Sunday, 30 June 2013

A little bit of something else..

As you know, I occasionally inflict my prose on publications beyond this humble blogspot.  You may remember Mr Wu and my trip to Macau, as published by the Arbuturian - link here

And then there was the return of the prodigal daughter to Baku- link here. Not gonna lie, it did give me a teency bit of pleasure to write about my home town for the Arb, a finalist in the British Travel Press Awards.

But nowhere near as excited as being asked to write a weekly column for Baku online. And so, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to (where's my drumroll?) introduce these offerings:

London Summer - if you be chillin' like a villain, this is how to do it.

Baku's Art Scene - in case you were wondering

Andy Warhol at the Heydar Aliyev Centre


Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Tale of Three Cities

“I’lllll misssssssssss yoou” I wailed with complete sincerity. “What’s the big idea. I mean….[stumbles] you can just as easily live here. Yes! In London! In Kensington. Next to me. Wanna come live with me?”

Vanessa looked at me, the way she does when yours truly gets overexcited (this happens a lot).  

Then in her smoky French-English replied, “Sweety, you’ah coming to see me in June, my summer party, remember?.. That’s only a few weeks away”

At which point I untangled myself from embracing her knees, she stretched out a hanky and I dabbed away my sniffles.


Vanessa lives just outside Lugano, Switzerland. Her neighbourhood boasts lakes, valleys and le chocolat chaud that will have you whimpering with pleasure. I was to spend a few days with her at her family home. Following a slight hiccup on arrival and a taxi driver who spent 45 minutes circling me around Milan instead of taking me to Lugano, my train pulled into the station and shortly after we were pulling into V’s driveway. From my bedroom I had boundless views of the vineyards and the mountains. We sat in her garden amongst the blossoming bougainvillea as bunny rabbits surreally hopped around us.

As always, V  knew exactly what I needed. She took me to the local galeteria- an ice cream parlour to you and me.

“Three scoops please.” Creamy. Dreamy… Done.

We then decided to drive into town and take the boat out for a spin on the lake. The plan was to recline, do some sunbathing, pop a bottle (or two).  Typically, I did all the leg work, despite being 5ft3, whilst 5ft8 Vanessa sat in the back and critiqued my technique (rarely happens).

As you can see, Lugano is beautiful, peaceful, idyllic and elegant...

In the evening we headed to a Grotto. Grotto’s are restaurants that began as wine cellars carved into the mountains. They serve up traditional local fare.  Our table groaned (as did ultimately we) under the weight of chacuterie boards, polenta, rabbit, wines, breads and cheeses. After dinner Vanessa literally carried me back and put me to bed.

Lake Como

I woke up Saturday morning and contemplated the lunch awaiting us at another Grotto and the dinner at Villa d’este on Lake Como.

Lake Como is a destination. It’s where George Clooney brings his broads. It inhabits the daydreams of young women who write in spiral notebooks and wear taffeta on special occasions. It’s romantic in the best not-trying-to-be-romantic sort of way.

Dinner was at the hotel's restaurant on the shores of the lake. The food was exquisite. My date sat next to me. She replenished my plate and made me laugh. We like it when that happens.

Incidentally, Vanessa is an extraordinarily talented jewellery designer. She is wearing a pair of pave ruby and sapphire dragon earrings from her eponymous line - Vanessa Martinelli- drool. Check out the rest of her fabulous collection -


The last two days of my trip were spent in Milano. The heat was sweltering and the city was deserted. But we had the best time, we always do. See below for outtakes.


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Isle of Wight.

There’s a lot to be said for country getaways. To this urbanite mind they are sentimental windows of opportunity, filling lungs with green mossy air and tinting day-shy complexions. I appreciate the wide empty landscapes. I like squelching through mud in my wellies to the quiet murmur of wildlife.

It may sound like a Tolstoyian depiction of a rural fantasy. In fact, as the queen of illogical optimism I acknowledged that it may well be. But that wasn’t going to stop my excitement as we raced down the A3 with the top down, beneath a cloudless sky, hair whipping in the wind.

The Isle of Wight has been a holiday destination since the Victorian times.  So if it was good enough for the inhabitants of my (second) favourite historical period, it was certainly good enough for me.

It took us just over 3 hours to get there (including the Ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Fishbourne). The Island is shaped like a diamond. Rural farmland, thatched cottages and breath-taking views of craggy cliffs all make it painfully pretty.

We drove, walked and ate our way around the Island. There wasn’t really a plan- but you don’t need one. Just cross your fingers for a sunny day and you’re good to go.

Everything is delightfully steeped in nostalgia. No Costa coffees or mobile-phone accessory shops here. Instead you find old-fashioned haberdasheries selling ribbons and charity shops full of interesting knick knacks. 

We stopped off at Ventnor, a seaside resort built on cliffs leading down to the sea. In the 19th century the town was a small fishing hamlet. It is still famed for the Fish and Chips served up daily at Ventor Haven Fishery from the catch hauled in that very morning. I was excited to discover that the fish on offer wasn't your regular soggy cod but a dizzying array of oceanic dwellers.  

We watched the lady prepare our battered rock salmon with proper chips and apple fritters in sugar and cinnamon. We then sat on the steps by the sea and  proceeded to wolf the lot down. Invigorated, we continued on our tour of the Island.

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The beaches on the Isle of Wight range from powdery demerara sand to smooth warm pebbles. A firm believer in getting my feet wet, I braved the hypothermic waters. Although it's no Indian Ocean, I think you could probably get away with going for a dip midsummer; something I am committed to doing on my next visit.

I could go on. But you're probably bored of reading. So I'll stop. And you can look at the pictures before reaching for the phone and dialing an appropriate travelling partner. You should probably open with "So... fancy some apple fritters?"

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