Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Rainy Afternoon (And Fantastic Dinner!) in Saint-Emilion

The weather was less-than-ideal when we arrived in Saint-Emilion. But there were so many silver linings to our wonderful visit to this charming town that by the time we returned to our Airbnb in Bordeaux city centre that evening with my new leather flats completely waterlogged and ruined, all I could think about was the epic dinner we'd just experienced.

But let me start from the beginning.

After a terrific and informative tour and tasting at Chateau Cantenac (which, confession: I'd booked from my phone in bed the night before), we headed into Saint-Emilion itself and browsed several wine shops before finding one that sold John's precious Chateau D'Yquem "Ygrec" 2014. I made him buy it even though the price was slightly ridiculous (like, over €150 ridiculous) because I was so sick of hearing him pine after it like a lovesick puppy every day of our vacation. So, now he's just waiting for the right time to bust it out of the tissue paper (indeed, when we got home, I overheard him saying to the bottle, "It's okay now, you're home safe" as we were unpacking. WTF?!).

Because it was raining so hard, we couldn't really enjoy the outdoors too much, which was a shame, because the views of the vineyards were stunning and the cherry blossoms were out in full force.

By the time 7 p.m. rolled around for our dinner reservation at Hostellerie de Plaisance (also booked from the comfort of my own someone else's bed), we couldn't wait to dry ourselves off in the restaurant. Luckily, we were immediately welcomed and ushered into the bar, where I somehow heard myself ordering a glass of champagne (it had become automatic now - I no longer had control of my own voice) and we were presented with this beautiful, carrot-themed amuse bouche:

I always get nervous when I'm in charge of booking something - like a restaurant or a hotel. That's why I try to avoid doing it if at all possible and leaving it up to John. I can't bear to be responsible for a disappointing meal or stay. Anyone else with me on this? 

But our dinner at Hostellerie de Plaisance was exquisite; so much so, that it very nearly brought me to tears. I don't know if it was a reaction to the wines the sommelier had selected or because of the headiness of a 3-course meal turned 9 (there was the amuse bouche, the pre-starter, then the starter, then the main course, inexplicably a second main course, the pre-dessert, the dessert, the petit fours) or the fact that they wheeled out a glinting trolley of herbs in pots after dinner and asked me to select something for my hot drink before inviting me back to the bar for chocolates - I don't know. Maybe it was a combination of all of the above.

I couldn't hide my excitement as each plate was presented to us - since we had ordered the Menu "du Moment", we had no idea what to expect. It was all in the hands of the chef. Later, back in the bar, we were given a beautiful print-out of the menu on thick, heavy cardstock to take home as a souvenir, plus a choice of caramels, chocolates or nougat to go.

There were probably four other couples dining in the hotel restaurant that evening - all in their mid-60s, I'd say. I watched as they accepted the food with restrained, almost pinched expressions, not conveying any emotion except for a emphasized, "Trés bien, trés bien," when prompted by the staff.

But, in my typical American fashion, I couldn't hide my joy. I asked the sommelier for the names of the wines, which I loved, and when asked how we were enjoying our meal, I'm pretty sure I said something like, "This is the best meal I've ever had in my life." And meant it.

So, if you ever find yourself in Saint-Emilion, preferably on a warm summer's day, go to the Hostellerie de Plaisance. Head to the bar earlier than your reservation time. Ask the sommelier for his recommendation and sit outside on the verandah watching the sun set over the vineyards, sipping your glass of red or white.

That's what I'd like to do next.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Where to Buy What: The Best Places To Shop For Antiques In Bordeaux

John and I discovered rather late into our trip that Bordeaux is a treasure trove for antiques - and often at bargain prices. In fact, we vowed to bring an empty suitcase next time (and possibly even an empty van)! I fell in love with the beautiful furniture and decorative objects that we saw, like old French medicine bottles and cannisters, which often sold for something like €24 for an entire set. A whole set! Prices like that in London just don't exist.

From pop-up flea markets (great for vintage tableware like china and glass decanters) to never-ending shops filled to the brim with knick-knacks and furniture (perfect for side tables, chairs, and artwork) to stores specializing in authentic, high-end antiques (wonderful if you're missing a complete set of Versace dinnerware or a pair of oversized 17th-century porcelain vases), all of the fun is in the browsing. We almost ran from room to room in some of the larger shops, pointing at things and excitedly waving each other over to look at our newest discoveries.

Here are some of the best places to shop:

Chartrons district is excellent for antiques and cafe hopping - there are plenty of modern homeware boutiques tucked in next to antique shops, so you're likely to find hand-poured candles and Scandi-inspired design as you are an authentic Louis XIV side table.

We found a sweet little wooden stool at Cabanes et Chateaux on Rue Notre Dame - a ramshackle shop with the most beautiful furniture and findings, blasting classical music at the highest volume. I fell in love with nearly every single item in the store, but we only had room for that tiny stool (as seen in our second guest bedroom below, next to a poster we picked up at the Arcachon tourism office). Next time.

Village Notre-Dame (also in Chartrons and often simply referred to as "Le Village") is somewhat of an institution and should be browsed if only for the wow-factor. It specialises in upscale antiques but you're left to browse the many rooms and corners without any interruption (though I was incredibly paranoid about knocking into a £5,000 vase and kept having to tell John to, "Watch out! Behind you!"). I squealed with excitement over the perfect rug for our living room and John said, "Okay, you can get it." Then I lifted up the corner to find the price: €7,500. John gulped and said, "Okay, you can't get it." I was like, "Maybe it's a mistake ... maybe there's just one too many zeros ..." Nope. Not a mistake - still €7,500. I bade it a sad farewell and made my way to the exit.

Sidenote: the streets of Chartrons also have some of the most beautiful doors I've ever seen! Case in point:

Might have snapped a few pics of those.

Heading up toward Place des Capucins, Les Brocanteurs du Passage Saint Michel was our favorite of all the antique shops. We loved nearly everything they stocked and the staff was so nice. John fell in love with two oversized antique maps (we chose maps of the US and UK, naturally) which he puzzled over in French with one of the sales assistants about transporting it back to the UK. I didn't catch a lot of the conversation, but at the mention of "British Airways" there was a lot of nodding and affirmative gesticulation and teeth sucking and shrugging when "Easy Jet" was uttered. In the end, the wonderful lady who helped us actually ran from stall to stall outside the store to find a box, which she then fashioned into a long, protective tube for the maps. We were so grateful. I stuck a few homemade "Fragile" signs to the box and the maps arrived back in one piece: intact and unharmed.

They've got a wonderful Wes Anderson feel to them (they remind me of Moonrise Kingdom - one of my favorite Wes Anderson films!) and we've put them up in the guest bedrooms.

The flea market of Quai de Salinieres, which is just a short distance from the Marche Des Capucins (the most wonderful food market) is fantastic for finding hidden treasures - if you're prepared to look. Amongst the bric-a-brac and tatty old shoes, you'll also find beautiful vintage keepsake boxes, glass decanters, and art prints (like the ones I bought above). Sellers are most likely prepared to bargain (though I took the lot of prints for €15 because I was too lazy to barter) and if you're looking for vintage plates or other decorative objects for your home at a fraction of the price of what you'd find in, say, Broadway Market, then this is the perfect place to go.

Are you a fan of antiques? I think it's fun to look even if you're not intending to buy anything - it's incredible to think of the history behind some of the things you see!

Monday, April 25, 2016

5 Delicious Places to Drink & Dine At in Bordeaux

I had a sort of gastronomic awakening in Bordeaux - if that's what you'd call it. A foodie revelation. I ate steak cooked (much) rarer than my usual liking, slurped oysters in their shells (which I used to love, then went off of for about six years), and drank eye-wateringly expensive wine - all things I'd previously been a little uncomfortable with but thought, hey, YOLO. And I loved it all.

Life's too short. And Bordeaux's the perfect place to have this type of awakening. I seriously just felt like I finally came to my senses - literally. The produce is fresh, vibrant, and plentiful. Even the garlic smells and tastes different (i.e. fragrant, with an added dimension that I couldn't put my finger on). The fennel I cut open back at our Airbnb apartment scented the entire kitchen. The tomatoes were deep red: sweet and juicy. I returned to London with a heavy sense of disappointment over the limp, anemic-looking lettuce lining the shelves of Tesco; the same food trends being recycled over and over again.

Don't get me wrong: Bordeaux does experimental too (and the Michelin-dining is exquisite - I'll write about that in another post), but a part of me can't help but think that when you strip things back down to the basics, Bordeaux wins. You'll see what I mean as this post continues below.

So, although we only grazed the very tip of the Bordeaux food scene, here were five places we discovered during the week we were there for delicious food and wine:

After scoping out the wonderful antiques in Bordeaux's Chartrons district, we stumbled into El Nacional - and what a delightful accident it was. Humming with locals, businessmen, and a handful of tourists (us, plus the American badass lady solo dining to our right), El Nacional boasts an Argentinian chef, a selection of 200 wines, and damn good food.

John ordered the formules du midi, which included steak with chimichurri sauce (a concoction that made your palate go zing!), crispy french fries, a glass of wine and a coffee. I was feeling less hungry that day but had a craving for calamari, which came pan fried (not battered!) and exquisitely seasoned with garlic and chilli. Funny story: the power went out in the entire square during our meal, so all the lights went off and the kitchen went into a bit of a panic! Because their coffee machine wouldn't work, we were presented with these homemade chocolate-chip cookies with a caramel filling instead. I *so* wish I could have taken a box home with me. They were outstanding.

Whenever I'm in France, I try to find the best boulangerie in town - one that's worth dragging my lazy butt out of bed for at 7 a.m. to get the best pick of the fresh-out-of-the-oven croissants and pain au chocolats. Naturally, I Googled, "best bakeries in Bordeaux" and found La Fabrique Pains et Bricoles at the top of the list. The pain aux raisins were so fluffy and soft, I could have cried. I loved the sprinkling of sugar on top! We took them back to our Airbnb apartment and enjoyed them there with a cup of strong coffee with the balcony doors open - it felt so French!

When I asked for recommendations on Instagram, more than one person suggested Plume for brunch, which was just a quick 6-minute stroll from our Airbnb. It had just opened its doors when we arrived, so we were the first ones in. Despite this, brioche was off the menu (sad face) so we ordered the "Classic" breakfasts instead: fruit, bread, jam, butter, coffee and juice. Simple, but effective. French bread and pastries are the best. Even the butter tastes better in France!

After paying to escape a locked room at The Escape Hunt Bordeaux (most random but best hour of my LIFE!, we talked animatedly about all the clues we tried to solve en route to Marché Des Capucins, a covered food market that puts Borough Market to shame.

We immediately joined the line for Chez Jean-Mi, known for its seafood platters piled high with fresh oysters, sea snails, prawns, and crab claws. Clearly popular with locals, the open-air restaurant was filled to the brim by the time we arrived at 1 pm. Shells flew, oysters were slurped, and glasses of white wine were knocked back with abandon. It looked like so much fun!

After waiting for about 10 minutes or so, we were finally seated - cheek to jowl with the next table, but we didn't mind. It was all a part of the experience. We ordered the seafood platter for two and tackled the crab claws and oysters with the joie de vivre of two people who seemed to have waited their whole lives for this foodie-tastic moment ... it was nothing short of exhilarating and fun.

In the evening, we headed to the cheesy-but-aptly-named Wine More Time on Rue Saint James for champagne, cheese, and - for me - sweet wine. The outdoor seating was perfect for people watching (so many cool people whizzing past on bikes) but the indoor tables had a great vibe as well.

The staff was super friendly and happy to make recommendations when asked. On our last night in Bordeaux, we cooked a simple dinner at home after buying a delicious rotisserie chicken from Marche des Capucins and headed back out to Wine More Time for a final hurrah. We stayed late into the evening sipping wine and talking about everything under the sun ... it was so lovely to have a date night like that!

Last night, we watched Rick Stein's 'Long Weekend' series on BBC, which started in Bordeaux, and we already can't wait to go back to try the restaurants he mentioned. The best thing is that a long weekend is totally possible, with Bordeaux being only an hour and a half away from London by plane.

Looking into tickets right now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Climbing The Tallest Sand Dune In Europe: Dune Du Pilat, Arcachon Bay

Just an hour's drive outside of Bordeaux is the Dune du Pilat - Europe's tallest sand dune.

Random? Perhaps. Amazing? Totally.

When we arrived to Bordeaux city center, the sunny skies we'd previously enjoyed at Les Sources de Caudalie had turned grey and stormy. Half of the restaurants and shops were closed, which, to my Angloyankophile sentiments, seemed arbitrary for a Tuesday afternoon.

By the time the sun began to appear above the clouds, we'd spent hours traipsing around deserted streets, clearly in the "wrong" part of town (having wanted to get off the beaten path a bit). I was both tired and grumpy.

"Let's drive to Arcachon and make the most of the weather," John suggested, and I readily complied, knowing that a trip to the seaside would lift my spirits.

And - oh my goodness. It was fantastic.

The climb up the dune is steep: most people took the stairs (including me) but John insisted on scrambling up the sides (because he's sporty and over-enthusiastic that way).

At the top, we were met with a breathtaking view of the forest to our left, the sand encroaching on path of the trees. To our right was an equally, if not more, spectacular view of Arcachon Bay: all turquoise water, blue skies, and white sand.

Despite the wind whipping at our ankles and necks, we unlaced our shoes and trekked across the dune barefoot, nearly all 2.7 km of it. It wasn't overly crowded when we went, though most visitors stuck to the area near the steps, sharing picnic lunches and enjoying the views on either side of the dune.

Paragliders sailed past, their colorful canopies weaving a brilliant trail against the backdrop of the sand and the sea. 

I chased John as he ran down to the water, smiling at the families who held hands and roared with laughter as they made their way down too. We inspected each jellyfish that had washed onto shore, with John saying, "Take a picture of this one! No, this one! Oh my gosh, that one looks like a skull! Crazy!"

The climb back up was hard. Every time I looked up, the people standing above me near the stairs looked like tiny ants. I felt like I'd barely moved. So, I stopped looking up. I focused on keeping my head down, stepping into footprints left by their previous owners. Every so often, I'd rest, looking back and marvelling at my progress (John was far ahead of me, of course).

Finally, we made it to the top again, before heading back down to the car - John as sprightly and energetic as ever, and me wanting to die slightly.

But I don't think I'll ever forget that view or the feelings and emotions I felt surveying the vista of the bay before me: it was one of the most magical sights I'd ever seen.

Have you been to Arcachon or Dune du Pilat? What did you think?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ultimate Rest and Relaxation: Les Sources De Caudalie, Bordeaux

I arrived to Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux with a cold. Not a chills and fever kind of cold, but the pervasive, underlying type of cold that makes you feel run-down and tired for a couple of weeks - just enough to be annoying. Plus, it was raining. So, in addition to having a cold, I was actually cold.

But shortly after checking into our room (despite arriving four hours before the official check-in time), there was a knock at our door and we were presented with a plate of sweet, ripe grapes - freshly picked from the hotel's grounds. I began to feel better.

I flung open the windows directly facing the bath and took a long, hot shower, letting the steam float out into the cool air. I watched as the sky turned from grey to blue and yelped with excitement over the Caudalie bath products and skincare samples, having been a fan of the brand for such a long time.

Afterwards, we walked the short distance to the beautiful indoor pool and relished the silence (it was empty) and the water's warm temperature. I swam a few lengths before noticing that my stuffy nose had nearly cleared completely - all within a few hours of landing in Bordeaux.

The fresh produce cultivated on-site became a reoccuring theme to our stay at Les Sources de Caudalie. Walking amongst the damp grass in the gardens, we found healthy, gleaming heads of lettuce, herbs marked in French with chalkboard signs, and rhubarb sprouting prettily from the soil.

I marvelled at the gorgeous flowers that just peeped over the garden's low hedges: dozens of colorful poppies, tulips, and daisies bobbed their heads along to the breeze. It seemed like a fairytale, and felt like one too.

That night, in the hotel's farmhouse-inspired bistro, La Table du Lavoir, I ordered the beetroot salad and admired the tri-colored beetroots on my plate. I savoured every garnish knowing that it had been freshly picked from the same garden I walked past every morning.

The next morning, we borrowed bikes from the hotel reception (no locks, no taking down names - just pull them out of the bike rack and go) and cycled amongst the vineyards, breathing in the country air. "Isn't this incredible?" John shouted to me over the wind as I gripped my handlebars tightly. A dog the size of a small cow with a lion's mane stepped into our path and panted gently as he trod next to us, guarding the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte.

For lunch, we treated ourselves to La Grand Vigne's 5-course tasting menu, where John fell in love with a bottle of Chateau D'Yquem 'Ygrec' 2014 and I rekindled my relationship with oysters on the half-shell.

It was so delightfully sunny outside, we took our desserts and petit fours outdoors and enjoyed the hours before our tour of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte as slowly as possible. Hardly any other guests were around, so it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves!

In the end, no one else turned up to the tour at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, so we had a lovely, private view of the premises where we marvelled at the oak barrels made on-site (the workshop smelled amazing) and the incredible wine cellars. Each year, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte produces 10,000 cases of red wine and 3,000 cases of white wine, plus a further 5,500 cases of their "second" wines, Les Hauts de Smith and Le Petit Haut Lafitte for export.

After the tasting, we arrived back to our room, still full from our earlier, delicious two-Michelin starred meal. We decided to take a nap and woke to the sounds of frogs having an animated conversation outside our balcony. The sky was completely dark. We dozily ordered room service around 9 p.m. and promptly fell asleep again before asking for our tray to be taken away. I was getting used to this slow living business.

By the time we left Les Sources de Caudalie, I felt like I could ... breathe again. Both metaphorically and literally. The cold I'd brought with me from London had completely disappeared, gently nudged out of my system by the incredible food we'd tried, copious number of naps I'd taken, and the daily laps in the pool.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Bonjour, Bordeaux!

Bye, you guys. I'm heading off to Bordeaux on an early flight tomorrow morning and I just can't wait. Any last minute tips or recommendations? Leave them in the comments down below, please!

We're spending the first few days in the stunning Les Sources de Caudalie (really hoping this cold I have doesn't get any worse!) before heading into Bordeaux proper and using a gorgeous 18th-century Airbnb apartment as our base.

I'm looking forward to a visit to Saint Emilion and also Europe's largest sand dune. As you do. I'm also curious to explore all the pretty side streets and cafes of Bordeaux. Did I mention wine yet? That too.

I'm hoping to scope it out before bringing my mom and dad back for a family vacation sometime soon.

In the meantime, please visit me on Instagram and follow along on our adventures!


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Travel Link-Up: The Scents of South East Asia

I remember the first time I smelled frangipani. John and I were in Sri Lanka and the expansive lawn that stretched out before us at The River House in Balapitiya was littered with frangipani petals. It was a magical, sensory delight for both the eyes and the nose. Prior to that, I'd only sniffed at an overpowering, sickly scent that came out of a bottle of lotion at the Bath and Body Works in our local mall.

This connection fascinated me: here was this flower, featured on the other side of the world, whose scent we attempted to bottle and slather all over ourselves without having ever smelled the real thing. How crazy is that?

And so, more than any snapshot or climate or plate that's placed in front of me - it's a singular scent that brings me right back to my travels in one of my favorite regions of the world: South East Asia.

In Vietnam, it was the heaps of lush green vegetables piled on top of each other that I caught a whiff of as I walked past the market in Hoi An - fresh coriander was abundant in every dish we ordered. The lettuce was a verdant green that was nonexistent in our limp, packaged supermarket varieties back in the UK. 

At night, restaurants would offer a citronella candle (or two, or three) to place by my ankles after I explained my extreme sensitivity to mosquito bites (they can swell up to the size of a basketball on my thigh in a matter of minutes if I don't take a Benadryl right away). So, the scent of citronella lingers in my mind, reminscent of balmy evenings eating dinner by the ocean, listening to the waves lap on the shore as we enjoyed noodles by candlelight.

It's always the scent of lemongrass that I associate with Thailand. Simply washing my hands with lemongrass-scented soap in some restaurant's basement restroom will instantly transport me back to memories of sandy massages on the beach, snorkelling and kayaking off Koh Phangan, and eating my fill of pad thai every single night.

In Singapore, I smelled the smokey, fragrant scent of the satay stalls outside Lau Pa Sat hawker center before I saw them. Even though John and I had already tried about five different dishes each (after only landing at the airport 20 minutes before), we sat down for a skewer or two of satay, washed down with a good glug of beer.

It was messy, greasy, delicious fun. And even though that photo above isn't one of my best pictures ever, it perfectly encapsulates that carefree evening - that feeling of having no responsibilities or cares or worries in the world, because we were too busy discovering something new. The smoke from the grill got in my hair and my clothes, but I didn't care. It felt like everyone was out for a gigantic street party barbecue - the air was still warm and damp with moisture.

And finally, there is a special scent that I can't describe - but I smell it as soon as I step out of Hong Kong airport and the familiarity hits me like a freight train. It's something to do with the air and the traffic and ... another element that I can't quite pinpoint. But sometimes I'll be walking down a random street in central London and say aloud, "It smells like Hong Kong here!"

What's a scent that reminds you of a specific place or time? Let me know in the comments!

This month's Travel Link-Up series is hosted by Angie, Emma, Jessi, and Sus. Head over to their blogs to read more hilarious, beautiful, and inspiring travel content!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Love Thy Neighbor

Last Sunday, I baked too many brownies, so I put some on a plate, wrapped them up and left the plate along with a note just inside my neighbor's front porch. A few minutes later, one of them knocked on the door and came in for a chat while I made him a cup of tea. I showed him our garden plans (more on this soon!) and when John got back from the gym, they watched cricket together for a bit before he headed back next door. It was one of the loveliest, nicest interactions I'd had with anyone all weekend.

The same neighbor came to one of my orchestra concerts at St. John's Smith Square last year with his father (who showed up in a suit - it was nothing short of adorable), a retired black cab driver who always gives me stick when he sees me, albeit with a grin and a twinkle in his eye. Sometimes when I fall asleep on the couch while John's away, I can hear the very faint strains of their TV, which comforts me and reminds me that they're just on the other side of the wall, in case I want/need to pop over for a cup of tea and a chat.

Our other neighbor takes in packages for us while we're at work and brought around an enormous box of chocolates when we hosted our Christmas party last year. Whenever I talk to her about our plans to change the fences in the garden or prune back the branches of the trees that originate in her yard, she waves her hand and says, "I'm easy. I honestly don't care what you do!"

As an American who's used to having lots of space and living in what they term a "detached property" over here in the UK, I was hesitant about terraced living. And by "hesitant", I mean horrified. I couldn't think of anything worse than being sandwiched in the middle of a row of other houses, sharing walls and garden fences, and not having much privacy.

But when we moved to Walthamstow last year, all that changed. I managed to lock myself out of the house one evening after I'd headed home from work early because of a heavy cold. One of our neighbors who lives a few doors down saw me sitting on our front step and joked, "What's happened to you then?" as he walked past. I explained that I'd accidentally locked myself out and he jerked his head back toward his house saying, "Go on and see Michelle, then. She'll take care of you." So his wife appeared within a few seconds with the lovely smile she always has and said, in her wonderful East London accent, "Come on, then!" While I glugged coconut water on her couch, she kept me company for over an hour, telling me interesting stories about her family but not prying into mine, unless I offered. I wanted to cry from her kindness.

Sometimes, when I am feeling unsure or uncertain or sad and I'm alone in our house, I turn off the TV and music and I listen for those faint strains of sound coming from the other side of the wall. I think of how I'm surrounded by the kindness of the people who live around us and how that kindness seeps through the walls that separate us. And then I'm hit by a wave of gratitude that won't go away.

Do you get along with your neighbors? Do you love/hate them? Who's the best/worst neighbor you've ever had? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Interior Inspiration: 2 Ways to Use a Marble Platter In Your Home

I was recently reminded of how small the world really is when I got chatting to Julianna Barnaby, co-founder of Brixton-based homeware and gift store, Barnaby & Co. Turns out we were at Oxford at the same time (me, for my junior year abroad) and that we both read English literature. Our paths crossed again when we started following each other on Twitter and I went all heart-eye emoji over the beautiful products in her store, which are sourced from independent artisans and makers.

I've always been jealous of those people who are able to say things nonchalantly like, "Oh, that geode? It's from this teeny tiny shop in Brazil I happened to pass after doing a 7-mile hike" about the items in their home. And yet, that's how I feel about the items that Barnaby & Co. stock.

Take this marvellous, weighty Venn View marble platter by Studio Jorrit Taekema. When it arrived, I felt like I had just received a piece of art, rather than an object.

The great thing is, I got the smaller version as well, so I could use them both in the kitchen and my bedroom: one for displaying food (or brownies, in this instance) and the other for displaying my fragrances, costume jewelry and other ephemera.

I tend to leave a trail of things behind me (John refers to them as "droppings" - nice!) everywhere I go in the house, so it's a good way for me to at least leave them in one place! I like taking off my jewellery as soon as I get home at the end of the day, so I've got little bowls in every room to put them in.

These marble platters are so pretty and useful to have in the house - I've received a few compliments from guests recently on the large platter, which I hastily slipped under the wine bottles we had out for Easter lunch. It instantly made my glass table look chic and sophisticated (rather than the £300 online bargain it actually was!).

I've got my eye on a few other items from Barnaby & Co. for friends as it's perfect for gifts and I know a few people who will be moving into new homes soon. This ombre glass decanter is on my list, as is this pretty geometric lampshade.

Great news! Barnaby & Co. is offering Angloyankophile readers 15% off all orders with the code angloyankophile15 until 2 May 2016. Happy shopping!

The Venn View Marble Platters were generously provided to me by Barnaby & Co. Follow them here, here, and here for 24/7 design/home inspiration! Thank you for supporting the brands that support Angloyankophile. All opinions are my own.
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