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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gritty view of the city and Grenfell’s ghost

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The Amazon morning days – have a free day and promised a friend I would visit their pop-up food truck to taste a prego, or two.  Turns out it was two, (no I may look it post prego, but not pregnant) so disturbingly delicious they were.  Growlers  is the food baby of two Cordon Bleu chefs with youth and drive in their hearts – ambitious and beautiful at the same time.  This could be my new ‘follow that truck’ situation.  

Found them today at Paddington Central, behind the main station and on the canal. The space has been restored into an inspirational combination of office blocks, old world barges and funky art.  Walk the walk here all the way to Camden for a great day out.  Having done that, I decided to path less known, the other way beside the water.

Tourist London ebbs into the more gritty side of the city on this route.  Park benches become fewer, quaint cafés tumble into seven elevens and residential ‘back views’ along the canal.  Though most are well cared for, the private voyeur style looking through windows reminds me of Athol Fugards play ‘People are living there.’  Swans and even better, cygnets for decoration on the water.

IMG_5432 One of the prettier blocks on the water.

Art takes the form of graffiti and to the left, the high rise council buildings shadow the clouds.  I can see the cladding, the cladding so deadly on most of them.  Still I walk on, it gets quieter here but am I nervous, no, I am in London in the afternoon.  Refugees sit silently on benches but do not disturb.  This is what makes London so unique – like most cities, the tourist areas, and the living areas, cultural melting pots within the boundaries.

But I am wandering too far, becoming rather a little bleak for me with the now failing Amazon attitude.  Decide to get a bus back to the brightness, and wait, and wait.  And observe. Cross rail signs on the other side.  A couple trying to create a patch of garden through the small gate I spy, the noise of the trains and traffic will never for a quiet space allow.  An old man is struggling to carry his grocery bags, stopping to pause, to change hands and walking stick with orange packets.  I wonder if he ever still looks up?  A whirr of skateboarders fly past.  When the bus finally arrives, I board to find it stops at the next stop – I am going the wrong way, end of the line.  How is it that I made the mistake  for goodness sake, I have lived here long enough by now! Cross the road and wait again.  Me and a young woman with a white painted face.  Like a face mask, totally white bar the black lined eyebrows, false eyelashes and box black hair.  Her suitcase, black, reaches her boobs. Goth in the daylight, her dress is torn, her life is a difficult one I think – she is young, she is a hundred years in sadness.

The ride back to Piccadilly flows past reams of houses, some blue, some pink, some forgotten.  And then, the blackened death trap of Grenfell Tower.  I cannot take it in, so large she looms over us.  Stark, World Tower of pain, looming, silent as life crawls below her.  And I wonder, should she stay in testimony to human frailty, or be razed in memory to lives lost on that awful night?  Don’t know – but I was no longer wanting to explore this city I love today.  The sadness of Grenfell continues to overwhelm.  I wanted to go home. Kept thinking about this gritty, pretty city – the ages of life, death, re-birth, famine, plague, money, success, happiness and how the layers of history lie below me as the wheels of the bus … 

Times one needs to walk further than the familiar. Inner city views for even here, in the dishevelled state, in areas we chose to ignore, there is a kindness as we saw with Grenfell, innovation, art and the most amazing people living there.

 

 

Pretty Petersham nursery – a worthwhile visit

IMG_5074 Taste the country in the city.

My daughter lives the East end of London, much more ‘happening’ she says and thinks the South West too suburban.  Until the summer arrives and the city wilts, then getting out to parks and gardens are the number one priority.  

My regular volunteering for the National Trust at Ham House in Richmond, takes me through Richmond park and past Petersham nursery.  Not just any nursery, Petersham was derelict not so long ago, rescued by Gael & Francesco Boglione in 2000 and not only restored, but became a place everyone thought was ‘the best kept secret in the world.’ Not for long. 

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The arrival of Skye Gyngell to open the café and restaurant, turned Petersham into a charming venue for all to enjoy.  The old conservatories, overhung with vines and decked out with french park chairs is the perfect place for lunch or an afternoon tea.  In fact, so popular the venue became, that traffic was a nightmare (most people miss the hidden driveway) and soon a Michelin star was awarded – the pressure on Skye was too much and she is sorely missed, but the restaurant is still a brilliant option.

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IMG_5082 Pretty, pretty

Though I tend to avoid Petersham on the busy weekends, my drive back from Ham on a gorgeous summer’s afternoon called for a quick stop to take in the ambiance, the amazing layout and since the death of Mermaid, our only crab apple tree on the balcony, to buy a replacement for the large pewter container.  Petersham church is where the Murray family, who lived at Ham, are buried, so the whole area is connected.

IMG_5075 This is no ordinary garden centre.  Think vintage french gardens, rustic splendour, bygone days of balls of string, terracotta pots, litchen covered statues and heritage plants.  Think orange trees, blue ceanothus, lime and acid colours. Vivid pinks and berry reds.  Wandering through this verdant dream, is a dream, even I feel pretty!

The idea was to buy a lemon tree, but my eyes fell upon the Litchfield Angel, a rose by David Austin.  I could not resist and tucked under my arm, I entered the shop.  

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Along with the rose, could not resist the old fashioned broom (like the ones we used back in South Africa but obviously cost a lot less) and a cute green bottled vase for those rose blooms to rest in.  

This is the joy of living here.  A major, cultural city and the countryside – with the most beautiful river running through it. 

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http://petershamnurseries.com

 

 

Saturday observations in my London.

IMG_5024 View from the National Portrait Gallery.  Big Ben, Nelson’s column, The National Gallery – a great view.

It has been a week since the attack in Borough Market and though I try not to write about politics, a day waking up to a hung parliament. For the locals, like me, having been through the bluff fail of Cameron, it all seems so a re-enactment of the same. Brexit and now this. I have to feel sorry for May’s naivety – we have been through a little too much in the past few months.

London is quiet early in the morning. Tourists rise later, locals sleep in.  Best time to discover the city.  The streets are wet from washing, cleansed from reveller’s debris the night before.  Weekend early glow when seats are free on the tube and the architecture rises to the summer day.  Learnt here, be out early with the sun, she sinks quickly to cloud. I like the solitary walk before the crowds come.  If the crowds come after the attack.

Borough Market stirs in the aftermath. Flowers where children fell. How to explain that we do not avoid but endeavour as this city has always done? We do. It is who we are. Fatigued but resilient. I like that. Southwark Cathedral is lit with candles.  I light one too.

IMG_5020 The Wallace Collection. I need art.

When life stirs troubled waters, I need art.  Once took a special person to the place. For lunch in the conservatory but more to show the three pieces that hold my imagination.  The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals.

300px-Cavalier_soldier_Hals-1624x Love the Dutch Masters with a passion and roots.

Visited the Frans Hals museum in Haarlem not so long ago, so I can relate.

maxresdefault For the joy of the Rococo. Fragonard.

The pallet of pink, turquoise and pistachio green are so unusual and delightful.  And … my favourite.

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Dante and Virgil Encountering the Shades of Francesca de Rimini and Paolo in the Underworld

The movement in this piece of art has me standing before it and imagining the passion of real love, despite all.

So Art became soup, chilled and lovely:

IMG_5019 Art in food, of course.

From the Wallace Museum I walked with my friend of such long ago days to take her for a view of London few know of.  At the top of the National Portrait Gallery. I love this view, seeing Ben, the big one, Nelson’s column, the National Gallery and St. Martin’s in the Fields. For afternoon Tea.

So, from the electric Borough to the culture of the Wallace Museum to portraits of Henry and the Queen, afternoon tea and strawberry Bellini’s it was a Saturday in London that offers all, gives without question and then home.

The evening on my balcony did not end.  A walk I announced, I have to go for a walk. To the village. An evening not to waste as we have so few of these glorious offerings.  And as I walked, the buses drove by, joggers puffed (most looking as if they were beginning of the first time), on their mobiles, with their music.  Children on scooters, dog walkers and late night returners home with orange bags of groceries, I walked to the village and back. Always present the ducks honking from the park.

When you live with so little summer, these evenings are intoxicating.  To be cherished.  On my return from the walk, I sat on my balcony, as do all the residents in the building.  Wave to the neighbours – we do not speak but we are close. I think they are used to seeing me in my gown with the wine and computer by now. My office. My birdcage.

Today was a good day.  I like days like that.