Monday 30 June 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 16 June 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]