Monday, August 9, 2010


It's 11.15pm, I have blogged once tonight (which is a rarity I know), am dead on my feet after 2am homecoming from the Big Chill this morning and have a massive list of things to do before I leave for Toronto on Wednesday, swiftly followed by New York for work. Aargh. But I cannot pack up before writing about Paris, which broke up the journey to the UK., food...cheaper and better than the Riviera and markets ... brilliant for vintage, high fashion and antiques. We should be moving there sometime soon.
I wrote myself a memo with the names of all the best places we visited but have now lost it so will have to do this from memory.
We stayed in a fab apartment in St Germain at le Prince Regent Residence et Spa, beautifully furnished in an old bourgeouis building with a little courtyard just five minutes walk from Cafe Flore and Les Deux Magots. Went straight out for dinner after an epic journey and very late arrival but the civilised thing about Paris is they understand that you might want to eat later than 9.30pm and actually take your money and custom with a smile.
We dropped off the luggage and ran to the first restaurant we spotted, across the road, les Caves du Polidor, which was all chandeliers, tiled floors and rustic tables oozing Parisien atmosphere without the too obvious tourist touch. Our waitress was Mr Bean's elderly toothless mum, she kept whacking Iain in the back of the neck, first with a bread basket and then the table mats. We were cracking up just as she performed her piece de resistance and knocked over a wine glass, stared at it as it rolled across the table and then walked away without picking it up! But the food made up for it, proper hearty chicken casseroles and mashed potatoes which are just what you need after numerous stale baguettes en route.
Breakfast at le Danton was followed by a stroll around the market at Clignancourt.
It's the biggest flea market in Paris and the girls were cooing over all the great fash finds there. Then Montmartre for some caricatures and views across the city from the Sacre Coeur, a float along the River Seine to the Eiffel Tower and finally Notre Dame where Livvy spotted Mr Fashion himself Gok Wan.
Dinner was at the Au Saint Benoit off Boulevard St Germain, and if you don't go anywhere else, go here for supper. It's intimate, friendly and the service and food are up with the best I've had anywhere in France. We rounded off with cocktails at a bar where two guys performed death defying acrobatic feats in mid air.
The Pub St Germain is a fab find for lunch or dinner too, with four floors of seriously cool decor, red velvet sofas and dramatic purple walls, virtually hidden away down a little cobbled alley and a manager who is on the ball and ensures that everything is swift, friendly and up to scratch. I know, this is Paris I'm talking about. It gets a bad press but maybe we got lucky.
We arrived in London to house sit for a friend only for me to discover that my pride n joy Houlihan leggings which I have worn just ONCE had been left at the hotel. After going into slight meltdown, I called the manager Remi, who promised to post them to me in the UK immediately. Two days later, they arrived. So Paris, au revoir, coming back very soon.

Glamping - lights, music and toilet paper!

Now there's camping and there's glamping. Until recently, well last weekend, I was a camper. Camping is that quaint outdoor pursuit that I love, on paper, until the rain starts to tip tap on the canvas before you have even finished pitching the tent, and rarely subsides until you have packed everything up again and decamped back to full plumbing and hot showers.
I've camped in England with varying degrees of success - last time we left early because of relentless downpours and the girls didn't speak to me all the way home and told me I had ruined their best holiday EVER. Forget Caribbean beaches and Alpine lakes, they love not seeing a toothbrush or the inside of a shower cubicle for days on end. What I remember about that particular trip was sitting in the laundry room at our New Forest site with my Manc friend Clare, who is a tough cookie, trying to warm up next to the tumble dryers.
Italy was fun last year but the opposite extreme, so hot that it was almost impossible to sleep.
So with the Big Chill beckoning, and a dry Glastonbury for the first time in years, I felt strangely confident as we packed up all our camping gear the day we left France. The fact that it took up three quarters of the boot, and that was without our months-worth of luggage, hair straighteners, beauty products...three females equals a lot of stuff....was not a worry for me, although Iain had to drive 1000 miles without a rear view.
Then two things happened. We saw the weather forecast for last weekend...showers...and noticed an advert for Yurtel on the BC website...yurts with double beds, proper quilts, electric lights, lamps, even carpet for God's sake. Oh and no forgetting an eyemask and ear plugs for the discerning festival goer who likes to sleep at some point. How did we miss this, opined Iain, who tries to avoid every camping trip with excuses like work, bike trips and frozen shoulders. He also mentioned something about being able to read in bed if the music got too much for him. So with less than 24 hours to go, we booked one and spent the next hour unpacking all aforementioned gear in sunny Herts before setting off.
The fact that we had a. all bought wellies, b. booked a luxe alternative and c. even thought to borrow the waterproofs that had been forgotten in our haste to pack meant of course that it didn't rain at all, well apart from one sharp downpour on Friday, which just meant beating a hasty retreat into the Thali tent for a fabulous Indian.
But if you think that's extravagant, the Lotterys can beat it. N&T had booked a hotel 8 miles away, then decided to join us Yurting, but didn't want to lose the full English breakfast and en suite that even the yurtel couldn't provide so kept their rooms on, sleeping on site and rushing off each morning for three hours to 'freshen up'. Needless to say, Issy became a Lottery for the duration of the trip.
My highlights? Mystery Jets' brilliant set on the Clash stage on Friday night, they thanked the crowd for sticking with them rather than watching Massive Attack on the big momma stage but they needn't have bothered because they were SO much better, and The Magic Numbers yesterday, who have made a few of my favourite tracks ever. Plan B was also magnetic live, not what I expected at all, and went down a storm. Lily Allen proved that pregnancy doesn't have to stop you having a good time and Paloma Faith and Newton Faulkner were also good value. Plus loads of little unknown bands, including Hundred in the Hands, who are really super talented.
Iain's highlights? The dozens of world food stalls serving everything from Lebanese wraps to Goan fish curry and everything in between. His mission was to try as many as possible and reader, he didn't fail.
Issy's highlights? Setting up a three day residence at the dodgem stand, she and Poppy must've spent every pound of their not inconsiderable pocket money whizzing round at speed bashing as many people as they could.
Liv and Lyd checked out the talent at the festival too, most of which had nothing to do with music, so everyone was happy. But the joy of arriving back to a toilet that doesn't resemble the one in Slumdog Millionaire cannot be denied.