Category Archives: Culture

UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford

UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford

Oxford is always a favourite place of mine; I love its winding, cobbled streets, awe-inspiring buildings and quaint pubs. I used to visit Oxford quite a bit to see my friend Sophie during our undergrad years, but as life got busier my visits became far less frequent. Happily, though, this blog has inspired me to travel much more around the UK, and I’m hoping to visit Oxford again, either in the summer or early autumn.

The last time I went to Oxford was to attend the Literary Festival a few years ago (you can read my post about it here), and, feeling that quite a bit has probably changed since then, I got in touch with a Miranda’s Notebook reader and Oxford resident, Aleksandra of Bunnies Are Magic, to give me a few insider tips to the city. She shared her suggestions, paired with gorgeous photographs, for a fun weekend in Oxford, experiencing a lesser-known side to this famous destination.

Aleksandra’s Oxford Tips

UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford

To a foreigner, the spires of Oxford are one of the UK’s most iconic landmarks.  I’m speaking as a foreigner myself, but also as a person who has now lived in Oxford for a fair amount of time (long enough to discover how hard it is to get from St Magdalen’s bus stops to the high street in July!). I’ve learnt there is more to this one-of-a-kind town than its tourist attractions – a whole host of different experiences waiting to be discovered.

Cocktail Hour

UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford

++ There are plenty of bars in Jericho, an area just slightly north of the city centre. Raoul’s has never disappointed me with their ever-changing menu, and then there is Freud as well, which is based in a very impressive old church building.

International Dining

UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford

++ If you’re a Thai food fan, Thaikhun it is a definite must.

++ For a budget restaurant option, try Turtle Bay. Their spicy mojitos are to die for, trust me, I am a true mojito connoisseur. You can enjoy your relatively cheap food while listening to some Caribbean versions of pop hits too. What’s not to love?

++ For a cup of tea with an Asian twist, the place to go is Formosan Tea Bar.

A Walk on the Wild Side

UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford

++ If you want to get a good idea of how rural Oxford can be, I suggest a walk by the Oxford Canal between Summertown and the town centre. The canal itself is a real treat for anyone interested in nature walks, and if you take the walk on a Sunday, you can enjoy Summertown market, famously known for its owl visitors (from the Heathrow Owl Rescue Centre).

++ Trap Grounds is a waterfowl haven. Tucked away between the canal and the railway, it may well be the only truly wild and uninhabited part of Oxford. Looking over the reeds, it’s the perfect place to catch the most beautiful of Oxford’s sunrises too; a little masterpiece of nature.

UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford

++ Port Meadow holds a great surprise for all unprepared visitors…ponies! They’re friendly if you approach them with care, and they will come to you looking for food, although I would advise treating them with a bit more caution than stable horses.

++ Christ Church College is surrounded by the most wonderful park (my very favourite of Oxford’s parks), that leads all the way to the Thames. You can find geese, swans, ducks, and even cows. If you follow the Thames back towards the high street, at the very edge of the park you will find a botanical garden too.

UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford

Culture

UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford

++ On 23rd June, a Jane Austen exhibition is opening at the Bodleian that I expect many Miranda’s Notebook readers might find interesting.

++ Oxford’s Phoenix Picture House is one of my favourite cinemas. Its atmosphere is hard to describe, with everything an old cinema needs and just a little bit more.

++ I also recommend seeing  the wonderful Creation Theatre perform one of their plays; something that everyone should experience at least once in their life.

UK Travel | A Different Side to Oxford

Thanks so much to Aleksandra for her fabulous suggestions! I now want to book a ticket to Oxford straight away.

If you’d like to read more about Aleksandra’s life in Oxford, check our her blog. Aleksandra also writes more personal articles, such as 25 Wishes For My Future Self and How to Ruin Your Work Day. You can also find her on twitter, facebook and instagram.  

T&T 33 | Historical Fiction with Hannah Kent

Tea & Tattle Podcast Interview With Bestselling Author Hannah Kent

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Podcast episode here or on iTunes.

Today on Tea & Tattle podcast, I’m joined by the bestselling author, Hannah Kent, to discuss Hannah’s books Burial Rites and The Good People. Her debut novel, Burial Rites, has received international acclaim and is one of my favourite novels published within the last few years. The Good People, which was released in the UK at the start of the year, is equally gripping and also showcases Hannah’s mastery in evoking a sense of place, as well as her poetic writing style.

Tea & Tattle Podcast Interview With Bestselling Author Hannah Kent

In my chat with Hannah, I questioned her about how her love for Icelandic culture and history began, the research process behind her books, what was most surprising in learning about Irish folklore and so much more. It was such an honour to speak with Hannah, and I hope you enjoy her compelling conversation as much as I did.

Tea & Tattle Podcast Interview With Bestselling Author Hannah Kent

Listen to hear Hannah Kent’s fascinating insights into writing her historical novels, Burial Rites and The Good People.

T&T 29 | Creativity Chat with Sara Tasker (Me & Orla)

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Podcast here or on iTunes.

This Tuesday, I’m chatting with the Queen of Instagram, Sara Tasker, otherwise known as @me_and_orla. I’ve been a fan of Sara’s gorgeous photography and engaging personality from before I started blogging, so it was a real joy to have her on the show for a fabulous talk about creativity and social media.

Sara discussed the start of her Instagram journey, when she gained 10s of 1000s of followers in a few months, and how she kept true to herself and her creative vision, despite the pressure of a huge following. I was also keen to ask Sara for her tips on avoiding the ‘comparison trap’ on social media and how to regain a sense of community within Instagram, after the changes introduced by the new algorithm. As always, Sara had so much wisdom to share, so this is great episode to listen to if you’ve been struggling with some of the changes to Instagram lately.

We also chatted about the nature of creativity, how Sara came to start her own podcast, Hashtag Authentic, her experience starting her first novel and so much more.

Listen for an insightful discussion on creativity and social media. 

Note: Above images courtesy Sara Tasker.

T&T 27 | Samantha Ellis Discusses Anne Brontë

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Episode here or on iTunes.

This Tuesday, I’m delighted to say that I’m in conversation with Samantha Ellis, one of my favourite writers. As well as being a highly acclaimed playwright, Samantha has written the books How to be a Heroine and Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life. In How to be a Heroine, Samantha reexamines the literary heroines she idolised as a young adult, and her latest book, Take Courage, is a biography of Anne Brontë.

T&T 27 | Samantha Ellis Discusses Anne Brontë

I adored How to be a Heroine, and in today’s episode I question Samantha a little about her first book, asking what she found most surprising when she returned to her favourite female characters as an adult.

Samantha also shares what inspired her to turn her hand to biography, and how learning more about Anne’s life taught her to be increasingly courageous in her own. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë is one my very favourite novels, so I was fascinated to learn more about Anne’s life from reading Take Courage. In this biography, Samantha truly brings Anne’s story to life and also writes openly about her own journey in discovering more about the Brontë family and her reflections on Anne’s writing.  Anne is – most undeservedly! – the least widely read of the Brontë sisters, and I was very pleased to get the chance to ask Samantha more about her thoughts on why Anne is still so little read.

If you’re a fan of the Brontës – and Anne in particular – then I highly recommend getting a copy of Take Courage to read yourself, but this episode of Tea & Tattle will give you a little taster of what you can expect from Samantha’s book.

T&T 27 | Samantha Ellis Discusses Anne Brontë

Listen for a fascinating insight into the life of Anne Brontë and her writing.

T&T 26 | Reflecting on Our Goals for 2017

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

It’s super to have Sophie back on the podcast today, especially as we’re celebrating the 6 month anniversary of Tea & Tattle! We’re having a general catch-up on the podcast today, and Sophie explains why she’s been so busy lately. We’re also reflecting on our theme words that we set at the start of the year in Episode 10. Sophie chose ‘openness’ as a word to frame what she wanted to achieve in 2017, and I chose ‘consistency.’ As we said in January, we want to regularly check in with each other (and with our listeners!) to see how we’re getting on with our goals, and so this episode is devoted to reflecting on our progress through the year so far.

Listen to hear our reflections on the year so far and how much we’ve managed to keep to our theme words of ‘consistency’ and ‘openness.’ 

What are your reflections on the year so far? Are you happy with your progress in 2017? Is there anything that’s working particularly well for you in helping you to attain goals, or is there something you need to change?

Happy Listening!

T&T 25 | Lindsey Tramuta and The New Paris

Tea and Tattle Podcast Interview | Lindsey Tramuta and The New Paris

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Podcast episode here or on iTunes.

This Tuesday, the lovely Lindsey Tramuta joins me on the podcast for a chat about her book, The New Paris, which was published just last week. Lindsey moved from Philadelphia to Paris a decade ago, and in today’s episode she shares with me the challenges she faced when first living in France, as well as how she came to set up her fabulous blog, Lost in Cheeseland, and start her career in journalism.

I’ve been a fan of Lindsey’s blog, where she shares beautiful photos of Paris and writes thoughtfully about the city’s culture, for a number of years. I was delighted when Lindsey announced she was writing a book, and now I’ve received my copy of The New Paris, I’m so enjoying reading every page of this beautiful celebration of one of my favourite cities.

In The New Paris, Lindsey writes about the changes she has observed in Paris over the past decade that are transforming the city’s creative, food and beverage industries. Lindsey reflects more about these changes on the podcast, as well as the rising ‘creative class’ of Parisians turning passion projects into careers.

We also chat about Lindsey’s research process, her book recommendations for people wanting to know more about the city, and the neighbourhoods Lindsey is particularly enjoying exploring at the moment. Lindsey also reads aloud an excerpt from her book, all about patisserie, which had me craving Pierre Hermé macarons instantly (thank goodness there’s a branch in London!).

Listen for a fascinating insight into the changes Paris has experienced in the creative and food industries over the past decade. 

What did you enjoy most about this episode? Are you a fan of Lindsey’s blog, and have you picked up a copy of The New Paris yet?

P.S. Sign up to receive weekly instalments of Tea & Tattle podcast.

Mark Hearld’s The Lumber Room, York Art Gallery

I mentioned in yesterday’s post how much I loved The Lumber Room exhibition at York Art Gallery. The exhibition is curated by one of my favourite artists, Mark Hearld, who lives in York with another favourite artist of mine, Emily Sutton. The Lumber Room was inspired by a short story Mark read by Saki when he was a teenager (you can read the story here, and I highly encourage you to do so; it’s a quick, but delightful, read).

“Since I heard Saki’s story I have always been intrigued by the idea of a locked room that contained treasures so wonderful they are beyond what your mind can imagine. In this exhibition I wanted to create the sense of excitement and wonder that you get when you discover the key to the room and see the “forbidden” objects for the first time.”  – Mark Hearld

Stepping into Mark Hearld’s exhibition is indeed like finding a wondrous room stuffed to the brim with intriguing and whimsical objects. The Lumber Room is filled with a wide range of artefacts: toys, ceramics, paintings, clothes and so much more, which perfectly capture the spirit of adventure and curiosity that permeate childhood. Everywhere you look something curious or beautiful catches your eye, encouraging you to stop and linger over every display. I took a childlike like pleasure in the vintage ice-cream stand, the old gloves and uniform jackets that made me want to play dress-up, and the wonderful lineup of rocking horses that were hard to resist stroking.

Mark apparently spent two years researching the objects and artwork included in the exhibition, and I thought his curation impeccable, offering a superb mix of the beautiful and the bizarre. This would be a fantastic exhibition for parents or teachers to take children, as it would be a brilliant stimulus for art and writing projects.

I’m a huge fan of Mark’s artwork, so I particularly enjoyed getting to see so many of his original paintings and ceramics as part of the exhibition, as well as many of the objects, colours, and styles that inspire his work. I’ve been to one of his and Emily’s studio tours in the past, which was also treasure trove of ceramics and paintings, and I remembered seeing some of his ceramic horses then too. Aren’t they exquisite?

After spending quite a bit of time in The Lumber Room, we made our way round the rest of York Art Gallery. I was so impressed by the large, comfy sofas and big desks throughout its rooms that visitors are allowed to use (the gallery does a great job at being interactive, which makes it an enjoyable place for children too).

As one entrance ticket allows you access to all exhibitions for the day, we also saw the current Albert Moore exhibition (on until October 2017). I thought it worth the cost of entrance fee just to see the glorious Midsummer painting. The incredible orange and green used in the picture can only be truly appreciated when seen in person, where the painting glows like a jewel amongst all the other works.

Midsummer, Albert Moore. Image via here.

It’s definitely worth taking time to explore York Art Gallery properly. There is a viewing balcony, from which you can look out over the gardens and surrounding buildings. We didn’t have time to pop into the cafe, but it’s run by the same people behind No.8 Bistro, where we enjoyed a fabulous brunch, so I’m sure it would be very good should you fancy a bite to eat or cup of tea.

The Lumber exhibition runs until 7th May, 2017; the Albert Moore exhibition is open until 1st October, 2017. At the time of writing, a standard adult entrance ticket to the Gallery is £6.81, and children under 16 go free with a paying adult. York Art Gallery is open everyday from 10am-5pm.

Are you a fan of Mark Hearld’s artwork too? Have you ever been to York Art Gallery?

P.S. – Look out for my York Travel Guide (Part 2), publishing in the next few days. You can read Part 1 here

UK Travel | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)Travel Style: I’m wearing  trousers (TOAST); jumper (TOAST c/o); striped t-shirt (Laura Ashley c/o – similar here); scarf (TOAST c/o); shoes (TOAST)

I’m increasingly interested in exploring more of the UK, and in particular identifying great destinations that are within easy distance from London. A few weekends ago, Mum and I travelled to York to celebrate my Mum’s best friend’s 60th birthday. Although the celebrations took place in a hotel in a peaceful little village a half hour drive from York, we still managed to spend some time wandering the city on both Saturday and Sunday. The last time I visited York was a few years ago, so it was a real pleasure to be back exploring the beautiful, ancient city.

Our journey from London to York was under 2 hours, so it’s perfectly possible to visit York as a day-trip (or weekend stay) from London. We’d booked an early train from King’s Cross, so we pulled into York station at about 8.30am, feeling a little peckish and on the hunt for a good breakfast spot.

Exploring The Shambles

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

I’d had a suggestion on Instagram that The Flax & Twine cafe would be a good choice for breakfast and a lovely view across The Shambles, an historic (and very picturesque) street in the centre of York that is home to various shops and cafes.

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

Alas, I realised my Londoner’s mindset had entirely overlooked the fact that not everywhere would be open before 9am on a Saturday. The Flax & Twine, and all the other little teashops nearby, were closed until 10am. Still, we took the opportunity to explore the surrounding streets before the masses of tourists arrived (it’s definitely worth arriving early if you’d like some relatively people-free shots of this popular part of the city). Every little alleyway seems to lead somewhere interesting in York, whether to a beautiful timbered building, or an inviting bakery, and there’s also a market at The Shambles (open from 7am everyday) which is fun to explore. I thought of a friend back in London and picked up some Yorkshire fudge for him to enjoy.

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

After our walk, my growling stomach was getting harder to ignore, and a little research on my phone told me that No. 8 Bistro was a short walk away and served a highly acclaimed brunch menu.

A Wonderful Breakfast

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

I’ll have to go back to Flax and Twine next time I’m in York, but I’m very glad that on this visit I discovered No. 8 Bistro, as it was the ideal spot to enjoy a tasty brunch on a sunny spring day. The Bistro has a very pretty garden, which is overlooked by the City of York Walls, and was a haven of sunshine, peace and good food. We had the garden almost entirely to ourselves (it seems the city doesn’t really wake up until about 11am on the weekend), and it was a lovely place to relax over a cup of tea before tucking into our Full English breakfasts.

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

We had the full works: eggs, sausage, bacon, fried tomato and mushroom, hash-browns and black pudding, with toast alongside and copious amounts of tea. It was absolutely delicious, and I’d be happy for a visit to York to always start out with breakfast at No.8 first.

York Art Gallery

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

I was very keen to get to York Art Gallery to see The Lumber Room exhibition (ends 7th May 2017) curated by one of my favourite York-based illustrators, Mark Hearld. I’d been on a tour of Mark and Emily’s home and studio when I was last in York, so I was very pleased that this time I was able to catch his exhibition. It was marvellous, so much so that I want to dedicate an entire post to my time at the York Art Gallery alone, so look out for that very soon!

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

After seeing the Gallery’s main exhibitions, we had a little wander around the pretty courtyard next to it, before heading back to the train station (only a 10 minute walk away) to catch a bus to Boroughbridge and celebrate with the birthday girl for the rest of the day.

Some Practical Tips

UK Destinations | Adventures in York Travel Guide (Part 1)

// Pack sensibly. It’s colder up North! I didn’t bring a coat with me, but I was very glad to have layered  a t-shirt, jumper and chunky scarf (I was lucky to be sent the latter items from TOAST, who noticed my love of their clothes from this post). Even though the sun was shining brightly, it was definitely chilly in the shadows.

// If you have extra bags with you, leave them at York Train Station so you don’t have to lug them around with you all day. It cost £7 per bag for the day (but prices may change or vary).

// Check opening times in advance! I’ve been caught out a few times now by having too much of a London mentality. The rest of the UK generally has much shorter opening hours and shops are often closed on Sundays, so be sure to plan ahead.

// If you don’t have a car, it can feel daunting to get out into the countryside. I was impressed by the bus system from York though, which is a tiny fraction of the cost of a taxi, and there are buses to pretty villages in the surrounding countryside, as well as to places of interest like the awe-inspiring Castle Howard. Be warned again though: for the most part, buses run on Saturdays, but often not Sundays! Check York bus times online, or pick up a timetable from the tourist information centre at York Train Station.

Stay tuned for my upcoming York posts, covering the fantastic York Art Gallery and how we spent Sunday in the city.

Have you been to York? What did you enjoy about your visit? Like me, are you keen to explore more of the UK?

P.S. For further inspiration about easy day trips from London, see my posts about Rye (here and here), Hastings, Bath, East Sussex (here and here) and Sissinghurst Castle Gardens.

P.P.S. Read about my Yorkshire adventures from a previous trip here.

T&T 23 | All About Wine With Amelia Singer

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Podcast Episode here or on iTunes.

This Tuesday, I’m joined by the utterly delightful Amelia Singer, a wine educator and expert. You may recognise Amelia as a host on ITV’s The Wine Show and also from her videos on Jamie Oliver’s Drinks Tube. Amelia runs her online website and event business, offering a range of events, wine tastings and insights into the wine industry. I can’t wait to book one of Amelia’s Mews House Musings supper clubs, which she hosts in her own home in Notting Hill.

Amelia Singer and fellow co-hosts of The Wine Show. Photo credit: The Wine Show.

I’m a big fan of Amelia’s fun, accessible approach to wine, and I had a wonderful time chatting to her for this episode. Our talk ranged from what it’s like to be a woman in a fairly male-dominated industry, to Amelia’s favourite book and wine pairings.

We also discussed the best way to serve champagne (and surprising food that goes particularly well with bubbles – who knew fish & chips would be such a hit?!), as well as great wine bars in London and what drink to order on a first date. Amelia is such an incredible source of knowledge on everything wine related – I could have spoken to her for hours!

Middlemarch by George Eliot (one of Amelia’s favourite books)

Listen for a fun conversation on women in the wine industry, book and wine pairings, what to drink on a first date and so much more. 

T&T 22 | Expanding Jane Austen’s World

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Podcast here or on iTunes.

Today, Sophie and I are hosting a special episode, as we’re in conversation with two other longtime friends: Janet Todd and Diana Birchall. Both Janet and Diana have written novels expanding upon or reworking Jane Austen’s books and are highly knowledgeable about our favourite author and her world. Sophie and I were thrilled to get the chance to sit down and chat with them both about their writing and how Jane Austen has influenced their lives and friendship.

Janet Todd is the former President of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, and is well-known for her non fiction works on early women writers and for her books about Mary Wollstonecraft, Aphra Behn, and Jane Austen. Janet has also branched out into fiction and wrote a fabulous rewriting of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, called Lady Susan Plays the Game. It was Diana who first alerted me to Janet’s other brilliant novel, A Man of Genius, which is set in the early 1800s and tells the story of Ann, a writer of Gothic fiction (coincidentally, A Man of Genius has just been released in its paperback edition, so do look out for it!). It was fascinating to learn how Jane Austen, women writers and Gothic fiction influenced Janet in writing this book.

Diana Birchall recently retired from her role as a Story Analyst at Warner Brothers, and she has written numerous stories extending the world of Jane Austen’s books, including the fabulously witty Mrs Darcy’s Dilemma. Diana regularly contributes stories and articles relating to Jane Austen to various publications and websites, including the Jane Austen Society of North America and Jane Austen Variations. Diana lives in America, but travels regularly to the UK.

Listen for a thought-provoking discussion on Jane Austen, her writing and world.