Monday, August 25, 2014

Edward, Teddy and Cynthia

We own two teddy bears, imaginatively named, or so we think, Edward and Teddy. Presented to one of us as Christmas gifts several decades ago, they have lived with us throughout our married life.

Edward is the stay at home type. Introspective and somewhat uncommunicative, he presides over the dining room here in Budapest with an authoritative air. Although closely witnessing the comings and goings [as well as eavesdropping on the delicious gossip] of our friends and guests at the dining table, Edward can always be relied upon to be the soul of tact and discretion.

a rather contemplative Edward sits patiently in the Budapest dining room

Teddy, on the other hand, is a gregarious bear, accompanying us to the Opera, to restaurants, and to concerts with enormous enthusiasm. 'Tosca' is a favourite, so much drama, and on one particularly historic occasion he sat through all nine Beethoven symphonies without so much as a growl. Members of the audience often will wave to him in the Dress Circle from the Orchestra Stalls, whilst concert goers will frequently take his photograph. Teddy has yet, however, to give an autograph but it can only be a matter of time before his fame spreads sufficiently for a paw print to be requested.

Teddy enjoys a performance of the St. Matthew Passion in the State Opera House, Budapest

In one of our favourite restaurants, Klassz, on Budapest's grand boulevard, Andrássy ut, a place is always set for Teddy when we arrive, a spoon considerately replacing the tricky to manoeuvre knife and fork. And as we survey the room of diners who seem to be so much more involved with texting, tweeting or emailing on mobile telephones rather than, as once one might have expected, engaging in conversation with their companions so we think, perhaps misguidedly, that there is so much more fun to be had with Teddy.

Teddy eagerly awaits the arrival of dinner in Budapest's Klassz restaurant

All of this serves to remind us of 'Cynthia'. Full of bosom, small of waist, a perfectly formed 100 pound mannequin who was not only glamorous but also as silent, so to speak, as the grave.

'Cynthia' seen at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York with Lester Gaba

enjoying a quiet restaurant dinner, 'Cynthia' with Lester Gaba in the 1930s

In 1930s New York, Lester Gaba worked in the retail display business. In the absence of suitable drinking and dining companions he created the exceedingly lifelike 'Cynthia' in honour of the New York socialite Cynthia Wells. 'Cynthia' was seen everywhere on the arm of the fashionable Gaba, but never heard. Gaba insisted that laryngitis was the reason why 'Cynthia' remained silent.

'Cynthia' had a credit card from Saks of Fifth Avenue, a box seat subscription from The Met, her own newspaper column and radio show [Gaba said what 'Cynthia' thought] and she even made it to the cover of 'Life' magazine. It was a sad day indeed that she slipped from a chair in a beauty salon and shattered into pieces. Thankfully her mould ensured that she could, and did, 'live'again.

a by then famous 'Cynthia' pictured on the front cover of 'Life' magazine on July 12th. 1937

With the demise in real terms of 'Life' magazine in March 2000, our hopes for worldwide coverage for Teddy have, inevitably, suffered a setback. Possibly someone from Condé Nast, perhaps the Editor of 'Tatler', may be reading this?

N.B. We have been unable to source the photographer(s) of the images posted here of 'Cynthia'.  We should be pleased to include acknowledgements.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rollin', Rollin', Rolin Den Heijer

The city of Dordrecht lies just 18km from Rotterdam but, in many other respects, it is several lifetimes away. Life in this picturesque town is altogether more languid. Canals flow at a gentler pace, windmills whirr wistfully, people are unhurried, easy-going and keen to pass the time of day [in perfect English, of course] with visitors who, like us, have drifted in on the afternoon tide.

decorative tiles to be found in the Simon Van Gijn Museum, Dordrecht, The Netherlands

Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland. Rich in culture, decorated with delightful architecture and steeped in history with a mediaeval heart, this is a charming and beguiling town. Handsome houses of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries line kilometres of canals, shady squares provide attractive meeting places whilst a wealth of museums, churches and some 950 monuments paint a picture of Dordrecht's past which is both colourful and significant.

a fine example of the splendid architecture which is to be seen throughout Dordrecht

And, joy of joys, we arrived in town on the very day that the preparations for 'Dordt in Steam', Europe's biggest steam event, were in full swing. Historical steam boats filled the canals, brushed and polished to perfection by their proud owners, whilst the quay sides boasted all the trappings of a bygone age.

the canals of Dordrecht give berth to the shipping of a previous age and time 

But, for all its illustrious past, Dordrecht also has its eyes focussed firmly on the future. Its noble industrial heritage has been revitalised to meet the demands of twenty-first century living.

view of the interior of The Grand Café Khotinsky, 1905, Dordrecht

The Grand Café Khotinsky, built in 1905 as a power plant, is now home to concerts, both classical and pop, a theatre, a cinema, dance studios, workshops, a café, bistro and bar. And the Villa Augustus, completed in 1882 as a water tower, today serves as a boutique hotel, a restaurant and function rooms surrounded by formal gardens, an orchard and an immaculate kitchen garden which supplies the Villa's ultra chic market café.

exterior of the Villa Augustus, in former times a water tower
a part of the formal gardens which surround the Villa Augustus

There can surely be no more sublime surroundings than these, we thought, for taking Afternoon Tea on a hot summer's day. The Lemon Pie was deliciously lemony, the tea reviving and refreshing and the waiter, Rolin, was efficient, amusing, and handsome. Perfection indeed.

Jane and Lance Hattatt at the Villa Augustus, Dordrecht this summer

"Do come for dinner in Budapest," we invited.
"I shall," he replied.

And so he did!

Rolin Den Heijer joins the sentries on duty in The Castle District, Budapest

Monday, July 7, 2014

Away From It All



Unfortunately we shall be unable to comment or to respond to comments over the next two weeks. However, we shall very much look forward to returning later in the month and, in the meantime, will miss you all.

The image is of 'Interior with Table' by Vanessa Bell, painted in 1921.

Monday, June 30, 2014

High Society

In the late nineteenth century painters, poets and philosophers gathered around tables in the coffee houses of Budapest creating the Café Society of which the city is understandably famous. Lively conversations of patronage, politics and Plato took place over slim cigarettes and strong espressos with the whiff of smoke and revolution in the air.

Now in twenty-first century Budapest, the 'Paris of the East' and 'Pearl of the Danube' is witnessing a new revival. As its buildings become stripped of decades of grime, revealing the Art Nouveau splendour beneath, as the fashion houses of Europe find new homes on the City's grand boulevards, and as the concert halls, Opera House, galleries, museums, theatres and Art cinemas offer a culture rich enough to attract the most discerning of international audiences, so the 'Champagne Society' is alive and buzzing in Budapest.

pure white orchids fill a central table in the drawing room of Richard Adams

a tablescape, one of many, arranged by Richard Adams in his apartment 

'Triumph of Church over Fury, Discord and Hate' [Rubens] serves as a mural 

the entrance hall to Richard Adams' apartment styled with white orchids

And nowhere is this more in evidence than at a fabulous party given recently in the devastatingly stylish drawing room of our friend and internationally renowned interior decorator, Richard Adams. Housed in a magnificent turn of the century building, with direct views to the Danube and iconic Liberation Statue, Richard's apartment breathes glamour and good taste from every room.

seen here is Richard Adams' distinct style of combining the antique with the contemporary

Richard Adams' impeccable eye for colour combinations is much in evidence throughout 

on the occasion of a party, the baby grand piano provides music from the 1920s and 1930s

Throughout the apartment the classical and modern sit comfortably side by side. Furniture, fabrics and objets d'arts from a range of styles and eras are mixed and matched with effortless elegance. And just like the rooms he decorates, Richard is immaculately dressed, perfectly tailored and beautifully scented. Here is a cosmopolitan aesthete who is master of his art.

as always immaculately turned out, Richard Adams caught off guard in his drawing room

a sumptuously rich upholstered sofa fronts the 'Rubens' mural in the drawing room

A twentieth century Rietveld chair is placed with a French eighteenth century lacquered, ormolu mounted bureau plat upon which a framed cast of family and friends is displayed. Gilt bronze candleholders, shaped as monkeys, are positioned playfully with Carrara marble lamps, fashioned as obelisks, mounted on the backs of gilded turtles. A chinoiserie cormandel marble topped commode acts as a drinks table from which, on party nights, copious quantities of champagne are generously poured.

family and friends are assembled together to view in a collection of framed photographs 
an eighteenth century lacquered, ormolu mounted bureau plat displays photographs

Everywhere, looking glasses disorientate divinely, manipulating space and form to deceive and delight at every turn. Sumptuous sofas, plumped with cushions and leopard print throws, beckon one to sink into them. Armchairs open their arms invitingly wide to view the gallery worthy Martin C. Herbst sphere, sculpture by Amerigo Tot or the striking mural of Rubens 'Triumph of Church over Fury and Hate'. All around there is beauty and refinement, splendour without ostentation, impeccable taste, perfect proportion and a spare but undeniable voluptuousness.

a sphere by Martin C. Herbst is but one of many art works  adding interest and decoration

a contemporary side table serves as an example of Richard Adams' wide and catholic taste

The 'Champagne Society' gathers here. For this is a place where one can dress to kill, where one can be guaranteed the liveliest of conversation and where, on occasion, one's behaviour can be just that little bit naughty!

party time - a tantalising glimpse of the 'Champagne Society' at play

as the sun sets over the Danube, for Richard Adams the night is yet young


Monday, June 16, 2014

A Taste of Tuscany

Somewhat perversely we thought not to look at The Leaning Tower of Pisa. But that would have been to deny ourselves sight of the Piazza del Duomo, the artistic cradle of Pisa, with its glorious Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, its extraordinary Baptistery, its elegant Monumental Cemetery and, of course, its renowned and over visited Bell Tower. Instead we abstained from adding to the exposure of this over photographed structure whose lean, recently corrected by half of a degree, continues to act as a magnet for the thousands of tourists and trippers who descend annually on this most lovely of marbled cities.

corner of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and Baptistery roof, Pisa 

Naturally we saw all. And much, much more for, guided by our darling Italian friends, Andrea and Carlo, we had the perfect introduction not only to Pisa itself, with its incredible and amazing artistic treasures, its palaces and bridges, its narrow streets and sunny squares, but also to the delights of the surrounding countryside where olive groves and cypress trees punctuate a landscape of rolling hills, towered hamlets, Renaissance villas and medieval churches. Perfetto Tuscany!

the Boys in Blue [Carlo Caverni, Lance Hattatt and Andrea Franchi] in Pisa

As any visitor to Italy will know, it is impossible not to eat well. So it was with us. Whether a simple lunch of traditional pizza, eaten in a student café, or the very best of fish dishes, Andrea and Carlo provided the entrée [to revert to French and with no pun intended] to a world of culinary delights.

a very splendid Pizzeria set in a country village and much patronised locally

a delicious lunch taken outside of a student café in the very heart of Pisa

One evening found us at the somewhat unlikely sounding 'Station Gallery' within a stone's throw of the sea in the little picturesque town of Castiglioncello where, among an eclectic array of collectibles, we enjoyed plates of mouth watering canapés before the most delicious pasta dishes imaginable. On another night, with the Arno gently flowing beside our table at 'Ristorante 7 Nani', we tasted the freshest of seafood and fish cooked to order by the Master Chef, known to Andrea and Carlo, and who especially for us sported her medal and who cooked wearing a string of pearls. Now how stylish is that?

Carlo Caverni and Andrea Franchi at the start of dinner at Ristorante 7 Nani

the delightful Master Chef and owner of Ristorante 7 Nani posing with medal and pearls

the electric neon sign of 7 Nani lights the entrance to this superb restaurant

Style and Italy are, surely, synonymous. Take for instance the Concerti in Villa Roncioni where, after a private tour of house and grounds, we joined others to listen to Pierre-Laurent Boucharlat play three Beethoven sonatas in a candlelit salon whose trompe l'oeil wall paintings added yet a touch more magic to an enchanting occasion. Afterwards, approaching midnight, we sped into Lucca to buy icecreams!

ceiling and wall painting in the salon of  the Villa Roncioni lit by candles

San Gimignano takes its name from the canonised Bishop of Modena and is a jewel among jewels. Following a hilarious lunch at the 'Ristorante La Mandragola', where we rather naughtily made up stories of the other guests, we climbed the steep streets to the Cathedral with its interior walls entirely covered with frescoes of the Sienese School of the XIV Century. Breathtakingly beautiful, they depict scenes from both the Old and New Testaments. As we had left the Cathedral in Pisa with prayers to St. Ranieri, so here we prayed to St. Fina for the patience she portrayed in her life of suffering.

on the staircase of the Palazzo Pretorio in the hilltop town of Certaldo [AF, CC and LH]

pigeon perched on a palace window sill in the walled town of Certaldo 

In more earthly ways we played statues in The Botanical Gardens, reputed to be the oldest in Italy, we took coffee wherever, posted picture postcards in the 1930s splendour of the Central Post Office, walked and walked and walked, and enjoyed life to the very full.

playing statues in The Botanical Gardens, Pisa  much to our own amusement

a bar sign seen in a Pisa thoroughfare and rather redolent of the 1950s

a simple little street café in Pisa serving the most delicious of lunches

shadows of the weary travellers caught in the afternoon sunlight

seen through the entrance doors of the Central Post Office in Pisa

a reflection of the photographer, Jane Hattatt, caught in the window of a wine shop in Pisa

And now the memories remain. Until the next time.

evening: Carlo Caverni, Jane Hattatt and Andrea Franchi [June 2014]




Monday, May 26, 2014

Madelief and Her Dutch Garden

Since its publication in 1898, Elizabeth Von Arnim's 'Elizabeth and Her German Garden' has continued to delight readers with its evocation of the joy and wonder which she, the author, found in the gardens of her husband's Prussian estate. Those who know of, and follow, 'Madelief', will be familiar with the absolute loveliness of her own Dutch garden where, only a short bicycle ride from the heart of vibrant Rotterdam, she has created an oasis of calm, beauty and tranquillity scarcely to be imagined.

a pretty corner of Madelief's Dutch garden displaying a selection of Viola

Madelief, as we think of her, is most dear to us. And over recent days, staying with her in her most charming home set in a quiet, leafy area of the city, where cool canals flow alongside verdant grass banks, we have been treated to the most magical of times.

evening - a quiet, residential area of Rotterdam yet only minutes from the bustling centre

the sails of a landmark windmill stand out against the darkening sky over Rotterdam 

First there has to be Rotterdam. Such an exciting, thriving city with its contrast of old and new and its myriad of waterways. We took morning coffee in the newest of skyscrapers, the city spread below us, a patchwork of canals and rivers, shops and offices, bridges, parks and gardens, apartments and houses, factories and warehouses, all teeming with life.

just one example of many of the new and exciting buildings which populate Rotterdam

it is called taking a 'selfie' - Jane Hattatt and Madelief together in a Rotterdam skyscraper

Later we explored the New York Hotel, formerly the offices and headquarters of the shipping company 'Holland America Line' and so resonating of a vanished era.

interior of the New York Hotel, formerly offices of the Holland America Line

speeding down river in a water taxi - the New York Hotel between skyscrapers

From there, transported by speed boat, we found ourselves aboard the SS Rotterdam for lunch on the Lido Deck where, for a short while, we imagined ourselves plying the Atlantic as privileged passengers of the 1950s. So exciting. Such fun. As was tea, taken outside a tiny street café overlooking a quiet square, where we all indulged in a delicious raspberry lemonade [and as an aside to Magalie, we were not stabbed!!]. And beyond Rotterdam we left our hearts in Dordrecht, with its steam festival, and Delft, famous for its blue pottery. They, however, are tales yet to be told.

on board the SS Rotterdam - Lance Hattatt checks out the lifeboat station

leaving the SS Rotterdam, now permanently moored in the city where she was built 

But what remains indelibly with us is Madelief's garden. Bordered by a small canal it sits among a series of allotment gardens, each one distinctly individual, each one tended with care. Here she has created, in the very real sense of the word, a true cottage garden where old fashioned perennials cavort with colourful annuals, where fragrant roses are entwined with clematis, where honeysuckle scents the air, where birds sing, paths meander, and daisies dance on the lawn. Perfection.

this delightful summer house lies at the very heart of Madelief's garden

in the entrance of her summer house, Madelief radiates the happiness she finds in her garden

At the centre lies an enchanting little summer house with its treasures of decorative cups, saucers and plates, all made excellent use of for eating al fresco, its ornamental jugs and teapots, its country furniture, cushions, chandelier [really so] and its walls lined with paintings, photographs and prints. Where else to come across the regal, and young, King and Queen of Thailand?!! And beside that a tiny kitchen, complete with sink and drainer, all ordered and contained.

a young King And Queen of Thailand survey the scene

an eclectic mix of  treasures are gathered together on a vintage dresser

a corner of the garden with a weathered table used for outdoor dining

And as we looked down from the aeroplane on a receding Rotterdam en route home for Budapest, we took with us memories without equal of love, kindness, generosity and happiness which will be with us for all time. 

Jane Hattatt listening to the bird song rather than attempting to ride a bicycle

going Dutch - Lance Hattatt rides a bicycle along the path bordering Madelief's garden

Dank je wel! Hartelijk bedankt, Madelief, M, M, A [and B].