Roman Holiday

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Our suite at Margutta 54
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Picasso`s Studio

Picasso`s Studio

 

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Osteria der Belli, Trastevere

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Borghese gardens and Piazza del Popolo
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The Colosseum and the Pantheon
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Supper at Pizzaria dal Pollarolo
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Alexander Platz Jazz Club
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Lunch at Trattoria Brunetti
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Atop the Spanish Steps

Atop the Spanish Steps

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Only in Rome do you walk a pig!
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Hotel de Russie
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Trattoria Enzo al 29, Trastevere

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With our heads filled with still shots from two iconic films set in bella Roma; La Dolce Vita and Roman Holiday, we set off on our four day trip to the eternal city.

We do a city break each year at this time; ostensibly to celebrate our wedding anniversary and my birthday, but also in the hope of discovering new places ,and a touch of early spring sunshine. We got it.

I always do tons of research each trip as I love doing so. I trawl through websites such as Chic Retreats, I-Escape and Mr and Mrs Smith searching or simply google `Boutique Hotels in …` to find the perfect place, in the perfect location, (I found our hotel in Mr and Mrs Smith) . I also spend ages choosing where we will eat. That doesn`t mean we don`t come across delightful little lunchy places when we get there, often recommended by someone you start chatting to in a bar or café…. but I like to be booked in for a couple of dinners, so we don`t miss out on the eateries of our choice; being the foodies that we are. This was especially pertinent in the case of the tiny Da Enzo al 29, in Trastevere, as we got stuck in a taxi driving along the banks for the Tiber as they were filming the new James Bond film( utter chaos on the already crazy road), and if we hadn`t booked I think we would still have been queuing to eat , such is the popularity of this family-run  busy ,buzzy trattoria. It was a memorable meal that`s for sure. Sublime, simple, freshly cooked local food.  I searched out the places the Romans eat, and we had some of the best food we have ever eaten. When in Rome …

Take a peek at www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com for real inspiration., this is where I found Al Enzo amongst others .We love busy bustling trattorias with carafes of wine, lots of banter, and all crammed in for the love of food. We ate the best garlicky spaghetti con vongole, (I am truly mad about clams) at Trattoria Brunetti, and the most divine carbonara ever at Al Enzo, no gelatinous cream laden sauces, just fresh parmesan and pecorino, bright yellow egg yolks and chunks of smokey, fatty melt in the mouth pigs cheek.

Artichokes were on every menu, ( fried Jewish style) as was creamy white Burrata, and delicious oily anti pasti.I really  loved the aubergines which had just been thinly sliced and drowned in olive oil, parlsey , lemon and chilli, delicious with grilled lamb.

I could rave about the food for hours.Other foodie delights were the light as a feather pastries ( almond jam stuffed crosissants)  for breakfast each day at our favourite caffe Navone, a few hundred yards from our hotel, on the corner of Piazza del Popolo, (where we sat each days for a few hours faces to the sun and watching the oh so chic Italians in their black Moncler jackets and fur trimmed parkas),  the best, thinnest crispest pizza ever topped with zucchini flowers and anchovies at the fun Trattoria Pizzaria dal Pollarolo, family-owned since 1936 when it just sold chickens.I love stuffed Zucchini flowers too, full of ricotta and anchovies and fried in tempura…

I also swooned over the tiny glass of mascapone mousse topped with wild strawberries at Al Enzo as my husband sampled (at the insistence of the waiter of course)glass after glass of the chocolatey Jannamico liquer.

We stayed in Margutta 54. It is in the most perfect position, very central, the smartest most interesting area, and 20 minutes walk from the Spanish Steps, Borghese gardens et al. Owned by Count Alberto Moncada, whose great grand father built this amazing building in the 1920s.It  housed studios for artists and musicians such as Picasso( whose studio was opposite our suite), Fellini and Puccini. Indeed Gregory Peck`s apartment in Roman Holiday was three doors down from us.

Alberto has written a charming illustrated `Roman notebook` which each guest receives, and it was just perfect for us, with tales of his childhood running in the  Borghese gardens, his love of the Bloody Mary Cocktails at the Hotel de Russie , and special places to dine , drink and shop in.( I also took his advice and bought a piar of red socks for my son from a shop behind the Pantheon in the Via del Cestari where they sell `ecclestico` clothing; fascinating…these socks are made especially for the Pope!

We took his book everywhere with us. The Via Margutta was most definitely our favourite spot, a cobbledy street full of antique shops, galleries and quirky studios.We loved walking across the gravel courtyard amidst the artist studios each morning, opening our private gate and out into the sunshine to the Piazza as the city woke up.

We did a few touristy things bemoaning the crowds and the queues, but managed to see the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Gothic church Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and the Trevi Fountain which disappointedy had no water in it, as it is being renovated..so no coins in the fountain for us sadly.

Another highlight was going to the oldest jazz club in Italy-pre-booked before we went-Alexander Platz Jazz Club is in a sort of cave down some steps and all the great have played there. We loved it. It was everything a jazz club should be with a very smart all Italian crowd. We saw the amazing Brazilian saxophonist Sergio Galvao, who played both a tenor and alto sax.

Rome is stylish, full of great sights both ancient and modern, fabulous designer shops, the best food ever if you avoid touristy and uber expensive stuffy restaurants, walkable ( my feet did kill each night though) and very sunshiney. There are taxi ranks on the corner of each square ( you can`t flag a taxi here), and the drivers are fun and not pricey. For example the trips to the airport are fixed price from the centre of Rome .

And don`t ever forget to look up. Such beautiful building, shutters, architecture and the bluest of  skies….

Sit a while like we did each afternoon in the Borghese gardens or the Piazza del Popolo ( the peoples` square) and take it all in, people watch, sketch ( as my artist husband did), and listen to the strains of the buskers, church bells, and the hooting of cars.

Vini, Vidi, Vici !
Arriverderci bella Roma.

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A touch of the East

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I haven`t been into East for years to be honest, but my sister who rings regularly with lists of books that I MUST buy, and` have you seen` this or that on various websites, rang me to say that I MUST look at East website; as there was a scarf on there that she thought I would love. She was right.My sister has a branch of East  in her town of Reigate, but I prefer to shop online, so quickly took a peek. I loved it . It is fine white cotton and hand embroidered in yellow-fab for summer. It would look great worn with white linen. They have several other colour ways and similar styles ,but with different embroidery -all lovely.
I also spied some simply styled jute bags in fawn, yellow or denim-y blue, which are great for summer shopping or the beach. I would use one for the beach here in North Norfolk (as we go rather a lot) not when abroad; as I prefer something brighter and a more zingy colour-wise, but these are rather good looking and nice and roomy at 32cm x 46cm.
Now I am just awaiting the post!

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Kenny Garrett at Ronnie Scott`s

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The billing at Ronnie Scott`s did say that there ought to be a `storm warning` for the Kenny Garrett Quintet. All I can say is wow, wow ,wow!

Although we have seen quite a lot of jazz over the last ten years, the last time that I went to a `proper` jazz club was in New York ,when I was fortunate to see the late great American jazz singer and pianist Shirley Horn at the Blue Note.

I hadn`t been to Ronnie Scott`s before and I loved it. We had a good supper of smoked salmon and steak frites with béarnaise sauce and settled down to the jazz with glass of wine in hand. The place has a great atmosphere, cosy and smart, and the show was a sell-out. The house band; The James Pearson Trio were excellent, and I could have listened to them all night , but when Kenney Garrett walked onto the stage, the room went quiet.

Kenny Garrett (born October 9, 1960) is a Grammy Award-winning American post bop jazz saxophonist and flautist who gained fame in his youth as a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra and of Miles Davis‘s band. He has since pursued a successful solo career and has been described as “…The most important alto saxophonist of his generation” by Washington City Paper and “…One of the most admired alto saxophonists in jazz after Charlie Parker by The New York Times.

He is a stirring alto and soprano saxophonist with a  hard-biting sound and compelling, passionate  stage presence.( He also had beautiful hands, and we were sitting right at the front by the stage so I could have reached out and touched them. I didn’t though so don`t worry!)  But he is one cool guy in his dark suit and embroidered skull cap, his saxophone is amazing too; studded with rhinestones…

His playing was mind blowing, supported by Vernell Brown on piano, Corcoran Holt on bass , McClenty Hunter on drums and Rudy Bird on percussion ( a long way from my son playing the triangle at prep-school ha ha).

The music  very much in the post-Coltrane vein , with Asian and African influences, twists and turns-a stirring muscular alto. I was very aware that I was in the presence of one of the greats. When he started playing it was mesmerising and truly fabulous. I have several of his albums but hearing him live was just amazing.

 

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Written in Scars

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Hurrah! Following from the post below, I have to add this one to announce that the fabulous( and very gorgeous), Jack Savoretti`s new album `Written in Scars` is out tomorrow. I have just downloaded it onto my IPad and it , like all of his music is just so very good. I love him.

I particularly love Back to Me`, and `Home`, see below on You Tube.

 

 

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Singer Songwriters

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I love the`singer/ songwriter` genre of music; as readers of this Blog will know by now. Proper talent. Two new young guys whose music has impressed me this week are Miles Graham, with his just out `I can`t love you again`. Download it and also listen to him on You Tube.

And the fab James Bay from Hertfordshire who has an album about to debut ,called `Chaos and Calm`, and with songs such as `Hold back the River`, this troubadour is surely set to captivate the world with his guitar. Love it.

 

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Beachwear buying

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I have decided that the best time to buy beach wear is when you have just come back from a holiday, and what you do and where you go is fresh in your mind, you may also be inspired by what you have seen other people wear as well! Which really is sort of buying before you go on holiday except it`s quite a while away. My theory holds, as when you are actually in the sun, it`s then that you know what you wear, what you need and what is left in the wardrobe in your hotel bedroom. So fresh back from Barbados, and very aware of what I took with me that I didn`t wear, and we all do it.. I have bought a few more holiday pieces to add to my (ever-growing) holiday wardrobe.

I decided that I wore my  black linen and white linen loose shift dresses more than anything, so I am getting another white one and hot pink one made, copying the ones I already have, and I have just bought two more kaftans, a white one from  Monsoon and a purple one from Coco Bay ( I have this one in white and a pale turquoise and love them). More is more I say!

Both websites have a good selection but I implore you to buy early in the season anywhere, else there is little choice size wise. Having said that, many of the Coco Bay kaftans and beach cover ups are one size, so that`s good news.

I have also bought a  fab flower necklace made from shells from Pebble London to add a bit of glamour.

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Barbados

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Fabulous food at Cobblers Cove

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Stunning gardens at Cobblers Cove

Stunning gardens at Cobblers Cove

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The Lone Star

The Lone Star

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Speightstown `Little Bristol`

Speightstown `Little Bristol`

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Cobblers Cove from the Silver Moon

Cobblers Cove from the Silver Moon

Claudette Colbert`s house `Belle Rive

Claudette Colbert`s house `Belle Rive

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The stunning , wild east coast

The stunning , wild east coast

Sea fans washed up on Bath beach

Sea fans washed up on Bath beach

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A little holiday shopping

A little holiday shopping

Just returned from our annual sojourn to beautiful Barbados, staying at the chic Relais et Chateaux Cobblers Cove Hotel. We had ( as always) the most wonderful time….I have come back full of inspiration; fabulous stylish surroundings, the best food at the hotel by Executive Chef Michael Harrison , who just gets better and better , dined out at The Lone Star, Coral Reef ( Sunday lunch buffet) and The famed Cliff restaurant. We swam, we ate, we drank ,we laughed with friends we meet each year and new friends just met too. Dear friends from home in Norfolk with whom we spent several jolly evenings, also treated us to a fabulous lunch cruise on the Silver Moon catamaran , ( so very much the lovelier for just hosting the six of us!).We cruised along the coast spying the glorious Oliver Messel abodes, swam in the clear turquoise waters from the steps of the cat, and ate lunch and drank copious rum cocktails and white wine spritzers to the reggae beats. A perfect day.

A perfect holiday in fact. Always such a wrench to  leave the bluest of skies and the whitest of sand and the warmest of water to be greeted with grey skies here in old Blighty. Such a treat to be in the Caribbean at this time. All booked for next year-hurrah. Bliss!

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