Wednesday, 26 August 2015

that amalfi air

And so, back to the Amalfi Coast. D. and I arrived in Ravello on a cloudy day in mid-August, after a short drive through the mountains from Naples. We visited Ravello for the first time last year and fell in love with the place - compared to the glitz of the seaside towns below, Ravello, sitting high above the coast, has a magical atmosphere - refined, elegant and enchanting.

On Sunday we paid a visit to the Villa Cimbrone - a heavenly place - all long avenues, fragrant gardens and balconies fringed with marble busts.

We had lunch at the villa and I spent the afternoon by the pool, sketching.

On Monday we headed down the coast to Amalfi. We spent a couple of days not doing very much at all. We swam in the sea and read our books on the beach. How perfect are these neat rows of red and white parasols? We ate lunch a couple of times at the brilliant Lido Azzurro, which hangs over the water a few metres down from the beach. I had the same thing both times - anchovies and fried tomatoes from Sorrento, stuffed with cheese and simple, superb ravioli.

Vongole for lunch on another day.

I spent some time dreaming up ideas for my future beach club. A colour scheme of pale pink and bright yellow could work, perhaps?

We took a boat out on Wednesday. Our main priority was lunch at Da Adolfo, which is pretty much our favourite restaurant in the world. We didn't quite know what to do with our boat when nobody was around to help us at 10am - D. ended up swimming to shore in order to book a table. That's how seriously we take lunch! Mozzarella on lemon leaves, pasta with lobster, white wine and peaches...

Afterwards we hotfooted it over to Capri. We didn't park up this time, but winded our way through the Faraglioni - three towering rock formations - before heading back to the mainland.

Another end of the beach at Amalfi - I mean, I just love Italians.

It was my Birthday on Thursday. We started the day slowly with coffee in Amalfi's Piazza del Duomo, and by 10:30am we were on a ferry, bound for Capri. We spent a lazy afternoon on the island last year but this time around I wanted to do more exploring. We climbed the 900 ancient steps to Anacapri, with the Villa San Michele in our sights. The villa was built around the turn of the 20th century by the Swedish physician and author Axel Munthe. Between 1919 and 1920, Munthe was an unwilling landlord to the outrageous heiress and muse Luisa Casati, who took possession of the villa and furnished it according to her theatrical tastes. Artists, photographers and sculptors stood in line to interpret Casati, who paraded around with tame cheetahs, snakes and crocodiles. The view was worth those 900 steps.

The original of this mosaic floor in the villa's Dining Room is Pompeian and was covered by ashes when Vesuvius exploded in 79 A.D.

I found this book in the gift shop - have you ever seen a more perfect cover?

We spent the afternoon relaxing at Il Riccio - a heavenly beach club and restaurant, set on a dramatic cliff face with incredible views. A delicious Birthday meal followed (we even got to choose our own fish from the counter), and by this time we'd decided to spend the night on the island...

Another sketch - from the Villa Cimbrone, actually.

Sunset over Ischia.

We moved to our final hotel on Friday, even further down the Amalfi Coast and nestled into a charming little cove next door to Praiano. We lunched for a second time at Da Adolfo. The rest of the day was spent on the beach, recovering from Birthday excesses, and more swimming and sketching.

On Saturday we caught a water taxi a few bays over to Positano, full of excitement and expectation. It was Ferragosto, an Italian water festival, very special to the town of Positano because locals re-enact the salvaging of a Byzantine icon of the Madonna that was washed up on the beach there in 1117. We made our way through dozens of winding lanes before pitching up at Le Sirenuse for cocktails.

Le Sirenuse - I became quite envious of their side table collection.

More cocktails at another hotel... Afterwards we had a very good dinner (scallops, squid) and watched fireworks explode above the sea at midnight. We'd been fairly lucky with weather so far, give or take the odd storm, but on Saturday night the sky erupted - fireworks on one side, lightning striking the water on the other. It was magnificent!

Even more sketching.

On Sunday we headed back to Capri for two reasons. We'd planned to meet up with one of D.'s friends for a drink in the afternoon, and beforehand we were hoping to make a pilgrimage to the Villa Lysis, built by the eccentric French industrialist and poet Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen in 1905. The villa was a refuge for Fersen; he lived here in self-chosen exile from Paris after an alleged sex scandal. Architecturally, the house was built mainly in an Art Nouveau style with Neoclassical elements, a style which might be called 'Neoclassical decadent'. The villa was dedicated to the youth of love and the Latin inscription above the front steps reads AMORI ET DOLORI SACRVM (a shrine to love and sorrow). Obviously I adored the place.

Beautiful pale blue floors at the Villa Lysis.

Lunch. I love this restaurant (we went last year too) - everything is either pink or green and the waiters wear cummerbunds.

We caught a ferry from Capri to Sorrento in the early evening and afterwards had supper in the town. Over drinks we marvelled at how lovely the place was, with its incredible view of Vesuvius across the Gulf of Naples. Monday, sadly, was our last day on the coast. We had lunch with friends over from the UK at the Il San Pietro, one of our favourite hotels. Afterwards we took off, with heavy hearts, and visited Herculaneum on the way to the airport - quite a sight. By midnight we were at home and in bed, dreaming of our next adventure. Is Venice calling?

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Thursday, 30 July 2015

to the lighthouse: 2015

I arrived in Devon at midday on Saturday, after a long (but very scenic) train journey from Paddington. I'd come for our annual trip, when various members of my family meet up on the West Country coast. (See previous blog entries here and here!) We always stay in the same little town, Ilfracombe, and have been staying in the same ice cream pink house on the town's harbour for a few years now. It's always a blissful time, because I get to spend a few days not thinking about very much, apart from what to have for lunch perhaps, or which hill to climb next. It's a lovely, precious time, spent in the same way every year - catching up with siblings, cousins and aunts, reading, walking and basking in the joys of the English seaside in summer.

The view of the harbour from my bedroom window. Waking up to the sound of seagulls screeching and boats bobbing around in the shallow water is just wonderful. My favourite way to wake up.

Saturday lunchtime involved crab sandwiches and ginger beer. For dinner we headed over to the place Damien Hirst owns on the harbour. The artist lives nearby, so has a few connections with the town - shops and restaurants and so on. The Quay is very lovely and elegant - all white walls and crisp tablecloths - with a huge, arched window overlooking the glistening sea, which makes you feel as if you're dining on a galleon, I always think. We all woke up, not to the sound of seagulls on Sunday morning, but heavy rain. It carried on pouring for the rest of the day unfortunately, so I spent some time indoors, drawing and thinking. I made supper for everyone later on and afterwards we sat outside the front of the house, wrapped in blankets and telling stories by candlelight.

On Monday the weather seemed to be improving, so we took off to Lynmouth, a coastal village we like to visit every year. To reach Lynmouth's charming neighbour Lynton (which lies at the top of a gorge some 500 feet above), you take the Victorian water powered cliff railway up the hillside. We walked through Lynton and over to the Valley of the Rocks - a magical place of rock, stone and sea. The poet Robert Southey was a visitor in August 1799 and described the place as 'covered with huge stones... the very bones and skeletons of the earth; rock reeling upon rock, stone piled upon stone, a huge terrific mass'.

We stumbled upon a very funny hotel en route back to Lynton. Following ivy-covered signs for a 'country house' and 'fern garden', we descended down a long path and came across the Villa Spaldi, which hugs the cliffside high above the sea. We were the only ones around, which was pretty eerie, but there was something thoroughly intriguing about the place. I peeked through the hotel's dusty windows and saw fires lit, obelisks and urns littering mantelpieces, threadbare carpets and hundreds of old books lining the walls. All very Edwardian I suppose. The smell of woodsmoke hung heavy in the air. It felt very much as if we'd travelled back in time and were visiting an old professor for tea. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sprang to mind. We scoffed scones with cream and jam on the hotel's terrace and disappeared before the rain set in again.

I bought this old Union Jack in a junk shop in Lynton for twelve English pounds, which I took to hanging from the kitchen window. I love an old flag. When I get a London studio, I'll hang this one above my desk, I reckon.

Tuesday was spent in and around Ilfracombe - visiting the lighthouse (also a tiny chapel), messing around on the harbour beach, eating fish and chips and ice cream. And then, before I knew it, I found myself back on a train with a packed lunch and a heavy heart, sad to be leaving so soon. Alas. Until next year, Devon!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

in the press... british vogue august 2015 and lonny 07/07/2015

My White Tiger Cushion makes an appearance in the August issue of British Vogue.

Talking interiors, inspirations and Instagram with Lonny magazine. Read the full article here.

Monday, 6 July 2015

summer june

D.'s mum got married in Edinburgh on the last Saturday in May; it was a splendid day. Here's D. leaving the family home in full Scot regalia. My favourite outfit!

A quick sketch on a napkin on the train back from the north.

Picasso's beloved ceramics on display at Sotheby's on New Bond Street. We went for the opening of the Impressionist & Modern Art sale - I wanted a lot of things.

I've had a bunch of postcards printed with a drawing on one side. Buy a cushion and you'll find one or two in with your order.

A new drawing: Too Early for Oysters.

Gloriously hot pink walls at the RA's Summer Exhibition.

I spent a rainy Sunday morning poring over my old scrapbooks.

And a new painting: Two Olives, Please.

A weekday summer supper: I grilled a couple of these rainbow trout with lots of lemon and parsley and served them with piles of salty samphire.

Raiding old boxes of photographs at my parent's house. Clearly I've always been a fan of colour blocking.

My grandparents, mum, uncle and aunts in Devon in the 1970s.

A sketch.

D. keeping cool during the weekend heat. Pink and red, an excellent combination.

Outdoor drawing club.

We had friends over for a long, happy supper last Saturday and feasted on crab, tomatoes, peaches and grilled asparagus. Lots of mint, basil and chilli - all those delicious flavours of a hot summer.

At home with a vase of huge, gaudy sunflowers. Perfect.