Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Adventures in Cannes.

I went to Cannes last week, as the Gentleman Caller* had worked on a film that was screening there. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to take any pictures of the vintage 1960s cinema with leather seats, or the party on the beach; all white sand and shallow, palest blue sea.
I completely missed snapping the amazing/awful hangers on with signs asking for invitations. And I didn't am-pap Kirsten Dunst, who I saw in downtime denim shorts. Here are basically the only pictures I managed to take in Cannes. The Cinéma Olympia, where the screening took place.

And the view from the beach party.  It made a nice difference to corporate parties in London, although I wanted to be next level, out on one of the yachts, bobbing out at sea. Spoilt!

This is the beach we stumbled upon the next day, tired and hungover, just at the point where we were getting all hot and wondering what to do next. (I wish that would happen on say, Oxford Street, after a hard day's shopping. 'Oh look! Beach!')

Oh, and in terms of fashion, I think this was the best look I saw. This dude was getting a late night chip kebab in a linen suit, black shirt, black velvet bow tie, 1980s New York-style wire-rimmed glasses, topped off with pink espadrilles. Who IS this guy?! He looks like Griffin Dunne, but way not as hot.

The next day we got the hell out of crazy Cannes and took a train up the coast to Nice. I've been craving some France time and Nice hit the spot. It's pretty and the sea is inviting (although the beach is pebbly). And it's stuffed full of nice restaurants. We stayed in a cheap hotel to make up for the excess of Cannes, and it turned out to be lovely, in a really sweet neighbourhood with a lively market, where we stocked up on fresh fruit and honey the next day.

I really enjoyed shopping at the market, it's something we just can't seem to get right in the UK, although we're getting there. We're all too lazy and shop at supermarkets. The stalls at the market I visited were competing for business, so the owners dress them up nicely. This stallholder was peeling the dirty onion skins off.

I was so jealous of the delicious looking produce, at competitive prices. I was literally going through the recipes I would make in my head. I buy my fruit and veg at a local stall in Kentish Town, but it's run-of-the-mill stuff, no pretty yellow courgette flowers or bright pink fish to be seen.

I'm going to try the Parliament Hill farmer's market on Saturday, but I'm thinking it will be really expensive. I was so jealous of shoppers poring over huge bumpy looking tomatoes, glossy cherries and huge fluffy lettuces. At good prices.

Plus in France, everyone takes home a bunch of flowers.

My favourite shop was this tiny little fresh pasta shop. It was totally no frills: a chiller cabinet, a dude serving, four pictures of his favourite football team on the wall. And an old lady behind the beaded curtain at the back, rolling out pasta. Sigh. I wish we could shop like this in London!

*I can only apologise for this ghastly AA Gill style pseudonym. It started and now I'm just running with it. I have to refer to him somehow, otherwise I wouldn't be able to explain what on earth I am up to these days. Plus, I am feeling a little bit shmoopy. Cheesy. Do apologise.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


I thought I’d share some pictures of my trip to Sicily a couple of weeks ago. I was in serious need of a holiday, after a gruelling six month work contract. I just wanted some sun, delicious food and to soak up some ancient ambience.


We spent the first night in Marsala, which is really close to the airport, then took a little rickety train across the island to Scopello, a tiny stone village high in the hills of the northwest coast of the island. And stayed there for the rest of the week.

We stayed at Pensione Tranchina, which was was beyond perfect. Run by the Tranchina family, our pretty, antique-stuffed room looked out over the rooftops of Scopello to the sea. This picture was taken one afternoon, when a sirocco sandstorm blew over the village.


Every evening the family hosted a big dinner, starting with wine in front of the fire, followed by four courses of deliciousness. We stayed there for dinner every single night. How middle-aged! But the food was amaze-o. Delicious pasta, followed by fish, obscure local fruit, then dessert. Then back in front of the fire. It was like being looked after by your mum. (Thanks Marasin!) This fish was baked in a huge crust of salt.

Breakfast was awesome too. Every morning the tables were laid out with fresh fruit, fresh juice, olive oil pressed from their own groves, homemade jams (fig, peach, pear), warm fresh bread and little cakes such as grappa and honey cake, from the local bakery. I seriously recommend going there if you are in need of some pampering.

The heart of the village was a tiny square built around a huge eucalyptus tree, which we’d hang out under to spy on the locals. One evening the local bar was hosting a birthday party for a little boy and they brought us slices of their birthday cake! This was the blowing out of the candles. Totally cutezilla.


The beach was a little walk away, down hills covered with wild flowers.


It was a bit cloudy on a couple of days; this is the beach, taken from the shelter of a yellow picnic table, waiting for a shower to pass.

There were lots of animals running wild. I loved these trashcan kitties that we walked past every day on the way to the beach. Look at the tiny dude in the back middle of the picture. Next time I'm taking a bag of kitty treats.


And this dog was a regular in the village square.


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

North London day out.

I had a dreamy North London day out yesterday. Freshly back from a week of regrouping
in Sicily, I am between jobs and the gentleman caller had an unexpected day off work, so
we decided to hit the streets of N7, NW5 and NW1 for a fun-shaped Tuesday to welcome
ourselves home.

As all good North London days must, it started at Parliament Hill lido. The water was 17 degrees and the sun was out, as were the burnished bellies of the lido regulars. (It is so sunny for early May! I later discovered I'd burnt my face off.)

We swam and sunned until hunger forced us to leave, then walked up Kentish Town Road towards Cecil Sharp House, for lunch. Cecil Sharp House is home to the English Folk Dance and Song Society , an imposing 1930s building with sweet gardens in Primrose Hill. Their café is a haphazard affair; the lady who runs it sits outside in an icecream van, so there's an honesty box for if you have to help yourself to anything. The vibe is locally sourced and homemade; when I asked for a Diet Coke the lady told me they didn't have any because she doesn't approve of it. Fair enough! I had a feta and spinach tart which was delicious but I was jealous of the GC's brie sandwich with grapes, homemade chutney and two fat, sweet dates. The building is home to a theatre group so there were drama students rehearsing lines all over the place, which added to the completely eccentric vibe.

I will be returning soon to try their damson icecream but I had other plans for dessert. We ambled through the sunny streets of Primrose Hill, slightly dazed from lido sun overdose and trying to quell lifestyle jealousy – I mean, it's ridiculous there, actually too quaint to be real – and stopped for a quick browse through Shikasuki, who stock top quality vintage dresses and accessories from labels such as Gunne Sax and Enid Collins, plus lots of very wearable costume jewellery.

Then to destination dessert: Marine Ices, an Italian gelateria which is celebrating its 80th year of selling icecreams on Haverstock Hill! I spent last week in Sicily gorging on gelato, but I seriously think Marine Ices icecream was nicer. I had scoops of vanilla pod and italian toffee.

Final stage of North London day out had to be a drink, so back up the busy and still scorching Kentish Town Road to the Southampton Arms. This is my new favourite local pub. Their motto is 'Ale, Cider, Meat', all served up in a dark wood bar with walls covered with Victorian portraits and a small garden out back, filled with gossiping sexagenarians and pipe-smoking hipsters. I had half a cider and half a chocolate beer and that was me done up nicely. It's good to be home!