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Posts tagged ‘Holidays’

Folio // Rome mid-Winter

Ready yourselves, the Spring is here at last. It’s felt like an eternal winter, in England at least, and as Spring arrives – and a new sense of optimism for the season of Summer dawns upon us – I’m whisking Daily Norm readers off to the land of verdant Spring-like plenty: Tuscany. But before we depart for there, let’s wish Rome arrivederci the proper way, with a good old fashioned photographic exhibition of some of the city’s most characterful details.

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Taken back in January, during a very sunny weekend which was more than sufficient to blow away the chill of winter, this folio of photos is full of a warmth which betrays little of time of year. Walking through streets emboldened with strong creamy sunlight and hard long shadows, it was hard to believe that we were not enjoying Rome mid-summer. Only the lack of leaves, and the odd presence of a Christmas decoration left-over conveyed the time of the year. But if all winters were like this, even I, summer fanatic, could probably cope with them.

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Terracotta walls, cobbled streets, the shiny silvery Tiber and silhouettes of church domes and pine trees – these photos which are less Rome landmark and more street details. For my favourite part of Rome sightseeing is not exploring the Forum, and less the Colosseum. Rather it is having the chance to wander streets steeped in history, to enjoy the glow which emanates from sun filled streets, and the vivacious, edgy attitude which characterises Romans and their city alike.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 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.

Magnificent Milano (Part 5): Città di Notte

I feel as though this is progressively becoming a one-man crusade to prove the beauty of Milan. Even the other day, when I spoke of our travels, my dinner companion piped up: “ah yes, Milan is ugly so they say”. No! I protested, as I proceeded to upload the pages of  The Daily Norm on my phone. And now that you’ve seen the famous Duomo in all its guises together with Milan in its sparkling sunlit state, I thought I would further demonstrate the beauty of this Northern Italian city by showing yet another facet of its elegant urban character: Milan by Night.

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I don’t have many photos to share – you know that cameras (or at least the photographer) can be a little shaky at night – but those I do have show something of the vivacity of a city which is emboldened after hours, as the city comes alive with thousands of sparkling lights, and its iconic buildings take on a new robust character which makes them pop from amongst their unlit neighbours. Milan is a city known for its intemperate rain showers, and this we experienced on our first night in the city. But the result was to scatter those street lights across every wet reflective surface making, to my mind, an even more beautiful pictorial celebration of Milan by moonlight.

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© 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.

Seeing Out Seventeen: NYE in Zürich

Happy New Year from The Daily Norm! I know, I’m five days late in wishing you these tidings, but what are 5 mere days when you have 360 left to enjoy? Plus, it has taken me as many days to recover my stride since touching down into normal-land after a grand tour of magnificent proportions, taking festive Florence, magnificent Milan, and the stunning Swiss city of Zürich in my stride. Of course there is much to share, and while I should be methodical about it, and take you straight into the bosom of Michelangelo’s prodigious David, back in Firenze where it all began, I am throwing chronology to the wind.

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I’m starting instead at the end, rewinding the clock just a few days to New Year’s Eve, to the wonderful city of Zürich. My reason for doing so is clear: Zürich is one of those places which is so idyllically Christmassy that it could appear on any Christmas card all covered in snow. Consequently, if I post my photos in three weeks time, Christmas will be as outmoded as turkey left overs, and that would do the city little favours. For as we discovered upon this first visit, Zürich is a gem of magnificent proportions. Far from being the glittering metropolitan of its banking-centre reputation, you will find a city with a true historical apotheosis at its heart: An old town emboldened with delicately gilded and modestly coppered greed spiked spires and oversized chiming clocks, characterised by twisting cobbled lanes and varnished wooden shop fronts which invite you to enter and bask in the glow of cosyness.

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It is a city which knows how to do Christmas, whose streets are strung with lights not just horizontally, but vertically too, so that the result is a total immersion in the magic of the season, almost like hypnotherapy into the world of the festive fairy. Meanwhile, it’s patisseries and grand cafes are an orgy of festive abundance, with light-strung, foliage-packed decor filling every last inch to create a true winter wonderland to engorge the senses.

Zürich is a place truly deserving of this voluptuous description, but for the rest, I’ll let the photos do the talking, from the pink rosy sunset over the magnificent Swiss lake on whose banks the city was born, to the light-strewn streets and picture-perfect chocolate shops. This post ends with the stunning 20 minute firework display which entranced the whole city who hung out on its bridges to see the sky aflame with colour. It was a truly spectacular way to see out 2017, and a privileged moment in which to get to know a fine European city.

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© 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.

2017: My Year in Photos

There is no doubt that my favourite post of every year is this one: the moment when, in looking back over a year of photos, I am able to consolidate the last 365 days and review an overarching visual picture of the year. There’s nothing quite so fulfilling as the recognition of a year well spent, and looking back over this year’s photos, I am able to confidently conclude that 2017 has been an extraordinary year.

It was extraordinary for many reasons, not least for the variety not only of our holidays, but of our lifestyle changes too. At the beginning of the year, we were living in Mallorca and I was working in Marketing. By the end, I am once again a hardened (but wiser) Londoner, but with an altogether more exciting role in commercial law. It was consequently a year of big changes, and not least in our home, where a total redecoration accompanied our return to the big smoke, and Farrow & Ball calke green became the indubitable shade of the season.

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But if I was to remember 2017 for one thing, it would be for the breadth and diversity of our travels. 2017 saw us setting foot on African soil for the first time, and the cultural shift which resulted just a few hundred miles south of Spain is an experience which will stay with me forever. But similarly variable were the sun-baked lands of Sicily whose Eastern shores we explored in June. Whether it be the explosive volcanic soils surrounding Etna or the proliferation of baroque architecture peppering the ancient towns, Sicily was a true hot bed of unique creative and natural passions. Then there were the lush vineyards of Tuscany, the ochre glow of Aix, aperol spritz in Siena, the great stags of Windsor…

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So scan your eyes over the photos above and below and bask in a glorious plethora of multicoloured captures – clear evidence of a year which punched above its weight in scintillating sites and alluring appeal. It was a year of great holidays, but also of staycations too – a warm and balmy English summer provided us with the perfect excuse to explore the leafy gardens of South West London and enjoy the very visible changes of the English seasons, from floral Spring in Battersea Park to an auburn Autumn on Clapham Common.

Now the seasonal chapter is shifting once again. Christmas is over and the days of wintery cold have just begun. But just as I reflect with relish upon this last year in its final fading hours, I look forward with anticipation to the year soon to come. New sights, news sensations, and another cycle of seasonal variations has started all over again.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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.

Christmas Comes Home: Party time!

I’m not ashamed to spend many an hour making my home wonderful for Christmas just for myself and my partner to enjoy. Who else really matters? After all, it is us who get the ultimate pleasure of waking and sleeping to lights twinkling like an enchanted forest all around us. Nevertheless, there is something of the Nigella in me, and I can’t help but revel in the opportunity to share my winter wonderland with friends. So in this last post extolling the virtues of my home at Christmastime, why not take a glimpse of the flat all trussed up for a small soiree we held last weekend.

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Central to the event was the table. A vase at its centre hosted a flurry of discarded Clapham Common tree branches. What the wind had cast asunder, I recycled, creating the perfect skeleton for a cornucopia of lights and dazzling gold and glass decorations. On those branches, our glass treasures from Venice have never looked so beautiful, hanging freely, suspended in mid air, rather than getting caught up in the denser gathering of Christmas tree branches. Beneath this composition, a plethora of festive food gathered: a cheese board bedecked with berries and nuts, freshly cut meats from Italy and, best of all, the “Merookies” (a cross between meringues and cookies) recently featured on the newest Christmas episode of Nigella Lawson’s At My Table series. With an exquisite salty pistachio balance to the sweetness of the meringue and the rich depth of chocolate chips, I was completely sold on these Nigella creations. So was everyone else – they disappeared in seconds.

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I love Christmas parties. I love sharing with friends. And I love seeing my home so pristine in its presentation for a night out on the town. But even more, I love the clearing up at the end of the evening – when empty champagne flutes tell of hours of merriment enjoyed, and the crumbs of cookies and Christmas biscuits intermingle with fallen shards of glitter flickering in the dying candlelight. Home sweet home.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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.

Christmas Comes Home: St Petersburg Palace

Christmas is in full swing. Ridiculously there’s only a week to go! While that makes me panic ever so slightly, the best tranquiliser is to switch on some Christmas carols (or Nigella Lawson’s Christmas series on TV…oozing pure aesthetic) and sit in the warm glow provided by my beloved Christmas trees. Last week I shared with you my new kitchen-inspired carrot-laden scheme. Today I want to take you to frostier quarters, where elegance reaches an all time high: my tree inspired by a St Petersburg Palace.

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Replacing the annual real tree whose needles played havoc with my cream carpets, this year we have introduced a new 7ft snow sprayed false tree adorned with warm lights and begging for the fake polar-bear throw which is wrapped around the base of the tree and provides a wonderful soft landing for all those gold and white presents. On the snowy white branches, I added golden fern leaves for embellishment, and thus set the scene for my favourite ever set of decorations: an abundance of whites and golds and blues of every shade, all in homage to the glory and opulence of a Russian Christmas.

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Choosing Russia as a theme meant a stark contrast to the interior design of the bedroom setting which is very Mediterranean in feel. But what better way to get cold blue and warm gold into a tree theme than to translate the tones of a Mediterranean beach into the frosted splendour of a St Petersburg Palace. With its onion-roofed houses, night-sky baubles, glass whales, white nutcrackers and elegant Russian dolls, I love the way this design has pulled together. It is the ultimate bedroom tree and a true delight to both see out and see in these festive wintery days.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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.

Christmas Comes Home: The Kitchen Tree

I am ashamed to see that the last post on my blog is entitled “An Autumn Overview”. It’s shocking testimony to the fast passage of time. Now in mid-December, the comforting glow of Autumn leaves have been replaced by ice and snow. But December brings with it a very joyous respite from the arrival of cold in the form of the festive season – simply my favourite time of the year. And while work has largely prevented me from hanging out on The Daily Norm, it has not precluded me from that most important of annual tasks: decorating the Christmas tree.

Regular readers of The Daily Norm will know that I love Christmas decorations, to an almost obsessive degree, and while I always make a few small tweaks to my scheme as each year goes by, I enjoying taking out the old familiar decorations year on, year out. However, this year, as if in celebration of our return to London and the house redecoration that accompanied it, I’ve shaken things up a bit in the Christmas decoration department.

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The modernist black trees of old went into black bags, and out came an altogether more traditional look. Sage and forest greens now host warm oranges, berry reds and a little silver and black (a small nod to the modern surroundings). Glass carrots and green glass mushrooms bring something of a culinary vibe, while ravishingly regal cheetah heads sit proudly upon their festive boughs. And as if to complete the animal theme, underneath the tree, fox furs and presents round off the scheme with a cosy but finessed twist.

And that’s just the lounge. In the bedroom we’ve gone all white and frosty, like a scene from Dr Zhivago. But I’m going to save that until next time…

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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.

Marseille to Marbella, Part VII: Aix, Le Marché

Colour, colour, colour! Shiny red apples, ruby like strawberries, resplendent silver fish and emerald green herbs. Courgettes in forest green, sage green, yellow green and white, blackboards written with curly french writing. And king of it all those sunflowers: a full, powerful sunshine punch of yellow with a deep fury chocolate brown at its centre, signalling the very epitome of this Provençal heartland. This is the market of Aix-en-Provence, the sensory spectacle to which I rushed on my birthday morning, and which is such a sight for the eyes that it deserves a post all of its own.

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I can only imagine how Paul Cezanne, famous son of the city, became inspired by the bustling, vivid life of Aix’s morning market. Who could not become an artist when basking in the glories of a sun filled square, filled with stripy umbrellas casting a warm glow over stalls full of just-picked produce and carefully nurtured harvests. Yet despite its beauty, this is no artwork to be admired on a gallery wall: The beauty of le marché in Aix is that it continues to be such a vital cog in the life of the city. It is a place for bargaining and butchering, for perusing and tasting. And in Aix’s market, watching the picky locals carefully choose the very best from an already magnificently presented selection was almost as captivating for me as the produce itself.

The market of Aix is a king amongst European street markets. Not big, not intimidating, but utterly authentic and wonderfully, completely charming.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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.

Marseille to Marbella, Part IV: L’Estaque

Any art historian or Impressionist aficionado will recognise the name L’Estaque even if they cannot bring a vision of the place immediately to mind. Today, this small fishing village could be easily missed. It is now but one suburb merged involuntarily into the insuperable urban sprawl of Marseille. Yet 100 years ago it was at the centre of an artistic movement. Not only did the port and the surrounding landscapes inspire some of the most preeminent forefathers of Impressionism, but it is also credited as being instrumental to the birth of the Cubist movement.

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How and why cubism came about here is unclear, but Cezanne, a forerunner of the movement, was evidently as inspired by the geometric volumes of the railway bridges and houses clinging to the hills as he was by the hard-edged stone quarries near his birth city of Aix. But it was perhaps the contributions of Georges Braque which were to be the most significant. While his initial response to the landscape was a fauvist expression in a multi-coloured palette of startling bright tones, it was his decidedly cubist landscapes depicting L’Estaque’s house-filled hillsides which really put the town, and cubism, on the artistic map.

L’Estaque by Braque and Cezanne

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Given its place in art history, I felt that this little former village had to be on our Marseille itinerary, even though for many, it may go unnoticed. Happily we were able to take a boat the 30 minutes along the bay – a far preferable trip to the alternative of a sweaty commuter train out of the Gare St Charles – and this approach gave us  the advantage of seeing the hillsides of L’Estaque from afar, characterised as they are by the arched railway bridges which feature so predominantly in Cezanne and Braque’s landscapes.

I would be lying if I said that we were blown away by the town. It is, in essence, a very simple seaside village with a hand-full of bars and a port packed with fishing boats. It is also somewhat difficult to imagine the quaint village which Braque and Cezanne might have discovered when they arrived years ago, free from the modern industrial structures which sit just outside the town, and the tall wire fencing which closes off much of the port from view. However, once we strolled up into the higher streets, and looked across both the port and the rooftops of the gradually ascending town, suddenly the shapes and volumes which must have inspired that new cubist way of depiction fell into place, and the true artistic significance of L’Estaque gained clarity.

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Satisfied, therefore, by our trip and the insight it provided into the birth of cubism, we grew fonder of L’Estaque, a notion which a few glasses of rosé on the sunny portside promoted. And then, as though reminding us that a contemporary society also lives today in this town of cubist history, a bugle call and a loudspeaker announced the commencement of Le Joute – a form of water based jousting which captured our attention for the remainder of the afternoon. Only then did we head back onto the water, gliding away from L’Estaque in a boat bound for Marseille, watching behind us as the forms of houses and rail bridges grew smaller until they resembled mere cubes on a craggy hillside…

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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.

Marseille to Marbella, Part I: Downtown City

Marseille is one of those cities that’s got a bit of a reputation. Like Naples and Palermo, (and even Barcelona before its Olympics regeneration), Marseille is characterised by an idyllic location which has been both its enemy and its friend. For with popularity has also come rapid growth, and the result is an uncontrolled urban sprawl where street crime has taken the place of riviera recreation, and the high temperatures have combined with a generalised lethargy to improve what are often grave social divides and ever evident crime and economic issues. Yet for all that, Marseille is a city with an undeniable arresting quality; which is so historically wealthy and with so vibrant and diverse a population that you cannot help but be mesmerised.

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Such is Marseille, France’s second city, and in many respects like Paris by the sea, except that in Marseille the social divide is perhaps even more visible. Here, Haussmann mansions have been given a graffiti facelift, and where the Seine would cut through Paris with all its luxuriant wateriness, in Marseille the sea, and all its accompanying ship building industrial heritage and fishing paraphernalia, predominates all.

This first look at our summer trip from Marseille down to Marbella takes the Daily Norm back a few weeks, to the sunny days of August when temperatures were at an all time high. Our arrival, on the Eurostar train from London into Marseille’s Gare St Charles, was one greeted by temperatures close to the 40s. Yet this was no blue-shuttered port or seaside retreat in which to enjoy the summer weather at ease. Marseille hit us with the full impact of its teeming urban sprawl which literally shimmered in the heat as the fumes of traffic and food and generalised humanity combined with fresh sea breezes and an awful lot of sunshine.

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From streets crammed with shops and markets, and bustling with faces from across the world, to the city’s true heart, the Vieux Port, where people milled to watch boats stride in and out of the harbour, it wasn’t hard to get to know Marseille: a city which wears its heart on its sleeve and is emotionally, viscerally real.

Marseille may be the capital of the French Riviera but St Tropez it is not. Rather, this thriving metropolis combines elements from across France and its ancient empire: it is a true world city with an evidently international demographic. What it lacks in luxury, it makes up for in spirit. And as you can see from this first raft of photos, it is a city of a not insignificant aesthetic appeal.

Bienvenue à Marseille!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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.