Camilla Franks’ colorful and glamorous guide to Wales

The colors that come to mind when you think of Wales are probably rolling green hills and stony gray castles, but let Australian designer Camilla Franks, the founder of CAMILLA, see it through. lens of his dream world in technicolor. Falling in love with a Welshman many years ago, Franks has been spending more and more time in her native country since the pandemic – in her signature bohemian wares, of course. After such a recent trip with his longtime artist partner, JP Jones, to his hometown of Porthcawl in South Wales, Franks was inspired to create a travel guide to share insight into the magic of the city. resort, and in particular its fairground. “It’s such a warm community, they all made me feel really at home,” Franks says. “Like mine, JP’s career has taken him all over the world, but I know his homeland holds such a special place in his heart.” Here are his insider recommendations for where to go and what to see.

Touristic

In the land of what seems to be 427 mystical castles, two of my favorites are the 14th century Chateau de Saint-Quentin and the 12th century Chateau d’Ogmore. The castle is situated on the banks of the River Ewenny and can be reached by crossing the steps of the river, the one known for its successful drunken crossing contest. Stormy winter days filled with walks along ghostly beaches help me feel like a naughty princess, especially atop beautiful horses enjoying the exhilaration of galloping through stunning sand dunes. Another is Castell Coch, or the ‘Red Castle’, which rises from the ancient beech grove of Fforest Fawr like a vision from a fairy tale.

Walking is one of my favorite pastimes when I’m in Wales. We are spoiled for choice, from beaches to mountains. If I had to choose my favorite walk it would be Pen y Fan which is the highest peak in South Wales. It is in the Brecon Beacons National Park. It was after we had climbed this that JP proposed to me, in a beautiful forest at the foot of the mountain. Nothing beats a stroll here followed by a slap-up lunch in a beautiful country pub sitting in front of a crackling fire.

I was brought up with horses from a young age so when I come to Wales I love being able to enjoy the freedom of being able to take off with a beautiful big furry baby on all fours with the joy of gallop through the sand dunes of these stunning Welsh beaches.

My partner JP grew up in the seaside town of Porthcawl. His family is associated with the famous Coney Beach Fairgrounds. As an artist, JP draws so much inspiration from his childhood here and the bright colors of the fairground that you can find reflected in his art. His studio is in the heart of Cowbridge, where you can see him painting, like a mad professor! We like to visit the fairgrounds; kids love it. They also enjoy spending time at Hi Tide Amusements. It is very difficult to get them to leave!

Kitchen

Tom Watts-Jones is the chef patron of the Hare & Hounds in Aberthin. Tom completed his Masters in 2009 and set out to pursue his passion for cooking. He learned his trade at the famous Anchor & Hope in London, rose through the ranks to sous-chef, then worked at the Michelin-starred St John’s restaurant. This is our usual haunt for Sunday lunch. The food is amazing: it’s high quality, fresh regional Welsh food. The menu changes with the seasons and everything is made from A to Z in the kitchen, from sourdough bread and cultured butter to fresh pasta. Their locally sourced oysters are spectacular. Tom will never be able to meet my Aussie requests for these little beauties!

Camille and Tom

They have a sister restaurant in the Welsh capital, Cardiff, it’s called the Heathcock. They do lots of dishes to share like pies, slow cooked shoulders of lamb or whole baked Welsh seabass. This is one of my favorite stops for dinner with JP and his friends.

On Friday nights, I head to Harry’s, my local bar, where they whip up a wicked margarita and a delicious bowl of mussels – the perfect way to end the week.

The Hare & Hounds Bakery, Cowbridge was born out of the adversity of the first pandemic lockdown. They have created a cozy and rustic space in the heart of the village. It’s my go-to for my morning coffee and connection with the local community before I start running. All of their produce is locally sourced, from their fruit and veg to eggs, as well as their Laverbread which is a Welsh delicacy that I love. If I wasn’t a designer, I would like to be a chef. In fact, I constantly pester the chef here for cooking advice… I’m almost like his apprentice!

At Hare & Hounds Bakery

What to do

One thing that will strike you in Wales are the beautiful singing voices. It is a very important part of Welsh national identity. It is truly the country of song. I remember confidently adding my name to the list to do karaoke at the local pub, but quickly took it down after seeing that every person who took the mic looked like a finalist on
The voice. i just hope that [daughter] Luna takes her daddy’s pipes, not mommy’s.

I recently attended a rugby match at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales against Australia with JP. There’s nothing quite like hearing thousands of Welsh voices filled with passion singing their national anthem. It’s breathtaking. Not such a good result for Australia that day unfortunately!

Shopping

We live in a market town just outside Cardiff which is full of independent shops. I love spending a few hours strolling. The love of fashion definitely runs in the family, my sister-in-law Natalie has a store called Vedra on the main street here. It’s a clothing and lifestyle store embodying feminine energy and magnetism with carefully selected pieces and personalized service, which unleashes your inner siren. It’s a journey of discovery to find clothes that make you look and feel good. This is my second stop of the morning – after breakfast at the Hare & Hounds bakery, with a cwtch (Welsh for hug) and catching up with the girls and watching and Natalie’s latest collection drops.

Happy Days Vintage Homestore is a treasure trove of stalls filled with eclectic, retro and vintage furniture and decor. He’s playing my alter ego of being a presenter on the BBC Antique Roadshow. I’m in heaven in Happy Days and I can easily lose track of time. I picked up amazing pieces there: repurposed antique lamps, vinyl albums, stamps, textiles: all sources of inspiration for my creative process. I like to immerse myself in these places because it stimulates my imagination and my creativity.

If you’re looking for a souvenir from Wales, a vintage Welsh love spoon is a perfect keepsake – these are beautifully carved wooden spoons which, according to tradition, are given as gifts of romantic intent! A wonderful Wales gift for the one you love!

You can often find me browsing Jon Ian on the high street. This is my go-to place for fall and winter pieces. They have the most amazing brand of raincoats, Brgn, which I love, and cozy knitwear from 360 Cashmere, perfect for the Welsh winter.

Another local favorite is Arthur John. You need a pair of Wellington boots in Wales – there are rainy days and they are ideal for country walks and beach walking. You can’t go wrong with a pair of Hunter Wellies and a Barbour coat to stay warm and dry.

I love digging into Body Basics. It is full of incredible vintage designer pieces: Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy. The selection and quality of their stock is amazing. It’s also a great place to meet people and, of course, to discuss fashion history and the stories behind the brands.

No39 Cowbridge is brimming with an ever-changing selection of home decor from all over. They have some truly unique pieces, but my favorite thing about this homeware mecca is their passion for all things candle. You will often find me mixing scents in the workshop of this little haven of candles.

Alicat Jewelery is an exquisite, vintage jewelery brand based just outside of Cowbridge. Founded by Alexandra Joseph (affectionately known to her friends as Ali), Alicat Jewelery sources and selects incredible, antique bullion pieces from around the world.

For red carpet glamour, I turn to the beautiful couture created by my great friend and international fashion designer Julian Macdonald. A proud Welshman, Julien has dressed everyone from Taylor Swift and Jennifer Lopez to Nicole Scherzinger and Beyoncé.

One of my best Welsh finds is this amazing clothing brand, Hiut Denim, and their story is what sets them apart. Cardigan is a small Welsh town of 4,000 people, 400 of whom made jeans. They made 35,000 pairs a week for 30 years. Then one day the factory closed, but all that know-how and know-how remained. David Hieatt returned home to Cardigan and co-founded The Hiut Denim Company with the aim of bringing manufacturing home. To use all these skills on their doorstep and breathe new life into the city.

For more of Camilla’s travels, follow her on Instagram here.

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