Thursday, 25 June 2015

Last weekend I spent a few days with my Father. It's not often that I have the chance to spend quality time with him, let alone a whole weekend doing the things we enjoy most. So when were were invited to stay at Palace Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme for Father's Day in collaboration with a new book written by U2's Bono, aptly entitled Sons & Fathers (celebrating the relationship between sons and fathers, and daughters and fathers), I jumped at the opportunity.

After checking in we quickly changed and headed down to the terrace for cocktails in the sun - no better way to start. Just past 8pm we were taken to our table in Pur, the hotel's one michelin-starred restaurant, headed up by chef Jean-Francois Rouquette. We were immediately welcomed by the sommelier who served us with a glass of champagne each; a preview to what was to come - one of the most indulgent and delicious meals I have ever had in my life! Four hours later we had eaten around 10 courses (honestly, I lost count), each with its own wine pairing that varied from white and red wine, to port. Considering I was already feeling a little merry following the first cocktail, it took all my energy I could muster, to not reveal my impending silliness.

The next morning, after sleeping in one seriously comfortable bed (wider than it was long!), I recovered from my hangover, with perfectly-cooked poached eggs and avocado, while dad munched his way through the buffet that was laden with pastries, fruit and cereals.

At 11:30am, a driver came to collect us and we drove out the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Dad introduced me to the wonders of art when I was young, so it was great to discover one of Frank Ghery's most recent creations with him. If you haven't been yet, I urge you too - an incredible feat of architecture, it's worth visiting just for the building itself - with the art inside being an added bonus. We returned to the hotel, gorged ourselves on burgers, changed and were collected early evening by our driver to enjoy a classical music concert (as one does) in Sainte Chapelle, a beautiful gothic medieval church situated on Isle Saint Louis. After being serenaded by Vivaldi's Four Seasons, we sauntered down the river to Chez Julien for one last indulgent supper. 

- Thanks to Park Hyatt for making the weekend so memorable! 

Dedar Milano

Friday, 19 June 2015

Last week, as you may have seen from my Instagram photos, I went on a little trip to Milan to discover the Italian furnishings brand, Dedar (short for Design D'Arradamento) and had quite a journey (this is an epic post, just like the trip, so be prepared!) A family run business, Dedar has been going for some 40 years and creates gorgeous luxurious fabrics and wallpapers - they recently did a collaboration with Hermès. First we drove to their showroom in Milan and were introduced to the team and thousands of richly-coloured fabrics in an array of materials, from silk and velvet to linen - some so soft to the touch, that I could have happily laid down on one and had a little snooze. I'd woken up at 5am for the flight after all. Next we drove over to the Arts & Food Triennale to peruse the vast exhibition dedicated to food and art through the ages that showcases everything from kitchen design, cutlery and ceramics to how food is portrayed or used in modern art. If you're a big foodie, this is a good one to add to your bucket list.

This was followed by lunch in the terrace restaurant on the roof of the building, which had launched when the exhibition opened this year. Lovely and airy, with a view over the gardens and Milan's financial district beyond, it was the perfect place to take a lunchtime pause before we ventured on to our next destination. 

After lunch we visited Villa Necchi. If you've watched the film, I Am Love starring Tilda Swinton (in which she plays a Russian, married to a Milanese), you'll recognise the interior, as it's the house where the family lives. An incredibly-designed space - the architect, Piero Portaluppi was given free reign and an unlimited budget - it was originally owned by one of Milan's wealthiest families, who made their fortune by creating the Necchi sewing machine. It's one of the most beautifully designed and furnished villas I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. To say I was excited to see it, was an understatement. I would happily have stayed there all day snapping away, and probably done my best to lock myself in and never leave had we not had a guide. The interior is what you might expect (and more) from an Italian villa built in the 1930s in the art-deco style. Marble is in abundance -  all the bathrooms are furnished from floor to ceiling in the opulent material, either in blue, green, pink or black. The staircase is made from walnut, there are wooden floors, marble fireplaces, ornately-carved doors and the furnishings are equally luxurious. My favourite being the green velvet sofas in one of the living spaces, which has a huge corner window that looks out into the trees and garden, so that the outside feels part of the space. The villa was the location used for Dedar's most recent collection campaign, hence our visit and I could see just how well Dedar's fabrics suited the villa's interior style. Heaven. 

After dragging myself away - I was of course the last to leave, literally running after the group - we drove over to the new Fondazione Prada. Another feast for the eyes, the new foundation has been built in an old distillery, with warehouses renovated into large gallery spaces by the architecture firm OMA, led by Rem Koolhaas. It's a modern space that reveals its historical roots - old buildings have been given a new life, with mirrored walls and one of the buildings has been painted entirely in gold. [You can see me posing against its wall here]. The foundation is currently showing a range of contemporary artists, including Louise Bourgeois. If you're an art fan and find yourself in Milan, this is a must-see. 

By the end of the day, my head was literally buzzing with visual and inspiration overload. So an hour's car ride to our hotel in Lake Como was a welcome relief. But of course more beauty was waiting. We checked into the Hotel Villa Flori, right on the bank of the Lake, so that when I opened my doors onto the balcony I could have jumped into the water. [See the view on my Instagram here]. I quickly changed and met the rest of the group, including the Dedar's two owners Caterina and Rafaelle Fabrizio for a drink on the bar's terrace. After a full day of sightseeing it was time for the classically Italian drink, Apero Spritz.  Drinks were followed by dinner in a nearby restaurant, again with magnificent views of the lake. After eating and drinking a little more than my fill, I woke up fuzzy-headed the next day, but luckily it was a much more calm and relaxed itinerary - we visited the company's offices and then the factory to see how all the fabrics are made before heading to the airport to fly home. 

The terrace restaurant at Arts & Foods 
Villa Necchi
Fondazione Prada

Empty Garnier

Monday, 15 June 2015

A week ago I was lucky enough to be invited along to the #emptygarnier event at the Opera de Paris' Palais Garnier, to experience the beautifully ornate 19th century building and get a behind the scenes look at its incredible space. Before it officially opened its doors in the morning for tourists, a small number of us (including the lovely people over at Instagram), were able to explore the stage (much larger than I thought it was), the basement where large cogs work the scenery, walk on the roof to take in the breathtaking view of Paris (without toppling off) and watch a ballet class. It was a magical experience and as someone who spent many years dancing ballet, it's one I won't forget in a hurry. The only downside is, I won't ever settle for cheap theatre seats again! And top it off, I was also included in a lovely article in last Monday's le Figaro about the event. 

O Coffeeshop

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

As you may know by now, I'm a sucker for a good looking coffee. O Coffeeshop - a pop-up cafe on rue du Sentier in the 2ème that's open every morning from 7:30 to 11:30am - ticks all the boxes. Not only is the coffee good and the latte art spot on (as is the toasted banana bread), but the interior surroundings are also beautiful. O Coffeeshop has parked its coffee cart in the dark and moody space of La Conserverie, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar that's been decked out in rich marine blues and forest greens - colours I couldn't help but capture, when I visited the space with Joann of Acorn magazine last week. 

O Coffeeshop at La Conserverie
37 rue du Sentir
Monday - Friday, 7:30-11:30am

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