The weather here in KL has reached 36°C and all I can think about is ice cream. Feeling inspired after having a scoop of salted caramel ice cream in Hokkaido Ice Cream in The Garden Mall, I went in search of recipes. I was very pleased that this splendid flavour was now available in KL. I’ve only ever had salted caramel in Paris (the best is from Berthillon). I found a recipe I am keen to try. Upon finding this recipe, I was keen to explore other flavours and thought that a pandan coconut flavour would be very nice indeed. I looked it up and found this.
I adore these minimen jewellery that Frédérique Conte has created. I stumbled upon these when I clicked on a link to Howkapow, a wonderful online design shop which sells many other lovely things including Lucy’s graphic scarves (which is how I came upon this gem). Seeing as summer is on the horizon and I am feeling it particularly more as I’m away in Kuala Lumpur where temperatures are well above 30° C, I have found the swimmers collection rather refreshing and the humour in these designs uplifting (check Nikki about to go skinny dipping!). I tried to find more information on the designer all I could find out is the little write up on the Howkapow website. Shops like Tombée du Camion do sell minimen like these. Guy and I are off to Langkawi soon and I cannot wait to be splish sploshing soon!
For entertaining, Seletti has a robust offering of products in their World Map series. I love the placemats best. It is sold in packs of 50 with a selection of city maps from London, New York, Tokyo and Paris.
Seletii also has ceramic world map dinnerware for sale. The placemats remind me of these lovely wrapping paper sold in Magma which is probably the next best thing to wrap presents in after plain brown paper. I was in New York recently and the conversation at dinner turn towards maps. Liam mentioned a map on race and ethnicity in New York City he’d seen.
This led me to Frank Jacobs’ Strange Maps. I like the Gridding of London and the Nightclub Map of Harlem produced at the end of the Prohibition charting funtimes. Frank Jacobs has since been published and his book Strange Maps can be bought here
Let me introduce you to my faithful friend, a little man named Hank. He has been my travel companion in a bit of a journey, a scenic route from Milan to London. He is faceless, but he stuck with me all through this adventure. I wonder if he is faceless because sailors are the forgotten faces that passed through the ports.
I was in Milan for work. I left on Sunday night and was scheduled to be back on Thursday morning, straight into work. And then the sky produced a spectacular sunset and the volcanic ash cloud, a real black cloud covered the UK and quickly all over Europe changing the course I would take to head home.
Easyjet put me on a coach with some other passengers and we were taken to the magical Lago Maggiore, just outside Milan. During the hour long journey, I was in a queue to speak to Easyjet and to organise a new flight home. After the 3rd attempt I got through and was told that I could be put on a flight home the next evening. That’s when we arrived in Lago Maggiore. And it was breathtakingly beautiful.
I was torn. I did not know whether I was upset that I’d woken up at 5am to catch this early flight that had been cancelled or that this was an unexpected opportunity to see a new place and not be in the office! I had no idea where I was and it seem like nobody knew either. The scenery left me speechless.
So I decided to go with my natural holiday spirit and to drop the bags and sit in the sun, soaking in the scenery.
I checked into the Hotel Villa Carlotta. My room had a balcony and was lake-facing. Up to this point, I still had no idea where I was. Not having much geographical knowledge, I had to ask before I found out. I was more muddled about the name of the town because when I went out to explore that Thursday afternoon, I asked for a map and was given one for Stresa. So that’s where I thought we were. And it wasn’t until after not being able to find any of the roads or landmarks on the map that with more enquiries, I realised it was the little stretch called Belgirate.
I went in search for the attractions in the area. I found an old church on the top of the hill, resting higher than the train tracks. It was such a lovely day. The skies were blue and not a cloud in sight! By this time, I’d rearranged my plans and was now flying into Paris on Sunday and catching the first available Eurostar on Tuesday. I thought that I was going to be more than fine. I was giving myself two days to reach Paris should my flight end up being cancelled. So, on with this hill trek. I will find this church, I will enjoy this. I mean, what views! It’s the Swiss alps, check that snow out!
And by this church, a quiet cemetery. I thought to myself that this was not a bad place to rest in the afterlife.
I quickly found out that I’d covered the one major attraction. I was feeling a little bored and mainly anxious as this black cloud of ash looked like it was going to be more trouble than everyone had expected. I was glued to the news, waiting for updates constantly. I went for walks. And I found roses. I took photos.
Squint and you will see the Swiss alps, covered in snow like a cool icey dessert. Look at what’s in front of you. Without the rose-tinted glasses, reality hit me hard.
My flight to Paris was supposed to be on Sunday morning. On Saturday, I panicked. I even went a bit hysterical. I’d slept badly the last few nights because my sleep was fueled by nervous energy and my dreams, were anxiety driven. I had to go. I felt that I’d come under the spell of Lago Maggiore. The tranquility, a welcome break after being in Milan during the Salone was now turning eerie. I started to believe that if I did not make a run for it, I could end up living here forever.
I left. I went to Stresa and it was very pretty there too. But I’d broken the spell. I was no longer interested. I was single-minded. I wanted to survive. I wanted to be home. Both homes. I wanted to be back in London home and I also wanted to be back by Wednesday for my trip back to Malaysia.
After an unsuccessful Saturday evening of queuing up for over two hours in Centrale, only to be told by the unhelpful lady that all trains to Paris were booked until May and a dash to the bus terminal, only to find it as chaotic as the train station. Ticket holders were fighting with each other to get onto coaches.
I felt broken. I was in tears. I had had enough. I wanted to be back. Urged to stay calm, and with another night’s bad sleep, a new plan had been hatched. Guy had been thinking about it and thought that I was to find a way into France, Lyon perhaps. And make my way to Paris.
Sunday morning, I woke up at 6 something from worry. I headed to Centrale again. I queued for about an hour (easy, after the day before). This time I was told they could offer me Nice and that was it.
I went for it. I had a ticket in my hand and I felt hope. A tgv train ticket from Nice to Paris was booked online. My wonderful friend Jess booked it for me. So I was off to Nice and Jess used to live there. I immediately felt like I was closer to home. I could see the light and I should celebrate!
I celebrated with Nutella on the go! It’s the perfect trainride snack. There is ice-tea in one corner, breadsticks and nutella. I even found the Sunday papers. I was all set! I listened to some music. I felt relaxed enough to enjoy and my journey out of Milan was sountracked by Floating Points’ XLR8R podcast. I sat in a compartment with four other travelers. A man who was wearing double denim, which I’ve read is oh so fashionable. He wasn’t even trying to be fashionable. You knew he’d been dressing this way since his youth. He had travelled from Vienna and was making his way to Avignon; a mother and daughter going on holiday and would have normally taken the train and a lovely lady from Stuttgart. Crystal was jolly. She was also determined not to let the ash cloud ruin her holiday. She had friends to see! So she’d been traveling for over 20 hours and had a car journey ahead of her. She was tired but we were both excited as we got on the train from Vingtimilla to Nice.
I reached Nice at night, it was dark but the route was so scenic. The weather was beautiful, but I was on a train. I could see the sea and it made me happy. I had to collect my ticket and this took another hour of queuing in the train station. The next morning, I woke up early. I wanted to see a bit Nice, I wanted to see what it was all about.
It was sun, sea and stripes! I was wearing stripes! I had Hank with me! I felt good. I was in France and I had a ticket in my fist for the 1035 to Gare du Lyon. And I saw this:
And yes. It was all going to be fine. I am going to make my Eurostar on Tuesday morning. And Hank was still with me. I have been very lucky. I was not left camping in airports and I wasn’t going to be stranded for much longer. This adventure only made me realise,that not unlike thinking about where your sausages and bacon comes from, modern travel has made us forget the actual miles between places. It is not until you move around countries to get to your final destination that you can really understand and appreciate that the quote about traveling being about the journey and not the destination has a lot of truth in it.
So I came home the scenic route, I met some interesting people, I felt loneliness, craziness and excitement too. I am glad to be back in London and I miss the sight of the lake and sea. And to be honest I’ve always wanted to take the train across Europe. I find train journeys old fashioned and romantic. And for all the hassle, for all the worry, I have returned with a story to tell. That’s not a bad thing at all.
I have always dreamed of being in a band. And when I was in Paris at the weekend, we spotted this on the ground, outside my favourite shop in Montmatre.
I’ve been to Paris a few times now, but have never seen any of the cemetries there. We went to Cimitiere Montparnasse because I wanted to see Jean Seberg‘s tombstone. It was very sunny that day. And she was nowhere in sight.
I found Serge Gainsbourg‘s instead. His was filled with cigarettes, metro tickets other curiousities like this Bob charm.
It was a funny coincidence as only two days ago, my friend Siobhan was telling us how she liked the name Bob. We decided that the Bob in Twin Peaks was one Bob we didn’t like.
The best thing about being away is having the time to walk about. I remember when I lived in Edinburgh thinking that it was lacking a river. Having a river = having bridges. Bridges make a city very pretty.
Walking around a city is the best way to discover hidden gems. Nothing is better than stumbling upon a spot of beauty.
Or spotting the prettiest petits fours. When travelling, breakfast can be long and leisurely. Not unlike a weekend brunch. We had a breakfast of freshly baked breads. We were served a selection of yummy jams and nutella. Mmm..
I like revisiting cities that I love. You end up with a list of favourite places. Almost like you lived in that city. In Paris, a favourite gallery is the Fondation Cartier.
The exhibition we saw was Grafitti- Born on the Streets. On the way out, we spotted a bunch of grafitti artists tagging a wall propped up in front of the building. It was a nice touch by the curators.
One of my bestfriends is having her birthday party soon. The theme she has chosen is off Alice in Wonderland. She’ll be having a Madhatter’s Tea Party in Callooh Callay, a bar in Shoreditch so named as a nod to a Lewis Carroll poem. Naturally the design aspects of such a theme has been on the cards of late. I ffffound this Russian prison deck which led me to look for more in this direction. Playing cards have always fascinated. And for a long time they were the first thing to spring to mind when you heard the words “inflight entertainment”. They provide the perfect canvas for designers to play around with and magicians love this easy-to-carry prop for demonstrating magic tricks. I wondered about playing cards in fashion…
I thought of Topshop’s AW08 Alice in Wonderland inspired collection which I thought was better on paper than in execution. I only came away with some heart print underwear which are cute but nothing out of the ordinary. I am surprised that although the suits make really easy prints for design, I’ve not actually seen much out there. Apart from hearts, the other suits have not really made it as a design for print. It is a bit of a shame really as you can see above clubs make quite a nice little alternative to flowers as a print. I met Elizabeth Lau in Paris a couple of years ago and was really pleased to see her name pop up in quite a few places recently. The amicable designer has a lovely approach with her use of love hearts in her quirky designs. This dress is a nice little example of what I was hoping to find when researching playing cards.
Accessories are the finishing touches, so I was pleased to find the handmade jewellery from Joolz found via this blog. The multi-strand pearl necklace is accented with butterlies made out of vintage playing cards.
The moustache has been a big source of amusement and entertainment for me. It all started with Dali and his moustache. From the day when Tyler and I went around the supermarket with fake moustaches looking for treacle to make gingerbreadmen to the night at The Egg where I danced quite seriously with a moustache above my lip.
And so the obsession continued, one work Christmas do we were given fake moustaches to wear over lunch, much to everyone’s delight. Although I would have been equally happy with the moustache pencils.
One of Guy‘s first presents to me was a serious fat man’s tache which I hang by my door like it’s for sale. And then came the Moustache Envy badges Sarah bought for me. This year for my birthday, my lovely friends found a moustache ring for me from Tatty Devine. It’s a beautiful ring and great for instant fancydress occasions.
I am delighted to see the number of moustache products out there. Clearly, moustaches make people happy. Here’s a blog with many a hairy post and if you wanted to go out dancing in London, there’s the Moustache Bar in Dalston or in Paris, here’s a club for moustachioed boys and girls.