Tag Archives: god save the scene

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! 

 

 

Going, Going, Gondola!

Our first and only night in Venice passed by much too quickly.

So the following morning I was on a mission to see as much of the city as possible before our evening flight.

With the shops and narrow streets clogged with tourists fresh off the cruise ships, we dodged down an empty stone passage and swiftly took to the canal!

Venice Emilio Ceccato

Venice Foot bridge

Venice Waiting for Gondola

Leaning out over the water, we hailed a passing gondola. Once aboard, it was evident there is no better way to experience the enchantment of Venice.

Venice Hat

Venice Waiting Turned

Our wizened tour guide was proud to come from a family of gondoliers. His licence was passed down to him from his grandfather, and eventually he will bequeath it to his son-in-law. He pointed out significant buildings, and poetically lamented the current economic and political state of Italy. It was so romantic listening to him orate behind us while we canoodled in our loveseat, watching antiquity float past just beyond the lacquered edge of the boat.

Gondola View

Gondola Looking Up

Gondola POV

Gondolier

Bauer Plaza

Bauer Plaza ?

We stopped at the Bauer hotel to pick up friends on our way to lunch. The terrace was an absolute dream, and we couldn’t resist a glass of prosecco under the scarlet canopy overlooking St Marks.

Day 2 Venice Chelsea

Bauer Masks

Bauer Terrace

After our pre-lunch aperitivos, we boarded a taxi to the restaurant.

Bauer Taxi

“Harry’s Dolci” is located on Lido island with a terrace that looks back onto the hem of Venice.

Seated at our table, covered in crisp robin egg blue linen, we ordered a round of Cipriani’s famous bellinis and set to work translating the all-Italian menu.

Day 2 Harry's View

Day 2 Venice Harry's Boys

Bauer Menu

Can we just go back to the bellinis, though? Pureed white peaches and prosecco… So exquisite I was rendered totally silent.

Our server made some astute recommendations from the menu, and before long he was back at our table flourishing an array of dishes before us.

Day 2 Venice Cipriani Tray

Vitello Tonnato (veal with tuna sauce)

Vitello Tonnato (veal with tuna sauce)

Day 2 Harry's Table Passing

Harrys Tray

Day 2 Venice Smiles

Day 2 Harry's Squid Ink Pasta

Squid Ink Pasta

Squid Ink Pasta

Veal Ragu

Veal Ragu

Sole

Sole

 

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi

A blissfully mellow last meal in Venice! We idled over coffees and dainty glasses of grappa, trying to delay our inevitable return trip to the airport.

Day 2 Harry's Table Smile

Day 2 Harry's Table

Day 2 Venice Table Done

Day 2 Harry's Mask View

After a while, our taxi arrived and we reluctantly (but happily) climbed aboard and scuttered toward the departures gate.

Day 2 Taxi

Day 2 Venice Boat

Day 2 Venice Cigar Shades Smile

Day 2 Venice Cigar

Day 2 Olivia

Day 2 Venice Boat Hug

Day 2 Venice Z Final

Venice, it was a whirlwind – but an absolute pleasure!

Anyone for Venice?

We got stuck in Italy this weekend!

We were in Trieste to attend a wedding, only to find out our return flight had been cancelled. Forcing us to stay another night.

I know… tragic, isn’t it?

We had some other friends booked on the same cancelled flight, so we asked around if anyone fancied a whirlwind night in Venice.

Unsurprisingly, they all did!

So we chartered a private speedboat together and sped into the heart of Venice.

Venice Boat

P1150670

Venice Boat Chels

Venezia is actually made up of many tiny islands, connected by over 400 bridges and a complex network of murky canals.

As we skimmed over the water past the walls of the city’s perimeter we all caught our breath, gaping at the scene around us.

Venice Boat Canal

Venice Boats

History soundlessly seeped from between the bricks of buildings, some over 900 years old.

B Venice 900 Year Old

When we rounded a bend and coasted into the main thoroughfare of the Grand Canal, it was one of those rare travel moments when a faint shiver set my hairs standing on end.

The scale and faded grandeur of the architecture booming down upon us was staggering.

Venice Boat Grand Canal

B Venice Buildings

The watertaxi dropped us at our hotel, and we clambered onto the dry decked landing of Palazzo Barbarigo, holding onto the striped mooring poles for balance.

Venice Barbaregio Entrance

Promptly checked in, we bounded up the dark wooden staircase to our room. When it comes to interior design, Italians don’t do understated. They do heavy, sumptuous, borderline chintzy.

Gleaming inky parquet floors, tufted velvet, textured brocade, and even a pair of feather-trimmed lamps constituted an asthetic I can only describe as “Venetian boudoir kitsch.” Which we instantly loved, because even holed up in a hotel room we felt positively, authentically in Italy!

Venice Barbaregio Room

Venice Barbaregio Lamp

And the view from our room was this…

Venice Barbaregio Room View Grand Canal

As easily as I could have perched on the windowsill all evening watching gondolas manoeuvre along the waterway, it didn’t outweigh my need to wander!

So we slipped out the back of the hotel and padded down the narrow labyrinth of lurching alleys to explore on foot.

Venice Canal

Venice Cancal Bridge

 

Venice Husband

View from Rialto Bridge

View from Rialto Bridge

Venice Gondola

Venice Standing by Gondola

Venice Gondola Portrait

B Venice Signs

Venice Bridge Us

We spent the ebbing twilight hours roaming the ancient streets, crossing various bridges (island-hopping, so to speak) and popping in and out of shops. I suffered a minor wardrobe malfunction when one of my sandals broke on a tricky step, but thankfully there was a shoe store within hobbling distance!

The holiday must go on…

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.

Pasta Night at Enoteca Turi

So I’ve got a secret little place in Putney. Somewhere I like to sneak away to on occasion. When we want a quiet night.

And a big bowl of pasta!

All we have to do is hop on the bus for a few stops to get there.

Black Door

Unsurprisingly, it’s raining. So I ducked for cover on a neighbor’s threshold to wait for the big, red double-decker.

Black Door Side

While those better suited to the weather bravely withstood the annoying drizzle.

Cap

Seated on the upper deck, we gaped at the new gold bands on our ring fingers as the bus breezed over Putney Bridge.

Putney Bridge

rings

Putney Bridge Side

Within minutes, we had arrived at our destination – our favorite local Italian spot, Enoteca Turi.

Enoteca Entrance

This place makes us happy.

Enoteca Couple

It’s unassuming, cosy, and serves some of the best regional Italian cuisine I can think of in London.

As the wine expert carefully considered the long list of reds, I buried my nose in the menu to make some weighty decisions.

Enoteca Menu

We both ordered the same – new season asparagus with parmesan-coated deep-fried egg.

Enoteca Asparagus

And then the same, again – pappardelle with neck of lamb slow-cooked in red wine with taggiasche olives and a touch of tomato.

Enoteca Ragu

A meal so delicious and satisfying we took our time idly toddling back home.

Putney Bridge lights

Over the bridge we went, gazing at the dark, syrupy scenes of dusk over the Thames.

A wistful return to London, feeling glad to be back.

 

Sunset in Oia

It’s rumored that Oia has the best sunsets on the island. Curious to see what all the fuss was about, we decided to head over before dinner.

Along the way, we paid our friends at Grace Santorini a visit atop the vertigo-inducing village Imerovigli. Keeping cool with a saffron mango margarita by the pool, I was able to take in the jaw-dropping views of the Caldera.

Grace pool

Grace

Graceme

Grace3

Grace1

We arrived in Oia just in time to witness the mad rush of tourists (some of them literally stampeding) down to the tip of the island where throngs assemble every evening to await the sunset. We shied away from the crowds, opting instead to take advantage of the suddenly deserted streets. We wandered around watching the fading glow of twilight bounce off the town.

Oia1

1Oia

Oia4 Oia3

2Oia Oia2 oia oia church

With dusk upon us, we wound down the coastal road to Amoudi Bay for dinner at Sunset. We heard about it in our trusty copy of Where Chefs Eat, but this place is no secret. Reviewed in the New York Times and featured on Travel Channel,  it’s one of Santorini’s most famed dining spots. Nestled at the base of the cliffs with the gleaming white villas of Oia above, Sunset sits on the edge of a twinkling bay. As we walked to our table, little fishing boats were returning to the cove and coming ashore with their catch. We sat right on the water and shared the Sunset trademark dish – lobster pasta.

Rest Sun Rest Amoudi Rest Amoudi1 Rest Amoudi2 Rest Amoudi 4 Rest Amoudi 7 Rest Amoudi 5 Rest Amoudi 6

I wouldn’t be surprised if this dish was a favorite of the Greek gods themselves. The restaurant insists the recipe is “top secret.” But word is already out amongst the feline foodies – this discerning lad definitely wanted in on the action.

Rest Amoudi 8 Rest Amoudi3 Rest Amoudi 9A shame we were too full to taste this complimentary sweet yogurt brought to our table – it looked lovely. I have a feeling I’ll be dreaming about this meal for some time to come…