An architectural wander into Hastings Old Town

Last Christmas we escaped the usual rituals and London and headed down to a cottage in Hastings for the duration. Browsing through the photos on my phone - yes most of my blog photos are taken on my iPhone as it's always close to hand - I was taken by just how charming and quaint our walk into the Old Town in search of the sea was. That's such a seaside thing to do isn't it, head off to see the sea?

I'd been to Hastings many years ago, and remembered the funicular, mainly because my uncle tried to convince the ticket seller he was one of the children, and of course the six children found it hilarious. I've no idea what fare he paid, or rather my dad paid, because why would the child pay, but it's a memory that stuck. I think it may have obscured all my other Hastings memory as none of the rest of it looked familiar, not even the fish sheds (more on those another day), but then again at that age I probably wasn't that interested in them and no doubt the seafront has changed in the many years that have gone by.

But I'm not sure all of the views have changed, just look:

A view down the main street in Hastings Old Town with its mix of architecture styles

It looks so much more appealing than a standard row of terraced houses doesn't it?  You might imagine that even all the higgledy-piggledy-ness soon gets taken for granted but there is such a mix of architectural styles it was almost too much to take in on a single visit. Almost. It was one of those walks that was very stop-start, much to MOH's fake annoyance - it had to be fake annoyance as I'm sure no one could be annoyed with stopping to look at these, and on Christmas Day morning too.

I was fascinated by the brickwork on the house below, and the flower pots on top of the bay, which I presume hints there's an outdoor space up there. But even the ironwork on the front of the upper bay, and then the alleyway leading to another part of the town. 

Fancy brickwork and lots of interesting architecture features
A mix of styles right next door to each other

And the more modern style of the grey, sleek and stylish house next door. It's a real reminder that traditional and contemporary styles really can work together, which is always a relief as I can never choose between the two.  Further along there's an old shop converted into living accommodation but in keeping with the street, retaining the fantastic - and dare I call it - vintage sign.

A traditional shop sign kept even though the building has been transformed

The colours too contribute to the general ambience, and it's not just pastels either as you'll see further down the post.  Unsurprisingly for a seaside town blue and white features heavily, but splashes of pinks and yellows and corals add to the mix.

A street view that I don't think I could tire of
The cheddar cheese house in Hastings Old Town

I'd been looking out for the Piece of Cheese Cottage, and never did I expect it to be so yellow and cheese-coloured, or even shaped like a wedge of cheese, but it was. It's easy to see how it got its name isn't it?

Going back to colour there's pale pinks and brighter pinks, creamy yellows and cheese yellows and brick fronted houses too. Plus the coral or orange which on its own might appear garish, but not here.

It's more than pastel shades here, they're actually quite bold colours

As we reached the front the wood panelled or clapboard style buildings, and they were a hint of what was to come as we wandered around the fish sheds. It was eerily quiet in this part of town, most likely because everyone else was no doubt opening presents!

A hint of what was to come closer to the seafront in Hastings Old Town

But we weren't quite done yet. We found an even more quirky house, whose outside was just full of texture and charm. And check out the name plate.

A house that caught my eye, full of charm and character
Pulpitt Gate in Hastings East Sussex

There was one more house that I insisted we stop and investigate and all because it had these giant plants and seedheads seemingly growing out of the building's foundations. Their shape though, made them appear to be decorations, in the most rustic of styles.

One of the timber framed buildings completely fascinated me
A close up of the plants - giant ones - that were growing out the house

And now we really were ready for all the usual trimmings of the day, all that remained was to find our way back to our holiday cottage and work out how to use the oven!

Home Etc

Travelling light, and stylishly so too...

On my visit to the London Graphic Centre in Covent Garden before Christmas I spotted some unusual looking bags, made from recycled tarpaulins, displayed in the shape of a Christmas Tree. My interest was piqued and I decided to look into them further and discovered a fascinating story of how two brothers were looking for a robust and waterproof bag to hold their creative work and hit on the idea to reuse tarpaulins from trucks. 

There are now over forty different models, with each bag unique and incredibly strong. With an overnight trip to Kufstein on the horizon and Christmas ahead of me, my own idea started to form and so during our Christmas shopping we ended up back at the London Graphic Centre. In my mind I thought I'd leave with a yellow or green bag, but it turned out I was wrong. 

We left with this red and blue F251 Kowalski. 

My Christmas present from MOH - a Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

Not yellow. Or green. At all.

Details of the strap on my Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

In the shop, this was the one that spoke to me.

My biggest concern was if it was practical for a short break.

shoulder straps on my Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

And having travelled light on my recent trip to Kufstein and Munich, it was. 

It was also much admired, and drew comments on just how light I was travelling. But with careful outfit planning, I had plenty of options.

I packed a pair of trousers, pyjamas, two long sleeved T-shirts, a vest top and cardigan, toiletries, my bag of liquids to get through airport security and a big wooly scarf to help combat the expected negative temperatures. I didn't pack a pair of shoes, because I didn't think I'd need them for two nights away, especially if it was that cold and with the information that heels weren't permitted in the fortress at Kufstein where we were dining.

I didn't realise it but packing our panniers back in the summer was good practice!

crossover straps on my Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

It's quite a clever design, apart from the tarpaulin I mean. Pushing the shoulder straps to the side frees the top opening, and then it does look a lot more like a (stylish) cycling pannier. On the Freitag website they say the bag is "automatically weatherproof and closed when on your back" and they're not wrong.

My Freitag bag made from tarpaulin opened fully

Inside there's a couple of smaller side pockets which came in handy for my passport and smaller items. It's a bit dark in there, but you get the gist.

A peek inside at the inner pockets in my Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

And it's strong. I pushed it to the limits, adding more papers and paraphernalia for the return journey, like always seems to be the way. But it's tarpaulin, from trucks, it's made for hard work. 

Details of my Freitag bag made from tarpaulin

But I bet no one expected them to be recycled into something so stylish in their next life. There's plenty more colourways on the Freitag site, and a short video showing how the design works.

I think this has to be one of my most stylish Christmas presents ever, and over the coming year (and beyond) I'm hoping to put it to good use. 

Gorgeous isn't it?

My week this week: Space

What a difference a week makes, hey? Although I think it's a week, it's that time of year when all the days merge into one and to be honest I've not been totally sure what day it actually is as every day has felt like the weekend. But that's not been a bad thing. On Christmas Eve we loaded up the car and escaped London heading, unusually for us, down to the South Coast for a Christmas away for just the two of us. 

The car was loaded - and I mean full - but our excuse was we needed warm cycling clothes, Christmas food and drink and presents, and the Nespresso as MOH was keen to have proper coffee, so in that went as well before the bikes were strapped onto the back of the car. And there was definitely no space in the boot, and to make it easier to load and unload the back seat of my little Clio was down too. 



And so, for the first Christmas morning in our sixteen years together we woke in a completely new and previously unknown to us space. The cottage we'd booked was one of those topsy-turvy spaces with the main living accommodation upstairs and the ground floor used for storage, utility areas and a larger bathroom. This worked well for us as there was plenty of space to store the bikes and their paraphernalia, without cluttering the living space.

And in the living space we enjoyed admiring the beams and architecture of the building as well as looking out over to the country park in the distance. Thankfully for such a high space it was lovely and warm and we only set the 'cooking alarm' off once when MOH cooked up a bacon bagel one morning.  

With the majority of food prep done at home there was little to do on Christmas morning so we headed off into Hastings Old Town on foot after it was deemed too windy for a bike ride, and without any trouble at all stumbled upon the pretty old streets and then the famous fishermen's sheds, or fishing net sheds.



It was great to wander around these and snap many, many pictures and I'm sure there'll be a post on these, and of more from the Old Town soon. It's funny how your memory works isn't it, because despite visiting Hastings before I had no recollection of seeing these before. I obviously knew about them - and they featured in this post of mine before Christmas - but nothing, zilch in the way of memories, but as soon as we saw the funicular at East Hill immediately behind them, I knew I'd been there before. 

Boxing Day saw us head back the same way on our bikes and along the promenade heading off in the direction of Eastbourne along National Cycle Route 2. Lots of other people had the same idea of a walk,



Somewhere along the way we managed to head more inland and found ourselves cycling alongside fields and the railway in a more rural setting. We cycled past a pub - I know, read that again - before realising our folly and turning round and parking the bikes and heading inside for a pint from a local brewery. The only thing was that the pub had turned all of its tables into a restaurant and so there was hardly any space for us to enjoy our beer. They offered us a table outside but as the secondary purpose of our stop was to warm up ahead of our ride back that didn't really work. Needless to say, after our pint we left and headed back to the cottage for the best Boxing Day meal ever of cold meats, pickles and of course bubble and squeak.

During our stay we also drove to nearby Rye, first parking the car near Rye Harbour and heading off down the well trodden path to the beach. Again with plenty of others to keep us company, although you wouldn't know that from the photos I took that day. This black shed caught my eye, but it was only on our return journey that the wreath and other festive decorations were visible, but they did make me smile.



Driving onto Rye we wandered around the shops before heading into a cafe for a festive ciabatta and a pot of tea. Rye's a pretty place and it would have been lovely to have more time to explore all of their shops, although secretly I think MOH was pleased we didn't have time to do this at all. I think I'll be making time to pop back at some point.



So lots of new spaces for us to explore and discover this Christmas, some - like the pub and my boot - had very little space, but it was nice to get away and have some space after a full-on lead up to Christmas. I've still a few days before I go back to work, but somehow the time and space I'd planned to have hasn't quite materialised as I'd hoped it would, but that's life hey?

Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2017!