Travel has always been a big part of me, both personally and professionally, so to finally get back to my heartland, England has been a huge gift. We’ve been journeying through the UK to visit some of the craftspeople we work with, and at the same time, filling up my cup, so to speak, by reconnecting with friends and loved ones who I’ve been unable to see for several years. Over the last three weeks, we’ve worked our way from London, up to my old stomping grounds in Newcastle, and then down along the West coast, into the Cotswolds and out to Wales. We’ve had some amazing experiences, and instead of waiting until we got back to the States, I wanted to journal and share some of the journey thus far…
We enjoyed the beautiful wildflower garden at Hackney Downs and took a stroll through the Hackney Marshes with my school friend, Gail and her pup, Olive. Hard to believe we were in the middle of a major metropolis.
Since Gail and I studied art together growing up, we've always had a tradition of visiting art exhibits wherever we find ourselves in the world. We made a stop at the Barbican and viewed the Postwar Modern exhibit featuring British art following World War II. It was a powerful display exploring the effect that the war had on the British people.
Jeffrey and I celebrated our anniversary with a delicious dinner at Little Duck in Dalston. We indulged in a variety of amazing dishes, from cured trout with kolrhabi, horseradish and dill to ricotta gnocchetti with broad beans, parmesan and pine nuts. Another favorite was the roasted grey mullet and courgettes. We ended the meal with a simple and decadent dessert – dark chocolate and olive oil mousse with cherries and sea salt and meringue with gooseberries and crème fraîche.
A big part of this trip is about catching up with friends who I haven't seen in years. A very good friend turned 50 and threw a party which we were very excited to be at in Sevenoaks, Kent. As the dance party went into the wee hours, they broke out the headphones for a silent disco. Featuring three DJ's playing different tunes simultaneously, we grabbed a drink and a headset, picked a genre and danced the night away.
A few days later, we made a visit to the Living Rug Company farm in the Peak District of Central England, where I finally got to meet the farmer and creator, Deborah and her sheep family. During the pandemic, we had Zoom calls to get to know each other and discuss our partnership, but there's nothing like meeting in person, getting up close with her sheep and seeing her processes to making her beautiful felted rugs.
On the way there, we stopped in the historic town of Warwick, and got a little caffeine boost at the Thomas Oken Tea Rooms, a quintessential tea room set in a beautiful old house built 500 years ago. One of the things I'm appreciating more and more about England, is the history that runs far and wide, not only in monuments and castles, but also in the small nooks and crannies of everyday life.
Home for me in the UK is Newcastle Upon Tyne. The iconic bridges and the historic pubs are just the beginning of what makes this place so special to me. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood, and some of my best friends were made in this town. The Crown Posada is one of Newcastle's oldest pubs and always worth a visit. The Bee Hive Pub is another institution among the oldest in Newcastle.
Aside from Newcastle's city center, the coastline is historic, especially with its fishing villages and castles. Bamburgh Castle dates back to 11th century AD and is set on a hill amongst the bluffs of the beach. It's an epic site to see as you walk up, and an even better view from the North Sea if you're a cold water lover like Jeffrey who took a few dips and braved the 55 degree sea temp.
Craster is a fishing village on the Northumbrian coastline. I spent summer days here growing up and remember Kipper's Smoke House, where my dad used to take me on Saturday mornings to get kippers for our Sunday brunch. And the best part is, it still looks the same... We enjoyed some of the smoked salmon and smoked mackerel before tucking into a kipper sandwich with chips.
A short distance from Craster is Dunstanburgh Castle built in the 14th century. The walk along the coast to the castle is breathtaking as you pass by sheep grazing in the moors by the cliffs and coastline.
The town of Tynemouth sits at the mouth of the River Tyne. Its vast beaches are dog friendly, which make it a perfect spot to stroll and work up an appetite for the obligatory fish and chips. Jeffrey had another North Sea swim with Gail and her sisters and I happily watched from the beach.
After time spent in Newcastle and the North Sea coast, we worked our way across the Teeside and Pennine countryside stopping at a local pub or two along the way. I've also been finding great antique gems, so stay tuned for those arriving in store and online in the coming weeks. We slowly made our way down south until we landed in Stratford Upon Avon, for a play at the Royal Shakespeare Festival.
After Stratford, we met up with the amazing artists who make the paperweights that have become favorites at DIANI. We learned a lot about the process and worked on something special together... stay tuned for that!
We spent a few nights in the Cotswolds visiting some picture postcard villages, and spent quality time with good friends. In between, we made a trip into Bath which has become a new favorite on our list. Filled with ancient architecture, Roman bath houses, and unique restaurants and pubs, it's a place we know we'll keep coming back to to discover more.
I'm relishing the opportunity to not only reconnect with my friends, and my old stomping grounds, but also to meet some of the inspiring artisans who create some of the beauty that fills the shelves at DIANI. And, I'm finding lots of vintage goodies that will be making their way across the pond, so keep checking back in-store or on the website in the coming weeks.
Thank you as always for reading the journal and if you find yourselves in the UK and are looking for any tips, feel free to email me! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for the wonderful travel log on your return to England. Brings back great memories of a wonderful trip I took to England and Scotland years ago.