Eskerrik Asko for the Memories

The humble holiday souvenir – a curious thing when you stop to think about it!

Some holiday souvenirs are charming, some are charmless, some are downright hideous. From key-ring to snow-globe, t-shirt to shot-glass, holiday destinations are chock-full of shops selling random trinkets. While I might not appreciate the affront to the eyes that some deliver, I do get the point. Holidays are all about memories, aren’t they? They’re a rare opportunity in the year when we actually make time and take time to wander and ponder. We stare at buildings in a way we don’t dream of at home. We eat with greater thought and attention. We walk for miles, care-free. We experience a different kind of life for a short time. Why wouldn’t we want a tangible reminder of those lazy, hazy days?

Donostia-San Sebastián

So it was on our recent trip to the Basque Country, to Donostia-San Sebastián and Bilbao. The sun shone, the water glistened, the P20 was lathered liberally onto this exceedingly pale ginger. And of course I wanted to bring home a souvenir. I always do. Last year Cartmel gifted me a vintage shop. The year before, Ullapool did the same. I had carried out a little vintage research into our two destinations in advance, but nothing prepared me for the joy that awaited!

On our wanders

We were walking through the Old Town of Donostia-San Sebastián, high on believing after pintxos success. Pintxos procurement can be stressful! It left us confused and confounded on our first trip 15 or 16 years ago when we were absolutely clueless. But the combined benefits of a seriously informative local food tour and an Irish smile can’t be overestimated! As we walked, a window caught my eye. And more specifically, the most spectacular vintage jewellery stopped me in my tracks. Who’d have guessed…

PYC Vintage, Calle Mayor

The shop was PYC and I make no exaggeration when I say it was vintage jewellery heaven. The piece in the window that caught my eye was a bracelet of marbles. It drew me through the doors in 2019 and transported me inside to the early 1900s.

Mr GLV and I were welcomed by Ana, the store owner. I think she may have sensed a kindred spirit. And so began the most incredible conversation about the shop and its place in local history. We were shown pictures of its first location, heard about the grandparents who opened it in 1908 and could clearly feel how important it was for the family to continue the legacy today. Boxes and boxes and more boxes of original stock from 1910 onwards were put on the display desks. Earrings, brooches, bracelets, necklaces…20s, 30s, 40s, 50s…The stuff of dreams. I could move in and never leave!

So when my bracelet came in from the window, there was another surprise. Every item in the shop has an original record, dated with notes and drawings.

My bracelet was in the files, number 596, made by Ana’s grandparents in 1947. For a vintage obsessive, it doesn’t get better than this.

The final treat of the day, after the bracelet had a few links added to suit my non-1940s wrist, was the packaging. An original box from the shop. Perfection.

When we finally left the warm embrace of PYC, hubby said to me that I’d had a special moment. That’s exactly what it was. It was a fascinating room, full of history, full of memories, full of joy. I say this all of the time – vintage brings me so much happiness. This 72 year old bracelet now connects Belfast and the Basque Country. It will hopefully decorate my wrist for a few years to come and now this blog is another part of its wonderful record, though not as pretty as the handwritten version. It is a humble holiday souvenir which will forever trigger special memories of a special place and special people.

I was never coming home with a key-ring, was I?!

Rosie xx

Belgium Revisited

Some things you just can’t leave behind…

20 years ago I lived in Leuven as a final year English degree student. I may have spent the year in a chocolate-fuelled stupor, powered solely by Manon Café chocolates from Leonidas, but it was a time of friendship and fun that has left me with an unconditional love for Belgium.

10 years ago Mr GLV had his stag do in Brussels. He was fuelled by a different Belgian product. Less praline, more Trappiste in nature. His love of Belgium is just as strong though – there’s just something very special about the place and the people.

And so, although more subconscious than deliberate, we marked those special anniversaries with a trip to Brussels.

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It was another special trip. 4 great days of wistful wandering and people-watching, pâté and praliné, grazing and geuze.

België is known for its beer. Mr GLV and I have a penchant for drinking it.  Newly opened Gist was fab, but the beer highlight was a trip to Lot, just 12mins by train to Drie Fonteinen, where the ‘lambic dream’ is more than just a vision. It’s a passion, evoked beautifully on a fascinating, thought-provoking tour by retired owner, Armand.

The chocolate highlights involved a return trip to Leonidas (nostalgic purposes only, of course) and a visit to the praline shrine of Mary where it would have been a shame not to pick up a truly pretty box aptly named Rosine.

And so to vintage. It was Mr GLV who found out about the Brussels Vintage Market at  Les Halles Saint-Géry. First Sunday of the month (and the last day of our break). What a treat! A beautiful red brick building with 3 floors of vintage loveliness, and even more on rails around the outside.

Bags, shoes, more bags, more shoes! A DJ playing top tunes and table service outside. The sun splitting the rocks and visitors rifling through boxes of bijoux and heaving hangers. It was fantastic.  Just one downside – hand luggage only. But vintage brooches are small and relatively weightless aren’t they?

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Two very pretty pieces came back to Belfast (€20 in total), along with a new panda badge I felt needed a Northern Irish home. Some things you just can’t leave behind.

And on that note, I really can’t leave Belgium behind. It shaped me. Out of chocolate, or at least that’s how it felt after a year 🙂

It welcomed me. Allowed me to breathe.

Made me feel at home.

Rosie xx

Making Good Use of the Things That We Find

It’s January, that lovely month when all of December’s excesses come back to haunt us! It’s for that reason that so many of us go into detox mode. For some, that means a diet overhaul or a new found zeal for exercise, and for others it’s the decluttering and reorganising of our lives. Right now I’m engaged in a mixture of all of the above but it’s the decluttering that has captured my attention once again. I’ll admit to liking ‘stuff’ – that’s not really much of a confession if you’ve read my blog before. But the stuff I like and acquire tends to be the stuff others want to throwaway. Ultimately, I’ve come to realise that I’m a modern day Womble, patrolling the streets of Belfast rather than Wimbledon Common!

The Wombles’ ethos of ‘making good use of the things that we find’ is a value system close to my heart. It’s why I love charity shopping and all things vintage, and why, when I find like-minded people, it makes me happy. Which brings me to Bertie. You haven’t met him yet. Say hello 🙂 img_5662-3

He’s the latest addition to my menagerie, albeit of the jewellery variety. At the end of last year, a good Twitter pal Pretty Fragmented had posted a link to incredible work by an English sculptor. Using a range of materials, Made by a Prince creates the most stunning pieces of recycled oddities, as he calls them. At the end of last year, I retweeted some of his work and unbeknownst to me, Mr GLV was on full Christmas present alert.

img_5670-1Just a few weeks later, I was unwrapping Bertie the owl and what a surprise he was. Such a beautiful brooch, so considerately and finely made.  Alan, the sculptor was kind enough to send me some pictures of Bertie in process – made from recycled cutlery, he’s a character and one of my all-time favourite pieces of jewellery. Credit to Mr GLV for such a thoughtful present!

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How amazing to see redundant bits and bobs turned into something so unique. To quote The Wombles one last time, to ‘pick up the pieces and make them into something new’ in such a way is quite a skill.

Alan’s work is online at madebyaprince.co.uk or you can give him a follow on Twitter at @madebyaprince. I highly recommend you do!

Rosie xx

Sit at peace

Peacock marcasite brooch, £6 from Oxfam, Ormeau Road, Belfast

Mr GLV and I are just back from holidays, a glorious week in the Scottish Highlands where the mountains wrapped around us like a big tight hug. It was a perfect break. People were scarce, the landscape was wild and 4G coverage was a distant memory. It had been an incredibly busy few months with work and a big project before we drove off the ferry and made our way along the high roads and low roads in our own version of carpool karaoke!

It’s an interesting choice, to take yourself off to a quiet space with little to do but enjoy the silence. Our holidays are usually frenetic, in a good way – interesting cities with museums and restaurants and shows and tours and trips and days filled with activity. This trip was different.

Ardvreck Castle along the North Coast 500

It’s not until you find yourself in the quiet that you realise how much noise has gone before, and just how much you missed being still. My Dad used to tell us when we were young and being hyper to ‘sit a’ peace’. Drove me mad back then! I’m not sure I’ve ever really understood the real meaning of his words until recently. There is something to be said for sitting at peace, whatever that means to you. There was a lot of it on our holiday – sometimes in the car mesmerised by the view; sometimes on the beach, watching the water; sometimes in the grip of the mountains, in awe of their scale. ‘Peace comes dropping slow’, in the words another equally wise Irish man.

And oddly, that brings me to my latest charity shop find. I hadn’t been out and about in the charity shops much recently. I was beginning to feel that I’d lost my love of the treasure hunt. I always know there’s something wrong when I can count my last vintage brooch purchase in months, not days 🙂 But I think I’ve realised the root cause of my malady. Through the summer, I’d been so busy, so focussed on details and deadlines that I just didn’t have any room left – no room at all for the warm fuzzy stuff that gives me joy. I’d forgotten that it’s the simple pleasures in life that keep us sane.

So, thank you Scottish Highlands for giving me back that fuzzy feeling.

On my first charity shop jaunt after the holidays, the stunning peacock brooch pictured above was waiting for me in the Oxfam store on the Ormeau Road. Just luck some might say. I have another theory – when your mind is open to good things, then good things will happen, be that as simple as finding a beautiful brooch or as important as spotting the job of your dreams.

Sometimes we all need to just sit at peace.

Rosie xx

Cosy Coats

It’s Autumn, my favourite time of year. Crunchy leaves, beautiful light and an excuse to wrap up in warm clothes and boots. It’s also great to pop into my local charity shops and see rails of cosy knits instead of spaghetti-strapped vests and dresses. Summer clothing isn’t fun for pale, burnt-in-minutes redheads!

Green however is fun, especially when it’s as bright as the colour of this gorgeous coat. It jumped off the rail of the recently refurbished Save the Children shop on Botanic Avenue, Belfast. It was £10 which is more than my usual charity shop budget and worth every penny. Unworn, it’s a flattering fit with big pockets and cute buttons. Perfect for skinny jeans or a work day dress.

I’ve noticed lots of gorgeous coats on my charity shop travels lately. The good news is that coat fashions rarely change much so if you have your eye on an expensive version on the high street, think about checking your local charity shop first for a more affordable option.

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Whether your style is military, loosely tailored or cape, you might just the find the perfect coat for a fraction of the cost if you go charity shopping first. And don’t forget to add a vintage brooch!

I’d love to hear if you find something special so get in touch on Twitter at girlovesvintage.

Rosie xx

Vintage Bordeaux

Sometimes you get your vintage fix in the most unlikely sources. This time it was in Bordeaux, a city more renowned for its vintage wine than vintage finds. We had booked into a new B&B, Casa Blanca, a chance find on booking.com which was only open a few weeks and at that stage completely unreviewed. We got a feeling that it was our kind of place from the few pics we saw of the renovation work that had been taking place in the preceding months.

Our kind of place it was. From the stunning tiled hallway to the scandi-influenced rooms, this beautiful 200 year old building had been thoughtfully rejuvenated and given some serious care and attention by Hannah and Gildas, its guardians. A seriously cool haven from the 36 degree heat on our first day, we spent a week here and loved every second.

Perfect vintage treats were everywhere, from the Singer sewing machine stand wash-basin, to the use of beautifully stripped back pine doors as headboards and gorgeous old rugs. Obviously Hannah knew nothing of my vintage fashion obsession so to find a fine selection of fashion photography books, memoirs and magazines on the coffee table was serendipitous. They were frequently thumbed through over a glass of wine during our stay.

Hannah’s background in haute couture was quietly obvious everywhere – little hints to her love of design and style.
In my opinion, a love of vintage, a love of that which has come before and deserves protection, always hints towards a certain kind of person. A person who cares; who believes in legacy and heritage; who’s concerned about detail and quality. That just about sums Gildas and Hannah up. As hosts they couldn’t have done more – our holiday started with something of a mild stutter and without their kind help could have ended earlier than planned. Mr GLV was already planning flights home.  I witnessed fork lightning for the first time during a mental thunderstorm and again Gildas came to our rescue when cote de boeuf dinner plans were scuppered! One of our highlights during our week was dinner at Chez Boulan in Les Chartrons district – recommended by Gildas strangely enough. Turbot to die for, amazing oysters and service that supported rather than patronised our stuttering French.

It’s really, really refreshing, in a world where the corporate one-size-fits-all mentality is so prevalent to see a young business like this doing the opposite – going out of the way to help, to make your stay easy and simultaneously homely and interesting. The care that Hannah and Gildas have shown to restoring Casa Blanca was shown again and again to all of their guests. People who have a love of vintage are usually pretty lovely people – I know that all too well from the people I’ve met through the vintage community.

It’s not often I wax lyrical about anything other than vintage bags and brooches here, but I genuinely believe that exceptional moments deserve a mention. Just so happens that our exceptional moment was a week long in a very special place! Look forward to making a return visit some day soon.

Rosie xx

PS If you’re planning a visit to beautiful Bordeaux some day, just search Casa Blanca Bordeaux on booking.com

Oh, Carol!

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Just back from the cinema. I had to start writing. If I hadn’t, I might have exploded with sheer excitement and happiness.

We saw ‘Carol’ featuring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and my expectations were high, not just of the movie but of the costumes, the detail, the atmosphere. Was I let down? Not a bit! I wanted to run straight out of the cinema to the nearest hairdresser to get a fabulous brushed-under bob!

I won’t talk about the storyline in case I give too much away. Needless to say though, just like Todd Haynes’ other work of art ‘Far from Heaven’, it’s slow and quiet; beautifully paced and perfectly impassioned. Stunning.

As is the way it has been dressed. The vintage detail of the costumes is sublime. The flash of sparkle from an aurora borealis earring, the flourish of a sassy swing coat, the delicate knitwear details. There were geometric bangles and giant statement brooches. High waisted trousers and sew-me-into-them pencil skirts. And oh, the bags…the cream ostrich, the black alligator, I was in love.

Magpie friends, look out for Carol’s engagement ring and the gold brooch that festoons her red coat. Exquisite. From beginning to end it was a vintage lover’s feast.

The genius that is the costume designer Sandy Powell has created a wardrobe I could cry over. She is one talented lady. It’s amazing how her costumes build the characters. The alpha-female sturdiness she gives Carol in her structured dresses, and the naivety of Therese in her pleated skirts and pious necklines. The clothes say so much and change so much throughout the film.

And so in homage to Carol, I’ve decided to break out my beautiful Ackery ostrich Kelly bag. This was a wonderful and unexpected Christmas gift from my little sister last year. I have a terrible tendency to keep my special vintage items ‘for good’…daft I know! No more. ‘Carol’ has motivated me on so many levels, not least of all to embrace and celebrate the things you love most. The things that reinforce the real and actual you.
If I didn’t know just how difficult my thick hair is to contain in a bob, I’d already be at the hairdressers.

For now, I’ll content myself with a fabulous handbag on my arm tomorrow and the memory of a truly beautiful movie in my mind!

Rosie xx
Photo credit: Festival de Cannes via The Telegraph online