We’ve left Verona now, more’s the pity, and in my mind the single antidote is to dip into Italy once more. In London, sips of creamy limoncello and a bottle or two of Valpolicella Ripasso is partial recompense for our melancholy departure from Italian shores. Another is to look back upon photos and remember breathing deep of that ever-enchanting peninsula.
In so doing, I’ve rewound a few months, to Easter 2018 in fact, when the trees were yet to burst forth on trees ravaged by the cold “beast from the East”, and we took a trip to Tuscany. As is ever the case with a first travel in Spring, the fresh air hit us like a flurry of fresh water in an arid desert. To strip off winter layers and drink in the steady warmth of the Tuscan Spring was a encounter which was all the sweeter for its first annual embrace.
As well as the air, what struck me was the light. It had none of the harshness of the cold winter back at home. Softness pervaded the landscape, especially as the sun descended towards the end of its shorter day, and around 6pm it sunk beyond the sea line leaving the sky surrounding it to blush in rosy admiration.
The photos on this post are dedicated to that time, when rolling fields layered with olive groves and vines bathed in the first warmth of a new Spring, and exuded the golden optimism of a new season waking up to Summer.
© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.
Buying fresh flowers is always a pleasure. You watch them open, you breathe deep of their sweet, nuanced perfume, and transform a corner of your home with their splendid colour. But alas, within days, their majesty is at an end, and their delicate structure becomes a vision of faded beauty. Happily, the process of flower growth and nurture can often last longer, and one of my favourite annual rituals is to buy a potted amaryllis bulb and, over the first weeks of the year, watch it grow.
I am always fascinated by the slow progress of the amaryllis flower, as a green shoot emerges from the innocuous brown bulb, and seems to escalate higher and higher until you wonder if it will ever stop. But then suddenly, as though exhausted by the effort of climbing some 40 or even 50 centimetres into the air, the flower shifts its focus to the lateral explosion of its colourful petal-rich head.
This year, I watched on in delight as I saw a very long green stalk open up into the most resplendent array of blood-rich red as my amaryllis burst open into four magnificent floral crowns. Almost swaying in surprise at the bounty of its own offerings, my amaryllis is top heavy with its heady creation, but somehow remains standing for many days of enjoyment. And just as I see the petals turn slowly decrepit with age, a new flower shoot bursts up from the side in reserve.
And so for days ahead, another floral array awaits me, as the newest manifestation of my amaryllis steps into the spotlight.
© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.
Every city has an iconic café. It’s not always the fanciest, or the most expensive or the most beautiful, but it will be the place with history, with a notorious clientele, and a spot beloved by locals and tourists alike. In Marrakech, that place is the Café de France. Located at the bustling heart of the Jemaa El Fna, the iconic market square at the centre of Marrakech, it is simply the perfect ambience to take a Moroccan mint tea and watch the world go by.
But as with all such iconic places – we’re talking the level of Florian’s in the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Caffé Greco in Rome – the best tables are hard to get. When we arrived in Marrakech, a very friendly steward in our Riad told us that the most sought after table was the one up on the first floor terrace of the Café in the most south western corner, with a perfect view of the Koutoubia Mosque at sunset. When we arrived at the Café de France, it was so crowded that we would have been lucky to get a table at all, let alone get the table most coveted of all. But suddenly, as if by magic, and at the precise moment when the lingering clouds of the afternoon cleared and sun rays flooded the terrace of the café, the very same corner table became free and we swiftly occupied it, and soaked in its very enticing view.
The recommendation was correct. It really was the best table. From there we could enjoy the sunset, the Koutoubia tower, and the bustling Jemaa El Fna square at this time when it transformed from day time market place to a huge open air eatery and evening performance venue. There is where the stories of ancient sand dunes and shifting deserts are told, where serpents uncoil out of baskets and monkeys are trained to dance. This exotic space is the centre of the city for a reason, and we had the very best view of it, from above. Determined to enjoy the table, we took endless photos, reflected upon the ever changing view, sat back, read, and enjoyed a perfectly fresh mint tea. An iconic moment fit only for the café of all Marrakech cafés.
© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.