Tag Archives: champagne

Thames River Cruise

The London Thames is definitely not the place you expect to find a Mississippi paddle steamer, but that was exactly what I found myself climbing aboard the other night for dinner.

The glossy wood-panelled Elizabethan is a lovingly recreated replica of the iconic American stern-wheeled riverboats that Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher would have felt right at home on.

It picked us up at Cadogan Pier in Chelsea beneath the twinkling lights of Albert Bridge.

London Thames Albert Bridge at Night Lights

Albert Bridge

Boat Elizabethan

Boat Champagne

Glasses of bubbles in hand, everyone swept up the carpeted stairs to the spacious upper deck to mingle with old friends.

Boat Smiles Glasses

And watch the brightly lit sights of London pass by along the riverbank.

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

London Eye

London Eye

Thames Eye

The Shard

The Shard

Boat Bruvs

Boat Smiles

Boat Smile Lights

After catching up with the latest news of marriages, babies, jobs, and – most importantly – football scores, we migrated below deck into the dining room for the dinner service.

Boat Talking

Boat Dinner

Boat Dinner Smiles

Boat Dinner Smile

After coffee, it was time to buckle up my dancing Choos and head upstairs where the band was kicking things off.

Boat Shoes

Boat Band 4

Boat Band

Everyone was alternating between having a boogie on the dancefloor and popping outside on the balcony to take in the views and the cool air.

A little bit of silliness may also have taken place.

Boat Smiles Buoy

Boat Smiles Us

London Thames Walk Chelsea Streetlamp

Just an incredibly relaxed evening aboard a beautiful boat surrounded by good people – let the holiday party season begin! 

 

 

Sea La Vie: A Day in Whitstable

A blue sky day on the English coast is automatic perfection.

And for us, an automatic excuse to jump in the car, put the roof down, crank up the tunes, and cruise over to Kent for a day on Whitstable’s pebbled shores.

Beach View

Beach Nap

Beach Bright

Beach Legs

Beach Yellow Car

Beach

Sea

Salt in the air, sand in my hair.

We laid in the sun listening to the cries of marauding seagulls above us until our heads got warm and felt a bit fuzzy, which meant it was time for food!

Good thing we knew an amazing place just up the road for a leisurely spot of lunch.

Sportsman

Sportsman Sunroom

Sportsman Sign

Sportsman Tasting Menu

We plunked ourselves down and got comfortable – with a glass of champagne, naturally.

champagne

The amuse bouche was a curious little concoction of fish, egg yolk and cream which was like a decadent spoonful of chowder.

Sportsman Amuse Bouche

Sportsman Amuse Bouche Yolk

Next was the bit I was most looking forward to – the oyster course.

Poached oyster with cream rhubarb granita and crystalized seaweed

Poached oyster with cream rhubarb granita and crystalized seaweed

Sportsman Oyster Box

Sportsman Oyster Eat

Whitstable is known for its oysters and – woweee – these did not disappoint!

Salt baked beetroot, rhubarb and fresh cheese

Salt baked beetroot, rhubarb and fresh cheese

Sportsman 2nd Course

Sportsman Bread

The salads and bread knocked my shoes off! Actually, it was me who kicked them off under the table, because there’s nothing better than eating lunch barefoot by the beach.

Sportsman Kicked Off Shoes

Roast Hake fillet with cherry tomato suace and green olive tapenade

Roast Hake fillet with cherry tomato sauce and green olive tapenade

Sportsman 3rd

Roast breast confit leg of local Aylesbury duck with spiced roasting juices

Roast breast confit leg of local Aylesbury duck with spiced roasting juices

A spiffing English lunch!

The meal wasn’t yet over, but we needed a timeout. So we took our glasses outside for some fresh air and a post-meal stroll.

Sportsman 4th course interlude

We weren’t in a hurry. We had all afternoon to spare.

So we just enjoyed the sunshine for a while before heading back to our table.

Sportsman 4th Interlude Wine

Sportsman 4th Interlude Picnic Table

Rhubarb ice lolly with maderia cake milk

Rhubarb ice lolly with madeira cake milk

Sportsman Lolly

Chocolate and salted caramel tart with vanilla ice cream

Chocolate and salted caramel tart with vanilla ice cream

We didn’t even actually touch this tart, but instead had it wrapped up to take home!

It will make a good midnight snack at some point 🙂

Off to the Races: Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot is one of the most important flat racing events in all of Europe, and is a highlight of the English social season.

The final race day on Saturday happened to fall on the first day of summer, which as far as I’m concerned is an event in itself!

With the sun shining down, the Brits totally go for any excuse to get outdoors, dressed to impress, and pop bottles!

Royal Ascot Royal Enclosure

Royal Ascot Girls

Royal Ascot Parade Ring Hat

Royal Ascot Ladies outside

The dress code for Royal Ascot is part of what makes this event so glossy – day dresses and hats for ladies, and top hats for the gents.

Where else would a top hat ever be appropriate?

Royal Ascot Parking Lot

Royal Ascot Phone

It all kicks off with the royal parade – the Queen in all her pastel splendor trotted out in a horse-drawn carriage.

Royal Ascot Queen Carrige

Adoring eyes all look to the country’s beloved monarch!

Before the races, we all slip into the paddock to eye up the contestants.

Royal Ascot Paddock Stables

Royal Ascot Paddock

Royal Ascot Paddock Standing

Then the horses are saddled up and led into the Parade Ring to warm up just before the race.

Royal Ascot Ring

Races

Royal Ascot Horse

Royal Ascot Parade Ring Shot

Royal Ascot Time Check

The boys study their race cards and check their watches to make sure all bets get placed in time.

Royal Ascot Tote Betting

Then it’s out to the track to watch the race!

Royal Ascot Commissioners Box View

1Hat

Royal Ascot Track

It’s impossible to describe the drama of the actual race – the cheers of the crowd reverberating off of the grandstand, the thundering of hooves pounding down the track, and the precarious business of jumping up and down when your horse wins without spilling your drink on some poor unsuspecting spectator!

We applaud the winning horse as he is proudly led into the Winners’ Enclosure to cool down and be celebrated.

Royal Ascot Jockey Winning

Royal Ascot Parade Ring View

Royal Ascot Richard Pankhurst

Royal Ascot Parade Ring John Interview

Royal Ascot Parade Ring Trophy Steven Fry

British television personality Stephen Fry was on hand to present the trophy and probably make a witty remark or two… He seemed to be enjoying himself as much as the rest of us.

Royal Ascot Couple

Royal Ascot David and Serena

Royal Ascot Jockey

Eventually, we tumbled into the winners’ box for a toast to the victorious steed!

Royal Ascot Winners Box

The room buzzed with positive energy, the air sticky with excitement.

And that was before the Queen showed up to dole out prizes to the champion of the next stakes.

Royal Ascot Queen

Royal Ascot Queen Pink

Royal Ascot Queen Stroll

The Queen absolutely loves horse racing, and is practically a fixture at Royal Ascot.

We drifted around the Royal Enclosure for a while sipping champagne until we were led up to the Commissioner’s Box. It’s not quite clear who was crazy enough to let a couple of ragamuffins like us through, but believe me when I say I strode right in!

Royal Ascot Commissioners Box Bar

Royal Ascot Commissioners Box Hat Shelf

Royal Ascot Commissioners Box Hat Shelves

The best bit was the adorable little tea cakes shaped like crowns.

Royal Ascot Commissioners Box Petit Crown

Completely befitting the royal theme!

After the final race of the day, all of our friends gathered in the owner’s and trainer’s car park for refreshments.

1Carpark

Royal Ascot Trophy

Royal Ascot John and Rachel

Boujis nightclub hacked in all the way from London and set up a tented outpost among the parked cars – including a dj and bongo player – and passed around free food and drinks to us weary racegoers.

Royal Ascot Carpark Bongos

Royal Ascot Carpark Crack Babies

I highly recommend the curative powers of a cool Crackbaby after a long day in the sun at the races!

Although all this horsing around had left me feeling a little un-stable.

And I clearly needed to giddy-up back to London.

Royal Ascot Carpark Boujis Crack Baby

Royal Ascot Boujis Carpark

We savored the last few golden hours of sunlight, then piled into cabs to go home, leaving Ascot in the distance.

Roman Times

If there’s anything I love more than brunch, it’s a foreign city’s regional take on brunch. In Rome, there’s a place called Urbana 47 that has a multo bene 4-course special on weekends with a distinctly Italian twist.

Brunch12 Brunch10 Brunch11 Brunch9 Brunch8 Brunch3

Brunch2

They start you off with a cheesy mozzarella wrap that is just the type of thing you’d reach for on the morning after the night before – followed by a ladle of pumpkin pasta in a beef ragout. Mamma mia! This duo of carbs is a hangover cure that doesn’t mess around!

Mozzarella and vegetable wrap with spicy tomato salsa

Mozzarella and vegetable wrap with spicy tomato salsa

Homemade pumpkin fettuccine pasta with beef ragout, mint and pecorino

Homemade pumpkin fettuccine pasta with beef ragout, mint and pecorino

Beef on a spit with caponata mixed vegetables

Beef on a spit with caponata mixed vegetables

Brunch7

Brunch13

Afters, we trudged over to St Peters where crews were setting up chairs for mass. I mingled with the pilgrims and wandered around the basilica for a bit. What a fascinating place. You could feel the power and influence throbbing off the walls of the place – like little electric waves. It was almost more intimidating than it was spiritual. I felt a bit like a pilgrim myself…

StP StP2 StP5 StP3 StP6 StP7 StP8 Bar10 StP9

After all that piety, it was time for a refreshing dash in the rain back to headquarters – to rest up, watch Flashdance, and get ready for the night!StP11 River River1

That evening we dolled ourselves up, donned our LBDs, and headed out for drinks at the infamous Hotel de Russie.

Night Night1

Night8 Night10 Night11 Night7

Everyone warned us Bar Stravinskij is dreadful. But we weren’t deterred; we had a feeling its glossy reputation as the place VIPs and politicians came to not lay low would verify its status as of one of the most iconic bars in Rome. Located in the courtyard gardens of Hotel de Russie, complete with Roman ruins and views of Villa Borghese, this place was indeed a society hotspot. The room fizzed with activity, like the bubbles in our champagne flutes. With Kevin Spacey wooing his Italian toyboy on one side of us, and a pair of blond women of ill repute in platform boots chatting up a potential john on the other, the people-watching was hilarious. We spent two hours in a perpetual fit of giggles.Night6 Night4 Night3

Night5

After tittering the evening away, we cavorted off into the night in search of more amusement. Scuttling across the square, I took one last look back – and admired all the ancient beauty surrounding this crazy city! Vive la Roma!

Night14

I’m On A Boat

Mr. Wonderful had one last surprise before we headed back to reality (aka London). After a few days of exploring Santorini by more traditional modes, he manned up and chartered a speed boat for the day! He reasoned, this was the only way to truly delve into some of the island’s best kept secrets. Hey, I’m not going to argue with that.

Our captain, Panos, would be waiting for us at the old port in Fira at 1100 hours. But first we had to get there. The old port lies 800 feet straight down the sheer cliff face of the Caldera, and is used mostly by the ginormous cruise ships shuttling boatloads of tourists on and off the island. My inconvenient fear of heights meant that the two-minute cable car ride down was out of the question. So we opted for the 600 steps on foot. Which would have been merely unpleasant – were it not for the herds of mules that traverse the path everyday. Now I had to totter down the hazardous route in my flimsy sandals, the cobblestones slick with donkey mess! It was awful – not to mention stinky!

old part

600 steps

donkey

Miraculously, we made it to the bottom uninjured. I practically threw myself onto the boat – let’s get outta here!

600 steps 1

sunscreen sunscreen1

speeed

We sped off toward Nea Kammeni and motored into the secluded sulphur spring inside the volcano. The warm waters have a distinctly sulphur smell, and are a murky orange color, tingeing the volcanic rocks at the water’s edge. The minerals are little metallic flecks shimmering near the surface which have curative, spa-like powers. We dove in and, clinging to a life buoy, paddled into the opening of the volcano. It was like swimming on Mars!

sulp

1

sulp swim

After climbing back aboard and rinsing the mineral water from our swimsuits, Panos steered us around Pallea Kammeni, where the sea was a crystal clear blue.

clear dive

2 3 4

Thirassia is one of Santorini’s satellite islands. This little village has a population of only around 100 year-round inhabitants. Village elders have steadily refused foreign tourism, turning down lucrative offers to build hotels and resorts on the island. The result is a humble little seaside town that survives off of fishing. We anchored in a quiet cove just in front of Thirassia and got down to business – poppin’ bottles!

therasia2 therasia champ2 champ

Love these anchor beer glasses! Where can I get a set?

Love these anchor beer glasses! Where can I get a set?

champs happy champ6 champs laugh

P1080065

We talked, and laughed, and toasted the advancing conclusion of our Greek escapade – until the captain called us into the cuddy for a traditional meze lunch. What he served us was a comprehensive tasting menu of all the Greek staples – tomato keftedes, white aubergine, saganaki – seven dishes in total.

Lunch Lunch2 Lunch1 Lunch3 Lunch4

lunch6

After a wonderful lunch – and plenty of champagne – the real silliness began.

lunch jump2 P1080108

As we rested on the bow, Panos whizzed us around underneath the sky-high cliffs of Santorini’s perimeter. It was so spectacular, gazing up at all the places we’d visited over the week. As we swerved around the jagged rock outcroppings, we passed Amoudi Bay where we’d dined the night before.

cliffs chapel cliffs2 5 amoudi in daylight

I could not think of a better way to say farewell to Santorini than a day on the water touring its most remote borders. As we sped back into the old port, I tried to capture the memory of the sparkling sea, the dizzyingly tall cliffs, and the sense of perpetuity that reassured me if I ever come back, I’ll find it untouched by time.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Glyndebourne is an English country house in West Sussex which hosts its opera festival every summer. It has been on my social radar for such a long time. I was beyond giddy to finally nab tickets to a performance. It meant sneaking away from work early to attend – shimmying into my satin gown and jewelry in the office toilets and then slinking off to catch a midday train from Victoria Station. But the journey just added to the thrill of appearing at one of England’s most distinguished and elegant affairs.

Cover1

Cover2

The London artistic community was out in droves, promenading the grounds before the performance. A porter assembled our table on the lawn and we tucked into our hamper for a few glasses of fizz, then ambled coolly through the landscaped gardens.

gly1

gly3picnic

gly4champ

Gly5champ

Gly6champ

Gly7

gly

Gly11garden

Gly8pond

Glyndebourne grounds are dotted with garden sculptures

Glyndebourne grounds are dotted with garden sculptures

Gly9pond

Bumping into familiar faces is a welcome surprise at Glynebourne

Bumping into familiar faces is a welcome surprise at Glynebourne

The opera was an incredible contemporary production of Rameau’s French baroque Hippolyte et Aricie  a vividly choreographed Greek drama. The towering scale of the stage production dwarfed me in the third row – stunning and overwhelming. The music was breathtaking, the dancers mesmerizing, and the characters occasionally humorous. I watched with rapt attention every little flick of the conductor’s baton – sometimes he abandoned it altogether and just directed with his hands.

GlyTheatre

GlyTheatre2

By the interlude, I was dizzy with operatic fervor… or maybe it was the champagne, or perhaps hunger. In whichever case, we retired to the lawn to dine on our Leith’s-catered picnic supper.

GlyneDin

Smoked Scottish salmon |capers, gherkins and lemon

Smoked Scottish salmon | capers, gherkins and lemon

Lobster salad |chicory and artichoke salad

Lobster salad | chicory and artichoke salad

Lemon tart with raspberry cream

Lemon tart with raspberry cream

GlyneDin4

GlyneDin5

GlyneDin6

The interval bell tolls at Glynebourne

The interval bell tolls at Glynebourne

Heading back inside for the final acts, I couldn’t help feeling like my evening at Glynebourne went by far too quickly! Its luxurious atmosphere embodies the epitome of civilized and cultured English tradition. This goes down as one of my favorite opera moments.

Henley Royal Regatta

Henley

A heat wave hit England this weekend so it was perfect weather to enjoy the boat races at the Henley Royal Regatta. Every year since 1839, society descends upon the picturesque town of Henley-On-Thames to picnic along the river and watch the historic event. It’s also somewhat of an Anglo-American contest with many American universities competing – I proudly cheered on crews from Harvard, Columbia and University of Virginia.

Henley12

Henley13

The Regatta Enclosure is a formal tented area along the riverfront where spectators can enjoy lunch or tea, traditionally accompanied by champagne or a glass of England’s favorite summertime drink Pimm’s. The atmosphere is very social and we settled back along the water chatting with new friends at our table.

Henley6

Henley14

Henley11

Henley9

Henley9.5

Henley7

Outside of the enclosure, racegoers gather along the Thames to share in the spirit of the competition. Corporate hospitality tents, private rowing clubs, and pop-up outposts of London nightclubs Juju and Mahiki line the riverbank. I browsed in a few of the shops and stalls to escape the blazing sun – and managed to resist a few impulse buys, including this fun feathered topper.

Henley8

Henley15

Henley4

Henley5

Henley2

Henley3

After a cloudless day by the water, I returned to London sun-kissed and happy. With Henley and Wimbledon finals taking place on the same weekend, there’s no beating England for summer sport at the moment.