A Blush of Rose
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at the V&A.
The V&A launched their Summer Exhibition with a Party in late June. This retrospective looking at footwear through the ages is one of the key summer exhibits in London this season and it will run through until January 2016.
Most of us can relate to the title of this exhibition and I personally usually prefer to take the comfy option and either only buy shoes that fit like gloves or will work a pair of new shoes in a bit ballerina-style to make sure they are as comfy as possible before they go onto my feet. I'm a sensitive thing, I bruise and chafe easily so comfort is the way. Clarks Shoes have been a port of call for me as they still produce to the half sizes and varied width fittings. For me this is yet another one of the 'Great V&A exhibitions' that the team keep coming and from the go as soon as you walk in there is plenty to mesmerise you and keep you eye absorbed.
The exhibition opened with a a cabinet detailing the history of shoes, speaking to the audience often from the angle of women's experience and telling the tale of the shoe through history. As a former student of Ancient History and culture I was very happy to see the reference to the first version known of the Cinderella story, not from Persia, China or indeed Europe but actually from Ancient Egypt in the Late Kingdom era. To illustrate the story of 'The Girl with the Red Rose Slippers' as I first heard it called as a child the team placed a simple gold leaf ancient Egyptian Sandal as part of the exhibition.
The story is about a Greek girl kidnapped from her journey to her homeland and made a slave in a wealthy-mans household. One day a bird steals her shoe and drops it at the feet of Pharaoh inside his palace, he sets out to find the shoes owner and naturally they fall in love * big sigh* and marry.
One of the exhibition highlights to the left is the glass slipper made by Sandy Powell for Lily James to wear in her role in the film Cinderella (2015). It really is a glass slipper and I haven't played with this image in any way. The rainbow effect that you can see is exactly what the eye sees when looking at this beautiful work of art. The butterfly motif at the front of the shoe adds a note of feminine delicacy.
To the right one of my favourite sets of shoes from the presentation was this set of Pilgrim Pumps to the right made by Roger Vivier and worn by Catherine Deneuve in the 1967 film Belle de Jour. This simple neat style is a million miles away from the racy nature of the film in it's inspiration and offers a simple style that would work both with women's suit outfits and also as part of a Black tie look.
Images below with kind permission of the V&A.
Tamara Rojo giving the opening address for the exhibition.
Ellen von Unwerth & Tessa Kouragi.
Evangeline Ling, Tanya Ling & Bip Ling.
Always looking good, the lovely Alice Naylor-Leyland of Alice in Her Palace.
Television Presenter and fashion writer Angela Scanlon.
Images below with kind permission of the V&A.
Bonnie Takhar, Alice Naylor-Leyland & Charlotte Dellal.
Patrick Cox & Liz Hurley.
Mary Alice Malone, Donna Air in Beulah London and Martha Ward.
Summer Beauty Treats from the 'A Blush of Rose' cabinet.
The exhibition was opened with a cocktail party attended by many fashionable shoe devotees and all gathered to listen to an address by Tamara Rojo the Spanish artistic Director and Lead Principal Dancer of the English National Ballet. Many of us love ballet and the ballet inspired flat shoe, or pump as it's known in the States has become a staple of women's wardrobes all over the world. Next photographer Ellen von Unwerth and model Tessa Kouragi followed by the talented ladies of the Ling family.
To the furthest right the lovely Alice Naylor-Leyland of Alice in Her Palace wearing a light pink suit. Below to the left Irish Fashion Writer and Television Presenter Angela Scanlon. Note through all this gallery of images the ladies are wearing some fantastic shoes in keeping with the theme of the exhibit. It's well worth taking some time to run your eyes along the lines of feet above and below. Next to Angela, a stylish trio comprising the President of Charlotte Olympia Bonnie Takhar, Columnist and Brand Consultant Alice Naylor-Leyland & Footwear designer and label founder Charlotte Dellal. Liz Hurley and Patrick Cox enjoyed the evening in some very chic footwear. Next to the right; Shoe designer Mary Alice Malone, Presenter and Stylist Donna Air wearing one of my favourite looks from Beulah London for Summer 2015 and London beauty and stylist Martha Ward looking chic and happy. Lastly singer Nicola Roberts to the far right below kept things simple in an all black ensemble with a black velvet waistcoat-jacket that I thought was very cute.
Something that really caught my attention when I entered the exhibition was the film reel that played an introductory interpretation of shows and movement set against the back-drop the glorious surrounds of the V&A's architecture. It felt a little like we could all, for a few moments, live out a fantasy dream-sequence of running around the museum at night, up staircases and along corridors freely with the run of the place to yourself. It was a great sequence and it explores more of the fantasy and make-believe side of how some of us enjoy and relate to our shoe collections. I will admit I'm not a girl with a vast shoe collection but I'm very interested in the craftsmanship, design and style that is expressed through shoe design. This exhibition drew attention from a global media audience on Press Day with fellow fashion journalists, press and media arriving from all over the world.
Images below my own from the exhibition Press Day at The V&A.
Here above are two more of my favourite still shots from the film. The exhibition is kindly sponsored by Clarks Shoes and within the montage there feature many scenes from our everyday lives. Playing with the Cinderella theme the Grandfather Clock ticks towards midnight above to the left as the young modern Cinderella runs around the deserted V&A - her Museum. Is she looking for, or fleeing Prince Charming, or simply looking for the next exiting pair of shoes? Who can say.
Above to the right are a pair of the favourite modern ballet flats that have become a staple in the wardrobes of so many of us. Shining with sparkle this neat little pair of shoes would bring joy to any feet. Age and occasion neutral for the most part they would suit a great number of people.
The exhibition is grouped by theme, therefore in each section you can see shoes from across a span of time, often several centuries grouped together. I really like this idea, for example contemporary mules are placed alongside 18th century 'mistress shoes' that their design has in fact taken it's inspiration from. I think that this is a very considerate was to group articles in the exhibit as it gives an informative perspective to the viewer. Sex and fashion and have a very important relationship that, circumstances and environment permitting, should be explored. Sex has had a huge influence on fashion through the ages and in particular shoes. It's a great way of adding an extra layer of expression to clothing in a perhaps more conservative environment.
With an exhibition title like "Shoes: Pleasure and Pain" we can't overlook the frankly sexual and erotic nature of much of the connotations, styling and significance of the shoes in the collection.
The Boots above are fantastic and I would wear them with tight leather trousers and a flowing white shirt, fine cotton or silk for maximum impact. The hooked button detail at the side gives a nod to fashion across several centuries and the slightly traditional look of the heel makes this piece look both vintage or contemporary with historical throwbacks. Many girls and boys would very much like to have this pair of boots in their wardrobe now. Next above in the center a celebrated pair of Christian Louboutin shoes. These are love by may women the world over. Aesthetically I love them too buy being of the wider foot variety my purchases would be limited to made to measure orders and as A Blush of Rose is still a humble blog at present I content myself with admiring the design. I have simple tastes and also prefer kitten heels to high stilettos in most cases. Above to the right is a fantastic pair of boots that are a great compliment to the black pair above to the left. The brocade detail in this pair of boots is fantastic and the bold scarlett will catch the eyes and the light. A pair of boots like this is best matched up with strong monotones, i.e. black, navy or white trousers - perhaps as I also thought for the black boots a shirt and a jacket. Or they could also be worn with a dress, long or short I would suggest a one-colour ensemble unless you really enjoy working colour clashes as part of your coordination.
Above is a wonderful pair of shoes from Yves Saint Lauren. These are in the Stripper inspired style that became so popular in the 1990's and still retain a soft spot in many peoples hearts. The wedge platform is useful for elongating silhouettes and adds extra glamour and scope to an outfit whether you're wearing a dress or trousers. First modeled on the catwalk to emulate the elevated height of many dancers, catwalk models achieved truly statuesque proportions that where soon sought after by women all over the world. Ina way this was a return to the older tradition of elevated shoes from a much earlier time and the fun sexy notion of regular girls and women wearing the same or similar shoe styles as worn by professional strippers has broad appeal wherever you may be at work or at play. On a more practical front the black patent leather coordinates well with a wider variety of different colours and outfits. You could wear these shoes with jeans or with an evening dress if you so chose. It's completely your choice.
Next to this I've added three shoes from the Cinderella display section. For me this image shows three different moods of Cinderella. The 2015 film adaptation of the classic western European inspired Disney Version of the tale, next the Red Ballet slippers that would grace an Opera House stage and give another telling of the famous tale. Lastly perhaps not necessarily a modern Cinderella but a great pair of shoes for a girl to wear on a special night out. One thing that the exhibition did note is that Cinderella isn't a 'rags to riches' story as is often mis-told, it's actually always been a story about restoration right from the beginning with the first story in ancient Egypt about a Greek Princess being sold into slavery in Egypt.
Above the fabric and leather baby pink Stilettoes are by Casadei for Fausto Puglisi 2014. They also grace the cover of the Summer 2015 V&A Magazine and are one of pairs of shoes that are most admired amongst the assembled collection on display. I really like them and you can easily see the appeal to the audience. Above to the right, another pair of shoes attracting lots of attention and bringing back memories, the sky-high platform shoes that Naomi Campbell walked in for Vivienne Westwood in before taking a teeny tumble, laughing and getting back up again. Laced with ribbon they evoke the feeling of the eighteenth century in classic opulent Vivienne Westwood style. Lots of fun and they don't date in the slightest. Many people would wear them out today to go out in.
Directly above are a pair of Glass Slipper mules that I love from America in the 1940's. Cute and girly, they are a bit of fun retro chic that many of us would love to indulge in from time to time. The For the Boudoir note hints at fun playfulness but also references the history of this design in France in the eighteenth century. I've included the signage with the drawings beneath it on purpose so that you can see the outline of the historical forebear of this shoe. Just to the right you can see a hint of Fragonard's The Swing. The famous painting of a mule being kicked from the foot of a lady as she swings and caught by her companion. The original eighteenth century mules where higher in the heel and the foot arched in a slightly more dramatic fashion. Above to the left is a pair of shoes owned by Imelda Marcos the former wife of the ruler of the Philipines and one of the most famous shoe collectors in history.
Next is above to the right is a wonderful shot of a collection of different low healed shoes through the ages. It's a fascinating assemblage and drew massive crowds in front of the glass cabinet. My favourite shoes where the golden ones in the lower part of this picture and with their gentle sling backs they delicately rest around the frame of the foot.
Above centre is a wonderful selection of guaches. This is something that really fascinates me about the design process of shoes, clothes and jewellery. I love looking at design illustrations and then seeing the interpretations come to life. Over on the right a collection of the blocs of shoes's beginnings as they are crafted and moulded for clients around replica's of their feet. I personally think we al have such individual feet we should all have our shoes made this way. In the 'Old Days' there where so many shoe makers around it wasn't too expensive either.
Here are some more assembled images from the V&A's shots of the exhibition. Above left are some stunning Roger Vivier for Christian Dior shoes embellished with crystals. They are picture perfect shoes that would coordinate with a wide variety of looks, some formal and some less formal. You could literally team them with an evening dress or wear them with jeans and a jacket. They will have you dancing away. Centre above is a shoe that many people will over look but for me is one of most wonderful of the whole collection. It's the Ancient Egyptian shoe that symbolises the first known version of the Cinderella Story 'The Girl with the Red-Rose Slippers'. I love the feeling of age that you get from being near such an old object. Lastly to the right are more wooden block molds for the feet of shoe designers clients. I'm always fascinated by the creative back-story of these pieces. I think showing the blocks in the cabinets alongside the finished articles is the perfect way to bring the audience of the exhibition close to the craftsmanship and the creative process that these shoes are born from.
The look above to the left is a pair of shoes in bold striking colours that have a strong 1960's feel about them for me. It's the bright contrasting colour squares. As you almost see the shoes in a skeleton form they look like Mules + somehow to me, they make a great look with the forefront of the foot being supported by a front part of the shoe as it moves up the foot. The look in the centre shows how modern structured design plays such a great role in creating new interpretations for footwear. The lattice frame around the structure of the shoe.
Men's footwear also made it's appearance in the exhibition which I was really pleased to see. Above to the right is a wonderful pair of Men's shoes sneaking in part of an Ancient Egyptian design across the top of the foot. Although the majority of the collection is devoted to Women's shoes the men's shoes are well worth giving your attention to.
To close my look at this exhibition I've returned to the central title of Shoes: Pleasure and Pain. I couldn't resist another look at the kitten heel mules, which along with the sexy YSL stripper shoes and the above pink crystal Dior shoes where amongst my three favourite pairs of the collection. Here they are below placed next to their historical fore-bares the high Choppin shoes from c. 1600 Venice, Italy made with punched kidd skin leather. It's an echo from another time brought before our eyes to show how much and how far shoes have come. Lastly I'm leaving you with a shot of the Red Ballet slippers made by Freed of London in 1948 with Satin Braid leather. They are achingly cute and many people, including myself would like to slip them on now and dance away.
One of the things that I love to do in the Summer, as well as map out my Summer clothing choices is also work out what beauty essentials I can gather together to use as my 'Go-To' kit for the Summer. This isn't set in stone you never know what may take your fancy, but I like to gather together staples that I can rely on that will go with me.
This Summer's travel is pretty varied for me with a break in Monaco and the French Riviera in July, time back in London and then away again the Cheshire and Scotland at the end of the Summer with family.
Although temperatures and climate such as humidity will vary a bit, the one thing that I know that I do want this summer is a colour palette that is broadly neutral .... with one exception - the fantastic Chanel Lavanda Nail Polish - that is frankly like a shot of lightning and it's muted earthy twin Terrana from the Summer 2015 collection. I'll talk you through the group piece by piece. There are some great High Street Bargain buys as well that I've included also from Nivea and John Lewis that are frankly too good to miss.
Laura Mercier produce a wonderful range of bath and bodycare products and a key part of my beauty kit this Summer is the Creme de Pistache eau gourmande fragrance.
It's part of a series of Creme de Pistache products such as hand cream, bath salts and body creme that are absolutely irresistible and if you havn't already tried something from this range I would urge you to do so. I'm sure there is something amongst their selection of goodies that you will fall in love with.
I've loved Pistachio since discovering it in France as a child and for me this fragrance is simply intoxicating. It's not to strong or over powering though at all and can be worn in the day or the evening quite easily, at the same time it has that sense of being a 'Grown-up' Fragrance and I find it entirely satisfying.
In the warm Summer months fresh green scents are extra appealing. One of my all time favourites is the Verbena range from L'Occitane. It's available all year round but for me this somehow encapsulates something about Summer.
Here above is the 500ml shower gel in it's robust sensible dispensing container. Your can easily decant this to smaller bottles if you are flying and don't check your bags.
If find that the Verbena scent is long lasting and the shower gel acts as a light perfume for several hours after use, which on warm summer days or evenings is really perfect.
I recently discovered SenSpa in the UK. It's a great brand of beauty and wash products. I bought the above wash in a Waitrose grocery store in the UK and instantly fell in love with the Geranium, Lavender, Bergamont and Patchouli fragrances. It's gentle on the skin and is all the products in this brand range are very high quality at a modest price point.
Also in the same range are the Himalayan Bath Salts. Again using lots of Geranium this mineral salts are seriously relaxing and with a gentle formulation.
Chanel is the beauty brand that I return to again and again and I really enjoy what they come up with each season. The other Eye shadow palette that I'm enjoying using this season is the Tisse Fantaisie palette from Spring 2015.
I'm still loving the coral/metallic theme in this set and I'm working this into my Summer Beauty looks. For me there's a strong natural synergy with these metallics and heat and hot days in hot climbs.
This palette is great for us wanabee make-up artists as you can apply it wet or dry and be really creative with your styling.
To compliment the shower gel L'Occitane also produce a variety of other Verbena products and my favourite two of these are the traditional French Soap Savon Marsaille and the hand cream. Tripple milled, this soap is incredibly refreshing and also long lasting. I also love giving them as gifts and the fragrance is again long-lasting on the skin.
Verbena is a green leaf that comes from the Vervain plant as it's known in France. This plant is a rich source of anti-oxidants and in France you can also buy teas or Tissane's as they are called made from the leaves of this plant. In France this little plant has been used for a ling time to make teas and cosmetic products and I think it's wonderful that it's becoming more well known here.
Above I've included three colours from the Levres Scintillantes range and as a general rule I would say carry a few lip glosses with you through the summer. They are always a fail-safe in hotter climbs and Chanel's a long lasting and they have a great ever-expanding colour selection too.
Complimenting these three lip shades I've plucked out three Chanel nail polishes from recent seasons that I think make a really good selection to wear across the Summer months. From left to right we have Desirio, Pink Tonic and Peche Nacre.
They're pretty cute and will have your toes and hand nails looking fantastic through the summer season.
My Summer Blush is No. 70 Tumulte Powder Blush from the Joues Contraste range from Chanel. It's a great colour and perfect for dressing up or dressing down a make-up look so to speak as it gives quite a different effect depending on how heavily you apply it. With it's little soft sable brush it's a must for any Summer Beauty bag. You could also be very daring and sweep it across the eye lids as well if you want to try something different.
For the lips, here are some different colours to suit different moods. I've added a couple of bright colours plus a couple of muted shades to give options when you want to do something more subtle or perhaps stick to neutral tones.
In the collection above is No. 55 ICONE from Rouge Coco lying horizontal in the centre of the shot above. Moving round clockwise the No. 87 from Rouge Coco Shine RENDEZ-VOUS is a pink to make the boys wink fun lip colour that may well take your fancy at work or at play.
At the bottom of this picture is No. 02 PERLE from Rouge Coco. A classic Chanel Neutral this works well with both nude/subtle face make-ups and also more dramatic looks. Lastly moving clockwise above to the left No. 49 LA PETILLANTE from the Rouge Allure Velvet series injects a sharp dose of sexiness into the selection.
I couldn't conclude this piece without a quick mention of the Summer 2015 Chanel Nail Polish colours.
I was more than delighted to see they had brought out the colour LAVANDA. So French, and with a nod to Mademoiselle Gabrielle Chanel's rootes in the Auvergne in France (think of a countryside and fields of lavender) For me it also symbolises in a beautiful way the French routes that combined with inspiration from England as Lavender is an ancient plant that has been used in both France and England for Fragrance since ancient times. It's a bold shot of colour that will look good on hand nails and toes.
With a contrast to the cool evocation of fragranced fields and lavander scents washing over us TERRANA evokes the heat and fire of beaches through the Summer months. This strong metallic tone is a contrast to the evocation of nature and plants by LAVANDA. It could be symbolising the earth also I suspect - closing in on the Latin word for land. This bronzed nail colour will set off any sun kissed look and would work well with both day and evening wear outfits.
I'm using two different eye shadow palettes this summer. The one above is an old favourite that I've rediscovered from my room at my parents House of all places - hidden in a draw. The colours are light and neutral so it's going well with my summer colour themes.
The palette is a five colours harmony for eyes No. 17. The colour blocks are tightly pressed with a touch of shimmer in each shade I'm using these colours for the day and evening depending on the look that I favour that I happen to be wearing.
The next item in the beauty bag is another simple budget buy that does a great job, the Nivea Soothing Cleansing Mousse. This little miracle that you can find in most chemists does a great job for the skin and this, as some of you may spot, is the version for sensitive skin. I can't fault it.
I'm a lover of high quality Premium Brands, but this bottle of goodness shows that you can also find some good buys that are kind to the pocket too.
This Summer the team at Beulah London have settled into their new home at 145 Ebury Street in the centre of the capital. The new store feels large, spacious and blessed with lots of light. It's a wonderful place to showcase the new collections and a gentle relaxing atmosphere in which to try on some clothes and make decisions.
To kick start an exciting season of projects Beulah held a party to celebrate their collaboration with British Milliner Vivien Sheriff. Based in the Wiltshire, Vivien also has a Private show room located in Chelsea for pre-arranged private appointments. Beulah's formal and semi-formal wear and Vivien's wide variety of classically styled hats make a natural pairing and I really enjoyed spending time talking with Vivien and the Beulah team and looking at the different nuances of the combined collections.
It was lovely to meet Vivien and her gentle charm and passion for her work is very apparent. It was also lovely to say Hello to Lavinia, Alice and Rosie from the Beulah team.
I was very struck by the natural fit between the two labels. Vivien's shapes using natural colours and often a circular element seemed to be in succinct harmony with the flowing, gentle, graceful designs and soft drapes of the Beulah collections. To the left you can see one of the classic coats from the Beulah Spring-Summer 2015 collection matched perfectly with a hat from Vivien's collection. They looked perfect together in the window of the new Beulah store on Ebury Street.
The Beulah model here looks out onto the world with the trademark elegance and ease that the label is becoming more and more widely known for and I thought this was a lovely peaceful shot with which to open the look at the collection collaboration.
Beulah London Flagship store opening at 145 Ebury Street and collaboration for the Summer 2015 Race Season with British Milliner Vivien Sheriff.
Above is one of the hats from Vivien's current collection alongside a piece from the Summer 2015 Beulah collection; the Ava Flower Spirits blouse in Blush. This delicate silk chiffon blouse with front box pleats works well with trousers or skirts and the pretty petals pattern sets off detail of Vivien's design perfectly. The colours compliment each other and I love the way that Vivien has used different feathers in the formulation of her design. I've also noticed that Vivien's hats make great investment pieces as they don't look dated or part of a passing trend. They are modern and stylish, classic and refined but not too heavy, serious or transient in fashion.
Next to the right three pretty small hats that sit neatly about the crown of the head. These are wonderful to work gently sweeping hair arrangements around and would be suitable on a wide variety of occasions. My favourite of the three is probably the second hat from the top that sits furthest to the left in the shot above. The feathers gently curl and swirl at a pretty right-angle to the asymmetric crown of the hat and I can envisage wearing this hat with a number of different looks in different colours. Grey can be overlooked sometimes but it is a colour and it can blend really well with a lot of other colours in your wardrobe.
Farthest to the right is a rail-shot beginning with the highly popular Sabitri dress in Red Rose print. It's followed by a number of looks in white, smokey Rose and Red Rose print.
Beulah London have started a great trend in creating unique naturally inspired prints. The series of looks above to the left focuses on Blues and you can see the Blue Roses Painted Lady dress alongside the Painted Lady Navy dress. There are also a couple of the classic Navy Sabitri dresses in the pack here I believe. The Sabitri is one of the early home-grown designs from Beulah that has made re-appearances through several collections, such has been the popularity of the style.
The rail-shot above in the centre contains one of my favourite millinery designs that Vivien showed at the Beulah store. I love the combination of the circles and the bows. To the right is a wonderful hat the matches a number of looks in the Beulah London Spring-Summer 2015 collection that are mint in colour. What i loved about this piece was the gentle overlay of the floral patterning across the body of the hat.
Above is a hat in a more traditional form with a wide brim and a crown surrounded by a ribbon. In classic Navy Blue this would combine well with a very broad number of looks and would suit a wearer of any age group with it's slightly more restrained style. The large bow is pure fun.
Below to the left is one of my favourite shots from the Beulah store. I love the combination of the rails hung with beautiful Beulah London scarfs sitting above blouses and a skirt with Vivien's had and look board in the background. It illustrates very clearly the natural fit that these two brands have. It's very pretty and also very elegant and natural. In the centre is a close up on some of the wonderful Beulah silk prints. The dress is the Silene dress in Flower Spirits Blue followed by the floor-length Porcelain dress in evergreen. Lastly below to the right another rail-shot that I love featuring the Tulip dress in Dusky Pink and the Flower Spirits Petal scarf in Blush.
I'd like to say a big thank you to Vivien and her son and Lavinia, Alice, Rosie and all the Beulah team for making everyone feel so welcome at the store to launch the collaboration. For Beulah this was the start of their Race and events season that took in Epsom and Goodwood plus the Boodles Tennis tournament. As ever they have something beautiful in store and this is fashion with a conscience. The Beulah Trust is continuing to do the good work that Natasha and Lavinia aimed at supporting through the development of their fashion business.
Travel Diary: MONACO Summer 2015
A last minute change of plans this Summer prompted me to return to a place I really enjoy visiting but haven't seen in several year - Monaco. Famed as a destination of the rich and famous and 'pleasure playground' I've always found that this lovely Principality (really a collection of villages nestled by the sea) has it's own story to tell of history, sunshine and the day to day lives of the Monegasques who call this little jewel home. Some people think it's 'posh' but that would be to overlook the wonderful history that this beautiful place beneath the Southern tip of France has; and not see the hard work of it's citizens from all walks of life that make it have such a special atmosphere. Monaco is diverse and brimming with life and a very down to earth place that is also a piece of heaven. You just need to get to know it.
Beaulieu-sur-Mer has some great buildings and as dusk settles and the casinos and hotels put their lights on the place does start to take on the feel of a James Bond Film set at times. Staying with the theme of intrigue above to the right is the Villa Kerylos that has appeared in numerous films including The Bourne Identity. It's a little touch of Greece in the South of France. All the beaches in the area are truly family friendly with a great feel to them great for a day out.
Monaco is just as pretty in the night as in the day and I love taking walks around the harbour in the evening. One of the really pretty features of Monaco is the way that clouds gather around the cliffs above the town and in the evenings especially it's adds a feel of mystery to the place. Below you can see my favourite shot of the harbour at night with the palace in the old town behind it. Below to the left a shot of the romantic Hermitage Hotel, looking like a Palace by the Sea and a panorama shot from the roof of the Monaco train station.
My first day back in the principality recalled my last visit in 2011 which was timed (I found out after the arrangements where all made) with the celebrations of TSH Prince Albert and Princess Charlene's wedding and there are some picture in Summer 2011 page of the website. The panorama of views in every direction hits you and the heady seaside air of Monaco in the High Summer is really something else. Above you can see the one of my first shots of Port d'Hercule on this trip and tot he right above look up from the Avenue de port to the Old Monaco Town perched on it's Rock, the site of the early Grimaldi conquests. Centre above is la Chapelle Sainte-Devote, the ancient chapel of the Patron Saint of Monaco and the place where I saw Princess Charlene lay her bouquet after the Royal wedding according to family tradition. Originally founded in 1070 it has been added to over the centuries and Monaco has grown around it.
I couldn't be so close to the sea for long without heading for a swim so after a quick change at my very cute Hotel on the Rue de la turbie (Named after the broader territory that Monaco used to cover in the area) I headed to a favourite swimming spot. Above left you can see my new and favourite Summer Kaftan from John Lewis in the UK matched with a swimsuit from the White Company. My favourite spot on the coast near Monaco is Beaulieu-Sur-Mer. This is a top spot and forget the 'posh' comments everyone swims here from guest in 5 star hotels to the locals who work in them - seriously - that's why I love it. Unpretentious, never too crowded and super safe, Amongst the swimmers a canny few Brits where also splashing away. Above you can see my size 4 1/2 feet happily in the water with one of my favourite Chanel Summer colours on my toes. Above centre is a shot of a pretty route to the Beach over at Eze to show you how quiet it is and natural - not at all showy as some people sometimes mistake it for.
The Place d'Armes district was one of the most charming parts of Old Monaco with beautiful buildings date, I believe to the Belle Epoche era and also further back to the continental contemporary of the British Regency period. As you can see Monaco fuses a feel of France and Italy in one - very apt and the individual colours of the houses make a beautiful tapestry as your explore the old town. I love the Loggia style windows that have the echo of Italy also.
Waking up to my first breakfast in Monaco I discovered the wonderful Epi d'Or bakery on the Rue Grimaldi which is frankly the very best cafe/bakery in the whole Principality. I came back each morning for breakfast and picked up more snacks as I was passing during my stay. The staff are super friendly and for royal fans it's also a must-see as they have many personal memento's of the reigning family on display from official portraits to thank you notes. It's quite a local landmark and deservedly so. Coming out of the Rue Grimaldi you see the rocks of the Old town rising up and one of the things I love about Monaco is that the place looks like a giant rockery garden at times. Vegetation grows all over and transforms an urban setting into a picturesque garden.
The snacks at Epi d'Or where delicious with a good selection of savories as well as sweets. In the near-by Place des Armes I happened upon a huge vegeatable market that was an absolute feast for the eyes. We hear about the glitzy restaurants and high life in the town but you can eat extremely well here on a regular budget as the quality of the food and produce here is better that you will see in most UK supermarkets. Wholefoods may have met it's match as this was a veritable Mediterranean treasure trove of goodies to feast on.
My favourite spot that I found for Dinner was Chez Eedgar by the Harbour at Port Hercule. The menu was delicious with a broad choice. They played fun Euro music as the sun was setting on a very warm day and I indulged with a delicious steak followed by an amazing Panna Cotta. I think European Classics, no matter how simple, often do taste better in Europe. The staff are fun, relaxed and helpful and it's also a great place for breakfast's and lunch.
Walking around town to the Casino district is a great way to pass some peaceful time looking at the beautiful architecture and visiting the myriad of boutiques and heritage landmarks dotted around. Monaco is pretty and it's a place that has been unashamedly designed to be pretty. I'm all for celebrating beauty. The heart of the Casino area is the Monte Carlo Opera (above) and the Hotel de Paris that contains the famous Casino, known the World over for more than a century. The building itself is ever evolving and almost has the same feel as a large majestic civic building. Perhaps quite appropriate for one of Monaco's key features.
Shopping is and will always be on the Map in Monaco and key Houses such as Van Cleef & Arpels, who have been the official jewellers to the Principality of Monaco and the Grimaldi family for many decades, has a beautiful boutique on the Avenue de Monte Carlo in the Monte Carlo Opera building. This majestic piece of architecture with a cliff-top view over looking the harbour is flanked by many luxury boutiques also notably Chanel who through Gabrielle Chanel's many journey's have also a strong connection with the principality and the Grimaldi family.
We always learn of Monaco being a small place but when you're actually there, as a walking town it actually feels quite large. There a few very handy bus routes that run along the main roads and make it super-easy to get around. A lesser known fact is that Monaco is also home to some of the most enormous Seagulls that you will ever come across. If the food int eh sea is as good as the food on the land, that's no surprise. There are a myriad of beautiful scenic spots such as the terrace above with the ballet dancer over looking Port Hercule on the Rue d'Ostende. Another nice surprise is the beautiful Lemon trees that are dotted around the La Condamine area between Rue Grimaldi and the Harbour. There's always something to see in the Harbour as boats slide gently in and out and as you walk up the Hill to the Old town you will be spoiled for choice to find places to take a shot.
Holiday wardrobes can be a bot of a puzzle sometimes, how often do we hear about people complaining that they don't know what to pack? I've never really found this to be the case and the best way to approach things is to put together a capsule wardrobe that has lots of interchangeable pieces and make sure that you are covered for 'situation clothing' as I call it specific beach wear or looks for formal events in the evening.
Below are a selection of looks that I chose that saw me through one of the hottest weeks of the Summer. I stayed at the Hotel de France a very popular spot with fantastic reviews.
But it isn't all about Diamonds. Monaco has a very deep rooted history as a Naval Port and Maritime centre and close to my Hotel was a reminder of how important shipping is to Monaco today. Boats are still commissioned, built and sailed from this port by people from all over the world.
The vistas around Monaco are spectacular and every you go, in every direction the Sea seems to be calling to you. The blues that stretch to the horizon are captivating. I love the sea and with the water so close at hand it was almost difficult to concentrate on sightseeing and exploring when the ocean seemed to be inviting you to swim in it constantly. Below you can see more of these blues and get a feel of how Monaco feels like a large natural garden. Life and vegetation seem to spring up everywhere and around each corner is a panorama that is simply breathtaking.
Monaco old town is a beautiful place to walk around with so many beautiful building dotted around the ramparts. I spent time there twice during my stay and found the old narrow streets like walking through a piece of living history. Modern life is bustling away but you can get a very clear sense of how Monaco was in times of the past. Monaco also does very pretty tasteful souvenirs and I really liked the cute unofficial-official souvenir bags that where on display in several of the stores. When you look at the buildings you can clearly see a fusion of Italy and France and this blends to create a unique kind of culture. The white wedding-dress above is from a beautiful store that I visited and bought a rose-quartz necklace from. This beautiful simple dress decked with lavender for me typified the simple country wedding dress/or Summer dress that many girls would love to wear. I was dreaming of a Summer wedding in France.
Monaco is traditionally famous for it's stamps and the beautiful post-office in Old town with ornate post boxes dotted around the Ville was chocolate box perfection.
At the corner of the Palace over looking the sea was a powerful reminder that Monaco has played a strategic military role over looking the Mediterranean for much of it's history and those are real cannons with real lead shots piled up beside the. To the right below is a beautiful shot of Monaco Cathedral, also known as the Cathedrale Notre-Dame-Immaculee and also Saint Nicholas Cathedral.
I realised on this trip that I hadn't yet been to the Palace Princier in Monaco and decided to make a visit. Happily this coincided with a fantastic exhibit that celebrated the history of the Romanov and Grimaldi families and detailed trips made to Russia by members of the Princely family of Monaco. Hunting was a high point but a contrast with care and welfare was also noted. Almost as far apart as can be imagined in terms of scale Monaco's Princes have always been close to their people and the welfare of the Monegasque population was very much a key theme. The Palace also tells the story of the links with the French Royal family and other families such as the Gramonts who have descendants in many places today.
The Palace itself is very beautiful filled with light and decorated in the Italian style. It feels like a home, although on a grand scale, and you can still see the origins of the building as a fortress hearkening to the early years of it's history. The Palace is below to the right while a key government building in it's ornate 'wedding cake style' to the left. It must be one of the prettiest centers of government in the world.
On the far-side of the Old town is the new part of Monaco built on reclaimed land Fontveille. This buzzing new district can be viewed from the cliff-top terrace gardens of the Old Town. I was mesmerised completely by the by watching the light dapple and sparkle on the water as boats moved in and out beneath me. I've already said it but I'll say it again the waters around the harbour where so blue they where inviting you to swim in them and the colours everywhere in sight made the most beautiful scene.
I found some fun take-home treats while shopping in Monaco. French confectioner Bonne Maman sell a much wider variety of snacks in France unsurprisingly. The Sables des Pres cookies or French Country biscuits as I know them are simply delicious and contain sesame, poppy seed and pumpkin seed. Realy delicious and you can buy them online overseas from retailers. Some simple cosmetics products are also available at very good value. This bottle of Rose Water from Christian Lenart is also a fragrant skin tonic that is very cooling on the skin and can also be used as a cleansing liquid or light fragrance. Below to the right a little collection of some of the perfume soaps I found in my local market. They are a snip at Eu. 1.60 and actually have very good fragrance oils that are perfect for making you feel fresh in the summer or any time of year.
One of the delights that you shouldn't miss is the Jardins de Saint Martin nestled on the slopes of the Old Town in the shadow of the towering Oceanographic Museum. It's a quietly romantic spot that looks beautiful at any time of the year. There's a theme of love running through the grounds and with views reaching across across the sea it's a great place to lose yourself in contemplation, chatter or thought.
One of the lesser known spots in Monaco that I would urge you to discover is the Fort d'Antoine. This is another relic from the military past of Monaco when the fort defended the town and it's citizens within it. Iit's now over grown in a curated way that has transformed it into a garden. Part of the fort has now been turned into an open-air theatre for performances throughout the summer.
Walking round here on a summers day you can smell the beautiful fragrance of lavender and herbs. With the Monaco flag waving in the breeze, this place that was formerly a site that guarded and warded off pirates and attack has now been turned to a place of peace, fun and enjoyment.
I think it's a folly in the sense of English Gardens and absolutely superb one. Well worth a visit when you are there. Below is a shot from one of the tunnel entrances close to the Fort that shows again just how Monaco feels like one big garden sometimes and how the natural character really shines through.
I leave you above with some shots from the promenade at Beaulieu-Sur-Mer. The shots are hazy due to the heat, I didn't use any filter. I wanted to share my images and encourage you to think about making a trip to see Monaco and it's beautiful environs. It's a place that has so many different parts of it's personality to enjoy and while it's been known in the past as a 'playground of the rich and famous' it's a place for everyone and also a great habitat for coastal wildlife.
So many things struck me from the kindness of the people to the street art and sculpture dotted through the streets to the abundant beauty that stretches along the coasts to France and Italy. To the left you can see a piece of art by the harbour front at Le Condamine with the Old Town in the background. Below a shot of the harbour at Port Hercule taken from the ramparts in the old town.
I love Monaco :-)