Thursday, 14 July 2011

A Wondrous Weekend...

Last weekend was filled with the most fun & joy I could possibly experience without Paul being there! In fact, I'm only now coming back to earth..
You may remember that a year ago, I took a week long residential food writing course at Totleigh Barton in Devon, run by the Arvon Foundation . The course changed my life in many ways...it gave me the confidence to realise that I could write, and it introduced me to some wonderful new friends who all love food, cooking and writing about it as much as I do! The course was such a special experience that one of us suggested having a reunion weekend...and so, after much juggling of dates and busy schedules and e-mails back & forth, almost everyone who attended the original course met back in Devon last Friday for a weekend of food, talk,food, ping pong, food... & much laughter!
I booked the most beautiful place to stay...Silverton Park Stables, which is owned by the Landmark Trust...an amazing organisation which buys historic buildings (often in terrible, delapidated states) & restores them to their true beauty before renting them out so that everyone can enjoy their magic. I've long wanted to stay in one...and it was every bit as wonderful as I'd hoped.
After stacking the car with as much food, drink and kitchenalia as I could cram in, I headed down the motorway...through torrential rain & the odd hold-up...before arriving at Tiverton Parkway station to pick the lovely Judy up (she'd flown in from Dublin that morning...the efforts that everyone made to be there is testament to how much the reunion meant to all of us!) before winding down the narrow, flower-edged Devon lanes to Silverton.
Barbara was there before us, so we three had the delight of exploring the building first...like unwrapping a huge present with extra surprises in between every layer of wrapping paper!

It really had been the huge stable block to a long-gone stately home...so there was an equine theme to much of the decoration...and it's now been transformed into a beautiful, cosy, luxurious place for 14 people to stay in absolute comfort...




The living areas were so gorgeous that I was a little overcome for a while....

Bedrooms were a mixture of singles, twins, doubles...I shared the huge and elegant room above with my lovely friend Emma...
the stables are set in parkland...laden apple & pear trees were the first things we saw after arriving...and the views from all the rooms were tranquil and green...shutters were fitted to most of the windows (we couldn't help imagining what a fabulous place to spend Christmas or another wintry break...)

I loved the Cecil Aldin coaching pictures in our bathroom...he is one of my favourite artists, especially his wonderful drawings of dogs...

The 3 men on the trip shared this converted tackroom...with so many original features...just lovely!


As we were all obsessive foodies, cooking and eating was a major activity...and the kitchen was very important. Luckily, it was just as perfect as the rest of the house! I loved the view from the window...washing up was a pleasure!


Mealtimes were very special...Holly's birthday was on Friday, so we had a huge chocolate cake and champagne to toast her...

and Huxley, the 8 month old very cute Sprolly, kept us all entertained by luring us to chase him around the courtyard after our shoes, which he'd 'borrowed'! We really didn't have any planned activities...the weekend was all about being together and relaxing...but if you'd like to read more about the food, you can find lots more on my other blog, Baking Brownies for Mozart .
On Sunday, the farmer made hay in the meadow outside our bedroom window...

which sent the scent of mown grass and flowers wafting through the huge open windows...
An idyllic few days...so hard to say our goodbyes as we all went back to our busy lives...

I stripped the beautiful brass bed on Monday morning...

and felt quite sad to leave although it was good to see Paul & Alice. We all had such a good time that we're already planning next year's reunion reunion!

I will remember those few golden days always...filled with sunshine, food, wine, laughter and friendship. Just a few of my very favourite things...

                                                                         xoxo

15 comments:

  1. What a weekend you had! Love the photos, the estate looks like something out of Masterpiece Theater! Love it!

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  2. Oh Rachel, what a lovely, lovely post! Looks like you had a blissful weekend filled with good friends, good food, and fun times! The pictures of Silverton Park Stables are beautiful. It must have been so romantic to stay there! I love the rooms, the kitchen, all of it! How wonderful that most everyone took the time to get together to renew and maintain friendships! I can see why you are already planning another reunion. I'm looking forward to reading your other blog to find out about all the delicious food. I will save that for later, as I am busy getting the girls ready for our outing. Enjoy the rest of your day sweetheart! xoxo

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  3. This is SO FABULOUS!!!! I took a writing course about 4 years ago through Denver University and it was amazing---it did NOT, however, include food---this is so fun---I am totally envious that you had this great weekend with food and writing so I'm thrilled that you so eloquently shared it with all of us----thank you from my heart for bringing the place, the rooms, the food, the dishes....in photographs into my life!!! and you, my dear, in a wheelbarrow....YOU are magnificent!!!
    xoxo
    Joann

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  4. Oh,yes - the reunion did mean a whole lot to us. It was such a joy to meet up and share that gorgeous house. Rachel, you're the hostess of the year in our hearts! xox

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  5. Its so wonderful the way you made the table look beautiful for your meals, the smell of fresh hay wafting, the flowers, and the respect of how you left the home probably even lovlier than when you arrived!
    Its an amazing place. Looks so peaceful.
    xx
    julie

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  6. Well, what a wonderful transporting blog post to read while I take a little break from painting. I must say you sure know how to relax, I could take a lesson or two. Been so long but you inspire me in more ways than I can count. The estate was a perfect place to spend time with your writing friends and I imagine you will have a equally wonderful time each year. xoxo

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  7. The lovely bond of friendship through the love of food...beautiful location to gather and enjoy the company of special friends...glad that you got away from your routine for a while..very refreshing for the soul..xo
    Laura Jenkins

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  8. oh rachel....what a DREAM !!!! everything looks so lovely...all of it...i enjoyed it all so much...almost felt like i was there with you.....

    what a special weekend, my friend

    sending love,
    kary and teddy
    xx

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  9. Am very jealous. Not a good trait I know but it looks such a wonderful place and the food would have been fantastic knowing you folks. Keep on cooking! Xx

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  10. Ahhhhhh I'm sighing audibly. How totally super fabulously wonderful. It's like being away at summer camp with the besty best of friends. What a glorious setting and as usual, I want to be British more and more as I read about your thrilling adventures. So lovely to be all together at that place. More sighs!

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  11. What a wonderful location for you all to have such a grant reunion!! I love historic structures so much and it must have added so much to your gathering. Sounds like you all have so much in common and have formed dear friendships! I am looking forward to hearing of all the dining experiences, Rachel! Love and hugs, Sherry xx (love the pic of you in the wheelbarrow!!)

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  12. What an amazing experience, Rachel! I am almost convinced to make that first trip abroad.:-)

    We have just had a very busy week with all the family visiting. Such fun to have the grandchildren here. I have spent many hours in the kitchen in the past few days. I find the time very well-spent.:-)

    Enjoy the coming week-end.

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  13. I'm so glad you got to have this wonderful reunion and that you let us share in the beauty and joy! The whole post is full of life at its best, and nothing says it better than the picture of you in the wheelbarrow! :) xoxo

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  14. I am so glad to see you blogging again. It feels like ages. It is a lovely weekend you had. I want to do some writing workshop. It is one artistic skill I didn't develop enough.

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  15. What's that garden rubbish in the wheelbarrow? Lovely blog Ray, makes me feel as if I was there with you. There is nothing better than having fun with friends, people are the most precious thing in the world, cheesy, but true.

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