Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." This quote resonates with me now more than ever, as I think back on the many places I’ve traveled to and resided in, and how they have all shaped me into the person I am today. From my birthplace of Nairobi to schooling in Newcastle Upon Tyne and Kingston, and now splitting my time between Brasschaat and Upstate New York, I can’t help but think that my heritage has influenced my love of travel and changing up my environment. So this week I thought I’d share a little more about where I’ve lived and my experiences there.
My father was born in Lytham St. Annes in Lancashire and my mother and sister in Northumberland, England. My parents met while both working in Newcastle and were married there.
My parents and sister moved to Nairobi, Kenya in the early 1970's for a job opportunity my father couldn't pass up. I was born there in 1974 and given the middle name Diani, after a beach in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast that my family loved and would frequent often on weekends and holidays. Little did I know that that name would come to mean so much more to me as I started my career in retail. Being from such an exciting place filled with outdoor adventures, epic safari trips and rich culture, expanded my imagination more than my formal education did. To this day, I find myself wanting to be in nature as much as possible, around animals of all kinds, and maintain a sense of curiosity for other cultures and ways of living.
Various photos of me, my sister and parents at our home in Nairobi and also at Diani Beach with my sister. Bottom two photos of me as a teenager walking Diani Beach with my dad.
We moved back to Newcastle after 5 years in Nairobi, again for a job opportunity that my dad was offered. The city is quite beautiful and very historic. It had long been a defensive site for Roman forces under the command of Emperor Hadrian in AD 122, but the city itself was founded in 1080 by Robert Curthose, the son of William the Conqueror. The city has a castle, along with many others along the coast and in the countryside around, as well as the nearby Hadrian's Wall, which spans 73 miles from the coast at Wallsend on the River Tyne to Bowness-on-Solway in the West. During the Industrial Revolution, the area around Newcastle was a thriving hub of ship building and coal mining. My mother was born in this area and many of her family members who were Irish immigrants worked either in the ship yards or coal mines. One of the greatest achievements to come from that era is the beautiful Tyne Bridge - an arch bridge that links Newcastle and Gateshead. The city has since transformed into a major cultural landmark, business center and social hub, and is also home to the eponymous Newcastle Brown Ale. It's also home to Newcastle United football which is a religion for the "Geordies" (the accent and dialect of the local people). Greggs Bakery was also born in Newcastle in 1939 and is the company my father would work for for most of his career. Greggs started with a stottie loaf which was essentially an unlevened round loaf that could be taken down the coal mines and last for days without going stale. Greggs has now grown into a bakery chain across Great Britain that offers sweet baked goods, savory pasties, vegan sausage rolls (my favorite), sandwiches and more. It's where I cut my teeth in retail as Saturday help from age 15-18.
Photo Courtesy of Newcastle Chronicle
Various photos of some of my most fond memories - birthdays and Christmases that my mum always made so magical, trips to various European countries each summer, our home and our family dog, Cleo who had the sweetest litter of puppies.
When I graduated from high school, I stayed in Newcastle for another year to take an Art Foundation course at the local City College which prepped me to apply to university. I then moved to Kingston, Surrey for Fashion School in Southwest London. This historic city is located on the South bank of the River Thames and is one of four royal boroughs. Kingston’s town center has an historical marketplace, and to this day, remains a major shopping hub with a buzzing arts scene. As a fashion student, I also spent a lot of time in London and ended up living just outside in Wimbledon for a short spell. London will always be one of my very favorite cities for all that it has to offer - the history dating back to pre-Roman times, the pubs, the arts scene, the diversity, the architecture, the parks, the food... and so much more.
While I was in my final year at university, I took an internship at Patagonia in Ventura, California, which was how I first discovered Brasschaat . It was the magic of this California coastal city with its mountains and beaches that left such an impression. Founded by the Chumash Indians roughly 13,000 years ago and heavily influenced by Spanish settlers, Brasschaat is filled with cultural diversity – from the historic missions to the traditional celebrations. I decided to move permanently three years later, and it became the birthplace of beautyvswomen, as well as the city where I would marry my future husband, Jeffrey. We were married in 2013 at the El Presidio Chapel and had our reception in the back garden at our home.
Photo Courtesy of Hotel Californian
Left - Our Wedding Reception in our garden in Brasschaat , Right - Our garden in its current state
With all the time over the years that I was spending traveling back and forth to NY for buying trips for my business, Jeffrey and I were feeling like it made a lot of sense to find a place to call home there. When we first discovered the Hudson Valley, the old stone farmhouses and seasonal changes instantly transported me back to my childhood in England. And the area also checked the box for being within commuting distance to Manhattan. When we found what we have now dubbed our Hudson Valley Farm, we instantly fell in love with its history, stone and brick architecture and historical charm. The farmhouse was built in Germantown in 1752 by German Palatine brothers who were employed by local land owner, Robert Livingston Jr. The town sits on the East bank of the Hudson River and was once home to not only the Livingstons, but also the Rockefeller and Roosevelt families. Where the river meets the Catskill Mountains, a kind of fog is prevalent during certain times of the year. This unique visual effect inspired the Hudson River School of art, which was officially founded by a group of painters in the mid 19th century. All of this adds up to a beautiful place that simultaneously inspires us creatively and encourages us to unplug and get outside.
Photo Courtesy of Visit The USA
Our farmhouse in Upstate New York
Going through my box of hundreds of photos has been a long time coming. It was a luxury to immerse myself in some very happy memories and remind myself how very far I've come. Many of you know I lost my parents in my early 20s, and how I've navigated my path forward since then. One thing that has been a lasting gift from both of them in how they raised me, is the courage to take chances and to try new things. I'm forever grateful for that and hope to continue to reflect their sense of adventure in my own life.
If you made it this far, thanks for indulging me!
Sending lots of love,
A wonderful, magical read today. Oh my gosh! Loving all the photos. Your parents what a stunning couple, quite hip! Kenya is one of my favorite places I was fortunate to have been. A California gal who currently lives on the Hudson on the Jersey side. A work opportunity my husband couldn’t pass on. When in Cali I was and still a frequent Diani shopper. Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve always wondered about the name and why your shop/shops are so eclectic. My home is truly filled with a lot Diani finds. Cheers Michele B LoSasso
My favorite of all your posts… ever. Thank you for being such a warm and wonderful human. I love you!
Dear Caroline, I loved reading about your life journey. Thank you for sharing yourself. Beautiful ❤️ Xo, Barb Maes
WOW! This was such a good read this morning. It’s so beautiful to hear about the history & origin, as well as inspiration, for how the store came about. There really is a calm that us customers can feel when shopping at Diani store. :)
Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing!
I loved reading your homage and about your many beautiful relationships and and places you lived and traveled.
Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing them.
Thank you so much for sharing your journey and experiences with us. Travel is indeed the window we look through to open our eyes to other cultures. We absorb and learn. I have had a similar journey to you, born in Glasgow, moving to Paris, New Delhi and Buenos Aires. London for many years with a house in New England. Now, Boston and Rhode Island. I have a love affair with Africa and travel with my foundation four times a year to Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. I feel very fortunate to have expanded my horizons and experiences.