A Weekend Abroad: HSGS Goes to Calais

Sam and John Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Last weekend, Mr Hello and I spent some quality time together, and headed over to Calais for the day. Now, Calais is not known generally as the home of ‘cool’ in France, (let’s be honest, it’s no Paris), but the Mr and I quite like a bit of grunge, and Calais was an easy trip away for us.

We live in Kent, so getting over to France was a simple matter of hopping on a train, and then onto The Spirit of France, which happens to be the biggest ferry I’ve ever seen. I am just a country girl after all, you know.

I’ve only ever taken the Eurostar before, so while the trip did take longer than I’ve previously experienced, it is quite nice to be able to walk around, and hey, get a glass of wine if the mood struck me (it did).

Sam Dover Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha France, Here We Come Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Mr Hello in Dover Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Lovely Dover House Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

First stop: Dover. The south east part of Kent gets a bad rap for being somewhat down at heel, which to a certain extent is true. From another perspective, these towns are glorious monuments to the age of the English Holiday. I am always struck by the wonderful architecture here, and each time I come to Dover I am greeted by more and more cute cafés and boutique hotels. There are so many pretty walks here, so I encourage you to put any preconceptions aside, and make the trip down, even just for the day.

And so, to Calais:

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Home of theatre, and modern art.

Architecture in Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha
Melancholic and lovely, no?

We spent an hour or so getting lost and somewhat despondent in the suburbs of Calais, before stumbling right onto the Museum of Fine Arts, i.e. our favourite place. Mr H is a wonderful artist, and was really struck that this unassuming building was filled with so many treasures. We couldn’t help ourselves, and bought a poster to remind us of the visit.

Musée des Beaux Arts Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Calais is home to a moving representation of the Les Bourgeois de Calais, four citizens of Calais who sacrificed themselves to Edward III during the Hundred Years War, to save the rest of their city. The statue was created by mother flippin’ RODIN guys. It’s pretty impressive, and its proportions are strangely captivating. Here’s a sneak peek:

Bourgeois in Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

It hardly does it justice really.

On a slightly more upbeat note, we also popped into the Continental wonderland that is Carrefour. Our mission? To obtain some delicious booze at knock down prices. At first I was like this:

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and then I was like this:

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Bliss, really. We came away with some orange bitters called Picon, and a little bottle of the aniseed pastis Ricard. We got about 1.5 litres in total for about 20 euros, which we both thought was quite reasonable indeed!

Over the day we ended up walking approximately 17 kilmetres, which Google leads me to believe is about 10.5 miles. I am absolutely appalled by that number, to tell you the truth. So. Much. Walking. We were in desperate need of refreshments, and luckily, these were presented to us via the gastronomical stylings of my new favourite French restaurant, Au Coq D’or (The Golden Rooster).

Au Coq D'Or Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

I did my absolute best to order in my gradually worsening French, and we enjoyed a beautiful starter of langoustines and fresh buttered baguette on the house. Mr H ordered the mussels and I had the steak. All this, with two glasses of Pinot Noir each, came to only 42 euros. For the quality of the food, it was an absolute steal. Please take my advice and go here if you are ever in Calais!

Stuffed to the gills, we waddled back to the Port, and I boarded the boat as an EU Citizen at last! The atmosphere on board was convivial, but that didn’t stop us catching a minute or two of open-mouthed shut eye. Forgive me, it was a very early start.

I really found Calais to be such an interesting city. I’m looking forward to getting to know it a little better and to find more of it’s authentic personality. It’s so easy to stick to the tried and true tourist path, but little treasures like great restaurants and lovely art galleries that make day trips abroad so enjoyable. We are really so lucky to live in this part of the world.

This Week I Was Grateful For #5

Postes Calais Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

 

When I meet new people, I am often asked the same question within the first ten minutes of conversation: Why would you choose Kent over Australia?

I try not to sigh too loudly when asked this, but they sometimes escape. Not because I’m tired of being asked, but because I can’t believe that the people of Kent don’t realise how wonderful a place to live this fine county is.

Last weekend I went to Calais with my wonderful fiancé. We went there and back in a day (a long day, I admit), but it was such a treat, and such a wonderful punctuation mark in our otherwise delightfully (and newly) calm lives. I took the photo of the post box above on the streets of Calais, because I thought it was beautiful.

All week I’ve thought how lucky I am to be able to make a trip like this, in less time than it takes to drive from one end of Western Australia to the other.

And that, my friends, is why I chose Kent.

~

How do you feel about where you live?

Beef Stew and Crunchy Onion Dumplings: Because I Can, That’s Why

Stew 1 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Stew 2 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Stew 3 Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaYep, you read that right.

I love stew because I totally adore stodgy food, and because I like feeling more full after having eaten than is probably healthy. Mr H had had one helluva week, and so to de-stress, the weekend before last he asked me for a special food-related favour: stew.

While he was out for a few hours, I seized my chance. I’m all for a bit of experimental food now and again, but this time I wanted the traditional – so straight to Delia it was. I’m not going to reprint the recipe here, because it’s already actually from the Sainsbury’s magazine! Only the best in this household. But you can find Delia’s Beef Stew with Crusted Onion Dumplings recipe here. The only criticism I have, and it’s a poor one at that, is that it’s a very pale stew – it’s not as hearty looking as stews that use tomatoes look. I like mine really dark and rustic, but that is purely visual preference. The flavour was divine.

Some Hot Tips

  • If you don’t have a hob/oven appropriate casserole dish (with a lid), a stainless steel saucepan will do. The glass is tempered, so the lid shouldn’t crack in the oven. Just please make sure the handle is stainless steel too!
  • 4.5 hours is ideal cooking time, but we couldn’t wait, so out it came after 3.5. It was still delicious, and still tender.
  • Cider definitely works in stew. Just sayin’.
  • Dumplings are the best, so dumpling haters get outtathaway.
  • NO TEATOWELS. USE AN OVEN GLOVE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
  • Portion off your leftovers straight away, and leave to cool, otherwise you will find yourself with no leftovers at all, and feeling ashamed of yourself. So very ashamed.

Sam 4 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Gratuitous picture of myself in a pinny. Quite the Domestic Goddess, no?

If you love stew, hit me up in the comments – I’m always on the hunt for a good recipe or two!

Tiny Beautiful Things

Tiny Beautiful Things Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

The blossoms have arrived at Jackson’s Field in Rochester.

Spring is bringing exciting plans, and I’m inching closer to married life. Non married life is pretty great too though, it must be said.

I had a little crisis of confidence professionally last week, and it resulted in a week of interrupted sleep and feeling a little fragile. I’m trying to combat this by being absorbed in my home: cooking lots, easy but time consuming recipes, watching The River Cottage (Series One is from 1999!) and planning my new garden.

I spent a remarkably pleasant day last weekend in a gift store picking out cards – not for any occasion but purely because I liked them. I think I will send some out to friends I haven’t seen in a while,  to let them know I’m thinking of them. It seems to be a season of change for many of us.

 

Peanut Butter Appreciation Day at Bruno’s French Bakes

Bruno's Bakes Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Cake at Bruno's Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Yesterday I continued my patronage of small businesses in Rochester (you can see my post on The Henderson’s here), and I journeyed forth to partake in the inaugural Peanut Butter Appreciation Day at Rochester’s tiniest French patisserie, Bruno’s French Bakes.

The café is at the far end of our High Street, which unfortunately is notorious for a slow footfall, even for such a busy part of town. I’ve known of a number of cafés that have started out there, only to close up shop down the line, because they just can’t capture enough customers.

I’ve always thought that there was a relatively easy cure to this: make your café a destination. Make it the reason people come to the High Street! I know, I know, that’s much easier said than done.

Unless, apparently, you’re Bruno or Rick. This pair have done a remarkable job in publicising their delectable products, and I am yet to go to Bruno’s and be the only customer in the joint. That place is heaving. From my point of view, part of their success is due to the fact that they do create these wonderful celebratory events, like Peanut Butter Day and 2014’s Doughnut Day, both of which have been widely advertised. Who am I to refuse? Seriously, it’s a siren’s call.

Ultimately, the proof is in the (literal) pudding. Their cakes are to die for, and the look you can see on my face above is one of half joy, and half despair at the sheer beauty of the Peanut Butter and Chocolate pie I was consuming. Despair that it would end, and despair that it was surely too calorific to enjoy again immediately. Mr H had something similar, but with waffles, maple syrup and bacon topping. I mean come on. JOY.

If you’re in town, please go here immediately.

Change of Direction, Change of Heart

A NEW DIRECTION - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

I’ve been feeling guilty.

Sadly this is not a new phenomenon, I feel guilty about something all the time, as a rule. 

If you had asked me a year or two ago what I felt most guilty about, my answer would have included things like: not Skyping my family enough; not responding emails fast enough; that I was spending too much time in my regular day job and not being creative enough. If only I could get my act together, everything would just be…perfect…

The guilts are strong in this one.

Because I can’t work in England until I pick up some paperwork, I’ve been a temporary housewife for a couple of months. It’s been problematic for several reasons, not least because I feel guilty for not contributing financially to my household for a few months more. What it’s been great for is getting me focused on the renovation work we need to do here. I say need, the truth is we already have a wonderful home and I am so unbelievably lucky to live here, but there are some cosmetic elements we want to change to make it more ‘us’. Cue several weeks of tradespeople traipsing through the corridors measuring and delivering upsetting quotes that have commas after the £ sign.

I’ve spent an unmentionable amount of time on eBay, searching various combinations of ‘Victorian front door’ or ‘reclaimed Georgian door’ or even ‘Victorian/Edwardian front door with glass’. For a task that seems so boring straightforward, deciding to replace one’s front door means deciding to offer up weeks of your life to the Gods of Time Wasting, who’s powers seem to miraculously focus on fast-forwarding the clock to 16:30. Another day gone. Another attempt at vanquishing guilty feelings before I can sleep.

On the one hand, I find myself excited by the work and recognise it as part of a recent spell of nesting, which I think is symptomatic of my impending wife-dom. I want our home to be finished, because then it becomes our home, not just the one Mr Hello bought (he’s kinda great like that). I feel like it is valid to be excited about this.

On the other, more insidious hand I feel guilty about spending my life in this way. I’m focussed on my home at the moment, and by default that means I’m not focussed on becoming an amazing teacher or creative businessperson, or writer of great repute. I feel frustrated because I don’t feel like I am achieving at a pace I expect of myself, and then I feel more frustrated because I can’t cut myself some slack. My attendance at local events has dwindled, and I’m not sure who I am if I am not that person who is at every arts event. That’s the core of it. If I’m not a creative ‘face’ around Kent, then who am I? Am I just like the colleagues I used to turn my nose up at, who came to work and then went back to their own lives without engaging in myriad extra curricular exploits? Or does nothing change at all? Am I still Sam, just the Sam who’s priorities have changed?

Our lives change directions so suddenly it seems, so why is it so hard for our expectations to keep up?

Hello Again!

Hi guys! You may have noticed things look a little different around here, and you *may* have experienced some issues reading the blog in the last couple of days. That’s because I’ve made the jump over to self hosting this here blog, and really,  I have no idea what I’m doing! HA! That just means it takes twice as long as I think it will, because I spend most of the time frantically Googling ‘why isn’t this working????’.

I will be back to normal posting soon!

Here’s a photo for you:

I feel like it sums up the last two days quite well.

 

 

Planning 2015: Where is the Time Going?

OPERATION 2015

Behold! An image of no particular greatness, but which nevertheless sums up this stage in my life quite well. You see, this year is turning out to be quite the undertaking, encompassing a new job, house renovations (note the paint sample on the wall) and….what else…oh yeah I’m GETTING MARRIED. Did I mention that before?

I spent last year living with my Dad and away from my partner, but instead of regressing, I was determined to do a spot of growing up in 2014. As a result have totally overhauled the way I live my life. I’m aware that sounds terribly dramatic (I’m a drama teacher…sue me!) but I have changed a couple of fundamental things in my life, which means my life genuinely looks and feels different. I have a lovely home that I am so proud of, and a life that I am determined to make the most of. So I’m tidy now (shocked gasps) and I am genuinely, genuinely organised.

Or beginning to be. I’ve been on about 800 time management courses, and after all of them the one thing I have taken away is that keeping on top of things is a constant project. I’ve decided to make the most of what is left of this year, and begin Operation Smash 2015 In The Guts right now.

 

My Weekend Has Been Spent #7

Fleabag Marlowe Theatre Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Sam at the Marlowe Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Saturday Morning Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Lunch with Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Sam at Lunch Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

  • Starting as I meant to go on, by attending a really wonderful production of Fleabag at the Marlowe Studio in Canterbury. A great show, and I’ll post a proper review soon!
  • Attempting to take a discreet selfie – proof that I really did go out on a Friday night! Yes, me! I went out!
  • Waking up Saturday morning to breakfast hand prepared and delivered by Mr Hello. He don’t half treat me well, don’t he!
  • Attacking the spare room. Still not complete, but at least now it’s tidy enough that I have evidence that there is a bed in there! We’re hoping to get the walls and ceiling replastered and painted soon, so it looks even more presentable before some guests descend for the wedding.
  • Heading into Rochester to pay the deposit for our wedding rings. We are getting them from Kaizen Antiques, a jeweller on the High St. Lovely shop, lovely service, terrrrrrible website.
  • Taking our luncheon at the institution of Pizza Express. We got a lovely private table and partook of some rather delicious food. Many despise any chain restaurants or stores on our historic High Street, and while I can see the point, it’s also hard to argue with something like Pizza Express, that has consistently good food and good hygiene standards, when other local businesses get very poor hygiene ratings indeed! Blergh.
  • Taking some more surreptitious selfies in PE. Proof I was out of the house!
  • Heading back home for an afternoon nap that turned into an early night.
  • Waking on Sunday morning bright and early – getting the ol’ body clock back into gear now that I have a new job! (PS I have a new job! Starting in April)
  • Improvising a breakfast pizza which was weird and delicious but being unable to share the ingredients with you because you will judge me – you definitely will.
  • Heading to the gym because I am sad and I have a dress to fit into, goddamn it.
  • Taking a turn about TK Maxx with the chap. Two new frying pans being the result.
  • Heading home and changing into my “no-one must see me in these” clothes in preparation for:
  • Deep cleaning the house from top to bottom. God this task is very dull but somehow immensely satisfying.
  • Cooking a roast that worked (yay) and Yorkshire puds for the first time that also worked (double yay)!
  • Sitting on my derriere for the rest of the evening, watching Call the Midwife & Poldark. Quite satisfactory indeed.
  • Grabbing my laptop to write this. I’m really keen to keep the blogging mojo a-flowing.

Next weekend my goals are to actually leave the house properly and possibly even talk to someone who is not a cat or my future husbo! Chance of success remains to be seen. Hope you had a fab weekend – I am terribly nosey so if you fancy chatting in the comments please do!

This Week I Was Grateful For #4

Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha - The Vines

I’ve posted a similar picture of The Vines in Rochester before, but this is the park seen through new eyes. It all feels wonderfully similar, and wonderfully different since my Australian jaunt.

The path in this photos reminds me of the journey I’m on at the moment. I’ve got a few professional challenges coming up this year, and instead of freaking out about it, I’m choosing to be grateful for the opportunity to stretch my comfort zone.

I hope you all have a great start to the first week of March 2015. Do let me know what you’re getting up to in the comments!