Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


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Feeling Horizontal

I’ve just come back from a week in Mallorca, having found its quiet, laid-back corner (it still exists) and am feeling horizontal. I wonder if my sun lounger misses me?

Life is going up a gear for me, however, as I start work in two weeks’ time – a real, fulltime job – just as my children start their summer holidays. We’re having to import our favourite au pair from South Africa (Granny) in order to cope with the timetable clash. And in the two weeks between then and now, I plan to finally complete the novel revisions and submit them, so I’m not sure how often I am going to be able to post here at Charlotte’s Web.

While I’m writing and contemplating my work wardrobe, here are some pics from Mallorca upon which you can feast your eyes:

Finca Sol Rose: view from the kitchen to the lovely blue pool and mountains

Blue sea, blue sky

Craggy mountains, blue sea

Blue coves

Blue flowers

Contemplating lunch, while wearing blue

More damn blue

Formentor Beach blues

As you can tell, it was very, very rough, but someone had to do it.

Au revoir,

Your intrepid correspondent

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Briefly Resurfacing

… to say that one of my posts has been nominated as blog post of the year on Expatica Germany. Click here to see more, and please vote if you feel moved to do so.

In other news, I broke my eight-month drought of not leaving the Rhein-Neckar Kreis by heading to Paris on the TGV with my Mama this weekend. We made three important pilgrimages:

  • Laduree, for macaroons, specifically the salted butter caramel
  • Berthillon, for ice-cream, where the salted butter caramel beat my usual favourite, pistachio, into righteous submission
  • Shakespeare & Co, where we dreamed among the bookshelves and bought some books

Otherwise, we shopped, drank champagne at inappropriate times of the day, hopped on and off buses like Parisiennes, saw the Manet exhibition, visited Monet’s waterlilies at the Orangerie, strolled through the Marais, bought a painting in Place des Vosges and watched the herds of joggers storm the Luxembourg Gardens on Sunday morning.

We stayed in a small but perfectly formed little hotel on the Place de Sorbonne, a small but sparkling square with shushing fountains, a few restaurants and, essentially, a Gap. It was glorious. I love, love, love Paris.

Ditto macaroons.

Ditto ice-cream.

Ditto my Mama.

Ditto Germany’s Top Husband who kept Germany’s Top Kids fed, watered and entertained while we were gone.

Now I’m off again, but I plan to be back on the other side of the Easter weekend. Wishing you chocolate of the highest quality and a weekend of the very best kind of sunshine.


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Camping Les Ormes

My husband is a cyclist and likes holidays that involve immense amounts of pain. I am a sybarite and like holidays that involve beautiful things to eat, drink, read and look at. This is why our holiday at Camping Les Ormes in the Dordogne valley was perfect for us both. From the minute we arrived, I knew I was going to be happy:

Our tent was perched on the lip of a hill, with a view of the pool:

Inside, wine and roses waited for us:

As did crystal tea light holders:

Bright white linen:

A piano:

A chandelier:

And thoughtfully chosen books:

Everywhere I looked, there were strong design values:

And places of beauty for the eye to rest:

Best of all, no-one seemed to mind that after about 20 seconds our perfect pitch looked like this:

The campsite has 100 pitches on 25 acres of landscaped terrain. It has a pool, a bar and a restaurant and enough space for posses of kids to run around happily while their parents sip rose and contemplate reading a book. Staffed by two industrious Dutch couples, who have imbued it with their flair for design and people’s happiness, Les Ormes attracts campers from all over Europe. We met German, Spanish, British and Dutch families, all of whom were equally friendly and happy for their kids to run around with ours. One of my favourite things about Les Ormes was its non-sexist staffing – the teams of students working there ran the bar, worked the restaurant and cleaned the tents regardless of their gender. My other favourite thing was the price – it cost slightly more than other campsites we have visited, but at just under 500 Euros for one of the very chic safari tents for a family of four, I think it’s very good value. A Les Ormes holiday comes highly recommended!

(PS As a novice mystery writer, I have placed a red herring somewhere in this post. Can you find it?)


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Journey’s End

So I’m back from my journey. We took a 12-hour drive to the Dordogne Valley for a week’s glamping at the unequivocally fabulous Camping les Ormes. This is a camping site that actually lives up to its website – it is that beautiful. While strong design values don’t make an iota of difference to my kids’ holiday, or for that matter, my husband’s, they do to mine. I loved sleeping in a tent with a chandelier and an antique piano, having crystal tea light holders and fresh roses on the white kitchen table. Pictures and a full report to follow.

However, we came home to the news that France is the world’s most expensive destination. So we may not be going back for a while.

Today is South Africa’s big day, and we are off shortly to celebrate the start of the World Cup with all the South Africans who live in Germany. Since there are only 14 of us, some Germans have also been invited and we are looking forward to teaching them how to blow the vuvuzela. Though I hold with good design values, I may break from those for today and wear my green Bafana Bafana t-shirt. Because, the boys, you know, we want them to win.

I watched some of the concert last night and cried in the dark in front of the telly. The atmosphere was amazing, the musicians outstanding and I felt proud, patriotic and very far away. Still get a lump in my throat when I think about it.

My novel is progressing well. I am close to the finish line of draft four and have promised myself and my husband to start approaching agents by July at the latest. I wrote a car chase scene last night that included references to BMW model numbers and felt like James Bond, just for the day.

This was our family theme song for the holiday. Yes, we do allow our children to sing songs about ‘blowing the bad guys away’. We also let them play ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it’ on their recorders.

Hooray for Barbara Kingsolver winning the Orange Prize! I ordered The Lacuna from my DH who flew in from London last night, and as I wiped my tears and read the first pages at midnight, I discovered that Kingsolver has stolen a phrase of mine. Goddammit, don’t these published authors have any respect for great unpublished? It’s a phrase I’m proud of, that my beta readers have all circled and given me a gold star for. Now I have to decide whether to get rid of it, or let it slip in there.

Which is all grist to the finishing mill, so I’ll bid you another farewell. See you at the end of Draft Four!


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Staycation Interruptus

Attention! Nous allons dans la Suisse, parce que le Papa veut faire son bicyclette dans les Alpes, la Maman veut faire le swimming dans les piscines et les enfants voulez manger le chocolate et beaucoup, beaucoup de Gruyere. Alors, nous avons Staycation Interruptus pour une semaine. A bientot.

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Achtung! Wir gehen in die Schweiz weil Papa moechte Fahrad in den Alpen fahren, Mama will in den Seen schwimmen gehen und die Kinder wollen Schokolade und sehr viel Kaese essen. Doch haben wir eine Woche Staycation Interruptus. Bis Bald.

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Please note! We are heading to Switzerland so that Daddy can ride his bike up the Alps, Mummy can go swimming in the lakes and the children can eat chocolate and tons of cheese. It appears we have a week of Staycation Interruptus. Back soon.

1796022433_635942e5a2(suavehouse)


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It’s Staycation Time!

My family are right on-trend with our plan to stay home for the summer holidays. As we drove back from France yesterday – which is not as glamorous as it sounds since it’s less than a two-hour drive and the campsite was one kilometre over the border – German radio was full of top tips on how to enjoy holidays at home. Callers mooted things like having breakfast in your pyjamas, having coffee in bed and not worrying about hotel hygiene as reasons why they enjoy staying at home. Having never given hotel hygiene a moment’s thought, I loved the last one. It’s so German.

After two nights’ camping, I can report that I like staying at home because when you turn a tap, water comes out of it. I also like not having to walk through a damp forest to go to the loo in the middle of the night. And I like not meeting strange men coming out of the co-ed ablutions and wondering if I am going to get the toilet they just used. The campsite was budget-friendly though (€20 a night for a caravan that sleeps four, kitchen equipment, linen for one double bed, a barbeque, gas and a tent pitch) and pretty, and at some point in the holidays, when I get over the water/loo thing, we’ll go back.

The two main reasons mooted for people to holiday at home, or in Germany rather than in another country, are finances and the threat of swine flu. However, Thomas Cook’s new offer for Germans to reserve loungers in advance might be enough to get the population onto budget flights to Turkey. According to yesterday’s Independent, for the first time in a generation more Britons are holidaying in the UK this year than abroad (probably to avoid the Germans and their deckchairs). Marketers have leapt onto the Holiday At Home concept, and sales of picnic accessories and barbeques are soaring.

With my kids on holiday from Thursday this week until mid-September, I’m compiling a list of cool things to do at home. Here it is so far:

* Ride bikes

* Learn to cook something new

* Eat lunch at the river

* Eat lunch in the garden

* Keep diaries

* Go to the library

* Go to the pool

* Hire DVDs from the library or borrow from friends and have movie nights

* Cut up old magazines and make a collage

* Have friends for a sleep-over

* Go for a walk in the forest

* Read in the hammock

* Learn to ride the unicycle

* Bake cakes and invite friends round for a tea-party

* Collect and press leaves

* Go roller-blading

* Camping in the garden

* Pour Mummy a stiff gin and tonic and take it to her in the hammock

Any ideas warmly welcomed.


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Cretan Photo Essay

I’m making a brief layover here en route to Berlin, just to share some images of Crete.

My brother got married here on a balmy Cretan evening:

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The monastery at Aptera

The flower-girls wore wreaths of jasmine and carried:

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Baskets of rice and lavender

The groom and his dudes wore black tie and:

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Chucks

Your correspondent wore:

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Black, and a statement necklace. Also, statement grasses attaching themselves to the hem of her very long gown. A good look.

On Crete, there are many women dressed in widow’s weeds. We saw one driving a Vespa with walking stick in hand, a fat bandage on her leg and no helmet. After having heard the explanation that the term “crone” is sexist and misogynist, my daughter came up with a word for the male equivalent:

IMG_4726Meet the moan

On Crete there are:

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Very small churches

IMG_4506Beaches that look like Cape Town

IMG_4502Beaches that look like Barbados

IMG_4814Beaches that look like nowhere else on earth

IMG_4997Tavernas

IMG_4947Wildflowers

IMG_4728Horses

IMG_3951Giraffe

Now that I’ve really got your attention, I’m off to Berlin. I think it’s missing me.

And my sophisticated sense of humour.