I spent a few days in Hampshire with family before Christmas. I loved the peace and quiet - time to reflect on the end of the year, to catch up with relatives and to read (Laurie Lee's marvellous Cider with Rosie), which I started a few years ago and left somewhere unfinished). On the 23rd I travelled up to Edinburgh, to spend Christmas with D. and his family.
We made the first of many pavlovas on Christmas Eve - snowy peaks of meringue, topped with colourful fruits.
I gave D. a white truffle from Italy - we shared it with his sisters on Christmas Day morning - sliced thinly and scattered over a steaming pan of bright yellow scrambled eggs. Quite delicious, and we had enough left over to sneak into a dauphinoise a few days later...
The big day went by in a blur - most of the day was spent, naturally, preparing and then devouring the festive feast. Many sprouts and much bread sauce. We played games late into the evening and then fell asleep, happy.
I got some new pyjamas from my parents - completely ideal for lazy Sunday mornings I reckon.
On the 27th we thought we really ought to leave the house. A trip to the Botanic Gardens was in order. The sight of the majestic Palm House always takes my breath away.
Incredible soft afternoon light filtering through the windows.
The next day, we drove up north and spent a couple of days with D.'s aunt and uncle on their farm. I always love heading up to the Highlands - even the long car journey from Edinburgh is magical, past freezing rivers and waterfalls, winding through dark mountains and forests. We didn't sway from our holiday rhythm too much - we went for walks, we cooked and we slept.
The trip back to London was a long one. After a night at home, we jumped in the car and drove down to Somerset. We found time for a quick lunch at At the Chapel, a favourite spot in Bruton, then headed over to a friend's place near Bath for a New Year's Eve party. It was fun, fun, too much fun.
On New Year's Day (both with very sore heads), we set off for Lyme Regis on the south Dorset coast, a place I'd wanted to visit for a long time. The drive took a while - you have to weave in and out of tiny villages, right until you get down to the sea. We'd booked in for three nights at the HIX Townhouse, which is sort of half a hotel - staff aren't always on site and instead of a proper breakfast you get a hamper stuffed with fruit and juice and baked things delivered to your door every morning. We loved it.
Lyme Regis was just how I imagined it to be - charming in character, with lovely, colourful buildings. The high street is lined with many independent shops, including the most fantastic secondhand bookshop. I could have spent days in there with all these Agatha Christies.
We were staying a few doors down from Belmont, a Georgian house recently renovated by The Landmark Trust. It's booked up for most of 2016, which is a shame because I'm desperate to take a bunch of friends there. Have you ever seen a more perfect building? I'm in love...
For lunch on the 2nd, we drove ten minutes up the road to Axminster and ate at River Cottage Canteen. We had delicious things - roasted cauliflower and a very good hash of beef with eggs and parsley. For supper, we'd booked into the HIX restaurant in Lyme Regis, which overlooks the harbour (although it was dark of course so we missed out on the view). More delicious things followed - oysters, fish soup, deep fried cuttlefish and probably the best fish fingers I've ever had. The next day was spent exploring Chesil Beach, a spot I'd wanted to see since reading that very good book.
The entire weekend's weather was quite something - I'd never seen waves so high. (In fact at one point whilst walking along the beach both of us got hit by an unexpected wave and totally soaked from head to toe. Had to spend half an hour in the car drying off and warming up.)
We went to the newly opened Seaside Boarding House for lunch, which was very good. The cheese soufflé in particular. (You hardly ever see these on menus these days. Why? I adore them.) Afterwards we wandered along the beach, enjoying the hazy afternoon light.
The golden cliffs and sandy beaches of the Jurassic Coast made for a spectacular backdrop. We spent one more night in Lyme Regis and drove back up to London on Monday, feeling excited and ready to crack on with 2016!