For anyone looking for a slow pace of life, somewhere where there is no choice but to relax then the Dordogne Valley is the perfect answer. In Martel, we stayed at the Relais Sainte-Anne which is one of those hotels, although only three star, which is a real find. The owners are a young couple. He is the chef and she looks after the hotel. We were greeted on arrival by three dogs which made my day. It is located in a former girl’s school, and all the rooms are different. There is a gorgous outdoor heated swimming pool. You need a car to get around but for a weekend away, it is ideal and very romantic.
Foodies will be in their element in the Dordogne, unless worried about calories, as fois gras and duck tends to dominate the menus. Rather than following a ‘wine’ route, the area promotes the ‘nut’ route, with field of walnuts which are grown here in quantity. I tasted the most delicious nut tart at Le Cantou restaurant in the pretty red village of Collonges La Rouge where the buildings are red because of the iron in the surrounding rocks. The restaurant kindly gave me their recipe.
Mix together 1/2 litre of liquid cream, two eggs, 200 grammes of powder sugar, and 200 grammes of crushed (into very small pieces) walnuts. Turn into a shallow baking tin and cook in the oven for 1/2 hour at 200º centigrade.
There is also an alcholic nut drink which is made locally and, as I understand it, only sold locally. Served very cold from the freezer, it is both an aperitif and after dinner drink. A drizzle also livens up vanilla ice-cream.
A more detailed feature that I wrote on the Dordogne can be found on the www.JustAboutTravel.net website.
Virginia Woolf by Man Ray, 27 November 1934 © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Cologne © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2014
A major exhibition Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision opens at the National Portrait Gallery just off London’s Trafalgar Square. Exploring the life of Virginia Woolf, one of the most important writers of the twentieth century, portraiture, imagery, letters and documentation cover her early life, literary interests, awareness of modernity, as well as her feminist and political views that contributed to altering the shape and purpose of modern fiction.
In 1904 the Stephen (her surname until she married Leonard Woolf) siblings moved to Gordon Square in Bloomsbury, and began holding ‘at homes’. Led by a determination to rethink how one should live, they introduced experiments and reforms that challenged ideas and Victorian customs. They formed a core group of friends that became known as the ‘Bloomsbury’ set. Within this group were her sister Vanessa Ball and Duncan Grant as well as the writer Leonard Woolf whom she married. Due to her mental well-being, The Woolfs moved to Hogarth House in Richmond, and there founded the Hogarth Press. She eventually took her own life.
Highlights of the exhibition include portraits of Woolf by her Bloomsbury Group contemporaries.
The exhibition runs from 10 July to 26 October 2014-07-09 www.npg.org.uk
Adult £7 (with Gift Aid) Seniors £6.50 concessions £6.
A must for anyone interested in the Bloomsbury Set is a visit to the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant at Charleston in Sussex where the walls of their home, now a museum, are painted with their work.
Virginia Woolf by Vanessa Bell c.1912 © Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett. Photo credit: © National Trust / Charles Thomas
Walking on Sunshine
It’s always great to watch a film that makes you happy. Walking on Sunshine that opens in cinemas on June 27th is just that. Think Mamma Mia except that the story is set in Puglia, Italy and the songs are hits from the ‘80s.
After a whirlwind romance, Maddie, fresh from a long-term relationship, is preparing to marry Raf, played by the drop dead gorgeous looking Giulio Berruti. She has invited her sister Taylor to the wedding in Puglia, Italy. Unbeknown to Maddie, Raf is Taylor’s ex-holiday flame, and the love of her life…and that is just one of the many setbacks on their road to happy ever after…
This is a film where, depending on your age, you will know the songs, and won’t be able to stop yourself singing along. Forget dialogue, most of it is set to song.
For sun worshipers, the setting by the sea in Puglia will make you want to visit. Not to be missed for that feel good factor!
June 9 heralds the opening of the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy on London’s Piccadilly which this year has some exciting pieces. The good news for collectors is that this is a great opportunity to buy works of art as a lot of the pieces are for sale.
1,200 pieces were picked from a total of 12,000 entries from a spectrum of media that includes painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, architecture and film. A total of over £60,000 is offered in awards and prizes for every category.
The exhibition, displayed in thirteen rooms, attracts artists from around the world with amateur works sitting alongside those of professionals. I just loved the painting by Allen Jones, ‘Unexpected Guest’ that sadly for me is priced at £80,000. Fortunately there are also cheaper works, although not by this artist, priced in the hundreds! The works are numbered rather than named so visitors can enjoy the visual aspect without having to take into account the person that executed it. The only way to find out is by relating the number to the work in the booklet given out when you buy a ticket £13.50 (without Gift Aid donation £12.); Friends of the RA and under 16s go free.
King George 111 founded the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768. The Summer Exhibition has been held every year since. Money raised goes towards financing the RA’s three schools where pupils pay no fees for the duration of their studies.
The exhibition runs until 17 August 2014. Different events are held throughout the period. For what appears to be a really fun evening, check out the Midsummer Night’s Fête on Saturday, 21 June £25.
Open 10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm) Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm)
When a big name actress such as Kathleen Turner (star of Body Heat and Romancing The Stone) comes to the London stage there is always a rush to get tickets. Given that Turner is such a well-known name, one hopes that she would choose a play in which to show off her talent.
In Bakersfield Mist Kathleen plays Maude, a gritty unemployed bartender living in a trailer park. She buys a painting in junk shop, which she believes is a Jackson Pollock, worth millions.
In this two hander, Lionel Percy played by Ian McDiarmid is the pompous world-class expert who flies in from New York to authenticate the painting.
While the acting is excellent, parts of the story written by Stephen Sachs, and the character of Lionel Percy are hardly plausible. At one point Percy gets very drunk but within seconds regains his equilibrium. Given his character, it is also incredibly unlikely that a person as pompous as he is portrayed to be, would allow himself to act in such a preposterous manner.
The one and three-quarter hour play runs without an interval at the Duchess Theatre, just off the Aldwych, for a limited season to 30 August.
£10 front-row day seats are available from the Box Office in person on the day of the performance.
www.bakersfieldmist.com Box office 0844 412 4659
RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Press day, May 19, is a privilege at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I was able to enjoy all the exhibits without hoards of people. The Show is already sold out although there is a possibility of returns.
The main attraction is, of course, the gardens. There are now three distinct areas the Show, the Fresh, and the Artisan Gardens. The Show being the most prestigious and prominently positioned with the largest space while the Fresh is supposedly more innovative, and the artisan has a more natural approach. Anyone with a garden will get lots of ideas although actually creating some of these requires oodles of money. It’s easy to imagine gardens such as the one sponsored by The Telegraph with its waterfalls in a multi-million pound home. There is always so much to see that there is never enough time. Today there were lots of celebrities, and I was sadly asked to leave just prior to the arrival of HM The Queen.
There is a lot of temptation to spend money as there are loads of booths selling everything that you could possibly need for your garden and lots more beside, mostly designed with flower lovers in mind. The hammocks reminded me of my childhood, and the sculpture of a dog inserted into the centre of a glass table had me longing for a home that was big enough to accommodate it.
A bonus for anyone fortunate enough to be there on Saturday 24th, the last day is that towards closing time they are able to buy flowers at discounted prices.
Togenkyo – A Paradise on Earth
You can also check out my review on the JustAboutTravel website at: http://www.justabouttravel.net/2014/05/19/chelsea-flower-show-a-day-out-to-remember/
Tate Modern’s major exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs opens on 17 April. It is the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to the artist’s paper cut-outs made between 1937 and 1954 bringing together around 130 works of his final works. The show includes the largest number of Matisse’s Blue Nudes ever exhibited together.
Matisse first used cut paper shapes to work out the arrangement of objects in his painting. While working on a painting, he often made sketches exploring alternative points of view or versions of the composition. When ill health prevented him from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors to make maquettes for commissions, which included books, and designs for stained glass windows, tapestries and ceramics.
The exhibition begins with a film by Adrien Maeght showing the artist wielding his scissors. Background on his work tells us that Matisse was fascinated by dance and during the early ’50s, he made many large -scale works some of which are on display. London-based textile printer Zika Ascher visited Matisse while he was working on the Tahiti-inspired cut-outs, and the two agreed on a project to create printed linen wall hangings based on these compositions.
In room six another film gives a glimpse of his handling of paper, and shows how he holds the sheet in the air with one hand while cutting with the other. This was a way of working in three dimensions. As his work progressed, he was also using cut paper in different ways. For all his boldness and confidence, the process was always one of trial and revision.
Matisse recognised a strong connection with his cut-out method, and stained glass. In the last room is one of his windows based on a Christmas theme conveying the spirit of religion without addressing the religious subject.
Related events including family activities are being held throughout the period of the exhibition. This includes a live screening Matisse Live on 3 June in HD to around 200 cinemas, illuminating the artist’s work. The screening will continue around the country on subsequent days.
Henri Matisse: The Cut -Outs runs until 7 September 2014.
Tate Modern Open daily 10.00 – 18.00; until 22.00 on Friday and Saturday, and 19.30 on Sunday.
www.visit tate.org.uk Tel. 0044 (0) 20 7887 8888.