Brooklyn Bridge Bites

Last September (2015), dungeeksnaps and I headed to Brooklyn from Manhattan (walking as the weather was fine) and what emerged was a whole different view of this iconic bridge. So many messages …

Vintage Lover’s Guide to Banbury

If you are one of the many people who love vintage décor, collectibles, clothes, and accessories – then Banbury and its surrounding villages are the place for you! In addition to great indie shops (many with a vintage or retro vibe), we’ve got vintage specialty shops, antiques & collectibles centres with multiple dealers in a single convenient location and – the favourite shopping stomping ground of vintage bargain hunters worldwide – a great selection of charity shops.

alice_chess_blog VINTAGE & ANTIQUE SHOPS

  • Frogabilia: Decorative antiques, vintage collectibles & jewelry, an array of retro styles and art in White Lion Walk.
  • Banbury Emporium -vintage records and CDs, music systems, Retro games and gaming equipment, toys, posters and more. Also in White Lion Walk
  • Buzzy’s Emporium: Antiques, Memorabilia and Collectibles in the heart of the Old Town area of Banbury.

junktique1ANTIQUE & COLLECTIBLES CENTRES

Banbury Antiques Centre: Co-located with Barn Farm Plants, there are multiple dealers are based here with all sorts of vintage, antique and collectible goodies; free parking and cafe on site as well; Wardington OX17 1SN

Banbury Antiques Market: This is a twice-monthly expansion of the weekly market in the Town Centre; every second and fourth Thursday of the month; Marketplace, town centre

Deddington Antique Centre: One of the oldest established antique centres in Oxfordshire, ranging over the four-stories; Laurel House, Bullring, Deddington OX15 0TT

Brackley Antique Cellar: At 30,000 sq ft and featuring 160 dealers as well as a cafe, it’s no wonder this is described as the largest purpose-built centre in the Midlands; Draymans Walk, Brackley NN13 6BE


CHARITY SHOPS

  • Age UK: 3A Parsons St, OX16 5LW
  • Barnardo’s: 59 Parsons St, OX16 8NB
  • Blue Cross: 77 High St, OX16 5JG
  • British Heart Foundation: 83 High St, OX16 5JG
  • British Heart Foundation Furniture & Electrical: 10-15 Broad St, OX16 5BN
  • Cancer Research UK: 9 Parsons St, OX16 5LW
  • Children’s Society: 6 Rotary Way, OX16 1ER
  • Helen & Douglas House: 10 Church Ln, OX16 5LR
  • Katharine House Hospice: 15 Bridge St, OX16 5PN
  • Katharine House Hospice Furniture Shop: 40 High St, OX16 5ET
  • Sue Ryder Care: 175 Warwick Rd, OX16 2AB

I’ll update with more sources, cool finds or useful ideas as they become available. In the mean time, go forth and score a great find. And let us know where you found it.

Book Mad in Banbury

I’ve started using a new hashtag on Twitter #BookMadInBanbury lately but the “book mad” part is not a recent development. I’ve been this way since long before we got to Banbury.

My “to be read” pile was routinely a threat to health and safety. It is only mildly less so now that some of that pile lives electronically on my tablet. Not all of it, of course. Just the vacation reading – because much as I may prefer an actual book, I definitely prefer not to carry a suitcase weighed down with a week’s worth of reading. Other than that – it’s books all the way.

So, it comes as no shock to hear that when we were house hunting, one of my criteria (and I didn’t have many) for the place we chose was that it have a bookstore. I mean, I was moving from Manhattan – land of The Strand (and especially their Central Park Stalls), Housing Works Bookstore, McNally Jackson, – not to mention Mysterious Bookshop, the late lamented Murder Ink and the even more lamented Endicott.

the_strand
housing_works

I am not afraid to admit, I had my bookish concerns – and I am glad to report, those fears came to nothing. We ended up in Banbury for a number of really excellent reasons – and while it was not the deciding factor, I am happy to report than Banbury is awash in places for me to feed my book habit.

We have the obligatory retail chain bookstore – Waterstones – which like many of the big name brands, lives in the shopping mall.

We have three – yes, three used book shops, all located in the Old Town area.

  • Books & Ink – which has a selection of new titles and used books galore. It’s one of those spaces with lots of nooks and crannies so browsing feels like a treasure hunt. It’s slightly out of the way location (in the lovely White Lion Walk) makes the shop itself feel like a little discovery as well.
  • Oxfam Bookshop Banbury: who always do a lovely job with their bookshops
  • Style Acre: only recently opened but another charity bookshop where I’ve been known to browse avidly

Phonebox1Banbury is also lucky enough to have quite a few “book swap” locations.

  • the PhoneBox Library – a Little Free Library of sorts (though not quite as little as those) which started out unofficially and ended up being done up properly and making the news.
  • the book swap and board games bookcase at Pinto Lounge
  • an area of Old Town Deli and Cafe

Then there are the other spots:

  • book sections of the charity shops. Never underestimate those sections. There are some excellent finds amidst the celebrity confessionals.
  • market stalls – the weekly markets in Banbury are largely food related but there are the monthly antique (more junktique but let’s not quibble) stalls where books feature prominently.

market_books

Give me a bookstore and I am happily occupied for ages; I have rarely seen a book swap I can resist and my first response to crowded bookshelves is always more shelves. The second response – a book clear out is only palatable because I am making room for more books. And happily for me, the move from New York to Banbury didn’t end up leading to a lack of bookish resources.

Spring Shopping in Banbury

There are many signs of Spring in Banbury. The sun shines more often, daffodils are swaying in the breeze, a few bees start buzzing around. It all brought me out to shop and browse.

Then there’s the plant and garden stall at the Banbury Market.

market2

A veritable RIOT of colour.

Been strolling through town a lot this week. Good weather has that effect. On Market Day, I made a point as I always do of browsing among the stalls. While there, I saw Nick at Curds & Whey.  It’s my 1 year black truffle cheese anniversary (which I raved about at the time) so we had a nice chat about cheese.

That same day, I had lunch at Little Amsterdam. Speaking of which, they’ve recently won  a Good Food Award.  They pointed out that they are the first in Banbury, the first Dutch restaurant, and the first pancake house to win one. Congrats to all!  Anyway, lunch was quite tasty and I got to hear about several long standing Banbury businesses. When I say long, I mean, fifth generation family businesses. Impressive.

The day before, I’d had an afternoon snack at Old Town Cafe and Gallery – which has fab sandwiches (had the chicken and chorizo one the week before – so good!) and sweet treats as well. The chocolate shortbread thing I had this week was absolutely scrumptious. Couldn’t help but noticed the pizza looked quite tasty as well. Maybe next time. The other thing that I like about Old Town is the decor – dancing a delicate line between eclectic and jumbled and doing it beautifully. It’s both cosy and comfortable without feeling crowded. Amazing when you consider how much art is on the walls and how much stuff in on the shelves (including a book swap shelf). And if art is your thing, the space is shared by our local art centre – The Artery. They have workshops, shows, supplies, the works.

Speaking of local eateries, was also delighted to FINALLY have a chance to stop and look at the painting on the side of Naomis Café & Art Bar.

pigeon

Gorgeous! And I love the way it pops off the blocks of bright blue!

It’s generated quite a lot of discussion locally – as art often does. Some folks miss the previous piece but I have to say, I think this one is pretty awesome. Naomi has done so much to her corner of Banbury – community garden, a cafe that’s really a community hub. And as it’s a corner that greets visitors just coming off the train, coming into the town centre or getting off the bus – the changes she has made have had quite an impact.

It wasn’t all food this week however. I also did a bit of shopping at BlueBird (which, again, I have gone on and on about previously) where I did my part for the local economy by buying the handbag I’d been thinking about since I saw it the day before. My old pink bag had finally reached a stage of utter uselessness. I did ask the local shoe repair place if they could do something with the straps (which had basically fallen to bits) but I knew it was a long shot. And so, a new pink bag was needed. Happily the other bag I took in for repair – my favourite every day bag – was in better shape to begin with so they were able to sort that for me.

While also noting the most recent additions to the town’s indie shops line up (another women’s accessories shop, a men’s clothing store, a tapas bar and a soon to be open donut shop), I noticed our local Shakespeare “shout outs.” Not surprising to that it’s on my mind, really. It’s almost April 23 and this year is the 400 anniversary of the Bard’s demise. First I noticed the bust of Shakespeare reference looking bright and sharp. He used to greet visitors to the Shakespeare Inn (1871-1891, I believe).

shakes2

Used to be the Shakespeare Inn many (many, many) moons ago.

Then wandering through White Lion Walk, I saw that Books and Ink (one of my local sources of used books) had this window set up.

shakes1

Insert your favourite Shakespeare quote here.

Before wrapping up in town, I realized I wasn’t quite ready to consign old pink bag to the handbag dustbin quite yet so I popped into the Banbury Sewing Center (where they have ever type of pin you could imagine and every conceivable size safety pin you could ever need). I bought a few sturdy safety pins and used them with great abandon to strategically hold the bag together. Tried to make them more a feature than a problem. Not sure I succeeded.

On the way home, I paused to take in the local wildlife along the canal. I very nearly disturbed these two but they took my nearby stride in their … stride.

The ducks of Banbury are pretty chill.

So, clearly as the weather improves, my propensity for browsing and buying increases. This is great for the local economy and a bit hard on my wallet. But only a bit since I have to say – Banbury’s independent shops did right by me this week. From the handbags, to the repair, to the pins – bargains all around

Museum News from the Banbury Area

It’s all happening at museums in the Banbury area lately (and as a museum-lover, this pleases me).

ibmuseum1Banbury Museum (www.banburymuseum.org) has announced that it is expanding its exhibition space which will include a waterway gallery and a “mini museum” for children. I’ve visited the Banbury Museum a few times now, easy as it is right in the town center, straddling the canal. I’ve been to both the permanent displays and visiting exhibitions – impressed each time by how much time and effort had gone into use of space and maximising the visitor experience. Make this all free – yes FREE – on top of everything else and you have a true jewel in the local cultural crown.

Where is it: Banbury OX16 2PQ, entrance in Castle Quay Shopping Center
Get Social with them on Twitter @BanburyMuseum or on Facebook


bmmThe British Motor Museum, formerly known as the Heritage Motor Centre, is reopening Feb 13 after a major refurb and rebrand. More cars, more space, more “behind the scenes” stuff. Very much looking forward to that and glad to see the place is getting a bit of a spit and polish. We’ve been here for both the displays and special events (this is the home of the annual Banbury Run, a motorcycle run with over 500 pre 1931 motorcycles taking part) and it has been fab each time but it WAS looking a bit tired and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be a star in the motoring landscape that is this area. I mean, we’re smack in the middle of motorsport valley – of COURSE there should be a first class motor museum.

Where is it: Junction 12 M40 . Gaydon . Warwickshire . CV35 0BJ
Get Social with them on Twitter: @BMMuseum or on Facebook

Banbury sits very much like a spider in a motor museum web. Base yourself in Banbury for a petrol-head weekend and after the BMM, visit these nearby places of interest, all about 45 minutes away by car in various directions

It goes without saying (though I shall say it anyway) that Banbury is conveniently located for Silverstone, home of British Motorsport (20-25 minute away), but did you know it is also quite near the Shakespeare County Raceway, home to drag races, hot rods, track days… all just a hop skip and jump over in Stratford, an easy 30 minute drive from central Banbury.