walls and I adore  and for paint. I mean just look at this image below.  It’s called Crane Fonda Emerald from Divine Savages and it speaks to my soul.  Look no further for inspiration then on these sites if you feel like that whole gorgeous process of putting the paste on the wallpaper and hanging.  To be honest, I used to love the smell and the whole procedure, watching my mum slapping it on but I have a very crooked eye and would be fearful of it going horribly wrong, so will leave it to the experts if ever I change my mind to paper.

Of course, the colours themselves are so complementary to each other on the colour wheel.  What I have found, ably abetted by a very good friend, Celina, is that it is so last year, never mind last ten years, to be matchy matchy and this has helped my little adventure in our home.  We wouldn’t ever have a huge amount to spend, and I have painted wardrobes in Stiffkey Blue  (they were pine – say no more) and our kitchen cupboards in some lovely Pigeon from Farrow and Ball and who do a very reasonable version of all Farrow and Ball.

Anyway, back to colour in small rooms.  We recently did up our very small, and euphemistically called, study.  I am inspired daily with Instagram and I will list below my favourite interior inspo. Our room was inspired by Lucinda Mitra @nest_twenty_eight

and this is how my little room turned out


I love this Hague Blue Farrow and Ball colour on the walls and we continued the paint right down to the skirting board and the bookshelves and although quite a tiny room, it was not swamped in any way. It changes shades, depending on the light available which I love. Cushions and lamp were

I keep seeing darker colours wherever I look and although most rooms in our house are either painted white or grey, I am so tempted to go darker in some rooms, albeit I will drive my darling husband mad.  I mean just look at these….

Brinjal in Farrow and Ball and

Deco Martini Arsinic (what a name) from Divine Savages again.

Even a small bathroom can look amazing with colour.

Speculo Forest Green tiles by Topps found in

So, if you are a scanner of Instagram like myself, look no further than these people for inspo.  @roomswithdogs, @cynthia_harper, @nest_twenty_eight, @mad_about_the_house, to name a few. Let’s bring some moody colour to our lives…..

Bren x


Christmas Pudding

Recipe from my great grand-mother.  I still have it in my mother’s hand writing, on a very worn and fragile piece of paper and only gave it to one friend, whose husband made about 8 last year.  Dan suggested I share, as he swears it’s the best pudding he has ever tasted.  Leave to eat for a year, if you want.  Or at Easter…………..

½ lb plain flour

½ lb bread crumbs

Small teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon each of cinnamon,  ground ginger and mixed spice powder

2 ozs. chopped mixed nuts

1 dessertspoon baking powder

½ lb demerara sugar

½ lb raisins

½ lb currants

½ mixed peel

½ lb orange marmalade

½ lb butter (chopped up for convenience)

3 whisked eggs

1 lemon (rind grated and juice)

1 carrot grated

1 cooking apple chopped

Now the fun part:

½ pint of Guinness

Shot glass of Irish whiskey

All dry ingredients first.  Then wet.  It is very important that you let the your loved ones mix the Guinness and whiskey in and take three turns of the spoon to make a wish.  EVERY YEAR

Butter small pudding bowls (makes 1 medium and 1 small and I use very old pottery ones. ) Butter grease-proof paper over bowl then tin foil and tie tightly leaving handle to remove from 8 hours boiling/steaming.

I put in large saucepan and boil/steam on a day off, constantly checking water level and adding to just half way up bowl.  On Christmas, to serve hot, put in microwave at full power for 8 mins, or re-steam for hour.

Serve with nice brandy butter and cream

Bren x




Brenda’s Little Helpers

Hitting the menopause at the ripe old age of 58, was when everything seemed to start dropping off, drying up, mixed in with a large dose of “glowing” in not the best way.  Up to that point, my skin and hair were grand, albeit when I looked in the mirror without my glasses.  I have found the soft focus provided by not wearing my glasses is definitely the light that Joan Collins asked the camera man to use in “Dynasty”.  (Now, that is definitely showing my age.)

I am an advertiser’s dream; but have got much more enlightened as to what works.  For me – and that’s important.  I get skin treatments and will talk about the places I go and what treatments I like, in another post.  These above products are what I take and what works, for me,  from the inside out.  Aided and abetted by lots of water, especially glasses of cooled, boiled water as I find it goes down much easier and lots and lots of green tea.  I won’t mention the wine which is purely for medicinal purposes.  Nothing nicer than the pop of a cork and the glug glug of a crisp glass of Sauvignon with lovely friends.

IoniCell – the blurb “IoniCell for Women is a supplement that helps the body generate collagen, grow lustrous hair, helps nails grow stronger, rehydrates cells for healthier skin, and stimulates collagen for a more youthful appearance. It works to protect, energize, and enhance cells through a patented ingredient, Ioniplex, which is a naturally occurring fulvic acid that contains over 65 trace minerals. It works at the cellular level to promote beauty from deep within.

It has been scientifically shown to reduce naturally occurring cell damage by promoting cellular integrity and function through the signature ingredient. This results in stronger and thicker nails, smoother and healthier hair, and more radiant and youthful looking skin. It improves the appearance of all hair types.”

This is what I have found after three months of usage.  Definitely better hair.  I do use good quality shampoos, and don’t bother with styling tools during the week, to help.  My hair is thicker after a lot of damage from extensions and has grown much quicker in the last two months.  I’ll never be Rapunzel, but when I use styling tools, the style holds much better. My skin quality has improved, not so much of a parched desert with cracks scenario and my nails are growing really well.  Since retiring, I am a divil for finding things to do around the house, but there has not been any breakage in the last 8 weeks, which is pretty good

MenoMin – the blurb “Cleanmarine® MenoMin is ideal for menopausal women, helping to regulate hormonal activity, maintain normal mucous membranes, as well as reduce tiredness and fatigue. Plus all the benefits of Cleanmarine Krill Oil.

Traceability from Sea to Shelf: Cleanmarine phospholipid Krill oil ingredient has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as being from a well managed, sustainable traceable fishery. Provides omega 3 as phospholipids which provides benefits in key areas including;

  • Mg to mg Cleanmarine delivers 60% more omega 3 to the cells than fish oil
  • Faster Omega 3 absorption
  • Doesn’t repeat like fish oil”

Now remember the dropping off, the drying up, the “glowing” I talked about earlier?  Honestly, these have really helped..  I am not kicking the bed clothes off, I’m up at 8am most mornings as I’m retired,  and just don’t feel as tired.  Anything to get through what can, essentially, be a hard time for women and finally….

Zenflore – the blurb “Zenflore supports your mind and body during busy and demanding times and reduces fatigue. The special 1714-Serenitas culture in Zenflore was discovered and developed by PrecisionBiotics®, in partnership with scientists and clinicians from one of the world’s leading centres of research on the microbiome and the gut-brain axis, the APC Microbiome Institute in UCC, Ireland. By combining this unique Bifidobacterium longum 1714TM culture with specially selected vitamins, Zenflore supports your mind and reduces fatigue. This naturally occurring bacteria is part of the family of bacteria given by mother to baby at birth.”

If I could recommend anything, I would recommend these.  You know those fluttery feelings of anxiety that one can get, sometimes upon waking.  When all the little and large worries of the day take hold. Or just before sleep… these just help.  I honestly can cope so much better.  The world can be hard at times and I, for one, constantly worry about my family as all I want is their happiness.  If I was to take nothing else, I would take these.

I haven’t put in any links to any of the above.  They can be got very easily online or in shops

So here’s to things staying put, and feeling generally less of a red tomato more of a pink, velvety rose.  And no crankiness………..


Bren x





I have these really old cookery books.  The one I took this recipe from was from the Irish National Dairy Council from 1985, and I borrowed (stole) it from my sister, Marie. It is dog eared and flour eared at this stage.  I also often use a very old book that my cousin used back in the day when girls did Domestic Science as part of the school curriculum called “All in the Cooking”.  It’s just brilliant for simple things like pancakes mixes and also does a great line in soups and broths for invalids (!) and sauces. We have so many cookery books at home.  We love Donal Skehan and Rick Stein but my husband is the real cook in the house; one of those boring people who just improvises and tastes and adds a soupçon here and a soupçon there and has no difficulty with timing. Unflappable. Insert eyes up to heaven emoji.  Anyway, this is a fool proof recipe for profiteroles.  The chocolate sauce is to die for and you can’t go wrong and it works for 6 people so just halve or double to your heart’s content.

Choux Pastry  

4 ozs. butter, 1 pint water, 5 ozs. plain flour, pinch of salt and 4 eggs beaten.

Put butter and water into a saucepan over a low heat.  When butter has melted, bring to a brisk boil

Reduce heat to a low setting, add sieved flour and salt all at once to saucepan. Beat (and I mean beat) over the heat until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan clean and forms into a ball.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Gradually add the beaten eggs, a little at a time.  Beat (and I mean, beat) after each addition.  After all the eggs have been added, the mixture should be shiny and hold its shape.

Pipe (actually, I use two tea spoons) onto greased baking trays into mounds that are 1 inch across, spacing them a little apart.  Bake in preheated oven at 220 degrees (mine is a fan oven) for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 180 degrees for 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and make a hole in each profiterole with the point of a knife to release the steam. Cool completely on a wire tray before filling.

When cold, pipe (I use a teaspoon – you can see the extent of my  technical ability here) a little whipped cream into the profiteroles and pile them on a serving plate. I try for the pyramid effect.

Chocolate Sauce


8 ozs. dark chocolate (I use Bournville), 6 tblspns. cream, 2 tblspns. brandy or Jamaica Rum. Captain Morgan does the trick for us.

Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl with cream and rum.

Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate melts

Just before serving pour the sauce over the profiteroles.  I do this at the table so guests can go “ooh and aahh”.  Because at my age, the more Oohs and Aahhs you get the better.  Serve with whipped cream and remaining chocolate sauce.

Oh.  And drink the rum…………………..

Bren x



Halloween Barmbrack – as old as the hills


We used to call this Tea Brack, I suppose because of soaking the fruit in cold tea beforehand.  We used to have great Halloweens, but actually rarely did the whole decoration “thing”.  We did, however, play games.  One was where my mum used to stand on a chair and have an apple which was smeared in jam hanging from a twine the full length of her height.  As she swung the apple, we had to try and take a big bite out of it while the jam smeared all over our faces and hair.  Another was to have some money in a bottom of a basin of luke-warm water and we had to dip our heads in and try and get that coin.  We would have lots and lots of callers for Trick or Treat, and monkey nuts and fruit were the main goodies.  Things have changed.  And it’s kind of sad that kids don’t call much anymore.  I remember dressing up as Joanna Lumley in Ab Fab one year. Stuck two large Christmas decorations in my ears, lots of hairspray, cigarette, bottle of champers, syringe full of Botox and Bob really was my uncle.  One of my better moments, because God help my children, I was never good with the old needle and thread and they either ended up in bin bags with things stuck on, or bought costumes.  Terrible mother!!  Anyway – to the recipe handed down by my grandmother.

1 lb of dried fruit (at least half raisins),

6 ozs brown sugar

Half pint of cold tea

1 lb plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

Grease 8″ tin and line with grease proof paper

Soak fruit and sugar in tea.  Next day, sieve flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Stir in soaked mixture.  Mix in beaten egg, milk and put in tin, .

Bake for 2 hours at 180 degs. Make sure to place a ring, a piece of cloth and a stick, all wrapped up in grease proof paper.  Whoever gets the ring, will marry; whoever gets the cloth will be a  nun, and whoever gets the stick will never marry

Bren x


A short and very sweet trip to Copenhagen

I turned 60 this year and as always, it’s not unusual for one or other of your peers to do likewise.  So, you get your similar minded pal who wants to celebrate the WHOLE year too and you make the decision over a glass of water (not) to go somewhere – see somewhere you haven’t seen.  I, however, was in the unfortunate position of having a pal who has seen most of the cities of Europe and I think it’s really not worth while on a two night break to go beyond a two and half hour flight.  Many glasses later, we decided on Copenhagen.

Once I set my mind to do anything, I am “up and at ’em” and I had flights booked before we had taken the tablets to sort out the fluid intake.  For the time of year (October), Ryanair came out trumps with €35.00 return per person.  Next stop, and our hotel was booked.  I just like this website, as it does give you the option to pay when you arrive but we chose to pay beforehand. I had been talking to a friend and luckily the first one that I had chosen, was one that she had stayed in and she said not only was it very close to the “Ladies of the Night” (which really doesn’t bother me), but that the rooms were not very clean.  So, we ended up staying in the raddisson collection.  This is actually the city’s tallest building and has 20 floors.  It was designed by architect Arne Jacobson in 1960.  Rooms are spacious with espresso machine (Yesssss!!!!)  and the usual fridge of wine and prosecco plus we were a 5 minute walk from the Central Station, which has trains running every 15 minutes to and from the airport.  Best get a 48 hour ticket which allows you on all modes of transport – sort of – excluding the On/Off Tour buses. The Metro is also very quick and convenient, depending on where you stay.  Breakfast in the hotel was divine.  Cost of stay worked out at €112.50pp excluding breakfast for two nights.  Breakfast was €25.00 extra.  At the time of writing this, 100 DK was equal to €13.40. Reception were so helpful and from the get go, people were very friendly and helpful.  Someone even got off his bike to come over to help two old ditherers locate themselves.

We arrived at our hotel at about 5.00pm so really there was not a lot we could do except potter and have a glass of wine. Or two.  We ended up quite close to our hotel and sat outside under heating at a bar called  oscarbarcafe.  We couldn’t help but notice that the men were particularly charming and of course we thought we hadn’t lost “it”, but it turns out it was a Gay and Lesbian Venue.  Sure what matter.  It was on a gorgeous autumn, tree lined street.  We asked two people with their divine dog to suggest somewhere we should eat just for that evening and lo and behold there was a really cool Brasserie on exactly the same street.  Highly recommend.  Food very good and average pricing, as in same as here.  Nothing is really cheap in Copenhagen, so bear that in mind.

Next morning, a bright and shiny day full of promise, off we go On the On/Off Red bus.  Take note of all the different routes one can travel on these redbuses.  We chose one which took us first to the wonderful Nyhavn (see above image).  visit copenhagen

It’s the prettiest town and I tried out my camera without boring Jane by taking too much time adjusting aperture, ISO, shutter speed.  Couldn’t resist the lovers’ locks.  Since I took up my camera course, I am always on the look out for a nice shot or a different view.  My knees don’t thank me.   We meandered along the quays.  It’s really busy, but just great for people spotting and just sitting at a side walk cafe and basking in the October sun.  On the bus again to take us to the Little Mermaid.  These buses have the usual head phones to keep you posted on what’s around.  We had been warned that the Little Mermaid was really small, so that she exceeded our expectations and was a decent size mermaid, as mermaids go!  Next stop for us the absolutely beautiful Rosenborg Castle.

This castle has full security because it houses the magnificent Crown Jewels in the Treasury.  You buy an entrance ticket and leave large bags in a locker.  We chose our mobile phones to talk us through the various rooms, but you know, I’d have preferred a book, as sometimes you get too much of your phones.  However, you are allowed take photos in all rooms.  Everything seems to be covered in gilt and not your common or garden cheap stuff.  This is the real McCoy.  Do visit the Treasury, because it is gasp worthy.  The Botanic Gardens are sublime.  Off we went on our bus to the absolutely awfully disappointing Hans Christian Andersen Museum.  DO NOT GO.  It mainly contains a Ripley Believe it or Not exhibition and the Hans Christian Andersen part, although sweet, is kind of tacky.  I did learn that he really based The Ugly Duckling on himself as both he and others considered him ugly.  How very very sad.  I am so glad that he is celebrated in Copenhagen for the wonderful writer that he was.  I grew up on his stories and all had some little kind message to convey.

Unfortunately for us, the Tivoli Gardens were closed for the winter.  It’s a fabulous place; a fairy tale ambience, exotic buildings and upmarket entertainment and restaurants. I believe Walt Disney took his inspiration from here.  Tivoli does open for six weeks between mid-November and the end of December for a winter wonderland and “elf driven, Father Christmas – strewn, illuminated Christmas extravaganza”. (Eye Witness Travel).  Lit pumpkins were already lining the main thoroughfare for similar Halloween celebrations which take place mid October.  We had booked a restaurant mentioned in our guide called Nimb Brasserie.  Food and service to die for and a super view of the Tivoli.  We then went to Trio for cocktails.  As you do.  Great place and cocktails were about €15.00.  A bit pricey but………….

I was so very sad to be leaving Copenhagen early enough the next day.  So much more to see including the great shopping area called Stroget, The Latin Quarter, Amalienborg Palace and so much more. A super clean, eco friendly and people friendly place. Fewer cars on the road as everyone uses their bikes.  Way to go, Denmark

Bucket list territory.

Bren x