Back to Queen’s Park

Saturday and we went back to the flat for a second look. It was just as we remembered it, a huge amount of work but so much potential!

The plan would be to restore two rooms to their original “grandeur”. We’re thinking ceiling roses and chandeliers! Then we would swap the kitchen and bathroom, bash a couple of walls down, polish the floors and hopefully job done!
If only it was so simple. 
Of course contracts need to go through before any of that can happen so let’s see what happens this week…

New York bound

Another week, another trip! 

This week it’s New York to share the last six month’s work and catch up with the NY team. 

I haven’t been since January so there’s lots to share and lots to talk about. How lucky that I have an ominous sore throat!
I’m sure it’s psychosomatic but just in case, I’m loaded up with throat spray, nasal spray, aspirin and Lemsip. 
I usually have twelve or so presentations to give during these weeks so my voice is precious, like an opera singer I’ll be gargling salt water upon arrival!
Back on Saturday morning. 

Heat wave

London has been hot. Very hot. It’s been the hottest summer since 1976 apparently.

For weeks the city has been baking in temperatures of over 28 degrees. And while that’s not hot by Aussie standards, it’s pretty warm here.

It’s been a lovely summer, not taken for granted, just enjoyed. From picnics in the park, bike rides around the city, even flat hunting, everything looks better a little sun-kissed, except Londoners perhaps!

There’s an energy in London that’s dynamic, people crowding the streets, sitting in parks, relaxing in pubs. Everyone’s outside and everywhere is packed. There’s even a fake beach in Camden where people are queuing to get in. Seriously.

Loving London summer!

The Marital Bed

On a day when it seemed like everything started happening, the lovely new marriage-saving marital bed arrived. Finally, a bed for humans!

I arrived home to find Letad surrounded by plastic, packing, screws, mattresses and bed frames. Bed knobs and broomsticks, literally. It was slightly chaotic but before long the bed frame was up, the midget bed was carefully packed underneath (I have become very good at arranging things in small spaces) and the bed was made. Oh the bliss. We decided to have an early night.

At first it didn’t seem much bigger. Another fifteen centimetres doesn’t sound like much and we wondered if we should have gone for the super king at 180cm wide, 50cm bigger than the midget bed, but waking this morning after eight lovely hours having slept on a brand new mattress, not having been woken by falling off the edge or one’s spouse tossing and turning in a doll’s bed, the decision was the right one.

There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. We might actually make it to our second anniversary now!

Flat Hunting – the update

I haven’t mentioned our hobby of flat hunting by bike recently. Between travel (Milan, Florence, Berlin, Valbonne and tomorrow, New York) and general lack of anything interesting to say, nothing was really happening.

By chance I stumbled across a property a couple of weeks ago and we rode our bikes over to see it. It was our unofficial London anniversary and we were going to Scott’s for lunch but we had time and thought, “Why not?” and so off we went, this time heading west to Maida Vale (well, sort of).

Maida Vale is a nice area of West London and property is expensive. We rode through the leafy, exclusive area of St John’s Wood until we reached the less leafy less exclusive part of Maida Vale, not far from Queen’s Park but on the other side of the railway tracks which makes all the difference especially to price.

The flat was what one would call a project, otherwise known as insanity. Damp on the walls, peeling wallpaper, walls to be knocked down, carpets to be ripped up, new kitchen, new bathroom, the lot. I suspect there may also be small furry animals and not in a good way. A bank repossession needing a complete renovation. Perfect!

Two bedrooms and a small courtyard garden made it appealing (don’t forget it’s London) and so we decided to make an offer.

A few days passed and we went to France. A few more days in which we heard a developer was interested and then yesterday, a phone call to say that our offer had been accepted. Yikes!

Time is of the essence. As it’s a repossession, the flat has to legally be shown to other prospective buyers so everything could fall through but they want a twenty eight day exchange of contract so perhaps there’s hope.

Suddenly things went from zero to warp speed in seconds. Within moments of receiving the phone call, all mortgage paperwork was complete, a survey paid for and a letter of confirmation arrived from the estate agents. We were all systems go.

If this one actually goes through (a miracle in itself) we’ll be looking forward to the winter of extreme discontent. I shall miss the free heating and hot water at the Little Flat in Chalk Farm and will be showering at work in flip flops. The joy. I’ll have a lot to complain, I mean, blog about!

Stay tuned, this one might actually happen!

Scott’s Restaurant

In order to celebrate our anniversary in London, Letad surprised me with lunch at Scott’s in Mayfair. 

A fabulous seafood restaurant frequented almost daily by Charles Saatchi and now girlfriend Trinny, it was the sight of the infamous Nigella choking and so as we sat at our outdoor table, we couldn’t resist reenacting the moment. Letad was Nigella. 
The day was sunny and warm and so I started with a delicious cold bass cerviche, my favourite flavours of cilantro, avocado and lime mixed with marinated succulent bass. Delicious. 
I had then ordered what I thought was a prawn cocktail but it appeared as a large pot of chilled, unshelled prawns. Fresh and delicious as they were, it was more work than I had banked on but worth it in the end. 
We sat for a while enjoying the ambient summer afternoon. Suddenly a taxi pulled up and that old creature of habit, Charles Saatchi (dressed in his uniform navy suit and buttoned white shirt) ushered Trinny into a taxi and off they went. So predictable that even the paparazzi couldn’t be bothered to photograph them. 

Our Scott’s experience was complete. Time to go home. 

Villefranche and St Jean Cap Ferrat

Sunday and despite overcast skies, we decided to head to the beach at Villefranche. Taking our new beach umbrella, we set up camp and had a relaxing lounge on the quiet beach. The water was cool but clear and refreshing and a couple of hours passed easily. 

Another group of Russians (seriously?) decided to park directly in front of us and with three feet between us, detracted from the peaceful afternoon. 
The sky was darkening so we decided it was time to pack up the umbrella and go to explore Cap Ferrat properly. 
There are three roads (corniches) wrapping around the bay from Villefranche to Cap Ferrat and driving up from the beach we discovered the back roads of the town. Higher and higher we went until we reached the top corniche. The views were spectacular, from Villefranche to the whale tail of the Cap Ferrat peninsula. It lay below us as we spotted our favourite beach and decided to head to the lighthouse and St Jean, a small town on the other side of the cap. 
Driving past the spectacular houses, the glorious Hotel du Cap Ferrat until we reached the old lighthouse at the point (le phare) it was the riviera at its best. 
Discovering St Jean Cap Ferrat, a small. quiet town on the far side of the cap, we stopped for a coffee and wandered around the small marina as the wind picked up and whitecaps formed on the usually benign water. 
It was a lovely area and again I felt Villefranche was the place to be. 
We set off back to Valbonne reluctantly. It had been the perfect anniversary. 

Politics à la Plage

As a bit of a stickler for etiquette, there’s a right way of doing things even on the beach. 

Arriving at the beach at the top of the Promenade des Anglais we politely arranged our towels a discreet distance from the aqua water. We hobbled carefully over the grey pebbles to swim in the temperate water before returning to our camp and relaxing. All was well. 
Before long however all was not well as the Russians invaded. Not being well versed in beach etiquette they plonked themselves down right in front of us, blocked our view and proceeded to have very loud conversations in Russian. 
And then it really was beach politics as the Americans moved in, complete with kids, stroller and toys. They pushed their way to the water’s edge and decided no one else was getting a look in. 
All we needed were the Germans!
We decided to swim and then sat in the pebbles in the surf. Victory, no one was in front of us. “We will fight on the beaches… We will never surrender…”
The Americans retaliated by changing their baby’s nappy next to us. Dirty tactics indeed. 
Game over!

South of St Tropez – The Var

There was a stretch of coast between St Tropez and Toulon I’d had my eye on. Belonging to the region known as The Var, it looked as though it would be worth a visit. 

And so off we went, driving towards Hyéres before taking a long, windy road past dozens of vineyards. It seemed as though it was taking forever and wasn’t the scenic coastal route I’d had in mind, but suddenly we emerged from the green and overlooked the most spectacular glittering blue view of Cavaliére and the Var coast. 
We wound our way down the cliff and meandered along the coast towards Le Lavandou. An interesting peninsula caught my eye on the map and so a detour to Cap Bénat entailed. While I anticipated a deserted beach at the end of the road, the French had other plans as it was a private estate or domain. End of the road indeed. 
We set off back the way we came, stopping at a tiny cove for a very quick swim before heading to St Tropez. 
To be honest I haven’t fallen in love with St Tropez. I’ve only been once before and while it certainly embodies the glamour of the Riviera with overly expensive cars and overly tanned women with eating disorders, I feel it’s not quite for me. 
We left St Tropez, sat in the obligatory traffic jam and went back to Valbonne for a quiet evening and an early night. 
The Var coast was definitely worth seeing but I’m still a fan of Cap Ferrat!

The Saga of Norman

The perils of renting one’s house out to strangers means that there are inevitable damage and breakages. 

Things haven’t been too bad although it seems the oven is broken, someone has nicked the nice glass salt and pepper shakers and oil cruets, the hair dryer has gone, several glasses appear to be broken and one of my prized green glass bottles is missing albeit a small one. All fairly manageable although slightly inconvenient. 
Norman the goldfish however, appears to have thrived in our absence. He’s bigger than he was with a glorious tail, fatter and more energetic than before. We were innocently admiring his tail when the penny dropped, it was as though he was a different fish…
This imposter is the fake Norman, now named the Forman.
Where is the real Norman?
Now we wait for the ransom letter to arrive…