Our regular trips to the gorgeous seaside town of Fowey, (pronounced FOY) in Cornwall, never fail to delight and to throw new experiences our way.
A while ago we seemed to be in a Celebrity hotspot. Celebrities wandered the streets and sat at dining tables with us, they queued for groceries and stood in doorways making TV adverts while we lesser mortals tried to look inconspicuous.
If you are wondering what I am talking about, I point you in the direction of:
Our latest visit, however, threw up an entirely new experience. That experience came in the form of a new shop and extraordinary B&B that has opened in the town.
My daughter and my friend first came across the shop as they returned from a shopping trip in the pouring rain. (It rained a fair bit during our short stay).
Bedraggled and wearing the obligatory ‘Fowey Gear’ which comprises flip-flops/trainers, jeans and a waterproof jacket, they noticed that the shop was now open, following extensive renovations. Curious to explore, they wandered inside.
Was it a shop or was it an Aladdin’s Cave?
Eager to see for myself, intrigued by their enthusiastic descriptions, I re-visited it with them. Let me take you there…
Upton House, Boutique and B&B, stands on the corner of Lostwithiel Street and The Esplanade, Fowey’s answer to ‘Millionaire’s Row’ or close enough to it. The building has been painted pink and its windows house sumptuous sofas and gorgeous gifts. We stand outside and peer in through the glass at the richly decorated interior.Vibrant purples and reds vie with striking black and silver-grey. Plucking up courage, we go in. It is still raining and our rain wear is more suited to a day on the river than to the ‘Pandora’s Palace’ that we see before us.
There is magic in the air as we cross the threshold and we fully expect a fairy to appear and wave us on our way with a sprinkling of fairy dust. In reality, Angelique appears.
In Angelique’s words:
“The Upton Girl herself is a well established interior designer and property developer and would love to turn your design dreams into reality. She (Angelique Thompson) and her Upton Guy (Paul Thompson) take time to search around the world to bring you the latest talent and trends that you won’t see anywhere else on the high street.”
Indeed, the entire shop is a magical discovery. Romantically lit, filled with sights and scents that nudge the senses into submission, it provides reminders at every turn that this is not just a boutique, it is an experience.
Before visiting, we checked out the website (www.upton-house.com) which exhorts,
“Fall in love with your room and take it home,”
Every Upton House B&B room apparently has a theme and the contents of every room can be purchased, should you wish to take the entire thing home. What a concept – I daresay there will be some people who will delight in doing this.
There will be homes where the master bedroom will be a Snow Bubble and others where the Baroque Boudoir will take pride of place. For my part, the Flamingo Room looks the most fun, though a Snow Bubble could work! Alas, the price tag may limit my choices. I may need to improvise.
This is a 5 star B&B with a USP that has been polished until it shines. Catalogues, containing records of recent events, lie open on fancy boxes and chests, begging to be browsed.
Our attention is caught by a Photo-shoot in which an extraordinary food fight appears to have taken place in the kitchen. Angelique and a friend are dressed in a Kitsch, French Maid and Bunny outfit respectively, both wearing roller skates. Angelique tells us it was such fun to do. The pictures tell it all though Angelique confides that clearing up pink blancmange is not easy and was to be found in the light fitting some time after the event.
She is dressed to kill, in heels that defy gravity as she teeters across the floor in a cloud of perfume. Her blonde hair is piled high on her head and her make-up is an artistic triumph.
I am reminded of a cross between Jessica Rabbit and Sleeping Beauty, sophistication versus fairy tale innocence. A strange combination.
In contrast, we are windswept, rain splashed and sorely lacking in the fashion stakes. We could feel intimidated, we could feel out-of-place (well, we do feel a little as though we have wandered into a another world) but Angelique is so charming and friendly and despite her model, chocolate box appearance, she seems willing and even excited to show us around.
“I am so clumsy,” she confides at one point, “this morning I spilt breakfast down this dress, I do hope it doesn’t show,”
This information does not detract from her immaculate appearance but it confirms that she is human which is strangely comforting. Her charm is further enhanced by her gentle Austrian accent.
We admire the plump, hand-made sofas and the gorgeous furry animals which grace them (not stuffed I hasten to add). Silver candlesticks decorate the mahogany dining table and the dresser holds treasures to do justice to any interior design project. We wander around the shop, trying not to drip puddles on the floor and opt to buy a couple of the more modestly priced candles that are dressed up like old-fashioned jam pots and have names such as, ‘Lemon Drizzle Cake’ and ‘Apple Crumble’. Yes, they really do smell of these things.
Our purchases are carefully wrapped though, sadly, there are no Upton House bags at the moment. Those have yet to be delivered. Instead, we stow our purchases away in a nondescript carrier and prepare to leave.
Angelique wishes us well and hopes we will return soon, though we have not been big spenders. As we say goodbye she returns to the job she was doing when we first walked in, making tiny flags to stick on sandwiches for a buffet. Her beautifully manicured nails do not stop her from snipping and gluing and she seems to be enjoying the task immensely.
This is evidently a ‘hands on’ enterprise and we feel we have been treated to a rare glimpse into fairyland.
Stepping out into the rain-soaked streets, we see that the sun is beginning to poke its head between the clouds and we put our umbrellas away.
To quote from Lewis Carroll, just as Upton House does on its website,
The whole experience has been, “Curiouser and Curiouser.”
P.S. I was reminded of this encounter this week when watching a re-run of Channel 4’s ‘Come Dine with Me,”
As the participants took their turns to host a dinner party and vie for the prize of £1000, we were tickled to see Angelique appear. Presumably, this series was filmed some time ago but Angelique, with the flamboyance that we now recognise as her trademark, had not only persuaded her husband to buy her a snow machine, but used it to great effect at the party and it was no surprise that she won.