If you love London but dread the busy streets in the big shopping season then let me share a haven of peace and quiet wonderment — the Royal Academy of Arts, located slap bang on Piccadilly right across the road from Fortnum and Mason.
Walking into the spacious, classical courtyard takes me back to a London of times past, but only for a moment, for what is the artificial forest doing here, and these giant posters?
The latter announce the current exhibitions featuring artistic phenomenon Ai Weiwei and Jean-Etienne Liotard, two great talents who could not be more different. But that is the Royal Academy, which is a fine knack of often having something for everyone.
Ai Weiwei, he of the sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern five years ago, is back with a major exhibition of large-scale installations in steel, marble and glass, not to mention 1000 plastic crabs.
For something completely different, climb the stairs and check out the serene paintings of Jean-Etienne Liotard, a Swiss artist in great demand in Enlightenment Europe. He travelled widely and drew great inspiration from the Orient.
Known as “the Turk”, he dressed the part while working as a court painter.
France has a lot to offer, starting with Paris.
The south of France has beaches and glamor, Bordeaux glorious wine, but there are also two cities equally dynamic and second in size only to the capital.
Marseille has its lively Old Port and its famous bouillabaisse fish soup, while Lyon has – everything!
Located two hours south of Paris on the fast TGV rail system, Lyon is close to the Burgundy region, surrounded by vineyards, as well as top Michelin-star restaurants.
Often called the gastronomic capital of France, the heart and soul of the city is a big indoor market called Les Halles (halles-de-lyon-paulbocuse.com). Here foodies will find the best of everything such as Bresse chicken, many cheeses such as the creamy, local St Marcellin and delectable cakes with almond-rich pralines. You can eat fresh oysters with a “pot” of Macon wine, and dine at any of the cozy restaurants offering traditional Lyonnais cuisine. Chez Antonin does a wonderful seafood lunch.
Paul Bocuse’s name is on the market because he is the city’s most famous chef, but his Michelin 3-star restaurant (www.bocuse.com) is actually just out of town Read more…
You have to like getting up early to go fishing. I mean, they start serving breakfast at 4.30 am. But I made sure I was on the dock at 6 am, keen to try the new Kingfisher boats at the Canadian Princess Resort at Ucluelet.
Step aboard, said Keith, our skipper.
Not with that banana, said my buddy, cringing from the fruit I had brought from my room.
Huh? You don’t like bananas?
They are bad luck at sea, I was told.
Don’t worry, said Keith. He had two bananas.
So we sailed, bananas and all. And we fished for four hours, just south of Tofino and Long Beach, amid the rugged splendor of the Broken Islands group on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Read more…
Crystal Cruises, which set its course as a leader in luxury cruising with the launch of its first ship 25 years ago, is now charting a new, vaster route.
Aboard the line’s annual President’s Cruise on Crystal Serenity and Chairman’s Cruise on Crystal Symphony respectively, Crystal’s president and CEO, Edie Rodriguez and chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay announced Crystal’s plans for a whopping brand expansion calling for a three-year program introducing new ships – effectively establishing three brand new classes of cruising – as well as its
It used to be big ships were not considered cool or classy.
Then designers began to add restaurants, theatres and gadgets like waving-making machines to swimming pools.
Heads were turned, often by families who want something for everyone.
And that’s just what I have seen in an inaugural preview of the newest cruise ship afloat, the 4000-passenger Anthem of the Seas, and a $1 billion baby that is a game-changer.
This one, like its slightly older sister, Quantum of the Seas, is a triumph for Royal Caribbean International, masters of the sea when it comes to big ships full of fun and innovation.
I mean, where else can you find two robotic barmen? You choose your drink, they mix it, pour it, serve it, and add the bill to your onboard account. With a tip, mind you. In cruising, some things never change. Read more…
Years ago I met a bloke on a river boat in India. He had made a fortune in Calcutta and was cruising the world in style, and he had no doubt which was his favourite ship. “Sea Cloud,” and putting down his gin & tonic, he looked me in the eye, adding emphatically, “no doubt about it.”
So it happened this winter that a bus dropped me on a grubby little dock in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, and there she was – a big four-masted barque with towering masts and looking absolutely like nothing else in the world.
My companions and I on the bus would fill Sea Cloud, because her capacity is just 65, slightly under the 6,000 on cruise ships of a different kind.
Sea Cloud was launched 84 years ago at a time of elegant liners, just months before the greatest of them all, the Normandie, when the richest men competed to build the biggest yachts with gimmicks to amuse prohibition-era guests, like bars that glided from behind library walls at the touch of a button. Read more…
Bags used to be a drag.
Then pilot Bob Plath came up with the idea of putting wheels on them. There had been variations before, such as strapping on a little trolley, or attaching wheels and a leash, but the former was flimsy and the latter fell over going round corners.
Plath’s bag, the Travelpro, had built-in wheels and was upright – a revolutionary idea – and it rolled with just a touch. So he built a bunch and asked flight attendants to try them out. Their reply was unanimous: “Captain, your bag is the best!”
Plath kept flying Boeing 747s for a number of years (for Northwest-Orient, now part of Delta), but he also incorporated Travelpro, which quickly became a major supplier of suitcases.
In fact within two years all other manufacturers were making their bags upright.
At first it was airlines who were the main buyers – currently 95 airlines around the world buy Travelpro for their flight crews – but they are now widely used by business and leisure travelers.
There is a range of models and sizes, including the new lightweight Crew 10 model with wheels that stay perfectly aligned.
This I can confirm after three months in the US and Central America during which my Crew 10 was on and off aircraft, ships and cars.
It proved to be my best bag ever.
The company’s warehouse in Florida is not far from Plath’s home. It is amazing – the size of several football pitches with convoys of trucks loading every day, and a far cry from its beginnings in Plath’s garage.
Boarding a cruise ship in Miami is not for the faint-hearted. Our taxi driver, probably unhappy that the ride from the InterContinental Hotel was to the nearby cruise port and not the airport, hurtles along the waterfront and drops us amid a throng of souls looking for porters.
Moments later we are being escorted into the terminal, and skirting a long line of check-in desks, we are shown into an cozy lounge, offered a soft drink in a champagne glass, then escorted on to the ship by another bloke in morning dress.
Welcome to MSC Divina, says a receiving line of smiling waiters. We nod and take a lift to deck 16 and the Yacht Club. This is the inner sanctum of Divina, a ship within a ship, where champagne glasses are the order of the day, although the bubbly is usually prosecco. Read more…
I have noted that although more than 20 million passengers go to sea every year, there are few novels on the subject. And in the light of some of the experiences I wanted to share, it had to be a novel!
Never go back, a friend once said.
I am too much of a romantic to follow what could be sensible advice, so I returned to Hydra, Greece, because my experience there around 30 years ago was so delightful, and well, memorable.
I was on a yacht with a handful of friends, and we sailed into the tiny harbour just like Honfleur in Normandy. We had to squeeze in sternfirst, Mediterranean-style, and it was no less crowded on the dock. But when the last ferry left with the day-trippers in the early evening, everything changed.
In fact it was heaven. There are no cars, motorbikes or scooters on Hydra, and as we stepped ashore at sunset the loudest sounds, other than church bells, were the clip-clop of donkeys. Read more…