London

Oct 16th, 2015 Inspiration, Travel

Returning to visit London is always something of a whirlwind experience.  Co-ordinating and catching up with family and friends, as well as attending to some practical matters, in a short space of time is challenging.

It can can also be a little bitter sweet.  Flashes of regret, and thoughts of the parallel life that I have left behind, bombard me.   The realization that, for me, life there has stopped, yet for everyone else it has progressed unabated, is challenging to process.  Mostly because I do not want to it to be true.  I want my friends and family to be preserved.  Static.  Frozen in formaldehyde, Han Solo-esque, ready for me to release upon my return.  I guess what I am experiencing is a sense of loss, or regret, or missed opportunities?   The dislocation of time and geography and a litany of unknown possibilities.  Wait a second, is this getting too heavy?  Oh man, stream of consciousness!  Time to turn off the inner monologue.  This is, after all, a blog about kids and being a dad right?

Enough of the self-reflection.  Although…I will just say that it does feel a little strange to be a visitor in your own town.  I take the opportunity to visit some of my old haunts and areas.  The images and the memories come flooding back in visceral waves of nostalgia.  Increasingly – and somewhat worryingly reminiscent of an old foggie – I catch myself looking for what has changed or altered.  “Ah yes, I remember when…” (add annoying, frequently pointless, observation)  A phenomenon that I find simultaneously reassuring and depressing.

This time I took a spin through the City.  The Financial district.  Which on the day I visited was shrouded under grey skies, rain lightly, yet ceaselessly, descending adding a cold starkness to a place not known for its warmth to outsiders.  Much of the architecture is familiar and remains largely unchanged of course – including the Gherkin which was being built before I left – but there is also much that is new – such as the Heron Tower.  I love modern architecture and cityscapes – the exhilaration and pulse of a city is intoxicating.  Los Angeles has pockets of this vibrancy.  But you have to search it out.  In London, it is everywhere.

The Gherkin

I love this shot of St. Paul’s Cathedral as it’s not how you would typically think of the Cathedral.  It seems to be almost framed by the row of buildings on either side.  The juxtaposition between the narrow, claustrophobic streets and the looming silver grey of the dome create a powerful image of classical London co-exisiting with the modern.

St Paul's CathedralHeron Building

I also am lucky enough that my sister’s family lives in London, and that they are amenable to putting me (and when we have traveled as family, all of us) up when in town.  This time around, being as I was on my own for the first few days, it was a great opportunity to have some snuggle time with Luca and Ivy.  The brother / sister dynamic is certainly totally different from the brother / brother one that I am used to with Jaxon and Skyer.  I could not believe how composed both Luca and Ivy are.  I kept trying to convince myself that it was all genetic and had nothing to do with parenting styles – but I’m not convinced.  Certainly gave me more than a moment’s pause for thought as to how to handle Jaxon and Skyer.  And there I was, thinking I was doing such a bang up job!

These two though are fully paid up members of the Beachwood Boys Club (event thought one of them is a girl!) and I love having them in my life.  We here at Beachwood HQ, just wish we got to see them more often.

Saturday morning began with a good old fashioned English Breakfast – ably assisted by our two resident sous chefs.

Cute kids

Then out to one of the many local parks that grace the area.  Where both Luca and Ivy rocked the hipster chic – with obligatory retro bobble hat and no socks.  Doesn’t get more insouciant than that.

Cute boy in sandbox

This next one is from another sand box (oops sorry sand pit) this time on Clapham Common the next day – as I said a dizzying array of parks in this area.   By this stage in the weekend, Ivy had moved on from her hat faze and was all about clinging on to the last moments of warm weather.

Cute kids in sandbox

I have another confession to make.  When I’m now I visit the West End I go into full blown tourist mode.  I don’t know what has happened to me.  And I’m not all too sure that I care.  I can’t help but marvel at the Burlington Arcade.  I fully admit that it has a series of impractically priced miniature stores – sort of like a high end Lilliput – but it is still the best “shopping mall” in the world.

Burlington Arcade

In any case, I am always a sucker for a vintage rolex.  This particular place is great should you ever wish to commemorate a specific year.  Sadly this time, I was just window shopping.

Vintage RolexVintage Rolex

I don’t know why I shot this street sign of Saville Row.  I was passing a corner I must have walked down a thousand times before, and I just felt the urge.  There is something so simple, iconic and sharp about the way that the letters looked.  Maybe it’s because Jaxon is really into his letters at the moment and I knew he would like the symmetry and the clarity.  I’m not sure that comes across from my photo but I love the image all the same.

Saville Row

And then I really like this building directly opposite.  Again I have no idea why, but I find the corner of Saville Row and Vigo Street quite evocative, so I wanted to capture the moment.

cool building London

Now this next one you’ll have to forgive me as I have no excuse.  I think for me it was the contrast of the slate grey sky, the taxi cabs shimmering shadows on the rain slicked streets, and the garish bright lights of the billboard that created a crisp vignette of London.  Again so familiar to me and yet – for now at least – not my home.

Picadilly Circus

This one of the House of Commons, I snapped from the window of the cab on the way back to my sister’s those.  A cheesy tourist shot undoubtedly, but it was such a beautiful sunny day – with crystal clear blue sky – and I had landed at Heathrow only hours earlier. There was something euphoric in the moment for me, which sadly I’m not a good enough photographer to capture, but I couldn’t resist.  And I didn’t know if I would get another chance with the sunlight hitting the building so perfectly.

House of Commons

Finally this picture was taken with my iPhone from the roof deck of Google’s offices in central London.  What a view.  and what a day.  The panoramic views are on all four sides of the building. You’re not really supposed to take pictures, but I sneaked this one while no one was looking.  The prospect of more illicit Google photography alone, is sufficient reason to go back soon.

Aerial London

Vernaison Market, Paris

Aug 26th, 2015 Inspiration, Travel

Entering Vernaison antiques Market makes you feels like Alice must have done when she fell through the looking glass – as though you have stumbled into a secret world.  Known only to the cognoscenti and that somehow, through an oversight, you too have been permitted to enter. It’s narrow, cramped passageways and tiny stalls crammed with antique furniture, vintage fashion and art, draw you in with intense immediacy.  Such that you emerge the other side of Vernaison’s walled, half-mile squared, enclave, blinking into the sunshine, like a rabbit emerging from its warren.  Located in Paris’ Saint-Ouen, Vernaison Market is immersive and visceral – packed with treasures and curiosities.

Vernaison Market ParisVernaison MarketVernaison Market Paris

We got there early avoid the crowds and the crush.  And yes, I had to cheat to keep the boys from losing it.  The thought of them running rampant from boredom through the narrow passages of Vernaison was too traumatic to envisage.  No desire to get into an argument with a Parisian antiques dealer in the middle of one of the oldest flea markets of its kind in the world.

Vernaison Market, ParisVernaison Market

As a non-fashion creative, I found the moments when you can see from where designers (such as Rachel) draw their inspiration fascinating.  Interesting, this one stall had a lot of vintage Americana – straight out of the #RRL palette.  Not what we were there for, but fascinating to me as it’s one of my favorite brands.

Vernaison MarketVernaison Market

And having weakness for vintage Rolex and other cool watches it I always love discovering this type of display. also  we did find a couple of cool places for dads to burrow around.

Vernaison Market

I just loved the whole experience, and although it’s impractical really to buy anything of real size (we tried it once and it literally took months to arrive and cost far more than it should) it’s great to wander around and fantasize about how you would furnish your Parisian pied-à-terre, or countryside manor house in Provence.

Vernaison MarketVernaison MarketVernaison Market Paris

Chartering a Yacht, Mallorca

Aug 21st, 2015 Food, Inspiration, Travel

This has to be the best way to see the island.  What a fabulous experience –  diving off the back of a 50 foot yacht, into the crystal clear blue waters of the Mediterranean.  Having got used to the Pacific Ocean, the warmth of the water, as well as its clarity, almost defies belief.  The boys loved jumping off the back and splashing about.  Of course Skyer was the first to venture in.  Fearless as always.  Once he was in, Jaxon was soon behind him and then Luca – not wanting to let the British side down – braved the plunge.  We managed to coax both Jaxon and Skyer out of their life jackets for a time, so both can truly say that they have swam in the clear blue waters of the Med.

All aboard!All aboard Mezzo Magic

Leaving the port of Soller we skirted round the edge of the island, catching a glimpse of a school of dolphins as we headed out to sea.  We hugged Mallorca’s craggy coastline, and marveled at the raw simplicity of the view.  Once we were clear of the harbor gates, Grant, our captain for the day, let us all took turns at the wheel to steer.  There was not quite enough wind to unfurl the sails but we made good progress in spite of Jaxon and Skyer’s somewhat erratic maneuvers – Francessa, our craft was surprisingly easy to steer – and the boys even managed to get us going round in complete circles at one point.

SollerSoller PortSteering YachtSteering YachtSteering Yacht

We headed for a distinctive outcrop of rock in the distance.  Only when we approached did we realize that we were headed there for lunch.  To the Sa Foradada restaurant.  Fabled haunt of the rich and famous of Deia.  Perched precariously into the rock face, the restaurant is accessible only by boat and – intriguingly for somewhere so inaccessible and fairly niche, boat driven, clientele – operates on a strict reservation policy only.  Presumably to keep the odd passing cruise ship and their marauding hoards at bay.  The restaurant itself looks out over the most spectacular cove.  The shore line’s cobalt colored waters gently lapping at the rudimentary jetty for the yacht’s dinghies to moor.  As you scramble ashore a flight of some one hundred or so steps greets you, carved into the rock face, leading up to Sa Foradada.

Approaching Sa ForadaSa ForadaSa Foradada

How many times do you get to swim ashore to eat a meal at a restaurant that looks like its out of a Bond movie? We jumped off the back of boat, not before spotting a two foot large barracuda that inhabits the bay lurking about, and swam ashore.

The restaurant itself was delightful.  All the cooking carried out on a open hearth barbecue.  Rustic, yet elegant and sophisticated.  With unsurpassed views and a unique charm.  A truly memorable experience.

Sa ForadaSa ForadaSa ForadaSa ForadaBoys at Sa ForadaSa Forada

After lunch and some more swimming and snorkeling in the cove we ventured out in the small rubber dinghy that was attached to Francessa and – venturing a little closer to the coast line – went in search of smugglers caves.  We found a couple.  Some of which had reportedly been in use during the time of Franco and perhaps even more recently than that.  The boys imaginations were fired and they talked of pirates, and hidden treasure and maps the rest of the trip.

Snorkeling Sa ForadaFish at Sa Forada

The guys at Mezzo Magic, with whom we chartered the yacht, really looked after us.  It was, without doubt, our best day of the vacation.  A great way to end our family trip.  Should you ever be in Mallorca do not hesitate to book with them.  The yacht is magnificent and the guys knowledgeable, friendly and great with kids.  http://www.mezzomagic.co.uk

FrancessaFrancessa

 

Deià, Mallorca

Aug 12th, 2015 Beach, Inspiration, Travel

This place is breathtakingly gorgeous.  Achingly so, in fact.  Authentic, off the beaten path, and yet sophisticated and chic at the same time.  Like a found jewel.  You instantly want to treasure it and keep it all to yourself.  We are here with my sister and her husband and their two children, Luca and Ivy.  So yes, the Beachwood Boys Club has admitted a girl as a member.  We’ll see how that goes for all concerned.  We rented a villa, which I have to say is absolutely the way to go.  As nice as five star hotels are –  and no matter the “child friendly” policy of the establishment – I never feel fully relaxed in a hotel with my rambunctious boys.  Plus there is the convenience factor that a hotel can’t provide.  So we are very happy with our villa set up.  Lots of good places for outdoor eating, a nice pool, spacious, modern kitchen with all our gadgets and creature comforts – nestled in the beautiful mountainside of the island.

The town of Deia itself is phenomenal.  Quiet, unpretentious and elegant.  It does not need to impress its uniqueness upon you.  It simply has to be.   All this, while boasting several wonderful restaurants and eateries ranging from the understated Village Cafe – the gazpacho is quite remarkable – all the way through to the family run, Michelin starred Es Racó des Teix where we found the foie gras and the amuse bouche spectacularly good.

But enough of such restaurant review type chat!  This after all is about the kids right? Right?  Well, in Deià we seem to have found that perfect balance of having enough to stimulate and entertain the children – splashing in the pool with the cousins, trips to the beach of course, visiting the local markets and towns, while keeping us older folk engaged at the same time.  We are certainly loving our nightly ritual of cooking out under the stars at the Bar-B-Q.  And long may it continue – we don’t want this week to end.

Deia montage

The founding members of the Beachwood Boys Club reconnect with their cousins.  Picking up right where they all left off, in spite of living on the other side of the world.  So great to see.

Dancing in DeiaIMG_4783