Last month I was lucky enough to be in Verona, Italy for a few days city break. I used to live in Italy and have visited a lot of the county, self-confessed Italophile as I am! However, nothing could have prepared me for the picture postcard perfect beauty of Verona which I had never been to before.
The river runs through the centre of the city, the banks of which are lined with prettily coloured buildings while green trees provide shade to the hilly landscape above which stunning views can be found. Verona is the perfect sized city to explore in a few days on foot, whether you’re walking up its many hills to take in the panoramic vistas or if you’re walking along the river or in and out of cobbled streets and piazzas stopping off at a gelateria for ice cream.
We all know the city as ‘fair Verona’, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet where the play’s star-crossed lovers meet. Verona certainly makes the most out of the story and it was fun to be a tourist and visit ‘Juliet’s house’ – the house which belonged to the “Dal Cappello” or “Cappelletti” – Capulet family. The building, dates back to the 13th and was renovated in the last century. Inside the palazzo there are works of art by various Veronese artists and some costumes from the 1936 film of Romeo and Juliet. Italians have a strange modern custom of attaching padlocks often inscribed with couples’ names on them, to various romantic monuments and this has certainly happened in full force by Juliet’s house!
On one of our days exploring the city, we discovered the beautiful Giardino Giusti described by Lonely Planet as follows:
Across the river from the historic centre, these sculpted gardens, considered a masterpiece of Renaissance landscaping, are well worth seeking out. Named after the noble family that has tended them since opening them to the public in 1591, they have lost none of their charm. The vegetation is an Italianate mix of the manicured and natural, graced by soaring cypresses, one of which the German poet Goethe immortalised in his travel writings.
Although close to a busy road, once we got into the garden we were in a tranquil and peaceful setting. Happily there weren’t many visitors around and we enjoyed walking up the windy path instead of the main route to reach the top. On the way we found a lovely spot which was a pagoda with a stunning look out view. My boyfriend of 4 years Itay, chose this moment to get down on one knee and propose! Of course I said yes and it made our visit to the garden and our whole trip to Verona even more memorable and special!
Afterwards, in a heads in the clouds daze, walking on air happy feeling we went and had a celebratory lunch in a great traditional restaurant which was full of Italians so we knew it was a good one …
The main reason we had decided to visit Verona in the first place, was to go and see an opera in the open air arena. So as the grand finale to our stay, we had for months had tickets booked to see the opera Aida at the arena. We go to the opera in London quite often but seeing an opera at the arena in Verona is something else! We chose to reserve seats and to be near to the stage for an up close experience with the glitterati rather than queuing to sit in the Gods. The whole experience was so magical, to be watching opera in an ancient site in Italy – I felt that I couldn’t have more of a super Italian experience if I tried! We saw a modern interpretation production of Aida and the use of shadow puppets, fire displays and innovative props made for an amazing spectacle! It was a really fantastic end to a great to the perfect Italian city – Verona – città dell’amore (city of love).
All photographs in this post are by Itay Greenspon.
The other weekend I had the pleasure of being in Devon to celebrate the wedding of friends. We stayed in Kingsbridge, a market town in the South Hams district of Devon situated in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Kingsbridge sits on its own estuary and is surrounded by green rolling countryside.
We discovered an absolute gem in Kingsbridge which is the town’s cinema. The Reel Cinema is the only independent cinema in the South Hams area of Devon, situated under the unusual three-sided town clock. The listed building was built in 1875 and was formerly the Town Hall housing the Town Council, Library, Police Station and Magistrates Court. The old prison cells can still be seen off the lower corridor.
There are three screens offering a wide range of films in Dolby stereo sound and each screen has an individual character.
The Premier Screen seats 54, is fitted with multiplex style seating and has luxurious fully curtained decor.
The Classic Screen seats 165 and is the original auditorium with proscenium arch and traditional features.
The Paradiso Screen seats 48 and is a cosy intimate space ideal for screening art-house films.
We had the auditorium practically to ourselves on a Friday evening, where the box office doesn’t open until 15mins before the screening. Tickets were £6.80, popcorn was a couple of quid and a bottle of water was just 80p! Going to such a unique local cinema was a real treat. If a cinema like that was in my local area, I’d be there twice a week I think!
I went to Suffolk (Aldeburgh) for the weekend and was charmed by the little seaside town on the East Suffolk coast. One of the highlights for me, was seeing Maggi Hambling‘s sculpture on the beach, called Scallop. Created in 2003 the 4 metre high sculpture made of steel, caused some controversy according to local residents and still does. From my point of view, Scallop is an example of a piece of public art that ticks all the boxes. The sculpture is beautiful, achieving an imposing and majestic figure against the seascape. It also has a fun and playful side, as it’s shape encourages children and indeed those of any age to clamber all over and sit on it, like I did!
Carved into the material, are the words ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned’, from Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes. Britten lived and worked in Aldeburgh and he founded the Aldeburgh Music Festival. I have seen a performance of Peter Grimes at the Royal Opera House, London which I felt was a hauntingly memorable and turbulent work. The words are legible only when standing behind the sculpture, looking out onto the sea.
The Moot Hall, Aldeburgh
I was also interested to discover the Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, also situated right by the sea. The Moot Hall was Aldeburgh’s town hall, built during the first half of the 16th Century and it is one of the most important timber-framed public buildings in England. Originally the Moot Hall contained six small shops on the ground floor and a meeting chamber on the first floor.
I enjoyed spotting this chest (below) which dates from 1400 and was found washed up on the beach at Aldeburgh. Of course my imagination thought at once of smugglers!
I also admired the art nouveau style decoration on this commemorative plaque board which was made in honour of those connected to Aldeburgh who fell during the First World War
Finally, I climbed the Town Steps to find the Town Pump!
I have just been on my summer holiday to Israel and it was a wonderful trip. I really enjoyed exploring the creative energy of Israel and arts scene particularly in Tel Aviv which is such a great city. It was also great to eat my way round the country, trying out different specialities. One unique Israeli eating tradition that you can’t miss out on is the incredible Israeli breakfast.
The classic Israeli breakfast consists of: eggs any way you like them, bread (often a few different types), a number of cheeses which in Israel will be white soft cheeses and a feta type one, an Israeli salad (chopped vegetables) and then extra little dishes which vary in each place you go to. For the different extras in various place I got: tuna salad (tuna with onion, pepper, pickle), sweet tomato jam, fruit berry jam, home-made pesto… Oh and tea/ coffee AND freshly squeezes juice are all included. All of this is for about £7 per person. The Israeli breakfast is fresh, delicious, inventive, great value for money and will keep you going for most of the day!
Another option for your Israeli breakfast is shakshuka. This is an Israeli dish made up of fried eggs, in a hot spicy sauce of tomatoes, peppers and onions. This shakshuka also had a sausage in there. At this cafe in Tel Aviv called Benedict’s a shakshuka can be eaten at any time of day and night, as the establishment is known for serving breakfast 24/7!
I was so impressed by the delicious breads at breakfast time in Israel. I have lived in Italy for a year and go back there a lot and I think that the bread in Israel rivals the Italian bread or even surpasses it!
the Israeli breakfast above even included little fried potatoes with the scrambled eggs and refreshing mint tea – ‘te nana’ which is just delicious.
So onto Israeli food, other than breakfasts. Above is an Israeli sandwich from a kiosk on a main boulevard that is open all day and night! Thin slices of beef, salad and as many mini hot peppers & olives as you like on the side.
There are some great fresh drinks to help you cool down during the hot weather in Israel. On the left you can see a juice stand and there are lots of these everywhere in the city where you can get a juice for the equivalent of just a few pounds, with whatever is in season.
Of course I couldn’t talk about Israeli food without mentioning falafel which is basically the national snack! Falafel is a quick meal on the go – chickpea balls with as much of all the different types of salad as you can fit in the pita bread pocket, tahina (sauce made from sesame seeds), hummous and in some places I discovered amba which is a sweet but hot sauce made from mangoes…
Israelis love their sushi and there are many sushi restaurants with great Japanese chefs throughout Tel Aviv. Sushi can be a lighter meal to be enjoyed during the hot weather and it’s fun to eat at a sociable outdoor restaurant. You can see that the portion sizes are still large though especially if you go for the triangular shapes sushi sandwich!
Finally, here is the biggest piece of fish I have ever seen which was served with tens of different re fillable salads. This is pink trout cooked on the grill with a herb sauce. The fish is from the Dan River in the Golan Heights and the bubbling river actually runs right next to the restaurant itself which is build on wooden boards and has its own little bridge.
My next post will be about the cultural side of Israel and will feature my favourite small museums that I discovered in different areas of the country.
A few months ago I visited New York for the first time. I knew that I was going to love it there, having been told so by friends I know who had already been. But also, since there is so much cultural influence I rate highly, that comes from there – art, architecture, design, fashion., food, film and so on which I admire. Some of my favourite discoveries were the thrift shops, better known as charity or vintage shops in the UK.
I was very lucky to come across this original 1970s Jonathan Logan dress at the wonderful Cure Thrift Shop. The dress was just right on and I counted my lucky stars that no-one else had snapped it up.
The dress is brown, of course, being from the 1970s and it’s made from velvet & lace. The Logan company was founded in 1944 by one David Schwartz. I found some interesting information about the Logan label here and was happy to be able to authenticate my New York fashion find.
I wore the dress recently in London, for the private view opening of the wonderful exhibition Lloyd Johnson: The Modern Outfitter at CHELSEA space gallery. The dress felt fitting for the occasion, as the exhibition addresses the career of the designer Johnson, a figure of great note on the London fashion scene including during the 1970s.