Every year my mum and I have a small holiday together, just us girls. We’ve been to places like Edinburgh, Dublin, Hamburg and even New York. But this year we just couldn’t make our minds up where to go, so instead we decided to do a few weekends away in Britain and the first place I suggested was The English Riviera. Why? Because it’s where my best friend lives!
Sam and I have been friends for nearly 30 years! We met at school when her family moved up to our area from Surrey and we immediately befriended each other. We had our ups and downs over our teenage years but we’ve always stuck by each other throughout our lives. When our university days struck she moved up to Staffordshire and I went first to Maidenhead and then Cheltenham, and once that was all over she moved down to Devon with her husband-to-be.
She’s now married, has two children, and lives in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, smack bang in the middle of the English Riviera, overlooking the sea. I’m not jealous at all! We probably get to see each other about once a year, don’t get to chat that often on the phone and I see her wonderful children even less, yet every time we meet up it’s like we haven’t been apart for more than 24 hours. That’s the sort of friendship you know is going to last.
Because there was two of us we didn’t want to impose on Sam and her family and ask to stay with her so we spent a bit of time looking around for a nice place to stay. Paignton, where she lives, doesn’t have an awful lot on offer for those without children (and would prefer a quieter, less touristy setting), so we turned our attention to Torquay and found the stunning Haytor Hotel. Winners of a Trip Advisor Travellors’ Choice Award this year, this hotel did not disappoint.
With friendly staff, lots of car parking, recently decorated rooms, newly laid carpet, spacious bathroom and scrummy breakfasts, it had it all. It was in walking distance of the town but far enough away that it was really peaceful and had a real calming quality about it. It even had the obligatory palm trees outside. I’d highly recommend it to anyone wanting to stay in the area who doesn’t really fancy being in the heart of the hustle and bustle.
Beforehand, when we’d been discussing what to do during the three days we had together, I’d said there were exactly two things I must do whilst I was there, go to the beach (something I haven’t done for ages) and have cream teas! We had a horrendous journey down, getting stuck both at Bristol and at Newton Abbott, so Sam came and picked us up from the hotel to save me doing any more driving and drove us all to Paignton beach. I couldn’t wait to get my feet wet, even though the water was freezing cold. Sam and her kids all joined me splashing about, trying hard to dodge the bigger waves, so as not to get soaked. It was the perfect start to the holiday.
I wore the 1920s style dress I picked up at the Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford with a straw 1920s style hat and 1920s style navy shoes, which I had unfortunately taken off in all these shots. The dress is vintage but I believe it’s from the 1960s because it only cost £30 and just doesn’t feel authentically 1920s. It’s hand made and has a white floral motif sewn around the neckline and hem of the skirt. I bought the hat in the Monsoon sale for £5 last month and my shoes were from Hush Puppies a few years ago.
In the evening Sam joined my mum and I for a spot to eat, a few cocktails and a good old chinwag. Even though we’re best friends we are so different in so many ways. She’s not into vintage at all, although she buys me the most amazing vintage pressies, and isn’t really into doing anything crafty. She’s married with two kids, I’m single with no kids, she’s a teacher, whilst I work in ecommerce, the differences are endless. But we both have the same outlook on life, have the same morals and expect the same sort of things from other people. It’s the fundamentals that bring us together.
I wore my lovely sage green spotty blouse from House of Foxy with my hand made white linen skirt, which you’ll see later, a tan belt which I bought from a charity shop and tan heeled Oxford shoes. I bought the shoes from Primark about five years ago for about £8 and are now beginning to fall apart. I actually have super glue holding one of the seams together to try and prolong their life! I’m really struggling to find some this colour to replace them, so until I do I will continue to patch them up.
The next morning, after I’d had a discussion with Sam’s daughter about loving penguins, we all walked down from our hotel to Living Coasts at the end of Torquay harbour. It was an amazing place. The penguins had their own large sandy area which had a large pool at the bottom of it. They could walk between this and a shaded hut via a crossing that went across our walkway, so you could get up close and personal with them. However, the penguins had just been fed so were all a bit drowsy and were more interested in sleeping than wandering around. I did manage to get a photo of this cheeky chap though who remained within the sandy area but did decide to come and check us out.
Living Coasts has all sorts of marine wildlife including puffins, seals, otters, ducks, fish and even an octopus. One of the puffins was a real show off and used his wings and tail feathers to splash the onlookers and keep them amused. He did it over and over again, clearly thriving on the reaction from the crowd and Sam’s youngest got absolutely soaked. We got to the seal area just as feeding time was happening and we saw this impressive beast playing about in the water, chasing and throwing the fish around. Once we went down underneath the tanks we could watch them actually in the water and one of them loved putting on a show for us as he played with a piece of knotted rope.
After lunch we took a stroll around the harbour, stopping off for ice-creams and to buy copious amounts of rock. You can’t go to the seaside and not buy rock! As we were walking around I asked Sam if she knew where the Agatha Christie bust was, having seen it online, and after taking a few wrong turns we finally found it in a small garden area between the harbour and the main shopping centre. Of course I had to have my photo taken with her.
The skirt is a 1930s inspired one I made from scratch, designing it, drafting the pattern and sewing it together. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, it’s very much of the 1930s sportswear style that I love so much. It’s made in a washable linen and I used some sort of thin crepe I had in my scraps box for the lining. The buttons above the box pleats are covered in the same linen to give it a luxurious finish.
I’ve teamed it here with a red and white striped Breton top from Boden, a navy blue belt that came with a dress that I got rid of ages ago, a cute crochet brooch I bought at a vintage craft fair, a 1950s navy handbag and navy heeled Oxfords from Revival Retro.
About mid-afternoon we got in the car and headed for Bygones, a museum I had spotted online whilst looking for things to do on our holiday. Bygones is the most incredible place. From the outside it just looks like any other building on the street but when you go in, oh my word, what a sight. Downstairs there is an entire Victorian street complete with it’s own general store, apothecary, jewellers, cobblers, bakery, ladies clothes shop and so much more.
Every available space inside each one is just crammed full of original pieces that would’ve been found within the shops at that time. It’s a damn good idea they don’t let you go inside because I could’ve stripped the ladies clothes shop and the music shop completely clean! There were so many things I fell in love with and it was just so amazing to see them all in one place.
Once we reached the top of the alleyway steps we were greeted with a life size steam train engine! A proper original real one. The photos at the front desk of how they got it in are a wonder in themselves. On the next flight up there’s a huge train set, lots of old penny slot machines, fortune tellers and chocolate dispensers that you can play with. This then led on to the Fantasy Land with hundreds of miniature Victorian mechanical carousels, winter scenes and landmarks of the UK all displayed in a way that you can switch parts on and off.
Next it was on to the First World War and WWII sections. I loved this WWII bunker with the laundry hanging up over the top. The First World War area was a replica trench that you actually walked through. It was really quite something and I had to take a moment and just stand there in the dark to take it all in.
Once past all the military stuff you get to the 40s and 50s shopping arcade which had floor to ceiling display cases stuffed full of household goods, furniture, food boxes, clothing, personal belongings and much, much more. I, of course, wanted to take all of it home, especially the collection of original finger wave hair clips, the Bakelite radio and the pretty much brand new lingerie.
At the very top was a small cafe where we had tea and cake and then heading back down to the ground level again we were ushered through the lovely little shop. I bought a large tin which was printed with a ration book cover on the front for £9.99. I’m sure I’ll find something to put in it! If you ever go down this way I would highly recommend visiting Bygones. It truly is a wonder to behold.
That evening, when we went for a lovely meal at Prezzo’s in the middle of the town, I swapped the linen skirt for my ever so comfy 1930s style sailor trousers, also from House of Foxy, but left the Breton top on for a truly nautical look. The next day I teamed the trousers with another top I recently made in a beautiful white and pale blue Art Deco print cotton.
I designed it based on a very simple 1950s blouse pattern which you can read more about in my previous post Style Inspiration: 1930s Necklines and Collars. I went a bit crazy with the bow, just creating it without a pattern and making it really oversize. I love it though, it gives it that real authentic look.
Both the neckline section and the armhole are trimmed with a small strip of the same white material as the bow and the back closes with large matching white buttons. The whole thing took me quite a while to sew together as there is a large amount of darts in it and the white strips had to be put in very carefully. You can see in the photo above where it puckered slightly at the back. I’m really chuffed with it though and I know I’ll get a lot of wear out of it.
The beret is a navy machine knitted one I bought off eBay. I’ve got it in burgundy too as it’s just so soft and will be perfect for colder days. I actually swapped it for the straw cloche hat before we went out shopping in Totnes because my head was getting far too hot! Although you can’t see them in the photo, I have my Revival Retro Oxfords on to match.
Totnes was really pretty. It’s a long high street that goes up quite a steep hill and dotted all the way along are numerous charity shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Of course we had to go in every charity shop! Sam spotted these beautiful burgundy heeled Oxfords in one of them, knowing that I would love them, and they fitted just perfectly. They’re Jane Shilton and are pretty much brand new, there’s not a single scuff mark on the bottom. Knowing the price of her handbags I can only imagine that these would be about £80 – £100 new but I got them for a bargain price of £5!
At the top of the hill is the most amazing vintage shop called Revival. Unfortunately Sam’s daughter took one step inside, said it smelt and walked out again (she’s got a lot to learn!), so I couldn’t really have a good look around. I did spot a few 1920s – 1940s pieces though and mum and I are already planning a trip back there!
Eventually we found a traditional cafe where the waitresses wore black uniforms and white pinnies and we had the most delicious cream teas before heading back on the road to home. It was the perfect ending to a truly perfect weekend and I cannot wait to go back. I’m missing Sam and her family like mad now and I really was so sad to say goodbye. Hopefully we won’t leave it so long next time.