Eat

Manhattan in the Springtime

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Words by Sarah Kelleher, Photographs by Liz Schaffer. Armed with a list of recommendations as long as my arm and travel companions who were already familiar with New York, I stepped off the plane at JFK.  My first glimpse of the city was suitably fitting – late at night, through the window of a yellow taxi cab I could see the outline of towering buildings and neon lights.  Exhausted by the flight, I had just enough energy to register the glorious eccentricity of the lobby at The Jane Hotel, originally built as a hotel on the banks of the Hudson River for sailors on shore-leave, complete with bellhops in maroon outfits with brass buttons, dark wood panelling and a pair of antlers.

Rising much refreshed from my bunk the next day (the rooms at The Jane were built to resemble cabins on a ship) I breakfasted in Café Gitane, next to the hotel’s lobby.  The décor is French, as the name would suggest, and the European/ North African/ Middle Eastern cuisine is delicious, perfect fuel for urban adventurers.  I was surprised by the continental flavour of the café, but came to realise that this is very typical of New York, a city that simultaneously wears its immigrant heart on its sleeve whilst remaining distinctly American.

After that first meal my feet hardly touched the ground.  I was lucky enough to be in New York in the spring when the city is at its most romantic, the square lines of tenement builds softened by the pink and white blossom hanging from the roadside trees.  A lifelong bookworm and confirmed geek, I couldn’t pass up on the chance to visit some of the city’s bookshops and took in the Strand, an enormous family-run independent bookstore, and Forbidden Planet, a famous comic book emporium.  Having satisfied one appetite I turned to another, and had lunch at Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant and New York institution that serves tasty pierogi and sweet raspberry pancakes.

A visit to Central Park was in order, so I found my way to this oasis in Manhattan.  Central Park is just extraordinary – a long rectangle of green space carved out of New York’s urban jungle.  You can see the city’s skyscrapers closing in from almost all points in the park, but they seem curiously far away when you’re surrounded by so much nature.  A quiet wander up and down the paths, past New York joggers and tiny dog-walking Manhattanites, followed by a trip to Café Lalo of You’ve Got Mail fame blew away the last cobwebs of jet lag.

My first taste of the city was short-lived, as I had another plane to catch to New Mexico and a road-trip to complete.  Late at night, tucked up in my cabin bed at The Jane, I consoled myself with the thought that I’d be returning to New York in a matter of weeks on my way home.  When I closed my eyes, all I could see were skyscraper lights.

Two weeks later, and New York had progressed from the chill and damp of early spring to the first hints of summer. Returning to The Jane felt like a homecoming of sorts, and I wasted no time in ensconcing myself back in Café Gitane for a coffee and plotting session.  My first stop was to meet up with a friend who was serendipitously in New York at the same time as me; she suggested the High Line.

The High Line is a remarkable piece of New York history – a living monument to the city’s transport past.  Originally a railroad running on an elevated track through the Chelsea district on Manhattan’s West Side, it closed in 1980, only to re-open in 2009 as a public landscape.  Carefully planted with perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees, the planting design is based on the wildlife that sprang up after the tracks fell into disuse.  After ambling through Chelsea Market we ascended to the High Line; on a sunny spring Saturday locals and tourists were out in force, wandering through the trees and tracks and enjoying the views over the city.

If attractions such as the High Line and Top of the Rock demonstrate anything, it’s that you can always find a fresh vantage point to enjoy New York from.  There are so many ways to see this city, whether you’re at the pinnacle of the Rockefeller Centre, matching up the buildings with your map, or down on the streets, wending your way through beeping yellow taxi cabs.  In the evenings, though, I was after a different kind of spectacle.

At the top of my list for New York was written ‘must see the New York City Ballet’.  This world-famous, and world-class ballet company was founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein in 1948 and resides at the Lincoln Centre.  Balanchine, who served as Ballet Master of the company until his death in 1983, choreographed numerous ballets in which he pioneered a new, athletic style, such as Jewels, the one I’d chosen to watch.

I’d picked Jewels for a number of reasons: partly because it was typically Balanchine, energetic and thematic instead of having a traditional plot with a happy or tragic ending, and partly because I was drawn to the story behind the ballet.  Enamoured with the jewellery on display at New York stores like Harry Winston, Balanchine envisioned a ballet where the acts were named after jewels: emerald, ruby and diamond.  Each act embodied different types of music and ballet: the Emerald act was set to Fauré and was choreographed in the French manner, the Ruby act featured Stravinsky and a spiky modern American technique and the Diamond act was danced to Tchaikovsky in the Russian style.  Of all the sights I saw in New York, this was one of the most spectacular – the dancers leaped higher than I thought possible, and danced in formations that did indeed look like glittering ropes of jewels strung together.

I could continue to wax lyrical about everything I saw in New York – tea at the Plaza (decadent, luxurious), a trip to the Tenement Museum to learn about New York’s immigrant history and lunch at Tableau One followed by a visit to the Museum of Modern Art, where I stood, transfixed, in front of Picasso’s ‘Starry Night’ for a good twenty minutes.  At some point though, I had to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to see everything the city had to offer, that I had simply run out of time.  In the end it didn’t matter too much – after all, it wasn’t a case of if I’d return to New York, but when.

Yosemite to Arches

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Words by Emil Martin & Photographs by Angela Terrell 0n the 100th anniversary of National Parks in the USA, it seemed fitting to visit some jewels in their crown.

Yosemite, four hours from the West Coast, is a landscape shaped by glaciers. Towering granite monoliths ring the valley, their splendour captivating millions of visitors and the solitude (if you visit at the right time) encompassing. 

Montana’s Yellowstone, the oldest National Park, lies above a magma hotspot and claims the world’s largest collection of geysers. The most famous, Old Faithful, erupts every 45 minutes but is by no means the most powerful and spectacular. Patiently waiting by a number of geysers we saw steaming water rise hundreds of meters in a multitude of directions. Waterfalls and lakes together with bison, elk and the lurking danger of grizzly bears add to the excitement. Beware though, the last volcanic eruption 600,000 years ago dwarfed anything in human history ... and the next eruption is well overdue!

Utah is home to Arches National Park (guess what it is famous for?), Bryce, which is renowned for its beguilingly shaped sandstone Hoodoos and Zion where you can scale vertigo inducing peaks and frolic in ankle deep mountain rivers. 

There are dark star-filled skies, geology to astound, wildlife to enchant and beauty to make your heart skip a beat.

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Yosemite to Arches

Italian Collectables

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Each issue of Lodestars Anthology ends with a series of collectables, 200 word features on people, places and ideas that work together to make our featured country truly grand. Here is a selection of our Italian collectables; with food integral to this vibrant country, of course they come with plenty of flavour ... and a dash of Campari. You can purchase the printed magazine here.

MILANO

Stand in a room basking in the glow emanating from Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Wander around the Piazza del Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II with your neck craned upwards, staring at the behemoth archway, carvings and dome glass skylights. Get dizzy. Sit down and order a shakerato and collect your thoughts. Spend 25 minutes in a souvenir shop selling AC Milan and Inter Milan jerseys, trying to remember which one your boyfriend wanted, let alone which player’s number. Almost get into an argument with the shop keeper when you get the colours of each team mixed up. Spray every fragrance in every small boutique on yourself while (window) shopping along the Via della Spiga. Get lost (literally) in the historic Brera district. Partake in a culinary experience, dining on a saffron-infused risotto alla Milanese while a fleet of 30 Mini Coopers congregates in the piazza right outside. Take a sip of wine and kiss the tips of all five of your fingers at once, to complete the postcard-perfect scene you’re currently living out.

M. Pliatsikas

Milan

URBINO

If on a summer’s day you find yourself standing in il Mercatale, the large piazza-turned-bus terminal beneath Urbino’s ancient city walls, look up. Against a sky of childish blue you’ll witness an orchestra of swallows filling the air, engaged in dizzying acrobatic feats above the city’s Palazzo Ducale. The juxtaposition is brilliant - a silent, staid Renaissance structure frozen beneath a sky abuzz with avian daredevils.

Urbino rises almost organically from the hilly landscape of the northern regions of Le Marche. The vibrant centre of a constellation of small, walled towns that freckle the countryside. One cannot understate its Renaissance significance. A city of art and learning, its court served as the inspiration, and later, the setting for Baladassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, the definitive 16th century account of courtly life. More importantly perhaps, Urbino is the birthplace of the Renaissance master Raphael.

Urbino’s labyrinthine streets are dotted with churches, oratories and chapels with the 15th century UNESCO listed Palazzo Ducale standing, as it always has, in the city’s heart while the 16th century university ensures students breathe life into Urbino long after summertime tourists have absconded.

 

D. W. Grunner

Urbino

PANFORTE

Comprised of 17 ingredients, in homage to the 17 districts of Siena, panforte is Tuscany’s most famous cake. Candied fruits, including cedro and orange peel, along with lemon zest, blanched almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios, are combined with flour, cocoa, sugar, honey and spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, coriander seed, cloves and white pepper - which are heated together, before being poured into a pan lined with rice flour paper to form a flat, sweet, sticky, dense cake.

Siena’s town archives attest to the fact that this fruit and nut cake has been made here since 1205. Legend has it that religious crusaders carried rounds of panforte with them on long journeys and that the cake was used as a form of currency in medieval times, paid each year in February to local monks and nuns. In 1879 Queen Margherita visited the town and in honour of the visit her moniker was added to the name, and thus panforte made to the traditional recipe, by bakers like the third generation Marabissi family in Chianciano, is now called ‘panforte Margherita’. A popular Tuscan Christmas gift, it is served after meals with Vin Santo, the local dessert wine.

C. Ratcliff

 

panforte

 

RED PASSION

Campari - bitter, aromatic, happiness in a glass. My ardour for the aperitif took me on a pilgrimage, a 27-hour commute from the Antipodes to the company’s headquarters in search of the secret recipe. A drink is the first order of business. Camparino, perhaps Milan’s most famous, and certainly best positioned bar on the edge of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, is the birthplace of Campari; the famous liquor originally mixed, barrelled and bottled here in the cellar. Today, as everyday, aperitivo is served. Campari soda is the most requested aperitif. Although respect must be paid to Italy’s Negroni and Aperol Spritz.

The next morning at Campari’s now headquarters, Paolo Cavallo, director of the onsite museum, tells me of the company’s decision to open the exhibition space. “Our machinery is much less sexy than our ad campaigns,” he says. When I press Paolo for the recipe he is quick to respond. “It is a complicated formula of lots of different herbs, aromatics and citrus.” In the history of Campari only two people have ever known the recipe at any one time. “One family member and the CEO,” he says. “And I’m neither.”

 

C. Ratcliff

 

Illustration by Saara Karppinen

SAILING IN SARDINIA

Sardinia is a sailor’s paradise with over 1,000 miles of coastline offering pristine white beaches, turquoise-hued coves, rocky promontories and time-forgotten fishing villages. Delicious food, heartfelt welcomes and a sense of tradition combine to make the yacht charter scene here one of the most popular in the Mediterranean - and with over 300 days of sunshine there is plenty of time to enjoy the natural beauty.

Being only 12 kilometres from Corsica, both islands can be chartered, with the plentiful and diverse anchorages ensuring endless possibilities. Modern resort harbours allow for the discovery of unique surrounding villages or a spot of upscale dining and boutique shopping.

Most sailors focus on the northeast coast. The Maddalena Archipelago is a national marine park and once a permit is acquired, crystal waters reveal a seabed peppered with life and an abundance of dive sites. In the bays and harbours of the sophisticated Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast), superyachts glide alongside skiffs on the shimmering sea, exploring luxurious towns and the intensely beautiful shore. There is freedom and adventure in sailing these warm waters, the extraordinary scenic setting a lure for all.

A. Terrell

 

Illustration by Saara Karppinen

Hunter Valley

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Hunter Valley When the constraints of work, time, money and life get in the way of international travel, one of my favourite activities is planning an escape of a more domestic kind. I have spent far too many Sunday afternoons plotting weekends in Berrima, Palm Beach and Bowral (to name but a few). All are short drives from Sydney and all are fantastic getaways, and yet, as with so many ambitious weekend plans, they somehow never quite come to fruition. However, recently a combination of tireless campaigning and some kind of mysterious alchemy, I recruited eight friends to go to the Hunter Valley, with the general aim of drinking copious amounts of wine in a picturesque location. More specifically, we planned to attend the highly recommended Pop-Up at Harkham Winery.

Getting to the Hunter Valley from Sydney is a wonderfully easy - although, despite the short length, I recommend using any means necessary to avoid sitting in the middle seat, where you will be subjected to your travelling companions spending about three quarters of the trip attempting to sleep on you, and then complaining that your shoulders are uncomfortable. After two hours of truly remarkable singing, a little bit of complaining and one unfortunate m&m related incident, we arrived at Krinklewood Cottage and Train Carriages. True to its name, guests stay in train carriages that have been so beautifully restored that upon arrival one member of our group announced that she felt like Anna Karenina and another proclaimed that he felt like he was in an Agatha Christie novel. Both were slightly morbid references, but I think they were referring to the opulent and luxurious trains in those books and not the murders and suicides. Moving swiftly along, we stayed in the Victorian Carriage which has a particularly wonderful veranda looking out over the expansive and very picturesque property. It was also equipped with a barbeque, which quickly became the source of great excitement. We spent a leisurely afternoon eating perfectly cooked sausages and taking in the scenery, before getting ready to go to our wine tasting that evening, for which the dress code was obviously ‘country chic’.

Hunter Valley

While there are plenty of fabulous looking wineries within walking distance of our train carriage, we decided to stay on task and ordered a taxi to take us to Harkham Winery, which was about ten minutes away. I should admit, I was vaguely concerned that a wine tasting might be a rather serious affair, which would be completely wasted on my decidedly unrefined palette, and that I would be forced to awkwardly invent adjectives for the taste of wine - 'the distinct aroma of a country walk with just a hint of wet dog'. My fears disappeared quickly when I arrived and was struck by a palpable sense of fun. We were greeted with a tongue in cheek neon sign, and abundance of very cool murals and were regaled with a story of a group of nuns who had come for a tasting earlier that day. It probably goes without saying that our tasting was a light-hearted and delicious affair. Even better, the Harkham wines are organic, which means they are also healthy and you should feel absolutely no guilt about drinking large quantities (this may not be scientifically correct). From the tasting, we went to the Pop Up which featured live music, amazing views over the Hunter Valley and truly delicious Mexican food. Smashing our own guacamole was a particularly appealing feature, as it gave us the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies making your own food, without us actually having to make our own food.

After an evening (let’s be honest, an entire day) of indulgence we decided it was time for some cardio. So, for health reasons we left our very cosy sport at the Pop Up and finished the night by invading the dance floor at Harrigans Irish Pub. In the early hours of the morning we found one wayward member of our group who had befriended a bride-to-be in the ladies room, fought off a crowd for a taxi and snuggled into our train carriage for the night.

We were very sorry to be leaving the following day, particularly because we barely scratched the surface of the plethora of activities the Hunter Valley has to offer. The car ride on the way home included only a tiny bit of complaining (surely it’s against the rules of road tripping to put the same person in the middle seat on the way there and back), and a lot of brainstorming for our next trip. We returned to Sydney with the conviction that a weekend away in the Australian countryside is a surprisingly easy and enjoyable antidote to wanderlust.

Words by & Photography Mikaela Dery by Imogene Grieve & Ursula Jones

Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley

Panglao and Boracay

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Panglao and Boracay Whatever you’re looking for in a beach holiday – relaxation and luxury or adventure and activity - you’ll find it on one of the 7,107 islands of the Philippines.

Words and Photographs by Jen Broadbent.

Whenever the Philippines is in the news, it’s often for the wrong reasons: political corruption and guerrilla groups, volcanoes and earthquakes, topped off with Typhoon Haiyan last year, the largest recorded storm ever to make landfall. In the gaping spaces between these headlines however, the archipelago and its people are relaxed and friendly. The Philippines is the epitome of laid-back tropical island living - complete with hammocks slung between coconut trees, white sand beaches and cocktails with little umbrellas.

One of the last unexplored gems of South East Asia, the islands are often overlooked by sun-chasing tourists. Separated by more than just ocean, the country has a unique history as a Chinese trading partner, a Spanish colony and a pawn of the Japanese and the US during WWII, before striking out on its own. But while the machinations of political power and Mother Nature rumble away in the background, there is a high probability of having the beach all to yourself, if you dare to skip off the worn tourist trail.

Panglao and Boracay

PANGLAO

Four snorkelers line up along the edge of the bangka, straining forward and almost tipping head first into the clear blue water. Less than two metres away, a green sea turtle casually pokes its beak above the surface to breathe, followed by a joyous gasp as a second turtle makes an appearance. A swimmer jumps in with a splash, but the turtles take no notice and gently glide along. Only a few metres below, thousands of brightly coloured tropical fish dart around like a confetti explosion.

Panglao boasts some of the best and most accessible diving in the country, and it’s easy for snorkelers and divers to come within bubble-blowing distance of coral teeming with underwater life. The resident turtle population soars effortlessly through the water, nonchalantly passing a wall of coral formations in as many crazy colours as a three year old’s artwork. The sheer variety of fish is awe-inspiring, but the hidden beauty is the intricate patterns of the coral itself, minute and unassuming yet perfectly designed. Back on the surface, catch your breath with a cool mango shake at Amorita Resort perched on the cliff above the tucked-away town of Alona. Dive shops, restaurants, souvenir stalls and guesthouses cluster around the bay, peering through the coconut trees to the sparkling waves breaking over the reef.

Many of the resorts on Panglao front onto a private beach, and while it’s easy to collapse into a hammock after a day of snorkeling, the island has more to offer than what’s under the waves. Enjoy Dumaluan Beach ‘pinoy style’: pack a picnic of fish and rice (or ham-and-cheese croissants from French bakery Gavroche) and strike camp at a nipa hut of woven coconut leaves lining the sand. Or, splash around the shallows at protected Doljo Beach and admire the local kids back-flipping off outrigger boats, before scampering back to the cool retreat of the coconut trees when the sun beats down. It’s too hot to do anything other than sink into a siesta, day dreaming about drifting ocean currents and finding Nemo in a fuzzy anemone.

Panglao Island is a 30 minute drive from the provincial capital Tagbilaran, where you can catch a direct flight to Manila (one hour) or a fast ferry to Cebu (two hours).

Panglao and Boracay

BORACAY

For an entirely different flavour in the tropical tasting plate, head to the fun-loving party island of Boracay, one of Asia’s most renowned beaches. First impressions can leave much to be desired - leftover rain puddles in a narrow concrete alley, dusted with a cloud of motorcycle fumes. But suddenly the path spits you straight onto White Beach, and you’ll pull up short and stare. You truly have arrived in paradise.

It’s only a few metres across powder-fine sand to the sea. It’s impossible to resist the magnetic pull, to weave through the coconut trees, sunbeds and umbrellas and finally pause with a sigh, knee-deep in impossibly-turquoise, surely-someone-has-photoshopped-this water. The scene is picture perfect: because this is exactly the kind of beach starring in your island dream.

Despite its hedonistic reputation reminiscent of Phuket or Bali, a break on Boracay can be as restful or active as you want it to be. While 1.3 million visitors a year sounds excessive for an island only seven kilometres long, it does correlate to a superb choice of hotels, restaurants and activities to keep you occupied in any way you choose. Or, alternatively, a superb choice of sunbeds to work on your tan.

Slurp fresh coconut juice and wander along the sandy beach path as touts flourish signboards and call ‘Mam-Sir, you want sailing? Jet-skiing? Kite-surfing? Good price!’ A flotilla of speedboats zips around the bay, trailing lines of parasailers upwards as their parachutes catch the breeze. Up to three people can be strapped into the harness before the crew slowly releases the line. An exhilarating birds-eye view of fishing boats and jet-skis is revealed, across to the sweeping beaches and mountainous jungle of the mainland. Despite feeling like all of humanity has descended onto White Beach sporting sarongs and oversized sunglasses, this widened perspective shows how much remote coastline of the Philippines remains peacefully undeveloped.

Water sports for every level abound in Boracay. The shallow azure waters off Angol Point are ideal for snorkeling and underwater photography of hard and soft corals, anemones and starfish. Adventurous divers can descend down pockmarked coral walls for a glimpse of moray eels, enter the 30 metre long Camia shipwreck to seek its resident red bass and scorpion fish, and even drift dive in the strong currents north of the island. Between December to June, the dominant easterly winds whip up one of the best kite-surfing locations in Asia at Bulabog Beach.

After an exhausting day on the water, sunset cocktails perched on a beach barstool are mandatory. Cloud trails strengthen from pale yellow and pink to vermillion red. Blue triangle sailboats flit across the calm bay as the cooler evening breezes in. Escape from the thumping music and glistening fire dancers to quieter Diniwid Beach, and splurge on exquisite fresh fish and garlic butter shrimp while sipping on chilled wine. The inky water calmly stretches away from the terrace, a gentle pause before tomorrow’s sunrise illuminates another ocean of possibilities to dive right in.

Boracay is a 10 minute boat ride from the busy port of Caticlan. There are regular flights to Manila or drive two hours to Kalibo International Airport for flights to Manila, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and other destinations.

Panglao and Boracay

Panglao and Boracay

Panglao and Boracay

Panglao and Boracay

Panglao and Boracay

Panglao and Boracay

Stockholm

Stockholm

We don’t actually have the words necessary to communicate just how much we adore Stockholm. If you’ve got a thing for serious Northern soul, Scandinavian design, vistas to astound and food you can’t get enough of, this is the cultural capital for you. Bathed in sunlight in summer, found on the Baltic Sea and made up of a series of 13 islands all connected by intricate bridges, Stockholm will get under your skin. And you’ll be more than happy to let it.

Below is our pictorial guide to this outdoorsy, ever-smiling city. Along with a few tips we strongly recommend you take us up on.

Stockholm

Getting Around: Take to your feet, ambling through the Old Town, museum district (watch out for Fotografiska and its thought-provoking photography exhibitions) or downtown shopping district (all hail NK and Illums Bolighus, a Mecca for Danish design), the best way to get your bearings is by wandering, camera in hand and preferably with a hankering for toast Skagen - a Swedish delicacy that’s pretty much shrimp with lemon, dill and mayonnaise served on rich local bread.

Eat Your Heart Out: Stockholm knows how to dish up some real wonders yet few locations are quite as picturesquely perfect as Fjaderholmarnas Krog, a short 20 minute ferry ride from the city centre. Dining in this elegant, light-filled restaurant on a summer evening you are transported to another world, where delicate flavours reign and the seafood is impossibly fresh. The attention to detail here is remarkable and the friendly service makes the fairy tale setting all the more beguiling.

Or stay central and pay a visit to Volt, edgy and elegant, this is an effortlessly cool setting that attracts clued up locals after interesting flavour combinations and a wine selection to savour. With creations made from duck eggs, white asparagus and whitefish or perfectly prepared lamb, cabbage and lovage this is fine dining with an inventive twist. A definite star on the foodie map - and one that will make you swell allegiance to Swedish sponge cake and caramelised white chocolate.

 and  Rosendals Trädgård, a stunning garden open to the public that comes complete with a cafe, nursery and shop. Overflowing on sunny days, this is the epitome of a local treasure.

Stay the Night: A warren of quirky hotels and ancient corners, finding the right place to rest your head can be a little daunting. So you’ll be pleased to know that we can wholeheartedly recommend the stunning and characterful Victory Hotel, part of the renowned Collector’s Hotels. Found in the Old Town, this atmospheric boutique hotel has a naval theme (Lord Nelson is the inspiration) and a bar area, open to non-guests, that invokes a little highland spirit. A decadent and different experience.

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

Petersham Nurseries

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Petersham Nurseries Words & Photographs by Angela Terrell

Down by the river, a leisurely amble from Richmond, is a somewhat unconventional garden centre. Donning the wellingtons and wandering up narrow, stone walled laneways feels decidedly earthy. And a little bizarre, as despite passing Thames-side water meadows and seemingly forgotten royal palaces, you’re technically stillintheconfinesofLondon.Yet these sometimes muddy laneways are worth the wading, leading you to a thoroughly English horticultural and gastronomic gem.

Petersham Nurseries is a haven of inspiration and a feast for the senses. Found by the grounds of the ever- tranquil Petersham House, you quickly become the proverbial kid in a candy store, wandering around and falling for the plethora of antiques, art, homewares and plants dotted around this Victorian working nursery.

Yet it’s the culinary offerings that really lure in the visitors. Petersham Nurseries has two star foodie attractions; their award winning café and teahouse, both open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday. The former, nestled inside a light- catching greenhouse, is all about fusing exceptional, naturally sourced produce with English gastronomic traditions and Italian flavours. Alternatively, the teahouse, which also boasts a rather disarming dirt floor, is ideal for patrons hankering after something a little lighter.

Petersham Nurseries

In both epicurean settings seasonal ingredients are always used and edible herbs from the Petersham House Walled Kitchen Garden enhance the experience. Each dish is lovingly presented using a range of garden-fresh flora that even the less green thumbed of us would love to grow. While these may act as humble garnishes to the inventive and sometimes unexpected fare they are capable of completely halting conversation. These are the type of dishes you have to stop and admire before you can even think of tucking in.

It’s not just the food that people flock here for. The relaxed, stately setting is pretty spectacular too. During my late summer visit the sight of freshly made strawberry Bellinis, sitting pretty on a marble topped wrought iron table by the café’s entrance, really got me in the culinary mood. Their bubbly, rosy hue blended seamlessly with the vines running up the artfully aged arch behind. The glass roof with its ornate metal framework suggestively reflects the colour and textures of the food below, and the eclectic mix of tables,chairs and antique collectibles filling the greenhouse make the café a space to unwind in.

Petersham Nurseries

After a stunning meal of goat’s milk cheese, truffle oil, luscious figs and marigolds (the menu here is the epitome of seasonal, so whenever you visit you’re sure to be in for something different), there is a natural urge to wander through to the shop where a wonderful array of international goods greet you. Girandole chandeliers hang from the roof and urns overflowing with orchids and blooms sit majestically on the console tables below. Large antique French mirrors open up the furniture filled space, making use of the natural light that pours in on even the most overcast of days. The effortless mix of flora and homewares (and stoneware for that matter) leads to drastic thoughts of redecorating,causing you to ponder just how easy it would be to ship an antique wardrobe back across the seas.

And then there’s the nursery – as if your senses hadn’t been sated enough already! Here you can see how the earthy food you so recently gorged on came to be. There are seeds and herbs ripe for planting so you too can make your own flavoursome creations, or at least grow something pretty. Dahlias, foxgloves, cuckooflowers and primroses mix with the quirky willow herb and catchfly, each resplendent in the afternoon sun that sends low shadows over their playful sway.

Petersham Nurseries is an enchanting place where brilliant fare and the beauty of nature join to create a floral, food and art-filled experience to savour.

Taken from issue 1 of Lodestars Anthology, which you can purchase by clicking here.

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Al Fresco London

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Perkin Reveller - Food Shoot Feb 2015 London is a glorious city. A hub of creativity and flair, the streets are imbued with history and green spaces thrive whatever the weather. However, this capital of art, culture and food is particularly spectacular when the sun shines. So, with a heat wave looking to descend upon us (as summer finally rears its warming head) we've been pondering how to best spend our sun-drenched moments. Yes you could picnic or day-trip or you could do something just a little bit decadent - a scrumptious lunch in the sun. Here is a selection of London restaurants you're going to adore rain, hail or shine (but especially shine).

Inn the Park

St James Park has always been a swan and pelican-filled gem. A stone's throw from the Thames and the allure of Whitehall, here afternoons disappear and the London of yesteryear lives on. Within the capital's oldest Royal Park you'll also find the refined and inviting Inn The Park. With an eco-friendly design and summer menu that pays its respects to fine British fare, the entire experience proves innovative and fun. Meals are vibrant, the rose wine come with a hint of France and the setting is perfection - this is part of the Peyton and Byrne family after all. Open from breakfast until dinner, here you can appreciate the rays in gourmet style.

Inn the Park

Inn The Park

Rocket

The Friday night I found myself within The Terrace of Rocket in Holborn, the sun was in full force and Lincoln’s Inn Fields was brimming with barbecues and post-work Pimms sippers. Staring into the vibrant greenery, the London stone facade glowing behind me, I felt thoroughly content - and that was even before the cocktails started flowing (if you want a whiskey sour done right, venture here). The atmosphere is relaxed yet elegant and the menu, which seems to take its inspiration from across the globe, is tempting in the extreme - it's odd, even on the warmest of days it's difficult to pass up a stone baked pizza. Having said that, the halloumi & chorizo kebab, on mooli, green mango and cucumber spaghetti with sweet roasted piquillo pepper dressing was something rather special and sure to spice up any Friday. However it was the key lime pie that really won me over - if you've got a sweet tooth this is the venue for you.

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Rocket Restaurants, London

Perkin Reveller

Nestled into the foundations of the Tower of London is a venue with a knack for cocktails and capturing the London sunset. This stunning restaurant, made up of a cosy, dimly-lit bar complete with Alice in Wonderland-style bottles, spacious indoor dining area (complete with floor to ceiling windows) and a terrace made for sun worshipping. Subtle Chaucer reference fill the space - the restaurant does after all take its name from one of his greatest characters. The Reveller appears is The Cook’s Tale and loved to eat, drink and dance as often as possible - a London restaurant god if ever there was one.

But back to reality, the fare served at Perkin Reveller is fresh, flavoursome and delightfully British, accentuated by a diverse array of wine and cocktails (and floral post-dinner teas of course). What is special about this venue though is the staff, friendly and knowledgeable, they effortlessly guide you through the menu (made up treats like sloe gin cured salmon and creedy carver duck breast) and make you feel like you're dining with new friends. Meals come with in jokes and smiles and that only makes this summery experience all the more warming.

Perkin Reveller - Food Shoot Feb 2015

Perkin Reveller - Food Shoot Feb 2015

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Of course there are other wonderful sites for those who like to eat in the sun. The seasonal Towpath Cafe is constantly packed with locals wanting to make the most of the Regent's Canal, with The Narrow Boat offering a similar sun-dappled watery vista. Caravan In Exmouth Market is ideal for those who like breakfast outdoors while The Terrace at Orrery comes with plenty of Marylebone charm. Whatever you hunger for, know that London is more than happy to dish it up - and throw in a patch of sunlight for good measure.

Perkin Reveller - Food Shoot Feb 2015

Perkin Reveller - Food Shoot Feb 2015

Rocket Restaurants, London

Berkelouw Book Barn

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Berkelouw Book Barn Words & Photographs by Angela Terrell

Sitting under rustic timber rafters you can almost sense the words permeating the air. At a time when kindles and online book sales are a way of life, Berkelouw Book Barn in the Southern Highlands township of Berrima offers something unique. Seeped in tradition, this is a place to unwind, appreciate all things written and listen as the thousands of books on display divulge their narratives.

The Berkelouw family have been involved in book selling since 1812 with many generations experiencing the rich and at times deadly tapestry of world history. Initially trading in vellum-bound theology texts only and later joining the International Antiquarian Booksellers Association, all was bought to a tragic halt with the siege of Rotterdam during WW2. Sadly, all their stock was destroyed, including a bible thought to be the most valuable in Europe at the time. In 1948 a new direction and way of life ensued with the fourth generation of book-loving Berkelouws moving to Sydney to re-establish the business, thus beginning the Australian connection.

Over the years Berkelouw Books has moulded as the times have changed and in the fast paced world that we live in, now offers a cultural encounter that can be enjoyed by all. “People love a story and its history” says Katja Berkelouw as we chat near the 200 year old European Oaks that grace the country property. “We are more than just selling a book, we are selling the experience”. In fact Berkelouws were the first bookshops to have integrated coffee shops, and in Berrima they have now enhanced visitors’ experiences by diversifying their offerings and creating something more substantial.

Berkelouw Book Barn

In 2008, 5000 mature vines were planted in their vineyard, Bendooley Estate Wines. A growing entity in the wine world, their luscious grapes have already produced silver medalwinning chardonnay. The Bendooley Estate Restaurant offers wonderful meals and the coffee shop, also nestling in the barn, cascades outside allowing a latte to be enjoyed under the shade of billowing plane trees. Yet this does not occur without a certain number of challenges. “Australians are food obsessed and want to know where their food is coming from” says Katja. As a result, they source their food regionally whenever possible, and try to use locals when staffing. “It is important to get the dynamism right when staffing and as many young people want to go to Sydney for job opportunities [that] can sometimes prove difficult”. Obviously they have it right as the staff were friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.

Berkelouw Book Barn

Recognising the growing wedding market, it has also become a unique venue for 'big days', with vows exchanged on the verdant rose strewn lawn running down to the lake. "We like to be very involved in the wedding day experience” says Katja as we tour the beautifully nurtured gardens surrounding the ivy clad homestead. Most weddings take place on the lawn under the dream like ancient cypress, with everything done to ensure that the setting is beautiful and the event is personal. This obviously has a flow-on effect for local businesses. Hairdressers, florists, photographers and even regional bus lines have benefited from the change in direction that Berkelouws has undertaken, which in many ways was the only answer to the cost of maintaining this 200 acre historic property. “We are so lucky that we have been able to create a business for ourselves which benefits those around us, yet also lets others benefit from the beautiful environment. A quirky environment and a great product can reinvigorate a whole area”.

Berkelouw Book Barn

With cottage accommodation available for short term rental it seems they have met the needs of all. Originally the gatekeepers lodge, this restored two bedroom cottage is a cosy and contemporary base to experience the delights of the Book Barn and the beautiful Berrima region. Staying here or simply visiting, it is a wonderful opportunity to observe first-hand the joys that come with living (and running a business) in the country. “In this fast paced world history and tradition are becoming more important, and some people are even putting down their Kindles and the like. This is when there is a chance to experience a great quality of life and mix with interesting people from all backgrounds. People in the rural environment have more time for each other and are prepared to have a chat. Everyone knows the local mechanic and if you forget your wallet when shopping, it is never a problem to pick up the shopping now and come back later to pay. It seems that trust is instilled in them”.

I sit there listening to Katja, dreaming of children being children, of the freedom to roam outside for hours and days when everyone chatted over the back fence. It seems that by forging ahead on its business diversification, Berkelouw Book Barn actually gives everyone the opportunity to be part of the storybook of Australia’s rich history. Instant gratification has been replaced here by a sense of time and place. Colourful and informative, the books on display around the restaurant and fireplace speak of a past and a present that exists for all to enjoy.

Berkelouw Book Barn

Berkelouw Book Barn

Archie Rose

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"A perfect martini should be made by filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy." Noël Coward In the heart of Rosebery, a Sydney suburb that was once a hub of industry and abandonment yet in recent years has come to be synonymous with good food and pioneering design (think Kitchen By Mike and Koskela), something particularly special is brewing. You'll have to pardon the pun.

In a reclaimed warehouse is Archie Rose Distilling Co., the first distillery to emerge in Sydney since 1853. Here gin is infused with native botanicals, cocktails capture the spirit of the land and style, flavour and history fuse.

Given the lack of a recent distilling past, Archie Rose is essentially able to make up the rules as it goes along, learning the art of distilling from the ground up. And less than a year in, it is making some serious waves, utilising the skill and passion of its dedicated young staff and materials that are delightfully unique. Their copper pot stills hail from Tasmania and most of their equipment was assembled on the production floor - even the final bottling and labelling is carried out on site. Inspired by the distilling revolution that's unfolded in London and New York, this pioneering, not-so-little company is destined to produce Sydney's spirit.

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Provence

Provence

All hail the glorious south of France. A sun drenched, eternally elegant, time-stands-still sort of place synonymous with wine, cheese and general decadence. Forever in our hearts and destined to stay phenomenal, Provence should be everyone’s new spiritual home.

For those keen to plan a sun-kissed trip to France’s captivating icon we have a few provincial tips, and a few holiday snaps, to get you feeling sufficiently inspired.

Best Base: We recommend setting up camp in Aix-en-Provence (home of Cézanne and Emile Zola) or Arles (the stomping ground of Van Gogh and your best chance of getting remarkably well aquatinted with the ruins of Roman France).

Where To Stay: If you decide to make Arles your holiday home, promise us you’ll pass a few nights at the Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus, which overlooks Place du Forum and the bright yellow Le Café La Nuit, immortalised by Van Gogh. A historic playground for models, muses (Charlotte Rampling and Napoleon III are just a few famous guests) and matadors, this Spanish-inspired hotel brims with art and verve. Almost every room has taken on a different decorative style yet Suit 10 has to be the cultural stand out. Bullfighters would spend a no doubt sleepless night here before their amphitheatre fight, using the room to dress and greet the awaiting crowds.

Where To Eat: Feel like a local and pass a Saturday morning ambling along the fragrant main street when the local produce market sets up shop - meals made entirely of fresh bread, creamy cheese and a local rose really are the best. For something a little more decadent there is always Restaurant L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabenel, which focuses on fine, local ingredients and creates dishes with a definite Asian twist - the interiors are also decidedly Matisse-esuqe. The more casual yet equally flavour-focused Le Comptoir du Calendal is also worth checking out.

Get Arty: In the shadow of such humbling artists greatness it is essential to pay homage and if you’re basing yourself in Arles The Van Gogh Trail, which snakes through the town, passing bridges, open spaces and cafes that are immediately recognisable, is absolutely essential. A trail map can be picked up from the local tourist office and highlights include the the Espace Van Gogh and newly opened Foundation Van Gogh.

If Aix-en-Provence is your base pay a visit to Cézanne’s studio, a short walk from the centre of town this light-filled space, overlooking a beautifully overgrown garden, is filled with his paints, easels and the subjects of his numerous astounding works. This is a genuinely moving space.

Discover The Wine: In our humble opinion, the rose hailing from Provence is simply the best. Fresh and fruity, it is largely responsible for the resurgence of this particular, brilliantly-hued drop. If you want to learn a little about the local wine trade and its secrets join a tour with Provence Wine Tours. You’ll travel, with a knowledgeable local guide, to a range of local wineries famed for their colourful chateaux, artistic quirks and unique and passionate approach to wine making.

Parting words of wisdom: Just be prepared to get a little lost, unwind and fall for the brilliance of old stones, blue skies and a sunny French disposition.

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Helados Jauja

Words and photographs by Angela Terrell Let's be honest; nobody likes getting older and having all those grown up responsibilities.

Yet last weekend I discovered one that I faced head on, excitedly attending an ice cream appreciation course where my very adult job was to taste 24 flavours of icy treats. More than just having the average lick, this was an intellectual pursuit where the experience gained by my broadening age demanded an ability to detect nuances in flavour that maybe a more youthful beginner would miss.

Helados Juaja

There definitely should be an unadulterated simplicity to ice cream, and Helados Jauja, a tiny hole in the wall ice cream shop in Carlton, manages to have this purity in their product. The ice creams are naked, devoid of the premixes often used elsewhere, yet come in an absolute plethora of tastes. Using only local ingredients (I especially liked the thought of their mint coming from pots in their garden), everything is prepared by hand, even if that means peeling quite a few difficult pineapples. There is an amazing fusion of Argentinian, Malaysian and Australian influence in the flavours, yet the traditional scooping method is definitely Patagonian. Piled high on the cone or the cup, the ice cream is served like a tall curled pyramid, workers risking wrists to make sure the lashings are always perfect.

Helados Juaja

It is difficult to be different in a world of increasing ice cream competition yet with heart and creativity Jauja’s inventions are far from usual. White peach and lemon sorbet is light, tangy and refreshing, and the olive oil with lemon zest and mixed nut totally tantalize your taste buds as flavours slowly evolve. The Argentinian influence is never far away though, and flavours such as pisco sour, dulche de leche and the antioxidant rich yerba mate provide a fascinating point of difference to the usual strawberries and cream. For those who prefer the Asian influence, Durian is kept in a separate covered container. Have a quick smell and you will understand why. For those who like to honour their Australian gastronomic heritage, there is always the lamington or Aussie pavlova!

Helados Juaja

Every month a new flavour is introduced and during my March visit Salted Chilli Lemon Pomello, with its intensity and depth of flavour, was all the rage. The aim here is to make something indulgently rich or refreshingly light and Sambayon fits the bill perfectly. The egg yolks and cream give it a luscious and creamy texture requiring it to be kept in a separate freezer to protect this integrity. Often not on show because of this, one could presume that a fresh batch is not available so be sure to ask for it.

Helados Juaja

We are part of a global village, influenced by many cuisines, and innovation is learning how to meld these flavours which Helados Jauja seems to manage perfectly. Food should be all about conviviality, epicureanism and culture. I smiled as I watched a group sitting on a curbside couch after ruminating for quite some time over flavours. They chatted together excitedly between licks, their tastes buds obviously tantalized by explosions of taste. It is so important to be a grown up and still love a good ice cream cone.

Helados Juaja

Helados Juaja

Helados Juaja

Helados Juaja

Bath

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England brims with charming escapes, historic communities and townships famed for their iconic residents. However, only the truly magical locations - cities rich in literary history, Georgian charm and architecture built to delight - become icons. Bath is one such regal destination. And it has been for quite a while. This place is old, really old. Founded by a King with a questionable skin condition back in 863 BC, this city has hosted the Celts, Romans, Saxons and contemporary Brits; all looking to take the water (and presumably a pot of tea). It is this water, which can be spied from the Roman Baths and suitably decadent Pump Room Restaurant where afternoon tea is highly recommended, that gives you a real sense of Bath's majesty. It takes around 10,000 years for the soft rain that blesses England to seep through the earth, be heated by high temperature rocks and return, warm and mineral-rich, to the surface. No one knows exactly where the water's source lies (which makes you hope that the picturesque rural communities encasing Bath never develop the desire to expand), yet I do know that you can take advantage of its undeniably soothing properties at Thermae Bath Spa. This decidedly modern, ever-popular venue is dedicated to helping visitors take in easy, breath deeply and bask in the brilliance of floating in 40 degree rooftop pool as snow falls and the sunset illuminates the surrounding stone structures. That said, the experience is just as pleasant when experienced on a faultlessly clear day.

There are more modern attractions too, which tend to take the form of food and shopping. Bath is a Mecca for farm shops and design stores and while there are some wonderful High Street gems (Hay and Found spring to mind), my favourite discovery was The Foodie Bugle, the newest addition to Margaret's Buildings. Full of fresh local produce, homewares, cookbooks and vintage treasures, this is a delightful spot to stop at and savour a pot of tea ... or a charcuterie and cheeses plate for that matter. On the subject of cheese, a pilgrimage to Paxton and Whitfield is essential, your inner foodie will thank you indefinitely. Savouring your purchases within Victoria Park while looking up at the Royal Crescent or the flourishing Botanical Gardens is also highly advised. Other culinary attractions include the quirky Sam's Kitchen Deli, where all of Bath's creatives go to work, and Bea's Vintage Tearoom where time is utterly irrelevant.

For a really remarkable gastronomic encounter book a table at the Olive Tree Restaurant, where even the bread (made with treacle) and butter proves to be a taste sensation. In honour of its West Country setting, the fare is farm fresh and locally sourced with the focus clearly on bringing the very best out of individual ingredients - while getting a little playful with flavours - my passionfruit parfait enchased in chocolate and dotted with popping candy springs to mind here. The restaurant is attached to the relaxed yet refreshingly opulent Queensberry Hotel. Overlooking the Assembly Rooms (lovers of Austen and fashion rejoice) and a leisurely amble from The Circus, this luxury, boutique retreat is the ideal Bath base. Beds are the love child of a cloud and hug, rooms are spacious and homely, details are refreshingly Old World and the service is delightful. However, vagabonds be warned, it is forbidden to duel or ride horses through the lobby - and presumably the atmospheric Old Q Bar. Fanciful and fun, I don't recommend ever checking out. Of either the hotel or the city for that matter ...

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Madrid

Words by Lucy Terrell Madrid

For history, architecture and culture, look no further than the Madrid, the rather photogenic Spanish capital. Often overlooked in favour of vibrant Barcelona, Madrid perfectly marries tradition with contemporary cultural movements.

In the art department, Madrid will satisfy even the most cultured individuals. There are the big players like The Prado and Sofia Reina yet the smaller spaces, dotted throughout the city, are perhaps even more enjoyable. For a truly unique experience, head to Museo Sorolla in the Chamberi area. The museum is the former home of impressionist painter Joaquin Sorolla, arguably Spain’s most famous artist, after Picasso of course. The space itself feels incredibly intimate and is surrounded by Andalucian-style gardens.

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If you’re a foodie prepare yourself to fall head over heels for Madrid. You’ll be spoilt for choice in a city that boasts the highest number of restaurants per capita in the world. Not so long ago the options extended to unfussy tavernas and terribly lit bars serving simple traditional Spanish fare - think croquetas, and jamon Iberico. But wander through neighbourhoods like Chueca or Malasana, and it won’t take long to find beautiful, contemporary spaces serving fresh, delectable food for a fraction of the price you’re sure to pay in other European destinations. If you’re after value, you can’t go past a ‘menu del dia’, the two or three course daily lunch special that includes a glass of wine. They range between 10 to 13 euro and will leave you more than satisfied until dinner at 10pm. Try chic Sexto in Chueca for a top quality meal or head to Ochenta Grados in Malasana for a true gastronomic treat.

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Shoppers paradise can be found in every corner of Madrid. Head to stylish Chueca for upmarket boutiques and the famous leather strip on Calle Augusto Figueroa for great value shoes. Malasana is the local hipster hangout, so expect to find a host of emerging Spanish designers and pre-loved garments for days. If it’s high-end brands you’re searching for, look no further than Salamanca or head to Calle Fuencarral in the centre for the city’s ‘high-street’ equivalent. Madrid is moving up in the market stakes too. There are markets galore every weekend ranging from the weekly El Rastro flea market to the once-monthly Mercado de Motores, which is held in Delicia's train museum and hosts professional and casual sellers and a live entertainment area where the various food stalls and bars will ensure you stay for hours.

Majestic Madrid will keep travellers of every taste satisfied. Every street holds undiscovered delights and plazas are the perfect place to people watch over a 2 euro glass of Rioja. It’s possible to spend days strolling through the maze-like gardens of Retiro Park or the winding paths of Casa de Campo, which is four times of the size of New York’s Central Park and charming in all seasons. Catch the gypsy art of Flamenco, brave a bullfight at Las Ventas or watch a dramatic sunset at Circulo de las Bellas Artes. To top it all off, the Spaniards welcome travellers with open arms and will revel in sharing with you their brilliant capital and rich traditions.

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English Wish List

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England A few out of the way treasures and foodie finds we wouldn’t mind trying out ...

Kielder Observatory

If you’re in search of dark skies and bright stars venture up to Northumberland where, in the heart of the Kielder Forest, you’ll be rewarded with the beautifully angular Kielder Observatory. Manned by the Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society, it hosts regular stargazing odysseys, allowing curious visitors to have dramatic encounters with the ever-dynamic night sky.

Putting the world into perspective and reminding you just how phenomenal that mysterious space beyond our own atmosphere can be, the observatory will humble and inspire in equal measure. For those who prefer to explore Northumberland by the light of day, the observatory isn’t far from Kielder Forest Drive, a blissfully remote route that winds its way through moorland and forest. The road is single track, unsurfaced and sure to make drivers feel that they’re getting their adventure on.

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Electric Cinema

Birmingham dwellers and international film fans will immediately recognise the Art Deco façade of the historic Electric Cinema, England’s oldest working cinema. In this two-screen venue the film experience is all-important and quirks abound. There’s comfy sofa seating, homemade cakes, themed cocktails and a mix of art house offerings and mainstream hits. And a little chequered history too.

Electric showed silent films through the 1910’s and 20’s, but by the 30’s the space became an amusement arcade as people escaped the worries of the Depression. The basement was used as a morgue during WWII, while newsreels were filmed and edited upstairs. Baby boomers still remember the cartoons of the family-oriented 50’s, but the reactionary 60’s favoured art house, while the sexually liberated 70’s saw mainly porn screenings.

Despite the ups and downs in the cinema’s past, film remains at its heart. “It can take teams of people years of their lives to make a film, and we ensure that the correct care and attention is afforded to their cinematic endeavours,” says David Baldwin, Assistant Manager at the Electric. “Films can be anything. They can be happy, sad, weird, vibrant, challenging, and everything in between ... There's just nothing like it.”

Hever Castle

Henry VIII was arguably the most unconventional of English kings, what with the string of wives and religious upheaval he left in his velvet-hemmed wake. Yet most intriguing is the debacle surrounding the execution of his second wife, the beguiling and provocative Anne Boleyn, a story that authors and historians have fervidly endeavored to unravel but which still remains tinged with mystery. A visit to Hever Castle, the queen’s childhood home, fuels our fascination with the Tudor’s ultimate femme fatale.

Nestled in the Kent countryside, the original castle of 1270 still stands, its stone walls smothered with climbing ivy and edged in by a languid moat. Within, visitors are captivated by Boleyn history, evoked by artefacts and portraits. Enveloping the castle are the superb, extensive gardens; a horticultural delight, perfect for whiling away the hours. Wandering through the fragrant rose garden, Italian garden and Rhododendron Walk arouses contemplative moods and provides an idyllic picnic setting. Rest assured, if the weather is misbehaving, Hever’s tea rooms are a delightful substitute.

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Rococo Chocolate

Chantal Coady is the Founder and Creative Director of Rococo Chocolate and her cocoa revolution began back in 1983 on the forever-iconic King’s Road, where she opened her first shop – partly fueled by her childhood dream of being a shopkeeper. Putting her art school training to good use, Chantal imbued the space with a dash of love and a little ornamentation, as the Rococo name would imply. Bringing emotion into the equation (after all, isn’t chocolate the most evocative of foods) allowed Coady’s business to grow, eventually spreading quite far out of London. With a focus on ethics, sustainability and taste, her creative flavour combinations have seen her win the Oscars of chocolate awards, the Rococo name has become as recognisable as Chantal’s uber pretty packaging.

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Black Cow

This is an inventive little Isle. Not content to let Russians (or potatoes) have all the fun Jason Barber, on his West Dorset farm, decided to make vodka from, well, the whole milk of grass grazed cows. And it’s kind of fantastic.

Black Cow vodka is the perfect tipple or morning after the night before anecdote and has a pretty simple creation process - on paper at least. The cow’s milk is separated into curds and whey with the former turned into super creamy 1833 cheddar and the whey made into a milk beer that is diligently triple distilled into vodka.

Milky vodka is not an entirely new concept. The idea was actually inspired by nomadic Siberian Tuva tribe who for centuries has been fermenting yaks milk into vodka, the ideal sub-zero defense. However, this clean, crystal clear modern drop comes with a smooth yet creamy texture and just the faintest whiff of dairy. It’s no wonder it’s made appearances in restaurants owned by Heston Blumenthal and Mark Hix.

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Over the centuries London has had a knack for completely reinventing itself. Areas that only the foolhardy would dare to brave have become the stomping ground of artists and entrepreneurs while Thames-side warehouses have grown into a architectural wonderlands. One space to go through a thoroughly modern reinvention is Granary Square in King’s Cross. Drenched in aquatic history, it was here that early barges unloaded their industrial loads. It’s now home Central St Martins, a leading centre of art and design that has produced the likes of Bruce Oldfield and Jenny Packham, and stripped backed restaurants built to be savoured.

Found within the converted Victorian granary, Caravan and The Grain Store offer up ingenious menus that come with plenty of London flavour. While Caravan’s pizza is not to be missed the brunch offerings at The Grain Store, which borrow tastes from Australia and America (chef Bruno Loubet is a bit of a traveller), are worth planning your weekend around.

c John Sturrock

Lisbon

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Lisbon A city of trams, tiles and iron funiculars, Lisbon remains a glorious European gem. It is one of the world’s oldest (and coincidentally friendliest) cities and has the honour of being the oldest capital in Western Europe. And this sense of history is ever-present. Positively buzzing and regularly drenched in sunlight, there is much to fall for in this city of design, food, beauty and style.

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Wander

Lisbon is a labyrinth of steep alleys, secluded corners and stunning vantage points, which are best encountered during hours of aimless wandering. Explore central Baixa, an ancient district packed with tailors, cafes and galleries all occupying prime positions along Baroque streets. Then there’s Alfama, a slightly more eclectic neighbourhood watched over by cathedrals and the 7th Century St George’s Castle (which is well worth exploring). A patchwork of tile covered buildings, this area is incredibly photogenic. History lovers must make for Belém, which is full of monuments (such as Torre de Belém and the extravagant Mosteiro Dos Jerónimos) spared by the infamous 1755 earthquake. While here visit Pastéis de Belém  for the best nata in town – they’re worth the wait!

You can also stroll in and out of museums – the Museu do Azulejo (dedicated entirely to tiles) and MUDE, Lisbon’s design museum, show just how creative and inspiring Portuguese artisans can be. If you’re getting a tad foot-sore (there are quite a few hills to battle) you can always jump on the 28 tram; a Lisbon icon that glides through the city taking the same picturesque, attraction-studded route it has for over a century.

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Shop

The city has plenty of offer on the clothing, interiors and antiques front. Shoppers after something from independent Portuguese designers should wander around the Praça do Príncipe Real while those in search of international designers can amble down Avenida da Liberade, which holds antique markets on Saturdays. In town Typographia offers up playful yet elegant graphic shirts and modern jewellery can found at Atelier Plumb. D’orey is ideal for those after something truly Portuguese – their 17th and 18th century tiles are truly covetable. Mini by Luna is great for childrenswear while Muse offers more grown up fashion.

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Eat

Lisbon is brimming with culinary delights. Of particular note is A Travessa. Found in an old monastery this dimly lit, perfectly ornate restaurant is full of weighty wooden tables, terracotta flooring, jazz tunes and vintage furnishings (which add charm and character). The ancient brick roof and well-trodden stone entrance give the venue gravitas while the cloisters act as a summer dining haven. The fare here is exceptional and the service is incredibly friendly – the entire experience is designed to make you feel thoroughly welcome. Starters arrive piece-by-piece, elegant tapas that mix flavours rather boldly. The scrambled eggs with truffles, dished up directly from a steaming pan, are delightful while the oysters turned my companion into a seafood fan. After running for 35 years it is clear this restaurant knows what it’s doing.

For something simpler you can sample traditional Portuguese offerings at A Travessa Do Fado. Here the sun-drenched courtyard is decorated with trays of produce and meals have a provincial feel – hearty creations that both entice and warm. The stuffed squid and black pork remind you why Portugal has always been on the European foodie map.

Lisbon

If you like your dinner with a view make for Restaurante Eleven; overlooking manicured gardens, house-dotted-hills and the distant Tagus River, this is a fabulous spot to catch a Lisbon sunset. The interior is suitably elegant – huge glass windows, leather chairs and wooden detailing (as polished as the service) – and the food is delightful. Even the tiniest morsel, creatively arranged on the plate, is succulent and flavour-filled. The focus is on well-sourced produce and their appreciation of fine ingredients really does shine through. The scallops in particular melt in your mouth, cheese tastes farm fresh and somehow the chestnut adorned pumpkin soup looks and feels lighter than air.

When it comes to lunch the Bairro Alto Hotel’s Flores do Bairro is a must. Right by the trusty 28 tram this chic restaurant, with its artistic interiors, warm colour scheme and almost retro furnishing, is thoroughly inviting. There’s even a central table that can be used for communal dining. Tableware comes with a handmade touch and fresh, seasonal seafood reigns supreme.

Lisbon

Lisbon

Unwind

Wandering, eating and generally falling in love with Lisbon can be rather exhausting so it’s great to know that this ancient capital is brimming with pioneering boutique hotels. One such venue is the independent Inspira Santa Marta Hotel, a luxury hideaway with an environmental conscience. This eco friendly hotel is going to great lengths to reduce its environmental footprint (think solar panels on the roof and charity work with Pump Aid). Found on one of the oldest streets in Lisbon, this elegant hotel has a Scandinavian feel on the design front and is own spa, The Retreat, managed by Ritual Spa. For something truly decadent there is also the aforementioned Bairro Alto Hotel, which mixes old world style with thoroughly modern service.

Travel

Sometimes you just have to get out of town. Lisbon is a 40-minute train journey from Sintra, a charming township that’s home to the park and Palace of Pena and Moorish Castle. The later is a 10th Century military fort built by the Muslin populations that occupied the Iberian Peninsula. Stunning when drenched in mist or sunlight, it once acted as a control tower for the entire Atlantic Coast. Similarly, the Pina Palace is the stuff of fantasy. This colourful, tile and turret covered palace is one of the finest examples of 19th Century Portuguese romanticism. Framed by eighty-five hectares of parkland, it’s well worth a daytrip. Clearly this thriving pocket of Portugal has plenty to offer.

Lisbon

Lisbon

Lisbon

Lisbon

Lisbon

Text first appeared in Yen Magazine.

Culinary Mudgee

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Pipeclay Pumphouse

For decades visitors have made culinary pilgrimages to Mudgee in search of olives, wines and a little country spirit and after sampling the pan-European fare at Pipeclay Pumphouse it’s clear the journey shall remain in vogue. This charming restaurant, launched in October 2013 and found, as the name would imply, in the pump house that once supplied the Robert Stein Winery, is Mudgee’s best chance at a brand new hat. So yes, do put it on your epicurean bucket list!

Managing to be both modern and rustic the Pipeclay Pumphouse, as will all good regional restaurants, is all about atmosphere. Wooden flourishes, stone floors and a corrugated iron roof keep the heart of the original 23-year-old pump house beating while an ever-changing array of paintings from regional artists (magpies, trout and yabbies featured strongly during my late February visit) and floor to ceiling windows give the venue plenty of contemporary charm - not to mention a side of natural light for those who like to have their gastronomic adventures earlier in the day and sample Pipeclay’s breakfast menu. Overlooking neighbouring fields and a sculpture-adorned dam, it’s a setting to unwind in.

Pipeclay Pumphouse is the sort of culinary gem that can only exist in a regional environment synonymous with exceptional produce and production. Most ingredients are home grown or locally sourced and while created from allegedly simple techniques (techniques I for one would never be able to contemplate mastering) designed to intensify freshness, the dishes dutifully pay homage to the land. Owner and Head Chef Andy Crestani, of Nove Cucina fame, wouldn’t want it any other way. A passionate follower of the ‘paddock to plate’ ethos he can be found, when not inventing new seasonal flavour combinations, foraging in Pipeclay’s veggie patch and orchard. He even has his own free-range pigs and tried his hand at ducks, although the latter proved to be a little messy.

The focus remains on expertly-sourced ingredients that Andy allows to speak for themselves. Proof that simple, fresh flavours can go a remarkably long way and that a genuine love of foods can do wonders for culinary creativity. Case in point, the amuse-bouche (talk about getting it right from the get go). This dish, a brilliantly clear tomato soup garnished with micro herbs, tasted as if it had just been plucked from the earth. Likewise, the salmon ceviche, which was delightfully fresh and dished up with a vibrant assortment of garden fresh veggies, showed just how far well-matched, well-prepared ingredients can go. It went down a treat with a glass of 2012 Rose. It must be noted that the wine all hails from the Robert Stein Winery and is served at near cellar door prices - just one of the perks of being located within their grounds.

When it came to mains the twice-cooked chicken breast with braised leg voulevant, parsnip puree, baby carrots and eshallots, changed the tone of the evening. Hearty and comforting, this dish had a creamy, wine-infused feel to it. Yet despite its richness I remained acutely aware of the individual, vibrant ingredients that were a treat to the eye as much as the taste buds. The puree in particular had a beautiful buttery finish.

Then there were the desserts – a stand out being the caramelized fig mille feuille, complete with honey marshmallow. Sweet, airy perfection. Some French dishes bode rather well when reimagined in a country environment. With meals like this Mudgee is sure to stay on the gastronomic map.

Where: Robert Stein Vineyard & Winery, Pipeclay Lane, Mudgee, 2850.

Contact: 6373 3998, info@pipeclaypumphouse.com.au

Pipeclay Pumphouse

Pipeclay Pumphouse

Pipeclay Pumphouse

Bordeaux

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Bordeaux

At the turn of the 21st Century Bordeaux was in trouble. Dusty and lifeless, the once majestic stone city was crumbling. So understandably, contemporary Bordeaux feels a little like a phoenix from the ashes. With eons of soot removed from its opulent medieval churches, Baroque-era facades and Art Nouveau town houses and its once questionable docklands transformed into a playground for the hip and design conscious, Bordeaux is once again a European gem.

Surrounded by the ancient vineyards of Aquitaine and one of the world’s largest UNESCO world heritage sites, Bordeaux now blends Old World elegance with cutting-edge design. It’s a classic French beauty with bite.

Bordeaux

Timeless Bordeaux shines bright in the heart of the city. Gothic wonders sit amongst narrow streets and century old squares. There’s the St.-Andre Cathedral, which boast sword-like spires, St.-Seurin Basilica, that sits atop an ancient crypt, and the 18th century Place de la Bourse. This particular attraction comes with a modern twist. An ultra thin miroir d’eau, a haven in the heat, reflects the palace-like building, transforming traditional architecture into contemporary art.

Bordeaux

Tradition also reigns supreme on the food and wine front. Long famed for its culinary prowess, Bordeaux has foodie treasures aplenty. Frequented by Jacques Chirac, La Tupina, and its cuisine de terroir, is both earthy and rich. Here flavours evolve, the cellar is noble, herbs hang from the ceiling and the menu is thoroughly French – lamb cooked for seven hours and French fries cooked in duck fat. Similarly, Chapon Fin, one of Bordeaux’s oldest restaurants, is a Mecca for food and history lovers. Dating back to the time of the revolution in 1789, this Art Nouveau restaurant, which comes complete with a grotto, attracted the Paris elite (who were greeted by valets in period attire) and has had Clemenceau, Sarah Bernhardt and Toulouse Lautrec dine at its tables. Accompanied by perfectly matched wine, their degustation menu is bold, inventive and blissful.

Bordeaux

History also runs thick in the surrounding Chateaus and vineyards. Built largely from stone and prone to glowing in the sunlight, these building, and their wineries, are both imposing and beautiful and come complete with manicured gardens and rich aromas. Wineries can only be visited by appointment so it’s best to join a tour. BordoVino offers small trips with young, wine-loving guides who know the area’s history, impart their wine tasting knowledge (one must see, smell, swirl, smell and savour) and hold rather unconventional degrees.

Bordeaux-architecture

It’s the converted docks alone that prove Bordeaux is no longer ‘La Belle Endormie’. The piece de la modern resistance is Seeko’o Hotel. With a jagged white exterior that plays with light and shadow, high design décor, electric gadgetry aplenty, mirrored ceilings and a chic air, a night spent here feels like a night spent in a living art instillation. This unorthodox urban landmark proves that Bordeaux can do contemporary. And it can do it remarkably well.

Original article appeared in The Culture-ist.

Bordeaux

Bordeaux

Bordeaux

Paris

Paris A kaleidoscopic city of dreamy nostalgia, culinary wonders and effortless brilliance, Paris is both enchanting and inspiring. You can walk across it in a matter of hours, fall for its charms in minutes and feel the need to return. Constantly.

Afterall, Paris is for lovers… of art.

No matter how many times you visit the Musée d’Orsay – home to one of the world’s largest, and most moving collection of Impressionist art – the venue will continue to astound. Stunningly curated and found within a reclaimed grand train station, here images inspire, thoughts run free and time stands still.

Paris

There’s plenty to fall for on the food front too.

While in Paris you must experience the delectable culinary creations of one of the city’s master chefs. Guy Savoy’s three-star namesake restaurant, a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, is where flavor rules supreme. His signature dish, artichoke soup with black truffles and brioche, is a favourite of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Here the gallery-esque interiors are sure to delight and you get a little lost in thought trying to decipher the expertly selected modern art adorning the walls. And then there’s the food. There’s something about Savoy’s unique take on French cooking – rich and flavoursome, each dish seems to develop as you devour it, taking you on what can only be described as a culinary journey, one that forces you to halt all conversation in order to fully savour. Many of the remarkable dishes that make up the lunchtime degustation menu look like miniature works of art. Case in point, the carrot and lobster bisque hidden beneath a lace-like web of beetroot and flowers. With all the dishes constructed at your table, Guy Savoy makes theatre from food (and deserves a round of applause).

Similarly magnificent and rather drenched in history is Le Grand Véfour. Tucked away in an elegant corner of the Palais-Royal gardens, and once the coveted haunt of Victor Hugo, Sartre and Napoleon, this was the place to be seen during the Belle Époque and a site of political, artistic and culinary intrigue for over 200 years. The original interiors remain, with seats marked with the names of those who once called them their favourites (I had Maria Callas’, across the way from the spot once filled with Balzac).

Here the flavours are more delicate than one would expect – and this is a good thing. Perfectly balanced, the dishes both comfort and beguile with many, like the foie gras ravioli, quite literally melting in your mouth.

Paris

And then there is Angelina. Founded in 1903 by Austrian confectioner Antoine Rumpelmayer and named in honour of his daughter in law, Angelina has been the favourite meeting place of Parisian gourmets for over a century. The Belle Époque interior is the epitome of charm and refinement while their world famous hot chocolate (L’Africain – impossible to drink without a generous dollop of cream) and Mont Blanc (a intricate pastry made from a secret recipe) have attracted Coco Chanel, Proust and contemporary explores keen to experience the Paris of yesteryear. Found right next door to Galignani, the oldest English bookstore on the continent (and thus almost as iconic as Shakespeare and Company), breakfast at Angelina is the idea way to begin your Parisian day – just as a cocktail at Hotel de Crillon would be the ideal way to end it.

If you’re after a less formal, thoroughly French experience then Chez Janou, a mere amble from Place des Vosges, is for you. Always packed with clued-up, wine sipping locals, this time-forgotten venue serves up traditional provincial fare. Its real selling point is the chocolate mouse, which arrives at your table in a huge bowl, from which you serve yourself. Self-control, and booking ahead, is a must.

Paris

Paris at night is the realm of the stroller, the ambler, the dreamer and the lover. A city of light and beauty, as the sun descends monuments begin to glow and the Eiffel Tower puts on one of the most stunning European light displays. The streets, packed during the day, are almost empty, inhibitions evaporate and Paris becomes your own.

On Friday evenings the Louvre remains open until 9:45, giving you the chance to actually get close to the wonders of the grand museum, become lost in Napoleon’s beautifully preserved apartments and, if you’re really lucky, have a moment alone with the Mona Lisa.

However, if it’s crowds and nightlife you seek then Montmartre is the place for you. Once Paris’s thriving artist colony – a hive of impressionist, cubist and experimental activity – the biggest draw card here (at night – Sacré-Cœur still reigns supreme during the day) is the Moulin Rouge. Immortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec and the French Cancan, this remains a world of feathers, rhinestones, sequins and extravagance. In its 124-year history its hallowed stage has been graced by the liked of Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Contemporary audience, who continue to dress for the occasion, can experience the magic with Féerie, which is a playful delight that features five pythons, 800 pairs of shoes hand-made by Maison Clairvoy and 1000 costumes from Maison Fevrier.

Exhausted, inspired and well fed, you’ll leave Paris completely besotted.

For the full article check out A Luxury Travel Blog.

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris