Betty Soldi calligraphy workshop at The Hive

Never underestimate the power of a creative getaway! I’m back from The Hive blog conference in Copenhagen, and I love how my weekend went. Not only did I get to do what I was looking forward to—meet friends, take it slow, wander and discover—but I’m buzzing from a boost of creative energy.

One of the most inspiring parts of my weekend was the calligraphy workshop by Betty Soldi. I try not to abuse the word inspiration, but in this case it’s perfectly justified.

Betty Soldi The Hive 2014

Betty Soldi is a calligrapher and graphic designer who has worked with luxury and retail brands such as Hermes, Fortnum & Mason and Waitrose. After living in London for 35 years, she returned to her roots in Florence and opened &Company, her shop and creative studio where Florentine artistry meets refined British style.

As it turned out, Betty’s personality is as delightful as her creations. What a pleasure it is when someone so ridiculously successful and talented also turns out to be warm, funny and friendly. And what a delight it was to enter the workshop and find ourselves in Betty’s whimsical world.

A piece of Tuscany in Copenhagen: the scent of lavender; pops of bright, fresh green; butterflies and doves cut out from old maps and books…

Betty Soldi calligraphy workshop at The Hive 2014 Betty Soldi paper butterflies at The Hive 2014 Betty Soldi calligraphy workshop decor at The Hive 2014

plus some of Betty’s own creations from her shop in Florence. How’s that for getting in the mood to create something beautiful?

Betty Soldi calligraphy workshop paper cut butterflies Betty Soldi calligraphy ceramics at The Hive 2014

“You won’t be writing like me after just one hour, I can tell you that,” Betty promised. “But you will learn to love it.” Here are a few things I picked up from the wonderful Betty Soldi.

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An afternoon at the opera

Confession: I often feel happiest when I’m doing little old lady things. I often find myself in the company of retirees: in watercolor class, for example, or at hotels (all the young ‘uns are out backpacking). It gets to the point when I have to remind myself I’m only 30 and I should do “cooler”, more age-appropriate things now lest I find myself yearning to become a DJ at the age of 70.

Taking a guided tour of the Hungarian State Opera House was one of these little old lady things. I couldn’t imagine leaving the hotel before 3pm on a scorching afternoon for anything else, not even Budapest’s famous baths.

Built in the 1800s, the Opera House’s old-world opulence is apparent from its very doorstep. The stone sphinxes outside made me wonder what it would be like if everyone had to answer a riddle before they could come inside. No stupid people allowed!

Budapest opera exterior details

The Opera House offers guided tours in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish at 3pm and 4pm daily. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and you can tell they love not just the building, but opera itself. Our guide made turn-of-the-century Budapest come alive for me, with stories of secret lovers passing notes in the narrow smoking lounge, their rendezvous hidden amidst thick clouds of smoke…

Budapest opera smoking room

… and the royal family gliding up a special staircase reserved just for them.

Budapest opera royal staircase

I won’t tell all the tales, since it’s a lovely tour and I think you should take it if you ever find yourself in Budapest! Instead, let me show you around the Opera House and its many sumptuous details.

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Meet the Blogger Amsterdam

Have you ever heard or read something that was so inspiring, so perfect for that point in your life, that you just had to write it down and look at it again? Maybe even print it out or stick it on your wall?

That’s how I felt about quite a few things I heard at Meet the Blogger, a gathering of over 100 interiors and lifestyle bloggers in Amsterdam last weekend. The main agenda, of course, was blogging, but the real highlights for me were bite-sized pieces of advice that could also apply to any area of one’s life… the kind of life lessons that deserve to be pondered, printed and yes, maybe even stuck on a wall.

Since we could all use some inspiration now and then, I’m taking my Meet the Blogger notes out of my notebook and sharing them with you in a way that I hope you’ll find inspiring too. Feel free to grab these “notes” from here or from Flickr—just leave me a comment to say thanks, if you do!

Find your passion-Frida Ramstedt

As keynote speaker, one-woman empire Frida Ramstedt of Swedish interior design blog Trendenser shared the lessons she learned along the way in her rise from average student to blogging millionaire. Her first step: finding what she was truly passionate about. (And it wasn’t what she was studying in university.)

Not certain where your heart truly lies? One simple thing you could do, Frida suggested, is to ask yourself this question.

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