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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Cafe Society

One of the most appealing things about Germany is its cafe society; places where you can nurse a coffee, read a book and watch the world go by. You are never hassled to move on, they serve breakfast all day long and usually have an array of freshed baked cakes. German cafes tend to have a handy stash of magazines and newspapers, so if you happen to leave your book at home, there’s always something to read.

Writing at home is fraught with booby-traps: the laundry, the phone, members of my family, so I have spent large chunks of the last three years writing in Heidelberg cafes where I have no alternative but to knuckle down. I thought that over the next few weeks, I’d introduce you to some of my favourites.

The first candidate is my newest find, the Literature Cafe. On arriving in Heidelberg, the first thing we did was join the library, a lovely glass building overlooking a small park in the centre of town. It is light-filled, groaning with books and scattered with cushions for readers to lounge on. My family and I felt immediately at home.

Attached to the library is the Literature Cafe and yesterday, without my small attendants and in need of a quiet hour to face my novel revisions, I went there. The cafe is glass-walled, like the library, so even on a gloomy, rain-bespattered day, it was light. There is a terrace that will come into its own in a couple of months time.

The cafe has a small menu of hot and cold drinks, breakfast items, sandwiches and cakes, which are apparently baked by the owner herself. There is a short daily specials menu, and since I was there at lunch-time, I ordered the spicy vegetable coconut soup, which was delicious and an extremely reasonable €3.50. Along with a large Milchkaffee and a mineral water, my bill came in at €7.50. The service was polite and efficient, and in the German manner to which I have grown happily accustomed, not over-friendly. On Sunday, the Literature Cafe does a brunch for €6.50 per person, which is a bargain. There is a selection of 50 newspapers from around the world, which customers are welcome to pick up and read with their coffee.

For me, the Literature Cafe’s biggest selling point is its proximity to  the library. You can get your books and head straight for the cafe to start reading. The clientele yesterday were mainly people on their own, either reading or writing. Those in couples or groups spoke quietly, as if in deference to the library next door, and the only person who broke the quiet was a four-year-old who had a spectacular melt-down but was quickly removed by his mother. I could still hear his screams of  ‘Mean Mummy! Mean Mummy!’ going down the road as I smugly returned to my personal oasis of coffee and words.

Heidelberg’s Literature Cafe can be found at Poststrasse 15. It is open Tuesday to Friday from 10am till 8pm, Saturdays from 10am till 5pm and Sundays from 10am till 3pm.


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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?)