The Winter is over. Hello Summer in South Africa.

  It’s a funny thing in life.  For me anyway.  When I am in London, I hear nothing but negativity about South Africa.  And I buy into it, for some if it exists, and some are reasons that we re-located to London all those years ago.  No future, everything going pear shaped, crime, high living costs … a little like all the other countries in the world – I mean have you ever sat and thought ‘Where is the perfect place to live?’ and every one you think of has its problems. Politics and headlines have that effect.

But I do find myself a little schizo when it comes to South Africa.  Love London, tell my children to stay and make their lives there … and then I come back, like now, for a holiday and whoosh … my heart just bangs like a thunderstorm with the joy of being here. Other than the familiar, it has to begin with the African landscape that just gets the blood flowing after a long and grey winter.

Truth is it is the end of summer here.  I wear sundresses and sandals and the sun is high and I have this overwhelming urge to be outside and healthy. To drive on open roads, walk on the beach – touch wheat and swim.  Stare at the mountains.  Buy wine from the vineyards and not in an Orange supermarket. It’s nature and landscape enveloping me – and as they say, when life gets tough, nature is what you want.  Here I find her in abundance.

Rather than wake to the view of the garages behind my flat, I wake to Guinea fowl chatting in the garden.  The light is different here.  Can’t explain it, but it is and I see myself in a different way.

The people of South Africa are happy people.  Despite all, and some living in abject poverty, they are always chatting, and smiling and it is infectious. Right down to the street sellers working for a plate of food, they always seem to be positive. Need that after the longest winter yet endured.

So I rose early and went for a walk.  Drove into Cape Town to meet a friend and we drove back to Franschoek to spend a beautiful lunch under the trees – he said ‘you look different’, ‘you look happy’ and I just smiled, again … and again … for I am.

My winter is over. As much as I love London, and I do with her charm and quirks and traditions, I am now rather for a few weeks, for nature, beach and berg, outside living and grateful to be here.  South Africa, you have your problems, but your offerings are greater and I cannot tell you how happy I am to be here for a while. Down to the painted toes and all for now they are on display!

In this Silver street of our lives, we could live anywhere and make the most of it.  Materialism fades but being in a beautiful place, where you are at peace and optimism thrives … that is good enough for me.  Hello Summer, in every way.

Giverny – where I find Monet

‘Always looking for mist and transparencies, Monet would dedicate himself less to flowers than to reflections in water, a kind of inverted world transfigured by the liquid element.’

In 1883 Monet and his family began their lives at Giverny.  So began his obsession to create a landscape of form and flowers to paint.  Ten years later he bought a neighbouring plot, over the railway line to create the pond now forever captured in his painting of lilies and light. Inspired by Japanese art, Monet landscaped nature, his garden at Giverny, his legacy.

I have been to Giverny a number of times.  Early morning train from Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris to the garden my mother spoke of so often in her life, yet never saw herself.  I guess I go for her in a way, to whisper whilst walking – you would love it Mom, just as you told me Mom, wish you were here with me Mom.

It is all about the light.  French vintage home, pebbled walks, spilling of colour. Pink on walls, fuchsia on trellis, hot colour walks, cool water stillness – even the wooden boat moored as if someone may just recline with a good book on a hot summer’s day.  Blues and Greens and purples and lilac and vermilion and yellow and sky.

I grew up with the Impressionists.  Name them all, their works, their histories, but only when in Europe did I see the works before me. The National Gallery, The Orangery, D’Orsay – I find them and stand there, just stand there and know there is passion in life. When life is small, they are immense and I think about their struggles, heartache and joyous fervour when life is at the end of their paintbrushes. Bow down to genius I do.  Monet is different. Monet seemed happy though at times lost for the muse, the vision, but able to find God in flowers and domestic in his family life.  He found his garden and in doing do, he found his art. Though well travelled and documented, it is here that contentment lives.

Sadly, the time I took my children there, the world came too.

 It was August and August in France is not for the weak. As much as I tried to capture the ambiance of the water lilies, others were pushing for a spot along the walk. The lines are awful, the mystery shattered.  I hope they will return when it is calmer and the ghost of Monet walks with them one day. They love the Impressionists, love Art, love gardens and I know they will return to find the magic that lies there.  It touched a little, next time, to drown in the beauty of it all.

For me, once, I was alone and took my time to find the angles, the paintbrush poised before the eyes to find perspective, the lilies bopping gently on water. It was years before that took me back, to the man who rose with the early morning to capture the mist. A short walk away is the Hotel Baudy, more French, more characteristic I could not find.  For lunch, a table beneath the trees on the edge of the meadow.  Looking at the Baudy, I could imagine someone shaking sheets outside the windows, soldiers walking towards anger and away from those they loved.  I revelled in the quaintness of simple cheese and wine at noon, laundry on the line, cows in the pasture and I immersed myself in history, in art and in rural France, on my own, notebook on the table and it is a feeling I remember and love.  

If you love Art, The Impressionists and Monet, make Giverny a place to be. Not visit, but be. Once you have, the Water Lilies at the Orangery in the Tulleries will make so much more sense.  Add more depth to your understanding of the artist and his subject. A day trip out of Paris. Reason enough to understand. A reason to realise that life is beautiful indeed.

Images Paris Vision, Victoria mag and Pintrest. Quote from Giverney

A special Thank you to Peter Mayle – always ‘A Good Year.’

“Look at those vines,’ he said. ‘Nature is wearing her prettiest clothes.’
The effect of this unexpectedly poetic observation was slight spoiled when Massot cleared his throat nosily and spat, but he was right;”
– Peter Mayle – A year in Provence

It’s difficult to think of a time when Peter Mayle was not in my life.  Always in the background of my romance with France, my discovery of Provence, my blankie of comfort when the world was too rough and people too mean, it would be me and my go to movie, ‘A Good Year.’

His words were friends of mine.

Treasure hunting film locations in the Luberon.

Reminders that the quiet, the silence, the simplest things in life are golden gifts.

 

His words made my world so pretty.

My mother loved his books and I told her all about the places there.

The quill lies quiet, characters immortalised but none new will take us through the scraggy paths of Menerbes, of Gorde and Bonnieux –  into the shops and alleyways and back doors of people who are living there.  

Didn’t want to write more today, just to say … I shall miss you in my life.  I have you in my life.

“We had been here often before as tourists, desperate for our annual ration of two or three weeks of true heat and sharp light. Always when we left, with peeling noses and regret, we promised ourselves that one day we would live here. We had talked about it during the long gray winters and the damp green summers, looked with an addict’s longing at photographs of village markets and vineyards, dreamed of being woken up by the sun slanting through the bedroom window.” – A year in Provence.

You got to live a little of the dream, for all of us.  Thank you.

Images Pintrest

Let’s go on an adventure! Beginning with Paris …

In my Silver Street time, looking back, I have travelled most of the world, and grateful for it.  And then we sort of settle on those places we find so enchanting, so alluring, so a little of ourselves, and return again and again.

Not sure about your love of places like these, but for me, there are three in particular.  I live in London and so this city has my heart. I know every inch of her and my passion is shared by those I take around to discover her in more detail. There are the unusual places, the non tourist places that I have discovered and take my clients too, to show them that there is more to this gorgeous place, her people and history that continues to enthralled me every day.  

Then there is Paris.  What can I say?  I return again and again, sometimes alone, times to show my clients the nuances of this special place that breathes love, architecture, shopping and a history rich in all her folds. Times I take my clients for a single day, times for a few days, including Pére La Chaise, Versailles and Giverney.  Indulging in art, history and the city.  At present planning a trip for a group who have never been to Versailles. No-one leaves Paris untouched. I never do.

Staying overnight in Versailles is an incredible experience. We are of the illustrious days of the Sun King, the Marie Antoinette, wealth and treason – human beings caught up in a time of change.  Cannot wait to share this with my group.

And then, and then.  There is South Africa. My homeland, my birthplace and the retuning is always my heart place.  Safari’s, beaches, wine lands of beauty that still takes my breath away. Most of my clients are repeat clients, having lost their hearts to South Africa and every trip is a different experience.

So diverse, I know.  But these are the places I choose to share with my clients. Single travellers, groups, couples and people who want to experience the beauty of these places that I have invested my time, my research, and my love in.  How lucky am I?  It has taken many years for me to discover that these three places have all that inspires me, that I adore and want to share with others. 

This is my business.  Planning events and travel to these three amazing destinations, each so different, so exceptional and for me, the consummate experience of my life.

So where ever you are, before the year closes, choose to go on an adventure – break away from the norm and challenge yourself.  You may be reticent to travel alone, or to a new destination, but I can tell you, it is all good.  It is all possible, and if you want to discover London, Paris or the plains and perfection of South Africa, I am here to tell you, it’s possible!

If you have one resolution for 2018, let it be to push the boundaries, discover the new, take the leap, be it on your own or with someone else, but go for it.  Choose adventure, life changing adventure and never second guess yourself. 

These destinations? The best, the bravest and the most interesting in life. This is why I have travelled and chosen – London for the greatest city, Paris for love and meaning, South Africa for layers of self discovery.  All will change you.  And excite you.  And I am with you all the way if you want the most exciting time of your life.

Sunset at Sacré Couer. Cocktails on the South bank or a fire around a boma in the Kruger Park, this is the temptation and the invitation to travel, and find adventure in the New Year with me. Travel, travel and be whole in 2018.

I shall be doing all of it – and would love you to come along…

Images And beyond, etsy and paris info

Christmas winter in Paris.

Thank heaven, for little girls … they grow up in the most delightful way.’  Maurice Chevalier

I have two delightful little girls whom have grown up into the most remarkable women.  My eldest is enjoying the sunshine of the Southern Hemisphere, so it was to Paris with my youngest for four days, to take in the love we both share for Paris. My son loves her too.

Most people avoid Paris in the winter. I love Paris throughout the year, but it is in winter when I return to end the year in the heart of this magical, enchanting city of lights, and love.  Paris in the Spring, the summer and Autumn have my heart, but when the clouds hang close and the starkness of architecture and nature are at her height, I love her most.  It is quieter, more solemn and poetic for me.  Her buildings melt into the grey, her love for the linear in planting comes to the fore. We walk for miles, huddle in her cafés and brasseries, character abounds, the ghosts of writers and revolution with tips of gold on her statues, all impact when the crispness of winter envelopes.

Rather than stay in my usual hotel, we were invited to stay in a flat in Pigalle.

Dubious I was.  Pigalle is the place of the Sexodrome, of the many sleezy nightclubs and the once, or is it still, famous Moulin Rouge?  I am of the Opera, the left bank sort of gal, but we were grateful of the opportunity to explore – and loved the experience. The apartment was tucked away in a side street, just up from the falafel and ‘private viewing’ offers, but it gave us an insight into the living of Parisians behind the many doors you see.  Courtyards and apartments that are quiet and filled with character.  

By night, the lights of hedonistic living are everywhere, by day, the tarnished remnants of a bygone era greets me. The streets are wet from the winter drizzle, rubbish on the pavements, leftovers of people who frequent and go about their lives in this city.  Every city has her ‘other side’ and yet, people are living here, they thrive here.  Waking and longing for coffee, I experienced Paris in a different light, a good light, a city that has history but continues to build upon itself. Within the realm of what she is.  London does this too.

  The Moulin Rouge in the stark light of day. Still a landmark.

It had been some time since I visited the D’Orsay museum and it has been too long.  The Impressionists are a favourite, so, and so, hello to Van Gogh, to Pissarro, Monet and Manet. To all those who dared to defy the norm, reach for the different and make that happen.  Go early, the tourists are still there with their damned selfie sticks and loud voices.  I detest standing before a portrait to hear the uninformed comment and move on after a hundred or so photographs of them just being there. Is it my age that makes me grumpy with the ignorant who confuse all and this is most more irking when we visit ‘Shakespeare and Company.’  Over the years I have loved entering this little shop that offered a haven to writers so poor they needed the comfort of Sylvia Beach?  Hemingway would pop in to collect his mail, to borrow a few francs and hope his books would make it onto her shelves.  Nowadays, one bustles and breathes deeply in the hope of some reprieve to find the book. As I always do. 


As the light slips away, the candles lit at Saint Sulpice for my loved ones, time for stocktaking of the day. People watching, a bierre blanche with a view. Dinner at a brasserie. Deep conversations about life and where we are going in this interesting time.

I love the rain. We chose shelter in the company of the Luxembourg Gardens in the rain, leaves dripping and statues soaked in their frozen marble forms.  Pools of light on the pavements in their wetness. Escaping to the passages of Belle Epoque – children’s toyshops and miniature furniture stores.  Gift shops and ballet shops where point shoes and tutus take us to another place. I follow a number of Parisian bloggers and one in particular, Paris Breakfast, was doing exactly the same thing at the Gallerie Vivienne, so I knew I was in good company. Love her watercolours.

Dined at our favourite place on St. Louis, our favourite film locations from ‘Midnight in Paris’. tasted fruit and visited our favourite florists. Chocolate Chaud at Café de la Paix, where my family tradition in Paris is manifest. Brunch at Buvette, mandatory hello to Deyrolle, Claudelie, Les Deux Margot. Prayers and candles at the La Madeleine as is custom with every visit.

A creature of habit, the final day before returning to the Gare du Nord is Galleries Lafayette. She is Christmas Paris for me, besides the gorgeous Lindt chocolate close by, but her display is magnificent. Her view the same.  In the winter of Paris, the walking, the rain, the greyness of her beauty, I must to the rooftop of this place, with a view of the Opera, I am of the Phantom, the rooftops, the unique character that is Paris.  

Because I go to Paris so often, many have asked me if I have a lover there.  Of course I do.  It is she. Someone once introduced me to her loveliness and I return over and over again, for the inspiration, the history, the hidden promise of love that this city holds close.  

I love Paris. That you know.  The wintertime is particularly magical.  

‘That I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles

I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh, why do I love Paris?
Because my love is near’

Till one day soon …

 

 

A few days in December in Paris.

Moliére – French playwright of comedies, in particular ‘The Misanthrope.’

Bon Nuit from Paris. For the past few years I have always tried to visit this city, this lady of lights in early December.  A special time, when the tourists thin, the Christmas scene unfurls and she appears, a little more naked, and more beautiful. The city of lovers, the city of lights, the city that has had a harsh time of late crazy people wanting to hurt, but for me, she remains the city of love.  And contrasts.

If you are planning to visit, be aware of these contrasts.  Global problems are in her midst.  This does not mean she does not remain enchanting, beguiling, beautiful.  This will not change.  From the time I arrive at Gard du Nord, I am in Paris romantic mode.  And I walk.  And I walk.  Yesterday I walked from the station to my hotel near the Luxembourg gardens – a considerable distance, but for me, Paris is the city of walking for true discovery. Stumble into streets, this is how you find the true nature of the city. I know the city well, but as I always advise my clients, be street smart.

The Winter Garden at the Palais-Royale

At the heart of it all, the greyness of winter mingles in water, in architecture, in cobbled streets.  Luxembourg gardens were almost desolate, yet this too, is a passion for me, to sit in the weak winter sun and tuck into the only baguette I allow myself on my trips.  You will spot me, the lady with the jambon and fromage baguette on a bench in the midst of statues and landscape. Like my customary beer I always have in Paris, at the end of the day, outside at a brasserie when the night comes early. I like traditions and Paris has many for me. Baguette, beer and hot chocolate at the Café de la Paix. 

 Cafe de la Paix

If you think you have ever experienced a true, hot lava of chocolate in its purist form, you would have been at the Café de la Paix. My mother brought me here, as her mother did her, and I my own children, so stopping for a moment in my day in this Belle Epoque delight is a family tradition. I am in the spirit of the ghosts of Marlene Dietrich, war heroes, politicians and writers and it  is humbling.

Another mandatory stop is Lindt chocolates near the Opera.  Christmas presents added.  Sadly, the multitude of homeless lined on the sidewalks are a tangible reminder of those who suffer in the winter. Who suffer. There are many here, often with sadder looking animals clinging to their masters.  This is our world now and in Paris I see them more than in London.  

Was meant to focus on my research of the churches I most love in Paris, but somehow got sidelined by the Christmas story.  For this I must wander on the Champs-Èlysées, Rue St. Honoré, along the Seine and of course, the big Department Stores of Printemps and Galleries Lafayette. 

Childlike wonder.  Mesmerising to this easily wonderlike child. 

At Christmas time, Paris is like this.  In the spring and summer I prefer to wander along the river and take in the blossoms around the Notre Dame and on the Isle St. Louis.  Meeting Monet at the Orangerie, going to Giverney and losing myself at the Pére LaChaise cemetery. 

So, this woman is travelling alone and in Paris. So easy to do.  I don’t tend to go out at night but before I retire to my hotel or apartment, always a little stop for that quiet beer and taking in the scene of those who call Paris home.  Young exuberant people who chat away in French, single women stopping by before going home, tourists with maps spread out on tables and practising my terrible French on sweet waiters who indulge my whim.

You can travel to Paris on your own.  Find the peace, indulge in her history, live her books, art, culture and daily life with great satisfaction. Paris is for lovers, lovers of romance, of life and of beauty.  

When I sit on that bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg with all that life has dealt me, eating that one allowed baguette, I know that I am in the Paris that embraces, the Hemingway that entices, the lights that flicker, the river of dreams and history, the city that allows for the Renaissance of all.

More than anything she is the city of love – and I am in love.

And I shall be back soon x

 

 

 

Cliveden – a Woodland walk with Kimbo: a very special dog …

 

 

‘And there in the midst of the woodland walk, perchance, a painting … with a view of it’s subject.’

Cliveden, another jewel in the crown that is the National Trust, lies about a hour from my home in Wimbledon.  Love these frosty morning when the driving is easy and the backroads through the English countryside reveal new places to discover –  fuelled with hot coffee I was revelling in the sight of horses on frost, red berry hedges and those quaint English signposts pointing in three different directions with names like Taplow and Slough. 

   My friend Kerry and I go way back to early motherhood days in South Africa.

In fact Kerry was the Neo-natal Sister holding my hand at the birth of my firstborn – so she has seen me at my worst, and at my best.  Now, both living in England, with such very different lives to those back then, it is always a privilege to meet up again, each choosing the next venue – somewhere we can share our love of nature and gardening.  Cliveden was my choice. 

 

Today the pile that is Cliveden is a luxury hotel, but once the home of Nancy Astor and infamous rendezvous of the cast in the Profumo scandal – these walls do talk. Access to the house is limited, but the grounds are open to the public, in true National Trust style, offering walks, parterres and lakes, all under the opulent eyes of fountains and featured statuary. 

 This dude was brave: all the other statues were covered up for the winter – and if I were a few centuries old, I’d also opt for a winter blanket to keep them old bones of marble and granite from fracturing in the freezing temperatures.

Kerry brought Kimbo along.  Kimbo. Best described as a ‘Township special’, Kimbo was discovered on the side of a highway, emaciated, feeble and a broken, teenage dogboy. The bond was set – mongrel meets mother. When Kerry moved to England, Kimbo came along.

Today I met Kimbo for the first time.  White around the snout, legs trembling a little with age, but the excitement of space had him gleeful. I had forgotten what it was like to be around an animal – the simplicity of running, bringing back sticks and other gifts, the constant checking that the one he loved above everything was close. So enamoured were we with our chatting and watching Kimbo frolic, we did the unmentionable – we had walked outside the bounds of doggy trail which is why we later discovered the reason for the disapproving looks by those akin to following the rules.

Tempered by knowledge and back to law abiding follow the guide information, the November chill did not deter the healthy walking, sitting outside in seven degrees where Kimbo was allowed to warm the hands on coffee cups. We met other dog lovers, in particular a woman who had blind dog – yes, completely blind but loved enough to cherish.  See, I am finding goodness all around on this walk around the woodland paths. Beauty of landscape, comfort of animals, culture of circumstance, friendship of importance.  A beautiful walk indeed.

Walking on a magnificent property in England, so grand, so majestic, so epic in proportion with a dear friend and a mongrel dog from a township in Merrivale – three immigrants, far from home but enriching each others lives was a magical time. I bought the Christmas cards, Kerry bought the scones and coffee and Kimbo brought the magic to the day.

Images: Visit England, National Trust.

 

 

 

 

A day in Paris. A day is all you need to fall in love x

IMG_6159 Oh yes, you have heard it, Paris is always a good idea …

Always.

Quite a daunting task to organise a trip to Paris for a group of fabulous women in a day, but a day was all we needed to inspire future visits.

Most had encountered her charms before, for others it was the first time, so it was a challenge to create an itinerary to accommodate all tastes, in a few short hours, a taster so to speak, of the French capital. 

IMG_6158 The day began early.

Catching the Eurostar at Six Fifteen from London meant an early rise.  The train trip alone was fabulous and I am a great fan of Eurostar.  So a little of what we did in a day:

  •  Arrived 9.40 am at Gare du Nord. Always find it a little disappointing after St. Pancras and there seems to be more and more beggars about every time I go. Not the greatest first impression.
  • The Uber thing.  To the Opera with her golden tinged statues and incredible architecture – with time being of the essence, the Metro meant a change and Uber is ideal.
  • The Wow factor, done.  More than that, it was time to discover a time old favourite of mine, a place where my Grandmother took my mother, my mother me and me, my children – it was for coffee and croissants at the famous Cafe de la Paix. Grand on a grand scale.
  • A short walk to the beautiful Madeline. No, we shall shop at Fragonard at some other time, this is for now and you need to see her.  The Madeline Cathedral is one of my favourites, a place of sanctuary and stillness.  To light candles for those we love, as I do everytime I visit. 

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Close by, was the once Madeline cemetery, original burial place of Louis and Marie Antoinette. 

  • The Rue Royal.  From the steps of the Madeline one gets the most amazing view towards the Concorde and Les Invalides in the background, her Golden dome glinting in the sunshine. Surrounded by gorgeous shops such as Maille, Laduree and Fouchon, we stop to chat about Maxims, a lovely Art Deco style Brasserie once favoured by Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Maurice Chevallier and Edward XVII.  
  • Place de la Concorde. The heart of Paris.  Upwards a view of the Arch de Triompe, in the distance the Eiffel Tower, and a lovely walk in the gardens of the Tulleries. Place of many executions per favour of Le Guillotine.
  • Ambling through the Tulleries is important and perhaps, as I show them, a visit, next time to L’Orangerie, to view the magnificent works of Monet’s waterlilies. 

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  • The Louvre.  Of course, the Louvre, largest art gallery in the world, place of Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, The Nike of Samothrace and many others.  The Pyramid of glass, the immense,  overwhelming feeling of culture and art.
  • Lunch is away from the crowds.  We to view the Notre Dame and to the island of St. Louis to my favourite restaurant for Onion Soup and fresh baguettes.  

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  • A short walk to the Left Bank, stopping at Shakespeare and Co. which sadly is now so popular the crowds line up outside to enter.  Hemingway would not have approved.  
  • The left bank is for the Sorbonne, the Luxembourg Gardens and all the beauties of St. Germain des Pres. 

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Sadly, it was too soon before we had to return to the station and rail our way back to London – it has been a long day, up before sparrows and home after dark, but the hours in-between were wistful, wondrous and taste of Paris in her Autumn splendour.  Till next time xxx

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Contact me at karen@mysilverstreet.com if you should want to experience a day in Paris too!

Lake Como, where slow is the magic of movement.

IMG_5955 ‘The beauty is…’ she said, ‘that it is impossible to be in a rush here.’

In the midst of turmoiled life last year, I to a wedding in Lenno, on the shores of Lake Como.  And I knew I had to return as a different person, to cherish and value what I lay before me in a different light.

IMG_6010 Last week I did, as Autumn spread her golden aura on the place, I immersed myself in the glory of the Grand Tour of yonder years.  In this place of lakes and mountains, some capped with snow, time stops.  Villages lie dormant despite the visitors and slow is the way to go.  Slow and steady breathing exists here.  The ferries are best for traversing the water from Village upon Village of colour, the azure of water, the bright Umbers, pinks and mustards of buildings and mountain meets shore in greens of lime, olive and forest green.  Boats bob in retro fashion.  Villas of grandeur, Hotels with names like the Grand … Hotel du Lac (one in every town) herald bygone splendour.  Is it a peaceful place.

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The apartment, a find I shall wish to closet for future stays, was one of those we dream of living in.  Wooden floors, double volume, white decor and a view to wake to, to linger over, to stare out over towards the twinkling lights across the water at night, perched above restaurants still sought for watching, and doing little else but watching.  And knowing that life bustles elsewhere but here, modern life wanes for the simpler stuff of a good meal, excellent conversation, ambling amongst the shops and most of all, lingering as a flanêur should in one’s walk for no purpose but to observe.

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The sense of peace is overwhelming.  History and elegance in every garden. Some come to paint, others to explore, and some, even to write of what life should be like.  I had forgotten that in the midst of worldly doings, there are places that can restore the soul, turn back the tumultuous heart and calm all as Como does. Some chose retreats for yoga, self awareness, business building, but Lake Como offers a retreat for the soul, simple, just the soul to quieten and restore.

A woman wanting to travel alone should pen this place in her diary.  Easy to reach from Milan, I chose to rail from Milan Central to Verenna and ferry to Bellagio. The journey alone allows breathtaking views of the lake, doing it Grand Tour style, without stress, without hurry.

For those wanting to centre their time around the Midlake, Bellagio offers the perfect hub, but in saying that, my stay in Lenno last year, a little quieter is ideal for the total getaway.  Other options are Verenna, Tremezzo and Menaggio for accommodation – one simply cannot go wrong and all are within reach of a simple ferry ticket for the day.  There is hiking, cycling and a variety of water activities to partake in, but for me, just day tripping from village to village, to light candles in a church, eat pasta, sip coffee and dig deep within the soul were enough to bring about a renaissance of self.  

There is a reason I love Europe.  My grandparents were born there, loved living in South Africa but always took lengthy trips back to Lake Como and passed this onto my mother, who did the same for me.  I took my children to Como to pass the legacy, the love and the gentleness of life in her moments of languish – and simply going slow for a while.

When all is said and done, battles fought and won, we need to sip the last of the summer wine in a place that takes our breath away.  We need romance and beauty … and I found her for awhile.

 

Are you on your bicycle of new beginnings?

68a34f3e8d0e968391519f5ff3457eb6--bike-drawing-bike-poster …you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting. 
- Katherine Hepburn

If you are like me you start each morning with ‘Right!  I am going to do this.’  Refreshed from a very needed good night’s sleep and the world is full of options.  Times the day sort of wears you down, people don’t always see things from your side, but do not get sidetracked!  Do not fall off the bicycle. Some of us have not been on one for awhile.

Riding a bike is easy.  Everyone can do it.  How then to get back on the proverbial when the wheels fell off the last one?  Or your bike got stolen?  That truck of life knocked you sideways? Let’s do this together:

  • Let it go.  The old bike is no longer roadworthy. Take the bell as a memory and send the rest to the scrapheap.
  • Find a bicycle that suits you best.  I like those pretty ones – places for flowers, pretty packages and pretty colours to make the ride all the more interesting.
  •  This may seem daunting but don’t take the overused highway of life, the road that is easy, you have the skills to plan an interesting route and make it financially and  aesthetically viable.
  • Don’t worry too much about the map, have a few great options and let’s see where the road takes us.  There may be ideas lying long and dusty in the ambition box, now is the time to dust them off and take them with you on the bicycle to new beginnings.
  • Surround yourself with people that think like you do, or open your mind to views you may never have considered.  Team cycling is great.
  • Use that memory bell to tell everyone you are back on the bike and they had better watch out!  Ting a ling, ting a ling.

Confidence is the only real thing you need.  Once you feel invincible on your bicycle, everything will follow.  You may fall once or twice, but getting up, scars and all, is the only option.  Do you have the confidence to get on the bicycle of the great unknown – which you deserve – are you ready (whether you like it or not, because seriously, letting the past/feeling weak/doubt is going to hold you back) to get back on the bike, with those pretty flowers and a book of great ideas – it’s fun once you try it.

Image Pintrest