Decision time

The decisions are made and the time has finally come to tell the people concerned. Today I’m giving notice at Agnes b (after making my final purchase) as it’s served its purpose and I feel I’ve served my time; and after twelve years, I’m giving notice on my Venice apartment.

The countdown is on. It’s four weeks to go until I head to LA to tie up the loose ends and move into the next phase. Yes, I’m moving into Phase Two Relocation. It could be a short phase as Phase Three isn’t far behind. I’m feeling quite stressed as there’s a lot going on but confident that every decision is the right one.

There’s a month of purgatory ahead as Letad and I won’t see each other after next weekend until we reunite in LA and so Austerity August could be a challenging month. I’m not looking forward to a month’s separation as the longest we’ve managed so far is twelve long days.

Still, there’s this week to look forward to as I’m heading back on Wednesday for four days and then with so much going on, hopefully Austerity August will be over quickly. 

Decisions, decisions!

The Opening Ceremony

After much anticipation, it was finally the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics! 

We started the evening with a picnic on top of Primrose Hill. I never tire of seeing the most spectacular view in London and yesterday was no exception. 

Hordes of fellow picnickers lay on blankets around us while we enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco, delicious food and my nephew and niece wrapped themselves up in blankets and rolled down the hillside giggling hysterically. 

A few drops of rain and we decided to head back home. I’d been worried as I didn’t have a tv (apparently it’s shocking that I’ve survived five months without one) but all was well as my friend the internet provided live streaming for the whole event. 

At 8:12pm (20:12) we saw a plume of red, white and blue crossing the sky and were treated to a spectacular fly over by the Red Arrows. They crossed the London skyline and turned to circle around us treating us to a 360 degree view. Silhouetted against the setting sun, it was incredibly exciting and we caught the Olympic spirit. We counted down, shouting and cheering and the ceremony began. 

Doesn’t do it justice
As opening ceremonies go, I really enjoyed the first couple of hours. A celebration of British history, children’s literature, music and style with a little irony thrown in for good measure; it truly captured the sense of the nation. 

And so to the teams. One forgets the Olympics involves hundreds of countries and as they streamed into the stadium for what seemed like hours, we had an intermission and several spectators fell asleep. I soldiered on valiantly on the balcony but may have dropped off from M to Z. 

Hours later, Great Britiain entered the stadium and we rallied. The kids were reluctant to wake up but after much prodding, we were finally poised and ready for the fireworks and we weren’t disappointed. 

Standing outside on the balcony we were treated to a live firework display, the stadium was an explosion of light and colour clearly visible and the explosions rumbled across the city. We went to bed exhausted but happy to have celebrated such a fantastic experience and proud to be part of London 2012!

Impossible to photograph fireworks!

The flame, the flame

6am and with sunlight streaming through the bedroom window (a novelty in itself) I quickly threw on some clothes and headed out into the early morning sunshine to catch a glimpse of the Olympic torch!

Early morning, Chalk Farm
By 6:30 I was poised on the edge of the pavement, coffee in hand. Chaos ensued as no one seemed to know what was going on but the atmosphere was exciting and very patriotic. Union Jacks were waving, music was pumping (The Eye of the Tiger for some reason) and people were cheering.

Union Jacks everywhere

Finally there was a flicker of a flame through the crowd and the torch appeared. The crowd cheered madly, the torch passed by and it was all over. Suddenly thousands of people converged on to the road and headed home for breakfast. 

The Torch! 

It was a brilliant moment and one I’ll always remember. Hurray for London, I couldn’t have chosen a better year for my leap of faith!

Olympic Fever

It’s seriously heating up in London this week, the temperatures have soared and the Olympics start on Friday! What a fabulous time to be here!

The news is that the torch is passing through Chalk Farm and Camden early on Thursday morning. 6:45am to be precise. Luckily I’m an early riser so plan to be outside the Roundhouse, just down the road in Camden, Union Jack in hand (or not) to catch a glimpse of the action!

My sister and family are coming to stay on Thursday for a couple of nights and we’re hoping to see an extravaganza of fireworks across the city for the opening ceremony. Hopefully we won’t be disappointed.

London 2012!

Impressions of London

Arriving back in London, it was warm and sunny thankfully as I don’t think I would have been able to cope with rain after a week in the sun-kissed south of France.

Heading in to Central London, I was delayed on the Stansted Express and so an hour and a half later, I was finally on the tube. After the pristine countryside, the sleepy French villages and the incredibly beautiful scenery I’ve seen over the past eight days, London felt somehow ugly, dirty and noisy and getting back to Chalk Farm, my flat felt particularly barren.

Luckily it’s the start of the Olympics this week and I’m busy with friends and family coming to visit or I suspect I wouldn’t be very happy to be back…

Postcards from France… Last Day

Sunday arrived and as was fitting after the happiest week of my life, the weather finally broke.

We’d spent our last evening eating in a local restaurant where we sat next to an incredibly happy German family. We’d talked and laughed together and as Letad performed vanishing tricks for the delighted kids, I saw another side to him and fell even a little more in love if that could be possible. I wasn’t the only one as he captured the hearts of the family. How lucky I felt.

Sunday morning and heavy black clouds rolled in, thunder rumbled overhead and the rain poured down washing the dusty cobbled streets clean. It was the end of part one, the holiday fantasy and the beginning of phase two, reality.

Letad and I spent our final day together discussing the reality of our situation. We are incredibly happy and have decided that we want our future to be together, that being together is the most important thing and now, having spent a blissful week together, we feel we have a solid foundation to build a future.

There are logistics to consider but we’re both in it for the long haul and everything is surmountable.

We said yet another goodbye. Still laughing, still kissing, it’s only goodbye for a little while as we have a kitchen to build, loose ends to tie up, work to be done and life to be lived.

And in the meantime, fantastic memories of the best week of our lives.

Postcards from France… Day Seven

Friday and what better idea than driving to Portofino for lunch?

I’d never been to Italy and as we crossed through the border tunnel, my first impression was that it seemed a lot like Mexico. Much dirtier than lovely France, the sky was overcast for the first time and it didn’t bode well. 

We soldiered on valiantly. Finally as we passed Genoa and reached the coast road, the sky cleared and Italy in all its glory was revealed. Villas of gold and terra-cotta coloured stucco were built into the hillsides, bougainvillea draped over wrought iron gates and the cliffs dropped away into the azure sea below.


We meandered around the coast to a picturesque fishing village, Camogli where we stopped briefly before continuing on to Portofino.

Looking back to Camogli

The road cut into the rocky cliff and the first sight of Portofino was an incredible yacht anchored in the crystal clear emerald water.

Welcome to Portofino

We parked and found ourselves in the small cobbled square overlooking the harbour. Strolling away from the tourist traps we came across a busy restaurant (Emighey’s) where we sat drinking in the ambiance and people watching.

Lunch in Portofino

The most divine lunch of fresh pappardelle al pesto arrived, one of the most sublime meals of my life and the first bite had me swooning.

I have actually run out of superlatives as the day became yet another day of perfection, a highlight but as every day has been a highlight, how can I begin to capture its magic?

We headed back towards Valbonne with a plan for the evening, champagne perhaps and an early night!

Postcards from France… Days Five and Six

Letad had organised a tour of Provence with an overnight stay in an old abbey and so we headed off winding our way through sleepy French villages and of course, saw horses camping (as only we would). How is it possible that I have met someone with the same ludicrous sense of humour?

The landscape was spectacular with endless vineyards, the chirp of cicadas and villages built into cliffs. The weather was hot and dry and life continues to follow its centuries’ familiar path.

Pausing briefly in Draguignan, we stopped for a quick picnic in a park where as always the delicious French produce made a quick and easy lunch. A baguette, cheese, pâté and a cold bottle of rosé and we were back on the road.

A quick stop at the Abbaye du Thoronet for a Perrier under a tree which may have been a plum, a nectarine or neither, a quick look around and we were off again, the lure of a pool proving too much to linger.

The trusty iPhone guided us through the winding one way system of Brignoles (thanks Steve) when the map let us down and finally we arrived, hot, sticky and dusty at the Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle (

The colours of Provence
It was a beautiful hotel with the original abbey attached, a tree-shaded outdoor terrace restaurant, mature gardens and a vineyard. We plunged into the pool sighing in the relief of the cool water.

The gardens

Dressing for dinner it was time to up the ante so it was va va voom, the red dress and Pradas. Letad looked fabulous in a blue Agnes b shirt and cream trousers and we both felt incredibly lucky to be together. There may even have been strutting!

Dinner was an incredible six course menu by Alain Ducasse, one of the top Michelin starred chefs (

Tartar of beef with Parmesan and balsamic vinegar, stuffed vegetables, Mediterranean fish with seasonal summer vegetables, pavé of veal and a selection of cheese. All local produce paired with wines from the region, it was an evening to savour and remember.

The next morning we enjoyed a tranquil breakfast on the terrace. Fresh croissants, fruit, cheese, ham, jus de pamplemousse (grapefruit) and fantastic coffee. What a way to start the day. 

Breakfast on the terrace
We said our farewells and headed to Aups and on to the Lac de Sainte Croix for a swim in the cloudy jade green water. The temperatures were searing and the water just about refreshing.

Les Gorges du Verdon awaited with some of the most spectacular views of the area and we braved (and lived through) Letad’s erratic driving around some very windy roads.

Les Gorges du Verdon

Heading back we passed through Grasse before returning once again to the little village house above the Boulangerie where we enjoyed a candle lit dinner for two sitting outside the front door.

Dinner dans la rue
What a fantastic adventure and while hilarious hamster greeting cards reminiscent of squirrel underpants and horses camping proved elusive, it was a fabulous drive through Provence and a tantilising taste of the region!.

Postcards from France… Day Four

A lazy start to the day, the plan was to drive around the coast to Antibes for a sunset barbeque on the beach.

Letad went into hunter-gatherer mode as he gathered scallops, prawns, sausage, chorizo, apple, garlic, bread and a bottle of cold rosé.

We reached the pebbled beach and sat looking across the mercurial water towards the Nice skyline with the mountains beyond.

Looking across to Nice

Letad dug a hole and started a fire (charcoal, firelighters and matches) although the temptation to rub two sticks together must have been huge.

And he cooked. I confess I did absolutely nothing except eat and drink. Delicious spicy prawns with satay sauce, sausage with caramelised apple and chargrilled scallops some of which escaped into the fire.

The food was sublime and as always the setting perfect but the company was what it was all about.

As dusk fell and we decided it was better not to be arrested for lewd behaviour, we headed back to Valbonne and had a drink in the square before retiring, a little smoky but satiated.

How can it just keep getting better and better?

Postcards from France… Day Three

Monday and with a glorious blue sky and a perfect temperature, we drove around the coast to Cap d’Ail. I’ve always wanted to drive along the coast of the French Riviera so for me, it was a dream come true.

We headed to a small cove for lunch at a beachside restaurant followed by swimming from the pebbly beach. The water was cool and refreshing and we spent a couple of hours relaxing whilst discussing how many pairs of fake tits we could see (quite a few!)

Cap d’Ail
Letad obliging emerged from the water in a Daniel Craig moment and the afternoon was perfect.

Better than Daniel Craig

That evening we set off to Juan Les Pins as we had tickets to see Tom Jones, how hilarious is that?!

We sat under the clear night sky, it was a balmy evening and Tom rocked the house. In the distance there were fireworks in Cannes for Bastille Day, there were old people swaying and eventually dancing (the average age of the audience was at least 73), cigarette lighters were lit, red knickers were thrown on the stage (really) and the bleachers were bouncing!

It was a fabulous evening, incredibly picturesque and so hilarious as I laughed more than I thought possible. I never thought I’d see Tom Jones play on the Cote d’Azur!

Living the dream!